Building a Charismatic

“There’s a highway to, to the edge, yeah
Once a night you will drive yourself there
At the end of the road you will find the answer…”

The Distillers, Hall of Mirrors

It has become fashionable and even pervasive in modern society to tailor oneself to the desires and whims of others.

Tragically, most people in modern society play for the Silver Medal, and by that I mean most people choose to marginalize themselves at the expense of someone else. Take dating or a job interview, for example: given the relative stakes, most people opt to mask their own personality in an attempt to get an interviewer or potential love interest to like her or him. While this can be an effective tactic, it’s less sustainable and ultimately less rewarding than winning someone over with your own effervescence.

Charisma is Fire. You are either consumed by it, you put it out, or you stay far clear of it. By contrast, contemporary socialism encourages people to hide themselves and their Beliefs, and to reduce oneself to the lowest common social denominator. Even if this is done with noble intentions, it inevitably backfires, as one will come to be seen as subservient, or worse, deceptive.

Establishing a Belief Structure

To be a Charismatic, you need to soundly know what your Beliefs are; otherwise, it’s like you’re selling a product you don’t know intimately. Charisma is based upon being congruent with one’s Beliefs, adhering to one’s Beliefs, and if necessary enforcing one’s Beliefs.

Take for example two strangers in an elevator who appear to have nothing to say to each other. While they may have tremendous amounts in common with each other, they are both insecure about expressing any commonalities or building any rapport because they lack either conviction or definition in what they believe in. Even if they have diametrically opposite views (say one is a Democrat and one is a Republican), both lack Conviction in their Beliefs because they fear offending even one other person.

Take this in contrast to a Charismatic such as Bruce Lee, who had such strong Conviction in his Belief Structure (Jeet Kune Do) that he was not only willing to repeatedly engage in mortal combat (MK) over it, but could also create an entire book detailing the Belief Structure off the top of his head (The Tao of Jeet Kune Do).

The primary reason I write is so I can reinforce my own Belief Structure. In times of uncertainty, when I’m dealing with heavy amounts of social resistance and given a litany of reasons to doubt my own Convictions, I go back to things I’ve written previously. There are times in everyone’s life when she or he is her or his only ally, and for me re-reading my prior writing is the most powerful way to put me back on my proper path.

To wit, here are my Beliefs:

I believe in God.

I believe in America.

I believe in Chemistry.

I believe in Darwinism.

I believe in the Ladder Theory.

I believe in Heroism and Valor.

I believe in Willpower.

I believe Love is possible but rare.

I believe in Masculinity, and that Men should act like Men.

I believe that to offend another Man is to have a Fight.

I believe in Overcoming Fear.

I believe in Myself.

I believe that Life is Extremely Short, and Time is Too Valuable to Waste.

I believe I am a truly exceptional driver.

I believe Mario Lemieux was better than Wayne Gretzky.

I believe you can feel the puck better through a wooden stick.

Having a Belief Structure such as the one above sets someone up for all future social interactions, as knowing exactly where you stand breeds both Charm and Confidence. While it is not important that a Charismatic takes a stand on every divisive issue, it is important for that a Charismatic knows that certain Beliefs are worth fighting over.

Though at times I’ve certainly lost my way, I have always had a solid Belief Structure in place. This is simply the first time I’ve written it down. Knowing precisely what you Believe in gives one a solid base from which to Form an Identity. I’ll discuss Identity Construction at a later time, but the takeaway point is that most people, when asked, “Who are you?” cannot come up with a clearly-defined answer. A Charismatic, however, has a list of Beliefs from which she or he can derive intensity and passion.

Making Others Believe

Aside from the fact that so many people do not have detailed Belief Structures, the reason that there are so few Charismatics relative to the general population is that a Charismatic must make others Believe.  

This is not as easy to accomplish as one might suspect. Many people are cowardly and easily swayed by social mores and the pressure to conform. It is easier to mindlessly revert to the social mean rather than take the punches that come with standing out from the crowd.

This is also why a Charismatic must be entirely congruent with his or her Belief Structure. A Charismatic is certain to encounter both apathy and conflict, as the preconceived notions of others make imparting one’s Beliefs an uphill battle. A Charismatic will need to feel in her or his bones a strong Belief about something, lest she or he get beaten down and overwhelmed by a social tidal wave of opposition.

Oliver Stone absolutely nails the concept in his film Any Given Sunday. Here’s a clip of Al Pacino telling Jamie Foxx about what it means to be a Quarterback, the athletic equivalent of a Charismatic (0:45 Mark):

A Charismatic is only as powerful as her or his ability to make others feel strongly about her or his own Belief Structure, or to at least to get others to see her or his perspective. The ability to convey one’s Convictions is as important as the Belief Structure itself. Charismatics almost always have a healthy or even unhealthy Belief in themselves, but it often takes incalculable amounts of exposure and time to get others to Believe in them.

Charismatics vs. Chameleons

(Note: Charismatics are Riki the Mongoose, not that bastard Cobra. You can tell by the aggressive posture and the crazed gleam in Riki’s eye.)

The primary opposition to a Charismatic is a Chameleon, i.e. one who tailors her or his personality portrayal to suit the situation. While a Charismatic might use discretion and choose her or his battles wisely, a Chameleon actively shifts large sections of her or his personality to meet whatever goals she or he happens to have.

For example, a woman’s goal might be to provide for her child at any cost; to accomplish this, she rapidly alters her personality to accommodate whatever potential providers she may be trying to forge a union with. There is no message to get across and there is no Belief Structure; there is simply a list of Goals a Chameleon wishes to accomplish, and Charismatic traits such as Dignity and Pride hold no relevance. As Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, “the ends justify means”, whatever those “ends” happen to be.

The reason Chameleons and Charismatics can seldom co-exist is divergent goals. A Charismatic may want to be heard, while a Chameleon may want to silence her or him. The disputes between a Charismatic and a Chameleon may grow particularly venomous because a Chameleon generally has extreme flexibility in her or his ethics, while the ethics of a Charismatic are strongly tied to her or his Belief Structure.

This is not to say that there cannot be noble Chameleons, just as it is not to say that there cannot be evil Charismatics; Adolph Hitler, the most despicable person ever to live, was a noteworthy Charismatic. But this article is operating under the assumption that the reader, should she or he decide to Build Charisma, is benign if not altruistic. The Chameleons an altruistic Charismatic may encounter will likely be of the amoral and unsavory variety, and a Charismatic should be prepared to deal with them.

If a Charismatic is Fire, a Chameleon is Water; if a Charismatic believes in Black, a Chameleon can not only say “White”, but can also get plenty of others to say “White” through the uses of Deception and Social Manipulation. Chameleons in fact make excellent sales-people because their Frame and Interpretation of the Truth is so flexible.

Accordingly, a Chameleon can “douse” a Charismatic relatively easily is the Charismatic Fire is small or not strong. However, a Chameleon can also be like a water balloon in a forest fire if the Charismatic Fire is strong enough; thus, it is once again important to note that a Charismatic must be truly congruent with her or his Belief Structure, for that alone will protect her or him from the deceptive tactics of the amoral Chameleon.

Female Charismatics

The problem with women being seen as Charismatic is that their looks and sex appeal actually work against them. While Charisma makes an unattractive man attractive and an attractive man stunning, as you are likely aware our society seems to prefer our women demure, soft-spoken, and unwilling to submit opinions. When a man is outspoken, he’s often commended; when a woman speaks, she’s often deemed a bitch.

Even worse, the more attractive a woman is, the more apt people will be to agree with her regardless of the message. Getting people to follow you based upon your looks and not your Beliefs is not Charisma at all, but simply Seduction. One’s looks can be the means to an end in getting out the word about one’s Beliefs, but it will be an unusually-difficult battle to separate the Believers from those who are just infatuated.

For a woman to truly be Charismatic, her accomplishments and message must truly override her looks. Take for example Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, or Betsy Ross – women who are revered for their accomplishments and message rather than their looks. Meanwhile, consider someone like Cleopatra, who despite her throng of followers was worshiped for her seductiveness rather than her spirit.

Example of the contemporary Charismatic woman include Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has remained prominent and relevant after differentiating herself from her husband, and adult entertainer Jenna Jameson, who used adult film as a springboard to build her brand and distinguish herself as a businesswoman.

Notable Charismatics

It would be obvious to note Biblical or legendary Charismatics such as Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha, Solomon, Alexander the Great, Betsy Ross, Dr. Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X. However, there is plenty of information on these Charismatics elsewhere, and honestly much of what they strove to accomplish does not have the same relevance in 2012 as it did when they lived. It is the destiny of the Charismatic to be misunderstood and under-appreciated for most of her or his life, and often times Charismatics are not given their due until their Beliefs and accomplishments have stood the test of time.

Here are some examples of the contemporary Charismatic, referenced from Pop Culture:

Bruce Lee

Lee was a natural Charismatic, one to whom people could not help but gravitate toward. He used his prowess as a martial artist to eventually create his own style, a fighting and spiritual philosophy called Jeet Kune Do that continues to be revered. Prior to his death, he was also a very noteworthy film star.

If you have not seen the film, “Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story” has held up very well and gives good insight into who Bruce Lee was.

CM PUNK

Currently the darling of the professional wrestling world, CM Punk is a Charismatic who has used a variety of methods (including religious fundamentalism, as seen in the picture above) to gain popularity and to get people to buy into his Belief Structure.

Punk is Straight-Edge, which means that he does not drink or do drugs. He has defended this Belief fiercely since his arrival in the WWE. Beyond that, he is of the Belief that he is the best wrestler in the world, and after years of battling uphill he has finally gotten many people to acknowledge that.

Many pro wrestlers are Charismatics; in fact, pro wrestling is where many exceptional Charismatics all end up congregating, as pro wrestling is to extroverted, over-confident egomaniacs what The Bachelor is to crazy, hot women desperate for attention and fame (which explains my fascination with pro wrestling; it’s like the fraternity that I’m obviously supposed to join).

Punk is notable because of his stead-fast commitment to his Belief Structure, which has finally “gotten over” with the masses. Unlike some wrestlers who use a Gimmick, Punk is a true Charismatic in that he completely Believes . He’s not really putting on any kind of masquerade or presentation – he’s simply being himself and barking about his Beliefs in front of tens of thousands of people.

As you’ll notice in the picture above and in the video clip below, Punk took Charisma to its ultimate inevitability and started presented Straight-Edge as a religion. When he was leading the “Straight-Edge Society”, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Jesus Christ:

Don Draper

The lead character on AMC’s period piece Mad Men, Don Draper represents the Masculine Man, which an increasingly-endangered species in modern society. Whereas strong masculine figures like Draper used to be commonplace, in 2012 he represents a charming anomaly; something rare that people pine for the return of.

Dr. Christian Troy

Dr. Christian Troy was the star of the F/X television show Nip/Tuck before the show ended in 2010.

As I’ve written before, I strongly identify with both the Don Draper and Christian Troy characters, which seems odd because they are so divergent. In fact, until recently I was of the opinion that Christian was a Chameleon rather than a Charismatic.

As I sought to rectify how I can so strongly identify with both an insensitive stoic such as Draper and a brash peacock like Christian, the answer occurred to me: Don Draper could not survive in 2012 as is. The social landscape has changed to such a degree that the traditional Masculine Values Draper so embodied are now frowned upon. I am not referring to the drinking and the womanizing; I am referring to his confrontational demeanor, his desire to dominate others, and his tendency to do what he pleases without approval from others (especially the women in his life).

This is why Mad Men is so captivating: what was socially-acceptable fifty years ago is now strictly fiction. Men, especially, yearn for this; not to go back to the days of limited social rights for women, but to go back to a time when men could act upon their natural instinct of callous aggression and limited social acumen.

Today’s man simply must be socially-savvy if he hopes to survive. I know this because I am naturally very much like Don Draper, and being this way has repeatedly put me through the social wringer. Acting upon natural Male aggression, or even talking about it, has people avoiding you at best and at worst dismissing you as a future criminal.

Christian Troy is the evolution of Don Draper. While he does not mask who he is, Christian is highly socially-aware and has managed to control and temper his aggressive instincts  in such a way that he can thrive in modern society. Brazen aggression is great, until some pussy sues you for head-butting him in the face after he picked a verbal argument with you at a bar; Christian represents a temperance in behavior for the contemporary Man, without compromising his Core Beliefs.

I have used this clip before, but here is Christian on his Beliefs:

A few notes from that Clip:

1) Notice how Christian has an incredibly-strong Worldview and is totally congruent with his Beliefs

2) Notice toward the end of the Clip as Gina becomes doubly-attracted to Christian even as he is throwing her out of his apartment. This is because he has used his Force of Will to demonstrate his Charisma and his stronger Worldview. This, even more so than his looks and money, is what has made Gina fall desperately in love with him, and this goes a long way toward explaining why certain women stay with men who are terrible for them.

This “Evolution” has also included somewhat distasteful social skills such as Deception and knowing how to verbally fight with a woman, rather than refusing to dignify such nonsense and simply walking out of the room. The gender neutrality of the modern workplace  has forced men to learn how to verbally-spar with women, lest women use their superior social skills to trample men; even in the face of social conflict with a female, Christian remains a modern dignified Man, refusing to bow to the social adversity facing him.

(Important Note: Masculine Dignity is what women define as “Sexy”. If you want to be Sexy, have some pride as a Man.)

Again, while the obvious comparison between Draper and Troy is the womanizing, that is not what I am referring to. In our effort to become a more equitable society, we have collectively drifted toward androgyny; women have sought to be equal on all levels, and most have interpreted that as meaning that men and women should be exactly the same. I strongly Believe they should not, and that men and women have complimentary skills that have evolved as a way to ensure the continuation of our species (see Belief #3, I Believe in Darwinism).

Johnny Cash

I have written extensively about Johnny Cash elsewhere (see https://jackhasspoken.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/how-to-be-awesome-part-ii/), but it is worth repeating that Johnny Cash was a better Showman than almost any other contemporary Charismatic. Most of the details of his personal life were not revealed until the very end of his life, at which point he commissioned the auto-biopic Walk the Line. Like Dragon, Walk the Line  is mandatory viewing for potential Charismatics who need instruction on how to create a Charismatic presentation and separate their personal lives from their public image.

The Joker from “The Dark Knight”

The apple does not fall far from the tree, as Heath Ledger’s performance as the character was so intensive that it may have contributed to his own death. His dedication to his art and his performance in the role were so powerful that they rightfully garnered posthumous accolades praising his work. Unlike some artists who die early, the overwhelming majority agree that praise of Ledger for his work is well-deserved.

Ledger’s first line as the character sets up the character’s entire Belief Structure: prompted by the question, “What do you believe in? “, the Joker doesn’t pause for a heartbeat before responding, “I believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you…Stranger.”

Tim Tebow

Even if you are not a sports fan, you are likely aware of Tebow on a pop-culture or social level.

For the uninformed, Tebow is a Quarterback for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. He has an extremely strong Belief in God and commitment to his Christianity. This has been highly divisive, and drawn both wide-spread praise and criticism.

His accomplishments as a player aside, he is single-handily renewing more Belief in a Higher Power than hundreds of thousands of churches worldwide have been able to do. Because of his exposure and platform as a celebrated athlete, his commitment to his Beliefs has had an extremely pronounced effect on the general public. Regardless of your personal stance, you likely have a strong opinion on Tebow, and his placement of his Beliefs in the national sports spotlight. His Charisma cannot be denied.

Common Characteristics of a Charismatic

  • Religious or Divinely-Conferred Abilities or Voice

Many Charismatics use the guise of religion to impart their Beliefs; for example, you may recall David Koresh had managed convince a throng of people in Waco, Texas that he was the re-incarnation of Jesus Christ. The use of religion by a Charismatic is not limited to Christianity, but simply the notion that the Charismatic has the backing of a Higher Power.

  • Being a Leader of Men

This should be obvious, but a Charismatic should have a number of “Believers” who idolize him or her and surround the Charismatic in order to better understand his or her message. This is not necessarily the same thing as being the Alpha Male or Queen Bee of a group, though often times the designated Alpha has Charismatic qualities.

A good way to differentiate is that people want to follow the Charismatic, whereas other times people are appointed to follow a designated Alpha, or do so because they have no better alternatives.

  • Building a Mystery

Like the great Oz, a Charismatic never lets her or his Believers see the little man behind the curtain. While being true to oneself is a crucial tenet of being Charismatic, Charisma is like exceptional theater: you do not let the audience see the all the work that goes into the final production. Alternatively, this is referred to as “Being Vague”, which sharp readers will note is Rule #2 of “Don Draper’s Guide to Picking Up Women”:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/40972/saturday-night-live-don-drapers-guide

  • Force of Will

The greatest ability of a Charismatic is the ability to manifest her or his Force of Will in times of duress or opposition. This is equally true if two Charismatics with opposing Worldviews get into a confrontation, or if a Charismatic faces social opposition in her or his personal life or workplace.

Additionally, Force of Will is what a Charismatic uses to Overcome Fear. Being a Charismatic, you have outlandish or unconventional Beliefs; seeing these Beliefs realized will likely cause you a good deal of personal anguish and hardship. Rather than learn to be afraid and thus subject to the social mean, a Charismatic must learn to overcome her or his personal fears and push forward with her or his Beliefs. This is Willpower.

To name an example, while bleeding like a stuck pig and nailed to a tree at the top of “The Place of the Skull”, Jesus Christ continued to shout scripture at his tormentors; the famous line, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” was actually Jesus reciting some Old Testament while people were spitting on him and throwing rocks at him. That’s Force of Will.

Of course, the Bible might be wrong and this might have happened instead:

  • Extremely Strong Frame/Worldview

A concept from psychology, a Frame is the way one sees the world. For example, I think I am a genius and an innovator, while others might see me as a chauvinist and a moron. I continue to both write and have positive self-esteem because I have a stronger Frame than many of my detractors (and there are many).

Worldview is a social-science term that is very similar to a Frame. “The View in which you see the World”. The social-science perspective takes into account factors that influence one’s Frame, such as origin of birth, ethnicity, gender, etc. Frame versus Worldview is essentially a “Nature versus Nurture”-type argument subject to whichever discipline you personally subscribe to.

In Conclusion

Search yourself and find what you truly Believe in. As long as you do not have aspirations of “genetic cleansing” like that kraut bastard Hitler, your personal Charisma likely has value and a prominent place awaiting you in the world. The question is: Do you have the Courage to stand up for your Beliefs, and if necessary, to enforce them?

SF

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About sfarrell11000
All over the place

4 Responses to Building a Charismatic

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