Mar 23, 2012

The Power of Introverts

Our culture does not appreciate quiet. We tend to equate social power with social prowess. The outspoken people seen are as the leaders in our culture. Susan Cain, however, seeks to dispel this notion that people with a quiet nature cannot be major influencers or leaders. She opens her book Quiet by discussing one of the most influential figures in the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks made an impact in the civil rights movement through her quietness. She chose to take a quiet stand instead of being outspoken. In doing so, she became a symbol of strength in the movement. This is the first of many examples of introverts that Cain offers to show the power of quiet in a world that likes to talk.

Quiet is Cain’s attempt to prove that, despite America’s preference to extroversion, introverts can be extremely successful and influential in our culture. She begins by discussing the “Extroverted Ideal.” Since the time that Andrew Carnegie taught us how to win friends and influence people, the ideal personality has be extroverted. In the world of business and leadership, the way to get ahead is to speak up and stand out. Cain visits Harvard Business School to understand how they teach students to succeed in business. It becomes very clear that Harvard teaches their students to speak up or they won’t succeed. The issue that Cain finds, however, is that in all their talking, people aren’t listening. In this first part of the book, Cain poses the question of whether or not the extroverted ideal is really ideal. What she finds is people being trained to talk the most, whether they are educated or not, in order to get ahead (see my post on The Introvert in the Boardroom). Businesses promote group brainstorming which tends to favor the outspoken. Cain instead shows that often people who quietly, by themselves, and are allowed to think through the problems are more productive and effective that people working together in groups where people are fighting for attention. While the outspoken standout, they are not always bringing success and are often times talking over those who can give good ideas.

The next part of here book looks at the biology and psychology behind introversion. Cain seeks to discover if introversion genetic. This section is much different that the first part of the book, but still interesting. I found this section of the book personally interesting because I read through it going, “Oh, That’s why I am like that.” Introversion and extroversion seems to be built into our brain functions even from birth. It effects the way we think and process information.

The third part of Cain’s book compares our culture with Asian cultures to see if the Extroverted ideal is apparent in all cultures. Cain shows that there are major differences between the two cultures. America sees extroversion as ideal, while Asian cultures see introversion as ideal. One of the primary differences is how success is achieved. Introverted cultures tend to succeed through persistence and perseverance, while extroverted cultures succeed but speaking over others and getting your ideas heard. Cain uses this to show the some of the people we see as successful succeeded because of persistence instead of outspokenness.

Last, Cain discusses living as an introvert and with introverts. She applies what she’s discussed in previous sections to having relationships, working in an extroverted culture, and raising introverted children. This section is a good balance to the rest of the book which is trying to show that extroversion is not the ideal. Cain reminds her readers that sometimes introverts do need to speak up, but should also not lose the good qualities that introversion brings. She also offers very good practical information on how to live in introvert-extrovert relationships and how to raise introvert children.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is a great book. Susan Cain does a good job of presenting how our culture favors extroversion and looks down on introverts. It may seem at first that Cain is trying to say that introverts are better than extroverts, but reading through the whole work she does a wonderful job of challenging introverts to grow in certain areas. She also challenges extroverts to consider the benefits that introverts are able bring. As an introvert myself I most appreciated the second and fourth sections of the book. I was very interested to learn about myself and why I am the way I am. The second section does a good job of explaining many the biological factors of introversion and extroversion. The fourth section is very helpful because of the helpful advice for living with extroverts and raising and teaching introverted children.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. If you are an introverted, you will find this book very helpful and encouraging. If you are an extrovert, you can learn why your introverted friends are the way they are and how to best interact with them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in a business situation, this book can be really helpful in learning how to get the most out of the introverts in your office. I would also recommend it to my friends in the ministry along with Adam S. McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church. I hope that Cain’s book will help people change their understanding of introversion. Introversion is not a weakness. There may be areas where introverts are weak, but there are always areas where introverts tend to be stronger than extroverts.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mar 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It's not for the same reason that most like St. Patrick's day, instead it's because of St. Patrick and the impact he had on the world. Patrick left his home in England and went to Ireland to preach Jesus to the people that he earlier lived among as a slave. In short, God did great things with Patrick. You can read a lot more about him over at Mark Driscoll's blog. St. Patrick's Day is all about remembering one of God's faithful servants who spent his life preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.

I would also recommend the book Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers. It's a short and easy read. It really hits a the heart of what Patrick's life is all about. It's definitely one that you could read most if not all of in a day or a weekend. 

Take some times today and thank God for the missionaries who spend their lives spreading the good news and love of Jesus Christ around the world. That's a much better way to honor Patrick instead of dressing in green, faking an Irish accent, and talking about leprechauns. I would, however, recommend some corned beef and cabbage, that's some good food.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I'll leave you with some of the words of Patrick.

"For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name."
St. Patrick's Confession

"I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three."

Mar 12, 2012

The Introvert in the Boardroom

I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, but The Celebrity Apprentice does make for fairly entertaining television. If you haven't seen the show, it's fairly straightforward. Two teams of celebrities compete in business challenges and at the end, the losing team is judged by Trump and one person (and sometimes more) gets fired.  While watching last night's episode, I was particularly intrigued by what happened in the boardroom when the team of celebrity men were judged by Trump. They failed in a task to promote a new car from Buick. The most interesting part about this failure is who is on the men's team: Michael Andretti. Andretti is a member of one of the most famous racing families in America. He drove Indy Cars for a living and is now owner of the Andretti racing team. Trump was amazed that the men could lose with Andretti on their team.

Throughout the show, however, one thing about Andretti became clear. Michael Andretti is an introvert. I don't say this out of shame because I'm an introvert. Watching what happened at the end of the show was almost painful. Trump expected Andretti step up and take charge. Trump thought it was a perfect task for him to be at the forefront to sell this car. Andretti, however, saw a challenge that involved selling a car and making a presentation and quickly handed the leadership role to someone who does that. Conflict erupted in the boardroom as Trump questioned Andretti about not taking a task tailor made for him since it was about a car. Poor Andretti tried to defend himself and remind Trump that he's just a driver and used to be behind a helmet. At the end of the episode (spoiler alert), Andretti found himself fired for not wanting to speak up and sell a car. From my perspective, he was eliminated for his desire as an introvert to not the outgoing salesmen that the challenge needed.

I've been reading Susan Cain's new book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking and I couldn't help but notice how the struggle between introvert and extrovert taking place on the Apprentice mirrored exactly what Cain describes in the first section of her book. I do think that Andretti could have lead this challenge, but he also did come on stage during the presentation and was a part of the Q&A time at the end. He was involved and present in the selling of the car, but did not want to be the one doing it. It didn't fit his personality. Introverts can be successful, but frequently in America success is defined by the person who talks the most, in other words extroverts who step and take charge. In the apprentice boardroom, the extroverted Trump makes the rules and only the extrovert can succeed by these rules. We need to recognize that the most vocal person is not always the right person. Sometimes it's the quiet, calculated move from the introvert that can lead to success. Trump only listens to the people who are loud enough to talk over him in the boardroom. Unfortunately he didn't listen to Andretti who was trying to say that he is not a car salesmen or even a car expert, he is a driver who sits by himself in a car for hours on end. In the end, it was hard to see introvert kicked out primarily for being an introvert.