Heard on All Things Considered
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I’m Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I’m Audie Cornish. From Gandhi and Joe DiMaggio to Mother Teresa and Bill Gates, introverts have done a lot of great things in the world. But being quiet, introverted or shy was sometimes looked at as a problem to be overcome.
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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: If you’re what they call a shy guy, you’re standing on the outside looking in. You might have something to contribute to their conversation, but nobody cares whether you do or not. There’s a barrier, and you don’t know how to begin breaking it down.
CORNISH: In the 1940s and ’50s, the message to most Americans was, don’t be shy. And in the era of reality television, Twitter and relentless self-promotion, it seems that cultural mandate is in overdrive.
A new book tells the story of how things came to be this way, and it’s called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The author is Susan Cain, and she joins us from the NPR studios in New York to talk more about it.
SUSAN CAIN: Thank you. It’s such a pleasure to be here, Audie.
CORNISH: Well, we’re happy to have you. And to start out – I think we should get this on the record – do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
CAIN: Oh, I definitely consider myself an introvert, and that was part of the fuel for me to write the book.
CORNISH: And what’s the difference between being an introvert versus being shy? I mean, what’s your definition?
CAIN: So introversion is really about having a preference for lower-stimulation environments – so just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action – whereas extroverts really crave more stimulation in order to feel at their best. And what’s important to understand about this is that many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial. And that’s really a misperception because actually, it’s just that introverts are differently social. So they would prefer to have, you know, a glass of wine with a close friend as opposed to going to a loud party full of strangers.
Now shyness, on the other hand, is about a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted without having that particular fear at all, and you can be shy but also be an extrovert.
Ivy League senior Ethan Carlson recently turned down a job with a global-energy consulting practice and instead pledged to spend two years working for an entrepreneur, perhaps with a focus on renewable energy, in a struggling U.S. city.
“I want to make an impact not only on myself, my career and my finances, but also society around me, and my local community,” the 21-year-old mechanical-engineering major at Yale University says.
The project he plans to join, Venture for America, was founded by Andrew Yang, the former chief executive of Manhattan GMAT, a test-preparation company acquired in 2009 by Kaplan, a Washington Post Co.
Venture for America says it was inspired by Teach for America, which places recent college graduates at schools in low-income communities for two years. This summer its first crop of about 50 “fellows” will be placed at small businesses such as Drop the Chalk, an education-software firm in New Orleans, and Andera Inc., an online-account-opening firm in Providence, R.I.
The companies will pay participants $32,000 to $38,000 a year, plus health benefits. The program includes a five-week program at Brown University that mimics training for consulting and investment banking.
Years ago I met a young woman at a networking event and we exchanged phone numbers; she was just starting her new business and was interested in talking about what I was doing in my work, and what she was developing. We became fast friends and exchanged plenty of information about how our businesses were developing on and off line. Her name is Vanessa Van Petten and she has grown her new little business into an amazing online resource of services, teachings and now several books for parents all about what it’s like being a teenager from a teen perspective. I recently spoke to Vanessa when she launched the sale of her new book Do I get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?, about the growth of her business and her experiences publishing three books – one self-published with a self-publishing company, one entirely on her own, and most recently with a big name New York publisher. Have a listen to this candid conversation about growing a business, and the changing challenges and demands of book publishing.
I always encourage lifelong learning, but now is absolutely the time to stretch out of our comfort zone to embrace the possibilities that this time of change presents. Stepping into change stems from hope….
When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide.
Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author of the book “The Great Disruption,” argues that these demonstrations are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits. “I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,” which is what he means by the Great Disruption, said Gilding. “Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken. Think about the promise of global market capitalism. If we let the system work, if we let the rich get richer, if we let corporations focus on profit, if we let pollution go unpriced and unchecked, then we will all be better off. It may not be equally distributed, but the poor will get less poor, those who work hard will get jobs, those who study hard will get better jobs and we’ll have enough wealth to fix the environment.
It’s an interesting phenomenon – the issues my clients face seem to come in waves. Recently I’ve seen several people who are struggling with horrible bosses and really lousy work environments. It makes sense, right? More people are more stressed at work that ever. Doing more with less, less turn around time to get things done, more emails, texts, etc coming at us than ever. But is this really unavoidable? Do you have to suffer in silence, take the abuse and then spread the negativity by talking it out with your friends and family; growling at the cashiers your encounter, drinking too much, or however else you deal with the nasty behavior of people who ‘control’ your working life?
You know what I’m going to say, right? No you don’t have to take it. Recently several clients of mine has decided that sticking it out in toxic work situations was not worth the risk of ruining their mental and physical health. They actually decided that, even without actual jobs to move to but with other options in the wings, to resign. Making the decision was scary, certainly, all things considered. But all things were considered, so clarity reigned. This is where the bravery lives.