Dump your old mop

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. M. Kenui Balutski
  • 71st Flying Training Wing command chief
If you're wondering what this article is about, I'll cut to the chase. It's about "the power of influence." If you don't see the mop correlation, you're not alone. Since 100 percent of the English-speaking public would fail to connect mopping to influential behavior, I'll have to share a story from my youth to draw a parallel.

This particular story takes place in Hawaii in the late 1970s, while I was still an awkward eighth-grader who was easily coerced into behaving badly. It begins on my cousin Pearl's wedding day when her parents, in grand Hawaiian fashion, held a large luau to celebrate.

My uncle rented a ballroom in Honolulu and invited hundreds of people to the wedding reception for his only daughter. Since "downtown" wasn't a typical destination for us, I was pretty excited to be going over the mountain into Honolulu for anything -- especially a Hawaiian food fest.

After arriving at the Neal Blaisdell Center I did my usual reconnaissance to find a hang-out for me and my junior-high crowd; someplace away from the grownups, where we could relax and be kids - translation -- where we could be obnoxious. In no time flat I located a side room away from the main ballroom that was just perfect.
So I grabbed a couple of chairs and staked a claim for me and my cousins of similar age and gender. Just so you know, everyone in Hawaii thinks they're cousins regardless of any conflicting DNA evidence. So any further use of the noun "cousin" in this article may not actually be relative -- so to speak.

While I was busy setting up my new clubhouse, a younger cousin came running down the corridor and spilled his drink onto the linoleum-covered hallway right in front of me. In mere seconds a custodial worker emerged, mopped up the spill and then wheeled his mop bucket to a nearby utility closet.

Long before the floor could dry, an unfortunate attendee came walking across the slick surface, began wind-milling his arms and then executed a spectacular one-and-a-half gainer with a twist, landing straight onto his backside. Apparently, the linoleum surface was not very pedestrian-friendly when wet, and provided a great means for testing the laws of gravity. So, after I stopped laughing, I made a bee-line for the custodial closet and commandeered the entire mop-bucket ensemble for morale purposes -- my morale purposes.

With mop in hand and no one in sight, I strategically swabbed a large swath across a 20-foot section of the hallway. Then I urged my unsuspecting cousins to come down the hall to hang out with me. Of course, every single one of them took a tumble. Yes, I was causing kids to fall faster than the Dow-Jones average, but that's only part of the story. What happened next was a lesson in itself.

After each cousin was subjected to my trap, they were advised of my fiendish plot, shown the mop bucket, and were invited to be an accessory to upcoming felonies. Surprisingly, every single one of them obliged, and before long our group resembled a line-up of Olympic judges intently grading a figure-skating routine from across the ice. With every pedestrian who slipped the surly bonds of Earth, we gained yet another willing accomplice to perpetuate the cycle of pain.

Then everything came to an immediate halt when my cousin Pearl, the bride, did a pirouette and ended up looking at the ceiling tiles. When she collected herself and counted her vertebrae she noticed that her younger brother, Freddy-Boy, was toting a soggy mop - since it was his turn to prepare the battlefield. Because everyone else had fled when she went airborne, Freddy-Boy was the only one around after Pearl's reentry. So he took the fall for everyone -- pun intended.

Now, the moral of the story -- influence is a powerful thing. Influence is defined as a person's ability to produce effects on the actions, behavior, or opinions of others. It is the power to coerce people to do certain things or think and act in a certain way.
Like it or not, we all have some type of influence on those around us through our words, deeds, attitudes or actions. With that said, we all need to question our actions daily. How am I influencing people? What effects am I producing? Are the things I do primarily hurtful or helpful to others?

I could answer that last question pretty easily back in my early years since I was a bad influence most of the time. Nowadays I would rather shift my focus towards being a positive influence, but I'm always just one bad decision away from getting out that old mop and messing things up. It's a daily battle, as it should be.

If your words, deeds, attitudes or actions are not focused on making those within your span of control better, then you're missing the mark. Your influence will ultimately help people or hurt them. Finally, if what you do or say is powerful enough, it can have lasting effects in every area of your life -- home, work, or wherever you go.

Bottom line -- if you currently use your influence like a wet mop that causes others to slip and fall, then dump your old mop.