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Introverted Role Models Share Their Inspiring Stories

...and 6 common themes that guide introverts toward success

The list of famous and successful introverts is like a Who's Who of business, sports, and politics. But don't let their fame fool you...they have all struggled, learned, and persevered in order to succeed, not despite their introversion but because of it!

  1. Heidi Brown - Battlefield Leader: US Army Brigadier General Heidi Brown defied the odds as the first woman in American history to command an armed brigade in combat in Iraq in 2003. She has developed her leadership, in part, because she is self-described as an "introvert by nature." She has embraced her own strengths in order to defy stereotypes. Driven by her own internal goals and passions, Brown has found courage, integrity, and humility to gain the trust of her troops and her seniors, not through words or rhetoric but by example.

  2. Warren Buffet - Entrepreneur: he recognized early on that to be successful, he needed to be able to communicate. "If you have a fear of associating with people, you have to go out there and do it, and it's I started teaching a class at night and, you know, you've got to force yourself to do some things sometimes."

  3. Mahatma Gandhi - Nationalist & Political Ethicist: employed a non-violent approach to attain India's independence. "I used to be very shy and avoided all company. My books and my lessons were my sole companions. I literally ran back [from school], because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I was even afraid lest anyone should poke fun at me."

  4. Bill Gates - Business Magnate & Philanthropist: world changer through Microsoft and by fighting global poverty and inequity. "If you're clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of the area." Gates believes for companies to thrive, teams must tap into the strengths of both extroverts and introverts.

  5. Michael Jordan - NBA Legend; the epitome of grit and determination, Jordan's hard work led to 6 championships and 5 league MVPs due to his introspective, internal drive. "My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength."

  6. Abraham Lincoln - Great Emancipator and perhaps Greatest US President: a prolific reader and good listener who developed his speaking skills to influence others to do good. "I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot."

  7. Marissa Mayer - Tech Leader and former Yahoo CEO: she is a proud introvert who proclaims that her strengths of observing, listening before speaking, and choosing her words carefully have been essential in her leadership success. She clearly understands who she is and uses her strengths as an introvert to excel. Four of Mayer's 10 Rules for Success are: 1) find your rhythm, 2) do something you're not ready to do, 3) work in small teams, and 4) surround yourself with smart people.

  8. Eleanor Roosevelt - US First Lady & Activist: she was never a silent first lady. She counseled FDR and led many initiatives to support human rights around the world. She used her introversion to learn and she used her courage to teach. "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down."

  9. Steven Spielberg - One of the Greatest Film Directors in History: he created such classics as Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., and Indiana Jones. Spielberg has shared that he prefers to stay in on the weekends and that he still gets tongue-tied when talking to strangers at gatherings. He has leveraged his innate creativity to broaden the mind. "The public has an appetite for anything about imagination - anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible."

  10. Meryl Streep - "Best Actress of her Generation": received a record 21 Academy Award nominations with 3 wins along with a record 32 Golden Globes with 8 wins. Her career spans over 5 decades. "I'm much more of an introvert [than my mother]. I'm much more inclined to want to not say anything in public. It's a good thing, to imagine yourself doing something you think you can't. I do that every day, because basically, if I had my way, I'd just stay home and think about what I'm having for supper."

Yes, these are famous introverts. And there are many more:

Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, Emma Watson, JK Rowling, Rosa Parks,

Sir Isaac Newton, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Al Gore, Charles Darwin, Dr. Seuss, Frederic Chopin, Steve Wozniak, Barack Obama, and Moses too!

You may consider that they have advantages over many of us, yet often they started their journey in the same place as we did.

I've had the good fortune to meet some amazing introvert advocates that host podcasts, write books, speak, and coach to support the introvert's journey toward authenticity and fulfillment. These amazing people have dedicated much of their lives to lead the way. Check out their websites and learn from their experiences and perspectives:

Sophie Morris-empowering kids, Peter Vogt-monthly newsletter,

Heather Hall-leadership coach, Daniel Findlay-social skills workshops,

Nancy Yang- communications coach, Vaughn Guenter- fitness guru,

Scott Donnelly- speaker coach, Daisy Simonis- confidence coach,

Nele Giese- traveler, Thea Orozco- workplace leadership,

Jennifer Granneman- blog master, Ty Belknap- leadership advocate,

Matthew Pollard- social networking, David Hall- podcasting advocate,

David Boroughs- diversity in the workplace

And yet, the most important introvert is YOU. You may not become Nancy Yang or David Boroughs or Meryl Streep or Michael Jordan, but you have the opportunity to be the best YOU that you can be. The stories of all these role models suggest 6 themes toward flourishing in your own skin:

  1. Learn about where you are (our new Phases of Introversion Quiz)

  2. Discover your strengths and practice them (popular Strengths Quiz)

  3. Embrace your authenticity (How to be a Happy Introvert)

  4. Keep pushing the boundaries (How to stretch your comfort zone)

  5. Practice self-compassion (our most popular guest blog)

  6. Always believe...never give up (see over 230 blogs on a wide range of topics)

Everyone needs a role model.

Who is your role model?


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