You've probably heard of Seth Godin - he's the author of 20 best-selling books and an incredible speaker. Part of what makes him so awesome is his ability to draw beautifully crafted ideas as effortlessly as handkerchiefs from a magician's sleeve. He's always got a soundbite - a fully formed idea on the tip of his tongue. Words that can change the way you think and motivate you to action.
Where does this magic come from? What makes speakers like Gary V, Seth Godin and Neil deGrasse Tyson such crisp elocutors? It turns out it's the same muscle kids at your local high school use to dance or rap.
Freestyle rappers, breakdancers and world-class speakers have the same playbook. They build a foundational repertoire - a set of basic moves. Great freestyle rappers have written hundreds of bars. They've memorised familiar words and riffed on them a dozen times. They'll save rhyming couplets and commit certain bars to memory. The rhythm of rap helps structure their ideas. 4 beats in a bar. Two, four, or six pairs of rhymes.
Spend enough time writing and practising and the result looks nearly effortless. You just need transitions to connect ideas and move in and out of the patterns you've memorised.
Breakdancing is exactly the same. It looks fluid, creative and spontaneous. But that spontaneity is the fruit of a rigid repertoire of individual moves practised consistently.
Great speakers have bars too. They pop, lock and drop. As the conversation progresses they transition in and out of well-developed ideas seamlessly.
I remember watching a podcast with Neil deGrasse Tyson a while ago where he was asked how he got so great at communicating complex ideas. He replied saying that 97% of anything he says in public is something he once wrote in private. The illusion of freestyling comes from breaking down the complex performance into repeatable, interchangeable chunks.
Seth Godin has been writing a daily blog for decades. Some days it's several paragraphs. Sometimes just a sentence or two. But these ideas multiply and combine, making him a soundbite machine. He's Eminem in a suit.
So here's my question. Where are your bars? What is something complex you perform regularly that could be broken down into chunks so small you could master them and re-combine them on demand in a way that looks effortless?
I'm applying this idea to my speaking and writing. You could apply it to your singing, cooking, drawing, or presentations at work.
P.S. if you want to hear my bars - my best frameworks and mental models for gaining clarity on your career, showing up as your best self, and taking control of your trajectory, join me on the next cohort of Career Hyperdrive! 😉🚀