Foreword: To do any sort of effective marketing, you need to establish a voice, both personally and as an organization. I asked my friend Doug, a seasoned stand-up comedian and marketing consultant, to show you how to do this. And while this post is about finding your voice, it can be easily applied to an organization. Just answer the same questions and do the same things he suggests but as a team. Lots of marketers will tell you to create great content. But, how can you do that if you do not have a strong voice? Doug will help you with finding that voice. Enjoy! – Jon-Mikel Bailey
On Finding Your Voice
When I was in my twenties, working as a comedian in and around the DC / Baltimore area, my entire creative focus was centered around finding my own voice. I wasn’t satisfied with just writing and telling jokes as much as I was consumed by this desperate need to know who I was and why it mattered that I got on stage in the first place.
Regardless of whether you’re an artist, a speaker, an entrepreneur or whatever creative field you may be pursuing, being able to pinpoint exactly what your unique perspective is can sometimes seem like an impossible mission. It’s our White Whale, diving below the depths of our understanding, despite our best efforts.
There is a small population of artists that come to find their own unique voice early on in their lives. These are our creative geniuses. We’re all very envious of how immediately they seem to have been able to tap into that place deep inside them that sets them apart and makes them stand out.
For the rest of us, finding our own voice can, at times leave us feeling hopeless, like we just don’t get it.
What Is Your Voice?
So, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to your own “voice.” Your voice is that special quality about you that makes you unique. It’s what sets you apart from others in your field. Your unique talent. Your way of viewing the world and communicating it to others in your own way.
What I find most interesting about the concept of finding your voice is how counterintuitive it seems; mostly because your voice is always and has always been a part of you. You were born with this ability to express yourself uniquely.
I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter who knows exactly what her “voice” is. She didn’t have to go looking for it, she was born with it and so were you. What ends up happening is, as we mature and become young adults, all of those little things that complicate life more and more begin to come into view. Our ability to tap into our raw talent gets skewed by a lack of trust in ourselves.
This seems apparent even in the way we talk about tapping into that special place. We refer to the process as “finding your own voice” as if it’s ever anywhere other than right here. Instead of looking at it like any other muscle in your body, we view it as something that’s lost that we need to find in order to be complete.
Finding Your Voice
We also have so many examples of humans in modern society who seem to exude that which is most unique to them in our faces everyday. When we see so many people tapping into this, it’s easy to think that they “have it” and we don’t.
What’s important to keep in mind is that your voice is there, it’s just up to you to uncover it and hold it in the light for all of us to see and enjoy. It’s a process and when you’re in the process of “finding” your own voice, you’re not so much searching as you are strength training.
The same way that it requires discipline and consistency to have washboard abs and ripped biceps, strengthening your ability to tap into what’s special about you requires a certain dedication.
While the process and path of discovering our own voices varies from person to person, here are three important rules that have really helped my on my journey. Hopefully they can help you as well.
Dive Right In and Gain Experience
Whether it’s what we want to hear or not, finding our own voice takes hard work. We have to be dedicated to the mastery of ourselves in order to gain the experience necessary to tap into our true talent. It’s through this experience where we all realize what we’re made of.
Life challenges us constantly. The attention that we pay to these daily challenges and how we decide to respond to them defines us as individuals. Our true voice is in there somewhere, deep within the pages of our story.
Our journey to the mastery of whatever craft draws our passion is where we begin to unravel the layers surrounding our true voice. Experience is the stage on which your true voice comes to life.
Know Who You Are
Start by answering these important questions…
- Who are you?
- What do you believe in?
- What do you value?
- How do you seek it out and immerse yourself in that which gives your life purpose?
These are big questions that most of us think we’ve already answered for ourselves while we were eighteen and studying at some liberal arts school.
But when was the last time you actually took the time to evaluate your values and understand exactly who you are and where you’re coming from? The reason I suggest this as your first practice in the process of finding your voice is because, in order to communicate anything from your point of view, you have to really understand what your point of view is.
How do you view the world and why is that important to you. What is your experience of this life and why does that matter? Because it’s your unique experience and the perspective you’ve gained through that process that sets you apart and makes you an individual.
Believe In Yourself
I spent so many years struggling with the difference between my stage persona and my normal self as a stand-up. Early in my career I would spend so much time crafting individual jokes and performing them, one after another on stage, in a very short-form, one-liner approach.
The problem was that this persona was not me. No matter how well it may have worked on stage I just wasn’t being true to myself. It’s not who I am. I don’t talk in short, slowly-paced phrases. I’m loud and I ramble, that’s my thing.
I had to find the intersection between the skills I was learning through my experience as a comedian and who I was as a person. While I was having success onstage, I wasn’t feeling successful. I wanted to just go up there and cut loose.
In the beginning, I felt caged in by the structure of the material I was writing. I needed to get out of it, and the realization of that was a breakthrough. It was during this experience that I began to realize, written material aside… I’m a funny person. That’s why I got into this industry in the first place.
I needed to trust that no matter what happens on stage, I can turn it into something funny. I was beginning to find my own voice. That only became clear when I was brave enough to relax into who I was as a person. I needed to simply believe in who I was all along.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
What is standing in between you and your voice? Interestingly enough, YOU are.
Most of us don’t want to believe that we are somehow standing in the way of our own creative development but we do it all the time. Our mind has an idea and takes over, passes it to the ego who’s all “I know what to do with this” and then proceeds to force it.
When we do that, when we “force it,” we’re standing in our own way; we’re thinking about it too much. When we allow our ego and our mind to run the show, we’re allowing them to stand in the way of our voice. We have to clear the way and begin to cultivate a strong sense of trust in ourselves if we want to really find who we are.
Don’t tense up and recoil. Don’t harden yourself out of fear of failure. Breath deeply and understand that you’re the only one who can be you and there’s nothing more you have to do than to just let go.
Finding your own voice is the process of peeling back the layers surrounding your innermost self in order to find that underneath all of those layers is the purest version of yourself. And you’ve been there all this time.
When you tap into that place that makes you uniquely you, it’s like coming home. It just feels right. Creative work flows more freely and communication takes place without as much second guessing. You know yourself, you believe in yourself and you’re wise enough to stop forcing it and just let it flow from your soul.