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Pat Williams
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Purchase The Difference You Make: Changing Your World Through the Impact of Influence

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Other Resources:

King Solomon: Ancient Insight for Modern Times

Wisdom Not a Trivial 'Pursuit'

Pat and Karyn Williams: Life Lessons from Father to Daughter

Pat Williams: Coach Wooden's Principles of Success

Questions About Faith and God

Other articles and interviews by Chris Carpenter on

Author Interview

Pat Williams: The Difference You Make

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - ST. LOUIS -- It’s often misunderstood that to be a person of influence you need to be a famous or rich person, or have some special skill or talent.  But the reality is that an ordinary, working class mom or dad can have just as much of an effect on someone as Michael Jordan, Carrie Underwood, or Bill Gates.

Orlando Magic senior vice president Pat Williams believes strongly that every day your actions, words, and deeds can have a lasting, positive impact on anyone you come in contact with.  In his latest book, The Difference You Make, Williams poses a basic question that will inspire you to look at your life in a whole new way.  It is: What will you do with the influence you have?

I recently sat down with Williams to discuss the concept of true influence, the best way to influence others, and why servant leadership is so important in a person’s life.

In your book, The Difference You Make, you write that a regular person can have a greater influence on someone than even the president of the United States. Why do you think that?

You don’t have to be an NFL star or a Hollywood movie starlet, or a famous political figure, or a billionaire to have influence.  We all have it. I wrote this book really to just remind people about deliberate influence, that every word every one of us says is leaving an impact. It’s leaving an imprint on people and every action we take is doing the same, and that’s for a lifetime. As you think back, I guarantee if you really put your mind to it, you would probably remember just about everything that anybody ever said to you -- parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, classmates, or co-workers. That’s been the case in my life. So, the meaning of this book is to be very aware that every word you say and every action you take is important. None of it is frivolous; it’s all making a difference one way or the other.

In The Difference You Make, you write about the term “true influence.” What does that mean, and how can you apply that to your life?

True influence means it’s genuine. It’s not an act; it’s not a mirage that you’re putting on.  It’s something that really is deep within your soul and it’s important to you, because you realize that the life of your children, for example, your spouse, your grandchildren is being impacted forever by how you speak to them and how you act with them and how you treat them. They’re never going to forget it, and it’s got to be real. You can’t fake this stuff. But when you really buckle down and really get serious about the importance of your influence, I think it just becomes part of your life. You don’t have to think too much about it because it’s ingrained within you.  What I’m saying at this precise moment to this employee or to this customer, or to this hotel clerk, or to my oldest granddaughter is going to stick. It’s not going away; it’s going to be there.

What’s the best way to influence others through your actions and your deeds, or your words for that matter?

Let me just talk to you for a minute about a tremendous influencer. His name is Rich DeVos. Rich is the owner of the Orlando Magic, co-founder of the Amway organization, a tremendous man, godly man, and still hanging in there at age 87. He’s often asked of his role with Amway, and he just says, “I’m the head cheerleader.” And for 60 years, that’s what he’s been doing, traveling around the world just cheering people on, from the public stage or in person, just rooting for them and telling them, you know, “You’re doing a great job! We couldn’t do it without you!” That’s how he talks to you, and then inevitably if you write him, he will send you a handwritten note back and he’ll sign it, generally, “Proud of you,” Rich, or “Love ya,” Rich.” A simple approach but highly effective.  It’s the power of positive words.

I would imagine that your cancer diagnosis has opened a whole new arena of influence for you. You are now influencing people in ways you probably never thought you would? Has that been the case?

I was diagnosed nearly three years ago and went public and told the country what was going on with me. Soon thereafter I began to get emails, calls, cards, and letters. It was amazing.  I heard from people in my past who had a memory or an anecdote about something I had done or said that I had long forgotten. But it really hit me hard that I was having an influence way back, even though I was unaware of it. And these people, in the middle of the cancer crisis were letting me know. That kind of triggered this book idea, and then the next thing you know I was called to the war on cancer. Believe me; I would not have volunteered for that.  But the Lord had other plans, and He dragged me, initially kicking and screaming into that world, but now I realize that in these closing years of my life, God has a bigger plan, and that is to help come up with a cure for various forms of cancer. I need to be encouraging people. Hardly a week goes by that I’m not hearing from a number of people that need a good word, they need some encouragement. The things that I went through, like a stem cell transplant and so forth, they’re going through now and they’re nervous. They’re scared of it a little bit, and so I’m here to help walk them through and give them a lift. So, God has opened up these cancer doors in a way that I never could have predicted.

Changing gears, how important is mentoring and the difference that it can make in a person’s life?

It’s vital. I think to have a series of mentors in your life is almost irreplaceable, particularly with young people, although you never outgrow your need for mentors.  It’s imperative to have mentors who have been down the road, who have a wonderful quality called “wisdom,” who have experience. Because we don’t have enough time, particularly young people, to make all the mistakes you’re going to make by going down this road and finding out it’s a dead end, or going down this road and finding that the bridge is wiped out. Mentors can walk you through and tell you, “Listen, that’s probably not a good path to go, why don’t you go down this path?” And my experience tells me, without mentors, we don’t have enough years to make all these mistakes. I think you need mentors in a number of areas. It’s probably good to have a career mentor. Certainly nothing wrong with a financial mentor, perhaps a marriage or children mentor, nothing wrong with having three or four mentors in your life. You’ve got to go seek out the mentor because they’re not going to seek you out.

I would like to discuss the concept of servant leadership for a moment.  How important is serving others in a person’s quest to have influence?

I think it’s important. There’s nothing more winsome, nothing more attractive than a servant-hearted man or woman who realize that they’re there in a position of authority or leadership, not to dominate, not to crush you or brow beat you, but they are there to serve. They use Jesus as a model, who could have been the most arrogant, overwhelming man ever to walk this earth but He had a heart of a servant. He was here to serve people. What a model! And that’s how we’re to live our lives as husbands, as parents, as employers, as bosses, as generals or coaches, or whatever, with the heart of a servant.  Jesus is our model. He gives us wonderful examples as we read through the New Testament. A servant leader doesn’t view themselves as bigger than life, bigger than you, or more important than you. They have a true, humble spirit, and to me, humility is the most attractive of all human qualities, particularly when you find somebody that has really made it big and has celebrity status. When you find out that they have a true humility that to me is so attractive.  It draws me to those people.

As an author, what’s your greatest hope for this book? What sort of wisdom do you want to impart to your readers?

Well, I’m already encouraged, Chris, hearing from people who have said that the book has been kind of a wake-up call to them, and that they have really kind of caught the vision of the book, “that I can be an influence or of note, that I can make a difference, that my words are important. I’m going to be a lot more careful.” Some really nice letters and emails that have come in, so that really is my hope that people will get the book and say, “You know what? I can do all this. It’s not all that hard, it’s not all that complicated, and I want to be a difference maker, and I want to be a person of great impact as far as influence is concerned.” I hope over the next months and years that many other people will dive into the book, and it will be an impact for them.

To purchase The Difference You Make: Changing Your World Through the Impact of Influence

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