Curiosity is Charisma

A few weeks ago, I ventured to SoHo to buy a new belt. I got off the Prince St. Station on Broadway St. and I stumbled on this table with beautifully made leather goods. Aixa, the leathersmith, was off to the side, hand-making a tote bag from scratch. Her colleague, Roger, was eating his lunch. I was looking at their products. All of them used the highest quality full-grain leather. I told Aixa I was looking for a belt and she said that I could choose the leather and the buckle, and they could custom-fit the belt and make it for me in 45 minutes. I love buying products from local craftspeople and I love how they made their products on the spot, I was sold.

Out of curiosity, I started asking them a bunch of questions: How did you get started? Why leathersmithing? How did you learn this craft? Aixa was enthusiastically answering all my questions but Roger wasn’t speaking much. I then told them that I would return to pick up my belt while I walked around SoHo.

I came back after an hour and my belt was almost ready. Roger was working on the finishing touches of the belt. This time, he was talking non-stop. We talked about everything from him moving from Kenya to New York, how Harlem - the neighborhood he grew up in - changed over the last 30 years, and some of the differences between his generation and mine. As he was wrapping up, he told me that no one ever asked them about their story, and how they got into this business, and that it meant a lot that I asked those questions. By the time they finished, I felt a brief, yet genuine connection with the two of them, and I had a killer belt.

Some of my friends have complimented my ability to spark conversation and connect with people from all different backgrounds. Some call it charisma, but I think of it as just being curious. Being curious is a pure form of motivation, I’m not talking to you to network or because I’m romantically interested, but because I’m interested in you and your story as a person. And to me, that’s what charisma is all about.

October 6, 2023

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