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.

Do you have a story to share about being an introvert? Click here to view further information and submit your story—we’d love to hear from you. 

Share your thoughts.

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  218. Shaun Jay says:

    Hi Lucy,

    At times, I can’t believe I’m an introvert either! Glad you enjoyed the talk! What was your favorite part? I recently spoke to a TEDx organizer and he told me that if you’ve already given one talk, there’s another talk inside of you…so, if you liked that one, keep an eye out for future talks from me! Something to look forward to down the pipeline!

    I’m glad that you found my story inspiring and feel free to share it with anyone else who you think can benefit from it!

  219. Shaun Jay says:

    Really good question, Katrina! In a way, yes! At this point, it’s like a light switch that I can turn on and off. I put myself in this state where I love my audience and it usually shows! Since audiences usually pick up on these things, they respond kindly intern and give me their undivided attention.

    The next question people ask is, how do you do that? It’s not easy… Takes a heck of a lot of practice like anything else. My job, as the great Magician Doug Henning would say, “…is to make the difficult look easy and the easy look beautiful!”

  220. Shaun Jay says:

    Hi Mandy,

    I’m willing to bet that all three of them are a lot more introverted than you think! Often times, introverts need a very charismatic stage persona to help hide all of their “butterflies.”

    Also remember when you watch a performance or speech of any kind, your seeing just the finished product which resulted from hours, days, weeks, and years of practice and silent contemplation.

    Thanks for the feedback, Mandy! I enjoy reading and responding to all of these comments as this is a topic I love!

  221. Shaun Jay says:

    Yes Julia, I definitely can relate to the drawing from a charged battery! It certainly takes more out of my “reserve” to successfully pull off public speaking. After a speech or performance, I feel extremely energized and pumped due to the adrenaline rush, and then later in the day I felt like I ran a marathon! This also happens because I put out 150% every time I’m up on stage. I love what I do and get great joy and satisfaction when I know that I’ve given an audience information they can use and most importantly inspire them in their own lives and career.

    Thanks for the feedback and support, Julia!

  222. Shaun Jay says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Marlana! I hope there was something that everybody can either identify with or learn from in there!

  223. Lucy Kinyua says:

    As I write this am listening to your TEDx talk and can’t believe you’re an introvert. You captured the audience attention and got them laughing too, kudos Jay!!!! Your story is such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  224. Marlana Sherman says:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

  225. Julia says:

    I can completely relate to the “other persona” we introverts can take on. We have to remember that introverts aren’t always “shy” – we can indeed speak and often have a lot to say! It’s simply that we don’t get energized from public speaking. instead we must draw from our charged battery, and plan for feeling very drained and exhausted afterward!

  226. Katrina Pingol says:

    That’s a great story. When approaching the stage, do you just block out the introvert inside and the extrovert takes over?

  227. Shaun Jay says:

    Thanks, Rachel! Glad you enjoyed it!

  228. Rachel Horton White says:

    Thank you for this! Inspiring story!

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