It takes years to become a natural

naturalIt sounds contradictory, but it’s true: it takes years to become a natural. In Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, he claims it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. And many professional performers will tell you it takes a lifetime to become an overnight sensation.

I’ve been stretching myself lately as a comedian and MC. I’m still learning, but so far I’ve received several nice compliments from friends that I am a “natural.” While I graciously accept the compliments, I must set the record straight.

I worked for years as a nightclub DJ, both during and after college. I had specific coaching on how to hold a microphone, how to breathe and project my voice to grab attention. I had hundreds of hours of practice and watched others who were better to learn how to improve.

I have done hundreds of marketing and sales presentations throughout my career, persuading internal colleagues and external audiences to like what I was selling, be it a product or an idea. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but I always learned something.

I have faithfully attended Toastmasters for close to 7 years, and raised my game by entering speech competitions. With each contest I surrounded myself with coaches and friends who would give me honest feedback. I asked not for compliments, but for tiny adjustments that would make me a better speaker and writer.

And speaking of creative writing, I started blogging in February, 2009 and have since written 273 posts. You are reading #274 right now. They say if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Many of my stories have fallen flat, yet some have surprisingly taken off and been read and shared by thousands. I write at least one post per week, and join in comedy writing conversations in Facebook for instant feedback.

The one element of being a natural that is hard to define is “charisma.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it has something to do with losing your fear of being judged. It’s about shedding layers of what you think the audience wants you to be and instead… having the courage to just be you.

And isn’t that what “natural” really means?

Explore posts in the same categories: Communication, General

9 Comments on “It takes years to become a natural”

  1. Becky Says:

    I’d say you have “it.” Charisma that is! I’ve read Gladwell’s book too. Its an amazing book!

  2. Becky Says:

    The question is do you have your 10,000 hrs in yet? Sounds like you are quickly approaching it.

  3. Roland Says:

    Interesting… readers may be split on your subjects – charisma vs natural.

    A good eval on charisma… losing the fear of being judged, for indeed, to step into the realm of seeing/feeling yourself exposed, one must overcome the fear… or disregard it somehow… or not have it to begin with.

    A good eval on natural… people will never know how much time we spend on doing things – they just get to experience some form of a progressive product.

    I remember singing in a band. When public performance time came, my voice was always weak and shaky for the first song. Then I would take a deep breath, and be fine. Years later, I learned that I would benefit greatly from taking that deep breath before I started that first song. But to everyone else, all seemed natural.

    Charisma is a natural charm and attractiveness. It gets refined with time and experience. Some believe it is a connectedness with Divinity – your own, and/or God’natural,”

    The important thing is that charisma, which is natural as a condition, is magnified by your release of inhibition, self-consciousness, and doubt… all fear-based conditions, and the conscious movement into confidence, joy, and sharing.

    The kicker is that it grows from person to person, is contagious, and raises up the human condition in general.


    • davidgoad Says:

      Insightful as always my friend! Good to have you back in the comments again 🙂

  4. Roland Says:

    …and David, you do definitely have a natural charisma!

  5. Gus Says:

    If charisma = beautiful smile, then you got that bro!

  6. Ardria Says:

    David, thank you as always for conveying truth with clarity and ease. Since I started competing in the TM speech contests, I’ve realized that I have along way to go and I’ve been playing mediocre at best. Now, I am not judging myself too harshly but I try to be honest too. You mentioned 10,000 hours of practice to be “great” at something. WOW! Here I thought it takes 21 days for something become a habit and that was enough. I am in constant learning mode in my life.

    Someone once told me to find my WHY and that should fuel my passion. I also, have someone of a fear a “success”. Success breeds expectations to be constantly better and better. Do I choose to put that stress on myself. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been made for much much more. I simply have to stop playing small and take it to the next level. Whatever that is…

    I may have got off task to what your post talked about but here goes. Charisma, I believe is something you either have or don’t. Its one of those things your can’t teach. Natural, it is an ability that’s innate and it just is. I do agree that you can be great with the natural ability.
    Finally, I do know that I wo t give up because I believe I have a lovely voice. I just have to put in the “hours” to be a natural and I’ve been told that charisma runs thru my blood. Again, thank you!

    • davidgoad Says:

      Don’t do “small” Ardria 🙂
      I guess my main point is that what appears natural to most people is often the result of lots of hard work, not just some magical talent. Therefore, your chances of achieving greatness are probably greater than you think!

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