a 16-point guide (sort of) to the art + mystery of charisma

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You don’t learn how to be fascinating, you unlearn how to be boring. — Sally Hogshead

Danielle LaPorte, James Altucher and I got together online for a live conversation about charisma. Check out the recording here.

1. Charisma is contextual. Nobody is charismatic to all of the people all of the time. A person can be charismatic in one area of her life and not so much in others.

2. Charisma is a process. It flows in the spaces between people. It’s like the Force, or an awesome conversation. A charismatic person can turn it up, or down, or off. It’s not a static inborn trait planted in a person by nature or God/dess (or Yoda).

3. Charisma is authentic. It emerges from the inside-out. You can put on the right body language, you can fake it til you make it, but that’s kind of like copying the symptoms of a cold without actually having a cold. Your imitation comes off as contrived, and maybe hollow, and people are quick to sniff that out.

4. Charisma emerges when you are centered and comfortable in your skin, when you put your focus on the other person instead of yourself.

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5. Charisma is born and made. Charismatic people invent themselves in a way that leans into their talents and strengths. Before Marilyn Monroe became who she was, she was the girl next door. But she was the sexy girl next door. When Hollywood rejected that girl, Marilyn saw that there was an opening for sex goddess, and who better to fill that position than herself?

6. Charisma creates a persona that is a distilled and heightened truth of the person behind it (see ‘charisma is authentic’, above). Charismatic people not only know who they are, they know how to perform themselves in the most compelling way possible. They are master communicators. They are always studying, learning, improving.

7. Charisma has a bold and compelling point of view that often polarizes people. Charisma gets beneath the skin of the culture in a way that inspires many – but provokes and disturbs others. If you’re going to be loved, you’re also going to have some haters. (Unless you’re Tom Hanks.)

8. Charisma is about being both fascinating and relevant. It’s not enough to hook a person’s attention, you have to have something to say that engages, inspires, lifts her to a higher emotional state.

9. Charisma is not just about having a message. It’s about embodying that message in some way. You walk your talk. You live your brand. You own an idea, because you are that idea. When people see you, they see what you stand for.

10. Charisma is about being tuned in: to other people, to yourself, to the soul of the culture, the call of the times, the mood of the room. Charisma knows how to read the signals and respond accordingly.

11. Charisma generates from an intuitive place deep inside. Charismatic leaders align themselves with the strong inner voice of their own psyche, which leads them to new and/or unexplored places. They trailblaze.

12. Charisma often says the things that other people won’t say, or can’t say, or don’t know how to say (see ‘bold and compelling point of view’, above). The truth is highly charismatic — which is why it’s dangerous, and has enemies.

13. Charisma is passion and confidence. That emerges naturally when you’re in your element: when you have discovered what you love to do and are a total badass at doing it. If you don’t know what that is yet, keep searching. Don’t ever quit.

14. Charisma doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with happiness. You can be highly charismatic and still want to kill yourself, or kill yourself slowly through various forms of self-abuse.

15. Charisma ultimately needs to be about something more than the self, because that can be lonely and isolating and just not very interesting for very long. Charisma is at its most dynamic when it serves a larger purpose.

16. Charisma can be used for evil. Evil people suck, no matter how charismatic.

photo: Dina Regine

Jun 20, 2013
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1 Comment · Add Yours

This is a great breakdown (and great writing). Thanks for putting it together. Though implied many places, there are two terms that I think belong in here somewhere: “awareness” and “presence”. I’ve noticed that charismatic people seem to have heightened awareness — of themselves, others, and situations.They seem to always be present, with a mind like water, ready for anything.

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