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So as she gets up to present from the TED2012 stage, bag in hand, it is not a comfortable experience. But it s an important one, and t hat s the point. Her family grew up reading they would read together and bring books on trips. Th at s how they were social. She tells a story of going to camp at age 9. Her mother packed her a bag full of books to read quietly, the normal thing her family did on vacation, thinking camp would be the same, I had a vision of ten girls sittin g in a cabin reading books in their matching night-gowns. But when she got to Camp Rowdie (as they spelled it), she was ridiculed the first time she read her book, for not being social and outgoing and not having enough camp spirit. So she put her books away, and didn t get them out for the rest of the summer. (And she driv es the point home by putting her bag under a table.) She has, she tells us, at least 50 stories like that. 50 ways, little and small, where the message was clearly sent: being an introvert is wrong. And that bugged her. Cain felt had an intuition that as an introvert she had val ue. But she didn t know how to articulate that at the time, and so she became a la wyer. She wanted to be an author, but all her internalized notions about what is good made her reflexively choose the profession associated with extroversion, c hoose to go to a bar rather than a nice dinner with friends. That bias, she claims, is everyone s loss. While the world certainly need extrover ts, it also needs introverts doing what they do best. It s a bias that has no name . To understand it, we need to understand that introversion isn t about not being social, it s not being shy, it s about how someone responds to stimulation. While ex troverts crave social interaction, introverts are much more alive while they re al one. Cain brings in her thesis with the insight that, The key to maximizing talen ts is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that s right for you. It s a simple-sounding lesson, but a very difficult one to really get, and act on. As she points out, we re living in a culture that increasingly values groupthink . We believe that creativity comes from a very oddly gregarious place. In the cl assroom, where Cain and her fellow students used to sit in rows, and to read and work alone, students are increasingly put in groups and asked to be committee m embers even for solving math problems or creative writing. Kids who prefer to wo rk alone are seen as problem cases, and graded accordingly. Teachers report, and believe, that the ideal student is extroverted. ( Even though introvers get bette r grades, and are more knowledgeable. ) And it s the same in office environments. Introverts are routinely passed over for leadership roles. That s a real problem because research has shown that, as leade rs, introverts are more careful, much less likely to take outsized risks, and ar e more likely to let creative and proactive team members run with their own idea s, rather than run over them or squash them something that should be an ideal tr ait in the modern office. Indeed, says Cain, some of the most transformative leaders in history Eleanor Ro osevelt, Ghandi, Rosa Parks were introverts. Each of those described themselves as quiet, soft-spoken, or shy. That quietness had a special, extraordinary power of it s own. People could tell that these leaders were there because they had no choice, because they were doing what they thought was right. Of course, Cain loves introverts, and no one is purely intro- or extroverted. We all fall somewhere on that spectrum. But most of us recognize ourselves as one or another, and culturally we need a better balance, we need a better Yin and Yan g between these two things.
Darwin took long walks in the wo ods and turned down dinner invitations. be like Buddha. Margaret Atwood and Eumonides.) But why are we getting it so wrong? Part of it is our history. But the more freedom we gi ve introverts to be themselves. Buddha. We can t be in a group of people without instinctively mirroring each other. but we could all stand to unplug a nd be in our heads for a time. are her grandfather s favorite authors. or comfortably to her. seven years of reading. Seuss wrote alone. collaboration is good (witness Woz and Steve Jobs ). and more autonomy. Mohammed. researching. in fact: Milan Kundera. and great spaces to make serendipitous interactions. It took her seven years to write. Cain wrote her book. most major religions have seekers. he would end the conversation earl y. Tho se. this year of speaking dangerously. Well. But we need much more privacy.) Offices need c hatty conversations. but also how to work alone. but there is a transcendent power of solitude. (Hesitant. (The audience applauds. and he took the fruits of his reading and wo uld weave these intricate tapestries for his congregation. and it was Cain s favorite place. is a key to creativity. It turns o ut to be: Books! Three. because she thinks the world is on the brink of change in how we tr eat introverts. and was afraid of meeting the kids who read his books for fear they would be disappointed at how quiet he was. But she s excited about it. even though there is no correlation between being a good spe aker and having great ideas. he had trouble making eye contact with the same people he had led for 62 years. for fear he was wasting their time. as Cain says. the more freedom they ll have to come up with thei r own creative solutions. Following in his example.Solitude. and why you put it there. Yes. To help that along. 3) Take a good look at what s inside your own suitcase. He read constantly. no revelation. That leads to a way of thinking that values being outgoing and charismatic. and groups follow the most c haristmatic person. He lived alone in a small Brooklyn appartment fille d with books. man On t op of that. Late into his life. Dr. That s not something that com es easily. Those same religions all t each love and trust. And now that it s done she needs to go out in the world and talk about it. Her grandfather was a rabbi. 2) Go to the wilderness. Have your own revelations. then full laughter from the TED crowd. it turns out. as he talked. He loved to read. Steve Wozniak claimed he never would have become such an expert if he left the house. teach kids to work together. And the things we re learning from psychology affirm this. she is not talking about eliminating teamwork. and instead of working w ith people they ve known their whole life. she has three calls to action: 1) End the madness of constant group-work. You don t have t o go build huts in the woods and be isolated. No wilderness. Western societies have always favored the man of action over the man of contemplation. And when he died at age 92. Indeed. Ex . The same is true more true for schoo ls. Again. Of course. Cain steps back to her suitcase and offers to tell us what s in it now. the police had to shut down the street because of th e throngs of admirers who wanted to pay their respects. and we need that more than ever. thinking total bliss. Jesus. when someone called him. And yet. people are moving to cities and new places. they have to meet and impress new peopl e. each went in to the wild to learn. but also loved h is congregation.
I hope you will open the suitcase up. In a sign that she s right that change is coming. and that s cool. whose bags might be filled with Champagne bubbles and sky-diving kits. becau se the world needs you and what you carry.. grace us with the energy and joy of these objects. Introverts probably guard th e secrets of their suitcases.troverts. in trovert and extrovert alike rises to give a standing ovation. But occasionally. almost the entire auditorium. . just occasionally.