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Jul 1, 2019

Charisma is often misunderstood as a trait that some are born with and others are not, but I've seen people grow from needy and insecure into charismatic leaders that impart confidence to others.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand charisma is in terms of a specific project where you have to . You've got a project and you need to be at the top of your game or perhaps you're in a new position where you need to shine. Or you just need to get in the zone so that you can do your best work. Ultimately, you need to influence others.

Often executives are too invested to perform at their top level and they misconstrue working hard for working at a high level. Other times they're not focused on the right things because they're focused on everything.

And, heck, most of us don't know what the zone looks like. How do top performers get there and stay there? Invariably "zoners" do 5 of the same things that let them function at a high level:

1. They Turn Anxiety into Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” - Pele

The process of starting something new and risking defeat will always trigger an emotional response. If you interpret those feelings as fear or anxiety you will channel your energy into negativity and exaggerate the difficulty of the task.

So, how do you get around that? There are 3 steps: Experience the outcome. Find your X factor. Focus on your intentions.

Great leaders naturally experience the outcomes ahead of time because they've seen the movie before and it's easy for them think about the end - even as they look at daunting obstacles. If you haven't done this many times before you need to build that kind of success memory. Leaders also easily see the X factors, the benefits that are meaningful to them, and consistently focus on those X-factors over fear and obstacles.

The rest of us need a process for this and in short form, it looks like this: Take a moment to feel the outcome. Picture yourself with this task finished. How does that feel? Is it a relief? Are you excited and energized? Great, now what are you going to focus on gettting out of this? Is that concrete? Does it really matter to you? In helping an executive find "The X Factor" (something to get enthusiastic about) I sometimes use Simon Sinek's simple Why, How, What framework ( Imperative's purpose pattern is helpful too.)

Once you experience the end state and have a clear "something to get out of it" now set your intention on that feeling and experience and use your anxiety for energy to get there. Great leaders naturally channel anxiety into enthusiasm and toward a meaningful intention and end state.

Anxiety exists to prepare you for something, so use the energy of anxiety. Bruce Springsteen still gets nervous, but he channels that energy into excitement. Now, in business your goal isn't to be Springsteen or to get yourself overly emotionalized, but to channel that excess energy into a slightly positive, repeatable and consistent reward state (see the neuroscience of engagement by Dr. David Rock.)

So mindtrick #1 is find the one thing you can get enthusiastic about, experience/visualize the end result and channel your anxiety toward those intentions as enthusiasm.

2. They Detach Their Esteem from Their Project

In order to function effortlessly toward a goal you must first give up your attachment to the outcome. That sounds counterintuitive, but the key to playing in the zone is to not put your self-esteem on the line while working toward your goal. That actually has the effect of repelling the thing you want like a magnet of the same charge.

Esteem attachment to an outcome gives control of the process over to your emotions and makes the limbic system easy to trip. Once your limbic system is in control your ability to think clearly is compromised. See Dr. Rock's SCARF Model for more on your brain on threat. Top leaders don't put their self-esteem at risk on projects, they don't have to. Lower level employees often put their esteem and reputations at stake and that causes them to make some, well, unusual choices.

Mindtrick #2 is to detach your personal esteem from the task so that you can let real enthusiasm flow and think about it clearly.

3. They Create an Aura of Faith and Certainty

He who has faith has an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well.” - B. C. Forbes

Look, there's always uncertainty. The trick is to chunk down any project and/or the role into small pieces that you believe you can accomplish (or can reasonably fake it to get there.) If you think of the whole project at once, it could overwhelm you. But when you chunk it down and actually believe you can do each piece of the puzzle, you create internal faith. It's that mentality of certainty, that vow to freely accept the unknown and known and the knowledge that success is inevitable that allows your mind to fully release.

And what's cool is that Faith creates it's own momentum; people are drawn to faith and want to help those who believe. If you act needy, people run the other way. Faith is a secret to success, it's the basis for charisma and gravitas. One powerful visualization a coach shared with me is that when doubt creeps in, picture a big (really big) helping hand from a role model (whomever your heroes are) scooping you forward as they regale you with all the times they've struggled. Hard to fail with Lincoln and Kennedy's big paws coaching and pushing you.... and if you still have doubt, fake it till you make it and move onto step four.

Mindtrick #3 is to chunk a goal until the short term goals seem certain and create faith that you will get there though the path may not be clear.

4. They Don't Work Hard, They Focus and Flow

We all tend to work too hard at working hard rather than working smart, as if gritted teeth, a bulging vein, heart palpitations and breakdowns are symptoms of working well. Those are all symptoms that you are working inefficiently, draining your life force and jamming your brain. If you're working really hard, you're likely working against yourself.

The integral being knows without going, sees without looking and accomplishes without doing” - Lao Tzu

So once you've tapped into enthusiasm, detached your ego and created faith, now it's time to focus and flow: Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

If you struggle with focus, set a ten minute timer and commit to it as if what you're doing is the most interesting puzzle in the world, then give up to your intention for ten minutes. That will set your mind at ease. When you work on the edge of your skill and what you believe is possible while focusing, you're creating flow. Don't work hard, work effortlessly.

Effortless work is the highest level of human functioning, whether its Michael Jordan in the zone, a biologist solving a puzzling disease or a teacher connecting with kids. It’s thoughtless action at the nexus of challenge and skill that creates flow.

Don’t think; do and be. Make it look easy.

Mindtrick #4 is involve yourself at the nexus of ability and challenge and completely submerse yourself for at least ten minutes and let your "complete involvement" guide you to work effortlessly.

5. They Anticipate Obstacles and Enter The Tunnel of Commitment

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness… The moment one definitely commits to oneself providence moves to” - Goethe

Commitment tilts the playing field in your favor.

Successful people don't meander and constantly second guess; they identify roadblocks ahead of time and move from point A to point B to point C. Don’t wander toward your goals and let every new twist buffet you, commit to reaching goals and pursue them. If you fail, you can always learn and adjust. If you tepidly chase your goals, you're going to miss out on the giant tailwind commitment provides.

Here's one trick an executive shared with me: When you start toward a goal, visualize entering an tunnel of success where there are no turns or distractions; there is only backward and forward. Close your mind to options. Avoid asking yourself what else you could be doing, instead ask yourself how you can get over obstacles and refocus your intention. When thoughts of doubt creep in, and they will, accept them, thank them, send them on their way and re-focus on your goal with the end result in mind, what your "X" factor is and how you will feel when you get there.

Those who fail consistently never enter the tunnel of success; they get caught up in the failure spiral and self-doubt, turning again and again without ever reaching their destination. The trap of the failure spiral is that it allows one to do and feel as if they're accomplishing without ever succeeding.

Mindtrick #5 is anticipate obstables, then commit to your goals and turn off the armchair quarterback until you've reached a meaningful spot on your path.

If you watch great leaders, they tend to do these things automatically because they've run similar plays over and over and over, they know how to find value, naturally detach because their esteem is strong, they have faith from years of success, they work smart not hard and they don't constantly second guess themselves.

And when YOU identify an enthusiastic intention, detach your ego, develop faith, focus and commit something really exciting happens, you release your full potential and desires toward whatever it is you want. That creates momentum that will drive you forward and creates an aura others identify with... you'll notice that people will suddenly find you charismatic and, dare I say, inspirational.

Goethe was on to something.