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Where That “It”-Factor Comes From

What is “it?” Who has “it?” Can you get “it?”

You’ve been there, right? One of those edgy cocktail lounges in the trendy part of town, and this gal behind the bar: early 30s, laughs loudly, luscious locks with blue streaks, drives an El Camino, inked up all over, spent her rougher years in an all-girl punk band, makes a damn fine old fashioned, and another for herself to sip right along with you, married but open to experimenting with the right man or woman. I mean … you’ve met this woman. You know this woman. (If you, in fact, are this woman, my phone number’s in my Twitter bio, and you should say come say hi.)

That girl — the hypothetical one I just fawned over, as you could probably guess, from the title of this essay — has it. It is magnetic. It is radiant. It is irrepressible and irresistible. And it is very, very sexy. I dated a woman with it once. You may remember. I described her thusly:

Fearlessly independent and self-reliant, she was the rare type of human who’d stick a dime in her clutch to keep her manual transmission humming, shower and turn into a stone-cold stunner, drive you to the party, grab a machete and uncork a bottle of champagne, pour it into your glass without spilling a drop, tell you “you are so turned on right now,” then walk away before you’ve had a chance to stop yourself from sublimation. I’m reasonably sure she’s ascended into heaven on a fistful of occasions just to sucker-punch god in the face.

After 17 months, including at least 12 of mostly living together, she stuck the landing on the rare and high-degree-of-difficulty move-out ghost, swinging by while I was at work on a Friday, grabbing all her shit and leaving the key without dropping a note or saying a word. I would still grab a drink with her. That’s the power of it.

But what is it? Who has it? And can you get it? Is this certain je ne sais quoi a thing you can cultivate? We’ll talk about it. But first … we’re going to listen to 2pac.

“Out on bail, fresh outta jail, California dreaming
Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearing hoochies screaming.” — Tupac Shakur

Alright, admittedly, this is one of 2pac’s more pedestrian verses in his oeuvre. Yet, even when 99% of all other MCs go next level, that’s still just Mr. Shakur’s ground floor. I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw the California Love video. I was in my parents’ living room, drinking Pepsi, eating homemade pizza — my parents asleep upstairs, and me left to my own devices, watching MTV Raps the way god intended but my parents would never allow.

From the first five seconds … the auto-tuned salvo, the Joe Cocker “Woman to Woman”-aping beat drop, and Tupac Shakur’s glorious, swagger-licious verse, I was hooked. The moment felt bigger than a single, bigger than hip-hop, larger than life. It transcended music. It felt like culture. Beamed in from an alternate universe (cut to a shot of everyone muttering under their breath [so, non-white, then, my little 13 year-old Caucasian geography bee champion]), directly onto my TV, and it changed me viscerally.

Why? Because Tupac had it. His content crackled. His delivery sizzled. His charisma oozed. And therein lies the elements of it. When you have it, you have all the components … you have, as the kids like to say, the range. And the range can be broken into three into three fundamental elements. These are the it-factor. Let’s dig into them — using some of the most sterile, business-centric language in my repertoire. (Sorry. I’m in branding. This is what you get.)

Element №1: Great Ideas (Truth)

To understand this component of “it,” we need to take it back to Tupac’s previous album Me Against the World. Recorded in the wake of a shooting that nearly took his life, MAtW finds Tupac at his realest and most vulnerable. His legendary gangsta posturing from Strictly 4 My N(ope, white boy, don’t you type that word) replaced by a reflective, hardened and wiser street poet. When he spoke, he communicated wisdom that didn’t feel contrived. It felt conjured from a higher, deeper source. It was authentic, gritty, philosophical and real. Truth.

Element №2: Great Execution (Talent)

Look, it’d be one thing if Tupac was just an MC with a head full of ideas. Many so-called “conscious” rappers have them. (*cough* Logic *cough* don’t @ me *cough*) What Tupac had in spades was the flow of a sublime Guinness pour. Pac’s rhymes and verses were dense with allegory, devilishly clever, and delivered with a rhythmic cadence that could only be equaled by something approaching tantric sex. Listen no further than his syllable-bending masterwork on “If I Die 2Nite.” Undeniable, irrepressible talent is precious. It’s rare. It doesn’t come around every day. You pair that with someone living and speaking their truth? It’s positively radiant.

Element №3: Great Sales (Charisma)

Let’s go back to “California Love.” I don’t just want you to listen to Tupac’s brash, braggadocios delivery. I want you to really watch him. The way he doesn’t just so much dance and posture, but levitate and glide. The light fixates on him. The song revolves around him. Even the legendary Dre looks tense and meek in his presence. That’s charisma. Sure, you can break charisma down into component parts — personality, physical attractiveness, confidence, humor — but it all falls under the charisma umbrella. You add that to truth and talent? You become magnetized. You can cast magical spells on people. You become hypnotic, intoxicating, irreplaceable.

Truth. Talent. Charisma. These are the three components of it. The good news is you can cultivate it. By being true to yourself and to your values. By working at your craft. By broadening your knowledge and experience. By doing the things that build your confidence. By dressing like you give a fuck. By acting like you give a fuck. By showing up, showing out, and showing off. That’s how you get it.

Deion Sanders, the high-stepping, trash-talking, chain-popping all-world former NFL shutdown cornerback (another man with it) once famously said, “You look good. You feel good. You play good.” And, sure, that’s a catchy if reductionist take on it, but I want to focus on one of his lesser-known quotes:

“Somebody’s gotta make a play. It might as well be you.” It’s the work that goes into making that play — in a way that only someone like Deion, or Tupac, or Janelle Monae, or that woman at the bar can — that cultivates it. And I wish you a lot of it in 2019.

*** Did you like this? Feel free to bang that clap button. Want more? Follow me on Instagram, or read more here. ***



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John Gorman

Yarn Spinner + Brand Builder + Renegade. Award-winning storyteller with several million served. For inquiries: