Lessons learned from Quiet

I just finished Susan Cain's Quiet on my trip back from the Lanzarote triathlon. The book shared a perspective and personality type that I don't encounter often in a pitch-heavy, sell yourself startup world.

And in many ways, Quiet was a reflection of my own journey from a quiet, sensitive immigrant caught between two cultures to a very different person, albeit a bit more comfortable with who I am. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and the below is a selected few quotes that resonate with me.

About practice, expansion of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour theories, and why solitude is great for achievement:

What's so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it's only when you're alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on a task that's most challenging to you personally."

For some reason I gravitate towards this next quote. It speaks to me about how there needs to be a "person-environment fit"; one should always aim to find an environment (city, industry, community) that fits their specific personality:

Scientists have found that nomads who inherited the form of a particular gene linked to extroversion are better nourished than those without this version of the gene. But in settled populations, people with same gene have poorer nutrition. The same traits that make a nomad fierce enough to hunt and to defend livestock against raiders may hinder more sedentary activities like farming, selling goods at the markets, or focusing at school.

The below quote shows that as much as introversion is a nature feature, there is a huge nurture component as well:

Little beloved that fixed traits and free traits coexist. According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits - introversion for example - but we can and do act out of character in the service of "core personal projects"

And what projects give us the strength to step outside our comfort zones? Cain suggests a framework:

...I have found three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.

first, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up?

second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to.

finally, pay attention to what your envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth.

For me the answer to the first part was unequivocally to be a super-hero. I so badly wanted to help others. I remember asking Santa to transform me into Spider-Man one Christmas.

I gravitate to work that has meaning and purpose. I do work best when I know it makes a difference in the lives of others. I also gravitate towards tasks that are hard, challenging, or outside my comfort zone.

Growing up, I was envious of people that had momentum in their lives. They always achieved one thing after next, going from challenge to challenge. I think I was envious that they had the audacity and courage to pursue their dreams and push their boundaries. I've learned to be more secure by pursuing my own challenges, with the relentless focus that is my own.

What about yours?