If the world seems to demand that you become something you’re not, don’t worry. You can be authentic and follow your own path to success.
I remember coming out of high school straight into the military as a shy and introverted officer in training. I was so quiet a lot of people thought I would quit. I didn’t.
After studying electrical engineering for five years, I went off to serve another seven years in the Air Force. By the time I got out of the military, I had lost some of my speaking nervousness. Part of that was because of the varied experiences of leading others. A larger part of that was taking someone’s advice to join a local Toastmasters Club.
I think I’ve always pushed myself, but public speaking was right up there on the fear scale, just shy of death. After a few years, I got better at it but it wasn’t until much later I became more comfortable, to the point I am seeking out opportunities to speak.
Over the past year, I’ve been working with accountants, engineers and technical people who want to get into business. Many of them are quite high on the introversion scale, and a few are fairly shy about getting in front of people. Some also have English as a second language and are worried about being able to communicate their message effectively.
They all had a few things in common. For starters, they wanted to succeed in their new ventures as entrepreneurs, and they all knew that getting clients was essential to that success.
The only aspect that varied was the definition of success.
For some, it was a second income to give them financial freedom. Others have more lofty goals.
They define what success looks like.
Before the military experiences, before the Toastmaster’s training, before I developed the self-awareness to connect the dots, I didn’t know how to define success or achieve it. I just knew how I felt and where I wanted to be. I blindly pushed through the discomfort, but not always in a healthy way.
It took me a lot of years to figure things out and to realize:
- I am an introvert,
- Introverted and shy are two different things,
- There are no real limits on what either personality type can accomplish.
There may be no limits to what you can achieve, but there are some tricks I’ve learned that might help you to reach for your dreams with less struggling.
Embrace Who You Are
The leadership stereotypes are in our face every day. It is tempting to buy into them. You need to think fast on your feet, have a strong opinion about everything and be a communication dynamo. You must command the stage like the high energy giants in the speaking circuit.
So you believe that success requires you to learn to be something else; extroverted and outgoing and bouncing with energy.
But that is a lie.
There are plenty of introverts starting and successfully running businesses, succeeding in leadership positions and effectively performing on the stage.
You don’t need to live a lie and then deal with the stress and burnout out of not being authentic.
Tell Your Story
I’ve had numerous people tell me they have no story to tell. Typically they mean their life is not as exciting as they imagine other people’s lives to be. I used to think the same way about mine until I ran into some great teachers.
Your story — whether personal, career, or business, is probably more interesting than you think. It may not become a Hollywood blockbuster, but chances are your story will resonate with someone who is like you, wants to be like you, or has something in common with you.
Our authentic selves are the biggest gift we have to share. If you can get the basics right, who we are as individuals and our culture as a group will differentiate you a crowded marketplace more than many other factors.
Telling our story can be difficult for an introvert.
Stick To Your Passion and Expertise
In general, introverts don’t like to talk about fluff. Some don’t like to talk about themselves much either because that puts the attention on them.
If you get an introvert talking about something deeper and within their expertise, just watch the passion and engagement show through.
That is the one of the best tricks.
Focusing on your expertise and passion makes speaking in public a little easier. Once you don’t have to worry about your content, you can practice your skills and become more comfortable over time, if you choose.
Extroverts are not natural public speakers either. In fact, many are terrified of it. It is a learnable skill for anyone.
But as an introvert, do remember to take the time to recharge afterward.
Connect With People
Introverts tend to listen more intently before venturing an opinion. When you combine that with the desire to have deeper conversations, you have the potential of creating stronger connections and relationships.
This is one reason introverts can do well at sales. They tend to add more insight.
In networking, it is always good to focus on the other person first and foremost. Focusing on the other person can take your mind off yourself and your nervousness. Come prepared with a list of a few good conversation starters for the event. A few good connections are always better than a lot of superficial ones.
The Pen Is Mighty
Introverts can thrive online and through the written word. When you are online, you have the luxury of not having to respond immediately. You can think through your response before posting. In the right venue, you can have some pretty deep conversations and build relationships further.
The bonus is that when you meet in the physical world, the awkward part is out of the way. Building a few online relationships before attending a new event can make the whole thing a lot more pleasant.
The Path To Success
When I first run into a new entrepreneur who is introverted and maybe a little shy it is tempting to fall back on the limiting stereotypes.
I force myself to remember, there are no limits, only different paths and possibilities.
My goal is to try to help people find their own path to success, faster and a little easier.
How can you find your authentic path to success?
This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.
Photo Credits (Modified): Top – Flickr/Sarah Joy