" He Who is Afraid of Asking is Afraid of Learning... " ~ (Danish Proverb)

Strengthen Your Strengths – The Introvert’s Place in an Extrovert’s World! (Productivity Series, 2012 )

We’re all motivated by something

I remember being in sales and realizing that $$$ was not enough to make me jump out of bed every morning. I tried not to dwell on this too long or I would not have lasted in the job; needless to say, I escaped it as soon as I could. The challenge to compete against myself (not other sales professionals) every week is what kept me on top. So, therein began a quest to determine what really motivated me and how to keep its momentum going.

Then, as I continued to write the “Productivity Series” this year, I began a post about how important it is to understand motivation as a function of productivity. Quickly, I realized that it would be remiss of me not to explore personality as a function of motivation first.

Everyone knows someone who is “quiet type”, the “social butterfly”, or a “connector” (to borrow a term from Malcom Gladwell). I certainly do, and find myself always seeking to determine how people are wired as soon as I meet them. But the more I observed others’ behaviors and studied their motivations, I began to question my own…

I wondered why certain events, people and situations drained me yet they had no apparent effect on anyone I knew. I watched as others derived energy from the energy of those around them, observed their need to constantly “think out loud”, and to diligently seek opportunities to never be alone. I, on the other hand, coveted “alone time” – carefully interspersed with work and social activities – my priority being the former not the latter.

And, as a project manager, I have to interact heavily with others almost every minute of every day – tasks require resources to get the job done and stakeholders to provide opinions and approvals. So, every day that I wondered why I was drained, I became even more so. But, was I a freak? A minority? Unable to function in the real world?

Somewhere along the road of questioning, I recalled a personal profile I had done over 10 years ago – and all I could remember was the first letter the profile assigned to me.


‘I’, as in ‘I’ is for introvert.

So, that is where my study began. The research began not for entertainment but rather for reassurance. And I learned. I learned that not all introverts are loners, hermits nor antisocial as society would like to label them. And not all extroverts are exhibitionists and constantly need attention. There is a spectrum. I could be an introvert who really did enjoy interacting with people, who can be successful and very vocal, but who needs a larger proportion of time to recharge. And even my extroverted friends needed to stop for a moment, though less frequently, or they would spin into a frenzy themselves.

The fact is, we live in a socially distorted world where too much emphasis is placed on seeing and being seen. And, until recently, I wondered – do I need to be someone I am not - constantly – to get ahead or simply stay in the race? Well, thankfully there are experts, dating as far back as the 18th century – willing to answer that for me.

Almost every man wastes part of his life attempting to display qualities which he does not possess. ~Samuel Johnson

But as recently as this year, Susan Cain chimed in as well. Cain’s lecture, “In Praise of Introverts”, at the recent TED Conference has been viewed well over 1 million times and surpassed any other TED conference speech. I pause to wonder – who’s listening? There are surely many more introverts (perhaps in hiding) and those who appreciate what introverts can accomplish, than we realize.

It was over the last century, says Cain, that society began reshaping itself as an extrovert’s paradise—to the introvert’s demise. She explains that before the twentieth century, we lived in what historians called a “culture of character,” when you were expected to conduct yourself morally with quiet integrity. ~ Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff (from the article, “The Secret Power Of Introverts”)

Cain extols the value of introversion and points out that introverts are the outliers in the population who manage to do the homework that leads to the biggest creative breakthroughs which benefit everyone. Her speech is nothing short of brilliant, and well worth the 18 minutes you will spend, whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or not entirely sure.

The most important and underlying lesson one can take from her speech is this: honor and value your strengths, understand them and build on them – because if you stop berating why and what you are not , you can actually see the benefits and build upon the opportunities in what you are .

If we could all spend more time strengthening our strengths – and not our weaknesses, and honoring our internal wiring instead of fighting against it, we would all waste so much less time and energy and produce so much more.

Wishing You Success,

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