Who played a big role in your life, either positively or negatively?
As part of the process of coaching leaders to greater career success, I often ask people to spend some time thinking about their role models. Though many have never considered the question before, most tell me that reconnecting with thoughts about these influential people – and sometimes the people themselves – help them deal with today’s challenges.
Thinking back on those who have powerfully influenced my life, I’d pick:
- Mrs. Baker, my seventh grade Ohio History and Health teacher, who told me I was normal and taught me how important reassurance can be to those too young to reassure themselves;
- Mr. - now Dr. - Dansker, my Reporting class professor at Bowling Green State University, who shamed me into writing more professionally and taught me that being tough and having high standards is a good idea and can drive improved performance;
- Dr. Ben Shapiro at Harvard Business School, who taught me that business, and sales and marketing particularly, can be a heck of a lot of fun;
- Al Algaze, my boss at Xerox Computer Services, who taught me that you can build bridges with anyone – and some of those people will feel so comfortable with you that they will spend a lot of money with you;
- Judy Shackelford, the Executive Vice President of Marketing at Mattel, who hired me because she thought I had the potential to launch new products even though I had never done so;
- Reverend Bruce Wilder, who taught me that it’s possible to stand up for one’s faith in God and still be cool; and
- Marie Tramz, my best friend, who taught me that being happy is possible, even in difficult circumstances.
All these people inspire and influence me.
I have mostly chosen not to be influenced by those who would hurt me, and those who would tell me that “It can’t be done”, no matter what “It” is! Sure, the negative people and the negative thoughts come to me just as they do to most folks, but I’m interested in deflecting their influence and replacing it with the many positive things I have learned and experienced.
Maybe if I gave in to all the negative influences on me, I’d sink into despair. But I’d prefer to think that I’m choosing much of what influences me. And I choose the capable people, the broad thinkers, the big thinkers, the kind people, the faithful people, and the “can do” folks. What about you?