"I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me” said Frank Costello in the 2006 Martin Scorsese directed, The Departed. I love his delivery of this line because his intent is pure, his vitriol unrelenting. He is saying that there is no way he is going to play the game by the people's rules, they will abide by his. Alas, lots of heads rolled and the film turned out a fairly high body count, one just never knew who to trust. Six years on from that marvelous piece of cinema that garnered Marty with a well deserved (and overdue) Academy Award, I look at the meaning of the words in an entirely different light. “I want my environment to be a product of me”.
I have friends in many parts of the globe who give their all everyday in order to make life better for others. It is no coincidence that all of these people are close to me, it's a choice I consciously make because they up the game for all who come into contact with them. Influence is a powerful thing that should never be underestimated, no matter how trivial you may think the situation is. Many years ago I worked with a guy that I really liked and we are still incredibly close after all these years. The guy in question is older than me and was always like a big brother, I filled the role of cheeky younger brother with ease. I would mouth off and say stupid things and believed I was the funniest thing on two feet, being over the top was my exclusive right as a young man with not a worry in the world. With him being more mature and tougher on the inside I would take it a bit too far from time to time (in most of the cases without realising) One day I told him to shut the hell up thinking my jest was blatantly apparent, my friend just walked away and sat on a chair in the corner. I was confused, I went back to his desk and asked him what was the matter, turns out that unbeknownst to myself I had been ragging on him for a while and he could take no more. Here was this grown man who was far bigger than me in size and years ahead of me in both accomplishment and wisdom, and he was genuinely hurt and upset. We spoke and as he reminded me of the times I had been ignorant I connected the dots and hung my head in shame. I wasn't a bad person, I just never thought before I spoke or acted.
Fast forward to this morning, I had a miserable week where I missed my kids and couldn't run because of a sore back. I sloped around aimlessly like a wounded animal with a face as long as a horse. Then I got a message. It was from someone I knew back home when I was younger but we never really spoke or hung out. She wanted to privately thank me for influencing her to stop smoking and drinking which led her to start running. I was really surprised and wondered how in the world I, of all people, could generate that kind of motivation in another person. As the morning progressed we caught up by trading mails and talking about things we have in common. It led me to ponder all my actions in the past and the recent ones too. How many people did I slight with a sly jibe? I may have been in joking mode, but still. On the other end how much of the positive things have rubbed off on others. The people who I am inspired by normally do nothing other than be themselves, I hope that I am capable of that too. I am more aware now than ever before of what I say and do as it all has consequence attached to it. The effect of your influence can reach a further than you can possibly imagine, the product of your environment being either negative or positive, which side the scales tips to, is up to you.