The British are Coming
In the Spring of 1775, a certain Paul Revere would cement himself in the heart of American history with his famous message, “The British are Coming!” Saving the lives of countless revolutionaries, his journey by horseback lit the night on fire, spreading the news of the impending British siege on Concord and Lexington. Town by town, village by village, the lights of homes flickered on as families were rushed to safety and an army was situated to prepare for the morning’s incursion. Paul Revere is a widely accredited hero, and rightfully so: his courage and quick thinking saved the American prospect of individual liberty and freedom. However, a fellow patriot by the name of William Dawes set out on that same night, delivering the same message, and traveling through cities facing the same urgent danger as Paul Revere’s. By all accounts, William Dawes should have been a national hero with people across the country still cherishing his legacy. Yet, it was later recorded that in the towns Dawes traveled through, only a sparse amount of farmers and fieldhands were ever alerted. There was no account of widespread rallying as in Revere’s case, and the knowledge that the British were indeed coming didn’t come to these unfortunate townsfolk until it was too late. What went so mistakenly wrong for Dawes where Revere ultimately succeeded?
The answer to this unintuitive question is that Revere had a unique set of social capabilities at his disposal. Not known to many is that Paul Revere was one of Boston’s greatest socialites, working as a clerk, fire department officer, health officer, and philanthropist. The people of Massachusetts loved him, and he possessed the reputation of a warm and friendly person to be around. Given any house around Boston, Revere had no problem identifying who lived there and how to proceed in delivering his message. William Dawes, on the other hand, likely felt an otherworldly confusion traveling the foreign Boston villages of which he had no prior knowledge. How would he know at what door to knock, what key people to alert? Indeed, what separated Paul Revere into a hero was not just his bravery, but was due in large part to his network of connections and striking charisma.
In this article, it’s that unique power of charisma that we will be taking a closer look at. With some uncanny connections to mindfulness, I hope this gives you a new and refreshing way to reconfigure your perception of what charisma is and how we can make it work for ourselves.
We all know a Paul Revere: the person that lights up the room and seems to have everyone’s ceaseless attention. They’re warm, endearing, and generally a pleasure to be around. Many of us chalk up this charisma to just natural-born luck; some people are born Reveres while many of us have to settle for Dawes. Yet, by dissecting what it is that makes these people special, the more I believe that charisma can be a learned behavior rather than a stroke of genetic luck.
I want to introduce another man by the name of Roger Horchow. Horchow is a successful business entrepreneur from Dallas who has made an otherworldly amount of connections working for numerous hits on Broadway. He’s the type of person that if you met him on a plane, you’d be chatting until the taxi picks you up outside baggage claim. I first learned about him while reading the book, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and listening to the way he describes him you can’t help but feel endeared: “He’s not one of those social, back-slapping types for whom the process of acquiring acquaintances is obvious and self-serving … He simply likes people in a genuine and powerful way.” It’s that fascination with learning about other people that I found to be the most eye-opening. Charismatic people are not egotistical villains who show interest in others for their own benefit, rather they’re the complete opposite. Their gravitation exists because they are firmly there with good intentions, wanting to uncover every detail about whomever they’re interacting with. It makes us feel good when we can notice that someone has invested their attention in who we are. It’s because of that fact that people like Dawes are so easily magnetic: people feel valued when they’re together with someone living in the present and having worthwhile interactions.
Similarly, I’ve found the same principles of charisma to have strong parallels to mindfulness. Namely, this awareness to be in the present is something that I can’t stress enough. Think about all the times when you’ve had your best conversations. I can almost guarantee that you weren’t on your phone and your attention was not averted to some irrelevant fleeting thought in the background. It’s common thought that to be charismatic we have to focus on ourselves and monitor our every move, but charisma is rather the removal of one’s ego and channeling that energy to those around them instead. It has far less to do with ourselves than with everyone else. That shared human connection is sacred and worth being firmly in the present. While we only see certain sides of the people we meet, there is an undeniable amount of depth and character behind every single person. It should be fun and exhilarating to try and build those connections with others, fostering a relationship that brings you both unbounded joy. Be pleasantly surprised by what you can discover about others, and they’ll return the favor.
I want to emphasize that aiming to be more charismatic doesn’t mean that you have to rewire your personality or change who you inherently are as a person. Charisma amplifies all of your wonderful individualistic characteristics for more people to witness. When you can live in the present and have feelings of compassion, curiosity, and kindness towards the other person, that’s you being the best version of yourself. That is why I call charisma the hidden art of mindfulness: it’s when you can be mindful and get in touch with a greater sense of humanity that you are automatically charismatic. Take pride in being unabashedly yourself, for the world needs your gifts.