Jill Chang: Quiet Is a Superpower
November 30, 2020

November 30, 2020
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Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?

My day job is an international philanthropy adviser at Give2Asia, a SF-based nonprofit with an operation across 23 APAC countries. 

My other job, which started as a side project, is an author/speaker. My book “Quiet Is a Superpower” is about how introverts can not only survive, but also thrive in the workplace. The book is a bestseller in Taiwan, staying on the Top 10 chart for 20 weeks. I just published the English version last month https://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Superpower-Strengths-Introverts-Workplace/dp/B08L87M6JZ  It is also being translated into Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian.

Susan Cain, NY Times bestselling author of Quiet and Quiet Power, says Quiet is a Superpower is “A must have for today’s quiet warriors.” 

Since my book became a bestseller 2 years ago, I’ve been giving talks, speeches, and training to various types of groups, including different levels of management in corporations, principles from elementary schools to universities, students and parents. I also travel to different countries to do public speaking and training, as of now, I’ve delivered over 200 speeches around the world. 

There are many books about introverts out there, most of them are written by psychologists, business consultants, entrepreneurs, and organizational experts. My book is different because in addition to theories and evidence, I share my personal struggles and lessons learned as an introvert in a multi-cultural workplace. 

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.

I didn’t plan to become an author, I mean, I wanted to, but I didn’t dare to dream about it. I was not a professional writer. I’m a mom and manage a team across 20 countries for a nonprofit so I didn’t really have time to focus on becoming an author.  The only writing experience I have was writing monthly columns for an online platform that focused on working ladies. And, most importantly, I knew the Taiwan publishing market was and still is super competitive. If you look at the titles per person, it is the second most competitive market in the world. The titles per person is almost twice that of the US. So, with this knowledge, I knew that I had zero no chance to find a publisher as a rookie and a nobody.

My luck changed, when one day, I was meeting my mentor. I arrived early to prepare from my meeting and was introduced to my mentor’s editor. We exchanged business cards and I reached out to her afterward.

The editor thought I had interesting perspectives. She liked my tone of writing, so she decided to take a gamble on me. I finished the first draft of “Quiet Is a Superpower” in 2 weeks, 70,000+ words. This is how my journey begins.

After my book was published in Taiwan, it received more and more attention. I started to go to podcast interviews, radio shows, live streaming. The book went through 16 printings in Taiwan, which is unheard for a rookie and nobody.

I’m excited to share with everyone that Quiet Is a Superpower is actually the first Taiwanese self-help book that’s been translated into English. The publisher, Barrett- Koehler, is a well-known independent publisher based in Oakland, California and distributed by Penguin Random House. My book is the first one they have ever bought and translated from an international author. 

What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?

In school and in the early stage of my career, I always wanted to be someone else. I was always told: hey, you need to be more outgoing, aggressive, sociable, and likable, that’s how you succeed in life. So those were my goals growing up, I thought – if I work hard enough, I would be successful and people would like me. 

But as an introvert, I’ve naturally strived to avoid being the center of attention. I’m not super comfortable talking to a large crowd or meeting a lot of strangers. These types of activities are draining for an introvert. After I became an author, talking to strangers and large crowds have become part of my daily life. Nowadays, people recognize me in random places and occasions. Many ask for a photo together and/or want to chat for a long time. All of these activities are 1,000 miles outside of my comfort zone. To manage my energy level, I set boundaries by taking breaks and giving myself enough downtime to decompress from my day job and side hustle as an author of Quiet is a Superpower. In my book, I share that at social functions, I arrive early so I can take short breaks if I need to so I can “conserve my energy”.

The toughest part of my book journey has been dealing with criticisms of my book from “haters”. As someone who is private, the criticism really hurt personally. There were times, I was depressed by the reactions and started to doubt myself and thought I’d never want to talk about me, my personal stories, or the book anymore. 

However, my readers saved me from the depression. I realized the positive stories I heard from my readers far outweighed by the negative. My readers shared their stories with me about how my book/talks/videos helped them as introverts.  Their stories are truly powerful and empowering, I am encouraged by them all the time. Over time, I decided to focus on the positive feedback from readers. This is what motivates me to keep talking to people and advocating for introverts.   

What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?

In my book, I write about famous working relationships between introverts and extroverts. For example, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Introverts and Extroverts balanced each other out. 

I think being quiet and empathetic are definitely two of the characteristics that made me who I am, and these are the things introverts are really good at. While extroverts are better in demonstrating their ideas and achievements, introverts tend to listen, think deep, and reflect. Another thing is empathy, introverts  think a lot, sometimes overthink, some people struggle for that, but I think that can be a niche for introverts. When we overthink, we can think from the other people’s perspective and really put ourselves in their shoes, and people appreciate that. Instead of managing a lot of relationships, introverts are good at maintaining a few deep relationships, part of it is because we can’t overthink for too many people, that’s draining (haha)

What advice would you give to someone who is just entering into your field?

For my fellow author friends:

People tend to think that being a writer/public speaker is all about building your own brand, getting your names out, and gaining traction. I agree, and I also think that what needs to come before these is your motivation- what do you want to say to the world, how much do you want to sacrifice in order to get the words out? Another major piece is the market- who are your target audiences, what makes your message important and unique, why people would want to read/hear from you, etc. I definitely think having a writing plan/proposal is definitely helpful. 

For my fellow introverts: 

Introverts are not usually wonderful braggers. Many times, I would even deny it was my contribution just to avoid being in the center of attention. Marketing yourself doesn’t mean you need to send signals of “I’m good, I’m amazing” all the time, but there are critical moments you need to stand up and say “hey, I did this, and I can do that very well too.”

  1. We need to prepare for those moments, either it’s a regular check in or a review meeting, get ready to demonstrate your achievement.
  2. When you do, use evidence, and insert them carefully, this is especially helpful when you’re pitching to people who don’t know you very well yet. For example “Hi, nice meeting you virtually! Did you find me from the Youtube video? It already has over 1 million views, isn’t it amazing?”  

Take job interviews for example, you know you only have a short window to impress the interviewer, what do you do to prepare? One of my introverted colleagues was interviewing for a very competitive job, went into a room with a big mind map, on that piece of paper demonstrated all of the major achievements in his career, evidence-based. Of course, he got the job, he told me 90% of the efforts should happen before you enter that room. Preparation happens to be our thing.

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