Hey, I’m Tony Michael Head. Call me Tony, Tonz, or A-town.
I love pizza so much I could eat it three times a day, every day, and never tire of it. I play guitar (although I suck at it). And as of writing this, I have lived here in Japan for four years. My drink of choice is Kahlúa and milk. My favorite animal is the lion (my zodiac is coincidentally the Leo).
Now that you know everything about me, we are best friends. And as my best friend, I want you to know my life story – the bad, the worse, and how I found my way out.
The story I’d rather not share
I hate saying things about myself that make me look bad. But in order to get across how important Social Skydiving and this website is to me, It’s gotta be done.
I used to have severe social anxiety. I used to be shy and I used to be timid. I had friends (and they were good friends), but I always found ways to close myself off to the world and avoid uncomfortable social situations such as meeting new people (especially girls), job interviews, public speaking, and public performance of music (which I wanted to so badly but didn’t have the courage to do).
I avoided all confrontation possible, was a pushover and said yes to everyone. I had all kinds of insecurities: my voice is too weak; I’m too short, small, weak, skinny, fat, smart, dumb, you name it. I made all kinds of excuses for not pursuing the things I really wanted in life.
Nevertheless, I always had this gnawing feeling inside that there was a potential for something more.
The seeds of a new future
One thing that I hated more than anything was public speaking.
Don’t even get me started on public speaking.
Dammit, you got started on public speaking. Don’t make me sing…(SNL anyone?)
Anyway, not only did I hate public speaking but I was deathly afraid of it. I almost dropped out of high school because I avoided class presentations every time. Even worse, I almost dropped out of college because of it.
Fortunately, after almost failing one of my core classes and admitting to my professor my intense phobia of public speaking, she showed me a way to overcome this fear, which was the seed that would later grow into the tree of Social Skydiving. She told me that if I couldn’t speak in front of the entire class, she would first allow me to give my presentation in front of just her. And then the next presentation in front of her and two other teachers. The next time, ten teachers in the staff-room. But then after succeeding with ten people, I must give the presentation in front of the entire 35 student class.
Well, I worked up from just one teacher, to speaking in front of the entire class. And not only that, for my final undergrad project, I gave a 45 minute speech in front of 80+ people, including all of the professors of the Psychology department.
This was a feat that I would have never thought possible for me to do. But breaking my fear down into smaller, doable steps helped me work up the courage I needed to overcome my big fear of public speaking.
Going from someone who couldn’t even think about public speaking without having a minor panic attack, to being able to give a 45 minute presentation in front of over 80 people was the beginning hope for me. It was the realization that I am not a slave to the fear that exists inside me. That my ability to overcome fear can be trained.
But the struggle wasn’t over yet…
Life in a New Land
After four years of university and a B.S. (Bull Shit) in Psychology, I decided to pursue life in a new land. Japan.
Now I wasn’t in love with public speaking, nor was I good at it. Nor did I really like it at all. The truth was that at this point, I had done it a few times when I had to in order to graduate, but it still scared me every time (although a little less each time).
Regardless, I somehow had myself signed up to be an English teacher in this new country.
Let me just say, at first life was hard. I was so terrified to start teaching English that I almost bailed and went back to America, several times. With gut-wrenching fear, I counted down the days to my first day in the classroom. I was alone, afraid, and almost everyone around me spoke only Japanese, so even just communicating was a struggle. To throw another brick in the washing machine, I separated with my girlfriend of three years which made reality almost unbearable.
Here I was in a new country, alone, almost no friends, scared as hell to do my job, scared as hell to talk to people, and no where to run.
It was the last straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back.
I wanted so badly to get out and make friends. I wanted so badly to do a good job teaching English. I wanted so badly to just have confidence in myself.
I made a promise with myself that no matter what, I’d learn how to become a confident person. I promised myself that no matter what, I’d figure out a way to change.
Into the fires
I don’t even remember how I found it. It doesn’t even really matter.
But somewhere on the inter-webs I discovered a dude named Jia Jiang who played a game called Rejection Therapy in which he did 100 challenges to overcome his “fear of rejection.” These challenges involved doing ridiculous, almost prankish missions like asking strangers to borrow money, or knocking on someone’s door and asking to play soccer in their backyard. He did these challenges in order to get over his fear of being rejected.
Inspired by the idea that you could do social “challenges” to help yourself overcome fear, and also remembering how I did something similar in order to overcome my fear of public speaking, I decided to try it myself. I found that not only can you learn to overcome fear of rejection, you could you could also do challenges to overcome other people related fears like fear of being judged, fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of speaking in front of others, fear of saying no to people, fear of being yourself, etc..
This is why I started calling the game Social Skydiving – In addition to fear of rejection, it encompasses many other social fears. That and doing the challenges are often an exciting, adrenaline-inducing rush, as is skydiving.
10,000 feet above with my parachute ready – Don’t look down!
I set out to do my first set of challenges and talk to 100 strangers on the streets. This meant in public, at parks, in coffee shops, busy train stations, or literally walking down the sidewalk. This proved to be an impossible task for me at first, as I was so scared I couldn’t approach a single person. So I realized that in order to work up the courage to do it, I’d have to make my challenges even easier.
So I decided that I’d just say “hello” to 100 people instead.
It was really hard, and of course, really awkward. Especially in Japan where strangers talking to strangers in public is not a normal occurrence. But I thought to myself, if I can just get used to the awkwardness, or rather, the fear of it being awkward, other more “socially appropriate” situations especially won’t feel so hard anymore.
Shit was intense.
I used a journal and tallied up 100 strangers that I said hello to. It took about two weeks.
The next mission was to finally step up and start up 100 conversations with 100 strangers, as I had originally planned to do. Let me tell you it was one of the hardest moments in my life approaching my first group of strangers. I was in a shopping mall full of people. I probably circled that shopping mall about twenty times over a span of three hours without talking to a single person.
Then finally, I said to myself it’s now or never. Am I gonna be shy and afraid to talk to people all my life? Am I gonna live in fear for the rest of my life? Or am I gonna take control of myself now and change for the better. There were two paths that lay in front of me: either stay on that airplane and go home in shame, knowing I chickened out and probably never change myself, or jump.
Post Social Skydiving euphoria
Fast forward to now, many challenges later, including my most iconic singing happy birthday to myself in public challenge.
My current reality is that I live an awesome life in pursuit of my passions. I live in Japan, work a part time job teaching English (average 2 hours of teaching a day), and have tons of free time that I use to live the life I love – making friends anywhere, anytime I want, enjoying fulfilling relationships with people, playing music with my band, lifting weights, and traveling a lot. Most importantly, I get to live creatively and work fervently on this website in order to share and teach others how they can achieve an awesome life too.
All of this was possible because I used Social Skydiving to forge myself into the kind of person who could have this life. I am now a kind of person who has high self-esteem, is assertive, and is always comfortable being myself in front of people. I have also had the courage and the confidence in myself to take the risks necessary in order to get the life I have now.
Had I NOT Social Skydived, and NOT decided to commit to training my courage, confidence and social skills, I would have went back to America with my tail between my legs and given up on living the life that I wanted.
If you could take just one thing from this site
I want you to know that you can do it too. I know that if I, coming from a severe place of anxiety, depression and hopelessness into living this amazing reality of adventure, creativity, love, and passion that I live now, anyone else can also do it too. And probably faster than I did.
It just takes a new way of looking at your life, and the know-how for implementing a plan to change. I’ve already figured that out (the hard way), and I want to share it with as many people as I can so that they don’t have to go through what I went through to get there.
I have since began working with others, and teaching them how to Social Skydive as well. I became a sort of Social Skydiving coach, if such a thing exist. When I meet up with people and go out with them into “the wild”, at first it is really intense for them and they have a hard time making that first jump. But with enough gentle encouragement, they commit to their first challenge.
They are often so thrilled and proud of themselves once they finally are able to do their first challenge (trust me, its one of the most amazing feelings in the world), they keep calling me or messaging me after and saying, “come on Tony, let’s go out and dive!” And I can totally relate, because I am also addicted to the rush and feeling of satisfaction that comes from Social Skydiving.
THAT is why I want to share this with the world. That amazing feeling of being in control of your own fear, and then teaching others how to be in control of their fear and seeing the change in their lives because of it.
Here’s your parachute
If you want to plug into this game, this philosophy, and this lifestyle of Social Skydiving, I’d highly recommend subscribing to my newsletter. It’s the best way I can get in touch with you and share my current insights and tips with regards to building confidence. It’s also the best way for you to get in contact with me.
I’ll email you from my personal inbox, and you can always feel free to reply to my emails with questions or comments. I love discussing Social Skydiving and I will be happy to talk with you.
The cool thing about the internet is that it allows you to connect with millions of like-minded people that might be hard to find otherwise. And being a part of a community is the fastest way to motivate yourself, be inspired and stay accountable to a plan of action.
I’d like to give you the opportunity to connect to that community right now.
What lies beyond the mountains
I mentioned that Social Skydiving is a lifestyle. I’ve learned through my own journey that with continual practice of this game, one never stops improving. This means that just merely beating social anxiety and returning to “baseline” is no reason to stop Social Skydiving. As long as you Social Skydive you will continue to build more confidence and social skills to infinite (see “What is Social Skydiving”).
In other words, you can always choose to challenge yourself and continue becoming more awesome and living an even better life.
This is the quickest way I know to break the barriers of fear that hold you back from getting there. Fear is actually the only thing that holds us back from what we want. If we didn’t fear failure, rejection, or not being good enough, we would go for that which we want, every time.
If we try enough times, no matter how many times we might fail at first, we will eventually succeed.
Until next time, Friend
So that’s it. I apologize that my personal story turned into a long, weird, philosophical rant on success and life. Coming from a place of depression and hopelessness, I wish to share with others who are in a similar situation as I was, the ideas I had and physical actions I took to pull myself out of it, and further venture into an exciting and fulfilling life of passions.
But of course, it’s not always about doing these grandiose things like world traveling or “pursuing your passions” that make an awesome life. Sometimes, it’s the freedom to enjoy the simple pleasures, like that pizza and Kahlúa and milk.