Influencing and being influenced


December 28th, 2011

Here’s another gym-inspired post. This time I was noticing how I run faster on the treadmill and generally try harder when there’s someone else on the next treadmill. If they’re faster than me (and most of them are) I’ll try and go faster too. If they’re slower than me, I notice a slight sense of superiority. Oh, I know all that stuff about doing your own thing and what’s right for you etc etc. I think we are always being influenced by those around us, and probably forget that we are influencing other people too.

At it’s best this is a good thing. I work occasionally at The Hub in Melbourne, a co-working space. It’s a long time since I’ve worked in this sort of environment, with people coming and going, hearing snippets of sometimes interesting conversations, sitting in on discussions, throwing ideas about, sharing a story or a glass of wine with people doing completely different work to me. I am happy to be influenced by this environment and the people in it.

Anyone competing in any physical endeavour will be able to tell anecdotes of how they were able to find something extra during competition. Performers experience it too – that feeling of ramping up for the actual performance. Improvisers (who are, after all, performers too) call it ‘being affected’, being open to the influence of people and the environment we’re in.

It seems to be a small step from being influenced though to being competitive. I have mixed feelings about competitiveness. Sure, I love the feeling of winning, of getting ‘there’ first, whatever ‘there’ might mean, of being recognised (which I think is what winning is all about, after all, no-one remembers who came second). And I’m also aware that a focus on winning denies all sorts of other possibilities,not the least of which is success. I learnt from some improv buddies the difference between winning and success, and how winning can be celebrated mostly by the winners and success can be celebrated by everyone.

This whole influencing, competitiveness, success dynamic is writ large on the internet. There’s the shallow, yet hard to ignore, numbers – of followers, of retweets, of likes, of friends. And there’s connecting with people in the same or different industries who are doing incredible work. There’s great writers, and great thinkers, incredible ideas, amazing analysis, brilliant artists, and people willing to share their successes and their failures.

It’s easy, for me, to feel intimidated. To feel inadequate, to feel that I have nothing new, or original, or interesting to say. Everyone else seems to be saying it – and much better than I could.

Woah! I’ve fallen into the Tyranny of Excellence – a feeling where nothing is ever good enough. We are doing amazing things, yet see ourselves as inadequate. This tyranny  is the dark side of ‘being affected’ – of influence, of collaboration, of easy access to what’s happening across the globe and of living in amazing times where being amongst creative entrepreneurs and thinkers is the norm. But it’s not the norm for everyone. It’s also easy to fall into a space of scarcity, where it feels as if there’s only so much to go round and not enough for everyone. Much better to remember a sense of abundance where the world needs ALL of our ideas and approaches and there really is no ‘right’ way.

The Be Affected art is by the amazing Mary Campbell (in the US) and the Tyranny of Excellence art is by the incredible Milan Colovic (in Serbia) and I’m writing this from Australia. See what I mean – we live in amazing times.

 

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