The power to sway someone’s decisions is an exciting notion.
On opening night of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I had dinner with the former Chief Marketing Officer of Marvel Studios. We regularly get together to catch up, talk about our businesses, geek out over the Marvel universe, and, as per usual, I try to get him to set me up with Tom Hiddleston. (Hey, a girl can hope.)
Unsurprisingly, we ended up talking about superhero powers.
“Because of where I worked," he said, "we had these conversations all the time. What superpower would you have?” I sipped my wine and considered all the superpower options. How could I choose?!
Thankfully he interrupted my thought process with his own answer. “I never understood why people chose flying. So, you can fly. Great. You’re flying alone. And if you want to take someone, it means that you’re carrying them. Sounds awful. Super strength isn’t much better. Just means that you’ll be doing a lot of manual labor. Me? I always knew which superpower I wanted. … Mind control. It’s really the only way to go. If you can get everyone else to do work for you, take you where you want to go, and give you what you want, then you’ve got it made. Why would you choose anything else?”
What would you choose anything else?!
Mind control is the way to go!
Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is a radioactive bug that will bite us and give us these superhuman powers. Talk about great power with great responsibility!
But here’s the good news…
Unlike other super human powers, you can learn psychological principles, communication techniques, and influential strategies that might not add up to full tilt mind control, but it will enhance your persuasiveness enough that people will think that you have that special gift.
And when you attain this level of persuasiveness, you will ask yourself the same questions that every superhero asks in their own origin story.
Should I use these influential powers?
For every Obi Wan, there is a Darth Vader. Every great skill can be used for the betterment of others or for their destruction. When you acquire influential skills you quickly see opportunities to use them in a powerful manner… and recreationally.
Again, this is a common dilemma in the superhero world. Tony Stark’s Iron Man is used to save many lives. But he also couldn’t resist the urge to do a little shot-pull demonstration in his own home with his metal war toy.
With persuasion, you can help guide someone out of destructive behaviors, like a therapist. With influence, you can convince people to support your charity. With some linguistic tango, you can woo the woman of your dreams.
Of course, if you continue delving deep in the powers of influence, you also see how the same skills can be used to swindle people out of money. They can manipulate people to make a decision that will ultimately lead to their downfall. You can step over many innocents to persuade your way to power.
So, at some point, you have to make the decision, will you use your powers for good? Or will you go to the dark side?
Is this too much responsibility?
It happens to many superheroes. Their powers overwhelm them. They don’t know how to harness their superpowers.
Superman’s super hearing starts out as an overpowering cacophony. Daredevil sees the world in ways that no one else does. Spider-man’s spidey senses give him a migraine. Each of their powers lead to an unexpected influx of sensory information that they didn’t know what to do with. They started seeing and hearing the world around them in new and powerful ways.
You will have the same experience.
When you learn influential principles and techniques, prepare to be bombarded by new insights of information that everyone else misses. You see the world differently than others. And, it’s difficult to explain to them how your perspective has irrevocably changed.
Influential knowledge is to see what others can’t, understand what others don’t, and look behind the curtain blocking everyone's view
It can be a daunting realization that your influential powers can be used on anyone, in any situation, all the time.
You can use it in your business - which is the most obvious conclusion. Then, you see how you can use it in your personal life - with your friends, with your lover, with people you want to be your lovers. And then, you see how you can use the observations and techniques with absolute strangers. No one is shielded. Everyone is vulnerable.
How much is too much? You can’t unlearn what you now know. Do you shy away from it and ignore the angles you now see? Or do you embrace it? Can you take control and be compassionate with your powers?
Of course, only great stories result from great responsibilities.
How can I use this for good?
Let's assume that you decide to be Professor X and not Magneto.
Responsibility isn't a heavy weight. The angles and leverage points aren't to be shied away from. Instead, you feel empowerment from responsibility. Angles are opportunities. Leverage points can lift up people, lift up businesses, lift up communities, lift up society.
And, unlike superheroes with their unnatural and alien superpowers, you can share yours. You can teach others to use the same techniques to help improve their circles of influence. So, perhaps, your super power is greater than Superman’s. Yours can expand and live on after you. Yours can be given and given again - teaching the world to become their own versions of their super selves.