all of the selves we Have ever been
Back in the mid-1970s
if I had told my father that I planned a future career as an “influencer,” he might have been impressed by the job title.
After I explained further that said career path would involve making a sex tape and putting it out there for the entire world to see so that I could leverage my notoriety into a reality TV series and a product line…Well, you would still be looking for my body.
Even if I had reported a much less ambitious dream—say, selling vagina-scented candles, my dad’s head would have exploded.
Those were not the types of influences parents desired for their children way back then. Character was reflected by the company you kept. There were good influences and bad ones. How many times did I whine, “But everyone’s doing it!” And how many time did I hear the parental refrain, “If all your friends jump off a bridge, are you going, too?”
In the years following his military service, my father worked as a salesman. He read every book and listened to every recording on sales, positive thinking, and optimism. When dad dropped us off at school in the morning, he would say, “Make As”—not “Have a nice day” or “See you later.” Make As. I didn’t take it seriously at the time…or did I? Perhaps dad was an influencer.
Immediately after high school, it was not good timing for me to head off to college. By some miracle, I got a job as a legal secretary to the managing partner of a large trial firm. I had no idea why someone in his position would hire me right out of high school with no secretarial background except that I could type. My boss was smart, successful, kind, and admired by his peers. One day he told me that he had hired me because of the potential he saw in me. Often during the next few years he would pass by my desk and ask me, “When are you going to go to college and come back and be my partner?” I have tears of gratitude in my eyes as I type this. A definite influencer!
When I finally started taking college classes at night, I prepared a long-handwritten essay for a final exam. The essay was about the play The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. I no longer remember what the play was about, but I do remember that my professor called me at home. She was excited and asked me if I would like to publish the essay. Did she have the correct student? The right phone number? Influencer.
Some of the most important influencers in my life have been people I knew casually who later called upon me in their hours of need. A friend on dialysis, a neighbor diagnosed with kidney cancer, a former
co-worker diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. They knocked on my door or rang my phone and asked me to walk the journey with them. I have had no greater honor. They have influenced my view of everything I consider to be honorable, courageous and important.
As a kid, I probably rolled my eyes one too many times when getting the lecture on choosing your friends wisely. Now, with the long view in mind, I get it. We are under the influence of the company we keep.