Influence feels like such a convoluted word these days. Mostly because it’s become elitist and equated to a blue check mark on social media. Which does the world a huge disservice. Because influence really is just about impact. (How can I help create change?) No one ever said of what size.
And so, I find many underestimate their own power. People assume to have influence you need fancy titles, followers or a cause you’re prepared to carry a torch for, when in reality, you only need a voice and the willingness to use it. You (yes, even you) can influence small yet still significant changes. Think about the last time someone made your day—didn’t that matter?
Our lives are made up of moments, strung together like beads on a necklace. Some beads are clouded, a deep blue, while the next can be bright, or clear and open to the promise of tomorrow. And I’ve noticed on my own string, my favorite colors have been painted in the moments I dared to make even a tiny impact.
Last fall, over the course of eight days I summited Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. Everything about the experience changed me, but nothing more so than my overwhelming respect and admiration of the superhuman porters and guides of Monkey Adventures who’ve dedicated their lives to helping others climb the unforgiving mountain. So when recreational clothing company Turtle Fur asked if they could share some of the pictures I took wearing their gear on Kili, I felt compelled to ask when passing along my photos if they would consider sending beanies to the porters who made my summit possible—I wouldn’t have been able to capture those photos without their guidance, and because Tanzanian wages are much lower than western prices, it’s very difficult for porters to purchase new gear; many instead rely on secondhand items donated by trekkers.
Now, to be clear on the audacity of this ask, I am nothing remotely close to a social influencer and it is extremely expensive to ship items to Tanzania. It was to my pleasant and grateful surprise, Turtle Fur said yes. After months of back-and-forth WhatsApp conversations with my guide, Charles, all 22 porters and guides received new beanies and neck warmers in May of 2020. Charles said it was the first time anyone mailed them a gift, and it’s been my brightest bead of quarantine. (Side note: Many porters and guides are struggling due to the halt in tourism caused by the pandemic. If you’d like to offer support, click here.)
I understand this is quite the specific example, which might be difficult to replicate in your own life, so I’ve added some other ideas below; but I hope it helps you see how you can influence your own spheres for the better. No flash, no big fuss. Just the earnest desire to spread a little good. And if, like me, you’re known to fall prey to impostor syndrome on occasion, remember the worst that can happen is someone says no, which leaves you no further than where you started—from there you can always try again.
Here are 13 ideas to tap into your everyday influence for good:
- Suggest a minority-owned business for your next (post-COVID) company-catered lunch or event.
- Create a mentorship program for young women in your field, and encourage open and honest dialog around topics like what’s a good salary to negotiate for at each level of their career.
- If your office doesn’t have a recycling program in place, start one!
- Ask your landlord if they’d add a ramp to make your building wheelchair accessible.
- To my fellow writers, seek out sources who may not often get the chance to share their story or point of view. Or better yet, write a story focused solely on an issue because it’s important and not because it will get the most “likes.”
- Whether at your current workplace or during the interview process for a new role, ask HR if the company tracks diversity and inclusivity statistics and if they can share those statistics with you. While many companies voiced their support for increased diversity in recent months, you can help keep them accountable and moving toward those goals by simply checking in and voicing it’s important to you.
- When traveling to underserved communities or countries that cater heavily to tourists, do your research and only book with companies that provide fair wages and ethical working conditions. Don’t be that person petting sedated tigers or riding elephants in metal saddles.
- The next time your company wants to make branded swag, advocate they select sustainable items, like organic cotton T-shirts, bamboo pens/pencils, etc.
- Digital marketers, add captions to the bottom of all videos on your/clients’ websites or social channels so the hearing-impaired can also enjoy your content.
- Send letters to your favorite retailers asking they join the 15% Pledge, and/or only shop at retail stores that do.
- Food and beverage professionals, partner with organizations that will collect extra food you aren’t able to sell at the end of the day and provide it to families or individuals in need to prevent unnecessary waste.
- Donate your new or gently used cocktail attire (dresses, ties, blazers, suits, etc.) to local organizations that provide free clothing to underprivileged youth so they can attend their prom. Tell your office, and leave notes in your apartment complex that you’re collecting items—you’d be surprised by how many people have at least a couple items to spare.
- Randomly help a stranger.
Photo by @titovailona/Twenty20.com
Megan Nicole O’Neal is a writer with a passion for storytelling, traveling and whenever possible, mixing the two. The UCLA alum lives in Los Angeles; more specifically westside coffee shops with equally strong wifi and dark roasts. Connect with Megan on Twitter at @megan_n_onealor her website mnoneal.com.