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Charisma in Absentia: Some Case Studies

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As a follow-up to my recent post on How to be Charismatic when you're not even there, I thought some examples of charismatic writing might be useful. Well, and entertaining, come to that.

First, here’s Jeremy Denk on the unmusicality of programme notes. It was browsing his blog and thinking, ‘Gosh he’s a charismatic writer,’ that led to this set of posts, so it seems a good place to start.

The crisis he articulates is clear: programme notes are not only mostly too dull, but they actually destroy the artistic experience they are intended to promote. The cause is left more implicit, emerging by contrast from the crisis, but centres on the idea that music should ‘live’. I don’t know that you’ll get a more abstract moral good than this – it’s a wonderful example of the phenomenon Henry Kingsbury identifies whereby we talk about music as if it is a natural object when in fact it is an abstract category constituted by these discussions.

Next we have Daniel Coyle on the errors of current education policy. The cause is trumpeted right up front here, with a post sub-titled ‘Bill of Rights for Kids’. He’s propounding brain-friendly education in a world that is plagued by an over-emphasis on the whats of learning rather than the hows.

And third, the person who got me into the habit of reading blogs, Kathy Sierra. She’s another one who likes brain-friendly approaches to the world, but in this example she’s critiquing the received wisdom that you improve quality by listening to your customers. Creating Passionate Users has its cause in its title, and an oft repeated mantra as to how to achieve it: it doesn’t matter what your users (customers/fans/audience) think about you (your product/your performance), what matters is how they feel about themselves after encountering you (your product/performance).

All three of these are charismatic writers, and thus good models to study. Of the three, Kathy is the one who also has the most good advice on actually how to become charismatic. Although, interestingly, it’s a word she never actually uses.

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