“The first impression is the lasting impression.”
For many years, psychologists have studied and confirmed the validity of this argument. They have determined that in as little as one-tenth of a second, from our very first encounter, we form hundreds of opinions about the person, place, or thing we are encountering. That is both staggering and concerning.
It’s staggering because it reveals a small part of just how powerful our brains can be. Literally, in less than a second, a profile is built in our mind’s eye based on the picture presented to us in any given moment.
This is not to assume that the profile is always accurate or even fair as we all know the images in our heads are constructed through a host of varying influences.
For example, the parents of a two-year old toddler see an unfamiliar dog in the neighborhood resembling a pit bull and automatically sense “danger” based on the story portrayed about “those” types of dogs while watching the late-night news last week. The child who grew up in poverty encounters a rich person for the first-time, and without any formal introduction being made, quickly stereotypes him or her as greedy (or hardworking) depending on what his environment has taught him about “rich people.” The pastor who pulls up to church in a Rolls Royce…do I really need to finish the sentence?
You get the point.
First impressions can be accurate or inaccurate as they are, most times, formulated as rigid, final conclusions under the influence of unquestioned opinions rooted in our most dominant social, environmental, and/or cultural persuasions. These impressions are extremely powerful and totally inevitable, which also makes them very concerning as another study reveals, “It takes 20 additional interactions to fix a bad initial impression.”
What took one-tenth of second to formulate takes 20 additional interactions to eradicate.
In light of all this, you can see why I’ve felt a certain amount of pressure in writing and releasing my first blog post. Like or not, right or not, fair or not, and whether you’ve known me before now or not because you’re connecting with me in an unfamiliar context, a new impression will be created and a new label will be given. As a result, I feel it’s necessary to be more strategic with this one. That’s not to be taken as less aggressive in approach or manipulative in nature. It’s meant to say that I’m writing from a more calculated posture in the name of clarity and pursuit of accuracy concerning your impression and my label.
So, I began by asking myself an obvious and common question: “What goes into making a good impression?”
It didn’t take long before I realized (in view of the results from the studies previously mentioned) that really wasn’t the best question to ask. Since impressions are very much like tattoos – nearly impossible to remove once they’ve been applied – the better question is…
What goes into making a (positive and powerful) lasting impression?
For the most part, we all dream of making our mark on the world – of leaving an irreplaceable (positive, powerful, and lasting) impression with the lives we’ve been given. In fact, I believe it’s the very reason why we are here. The late Myles Munroe once said, “Your existence is evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains.” In other words, we don’t have to look any further than the breath in our bodies for a present confirmation to a predetermined destination. Therefore, the question is not only valid, but is also vital.
After taking a day or two to meditate on some potential answers, I arrived at a few conclusions that I want to share with you. Before I do, there’s a couple of things you need to know. First, these conclusions are written as “open-ended” findings, meaning, I’m interested in seeing/hearing your opinions and additions (please post in the comments below). Second, for the sake of preserving a similar pattern of processing and discovery, I’ve decided to give it to you in its rawest form – exactly the way I gave it to myself. With all that being said, here you go.
To make a lasting impression, we must replace…
• Insecurity with Authenticity
• Timidity with Bravery
• Apathy with Tenacity
1. INSECURITY WITH AUTHENTICITY
In order for you to leave YOUR mark on anything – family, career, or the world at large – you must be available to do it. Unfortunately, that’s not case for the majority of us is it? No, most of us spend the bulk of our time (and our lives) trying to be someone else. In doing so, we validate the study which reveals that…
85% or more of the world’s population is suffering from low self-esteem.
We live from a place of insecurity, convinced that who we are and what we have is not “enough”; we end up undermining our own authenticity in the process. To make matters worse, we even fool ourselves into thinking that it’s possible to live as another’s impersonation and still leave our impression. But, that’s simply not the case. Once again, your impression requires you to be fully present and fully authentic because “It’s impossible to write your story when somebody else is holding the pen (Harley Davidson Ad)”. So, I ask you….
Who’s holding YOUR pen?
2. TIMIDITY WITH BRAVERY
During a climactic scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, Braveheart, revolt leader and Scottish hero, William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson), is pulled aside by Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland, to have a conversation concerning Scotland’s independence. Both men wanted the same thing, however, they were in disagreement on how to go about achieving it. Because of time and space, I don’t have time to go through the entire setup or dialogue. I mention the story to draw your attention to each of their concluding statements as I believe it contains another important key in how to make an unforgettable, enduring impression with our lives.
Bruce: “I want what you want, but we need the nobles.”
Wallace: “We need them?”
Wallace: “Nobles. (Laughing) Now tell me! What does that mean to be “noble”? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles…they follow courage. Now if people know you, noble and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they would follow you…and so would I.”
Lasting impact is not possible without impacting lives.
And, those who understand what Wallace understood (that men don’t follow titles…they follow courage), and they find a way to embrace it by replacing timidity with bravery are guaranteed to do and have both.
3. APATHY WITH TENACITY
Finally, making a lasting impression requires a lasting commitment. The challenge with that statement, however, (and I think you’ll agree) is we have become a generation of the exact opposite – one that doesn’t like to work….at all…much less “for too long.”
We want passion without process, dreams without development, apprehension without action, and goals without growth.
We’d rather be “kept” citizens living in a stale calm of utopia than “committed” soldiers fighting and facing the uncertainties of a life in pursuit of true fulfillment. But you and I both know it doesn’t happen like that. In the famous words of Napoleon Hill, there’s no such thing as something for nothing. If it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting (and enduring) for.
Have you discovered the “mark” you’re meant to leave? If so, what is it? Perhaps more importantly, where is it and who does it involve/include? In other words, are you where you need to be and with who you need to be with to make sure your mark is being made right now? If not, what can you do today, right now, to get to that place and surround yourself with those people?