The power of positive influence

Union County resident Stephen Vaughn started Xcel 2 Fitness, a physically-active, character-building program for boys, in 2011 with the core belief that young people need positive influences from others in order to achieve their dreams.
Vaughn recently took that philosophy to the next level with The Power of 10, a retrospective initiative where 10 interconnected individuals share about the person they feel was the greatest positive influence that led them where they are today.
“You never know how seeds were planted before. I started thinking, and that’s where this idea of The Power of 10 came into play,” Vaughn said. “It’s asking, ‘Who is that person in your life that’s making you better each day? … That it’s really up to me to chase my dream, and the people that are surrounding me are very important.’”
The initiative starts with one individual who shares about the person he or she believes to be the greatest positive influence in his or her life. Then, the person who influenced the first individual shares who influenced him or her, and the process continues until a 10-person chain is formed, starting with the first individual and ending with the person who influenced the ninth participant.
Vaughn recruited friend and Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis as his first participant. He conducted an interview with Davis, in which Davis discussed the person who was his greatest influence – Mark Richt, the head football coach for the University of Georgia.
“I’m able to sit here right now before you as an NFL player, as a father, as a leader in this community because I believed in me and because I had another man (Richt) that strongly believed that I had what it took,” Davis said in the interview with Vaughn. “Just knowing that he believed in me, that gave me all the confidence that I needed.”
Vaughn recently sat down with Richt to discuss Richt’s greatest influence – retired Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden. Vaughn since has connected with Bowden and plans to set up an interview in the coming weeks. All interviews are recorded and posted on Vaughn’s Power of 10 blog.
“I just so happened to land on a very big name in our community with Thomas Davis,” Vaughn said. “… (It’s hard) trying to really project where it will take us. Bobby Bowden is not really limited to a certain area. By the time we get to four or five or six, it could be at the president … I don’t know where that line will take us; it’s crazy.”
Vaughn’s goal when he reaches the 10th person is to gather all 10 people in the same room to discuss their sphere of influence, so each person can see how he or she was influenced and/or has impacted others along the continuum. Vaughn also would like to make a documentary of the project but is waiting to see how the movement develops before raising the funds to produce such a large-scale endeavor.
One of the main reasons Vaughn is conducting The Power of 10 is to have something to take back to the boys of Xcel 2 Fitness. He wants to incorporate the findings from the initiative into character-building lessons that teach the importance of having positive support.
“I want to take it back to Xcel 2 Fitness to share with the boys and their parents about how this chain of influence can really affect someone, and show these boys it’s not too early to think of who’s influencing them and (encourage them) to choose their friends carefully,” Vaughn said.
He continued, “What I would really like to see is these boys turn around and find their Power of 10 … I want them to see that importance of getting in sync with people that are pushing you forward.”
People interested in starting their own Power of 10 initiative can email Vaughn at Follow Vaughn’s Power of 10 movement at his website,

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Josh Whitener

About Josh Whitener

Josh Whitener has been with the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group since 2010, currently serving as the Features Editor of Union County Weekly. Josh graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2009 with a degree in communication studies. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and writing music and spending time with his wife, April; sons, Caleb and Aiden; and two beagles, Annie and Dori. Have a story idea or question for Josh? Contact him at

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