Influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
Have you ever thought you were the smartest person in the room? Believe me, I have. You walk in and you feel like you know how to do life better than everyone else. It’s a real process that happens in everyone’s mind and you never realize it when it is happening. You convince yourself you're right. But is life about assuming you're right or looking for answers that you don’t know so you can be right down the road when situations present themselves?
If you're confused, it’s okay. Just stay with me.
Growing up, I felt like I was the best at electrical engineering. Taking apart computers, iPhones, and anything else that looked intricate and confusing - that was me. When someone needed a cracked screen on an iPhone repaired, I got you. If you had a virus on your computer, I got you. I’ve fixed like 6 viruses on my own computers. (I hope you caught the irony there).
The moment someone tried to tell me something different than what I thought, I got annoyed. Why did that happen? It’s not like they were trying to prove me right or anything (well sometimes) and only wanted to help. But no, I had to be right because it made me feel smart. I had to figure it out myself. If someone figured it out before me, I felt dumb. No one likes to feel dumb because we always want to be right, right?
The problem here can be looked at two ways. In any confrontation, there can be differences. (pissst, because we are humans). We all have our own way of looking at situations, problems, and even success but how do we figure out the answers if we are still trying to learn what life has to offer? It can be anything. What is the best way to learn? Some people are book learners and others visual. That’s just the outer shell of true learning. Let's think about life. You can only learn so much from a book about how to live each day to the best of our abilities but the world is filled with many, many resources.
Stay with me, it gets good, I promise.
How do you learn? What was the last thing you learned from your experiences recently? I taught myself how to change the radiator in my car and that was a big accomplishment for me. I also learned how to save my iPhone battery by switching it to battery saver mode at 100% (a real life changer). That’s not what I’m talking about in retrospect. Raise your hand if you have financial problems? Yeah, same.
A long time ago when I was 22, I sat down and had a conversation with my dad. He’s 45 and has lived a crazy life based on what he’s tried explaining to me. The topic of money was never a conversation I wanted to have because it always led to him getting uneasy and aggravated. I understood that - well I thought I did. One day, he asked me how my finances were and I was scared to tell him. A son/daughter never wants to make their father feel like they are not doing well. But, this time was different.
I could sense he genuinely wanted to help where he could and that made it easier.I went with my gut and opened up to him about my financial crisis. The way he was able to understand me as I was getting older, created a comfortable environment to talk about those hard life problems. A sense of relief washed over me. Through our 3 hour conversation about how to get me in a better position, I had an epiphany. All I needed was to feel comfortable to ask the questions and he had the answers believe it or not. The answers came from his personal experiences with finances throughout his 45 years of life (I never knew I’d know so much about credit in my life). Why didn’t I do this years ago when I started college. I’d be rolling in the dough - not really but you get what I’m trying to say.
You get a sense of how to recognize your faults and express them in a way that the listener can understand - oh yeah because they’ve been there. *POOF, EPIPHANY*. You can believe more in what you say in conversation and interactions when you accept you don’t know the answers to life’s biggest problems. Trust becomes a big factor in accepting you don’t understand everything. The best part is, you open your mind to learn new things from people who may have tips to the life you want to live. And these are the people who have many life experiences. You just need to want and understand their perspective. What do I mean? Well, keep reading!
My dad told me the story about why he wouldn’t let me get my license until I graduated high school. I was furious because I had waited so long and then the week it was going to happen, I had got in trouble with alcohol by letting some friends drive away after drinking. I didn’t want to understand his rhetoric because I felt I was right in my logic of the situation. I already had previous selfish, angsty, and teenage reasons not to listen to a man who is only trying to see me succeed and not kill myself.
When I was 22, he told me that he witnessed his two best friends get in a car accident and pass away. He didn’t feel comfortable letting me get behind a wheel of a car until he felt I was able to be safe on the road because he wasn’t able to teach me to drive. But, is that something I would have understood at 16? More than likely, no. As terrible as that sounds, I was set in my own mind and being selfish to the situation. So what was it worth telling me that young? Nothing. I was still going to understand it from my perspective only - and he knew that. He was okay with me being a mad teenager because parents are always wrong amirite? This logic is a lot of the reason so many of our teens die on the road due to reckless driving or alcohol related accidents. His point was to keep me safe and felt I wasn’t completely responsible for operating a vehicle based on my willingness to let my friend drive under the influence. But at 22, I felt his feelings behind those words when I wasn’t before and I recognize why.
At that moment, I understood. I learned something. I have a better perspective of how my dad sees life. All because I could make sense of and see through his eyes a situation. I fully believe I am a way better person because of it. Our relationship is better than ever today because of that one conversation.
These perspectives and learning experiences don’t come from the people in your generation or your peers. The generations above you have many of the answers. We all know that learning from experience is what changes your life. The influences you have in your life have the ability to teach you what they learned. Who are the individuals that influence you? You can learn so much from the generations above but we always seem to think we know it all. Open your mind to new perspectives and try to understand that even though you may feel like the smartest person in the room, you’re not God. Everyone can teach you something but you have to be willing to accept “I don’t know” as your own answer.
Understanding and learning from people of influence can be the most rewarding experience in life. It’s served to be true in mine and it can in yours. Since then, I have made it a point to strike conversations with older individuals and ask questions that I’m not sure of or have been pondering, to continue learning life’s valuable lessons.
I’ll leave you with this; listen and look past the eyes of the person in front of you and into their mind to decipher the gift which is being given to YOU.