In a span of several days, I encountered two statements that
resonated with the lifelong learner in me.
As long as you live, learn how to live.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi
These two people lived in different times and cultures, but
still managed to share a desire for self-improvement.
Influence is the ability to affect someone’s behavior. When I
talk to people about influence, I often hear, “You’re just
manipulating people.” It can be confusing, but there’s a
distinction, at least in my mind. Let’s look at an example.
You want to go to a party, but it’s far away. Only your
roommate has a car. Let’s consider two things you can do.
- You can persuade your roommate to give you a ride to the
party. You also say that they can stay at the party with
you and that you’ll ensure they have fun. If you come to
the party and follow through on your promise, you
influenced someone. You changed their behavior and got a
better outcome for both.
- You start the same way, but when you get to the party, you
disappear and leave your roommate alone, and later find
someone else to drive you back home. You weren’t honest
about your real intentions. You used your roommate as means
for your ends.
You affected someone’s behavior in both cases, but with very
different outcomes for people around you. The former is
influence and the latter is manipulation. Even though the
techniques are pretty much the same, outcomes and intentions
make all the difference.
I want to influence my cross-functional peers—over which I
have no formal authority—because my UX team has great ideas
and can bring a lot of value to the broader team and the
company. I want to push my team to be a part of the
decision-making process for our products with product
managers, engineers, and other roles.
Let’s start with behaviors.
I’ve been reading digital books for many, many years, but in
the last few, I’ve switched almost entirely to paper. There
are several reasons for that:
- I’m looking at screens most of my waking time. Paper books
are a way for me to rest my eyes a bit and detach from
technology, especially before going to sleep.
- Paper books don’t lock me into a platform. I buy digital
books if they come with an open PDF or ePub that I can use
the way I want, or if I want to consume them in an audio
format. Also, a paper book can last a century.
- I can lend paper books to others without a need to have
particular devices or accounts. I do this a lot.
- Having books arranged on a bookshelf makes it easier for me
to look at them, think about ideas in them, and take them
out and explore. I never do this with digital books because
they’re not in plain sight. Also, bookshelves are neat.
- The possibility to open several paper books at the same time
is not critical, but comes in handy when researching and cross-referencing.
At the same time, I’m hoping that digital books will evolve in
a way that would enable some of the current upsides of paper
books. The combination would make digital books my primary choice.