Magic Bullets

It’s been a very challenging week.  First I realized I didn’t have the sultry voice I longed for, an hard realization to come to grips with.  Then another boom was lowered when I realized there was no magic bullet in my future that would catapult me into the stratosphere of my career.  No secret code to open the doors to riches and fame and back to back bookings.  No superpower guaranteed to make me the voice or the face in every auditor’s head.  Crap.  This really ticked me off.  It finally hit me that this wasn’t going to be a wee bit of hard work and then ta-da!  Here’s your dream career.  It was going to be a slog, a pretty long hard slog at that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of hard work.  I relish a challenge.  Don’t be in my way when someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m sure to run you over in my quest to prove them wrong.  But I have to admit, I’ve bought into the instant gratification of our society.  What do you mean I haven’t lost any weight?  I’ve been dieting for 48 hours now?  What’s the problem?  Get me a pill for this right away.  Computers don’t help much.  We can email someone and it appears in second in their in box while we’re Skyping with each other.  Graphic intensive web sites load in less than a second.  We get real time feeds of weather radar so we know almost to the minute when the storm will be raging over our heads.  All of these things serve to reinforce that I should have a fully functioning and highly profitable career 10 minutes ago.

After I got over my rather substantial hissy fit, it hit me that accepting this annoying fact was somewhat liberating.  It actually put more control back in my hands.  If I no longer was waiting for the fairy godmother, Genie or leprechaun to bless me with the secret formula, I could now go out and make my own magic.  It would involve cold calling like I did a lifetime ago.  Asking people for help, something I’m really not very good at.  Researching who is who within a company.  And doing this over and over again week after week.  But I was no longer waiting for my career to happen to me, I making my career happen.  Seems rather simple when you think about it.  And a little less exciting than matching all 6 numbers in the multigazillion dollar Powerball lottery.  But I’ve done this before and did it rather well.  I can do it again.

My Dad

Today is Father’s Day.  It’s a bittersweet holiday for me now that my Dad is no longer on this earth.  The avalanche of advertising that accompanies this holiday started becoming an irritation and a sad reminder of this fact.  Not that I don’t think about him every day and wish I could once again pick up the phone and hear his voice.  As I was sitting in church this morning, I was reminded of all the funny emails he’d send along in our daily correspondence.  They were usually tales of the latest exchange between he and my mother.  I’ve saved all of those emails and often go through them to laugh once again.  My thoughts then turned to his funeral and some of the great stories that were told.  Yes I know, I should have been paying attention to the priest but I have the attention span of a gnat.  There is one story in particular that always makes me laugh and my Mother is going to kill me for telling it.  But I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this so unless one of my siblings tattles, I’m safe.  I should tell the story about bananas and how my mother used to send Dad to the grocery store with a list that included 5 bananas.  He would stand over the banana display looking and looking for a bunch that had 5 bananas and 5 only.  One day to his astonishment, he saw a woman walk up, rip 3 off a bunch and continue on.  What an epiphany!  He never knew this was a possibility in his world.  Yes this was a man with an advanced medical degree.

Instead I’ll tell one of my favorite stories, this one from the OR.  Dad had a wonderful relationship with the nurses, a rarity between nurses and doctors.  For all of his pseudo-chauvinistic comments, he truly liked and respected the nursing staff and the vital jobs they performed.  He treated them as collaborators and equals, which unfortunately doesn’t often happen.  And they in turn respected and had a lot of affection for my Dad.  So on this particular day, he was in the OR performing, yes, a hemorrhoidectomy which is exactly what you think it might be.  The patient is positioned butt high to the sky for this procedure and the workspace is rather, forgive me, tight.  The funny thing about surgery is TV gives the feeling of vastness when it portrays an operation when in reality it is really close working environment.  I once watched Dad take out part of a lung and was amazed at how all those hands were able to fit in such a small space.  Anyway, back to our story.  Light is very important in an operation and the key light that was pointed on the field kept drifting off mark.  Dad kept having to tell the dirty nurse (she’s not sterile so she does all things outside the sterile field) to fix the light, move the light, adjust the light until he finally reached a boiling point.  Without raising his head he yelled “The asshole.  Shine the light on the asshole!”  Well that poor struggling nurse with the light took one look at one of the other nurses, shrugged her shoulders and promptly flashed the light right at my Dad’s face.  And he just cracked up.  He knew he’d deserved it.  She got him back perfectly and he had the grace to accept it.

That’s one of the things that made my Dad a truly wonderful person.  Not only was he a passionate and gifted surgeon (spelled it right this time Dad!), he had a great sense of humor and a humility about what he did.  He treated people as equals and had no time for those who thought themselves better than everyone else.  A lesson he passed on to me.

Forgive me for rambling on longer than I usually do.  I just thought you’d like to know a bit about the hero in my life.  And sorry Mom.  Next time I’ll stop at the banana story.

No More Bush League

What’s this?  Another sports reference?  But what can you do when sports are so much a part of our lives?  Deal I guess.  The term bush league comes from baseball and means amateur, unprofessional, unsophisticated.  I recently came back from a gathering of voiceovers that happens not quite annually but often enough to merit attending.  This time I came back with a different perspective, one that had started building a few months ago but was solidified at this gathering.  A lot of my friends and colleagues were there along with a lot more newbies and wannabees.  In attending all the various meetings and addresses at this conference, I realized that I had started to top out with what I could learn at any given workshop or symposium.  It was a funny realization.  When you get started in any venture, you are a sponge soaking up as much knowledge and expertise as you possibly can.  You read every book, take every class, listen to every podcast, join every online group, practice every moment you can, seek out any coach that could possibly teach you something.  Anything to get you closer to expertise and success.  This stage exists for quite a while until it feels like this is how it will always be.  Not so.  After a while, all this new found knowledge gets absorbed and settles in and becomes your new default position.  You continue to add to your knowledge and your expertise level continues to grow.  You think this will go on forever, that you’ll be learning things about your craft and it’s business ad infinitum.  Until you pay to attend something and you realize that the meetings you went to and actually learned something new were few and far between.  That you actually learned more from hanging out with your fellow professionals and pals.  Wow.  Is that a jolt.  You suddenly realize you are on par with these professionals and have to rethink how you see yourself.  And your training.  You’ll have to be more selective about who you give your hard earned dollars to in hopes of furthering your craft.  It’s a whole different way of living in your dream but an equally as exciting way.

From Worst to First

I don’t know if you heard about it, but the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup Finals a few days ago.  I know, it’s old news.  But in Chicago, where we don’t have much to cheer about athletically these days, the celebration lives on.  The players have been all over town with that massive cup and many a true and bandwagon fan has been able to touch or even drink out of the cup.  All I can think of when I hear that is all the germs that are living on it.  EWWWW.  But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take a swig if given the opportunity.  After all, I wasn’t even born the last time this team took the cup and the only other team I can say that about is the Cubs.  With a 102 year drought, I don’t think I’ll ever catch their record.  Anywho, one of the things that’s come up is the fact that only 5 years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were rated the worst team in the NHL.  Dead last.  And in 5 short years, the franchise did a dramatic turnaround that touched all areas of their organization from the top down.  The first big thing that happened was the elder Wirtz retired and passed the leadership on to first his son Peter and then to Rocky who runs it now.  The new generation had a different way of operating that was greatly needed.  Fans had been ignored, games not televised, star players dealt away or cast away, new talent recruitment was non existent.  It was clear changes had to be made.  Difficult changes.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy to tell Dad that his way of doing things was no longer the way of the Blackhawks.  Family dinners had to have been fun.  But time marches on and if you don’t evolve and reinvent, you become irrelevant.  Change is never easy but if you don’t ask yourself why you are doing the same thing the same way over and over, you run the risk of getting stuck in a rut and not staying cutting edge.  Turning around an entrenched organization must have been a monumental task but look at the rewards the Blackhawks reaped for doing so.  It all started with the thinking at the top.  This type of reversal can happen to any organization, company or person.  You just have to start at the top.

A Sparkle or a Smolder

For a long time now I’ve been struggling with my voice.  I know, it sounds silly.  After all, it’s something that is so intrinsically a part of us that how can it be a problem?  It’s kind of like my struggle with clothes.  I want to be a size 4 but in reality I’m not.  Probably never will be.  GRRRR.  And that’s not easy to accept.  But that’s a topic for another day.  With my voice, I’ve always longed to have that sultry, husky voice that I so admire in many female voice talents.  The kind that envelopes you in texture and feels all cashmere and warm.  And I do have that voice, in the morning before I warm up the vocal cords.  The problem is, I’ve been trying to make that my default voice and it’s not.  Trying to change my voice at this stage of the game isn’t a wise thing to do.  Not only is it like trying to change the hand you sign your name with, awkward at best, it can be dangerous to your vocal cords if try to make them do something you naturally aren’t supposed to do.  But I’ve been dinking around with placement for over a year and all I’ve managed to do it screw it up magnificently!  Any of you who’ve tried changing your golf swing know from whence I speak.  It’s brutal.  I finally came to the realization that I’m not and never will be that voice I so admire.  Sigh.

Just as I was getting used to this idea I was talking with a fellow voice talent, Philip Banks, and recounting this oh-so-tragic realization.  I am not and never will be a sultry voice, my voice is bright.  In his inimitable British way, Philip said “some people are a sparkle and some people are a smolder.  You are a sparkle.”  In those 15 words, Philip managed to take news I’d considered shattering and make it instead a wonderful thing.  I’m a sparkle.  Yes indeed I am.  Just like diamonds and emeralds and rubies.  Who doesn’t like a little glitter in their life?  Pretty dang cool.  All of the sudden I’m kinda happy about my voice, at least the one I used to have.  I just need to find it again.  Maybe it’s in that drawer I’m afraid of opening.  All I know is, I’m a lot more content with the voice I was blessed with that I was 30 minutes ago.  And excited to see where it can take me.  It just took some mental adjustments accompanied by a long distance kick in the pants.  Thanks Philip.