The Real Definition of Influence Pt. 1

by: CJ Casciotta

I was a pretty lousy little league player. My coach was the kind of cultured child educator who would yell obscenities during practice and promise the entire team of 9-year old boys before every game that if we’d won he’d take us to Hooters. I remember chanting “Hooters! Hooters!” along with my teammates having no idea what this mysterious place was, or more mysteriously, why we never ended up going there, even on nights when we won. For those slightly more educated than I, however, the lofty promise of breasts and thighs somehow managed to get us all to the championship. I remember that evening the coach pulled me aside right before it was my turn to bat. He put both his hands on my shoulders and said, “Son, if you get a hit I’ll give you a trophy this tall.” He released his hands and spread them vertically about 3 feet from each other. My eyes popped out of their sockets.

I hadn’t gotten a hit the whole season.

Moths were doing the Macarena in my stomach as I stepped up to the plate. This was the early 90’s and literally everyone was doing the Macarena. You just couldn’t get away from it.

I choked the bat high and clenched my knuckles.

Strike one.

Ball one.

Ball two.

Strike two.

Ball three.

BAM!

I got a base hit. I ran to first smiling the whole way. I made it home and left the field with my head up high, which was remarkably hard seeing as how my helmet weighed about the same as my head.

A couple innings later we won the championship. I followed my teammates out to the parking lot where the coach unlocked a case full of trophies. I was already nervous when I noticed the case itself couldn’t be much larger than the 3 or 4 feet and it was supposed to be holding multiples of these things. Finally, when my name was called to receive the radiant golden token of my athletic victory, the coach handed me a plastic paperweight no more than about 5 inches high.

I’d been duped.

During the car ride home, my dad reminded me how proud he was of me. An avid Yankee fan who grew up in the golden age of Brooklyn, he was always quick to relate one experience or another of his love for the pinstriped team. He told me one of his favorite players was Wade Boggs. Wade Boggs rarely hit homers, but his RBIs were off the charts. He was a perfecter of the base hit. “You don’t have to be a home run hitter; some of the most important contributions to the game are the guys who can consistently get on base.”

Still, years later, the battle against mediocrity wages on. I want to be a home run hitter. I want to get that 3-foot trophy even though I know it doesn’t actually exist. I’d rather be known as someone who did things that mattered a lot than a little.

I think that’s what’s always attracted me to this whole concept of movements. Movements seem big. Movements seem significant. Movements seem praiseworthy. When it came time to enter the adult world, I knew I wanted to associate myself with all of those kinds of things, that I didn’t want to die in some cubical selling something I didn’t believe in to people who really didn’t need it.

So I devoted my time to studying movements: how they are born, why they exist, and what it takes to sustain them. I dove in looking for the massive, the unfathomable, the overnight success story. But the more I began to study movements and how they are made, I realized that that really wasn’t what movements were about at all. In fact, most movements are a lot more like Wade Boggs than Babe Ruth.

***

The first time I realized movements weren’t actually massive by design was when I was listening to an orchestra play a symphony. Beneath the painted heavens and marble etchings I saw a smattering of unique personalities blend seamlessly together until they disappeared and all that was noticeable were various shades of brass and wood.  It dawned on me that in musical terms a movement by definition is a small part of a much larger whole, each with its own unique personality and flavor. Strung together, these seemingly small and isolated movements create a rich and complex mosaic, a symphony.

Movement (move·ment)
n.
In music, a self-contained division of a long work; each movement usually has its own tempo. A singular, undivided composition is said to be in one movement. 

Movement making is like music making. You can keep a tune in your head your entire life but until you scratch the notes out on paper and then play it, it will never come to life. That’s the first brave step, however, that most people never take. They see the entire symphony all at once and it completely overwhelms them. But true composers understand that symphonies start with movements, and movements start with measures, and measures start with chords, and chords start with a single note.

Part 2 coming.

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CJ Casciotta is a writer, journalist, and storyteller who helps people spark powerful movements. To learn more about movement making from CJ and create your own manifesto, visit createamanifesto.com.