Becoming influential is also becoming inspirational. If not, what you think influence is not your influence but of some other thing in your possession – money, political power, etc. When that goes, so goes your influence too. Truly becoming influential requires proactive habits rather than reacting to the circumstances and your mental conditioning.
The man who spit on Buddha's Face
One day, Buddha was sitting under a tree. A man came angrily and spat on Buddha’s face. Buddha’s disciples were so angry by this man’s act. They said this can not be tolerated anymore. But Buddha was calm and silent.
Buddha asked his disciples to calm down.
“This man has not offended me,” said Buddha, “but you are.”
Now everyone looked puzzled. The reaction anyone could expect for an act like this is resistance. But Buddha did not react that way.
“This man might have heard about me from many people, and he has a portrayal of myself in his mind,” said Buddha. “He spat not on me, but on that portrayal within his mind.”
The man went back home with guilt. He couldn’t sleep. The next day he came back and threw himself at Buddha’s feet.
By being proactive, but not reactive, that day, Buddha extended his influence towards this man and more. The secret of being influential is being proactive as opposed to being responsive to the circumstances.
Buddha was not influenced by the mental conditioning of his past; hence he became influential.
In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.”, Stephan R. Covey explains it like this.
Everyone has circle-of-concern. This comprises everything a person cares about. Then there is the circle-of-influence, often smaller than the circle-of-concern. This is all where you can possibly do something. One can expand their circle-of-influence, only by working inside out.
When you try to control the whole of your circle-of-concern, you will get demotivated. Others, too, will start to stop believing in you. Hence your circle-of-influence starts to shrink. This is what happens when you react to the circumstances.
On the other hand, when you ignore the circumstances and work on the inner you, that will inspire you and others in your circle-of-influence to achieve big. Thereby your circle-of-influence will expand. In other words, being proactive is the way to expand your influence.
Mahatma Gandhi: The most influential individual of his time
He did not join the angry rebellions at that time. He was calmly working in paddy fields, with people, while many were criticizing him for not joining the rhetoric condemning of the British Empire. Gandhi was unmistakable in his principles. He did not react to the circumstances. He proactively worked within his circle-of-influence and expanded it to millions of other Indians.
Mahathma was not influenced by the mental conditioning; hence he was influential.
Nelson Mandela was Proactive and therefore Influential
Centuries of oppression, 27 years in prison. How intense would this mental conditioning be on any individual? However, after becoming the President of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela surprised everyone by not reacting to the mental conditioning but proactively choosing his actions towards building a nation free of oppression.
He could have used his new powers to take advantage. But that was not his goal but was to build a brotherhood. Hence, he acted accordingly.
Mandela was not influenced by the mental conditioning; hence he was influential.
By now, we have a better understanding of becoming influential. It’s not an outward condition you’d expect. But rather an inside phenomenon. Only by working on what we have control of, shall we expand our influence. What you don’t have control over, will anyways not going to make you any better.
I’ll leave a final thought to you. Why did Jesus teach us to turn the other cheek, when you’d already been slapped on one cheek? When you find out the answer, you will also become more influential.