The notecards in my hands were shaking as I rehearsed the speech in my head...
I was about to do my first pitch to a room of investors in my entrepreneurial career. As the clock ticked down to my turn to speak, I no longer feared being on stage…I feared having a panic attack before I got there.
As I tried calming myself down and rehearsing my presentation points, I saw presenters before me that made it look so easy.
They were confident, charismatic, and effective.
Why couldn’t I have that same confidence? I actually have a product and customers...some of these guys have barely more than an idea!
You can do this. I thought. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, THIS is what you have to do.
I wasn't a disaster. I was just stiff, robobotic, and completely drained by the experience.
I didn’t stay for the networking I knew would be incredibly valuable,,,I needed some time alone to recharge.
Several of the companies that pitched that day set up further meetings with investors…mine wasn’t one of them.
Such is the life of the introverted entrepreneur.
THE EXTROVERT ADVANTAGE
It’s no secret that extroverts have a big advantage in the marketplace.
The investors that day believed a better indicator of company success was how well the founder performed in those 10 minutes on stage—rather than the 40+ hours/week they spent in the office (although, to be fair, none of us ended up being a good investment).
This same advantage occurs in almost every area of life:
- It’s the charismatic speaker who usually win the election.
- It’s the "people person" who is usually given the promotion.
- And it is the best interviewer that usually gets the job.
This is not meant to be an attack on extroverts–or to say that some of these advantages aren’t justified–but these facts have led many introverts like me to believe our introverted nature is a disadvantage.
I was so ashamed of it that I even lied on my Myers Brigs personality test so I would be classified as an extrovert!
After that speech, I decided to finally overcome my introversion. And, like all my other challenges, I turned to science for the answer.
What I learned change the course of my life.
Not because I overcame my introversion, but because I learned how to embrace it. I learned how both introverts and extroverts can use their natural strengths to achieve more in work and life. 
So whether you're introverted or extrroverted, this article will help you use your strength more effectively–and hopefully help you understand your opposite a little bit better.
The first thing to understand is that classification as an introver or extrovert is not a simple "A or B" choice. It’s a spectrum.
To illustrate the different points along this spectrum, I’m going to use an example of myself, and the co-founders that soon joined me on the startup I was pitching that day: Jeff and Maggie.
If this spectrum was between 1 and 10, I would lie at about a 3, Jeff about be about a 5, and Maggie would be about a 9.
Here are 4 key situations in which we differed along the spectrum. It will explain our nature, how that impacted our teamwork, and strategies that will help you use your strengths to maximize your willpower.
Interacting with people is probably the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts—and it's the one most visible in society.
To introverts like me, spending time with large groups of people—especially strangers—completely drains our willpower. I personally need to spend time before and after large group gatherings by myself to recharge my batteries.
Extroverts like Maggie, on the other hand, actually increase their willpower by spending time interacting with others at networking events. It's her chance to be her best self and embrace her natural charm and charisma.
Ambiverts like Jeff can go either way. He is on the extroverted side of this equation, as he likes interacting with people, but can easily spend time alone at home as well. He doesn't need to recharge with either, and can find both stimulating.
Contrary to what many believe, this is not because introverts don't like people and extroverts do, it's because of our sensitivity to stimulation.
Researches have found that introvert babies will start to cry in situations where there are too many people in the room. While extrovert babies will laugh. 
Impact on Work
To maximize our strengths, despite the fact that I was technically the "CEO", Maggie was the one doing all the fundraising/networking for our company, and Jeff did the presentations to any investors.
This played well for our strengths, but almost nobody outside our company even knew what my role was.
With Maggie owning every room she entered, Jeff taking the stage at presentations, and my impact taking place behind the scenes, few people knew who the quiet guy in the back was–which was fine with me.
Any gains from clarity to the outside world were not nearly as big as the value that we got from embracing our natural gifts, maximizing our willpower, and putting the best work out there.
To Maximize Willpower
- Let go of the feeling that you need to be charismatic and outgoing. Embrace the benefits you get from drawing energy from yourself instead of others.
- However, you must identify those situations where you must be more extroverted to reach your purpose. Push yourself enough to be competent, but don't feel like you need to become Tony Robbins.
- Plan to involve friends and coworkers in your goals more often. Embrace your ability to boost your willpower from them.
- But similarly, identify those moments when you're going to have to spend time in quiet focus on a project alone. Learn how to adapt to those situations, but don't be yourself up if you feel cooped up after a while.
Work environment is one of the most important factors for maximizing willpower because it varies so significantly between introverts and extroverts. And companies usually get this dynamic wrong...
Jeff and I are both introverts in our work. We love isolation, focus, and quiet. We like to identify the goal, work by ourselves on completing it, then get feedback afterward.
Maggie, on the other hand, likes a collaborative environment. Extroverts like her want to bounce ideas off of you and work together on a project, rather than waiting to get feedback after it's complete. 
Impact on Work
This was the hardest issue for us to deal with.
With Jeff and I focusing on our work, Maggie didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off of. She's used to getting consistent feedback as she works, so she would ask us questions to make sure she was on the right path.
This meant interrupting the focus of me or Jeff who didn't like losing our focus. This left all of us feeling frustrated as we just couldn't find the right work environement where everyone was happy.
Unfortunately, we were never able to find the right dynamic. But we did take what we learned with us.
To Maximize Willpower
- Try to work on your own in a quiet, focused environment. There is a bias for teamwork in many companies, but it isn't best for everyone.
- Today, Jeff isn't able to do his best work when he's put on projects with creative collaboration.
- I'm an extreme example, but when I moved to an entirely new city by myself to finish The Will of Heroes, I was instantly in productivity heaven.
- Try to engage in work that allows you to be collaborative and work with others.
- Today, Maggie leads a team of sales people, gives talks all around the country, and gets to use her willpower infinitely more effectively by embracing her natural strengths.
We usually equate leadership with charisma and motivation–which extroverts are extremely good at delivering. They have both the abitily draw energy from the charisma of others, and also instil that charisma into the team around them.
But many introverts don't need–or even want–charismatic leadership to motivate them. 
Introverts like Jeff and I draw motivation from within. We like to work on our own to figure things out. So we respond the best to leadership that trusts us to know what we're doing, then provides feedback on the end result.
This is how I wanted to lead the team as well.
Impact on Work
This was another area of struggle for us. As the leader, I wanted to bring the best out of Maggie and Jeff. But to me, that meant setting an example, granting autonomy, and providing insightful feedback.
Jeff was more than happy with this, but it was at odds with Maggie's nature.
On her end, she expected me to work with her, motivate her, and provide that source of energy that she and other extroverts draw from. Meanwhile, I expected her to get that energy from within.
Once again, leaving us both frustrated as we had differing expectations for each other. 
To Maximize Willpower
- If you're an introvert, studies show you'll be a better leader of other introverts, and more highly-skilled employees.
- Jeff is a great example of this as he is now leading a team of software developers.
- If you're an extrovert you'll be better at leading other extroverts, and also lower skilled employees.
- Maggie, as I previously mentioned, has also embraced this by leading a team of salesmen.
Be self-aware if you are leading or are led by someone that is opposite from you. Neither of these styles is right or wrong. But they can become frustrating or, even counter-productive, without proper communication.
At this point, some of you may be wondering, "Colin, if you're a lousy speaker, not a motivational leader, and just want to work by yourself, why are you even an entrepreneur?" This point on the spectrum has the answer.
Typically, introverts favor analysis over action. Because they rely on themselves for the answers, and like to look at the problem from every angle before taking action. As you can see, Jeff is a perfect example of this, but I am not.
On this point, Maggie and I are on the extroverted side. Extroverts are much less risk-averse. They like to take action, see what happens, and adjust based on the feedback. Rather than plan the perfect strategy.
I'll fully admit, this has got me into hot water from time to time. But I certainly wouldn't be writing to you today if I didn't have this extroverted side of myself.
Impact on Work
Typically in the business world, the path success is fairly clear. You have your working business model, systems, and brand recognition with a customer.
In the startup game, however, everything is unknown. You're usually targeting a whole new market, with a whole new product, and hoping your predictions are correct. But they never are–there are simply too many unknowns!
So my first inclination was to say that plans are useless. Jeff was there to remind us that plans may be useless, but planning is priceless. And Maggie provided a good middle ground.
To Maximize Willpower
- If you're an introvert, ensure that you're not over-analyzing things. There is no perfect solution, and eventually you need to take action.
- And be sure to speak up if you see extroverts taking too much risky action. Much of the 2008 financial crisis was due to over-ambitious action that wasn't calmed down by those who thought twice. 
- If you're an extrovert, use your propensity for action to learn from experience faster than introverts can. It's a huge advantage.
- But make sure you're not downplaying risk too much. If you take a risk and fail, learn from the experience. Too often extroverts double-down after a loss and lose control. 
When I started my entrepreneurial career, I was ashamed of my introverted nature. I believed I would never be successful without becoming as charismatic and outgoing as someone like Maggie.
But by learning the science behind my introversion, I came to the understanding that it's a detriment to myself and society to go against my nature. Just it would be for Maggie to spend her days cooped up in an office.
Going against your natural strength is like a 7'2 trying to play soccer. Sure, he technically can do it, but it will require a lot more willpower to ignore his gift of height, than to embrace it by playing basketball.
There are moments, however, where both introverts and extroverts need to stretch our comfort zone. Introverts will waste countless hours of work by not presenting it properly. And extroverts will struggle to reach goals if they don't learn how to reach them alone.
Prepare for those moments, and summon the willpower to stretch yourself toward the middle of the spectrum. You don't need to be perfect, you just need to be good enough to let your true talents shine.