Choices, Books and People Define Who You Become

Last week I was reminded that the choices I make, the books I read and the people I associate with have a huge impact on who I’ve become. And those same things impact who you are and who you will become.

I was reminded of this when hosted a podcast for the first time. At State Auto Insurance we decided to start our own sales podcast we’re calling “Everybody Sells State Auto” or “ESSA” for short. It will be a learning opportunity for our field sales people during their drive time.

For the initial podcast I had the privilege of interviewing a longtime friend, coworker and boss, John Petrucci. John is the Senior Vice President of Customer Service at State Auto and came up with the ESSA slogan many years ago. Because of that, and his impending retirement at the end of the year, I thought it fitting to have him as our first guest.

During our hour-long conversation he shared this nugget of wisdom: You’re who you are because of the choices you’ve made over the course of your life. He went on to say the two choices that probably define you more than anything else are the people you associate with and the books you read. That’s sound advice worth exploring a little further.


When it comes to choices it’s tempting to think they don’t really define you because so many things happen that are outside of your control. It’s certainly true that you may have no control over some events but you do control how you respond to those events.

If you only focus on the fact that events are outside your control you’ll probably feel helpless, like a victim. Or, you can make thoughtful responses to the events of life in hopes of achieving the outcomes you desire. Does the death of a loved one, loss of a job, cancer or some other tragic event define you or will you make choices to define yourself? Viktor Frankl learned this lesson during his incarceration in Nazi concentration camps. He came to realize that people always retain the freedom to choose and therefore each of us can define our purpose and life.


You may have heard your parents warn you against associating with the wrong crowd growing up. They might have said, “You’ll be known by the company you keep.” They understood if you hung out with the wrong crowd you were likely to be lumped in with that group no matter how you behaved. It’s called guilt by association and right or wrong it happens.

As an adult are you spending time with people who will make you better? That doesn’t mean only associating with people who are better off than you are. It could be helping someone not as fortunate as yourself. Serving others might increase your appreciation for what you have and help you grow as a person.

On the other hand, it’s always a good idea to seek out people who are succeeding in life personally and professionally. By observing people who are doing well you’ll get ideas you can apply in your life to increase your odds of success. Experience may be the best teacher but you don’t need to fail if you can learn from others experienes. This approach will speed up your learning process while avoiding some costly mistakes.


Last year I wrote about 5 Books that Radically Influence My Life. The article struck a chord with people because it was the most read blog post I’ve ever written. Beyond that handful of books, nearly every other book I’ve read has had some impact on me just as each meal or workout adds to my health and wellness.

Food feeds the body and reading feeds the mind! What are you feeding your mind with on a regular basis? There are so many benefits to learning through reading but I’d like to point out just one – developing your uniqueness.

You and I can read the same books but based on your prior experiences, current job and unique viewpoints you’re likely to draw different conclusions and come up with different ideas from just about anyone else. In other words, what you take in will help stimulate your thinking and growth which will make you uniquely you.


This week I encourage you to take time to reflect on who you’ve become. Give thought to the decisions that have led you to where you are today. As you contemplate the future think about who you want to become. What people and books can help you achieve the future you? If you do that and take the necessary actions you’ll become the person you aspire to be.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.