We often think that because we’re engineers, squirreled away in the basement suite (we used to have a fireproof suit hanging in the basement elevator as a little joke on the IT world at one job), we can’t have a huge impact on people. Or maybe it’s because you don’t think you’re famous enough — you don’t have a blog, several books published, multiple speaking engagements, and you don’t work for some big vendor. Whatever the reason for thinking you don’t — or shouldn’t — have an impact in someone’s life, let me say this.
The impact of one person can hardly be underestimated; from a book I read recently, for instance:
I turned and walked out of his office, closing the door with the characteristic rattle of the frosted glass pane. Though I could not have put it into words then, I was a different person from the one who had walked into that office ten minutes earlier. A person for whom I had the highest regard had taken me seriously. If he thought I was worthy of an hour of his time every week, then just maybe I was worth something. -Michael Card, The Walk
The person writing, Michael Card, is widely recognized in the Christian world for his musical talents. The person he’s talking about? One of his professors. No-one you’ve ever heard of, I’m certain — in fact, he never wrote a book that I know of, he never held an important chair at an impressive college, and he’s certainly not a household name, even in the Christian world. But remember this: No matter who you are, no matter where you work, and no matter how trivial your skill set might seem, there is someone who holds you in high regard. At least I hope there is (if there isn’t then you might need to rethink your life in a larger sense). If you take that person seriously, you could be helping build an engineer or person of extraordinary talent — someone who could change the world, for all you know.
While this image is one-on-one, I actually want to expand it a little farther. You might not think so, but the folks you work with probably hold you in high regard, too. The secretary or call center person down the hall who calls you in a panic when the network is down, so they can’t get their work done. The junior engineer who floats by your desk asking that same stupid question for the fifteenth time.
Whoever it is, they hold you either as an equal, or as someone who knows important things and important people. If you turn them away with a flea in their ear, what do you think their impression of you is? What do you think it does to them?
But if you take a moment to simply take them seriously, think of what a difference it could make.
If you don’t it matters if you take them seriously, read the dedication in my various books — you might think that I sprang out of nowhere, or just became who I am on my own. And you’d be wrong on all counts. A number of people have stopped and taken the time to take me seriously — and it’s made all the difference in the world.