Since I arrived in Boulder, I’ve worked very hard at behaving as extroverted as possible. I made a commitment to engage with my new community by meeting as many new people as I can. While not an extreme introvert, my happy place is in front of a computer – not interacting with my fellow humans. Sitting alone with my computer may be appealing, but acting as an introvert is at odds with my professional ambitions and personal goals.
While I’m absolutely drained at the end of every day, it’s very rewarding. In my last startup, Jon Oropeza (my co-founder and best friend) encouraged me to step outside the office every day and talk to people. I wish I’d listened to his advice then. For some reason, in Palo Alto I struggled with this idea. Here in Boulder I find it easier to reach out to others. Here are several possible reasons why:
I’m open to acting as an extrovert because failure opened me up to the idea. I clearly learned from Jon & my prior failures. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made the commitment that I did. I’m practicing extroversion and hoping that it becomes less draining over time (like building a muscle).
In Boulder, meeting peoples is a bit easier for me. Here, everyone takes time for hobbies, hiking, exercising and for other people. This is one of those often-discussed cultural differences between smaller towns and bigger cities. Neighbors don’t just say, “Hi”, they’ll stop and talk. As an introvert, it is easier to meet people if they’re prepared to take the time.
It surprised me how many people in Boulder want to “pay it forward”. Neighbors host welcome parties and drop off goodie baskets. Entrepreneurs hold office hours and meetups for newcomers. Boulderites genuinely want to help each other. Even the recent transplants take on this characteristic. Having arrived about two months ago, I see the power of “paying it forward,” and want to follow suit.
Rather than getting in the car and driving an hour, I can walk 5 minutes to my next meeting. Sure, I may have to get in the car sometimes, but far less often than I originally expected and it usually doesn’t take long to get where I need to go. I can meet more people in a day because I spend less time in a car. I also arrive at my meetings without traffic-tension.
At the End of the Day:
While the activation energy required for reaching out to my community may be lower, I am still an introvert. Each conversation saps me. As a result, I’m drained by the end of every day. I can’t wait to sit down with my thoughts and computer (and a glass of wine). During this time I recharge and take stock. I note what I achieved by stepping away from my computer. I observe how I am changing. By engaging my fellow humans, I feel closer to my community. For work, I’m more focused on other people’s needs and desires. Unfortunately, if I take too many meetings, I’m useless to my family at nights and on weekends.
Just because it is possible to engage humanity all day, every day doesn’t mean I should. I’m still committed to stepping away from my computer. I just need to strike a better balance. I haven’t reached a proper balance yet. In fact, I suspect that there is no single ratio for alone-v-together time. I bet that my ratio changes as I take on different responsibilities, as stresses wax and wane, and hopefully as I build my “extroversion muscles”. There are advantages to introversion (focus, independence, …). By striking a better balance, I hope to use those advantages more purposefully, with a focus on community and other people’s needs and desires. Wish me luck…