The Introverted Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide
I already know that this post is going to either be one that you click away from immediately, or read every word. This post is dedicated to the 20% minority of men and women who are labeled as Introverts. I have further narrowed my scope to include only those introverts who have chosen a path of entrepreneurship. I myself am a BIG introvert (and an even BIGGER entrepreneur) and I know A LOT about what it means to be INTROVERTED.
If you’ve always felt a little different from the rest of the crowd and wondered WHY you aren’t as outgoing, loud or talkative of those around you, you may want to continue reading. If this is not the case for you, and you’re a big, talkative extrovert, I recommend leaving.
I have created what I am calling the Survival Guide for Introverted Entrepreneurs! You will quickly discover that being an introvert is NOT a curse, and this “hidden minority” that we are apart of offers us several unseen strengths. I will identify these strengths that may currently lay dormant inside of you and show you how to unleash them to the World! But first…
What is an Introvert?
I always get people telling me that they “used to be an introvert” or “I’m only an introvert at parties” or something like that. Guess what? You were either born an introvert or you were born an extrovert. There is no switching teams (sorry). Consider it like having a dominant hand. You were born (or chose at a very early age) to be right-handed. You can learn how to write left handed by practicing day after day, but you are still a righty! It’s the same for introverts and extroverts!
So is an introvert a shy recluse with no friends and a boring personality? NO! Although…the shy quiet ones are almost always introverts. Since the majority of the population consists of extroverted, talkative folks, society has deemed it wrong to be introverted. And somewhere down the line, the definition of introvert came to mean “Shy & quiet.” These are tendencies of introverts, but it doesn’t at all begin to explain WHAT an introvert is.
An INTROVERT is someone whose World is more internally focused. If you imagine everyone as a giant Duracell battery, introverts will become drained of their energy or “juice” by anything external. Other people, loud settings & other external stimuli will drain the introvert. Introverts are charged by introspection. Ideas, concepts, reading, small groups of people & meditation are examples of the common activities that will keep the introvert functioning at maximum efficiency.
Are You an Introvert?
Before we continue, it would be a good idea to identify whether or not you are an introvert. (Chances are, if you’re still reading, you are!) Let me begin with a few questions…
- Do you feel tired and drained after a night out with a lot of people (ex: cocktail party, networking event)
- Do you enjoy reading, meditating or having “alone-time”
- Do you have a small, close-knit group of friends (like 1 to 3) and have trouble keeping track of having any more than that?
- Do you find it difficult to initiate conversations with strangers?
- Would you label yourself as shy or quiet?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, than chances are you are introverted. But it is also important to realize that the Introvert/Extrovert question is not entirely black or white. There are degrees. As an introvert, you can be on the extreme side of the spectrum and be a shy recluse who doesn’t leave his or her room. OR, you can be just as outgoing and extroverted as the best of them…when you want to of course!
The Introvert Problem:
There are a few problems or challenges that all introverts face living in an Extroverted World. But, we have a few more challenges when we set out as an entrepreneur. I will identify the problems here, and will continue to show you how to solve all of these problems using our strengths throughout the remainder of this post.
For starters, most introverts have trouble working with others. Some think they can do it all themselves and end up putting way too much on their plate. Others have communication problems when dealing with extroverts. On top of that, introverts are simply drained when it comes to working with other people. Whether it’s customer service, making/answering phone calls, or corresponding via email, the introvert is losing an uphill battle from the beginning.
In the end, it becomes a Catch 22: Success in business comes through the leverage of relationships with other people. Introverts are constantly drained and held back when dealing with others.
So, how do we solve this?
The Strengths of the Introverted Entrepreneur
Before you start thinking you and your business are doomed, think again! There are a LOT of very successful introverted entrepreneurs and a lot of them have come out during the last decade of the Internet Boom! In fact, you’ll notice that most introverts are drawn to the Internet as a place to run their business, because it gives them the feeling of automation, freedom and control without dealing with the energy-sucking humanoids!
So, what exactly are the strengths of the Introvert?
The Power to Go Deep: To me, this is the only strength I need! It is the most important, and it gives us a big advantage over the extrovert. For starters, let me remind you of the story of the Tortoise & the Hare. You my friend are the hare. Sure you are slow, but while the rabbit is boasting and bragging, you come up out of nowhere and surprise everyone…why is that? YOU have an unseen power! The power to go deep. Let me explain more…
One of the qualities needed for an entrepreneur is the quality of big picture thinking. You must be able to foresee trends, have five and 10 year goals and prepare for the future. Big Picture thinking is essential. The only shortcoming of Big Picture thinking is that it ignores the details. Eventually, the details do become important in your business. The introvert has the ability to be the eagle high up in the sky with a birds eye view of his or her future, and in a moment’s notice can swoop down to ground level and inspect every detail with a magnifying glass.
Extroverts have trouble doing this. Their tell-tale traits are evident in their conversation. While we “go deep” and enjoy a thought-provoking conversation, an extrovert tends to simply skim the surface of a topic before moving on to the next. ?While they get bored and distracted, you remain focused and determined.
As an introvert, you have the ability to see the big picture AND the extreme details, and you can transition between the two effortlessly.
But when I say introverts can “go deep” I am offering several meanings to this. It also means that you can look deep within yourself for the answers to business problems and roadblocks. In fact, as an introvert, you have the powerful ability to innately look within yourself to continue fueling the fire that keeps you doing what you do. It’s called passion, and I can imagine you have some!
Does this make sense yet?
If you’ve ever spent six or more hours in front of your computer writing the copy for your website or watching a new video training series, you’ve already experienced the strength of the introvert. Where everyone else would get bored and leave, you’ve focused and persevered!
If you’ve ever head that voice inside of you say, “Whatever it takes!” You know what I mean.
Become a Super-Human Introvert
You may still think you’re at a bit of a disadvantage to the extrovert, and I don’t blame you. Look at someone like Tony Robbins (biggest extrovert ever!) He can stand on stage for four days straight, 11 hours at a time and preach his heart out! Rinse and repeat every week! Just imagining doing that makes me cringe! Here are some of the best introvert-secrets to get you performing at your best as an entrepreneur!
1. Be Conscious of Your Energy!
Yes, time is valuable, but your energy is even more valuable. Identify the things that drain you. Long phone conversations, unnecessary meetings, lunches, etc. In fact, look for specific people in your life that drain you. Eliminate as many of these energy-suckers as possible. Now, more importantly, what charges you Practicing meditation is probably our biggest ally! I recommend meditating AT LEAST once a day, even if it’s for 5 minutes at a time. Other things that personally charge me include listening to music, going for walks, reading a good book or playing a cheesy video game.
2. Push Your Comfort Zone!
Just because you’re an introvert, it doesn’t give you an excuse to be invisible. Flex your extroverted muscles when it’s profitable for you. Attend networking events, get over your public speaking fear at a ToastMasters event, and make some extra business calls each day. Try to become a little bit more extroverted every day. Just remain conscious of your energy levels.
3. Create Systems!
Extroverts are great at managing people. WE are even better at creating and managing systems. Everything from your email autoresponder software to auto-blogging software is something we’ve set up as a SYSTEM in our business. Create MORE systems. How can you remove humans from the equation and automate more in your business Let software do the things that people used to do!
Without contradicting my last point, you’ve gotta outsource! You didn’t start your business to become a manager. In fact, you probably dispise that aspect of your business. But effective outsourcing to the Philippines is nothing like managing! It is the perfect tool for the introvert. Truly, it is simply the act of creating more systems in your business. I LOVE outsourcing, have several amazing Virtual Assistants, and talk more about it here: The Outsourcing Cure! Why Marketers Fail!
5. Create a Support System
You may be thinking you’ve got everything figured out, and you don’t want anyone else’s help in your business. But having this type of hubris can lead straight to failure. Develop a support group of like-minded people. Even if it;s one person! Find another introverted entrepreneur to be your sound board. Make sure this is not someone who is draining your energy. When you find the right person, you’ll quickly discover that your conversations with this individual will actually help to charge you up! (That’s a good thing!)
As an entrepreneur, you’ve chosen a path that most view as uncertain and quite dangerous. Most of the time we are carving our own paths each and every day. Half of the time the stuff we try fails miserably. A lot of our work comes down to simple tough-mindedness. If you have enough passion & conviction, you can persevere through any failures or set-backs and accomplish most anything, right
I feel that we as introverts are especially strong in this category. We have the ability to learn everything about our business and our markets, and more importantly, we begin to learn everything about ourselves. I think there is a special reason-nay! special MISSION that each introvert is here on this planet. There may not be many of us, but I believe that we have a special purpose and gift inside. ?As an introverted entrepreneur, it’s your job to share that gift with the World!
By the way…just look at the word INNOVATION. (It starts with the prefix “IN.”) “Innovation” is defined simply as something new or different. It takes an innovation to be a successful entrepreneur, and it takes going deep within yourself to become innovative. You are an introvert! You are an Entrepreneur! Be Innovative! Change the World!
NOTE: I was recently interviewed by Beth Buelow on being an Introverted Entrepreneur. You can listen to the interview here: http://bethbuelow.com/2010/12/01/connecting-through-personality-types-with-james-wedmore/