I’ll never forget my first online gaming experience. I plugged my Ethernet cable into the back of my Playstation 2 and ripped open my copy of SOCOM: US Navy Seals. I was eleven years old and within minutes I was online with players from all around the world working as a team with people I’d never met before and couldn’t see. Little did I know that my online gaming experience would mold me into a leader and give me the confidence to excel as an introverted entrepreneur.
There is no room at the top for an introverted entrepreneur in the extrovert dominated world of business right?
There is absolutely no reason on this planet that an introvert can’t be an amazing leader. In fact many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders such as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson are all self-proclaimed introverts. Online gaming taught me quickly that I not only had leadership skills, but that I thrived in a leadership position.
Now of course I had experienced forms of instant global communication by living through the wonder of AOL at a young age, but online gaming was different. I wasn’t afraid to take charge leading a team and didn’t get the social anxiety that I often felt in public places. My Playstation 2 gaming days eventually led to online PC games like Counter Strike and more importantly: World of Warcraft.
During my teenage years I was very overweight. There’s no way around it: I was the fat kid who played World of Warcraft. I was bullied and made fun of extensively, something I’ve been very open about and determined to help others who experience psychological torture on a daily basis.
My physical appearance fueled my social anxiety and existence as an introvert in public situations. Social anxiety is a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged by others. It’s important to note that not every introvert experiences social anxiety, but in my experience one often fueled the other. Online gaming was not only my escape from the social anxiety and bullies at school, but it was massively influential in sharpening my leadership skills and helping me to break out of my introverted shell.
In the online gaming world it doesn’t matter where you are from, what you look like, or what clothes you wear. You’re judged by the results you produce for the team, clan, or guild. Everyone has an equal chance to have a powerful voice and impact. Everyone has the chance to lead. Similarly entrepreneurs shouldn’t be judged based on introversion or extroversion. Everyone has the chance to become a great leader regardless of the label society places on them.
Social media was a natural extension of these premises for me. Anyone anywhere from any background with an Internet connection has the ability to share his or her story with potentially millions of people from around the world. I recognized this early on and capitalized on expressing myself and sharing my story. Eventually I built a business around it.
An audience of a million people feels a lot less stressful when you have all the time in the world to address them from the palm of your hand and the power to hit the off button at anytime.
If you met me today you would never guess that I’m an introvert. It wasn’t easy, but over time I gained the confidence I needed to speak in public to large crowds, attend packed networking events, and pitch to powerful and wealthy individuals asking them to believe in me and my team.
What you wouldn’t know is that I dedicate my spare time to reading, listening to music, writing, and spending time in solitude. As an introvert that’s how I recharge. It’s not that I don’t like people or enjoy their company, but rather that I value a small group of close friends and family over large crowds of people I don’t know.
People drain me. Solitude refuels me. It’s that simple.
The key to being a great introverted leader lies in your ability to adapt and overcome social anxiety through practice. It won’t happen overnight, but each opportunity to test the waters becomes a learning experience that will give you the confidence to thrive as your true self. If you want to break out and grow as an introverted leader you’ll need to do the following:
1. Take baby steps. Practice. Practice. Practice.
2. Embrace every opportunity to learn and grow.
3. Make time for “Me Time” to recharge.
4. Don’t force yourself to be something you’re not.
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