What Does That Have to Do With It?

Bill Abbate

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Have you ever given thought to who has had the most influence on your life? How have they influenced you? What impact have they had on who you are today? Is what you have become and are becoming what you want? Is it too late to be influenced by someone else? Let's explore these questions and more.

Every person has had one or more people in their life who had a major influence on who they have become. Who was it for you? Your mother or father? An uncle or aunt? A teacher or professor? A friend or colleague? A boss or someone you look up to in business? Was it a famous person, actor, or hero of some type? Or was it some combination of more than one?

As I go through some examples of influencers, I will ask questions you can reflect on to understand better why you are who you are and what you may wish to do in the future.

"The most important single influence in the life of a person is another person [who has…] become worthy of emulation." Paul D. Shafer (1907-1984)

The influence of others in your life

There is a good likelihood you have had more than one major influence in your life. I've had a few during my lifetime, starting with my mother when I was very young. As a divorcee with three small children, she worked relentlessly to provide for us. Because of her hard work, we developed a strong work ethic.

As the oldest child, I grew up much faster than kids with intact families, as I was the "man" of the house, even though I was very young. My mother remarried a Navy man with whom I never got close as he was out to sea most of my childhood.

  • Who helped shape you in your early years?
  • How would you describe their effect on your life and who it has made you today?

As I entered the business world, I discovered two gentlemen who have become my lifelong mentors. One of them was Jim Rohn, known as "America's Foremost Business Philosopher." I continue to learn from him today, even though he died in 2009. He had a significant impact on my thinking and who I became in my career. His teaching through seminars, audiotapes, and books changed my life. Because of Rohn, I realized I could accomplish far more than I thought possible.

"What you become is far more important than what you get. What you get will be influenced by what you become." Jim Rohn (1930-2009)

The second gentleman is Ed (Edwin Louis) Cole, known as "The Father of the Christian Men's Movement." Ed's teaching and books continue to influence me to this day. His book, Maximized Manhood, remains one of my favorites.

"Maturity comes not with age but with the acceptance of responsibility. You are only young once but immaturity can last a lifetime!" Edwin Louis Cole (1922-2002)
  • Who had a major influence on what you believe you are capable of to this point in life?
  • Has their influence served you well, or not?
  • How would you describe your personal philosophy (your set of guiding principles) about life?

A gentleman named Alan Durant hired me about mid-career after nearly a two-year interview process, but that is a story for another time! I learned more from this man about business than from anyone else.

One of the most important things he taught me was how to deal with people as a high-level executive. He also had a way of getting to the heart of any issue and could bottom line it quickly, which He helped me develop after years of working closely with him. In meetings, I heard several presidents of large divisions often stutter, saying "oh, uh, uh" when he would ask simple questions they had not thought to ask. Alan had a real knack for doing this.

Alan saw potential in me that I was blind to, took me under his wing, and eventually promoted me to the president of a division within a large multi-national company. He is one man I will never forget and to whom I will forever be grateful.

  • Who has poured into you in your career?
  • Who can you find to ask to help or mentor you? Why not ask him or her the first chance you get!

Two people very dear to my heart affected my life greatly and made me who I am today. The first was Charlotte, my wife, who died of cancer at 51. We married when we were only 19 years old and had planned to grow old together, yet it was not to be. She was always positive and uplifting and a true Christian, if there ever was one.

The other person, very dear to my heart, is Jane. We married when I was 55 years old. She is an amazing, beautiful woman. Like Charlotte, she is a very strong Christian and keeps me in line. She is always uplifting and helps me keep a positive outlook. I cannot imagine being with anyone else on earth. I have learned and grown more in my life because of her than I could have ever dreamed. It's great being married to one of the best professional coaches in the country!

  • Who has had the greatest impact on your character?
  • Who can help you take your character to the next level?

The final and most important influence on who I am and who I am becoming came into my life when I was 25. He has changed me in countless ways, and I hope He always will. I am sure He will continue to help me grow and mature to my last breath on this earth.

Yes, this is the crucial spiritual part of who I am. You may have guessed His name - Jesus Christ. I am incredibly blessed to have had some amazing people in my life, but there is none more important than Him. When you face death as many times as I have, it can help you draw closer, so close you have no doubt in your mind He is real and where you will one day be. I know without a doubt where I am going when I leave this earth. Do you?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus Christ (c. 4 BC-AD 30/33)
  • How is your spiritual life?
  • Do you know for sure where you will go when you leave your body?

Final thoughts

Each of the seven people mentioned has played a significant role in my life and continues to affect me today. Five of these people: my mother, Jim, Ed, Alan, and Charlotte, have passed on.

The two that remain continue to bless me tremendously. What more could I want than to have Jane by my side so long as I live on this earth? Although Christ died on a cross, he rose again and is the single most important person in my life and will be forevermore.

I leave you with two final questions and statements to ponder as we enter this new year:

  • Why not discover who has helped make you who you are by examining your life, as I have above? You may still have time to let them know the significance of their impact.
  • Why not seek out those who can help you become the best possible person you can become in your remaining days? This could well be the most important decision you make in your life!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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