[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Monday, December 15, 2014

7 Traits: Are You An Extrovert, Introvert, or Ambivert?

Are you an introvert or extrovert? For years, I’ve been told (and so answered) that I was an extrovert. Turns out that wasn’t true. Or, at least, it was an oversimplification of the truth.

Most personality assessments (which I love), define you as one or the other. I’ve always received the result of extrovert from them. And all my friends and family have told me time and again that I’m a total extrovert. They’re basing this on true experiences of me.

I do love crowds (the bigger the better). Attention equals pleasure. Danger sounds fun. And I think by talking—I often know what I think only after it came out of my mouth. So I’m an extrovert, right?

It depends on what you mean my extrovert. I have read a bunch on this topic lately (the best book so far was Quiet by Susan Cain) and I’ve learned that there are really many different traits we throw in two big buckets, labeling them introvert and extrovert.

Extrovert Wiring Introvert Wiring
Motivated most by rewards (focus on what you might win) Motivated most by what you could lose (focus on cost)
Low sensitivity to the environment around you (so you like louder, brighter, more) High sensitivity to your environment (so you like softer, gentler, less)
Think by talking Think silently then talk about your conclusion
Energized by crowds Energized by alone time
Focused on external environment (what others think and feel) Focused on internal environment (what I think and feel)
Really enjoy novelty and variety Really enjoy familiarity and routine
Thrive under pressure (competition, deadlines, attention, etc) Thrive when you set your own goals (you push yourself enough that the extra pressure distracts you)

We talk about people as if they all are all one thing or another. But it’s not always true. Many people aren’t just all one type. In fact, many people are a mix of traits, part-extrovert and part-introvert.

Turns out when I look at a more thorough list of extroverts and introverts, I’m actually what is called an ambivert. (Comes from the same word we get ambidextrous—which I’m not—meaning you can use either hand). The extrovert elements are truly there. But there are other, less obvious facets of introversion that are also totally true. It’s not all or nothing.

For example, while I love crowds—they really give me a lot of energy—my favorite way to spend a day off is reading quietly at home. And while I think by talking, writing is even better at helping me thing (hence this blog) so I spend hours quietly writing and rewriting my thoughts. And while I love new and innovative things, I eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day and have the same lunch about 80% of the time (occasionally my lunch is chosen by others).

For fun, I invite you to make a totally non-scientific personality assessment out of this. How many extrovert and introvert qualities do you have? 

(By the way, I am more extrovert than introvert. 4 of the 7 traits listed above, I lean extrovert).

I’m not an expert on this area, so these aren’t all the qualities that could be listed. They’re just the ones I know about right now. I’m still learning. And the more I learn about how to get the best out of myself, the more I realized I need to make room for the introverted aspects of myself, to honor and encourage them just as much as I have the extroverted aspects of my life.

I’m writing more. I’m scheduling more alone time after big crowd events. And I’m finding I have more energy, deeper insights, and just plain more fun being me. What part of your wiring needs more room to breathe?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Preserve the Core IN ORDER TO Stimulate Progress

Good to Great, by Jim Collins is one of the most read and admired leadership for business books in the last twenty years. And it’s one of my favorite’s, too. It’s full of insights on how good organizations go to great—based on studies of organizations who did just that.

The concept I use most in my leadership—and in my life—is preserve the core and stimulate progress.

These two ideas are often pit against each other as mutually exclusive. From politics to financial planning, there are bitter fights about whether we should protect what has been or innovate and improve. But there’s a big difference between ideas in tension and opposites.

Every person, family, business, church, and technology have a core, a foundation that is at the heart of their success. Losing a healthy core leads to destruction. But we know stories of people and organizations who simply wouldn’t grow and change. From Kodak’s dismissal of digital photography to your Aunt Myrtle who won’t touch a computer, real tragedy comes from rejecting the need for progress.

Collins found that great organizations did both. Easy to say, harder to do, right? How do you know what the right balance is? How do you know when you’ve gone too far? Turns out the key to managing this tension has nothing to do with balance.

The more clearly you understand and name your foundation, the easier it is to innovate without threatening it. It’s when you don’t truly know what’s core that you risk destroying it through foolish innovation. And the deeper your insight, the more truly you see which core ideas and people and resources make up your foundation, the asker it is to protect your core.

Kodak’s problem was not that it was too concerned about it’s core. It’s problem was that it understood it’s core too shallowly. They thought they were in the photo paper business, when they were in the memory capture business.

In the end, great organizations—great people and families—do not compromise one inch on their core. They completely preserve the core. And knowing what that is allows them to be as creative and unconventional as they can be in all non-core areas. But when you don’t know what’s core and what’s not, every decision requires an exhausting deliberation.

What’s your core? How well are you preserving that? And what’s not core? How well are you doing in progressing in those areas?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Be Afraid For the Right Reasons (not manipulated by relative numbers)

Fear is incredibly motivating, right up there with love, shaping our choices, shaping our lives. At it’s best, fear keeps us alive. But fear has a flaw that love and imagination do not. Fear is very easily aroused. A very small trigger can produce a tsunami of fear, washing away all other thoughts and driving us to action—NOW. 

More and more influencers—from advertisers to leaders of noble non-profits—realize the unrivaled power of fear in moving people to action. There are naked appeals to subtle suggestions, we are bombarded with messages of fear. You are at risk, your family is at risk, our nation, our way of life is at risk—unless you act in a particular way, of course.

I don’t see them changing tactics anytime soon. So if we’re going to make wise decisions, I think we need to get smarter and more disciplined in responding to all these messages of fear. Mastering this is multifaceted and doesn't fit in one blog post. But I can expose one of the most common manipulation techniques: confusing relative risk with absolute risk.

Beware whenever you hear something like, “twice as likely to cause blood clots” or “three times more accidents from” or “50% greater chance of causing cancer”. If that phrase is not followed with absolute numbers, showing how many people actually got cancer in one group versus another, or how many more accidents there were, then distrust what they told you.

Example: there was a drug commercial some years back with this message, “Our drug gets the same results as the other drug you already know, but that other drug is twice as likely to give you blood clots in your legs. And here’s what blood clots look like.” They got you afraid of blood clots—and then repeated how the other guys are twice as likely to cause them. They didn’t lie—it was totally true. But they only told the relative risk, not the absolute numbers.

The real numbers: the drug in the commercial has a 0.015 chance of causing blood clots and the “dangerous” drug has a 0.03 chance of causing blood clots. For every 100 people who take each drug, 1.5 or 3 people get blood clots, In absolute terms, there’s no meaningful difference. 

50% more cancer from a food could mean a jumpy from 6 to 9 people out of a group of 10,000. In fact, most of the “causes cancer” claims on food are actually a slight increase in relative risk, when you read the fine print.

It takes extra work to look past the dramatic statements in our commercials and political speeches and grocery stores. It requires mental discipline to withhold your judgement when it seems so obvious But what you earn for this work is peace of mind. You don’t have to live in a cloud of constant fear. More importantly, you can know which things you really should fear and make wiser choices as a result.

In fact, I think you’ll be five times as likely to avoid looking like a fool if you take my advice. :)

photo credit: zetson via photopin cc