The Problem with Influence

Problem with Influence

In high school, my biggest dream in life was to be a professional magician. I would practice my tricks in my room every single day and imagine what it would be like to be the next David Copperfield. It’s all fun and games until someone drops out of college.

I quickly racked up over $16,000 in credit card debt (which in today’s dollars is roughly $2.9 trillion. Well…it felt like that anyway) and I had to get a side job at the mall to afford my car, gas, insurance, and rent payments. I still lived at home, but my ever-pragmatic father was providing the tough love.

My magic career wasn’t taking off and I couldn’t understand it. By then I was getting pretty good. I mean, I wasn’t teleporting or anything, but I could do some crazy stuff with elastics. I performed at a few little kids’ birthday parties and one of the moms said I was swell.

Why hadn’t I been discovered by a super-famous talent agent? Where were all the television producers? Why wasn’t the world beating a path to my door?

Then a mentor of mine gave it to me straight. He said, “‘Show business’ is two words and business is the bigger one. You got the show, you need the business. Become a student of business. Become a student of sales and marketing. Study the science of influence.”

“Influence?” I shuddered at the very word. “No thanks. If I’m going to trick people, I want it to be with their permission and for entertainment purposes only. I’m not interested in becoming some kind of used car magic pimp. Integrity is important to me.”

“Okay, look at David Blaine. He doesn’t do anything that other magicians can’t do. He’s only famous because of his business savvy.”

“Freaking David Blaine,” I muttered. (When Blaine hit it big, he was the butt of a lot of jokes in the magic community. Sorry, David. We were just jealous.)

“Bad example then. Think of someone else instead. Think of someone you admire for their integrity.”

“Okay, someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Abraham Lincoln come to mind right away.”

“Puh-leeze,” he said. “Those are two of the most influential people in history. I thought you wanted to avoid influence because of your ‘integrity’.”

“Fair enough. Definitely my grandmother then. She never tried to influence anybody. She just quietly went about her life with humility, grace, and honor. She always put other people first and never had anything but a smile and a warm cup of tea.”

“Hmmm…Sounds like this grandmother of yours was a pretty big influence on you.”

Check and mate.

For about a week, I remember feeling sick to my stomach at the idea of becoming a salesperson. I felt like Dr. McCoy from Star Trek, “Dammit Jim, I’m a magician, not a business person!”

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve got a skill, a talent, a product, or an idea that you can’t wait to share with the world – so long as you don’t have to be the one to tell them about it. Maybe it’s because you think you’re bad at selling, or maybe it’s because you think selling is inherently bad. After all, many people associate sales with words like “manipulation,” “persuasion,” “coercion,” or even “sleazy” or “creepy”.

If that’s you, then you’re in the right place.

My mentor didn’t stop with the bad news. He didn’t just say, “Influence is a necessary evil. You just have to deal with it.” Sure, it’s necessary, but it isn’t necessarily evil. We don’t have a choice whether we influence others, but we do have a choice in how we influence them.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be posting about how to become more influential while maintaining your personality and your integrity. This stuff is too important to leave to chance.

Until then, tell me about someone who has influenced you. Comment below!

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