How can introverts become successful when it seems the world only has time to listen to those who shout the loudest?
Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has been a bestseller ever since it was first published back in 2012. Cain also recently launched Quiet Revolution, which she describes as “a mission-based company that offers parenting and educational services to unlock the power of introverts.”
She recently did an “ask me anything” event on Product Hunt. Here are 10 highlights of what she had to say about how introverts can succeed and find happiness in a world dominated by louder voices.
1. Learn to take risks.
“It’s easier to take risks in the service of something or someone you really care about. Professor Brian Little speaks of our “core personal projects”–the projects and people we place at the center of our lives. What and who are these for you? Once you’ve identified them, don’t even think in terms of risk or not-risk. Just think in terms of how do you accomplish your goals.”
2. Ignore the misconceptions.
“The No. 1 biggest misconception [is] thinking introverts are unfriendly or antisocial, when in fact we just like to socialize differently, more intensely, with a smaller group of people. … I would add to this answer that people often see introverts as less powerful (because we tend to speak more softly, not enjoy conflict, etc.), when in fact introverts possess a whole suite of powers that have moved the world–powers of persistence, of concentration, of sensitivity, of ability to think deeply, and so on.”
3. Practice before preaching (literally).
“I used to be really scared of public speaking, so I spent the year before my book came out (and the year before giving that TED talk) practicing public speaking in small, manageable, low-stakes settings. Do not begin by giving a TED talk! … You want to practice over and over with audiences before whom it doesn’t matter how much you seem nervous or forget what you were going to say.”
4. Leverage your strengths as a salesperson.
“[F]ollow the age-old sales wisdom: “We all have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion.” Truly, the best salespeople listen really well and think about–and care–what their prospects need.”
5. Work by yourself if that works best.
“Just … say so. And if you can point to examples of great work you’ve gotten done via such a process, all the better.”
6. Motivate yourself by focusing on mission.
“I remember, when Quiet first came out, feeling raw and exposed to the world. But I really did get used to it over time, and learned to focus not on the exposed feeling but rather on the sense of mission that made me write the book in the first place. That’s what I tune in to now every single day.”
7. Be inspired by other introverted leaders.
“Jim Collins did a famous study where he looked at the CEOs of the 11 best performing companies, and found that all 11 of them were described by their peers and colleagues as quiet, unassuming, low-key, soft-spoken, even shy. Gandhi was this kind of leader, as was Eleanor Roosevelt. Look around Silicon Valley today … from Larry Page to Bill Gates and beyond.”
8. On being an introverted entrepreneur.
“[W]hile sometimes you will have to act outside your comfort zone, it’s much better to figure out how to communicate passion and conviction while still being yourself. … If it is coming from an authentic place, people will feel it. It also helps to have an extroverted partner or senior colleague who can do the things you don’t like to do, and vice versa. My favorite example of this is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s introverted CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, extroverted COO. They are the ultimate yin-yang pair.”
9. Learn to “advertise yourself.”
“I would look for ways to showcase your expertise–whether through internal company blogs, small speaking roles at a company conference, etc. Second, if you have expertise that your colleagues could benefit from–share it! Send them emails with info they can use, etc. And finally, … [make] a list of some of your accomplishments. … Even if you never share the list with anyone, it will help center you emotionally around the value you bring.”