Spoiler alert – this is about me (and also shamelessly promoting me) – but I share, not for glory – but to help all of those shy kids (and maybe grown ups too).
I’m an introvert. And I’m shy. But first off, let’s be clear, these are two different things, and the terms are not interchangeable.
Introvert – I get my energy from downtime – time alone. Reading, writing, etc. or in small-close knit groups of people (and in small doses too). (FYI – if you haven’t read Jonathan Rauch’s excellent article about introverts – you should).
Shy – In some social circumstances where I don’t know anyone – I can feel anxious or nervous.
So, there is a difference between being shy and being an introvert.
I’m still – and have always been an introvert. I’m still shy. But I’ve get a secret magic silver bullet to bypass my shyness…
… I’m also a rockstar.
Ok. Maybe not American Idol/The Voice/Rolling Stongs/Bruce Springsteen rockstar. But none of them are Jake Posko either.
I’m a musician and performer and have been most of my life. Rather than write out my life story, let’s use some quick and easy bullet points to explain how music/performing has saved a shy and introverted kid from a life of awkward loneliness.
This goes for anyone, not just shy kids. But music can bring about crazy amounts of focus. The kind of “oh my gosh three hours just passed like it was five minutes while I’ve been playing this one song over and over again where has my day gone” type of focus. Psychologists call it Flow (which you can read about here – if you’re a nerd like me). But focus can help develop skill, and skill development can lead to…
This is the big one. Where I once was a shy kid who felt like he didn’t really have that much going for him, almost within days of learning a new song (from my trusty Jimmy Buffett songbook), I was amazed at what I could do. Now – granted I wasn’t an expert. But I was – all of a sudden – light years beyond my friends who couldn’t play anything. If ever there was a guitar lying around, I knew that I could pick it up and strum a little song I knew by heart. I could sing along too, which gave me an…
3. Opportunity to shine.
Learning to play and sing my favorite songs (and even some crowd pleasers that may have not been my favorite) helped me feel more confident. It helped me stand out among my non-musician-guitar-playing peers. As I got older it helped to land me gigs (lucrative gigs no less), where I was the star…. think about that for a moment: A shy, introverted kid, confidently and professionally performing music in front of complete strangers.
Side note: I would also say that it helped me meet girls, but my wife would get mad (despite the fact that I’m pretty sure my musical skill is what attracted her to me in the first place. And don’t even get me started on the “guitar lessons” I gave to her before we started dating. She was a terrible student. But that’s beside the point).
4. Cohort – like-minded people.
Learning how to play music and learning how to perform also helped me meet people. It sounds silly and a little obvious – but it’s worth mentioning. I am still friends with a lot of the same people from high school – people that I met and developed long lasting friendships with through music and similar interests. Two of the guys were in my wedding. I’ve met famous musicians (which is just me bragging). I’ve learned new skills. I’ve put together a band or two. And in putting together a band and working with others I’ve learned to collaborate. And I’ve learned how to…
5. Become a leader.
Bands are like families. High School and Middle School are like weird little families. Grown ups have work families. All of this requires us to interact with other humans. Every so often we need to step up and lead others. For a shy kid, this can be terrifying. But for me, I’ve embraced it. I’m comfortable on a stage in front of strangers. I’m in my element directing others. But I’m still an introvert – I still need my alone time. But I’m not lonely. Let’s be clear.
I’m not claiming that music and/or performance will cure diseases and depression and other things.
I’m not saying that introversion and shyness are bad things either (quite the opposite).
There is probably some science to this, but I don’t mean to prove anything.
Just share my experience so that it may help other kids (or, like I said, grown ups too). I’m a guitar teacher and performance instructor. I’ve worked as mentor, director, and manager. I’m managed small teams and large groups. Music may have not been the sole reason for my successes and comfort level – but it helped.
It helped my little, shy, eleven year old self proclaim from the stage of Severna Park Middle school, in as booming a voice I could muster, “STAND ASIDE MA’AM, I’LL SAVE YOU”. It was my one line from The Wizard of Oz. I don’t even know if it was in the script. I think the director just added it because of the juxtaposition of the line against the small stature and squeaky voice of the boy it emanated from.