Reader QUIT: Choosing Attention Over Influence (by Shola Richards)

Six years ago, I loved nothing more than being the center of attention.

Like a drug, I allowed the “high” of attention to intoxicate me.  There was an inexplicable rush of excitement that came with being the life of the party, the guy whose name was on everyone’s lips, and the guy who had everybody’s undivided attention at all times.

Keeping it as real as possible—these things mattered to me a lot.

Looking back on it now, these things mattered to me so much that I was too blind to realize that in reality, I was none of things that I just described above.  Pathetic, isn’t it?

I have my younger self to blame for all of this.

I have come to accept that as an adult, my brain will always be shared by the broken childhood bullying victim of my earlier years.  And six years ago, that sad, bullied kid pleaded with me to chase after the attention that would finally grant me the “cool kid” status that has eluded him his entire life.


So I Started Chasing

I chased after a prestigious title at work, and got it.

I chased after living in a fancy West Los Angeles zip code, and got it.

I chased after a slick luxury car, and got it.

I chased after a cool social circle, and got it.

I chased after having six-pack abs, and…umm…it’s still a work in progress.

Most specifically, I chased after the attention of others, and got it.

Unfortunately, with all of my success came a pitiful realization.  After all of my frantic collecting of the stuff needed to be one of the cool kids, I discovered that I wasn’t cool at all.  Unless “being cool” meant collecting a lot of meaningless shit and the attention of people who didn’t mean anything to me.

Worse than that—as an unintended bonus in my chase for attention—I was rewarded with something that I wasn’t chasing at all:


Not that you need me to tell you this, but there’s nothing cool about emptiness, believe me.  Clearly, a change needed to be made.

So I made that change.

Six years ago, I made the decision to quit the chase for attention, and in the process, I discovered an amazing life that I didn’t know was possible.


Choosing Influence

If I walked into the executive board room at my job wearing nothing but a rainbow Afro wig, a leopard-print Speedo, and started busting out my best version of “Gangnam Style” during an executive meeting, do you know what that would get me?  (Besides “fired” and a one-way trip to the psych ward?)

It would get me attention.  Lots of it.

Attention is easy.  Anyone can get it without even trying too hard.  If getting more attention is your goal, I’m going to implore you to hand in your resignation letter and join me as an official Quitter in the chase for attention.  It’s time to raise our game and choose something much more meaningful.

We can choose influence instead.

Notice, I didn’t say chase influence.  If I did that, then all I’d really be doing is chasing attention—which would mean that I didn’t quit anything at all and I wouldn’t be qualified to write this Quits post on CCIQ.

Choosing influence over attention is a quiet decision, but it’s an important one.  For me, everything changed in my life 6 years ago when I made the decision to focus on adding value to as many people’s lives as possible through my words, my behavior, my actions, and my daily work as a corporate trainer.

Instead of focusing outward on the attention I could get to fill the voids in my life, I focused inward on the value I could give to others to help them close some of the voids in their lives.

It was then that something magical happened:

Without even realizing it, I became influential.  With this newfound influence also came the attention that I spent much of my adult life chasing—and it came effortlessly.  Ironically, when I finally had my long-desired attention, it didn’t matter as much to me.

It was only then that I knew that my Quit was official.

Well, almost.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard.


The Near Relapse

Three months ago, I launched my personal blog, and all of my need for attention came raging back with a ferocity that I could barely control.  I reasoned that my need for attention wasn’t about me this time; it was about others.  My ideas could save the world if only more people read them, dammit!

So, I began blog-sessing.

I focused on the amount of comments my posts were getting, the amount of Twitter followers I had, the amount of people joining my Facebook page, the amount of love (or lack of it) that Google Analytics was giving me.  I was heading full-steam down the dark road to attention-chasing relapse, until something caused me to hit the brakes hard.

One of my best childhood friends died of cancer.

There’s nothing like the death of a loved one to wake you the hell up.  At that moment, I got real with myself and asked, “Do obnoxious pop-up subscription boxes, Twitter followers, and Facebook likes really matter in the grand scheme of things?  After I die, are these the things that I want people to remember most about me?

I was at a decision point, and the answer was clear.

What I want people to remember about me when I’m dead (or better yet, while I’m alive) is the amount of value that I have added to others’ lives.  Adding value is what makes people think, it evokes emotion, it shapes behavior, it inspires action—and, yes, it can also make us influential.

That’s how I choose to be remembered.

Chasing attention is the equivalent of dancing “Gangnam Style” in an Afro wig.  Choosing influence, on the other hand, has the power to change the world.

I’ll remember that if I’m ever tempted to relapse in the future.


This Quit is for life.


Shola_CubepiphanyShola Richards is a corporate trainer, incurable optimist, and writer who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity. He has been described as having an “infectious positive energy that will play a large part in transforming the world as we know it.” You can find him on his blog, The Positivity Solution, working passionately to rid the world of all of the things that make your life less than epic. Learn more about The Positivity Solution’s mission to make the world a more inspired place by clicking here.


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Image: MR.MOBE / Flickr

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  • Hey Cordelia! Thanks so much for including my post on your Reader QUIT series, it is greatly appreciated. I’ll be here if any of your CCIQ readers want to hit me up with any questions!

    • My pleasure, Shola. Glad to have a chance to introduce you to my readers.

      Everyone, be sure to check out Shola’s site, too–it’s one of my new favorites!

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Good post. You’ve learned at a relatively young age what’s important in life and what’s not (some of us older folks are STILL learning!). Bet it makes you an excellent motivational trainer.

    • Thanks Cordelia’s Mom! Unfortunately, this was one of the lessons that I had to learn the hard way, but I’m SO thankful that I did. And yes, it’s definitely a lesson that I share with my students whenever I can!

  • Carolyn Roosevelt

    Got this off the poetry foundation site, having heard it in a sermon yesterday::


    By Naomi Shihab Nye

    The river is famous to the fish.

    The loud voice is famous to silence,

    which knew it would inherit the earth

    before anybody said so.

    The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

    watching him from the birdhouse.

    The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

    The idea you carry close to your bosom

    is famous to your bosom.

    The boot is famous to the earth,

    more famous than the dress shoe,

    which is famous only to floors.

    The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

    and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

    I want to be famous to shuffling men

    who smile while crossing streets,

    sticky children in grocery lines,

    famous as the one who smiled back.

    I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

    or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

    but because it never forgot what it could do.

    • I ADORE Niami Shihab Nye! Her poem “A Valentine for Ernest Mann” was on my bedroom wall throughout high school and college. Check out more of her stuff; she’s brilliantly tuned into the beauty in the everyday

    • Wow Carolyn, this poem is AMAZING–thanks so much for sharing! She has such a powerful way with words. I’m definitely going to check out more of her stuff, thanks to you!

  • Great piece.This is really an ever present struggle in my life and career. I left the music industry and started working in non-profit, so that I could change peoples lives on a daily basis. but last week I caught myself speaking to my friend who happens to be a PR professional, telling her that I need a publicist.

    It’s the “Im special society” we grew up in combined with the media’s worship of ordinary people, turning them into gossip column worthy celebs(Tila Tequila, Kristin Lauren Conrad, etc). Hopefully we can escape that desire for attention that occasionally follows us after our victories.

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