Grade A Entrepreneurs

(also: Zeitgeist, great atypical people, books and misc.)

Grade A Entrepreneurs header image 2

The enchantment of prefacing the French translation of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment (US translation)

March 8th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

EchantmentGuy Kawasaki’s Enchantment is out today in the US and will be published in French by Diateino at the end of this month. To read the French version of this preface, please go to the Diateino blog. Thanks to my daughter, Sophie Delphis, for translation it into English!

Entrepreneurs, re-enchant the world!

There are people who see the workings of what Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world,” a sort of inevitable sinking in their daily lives caused by an array of factors – good and bad reasons, from nostalgia for a Golden Age that may never have existed to disillusionment or dissatisfaction with a job. Meanwhile, there are those who believe in the possible re-enchantment of the world, creators and visionaries who want to make a difference – entrepreneurs. They want to enchant, and to share their visions of a better (or rather, bettered) world. As a result, they are able to withstand cynicism, skepticism, stasis, blasé attitudes, and resignation. This is the subject of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment.

The term “enchantment” evokes dreams and myths, and the apparition of miraculous fairies and omnipotent sorcerers. It represents the carefree joy of childhood, when everything still seems possible. We use this word almost inadvertently when we refer to the small marvels of our day-to-day lives: love at first sight, a baby’s smile and its first, tentative steps, or discovering something that previously seemed unimaginable. Almost inadvertently, we realize that the world around us, while giving us grounds for lament, is also rife with ways to fill us with wonderment in which we can abandon ourselves, as well as ways to make others do the same. For example, Skype, a practical tool in a business context, becomes a magical means of bridging divides when used to talk to a far-off loved one.

In order to enchant others, let yourself be enchanted

As adults, we are often reticent to let ourselves be enchanted, mostly because we are afraid to seem overly naïve or gullible. Instead, we fashion aloof personae, believing ourselves to be more intelligent when we protect ourselves with skepticism and condescension. But the more we live within the largely arbitrary confines of this dogma, the more we are limiting ourselves to the status quo, as we become unable to sense the vibrations of innovation stirring both in others and in ourselves. So begins the vicious circle of boredom in which so many blasé self-proclaimed “realists” are trapped: as they shut themselves off from the creative pulse that surrounds them, they are increasingly unable to imagine ways to transform the world that so dissatisfies them, or charm the people from whom they feel alienated. Numb to the sensation of wonderment, they are left with no means to amaze others. Tedium begets tedium, and only boring people are bored.

According to the recently deceased Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever (1913–2010), “Childhood alone does not age[1].” You should not allow the capacity to believe a good story that you had as child disappear if you want to be able to enchant others. Whether or not we are willing to admit to being taken aback, fascinated, or amazed by someone or something, allowing ourselves to be, means regaining energy and enthusiasm. We are able to look forward creatively and connect to the people that surround so that they can share in our breakthroughs or happiness. Enchantment is contagious. It is an indispensable starting point, although it is only a starting point: all the artistic interest in the world alone cannot and will not make a Van Gogh of anybody. Nor is it enough to be enchanted to become a great enchanter. Like in any art, the road to excellence follows a simple formula: 10% talent, 90% work. This book’s aim is to help readers in their approach and understanding of the 90%.

Construct your MAGIC

The strength behind any enchanter is MAGIC, or, in other words, his:

  • Mastery: If you have ever seen Steve Jobs on stage, you will agree that he is incredible. This is not necessarily because he has the charisma of an actor, but because he is prepared beyond anything you can imagine.
  • Authority: An enchanter knows what he is talking about; he is competent and strong. He possesses in his rhetoric what the Greeks called ethos (ἦθος): the quality that allows a speaker to capture the attention of his audience and to instill confidence by means of his credibility, his knowledge, and his moral competence.
  • Generosity: An enchanter is able to convey a likeable image because his goal is above to give to his audience, and not to find self-validation or to force people to love and admire him. Instead, he transfers his own power to his public.
  • Imagination: An enchanter sees and understands the environment of the people listening to him in order to overcome their reticence or skepticism, and to open their eyes to greater possibilities.
  • Commitment: Enchantment entails a human relationship, either face to face, or by means of technology. Every enchanter dreams of making a lasting connection, or one whose echo is still present in the people he has reached, either because they still use the product he has showed them years ago, or because they still remember it fondly.

Hone your art

Every chapter of Enchantment is a guide that insists you work on your weak points while strengthening your strong ones. How do you smile? How is your handshake? And so on: these are small details about which you probably no longer think, as deeply entrenched in the definition of yourself as they are. Often, they are so much “in your nature” that they are no longer really in your current nature at all, but merely ghost remnants of what you were a decade ago. Remember that every new pair of eyes you encounter will look upon “you” subjectively as you are in the moment, and not with knowledge of who you once were. Perhaps you have become patronizing without fully realizing it; your smile is no longer a genuine gesture but a vague stiffening around your lips, or your handshake has become a limp motion without any real eye contact or warmth… It is as much work to create enchantment in oneself as it is to create it in others!

Reality Check was a sequel to The Art of the Start. Enchantment is simultaneously a third installment in the series and a sort of prequel. Honestly, if you have no desire to charm anyone, how are you ever going to successfully start a company? From where will you draw enthusiasm for the day-to-day realities of your corporation if you do not see that you must win over and connect with your employees, co-workers, and clients? If you do not let yourself be won over by them in order to renew your own energy and drive? With this in mind, this book is undeniably an important learning tool, rather than a diaphanous essay.

This book presents a set of techniques, which are not necessarily enchanting in and of themselves – the point is not to lull you with rose-tinted storybook fantasies. It is to dissect for you the mechanisms behind the process of enchantment. For instance, Kawasaki’s anecdote about his guests’ reaction to garbage cans at his home is not particularly enchanting (although certainly amusing), but it does bring home a key idea: anticipate people’s reactions in order to influence their behavior! After all, musk can be a revolting smell for many, but it is also the base of some of the most beautiful and attractive perfumes. In this case, the metamorphosis is in the way its parts play within the whole, the MAGIC of the perfumer who brings them all together.

Learn from the MAGIC of others…

… And, of course, start with Guy Kawasaki. He knows what he’s talking about. He is not a university professor orating conceptually on the art of influence or a psychologist dissecting the behavior of human test subjects, although he does draw from such research. He is a practitioner in the art of enchantment – I was struck by this the first time I met him, in 1986. I had just arrived in Silicon Valley, and I had never heard his name. I learned that he was a Macintosh evangelist in the United States, although I wasn’t quite sure what this was supposed to mean. (I was particularly puzzled by the religious connotations of “evangelism,” which was not a word used in this context in France at the time.)

And then, one day, I understood: watching him speak to a group of developers, noticing the way he mixed a genuine desire to win over people with a certain attentive nonchalance. He made telling his story an art form, with such mastery that there was never rigidity in his demeanor, his tone, or his style. He was not trying to impress for the sake of impressing. The focus, although on him, seemed to be guided toward all those who were listening. People came to him easily because they wanted to follow this enchanter. That day I understood how he had won over so many brilliant programmers and maintained their interest in Macintosh even after Steve Jobs’ universally traumatic departure in 1985.

When, the following year, I asked if he wanted to be president of the company I was creating. He answered me “Really?” with a smile – a genuine smile that caused little crows’ feet to appear at the corner of his eyes. Then, quickly, he agreed. But it was not until a few days later that I was really enchanted, when, upon reading a New York Times article, I discovered he was far more famous than I had ever imagined. Real enchanters don’t need to impose their power and renown; they own them and keep them through the elegance of their humility.

If you think I am too partial because I have known Kawasaki for more than twenty years, go hear him talk. You see dozens of individuals who have never met him take a seat in the room, and you see them leave different from how they were when they came in. They are smiling; they are happy. They begin to speak to the people around them. All of a sudden, they find something to share with the world. They have been enchanted, and they are ready to become enchanters in their own right.


[1] “Bloyz di kindheyt vert nit elter”. Thanks to Dory Manor for giving me the source of this quote: Lider fun togbukh (”Poems from a Diary”), Tel-Aviv, 1977.

Tags: ·················

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 angelika blendstrup // Apr 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    As always, Marylene writes brilliantly, mixing her observations with references to sources that we would never have identified, for example to Avrom Sutzkever [whose poems I will now look for].
    As for Guy, what is so special about him, besides his capacity to enchant us all when he speaks, is that he is nice to everyone. When people talk to him after a lecture or approach him at an event, he has a smile for all of them, whether he knows them or not.

Leave a Comment