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What Does it Take to be Influential?

What does it take to be influential? Let’s start off with a little background.

I’ve been thinking a lot about influence lately – mostly about how to get more of it so that I can do more good in the world. My mission here is to spread the message of risk-taking far and wide. In order to do that, of course, I have to get people to listen. So far, so good.

Riskology.co will be six months old in December. To date, it’s the most successful project I’ve ever had. Even though Riskology.co has risen quickly in the blog-o-sphere and a lot of people see it as an overnight success, what most don’t know is that I’ve been working online and blogging since early 2009 and writing for even longer.

I’ve learned a lot over the last 18 months or so about what it takes to gain influence and spread a message. I’ve learned what works and, of course, what doesn’t.

During the first reader survey, a lot of people told me that they wanted to learn more about how to build a following for their cause. You wanted more resources on how to get other people to pay attention to the risks you’re taking.

Right now, I’m working on my next big project. It’s called the Guerilla Influence Formula and that’s exactly the question that I intend to answer with it:

How do I get more people to listen to my important message?

It’s going to be big. It’s going to be comprehensive. It’s going to include literally everything I know about how to answer that all-important question. Most of all, it’s going to help you do it a lot faster than it took me to figure out on my own.

It’s also going to cost money (but not nearly as much as it’s worth) – this will be my flagship product.

Since that’s the case, not everyone will buy it. That’s just reality, and it’s totally fine. My writing here has always been and always will be completely free. I’m happy to have you free to read forever without buying anything. Your attention is more important to me than money.

At the same time, the information in the product is powerful and will be really useful to the right people. That’s why I’ve decided to give away the most important part of it for free:

Amazing Message Required

If you want people to listen to you and spread your message, you have to tell them an amazing story. Average just won’t do. In most aspects of life, 85% effort will get you close enough, but not when you’re trying to change the world. You need to tell a sensational story that people are eager to listen to and you have to live that story, not just talk about it.

That’s why Everett Bogue lives with less than 100 things. This is why Adam Baker traveled the world with his wife and toddler. Johnny B. Truant calls this storyselling; you have to sell every idea you have.

Don’t just tell it, live it. You can use all the strategies that make up the rest of the Guerrilla Influence Formula, but if you don’t do this part first, you won’t get anywhere.

Be clear and consistent.

Create a compelling elevator pitch that quickly describes what you’re all about and tell it over and over again. Make people want to ask you more about it. Work your pitch into every aspect of what you do online and offline.

Always show complete confidence in yourself even when you’re just getting started. People must know that you believe in yourself before they’ll believe in you.

Speak to your audience, not yourself.

Every time you say something, think very hard about why you’re saying it. Make sure that the message you send will help the people you’re talking to, not just yourself.

This seems simple, but it’s all too easy to forget. What if I had just announced my product today and didn’t offer anything else? Would you have found that useful? Would you still be reading?

Pay attention to your reputation.

Branding is not just for big businesses, it’s for you, too. Whether or not you’re trying to, you’re building a brand with each thing that you do, everything you say, how you look, and who you hang out with. This is what forms your reputation.

Since you’re going to establish a brand whether you want to or not, you might as well put some thought into it.

Hold passion & authenticity as guiding principles.

These two qualities go hand in hand, and displaying them is the best chance you have at getting people to pay attention to what you care about. They’re also extremely vague and hard to nail down.

Finding your passion does not mean finding what inspires you every single day. For me, no such thing exists. No matter how excited I am about something, I know I’ll eventually get temporarily bored. Finding your passion means finding the things that will motivate you to keep digging after you reach that boredom. It’s looking at something and saying, “even when I go through a dip and feel like quitting, I’ll still be committed to keep going.”

Being authentic means looking at yourself as a whole and asking if what you’re about to do makes sense. If it doesn’t, you can be  sure it doesn’t make sense to anyone else either.

Focusing constantly on these two things and finding where they intersect is the most important factor there is to creating something people will care about.

Be insanely useful and tell a story.

You can create the most useful “how-to…” instructions in the world, but if you can’t insert them into a story that people can visualize and relate to, you’ll bore them and they’ll leave. If you only tell stories and don’t relate them to a lesson that people can apply to their lives, you don’t really have a message.

Put those two together, though, and you have something that will engage and help people. That’s what draws a crowd.

It’s okay to be persuasive.

If you want to change something, you need an agenda. If you want that agenda to be successful, you need to sell it. There’s a common sentiment that people don’t like to be sold to or persuaded. It’s not true. They don’t like to be pushed.

People love to be persuaded as long as it fits with their own worldview. When your view conflicts with someone else’s, that’s when there are problems. By focusing your message and being persuasive, you’ll grab the attention of the right people and others will simply move on.

Be uniquely you.

Make people value your message by showing them that you’re the only person they can get it from. Focus on your message (even when it gets hard), be authentic, and talk to people like you’re having a conversation, not reading a text book.

Be a contrarian and shine a light on the things that everyone agrees on but aren’t actually founded.

When you hold uniqueness as a virtue, you can’t be copied (at least not successfully), and people will always come to you to get “the original.”

Take a stand.

Avoid false dichotomies, but don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand. When you truly believe in something, don’t be wishy washy – say what you think.

Yes, you’ll turn some people away, but you’ll fiercely attract people that agree with you.

Make people want to share your message.

No, you can’t make a difference by yourself, but everyone that you recruit can help you. If you want to succeed, you have to make people want to spread the word and just asking them to won’t work. If you focus on all the tips above, you should be a long way down this road already.

Solve real problems for real people, make it extremely relatable to everyday life, and nudge people to share it by making it their idea instead of yours.


This is just a small part of the Guerrilla Influence Formula. In the guide, I’ll be going over a lot of details about exactly how to implement these ideas by balancing philosophy with execution so that you can craft your own strategy that will work best for you.

If you’re on my email list, I’ll be sending you a discount code (probably for 25-30% off) before it launches on Tuesday, December 14. If you’re interested, here’s the form you can use to sign up:

First Name:


You’ll also get my free email series, 5 Risks That Made History, and you can opt out any time you like at the touch of a button.

I look forward to telling you more about the project as the launch gets closer. In the meantime, keep kicking ass like you always do.

Have any of your own tips for building influence? Let me know in the comments.


Images by: Schroedinger’s Cat