The I-Word

No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.

~Henry Miller

In this age of so-called-social media, the word “influencer” seems often to be used where formerly other terms were used, such as “expert,” “teacher,” “role model,” “entertainer,” etc. I believe that there is risk in consolidating all such terms, each signifying some distinct and meaningful trait of a person, under one word lacking such distinction.

What qualifies one to be considered an influencer? Certainly there are some online personas offering useful, knowledgeable, generous, and beneficial advice; and some who offer excellent insight and interesting food for thought. Some have interesting biographies we may relate to, and good stories to entertain or even inspire an audience. Some skilled and creative artists offer beautiful, profound, witty, or humorous narratives worth reading just for the joy of it; and some possess demonstrable subject-matter expertise to open our minds to new knowledge and insight. But to all of these, there are also many exceptions. It seems to me that if being an influencer can be reduced to just a single trait, this trait is no more venerable than just the ability to draw attention to oneself; and that, to me, is not sufficient ground for allowing a person to influence my thoughts or actions.

To this end, if you find the thoughts and work I share on this blog (or by way of any other public channel) as worthy of your attention, I ask this: before allowing me the great privilege of influencing your thoughts or actions, please consider the following:

If I claim anything as fact, please check my facts.

If I express an opinion, please check my logic and the rationality of my reasoning.

If I try to convince you of something, please question my motives. Especially consider whether my objectivity may be swayed by some personal gain from influencing you in any direction.

Never accept anything I say at face value, or because you happen to agree with it, or because anyone else happens to agree with it. None of us is immune from error.

Never buy anything just because I use or recommend it. Always consider your purchasing decisions in light of your own needs, experience, and budget.

Never go to places just because I photographed them, and certainly don’t expect your experiences in such places to be the same as mine.

Beyond any skill or knowledge I might choose to teach, never assume that what works for me, personally or professionally, will also work for you; or that I define success in the same way you define success.

By doing these things, not only are you more likely to find benefit in my words and work, but you will also relieve me of the burden of feeling responsible for whatever thoughts and actions you may ultimately pursue by my influence.

And to the degree that, after doing all that, you still find value in my work and ideas, and allow me the benefit of your attention—thank you!

Path of Water and Light

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12 thoughts on “The I-Word

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  1. “It seems to me that if being an influencer can be reduced to just a single trait, this trait is no more venerable than just the ability to draw attention to oneself; and that, to me, is not sufficient ground for allowing a person to influence my thoughts or actions.”

    Guy, you have no idea how much I needed to hear even just this very line from your post today, maybe for reasons other than you intended it. My thanks to you none the less.

  2. Excellent. The foundation for any individual’s success should start with the ability to think for themself and then assimilate the thoughts and words of others. No “____ told me to do it” 🙂 .

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