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Practice Ferociously, and Build Your Charisma Muscle!

There’s an old joke about a young musician from the Midwest who, while roaming around mid-Manhattan, stops a local to ask, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

Without hesitation, the New Yorker replies: “Practice, practice, practice!”

Early in the Beijing Olympics, the American men’s beach volleyball team, seeded second in a bracket of 24 teams, was beaten by the Latvians in the first of three qualifying matches.  The Latvians had been ranked 23 of 24, and the Americans had won their previous 21 international matches.

The Americans, particularly Phil Dalhausser, did make some uncharacteristic mistakes, but the Latvians outplayed them significantly.  In a previous match in 1997, the Americans had trounced them.

What had changed?

While the Americans practiced hard, the Latvians practiced ferociously.  To simulate the beating they might get from the Americans in this match, they had six of the best players from Latvia take the court against them, forcing them to field hundreds of returns that would have been impossible for any two-man team to deliver.

Most people have heard stories about Tiger Woods and his ferocious practicing.  Michael Jordan was known to practice the basics for long hours before and after regular team practice.

The skills for success are not simply qualities you either have, or you don’t.

Even charisma can be developed–built–like a muscle at the gym.

Watching TV as Barak Obama delivered his SOTU speech last week, the word “charisma” came to mind.  I’m not making a political statement here–many politicians have it: that ability to “light up” a room when they walk into it.  Webster defines charisma as “a personal magnetism”.  It was originally a religious term, meaning “of the spirit” or “inspired”–the idea that a divine light was shining through someone.

So, charismatic people have the ability to let their light shine.  But if this glow is something you can develop…how?  Here are a few ways the experts say you can boost your “Charisma Factor”:

1. Live for a mission.  Having a “mission statement” may be a beginning, but if you’re not

living your mission every day, your charismatic light simply won’t grow bright.  When you have a consistent, authentic message that you live by, you will shine in a way that people can see.

2. Project confidence–bold, but humble.  An assured, assertive manner is something you can sense in a person when you first meet him or her, and it is attractive.  Your clients will respond best to these qualities.  Practice projecting a calm confidence.  Charismatic people know how to balance talking about their accomplishments with being grateful for–and humbled by–the feedback they receive.

3. Derive joy from those you work with.  A sincere interest in and concern for other people is a charismatic quality.  Dale Carnegie taught us to listen intently to others and to “be impressed, not impressive”.  Likewise, happy-seeming professionals tend to have more clients and happier clients. If you’re unhappy with yourself or others, get some help to change your situation.  It will improve your charisma.

4. Embrace your style, and your work.  Mark Twain quipped that “naked people have little or no influence on society”.  If your professional uniform is a blue, button-down, pin-striped suit, but that’s not who you are, go ahead and wear that big Mickey Mouse watch proudly.  Professionals with charisma are innovators and leaders.  They are able to gently take charge of a room in which something in their field is being discussed, and they end up being recognized for their work.  All of that starts with embracing your individualism.

Whether you want to be great at your profession, great at bringing in new clients, or great at being a partner or parent, you need to practice ferociously.  Charisma comes more easily to some than to others, but anyone who develops the above skills can become more charismatic.  Decide what you want to be great at, and start practicing what you need to do to get there.

As a coach, I do everything I can to ensure that my clients practice the right things, and keep practicing, so that they can develop their “Charisma Factor” and attain their goals.  Whether yours is a desire to have more or less to do in your career, you must–ferociously–keep REACHING…


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