I’d be willing to bet that you don’t remember the last Tweet from your favorite author, pastor, or celebrity. You’ve probably forgotten that amazing viral blog post that was going around on Facebook last week. You might not even remember specific chapters or phrases from the most significant book you’ve read in the past year! In a world filled with noise, it’s hard to remember much of anything we read or hear.
On the other hand, if I asked you to name the most influential people in your life, you could probably tell me. You might be able to describe why they influenced you, and perhaps one or two key concepts they taught you. My hunch is a very small percentage of those influential people would be celebrities.
Reach is not the same thing as influence, although there is a connection between the two. Just because you can draw a large crowd doesn’t mean you’ll say anything important. The world is so full of loud voices that having a large audience doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make a lasting impact.
How can we have an impact that won’t fade away tomorrow or next week, when the next new thing grabs everybody’s attention? Here are a few characteristics that I think true influencers have in common:
1. Consistency. I don’t mean that influencers speak frequently, or even that they speak or write at regular intervals. Instead, they have a consistent message. True influencers become known for repeating one or two concepts over and over again. For the apostle Paul, it was the message that Christ’s death and resurrection paved the way to know God, apart from the Law. For Brene Brown, it’s the idea that vulnerability can transform our lives. For Howard Hendricks, it was the concept that knowing how to study the Bible and apply it was foundational to life and ministry. Influencers beat the same drums so many times that you can’t forget what they’re trying to tell you.
2. Integrity. People who make a lasting impact center their whole lives around their key values. Anybody who looks at the life of a true influencer knows that they really believe what they say. How would you feel if you found out that Dave Ramsey had thousands of dollars of credit card debt? (That’s not true, by the way, but it gives you an idea of the importance of integrity). Influencers know that their actions are as important as their speeches, Tweets, and blog posts.
3. Generosity. Influencers aren’t greedy with their ideas. They aren’t overly worried that somebody else will steal their glory. A true influencer seeks to build others up. Jesus’ early followers knew that the Gospel was more important than any one disciple, so they trained others to understand and teach the Scripture (see 2 Timothy 2:2). As a result, their influence didn’t die out when they did.
4. Love. Influencers are more concerned with people than with anything else. They work hard to finish projects, but they ultimately work for the benefit of other people. When you read Paul’s letters, for example, you can tell that his primary goal wasn’t to write books, but instead to help people know Jesus. That motivation comes through in what he wrote, and it’s a huge reason people keep reading it.
5. Expertise. You don’t need a doctorate to make an impact on other people, but you do need the sort of quiet preparation that is often in short supply these days. Whether you want to be a carpenter, a writer, a speaker, or a businessperson, you’ll have to commit to self-development. My wife is a very skilled newborn photographer, but she didn’t learn her craft overnight. She practiced, went to workshops, and persevered in order to get better. The same is true with anything worth doing: If you want to have an influence, you’ll work for years to develop expertise. There are no shortcuts to a life of lasting significance.
6. Passion. Last but not least, influencers truly believe that they can change the world. For those of us whose message is the Gospel, it means that we care about it deeply. I’m a relatively introverted person, and I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. But I still need to project passion and enthusiasm when it really matters. So do you if you want to make a difference. If you find your own mission boring, so will everybody else.
Whether you hope to influence one person or thousands, I think these six characteristics are essential. If you use social media, I think it’s possible to extend these characteristics into your online world, as well. Every tool at your disposal can be a medium for long-lasting (hopefully eternal) impact if you use it well.
Would you add anything to this list? I’d love to hear your examples of those who have influenced your life and how they exemplified these values!
If you haven’t done so, enter your email address below or like the Facebook page on the side bar to subscribe: