For Mother’s Day, Whitney Johnson, a venture capitalist and popular Harvard Business Review blogger (pictured at left), challenged me to answer these questions. With her new book, Dare, Dream, Do, she’s out to inspire women of all ages to dream big and make those dreams a reality-especially mothers.
So I started thinking about my own mom. And I realized: it was what she didn’t say that counted most.
When I was a kid, I spent countless sunny afternoons writing stories. I called the space under the family card table my workshop, and curled up there producing “magazines” – looseleaf paper stapled together – subscriptions to which I sold to indulgent family members. My friend Michelle and I sat side by side at her bedroom table, writing plays and reading them aloud to each other. I went to the library every Friday and came home with teetering stacks of books.
Never once did my mother say: You should be outside more. You should do more regular kid stuff. You should daydream less, socialize more. Instead, she took me to my grandfather’s book-lined apartment and let me wander his library for hours. She understood that I had plenty of friends with whom I liked to play quietly – and that one of my very best friends was my very own self.
Today I know how lucky I was. Every day I hear from readers whose well-intentioned parents asked them to be more like their extroverted siblings or classmates, to spend less time with the riches inside their own head. Many of these parents were loving and well-intentioned. They worried that too quiet a childhood might lead to a future of loneliness.
My mother is a famous worrier, but somehow she never worried about this.
Thank you, Mom.
Here is Whitney Johnson’s new book, Dare, Dream, Do. You can connect with her on Twitter @johnsonwhitney and on Facebook.
Here’s the latest news from the QUIET book tour, which continues at its whirlwind pace!
1. QUIET has been on the New York Times bestseller list ever since it debuted in late January.
2. Chris Anderson, the owner of TED, recently tweeted that my TED talk ”smashed” all of TED’s previous records for number of views in first week of posting — currently over 1.3 million views since the talk went live on March 2.
3. British readers! Tomorrow I’m headed to the United Kingdom, and would love to meet you. Please check my Events page for live events and TV/radio appearances.
4. American readers, the tour will continue in the U.S. in April. Please check back soon for upcoming appearances.
5. Here are a bunch of recent TV, radio, and print interviews with me, and mentions of QUIET:
CNN - Introverts Run the World — Quietly
The New York Times - In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think
The Asian Age - Why Introverts are Quiet Winners
CTV News - Interview: Loud Society Fails to Capitalize on Introverts
MSNBC - Video interview on The Dylan Ratigan Show
WNYC - Audio Interview on The Leonard Lopate Show
Vancouver Sun - Hate Networking? Introvert Business Leaders as Good or Better than Extroverts
Knoxville News Sentinel - Introverts Living in an Extrovert’s World
TheCommentary.ca - Audio Interview / Podcast
The Introvert Entrepreneur - Audio Interview / Podcast
Jezebel.com - How to Set Boundaries with People you Love
Forbes.com - Lessons from Dad and Jeremy Lin
The Atlantic - How TED Makes Ideas Smaller
The Journal Times - In What Light There Is: The Power of QUIET
Cosmic Log on MSNBC.com - Deep Thinkers Take Center Stage
Cool Hunting - Link About It: This Week’s Picks
The Guardian - TED 2012: The Final Countdown
Boing Boing - TED 2012: Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts
Wired News - TED and Meta TED: On Scene Musings from the Wonderdome
The Bellingham Herald - Quiet Power: Introverts Can Capitalize on Their Inner Strengths and Feel Good About It
Popsop.com - Sshh Branding: The Quiet Revolution
TheNextWeb.com - Why the World Needs to Start Embracing Introverts
THANK YOU for your support and interest.
I met some really incredible people at last week’s TED conference, and Rabbi David Wolpe was one of them. Here he is on the power of solitude:
“When he was a child, the Seer of Lublin (later a famous Hasidic master) used to go off into the woods by himself. When his father, worried, asked him why, he said “I go there to find God.” His father said to him, ”But my son, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?” “God is” said the boy, “but I’m not.”
Solitude is the school of the soul. Why was it Pascal who said that all of our problems come from not being able to be in a room alone? Not solely because he was an introvert, but because he was a deeply faithful man and religion not only emphasizes community but helps cultivate solitude. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai,” says a classic rabbinic text, and Abravanel, the 15th century commentator, asks — why Sinai? Why not “from God?” His answer is not that Sinai is a synecdoche — that it stands for God — but rather that Moses needed the experience of aloneness on Sinai to be ready to receive the Torah. No mountain solitude, no revelation.
Introverts people their solitude — with books, with imagination, sometimes with God. Hitbodedut, aloneness, is a traditional Hasidic practice in which the worshipper goes off alone. Sometimes he will scream, or cry, or contemplate, but it is essential that the eyes of the world do not push or pull in that moment. Influence is important, but in aloneness is freedom. Those of us who stand on the side at the party, or prefer not to go, do not devalue others. We just find that we can be truest to them when we have stored up quiet moments in the private reservoir that nourishes our souls.”
If you’d like to know more about Rabbi David Wolpe and his work, please go here:
One of the pieces of my recent TED talk that has attracted the most interest is the idea that the world’s major religions feature stories of seekers (Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus…) who go off, by themselves, to the wilderness, where they have revelations that they then bring back to the community. No solitude, no revelations.
I’m always interested in different manifestations of this idea — and high school student Faique Moqeet just referred me to this fascinating passage. Hope you enjoy it:
“For instance, if a man ceases to take any concern in worldly matters, conceives a distaste for common pleasures, and appears sunk in depression, the doctor will say, “This is a case of melancholy, and requires such and such prescription. The physicist will say, “This is a dryness of the brain caused by hot weather and cannot be relieved till the air becomes moist.” The astrologer will attribute it to some particular conjunction or opposition of planets. “Thus far their wisdom reaches,” says the Koran. It does not occur to them that what has really happened is this: that the Almighty has a concern for the welfare of that man, and has therefore commanded His servants, the planets or the elements, to produce such a condition in him that he may turn away from the world to his Maker. The knowledge of this fact is a lustrous pearl from the ocean of inspirational knowledge, to which all other forms of knowledge are as islands in the sea.”
-The Alchemy of Happiness, Imam Al-Ghazali
Hi everyone, here’s a guest post from the insightful Ben Dattner, of Dattner Consulting, and author of The Blame Game, on how organizations can harness the strengths of their introverted employees. Do you have other ideas to add? Would love to hear them. In the meantime, here’s Ben:
“The fantastic success of Susan Cain’s Quiet demonstrates that she has tapped into something very important in our culture and our society at this moment in history.
Inevitably, corporations and many other kinds of organizations will realize the implications of Susan Cain’s work for their practices and cultures. Here are some very preliminary suggestions of what organizations might do to better “hear” introverts who may be “quiet” but still have tremendous value that they bring to the workplace each day:
- Examine “competency models” and performance appraisal systems criteria to ascertain whether there is a bias towards evaluating and rewarding extroverted behaviors over introverted behaviors.
- Write comprehensive job descriptions that inform people how much interaction, networking, collaboration and advocacy are required in positions before candidates take the jobs. This will enable introverts to self-select out of jobs that they might not thrive in. “Realistic job previews” in general are very useful.
- Utilize feedback mechanisms, such as online surveys or other kinds of anonymous “suggestion” boxes, wherein introverts can feel comfortable sharing feedback and suggestions that they might not feel comfortable sharing in a public forum.
- Employ “polling” or similar strategies to solicit and consider the perspectives of all members of the team or organization, so everyone has a voice, even if they are reluctant to fight for attention in a public setting.
- Ask members of a team if they would like time on a meeting agenda in advance of the meeting, so that more introverted team members can influence the agenda in advance without feeling like they have to be “the squeaky wheel” in a meeting or to compete for airtime.
- Structure debates so that members of a team have an opportunity to argue “pro” or “con” any given issue or strategy in subteams. While an introvert may not feel comfortable soliciting support and loudly advocating a point of view, he or she might be comfortable participating in a discussion in a smaller team.
The above suggestions are meant to be a point of departure, and not a point of arrival. Corporations and other kinds of organizations, of any size and in the US and abroad, can benefit from thoughtful consideration of Susan’s excellent book and how much it is resonating with so many people.”
If you’d like to hear more from Ben, you can find him here.
*In other news, I’m afraid that in a previous blogpost on happiness, I used an excellent cartoon by Andrew Matthews on the nature of happiness, without crediting him or asking his permission. My apologies, Andrew! More happily, I’ve since checked out more of Andrew’s work, and it’s really quite wonderful. I won’t post it here, but here’s a link if you’re curious.