Twenty years ago, I attended the Birthing of Giants educational conference with 60 other interesting entrepreneurs.

Two days into the 5-day conference, which was otherwise life changing and transformative, the agenda item I had been semi-dreading arrived–the open bar. Here’s how I remember that night:

I’m still 20 feet from the entrance to the MIT Endicott House when the swelling buzz of conversation sends my heart into my throat and a deep sense of insecurity sets in.

I’ve always been an extreme introvert.  I know I thrive far more one-on-one than in unstructured groups. But this night feels different. I feel a total lack of control.

Just minutes into white-knuckling my way through a conversation, the person I’m half-listening to is drowned out by my own inner dialogue.

“I need to get out of here,” I nearly say out loud.

I escape to the solitude of my room.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I engage with these people?

I’m a problem solver. So, like any perfectly normal person, I spend the next month reading books on small talk, researching conversation techniques, and interviewing my more extroverted friends.

And this knowledge helped. A little. But I kept sabotaging myself.

* I would clam up and just not think of anything to say.
* I censored my opinions.
* I focused my attention on children or other marginalized people who I viewed as safer.
* Occasionally I would be actively unfriendly to shut down a conversation.

Even though everyone I knew seemed to socialize effortlessly, nothing I’m trying seems to make it any easier.

Then in 2009 I read an HBR article by Robert Kegan titled The Real Reason People Won’t Change. Immediately I feel like a secret of the universe is being revealed to me. And it helped me escape the prison I had built for myself.

This Wednesday, I will share that very secret. Join me for my free Zoom workshop, Revealing Your Competing Commitments.  Details and links are in the first comment below.