Last year, I was asked by Glenfiddich whiskey to speak at a series of events they were holding with their consumers. The brief was to speak about ‘charisma’. The Cambridge dictionary defines charisma as “a special power that some people have naturally that makes them able to influence other people and attract their attention and admiration.” This was difficult. How do I speak on something that I find indefinable, especially when positioned as an ‘expert’ on this? Instead, having, at the time, recently read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking, I talked about my experiences as an introvert working in very public spaces. Spaces that require me to interact with and socialise regularly.
I just came across a Tweet I posted some time back:
Whenever I have been in spaces with lots of people, I need time to decompress. An extended moment of solitude with. Cognac. Cigar. Book.
I had a brief, three-year stint as a judge for Miss South Africa and every year, after the flashing lights, commotion and dealing with people who all have an opinion at the after party, I would withdraw to the corner of whichever establishment we were staying in, to get some quiet time. In 2016, midnight hit with me sitting outside the Maslow Hotel in Joburg, with a book and a cigar, simply decompressing.
From the outside, a multitude of events to attend, places to travel to, interesting people to interact with may seem like a dream come true but for those of us who need those moments of respite, it can be unnerving. I meet many people like me in such spaces. We all recognise the need to build relationships – which form the lifeblood of business, I believe – but have also found ways to navigate these interactions with our sanity relatively intact.
Performing poetry at 2-3 open mics a week in the early 2000s was invaluable in teaching me how to both be in the spotlight – of sorts – while also keeping elements of me to self. It took me years to perform without a mic stand which served as protection – as strange as that may sound – as well as grounding. Over the years, I have also developed rituals and habits that allow me to ‘protect’ myself from the multiple energies that I am often exposed to, while also being able to experience the best of social experiences.
And, I have found that, since I started riding a motorcycle, I am able to find more of those quiet moments for myself, even with the grunts, moans and drone of the engine. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the new Harley-Davidson Tourers which took us through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Western Cape. Although I was part of a group of about 7 riders, when on the road, it is simply you, with your thoughts, within your helmet. You do need to be attentive and aware of what is happening around you, but it is you at your most alone, in a beautiful way.
This is also what has drawn me to cigars, the smoking of which I call ‘meditation’. In fact, I am writing this with a cognac, a cigar and Childish Gambino’s new album “Awaken, My Love” for company.
How do you find your quiet moments? I do believe that even extroverts, who thrive on the energy of others, need those moments.