Recently I was at a conference and on the last night of the event was a jam fest. At some point, it was suggested that the dejay dial up the karaoke song list. Soon after, someone dropped off little pieces of paper at each table so people could write down the song they wanted to karaoke to.
As is always the case, two types of karaoke singers emerged–those that are goaded into the action somewhat reluctantly and those who act like they’re fulfilling their lifelong role as “life of the party.” There’s a third type of people that are also usually present when karaoke happens–people like me. People perfectly happy to sit back and watch others step out of their comfort zone.
Early into the night, the high school-age son of one of the conference attendees’ got up on stage. He didn’t really sing at all, but just stood off to the side and performed as a backup dancer for whomever was singing. He was sort of a cross between Napoleon Dynamite, Jim Carrey and the wedding singer. A couple REO Speedwagon and Sheryl Crow songs into it, though and he really cut loose and it started to get interesting.
The kid was stealing the show. Out of nowhere there seemed to be costumes and he cleverly switched into different attire for each song. A cowboy hat, a feather boa, and what looked like a steampunk jacket were a few props that were just loud enough to distract from the singer that no one really wanted to hear anyway.
What struck me like a hammer is how this kid could demonstrate such confidence and lack of self-consciousness in a room full of middle-aged educators. He was completely at ease–if not charged up–by letting his personality shine in front of people who were safe, not judgy and long over being misguided by teenage angst.
Then I thought to myself, “How often do I or others sit back while others take the show because we are worried about being judged or criticized?” And “What would happen if I turned off that internal self-limiting behavior from time to time?” Seeing this kid, who easily had more than 30 years fewer life experiences, lean into the situation rather than lean away was eye opening.
A couple more songs into the evening I started to think about how I could share this experience with you. Can you think of a time where you didn’t do or say something because it might have made you feel vulnerable? Better yet, can you think of a time when you didn’t do or say something but regretted it later? I think this self-conscious and doubt playlist runs through our heads a lot. I also think that when we let ourselves be vulnerable, we earn more than we lose.
What did I do? I grabbed one of those pieces of paper, wrote down my song, and strode up to the deejay. A few minutes later I was up. I knew it was my turn because as songs in the queue were up they would play the first few bars. And who doesn’t recognize the emotive solo piano intro to Bohemian Rhapsody?
The takeaway? Sing loud and don’t worry about what the rest of us think.