Jonathan Rauch fired the shot heard round the introvert world — and far beyond — in March 2003.
It was then that he wrote for The Atlantic magazine a two-page article entitled “Caring for Your Introvert.” He dashed off the essay, he said later, “almost for my own fun” — and so he’d have something he could literally pass out to the many people in his life who just didn’t seem to understand him and his fellow introverts.
“Part of the problem with being an introvert is that it’s hard to explain yourself,” he told the magazine in a follow-up interview three years later:
You can’t say to your friends, “Hey, guys, I’m an introvert,” and have them know how to deal with you. So I thought it would be pretty darn handy to have something on paper.
Readers agreed — by the thousands.
“I’ve had more email and snail mail on ‘Caring for Your Introvert,’ over a longer period, than for anything else I’ve written. Probably more mail on this than everything else put together,” Rauch wrote in another Atlantic follow-up piece, also in 2006. “People wrote to say they Xeroxed it by the bushel, laminated it, or printed it on cards for distribution to friends and family.”
The Atlantic itself noted on its web site that the article “drew (and has continued to draw) more traffic than any other piece we’ve posted.”
Why? Why the passionate, vocal, almost giddy reaction of connection and validation — from readers across the planet — to a piece Rauch never imagined sparking a quasi revolution?
It wasn’t exactly a new topic, after all. Indeed, Marti Olsen Laney had published the first widely read book on introversion, The Introvert Advantage, back in 2002. And the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gurus had been talking about introversion (and extraversion), along with other dimensions of personality assessment, for decades, building on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who developed the concepts way back in the early 1900s.
So the journalistic concept of timeliness — the new in news — didn’t explain the “Caring for Your Introvert” firestorm.
I have an explanation, though — one that crystallized for me shortly after Rauch’s original article came out and that ultimately drove me to write The Introvert Manifesto and build this companion web site community.
The reason Jonathan Rauch touched such a collective chord, and nerve, with “Caring for Your Introvert” is that he pulled off the extraordinary feat of writing a landmark piece that spoke to introverts and for introverts at the same time. More precisely, Rauch’s essay spoke to me, and thousands of my fellow introverts, because it didn’t speak only to me; it spoke on my behalf to the frequently misinformed or just plain oblivious extraverts in my life as well.
It illuminated introverts and enlightened extraverts — all in one fell swoop, with some tongue-in-cheek humor and good-natured ribbing thrown in for good measure. It was genius.
But “Caring for Your Introvert” was only the start — or so I thought. Rauch had only just begun to write. There was so much more to say about introverts and introversion — there was an entire introvert manifesto to be produced that would speak both to introverts and for introverts — and surely Rauch would be developing it in additional essays that would culminate in a book.
Rauch has never written on the topic again. He moved on — or should I say back — to other topics. And no one ever continued what he started the way he started it. More specifically, no one ever wrote the book that needed to be written the way it needed to be written. No one ever wrote The Introvert Manifesto: Introverts Illuminated, Extraverts Enlightened.
Too often — and I’m not proud of this — I’ve gone through my life unconsciously waiting for Somebody to take care of things. You know, like “Somebody oughta write a law” or “Somebody oughta invent such and such” or even the inane “Somebody oughta do the laundry today.” Somebody, Somebody, Somebody. Well, before The Introvert Manifesto came to be, I had been waiting for Somebody to write it for eight-plus years.
That Somebody, if I’m brutally honest about it, was me. And while I can say that I didn’t have the time or the energy, the truth is that I didn’t have the confidence or the clarity of purpose … yet.
Then my beautiful wife, Lois, was diagnosed with cancer — and we ultimately lost her to the disease four-and-a-half years later, on May 7, 2012. To say that the whole experience gave me confidence and determination to deal with whatever comes my way — and, especially, clarity of purpose — is a ridiculous understatement, but it’s the truth.
And so when I picked up a copy of the revised 25th-year edition of one of my favorite books, Richard Leider’s The Power of Purpose, it’s no wonder that the subheading on page 68 changed everything:
“Someone Oughta Do Something!”
In the section that followed, Leider outlined a simple yet profound method for determining how to use one’s natural gifts/talents for a worthy cause:
What are the needs of your family, neighborhood, community, business, spiritual organization, the world? What needs doing? What issues do you truly feel “someone oughta do something about”?
My answer was, and is, immediate, clear, determined, and liberating: Somebody — I — oughta continue what Jonathan Rauch so brilliantly started, the way he started it. Somebody — I — ughta write a book that illuminates introverts and enlightens extraverts at the same time. Somebody — I — oughta write The Introvert Manifesto. And then keep the momentum going with a companion web site community.
Done, I say with a mixture of pride and relief.
The pride, I hope, is obvious. The relief? Well, let me put it this way: Writing isn’t trivial. It’s difficult and frustrating and time consuming, and it frequently compels me to want to clean the toilet or tackle some other suddenly urgent household crisis. But having written — and having written something worthwhile: Well, that’s where it’s at. So I’m thankful that The Introvert Manifesto is out of my head and my heart and out in to the world, and that I’ve lived up to the wisdom of my good friend Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job:
Writing, Peter, involves putting words on paper.
Welcome to The Introvert Manifesto. Check out the book — and keep coming back here for even more.