[Listening to Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons]
We’re all being constantly influenced by an infinite number of sources and I’ve tried to be actively aware of who/what is pulling me in what direction. And why? Why did I decide to do X vs. Y? Why did a person choose path A and not B…or C?
In my life there have been people have said that I have influenced them in some regard. Their revelations always take me by surprise. I’ve spent the last 30 years not trying to influence anyone at all. I’ve practically spent it asking, “Why?” And then not even doing much with the answers. Just accumulating perspectives. So how I would influence the next person always baffled me.
Then as I’ve thought about the people who have influenced me I realized that most of these people would probably never realize they pushed me in one direction or the other simply because they were just being themselves. It wasn’t necessarily a person out to teach me something, more that my mind was always ready to learn. And by these individuals simply being their true selves has helped me learn myself better.
So with that in mind, I’ve decided to start a new section called ‘Influences:’ to make sure people know how what they’ve said or done – or not said or done – has influenced me to do or think something differently.
My first post in this segment goes to two friends of mine celebrating a birthday this week, and since I didn’t get them shit as usual (not our style), I figured I would let them know – just as someone has surprisingly told me in the past – You’ve influenced me.
a.k.a. Barack Obama. Dude will always see ALL sides to ANY story. Go ahead and test him – ask him any question that could have two or more possible vantage points and I guarantee you he’ll not only recite the two possibilities, but THEN give you 3 more possible thought processes you didn’t even CARE to know. Boom – that’s just the way he rolls.
A few years back, I had a chance to go to church with this cat. At the time, he was still attending Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. I was right in the middle of my self-induces ‘theologic studies’ phase and had always wanted to visit this modern iconic institution of worship right in our backyard.
So as we’re walking our way from the massive parking structure finding our way to the entrance (remember the Houston Rockets used to play professional sports here, so the walk took a while), I vaguely remember Ron and I talking about my reservations about the church and specifically Joel Osteen – he retorted something I said with the comment – “You only get out what you put in.”
My very first thought, was “No Shit.”
But then Ron started talking about the reasons he came to the church – worship, get his dose of the Word, reenergize him for the week, etc., etc. And that made me pause, because in that moment, I realized there was no possibility of me getting those things out of the upcoming sermon because I was already stepping into the service highly skeptical of the messenger. I would be looking for inconsistencies and falsifiable statements – and I’m sure I would have found them, specifically because I was looking for them.
Ron on the other hand would experience a totally different sermon. One full of hope and empowerment. All because we get out what we put in…in the first place.
A cliché, sure. Any less significant? Not at all. I walked into that sermon with an open mind.
It still sucked – for me.
BUT! I started looking at other things in my life to see if the reason I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it is because I wasn’t putting what I needed into it. One of places that popped up on my radar was my job. I realized that I was giving the job a great amount of effort, time, stress, and sanity, but outside of being an establishment that simply paid my bills (which is great), it wasn’t doing much else for me. No pride, no sense of accomplishment, nothing that I really wanted to strive toward, but it sure was taking a lot out of me.
No matter how hard I worked for/at the job, I would always be told that I needed to wait on the next opportunity to present itself. “Just keep up the great work you’re doing, and in a few years, when that Director or AVP position opens up, you’re first in line.”
First in line? What does even mean? Keep slaving away at 120% effort and in a few years I MIGHT have a shot at a 10% raise and a mass of brand new responsibilities for the next 10 years? Hmm.
Just didn’t seem like I would ever truly ‘get out’ what I put in. Even after giving it my most valuable asset of my time.
Screw that. I was POSITIVE that if I put as much into building myself and my own opportunities as the company asked of me, my return on investment would be infinitely better.
BOOM – a blog was on its way to being born.
‘Preciate it, pimpin…oops, I mean President Barack Obama – Sir.
One afternoon the usual suspect of fellas was having a drink at our favorite happy hour watering hole at Sherlock’s Baker Street. I was introducing a new cat to the group that I knew from my training days in Dallas that recently transferred down to Houston from Boston.
A few drinks in, one of the crew asks the Boston transplant, “What’s the scoop on Kuade? Give us the dirt on him before we met him.”
He responded, “Truth be told, you all probably know him better than I do by now. It’s been years and a lot has happened since then.”
Femi responded, “Honestly, we been knowing Kuade, BUT we don’t really KNOW him. Like, we all been kickin’ it, and we know he’s cool and everything, but we don’t really KNOW him. He doesn’t really put himself out there like that.”
The rest of the table was nodding their head in agreement. Even my friend from Boston with a beer in hand was saying, “Yep, yep…that’s Kuade alright. Guess you DO know him like I do. Looks like we’re all on the same level!”
Wow. That took really made think. I’ve known this drinking crew for about 4 years, and my friend from Boston about 10 years. I was introduced to most of them through Ron – mentioned above – whom I’ve known since high school. And these cats STILL don’t think they know me. Wow.
I mean these are the cats I go kick it with AFTER I take off the corporate mask many of us wear. These are the cats I’m “myself” around – and they STILL don’t think they know me. Wow.
So that made me ask myself:
- Do these people not really get who I am?
- Have I been my authentic self with them?
- What role do I play in all this?
- Do I still keep up a mask in front of the people I consider the closest?
- If so, why?
- What am I keeping in? What am I not sharing about myself?
- What would I want my friends to know about me?
- What would I want people in general to know about me?
- Do I show that to people?
- Why or why not?
- What are you afraid of exposing?
The process lead to some interesting answers, but much of it had to do with taught behaviors of how a person is expected to conduct themselves to avoid potentially ill-formed perceptions about yourself from others.
Of course, there are a plethora of other answers as well (roles we play, family commitments, etc.), but this really made me think about why are we so afraid to expose our true selves? Why are we so concerned with what the rest of society thinks about us personally? On a day-to-day basis, we don’t have to deal with 99.9% of the world’s population, yet we keep up a specific appearance that appeals to as many people as possible. And that’s including the friends, family, acquaintances, etc, that we continue to appease by acting like the person they expect us be.
I doubt many of us are outwardly the person we feel like we truly are on the inside. I would even argue that many of us have been fulfilling roles for so long that we don’t know who we really are.
And for what?
That process helped me to decide that I would much rather be rejected for who I am authentically, then have anyone accept me for who I’m not.
I’d want my son live similarly. Gotta lead by example.
It was another factor in starting this blog. These writings represent me – period. For better or for worse. I strive to be honest to who I am.
Influences are all around us everyday and there’s always a lesson to be learned. These two friends influenced me by simply being honest and being themselves. Perhaps I can do the same for others.
Happy belated birthday fellas.
To all my other readers, tell me who has influenced you and how. I’m always interested in the stories of others. Why are you who you are?