In the days following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, John Feal worked at Ground Zero to help clear away rubble and debris left by the felled buildings. During the cleanup, an 8,000 pound steel beam fell on John’s foot. John suffered through septic shock, gangrene and dozens of surgeries. He survived the injury, but much to his shock and disappointment, was unable to get reimbursed for his medical expenses.

John became an advocate for all 9/11 first responders, and through his organization the Feal Good Foundation, lobbied congress for sensible laws that would protect those who put their lives at risk in the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks.


During an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, John talks about how he had to fight through his natural shyness in order to effectively work to get these laws passed. He had to recruit other first responders to work with him. He had to allow himself to be interviewed by the media. He argued with members of congress.

“I’m an introvert who had to train himself to be an extrovert” he told host Terry Gross.

Though one does not need to be an extrovert in order to be successful, extroverts will have an easier time meeting people, networking, and connecting to information they need in order to achieve personal or professional goals. Just a small effort will may yield meaningful results. One new habit. One meaningful success.

  1. Introduce Yourself Online
    Sometimes I find that people who self identify as an introvert avoid posting on social networks. Even if it is only once a week, this is a good habit to create. Share what you are working on. Share what you would like to know more about. Connect with more people. As a result, you will see relationships are easily created and sustained, and new information is much easier to find.
  2. Introduce Yourself in Person
    I am a stutterer, and walking up to someone and introducing myself is perhaps the most difficult thing I do. I don’t always introduce myself to new people when I should, but I try to. Try it. Say hi. Shake their hand. Tell this new person where you are from, or what you do. Before you know it, you will find an opportunity for a shared connection. You know similar people. You went to the same school. You watch the same television show. Soon enough, you will find something to laugh about. Something to talk about. A new connection will be made.
  3. Introduce Yourself in Public
    Get yourself in front of a group of people, and talk. If you are really an introvert, this idea should horrify you. You don’t need to give a long speech, but the sooner you get in front of people to talk, the sooner you can demystify the experience for yourself. It is scary, but it does not need to be horrifying. You will probably be a really bad public speaker at first, but you will get a little better every time you find yourself behind a podium.

If you are an introvert, you don’t need to train yourself to be an extrovert. I think a world where everyone was an extrovert would be a very loud, unpleasant place to be. Quiet is good, and sometimes saying less is more. By trying just a few new habits, you may not change your personality, but you will expose yourself to new opportunities while sharing and connecting more.

Somehow, John Feal achieved his goals. John still refers to himself as an introvert, but somehow, he learned how to speak out. He learned  how to advocate for a cause he believed in. He learned how to achieve a goal he set out for himself. The three steps outlined above will not turn an introvert into an extrovert overnight, but they will help to establish habits that will help your voice be heard.

Introduce yourself. See what happens.

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