Innie or Outie?

Are you an “innie or an outie?” And I’m not talking about belly buttons. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Before you answer you should know that there are many common misconceptions about these terms. The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung developed extensive research on this subject. In fact, Jung actually used the term “extravert” instead of “extrovert.” Over the years the word seemed to have morphed into the “extrovert” terminology we use today. So, when you hear these words, what do you think? An introvert is shy and an extrovert is outgoing? As with many things, this is an oversimplification. Think about how we recharge our batteries. Do you find that you gain renewed energy from being alone in solitude or by being around other people? Technically, introverts seek renewal alone and extroverts recharge through interaction with others. But enough with the technicalities. Let’s explore introversion and extroversion in the more traditional sense.

How can introverts and extroverts survive and thrive with each other? How can an introvert succeed when many situations call for a high degree of sociability and gregariousness? And how do extroverts avoid coming across as a bull in a china shop in situations that need reflection and finesse?

I know a person who has a position that requires considerable interaction with others in a public setting. This individual makes outstanding presentations to large groups of people but struggles mightily with one-on-one interaction. I and others question his genuineness and authenticity as a result of this challenge with his personality. People see him as a masterful “performer” on stage but are frustrated because the “act” doesn’t translate into personal charisma.

For those of us who might find it challenging to engage easily with others, here are some ideas. Step into it. Play offense instead of defense. We can put ourselves in situations where we have the opportunity for interaction. Maybe it’s at a conference or a gathering of some sort. We find someone who isn’t already talking to others and go introduce ourselves. Be strong. The handshake is firm and we make friendly eye contact. The person I mentioned in the preceding paragraph has a tendency to either avoid eye contact or look over my shoulder. Smile. Always smile. It helps us to put ourselves and others at ease. Relax. Don’t try too hard. We just need to be who we are – not someone else. And yes, we can be strong and relaxed at the same time. This actually projects confidence.

On the other end of the spectrum some of us may be somewhat supercharged with extroversion. In certain situations this can be overwhelming to others and can come across in a high pressure salesman manner. Of course we don’t want to be perceived this way. Many extroverts have a great deal of nervous energy and perhaps even a touch (or mega dose) of ADHD. This reflects in their speech patterns and mannerisms.

As extroverts we need to work to “dial it back” at times. Zip it. We may have a tendency to dominate conversations. Instead, we need to make a concerted effort to create a dialogue where we make sure that others have a chance to express themselves. Chill. Somehow we have to resist the urge to outwardly manifest all of the energy that is pent-up inside. Calm. We need to replace the pent-up energy with calmness. Don’t worry; our charisma is so strong that we won’t be seen as a shrinking violet. Smile. A friendly smile is disarming and sends positive vibes to others. As extroverts we may have a tendency to be too intense. Remembering to always smile will put others at ease.

Introverts and extroverts must make a mutual effort to co-exist and collaborate. When they succeed, they can do great things together.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Sleepless in Seattle

I’m going to briefly describe a scenario to see if it sounds at all familiar to you. Here goes. Your day was particularly stressful and things didn’t go the way you wanted. A fairly major and troublesome issue is unresolved and needs fixing immediately. You go to bed with the weight of your day still front and center. While you toss and turn your mind churns with thoughts from the day. Twenty minutes go by. You stare at the ceiling. Fifty minutes have passed and you might have faded in and out but you don’t know for sure. At some point during the night you awaken, realizing your dreams are becoming beyond weird. Then that troublesome issue starts its nocturnal carousing. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of heads are nodding right now.

We all have obviously experienced what I described above. There are a number of emotions driving this response including anxiety, fear, frustration, anger and guilt. Isn’t it interesting that it’s usually the negative stuff that keeps us awake at night? Think about it. We generally don’t stay awake because we are feeling euphoria, happiness, joy, peace or gratitude. When we’re “Sleepless in Seattle” it’s a sure bet that we won’t get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning. So what to do?

I have self-developed a technique that works very well for me and perhaps it will be helpful for you as well. I call it the three Rs – Relax, Release and Replace. Relax may sound trite, but it’s absolutely necessary. OK, you say, how am I supposed to relax when I’m all balled up inside? Start with a bedtime routine. Try and go to bed at the same time every night. Watch what you eat and drink within two or three hours of going to bed. Practice meditating to clear your mind. When you go to bed, be very aware of your breathing. See that it becomes slow, measured and deep.

Now that you are in somewhat of a relaxed state it’s time to Release. Recently I woke up in the middle of the night as I usually do to take a pill and make the journey to the bathroom. Normally I go right back to sleep, but this particular night my mind went into overdrive. The issue stemmed from a nasty surprise in one of my businesses that could have proven to be very expensive. In the past I might have allowed my thoughts to spin out of control and ultimately begin envisioning the worst possible scenarios. But this time I said to myself, “Lee, you are not going to solve this tonight. It will still be there in the morning and you will need a fresh perspective which you won’t have if you stay awake for the next four hours.” Then I smiled and went back to sleep because I knew this to be the truth.

Finally it’s time for the last step . . . Replace. Once you’ve released the thoughts that are keeping you awake, replace them with positive thoughts. One of my favorite places in the whole world is on the side of a fairly steep hill on a Caribbean island overlooking the ocean with a clear blue sky and the sun’s light flooding every inch of the experience. It’s not hard for me to bring this vision into my consciousness which makes me feel very warm and safe. Falling asleep at that point is a breeze.

Lying awake and churning a problem – large or small – generally accomplishes nothing. Creative solutions are inspired by healthy sleep and a clear head. Consistently using the Three Rs technique puts us on a successful path toward accomplishing this.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

sleepless

Square Pegs, Round Holes

Question: There are times when the harder I try to get something to work the less likely I am to succeed. Naturally this is frustrating but I don’t want to give up. Help!

Answer: Take solace – we’ve all been there at one time or another. Here’s what happens. We have a goal in mind. Let’s simplify it for illustrative purposes. We want to thread a tiny fishing line into a tiny eye of a tiny hook. We have the best of intentions – we just want to thread the hook. But our eyesight may not be the best; our fingers might be too big; the light might not be right; we may have trouble holding the hook steady (and maybe the line too) – all of these elements may be working against us. What do we do? We keep pushing that line at the hook’s eye and we keep missing. Over and over and over we do this with the frustration mounting.

How do we finally thread the line through the hook? We slow down. We make sure the light is right. We put our reading glasses on. We take a deep breath and relax. And guess what – the line goes right into the eye of the hook. The lesson here is that when we try and force things we often fail.

As entrepreneurs we need to use this simple lesson as we go about our daily business. I spent many years trying to “muscle” my way to accomplish my goals. There were times when I tried to “will” things to happen the way I wanted. This was a classic case of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. It just didn’t work. Oh, there were plenty of times that I accomplished my goal. But that square peg may have been mangled in the process.

I finally broke the code when I realized that my “muscle” approach was actually causing me to be “muscle bound.” I learned that my high sense of urgency was causing me to plunge into trying to accomplish something without the necessary foundation being laid. I discovered that doing more research and creating a solid plan was a good launching pad. It also became apparent that maintaining a higher sense of awareness about what was happening along the way would serve me well. How were people responding to my approach? Did I need to provide better and clearer directions? By relaxing and keeping a positive attitude I was able to still maintain my sense of urgency, and the path to success was smoother and more certain.

When we feel as though we are running into walls it’s time to take a step back. Reassess the situation. Create a new plan. Relax. Then start again with a new and positive attitude.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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I’m Stuck!

Question: I feel stuck right now. It seems as though I’m on a treadmill and going nowhere. The frustration seems overwhelming. Advice?

Answer: This often is a common feeling for everyone. For entrepreneurs the frustration can seem especially acute. We tend to be Type A personalities who want things to happen . . . and right now! Sometimes this frustration can actually block the positive flow of energy on which we thrive. And then it becomes a vicious cycle – the more the energy doesn’t flow, the more we feel like we’re going to burst with frustration.  

Let me provide a flying analogy. I’ll never forget the sage advice of my flight instructor years ago when I was taking pilot training. He told me that when things go haywire the first thing to do is to simply, “fly the airplane.” Don’t worry about anything else – just keep the wings level and fly the airplane. That’s my advice here. When this frustration wells up don’t lose your head – just remember to relax. Spend some time finding a calm moment – visualize putting your frustration on the shelf – after all, it’s not going anywhere without you. 

Next, it’s important to get out of yourself. What does this mean? Entrepreneurs have the tendency to dwell on whatever issues may be causing the frustration they are feeling. Once we relax we need to understand that there are other things more important in life than we are. This is a humbling realization. Consider being of service to others in some way. Volunteer at a food pantry. Be a Big Brother or a Big Sister. Teach a Sunday school class. Some time ago when I was dealing with a lot of frustration, I volunteered at a local children’s hospital. I had a ball reading stories and playing games with sick children. Being of service helps us to channel positive energy to the benefit of others. And guess what? All of a sudden the frustration melts away and the positive energy flows again!

I can’t promise that relaxing, getting out of yourself and being of service to others will solve all of the problems that led to your frustration. But getting rid of the feeling of being stuck will help you see more clearly the way to fix what needs fixing.