At 39 years old, but he 's already sold six million books, including Strengths Based Leadership and his latest, Are You Fully Charged? He’s a senior scientist and advisor to Gallup and is hugely influential in the business world. Since age 16, he’s been successfully battling a rare disease that causes cancer cells to appear throughout his body. And last but not least, he’s an incredibly humble and down to earth strong (and proud!) introvert.
I asked Tom to share his secrets to living wisely, staying healthy, and fighting anxiety.
Susan Cain: At only age 39, you’ve lived a pretty extraordinary life. And you’re well known for your natural humility. How do you channel all that quiet modesty into your work?
Tom Rath: One of the lessons I learned very early in life, from my grandfather, is that it is an extraordinary waste of time to try to be someone you are not. So while I aspire to have a positive influence on other people, I know I’m not going to accomplish that by being the loudest or most charismatic person in a room. What I can do is read, learn, and listen as much as humanly possible and channel my findings into something productive. This is the part that comes naturally to me.
My challenge is that all the knowledge in the world does little good for others until it is shared in a practical form. This is why I have spent quite a bit of time trying to become a semi-competent writer over the past decade. There is so much amazing research being conducted today that could influence people’s lives. But that knowledge has to meet people at a time of need in order to have any chance of influencing a person’s daily choices.
SC: At age 16, you were diagnosed with VHL disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes cancer cells to appea...
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...d with me. The quality of social interactions matters far more than the frequency of those interactions. Based on what I have studied, we need about 80% of our interactions with other people to be more positive than negative. This is simply because negative interactions carry much heavier load and outweigh positive ones.
I have also learned to leverage my more analytical and inquisitive personality to create better interactions. It is a lot easier for me as an introvert to ask a good question than it is to initiate a story or other banter. So I ask a lot of questions, listen well, keep my electronic devices stowed away, and learn as much as I can during each interaction. In a world where attention is so incredibly fragmented by voices and devices, I have a feeling that some of these things introverts naturally do better will be even more highly valued in the future.