How to Change Another Person’s Life

How to Change Another Person’s Life

[A note from Peter: I originally published this post in 2008. Yesterday I was heard that Bruce, who is one of the people I refer to in this post as changing my life, passed away last year. Thanks for everything Bruce. RIP]

There is a very easy way to change another person’s life, and it involves doing nothing directly or intentionally for them.

Back in 2008 I published two stories on PickTheBrain by Stephen Hopson that illustrated the profound and lasting impact a single person can have on our life. In these stories, Stephen shared how a teacher who belted out “THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!” gave him the confidence to overcome the insecurities he held due to being deaf.

Very often, as was the case in Stephen’s stories, the person who changes us does not even realize the positive and profound impact they have had. Why? Because they have not done anything directly and/ or intentionally for us. Rather, they have simply been living their own life in such a manner that we can’t help be changed for the better.

Today I would like to tell you about two people in my own life who have left a lasting positive impact on me. These two people were only in my life for 6-12 months, but I will never forget them because they both continue to inspire me to be a better person and get the most out of life.

A Thirst for Life

In my late teens and early twenties I coasted through life, going to university, working, and partying. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great period of my life, but something was missing. Looking back, I think this something was a passion for life.

At the end of 2003 I finished university and a week later I jumped on a plane to come to Canada. I ended up in a small town in the Canadian Rockies called Banff, a place I still consider to be the most beautiful spot on this planet. Soon after arriving I was working in food and beverage for one of the town’s resorts. It was here that I met Bruce, who was the Food and Beverage Manager.

Bruce had a thirst for life that I had simply not encountered before. In his mid forties, Bruce was fanatical about the outdoors, in particular skiing. At the time I was just learning to ski, so I loved to listen to Bruce’s skiing tips and stories from the snow.

Bruce was determined to squeeze every last drop of fun and excitement out of life. I thought to myself: “I not only want to live with that much passion now, I want to be living with that much passion in 20 years time.” Simply by living a passionate and energetic life, Bruce showed me that I could approach life in a similar manner.

The Nicest Person You Will Ever Meet

It was 2006, and I was back in Perth working full-time in finance and banking. It was here that I met Allan, who to this day sticks in my mind as perhaps the most genuinely nice person I have ever met.

Allan was the type of person that you just couldn’t help but like. He would go out of his way to help you, and when you talked to him you felt like the most important person in the world. He had the friendliest telephone manner of anyone I have ever known, and at least a couple of times each day I would overhear him laughing and chatting with clients on the phone who, 5 minutes earlier, he had never have spoken to before.

He didn’t stay in the job long – 6 months at the most. However, it was no surprise that on his final day everyone from our department (100+ people) turned out to say goodbye to him.

Food for Thought

The lesson to take from these stories then is this: by simply living a life where you are happy, passionate, genuinely nice, etc you can change the life of people you come into contact with. Still to this day when I pick up the telephone at work I think of Allan, talking on the phone to clients as if they were his best friend in the world and nothing was too much trouble.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone thought of you this way?

PS - If you are interested, the two stories by Stephen Hopson mentioned at the start of this article are:

Photo by Eternal Sunshine

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.

26 Comments

  1. There is a phenomenon known to people who study monkeys and apes. It is known as synchronicity. In other words, as one gathering of apes on one island make a breakthrough, for instance, in learning to wash their food, it has been observed that apes on an island separated by miles spontaneosly begin doing the same thing. The implications for humans doing this is clear, leading to the spiritual
    theory that we should mind our own business of coming to terms with our environment and the problems that arise and the solutions required by those problems. The answer to the question, ” How can I help others to change their lives?”, To me, is clear. This is all based on the oneness of life and the spiritual reality that there is, in fact, no real separation between us. The spiritual reality transcends
    the physical experience. So if you would change lives, then attend to the one method that is ordained and that works without people interfering with each others free agency.
    All problems in our world are, in fact caused by people interfering in
    each others business.—Doug Rosbury

    Reply
  2. You never know how much just your example can influence someone else. There have been many people in my life that influenced me greatly that didn’t do anything intentionally to do it, they were just being themselves. Great stories. =)

    Reply
  3. Peter – Great article! It is truly amazing how a single person can have such a dramatic influence on one’s life. I remember a professor in college that gave me some advice that was profound for me at the time. I went to him because he was an advisor in the school of business. I was an engineering major and I was struggling. I was ready to change my major to his program. He told me that if I could pass in engineering even just barely that I would be better off if I stuck it out. This was not what I expected or wanted to hear. I was looking for an easy way out. His honesty and candidness shocked me. He should have been recruiting me. It would have looked better for his numbers, but instead he gave me honest advice that has proven valuable in my life. I did stick it out in engineering and graduate. I don’t even know the man’s name. I was too stunned at the time to write it down. However, the memory is vivid for me and I owe him a debt of gratitude.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing these two stories Peter. I will have to think about this and may write something about it on my site. Thanks again…
    Todd

    Reply
  5. Dear Peter,
    I don’t mind telling you and your readers that in my 29 years, I’ve had more therapy than most people ever have in their entire lives. Did it help? Some. It helped with the grief a little bit, yes. But what we (the therapists and I, that is) didn’t realize, is that my limiting beliefs about myself, combined with my grief, was causing me to turn away business, effectively sabotaging all the work that my husband and I were doing to walk the entrepreneurial path. It took a conversation with David Neagle, who’s now my mentor, to uncover the fact that I was turning away business because I didn’t want to ask this world for any more money. That single conversation transformed my life, and I haven’t looked back. In the interest of full disclosure, I now travel as part of David’s events team, as does my husband. I hope that doesn’t take away from this story, but I thought it was important to be honest. I never would have imagined that my life could be this rich, and I will be forever grateful to David for his guidance.

    Reply
  6. Great post, Peter. It is true that the most beautiful thing you can do for yourself, your community and the planet is to be your highest shining self.

    I thought you might enjoy this quote from Osho:

    A man of peace is not a pacifist, a man of peace is simply a pool of silence. He pulsates a new kind of energy into the world, he sings a new song. He lives in a totally new way his very way of life is that of grace, that of prayer, that of compassion. Whomsoever he touches, he creates more love-energy.

    The man of peace is creative. He is not against war, because to be against anything is to be at war. He is not against war, he simply understands why war exists. And out of that understanding he becomes peaceful.

    Only when there are many people who are pools of peace, silence, understanding, will the war disappear.

    Reply
  7. I like this post a lot. It reminds me the importance of living well myself — for myself and possibly for people around me.

    Reply
  8. hey excellent post! When I was a teen a cousin in the family became my mentor and invested time with me. He also introduced me to a community of friends, many of those same friends are still in my life today. Taking the time to invest in someone else surely goes a long way. Trust me, I’ve seen the difference!

    Reply
  9. By the way, I forgot to add that I also enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, especially Erin’s because of her honesty and transparency. I just want to say to her that the fact that she’s now an event director/manager for David Neagle does not in any way diminish the power of her story. In fact, I think it was a divine miracle to end up in such great company the way it happened!

    It inspired me to keep dreaming, keep believing because miracles do happen. Like how I won the recent video competition where I had to submit a 2 minute video about my most life changing moment. I was up against 200 other video entrants and I won! So miracles do happen.

    Just keep believing……

    Reply
  10. Peter:

    Right, I know what you mean about people who are “painfully nice.” I sensed that Adam was a solid person inside. I love people like that. Makes me feel good to be around such a person. I’ll bet you’re like that too Peter. :)

    Yes, indeed, I’ve noticed how the title of your articles tend to mirror the title of your blog – indeed, it’s a cool way of staying consistent with your theme, hmmm?

    Reply
  11. Many of us want to see change in the world, and imagine how we can contribute to that change, how we can influence others.

    Thanks for the reminder, that in the end, our greatest power to influence comes from who we are, as we live, everyday.

    Reply
  12. Peter:

    Thank you for mentioning those two stories I wrote for PTB about the impact my fifth grade teacher made on my life. I’m on a mission to spread that story around the world, reminding people that there are angels among us (including ourselves) who can cause a powerful ripple effect in other people’s lives.

    I was particularly touched by the stories you shared (Bruce and Allan). The story of Allan reached me the most because as I was reading about him and the impact he made, I saw myself. I can understand why so many people would turn out for a man like that. He was the “nicest guy” but he was not a pushover. Right?

    In other words, nice guys can finish at the top. :)

    Thanks for sharing Peter. It was an enjoyable read not just because you mentioned me but because the article had much value in reminding people the importance of reaching out and touching other people’s lives. I especially appreciated how you shared your own stories – that always makes it fun to read instead of a boring list of “How To’s” that seem to be all over the Internet these days.

    Stories like yours rock!

    Reply
  13. Peter,

    I can share great American story of my own. I came here on student visa in 1990. I had $20 when I arrived in America and one friend who gave me shelter at Penn State campus for few days. In those few days, I walked everyday and asked for work. I met a small Pizza store owner Tom, who graciously allowed me to work for him and when he found out that I was struggling with shelter, he offered me to stay with him until I can afford an apartment on my own. I’ve come long way since then and have built successful business of my own. I own several hotels now but I still consider him as my father in this country. He is part of my life forever…

    Shilpan

    Reply
  14. I love this article, what a difference we could make if we could all just change the life of one person.

    Reply
  15. This article is so inspiring! I too have an inspiring moment in my life that sticks to me just like it was yesterday. My best friend in middle school once said to me “If you do not believe in yourself, who will?”. This has always made me realize my potential and has been an inspirtation to me since the day he said it. It has stuck with me through out my life and I think it is so good that I have even made it my tag line on Juice of Champions. Keep inspiring Peter, your great!

    http://www.JuiceofChampions.com

    Reply
  16. I really like your friend’s quote. “If you do not believe in yourself, who will?” Awesome!

    Reply
  17. What idea did my Costa Rica article give you…??

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  18. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I have worked in education all my life and this gives you an ideal platform for doing exactly what you have described. So many teachers I meet fail to see this – to me, it’s the most important thing. Not doing anything in particular, just showing that you care, being there for the kids, setting an example.

    http://effortless-wealth.blogspot.com

    Reply
  19. I enjoyed reading this post it is filled with the appreciation of the ones you cared for and i personally think more people should feel the way you do if they had the chance. Great article.

    Reply
  20. Todd,

    I’m going to start charging you for these article ideas mate :) .

    Actually, your recent article All Roads Leading To Costa Rica (For Me) was hugely inspirational for me, and just so happened to give me a big idea. More on this idea in due course….

    Reply
  21. Hi Stephen,

    No, he wasn’t a pushover. There are some people who are what I call “painfully nice” – they almost make you uncomfortable to be around. As I said in the article, Adam was just a genuinely nice guy that not only did I enjoy being in his company, he made me want to be a better person.

    PS – do you realize I called this post “How to Change Another Person’s Life” – LOL! I know what you mean though about the abundance of the same types of articles online. I am trying to make a conscious effort to write some “different” posts.

    Reply
  22. Kaila,

    Thank you for sharing that quote. It is a beautiful, and not one that I have come across before. :)

    Reply
  23. Hi Miguel,

    Great example! Your cousin was probably just doing what came naturally to them, but their kindness will stay with you forever.

    Reply
  24. Hi Doug,

    While I agree that the cause of many problems is people interfering in each others business, I don’t agree that we should just leave other people to their own devices (that is what you are suggesting, right?).

    In my opinion, the world needs more people who are willing to help other people out. It’s a tricky one, because I can see how the same act could be interpreted as “interference” and “helping” by different people. I guess it comes back to context.

    Reply
  25. All will be revealed in time…… :)

    Reply

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