I don’t know about you, but I grew up scared to speak in public. I was mortified to sing in public. Karaoke was one of the scariest things for me to do. I enjoyed it when I got drunk enough, but that meant I’d have to deal with horrible hangovers.
As a result, I didn’t sing much karaoke — maybe a few times in my whole life.
Of course, I could tell people enjoyed karaoke, even ones who didn’t sing well. I wished I could sing as well as others who commanded the room with their singing ability, though I would have settled for just being able to sing without being mortified even if I couldn’t sing that well.
I should mention, growing up my family didn’t put a value on singing. We learned musical instruments, but not singing. Definitely not dancing. So it wasn’t ingrained from the start.
I suspect most people reading this had similar experiences — not learning to sing or dance, realizing late in life how much fun others had doing it and how much it built community.
I remember singing karaoke for the first time not drunk a few years ago. I knew the ability to do it had come through the leadership development exercises I had done — not that I didn’t care what other people thought, but I was comfortable with them not liking my singing if they didn’t; I would enjoy myself anyway.
I didn’t tell anyone what a milestone I had overcome while doing it, but internally I noticed I was singing in public without being drunk and that that was a big deal. I sang Don’t Stop Believing. My heart didn’t exactly race, but I felt inside what a moment it was. That was a few years ago. It must have been 2010 because it was right after my friend won an Oscar and we all went out with him.
Intellectually I had known Martha Graham’s principle
Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.
but I was only starting to put it into practice.
Also, I’d gotten a lot more experience speaking in public and learning to enjoy it. I like to think I’ve gotten good at it, though no matter how well you speak in public, you can always improve.
Anyway, the other day some of my classmates invited me to karaoke, called KTV in China for whatever reason.
This time I passed another milestone — halfway into a song I noticed I had sung along to several songs without it being a big deal. I was just enjoying myself.
I imagine people who naturally sing and dance or started doing it young are thinking, “who cares? What’s the big deal?”
But for people like me who were always scared of doing karaoke or other types of speaking or performing in public, it’s a big deal. If I hadn’t done it — reached a point of being able to sing in front of people even though my voice sounds terrible and enjoy it — I wouldn’t believe I could.
But I could. And, if you care, you can too.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book