”The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.” ~ Thomas Edison
Saturday night my husband and I, both exhausted from a demanding week, a busy day of errands, and the never-ending duties of household administration, sat down for quiet dinner together. We opted to stay home for dinner and chose to listen to a TED Talk on our ipad that was perched like centerpiece in the middle of our table. It is a lovely, intellectual ritual, that honor’s my husband’s thirst for being exposed to new ideas, and my constant quest for interesting content for the Huntsinger Bakken Institute. Like Rudyard Kipling’s “Elephant Child” we both have insatiable curiosities, and we are blessed with a love of life long learning.
We selected Susan Cane’s talk on introversion. It seemed appropriate since out of a family of five, four of us are introverts including myself and my husband. It would be easy to mistake all of us for extroverts. Both my business and husband’s practice favor the extrovert. Both businesses require working with clients, engaging for hours every day in active conversation, attending to other people’s needs, and in promoting ourselves to business partners and future customers. Activities that we are confident and comfortable in performing, and that we genuinely look forward to doing.
Our professional extroverted behavior does, however, take its toll on our private lives. We tend not to be engaged with our friends and extended family in social activities. We simply need to balance our professional extraversion with our personal introversion. It also explains why our private passions are quiet solo activities like gardening, reading, yoga, cycling, painting, and woodworking. We need the quiet time to rejuvenate ourselves, to mentally work through the challenges we might be facing, and to find our creative muse.
Susan’s talk resonated deeply with me. After spending 8 years in a high technology start-up with an “open-office” think tank environment, I understood exactly what she meant about stopping the madness of chronic group based project work. Key to her concept is that we need quiet private time to digest information, formulate new ideas, gather additional questions, and to prepare ourselves for the next collaborative moment. Private introverted work is the Yang to the social media — open office powered group think Yin that is permeating the world we are living in today.
Susan book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” discusses how as a society we have moved away from the restorative power of being alone, of being connect with the Divine, and the creative power that comes from quiet personal reflection. New innovation and creative solutions start with the power of introversion, but flourish with collaboration. Central to her point is that we need more time to plant the seeds of innovation and we need to nurture our introverted muse before we engage in group-work.
She encourages that we:
- “End the madness of constant group-work” in school and at work
- “Go to the wilderness, be like Buddha. Have your own revelations.”
- “Take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase, and why you put it there.” This reference is to her analogy that you can tell what is important to a person by the books they pack in their suitcase when traveling.
I agree. Regardless of if you are in introvert or an extrovert a balance between quiet private work time and collaborative group efforts is need to bring out the best in yourself and your business. I always advocate that we should not spin in circles, that we should reach out when we are not being productive, and that collaboration is the key to accelerating our success. It is the key, but first you have to know where you are going, what you want to accomplish, and how you want to honor your core values and personal beliefs. Those questions are best solved through introverted “go-to-wilderness” alone time. Balance is the key. If you are wandering about lost and confused in the wilderness it is time to hire a guide! The best guides are real people, not just recorded videos, pod casts, and self-guided-tutorials.. While all those things are excellent starting point, working with others is the way to rescue ourselves from the stagnant backwaters of our business and our personal lives, and to accelerate our success in work, life, and self.
If you have younger children or grandchildren you might also enjoy this narrated version of the Elephant’s Child — truly Jack Nicholson at his finest!
Our you can watch her talk here: