Imagine what would happen if an introvert was placed on stage in front of 500 people. That’s the pressure of 1,000 eyeballs staring, patiently waiting for a performance to start.

Would the introvert collapse or faint due to fear? Would the introvert stare at his feet with nothing to say? Or would the introvert walk out on stage with a confident smile and arms open, inviting the audience on a magical journey that won’t be forgotten?

My name is Shaun Jay, and I am that introvert who is now a full-time professional speaker and magician (crazy, right?). Up until the age of 12, I barely had the courage to talk to anyone other than my own mother. Much of my time was spent in my room constructing Lego models and drawing caricatures of people I saw in magazines. My mother enrolled me in martial arts when I was 5 years old. She knew my quiet nature very well and wanted me to be able to protect myself. I went through the forms/katas but hated sparring! I eventually earned my black belt, and soon after, martial arts training faded away…

On my 12th birthday, I received a book set called “World’s Greatest Card Games.” Next to it was another book called “World’s Greatest Card Tricks.” From then on, I decided to learn as much as I could about these mysteries and test them on an audience (actually, just my mother). She soon realized that there was potential talent and that she could foster its growth, which she did very well. The year after, with her encouragement, I set up a sandwich table and a tip jar at a local festival. For the next four hours, I performed nervously in front of people. When I got home, I counted my money and discovered I had made $60! From there, I progressed to being the resident magician at a major shopping mall for six years straight. During this time, I also traveled to Las Vegas to improve my skills by studying at The McBride Magic and Mystery School, which the BBC called “the world’s most prestigious magic school.”

As I continued to perform weekly, I started to develop a persona that allowed me to become outgoing and charismatic. I like to call it The Performer’s Paradox. Many introverted performers develop this second self that is the complete opposite of their actual temperaments. Eventually, the persona started to leak into my actual self and because of this, I feel that I’ve been able to overcome many personal challenges. Now, I can talk to strangers and hold a great conversation with anyone I want. In fact, I found it’s even easier to do on stage in front of a group. This new self, although still introverted, has allowed me to become a contestant on MasterChef, deliver a TEDx talk in front of 500 people, and even perform for singer-songwriter Idan Raichel and his band backstage.

Although I still remain an introvert at heart, I have been able to overcome many of the challenges faced by introverts through my introduction to magic. I can now say that my introversion has, in a way, helped me conquer the number one fear that almost every American has: speaking in public. And that, my friends, is the real magic.

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