After a long chat with a serial Kansas City entrepreneur last week, he emphasized, your sphere of influence as the the most important element in a young person’s life you can control. In order to optimize our success, we have to harness our own actions, attitude, and those we decide to surround ourselves with.
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is defined as a “spatial region over which a state has a level of cultural, economic, military, or political exclusivity to the interests of powers outside the borders of the state that controls it”. While I don’t literally interpret my sphere of influence as the United Nations, I think it’s interesting to note that the level of exclusivity is vital in determining our sphere of influence. Exclusivity over who we decide to associate with, what content we are feeding ourselves, and most importantly, what our professional and personal priorities are.
When we choose to surround ourselves with the right people, we in turn can influence others. I think of it as a ripple effect. When a rock hits a pond, it forms concentric circles. The first circle representing myself, the second circle representing friends and family, and the third circle, my professional network.
Coincidently, I finished reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek a few weeks ago. He mentions the idea of concentric circles as your “golden circle”. The inner circle is the ‘why’ — or the motivation behind our cause. The middle circle is the ‘how’ — or the process of what we’re doing, and the outer circle is the ‘what’ — which is the product we are producing. I like to think of the ‘golden circle’ and the ‘sphere of influence’ conjointly when capitalizing on my goals. They are paramount when utilized together. When we selectively decide who we allow into our circles, we can then inspire and lead them with our why’s, how’s, and what’s. When you identify your circles, it’s easier to interact with your network in a meaningful way. Sinek does a fantastic job explaining this concept in his TED talk.
So, after introducing these concepts, how do we go about growing a sphere of influence, and how do we filter who should be a part of it?
1. Decide what you want for yourself + others
Prioritize what is important to you. This influences whom we will allow into our circles, and how we influence those particular individuals. I think it’s important to never settle — in your career, in relationships, and with your personal milestones.
I like to prioritize my happiness and standards through the job positions I hold. If my position doesn’t meet my expectations in terms of creativity, leadership abilities, and new learning opportunities, I have to think twice. I also want to clarify that being in a leadership position doesn’t equate to a better ability to lead others. It is as easy to lead others from a bottom-up approach if you utilize your skills to empower the individuals in your circles.
2. Nurture the relationships you have
Admittedly, I’m not very good at this. I take those closest to me for granted. If I can tell you one thing, you will never have a better personal cheering section than your friends and family. Strive to regularly follow up with them for coffee dates, phone calls, and lunches. You never know when you’ll need a friend to help you filter dumb ideas, be there for you on your bad days, and listen to your problems.
3. Meet new people
In my other articles, I often mention about capturing opportunity. What I didn’t realize until recently is that new people can represent opportunities too. Building a network of valuable and smart individuals is the easiest way to land a job, learn from the influencers, and help you excel in your career. To expand your network, actively seek out networking events, join established local groups, and connect with the ‘movers and shakers’ who can help amplify your sphere of influence.