I have an interesting task ahead of me. The marketing department for the publisher who's releasing my book early next year sent me a spreadsheet to complete: my "influencer list," 35 people who have influenced how I live my life and how I see the world.
I could probably name 35 in my own family, though some of them have passed. My parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—all of them have been incredibly influential. But when you look beyond your own gene pool, it's an intriguing question to consider: Who are your influencers?
Many of mine are teachers, artists, friends, and bosses. (That's me with two close friends, Carole Cain and Jennifer Smith, and our friend and mentor, Jeanetta Keller. We were taking head shots for an employee directory—sort of like school pictures—and talked Jeanetta into a "family portrait.")
From Mrs. Fannie Hinds, who taught me how to learn in first grade, to Dr. Thomas Wright at Auburn, who talked me into graduate school, to Mrs. Jenny Glenn, who showed me that there's a whole lot more to making music than just reading notes—teachers have been enormously influential.
If I start trying to name all the writers, photographers, painters, and designers who have taken the time to guide me and introduce me to new ideas, I'll leave somebody out, but there are many of them. It's the same with kind and loving friends—some from childhood, some from college, some from work, some from church, all of them gifts.
Early in my work life, I was blessed to have a couple of women managers—Martha Johnston and Jeanetta—who believed in treating people fairly and leading by example. I still call both of them for advice. They showed me that women can be strong leaders and still treat their staff in a nurturing and compassionate way. And I've continued to see that in other women editors and managers throughout my work life.
Men in the work place have also taught me valuable lessons. During every annual performance review, John Floyd used to remind me that my faith and my family should come first, and the magazine should be a very distant second.
Think about it this week: Who are your 35 influencers? It's enlightening. It's also an exercise in gratitude.