Vail Daily column: Tending to our circle

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

“Influence is to be measured not by the extent of surface it covers but by its kind,” William Channing said.

“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion,” Thomas Paine said.

We each have a choice to make in every conversation, every momentary met glance and every other human interaction. We decide whether we will draw lines or draw circles. Lines are ultimatums; ends to conversations and relationships. My way or the highway. Circles allow for possibility, growth and development. They represent inclusion and acceptance.

Each of us has a circle that has been drawn naturally as a result of our lives. Inside of our circles are family members, friends and maybe a few coworkers. Our circles, however, should be intentional — not simply the result of our lives so far. Indeed, by making the size of our circles an intentional choice, we increase our satisfaction with our own lives and better understand how we can use our circle to create change.

The common aphorism “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” only highlights the need to better understand how to appropriately size and manage our circles of influence. When we ask ourselves about our goals as individuals, families, communities and businesses, we better understand whether we should seek to expand, contract or more effectively manage our circles and the relationships contained therein.

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Do you have the goal to raise your children with an appreciation for the blessings of their society? This goal is perhaps achieved without the need of a large circle. If, however, your goal is to crush the social injustices of the world, you might need to expand your circle to be significantly larger. In addition to size, we can’t assume that simply because we have a personal goal and the correctly sized circle to achieve it that our goal is worth pursuing. Selfish or base goals, when applied to our circles of influence, may be achieved but will have a negative effect on both our individual relationships and the effectiveness of our circle in the future. We must be careful to choose goals that are worthy of the circle we have built.

Our circle becomes most effective when we pursue goals that are shared by our entire circle. For this reason, I have found that my circle has become more effective as I have added individuals that have the desire to form circles of similar size, influence and direction.

Although accomplishing goals can be more easily achieved when the goal is shared, it is also important to have a variety of opinions and world views within your circle of influence. Having an army of people telling you what you want to hear is a recipe for disaster. Think disaster along the lines of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” sort of disaster. While dissenting views can sometimes be difficult to swallow, they are necessary to maintain a well-balanced perspective on ourselves, our goals and our use of influence.

Abraham Lincoln is a near perfect example of an individual who understood the importance of appropriately sizing and managing his circle of influence. Between 1861 and 1865, Lincoln chose to include key dissenting voices in his Cabinet. Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of State William H. Seward had all ran against Lincoln in the 1860 election. Chase, although scheming to replace Lincoln as the party candidate in 1864, was kept in the Cabinet as a result of his superior skill in financing the war effort. In fact, each of the men of the Cabinet were important in the key decisions of the Lincoln presidency, which involved some political and legislative issues that still affect our lives today.

Not many of us will be faced with the decisions that Lincoln’s circle of influence faced during his presidency. The truth is, however, that we will all be faced with decisions and opportunities that will have a drastic effect on our individual lives and circle of influence. When opportunity or disaster comes to tap us on the shoulder in that day, I hope we will have each taken the time to cultivate our circle.

Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.

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