Confessions of a closet introvert – Can I please have some quiet?

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

When I look at this picture – currently my Facebook cover image – from a keynote in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I don’t see an introvert. At all. I see somebody who is obviously performing, engaging with the crowd, maybe even enjoying the limelight and high-energy interaction:

keynote in San Paulo

And it’s not that I don’t love it. I love the interaction. The limelight. The opportunity to teach and also to learn. I’m chatty and can “work” a floor and group of people. At a talk in Mumbai, India, I never actually made it to lunch because so many people were talking to me after. It was awesome.

Read next: How I trended in Mumbai on Twitter!

But talking and being social is also exhausting and as much as I love the scene above, I love this one just as much:

ceasars palace vegas

That’s my room at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for the IMEX conference. See, there I can just lie down. Not talk. (And writing isn’t talking – you see my laptop there!). No listening required!

Of course, that can be hard to understand for some people: How can a high-energy keynote speaker go from 60 to 0 in seconds. At that same conference in Mumbai I did just that. At the beautiful LaLit hotel I was done with the day’s talking and socializing and went to my room and headed for bed. Good night.

At one point an organizer texted to see if I was coming to a party with the Iron Maiden singer and others. “Um. I’m in my pajamas.” LOL,

They later even mentioned my response in a wrap-up article for being authentic or something. 🙂

Sometimes we need quiet time. Even if we like the action other times of the day. And certainly it’s allowed to not be one or the other. We just need to realize it.

For example, I love my girls. I also love the quiet when I go to the office or when they are spending a Sunday morning at my wife’s sister’s house.

See, when you go to conferences (and being around kids is similar) there are like three levels of noise.

  • The show floor chatter
  • Other ambient noise
  • You talking with whomever
  • Then me thinking about what to do next

I put 4 levels of noise just in case you disagree with one! 🙂 But seriously, it can easily give me a headache. Sporting events are similar. I’ve gone to softball games wearing headphones and listening to music, which some might consider rude. But it helps control the noise. I’ve seen others wear ear plugs.

Maybe that’s one reason I’m such a fan of traveling with this hoodie/neck pillow combo. Wrapping my head completely into that, sleeping mask over the eyes, AirPods in, it’s like a quiet hotel room in the sky:

It’s nothing to feel bad about that there needs to be a mix. It’s not about being anti-social, it’s about finding the most appropriate mix of activities while on the road and while at home.

For example, when I’m speaking somewhere I usually find it highly helpful to listen to speakers ahead of me. Sometimes, I can build on one of their stories, like I did at this conference:

Book me to speak at your conference here!

Other times, I learn something and given that it’s just one talk ahead of mine, it’s not too draining. But, I have to say that it can also be hard to not focus on preparing for yours coming up right after mentally while trying to listen to theirs.

Then I like to stick around for a bit to talk to people, maybe listen to another session and be available. Sometimes, I will go find a place to work, blog, do a live stream, etc., on my laptop. Sometimes Usually I would put my AirPods in to filter out the general noise of 522 conversations around me and people walking around.

At times, that can be awkward, too.

“I waved and waved to get your attention, though I didn’t want to interrupt you,” an old or new friend might say.

“Oh, you are just interrupting me listening to Taylor Swift to drown out the noise.” LOL.


The lesson here – for me – is that life is about the right balance. Noise all the time blows. Quiet all the time does, too.

When I was in Brazil for that keynote, I actually planned my trip for too long. I arrived too early and then stayed an extra day. The room and view was great, but at some point I needed to go back and see my family.

Related from that trip: How to maneuver the complexities of visa laws for different countries

So when people try to put you in a box, be okay to create your own style. It’s easy for people to call me an extrovert, and maybe I am, but it’s extremely energy draining.