Book Review: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book turned out to be well researched and to exceed my expectations. It helped me to better understand the world of introverts, myself and the world in general. So, according to the book, how exactly is the world shaped by the forces of introversion and extroversion?

Let’s start with the current status of the Western world: it’s competitive and it’s dominated by a “business culture” and a “personality culture” that replaced the old “culture of character”. In the older times characteristics such as modesty and simplicity were seen as desirable whereas in recent times the need to differentiate yourself and to entertain seems to have replaced the old values.

America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover. In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a good personality” was not widespread until the twentieth. But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. “The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

The reality is that in such a business culture verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important predictors of success, according to a Stanford Business School study.

Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent—even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.

So what does this mean? Do introverts have no chances of succeeding in such an environment? It turns out that introverts have innate qualities that can help them succeed in places where extroverts can’t.

We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be. “Most leading in a corporation is done in small meetings and it’s done at a distance, through written and video communications,” Professor Mills told me. “It’s not done in front of big groups. You have to be able to do some of that; you can’t be a leader of a corporation and walk into a room full of analysts and turn white with fear and leave. But you don’t have to do a whole lot of it. I’ve known a lot of leaders of corporations who are highly introspective and who really have to make themselves work to do the public stuff.”

Grant says it makes sense that introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity, in other words. In the T-shirt-folding study, the team members reported perceiving the introverted leaders as more open and receptive to their ideas, which motivated them to work harder and to fold more shirts.

Introverts can focus and be better learners through Deliberate Practice:

What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful—they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.

Introverts also have the marks of what makes a deep person, they

tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.

It seems that the phenomena of introversion and extroversion is not specific only to humans, it’s also encountered throughout nature. In some conditions the introvert individuals of a species have better survival chances due to the fact that they are more reserved whereas in other conditions the extrovert individuals have better chances of survival.

But it turns out that it’s not only humans that divide into those who “watch and wait” and others who “just do it.” More than a hundred species in the animal kingdom are organized in roughly this way. From fruit flies to house cats to mountain goats, from sunfish to bushbaby primates to Eurasian tit birds, scientists have discovered that approximately 20 percent of the members of many species are “slow to warm up,” while the other 80 percent are “fast” types who venture forth boldly without noticing much of what’s going on around them.

Some differences between introverts and extroverts:

Or consider this trade-off: human extroverts have more sex partners than introverts do—a boon to any species wanting to reproduce itself—but they commit more adultery and divorce more frequently, which is not a good thing for the children of all those couplings. Extroverts exercise more, but introverts suffer fewer accidents and traumatic injuries. Extroverts enjoy wider networks of social support, but commit more crimes. As Jung speculated almost a century ago about the two types, “the one [extroversion] consists in a high rate of fertility, with low powers of defense and short duration of life for the single individual; the other [introversion] consists in equipping the individual with numerous means of self-preservation plus a low fertility rate.”

This blindness to danger may explain why extroverts are more likely than introverts to be killed while driving, be hospitalized as a result of accident or injury, smoke, have risky sex, participate in high-risk sports, have affairs, and remarry. It also helps explain why extroverts are more prone than introverts to overconfidence—defined as greater confidence unmatched by greater ability.

In Academia, introversion predicts academic performance better than cognitive ability.

The Free Trait Theory:

You might wonder how a strong introvert like Professor Little manages to speak in public so effectively. The answer, he says, is simple, and it has to do with a new field of psychology that he created almost singlehandedly, called Free Trait Theory. Little believes that fixed traits and free traits coexist. According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits—introversion, for example—but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects.”

Other subjects discussed in the book are: the cultural differences between the West and the East, High Self-Monitoring and Low Self-Monitoring, the relations between introverts and extroverts, how to motivate introverts, Jon Berghoff’s astonishing success at sales, how to deal with introverted children.

I have a bunch of notes taken but the best way to understand more about the fascinating world of introversion would be to just read the book because it’s definitely worth it.

Book Review: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

What I like most about this book is the concept of “Ten years of experience in one hour“: ten years of the author’s experience as an accidental entrepreneur transposed in a concise manner in less than 100 pages. I’m actually surprised that this concept didn’t caught on and became more popular because frankly speaking a lot of books contain a lot of filler information just to achieve a higher number of pages. I would rather read something short and full of useful information (I’m referring to nonfiction books here) than a long, diluted version. This concept might also encourage more people to start reading.

Anyway, let’s get back to the book and its author. Who is Derek Sivers? Derek is the founder and former CEO of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians. He initially started the company in 1997 as a website through which he sold his own CD’s (he was a professional musician at that time). That website turned out to be something more when his friends and the friends of his friends requested to sell their CD’s on his website too.

Let’s see some of the things that I’ve learned from  this book.

The author is interested in execution and not ideas and has an interesting system by which he evaluates an idea and its execution:











GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000


To make a business, you need to multiply the two components.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.

The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000. That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.”

Side note: yes, there are a lot of spaces between paragraphs, without these spaces the book is maybe only 50-60 pages long.

Nothing goes as planned, you usually have to be prepared for anything:

“You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans.”

Sometimes you can be better off not knowing how things are usually done because then you can do them in your own, out of the box way:

“Now I was stunned. I asked a few friends and found out he was right. People can just quit a job without finding and training their replacements. I had no idea. All these years, I just assumed what I did was normal. There’s a benefit to being naïve about the norms of the world— deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.”

How to deal with employees that are constantly asking you for advice:

“I asked one person to start a manual, write down the answer to this one situation, and write down the philosophy behind it.

Then everyone went back to work.

Ten minutes later, new question. Same process:

Gather everybody around.

Answer the question and explain the philosophy.

Make sure everyone understands the thought process.

Ask one person to write it in the manual.

Let everybody know they can decide this without me next time”

Trust but verify (your employees).

“Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.”

Derek gave his employees a lot of freedom and empowerment. It turned out to be a bad idea. They took over the profit-sharing program and directed all the profits of the company to themselves.

“Lesson learned too late: Delegate, but don’t abdicate.”

There are also various stories in the book worth reading like that time when Steve Jobs put his company in difficulty:

Whoa! Wow. Steve Jobs had just dissed me hard!


Book Review: The end of Advertising by Andrew Essex

About a third of the way into this book I was wondering why am I reading it. I had only 3-4 lousy notes added to my arsenal and a lot of information seemed to be redundant and uninteresting. However, my patience has been rewarded because after this desertified region of the book came some really nice bounty.

The advertising model as we know it is changing. The author was shocked to find out in 2015, from a radio show, that there is a thing called Ad blocker. And the author was at that time the CEO of the most renowned advertising agency in the world. “Well, that’s how dinosaurs die, they never know what hits them” I thought.

Let’s see what the author thinks about how proper advertising should be done.

Great storytelling still sells:

“Interesting times, yes. And a time to be interesting. In the age of the Feed, the age of infobesity and Peak TV, one was compelled as never before to be entertaining and authentic, to tell a good story, the key to being interesting. This was something that human beings and marketers alike could agree on: the power of a good story. Now that would always be welcome; good stories were something we could never have enough of. This was the sentiment uttered by the chief marketing officer of GE, at a recent industry conference. “Nothing,” she said, “will take the place of great storytelling.” “

Don Draper would have a hard time competing nowadays with a lot of attention merchants:

“Were he toiling on Madison Avenue today, Don Draper would have a hard time navigating the complexity of the current advertising landscape. Beyond the aforementioned array of blocking technologies, advertising must now compete with, in no particular order, massive media fragmentation, mobile mass adoption, cord cutters, self-quantification, selfies, podcasts, a million apps, a zillion video games, endlessly proliferating social media platforms, the golden age of TV (made bingeworthy, as noted, by the absence of ads), the hegemonic power of texting, the chimerical pursuit of “inbox zero,” and dozens more dopamine-stimulating bits and bobs that drive the economy of unprecedented abundance that is modern life.”

The human mind constantly seeks novelty so creative approaches are still winners:

“The irony is that the Super Bowl approach actually provides a useful lesson: In a world in which we are drowning in noise, any content, whether it’s advertising or serial crime dramas, must be qualitatively superior to be appreciated, and that doesn’t always require a huge budget. The most important thing is to be excellent, interesting, authentic, or useful. To be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing. That’s fantastic news for creative people, who specialize in the stuff. Thanks to toomuchness, creativity, once exclusively the province of poets, has suddenly become a business imperative.”

Some creative advertising models, Dunkin Donuts partnered with Waze:

“Dunkin Donuts’ CMO said the company was now all about value and utility; for example, it had recently partnered with the social navigation app Waze, using location-based marketing, to offer discounts based on a traveler’s proximity to a store.”

Advertising has to add value, it has to be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing:

“Among the more pleasing by-products of the coming end of advertising is a heretical realization among some industry thinkers: the idea that for advertising to survive, or rather to thrive, it must add value to people’s lives. In a world in which lazy, superfluous, and stupid no longer cut it, advertising will have no choice but to compete as primary content, not secondary intrusion. It will become the thing, not the thing that sells the thing.”

Old, traditional advertising was quite high quality:

“In many homes, early “chromolithographic” ads torn out of magazines became the closest thing the average American family came to owning art, “the chief means of brightening a dreary visual environment,” according to Lears.”

Creative advertising from Lego. Fortunately, I didn’t saw the movie.

“This is why The Lego Movie is so significant. A brand made a brilliant, well-executed movie. The movie was a hit. The movie also happened to be an ad, one that people were willing to pay to see.”

Zappos put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security:

As I mentioned earlier in the Citi Bike story, Zappos once ingeniously put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security at the airport. They’d found virgin white space that was also contextually connected to their business, and decided that this was the ideal place to put their brand name.

The author proposes the rebuilding of dilapidated infrastructure as a creative and value adding form of advertising:

“Our roads and bridges are falling apart. Forget soda cups and brown paper bags—America’s interstates, airports, and railroad stations are the new white space. We don’t need the thousands of tiny, inconsequential ads that currently blight our transit hubs, we need a big-thinking brand to literally repave the road.”

Even though it has a slow start, there are other bits and pieces that make this book worth reading.

Book Review: How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil

I’m always on the lookout for new discoveries in the neuroscience field and to understand and learn more about the synergy of the  human mind, brain and consciousness  and this book by Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading figures in Artificial Intelligence, proved to be quite enlightening in this regard.

I have a lot of notes and Kindle highlights on this book and here are some of them:

  • There are no images, videos, or sound recordings stored in the brain. Our memories are stored as sequences of patterns. Memories that are not accessed dim over time.
  • The human mind is capable of recognizing patterns even if they are altered:“This represents a key strength of human perception: We can recognize a pattern even if only part of it is perceived (seen, heard, felt) and even if it contains alterations. Our recognition ability is apparently able to detect invariant features of a pattern—characteristics that survive real-world variations.”
  • We are constantly predicting the future and hypothesizing what we will experience.
  • Unused pattern recognizers (the authors thinks that our mind contains about 300 million of them) get reassigned to other more-used pattern recognizers:

“That is why memories grow dimmer with time: The amount of redundancy becomes reduced until certain memories become extinct.”

  • DNA doesn’t determines how the neuronal connections work:

“There are on the order of a quadrillion (1015) connections in the neocortex, yet only about 25 million bytes of design information in the genome (after lossless compression), so the connections themselves cannot possibly be predetermined genetically. It is possible that some of this learning is the product of the neocortex’s interrogating the old brain, but that still would necessarily represent only a relatively small amount of information. The connections between modules are created on the whole from experience (nurture rather than nature).”

  • Four items of working memory at a time:

“We are apparently able to keep up to about four items in our working memory at a time, two per hemisphere according to recent research by neuroscientists at the MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.6 The issue of whether the thalamus is in charge of the neocortex or vice versa is far from clear, but we are unable to function without both.”

  • The brain is wired to seek novelty:

“Each brain hemisphere contains a hippocampus, a small region that looks like a sea horse tucked in the medial temporal lobe. Its primary function is to remember novel events. Since sensory information flows through the neocortex, it is up to the neocortex to determine that an experience is novel in order to present it to the hippocampus. It does so either by failing to recognize a particular set of features (for example, a new face) or by realizing that an otherwise familiar situation now has unique attributes (such as your spouse’s wearing a fake mustache).”

  • There is a struggle between the old reptilian brain and the neocortex, but the neocortex has the last say:

“There is a continual struggle in the human brain as to whether the old or the new brain is in charge. The old brain tries to set the agenda with its control of pleasure and fear experiences, whereas the new brain is continually trying to understand the relatively primitive algorithms of the old brain and seeking to manipulate it to its own agenda. Keep in mind that the amygdala is unable to evaluate danger on its own—in the human brain it relies on the neocortex to make those judgments. Is that person a friend or a foe, a lover or a threat? Only the neocortex can decide.”

  • There are medical cases in which a hemisphere was removed from a  patient’s brain and the patient continued to function properly (and even to have an above average IQ):

“While these observations certainly support the idea of plasticity in the neocortex, their more interesting implication is that we each appear to have two brains, not one, and we can do pretty well with either. If we lose one, we do lose the cortical patterns that are uniquely stored there, but each brain is in itself fairly complete. So does each hemisphere have its own consciousness? There is an argument to be made that such is the case. “

  • Ultimately most of our thinking will be in the cloud:

“What I believe will actually happen is that we will continue on the path of the gradual replacement and augmentation scenario until ultimately most of our thinking will be in the cloud.”




Thought of the Day: On Success, Personality Types and the Personal Mission Statement

I noticed a common pattern among the people I’ve been communicating with lately: even though they all are successful in their own ways they still think that they haven’t achieved many things. In the following lines I will attempt to explain my idea of success. It’s not bad to want to achieve more and be more successful but this modern prevalence seems to be the effect of the availability heuristic of success and survivorship bias. The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that returns a fast example in one’s mind when he/she is thinking about something or deciding. When not engaged in cognitive demanding processes the mind tends to wander off and a frequent subject of its ruminations is the status of one’s life. Am I happy? Am I successful? Am I doing something useful with my life? Do I feel like I have a purpose in life? There is also the tendency to compare ourselves with others, to assess our socio-economic hierarchy and the availability heuristic serves us immediate examples learned, usually, from sources like the news and social media. The news tend to present only the most successful companies and on social media people tend to “cheat” by presenting themselves only in positive contexts. So, in appearance, there might seem like a lot of success is going around us and we might feel left out.

Survivorship bias: “Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. Survivorship bias can lead to overly optimistic beliefs because failures are ignored, such as when companies that no longer exist are excluded from analyses of financial performance”. In other words, humans have an innate tendency to see only what worked, what succeeded.

The way success is commonly portrayed is by achieving a high socio-economic status: money in the bank, an expensive house, expensive car(s), expensive traveling in exotic places and so on. If money, fast cars, a big house and a trophy wife truly motivate you than great for you, go for it! but it should be noted that not all people are motivated by the same things, different personalities are motivated differently but unfortunately many tend to acquire and internalize the notion that success = money&high status. Albert Einstein is considered to have said the following quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Let’s change it a bit: If you judge yourself by your ability to become a multimillionaire even though you don’t really want to or don’t need to but everything around you makes you believe that, then you will live your life thinking you are a failure. The word millionaire can be replaced with whatever notion of success that doesn’t really motivate you.

Update: meanwhile, I also came upon the concept of Strain Theory.  Strain theory states that this kind of pressure from the society to achieve the “American Dream” can lead to nefarious consequences. From Wikipedia:

Strain theory is a sociology and criminology theory developed in 1938 by Robert K. Merton. The theory states that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (such as the American dream) though they lack the means, this leads to strain which may lead the individuals to commit crimes. Examples being selling drugs or becoming involved in prostitution to gain financial security.

.thinking intp

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test my personality is INTP-A also known as the “Logician” personality type. INTP’s are introverted and thinking types, shy in social settings, need intellectual stimulation, love patterns, constantly come up with ideas and solutions, are inventive and creative. Given this short description is not hard to infer that a lot of money in the bank and/or a high social status is not something that really motivates this personality type but rather what motivates them are ideas, discoveries, exploration. Money should be seen as a means to an end not an end in itself. My definition of success is tightly related to my Personal Mission Statement. I first learned about the concept of the Personal Mission Statement about 3 years ago while reading Stephen Covey‘s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What is a Personal Mission Statement?

“In ones life, the most effective way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a mission statement one that focuses what you want to be in terms of character and what you want to do in reference to contribution of achievements. Writing a mission statement can be the most important activity an individual can take to truly lead ones life. Personal mission statements based on correct principles are like a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”

For example, this is part of my personal mission statement:

Live free and exercise the right to be free, be the master of my own destiny.

Learn about my self, my family, my peers, my surroundings, nature, the universe.

Experience the best that humanity has to offer: it’s beauty in all of its forms, architecture, events, art, movies, literature, music, its emotions, culture, history, languages.

Experience the best that nature has to offer: scenic places with mesmerizing beauty.

Challenge myself, grow each day, learn each day, experience each day, connect each day, test myself, get out of my comfort zone.

No day goes to waste.

Influence and make a difference so my existence is not meaningless.

Add value. Don’t forget to smile and laugh.

The founder of the universe, who assigned to us the laws of life, provided that we should live well, but not in luxury. Everything needed for our well-being is right before us, whereas what luxury requires is gathered by many miseries and anxieties. Let us use this gift of nature and count it among the greatest things.



Like I was saying, my idea of success is strongly intertwined with my personal mission statement. I am practicing my personal mission statement on a daily basis and thus I consider myself to be a successful person given this criteria. It can be clearly seen that it doesn’t take a lot of money in order to achieve most of the things in my list. Now, obviously, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, each should take some time off to figure out what they truly want.
I was stating that each day I am practicing my personal mission. How do I know that? Today, at the end of the day I will know it because I just recently did it, the memory of doing it is fresh. How will I know it tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow? How will I know it decades from now or if I get Alzheimer’s disease or another memory related disease? The answer is that I also keep track of what I do on a daily basis, it’s a very basic journaling system: I have a file where I write down the current date and what I have achieved that day on a personal and work level. For example, if I read from a book, I just put in its title, nothing more or nothing less, or if I go for a run I just write down “run”, sometimes “run (6)” to hint out the number of kilometers even though I don’t usually do that now, if I read from Wikipedia some articles I put in Wikipedia and the titles of the articles in parenthesis like this “Wikipedia (Unconscious thought theory, Unconscious cognition, Attention restoration theory)”. It doesn’t take a lot of time to put down these short notes and this system makes it very easy to keep track of what you do daily, your achievements. I check this file daily and I also do some quick checks from time to time on what I did for the past week, the past month or year and so on. Each year has its separate file, now I’m taking notes in 2017.txt. This process really helps me to strengthen my memory. I might hear about some important concept or theory, read about it on Wikipedia or some other place, close the tab and one week after I might forget about it already. With this system, I am reminded again about it and if my memory doesn’t do very well I will just check the article again. I also have a separate file in which I note down just my better-than-usual or first-of-the-kind achievements like the title of a book I just completed reading, a semimarathon I managed to run or a new personal best in speed or distance, a new skill that I learned like skiing for example, a new experience and so on. I write down all these thing because they are important to me. I have another file in which I write the most significant achievements of my life like writing a book for example, obviously, I rarely write in this file. Some of my bucketlist items also go into this file. I find this 3 level system very useful in tracking out how I exercise my personal mission statement and thus my success. Our memories are usually bad, mine included, and we tend to forget what we did a few days ago or a week ago including our achievements of various degrees.

It’s important to remind ourselves from time to time that even though we don’t live in a castle or traveled in space we still achieved plenty of smaller but meaningful things.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look
back and realize they were the big things.” 
Robert Brault