Last month at our 18th annual National Leadership Academy Book-n-Benefit business breakfast our keynote speaker, Jon Gordon, made a comment that I can’t shake out of my head. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. His comment is etched in my brain. Tattooed on my heart. Never going away. You get the point!
Here’s what Jon said.
“I heard on the radio the other day that a study showed the average person will influence up to 80,000 people – both positively and negatively – in their lifetime!”
I’ve spent the last month trying to figure out the math on this study. 80,000 people. That’s a lot of people. And you can’t believe everything that is said on the radio…even if my pal Jon Gordon heard it!
But let’s just say that this study is correct. That the average human being can influence up to 80,000 people – both positively and negatively – in their lifetime. That is profound. I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, there is nothing that has occupied my mind more in the last 30 days than this.
80,000 people.
Norte Dame’s Fighting Irish football stadium holds 80,795 fans.
Green Bay Packer’s Lambeau Field holds 80,750 cheese heads.
The University of South Carolina Gamecock stadium holds 80,250.
And Beijing’s National Stadium, London’s Olympic Stadium and Melbourne, Australia’s Albert Park all hold exactly 80,000 people.
At the end of our lives. On our death bed. During our last moments on earth. If you were standing on the 50-yard line at one of these stadiums. Center stage at one of these world arenas. What would your 80,000 people in your lifetime be saying? Will they be screaming? Or will they be booing? Will they be chanting your name? Or will they be cursing it?
About twelve years ago I was honored to be inducted into my alma matter, East Carolina University’s Most Outstanding Alumni. The highest award given to an alumnus by the University. Besides getting married and having children, receiving this award was the proudest moment in my career. Every trophy that I’ve ever received. Every award. Every metal. Every recognition plaque…they are either in the trash or in a shoe box in my basement. But my East Carolina Outstanding Alumni Award? Now that sits in my home in a very special place.
The record attendance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at East Carolina University was on September 20, 2014 against the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill football team. 51,082 were in attendance. When I received my Outstanding Alumni Award in Greenville, North Carolina back in 2006, I was escorted to the 50-yard line at halftime during East Carolina’s homecoming football game. The Chancellor of ECU presented this award in front of thousands. It was the first time that I stood on the 50-yard line.
And perhaps there will be a second time. At the end of my life. On my death bed. During my last moments on earth. Will the 80,000 people that I’ve influenced in my lifetime be screaming TOMMY, TOMMY, TOMMY! Or will they be cursing %#@! %#@! %#@! ?
The last ten years of my life I’ve been a full-time student and teacher on servant leadership. I’ve written two books on the subject. I’m obsessed with the topic. And if I had to sum up a lifetime of studying servant leadership…here it is. People won’t remember how you led them. They will remember how you influenced them.
Positive. Or negative. The choice is ours.
You pick the venue. Fighting Irish? Lambeau Field? Gamecock’s stadium? Or Beijing National Stadium, London’s Olympic Stadium or Melbourne’s Albert Park. Your 80,000 people will show up at the end of your life. I hope they will be chanting your name. I hope they will be screaming, “YOU CHANGED MY LIFE!” And I hope they will remember the positive influence you had on them.