The Knowledge Project: Susan Cain – Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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Intro
How does Susan spend her days?
  • The best days are when shes reading, writing, and playing tennis
  • She does this all while her kids are in school (ages 7 and 9)
What is Susan Reading?
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky – about the good and evil in human nature
  • What’s her reading process?
    • “Reading is too precious of a thing to apply the word ‘process’ to”
    • She reads when she wants, what she wants, when she wants
    • When she’s on vacation, she’s much more likely to read a fictional novel, at home she reads nonfiction
  • How does she filter what she reads?
    • She doesn’t, she goes for whatever interests her
  • She recently read The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Fronte
Inspiration and creativity
  • Susan gets really inspired by creative things (art, music, movies,plays. etc.) – she wants to make her own creative contribution to society
  • “I feel really driven to just express what it’s like to be alive, and tell the truth about it. I don’t think people tell the truth about it most of the time”
    • Just think about what we see on social media…
    • Understanding how difficult life can be sometimes causes love
      • Every person is imperfect
      • Your going to have good days, bad days, times when you feel joy, times when you feel upset – that’s how life is
      • “When we get upset about something, we don’t even realize it, but it’s coming from a feeling of ‘it’s not supposed to be this way'”
      • Whatever you’re feeling, it’s natural that it’s going to pass
Susan’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  • The book is about the powers that introverts have, despite the fact that we live in a world that’s biased towards extroversion
  • She used to be a lawyer before she became a writer
  • Across all cultures, introversion and extroversion are the most fundamental aspects of human nature, it explains so much about who we are
  • Since she was a kid, Susan has been an introvert
    • Although she’s running around giving talks (check out her TED Talk) and speeches, her underlying nature of being an introvert hasn’t changed
  • Susan estimates that around the year 1900, this topic started becoming a big deal – there we moved from being a culture of character to a culture of personality
    • People started moving from smaller areas where they new each other, to cities with people they’ve never met before and now needed to make good impression
    • Self help books of the 19th century were more about character, virtue, and integrity. In the 20th century, they were more about extroverted qualities.
  • “How would you choose to spend your time if you had no social and no professional obligations?” – that’s how you know your true self
    • Shane thinks he’s an undercover introvert masquerading as an extrovert – aren’t we all
What advice would Sharon have for introverts who feel their forced to be extroverted more than they desire?
  • We should step out of character for our important personal projects/work, but it’s important to schedule down time where we can truly be ourselves, and don’t have to be “on” at all
How does Susan create space in her relationship?
  • She’s married to an extrovert
  • Her work affords her a lot of solitude, but she’ll often take walks during family time when she needs space
Open offices and the workplace
  • Work place environments affect people tremendously
  • For many introverts, open offices are unproductive
  • Open offices are much more economically viable for companies
  • There’s this myth that creativity comes from collaboration, but perhaps it comes from solitude
  • Although she’s very introverted, Susan likes working in large cafes
  • Advice to an introvert in an open office?
    • Wear headphones
    • Schedule your breaks
    • Have everyone on your team take this personality test, and discuss how the results affect the way each of you likes to work – this allows you to create a space where its socially acceptable to have this conversation
How should managers think about hiring introverts/extroverts?
  • You want a mix
  • If you have a team of all introverts, things become too quiet
  • If you have a team of all extroverts, people won’t think things through enough
  • Introverts and extroverts are attracted to each other as colleagues and peers
Should we be structuring environments by work or by people? Is there types of work that lends itself to different environments?
  • It’s important to design workplaces now where people have a choice of how they want to work (open office spaces vs. closed door offices)
  • If someone needs space, they should be able to get it
Introverts and extroverts differ at a neurobiological level
  • Introverts have a nervous system that reacts more to stimulation
  • Extroverts have nervous systems that react less to stimulation
  • Our craving/tolerance for stimulation changes throughout the day, pay attention to this and you can find your sweet spot
Pay attention to what you tend to envy
  • “Jealousy is an ugly emotion but it’s revealing of the truth”
  • It’s the things you envy that point you in the the direction of what you really want for yourself
  • With social media, you’re only seeing the good, so it makes you feel like the imperfections of your life are that much worse
What does it mean to live a meaningful life?
  • Love and work, that’s what matters
  • It’s important to be tuned into the beauty and fragility of humanity, and yourself
    • Everyone who passes by you has their own struggles, it’s only when you’re aware of them, that you can really feel love towards other people
    • Watch this video by The Cleveland Clinic – remind yourself that everyone has their own ‘subtitle’, be conscious of this
      • REALLY WATCH THIS
  • Susan likes to keep a diary to put her thoughts on paper,
    • The serves as something that’s really just for you, to get you in a state of mind that it’s okay to tell the full truth about everything you think and feel

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