beyond fear to succeed at the work we love
two: Confessions of an introvert
he dictionary says an introvert is someone more
concerned with the mental life of the self than with social encounters.
As much as I try to dismiss this definition as me,
I have to confess it's true. I relish the solitary emotional-creative
landscape far more than the social realm.
I spend time alone for days on end. In quiet. Residing
in ethereal landscapes of ideas, alone with the infinite. I drop
into the void, doing nothing, absolutely nothing. I sit on the
couch or lie in bed for hours. I used to hide this fact about
me. Now I realize that it is an essential element of how I lead
in the world.
When I seep into the world between, where everyday
life ends and vacant space begins, I relax into the wellspring
of my life. Fears recede and a simpler, more expansive connection
begins. It is my sustenance. My lifeblood.
Yet, another side of me is compelled to be in the
world. Something commands me to step out, to create connections,
to call people to the power of their voice and vision.
My challenge is to honor my introvert and relax
my fear of social encounters so I don't retreat into hiding. As
a vision/leadership coach, I create spaces for people to gather,
connect, weave their self, emotions and vision. Some days it feels
fabulous. Other days it scares me to death. But either way, I
have to honor my introvert to sustain and inspire me, while at
the same time, support my vision of bringing my work out into
At 25, I had my first professional theater contract.
On the first day of the season, the artistic director gathered
the new company. She asked us to look around the room. In front.
Behind. To both sides. "As you sit here," she said slowly,
"feeling alone, uncertain about how you might fit in,"
she paused for a moment, "so are 95 percent of the others
in this room.
"The reason we are all here," she went
on, "is to bring something to life. To offer a new way of
looking at the world, of living in the world. That is why we are
all here. In that, you are not alone."
finished by asking us why we wanted to be in the theater. "You
must be compelled to do it," she said. "There are so
many easier things to do in life. If you're not driven, follow
another path. Your vision must be greater than your fear. That
is how you will succeed."
Her words continue to guide me. Still an introvert,
at times scared of meeting new people, scared of the judgments
of others, I use her words as a grounding point. What path am
I committed to? How am I bringing that to the world? Is my vision
stronger than my fear?
Many of us are paralyzed by the thought of going
out into the world and sharing our vision with strangers.
Worried that we'll stumble, stammer or look stupid,
we hide in our work, safe within our tight-knit circle of friends.
Feeling stuck, frustrated and bewildered, we wonder why our work
is not where we want it to be. These are the times I ask myself
again ... What am I here to do? What am I committed to? What is
the exciting "revolution" I want to create? What does
my vision ask of me? How can I honor my introvert and live my
What it usually comes down to is that I need to
reframe my concept of selling and reclaim the "juice"
of my purpose.
During my training to become a coach, we had a special
session on marketing our business. As each person got up to recite
their pitch, I felt my heart get tighter and tighter. My throat
constricted. My head went blank. When it was my turn, I started
The room fell silent, all eyes on me. I wanted to
crawl under the table. I grew hotter and smaller by the minute.
I love this work, I stammered, but I can't do that. What is that?
the facilitator asked. Between sobs, I stammered again: I won't
sell. I hate sales people. I run from them. There's no way I'm
ever going to become one of them!
The facilitator simply looked at me and said, "Then
promised myself I never would. I would find another way.
I must confess there have been a few times, when
feeling an urgent need for business, I tried to sell. I was awkward
and totally ineffective. The business I got was not a good match
for me. These were powerful, hard lessons. Each time, it became
clearer to me: don't sell the work. Invite people to the work
in an intimate, casual way.
Slowly, I created my own way of bringing my business
to the world. Allowing my introvert to guide me, I began bringing
people together in small groups. They came to explore and expand
their connection with their inner life and use it to enhance their
business and their leadership.
I stopped going to strangers and created a community
instead. It was fun. It was easy. It was meaningful. My introvert
relaxed. With each group I gained more confidence, more clarity.
In my work with other introverts, we look for ways
they naturally connect with people. We then apply this to their
business. In a recent conversation with a client, we talked about
the parties she gives. They are legendary; people can't wait to
attend. I asked her what it would be like to stop marketing her
business and, instead, create a party. Oh my God, she said, it
would be fun! I would ask people in a fun way. I would love it!
Here is a suggestion: Choose the clients you want
rather than waiting for them to choose you. Really. Make a list.
Write it down. It helps you identify what you're really up to
and how you want to do it. Apply your style of connecting to your
business. Maybe it's a party. Maybe it's a discussion. Maybe it's
one-on-one. Your comfort and pleasure will attract people to you.
Trust your way. In building a business, it's the only way.
Paul Hawken advises in "Growing Your Own Business,"
his best seller: Don't make the mistake of believing you get only
one chance to reach your potential customer, or believing that
each package or advertisement must tell everything. Much better
to proceed as though you are having a long dialogue with your
customer. Let the relationship have the expansiveness of a friendship.
From one introvert to another, I invite you to take
your time. Give your vision room to grow. Build and honor the
community you want to serve. And all the while, do it in a way
that allows you to be you.
Next month Carolyn offers Part three: "Marketing
as performance art." Meanwhile, check out Part
one: Dare to connect in last month's issue.