Going out for lunch today, I heard a song on the radio that snapped me back to my younger days. I was in the eighth grade and the ol’ hormone soup was hitting a rapid boil. I had a crush on a girl… she had eyes you could lose yourself in and the cutest smile. I saw the smile quite a bit when I looked her way. In retrospect, she was probably just quietly laughing about me to her friends. Ya see, I was a shy youngster. The short, skinny kid with the brains that spent afternoons in the library reading and was the guy people turned to for help with their homework. And I wasn’t what you’d refer to as “socially capable.”

But those feelings inside… they’re great motivators. I was determined to win her over, but I didn’t have any clue how to do that. I started out slowly (loosely translated…I attempted a few awkward, mumbled conversations with her whenever I could catch her without any of her friends around). I didn’t really feel like I was getting through to her, and it wasn’t very often she was by herself. I started to lose a little hope. Then a friend convinced me to go to a school dance one night. I went and there she was. She looked stunning… even in the dim lighting at the dance. I could feel my heart beating faster than the dance music pumping through the school gymnasium. So, I did something desperate.

I took out a piece of paper and scribbled down some hasty words. I snuck over to the DJ’s booth, and when I was sure no one was looking, I left the note where the DJ could find it. And with my desperate plan in motion, I moved into position… nearby her but just out of sight. And then I waited. When I heard the DJ announce the next song was dedicated to her from a secret admirer, I took a step toward her.

This was my big moment.

The music began to play, and I was gathering up more courage than I ever thought possible at the time.

And then… she bolted. Turned red as anything from embarassment and rushed out of the gym as fast as she could while whispered murmurs and laughs rolled through the crowd. That’s when I realized my mistake. Even though I thought the lyrics of the song might reflect some of my feelings for her… she probably never got past the title of the song.

The year was 1985… the song…

Easy Lover by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey.

Ahh… the power of the title. An important lesson I learned… titles can make or break a first impression, and it can express a lot in a very small amount of space. It’s easy to forget that sometimes… luckily, I have a mnemonic that helps me remember.

No one ever found out who requested the song, and even though I tried to recover, that fumble really put a pounding on my already weak confidence. It would be years before I saw that amount of courage again because I was petrified of failing.

Besides the lesson about the power of titles, I did get one other benefit out of it. A few days later, I wrote about the situation in my notebook. I wrote about how things could have been if I had only done this… or if I’d done that… or if I’d just said something to her earlier. I played out a bunch of the different scenarios, and I took what I knew of her personality and did my best to realistically bring it to life. It’s an exercise I stil do to this very day (in my journal). I like to play what if. What if I’d said this instead? What if I’d taken this reaction to that person’s rudeness? What if I hadn’t helped out that person at the store? And I also use the technique to get into the heads of my characters? What if it was this character in that same situation… what would he/she do?

This technique was what helped me eventually overcome my shyness and fears of speaking with others. I ran through so many different scenarios in my thoughts that eventually, they started to become more natural to me. I went from shy kid to part-time class clown. And I started to look at situations that I mess up as a learning experience rather than failure. Do I still mess things up? You bet, but at least, I’m not afraid to speak up or try new things.