Control Your Influences Or They Will Control You

Do you know the difference between a billionaire and a burger flipper? It’s not as much as you think. And it’s the same difference between happy and miserable people:

Influence control.

Your success depends on how well you control your influences. But most people don’t think about their influences because they don’t know how easily influenced they are. Take this experiment, for instance.

The coordinators placed 2 types of people at a pedestrian crosswalk. One wore a business suit and the other had casual clothing. When the normal guy walked through a red light, no one jaywalked. But when the man in business attire walked on red, several people followed suit, unconsciously obeying his “authority”.

Our senses take in billions of pieces of information each day, and each bit influences your decisions.  Input=output.That’s why you need to master the influences you can.

How I took control of my influences

If you haven’t thought much about your influences, it’s not too late. I didn’t think about them till I turned 23—until my life collapsed.

My third long-term relationship had just fallen apart and I was back at my mom’s place. Again. But this time I couldn’t go back sniffing around for another girlfriend; I was mentally and emotionally wrecked.

Why was I stuck on my mom’s couch, broke, and hating my life?

The questions were too big to ignore like I did before, and I knew another girlfriend wasn’t going to make it better. So, for the first time in my life, I considered my influences.

My friends

• Moglie, the skater-punk turned national guardsmen, was content with his shitty apartment life as long as he had booze and a new chick every week.
• Devon, my best friend since 16, knocked up a drug-addict and worked a job he hated to pay child support for the little girl he never saw. He was also an alcoholic.
• Jared, former pro athlete, had all the money and none of the happiness. He had a new girlfriend every week even though he was married. And beer was his water.

One honest look at my friends made it pathetically clear how toxic they were. But friends weren’t my only influences.


I was a junkie. I spent hours listening to music every day, but what was I actually listening to? I’d never thought about it before…I just listened to what made me feel good.

Then I started breaking down the lyrics.

But I still love to wash in your old bath water,
love to think that you couldn’t love another,
I can’t help it—you’re my kind of man.

That’s one of Gwyn Stephanie’s gems from her band No Doubt.

90% of my songs talked about bad romance, or being broke, or longing for the one that got away. Suddenly my relationship history and lack of success weren’t surprising. Input=output.

Same went for movies and TV. All the things I loved were subconsciously priming me for failure. So I went on an information detox.

Information detox

If it wasn’t positive, if it didn’t help me grow, I was no longer interested in it. People too. Didn’t matter how long I knew them: if they weren’t striving for success in all areas of life, I could no longer accept their company. It wasn’t anything personal, though. I just had a life to live.

And it was tough. Letting go of all the people and things that had given me comfort over the years…it was like losing an identity. But, that was the whole point. I had identified as a loser for my whole life and it was time for me to move on. Shifting my influences helped me get in gear.

I cleaned up my music library, opting for classical music and instrumentals over achy-braky lyrics. I redefined “friend” as someone who helped me grow. Then I let go of all my acquaintances who couldn’t fill my needs as a friend. I also cut off my exposure to negative news and instead focused on making my own news.

After I cut out all the crap, I finally had the time for positive influences. So I read inspiring books, listened to uplifting podcasts, and inhaled useful articles on personal development and entrepreneurship. I made sure that every bit of information I took in was adding to my culture of success.

That’s when I took charge of my life. And within one year of my influence overhaul, my life was unrecognizable. I went from a broken-hearted pup to a professional. I traded out depression for inspiration. And I swapped my failure identity for success.

But even though I’m fortunate, luck had nothing to do with it. I set my intentions, controlled my influences, and I committed to habits that would make me successful. It wasn’t easy, but anyone with free will (read: everyone) can do it.


Take thirty minutes to reflect on your top 5 positive and negative influences. How do these people or things shape your life? Who are they, what are they, and how do they affect you? What will you accept, and what will you reject?

Find the answers to those questions and you’ll find your success.

Written by Daniel Dowling
I went from being a highschool and college dropout to writing for the world's best publications in two short years. I owe ALL my success to habits like mindfulness and journaling. - So I built Millennial Success to share those incredible habits with you!