FRIDAY'S FICKS: Being an influencer takes a few words

Published on Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:22
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Being an influencer takes a few short words, actions

By CARL R. FICKS, JR.

Do you want to be an influencer? If the answer is yes, remember this: The content of your speech matters more than the number of words that come out of your mouth. And … less is more.

Merriam-Webster defines an “influencer” as “a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.” But what does “influencer” really mean?

I recently watched, with mouth agape, “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” a compelling Netflix documentary chronicling the attempt by a Manhattan millennial to stage a luxury music/lifestyle festival in the Bahamas in 2017. He gave himself about eight weeks to pull off something that should have taken a year or more to plan, organize and execute. It was an epic fail, earning the fraudster a six-year sentence in a federal prison and an order to repay his victims over $27M.

How did he kick-start the “sell” for this disaster? With glossy photographs of social media influencers, paid to promote the festival, who then posted a generic, wordless “orange tile” on their Instagram accounts. An absurd post as shallow as the Bahamian surf they were frolicking in when they were photographed. Definitely not an influencer.

Jay Fishman served as chairman and CEO of The Travelers Cos. for many years, deftly steering the company through the 2008 financial crisis and earning a 2011 headline in Forbes Magazine as “Wall Street’s Honest Man.” Later diagnosed with ALS (aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), Mr. Fishman used the platform of the 2016 Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour event sponsored by the company he ran, to raise millions of dollars for ALS research. I was blessed to meet Mr. Fishman in early 2016. He entered the meeting in his power wheelchair and gracefully said to the small group “there’s no sadness here.”

Really? A man with ALS telling others not to be sad? I was fortunate to play a role, albeit minor, in his fundraising efforts and have never forgotten those few simple words he spoke. Definitely an influencer.

After my sophomore year of college, I limped back to Connecticut with a less-than-stellar GPA, having enjoyed my “freedom” a bit too liberally. My father, who did not have the opportunity to attend college, looked at me and said “you disappoint me.” That’s it. Those simple words, for which I often thanked him later in life, sharpened my focus and proved a catalyst for my law career. Definitely an influencer.

In 2018, I registered for the “Closer to Free” charity ride to benefit the Smilow Cancer Center. I had never ridden in this event before and thus, had no clue about its transformative start. The cyclists gathered at Yale Bowl and off we went, behind a phalanx of New Haven police cruisers with full lights and sirens blaring, escorting us two miles to the hospital for the “Smilow Salute.”

We were greeted on the street by Smilow patients saluting us for raising money. I met a patient and her caregiver and after a selfie and a hug, she looked at me and said “Thank You.” Huh? A cancer patient thanking me because I was about to take a long ride for charity? Her powerfully simple words propelled me through those 100 miles as if I had wings. Definitely an influencer.

Jay Fishman. “There’s no sadness here.” Four words. Influencer.

My father. “You disappoint me.” Three words. Influencer.

Smilow cancer patient. “Thank you.” Two words. Influencer.

It doesn’t take much, and a few simple words will undoubtedly be more impactful than a wordless “orange tile” posted on Instagram.

Who will you influence today?

Carl Ficks helps athletes and aspiring athletes set and achieve their goals. He once could not run two miles without stopping, but has since run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of road and bike races of all shapes, sizes and distances, from three to 100 miles. Carl moved to Berlin in the 4th grade but later ran away to practice law in New Britain for many years. He's also a proud member of The Generale Ameglio Society. When you're ready to get back in the game, go to carlficks.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns, New Britain on Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:22. Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:25.