What I mean by influence is the amplitude and reach of a person’s goals and energy. This can change over time. I count the level someone is at by their latest projects or output over the last few years.
Why use this framework?
This is about tracking what’s going on in reality, not about making people feel bad about where they are. This is useful for de-celebritizing people at a higher level than you. Don’t get jealous, get motivated. Study them. They have knowledge and skills that you want.
This isn’t to cast moral judgements. People are at different places in the game. Don’t judge yourself, either. If you don’t like where you’re standing, take action and move up.
Impact 0: Your existence or nonexistence is basically irrelevant
Everyone starts here! The impact at this level is mostly limited to just you, but does slightly affect the people close to you as well.
Interventions that are aimed at making your existence not matter are Impact 0. Not doing things, like not having a carbon footprint and not having kids, are good examples.
Examples: Go vegan, write persuasive comments on Facebook, get married, go to a protest, vote, get good grades, commit petty crime, join the HOA, vote with your feet
Impact 1: You’ve had some local impacts, on a scale of a small town or community
Many jobs that have moderate responsibility will put you in this category. To reach the people around you, there has to be at least some actions that are one-to-many. This can be on a small scale, like face-to-face in a classroom or with a group of friends.
Examples: Throw a big party, perform improv in your city, save lives as an EMT, teach elementary school children, manage a few people, have children, Instagram fame
Impact 2: You’ve had some substantial impacts, on the scale of a company or city
This can be done single-handedly with the right skills, but at this point it is more likely that organizations or small movements are needed to assist. One-to-many-to-many (some virality).
Examples: Help form a movement, get your idea patented, become a popular musician in your country, become mayor of a city, give a TED talk, coin a new word
Impact 3: You’ve had some major impacts, on the scale of a nation
Usually has the leverage of at least a small team of people helping maximize the magnitude. Good understanding of cause and effect and what they’re doing in the world.
Examples: Speak at a Senate hearing, invent and market a new type of meat replacement that some people use, create a new genre of music, write an inspiring bestseller
Impact 4: You’re one of the key players in some large subdomain of the world
Probably have a very good grasp of the big picture, or they wouldn’t be here. Likely to be highly intelligent: Domain smarts plus world smarts.
The inaccurately-named list, TIME 100: Most Influential People, mostly contains people in this category.
Examples: Found or steer a major company, play a role in designing the internet, help allocate billions of dollars as a part of a government, write of new bills in a major country, create of a major cryptocurrency
Impact 5: No doubt about it, you’re one of the key players period.
They’re rare. Getting to this point is not an easy task, so many of them are older and have strong teams and a lot of resources.
The people we view as the Great Movers of history. Their actions ripple across the world and into the future. They understand the world well, have an ambitious vision, and have the means to implement it.
Examples: Create a country or religion, lead a revolution, build a rocket, determine global policy, build software that changes how we all live
Is the power borrowed or owned? Borrowed power is like if you were the acting arm of a larger institution or helping a more powerful person. While their impacts are high level, they might be a replaceable cog in a larger machine of agency. Idea from Samo Burja in Borrowed power vs Owned power.
Is the impact on target? The amplitude of an intervention is no promise of its benevolence or ability to strike a target. Whatever level of impact someone is at, they should make sure it’s a positive one before trying to move up to more firepower. Direction isn’t guaranteed, and one must take care to have good aim.