A few weeks ago I talked about Ashira Jones and the influence she had on my life. She may not even remember meeting me.
I decided to talk about a few other people who were also an influence in my life.
I would have to list my father as number one on that list.
My father grew up in a small town in southern Michigan where he also raised me and my siblings. For the most part, he only left Michigan a couple of times in his life.
The most impactful departure was WWII. His first assignment was in Northern Africa. He was part of the force that chased Rommel across and then out of North Africa. That part of his military career was part of the Allied Forces that fought the Germans in Tunisia and drove them from the African continent and back to Europe. (My daughter and her husband now live in Tunis. My son-in-law is the Facility Manager for the US Embassy there.) As my father’s unit chased Rommel back into Europe he ended up in Anzio. There was one of the worst battles for the Allied Forces and he lost a leg from a shrapnel hit and was shipped home.
With one leg (which must have left him in constant pain) he wore an ill-fitting artificial leg (nothing like the high-tech legs of today) and yet started a bottled-gas business that required him to wrestle 100-pound propane cylinders (empty) and crawl under old farmhouses (the rural community was converting from coal and fuel oil to propane).
And yet I never heard him complain about his life. He was a fantastic human being and anytime I feel like I could complain about my life circumstances, I think of him. He was one of the most influential people in my life.
My Physics Instructor
Mr. Steven Ray was my high school physics instructor. It seemed to me that he was always “picking” on me. He would always be saying “Potter, what’s the answer?” “Potter, what were the steps you took to come to your conclusion?” “Potter, come to the board and show the class your work.”
One day I ran into him in a back hallway with no one around. I asked him why he was always picking on me. His answer was “Because you’re worth it.” That stopped me in my tracks. I had nothing I could say. After a few minutes silence, he smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
He was the only high school teacher that I visited after graduation.
Your Real Value
For many years, I worked with a client that ran a global company. After one session where we had employees for Europe, Asia, North American, and South America, we were sitting in his office talking about the day. The name of my company was Team Leadership Culture.
He started by telling me what a great job we had done building teams.
Next, he told me how I had taught him to be a great leader.
Finally, we talked about taking this learning throughout the culture.
There we had it. Team Leadership Culture. I was feeling very good about what we had accomplished. Then he said, “But your real value is…” I was floored. He had just listed every element of my business TLC and I had no idea what he was talking about. We were in his office with our shoes off and just chatting. He said that my real value was when we just sat around and talked about where the company was and how he was doing. He found as much value in that as he did when I was working on TLC.
Influential People Is a Choice
Just like the “firsts” that I wrote about last, the people that have been influential in our lives help shape us into the human beings that we are. But keep in mind that we have a choice about who influences our lives. Look at their character. Are you being influenced by people of high character? Take a look at what they talk about and how they see the world. Is everything focused on them? Do they see the world as being against them? If we have selected people of high character and people who think more of others than they do themselves, they’re worth having as people of influence in our lives. In fact, they’ll see more about who we are than we do ourselves. They’re worth being chosen as People of Influence in our lives.