Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Secret to Influence Is This

Influence is a buzzword these days. Everybody wants it. Everybody’s trying to get it.

But what is influence and why does it matter? Why are people so desperate to get it?

Because it characterizes a need we all have.

Secret to Influence

Photo credit: Official LeWEB Photos (Creative Commons)

Defining influence

Here’s one definition of the word:

The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others: He used family influence to get the contract.

Doesn’t sound very benevolent, does it? Sounds more like an episode of The Apprentice than Leadership 101.

But influence, I believe, is more than one-upping the next guy. It’s about our universal, human need for connection. In which case, it can be used for good.

For those seeking influence to give, not take, it’s a noble pursuit. If you have the right motives in mind. So why do some people struggle with earning this authority, while others ease into it so effortlessly?

The answer is charisma

Some people are more charismatic than others. They have that special panache that allows them to win others over.

Still, every once in awhile some nerd comes along and captures people’s attention. Some misfit steals the show. How does he do it?

Simple. He blows past the silly facades and false promises and focuses on what really matters. And if you’re going to build a platform that allows you to change lives, you’re going to need it, too.

What is it? A simple understanding:

It’s not about you

Not really. Influence is about others. Sure, it may begin with gaining power, but real leadership turns around and gives that power away.

In other words, a platform is people. Nothing more, nothing less. And the best way to earn it is to be generous.

If you’d like to get started earning real influence — the kind that counts — start helping people. If you need some guidance, check out this post I did on Michael Hyatt’s blog today: 3 Important Habits for Building Influence that Matters.

(By the way, If you’re visiting my blog for the first time today, check out my about page and find out how you can get free updates. Oh, and thanks for stopping by.)

Relearning leadership

For the longest time, I thought there was some magic secret to getting your name out there, to becoming legit. To getting noticed and having your work appreciated. There’s not. Well, none other than this: Life is about people.

You can spend your time building relationships or spend it building your platform. In the end, only one will matter.

If you are trying to get to “the top” and burning bridges as you go, you may not like the view when you get there. But if you aspire to leave a legacy, start here: Give your life away. It’s not easy and can sometimes hurt, but it’s always worth it.

See you at the bottom.

What’s your secret to earning influence? Share in the comments. And be sure to check out that guest post.

If this idea resonates with you, check out The Generosity Manifesto. A few friends put it together, and it’s quite good. Download your free copy here.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  •  ” every once in awhile some nerd comes along and captures people’s attention.”  That made me laugh.  So glad there’s hope for the nerds and misfits…it’s my only hope  🙂  I would definitely agree that influence is gained through relationships.  When you build relationships you build trust. 

    •  Me, too! There is hope indeed. 🙂

      •  I’m an uber-nerd if I put down the guitar. Truth is, I probably started playing just to reduce the nerd-factor. But aren’t we all nerds if we admit it? 🙂

        • Well I dunno about that. Some people are pretty cool, I think. I’m just not one of them.

    • It’s mine, too!

    • Mike Zserdin

      “so glad there’s hope for the nerds…” me too.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, I’m going to strive for nerd.  Be the nerd, yeah, be the nerd. Oh – and let others influence you. They love that. 

    • Well said. Especially the need part. 🙂

  • “If you are trying to get to “the top” and burning bridges as you go, you may not like the view when you get there.” I love that and it’s so true. I firmly believe that what you do to get you where you’re going impacts the experience of being there. Lately, I’ve been much more interested in authors and writers in general, not just myself. Instead of writing my blog for me or my works, I’ve been trying to find ways to use it to help others as well. I’m going to begin doing interviews as well as add a page for reviews of any great reads that I come across. My focus has shifted from self to whole. I want to make an impact on the indie author community and help others with things nobody helped me with. It’s not an easy business but with support we can all achieve our goals.

    •  well said, Kevin. interviews are a great way to serve your way into influence.

  • Your years in obscurity, giving and promoting others shines through everything you do. If there’s one word to describe you Jeff, it would be Generosity.

    Great guest article!

    P.S.  Thanks for the Manifesto.

  • Your years in obscurity, giving and promoting others shines through everything you do. If there’s one word to describe you Jeff, it would be Generosity.

    Great guest article!

    P.S.  Thanks for the Manifesto.

    • Thanks, Bob! I think you’ll like it.

  • You are so right. When I see my blog grow, when I see my writing shared, I get excited. Not to have my name advertised but to connect with more people. Writing is all about people and relationships for me. I get almost giddy at the thought of meeting new faces and friends. Slowly but surely I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m an extrovert with an introverted passion. Because every word I write shows that I’m hungry for human connection.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I have a new project in the works that demonstrates this need for personal connection in the world. Fantastic post! There’s so much truth here.

    • can’t wait to hear more, Elizabeth!

  • “Platform is people”. That’s a great way to put it that demystifies it and also makes it not feel weird. Thanks for this perspective, it is very helpful. 

    • You’re welcome, Brandon. I see you learning and applying this. Well done.

  • You should write a manifesto on influence….building a relational platform.  I’d read it. And then I’d tell other people about it, too!

  • Mike Zserdin

    Jeff, you’ve brought another strong point to the forefront…It’s impossible to build or keep influence without sincerity and authenticity. Authenticity leads to influence.

    Thank you for the timely share of the manifesto. As usual, you’ve given graciously. Stay at it and thanks for all you do…most importantly, for who you are and what you’re about.

    Joe Bunting did a great job on the Generosity Manifesto.

    Thanks. I look forward to reading your guest post!


    •  Thanks, Mike. I’m happy to share it. It’s a great piece of work. Well done. You should be proud. Not only of the eBook, but of the life behind it.

  • It’s almost like Jesus knew the secret to influence: die to yourself. Give yourself away. Love others as yourself. Put the interests of others before your own. The last will be first.

    It’s genius, really. Now if only I could get out of my own way.

    • elise

       Oh yes, getting out of our own way is key!

  • I’ve found when you really make your goal to help other people, it gives you the needed motivation to persist during those dark spots of discouragement. Because then it’s not about you or your feelings. And when you keep going and going and going, encouragement will come eventually – and then you know it’s real.

    •  mmm hmmm… I am nodding along with this comment. Right on, Loren.

  • I think actually helping people earns you influence, you become someone people can turn too. Awesome post today on Michael Hyatt’s blog! You are building influence!

    •  Thanks, Kimanzi. I hope I am stewarding it well.

  • elise

    I am hearing this over and over again. Influence through generosity. Not for the sake of gaining influence solely, but for the sake of sharing something you have to offer that is of true value to others. That is the kind of influencer I want to be!

    •  That’s right. The journey is the destination — and a fun one at that.

  • Awesome post today.  Life IS about people and those who don’t get that and don’t embrace the concept are falling short of great opportunities.  I just try to take myself, my ego, my id, out of the equation altogether and focus on empowering others.  You’re so right.  Our lives are not ours and I “preach” that all the time.  Doing good helps others and in turn makes others (I believe) do well for others.  When I am feeling stuck, I give to others and EVERY SINGLE TIME, it works to get me out of a spot and into another great place. 

    •  Awesome, Nancy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Being as helpful as possible. I didn’t get where I am by myself and I want to pay it forward. People really appreciate help and will share that appreciation with others by either sharing your content or your name. It’s just a natural effect. 

    • Gosh, I LOVE that movie, Pay It Forward. Totally embodies this idea — the impact on life committed to generosity can leave.

  • We’re taught to do things for a reason, so it’s tough to do things without an agenda. But it sure does feel great to help others.

    • Right. There is a reason, though: it’s to help people. It’s its own end.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, I’m so thankful for people like you that put into words so beautifully what I am thinking. You are an amazing writer and truly live out what you write.

    • Thanks, Justin. And I’m grateful for encouragers like you.

  • Love the phrase “real leadership turns around
    and gives that power away” – so true. And “See you at the bottom” – I love learning and practicing this although its very challenging at times.

    • “See you at the bottom” caught my eye too–a phrase worth remembering and a lifestyle worth cultivating.

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny that I started blogging primarily clueless.  I started writing stories about my crazy childhood and discovered my stories were helping others deal with their own dysfunctional family issues.  Once you realize your words can help others there’s no turning back.  But, you already know and do this.
    Great post!

    •  That’s sometimes the best way to pursue something: cluelessly.

  • … platform is people … Did you get that from my comment at Michael Hyatt’s blog? Oh, yeah, I think I got that from you about six months ago. I think understanding that idea has been one of the most liberating truths I’ve learned as a writer. Platform is people; not agendas, stepping stones, assertions, perks, or whatever. It’s learning to connect with others and nurture those friendships.

    About 10 days ago, a chef friend of my wife’s went to Chicago from New York to help with a charity. He signed books and chatted with attendees. The person who invited him didn’t pick him up at the airport, didn’t provide accommodations, didn’t send someone to escort him to the event, and didn’t feed him once he got there (a gathering centered around food). Within 24 hours after the event, the person shared on Facebook who her next chef target was and how to induce him (or someone like him) to do what you want him to do.

    That, my dear friend, is a lesson on how you build a platform to reach a higher rung on the ladder while at the same time burning the bridges that got you there–the opposite of what I’ve heard you say (write) and seen you model, Jeff.

    •  hah! thanks for being such a faithful encourager, Tom.

  • Jeff,

    Excellent Writing! 

    Can I add two thoughts?

    True Leadership Influence is learning to lead others in a way that influences them to lead themselves.

    Business is about People. Period!

    Thanks for everything…

    Only the Best,

    Les Dossey

  • Helen @ zen mummy

    For me, I think the key to gaining influence is to be passionate about and believe in what you’re doing. If you’re faking it, people will spot it a mile off. If you’re genuine and authentic, they’ll spot this too, and they will like and trust you. Write with integrity.

  • “Life is about people”

    I think if we can all get that and live like it’s true, amazing things would begin to happen.

    Thank you for this great reminder.

  • Grace Marshall


    You are spot on, once again. I appreciate your thoughtful, meaningful blogs. It’s one of the few I subscribe too. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  • Jeff, you’re spot on. These principles are timeless. The key is being genuine and authentic. If our interest in others is not genuine we may as well not keep going. Thanks for your great insight.

  •  Sure, it may begin with gaining power, but real leadership turns around and gives that power away. – BEST LINE EVER! Wish I had wrote it! I want to live like that, getting filled up with the fuel I need for the day, and then cranking on all cylinders to burn off the same fuel as I fill up others out of my tanker! I am so encouraged right now! Thanks! 

  • Sooner or later the realization that everything around us actually begins and ends with people. We just don’t know, or don’t realize it because our world is so automatically selfish. Great post Jeff! Mi gusta mucho lo que escribe.

  • Maggie S.

    Not talking all the time, so when you do speak, only when having listened first, people want to hear what you have to say.