Introverts Unite!

I love the article “The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated)” by Bryan Walsh in Time magazine. I’m glad that people are finally starting to give introverts their due. I am an introvert to the extreme – I got the highest possible score for introversion on the Myers-Briggs personality test. Ten times out of ten, I would rather stay home with a good book than go to a party. That’s not to say that I’m a social outcast or don’t know how to behave around people. I just find it hard to be around large groups of people for long periods of time. I can force myself, but it’s not pleasant. I suspect that there’s a connection between introversion and academic performance. Introverts like solitude, and solitude leads to mastery of skills. As Mr. Walsh writes:

Florida State University psychologist K. Anders Ericsson believes that deliberate practice — training conducted in solitude, with no partner or teammate — is key to achieving transcendent skill, whether in a sport, in a vocation or with a musical instrument. In one study, Ericsson and some of his colleagues asked professors at the Music Academy in Berlin to divide violinists into three groups, ranging from those who would likely go on to professional careers to those who would become teachers instead of performers. The researchers asked the violinists to keep diaries and found that all three groups spent about the same amount of time — more than 50 hours a week — on musical activities. But the two groups whose skill levels made them likelier to play well enough to perform publicly spent most of their time practicing in solitude.

Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to escape the distractions of group work. This is true in school and even more so in the workplace. I hope that writers like Mr. Walsh and Malcolm Gladwell (who wrote about a similar subject in Outliers) will convince people of the power of being alone.


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