As I’m cruising down the road, the windows are down, the wind is in my hair, and that Taylor Swift song is turned all the way up. Life is good. This drive around town is different than any other one I have had before, because I finally have a subwoofer system installed in my radio. The sub is a special speaker that amplifies music louder than the radio could ever play it. I felt so cool with my music being loud. After a couple weeks of enjoying my subwoofer system and showing off to all my friends, I was headed home, which meant I got four solid hours of nothing but extremely loud music and some hard core base. When I finally made it home, my sister was helping me bring my clothes in out of the car and when we open the trunk, where my clothes were, the speaker to the subwoofer system was visible. Taking every opportunity to talk about my new subwoofer, I said, “Hey… this sub is so slick! It be bumpin’ those base beats so fresh.” She took one look at it, said it wasn’t plugged in and walked away laughing at me. “What!?” I called my dad out to get a second opinion, and sure enough, the cords that connected the large speaker to the radio weren’t even plugged in. I felt so ignorant. I had been driving around thinking that my music was so loud when really it wasn’t. I had even showed it off to so many people. How embarrassing!
Influence: Having importance and impact. Just as every radio has music, every person has influence. Just as our music can be amplified beyond where it is now, our influence on others can too, and honestly, I think everyone wants it to be. Yes, we are all an influence now, but there is something inside of us that pushes to be more. We constantly strive to be influential to someone or something. I thought my subwoofer system was working in a way that would amplify my music, when in reality it wasn’t. Often we think the lives we are living will amplify our influence, when in reality it doesn’t. Here is why. In our society today there is this confused concept that in order to be influential, we have to be a world renown leader, a millionaire, have that beautiful home with a white picket fence, or whatever other definition of ‘success’ you want to insert. This concept is like having the cords to our subwoofer systems unplugged. We may think our music is louder, but is it really? If we want our music to REALLY be loud we have to plug in those cords. Those cords in our life are selflessness. Plugging them in is an easy process. We need to change our mindsets and change our actions.
This past January I started a new job at the K-State Dairy Unit. After growing up around cattle I thought I was finally had a job that I loved. However after two short weeks, the job got old. I hated going into work and the only thing I could think of is what time do I get to leave? Two other students were hired about the same time I was, Katie and Alex. We instantly became friends because we had a lot in common. We all were fairly new, we all were the same age and we all worked the same shift. The only difference between myself, and Alex and Katie was our mindsets. Remember, I was burnt out with this job, not because it was different than I expected, but because it didn’t offer ME enough, therefore I was wasting MY time. Every day when I went to work all I could think was, “Only two more hours until I’m off,” or “so if I worked this many hours this week then I should get paid… this much.” I did the bare minimum work, complained the whole time and was completely miserable. Katie and Alex, however, were anything but miserable. They were always happy and loved to work. They would come early, stay late and always make sure everything was done right. One day in particular, I was in a hurry to get work done and leave, because I had stuff I needed to do. I over looked the health of a calf and Katie corrected me on where I had went wrong. At first, I was very resentful and I said, “It doesn’t really matter anyways.” But then Katie explained to me how these little calves were going to be milked one day and their health now could determine their growth and future milk production. Ultimately, effecting the rank of our Unit. It was at that moment my mindset completely shifted. Katie’s changed mindset had a huge influence on me. I realized that I was a part of something much larger than myself and that I could contribute to the greater good of the dairy unit.
We are all a part of something bigger. And how we play into it depends on our mindset. Tim Elmore, the author of habitudes says it perfectly when he says, “I’d rather be a small part of a really big show, than the star of my own little show.” The mindset I had used to have at the Dairy was a very selfish one. It was all about me. How much work do I have to do? How much money will I get paid? What time can I leave? Katie and Alex, however had a selfless mindset. Because they weren’t focus on themselves, like I was, they enjoyed working, their work was higher quality and the time passed quickly for them. Once I changed my mindset, I began to see all of those things true in my life as well. I was happier and my influence to the dairy was amplified.
I strongly believe that it is human nature to think of ourselves first, but we have to push past that and directly combat our self-pride. We have to tell ourselves “it’s not about me,” because, let’s be honest, is it? Really? Is it really important that we have all the attention on us? Do we really need to have the pity of others? Is it really that important that our needs AND wants take first priority? Having that changed mindset where ‘it’s not all about us’ begins with one decision and then starts to affect every area of our lives. We can change our mindsets by being open to other people’s ideas no matter how ‘perfect’ ours is. We should find the good in others, instead of flaws and be considerate of people’s feelings. We can have a humble and forgiving attitude to any and every one; even that teacher at school who just doesn’t understand you. It’s believing in others, caring for others, thinking of others and putting other people’s needs above our own. Our mind is the hardest thing to conquer, but, like Katie and Alex we can amplify our influence by changing our mindsets.
Changing up here is a great start, but we can take our influence to a whole new level by changing our actions as well. This year I got the opportunity to meet and live down the hall from a truly incredible individual. Meghan has become one of my very good friends and I have learned from her how to be influential in even the simplest of ways. One night this year, I had a lot of homework and I knew it was going to be a long night if I wanted to get it all done and make an ‘a’ on the test I had the next morning. Unfortunately my roommate was going to bed early. Meghan’s roommate, Christina, also had a lot of work that night and ironically, Meghan was going to bed early that night as well. Therefore, Christina and I came up with a plan for Meghan to sleep in my room so we could stay up as late as we needed and then I could just crash in her bed. The only problem was that Meghan doesn’t really like laying in other people’s bed or having people lay in hers. She’s kind of a clean freak and I knew what she was thinking, “I don’t want Kayla to drool on my pillow!” Yea it’s true, I have a drooling problem. Meghan also loves being routine, therefore this switch would have messed up, not only her nightly, but morning routine as well. Fully expecting her to say no, I was shocked when she agreed to this plan with no hesitation. She actually was very happy to be able to help out. Meghan making a sacrifice that night made me want to repay it with an act of service to someone else. By changing her actions in such a simple easy way to help me out, she was an influence.
The more I watched Meghan, the more I realized that the changing of our actions isn’t just a one-time thing. I watched her give up time to listen to people, give up organizing her room to help someone else carry in their clothes and drop what she is doing to give people rides. Meghan also never talks about herself. She is interested in other people and gives them the opportunity to share about their life. Meghan amplifies her influence by changing her actions for the good of others. How can we change our actions for others? Changing our actions is not on a check list for the day like, “Oh I helped out once already today, check that off the list.” It is giving of ourselves in every opportunity possible and never stopping. It’s picking your friend up for school every single morning. Even when you just want a break, it is being a consistent volunteer for your chapter’s events. Even when you really want to be with your friends, it is taking the time to show that younger person how to livestock judge or write a speech, shoot a basketball or hit a golf ball. It is a daily sacrifice, a constant give, but our influence is amplified when we change our actions.
In the song “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis, there is a line that says, “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you go.” As much as we like to believe this world surrounds us, it doesn’t. It will still be going long after we are gone. Like Randy Travis says, we can’t take anything with us when we go, we can only leave things. As we change our mindsets and change our actions, we leave a variety of things behind. We leave an example for others to follow. We leave a model of how to contribute to the greater good. We leave our chapter better off financially or better experienced. We leave better leaders, higher standards and stronger values. We leave significance, good advice for a young person and better days for those who surround us. We leave our influence. It’s a choice we have to make to know it’s not about us, to be happy at school, to see the good in people, to give up time to help a friend, to teach someone younger than us, to change our mindsets and to change our actions. When we make that choice, we plug those cords into our subwoofer system and our influence is amplified. Kansas FFA, amplify your influence!