The Widest Helpful Influence
“There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.” – John Ruskin, Unto This Last
It’s no surprise to learn that Gandhi was strongly influenced by John Ruskin when you read something like this. The ripples of Ruskin continue to reverberate in Liberal thought. By Liberal I’m not speaking of foolish political labels, but in the concept that life and liberty for everyone matter. Matter, in fact, more than the political ambitions of some autocrat or profiteer.
Think about this: who has the loudest voice in the room? Does that person hold the most influence? It seems so, doesn’t it? But it’s generally the person that influences them who has the most power. It’s the person behind the spotlight who has the power, not the person who the light is being cast upon.
So how do we develop the widest helpful influence over the lives of others? The obvious answers are to build wealth, a powerful network, and a base of followers. And there’s no doubt that these will reverberate the loudest. But nothing is more powerful than developing the right story and the commitment to having it heard. And that starts with us.
Gandhi, Ruskin, Thoreau, Nietzsche, King, Emerson, Seneca, Aurelius, Carson, Oliver, Goethe, Montaigne… all are just people who developed a story and a voice. All found an audience over time. So why not us? What story will we tell?