Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Wasn’t That a Party?

I had a great time last night – honestly I did, even though I’ve hardly been able to move today. I got to spend time with some wonderful friends and got to meet some fabulous new folks with whom it turns out I have quite a lot in common. Today, however, I want nothing more than to take a nap. I think I overdid the whole party thing and, while I am a lightweight, I am certain that the couple of tablespoons of champagne that I drank to toast my longtime friend and colleague who is now an author had absolutely nothing to do with it. My problem today has more to do with the fact that I overtaxed my people skills.

This “longtime friend and colleague” is Nancy Truitt Pierce. There are others who can, I’m sure, lay claim to even longer associations with Nancy. For me, it’s a matter of how much of my career I’ve had the pleasure of working with her and how much of an impact she’s had. Of course, I know dozens of individuals who feel similarly so, again, I’m not alone. Already mostly famous in the Seattle tech scene, I expect Nancy’s well on her way to becoming even more well-known. That’s as it should be; she’s developed key business insights over the years that others need to hear. I’m glad her book, The Founder Factor, is finally out there so that others can learn from her what those of us who know Nancy cherish so much.

When Nancy set the date of her book signing, I was not the least bit surprised that she chose the first day of spring. It suits her sense of seasons and her style. I figured (rightly so, as it turns out) that several others of my good friends and colleagues in the industry would be there and so it was a good opportunity to catch up with some of them. And of course I wanted to be able to congratulate Nancy in person on her accomplishment. As I keep telling her and everyone else who will listen, this information really needs to get out and I am so very glad she's the one putting it out there.

In the midst of all the catching up I did, I was so involved in conversation with a couple of people that I totally missed out on getting to take home a copy of The Founder Factor. I also missed out on getting to say hello (or any more than that) to a few of the people I'd intended to chat with more. I'll catch up with those folks through other channels though, and I’ve been promised a couple copies of the book soon enough, making it all work out just fine in the end, I'm sure. Not getting the book yet also gives me an excuse to post again about it so I’ll still write something in the way of a review when I can have something more to say about what I've read.

Back to the problem of being an introvert, for I'm certain that's the reason I have such a tough time sustaining group-oriented social interaction for any length of time. In true Mary Harwood fashion (for those of you who know her), I am reasonably certain I cannot carry on a decent conversation on a topic about which I am enthusiastic without my hands – and I get enthusiastic about so much. And I enjoy feeling connected with people. It would seem from these isolated data points that I ought to have an easy time with parties but nothing could be further from the truth; I'm just now these days getting comfortable with admitting that and it feels so much better to make that confession.

The trouble is, admitting these more gregarious-seeming traits is not the same as saying I am necessarily outgoing or that I am, by any stretch of the imagination, an extrovert. Quite the opposite. In fact, in many ways I am rather shy, though in most situations I seem to be able to overcome (or at least compensate for) those tendencies rather nicely and most people seem never to notice. My sister knows better but that's perhaps a different story. Because I do hide it so well, trying to describe myself as at all shy and have anyone really believe it is difficult.

Then someone who knows me well pointed out to me a column in the Atlantic Monthly by Jonathon Rauch. By Rauch’s definition, that introverts become tired or feel drained by the presence of other people whereas extroverts are energized by the company of others, I am indeed an introvert. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Suddenly, I have a more reasoned response for people when they ask me why I’m so serious or whether something is the matter when I’m quiet. And while I would not have traded the special time out with such wonderful people last night for anything, today I need a nap.

Note to self – in the future, be sure to plan down time around big events so that I can fully enjoy myself, fully connect with the people I am able to see, and then have the time I need to recover without adversely impacting the other things I want to accomplish. Honestly, I feel about the same this afternoon – even after having had a brief “lie-down” as they say – as I have the day after running a marathon. So now I’m doing my best to take care of myself; it’s one of the perks, I suppose, of working for and by oneself. It’s part of my business plan to make it possible to take that time for myself when I need it.

I'm not alone in finding parties and other social gatherings a stretch. Although this trait alone doesn't make me a geek, I know that it's a trait shared by plenty of techies and other intellectually-oriented people. So how do you make the most out of unwinders, reunions, parties and other social gatherings? What makes you crazy about them? Send your thoughts to me at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com - as we've already established (or are in the process of establishing), social relationships help make our work lives better and more successful, so it's in our best interests to figure out ways to make that easier. You can help.

What energizes you?