Tag Archive for: Aristotle

A Friendless Existence is the Loneliest Kind of Lonely

Aristotle is reported to have said, “No one would choose a friendless existence on the condition of having all the other things in the world.” What good would it do you to have everything but no one to share it with?

I recently made a trip to California and my wife Jane was going to accompany me. The plan was to do some work then extend the time into some vacation. Unfortunately, she badly broke her ankle the week before the trip and the doctor told her no flying because of the change of blood clots.

While California was beautiful and I met up with an old high school friend, a college buddy and finally met a long time Facebook friend it was not the same without Jane. I often tell people, anything I do is better when she is around. She brings out the best in me and gets me out of my comfort zone to try new things. Missing her got me thinking about Aristotle’s quote.

Human beings are social creatures. We function best and did a much better job surviving in groups as opposed to going it alone.  This is why we’re so heavily impacted by the principle of consensus (a.k.a. social proof). It’s natural for us to take our behavioral cues from other people – what they’re thinking, doing or feeling.

It’s a rare person who prefers solitude over multitudes. Sure, there are some people who like to get away from it all on occasion. That might range from 20 minutes of meditation each day, to walks in nature, or solo camping for days or weeks at a time. But very, very few people choose to live in solitude. Why? Because as social creatures being separated from others can be painful.

Robert Cialdini talked about the implications of this when the famous Asch Conformity Experiments were conducted using neuroscience to analyze what was going on inside people’s heads. When we’re at odds with a group it registers in the same brain region where physical pain manifests. I encourage you to take three minutes to watch this video then consider the following situations that have their basis in isolation from groups:

Excommunication from the Church

It used to be that excommunication from “the church” meant separation from God. I’m not sure that’s really the case with institutions run by flawed human beings but certainly excommunication meant no dealings with those who were still part of the church. That would make daily life difficult and lonely because the church dominated daily life in much of the world. And, quite often excommunication meant no more contact with family members lest they be kicked out too.

Solitary Confinement for Prisoners

When prisoners get out of line quite often their punishment is complete isolation from other prisoners. According to a PBS report, “When corrections officials talk about solitary confinement, they describe it as the prison within the prison, and for good reason. For 23 hours a day, inmates are kept inside a cell that is approximately 80 square feet, smaller than a typical horse stable.”  The article goes on to say, “solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations; panic attacks; overt paranoia; diminished impulse control; hypersensitivity to external stimuli; and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory.”

Rejection from a Group

Whether it’s failure to make the sports team, get into a fraternity or sorority, dishonorable discharge from the military, or losing a job, rejection from a group hurts. The ramifications may not be as serious as solitary confinement but it can still have negative personal and social consequences. While some people can turn that negative into a positive (Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team but went on to great things in the NBA) most people do not.

What are you to do with all this? Two things come to mind:

  1. If you have kids, teach them about the consequences of isolation. Encourage them to be the person who, when they observe another child who is struggling with friendships, to extend their hand in friendship. This could be a first step in stopping bullying and future school violence.
  2. When you notice someone who appears to be a loner, you too can extend a friendly hand. Everyone has good traits and talents, and your friendship offer might be what unlocks that in another human being.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Systems Plus Persuasion Equal Success

Something I’ve noticed over time is how much systems contribute to success. It’s not to say that being carefree and creative don’t have value – they do. However, my observation has been with most things – learning, fitness, health, sales, coaching, leadership, etc. – having good systems in place are much more beneficial than winging it. Even with creative endeavors like improv comedy, there’s a system or approach that’s used. It may appear as though those doing the comedy are just going with the flow but there’s a structure underneath their creativity.

Two athletic examples come right to mind when I think about systematic approaches: weightlifting and running.

As a teenager I learned a system for weightlifting that made a world of difference. Before my junior season of high school football, I worked out consistently for a year and only gained 5 lbs. Pretty disappointing! During the offseason before my senior year I learned a system for working out and put on 30 lbs. before the season started. At my peak in college I was 90 lbs. heavier than when I first started lifting.

When I took up running my first marathon was a disaster. I covered the 26.2 miles in four hours and fourteen minutes and “hit the wall” about 20 miles into the race. Then I learned a system for running and eventually cut an hour off of that first marathon time and qualified for the Boston Marathon in the process.

In business I’ve seen this play out time and time again. People and organizations with systematic approaches win consistently. Let’s take leadership, sales and coaching as examples.

I’ve spent a lot of time learning and applying leadership concepts from Focus 3. At a high level their system focuses on three things: leaders, culture and behavior.

In the Focus 3 approach leaders create the culture that drives the behaviors that lead to results. If you want better results you need better behaviors which means creating the right culture to support the right behaviors. That’s why culture is the #1 responsibility of leaders.

When it comes to behavior Focus 3 uses the following formula: E+R=O. In plain English this means Event plus Response equals Outcome. Life happens (events) and we usually have no control over those events in the moment. We can influence outcomes in the direction we want by choosing disciplined responses. These disciplined responses are our behaviors.

When it comes to sales the system is pretty simple. Selling is about building rapport with the prospective customer, overcoming objections they may pose then closing the sale.

Coaching has a system very similar to sales. Coaching also starts with building rapport, gaining trust, then motivating the person being coached to new behaviors. Without relationship and trust it’s not likely someone will follow the advice of a coach.

Where does influence come into these business systems? Every step of the way! According to Aristotle, persuasion is about getting people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Whether you’re leading, selling or coaching, the principles of influence can be used to support the system because they can be used to change behaviors. For example, the principles we call liking and reciprocity are excellent ways to build rapport. To gain someone’s trust or overcome objections the principles of authority and consensus come into play. And finally, to close a sale or motivate behavior change try the principles of consistency or scarcity. Do you have a system in place that will lead you to success? If so, then consider how you’ll execute your system. If your system involves other people at any point then you’ll want to decide which principles of persuasion you can tap into to get a better result.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Why Study Persuasion? You Can’t Afford Not To!

There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all that you want to or all that you need to. So why should you spend your precious time learning about persuasion? Because you cant afford not to!

Let’s start with exactly what I mean when I talk about persuasion. Persuasion is not simply about changing a person’s thinking because if the change in thinking doesn’t lead to a change in behavior have you really gained anything? For example, if you ask your child to clean their room, which do you want to have happen?

  1. Have your child acknowledge cleaning their room is a good idea (changed thinking).
  2. Have your child actually clean their room (changed behavior).

I don’t know any parent who would be satisfied with A. When we try to persuade we want to change behaviors and that’s why I believe Aristotle has given us the best definition of persuasion. He said it was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” Someone isn’t doing something so you interact with him or her in hopes of changing their behavior in some way.

What you may not realize is how much of your day is spent persuading people. In To Sell is Human Daniel Pink cites a survey of more than 7,000 business people in non-sales positions. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you happen to be in sales that percentage is probably greater than 60%.

That means if you’re like the typical worker you spend more than three hours a day attempting to persuade others! Over the course your career you’ll spend upwards of 40,000 hours engaged in the act of persuasion at work!!

So let me ask this – if you’re going to do something for at least three hours a day, 40,000 hours over a lifetime (and that doesn’t include time persuading your spouse, kids and others outside of work), wouldn’t it be wise to understand how to do it to the best of your ability? Put another way, can you afford not to become more skilled at persuasion? There’s a lot at stake at work and at home when it comes to perfecting your persuasion skills so I encourage you to tune in next week to find out more.

The Immediate Influence of Behavior

Have you ever read Viktor Frankl’s classic work Man’s Search for Meaning? If you haven’t I can’t recommend it enough! It’s one of the most impacting books I’ve ever read. Despite the sobering description of life in Nazi concentration camps the book has sold more than 12 million copies since it was first published in 1946.

I recently suggested the book to several friends, so I decided to reread the book myself…for no less than the sixth time. Each time I go back to it something new jumps out at me and this time the following quote stood out, “The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words.”

Think about that quote for just a moment. Frankl’s insight from life in with most horrible conditions lines up with other similar observations from other great thinkers.

“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” – Aristotle

“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Words do matter because they conjure up images, thoughts and feelings that lead to actions. Frankl acknowledged this when he wrote, “But at times a word was effective too, when mental receptiveness had been intensified by some outer circumstances.” However, as someone who wants to be an effective persuader your words will fall on deaf ears if your words and deeds don’t line up. “Do as I say, not as I do,” won’t cut it. After all, if you don’t believe what you’re saying or you don’t adhere to the principles you espouse then why would anyone else?

Nobody is perfect and people don’t expect you to be perfect. When you fail your best bet is to follow Dale Carnegie’s wisdom, “If you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.” I believe most people are forgiving and many times you’ll actually gain credibility when you own up to your mistakes. This taps into what Robert Cialdini calls the principle of authority and the studies he cites show you can gain trust by admitting weakness or mistakes. The sooner you ‘fess up the better.

I observed this not too long ago when State Auto’s CEO Mike LaRocco interacted with employees across the country in an open forum. Since his arrival last May, Mike has encouraged a culture that embraces candor. During the open forum someone spoke up about fear of reprisal from managers when being candid and Mike made a flippant remark and basically blew off the person’s concern. But almost immediately he caught himself and said his response was wrong. He then proceeded to address the concern. Not only did his actions stand out to me, they stood out to many others I spoke with afterwards. He’s talking the talk and more importantly, he’s walking the walk.

So to come full circle, if you want to be effective when it comes to influencing others start with yourself and remember Frankl’s immortal wisdom, “The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words.” Be a person of consistency and integrity and you’ll enjoy far more professional success and personal happiness.

Influence and Persuasion Quotes to Ponder

This week’s post is a little different. Below you’ll find some of my favorite quotes when it comes to influence and persuasion. It’s a short post but I encourage you to read the quotes slowly and give thought to what each author is saying.

“Persuasion is the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” – Aristotle, Greek philosopher. If people are already doing what you want there’s no need to persuade them, right?

“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” – Aristotle, Greek philosopher. It doesn’t matter what you know if people can’t trust you they won’t listen to you.

“Persuasion skills exert a far greater influence over others’ behaviors than formal power structure do.” – Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D., author of Influence Science and Practice. When I read this I immediately thought of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus. None of them had formal power but each had a huge influence on the world.

“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” – Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States. Many people consider the President of the United States the most powerful person in the world but as LBJ acknowledged, the President must persuade to get things done.

“Power is nothing unless you can turn it into influence.” – Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State. Power is good but once that power is removed will people listen to you? Better to have power and influence because not only will people listen to you because they have to but also because they want to.

“Selling is the process of persuading a person that your product or service is of greater value to him than the price you’re asking for it.” – Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Selling. Selling is persuading and persuading is selling.

“I like to think of sales as the ability to gracefully persuade, not manipulate, a person or persons into a win-win situation.” – Bo Bennett, American businessman. Manipulation is an attitude that conveys, “I win and I don’t care whether or not you do.” That’s not a recipe for long-term success.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager. The best leaders don’t force people to do what they want, they persuade them and gain voluntary followers.

I’ll conclude with a quote of my own, something I share with audiences quite often when I speak – “Much of your professional success and personal happiness depends on getting others to say ‘Yes’ to you.”

The more people who say “Yes” to you at work, the more you’ll get accomplished, the more you’ll move your agenda forward and the more sales you’ll make.

Never discount the importance of persuasion at home because when your spouse, significant other, children, family members, or roommates willingly do what you want the less tension there will be and more happiness.

Have a great week!

Aligning the Principles of Influence with Aristotle’s Ethos, Pathos and Logos


Aristotle is credited with the following definition of persuasion: “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”
Pause and think about it for a moment. Isn’t that a great definition? If someone is already doing what you want there’s no need to communicate in order to change anything. Unfortunately, all too often others aren’t doing what you’d like and you need to communicate with them in a way that changes that.
If I could change one word in Aristotle’s definition it would be to substitute “science” for “art.” In my mind art conveys natural talents or gifts that some people might feel they lack. Science on the other hand is something that can be learned by anyone.
When it comes to the science of influence it may surprise you to know we have more than six decades of research from social psychologists and behavioral economists on the psychology of persuasion. That means we now have scientifically proven ways to communicate more effectively. In the business world we might say there are “best practices” when it comes to effectively communicating.
Aristotle taught people three criteria for effective persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. We’ll take a look at each and see how Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence come into play.
Ethos refers to someone’s character and credibility. Two principles of influence come into play to establish ethos: liking and authority.
We know it’s easier to say “Yes” to people we know and like. That’s the principle of liking. If someone likes you the “halo effect” comes into play and they naturally give you the benefit of the doubt on many other attributes, which makes it easier to effectively communicate.
Influence Tip – A great way to get the liking principle going is to offer up genuine compliments. When you do that people feel good and associate those positive feelings with you.
We also know it’s natural for us to pay closer attention to people we view as credible – those who are wiser than we are, experts in their fields. This is the principle of authority at work.
Influence Tip – The more someone knows about your credentials and experience the easier it is to tap into ethos, so make sure they know your credentials before you speak.
Pathos is the connection the persuader makes with another when communicating. Liking and reciprocity both help build relationships so they’re what you want to try to tap into when establishing pathos.
The more someone likes you the easier it is to connect. Once you find out you have a few things in common with your audience they feel a sense of camaraderie and they’re open to what you have to say.
Influence Tip – Make sure you look for things you have in common and mention them early on. If you’re being introduced make sure a few personal items are shared before you speak. Something as simple as being married or having kids can get the ball rolling. You want your audience to know you’re just like them to make a connection.
Reciprocity tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who’ve first given to them. By doing something for others, helping them in some way, they will feel obligated to at least listen to you. Reciprocity, builds relationships because when you help others they feel good about you.
Influence Tip – Look for ways to genuinely help people before you ever ask anything of them. Once you’ve done that and need their help they’ll be much more likely to say “yes.”
Logos is the logical use of words. It’s the factual argument to be made. Consensus, consistency and scarcity come into play here.
Consensus tells us people tend to move with the crowd. When we know large numbers of people, or people just like us, are doing something we are more likely to go along with it. This is logical because historically there’s safety in numbers. As the old saying goes, “Everyone can’t be wrong.” Well, at least the majority of the time everyone isn’t wrong so it’s usually a good bet to follow the crowd.
Influence Tip – Make sure you talk about what others are doing to “invite” your audience along because it’s only logical for them to move with the crowd.
People work very hard to make sure their words and deeds match. In fact, we all feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do. This is the principle of consistency.
Influence Tip – Find out whatever you can about your audience before you speak and make sure you relate your request back to what they’ve said, done, believe, etc. After all, it only makes sense for people to stay true to themselves.
Scarcity alerts us to the reality that when something is rare or dwindling in availability it makes us want it more. Again, quite often it’s the logical thing to seize opportunities before they go away. Doing so also helps us avoid regret over lost opportunities.
Influence Tip – It should be your goal to share what makes you, your organization, or your offering unique in some way. In other words, what does somebody stand to lose by not going along with your request?
So there you have a quick summary of Aristotle’s methodology tied to Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence. Tying the concepts from these brilliant thinkers is a great one-two combination for more effective persuasion.

** To vote for Robert Cialdini, President of Influence At Work, for the Top Management Thinker of 2013 click here.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

What’s Aristotle’s Best Persuasion Advice?

Last week I quoted Aristotle in the post about Lance Armstrong. The great Greek philosopher, is credited with telling the world, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” I had a chance to see that up close and
personal not too long ago.

Many of you reading this may be familiar with the tragic story of Josh Brent and his late friend Jerry Brown. Jerry died in a car accident in December when Josh was behind the wheel. According to police reports, Josh’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit to be considered drunk. In an amazing act of kindness Stacey Brown, Jerry’s mother, forgave Josh and asked his Dallas Cowboys teammates to do the same.
On December 16 the Dallas Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nationally televised game and Josh Brent was shown on the sideline with his teammates. The Cowboys organization thought that was a way to
support Josh as he struggles with the reality of his actions. The American public didn’t see it that way and Facebook and Twitter lit up with comments asking how the Cowboys could do such a thing. I was among those who posted a comment because it was inconceivable to me that someone getting ready to go to court for the manslaughter of his best friend, while intoxicated, would be allowed on the sidelines, especially given the fact that the National Football League has had such a big problem with players and substance abuse.
Several people commented on my post and I made a joke that Josh’s next game will be as a prisoner in The Longest Yard 3. That’s when a friend, someone whom I respect very much, weighed in and wrote, “Jerry Brown’s mother has forgiven Josh. Please don’t dishonor her or her son with these comments. Thanks so much fellas.”
Immediately I was convicted. I still disagreed
with the decision by the Cowboys organization but my second comment was insensitive and my friend was 100% right. But what really made the difference for me was the respect I have for my friend. He didn’t need to do anything except share the truth and because of how he’s conducted his life it carried the weight of the world for me.
I deleted my original comment and the subsequent comments from my Facebook wall then sent a message to my friend to let him know I heard him, that I was wrong, and that the comment had been removed. He
replied as follows:
“My niece was killed by a drunk driver; my sister was maimed by a drunk driver, losing the use of her leg. I am adamantly opposed to drinking and driving. I can’t imagine what this young man will go
through knowing what he did to his best friend. My guess is that his teammates are just trying to help him get through it. You are a great friend and I know you would do the same for me if I screwed up like this; while still kicking my butt for being so stupid.”
I didn’t know this about my friend’s family history with drunk drivers. As I noted earlier, because of how my friend has conducted himself over the 20 years I’ve known him he had the right to set me straight. It never feels good to be called to the carpet but I’ve learned the best approach is to take Dale Carnegie’s advice – When you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.
I teach people about the psychology of persuasion because I believe it’s a necessary tool for success and happiness. However, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert on the principles of
influence there’s another tool that’s completely within your control – your conduct, which builds or destroys your character. Do the right thing and you earn the right to speak into people’s lives because Aristotle was correct, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”


Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

PEOPLE – What Does it Mean to Persuade?

In recent years there’s been a proliferation of books and blogs on the subject of influence and persuasion. Some are quite good but many are nothing more than a rehash of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s material.

Another problem is this; what some people call influence or persuasion is nothing more than vague advice without any basis in scientifically proven data.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know what I share is often called “the science of influence” because findings are based on the research of social psychologists and behavior
economists.  In this series we’re working through the word PEOPLE and we now come to the second “P” which stands for Persuade. This begs the question, what does it actually mean to persuade someone?
A formal dictionary definition might read as follows, “to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding;
convince.” That’s okay, but I prefer Aristotle’s definition. Aristotle told the
world more than 2,000 years ago persuasion was “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”
I like Aristotle’s definition because it’s nice and simple; get someone to do something they’re not currently doing. If you’re a manager and your employees make it to work on time everyday then you don’t
need to change their behavior and no persuasion is necessary. The same could be said of your child; if your child is doing his/her homework then you don’t need to persuade him or her to study.
But here’s the problem; quite often people aren’t doing what we’d like them to do and when that’s the case, we need to communicate with them in a way that hopefully leads to a change in behavior. How we communicate; i.e., persuade, can make all the difference in hearing “Yes” or “No.”
Earlier in this series I shared why influence is Powerful; because it’s rooted in science. What I share with readers isn’t just someone’s good advice because sometimes people’s “good’ advice has no bearing for you. And sometimes people succeed in spite of themselves! Imagine a
relatively healthy 85-year-old person telling you they’ve smoked two packs of
cigarettes a day for more than 60 years and tries to convince you it wouldn’t harm you. Would you want to emulate their behavior just because they’ve lived a good long life? Of course you wouldn’t. Like most people you’d probably prefer to know what decades of studies have to say about healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices.
And so it is with learning the science of
influence because it’s rooted in six decades of research by social psychologists and behavioral economists. We’re much better off following the advice of people who study this for a living vs. people who might have made it big more by chance than skill.
Having shared that, I’d change Aristotle’s definition ever so slightly by replacing “art” with “science.” Doing so makes our definition of persuasion read as follows, “The science of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” If
you’re in business you might say there are “best practices” in how to communicate if you want to get solid bottom line results.
So taking our lesson from science, here are a few examples of how you might want to alter your communication:
  • Stop making statements and start asking questions because it engages the principle of consistency. Once people give you their word they’ll do something, the odds of them following through go up significantly vs. telling them what to do.
  • Make sure people know your credentials up front. The principle of authority clearly shows that people listen to those with knowledge and expertise, but they have to know what your expertise is before you start talking.
  • Tell people what they stand to lose by not going along with your request because the principle of scarcity tells us people are more motivated by what they may lose as opposed to what they might gain.
  • Take extra time to personalize whatever you do for someone else. Reciprocity is the principle that tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them so going an extra step is usually met with a better response.

These are just a few ways to incorporate scientifically proven principles to persuade into your everyday communication. Next week we’ll examine the “L” in PEOPLE to see how persuasion can have a Lasting impact on people.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Tiger Woods and Character

Aristotle is credited with saying, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” In light of what’s transpired with one of the most well known people in the world this week I thought it would be good to look at character because of its impact on our ability to influence others.

I think you know the person I’m talking about here, Tiger Woods. Unless you’ve been on a secluded island this week it would be hard to have missed the stories that are surfacing about his infidelity. I don’t think it’s judgmental to say what he did was wrong. He’s said as much and if you were on the receiving end of the news his wife had to face I think you’d say what he did was wrong on many levels.

But here’s a truth for all of us – we can’t do anything about Tiger Woods. What we can do is take time to reflect on who we are and how we impact those around us. I can only speak for myself when I say, if I had done what he did very few people would care but that’s not the point. None of us should make right choices because lots of people are watching. We should make good choices because they’re the right thing to do. If we know people are watching then great, use that as extra motivation to do the right thing but never the reason for doing what’s right.

Have you ever thought deeply about your character, who you are? If I didn’t write this blog I’d still be Brian Ahearn. If I didn’t work at State Auto I’d still be Brian Ahearn. If I wasn’t a husband or father, I’d still be Brian Ahearn. All those things, as well as many others, function at two levels in my life.

First, they help shape me. Because I’m married I’m different than if I’d not made that commitment. Being a dad has certainly changed me incredibly. Learning about sales and influence has had a profound impact on me. But the fact remains, I’d still be me if I switched careers, if for some reason my marriage ended or the day my daughter moves out. I will still be Brian Ahearn.

The second level is these things become a reflection of who I am. The fact that I am married says something about what I value. How I raise my daughter also tells a lot about what goes on inside me. But in the end those things are like a map. A map is not the terrain; it only shows you something about the terrain. What we do and how we act shows what we value and reveals our character.

Who I am, who you are, is a very complex thing to figure out. Ben Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Figuring out who you are is very hard but it’s worth pondering because understanding who you are helps you understand why you do what you do. Tiger Woods will have to figure out why he chose to do the things he did, things that could cost him his marriage, tens of millions of dollars and possibly impact his pursuit of immortality as he chases Jack Nicklaus’ golf records. He may be supremely confident and in control on the golf course but there’s something wrong away from the course.

In the end, after all the things that seem to define you are stripped away all you have is yourself, the choices you’ve made and the impact you’ve had on others. None of us is perfect and that’s not what I’m getting at here. We’ve all made mistakes, done things we’d like to change, hurt people and who knows what else. We have to come to grips with those things and thank God the whole world wasn’t bearing down on us as we tried to make corrections in our lives. We should treat Tiger the way we’d want to be treated, talk about him the way we’d want people to talk about us.

So character, who we are at the deepest level, is the most powerful persuasion tool we have. It can take a lifetime to build good character but it can be lost in a moment. It’s precious and we should treat it that way. One way I found to help me was writing a personal mission statement. You can read about that in a prior Influence PEOPLE post.

I’ll leave you with this suggestion – rather than spending lots of time talking about something that you cannot change, something that really is of very little impact on you, use the time to reflect on yourself and change for the better. As Gandhi encouraged people, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”