Everyone seems to want it.
Everywhere I look, there are workshops and conferences and books and blogs dedicated to expanding our personal reach. Growing our platforms. Becoming better leaders of more people. Apparently, that’s the goal we should be pursuing, to influence as many people as possible. We live in a culture of celebrity everything. Celebrity motivators, celebrity pastors. Many Christians say the most influential Christian in their life is a celebrity, not a person they personally know.
But what does it even mean to influence people? To change their opinions? To motivate them? To sell them a product? To win their vote?
It took me a long time to realize that I don’t fit in the mold of the “leader” or “influencer” that everyone seems to say I should be. My feet don’t fit those shoes. I can’t be that kind of person who gathers throngs of people willing to follow me.
But I’ve realized something. That it’s okay to not be an “influencer” in the sense that we’re being sold “influence.” It’s okay not to be the “leader” that everyone is supposed to be.
I’m kind of ashamed it took me this long to figure it out.
This is what influence looks like to me.
Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.
He could not have known how true his words would be.
Fifteen minutes of fame is more accessible than ever. Thanks to social media and reality TV, anyone could become the next overnight meme. Deep down, I think we all want that. We want our fifteen minutes. We know, theoretically, that fifteen minutes is a short amount of time. But dang it, we want it anyway! We want validation. We want to be recognized. It’s easy to see so many people who get their fifteen minutes and say “Why not me?”
Because we easily mistake those fifteen minutes for influence. I really think our concept of influence is that fifteen minutes of fame. We give the world some small slice of ourselves, and for a few brief moments…
We want people to care just a little bit about that little piece of us we’re giving to them.
What We Have That Everyone Wants
Andy Warhol also self-parodied a lot. After he made his “fifteen minute” remark, he remixed it a few times, saying that in the future, only fifteen people would be famous. Or that in the future, everyone would be famous to fifteen people.
I think he stumbled on a bit of genius with that. Everyone would be famous to fifteen people.
It sounds like an oxymoron. Fifteen people don’t make you famous.
But all of us have fifteen people, give or take. Fifteen people to whom we are rock stars. Fifteen people to whom we are famous. Fifteen people over whom we have influence. We can’t win an election or make a million dollars off our fifteen people. But we have what all the politicians, statisticians and advertisers covet. We have true influence with those fifteen people.
Fifteen Minutes or Fifteen People?
I have a certain number of students in my art classes. It’s not that big of a number. There’s not much I can do to help increase that number. I can’t pull kids off the streets and get them enrolled in my school.
But is a teacher who has five-hundred students a better teacher than one who has a paltry three-hundred? Are the Duggars better parents than you because they have twenty or twenty-five or I-can’t-even-keep-track-how-many kids, and you just have the one, two or three?
My influence as a teacher isn’t grown by getting more students. I can have more students and still be a crappy teacher. My influence as a teacher doesn’t come from pouring out a tiny bit of my energy over a huge number of kids. My influence with students comes from pouring my whole self into my students no matter how many or how few they are.
I’m even to the point where it doesn’t matter if Life After Art sells 15,000 copies. If all of those people buy the book, read it, put it down, and nothing positive changes in their life, then it was all for naught. My influence is zero. If fifteen people bought the book, and all of them were inspired, motivated and encouraged, then I have accomplished more.
Influence to me looks like this: taking care of those fifteen people, not wishing for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes is shorter than ever. But you can keep pouring yourself into fifteen people over and over, and the rewards are so much deeper and satisfying.
I want to hear from you! Who is the most influential person in your life? Who are you influencing the most today?