Why Understanding Your Influencers is Vital

Influencing others. I’ve made it a lifetime of study and it’s my passion. But there is another equally important question:


Who are my influencers?

None of us start with a blank sheet of paper. We all have been shaped by others, and had people, events and information draw some lines, colors and shading on our blank slate. We take those lines, draw around them, and create something new. In a recent Harper’s Magazine article the author reflects on how often artists adapt from a previous work, tweak it, and makes it something new. In this case, he points to Bob Dylan.

Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan’s music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott’s study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan’s songs. Lott’s title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg — a series of nested references to Dylan’s own appropriating, minstrel-boy self. Dylan’s art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan’s newest record, Modern Times. Dylan’s originality and his appropriations are as one.

The same is true of us. Our originality and appropriations are as one. Or as John Donn writes, “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . “

It is important to know what previous influences and influencers play a role in shaping our behaviors, attitudes, perspectives and decisions. Without knowing these, we can develop blind spots and bents that keep us from reaching our potential.

I have a friend whose mom was a chronic worrier and perfectionist. As a result, a lot of his decision making used to be fear based and driven by a fundamental desire to mitigate risk. This placed false ceilings and limiting fences around his thinking. Through reflection and things he learned about himself in the KII® assessment, he became aware of this trend.

An aside: Awareness doesn’t equal action. There are many people who are self-aware of their issues, tendencies, limitations and bents who never take action to change them. However, RIGHT action is always proceeded by RIGHT awareness (minus the cases of blind luck). This is why the influence program we have created contains both assessments for awareness and action steps for change.

A key to making healthy decisions is an acute awareness of our tendencies and bents gained by slowing down enough to reflect on our influences (life events, content, etc.) and influencers (people) and what they imported to us that shapes us today.

An Exercise In Knowing Your Influences.

Here is a valuable exercise that will help move you dramatically forward in awareness.

Grab a sheet of paper and draw 6 columns on it.

Label the columns.

1. Person

2. Thing/Event

3. Impact

4. Way it Shapes (+/-)

5. Bents-How it Shapes

6. Way Forward

Schedule some quiet time for reflection and fill in your chart.




Way It Shapes (+/-)


Way Forward


Having my mom always point out what could go wrong.

Created a fear based mentality. Anxiety and worry.


I tend to make decision based on what best mitigates risk.

Make some decisions that could bring dramatic results but have a degree of risk.

Phil (Boss)

Working with him during the struggling capital raising campaign.

Showed me building people in the long-run was more important than merely measuring their external performance.


I build people first and foremost It can give me a tendency to avoid confrontation.

When a situation arises, deal with the conflict immediately. Continue to work on peoples internal life.


Super patient as evidenced when the car we had just repaired rolled down the drive and crashed into the other car.

Taught me getting upset didn’t help much.


Ingrained in me the importance of patience.

Stay calm, but don’t allow patience to mean settling for improper behavior by others.


Read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Begin with the end in mind.


Became aware I wasn’t tending to take the end-game look.  Short-sighted.

When I have a decision to make, start with the end in mind and work backwards.

Coach Elm

Cut from baseball team

Devastated emotionally. Felt like a failure.


I didn’t work harder to make the team the next year. Just quit.

When I experience failure, don’t quit; rather, assess and determine a plan to succeed.

I recommend doing this exercise while thinking of 5 years blocks of life. From 0-5 years old what do I remember, 6-10, 10-15, etc.

Understanding what shapes us is key to moving forward. Know what has been written into our lives allows us to translate it into a better language.

By completing this exercise you’ll have a much better understanding of the shaping people, events, and content you have come in contact with and how it continues to affect your viewpoint.

Remember, your past doesn’t determine your future but it can color it, especially if you are not aware of the influences and influencers that have played a role. We can take good and bad past influences and appropriate them for a positive future. You can write your own story, music, and script without having to have it passively for you.






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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina