Beyond Influence, II: (Not) Beyond Influence (ft. John Giuffre)

[Editor’s Note: Today, we have the second part of our series Beyond Influence with a fun, educational, and characteristically irreverent article from my good friend, comedian and founder of Logos Productions, John Giuffré. You can find him on Twitter here, or his site]

I’ve been asked by the one and only Garrett Dailey of “MasterSelf” and Aion Media to write a guest post about influence. As two 20-somethings who <3 all of Gary Vayner-chuk’s killer content on the gram (and have blogs :/ ) It’s clear that we couldn’t be more qualified to talk about something than mass influence, so as the humble (yet adventurous) intellectual I am, I’ve decided that not only am I going to write this article, but I’m going to be a contrarian pain in the ass about it.

Part One: Never Beyond Influence (Defining Influence)

You can’t avoid being influenced. You are never above influence. God is above influence, and you are not God. God is omniscient and even he doesn’t know about this blog – but you do. And you know about it because you’ve been influenced to spend your time on it.

The very fact that a cabal of 20-something dudes who take cold showers like it was TOTALLY their own idea are writing blog posts about “how to be influenced less by social media” upon request from a man with an audience is “performatively contradictive” to say the least.

“Performatively contradictive” is the way people who wish they went to real college instead of art school say “more full of shit than a 40 year old divorcee at a pie eating contest.”

To be clear, I really love Garrett and all the other authors. Vicious and scathing verbal abuse is actually just my love language (thanks Mom).

Okay, lets jump in.

Let’s define influence as loosely as possible as “an effect produced by some force, idea, or entity that leads a recipient to change, alter or adapt behavior, beliefs or thoughts.”

OR, “A noun that affects the adjectives and verbs around another noun.”

Now let’s make a non-conclusive list of scenarios that hit that definition.

1. Garrett posting this article on Twitter or his email list and asking you to read it.

2. Me telling you not to think about the pink elephant.

3.When you look out the window to see what the weather is like so you know what clothes to wear.

4. When you look outside to see if society and the other 7 billion judgy-ass roommates we share the planet with still exist so you know if clothing is relevant as an aesthetic element anymore, or if it should strictly be to protect you from the acid rain.

5. When you watch a news source in a disproportionate amount to others because they are entertaining.

6. When you watch a news source in a disproportionate amount to others because they are objective.

7. When you watch or don’t watch any news at all.

8. When a homeless man asks you for change and that makes you uncomfortable because thinking about poverty in America is disheartening, but also deep down you’re disgusted that such a specimen had the nerve to ask for anything other than to lick your shoes clean, so the cognitive dissonance confuses you for too long to take the quarter out of your backpack and your perineum tightens, shoulders hike and breathing shallows as you say “not today, man” in a pathetically weak voice with your eyes aimed at the sidewalk 3 feet to his right.

9. You reading any items on this list and thinking I’m funny, rude, ignorant, stupid, intelligent, or inconsequential (in any combination).

10. Seeing an attractive person and noticing they are attractive.

11. Not floating off the earth of your own free will thanks to our very influential friend Gravity.

12. The fact that you use your nation’s currency to buy things.

13. The fact that you drive on the correct side of the road on days you don’t want to die or be arrested.

14. Personal Example – As I’m writing this I saw a bird hopping around and thought it was cute, then that bird flew directly into a closed window and fell to the ground.

15. I’m going to say the word orange and you’re going to think of the President now for some reason.

16. You are working late at night on a pending work deadline but your girlfriend walks in the room naked and horny. You have now missed your deadline.

17. You hear a song you hate but can’t get it out of your head.

18. You hear a song you love but can’t remember the lyrics and have no way of finding it again.

19. Your entire life is terrible so you begin injecting heroin.

20. This list has hit item 20 and you are now beginning to feel bored by it and wish it would end.

There are probably a few more examples of how things can influence you, but surely I’ve hit a vast majority of the important ones.

Based on my definition of influence, the only situations where there would be no influence exerted on you would be

1. If you were dead, or

2. If you were in an empty void with no other objects in the whole universe and no way to observe or reflect upon that situation (AKA, dead).

I am influenced at all times. You are influenced at all times. But much like the debates around free will, determinism or if we live in the matrix, claims about fundamental traits of reality are rarely helpful in any practical way.

Just because gravity always exists doesn’t mean you can’t improve your high jump. Just because we live in the matrix (and we do) doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be nice. And just because you are always being influenced doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to cultivate the best influences.

Part 2: Influencing Yourslef*

*[Editor’s Note: slef is an inside joke and is left as written intentionally]

Take notice of the effects of influence. How do certain foods make you feel? Does spending time with a certain person always affect your mood one way or the other (On social media or in real life)? Does something about your work space always increase or decrease productivity? Do you feel well rested when you wake up in the morning? What are the emotions and desires (or lack thereof) that are active when you decide to do or not do certain activities or habits?

You can watch anything. Track SOMETHING. It truly doesn’t matter what. You can track your weight and food intake, you can track your emotions each day with a journal, you can use an app to track your screen time.

Then, let that data influence you. Do you spend 3 hours on Facebook each day? How does that fact make you feel?

Begin to figure out what memories, attachments and life-experiences are holding influence over you. Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring program works for this. So do shrooms.

Finally build your ability to influence yourself. It can start small. Things like “I don’t like that I spend 3 hours on Facebook, lets shoot for an average of 2 hours for the next week.”

Over time, as long as you

1. Become aware of your own internal influences.

2. Become aware of your external influences.

3. decide what you want to keep, get rid of, integrate, change, add or build (Who do you WANT to be?)

4. Find regular ways of influencing yourself to do those things.

5. Repeat until you die.

Then, you will be one of the prime influencing factors in your life.

The world will influence you, and you will influence the world. But you can also influence yourself. And you can have enough influence over the world and over yourself that you can do a damn good job of filtering out the negative and stupid influences.

Truth is, you’ve ALWAYS been the prime influencing factor in your life, but you’ve been powerless and haven’t been taught what standards to have about what you allow to influence you.

I realize I’ve just described the basics of “how to not be a piece of shit” – but according to Garrett, you guys “REALLY need help in that department.”

Plus, I did it without selling an e-book or sacrificing a virgin at the altar of black coffee, so you can’t be too upset with me. Garrett has an e-book. I’m nicer to you than he is! Go me.

[Editor’s note: Damn it, John. Unrelated: eBook available here!]

Anyways, I don’t have time or space to explain every possible way you can influence yourself. There are plenty of GENIUS KING personal development gurus on Twitter and YouTube who will make neat-o listicles about their morning routines and habits that you can find. Personally, I recommend Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and Elliott Hulse.

And if you work hard, cultivate your own personal practices, and stay mindful eventually you too can build your way up to re-framing your failures, removing loved ones from your life, and hucking your own e-books on the internet like all your favorite celebrity entrepreneurs, artists and gurus! #InfluencerLife

Part 3: Influencing Others

It doesn’t end there… remember our definition of influence:

“an effect produced by some force, idea, or entity that leads a recipient to change, alter or adapt behavior, beliefs or thoughts.”

OR, “A noun that affects the adjectives and verbs around another noun.”

YOU are some force, idea or entity. YOU are a noun. YOU influence the world around you. YOU are an entity that affects other peoples behaviors and thoughts (probably to elicit annoyance, contempt, or disgust, but hey – all press is good press).

Point is: Unfortunately, you actually matter! Congratulations.

You can refine the way you influence others. On a basic level, if you walk in a room and you smell bad, you have made other peoples lives worse and they will never forget that. So do the basic bare minimum work to stop being ugly.

Just to piss off Benjamin George (@benjamingjw on Twitter) I’m going to claim king status among gurus and say you should brush your teeth and shower. Cold showers are bonus points, just as long as you bathe enough not to make peoples eyes water when you enter their orbit.

We are physiological loops. We are open systems. We are social creatures. Without external food, we die. Without social contact our own immune systems will actually just shut themselves off. Without beauty or entertainment, we become depressed. The “outer” always influences us and we always influence it right back merely by existing.

The HeartMath institute discovered that our hearts generate the biggest electromagnetic field in the body. And that our heart rate and field can change based on hormones and physiological activity (read: mood). In social contexts the fields will begin to influence each other. AKA – To some degree, your “vibe” is real and contagious. Also, people with pace makers have no souls.

One of the fundamental truths of influence is that humans are influenced by other humans. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and love you, but also that are happy for you when you try and grow.

But, even more than that, try and build skills that influence others (AKA creativity).

I write a blog post or record a podcast every day. I play music, do stand up comedy, write scripts and shitpost on twitter. These are all activities that allow me to influence others. While I have personal motivations (like happiness, mastery, expressing my feelings, spiritual purpose, creating a legacy, making lots of money, and hanging out with cool people) I also like making people laugh and discussing deep feelings and ideas with them. As Andrew Breitbart once said “politics is downstream from culture” and as your scrawny Marxist college professor once said “the personal is the political” – the way I choose to look at both of those quotes is the following:

I can either be in my personal life and contribute to culture as an ideologue, an ignorant, or an individual.

I can treat my art, career and relationships like they’re vehicles for my political beliefs. That’s gross and it’s ruined most American art. But I can’t be ignorant either. So what I choose to do is try to be the version of myself that I’d want to be influenced by, and then create the things I’d want to consume (or at least that people I like would want to consume). If there’s some political stuff in there, then so be it, but ultimately I genuinely believe that if artists, entrepreneurs and people in their social lives focus on

– Good vibes

– Crushing goals

– Not being annoying dirtbags

– Not being evil dirtbags

– Genuinely having a great life

– Empathy for others

– Providing value for others

Then whatever political climate that arises out of that will be better than the one where everyone is shouting how correct they are as loudly as possible. I hope that can be my influence.

But I do know that the other people writing articles are “narrative warfare” enthusiasts (they post mean .gifs under twitter accounts with more followers than them. I do this too, but I just call it shitposting). Some of them are political writers, and others study propaganda and spec ops/military strategy. Some are marketers and influencers in their own right. As such, they’ll probably be writing about “influence” in a more narrowed in sense of “are you being used to push a political narrative you don’t believe in for somebody else’s gain?”

I’ll summarize anything useful they could possibly be saying as well as this article here in 5 bullet points.

1. Vibe matters (bad vibe = you probably shouldn’t absorb it. Period. Turn off 99% of political content)

2. You are always being influenced at all times.

3. We all have a lot of work to do on our selves, our creativity, careers and health before we have time to worry about what the president tweeted – anyone convincing you otherwise is using you.

4. If World War 3 breaks out it wont matter if you knew it was coming because we’re all going to die. So you don’t actually need to follow the news every day. Similarly, if world war 3 does break out, everybody will find out one way or another. If news is actually important you will see it happen from a primary source, not from something with a commercial break.

5. Being paranoid and angry about politics males your country worse. And it makes you unattractive and less deserving of love. Please stop ruining holidays for your family, they aren’t Communists or Nazis.

Remember these 5 things and the politics stuff kind of sorts itself out.

In Conclusion

Every single frame in the movie of your life, whether you’re in it or not, is a 2 way road of influence. Not all moments are equally important, but all moments have an effect. You can not be less influenced until you are comatose or dead. What you can be, however is a better writer/actor/director in your own movie. And with practice, hopefully you can be that in other peoples’ as well.

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