Perspectives: Learning from the right kind of influencers

Stock image courtesy of Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — This past week was one of the busiest and most stressful I’ve ever experienced. It was also one of the most rewarding.

I spent the majority of the week at the State Policy Network’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City. This was a gathering of roughly 1,300 of the nation’s brightest influencers for free markets and personal freedom from think tanks all across the country.

Their theme this year was “State Solutions. National Impact.”

Having attended last year’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and a number of SPN trainings over the past couple of years, I’ve had a front row seat to the kind of impact these folks are having.

The week was filled with training and education designed to help the participants become more effective advocates for their various causes while building productive partnerships and alliances. The fact that they carry out their missions with philanthropic – rather than taxpayer – dollars makes their work all the more impressive.

There was a noticeable lack of political handwringing throughout the event. This is because the participants are so focused on genuine results that they don’t have time to sit around blaming others for the world’s problems.

A particular highlight was hearing writer P.J. O’ Rourke and CEO Patrick Byrne discuss current events from a humorous, yet decidedly libertarian viewpoint. It’s fun to listen to people whose thinking isn’t purely fear and enemy driven.

Hanging out with positive and creative individuals who are actively making a difference sure beats complaining from the sidelines with those who can only find fault.

My week was capped off on Friday night with the Sutherland Institute’s annual gala where Arthur C. Brooks was the keynote speaker. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and a highly sought after author, speaker and social scientist.

Brooks gave the most timely message I’ve heard on how to personally battle the growing incivility taking hold in our society.

First, he encouraged each of us to refuse to be used for polarization. The difficult part here is that the people who push the hardest for us to hate others are the ones with whom we already agree. Turning them off is the appropriate response.

Next, Brooks identified contempt for one another as the single most corrosive element that is destroying our ability to get along. Even the act of rolling our eyes at one another is a clear act of marginalizing those with whom we disagree.

Brooks counseled us to learn to recognize contempt, to confront it in our own lives and to choose to see it as an opportunity to need friends who don’t agree with us. By listening carefully and responding in love, we’ll have far better opportunity to change hearts.

Last, he challenged us to get serious about showing gratitude in every area of our lives. I loved his response to a particularly rabid critic of his writing in which he thanked the man for actually reading every word he wrote.

This response earned him an invitation to lunch with his critic. How differently might that have gone had he given a scorched earth response?

The common thread between the SPN meeting and Brooks’ presentation was the connection between having impact and not just focusing on personal status.

One of the most critical turning points in my life was the moment I realized that having impact mattered more to me than status.

This realization was liberating in ways I hadn’t expected.

First and foremost, it freed me from having to follow the institutional script that most of us cling to while seeking safety in the crowd. This script is the one that celebrates conformity to popular opinion and worships materialism and status.

It’s the one that trains us to believe that we must do well in school, get a degree, find a secure corporate job and accumulate titles and material possessions. Notice how many of these things depend upon our support of institutions.

If we stay on script, we can expect to be considered successful but often at the cost of living a life of our own choosing. As Paul Rosenberg explains:

The streets, offices, and boardrooms of the mega-corp world are rich and shiny, but they are swept clean of real life. They are places where souls go to whither and die – albeit slowly and with continuous validation.

Rejecting status meant being released from having to care about what other people think of me. Our capacity for having positive impact on the world is greatly increased when we’re not wasting our time seeking validation or approval from the naysayers.

This frees us to focus almost exclusively on the message we seek to deliver rather than obsessing about how others choose to see us.

Making the most of our own personal influence is a lot more satisfying than trying to tear down someone else’s.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Mike P October 16, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Anyone can be an “influencer”. It requires nothing, just start calling yourself one and hopefully you’ll find someone to follow you. Kinda like a Prophet.

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