16 Outrageously Successful Introverts
Abraham Lincoln and Emma Watson have something in common. So do Eleanor Roosevelt and Christina Aguilera. They, like an estimated one third to one half of the population, are introverts.
While extroverts tend to gain their energy in social situations, introverts typically recharge through solitude and feel drained from too much stimulation. It might be easy to assume that those who gravitate toward the spotlight of fame are extroverts, but the truth is that many of our most prominent faces, past and present, have actually identified as introverts.
Introverts are hardly a bunch of shy wallflowers — they are proven leaders who can make great public speakers. Don’t believe us? Check out the list of 16 prominent introverts below. Keep in mind, too, that the famous faces listed below comprise just a drop in the bucket — the list of famous introverts also often includes Michael Jordan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harrison Ford, Charles Darwin and David Letterman, among many others.
The Harry Potter creator, who was recently revealed as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is frequently cited as an introvert. People who identify as introverts often report feeling most creative when they’re alone with their own thoughts, rather than in groups. Indeed, Rowling recalls on her website that she first had the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 when she was traveling alone on a delayed train from Manchester to London.
“I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…,” she writes. “I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”
Writer and introvert expert Susan Cain describes the Microsoft co-founder and chairman as an introvert. “We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point,” she wrote in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, the Chicago Tribune reported. “Bill Gates is never going to be Bill Clinton, no matter how he polishes his social skills, and Bill Clinton can never be Bill Gates, no matter how much time he spends alone with a computer.” He’s also an example of someone who’s introverted without being shy, Cain noted in a Psychology Today blog: “Bill Gates is quiet and bookish, but apparently unfazed by others’ opinions of him: he’s an introvert, but not shy.”
And perhaps Cain’s work has struck a nerve with the business magnate: He chose her TED talk as one of his 13 favorites.
“In the nation’s earlier years it was easier for introverts to earn respect,” Cain said in a Q&A with Amazon.com. “America once embodied what the cultural historian Warren Susman called a ‘Culture of Character,’ which valued inner strength, integrity, and the good deeds you performed when no one was looking. You could cut an impressive figure by being quiet, reserved, and dignified. Abraham Lincoln was revered as a man who did not ‘offend by superiority,’ as Emerson put it.”
The pop star and reality TV mentor might seem like the picture of an extrovert on stage, but in real life she identifies as the opposite. “If it weren’t for her bleach-blonde hair, I wouldn’t have recognized her,” Gaby Wood wrote for Marie Claire about her interview for the magazine, published in early 2010. “Because, besides being petite, she is, it seems, shy. She tells me that she has always been ‘intense and introverted’ and that, as a result, she’s felt like an outsider her entire life.”
As the longest-serving First Lady in history, Eleanor Roosevelt is known for her very public persona, entertaining, holding press conferences, giving lectures and even serving as American spokesman in the United Nations after her husband’s death — but she was also thought to be an introvert. Her official online White House bio describes her as “a shy, awkward child, starved for recognition and love, [who] grew into a woman with great sensitivity to the underprivileged of all creeds, races, and nations … her graciousness, and her sincerity of purpose endeared her personally to many — from heads of state to servicemen she visited abroad during World War II.”
She’s often quoted as saying: “Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
The former Friend cited personality differences as one of the reasons for her split with David Arquette. “I’m a homebody. I like to have people over, but I’m a little socially not — I don’t love it,” she told Howard Stern in a 2011 radio interview, People reported. “David — he doesn’t drink anymore, he’s completely sober — but he likes to go out and dance. He really is a very gregarious guy. He’s very outgoing. I’m much more of an introvert.”
The world-renowned physicist who developed the theory of relativity was often thought to be an introvert. Like many introverts, he did his best thinking alone: “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind,” he’s widely quoted as saying.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower star has said she credits her introverted personality for her reputation as a non-party girl.
“It’s interesting, because people say things to me like, ‘It’s really cool that you don’t go out and get drunk all the time and go to clubs,’ and I’m just like, I mean, I appreciate that, but I’m kind of an introverted kind of person just by nature, it’s not like a conscious choice that I’m making necessarily. It’s genuinely who I am,” she told Rookie earlier this year. “Have you seen Quiet by Susan Cain? … It discusses how [extroverts] in our society are bigged up so much, and if you’re anything other than an [extrovert] you’re made to think there’s something wrong with you. That’s like the story of my life. Coming to realize that about myself was very empowering, because I had felt like Oh my god, there must be something wrong with me, because I don’t want to go out and do what all my friends want to do.”
Gandhi’s work is proof positive that you don’t have to be an extrovert to be an effective leader. He once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
The former First Lady and wife to President George W. Bush is a self-described introvert. “George and I are complete opposites,” she said at the 2005 White House Correspondents’ dinner. “I’m quiet, he’s talkative. I’m introverted, he’s extroverted. I can pronounce nuclear…”
And Mrs. Bush is a prime example that introversion doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as shy. As a 2000 USA today article noted: “Her successful Houston appearance in mid-June resonated with political significance. In her confident delivery, reliance on humor, forceful demeanor on the dais, and relaxed response to press questions, Laura Bush, 53, conclusively turned upside down a once-standard media description that portrayed her as shy, remote, and somewhat reclusive in matters political … For an admitted introvert, Laura Bush remarkably has evolved into a very effective speaker.”
The Civil Rights legend who refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in 1955 was also considered an introvert. Susan Cain wrote in the introduction of her book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking:
“I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of 92, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was ‘timid and shy’ but had ‘the courage of a lion.’ They were full of phrases like ‘radical humility’ and ‘quiet fortitude.’”
In fact, Parks titled her 2000 autobiography Quiet Strength.
Despite her public persona, the British actress identified as an introvert. She’s often quoted as saying: “I’m an introvert … I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.”
Cain’s book has a chapter titled, “Why Did Wall Street Crash And Warren Buffet Prosper?” using an explanation of introversion and extroversion personality characteristics to help answer that question. She wrote:
“Warren Buffet, the legendary investor and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has used exactly the attributes we’ve explored in this chapter — intellectual persistence, prudent thinking, and the ability to see and act on warning signs — to make billions of dollars for himself and the shareholders in his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett is known for thinking carefully when those around him lose their heads. ‘Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ,’ he has said. ‘Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.’”
The singer and actor earned the nickname “King of the Cowboys” for his roles in many musical westerns. “I’m an introvert at heart,” he once said, according to CNN. “And show business — even though I’ve loved it so much — has always been hard for me.”
The Murphy Brown star shared at The Huffington Post’s Third Metric conference in June that she and her husband are on opposite ends of the scale: “I’m an introvert and my husband is like the mayor,” she said.
“Despite my job chatting people up, I’m an introvert,” the TV journalist told Good Housekeeping in 2012. One way he finds moments alone in his frenetic world? Meditation. “It’s been a lifesaver for me. I’ve been meditating for about two years now, consistently and kind of seriously,” he said at HuffPost’s Third Metric conference. “I feel more space in my life even when it’s not there.”
- Written by By Laura Schocker for The Huffington Post