There are two ways to measure impact, in my opinion. There is the depth of impact, and the width of impact.
Given our finite resources (energy, time, tools), I think we can choose to do only some combination of either.
We can go for the width of impact, like do one-day workshop for thousands at a time. That’s what many motivation speakers are doing. But how many people really take action after the workshop is something they cannot care about, in their mode of operation. For that matter, “impacted ten thousand students” certainly sounds more impressive” than “impacted hundreds of students”.
We can go for the depth of impact. Since I’m writing this on a Sunday, Jesus’s example comes to mind. He spent about three years of his life in active ministry, that is, going around to tell people about his message.
He could have done lots of massive preaching, or in today’s context, mega conferences, if he was after the width of impact. But he did very very few of those.
Most of his time was spent on interacting with his twelve selected disciples, his inner circle. They saw how he really walk his talk in every aspect. His message went deep with them. Eventually they became the ones who were instrumental to really carry on his work after he had ascended.
That, I’d think, is where the deep impact comes in.
I also believe, that deep impact eventually will create wide impact, like how ripples spreads outwards. But it may not happen as fast and as visibly as we want. We may not be around to see the impact that we eventually make.
To go for wide impact or deep impact is a very personal choice. Some are more suitable to deliver wide impact, some prefers deep impact. And it’s a spectrum. There are lots of in-between models you can explore. Jesus gave some famous mass lectures too, like how he fed the four thousands, five thousands, Sermon on the Mount, etc.
Perhaps, something for us to be mindful about, is to know the limitations and the implications of the kind of impact we make.
If we devote our lives to transform a handful of people, like how many parents and caretakers devote their lives around the people they take care of, we may not have an impressive number to put on our resume, but we are making deep impact nonetheless. I respect that very much.
If we go for wide impact, it is obviously great. The applaud and the clout we command will tell us that. However, I suspect that such model alone does not give us the deep personal satisfaction. After our relatively short interaction in workshops or courses, we might not be so sure of whether our impact lasted in the lives of our subjects.