LIGHT IT UP Preview: The Hip Hip Hooray

As the completion of my second book Light it Up draws closer, I want to share with you an excerpt- from the “Rewards and Recognition” chapter. I hope you’ll enjoy, and I look very forward to sharing the rest of its pages with you in a few short months!


Did you know that a (nearly) full-sized adult can fit under the seat of a school bus?

I learned this from experience on August 23rd, 2006.

I wasn’t hiding from danger, or embarrassment, or from bullying or teasing. I was hiding from a chorus, sing-screaming “The Birthday Song” at the top of their lungs. I was further startled and shaken by a head poking down next to mine, my friend Sami, to make sure I heard every word.

This isn’t the first time that such recognition brought my insides to the brink of curdling. As it happens, it generally involves being sung to on my birthday. But I’ve also learned in the years since that this reaction to being pushed into the center of attention, is by no means uncommon for introverts. While many care deeply about being appreciated by the people around them, few will revel in the opportunity for that appreciation to be shown in a public forum. Sophia Dembling put it beautifully: “I accept attention, sometimes I invite it, but I don’t compete for it.”

“Wait a minute,” you may be wondering, “doesn’t this vision of introverts reinforce some of the stereotypes ascribed to them?” In some ways, I suppose it does. To say “be careful how you recognize introverts! No surprises! Watch out!” makes them appear fragile, volatile even, like an unstable chemical compound or a jack-in-the-box. But the reason I’m so bullish about making this point is because a lack of care when doing so reinforces different stereotypes about introverts, ones that aren’t so nice. The rush of “power usage” that comes from being unable to effectively manage the energy that an unexpected place in a ceremony, results in an appearance of standoffishness, indifference, or a lack of gratitude- persistent stereotypes and misconceptions that sadly already plague introverts.

At the same time, many of us survive in (and perhaps, whether meaning to or not, cultivate) an environment devoid of recognition. Seeking efficiency and efficacy, we overlook what it may mean to praise the good work of a colleague or advisee. While this move may seem easier on all, few (irrespective of temperament) thrive in this version of a work climate. To halt recognition because “there isn’t time” or because it makes some people uncomfortable, isn’t an effective solution either. We always have time for what we prioritize, and I’m of the belief that showing appreciation and recognition for good work should always be a priority.

Not only do I wish that the landscape of rewards and recognition were better for introverts, but I wish it were better overall. But we’ll concentrate on the former here; I’ll briefly share a few tips on how to recognize the good work and growth of introverted student leaders without sending them retreating to the safety of the underside of a seat. It’s uncomfortable under there. I’ll note that many of these tips apply to recognition in the form of ceremonies; after that, I’ll share a few more private recognition and reward methods that could take the place of a large event.

Change the time of day. As odd as it may seem, it may make more sense to hold some of these recognition ceremonies early in the day. In addition to getting the work day off to a good start, the quieter of your students stand a chance of being better energized early in the day, before their daily routines and other elements have had the opportunity to wear on them. It presents different logistical challenges than a ceremony later in the day, but advance notice can sometimes address that concern.

Let them know in advance. Speaking of advance notice…a quick note to those that like awards to be a surprise: not everyone likes, or works well under, those conditions. And the rush of stimulation that comes with an attempt to simultaneously comprehend a surprise and a surprise space in the spotlight, is an excellent recipe for introvert overwhelm.

By the same token, I’m sensitive to the notion of wanting there to be some semblance of suspense to the proceedings. To that end, I would recommend informing honorees of a nomination, and strongly encouraging attendance. That combination allows individuals to prepare for the inevitability of taking the stage, and presents a bit of the mystique that is so attractive to those that do like surprises.

Enlist the help of those they’ve bonded with. As we’ve established elsewhere in this volume, introverts take personal bonds very seriously; they serve to ground them, provide a sense of stability in a world that can sometimes sneak up on you. Should you elect to maintain uncertainty or high stimulation in your proceedings, do your best to ensure that there is someone in the audience or nearby who they are comfortable with and can provide a calming presence amidst a scenario that may feel chaotic in the moment.

If your students are allowed to bring outside guests, encourage they bring a close family member or friend to the ceremony with them (another way of signifying, “Hey, something’s going to happen!”); if space doesn’t allow for it, encourage they have a friend or mentor from campus on hand.

Quietly spread the word. David Zweig, author of the book “Invisibles,” expertly unpacked this term as a means to classify those who fit some or all of the following traits: generally ambivalent to recognition, meticulous, and comfortable taking on responsibility. While invisibles are not all introverted (by any means), it is a common station that introverts find themselves in. They don’t work or excel for recognition, but at the same time would like their good and hard work to be appreciated. A great way to do this is to share meaningfully news of awards and recognition.

Consider pairing an award with a press release to be sent to a student’s hometown newspaper, a detailed LinkedIn recommendation or recommendation letter, or a note of gratitude to send to family members (one year, on Student Employee Appreciation Day, I crafted thank you notes to my two students, and mailed thank you notes to their parents). If your campus uses a news dissemination platform such as Merit, ensure that this accomplishment is verified on their profile, so it announces itself without them having to negotiate nervousness about “tooting their own horn.”

Separate your spoons and glasses. Unless you know someone has prepared a speech (to this day, the only time I know of someone having a speech prepared for what was otherwise deemed a surprise, was my father at his 50th birthday party), don’t ask that someone – anyone! – speak extemporaneously when receiving an award. Some of the reasons for this may be logistical, but others are temperamental. In The Introvert’s Way, Dembling draws a connection between introversion and a common trait associated with them, preparedness: “Introverts think carefully before they speak. We can be excellent public speakers because we prepare carefully.” As such, a request for an eloquent speech within moments of winning may be infeasible. Think, after all, of actors and actresses who ascend the stage at the Oscars. Those who don’t prepare speeches rarely knock it out of the park- this could be part of the reason why.

Save it for posterity. How can a few hours of recognition be meaningfully recalled in the years ahead? A hint: it will likely take more than a small bundle of candy or a votive candle. It’s always nice to have something to refer back to as motivation during your tougher seasons; not a souvenir, but something more substantive. Could you allow winners to keep copies of the speeches given at their acceptance? Do you share the nomination letters with them? Is the ceremony recorded? Any of these methods could be used as an additional gift for those who win. To be able to take in the pride and accomplishment of the moment in one’s own time is among the greatest gifts you could give an introvert (or anyone, for that matter!); finding a way to do so would be a wonderful way of acknowledging your appreciation for them.

What other tips do you have for recognizing introverts?

Coming Soon: LIGHT IT UP

As some of you may know, I’m spending the month of August toiling away at a book project. Today, I want to introduce you to the cover art and premise of this work, which I am hoping (hoping!) to release in October.

I present to you…Light It Up: Engaging the Introverted Student Leader.

light it up front cover art

In The I’s Have It, I discussed how introversion manifested itself in the profession of student affairs, and how to live a life as a professional that allowed this element of your temperament to display itself naturally. In Light It Up, I extend that desire for natural expression to students, and discuss how to engage and support involved students through five stages of the involvement and leadership process:

  • Recruitment
  • Selection and Training
  • Advising and Supervision
  • Evaluation and Assessment
  • Rewards and Recognition

It will also feature essays from other professionals on how to support students as they seek to buck stereotypes of their temperament, avoid assumptions of shyness, and incorporate creativity into their routines.

When it arrives this October (I just have to keep saying it), it will be available for purchase in both paperback and e-book formats. I’ll be sending along a few updates as I go; if you’d like to know how it’s going and get sneak previews, let me know below!

I Want You to HAVE Something…August Book Giveaway

pasta rice image

 

As this post goes live, I’ll be on day three of my August writing challenge, encouraged by Tyler Knott Gregson. While I’ve vowed that part of that time will be dedicated to writing sketches, a pastime that went by the wayside after I finished classes, I’m also dedicating the bulk of that time to the completion of my second book, Light it Up: Engaging Introverted Student Leaders. But in the meantime, I want to share a copy of the first book ahead of the new school year, The I’s Have It: Reflection on Introversion in Student Affairs.

The I’s Have It is a great way to understand yourself and your own introverted ways, can be an excellent gift for the new graduate student or professional in your life, or could even be added to an office library for colleagues to use!

All you have to do to be eligible to win is to let me know: what will you do to manage your own introversion in the school year ahead, OR what will you do to help an introvert in your life be more effective in the classroom or at work. Be sure to include an email address, so I can be in touch and mail out your copy!

Entries will close on Sunday, August 9th, at noon EST; the winner will be notified by Tuesday, August 11th.

THE I’S HAVE IT Flashback: The Introverted Grad’s Guide

As I continue work on a new project highlighting introversion, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit my first treatise on the topic, The I’s Have It. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing tidbits that could be helpful as you gear up for the fall. Today: from chapter 7, some “survival tips” for the introverted grad student. Come back next week for your chance at a FREE copy!

Graduate programs in student affairs or higher education can seem particularly daunting for the sorts of students they tend to attract. I remember realizing fairly early in my graduate journey, that my classroom was populated by students who had all been the first to speak up in their undergraduate classes. For a time, I think I allowed that notion to overcome me, and it affected my willingness to raise my voice in class. But as the cohort grew closer and we learned more about one another, I came to a few conclusions. First, we were all intimidated! we all had moments when we weren’t sure if we were supposed to be there. By appealing to each others’ areas of interest or expertise, we created an environment where we were (mostly) free to speak our minds. Secondly, and of equal importance, I discovered I wasn’t the only introvert in the group. Introverts, being prone to internalization, generally believe they are the only ones feeling or thinking as they are. But by finding other kindred spirits who shared my temperament, I built a level of comfort with my classmates that allows me to count many of them among my closest friends today.

Alliances, both like the one I built with Jeff (mentioned in Chapter Three), as well as ones I created with more introverted colleagues, can be helpful when navigating the sometimes intimidating landscape of a practically-based graduate education. So many opportunities lie before graduate students in this field, and we expect herculean pursuit of all of them. Assistantships, internships, practica, publication, presentations, professional association boards…I could go on, but you catch my meaning. The options presented are dizzifying. And not unlike our perspective on the undergraduate experience, we frown upon those who are not in a tizzy of activity during the duration of their waking hours. So how does an introvert cope with a myriad of demands on time and energy that can’t always be relied upon?

Aspire to depth, not breadth. There will be a temptation to overcommit. Fight it. There will be thoughts of inadequacy for not being able to say yes to every opportunity. Banish them. The nature of introversion invites these feelings of doubt because we know more about our perspective than we do anyone else’s. But this deep self-awareness can serve as an asset in this instance. What do you really like? What are you really good at? If you are a good presenter, concentrate on making your impact through presentation proposals and opportunities. If you’re particularly interested in publishing articles on a topic, seek out opportunities to be featured and concentrate on that venue. Focus your efforts toward opportunities that energize and interest you. That depth will serve you as well as breadth could serve extroverts; you’ll be able to effectively harness your natural ability to concentrate meaningfully, and you won’t live in fear of forgetting one of so many commitments.

Explore your interests. A related point to the previous one: take the two years of graduate school to find out what you’re good at. A research mindset and unprecedented access to written resources (sometimes your access to library materials is greater as a student than as a staff member, so take advantage while you can!) creates a powerful opportunity to learn deeply about any topic in the field you might want to explore more. This research could help you realize what opportunities you want to take on before you leave your program, possibly helping guide future research or employment interests.

Seek out the superconnectors. The prospect of putting yourself out there to meet new people or sell yourself with ones you already know, can feel exhausting before you’ve even attempted a connection. But don’t let the butterflies in your stomach overcome your will to introduce yourself. Don’t give in to the butterflies; seek them out. Having an ally in your networking efforts, be it an extrovert or a more comfortable introvert, will help give you a natural entry point into a conversation that introverts occasionally struggle to create. Sophia Dembling calls small talk “the WD-40 of society.” She goes on to credit it for “keep[ing] the gears of society cranking smoothly, mak[ing] the world feel friendsly and protect[ing] our social muscles from atrophy.” Don’t let discomfort or potential exhaustion rust your gears, keep them moving with the help of a friend!

Find your refuge. Even if you love the people you’re taking class with, even if you have wonderful and understanding roommates, even if you pace yourself and don’t get overwhelmed often…now and again, you’re going to need a break. Take the time needed to find your own personal “fortress of solitude”, somewhere that you can sleep, study, or recharge undisturbed. I have a thing about parks, and do my best to find one near my house to unwind. I have been known to pull on my running shoes for a free hour to myself during retreats. I also get a great deal from heading to the beach with a good book and a pair of earplugs. Your refuge could look like any of these things, or it could be something completely different. But the essential element of this refuge is its ability to effectively recharge you. Like I discussed earlier in the book, it must have a real outlet, allow for adequate time to recharge, and be as free of “power shortages” as possible.

Monitor yourself and stand up for your needs. Recognizing your need for a break or recharge, and being able to remove yourself from a situation to act on it, are two very different things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set a time to leave a networking event or outing with friends, only to find myself ignoring my need to rest for the sake of preserving social graces. This is a tempting notion for those who are accustomed to not disrupting the atmosphere of an event. That being said, it’s okay to stand up for yourself and honor your needs. Whenever I find myself struggling with the decision to stay or go, I recall some of the reactions I’ve had to reaching that burnout point in public. It rarely goes well, and can sometimes lead to rude or snippy exchanges that I know I’ll regret. Combat the possibility of an adverse reaction by listening to the inner voice that says “Time to go!” It knows best, I promise.

Building these habits early in your career in this field will go a long way to helping you establish healthy and temperamentally appropriate habits to preserve your sanity and energy in this often demanding profession.


 

If you’re interested in The I’s Have It, a guide to leading a thriving professional life as an introvert, head here and use the code E8Q5G4QE for 20% off your copy!

BoJack Says the Darndest Things

Since last October, when standup comedian Hannibal Buress told a crowd at Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theater to look up the allegations of Bill Cosby’s sexual misconduct, it was a matter of time before popular culture decided to take on the topic. An unlikely candidate stepped forward to address the controversy with humor and gravity- Netflix’s BoJack Horseman (season 2 now streaming).

IMAGE CREDIT: USA Today

Episode 7 of season 2, “Hank After Dark,” features journalist Diane Nguyen (voiced by Alison Brie) accidentally derailing a book tour by mentioning that personal transgressions rarely hinder commercial success. She goes on to cite several real actors – Christian Slater, Mike Tyson, Woody Allen – before mentioning the show’s approximation of Cosby, variety show host Hank Hippopopalous (voiced impeccably by Philip Baker Hall). Just as with the aftermath of Buress’s charge, people (and animals, as is the show’s custom) seek out the information and are appropriately outraged…before they seek to ignore or discredit the claims. Subsequent approximations of real dialogue feature Diane’s interview with a news pundit (an emotional whale voiced by Keith Olbermann) who vocalizes dismissals of victim testimony in the same way many real newscasters did as the story broke:

TOM JUMBO-GRUMBO: Everyone says he’s a really nice guy.

DIANE NGUYEN: That’s exactly the problem. Because he’s so nice, people don’t wanna think he’s capable of awful things, so they let him off the hook.

TOM: We don’t know what happened. It’s a classic “he said, she said.”

DIANE: “He said, they said.” It’s eight different women. Are they all lying?

BoJack Horseman has earned acclaim since its first season for its combination of realistic darkness and profound humor; while it didn’t seem immediately obvious at first, its premise (following the life of a washed up nineties television star) seemed the perfect setting to address a storyline such as this. Cosby’s peak of fame came in the nineties with The Cosby Show, and the show opens with his BoJack equivalent winning a 1994 Animal Choice Award (a few short years after Cosby ended, and a few years before his revival of Kids Say the Darndest Things). The show is especially adept at showcasing the denial of those who idolized the iconic accused, through the character of Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tomkins), a man (dog?) torn between his career support for Hippopopalous, and personal support of Diane, his wife.

BoJack’s choice to have the revelation made by Diane is an important one; choosing to have the lone lead female with a reputation for being an intellectual creates a rich narrative that differs sharply from the one we saw play out in real-time. Her broaching of the topic, combined with subsequent public dialogue, seems to be a composite of roles that Buress, Judd Apatow (who has spoken vehemently against Cosby since the news broke), and even, albeit to a far lesser extent, Tina Fey (who notably reported on SNL’s Weekend Update on the 2005 deposition when it was taken). But unlike Buress and Apatow, Diane suffers considerable backlash from her comments- making a statement about how we treat the female whistleblower. Comparatively, Apatow’s and Buress’s careers have been relatively unscathed for their involvement with the scandal. In fact, each of them has had their celebrity rise since (Apatow with the recent release of his book Sick in the Head and film Trainwreck, and Buress with the start of his Comedy Central show Why? with Hannibal Buress).

And how does it end? On the show, Diane decides to pursue a new chapter in her career; as she awaits an airplane, she spies an interview with Hippopopalous and Jumbo-Grumbo that all too accurately represents the state of our rape culture:

TOM: Hank, I have to ask, did you do it?

HANK: No, I did not.

TOM: Well, that’s good enough for me.

The episode ends with popular media, and all the people who trust it for validation of their own wishes and desires for their admirers, taking the accused for his word. BoJack’s writers had no way of knowing that a few short months later, we’d be forced to take the opposite stance for the same reason. But the streaming cartoon’s willingness to tackle this controversial topic, and to do so in a way that highlights additional problems with our culture, was especially prescient on a weekend that Cosby’s long-looming descent is most assuredly sealed.

 

THE I’S HAVE IT Flashback: Cultivating Resilience

As I continue work on a new project highlighting introversion, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit my first treatise on the topic, The I’s Have It. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing tidbits that could be helpful as you gear up for the fall. Today: from chapter 6, a little something on cultivating resilience.

Because introversion is an internally focused concept, it necessarily creates a kind of insulation between the individual and the rest of the world. It’s difficult to peek out from behind that insulation; it takes a tremendous amount of trust and energy to do so. And in the event that this leap isn’t rewarded as we expect, we struggle to recover. Criticism that might roll off the back of less internally critical individuals sticks with us, rumination over how we might salvage a bad situation goes on longer than it would for extroverts.

Take, for example, the student event that our office hosts that draws twenty students instead of two hundred. The proposal we present to our boss that gets declined. The student who shows anger at our enforcement of College or University guidelines. Any or all of these situations are uncomfortable for us as professionals. A gap between our expectations and reality is always difficult to overcome. But for introverts, the chasm between our hopes and a less than fulfilling final result is especially difficult to cope with. Why?

sandcastle suedleWell, think back to your younger days, to a time when you built a sandcastle. If you never did, think of any children you saw doing it on TV or in a movie. These structures take meticulous planning and a great deal of time to set correctly. Grand plans are made in our heads about them standing the test of time, and exceeding our wildest dreams. Now imagine someone knocked down your castle before you were ready. It could be an angry sibling, a careless passerby, or even nature asserting herself in the form of waves breaking on the shore. It’s a crushing blow to feel as though your time and work were wasted, as though your efforts weren’t appreciated as they should have been, and as though your confidence is shaken at the sight of a crumbling construction. That feeling can consume an introvert when expectations change or the sting of rejection is felt, particularly to those introverts who are also classified as highly sensitive (the Myers-Briggs “F”s, for those who measure temperament by that scale).

But just as there is a great deal of confusion about showing too little interest in social endeavors, there is considerable confusion from extroverts about why these, in their eyes, easily navigable setbacks are felt so deeply by their quieter counterparts. Just as we glorify the virtue of charisma, we also glorify the virtue of resilience. And just as with charisma, the appearance of effortless resilience isn’t easy. Here again, the application of our operative phrase for the mask of introversion, ease, returns to prominence. Moving on after a disappointment is hard for all of us. But rebounding quickly is even harder for introverts.

So how do we soften the blow of these disappointments in a moment where it may not be possible to fully process them?

  • Restore equilibrium. For all your efforts to temper your reaction to a disappointment or letdown, it may still take you a moment to return to equilibrium. Take that moment. Trying to suppress it or push it off will only place you further off balance, making you more uncomfortable. If you need to adjourn to the nearest restroom, your car, or some hidden place on campus, do so to regain your composure. There is nothing wrong with feeling an emotion fully; allow yourself to do so, with the aid of the other tips listed here.
  • Adopt a mantra. A mantra isn’t going to fix the deep pain, frustration, embarrassment or shame that you feel in the moment after you’re hurt, but it will help you to restore composure until you’re in an environment where you can truly allow yourself to feel. This mantra should acknowledge what you’re feeling, advise you to momentarily put the feeling away, and reassure you that you will overcome what troubles you. One of my go-to mantras to help divert my frustrations is: “This is uncomfortable right now. But you know it’ll pass. You can do this.” A series of short sentences, as simple as that, can keep you from the rare but significant outbursts introverts can have when overwhelmed.
  • Recall triumphs. Because introverts find it so easy to retreat to their own thoughts, they have long memories. But all humans, regardless of temperament, hold bad memories more tightly than good ones. The result, for introverts, can be a loop of bad experiences and disappointments. When you’re feeling low or defeated, challenge yourself to recall the good memories. Chances are, you have had positive experiences as often (or more often!) as you’ve had bad ones. Find the good, and allow those moments to fill your thoughts. Don’t discount the lessons that can be learned from your mistakes, but don’t take the occurrence of a mistake to mean that you’re incapable of success either.
  • Take to the paper. One of my favorite presidents, and a noted introvert, is Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a master of the unsent letter. In Lincoln on Leadership, Donald T. Phillips spoke of Lincoln’s habit of venting frustration through “extended letters of refutation.” Phillips noted that the act itself provided the necessary catharsis; “he felt better for having stated his case but did not want any of his angry or emotional remarks made public.” A great gift of the introverted mind is its ability to brilliantly and vividly express itself in writing. In times of frustration, high anxiety, or sadness, carry these feelings to the page. Don’t worry about grammar, convention, or wording- just express yourself. The ability to express your feelings without judgment or interruption will likely help you calm down, easing your return to equilibrium.

 

If you’re interested in The I’s Have It, a guide to leading a thriving professional life as an introvert, head here and use the code E8Q5G4QE for 20% off your copy!

Flake-Free, The Way to Be

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

IMAGE CREDIT: TheDailyQuotes.com

This past Wednesday, I met a BU student interested in marketing, who may be able to help me with a few independent projects, at a indie press panel. It was a pleasure to see her raise her hand to answer a question I had about expanding the reach of my writing. But this chance interaction, one that I hope will be fruitful in the months to come, almost didn’t happen. And it’s largely because of a persistent flaw- my flake factor.

I’m the first to admit, I’m often guilty of perpetrating the quote listed above. I love scrolling through Eventbrite, RSVPing to events in the area that look interesting. Niche trivia nights, networking events, leadership lectures- I’ve indicated interest and attendance to all of them and more. And yet, there are some days that I just…don’t go. I’ve even decided mid-trip that I wasn’t into it, turned around, and gone home.

I know it’s rude, and I know it’s frustrating. But for the introverted reading, you’ll probably recognize the feeling- if not the actual notion- as symptomatic of drained energy. I wrote about the challenges of faithfully keeping these sorts of commitments in my 2014 book The I’s Have It:

Because extroverts gain energy from the very activities that drain it from introverts, they are quick to equate a refusal of an invitation, with a personal judgment. Not so! Well, most of the time. Introverts don’t separate themselves from a crowd as a function of judgment, disdain, or boredom. It is equally important to note that refusing an invitation isn’t necessarily done out of fear or anxiety, either. More often than not, that battery gauge that reflects their energy level is registering zero and they don’t wish to overexert themselves. As we discussed in previous sections, the pleas and guilt trips of friends and colleagues do little to prevent this drain.

With that said, catering to my own comfort isn’t conducive to building strong relationships, social or professional. This is an instinct that I need to fight, and am actively working to combat. Some tips that I plan to employ in this self-improvement project may also be helpful for others, so I’m holding myself accountable by sharing them with you here.

Take note of where your energy soars, and where it sags. Using a calendar, notebook, napkin, or other tracking venue, take note of your energy for 1-2 weeks. On the days that you arrived home with bounding energy, pay attention to what you might have done that day. Conversely, if there’s a day that feels particularly trying? Take an inventory of what you might have done that day.

Odds are, the days that energized you featured opportunities to take part in activities that energized you, or provided moments to recharge organically. The days that wear on you, were likely lacking those opportunities.

Build in more elements of your energizing days into your schedule overall. Presently, I don’t take meetings on Friday mornings. And some of those mornings, I don’t work in my office. Instead of spending the appointment free time anticipating interruptions from coworkers or students, I’ll retreat to the library and work on more energizing projects like writing, editing, or developing and tweaking training pieces. Ensuring that this sort of work can happen uninterrupted once a week (a) keeps me from worrying about when it’ll get done, which is a surprisingly draining activity, and (b) provides a much-needed energy boost ahead of the weekend.

Do you have times on your calendar that you can block off for larger projects, energizing conversations with coworkers, or even just to take a few deep breaths or take a walk? While it may seem as though scheduling time to do less will hurt your productivity or bottom line, you may find that it gives you more energy to power through those tasks effectively and with focus.

When committing to new things, strongly ponder how they’ll fit into your current schedule. I’m a strong advocate of the “I can’t do a thing today, I did a thing yesterday” theory. That is to say, if I go to an event or outing one night, I know I won’t necessarily be at my best if I try to make a repeat effort the following night. Sometimes this means exploring when a class or workshop will be offered later, or turning down well-intentioned but less exciting opportunities. Why do this, when I could miss good information or connections?

Again, I’ll turn to The I’s Have It for a prospective answer:

A hangover from alcohol or sugar (and yes, a sugar hangover is real) comes from the consumption of an excess amount of something that, in appropriate amounts, has few ill effects. But after we reach a threshold that our body can handle, we start to feel ill. The introvert hangover is our body’s response to excess- irritability, short temperedness, and a loss of focus. When we look back on some of the negative characteristics associated with introversion- assumptions of judgment, self-centeredness, and aloofness – one starts to wonder if these conclusions were drawn from introverts who were, as Chris says, hungover. These characteristics generally aren’t true from a “fully charged” introvert, but could certainly be mistakenly assumed of an introvert in dire need of a recharge.

I’m reluctant to present myself to people for the first time when I’m at low charge. Just as I wouldn’t attend an optional gathering hungover, for fear of how I would come off to others, I don’t wish to do the same if I’ll make a first impression that is unfocused or agitated. By building a schedule that allows you to sidestep these moments, you can come closer to presenting yourself as desired.

If wavering when determining your attendance, visualize the “best case” scenario. As I pondered whether or not to go to the book panel, lots of thoughts entered my mind that could have easily sent me home after work instead of to the bookstore.

I don’t want to talk to anyone. Can I just connect with them later? I’m just tired

It’s easy to allow yourself to get bogged down in worst case scenarios- getting trapped in awkward small talk, feeling trapped or pressured to stay longer than you’d like, reaching your dead battery in public. Resist the urge, and instead think about what you could gain from the experience. In a scenario where you’re on the fence, this subtle shift in thinking could make all the difference in motivating you to try something new.

What got me there? As someone who is in the early stages of writing a second book, and am in need of advice on how to go about this process differently from my first time around…I needed the information. I needed the connections. I needed to go. And as I’ve mentioned before when advising introverts on networking: I am capable of setting my own goals for networking. If I speak to even one person, or ask one person, I can count that outing a success. The opening paragraph indicates, I did precisely that.

I know I’m not going to be perfect in fixing this flaw. But being aware of it is the first step, and enacting a plan is the second. If this is an affliction you suffer from as well, I hope that these tips could be helpful for you as well.

How do you stay “flake-free” in your social and professional life?

If you’re interested in The I’s Have It, a guide to leading a thriving professional life as an introvert, head here and use the code E8Q5G4QE for 20% off your copy!

Around the Web: June Blog Roundup

As many of you may know, my writing isn’t just confined to this space. Today’s post is dedicated to sharing highlights of other pieces I’ve written elsewhere.

I parlayed my love of PBS Kids’ Curious George into a series of lessons for the Lead365 National Conference blog:
Leadership Lessons from Curious George

Also for Lead365, I looked back to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and a lesson on quiet but impactful leadership:
Standing Up for the Gold

This month’s Niche Movement post focuses on Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin:
Reframe and Recommit
(I’m also excited to announce that their first book, which features excerpts from some of my NM posts, is now available for purchase! Congratulations Kevin!)

And for Talking Points Memo, I explored the need for a majority protagonist on Orange is the New Black, in light of strong storytelling and a current events narrative that has made these stories more accessible:
Does Orange is the New Black Still Need Its Blond, White Star?

For a better look at what I’m up to and where, check out the Writer page!

The CATASTROPHE of Creative Relationships

I spent three hours of my past weekend laughing at the smart and wickedly funny Catastrophe (now streaming on Amazon Prime). Starring a comedian I have expressed my appreciation for previously, Rob Delaney, and Sharon Horgan (of the UK’s Pulling, IFC’s deliciously awkwardThe Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, and a cameo on Moone Boy), it tells a sweet and quietly hilarious story of an ad executive and a teacher brought together by an unexpected pregnancy.

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan

IMAGE CREDIT: The Guardian

I love this show a great deal, six episodes in (Britain, we have GOT to talk. I need more now please). But what I love even more was how it came about. I recently finished Powers of Two, Joshua Wolf Shenk’s meticulously researched and insightful chronicle of creative partnerships, and I couldn’t help but draw connections between his stages of collaborative work. Both Delaney and Horgan are brilliant in their own right, but together? They’ve created something equally emotionally and wildly funny.

Stage One: Meeting

As someone who has used social media to make many meaningful connections professionally and personally, I love that this collaboration started in much the same way. Delaney, once named “the funniest man on Twitter,” reached out to Horgan largely as a fan of her work. The relationship that they cultivated as a result of that initial outreach led to talk of collaboration, development of a pilot, and now a show- currently filming its second series in London. My takeaway from this? Reach out if you like someone’s style, or admire someone’s work. I’ve mustered the courage to do this a few times, and am so pleased with the results that the strategy has provided.

Stage Two and Three: Confluence + Dialectics

Shenk talks about starting the process of creative partnership by identifying your “person.” He says, “find a stranger who gets you or a friend you think is strange.” If you’re familiar with Delaney or Horgan separately, you’ll find that their senses of humor are (a) very different from their contemporaries, and (b) very different from one another. But their confluence on the show yields a beautiful mix of frankness and sweetness– caring without seeming artificially constructed, and truthfully funny without seeming gimmicky. Be they mutually understood strangers or strange friends (I suspect the former evolved into the latter), the resulting relationship created a tone for the show that is unlike other shows of the same ilk.

As an example, consider its British contemporary Pramface, a show with a similar premise but younger characters. Setups and tropes that bring the characters’ families together and challenges the main protagonists’ romantic relationship are noticeably absent on Catastrophe:

“I think that [normal romantic] stuff makes our hair stand on end, and it’s about finding ways to show the romance without hammering it home and the way you can do that is sneaking it in or using more creative ways”

-Sharon Horgan

In their place is a more realistic portrayal of what could be happening in these characters’ lives: when you move for a relationship, who do you hang out with and how do you work? What do your current friends think about your relationship? When an unexpected event brings you together, how do you sort out what you mean to each other? These are next-level questions that most comedies address in a more flippant way. But much of the emotional heart of the show comes not from standard sitcom setups, but the questions that most comedies in this genre simply fail to address. It’s a unique conversation that was an agreed upon principle that the show has excelled at. As you aspire to collaborate on creative work, think about how you can make the conversation around your chosen pursuit, a unique one.

Stage Four: Distance

As with any relationship, time apart is healthy- Delaney gets his through nationwide tours and standup, while Horgan gets hers through acting and writing on other projects. The distance and difference of background, as well as diversity of experience while creating the final product, makes the work richer and allows inspiration to seep in from a number of places. Just as solo work benefits from closing the laptop and walking away for a few hours (or days…or weeks), creative partnership is better for the other pursuits that each party elects to engage in. Horgan and Delaney both admitted to mining their respective lives for material to inform series one. So Rob, Sharon, in the highly unlikely event that you’re reading this…you have my (unsolicited and unneeded) permission to take the time. Series two will be better for it!

Stage Five: Interruption

Presently, interruption isn’t in sight for Horgan and Delaney. Series two is in production right now, so we’ll be getting more Catastrophe. However, this is not the case for all shows. I think about partnerships that have ended acrimoniously (as with Neal Brennan and Dave Chappelle, a creative pair that eventually could no longer collaborate), as well as ones that came to a natural end (more so the case for John Lennon and Paul McCartney, despite persistent rumors). But if I had to speculate how Catastrophe would come to an end, I feel like the creative pair responsible for its creation, will have as much control over its conclusion- and will end it on their own amusing but touching terms. In the meantime, as you examine your own creative relationships, I would encourage you to take similar control over your own fate. Some partnerships will reach a natural conclusion, and can end without contention or explosiveness. Take stock of the work, take stock of the relationship, and decide if you have one more in you. Odds are, the world needs it just as much as I needed the three hours of laughs that Catastrophe gave me.

Who are your creative “better halves”? What are you working on? And have you watched Catastrophe? I need someone to talk to about it!