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Guest Writer

Moving beyond fear to succeed at the work we love
Part two: Confessions of an introvert
by Carolyn Campbell

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 the community.

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."

She 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 vision?

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 crying.

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 don't."

I 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.

As 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.

Carolyn Campbell, an artist, speaker and facilitator, helps creative types build thriving business ventures that honor their passions and desires. Check out her profile in December's Sketch Pad, visit her Web site and e-mail her at carolyn@thecoresource.com.

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