Nobel Peace Prize winning theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer once said: “I wanted to be a doctor so that I might be able to work without having to talk.” Makes you wonder whether he was an introvert.

Schweitzer elaborated: “For years I had been giving of myself in words, and it was with joy that I had followed the calling of theological teacher and preacher. But this new form of activity,” he said, “would consist not in preaching the religion of love, but in practicing it. Medical knowledge would make it possible for me to carry out my intention in the best and most complete way, wherever the path of service might lead me.”
Profound. But why I am bringing this up? First a bit more from Schweitzer: “Of all the will toward the ideal in mankind, only a small part can manifest itself in public action.” He added: All the rest of this force must be content with small and obscure deeds. The sum of these, however, is a thousand times stronger than the acts of those who receive wide public recognition. The latter, compared to the former,” he said, “are like foam on the waves of a deep ocean.”

Are you the foam on the waves or the deep ocean? As introverts, guess which one we’re more inclined toward? We’re often more focused on the intrinsic rewards of immersing ourselves deeply in our work rather than spreading the word about our accomplishments.

However, do we really have to choose between one and the other – being the workhorse or the show horse? Why not instead make our contributions to our organizations and society and let people know about them?

Be aware of how you much time you spend doing versus sharing with others what you’re doing. And then strike the optimal balance to get where you want to go in your life and your career.

Does that mean that you have to brag to get ahead? Not at all. Just state the facts and do so in a way that focuses on the benefits you provide to your stakeholders. If you’re an introvert, you can do so through quiet activities like writing. You don’t have to be pushy or brash.

So even if you’re convinced that your contributions are small, consider what another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa, once said: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Think twice before letting your drop go unnoticed. Could you make more of an impact by making some ripples – and even some waves?

Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought, New American Library, New York, 1963, pp. 74, 92; reference on p. 74 also cited by Joseph L. Badaracco, Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing, HBS Press, 2002, p. 3.

©Copyright 2010 Nancy Ancowitz

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