From Within: An Introvert’s Company Building Journey
I recently read an article entitled Being An Entrepreneur When You’re Not Extroverted, written by Meredith Fineman. The author is a self-proclaimed ambivert (both an extrovert and introvert) and also an entrepreneur. It’s an interesting read that discusses how to balance the social expectations (and often the necessity) of entrepreneurship with a personality that just doesn’t want to cooperate.
This topic struck a particular chord with me because as I begin my journey towards building a company, I often think, “How the hell am I really going to do this?”
Oh don’t worry, I’m plenty confident in my abilities and I’m definitely not afraid to take risks. The problem is that I’m somewhere between an ambivert and an introvert, which means more often than not, I’m fine on my own or with a small group of people. Not networking or going out every night. Not hosting seminars and workshops. And certainly not speaking at a conference.
At least, that’s what I’ve always told myself. Now that I’ve started a company and plan to grow it, I realize I’m going to have to face these fears and not only accomplish them, but accomplish them well. I guess it’s a good thing I’m confident while still willing to fail, because chances are good that I’ll stumble somewhere along the way. But that’s okay, as long as I get there in the end.
It’s also comforting to know that I’m not alone, since the majority of the population is ambiverts. Within the industry, Ross Hudgens documented his initial struggles with public speaking and how he was able to overcome the challenges to succeed in less than a year. And I’m sure there are others who have big ideas and all the necessary skills (save for their personality and gift of gab).
Being introverted isn’t going to prevent me from building a company; it’s just one obstacle among the many I’m sure to encounter.
Extracting The Extrovert
My biggest issue is that I’ve been really afraid of speaking in front of more than a handful of people ever since I first had to give a speech in elementary school. I survived, obviously, but every time I’ve had to do it since - whether it was a short company-wide introduction at a new job or a university presentation - my sole focus has been just that, surviving. Of course I haven’t made any progress if my only goal has been to get it over with in hopes of never needing to do it again.
Acknowledging that I have a weakness I need to improve is fine. I can’t pretend to be good at something I’m not. But at least I can work towards actually getting better at speaking and presenting, especially now that I’ve written it down. I will learn from others, I’ll read articles, maybe I’ll even take a class. The only way I’m going to get any better is to go out and do.
There’s an extrovert - or at least more of one - in me somewhere. I don’t have any problem talking to people and always get along great with everybody. When I go out, I prefer to go to a pub where I can enjoy some beers and good conversation (as opposed to a club or a noisy bar). It doesn’t make all that much sense that I can’t stand in front of a room full of people and talk about things I’d be fine talking about in conversation, it just is.
But not for long.