Leaders Know How Introverts Discover Paths Forward

This post is another insight I learned from reading Quiet by Susan Cain. Pressure from others or from our culture can unduly influence the choices we make, whether it’s career choices, selecting projects, or deciding what hobbies to take up.

Extroverts tend to push forward and chart their own path.

There’s a societal bias for the extrovert way. In Quiet, Susan Cain, shares three pointers for introverts from which both introverts and extroverts can learn. Try exploring these three questions when completing a journey of self-discovery.

  1. What did you enjoy as a kid?
  2. What kind of work do you gravitate toward?
  3. What do you envy? (This one is my favorite and the one that surprised me the most.)

I am not, either by any definition or stretch of the imagination, an introvert. Yet, these three questions work for me too.

As a kid—an only child—I enjoyed a lot of self-directed activity and when playing with friends. I liked to be the organizer.

Ever since working at a youth camp during college, I’ve loved work that makes an immediate visible impact, leading to a long-term change.

Those two qualities alone lent themselves nicely to my first 20-year career as a band director.

As time went on, I began to envy professionals who enjoyed work with some variety and the ability to work from home or other locations. This second style of working describes what I do now. The answers to all three of these questions fit with my current career.

I’ve never really thought of “envy” as a good, but I like the way Cain turns the word into a positive.

“…pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.”

Cain, S. (2013). Quiet.Crown Publishers. New York.

Experiment with these three questions. With people you’re close to in your personal life, ask them, “If you envy anyone, who would it be? What is it about their life that makes you envious?” Explore their answers with them. Then, share your answers with them.

Next, when you have a choice of projects or initiatives, go through these three questions to see if their answer matches your path. Sometimes we don’t get to match them up. That’s okay. But reflect on the projects which don’t match up, and note the amount of energy and mental effort they take to complete. This self-awareness can help you plan your work.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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