My office has been described as pretty weird.
Whatever you’re picturing, that’s not it—I guarantee you. Yes, I have two desks, chairs, computer monitors, and the usual office items. But what makes my office unique is every wall surrounding the entire room is full of bookshelves. And on these shelves are thousands of different items. Yes, thousands.
But there’s one spot, on a section of wall to your right when you first walk in, that is particularly important. This part of the wall is devoted entirely to the people who have had a big influence on my life. It’s a collection of family, mentors, and friends who continue to remind me of what’s important.
I call it my Wall of Influence.
You’ll find pictures of my parents, my wife, our two sons, my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. McLoyd (she was the first person who ever told me I could write), and more recent friends who have had a big impact on my life.
I can see the wall when I walk into my office. When I’m sitting at my desk working, it is the main thing in my line of sight.
This wall is important for a couple of reasons. The first you can probably guess, but the second is something that I’ve discovered is often overlooked.
1. It reminds me where I’m from.
Whatever it is that I have become, these people are the ones who deserve the credit. Each of them is significantly better than I am in many ways. They have made me who I am.
Like I said, we all generally feel this way about a select group of people in our lives. They’re our heroes, the people we point to when we need to remind ourselves we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
2. It reminds me of my umbrella of authority.
This isn’t just a group of people who inspire me…several of them are people I have asked to keep me in check, call me out, and put me in my place whenever I need a dose of reality.
I have seen the downfall of successful individuals in just about every field or profession there is—from entertainment, to business, to sports, to politics.
If you haven’t watched this happen in your personal life, you’ve certainly seen it chronicled in the news, where there are stories of folks falling from grace every day, careening off course, destroying their reputation, and permanently damaging every ounce of trust they’ve earned.
Curiously, it doesn’t matter if the person is your next-door neighbor or the star player of your favorite professional sports franchise, the baseline reason for their downfall is almost always the same:
They have no authority in their lives.
Authority figures provide valuable perspective. Unfortunately, we often don’t realize just how valuable that authority is for us until it’s no longer there. In fact, most people never even realize that authority is what these important people are providing them!
Authority can have a negative connotation because it implies that we need some kind of babysitter. But here’s what authority actually provides:
- Authority helps us effectively set boundaries in our lives. Boundaries help us filter out the noise so we can stay focused on the things that count.
- Authority keeps us from believing everything we think. Have you ever believed so strongly in something, been so utterly convinced that your way of thinking was the correct way of thinking, and that no one was going to convince you otherwise…only to discover that you were, in fact, wrong? Yeah, me too. Authority can protect us from the consequences of that result. Because you just can’t believe everything you think.
- Authority helps us minimize bad choices. Our society has become increasingly unable to distinguish mistakes from choices. Following any public meltdown, you’ll hear the disgraced person apologize for making a terrible mistake when what they should be apologizing for is making a terrible choice.
Say you are walking in the woods, lose your way, and it gets dark. Unable to see, you trip and break your arm. That is a mistake.
But if your mother has always told you to stay out of the woods and you are wandering around in broad daylight, ignoring the “POSTED” signs, assuming no one will ever find out you were in the woods in the first place… If you are then arrested for trespassing, it was no mistake. That, my friend, was a choice!
While authority won’t prevent us from making mistakes (unfortunately, those come with the territory of being human), authority will help us minimize bad choices.
The people on my wall of influence are there to remind me how much of a blessing it is to have authority in my life. They’re there to remind me that my actions have consequences, and that there are a lot of people I don’t want to let down.
Who Has Made You the Person You Are Today?
If you are a person of worth, if you are a person of value (hint: you are), if you have goodness inside of you (hint: you do), you must understand that there are people who have contributed to the result that is YOU. There are people cheering for you every day.
I am sure there is something inside of you that says, “I don’t want to disappoint these people.”
So who is it in your life? Who are the people you care about most? I suggest you create your own wall of influence.
Over a period of several days, just take some time to think about it. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your kids and ask, “Who has helped shape our family into what it has become?”
Then start collecting pictures, notes, gifts, and reminders of these people. Place these items where you can see them when you’re doing your most important work. Place them where you will see them every day.
And remember, I’ve got pictures of a few people around this office whom I’ve never met that have still had an enormous influence in my life. So if you’re having trouble thinking of people you know, don’t limit yourself. It’s okay to think beyond your friends and family.
These can be people from history, thought leaders, authors of books you’ve read, public figures, mentors, and people you aspire to meet. Your wall of influence will be full of people who spark imagination, creativity, integrity, and hope. They will bear witness to the greatness you are becoming.
Spend time with them every day and pay attention to the wisdom they continue to share with you. Let them into your consciousness, your heart, and your actions. Just their presence on your wall will be enough to keep you focused on your goals.
I know you will make them proud.
So, tell me…who is the first person you’ll put on your wall of influence? Leave a comment below and share them with us!