Thursday, March 25, 2010

Charisma Fused Into the Age of Beauty

The Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus defines ATTRACTIVE as "aesthetically pleasing" (captivating, appealing, luring, good-looking). This definition runs the gamut when applied to reality. Ask any male or female whom they find attractive and most would agree on similar criteria varying only in degrees from person to person. It does not matter whether the two people have dissimilar features. Actors Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise have nothing in common-physically, but it would be a toss up by American women in defining whom they find more appealing. The same would apply for actors Boris Kodjoe and Shemar Moore. But where do these concepts of who is hot and who is not come derive?

First, it would behoove us to start from the beginning when beauty was seemingly non-existent. John J. Macionis in his book "Sociology", outlines that the primate order among mammals is believe to evolved some 65 millions years ago of which humans are believed to have originated. Scientists believe that man emerged from the great apes some 12 million years ago. The first creature with identifiable human characteristics lived 3 million years ago. Our species homo sapiens (thinking person) evolved 250,000 years ago. According to Macionis, Civilization based on permanent settlements, which human culture and biological evolution is linked, has existed approximately 12,000 years. As we became more social, we created a culture, which has been transformed over the years to what we have today. All cultures have at its base: symbols, values, norms, language and tools. Over the years, within our culture came the concept of beauty.

Every culture that signifies the aforementioned attributes determines what is attractive and that becomes a value of that culture. One might believe that what we value in American society is valued throughout the world. Not so! In our culture, women value thin bodies while men value large muscles. In other cultures obesity is valued so much that individuals go out of their way to gain weight. Authors Peter Brown and Melvin Konner under the online article The Reader: An Anthropological Perspective on Obesity (pp. 401-411) asserts that in many societies, fatness is linked to self-worth and sexuality, which is culturally defined by them as beauty. Further, High status Efik pubescent girls in traditional Nigeria spend 2 years in seclusion getting fat. Other fattening farms are found in other parts of Africa. The Tarahumara of Northern Mexico consider fat thighs as the first requisite for beauty according to Brown and Konner. Consequently, what we deem as natural is often learned behavior created by culture.

Contrast this notion with a USA Today newspaper article entitled, “Fat or Fit? By Nanci Hellmich (Health Section: January 8, 2001) taking from the upcoming February, 2001 issue of Men's Fitness magazine that identified the 25 fittest and fattest cities. Among the fattest were Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Columbus, Ohio. Among the fittest were San Diego, Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jeff Lucia, executive editor of Men's Fitness said, "We know not every body is going to be happy, but obesity is a serious health problem." In the same article, John Foreyt, an anti-obesity crusader and director of the Nutrition Research Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says, "I don't think it's fair to single out Houston…Every city is fat and has its problems." Most of the respondents blamed junk-food as the culprit for the fattening of cities, while an environment of healthy eating and exercise was given for the fittest cities.

Based on these splintering points of view, it goes without saying that beauty or attractiveness is culturally defined. What we may gleam from this notion is that what we believe to be true is relative. That is, it depends on how you look at it. If you are Nigerian, the notion that you must be obese is as significant as being thin and muscular in the United States. If this is the premise, there must be a flip-side to this. Studies have consistently shown that obesity is a large contributor to health problems as well as death in the U.S. However, in the U.S., millions of people suffer from some type of eating disorder largely caused by attempting to fit into our normative idea of beauty. The point is that there is a price to be paid for whatever perspective we embrace. The question becomes how much is too much? The price that Americans pay for "battling the bulge" seems to be at a great cost. If you take the idea that Americans are being hit with a double whammy of being physically overweight with the psychological abuse that goes along with not fitting into our concept of beauty, it becomes an ongoing battle. Many women and men have professed that after they have lost the weight they still suffered from the debilitating effects of having been overweight. Consequently, under their thin bodies lives a fat person.

It seems inescapable to divorce ourselves from the dictates of culture. When a society deems what are its priorities, as social beings, it becomes increasingly challenging to go against its norms without being characterized as an outcast. The strange phenomenon is that individuals who stray away from what is culturally defined quite often find themselves coming right back to the thing they disliked with a new spin on why it's now acceptable. The isolation is too much, besides the fact that it is human to seek the pleasure of life and avoid the pain. In the U.S., it is often painful not to be attractive and those who have overcome the pain have fought a great psychological battle.

The stakes are always being raised. Once the standard of beauty has been expanded, intangible traits like “charisma,” become even more important. Try if you will, but being a social animal comes with its “upside” and “downside” and by societal dictates, you’re never enough.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charisma & Education

In western culture, it is often said that sex sells. Everything from sports cars to shampoo ("An organic experience") attaches itself to the idea that sex and profits increase exponentially. Businessman and entertainer extraordinaire P.T. Barnum might be the precursor to what contemporary society deems necessary to promoting one's goods and services through publicity and hype with the intention of increasing revenue. Even religious organizations have gotten into the act by becoming virtual money making machines with all the accoutrements of a rock star from books, CDs, videos and tee-shirts. Nothing is sacred anymore! The new paradigm is "whoever has the best concept that sells--rules". This is the new world and we had better get used to it. However, there is one institution that has attempted to stay above the fray and a result has lost its influence and struggles to maintain the foundation upon which it rests. This is the institution of education. While most institutions have opted to develop a marketing and public relations department, education still holds on as the bastion of traditionalism by not following suit. It is almost as if administrators believe that if they continue to take the high ground by not promoting themselves, redemption awaits. The reality is that by not adopting a business model like every other institute, education is positioning itself for ending up like the Do-Do Bird--extinct. Education does not have the luxury of resting on it’s a laurels when every sector in society has to be compete for consumer dollars. Yes, whether education wants to admit it or not, it too is a business. The principal serves as the CEO. Teachers serve as the employees who render services. The school board is the director. Parents are the consumers. And students are the raw material by which the end result is a consumable product. To the extent that the school system does this will reflect the tax dollars allocated to keep the current administrators in business. If the current system does not serve the needs of the consumers (parents), they will be out of business by the mass exodus of parents enrolling their children into other jurisdictions, private schools or home schooling.

So why make education more appealing? The answer is, "why not?" The impact of teachers in the lives of individuals ranks up there near God. If you listen to any awards acceptance speech, the recipients invariably talk about the teacher who had more faith in them than they had in themselves. It is indefensible to argue against the contribution the educational system has made to civilization. In fact, education is the bedrock of civilization and without it we would be relegated to the days of barbarism. Yet, it is these lofty ideas about education that diminishes its appeal. The major reason education should be more appealing is its continuance as a catalyst for human development that has been its mark since its inception. Today, education has to compete against the allure of materialism. It benefits cannot stand merely on its own against a monolithic message of "He who has the gold makes the rules." Education has to capture the minds and imagination of society in the same vein as a sports drink commercial. Every time it shirks away from competing on the world stage another entity with a better marketing plan depletes its impact. In an ever- changing society, education has to be willing to go to the edge in branding itself as the foundation of civilization. It has to create commercials of the impact of education and what society would look like without it. It has to capture the imagination of the population just as music videos have infused the minds of our youth. In short, education must reinvent itself and become a bigger player on the world stage. There are a few avenues that education may take to be more competitive.

First, create business alliances with corporations. Actually, some schools have begun placing a price tag for companies to put corporate emblems and names on buildings and stadiums. Corporations realize that they are not merely positioning themselves for the current buying public, but also the future one. Coke and Pepsi are vying for the privilege to have exclusive rights for putting their soda machines in schools. Administrators must insure that these companies pay the price tag for such opportunities. In turn, school administrators can expand curriculum and marketing efforts with the revenue. Education can begin blowing its own horn at the expense of those who want to increase their own profit margin.

Secondly, teachers must learn the art of connecting and engagement. The truth of the matter is that education has operated as a monopoly in its dealings with its constituents--parents and students. As long as teachers taught from the curriculum they were assigned, they were not required to do much else. The issue of connecting and engaging students to involve themselves in the process was not part of the standard. To thrive in contemporary society, teachers must become better communicators, verbally and non-verbally for the students. The idea of teachers becoming more charismatic in making the curriculum relevant to the students practical needs for success in the real world might seem beyond the scope of their responsibilities. Actually, it is not! Education, acting as a business, would tailor itself to the needs of its constituent consumers. What business operates effectively that does not measure the degree to which it accomplishes its objectives? As an incentive, teachers who prove to be "star performers" should be paid more. The market should determine how much they should be paid without any salary caps. If teachers produce books, videos and other products that supplement the learning process, they should get the lion share of the profits. By turning teachers into business educators, they compete for profits as well as students who are more productive. The private sector has been the example of what happens when you allow creativity and profits to rise to its potential.

Finally, curriculum should be iconoclastic. The reason why entertainers wield so much power over the minds of our youth is because they are raised to mythic proportions. Students do not see a correlation between great marketing and buying habits. Advertisement that captures the imagination of students is one of the competitors of education. By including the marketing process within educational curriculum, educators do two things: 1. Break down mythic performers to normal human beings and 2. Teach students about business models relevant to the practical world. By exploring and unveiling how rapper Master P. amassed a half billion dollar empire will reduce the artist to merely a smart businessman rather than an icon. In a global market where job security is fleeting, learning business models will prepare students to become more competitive in the market as well as encourage entrepreneurialism. Students will continue to buy these products, but with a greater understanding of how the process works and the real value behind the marketed item. In the Information Age, there are a lot of creative resources available to educators who want to be innovative.

In the new world, there are no more sacred cows. Industries able to meet the changing needs of society will flourish, while those who do not will fall by the way side. Education has a leg up, because it is built into the fabric of civilization. But if wishes to compete and serve as a catalyst for growth rather than merely existing, it must reinvent and align itself with the changing world. It would be sad commentary if education lost its zeal merely because the NBA had a better marketing plan.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Charisma: The Science of Understanding People

Personality Needs

Everyone experiences the same basic human needs, but with each person some needs are more dominant than others. The four major groupings of needs are results, recognition, regimentation, and relationships.

Behavior Styles

When directness is combined with openness it forms four different, recognizable,and habitual behavior patterns or behavioral styles: the Socializer, the Director,the Thinker, and the Relater.

Socializer: Open and Direct

The socializer is high in both directness and openness, readily exhibiting such characteristics as animation, intuitiveness, and liveliness. He is an idea person--a dreamer--but he also can be viewed as manipulative, impetuous, and excitable when displaying behavior inappropriate to a particular situation.

When prospects are Socializers:
Be stimulating and show your interest in them. Allow themtime to talk.
Meet them boldly; don't be shy. Introduce yourself first.
Study their dreams and goals as well as their other needs.
Propose your solution with stories or illustrations that relate tothem and their goals.

Confirm the details in writing. Be clear and direct.

Director: Direct and Guarded

The director is very direct and at the same time guarded. He exhibits firmness in his relationships with others, is oriented toward productivity and goals, and is concerned with bottom-line results. Closely allied to these positive traits, however, are the negative ones of stubbornness, impatience, toughness, and even domineeringness.

When working with Directors:
Plan to be prepared, organized fast-paced, and to the point.
Meet them in a professional and businesslike manner.
Study their goals and objectives-what they want to do and how.
Proposed solutions and clearly defined consequences and rewardsthat relate specifically to the director's goals.
Provide two or three options and let the director make thedecision.

Thinker: Indirect and Guarded

The person who has the thinker-style behavior is both indirect and guarded. He seems to be very concerned with the process of thinking, and is a persistent, systematic problem-solver. But he also can be seen as aloof, picky, and critical. A thinker is very security conscious and has a strong need to be right. This leads him to an over-reliance on data collection. In his quest for data he tends to ask many questions about specific details. His actions and decisions tend to be extremely cautious.

For best results with Thinkers:

Plan to be well prepared to answer all their questions.
Meet them cordially, but get down to business quickly.
Study their situation in a practical, logical manner. Ask lots of questions and make sure your questions show a clear direction.
Propose logical solutions to their problems and offer documentation.
Don't push; give them time to think.

Relater: Open and Indirect

The fourth and last style, the relater, is open and unassertive, warm, supportive, and reliable. However, the relater sometimes is seen by others as compliant, soft-hearted, and acquiescent. The relater seeks security and belongingness and like the thinker, is slow at taking action and making decisions. This procrastination stems from his desire to avoid risky and unknown situations. Before he takes action or makes a decision, he has to know how other people feel about it.

Relaters will respond if you:

Get to know them personally. Be likable and non-threatening, professional but friendly.
Go at a slow pace. Develop trust, friendship, and credibility.
Study their feelings and emotional needs as well as their practical needs. Take time to get them to spell our what is really important to them.
Don't push or rush. Offer personal assurances whenever you can.
Be consistent and regular in your communications. Give them nurturing and reassurance.

References:
Conceptual framework developed by Dr. Tony Alessandra, http://www.alessandra.com.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Charisma, Self-Interest & Generation Y

Philosopher Ayn Rand got it right when she posited self- interest being more important than the collective agenda. Essentially, she believed society was better served when individuals were allowed to explore their full potential in every area of life purely for self-aggrandizing purposes over societal acceptance or pleasing the masses. By Rand's account, self-interest is seen as the catalyst for individual achievement and self-actualization and lies at the core of human nature. Within the last 12,000 years, since the inception of civilization, every component of the socialization process through religion, governance and law has made an effort to quash the impact of self-interest. Yet, every human contribution or achievement is a direct result of man and woman acting in their self- interest; whether it was a tangible result or mere emotional pleasure. In fact, the "Baby Boomer" generation, born 1946-1964, is credited for not only amassing the greatest wealth in the history of civilization, but laying the foundation for the success and achievement mentality of contemporary society. So, why has society regaled self-interest, yet fought vociferously against its ultimate power? And what can students learn from its glory as well as its greed?

"Self-interest" and thus "self-preservation" is a dominant characteristic of human nature. To skew the term to a negative connotation inherently relegates it to the dungeon of isolation. Very few people are inclined to embrace doctrines and ideologies that seek to diminish human potential. Whether it’s a book, movie or play, we want a happy ending. The happy ending exemplifies the redeeming value of the human spirit. We need to know that if someone strives for the "greater good," they should find it. After all, what good is being good if there isn't a pay off? Eminent psychologist Alfred Adler noted that humans are slaves to their motivations. The motivational force within humans rules their choices throughout life. At the end of the day, the individual seeks peace, tranquility and happiness. This is the directed outcome for the greater good! The greater good in this context is described as "The striving for great achievement or noteworthy contribution for the sake of personal accomplishment, which invariably serves the greater community." The challenge becomes when the quest for the greater good usurps the power of others.

A USA Today newspaper article (January 10, 2007), titled, "The Goal: Fame & Fortune" reported high school and college students are more interested in fame and fortune than previous generations. Today's generation of students are concerned with obtaining well-paying jobs and gaining some level of distinction within their chosen profession. While on the service this smacks of the values demonstrated by Baby Boomer, there is a difference. Today’s students don’t have a benchmark of experiences by which their value stems from. Baby Boomers had the aftershock of the Great Depression mixed with civil and social unrest. Today’s students have MTV and the melancholy that comes from a favorite T.V, show being canceled. Not surprisingly, Generation Y (as they are referred-- (1976-2001) has taken the idea of parental affirmations for being special to a whole new level. Generation Y believe they are entitled to the best that life has to offer. Surveys suggest that Generation Y doesn't believe in 60- hour work- weeks and as one manager for a large payroll accounting company noted " Are the first ones out of the door at 5:00PM." Employers are challenged and perplexed, because the fear of losing a job doesn't frighten this generation. They can always go back home to live with mommy and daddy (If they aren't living with them already). The social stigma of immaturity or arrested development doesn't seem to affect them. In fact, Generation Y is believed to be the closest to their parents than past generations. Parents are sought for guidance and advice well into their child’s adulthood. One case study showed a college student getting a sub-average grade on a term paper. After class, the student approached the professor and handed him her cell phone. On the other end of the line was an irate parent wanting to know why her daughter received a low grade. Years ago this would not have been acceptable nor heard of. In short, the success-driven Baby Boomers have exacerbated the natural selfishness within humans and created a more self-absorbed Generation Y. Their original intention might have been an attempt from saving children from the setbacks and challenges they faced while growing up. But, in the interim, parents might have made them weak and over dependent. With such levels of entitlement, can Generation Y use extreme self-interest to astound the world through innovation and achievement as their predecessors?

The answer is "yes" with the right foundation. The self-interest of Generation Y if not steered in the direction of industry success and professional achievement will lead to a generation of individuals fraught with insecurities and unprepared to assume responsibility for the continuation of civilization. In addition, parents who've micromanaged their children’s lives into adulthood will feel the brunt of co-dependency as they advance in age with limited resources. To insure Generation Y has solid footing requires a few dynamics to take place.

First, students must become more inquisitive and critical about the world around them. While technology is an excellent tool for supplementing the educational process, it can't be the focus itself. The upside of advanced technology has been the equalizing of society's economic strata. Both rich and poor are privy to the same information over the World Wide Web. The downside is the "dummying down" of students. In a random survey administered by Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute, which asked students "Do you believe your generation has anything to contribute to the next generation?" Overwhelmingly, respondents felt their generation had little to nothing to contribute or pass on to future generations. The major reason provided was the proliferation of technology and its ease in providing information requiring little to no thought. They felt they weren't required to analyze information, because in some respects it had been done for them. Even in cases of plagiarism, the guilty party may go unsuspected, because of the enormous amount of information at their fingertips. As a result, students must develop a curious nature about social phenomenon in specific areas to begin the process of contributing a body of work built on the foundation of past achievers. By synthesizing their thoughts from a vast array of information into a specialty allows them to distinguish themselves as problem solvers as well as experts within their fields. In a world filled with generalists and neophytes, experts rule!

Secondly, students should know what they want to invest their lives towards and the cost for the pay off. While, details may be initially murky, once the general interest is determined, it should be tapered down to specifics as time goes on. Experts suggest that a minimal of 10 years is required to begin scratching the service towards making a mark within an industry. For economists and philosophers the time is longer; an estimated 20-25 years to become world renown. The cost in the way of time, money and resources requires a different kind of focus than is usually seen in even above average students. In some respects, the level of focus has to border on obsession. It requires a relentless quest with steel determination over a period of years. This level of commitment might be even foreign to educators who are commissioned to inspire this level of tenacity. The student must delay gratification for so long that she becomes “monk-like.” No children, no spouse nor house note until the completion of the mission. Of course, this is required for highest of ambition, but similar sacrifices have to be made even for a lower degree of professional and economic success. Ultimately, the price for extreme success on the front end has to be paid by the sacrifice in time and resources on the backend. Not to emphasize this essential point is a disservice to students who aspire economic success and distinction, but also a perpetuation of a myth of what it takes to achieve phenomenal success.

Finally, students should institutionalize their accomplishments either by developing disciples, erecting structures or codifying a body of work. For a life’s work to have longevity and permanency requires a system for its perpetuity. Again, this requires a counterintuitive mindset to “quick fixes” and “overnight successes.” To become the next Niccolo Machiavelli or William Shakespeare requires a system of distribution for funneling one’s work. Developing disciples requires having individuals under your tutelage who serve as your mouthpiece to others. The transformational powers of your work has positively influenced your disciples in ways that they spread the lessons learned as well as add to the foundation from their own growth and analysis. Charismatic leaders are the guiltiest of not cultivating disciples once their tenure has elapsed. The magnetism of a charismatic personality can’t sustain a disciple without the proper grooming and direction. Without the proper instructions, the disciple will remember the feelings, but not the message. Erecting structures around a body of work usually comes in forms of schools, Think Tanks and foundations. Each serves to highlight and build the platform of one’s life’s work. While, people are essential for maintaining these structures, it is the building or location itself that is the focal point. Executive directors may come and go, but it’s the structure encompassing enrichment programs, discussions and speaker series that serve as backdrop to the contributor. Codifying or systematically disseminating one’s work either through books, papers, audio, visual or Internet are means for spreading one’s life’s work in a tangible form. It becomes an artifact of the work for generations to come. Institutionalizing one’s work brings financial rewards for the achiever while she lives and passes on to survivors upon death as a last economic legacy to a committed life.

It is no small feat to astound the world with greatness, particularly with so many competing forces. The Baby Boomer Generation did it from economic and social upheaval; Generation Y will have to muster the internal fortitude from a time of uncertainty. The conditions might differ, but achievements emerge from the known as well as the unknown. Whether Baby Boomers lighted a torch or encouraged Generation Y to borrow a lighter will remain to be seen. In the end, generations that follow will either challenge itself to find its own way or lose direction and let the next Super Power on the world’s stage guide them.

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