Today, I interview Jeff Borschowa who shares a deeply personal journey of overcoming shyness and embracing introversion. Jeff’s early years were marked by the struggle to find his voice in a world that often seemed overwhelming.
Growing up in an environment that didn’t necessarily support his unique gifts, he faced challenges ranging from bullying to feeling out of place in social situations. He was painfully shy as a young man. Speaking up was not “acceptable” in his family.
To challenge himself to succeed or fail, he booked himself on stages and practiced until he was comfortable. He now speaks very freely and candidly in front of big and small audiences about a range of topics.
As Jeff reflects on his life’s path, it becomes evident that his experiences as a shy boy provided the foundation for his later success as a connector and curator of connections.
Jeff Borschowa is a business coach, author, educator, and curator of all things related to business efficiency and technology. Jeff has experience working with all sizes of businesses, from sole proprietorships to international organizations.
The focus in Jeff’s career has been to find new and better ways to integrate innovation and technology to enhance the customer experience and improve efficiency in businesses.
Jeff’s work involves bringing communities together and matching businesses to create thriving communities of loyal customers.
Jeff is a podcast host of the Global Wellness HQ, an international community built to share wellness ideas and resources. His message to the audience is to find your authentic voice and connect with others genuinely to change the world through human-to-human interactions.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #119 Jeff Borschowa
“Uncovering the Power of Shyness”
(00:35) Doreen Downing:
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m the host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. I’m a psychologist and I am so curious about backgrounds, what is way back there that has helped people be who they are. It is true that they’re born with a gift and a special radiance, but it’s also sometimes that they are landing in an environment that doesn’t see that and doesn’t support that in them.
Today, I get to be with somebody that I’ve already had several conversations with, and he is so engaging. He’s going to talk about shyness. So hello, Jeff.
(01:25) Jeff Borschowa:
Hi, Doreen. How are you today? It’s great to be on the show.
(01:28) Doreen Downing:
Wonderful. You have told me that you are well, you might call it a full-time professional networker and you say you love meeting new people and connecting with your community and connecting them to each other.
And in fact, you are a curator of connections.
(01:51) Jeff Borschowa:
I love connecting people.
(01:53) Doreen Downing:
And I feel like actually that’s partly how we have found each other, is through networking. And finding a connection that we both do, podcasts. And I was recently on Jeff’s podcast. So we’ll put that in the show notes.
I’m just so excited. So I know that you have talked about or at least you wrote about it, being a shy boy, I don’t think you’re a shy man, but obviously there’s been a journey, but let’s start way back when and best you can tell us any stories about being a shy one.
(02:34) Jeff Borschowa:
I think I was a very active child.
So a lot of times I was told to be quiet and to sit still. I grew up in the era when we went to visit grandparents. Kids sat quietly on the couch with their hands folded in their lap. And you answered when you were spoken to, and I just learned to be quiet. And the other thing was I grew up in a small town, and not bragging by any stretch, but I was gifted compared to my classmates.
So I got beat up a lot at recess because I would speak out in class and I literally with this one individual who was not bright at all, he’d failed several grades. So he was three, four years older than me and the teachers would put him next to me because I would calm him down. The problem was every time I beat him on a test or I had an answer he didn’t have when the teacher wasn’t looking he’d punch me.
So I learned very early to just be quiet because the reward for speaking up was literally physical violence. He was significantly bigger than me. So I just learned to be quiet. And when I was in high school I learned to be quiet. I learned to fit in. Now, a couple of things I’ll unpack as we go, I’m sure, is I’m both introverted and I was shy, and the combination of the two. And growing up in the ’70s, there wasn’t a lot of resources or things like that.
I didn’t understand the power of an introvert until I was late 40s. So I didn’t understand the difference between being introverted and shy. But I naturally pulled away from big social events because people drained me. And so I spent most of my teenage years alone although I always had a couple of good friends.
There’s the joke that most people would rather be the guest of honor at a funeral than to speak at it. I avoided speaking out as much as I could. I hated talking in front of the class. I hatec it and just having that attention when you knew they were going to go around the room and teachers were going to call on all the students, I’d spend that time dying inside my head because of all the things that could happen or whatever.
When I finally graduated high school and went off to university I took some assertiveness training because I realized that I needed to speak. And as university came on, I went into the accounting profession because I foolishly believed that accountants were just numbers people and I get to spend my life quietly doing numbers.
And when I became a full-fledged accountant and realized just how important communication was. I realized no matter how uncomfortable I was, I had to get better at communicating with people. Since my early 20s, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get better at speaking.
And finally, what I did just to pull the band-aid off, so to speak, was I booked myself a cross-Canada speaking tour, and… said either I’m going to get good at this or I’m going to be so traumatized, I’ll never leave my house again. And just by repetition, I realized that no matter what I was going to survive the day somebody said, what’s the worst that can happen?
Maybe the audience doesn’t like you.
(06:12) Doreen Downing:
Already we’ve learned so much about your journey. I’m going to dial it back to those early years because that’s what I think a lot of people can relate to, is having been bullied. But it’s interesting that you were bullied because you were smart and that you actually were trying to help somebody, or maybe you had something that you can offer, and that goes back to voice, right?
You’re saying, I have a voice, I have a gift, I’m smart, and I can help, yet it didn’t help you have more of a voice during that period of time. So that quiet, those early years of bringing yourself in and less visible is what I just want to reflect back for the listeners, is that oftentimes that’s what happens is that you may think that something you don’t know how to make a speech, or you don’t know how to step into the spotlight.
But oftentimes the reason is way back when. And be willing to search like what Jeff has just shown you that there are sometimes early influences because naturally you have a voice, but something happens that makes you realize that you better not. And then you sit stiffly in a chair at your grandparents.
What an image. Now, I’m not sure that is as much happening nowadays for children, but it certainly was then years ago. Yes. So thank you for opening up. Anything else about those early years, the bullying or the having to hold yourself back any store?
(07:59) Jeff Borschowa:
I think what I would share is, it’s taken a lot of my adulthood to look back and go, okay, why did this happen? And for the record, I don’t blame anyone. It’s just I didn’t make a decision that I’m going to be quiet and that’s it. It was just over time. I can literally look back on my childhood and I remember getting a good grade and I learned to dial down even my academics because I’d love to be one of those gifted kids today because my boys go to gifted schools and the gifted kids are celebrated. But in the 70s, we were ridiculed. We were mocked. We were beaten up at recess. And for the record, I’d give back as much as I took.
But you still realize you know, little decisions when you’re a kid can ripple throughout the years, and it’s just having that awareness. And again, I explore my childhood, not to place blame, but to find opportunities and if there’s something you’re resisting as an adult, it’s almost always you can pull back to your childhood and find a root cause or a seed that was planted that accidentally grew into something you didn’t think would.
(09:19) Doreen Downing:
Oh, I hope people heard that. That is so true. And that’s exactly why I do the podcast, is to help people see there is a reason for however they experience themselves now, and I loved what you just said about looking back with curiosity and with an attitude of learning as opposed to blame or something really was wrong with me.
What’s wrong with me? It’s really what was good about me then? And how come it didn’t come out? Thank you. And then high school. Wow. That’s when we start to become way more social. That’s the time when we learn to integrate ourselves into things that we like and our interests start to grow.
But there again, just not stepping forward with yourself, your voice.
(10:08) Jeff Borschowa:
And honestly, looking back, I realized high school was a balance between shyness and introverted and I think that was my biggest aha moment when I realized I made the mistake. I just thought we were all the same.
And somehow I was less than because I look at these natural people who can work a room and they love to have people around and they have house parties and they have dinner parties and I’m like, give me a book and leave me alone, and I always thought there was something wrong with me and the shyness didn’t help, but the shyness made it easy to avoid a lot of things but then what I realized, was I’m not antisocial. I don’t hate people. I would rather be at the dentist than be in a room full of vibrant, loud people talking all at once. I don’t like big crowds. And so for me, it was just learning in high school, I figured out I’m not the life of the party.
I am the quiet one in the back, and I’m happy having a really deep conversation with one or two people. Don’t waste my time with small talk. And I think as I’ve grown, I’ve learned to recognize that those are introverted traits I’d rather get to the heart of something and solve a problem or have a meaningful conversation.
I don’t want to sit here and talk about the weather.
(11:34) Doreen Downing:
Oh, I am so impressed with your ability to articulate introversion and to have it be something that’s more gifted and something that’s more valuable than, hey, what’s wrong with him? I guess it’s like the book Quiet In A Noisy World, right?
What you’re talking about is the power. And before we move on, I would like to talk about or have you reflect on how voice when you’re talking about shyness, introversion, and this journey that you were on about the sense of having a voice if you’re in the back of the room, reading a book.
Say something, see what comes up when you consider your voice and all of that.
(12:21) Jeff Borschowa:
The thing I would first like to say is that Susan Cain and Quiet, that book just changed my world. It gave me a sense of, ah, and that’s where my curiosity began because up till that point, I just thought I wasn’t good enough.
I wasn’t like other people. But where voice comes in, I think, is I’m capable, and whether it’s in the boardroom or in a social setting, I’m the quiet person who’s listening and processing. If I find my voice, and this is what I learned if I don’t speak up, we’re going to do what the majority wants to do, or we’re going to the lemmings off the cliff sort of thing.
Whereas what I’ve learned is when I do speak up, I process things a little deeper than most. When I do speak up, I’m not the loudest voice, but there are people who, when they listen, they say, Oh my God, we didn’t even think of that. I’ve learned that if I don’t speak up, we’ll get a shallow solution sometimes when we need a really deep solution.
(13:26) Doreen Downing:
Oh, yes. Thank you. That’s exactly what I was aiming for, is your thoughts about having a voice when you, I’m saying we because that’s who I identify with. I actually have both like you, introversion and extroversion. And I think that those of us who are introverted love those deep conversations and those who are extroverted mean we can get on a podcast like this and share ourselves to the world alone.
Before I go on and hear more about the journey, because obviously you’ve learned so much and you found your voice, I’d like to take a quick break.
(14:25) Doreen Downing:
Hi, we’re back today with Jeff Borschowa, and we are learning so much about shyness, introversion, and not only what it’s like to be somebody who is held back early in life because he doesn’t think he’s got what it takes, but how it really is the beginning of understanding of who you are truly as a person who has something to offer and Jeff is about to describe what his journey to find his voice was.
Now, I think there was a time when you said you went all across Canada on a tour. So let’s go there.
(15:07) Jeff Borschowa:
First and foremost, I just want to say that once I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, I realized that I had superpowers, not weaknesses and that for me was huge, so that put me on that path, and it was funny because I do a lot of things that people say you’re an introvert, you shouldn’t do that, or you shouldn’t be good at it. And I’ve just learned to ignore the people who should or shouldn’t be. But the big thing I realized, was as an introvert I ask better questions because I’m looking at getting to the deep root. So I realized that introverts have thought I’m not able to go and start a conversation with 20 people and carry that, but the reality is I can have a conversation with one or two people, and I’ll have a bigger impact just because I ask better questions.
So that was one of my first things, was figuring out the superpowers of the introvert. And it’s funny, but I’ll share this. I’ve been told over and over that only extroverts should be public speakers. I actually learned to love speaking because it allowed me to be alone. And what I mean by that, is when you’re up on the stage and you’re separated from the audience, it’s a very alone place.
Not lonely, but alone. And for some reason, that works for me, and I’m able to speak to the people but one of the things I did realize was, if I spend a day speaking, I need three days not speaking. So that was the thing, it was just learning, because I put it all out there, I share my energy with the audience, they love it, we have a good time, but I’m done.
That was one of the lessons I had to learn, was I was told after your day of speaking, you should have a Q& A session. And I’m like, but I don’t want to talk to them and so I just learned little things. And people said you should be greeting people as they come in the room, and it’s I need to be preparing because that’s the one thing I would say.
I learned which way the energy flows, and I give them everything, and I think that’s the difference, where an extrovert would give everything on the stage, and they’re rejuvenated because they got the love of the crowd that’s I think Elvis, that was one of his addictions, was the love of the audience.
I needed to rest from that. And that’s where you see a lot of people that are performers, Adele is probably the most obvious one, being in front of the audience drains her. And so for me, it was just recognizing and it was completely accidental. I wish I could say I had a guide and I figured all of these things out, but I just learned what gave me energy, what took it away.
And one of the things I did the first time I went speaking, was Monday to Friday, we did speaking, like eight hours of speaking, and then Saturday was a travel day, and then Sunday we do a workshop, so I learned not to do this, I started to travel on a Friday, take Saturday where I was completely my colleague and partner in this, he’d get annoyed with me because he’s “Hey, let’s go do something”, and I’m like, no, do not disturb sign is on the door.
Leave me alone. But I learned I needed my books and things like that. Being in front of the audience I had a lot of great advice. The best advice I got, was to take a minute to breathe pause, and just acknowledge silently go around the room, and smile at every person. I learned to do that very early on and that had a huge impact because I wanted to help the people in my audience more than I wanted to be comfortable with my shyness.
After a while I just, shyness was the easiest to cure because once I realized, first of all, I was physically safe. There were not any bullies from my childhood there. But I realized that being alone on the stage, I was completely safe. And then I started to realize that I determined how the day went.
Once I realized that it wasn’t me giving all my energy, the crowd took it and laughed. I could control it, and when I was getting a little tired, I’d do something to lighten up the crowd, and once I started, I had 15 speaking gigs that I was committed to. We’d paid deposits to hotels.
We had flights booked. I’d either get good really fast, or I went home broke and defeated, so I don’t recommend this to anyone else. I just happen to be a very stubborn person and that was the only way I was going to learn the lessons I needed to learn was to just plow through and do it until I didn’t feel the sting of shyness.
(20:19) Doreen Downing: The sting of shyness. How wonderful. There’s something also that you said about connecting with 1 person at a time in the beginning, where you paused. You opened up a quieter space with somebody, and that’s one of your strengths. You could talk about superpowers, connecting with one person, and it feels like that is a tip we can give to listeners, especially if you are in the realm like what we are more of a one-to-one type person, that’s what you need to do.
Do not look at the audience as one person. Do not look at the spot on the wall. Find the eyes of a human being in front of you and you’ll snap right into your voice.
(21:09) Jeff Borschowa:
And I’ll share a couple of my observations when I first started, there was always that one person in the room who scowled at me like for some reason I’d stolen his car or something.
There was always that one person in the room who was unhappy to be there. And I learned later, you know that they’re not thinking about me. They’re thinking about their traffic or the fight they had with their spouse or whatever it is. But I’d focus on that scowly person and I’d spend all day nervous.
But what I learned, was there’s one scowly angry person in every crowd. You can’t avoid it. But there’s also that one ridiculously happy, smiling person. And I just learned to shift and it was an accident. I was looking at the scowly person that I happened to look over and three seats over there’s somebody who’s just grinning ear to ear and excited to be there.
They can’t believe that they got green lights all the way and they just had a wonderful news at work or they got a promotion or something, or they just got a donut. Yes. And one time I walked up to the person. I said I can’t thank you.
Your energy was really valuable. It made the day, enjoyable for me. Why were you so happy? And they said because you had chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t had a chocolate chip cookie in months. And I was like, wow. So it doesn’t take a lot. Find that one person. Cause I used to look out and I’d see hundreds of eyes and I’d be like, Oh my God.
But what I realized was happy, sad whatever is reflecting on their face, it had less to do with me than their commute to get to the place. Did they get a good parking spot? Was it raining? Was it sunny? Did a bird poop on their windshield? I wasn’t responsible for that.
I just had to be responsible for me, whether I enjoyed the day or not, and as I said a little bit earlier, I cared more about helping them than I did about my own discomfort. So I learned a lot of things very quickly, what worked, what didn’t work, and I did more of what worked and tried to do less of what didn’t work.
(23:20) Doreen Downing:
That’s wonderful. I know you said, gee, initially you were going to be broke if it was either that. So obviously you didn’t fail because here you are now. Can you start talking about what you do now? I know you’re a connector and what do you offer folks? I know you have the podcast. What else?
(23:41) Jeff Borschowa:
That’s the thing. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and I’ve learned where I’m best. One of the things I like about podcasting, is yes I recognize multiple people will view it and you know that you can get a bunch of views. But it is a good solid deep conversation with one person so entering my world I get to know people through my podcast and so what I do professionally I find connections between people and I’m a big fan of strategic networking.
So I bring communities together, and what I get paid for in the process, is I love writing books, so I ghostwrite books that build the community I create resources that build community, and truly it’s leveraging my power as an introvert I meet one on one, one on two all of my groups are small and intimate, and basically, I just find I’m uncommon matches I have a really good eye for this business. Has this community, has a problem that business doesn’t solve?
Here’s another business that solves that problem. I bring the two businesses together and they both grow really rapidly because they’re building communities of raving fans.
(25:03) Doreen Downing:
I’m thinking that I always like to connect the strengths that you now have as a professional to early life also. And I’m thinking that you sitting in the grandmother’s house quiet, that you’re already learning how to listen and how to observe the environment.
And that, to me, feels like what you do nowadays, is you’re very perceptive. And that is part of your superpower.
(25:34) Jeff Borschowa:
I learned to read people and sitting next to my class bully and in hindsight, I realized he was probably bullied at home. I know he was bullied at home, but I learned to read other people good, bad, or otherwise.
And what I look for, is okay this makes you happy. This is what you need. This person has more of that. Let’s bring you two together. So it’s funny because one of the phrases people have used to describe me is I’m a professional matchmaker. Now, I personally have dropped that from my vocabulary because I’m not kidding Doreen, I had a client who said, “Okay, you got me a bunch of business. You brought me clients. Where’s my new girlfriend?” And I’m like, what? And he said “You’re a professional matchmaker. I assumed you did both.” And I was like, no. A little too literal there.
(26:29) Doreen Downing:
Wonderful. What you’re talking about is, curator of connections, is what you wrote to me. And I think that’s a good identification for you that we can say, that’s who you are. We’re about to close. So I want to make sure that we give you an opportunity to see what comes up for you to share that seems to be just arising in the moment, not obviously anything you’ve prepared, but based on our conversation so far and where it leads you.
Leave the audience with what would that be.
(27:05) Jeff Borschowa:
I think for me, it’s about connection, and one of the things I find a lot of people, I’m going to share the wisdom of my 10-year-old. A lot of people, they’re trying to figure out how do I fake sincerity. How do I fake authenticity? How do I get people to follow me?
I watched my son last year. First day of school, brand new school. He was nervous. He just walked up to some random kid on the playground and said, “Hi, I’m new. Can we be friends?” And they went off and played together. And so my message to the audience would be find your voice. Because if you don’t know who you are and what your voice is, you’re never going to come across as authentic and sincere.
So figure out who you are and get really comfortable being you. You’ll be a terrible me, you’ll be a terrible Doreen, but be the best you that you can be. And honestly, we all have these weird, guilt, and shame moments from childhood, find ways to reconcile and find the lessons in those things and use those moments to authentically connect with people, because I truly believe human-to-human interaction is what’s going to change the world. We have more technology than ever. We have more artificial intelligence than ever. We need that human connection.
(28:28) Doreen Downing:
Oh, so inspirational. Thank you, Jeff.
(28:32) Jeff Borschowa:
Thank you for having me on the show, Doreen.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.