Reflections Thoughts

Tracing the lineage of influences

What leads us to make decisions about our lives? More personally, why am I the way I am? Who shaped me to become the man I am? As AC/DC shrieked into the universe, “Who made who? Who made you?”

The voices in my head have been loud lately. They’ve been waking me up in the middle of the night, expressing doubts, fears, but also excitement and hope. Amid insomnia, I think about the decisions I’ve been making, the projects I’ve been bringing to life, the people and work speaking into the depth of my soul.

The voices sound a lot like me. They are the manifestations of my dreams and nightmares. But they also sound a lot like the people who have positively and negatively influenced me over the years.

“Who made who? Who made you?”┬áSuch a profound question buried in the chorus of a rock anthem.

At my core, I am a DIY enthusiast. Do it yourself. How did I get to be this way?

It was out of necessity to live but also survive. My parents divorced when I was young. I retreated into myself. But then I found Metallica. The music, the band’s spirit, and Hetfield’s larger-than-life personality allowed me to give voice to my anger, pain, and rage. It became the driving influence in my life at a young age.

While learning to play the guitar, I wanted to play like James Hetfield. To channel my rage into the strings and sounds was my ultimate goal. Until it no longer was and a new plan found its way into my soul.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the soul lately. As if I’m awakening to something more profound, at the core of not just myself, but all of us.

These randomly connected thoughts are the voices of influence.

In my early 20s, I traveled to Israel on a church trip. I wanted nothing to do with God, but I was in pain, lost, and adrift. At the start of that year, I had dropped out of college to be in a rock band. I was living on a couch in a strange city, living the dream of my youth. Or so I thought. But my influences were no longer serving me, I was still angry, but the band didn’t need my rage channeled through my guitar.

Eventually, I quit the band and moved home. I woke up one day in Israel, found God, and started a new journey to replace anger with peace. I worked at a church for a season (that’s another epic story for another time). The voices shifted from the sonic anger of Metallica to creative expressions of filmmakers, authors, and entrepreneurs, such as Werner Herzog, Ken Burns, Bill Moyers, and Studs Terkel.

Certainty followed by intense periods of doubt-infused searching for something more meaningful characterizes my journey. It is usually the voices of influence echoing through my head that kick off the pilgrimage.

“Who made who? Who made you?”

Fast forward to today: I’ve been adrift again for several years. I didn’t know it until a recent project revealed how spiritually thirsty I’ve been. While it hasn’t been at the existential level of my early 20s, it was still deeper than I anticipated.

Fortunately, the voices are much different this time, but still in the spirit of “do it yourself.”

A few years ago, the primary influence in my spirit shifted to Neal Morse. My anger and rage became a curiosity and searching for the spiritual. Neal’s music kept me in touch with God while fueling my desire for authentic entrepreneurship in unexpected ways.

I’m hopefully only halfway through my life’s journey. As I continue digging deeper into discovering a more meaningful life, I realize a fundamental lesson: our influences shape us in seen and unforeseeable ways.

Who you allow to influence you not only shapes your actions in a moment. But on a deeper level, they create an internal mythology that gives your actions meaning, ultimately governing the unfolding journey through life.

Don’t like where you are at in life? Examine the voices influencing you today and how your lineage of influences has shaped the guiding mythology of your life.