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  • Joe Kowan: I have stage fright.

  • I've always had stage fright,

  • and not just a little bit,

  • it's a big bit.

  • And it didn't even matter until I was 27.

  • That's when I started writing songs, and even then

  • I only played them for myself.

  • Just knowing my roommates were in the same house made me uncomfortable.

  • But after a couple of years, just writing songs wasn't enough.

  • I had all these stories and ideas, and I wanted to share them with people,

  • but physiologically, I couldn't do it.

  • I had this irrational fear.

  • But the more I wrote, and the more I practiced,

  • the more I wanted to perform.

  • So on the week of my 30th birthday,

  • I decided I was going to go to this local open mic,

  • and put this fear behind me.

  • Well, when I got there, it was packed.

  • There were like 20 people there.

  • (Laughter)

  • And they all looked angry.

  • But I took a deep breath, and I signed up to play,

  • and I felt pretty good.

  • Pretty good, until about 10 minutes before my turn,

  • when my whole body rebelled, and this wave of anxiety just washed over me.

  • Now, when you experience fear, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in.

  • So you have a rush of adrenaline, your heart rate increases,

  • your breathing gets faster.

  • Next your non-essential systems start to shut down, like digestion. (Laughter)

  • So your mouth gets dry, and blood is routed away from your extremities,

  • so your fingers don't work anymore.

  • Your pupils dilate, your muscles contract, your Spidey sense tingles,

  • basically your whole body is trigger-happy. (Laughter)

  • That condition is not conducive to performing folk music.

  • (Laughter)

  • I mean, your nervous system is an idiot.

  • Really? Two hundred thousand years of human evolution, and it still can't tell the difference

  • between a saber tooth tiger and 20 folksingers

  • on a Tuesday night open mic?

  • (Laughter)

  • I have never been more terrified -- until now.

  • (Laughter and cheers)

  • So then it was my turn,

  • and somehow, I get myself onto the stage, I start my song,

  • I open my mouth to sing the first line,

  • and this completely horrible vibrato --

  • you know, when your voice wavers -- comes streaming out.

  • And this is not the good kind of vibrato, like an opera singer has,

  • this is my whole body just convulsing with fear.

  • I mean, it's a nightmare.

  • I'm embarrassed, the audience is clearly uncomfortable,

  • they're focused on my discomfort.

  • It was so bad.

  • But that was my first real experience as a solo singer-songwriter.

  • And something good did happen -- I had the tiniest little glimpse

  • of that audience connection that I was hoping for.

  • And I wanted more. But I knew I had to get past this nervousness.

  • That night I promised myself: I would go back every week

  • until I wasn't nervous anymore.

  • And I did. I went back every single week,

  • and sure enough, week after week,

  • it didn't get any better. The same thing happened every week. (Laughter)

  • I couldn't shake it.

  • And that's when I had an epiphany.

  • And I remember it really well, because I don't have a lot of epiphanies. (Laughter)

  • All I had to do was write a song that exploits my nervousness.

  • That only seems authentic when I have stage fright,

  • and the more nervous I was,

  • the better the song would be. Easy.

  • So I started writing a song about having stage fright.

  • First, fessing up to the problem,

  • the physical manifestations, how I would feel,

  • how the listener might feel.

  • And then accounting for things like my shaky voice,

  • and I knew I would be singing about a half-octave higher than normal,

  • because I was nervous.

  • By having a song that explained what was happening to me,

  • while it was happening,

  • that gave the audience permission to think about it.

  • They didn't have to feel bad for me because I was nervous,

  • they could experience that with me,

  • and we were all one big happy, nervous, uncomfortable family. (Laughter)

  • By thinking about my audience, by embracing and exploiting my problem,

  • I was able to take something that was blocking my progress,

  • and turn it into something that was essential for my success.

  • And having the stage fright song let me get past that biggest issue

  • right in the beginning of a performance.

  • And then I could move on, and play the rest of my songs

  • with just a little bit more ease.

  • And eventually, over time, I didn't have to play the stage fright song at all.

  • Except for when I was really nervous, like now. (Laughter)

  • Would it be okay if I played the stage fright song for you?

  • (Applause)

  • Can I have a sip of water?

  • (Music)

  • Thank you.

  • ♫ I'm not joking, you know, ♫

  • this stage fright is real. ♫

  • And if I'm up here trembling and singing, ♫

  • well, you'll know how I feel. ♫

  • And the mistake I'd be making, ♫

  • the tremolo caused by my whole body shaking. ♫

  • As you sit there feeling embarrassed for me, ♫

  • well, you don't have to be. ♫

  • Well, maybe just a little bit. ♫

  • (Laughter)

  • And maybe I'll try to imagine you all without clothes. ♫

  • But singing in front of all naked strangers scares me more than anyone knows. ♫

  • Not to discuss this at length, ♫

  • but my body image was never my strength. ♫

  • So frankly, I wish that you all would get dressed, ♫

  • ♫ I mean, you're not even really naked. ♫

  • And I'm the one with the problem. ♫

  • And you tell me, don't worry so much, you'll be great. ♫

  • But I'm the one living with me

  • and I know how I get. ♫

  • Your advice is gentle but late. ♫

  • If not just a bit patronizing. ♫

  • And that sarcastic tone doesn't help me when I sing. ♫

  • But we shouldn't talk about these things right now, ♫

  • really, I'm up on stage, and you're in the crowd. Hi. ♫

  • And I'm not making fun of unnurtured, irrational fear, ♫

  • and if I wasn't ready to face this, ♫

  • ♫ I sure as hell wouldn't be here. ♫

  • But if I belt one note out clearly, ♫

  • you'll know I'm recovering slowly but surely. ♫

  • And maybe next week, I'll set my guitar ringin' ♫

  • my voice clear as water, and everyone singin'. ♫

  • But probably I'll just get up and start groovin', ♫

  • my vocal cords movin', ♫

  • at speeds slightly faster than sound. ♫

  • (Applause)

Joe Kowan: I have stage fright.

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【TED】Joe Kowan: How I beat stage fright (How I beat stage fright | Joe Kowan)

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    Daniel Chin posted on 2014/08/29
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