Unplugging

One of the great things about technology is how it furthers our lives and our work.  Information is at our fingertips, clients can be contacted at any time; jobs can be received or sent out all over the world with the touch of a button.  It amazes me when I think of how short the time span has been since cell phones and computers have been a part of our lives.  I can only imagine where it will lead us in the future.

But there is a downside to all these gadgets; at least for me.  I find that my concentration has flown the coop.  I flit from thing to thing not really accomplishing much of anything.  It’s made even worse if I’ve been out of town or am really busy with something.  I have the attention span of a gnat.  This only adds to the problem as I then get more and more anxious about things not getting done.  And it becomes a downward spiral or as I like to say, a water slide to H-E-double hockey sticks.

I remember when I was working in corporate and occasionally we’d have a power outage or the computers or phone system would go down.  I was released from my pre-determined course and could do anything.  Except now I didn’t have the tools to make it happen.  I didn’t know how to unplug my brain to just think about things and be quiet for a bit.

I’ve found a way to force myself to unplug and quiet my brain.  I’ve had to take several short trips out of state which involve driving.  Being in the car, usually with the radio off, allows my mind to unleash it’s creativity.  I’ve come up with some wonderful blog posts, business plans and creative ideas while driving that ribbon of highway.  But it’s an expensive way to mediate and there’s the sticky problem of paying attention to the road.  I need to find a way to quiet my mind without having to hit the accelerator.  Unplug from the gadgets and plug into my brain.

Generosity Plus Plus

This post has been noodling around in my noggin for several weeks now.  I’ve been struggling with what to write and how to write it.  You see, I recently returned from the first FaffCon, which was a voiceover unconference.  I’d never been to an unconference before and due to a scheduling conflict, wasn’t originally planning on attending this one.   Fortunately I was able to rework my schedule and get to Portland for the event.   I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I’d helped to organize it.

What happened during those 2 days was absolutely unbelievable.  Let me back up a bit.  The structure of an unconference is different in that the attendees create the topics to be discussed and the expertise comes from within.  So if I want to learn about accounting software and there’s someone in the group who’s a wiz at it, they offer to lead the discussion.  Or I may know a ton about marketing that I think would benefit the group so I’ll lead a discussion about that.  The physical structure is such that you sit in a loose circle or something close to that and move chairs around as needed to accommodate the group.

So here we were in this new structure not really knowing what to expect.  Which was great because the sharing that was done and the knowledge that I gained blew me away.  You know when you see someone who seems to have all the answers and you wonder just how they found all that out?  What was the secret key they used to open the door to the success they’ve gained?  You know it’s there; you just can’t seem to get it for yourself.

This was the type of stuff I learned during those two days.  People were really letting down their guard and showing me the way to grow my business and exceed my goals.  It was truly life altering.  I’m so glad I was able to attend and so honored that those in attendance trusted everyone else with their secrets.  I hope FaffCon continues for a long time because; to borrow a line from the organizer Amy Snively, this is the conference I’ve always wanted to attend.

Stupid Tax

One of the shows I used to catch every once in a while was The Dave Ramsey Show on the Fox Business Network.  Dave is a financial guru who helps people get out of debt and stay out of debt.  I’ve read a few of his books and was saddened to see that FBN cancelled the program a few weeks back.  He had a great way of putting things that were no-nonsense and full of common sense tips to help one and all get their financial houses in order.  He was ardently opposed to credit cards and their use as a tool for cash flow.  He called the interest they charged a “stupid tax”.  This just made me giggle.  He applied the term to several other areas of finances, basically saying that to use or lose your money for silly and unnecessary reasons was just plain stupid.

I think the phrase can be extended to other areas of life and not just financially.  And I have a perfect example of how I paid the stupid tax the other day when traveling.  Let’s just start with the premise that traveling these days includes a certain amount of hassle, annoyances and endless supplies of patience.  The days of travel being a pleasant and luxurious pastime are long gone-alas!  Anywho, I was going to LA for a voiceover conference and had booked the first flight out so I could be in LA early enough to do a little sightseeing.  I wanted to do an official studio tour as I’d been on a lot but wanted to hear the history of studio.  So I was going to take the Paramount tour at noon LA time.  I get to the airport at 545am in plenty of time for my 735am flight and I’ve already printed my boarding pass.  No problem right?  Well for some reason I decide at the last minute to go to the bathroom and then oooo, wouldn’t a banana be good for the flight?  So I toodle down the concourse in search of a banana.  As I return to the gate, I notice the door is closed so I wait outside as the gate agents sometimes step away to take care of some business.  Someone finally showed up and asked if they could help me.  I said “I’m on this flight” and hand her my boarding pass.  “I’m sorry, the flight is closed”.  “But there’s 10 minutes until you leave, they plane’s still right there”  “But the flight is full”  wherein we got to the root of issue.  They’d given away my seat and they’d have to compensate someone in order to honor my seat.  So instead I paid the stupid tax of having to wait for the next flight and potentially missing my tour.

Fortunately I made the tour but the entire episode highlighted for me some of the ways that I short change my career and my life by paying this tax that I don’t need to pay.  Sure getting a banana was innocent enough but the result of my loss of focus could have been a lot worse than it was.  Staying focused is very important and not letting myself get sidetracked.  If I don’t, I may end up holding a boarding pass going nowhere instead of continuing forward progress.

Fruits of Labor

A green thumb is something I think I have.  Not the most prolific green thumb but more things live under my care than die.  But I’ve always been challenged when it comes to growing tomatoes.  I have enough sun on top of my deck as it sits on the roof so that’s not an issue.  I’ve tried for years to grow tomatoes to no avail.   They grow in the pots but never really bear fruit.  Last year I started them too late in the season as I’d been traveling throughout the month of June so they didn’t get planted until July.  Not enough growing time as our summer is short enough to begin with.  Add to that the lateness of the planting and you get whole lotta nuttin’.  This year however, I planted in late May.  Instead of pots I used the Topsy-Turvy you see advertised on TV.  Well actually I’m doing an experiment, one plant is in a pot and a duplicate is in the Topsy-Turvy.  This way I can see if their television claims really do hold up.  So far, the Topsy is winning.  I also planted one with cucumbers and one with red peppers.  They seem to be flourishing as well.

The other evening I was grilling my  dinner and I thought I’d check to see if any of the red tomatoes were ready to be picked.  Lo and behold, 2 were.  They weren’t big by any stretch, about the size of large racquetballs, but boy were they good.  I was so excited to finally be tasting my tomatoes, the ones I’d grown and watered every day religiously and almost even burned out with too much fertilizer.  After all if some fertilizer was good, lots should be ever better right?  Maybe I should go back and read that children’s book by Helen Palmer called A Fish Out Of Water, just so I actually learn the lesson she’s teaching.  But they survived my efforts and I am starting to enjoy them.

I thought about this when 2 things happened the next day.  I got a call from something I’d submitted to over 2 months ago and had completely forgotten about.  Delightful lady.  She wanted to talk further and have me do some more specific auditioning for her.   Turns out we might actually do some business together.  Then later I received an email from another piece of business I’d submitted on over a month ago with some additional information and a request for a more refined bid.  I didn’t get the job but both of these contacts were from submissions I’d done weeks ago that I’d long forgotten.  Made me realize the work I’m doing today may not bear fruit for quite a while.  Gave me the energy to pick up the phone and continue cold calling.  Who knows what’s germinating out there?  I’ve got more tomatoes on the vine ripening every day.

A Clarification from Mr. Franklin

Ben Franklin was a man of many wise saying that still have relevancy today.  You know, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for making anything else” and of course every hostesses favorite “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after 3 days”.  One of my favorites is “Never confuse motion with action”.  This one has really resonated with me, especially recently and has led to a slight change in how I’ve been evaluating opportunities.  I’m a big proponent of taking workshops and classes even if I’ve had to travel to take them.  Let’s just say I’ve never met a workshop I didn’t turn down.  I’m not that bad about it but I do take a lot of them.  I do believe there is something to be learned from any situation and of course there are contacts to be made.  I am pretty choosy about who I take classes from so I’ve been able to avoid most of the shysters that prey on the acting and voiceover community.

Recently though, my thought has turned away from learning and more towards doing.  I realized that all this traveling to take workshops really threw a monkey wrench in my schedule.  There was a gearing down and gearing up time that took energy and attention away from my progress.  And because I was out of the studio and wasn’t in town, it was affecting my ability to audition both on the mic and on camera.  I realized that while I was learning from each opportunity, what I was giving up wasn’t being paid back in kind.  I was confusing motion with actually taking action and making progress.

As a result of this, I’ve said no to several recent workshop opportunities.  I realized I needed to practice what I’d learned at all the other ones I’ve taken.  So my suitcase remains in the closet.  I’ll be attending workshops again in the future but for the time being, I’ve got my feet planted right here at home and I’m no longer confusing motion with action.  Besides, the heat finally broke and it’s heavenly here.

Getting Unstuck

I’ve been working out recently with one of the DVD programs you usually see advertised on TV late at night.  It’s a pretty good workout with enough variety to keep me going to the next day.  One day I’m working a muscle group, the next I’m doing some form of cardio workout.  I feel good after each workout and I like all the workouts.  Except for this one workout.  It’s 50% longer than all the others and I really don’t enjoy doing it.  It’s a Yoga workout and while I usually like Yoga, I really don’t like this one.  I struggle with the moves, holding the poses and the overall length of the workout itself.  I find every excuse I can to not do this workout.  Which throws off my daily routine of trying to get a workout in every day.  I abhor this workout so much, it has completely derailed the good momentum I had going about a month ago.

I’ve noticed this happens in other areas of my life as well.  If I can’t seem to get a blog post written the way I want it sound, I’ll let my writing languish for days.  I let it stop me from my goal of trying to write everyday.  Or if I am craving a certain usually off limit food or type of food, I’ll eat all the way around the food, most likely adding WAY more calories than if I just ate the dang thing in a moderate portion size.  Or even if I’m having difficulty reaching a contact I really want to do business with, all other cold calling stops until I reach that contact.  Instead of replacing the ickey workout with one of the multitude of others available in the DVD set, or starting a completely new blog post, or eating the craved food, or putting aside the elusive contact, my stubbornness and narrow-mindedness allows these situations to take control of otherwise good progress.

No more.  Tomorrow I start fresh resuming my walk/run.  I’ll get to the DVD’s on Monday when it’s supposed to be over 90 again.  And the elusive contact goes to the bottom of the contact list bumping up every other prospect higher in the list.  And the troublesome blog post gets saved as a draft, perhaps never to see the light of day.  Instead I published this one.  You’re not the boss of me frustrating situations.  So there.

Eye Contact

My post office is only a few blocks from my house.  I think it’s kind of neat I can walk to my post office.  But then again, I used to go down to the main post office downtown at all hours because it was a 24 hour post office.  I just thought that was pretty cool.  We only had one post office in my hometown and I don’t think I ever went into it.  Unfortunately  the main branch is no longer open 24 hours due to budget cuts.

Post offices aren’t usually known for their great customer service.  I’ve been in some where the staff barely acknowledges you as you’re standing in front of them.  Or they act annoyed they have to wait on you.  Or they sit at a window not helping anyone as the line of customers stretches back 20 people.  The employees seem to be the epitome of stereotypical civil servants.  Minimal work at the slowest speed possible.  After all, the phrase going postal came from just such a place.

But then I met Janet at my local branch.  She greeted me with a smile and low and behold, looked me in the eye as she asked me what she could help me with.  That simple connection made all the difference in the world.  I look forward to going there, even if she’s not working.  I look more kindly on the other employees and am usually able to make some sort of connection with them.

In this wired and wireless world, we’ve lost the simple art of the human connection.  E-mails and texts have replaced phone calls and handshakes.  Snappy words on a message board or an e-mail can be misconstrued and emoticons can’t really fill the void.  I’ve really tried to keep this in mind as I reach out to prospective clients with phone calls.  Sure it would be easier and less angst ridden to just send an email, but I am after all selling my voice and what it can do for your product so what better way to do that than to convince you to let me send you my demo?!

Helicopters

We had quite a bit of rain in June.  I think it was one of the rainiest, if not the rainiest, June on record.  Before I left for my sister’s wedding I wanted to get the flowers planted in the front yard and get a really good weeding done.  So around the second week in June I got all the flats of Impatiens and spent the afternoon planting and weeding.  I don’t have a huge front yard, at least by suburban standards, but it’s pretty big by city standards.  Some yards are 4 feet deep by about 12 feet wide.  Because we have a wider lot and the house is set back, my front yard is about 18 x 20.  Massive.  In the parkway, there’s a huge oak tree that’s been there forever.  It’s about 60 feet tall and really shades the front of the house which is why I need to plant shade flowers.  I love how the sun dapples the light through the leaves when I’m in my office working.  The tree seems pretty healthy which is good.  I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have this tree outside my window.

Every spring though, in nature’s unyielding cycle, the tree in it’s quest to maintain the species showers the front yard and every other surface area with helicopter shaped seeds.  They thwap down seeking a place to germinate and put down roots.  This year we had more than I’ve ever seen.  I think that means we are going to have a long cold winter.  Great.  I spent the better part of the afternoon plucking the seedlings out of the ground where they’d rooted underneath the mulch.  I cut short the future of about a dozen dozen little oaklings.  It’s was cold hearted but I got over it.  I got the flowers planted just in time for the week of rain that followed before I went out of town.  When I returned and resumed my walks 10 days later, I was astonished at all the seedlings that were now popping out of the ground.  I thought I’d removed all of them!

It made me realize that you can’t see all that’s germinating whether it’s planted deliberately or not.  I also learned not everything pops up at the same time.  I’m hoping this is what will happen with my new business efforts.  Lots of helicopters going out from me at the moment, hopefully reaching fertile ground to sprout at a later date.  As for the actual helicopters, they’ll meet their fate this weekend.

A subtle, but important, distinction

Today was an office day.  No auditions or appointments were scheduled so I was able to spend a substantial amount of time working in the office.  Now I will admit there was a bit of faffing about.  And by faffing, I mean goofing.  It’s a VO term that’s currently in vogue and is the name of an unconference being put together by a wonderful group of VO professionals.  All the details can be found here.  Faffcon isn’t the purpose of this post but didn’t I work it in nicely?

Instead I want to talk about the cold calling I’ve been doing.  I know, exciting stuff.  I’ve been trying to make as many contacts for my Voiceover business so today was a research and cold calling day.  I try to set a goal of so many cold calls each week.  I hit my goal for the week today and I still had several hours of the business day available.  I had a momentary thought that I would stop for the week and save some for next week.  But then I realized, this is exactly what I would have done when I was working in corporate and I no longer wanted to work that way.  I wanted to make as many contacts as I could because there would be more contacts in the pipeline.  Always more people to contact.  Why stop at the week’s goal?  So I didn’t.  I made a few more calls and plan on making some in the morning tomorrow.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine,Bob Souer, who said this was the difference in being an entrepreneur and a corporate drone.  When you work for yourself, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned, any opportunity overlooked.  And just because you hit  your goal, you don’t stop.  You keep the momentum up.  I used to do this when I was selling local television time.  Once I achieved my goal, I wanted to see how much over I could achieve.  It’s a great way to approach the business of finding new business.  And I have tomorrow to add to my number.  It’s all good.

Dirt Sifting

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Simple Dollar by Trent Hamm.  He does a daily blog generally about frugality but he also touches on many other subjects.  He is a prolific writer, churning out 2 postings a day and I don’t think he’s missed a day yet.  At least not since I’ve been following him.  The other day he posted something sort of off the beaten path for him.  The value of doing grunt work, or slog work as he called it.  It’s the necessary but mind numbing work that exists in every job, whatever it is you do.  It can be data entry, invoicing or in his case, dirt sifting.   Really.  He got paid to go through dirt.  One of the most challenging things I am finding about this transition to working for myself is consistently and purposefully attacking the grunt work that exists for me.  In my case, it’s doing things like auditioning on the pay-to-play sites, sending out an invoice, writing a blog post.  Finding the concentration to just get it done isn’t the easiest thing for me.  When I finish a post, it’s a natural ending point so I break off, go out of the office and it’s 45 minutes later before I return.  Goofing off instead of going back to the list of topics I’ve identified I’d like to write about.  I do the same thing when I finish an audition.  I feel like I need a reward for completing something so I head to the fridge, or check my email for the 98th time, or get lost on the interwebs.  All because of a lack of focus and discipline to just get the job done.  I used to have the same problem when it came to doing forecasting reports but I was able to knuckle down and plow through them.  I need to find the same focus I had then and apply it to my work today.  I know I can do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how I did it before and doing it again.   It’s not fun, but it is necessary.  It’s on the back of diligence that a strong career is forged.  If you can do the dirt sifting well, you will excel at the bigger tasks.