How to Be Fascinating in 5 Easy Steps
If you watch Switch and Shift TV, you already know my favorite hobby: I collect fascinating people! I’ve been doing it my whole life, though since my first tweet in 2009… let’s just say, social has been like kerosene poured on the flame of this great hobby of mine.
Because I’ve gathered so many fascinating people by now, I’ve picked up a thing or two that makes many of these folks so worth knowing. Without further ado, here are five things that come quickly to mind about how anyone can become fascinating themselves.
You know that saying, “Leaders are readers?” Okay, I can’t stand trite mnemonics either. But this one happens to be completely true. Interesting people read – a lot. For a great place to start, try The Business Heretic’s Bookstore. Not big into reading? There are other ways to consume interesting material. Try audible.com. Or a podcast, like Shawn Murphy’s top-ranked “Work That Matters”. Watch a TED or BIF talk. The key here? Open your mind – and fill it with something more compelling than reality TV.
2. Make friends with a weirdo.
Or if not a weirdo, at least seek out and intentionally spend time with someone completely different. Are you a political zealot? Have lunch with someone from across the aisle. An engineer? Go find yourself an English major, or vice-verse. In my tweet stream just yesterday, a 20-something remarked how her 70-something coworker and she discussed their love of the same author. Her tweet ended with #whoknew? My thought: Now they’re both more interesting for knowing each other!
People worth knowing (and worth employing… and worth being, for that matter) are “shaped like a T,” as our friends at VALVe like to say. That is, they’re deep in their area of specialization, but also broad in many other, unrelated areas – like a letter T, broad across the top but deep in the middle. What outside of your specialty interests you? Don’t hide it, and don’t squelch it. Instead, foster it, run with it, add to it. People will find you an irresistible conversation partner.
4. Don’t just switch jobs: switch careers!
IDEO and Continuum are two global design firms that go out of their way to hire people with incredibly diverse backgrounds, like architects, artists, and biomedical researchers. Sticking them together in a room to design the next killer product for a client? That’s all in a day’s work at these two iconic firms. Or maybe you’re a poet who wants to transition to consulting. On a recent episode of Switch and Shift TV, I spoke with Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You. That poet-turned-consultant is one of dozens of examples in her book.
5. Waste Time Productively.
The most fascinating author alive today may well be Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point. In this insightful interview with another of my favorite authors, Wharton’s Adam Grant, Gladwell shares how he stumbles upon ideas for future books. Key word: stumbles! Few people have mastered the art of the productive time-waster like Gladwell, but now that we know his secret… well, you can take it from here.
Want to be more fascinating? Stop focusing on yourself, and redirect your energy to serving the needs of others. Whether it’s transforming the lives of poor families – and whole villages – on a global scale as they do at Heifer International or packaging food for a local organization battling hunger, even a couple of hours a week will give you something to talk about that lights you up, infects your conversation partner with energy, and isn’t about you. If anything will make you more interesting, this will – just please, don’t be sanctimonious about it. That’s not interesting at all.
There you go: I promised you five tips, and gave you six… which leads me to my final (seventh) pointer in becoming more fascinating: surprise people! Heck, surprise yourself while you’re at it. I didn’t know I had seven tips to help you to be more fascinating when I started writing this. But thinking of all of the extraordinary individuals I’ve met over the years, seven was a breeze – I’m fairly confident I could go on for at least twenty, and probably more.
But I won’t, and here’s why: I want to hear what you do to make yourself a more appealing conversation partner to others. What’s your favorite tip? You see, I already know what I know. What other people know? Learning that is a big reason I jump out of bed in the morning.
Please, fire away in the comments below. What’s your number one trick to being a more thrilling version of you?
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