Last Friday evening I got the chance to see The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. My friends know me as being particularly obsessed with the gloriousness that is Redmayne but I point to this movie not for his talent alone.
You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about character, relationships and giving recently. What I liked about this film is that it portrays the love, support, care and commitment Jane Wilde gave to her partner as he battled motor neuron disease. The story is as much about compassion and sacrifice as it is the career trajectory of a physics genius. In a way, the hero’s journey refreshingly revolves around Wilde as the carer, not Hawking.
This brings me to character. We very rarely highlight certain attributes of the people behind the scenes – especially in the entrepreneurial or business press. I’ve been reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and early on, she discusses personality traits that were celebrated prior to the explosion of ‘the salesman’ type. Attributes that were revered pre-1920s were described by words like: “citizenship, duty, honour, morals, manners and integrity”. After this time, etiquette guides focused more on being: “attractive, fascinating, dominant and energetic”.
The book has made me more conscious of what qualities I naturally value in people. It’s given me confidence to see through the ‘jazz hands’ exterior into someone’s core character set. I’m especially inspired by those who do good deeds but don’t share them. In the days of social media, we often broadcast actions for vapid reasons like attention. It’s what we do when no one is watching that counts.
I’m also intrigued about the future of work, with the advent of distributed teams and technology as more and more of communication is going to be based online. Therefore, it’s not those who are the loudest or most self promotional in the workplace arena – verbal orators battling it out – but rather, the writers, the listeners, those with great awareness and perception. These people might not have been heard much in the past but they can be now when our days are spent on tools such as Slack.
The environment is changing from being optimized for extroverts to one where introverts can thrive too. How we hire and vet candidates will evolve as a result. We’re moving into the reputation and trust economy, led by the influx of review-filled marketplaces, where character is center stage.
I’m excited about where things are heading. :)
Image credit: The Theory of Everything