So, I’m an introvert. What now?

Written by Parker Gates
Posted November 25, 2013

We teach individuals and organizations how to use design thinking as a means to find consistent innovation, to build environments and cultures where innovation can thrive, and unleash peoples latent abilities to work in new ways.
Sometimes this is teaching.
Sometimes it’s working on projects with organizations.
Sometimes it’s both.

Innovation work is hard. It’s draining and tires me out in ways that being an electrician, barista, or IT dork never did.

Why is that? Is it physically more demanding? Nah.

Does it require more time? Not really.

What then?

For me, it’s people. They drain me of my life force. They exhaust me. Like energy vampires, they leave me depleted and trying to recover what I need to survive. And it’s not just them taking…it’s me giving it all away.

Fortunately they don’t do this consciously, or even knowingly.

You see, I’m predominantly an introvert. If you’ve ever met me or seen me work then you’re probably calling “bullshit” right now but it’s true. I know this because working with people (which I love and am grateful to have the opportunity to do) is what depletes my chi. Conversely, being alone and quiet is what nourishes me.

My energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.

The point of this learning for me is that I have to really take care of myself when we are in long sessions, programs, workshops, or projects. I have to make sure there is adequate time for exercise, meditation, sleep, and mental distractions like reading or bad movies.

When traveling I find it valuable to go to my room for 20 minutes of silent sitting mediation before I go out to dinner with colleagues or clients. My mind relaxes, my throat loosens up from all the talking I’ve been doing, and my eyes rest.

I also find it super helpful to eat really well. By that I mean lots of healthy foods. Juices and teas and less sweets and bread-ish foods. Tons of water.

Also, working out tends to release tension and fuels the tank. It also gives me the sensation that some of the day still belongs to me. That I didn’t give it all away. This can be hard because we typically run very long days but we try to schedule in time for evercise so that we may be more useful for the remainder of the day.

So, this is what I do to maintain some endurance and remain in love with the work that we do and the people that we do it with.

What do you do?


  • Abby

    Thanks for sharing, Parker! Having been on a team with you, I wouldn’t have guessed you’re an introvert. I’m also an introvert and it’s nice to have the reminder that it’s ok and necessary to take time away from the group to recharge. I recently read a book called “Quiet” by Susan Cain–all about the power of introverts. I’d definitely recommend it!

    • Parker Gates

      Thanks for the tip Abby! I’m totally gonna check that book out.

      • Reynolds-Anthony

        “Quiet” is a terrific book as well as “The Greater Journey” – Introversion is especially useful in this work as well as the capacity to bring vitality and substance to the game.

  • Clare Conroy

    Great post! I feel like I could have written it – my thoughts/feelings about facilitating/training groups are almost exactly the same! I love working with groups but definitely find that it often feels like a performance where I really have to give a lot of energy. And so I also need that ‘me’ time for rest and reflection before and after.

    Your tips about eating healthy, staying rested and drinking a lot of water are spot on. I’m so tempted to reach for a sugary, chocolately snack part way through sessions, or plonk down on the couch with a beer afterwards – I need to be conscious of this and remind myself that a big drink of water or a walk around the block will actually do more to re-energise.

    Chris Corrigan has a great little tip on how to meditate during a workshop which I really like (and need to practice more) – Thought you might find it useful too.

    • Parker Gates

      That’s a great little trick in Chris’s article! I’m totally gonna start using that and I’m sure we have lots of colleagues that will love that as well.

      Thanks Clare!