Is this the real reason for Richard Nixon’s downfall?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt is out with a new book titled, The Happiest Life. In it, he argues that seven gifts (encouragement, energy, enthusiasm, empathy, good humor, graciousness, and gratitude) help produce happiness. During a recent discussion, Hewitt and I discussed the book — and I specifically asked him about one of those gifts: energy.

No one can deny it’s a powerful force. On TV, a commentator who doesn’t convey energy is boring. Even in regular life, we tend to be attracted to people who have high energy levels. (And it goes without saying that a person who is blessed with an abundance of energy can devote more time to work than his competitors.)

But,  unlike the other qualities (which tend to be virtues based on adopting a positive attitude), one’s energy level may be genetically hardwired. (Of course, you can fake it. If you have to give an interview, you owe it to the audience to turn it “on” and give the audience your best. And yes, caffeine — and other substances — can, for a time, at least, make you more energetic. But some people just seem to have more natural energy than others. And some people seem to pay a higher price for expending energy. And that hardly seems fair.

Could it be that the real dividing line lies between extroverts (who gain energy from being around others) and introverts (who must retreat to recharge their batteries)?

“I am an introvert,” Hewitt confessed, “which means — not that you can’t bring energy — but that at the end of it, you’re exhausted…I just go home and go to bed — and do not go to parties.”

“Richard Nixon was an extraordinary introvert,” Hewitt continued. “He was my very first big boss — I worked for David Eisenhower briefly — before I went to work for RN. [Nixon was a] total introvert. [He was] in the wrong business, because politics is retail an it involves pressing the flesh. And I think it’s what eventually led to his enormous problems — is that he just couldn’t stand the fray as much — and took away from it a great sense of being under siege, as opposed to just having fun with it.”

(Note: Nixon’s introversion isn’t an entirely new observation, but I suspect its impact is under-appreciated.)

The lesson, I think, is to be introspective enough to identify your own strengths and weaknesses — and to pursue a career that fits your personality. Being an introvert doesn’t mean hiding under a rock, but it does mean finding ways to manage it — to recharge your batteries — and put yourself in a position to (mostly) play to your strengths.

During our wide-ranging conversation, Hewitt and I also discussed why journalists under 30 should keep their opinions to themselves, whether or not long-form journalism can survive in the 21st century, and why we shouldn’t confuse empathy with sympathy.

Listen to our full conversation here. (And download the podcast on iTunes.)