I Want What She Has – Charisma

finding-your-voice1Can you transform a person from a pedestrian, competent speaker into a compelling charismatic orator? The answer is yes you can.

For the past thirty years I have trained food professionals and media celebrities to find their voice, worked with keynote speakers to hone their presentations, adjudicated school debates, organised food and wine conferences with speaking and entertainment programs that left the audience wanting more and produced live cooking shows using the talent of Australia’s leading chefs and celebrities. As the author of Finding Your Voice – 10 Steps to Successful Public Speaking and an award winning speaker I can say, without false modesty – I know what it takes for a speaker to light up the auditorium.

Is it enough  to articulate well, present your facts logically and perform capably? With preparation and practice any speaker will become a competent speaker. An audience will appreciate these speakers’ efforts but will this adequate proficiency stay with them?

Don’t you want the audience to leave the building with your name on their lips and your message in their hearts?

This magic ingredient that lifts you from the mundane is your style, your brand, your charisma.

First lets look at how charisma (from the Greek meaning gift) is defined by others who have a vested interest in understanding this characteristic. Research from psychologists, talent scouts and even a high-powered charisma coach showed that there is no chutzpah fairy Godmother at our birth randomly waving her DNA wand – ‘here Norma Jean and Oprah a bucket-gene-full of compelling-appeal for you gals but none for you lot.’ They agreed that charisma can be a learned behaviour.

Common characteristics they identified were:

  • Emotional expressiveness – in other words allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
  • Empathy with others – socially sensitive
  • Exuding joy and warmth
  • Being present in the moment, being in the flow
  • Confidence
  • Stand firmly in your power
  • Mirroring others body language
  • Accepting your introversion or inadequacies
  • Voice – a measured tempo and lowering your intonation at the end of the sentence.

So the promise is –  if you practice standing chest out, shoulders back, arms wide you are seen as powerful. If you practice being in the moment, being socially aware and caring you will be flagging your empathy. If you accept your inadequacies and use visualisation techniques to boost your moral you will overcome and be centred and strong. If you risk telling others a secret or a weakness you will have emotionally connected with another. If you mirror others body movements then they will like and trust you. And if you train yourself to lower your voice, present in a measured way and put warmth in your voice from a smile on your dial you will have achieved the holy grail of panache gravitas – yes, yes, yes  – charisma.

To me the most important things in this worthy research is that when you have the courage to accept your shadow and light and  be vulnerable where all barriers are down, firm in your stance of bugger what the world is deciding about you – you are authentic. You have no need to fudge emotional and social expressiveness and sensitivity that becomes a taken. You will be in the present. You will naturally stand in your power and your voice takes on its own dimension of authority.

Consider comedian Billy Connolly who exudes high-octane charisma as he invites us into his fragile world. Even though his language would normally offend we don’t mind in fact see it as part of his charm as we rock and lock into his brand of humour. This man is no oil painting there is no glossy image, he looks as though he could do with a good hair and beard trim but we don’t care he gives us unfettered admission into his spirit. His transparent spirit of mischief and joy, making light of his foibles and life wounds connects  us at a deep level of consciousness.

Is it worth the risk of being true to yourself? You betcha. Just ask any speaker who has crossed the divide between platform and audience. ‘It is like holding the audience in the palm of your hand,’ said one speaker glorying in the joy of connection.

 

*Want to know more?  Read my previous post  ‘The Path to Your Real Self’

* For Millennials  – substitute Russell Brand for Billy Connolly!

 

 

 

 

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2 + 2 In My Case = Dyscalculia

numberjumbleI am good at denial. I have a clear compassionate understanding of others but when it comes to me denial is a comfortable hiding place. But the nice thing about aging is that being vulnerable is no longer fearsome.  Owning up to who you are is intensely freeing.

For years my lack of mathematical ability, confused, confounded and shamed me. At last I understand why. It seems I am Dyscalculic.

Dyscalculia as defined by the Department of Education: ‘a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic  learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’ (Literacy- Dyslexia)

For all of my adult life I have fudged my way through the simplest of arithmetic. I don’t connect with numerals logically or intuitively. I am all at sea when people start talking numbers. Whether the talk is tens or hundreds of thousands or discussion of temperature conversions from Celsius to Fahrenheit, or feet and inches to metres the value and worth of the numbers means nothing to me. I am powerless to contribute intellectually, as numbers are not like words where at will I can use, exploit and comprehend.

Like all people who have a form of illiteracy you learn to compensate and hide your lack of ability. I got by through the years, working and running a successful business, I protected my inadequacy with delaying strategies in any financial negotiations. ‘Let me get back to you,’ rolled off my tongue sweetly and swiftly if anything nearing finance was introduced in a meeting. If I had to speak of figures or percentages they were frozen into my mind with repetition and I desperately hoped no one would question them. Often I was caught out in my written work with constant peccadillos of reversing numbers but I bluffed them off as typos and blamed my high school geography mistress saying that she started my ‘bad’ habit by demanding map references be reversed.

Over the years I have hidden my shame of being ignorant. Only softening my self-bludgeoning with the rational that WW2 had severely disrupted my early education; after all I can do simple mathematics and others would never know the depth of my inadequacy. Guilt was another companion – I believed it was my fault, if I applied myself more at school I would probably be more capable.

Yes I can add up – very diligently and subtract ever more carefully and slowly. I know my multiplication tables, drummed into me as a child but I know them by rote and have no flexibility of giving an answer to what are 7 x 9 without reciting the whole of the table and if you were to follow with a 9 x 7 question I would still silently go through the 9 times table to make sure it was the same answer. Addition or subtraction always required sitting down with a paper and pen with infantile double upon double checks to make sure I had got it right. Division, percentages and other calculations are about as understandable as a black hole to me.

I have relatively mastered reading numbers in the thousands, providing that tens and hundreds of thousands have the prescribed comma denoting their worth but without that I am in a foreign land. If I have to talk numbers in a presentation I write them out fully (i.e. four hundred thousand) so when I’m under stress the numbers are not simply gobbly-goop jumping around on the page waiting for me to rope them in hoping they are in the right order. Over the last years with rising prices of property and lottery wins imagine my escalation of anxiety that speaking about millions and billions that are now commonplace. I simply will not document millions, I have absolutely no idea how many zeros are needed and if you were to tell me today, by tomorrow it would have no meaning.

Dyscalculia also affects me spatially. I could write books on getting lost by interpreting Street Directory maps and forget entirely me making sense of architectural or any other kind of plans they are like The Enigma Code.

No more pretense – I have faced my demons and taken ownership of my incapacity. I am no longer burdened with trying to be more than I am. I feel good, in fact very good indeed.

The flip side of this disclosure is that people that suffer dyslexia or dyscalculia are often found to be highly intelligent people. There is always a silver lining don’t you think?

 

 

Mindfulness in Ho Chi Minh

IMG_7861Ho Chi Minh, (Saigon as it was) is a destination where I could sense my neurons lighting up with alacrity as I observed the city street scenes embracing a culture so different from Australia with its sights, smell and sounds of Asia teasing you at every juncture.

We had visited Vietnam once before, briefly on a cruise with day visits to Ho Chin Minh and Halong Bay, which was simply not enough time appreciate the magic of Vietnam. But enough time, with two hour coach rides into and out of Ho Chin Minh, to be amazed at the Vietnamese dominance and culture of the motor scooter.

The country boasts 30 million motorbikes/scooters equating to 95% of all registered road vehicles. A first time visit to ‘Nam spins you out of our established idea of motorbike usage. Forget Australia’s sights; a drove of newly bronzed backpackers nervously steering their scooters along coast roads hanging for the promise of a cold drink at the beach, men with red bandannas and leather chaps on gleaming Harley Davidson’s ready to throttle up the Great Ocean Road or the local postie wheeling into your drive. On the Vietnamese pot holed roads you will more than likely see Momma and three small children perched precariously behind Poppa as he weaves his way in and out of the traffic. Here too you will see all manner, shape and size of commercial commodities laced to the frame of a Suzuki with the helmeted driver barely able to see the road in front.

In Ho Chin Minh city, the bikes in all weathers create orchestrated chaos, there does not seem to be any road rules at all. Scooters flow into, weave around pedestrians and cut across the line of traffic without signals or sense of fear. While we did not see any accidents the road fatalities are understandably high in Vietnam with 1200 deaths a year. In Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) you can only be amazed that there are not more accidents as the city’s 3.1 million motorbikes, like buzzing ants, fill the roads to overflowing.

Crossing city roads was my senior equivalent of a bungee jump. My guide said walk slowly and steadily across the stream of traffic, don’t stop don’t step back just slow and steady.’ But wait there is a crossing,’ I say ‘why don’t we cross there?’ My guide smiled Yes but the same rules apply as traffic does not stop or slow. A road-crossing phobic can do two things in Ho Chi Minh – stay in the hotel for the entire time and miss out on the bounty of life of Saigon or have faith in a different culture and trust that these bikies know what they are doing. Being one of the most fearful pedestrian when it comes to crossing the road I say proudly I did it, not once but several times and came away with nary a scratch or a bump.

We took a fascinating half-day tour in Ho Chi Minh visiting the Reunification Palace, Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame, Ben Thanh Markets and the War Remnant Museum. Mia, our tour guide of Charms of Indochina Travel Company gave breath and life to the history of Vietnam. No mean feat on a hot and monsoonal day when ones mind is sluggish and body sapped with sweat. Finally we asked if she rode a motor scooter in the city. Of course, she said. ‘But the traffic,’ we say ‘is so horrendous how to do you do it?’ It is about being aware, being conscious of the intention of riders around you and allowing their progress as they allow yours. Being mindful is the key.

 Very Zen I think as I cross the road to my shiny hotel, walking steadily beaming out my mind intention of simply getting to the other side.

 

The Path To Your Real Self

Nature-WallpaperAt first the search for your Real Self can be imbued with an ambition to be more than you think you are. Not content with being a mere mortal but wanting to project yourself as a super person. I have a friend whose verbal tag line is ‘I don’t do ordinary – I do excellent’ which, would be seen in the world of commerce as commendable. But authentic self is about the simple act of being, living what you love, without the constraints of trying to achieve. The egotistical ways of wanting more, being more will need to slough away for you to live the authentic you.   Simply by being you become a beacon to others. I prefer to embrace ‘I DO DO ordinary, but I live it extraordinarily well.’

The intention of seeking your Real Self causes the ego to go into defence mode to keep you safe in your status quo; it only knows the well-worn path of your trampling belief system and its hunger to be recognised. And like any good defender of its perceived realm it will create strategies to slow you and stop you from reclaiming your authentic sovereignty of your Real Self.

 

Asking yourself ‘what do I love?’ is the key to finding your Real Self. For some this question will easy, they have always known from childhood where the direction of their true gifts lies. But for others whose truth has been in hiding it will need more persistence. Whether the initial answer comes easily or with a dedicated effort the repeated practise of asking ‘what do I love?’ intuitively rather than intellectually will get you there.

Why intuitively? Any intellectual deliberation will always be permeated with our default thinking. By setting our intention to receive intuitively we are tapping into our own reliable source of truth.

Before you dismiss receiving an ‘intuitive’ answer as something new age, bordering on flaky, consider the following. Leading scientific and philosophical thinkers of our time valued intuition above intellect. Evidence of this may be found in telling quotes from Albert Einstein (‘The only real valuable thing is intuition) Henri Poincare, Frank Capra, Jonas Salk, Immanuel Kant, Lao Tzu, Steve Jobs and many others. But Robert Graves, poet, novelist and critic put it most succinctly – Intuition is the supra-logic that cuts out all the routine processes of thought and leaps straight from the problem to the answer.

 We have all heard about the fireman whose insistent inner voice commanded him to get out of the burning house moments before the flaming beams crashed to the spot where he had been standing. A powerful  illustration of intuitive guidance that is available to us if only we will listen. We can tap into our intuition any time but most of us dismiss that patient quiet voice of guidance or action.

Purposeful intuition is accessed best in a quiet, still environment – meditation or a time spent communing with nature. I like to put myself in an imaginary circle. I see the circle as a sacred space. Silently voice your intention to serve yourself and to receive. At first the mind likes to throw up all kinds of dross – simply observe and acknowledge, as you would clouds moving slowly across a sky.

You will find Intuition delivers answers in different ways; you may get a symbol, a song, a feeling, a written word or a clearly spoken message in your head. Occasionally the answer might not come at that time but will come later in a synchronistic manner that defies ignoring. If the answer is obtuse look at what is obvious about this, what it might mean to you, if you’re unsure ask for more clarity. But the more you practice, answers are more easily read.

The question ‘what do I love?’ seems simple but we are multi dimensional beings who delight in many things from a hug from a loved one, a picture of a baby, coffee with a friend, a favourite book, good movie or a walk on the beach. Some characteristics of things that you are good at may give you direction but you will need to sift through these to elicit the most powerful connection. But frequently asking the question ‘what do I love?’ will plumb the depths and breadths of the real you.

There was nothing original in the title Finding Your Voice my self-help guide to public speaking book . Variations of ‘finding your voice,’ ‘having a voice’ or simply ‘a voice,’ are well known metaphors and cliché for living your truth. But my unwitting and decisive choice of naming it Finding Your Voice proved to be the open door and ongoing breadcrumb trail to who I am. At first the answer was generic – ‘a writer’ but as I kept asking the question I saw that it was leading me down paths that I had never considered. Giving me temerity to write a novel, speak up for what my heart and muse perceives as social injustice or  simply a desire to share a travel adventure. And wait,  I know there is more ….. I just need to keep asking ‘what do I love?’

Follow the Crumbs ……

Follow the crumbs....
Follow the crumbs….

Since 9.11 there has been a spate of reported incidents of people randomly seeing the number 11.11. You know the type of thing –  11.11 jumps at you from a page, a scoreboard, bus time-table,petrol bowser or a mystical grab of a digital clock at exactly 11.11. Chance maybe, coincidence definitely but for some it is happening beyond mere chance and coincidence.

A journey of self-discovery will nudge us with cryptic clues that are intended to guide us. Three words, Finding Your Voice, the title of my first book  had been flirting with my subconscious to no avail for several years. After all I had found my heart, writing was without doubt the imprimatur of my soul. I needed no goading no nudging into writing, my computer became my altar where running words in my head was given the breath of life from the keyboard. But during this past year or so the synchronistic crumbs of FYV have been unrelenting in getting me to see a bigger picture.

Sometimes things can be so blooming obvious that we are blind to them. But my muse was not – she was insistent that social injustices needed a commentary until words circled my head like vultures looking for a feed and only quietened when I found my voice through my Blog or a Face book posting.

Finding Your Voice, which I had chosen so decisively for my book of self-help guide to public speaking, was much more than a title; from the very start I could now see that it had been an intuitive directive for me to find my own voice. Yes I spoke in public but throughout my life I had always held back anything that might be regarded as contentious. But the paradox was any voice suppressed is under enormous pressure and when grievances reach danger levels we erupt. All of the stuff that I should have said in a reasonable balanced way blasted pugnaciously from me like a scene from The Exorcist. So for someone whose ego so desperately wanted to please and be liked it was a tough road to consciousness.

I understand now how each synchronistic piece of the puzzle fell into place knowing that finding my voice and speaking or writing it in a well-considered manner is inherent to writing with authority as well as being crucial to my well-being and sense of authenticity.

But of course the crumb trail of Finding Your Voice is still much more. Look out for my next Blog about how I can help you find your voice, your truth.

finding-your-voice1

Finding Your Voice was published by Lothian in 1985 and was promoted as the definitive self-help guide to public speaking. The first part of the book was the how to and the second half devoted to every type of presentation that may be undertaken by the reader – from eulogy to debating and workshop presentation to after dinner speaker. Now out of distribution it is available in public libraries and recently can be purchased as an E-Book on Kindle.

 

 

Why Are We Here?

Question Everything Clean_0You know those quiet moments that come from time to time when your pragmatic ego is off duty and the sub conscious unimpeded bubbles the profound question to the surface – ‘what is my purpose, why am I here?’

For some years now, like many others, I have been on a quest to find the answers that philosophers over the centuries have tried to answer. I am in a hurry for answers as my lifetime time has fleeted by but as George Eliot, pen name of the Victorian ‘Mill on the Floss’ novelist Mary Ann Evans, said ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’

So a few years back, with some determination and a pinch of courage,  I began some serious transformational work. The marrow of the work I chose, posed a question, ‘what do you love?’ The authentic answer to this will be intuitively, rather than egoically, received.   Of course the work is much, much more than that but scrape away all the fripperies  and that is the nub of it. The ego is complex and clever and develops strategies to queer your journey as you endeavor to answer this. The answer came for me all too neatly at first – love of family, theatre, reading, cooking, communicating to an audience  and writing. Yes I loved so many aspects of my life but writing/communicating connecting with others was my signature. But that was the starting point, the real journey of discovery came as I drilled down for gold. Always asking my intuition with each step of the way ‘what do I love?’

 We unconsciously allow life to drag us away from whom we are and our dreams. For me, the first glimpse of what I love and ultimately who I am, started well over seventy years ago in London when as an emotionally ragged child I grew up in the blitz and deprivations of World War 2. Frequently when the air raid warnings did not pierce the air but still a growl of planes could be heard overhead I would take refuge beneath the blackberry brambles at the bottom of the garden. It was here that I confided to my imaginary friend Sonny, who lived in my Father’s old attaché case, that one day I would write a book.

That childhood dream was mugged daily by an impoverished sense of worth and fused by a wartime loss of education. Living out decades of soul blackout, till in the end the dream disappeared from the horizon. Bereavement, single motherhood, new relationships, family growth and building a business with no experience and no capital became my world. But the constant thread was the short stories I scribbled, the odd bits of food and travel journalism, and the creative writing courses coupled with a twenty-year membership of a speaking club, all dimly fuelled the dream. My writing was a hobby. Communication to a wider audience through my public speaking performances was a hobby.

Hobbies – yes simply hobbies but somehow they stayed with me and the more I wrote and communicated the more I began to see the dream once again. In the last decade of my working life the intuitive nudges and reoccurring coincidences about writing a book were becoming more and more dogged. But while the real dream was to write a novel I still was looking to others for direction, most advice was to write about something that I knew inside out, upside down well.

Most authors will tell you that a title for a book can be most illusive in fact my first novel must have had a baker’s-dozen names before deciding on Losing You. But even before I had fleshed out an overview of a definitive book on public speaking, the title ‘Finding Your Voice’ came to me loud and clear. I even drew and colored an example of the cover and pinned it to my work board one wet weekend. My concept of a comprehensive self-help guide to public speaking had a dream run. The first publishers I approached loved it and celebrities willingly gave their speaking tips. When the book was in the final stages of proof reading the publishers emailed me their design for the cover. It was goose bump territory as I looked at the screen – theirs was identical in color and design to the one that was still pinned to the board that I had crafted twelve months earlier.

Coincidence – yes maybe but I believe the universe curves to meet us when we start to take action to live authentically. And somehow that title Finding Your Voice has been prodding me ever since it was published.

Next blog – find out how by following the crumbs – Finding Your Voice has created a new paradigm for me.

In Memory

in_menoryDo you realise that death is sexy? No? You obviously have not been watching enough daytime television. I’m talking about the surfeit of ads for funeral expense cover. Advertisements with symbolic backgrounds of fluffy white clouds fading into the distance of verdant hills and valleys which feature folk who provide us with a specious ‘neat and tidy’ sense of their loss.  The superficial scripting invariably shows an actor place a forefinger softly to their lips as they stare into the distance, indicating their wistful remembrance of their Mum/Dad/Aunty/Uncle. The lead turns to the camera, pauses momentarily, before they warmly endorse the benefits of the deceased’s choice of funeral plan or funeral home. ‘It made it so easy for us at a time when we needed support.’ Action: a clutch of a lace trimmed handkerchief before once again staring into the distance.

Advertisers like to shield us from real grief, after all there is nothing sexy about raw, gut-wrenching grief is there? Their spin is that caring men and women will not leave their families burdened with the responsibility of their funeral needs. The message re-enforced with the use of strong minded and active geriatric parents in rude good health with images of them hitting a golf ball or driving away with the caravan in tow demonstrating that although they live life to the fullest they will always do the right thing by their families.

The subliminal message from these spin doctors is that death is a natural part of life and if you have done the right thing and organised your funeral plan your loved ones will be free of the burden of responsibility, and hypothetically allow them to manage their loss more conveniently. While those people that don’t buy obviously show no care for their families.

Recently in the mail I received a letter with the headline ‘What would your doctor say if he or she could see inside your arteries?’ It gave me descriptions of four serious silent diseases guaranteed to kill me but if I paid $199 NOW (saving $101) I could save my family heartache and despair. Early detection is vital it said – the same message that is drummed into us with every other scare-mongering health catch that drug companies like to promote.

Yes we are going to die, yes disease may manifest but aggressive marketing such as this is simply causes the vulnerable to focus on the negative. We need to come out of fear and trust in our own ability to act on our health when we think appropriate, not because some company is determined to make its profits from healthy people who may well will be swayed by fear to buy.

Personally I find this type of fear and guilt marketing pornographic. Its single aim is to shame people about the depth of their love of their family. Fear and shame our powerful motivators but we know that love is even greater. I’m sure most families would reflect their gift of love in organizing the last farewell gives them time to assimilate the shock of death and a bridge to the processing of their grief for the dearly departed.