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!”