The influencer

I was watching a TED talk by Bryan Stevenson the other day (“We need to talk about an injustice”) and he immediately struck me as a captivating and inspiring speaker.

By the end of the 23 minute video, his talk had been jotted down in a notebook that I carry of videos, articles and books that I often refer back to when I sometimes need a ‘pick me up’ – or sometimes just a kick up the backside – to get things moving again.

When we talk about the people, moments or experiences that make a big footprint on our lives, I always think of three things: (i) my teachers or mentors, (ii) my travel experiences, and (iii) the big cloud of stories from people like Bryan Stevenson who have sparked something in people all across the world.

The people in category (iii), who I like to call the ‘influencers’, all have certain qualities in common – they are charismatic (or certainly appear to be s0), are passionate about a particular area or goal, and have this sense of a stubborn conviction or belief in what they do and why they do it.

I was speaking to someone the other day who remarked mid-conversation that it was great to be stubborn about certain things. My stubbornness has generally not been the subject of praise (I’m sure the people closest to me who have had to ensure my persistence would agree) and it’s taken practice to force myself to step back and challenge my conclusions and ‘gut’ feelings about certain things.

However, when stubbornness becomes a positive thing is always something that we tend to reach on hindsight. People who hold tightly to beliefs that turn out to be on the wrong side of the fence are ‘narrow-minded’. Conversely, people who hold tightly to beliefs that turn out to be on the right side of the fence are ‘principled’ and ‘determined’, showing ‘conviction’ and ‘perseverance’.

People always cite the well known story of Colonel Sanders and the recipe behind the KFC franchise that was initially rejected over and over and over again before he finally found his first “yes”. At the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards dinner last week, a story was told about the banker whose ATM idea was ridiculed by many people before becoming an indispensable cog in our everyday life.

Yet had their ‘gut’ feeling been wrong, these stories would not hold the same significance.

It’s a bit intimidating to think of all the similarly determined individuals whose paths didn’t end up quite the same. But right or wrong aside, the other side of stubbornness is, I suppose, passion.

Although passion is an overused word and overrated concept, at the end of the day it’s a person’s passion that really sticks to your memory. Irrespective of whether these people are right or wrong in the end, their passion for what they do is contagious.

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