By Steve Kayser

I’ve done a lot of interviews with some great thinkers, business leaders and writers over the last couple years. One question I love to ask  – no matter what the topic – is,

“Who influenced you?”

The Secret Sauce

Why? Mainly because I’m nosy. Aren’t you? Isn’t everyone looking for the secret sauce of success? I’m especially curious about great writers and storytellers. How did they learn the craft? How did they hone it? Who influenced them?

And you know what? The answer to those questions usually end up being the most revealing, illuminating, authentic… and fun.  And there’s always a great story involved. Is it because once you reach a certain level of success you look back and see how blessed you were at a certain time in your life to run across that certain person or book? Or you experienced something unexpected that set you on your life path?  Or later, when you think back, it seems like it was a complete fluke, an accident of fate?  But, without it they know  – there would have been no success – or at the very least it would have been a completely different type of success.


It was no different when I asked Dr. Ken Blanchard, author of 50 books, including the iconic “One Minute Manager,” the question…

Who Influenced You?

Steve Kayser:  You’ve sold 20 million copies of your books and the One Minute Manager is revered in business circles and still being used as a guide almost 30 years after publication.  Who or what influenced your writing style?

I ask all successful writers and storytellers that I’ve had the opportunity to interview that question – who influenced you – because they all seem to have something in common. Clear, concise, easy-to-understand-and-read writing style. No complexities.  Eloquent, elegant, sophisticated and simple style – yet deceptively complex with deep knowledge embedded – if you look for it.

So who influenced you as a writer?

The Value of the Parable

Ken Blanchard: Well, I think Spencer Johnson and I influenced each other. I met Spencer at a cocktail party in 1980. He wrote children’s books, The Value of Courage, the ValueTale series, Story of Jackie Robinson, The Value of a Sense of Humor,  The Story of Will Rogers, just a wonderful series of stories for kids. I had just written a textbook. I was a college professor at the time. My wife bumped into Spencer at the party and brought him over and introduced us. She said,

“You guys ought to write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.

Steve Kayser: Hilarious, a children’s book for managers. So true. Even more so today than it was back then.

A One-Minute Scolding

Ken Blanchard: Yes, so, he was a children’s book writer, and I was just a storyteller. He was working on a one-minute scolding on how to discipline kids at the time. So I invited him to a seminar of mine. Spencer sat in the back at the seminar and laughed out loud. He came running up at the end of it and said,

“Forget child learning. Let’s go for The One Minute Manager.”

Steve Kayser: How did you decide to go with the parable storytelling style?

Ken Blanchard: Well, we thought about that – the best way to do it – and that’s when it became  interestingly magical.  We talked and discovered our favorite books at the time were Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Little Prince and Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman of Them All. All similar in style, and of course  Jesus taught by parable and story in the Bible.

Spencer said,

“We ought to just write a parable, write a story that sells.”

Seek, and You Will Find

So we created a story around this young guy seeking out an effective manager to teach him how to be one.  And he wanted to work for one. In his seeking, he uncovered three secrets to being an effective manager. We came up with the belief, and I still believe this, that people can’t remember more than three or four things at a time. We wanted them to remember the secrets so they could use them in their businesses.

Steve  Kayser: So without …

  • A chance meeting at a cocktail party
  • Your wife introducing you to Spencer Johnson, author of a series of Children’s stories
  • You two hitting it off personally, and both having a love for the parable…

… There would have been a book called, “The One Minute Scolding.” But there would not have been the “One Minute Manager.”

Ken Blanchard: Yes. That’s right.

Do the Work

There was one last critical element not mentioned. You can knock on the door to success, but without acting, actually doing the work to make your dreams come true and walk through that door – there will be no success.

Dr. Blanchard did the work. And still does.

And You

One person, place or event can influence and alter the course of your life forever – at any age.

Who Influenced You?

Who was that someone for you? Who influenced you?

Have you thought about it? If so, have you thanked them?

Have you tried to become that person for someone else?


Steve Kayser is the author of “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard: True Stories of Triumph,” an award-winning writer, former radio host, public speaker and the Founder of Kayser Media – which specializes in PR, Marketing & Media Relations. His eclectic (some say bizarre) approach to PR, Marketing and Media Relations has been documented in a marketing best practices case study by MarketingSherpa, profiled as a “Purple Cow,” by author Seth Godin, and featured in the best-selling books, The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott and “Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs” by Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott.

In addition, Steve is the co-author of “Margins and Missions… Not Moonshots: Pathways to a Better U.S. Higher Education,” and was editor, designer and producer of “The Surgeon and the Spirit: A Panoramic View of a Journey in Academic Medicine.

Steve has also been featured in the following publications: A Marketer’s Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing, Credibility Branding, Innovation Quarterly, B2B Marketing Trends, PRWEEK, Faces of E-Content, and The Ragan Report. Steve’s writings have appeared in Corporate Finance Magazine, CEO Refresher, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2.0, and Fast Company Magazine – among many others.

Flickr photo courtesy of the inimitable H.Kopp Delaney (