Friday, March 11, 2011

The Fascination Factor

I'm involved in several projects at the moment. Besides the fact that they are keeping me away from here, "stuff" is piling up. Email, newsletters, magazines, my hard copy of the New York Times.  I'm trying to catch up, to plow through the inbox but I'm not getting very far. In my effort to clean through I gravitate towards what fascinates me most. The headline that really grabs my attention. The teaser that seems most interesting. But again, I'm not making much progress. With so much going on in the world and so much communication about it, finding the thing or person or subject that will fascinate is pretty damn hard.

According to Sally Hogshead in her new book Fascinate, there are 7 triggers to what fascinates us: lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice, and trust. Which probably accounts for why Charlie Sheen captures more attention than the soldiers dying in Afghanistan. Charlie Sheen easily falls into more than one category. Dead soldiers do not, at least not until a Facebook post points out the absurdity and inequity of attention and the fallen soldiers go viral.

So doing something extraordinary like being willing to die for your country doesn't necessarily  fascinate us. But spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes and cocaine does.

We are all looking to fascinate, to figure out the thing that will make us or our business stand out from the crowd. To be fascinating enough to be the lucky one of twelve who gets the coveted job or picked to get the publishing deal when hundreds of others are told no. But the reality of the Charlie Sheen versus fallen soldiers protecting his very freedoms, makes me wonder how do you fascinate in today's world and still remain authentic?

"Fascinating people and companies don't just talk to us. They get under our skin and into our conversations. They challenge us and move us."- Sally Hogshead. 

As both a writer and a coach I need to keep up on what's going on and so I read or in some cases scan a lot. I look for what fascinates me at the same time I strive to be fascinating enough to cause a person in our ADD world to stop and say, I must read her. I must hire her to coach me. But I also want to be authentic. I suppose the argument could be made that this is the authentic Charlie Sheen but my instincts tell me he is putting on a great show. That even Charlie doesn't know who the real Charlie is.  So where does that leave the rest of us? How do we fascinate from a place of authenticity? Or is that possible?

I took Sally's F score, Brand Personality test. According to the results the triggers I use to fascinate others  are lust and vice. I wasn't sure that felt very authentic until I read her explanations of the reasons for the triggers. Lust, she tells us, conquers the rational, gets us to stop thinking and start feeling. And vice isn't necessarily to lure anyone into sin, but to lure away from their standard choices. To try new things. That felt authentic to me. But still, is that enough to fascinate by today's standards?

Sally brings up the point that if you are not generating a negative reaction from someone, you're probably not fascinating anyone. Having worked in media, I grew up hearing that there was no such thing as bad press. If you got press, people were talking and that was a good thing, no matter what they were saying. So I understood her argument.  Yet no matter how tough my skin might have gotten over the years, I still dread a negative comment on this blog.

I wondered if my concern sometimes hinders my writing, my truth and therefore limits my fascination factor. If my appall over those who do capture our headlines, the Charlie Sheen's and Lindsay Lohan's makes me so not to want to be in the crazy category that I hold back. And how many others might do the same and thereby limit themselves and the fascination they might offer?

So the book lived up to it's title. Unlike my inbox at the moment it fascinated me. It gave me pause for thought and challenges me to attract my audience and stay authentic.

It's recommended reading, for anyone in business, big or small. I can't say it will address how you stay authentic while captivating, but it will fascinate you. Take the F score test first. It's free, fun and it will lure you in to read more.


What fascinates you?
Do you think you can stay authentic and still fascinate or do you have to be off the charts, as is Charlie Sheen?
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