Mind Your Own Business

Honey, I don't think he can make you look like George Clooney, and he sure as heck can't make me look like Lady GaGa. I'm outa here...Have you been to the business section of your Barnes & Noble recently? I just came back from my local store and this is what I noticed:

The number of self-help books for small business owners is simply staggering!

Every day a new title seems to hit the market, promising to revolutionize the way we sell ourselves and our services.

Ben Horowitz wrote The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. Eric Ries is the author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Shawn Anchor is the man behind The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

How many of those types of books are on your shelves?

How many have you actually read?

How much of the wisdom presented on these pages do you still remember and apply?

When I had to answer these questions, I was shocked and slightly embarrassed. There are plenty of business books in my office that have been gathering dust since the day I bought them. Books I thought I couldn’t live without.

Looking back, one small book would probably have been sufficient. It would focus on four aspects all of us have to deal with on a daily basis. These aspects play a vital part in the way we lead our life, and the way we run our business. They are:

Physical

Mental

Material and

Spiritual

In the next four weeks, I’ll be writing about these aspects in more detail in a series I call “Mind Your Own Business.”

Before I start, I’d like to remind you that this blog is a reflection of my personal opinion. It is not my goal to convince you of anything, but I’d love to hear what you have to say and start a dialogue.

With that out of the way, let’s begin!

The Physical aspect I want to talk about first, refers to our body and our health. It’s about the “house” we live in, and the way we treat it. In that context I am about to say something you may not want to hear, but I’m going to say it anyway.

When I look at pictures of voice-over gatherings, I am alarmed by the number of overweight colleagues in our community. It’s not just our group of professionals, of course. Between 1980 and 2000, U.S. obesity rates have doubled among adults and children, and tripled among adolescents. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

As voice actors we talk a lot about clients, rates, audio equipment, and the projects we’re involved in. That’s all good, but I think the time has come to address the physical aspect of our job as well.

Gaining weight may be an occupational hazard for voice-overs, because many of us sit behind a mic all day, and choose to get very little exercise. And when we’re done working, we move to the couch and watch television. I’m speaking from experience here.

Some experts have said that sitting is the new smoking. It’s just as harmful to our health. Long periods of inactivity raise the risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity. If this is news to you, you have been living under a rock or you are in denial. 

If you’re an emotional eater like myself, and your food and beverage choices aren’t exactly healthy, it’s easy to gain a few extra pounds… year after year after year. I love to eat, and unfortunately I have reached an age where it doesn’t take much to gain weight, and it’s a lot harder to get rid of it.

Slowly but surely, I’ve come to the point where eating comfort food is making me uncomfortable. Clothes that used to fit me, no longer do. For the first time in my life, I started taking medication to bring my cholesterol level down. My bicycle-riding friends in the Netherlands joked that they could tell I live in the United States. It hurt, but they were right. 

I’ve been there before, and you may remember me blogging about it. Today I am recommitting myself to taking better care of my body. There’s so much I want to accomplish, and I want the energy back to be able to make it happen. I created this situation, and I can change it. 

That’s me, but what about you?

Are you seeing the results of a sedentary lifestyle? How is it impacting your work?

Do you think health is something our community should be talking about, or is it taboo?

Would it be beneficial to address ways to lead a healthy lifestyle at voice-over conferences and other other gatherings?

What have you done to get your health and ideal weight back, and what did this mean for your business?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Even though I have often expressed strong opinions in this blog, know that my desire to discuss this topic does not come from a place of judgment or blame. We have a very supportive and understanding community, and I think we can help one another by caring and by sharing.

Thank you! 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

PPS I just extended the deadline for my photo contest by two weeks. Entries now need to be in by June 18th.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a multilingual voice-over professional, coach and writer. His blog has been voted one of the most influential voice-over blogs in the industry. He's an expert contributor to Internet Voice Coach, the Edge Studio, the International Freelancers Academy and recordinghacks.com.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career

32 Responses to Mind Your Own Business

  1. Paul Strikwerda

    That is impressive, Scott. I promised the ones that lost 30 pounds a copy of my book. Do you happen to have a list of the biggest losers? Drop me a line if you do!

  2. scott lyle

    Hi Paul,
    I just wanted to let you know that over 15 of us participated in the #30byfaff challenge inspired by your blog post, and as of this last weekend at Faffcon 7 we have lost a combined total of 316 lbs, several of us passing the 30 lb weight loss mark along the way. I’d also say that pretty much all of the food at the snacks and lunches served at the conference were very heart healthy as well. Thanks so much for all you do to help us think about who we are not just as vo talent but also as people in general. All the best.

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  7. Paul Strikwerda

    Thanks for the tips, Karen and Nancy. Could this be the summer in which we commit ourselves to getting back in shape?

  8. Karen Gerstman

    All of my recording these days is done while standing. Luckily, I record mostly short form projects….it’s just easier for me in my particular recording space, plus I had spine surgery last year, so sitting for long periods of time is a no-no. It’s important for everyone to make exercise a part of their daily routine…even if it means walking around the block just to get the body moving and to get some air…or go for a swim at the local pool! Happy summer everyone!! :-)

  9. Nancy McLemore

    Parking in far-away spots, using the stairs rather than elevator, going up the “DOWN” escalator are all small exercises which I try to employ. Red wine is my gateway drug, however…….to Little Debbie Snack Cakes. It’s ironic that I did a voiceover job for a drug to help combat binge eaters. I’ve from yo-yo’d the same 25 to 30 pounds over my lifetime. Mental preparation like food prep has to play a part–decide to act. White foods like dessert should be a rarity, But-I LOVE THEM. Like an alcoholic, I try to take it one day at a time…..Great subject, Paul.

  10. Paul Strikwerda

    Thanks, Liz and Joell! I use a kneeling desk chair which prevents lower back pain. It allows me to sit upright and breathe properly. I do love the design of the Focal product range, but it’s not cheap…

  11. Joell

    Thanks for bringing up the conversation. I was feeling the difference for myself in being so “still” everyday. I’ve found using a “Focal” mogo stool keeps me “active” when sitting/leaning while I work. I’m pretty much physically healthy, in general, but thought I’d share this in case anyone could benefit as well. Looking forward to the other pieces of the convo!

  12. Liz Aiello

    Thanks Paul for addressing this. Good health is really the pillar that is most important in our lives; it enables us to have good quality of life for everything else we do. When it starts to get shaky, it no longer becomes an option to be healthy but a necessity. Hopefully heeding the wake up call that is individual to each of us will start to create changes in how we deal with our daily challenge to be in good shape.

  13. Paul Strikwerda

    Amy and Lance, thanks for sharing your stories. It’s very encouraging. Lance, you have a good point: it’s important to make staying in shape as easy as possible. I’m looking forward to your story. Amy, accountability is another key factor in successful weight loss. I have a gym membership which I very much enjoyed during the first few months. Then I stopped going because there was always work that needed to be done.

  14. Amy Taylor Fernandez

    Paul- I think it is fantastic that you’ve chosen to address this issue. In the 8 years I’ve been a full-time VO, I’ve consistently gained weight. Always ignored it because I was “working” and “making money” so in my head that justified sitting or staying in the booth for *gulp* 10 hours a day. As long as I sounded good, I didn’t need to look good. I don’t remember the exact moment I decided enough was enough. I do know that I felt horrible and my inactive lifestyle and lack attention to calorie intake was taking its toll on my life. And -wait for it- it began to affect my voice. I remember editing one night and heard playback of myself breathing. It scared me a lot. I could no longer get through copy in a couple of breaths. I was taking several breaths to get the script done. So I decided that while I loved voiceover, my work was not the most important thing in life. Health is. I started working with an amazing personal trainer. Going to the gym is second nature to me now. I book around it like I would any other client. I don’t blow it off. Plus he gets what we *do* and can be flexible if a big gig comes up or me. Accountability has been the key. I show up. I watch my calorie intake. I choose things that feed into my goals, not ones that sabotage them. Sure, I’m human and I fail sometimes, but I get back up again. (Kind of like auditioning, right.?) By the way, my voice performance has improved phenomenally since I changed my lifestyle. I can’t wait to read this blog series, Paul! Please let me know if I can help.

  15. Lance Blair

    I appreciate the sensitivity you employ approaching this subject. It shouldn’t be taboo. It’s a real issue, and a vital one. I’ve had my ups and downs but in 2011 I needed to address my weight seriously. I lost 35 pounds that year without going to a gym, and most of the exercise was done in my studio while I was working. I’ll be writing more about how I did that soon (and yes, I’ve stayed in good health since then). Basically, you just need to have light work-out gear in your studio and casually play with them throughout the day. Just keep moving! Thank you for such a thoughtful and honest post.

  16. Paul Strikwerda

    Matt, Robert and John, thanks for sharing your experiences! It’s so easy to lock ourselves up in a small room and move as much as a potato. It is absolutely possible to do what we do for a living and stay healthy. But we need to work at it every day!

  17. John Melley

    Great article, Paul. I went through something similar a few years ago. At the risk of sounding self-serving I recently did a podcast on this very topic that I think people will find very interesting. I interviewed my trainer and we discussed how EVERYONE is an athlete since we use our bodies to earn a living. It’s called: Are You a Voice Over Athlete? You can listen here http://bit.ly/1hMjMpd

  18. Robert Craigo

    Paul, you are absolutely right about taking care of yourself. If you don’t who will?

    I promise I am not bragging I just want others to know that it is possible to maintain good health well into old age.
    I am 65 years old and weigh about 4 pounds more than I did in the 8th grade. I’m 5ft. 5in tall and weigh about 133lbs. I stay physically active and this allows me to eat just about anything I want although I don’t. I watch what I eat and can afford to indulge in ice cream and burgers occasionally. I used to be an avid runner but my knee went out and the Dr. told me my running days are over so I took up biking and now I try to compete with my son, I said try he is much younger and a better biker but I can do the best I can for my age. I make my health a priority because my family depends on me and my wife appreciates it too. I don’t take any prescriptions and my health bills are minimal.
    There is no way around it, if you want to stay healthy you must get up and get active even if it’s walking just do it every day or as often as you can and make it a priority, a part of your daily routine just like saying your prayers.

    So, I say get up, get moving and get healthy.

    Here’s to your good health.

    Robert Craigo

  19. Matt Forrest

    A good reminder for everyone who spends most of the day in one little room, lost in their own world of VO. As a stay-at-home parent, I juggle my business responsibilities with my VO business, so I never have time to spend hours sitting in one spot – and really, I’ve never been all that good at doing so.

    I will say I was shocked at how out of shape I became over the winter…since I tore my ACL the Tue. before Thanksgiving, I spent all winter rehabbing the right knee but unable to do much else in the way of exercise. Even now, having had the surgery nine weeks ago, I still can’t turn, pivot, or even jog – all I can so is walk or half-squat. So when I went to my physical therapy appt. last week and was on a Stairmaster for TWO STINKIN’ MINUTES, I was winded! I just couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a guy who cuts & splits cordwood, plays on an indoor soccer team, goes for walks with the kids all the time…and I had become a giant potato in only one season. Weight gain – and consequently, ill health – can jump on you faster than you’d believe. So physical fitness is not just for health buts, it’s something we all need to work on regularly. (Plus, it directly affects one’s mental health, which I’m sure you’ll be touching on in future posts)

    Havea good weekend, my friend!

  20. Paul Strikwerda

    It’s good to hear that health habits were discussed at Faffcon. I’ve only been to one unconference in Hershey, and I don’t think it was on the agenda at that time.

  21. Paul Strikwerda

    Thanks for chiming in, Jeff, Patricia and Moe. I’m not sure I’m ready for a dog yet, but as a true Dutchman I love riding my bike. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, but I have a huge sweet tooth and my sugar intake is not where it needs to be. Speaking of sugar, coming from Europe, I have noticed that pretty much everything tastes sweeter in America. I’m used to it now, but I remember that in the beginning I wondered why the bread and the cereal would taste so sweet over here.

  22. Jamee Thompson

    Paul,
    Fantastic aritcle, as usual. I just wanted to add that at FaffCon, since it is a participant-driven “unconference,” there have been break-out sessions on staying healthy and getting more exercise along with lots of discussion regarding standing desks and yoga-ball chairs. Unfortunately, I didn’t choose to attend the session last year, so I can’t speak to the content. It’s my goal to attend one of those sessions this year in Arizona, as my weight and health could use the boost.
    I think you’re on to something here. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

  23. Jeff Berlin

    1. When you’re reading copy, always stand. Never sit.
    2. Get a dog. Forces you to get out.
    3. Do errands with a bicycle or on foot.
    4. Pushups are great – you can do them anywhere.

    I do all that, yet I too am cholesterol reducing meds. I may have to visit a gym. I loathe gyms.

  24. Patricia Shanks

    I’m with you, Paul. And I think there are a couple of other reasons why weight catches up with VO people. We live unusual schedules. We respond to clients when they need the work done – day or night. This kind of unusual schedule is akin to what live performers deal with. With odd and long rehearsal hours, performance hours, travel… there’s no regular schedule. Eating becomes eating whatever and it happens whenever. Late eating is particularly bad. Attached to this is the problem with finding time to be physically active. VO people and live performers aren’t always inactive. There just isn’t time to be active enough. Between my VO work, performing, teaching and writing, I snag whatever moments there are to take a walk or hit the elliptical at the gym. Doing the best we can is better than just letting it all go.

  25. Moe Rock

    Paul are you inside my head today? ;o) I was just having this very conversation with myself this morning during my run.

    I’ve put on a lot of weight in the past few years. A LOT! Yes, I’ve had some health issues that have caused some of it, but I need to make myself more accountable. I need to take charge of my own body and health. I do mostly eat right, and I run/walk almost every day… but I also think I’m good at making excuses for my weight gain. Then there’s the little voice in my head: “Oh a little comfort food won’t hurt,” “It’s the holidays,” “I’m on vacation,” or worst of all… “Well I’m already fat, why bother?”

    I think you are so correct in addressing this issue. If you told me this to my face I might slap you, (wink) but I think a public forum like this is a great place to start. The breathing problems and reflux issues on the vocal chords should be reason enough.

    I’ve been on a medication that causes weight gain (I know… another excuse), but as of June, it should start leaving my body. I had a good chat with myself this morning that losing weight needs to become priority #1 in my life. Maybe we can all help each other.

    Ok now I’m going to go run some steps. ;o)

  26. Paul Strikwerda

    Rob, Erica and Brett, thank you so much for your input and suggestions. It is a touchy subject but it needs to be addressed. Paula, the book I am referring to is something that’s in my mind and on my mind right now. It has yet to be written. My latest book came out about three weekes ago, and is called “Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs.”

  27. Paula Leinweber

    Paul, thank you, your blog is reinforcing what I already know and am trying once again to practice. I have struggled with my weight all my life, am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and am working on getting back to my goal weight for the 4th time. Exercise is so very important in keeping healthy. We learned in a WW meeting that sitting is the single worst thing you can do for your health. Thanks for your insight! (I am looking forward to reading your book…do you address these issues in it as well?)

  28. Brett Hyberger

    I think this is an extremely relevant and touchy subject, and I love your approach. I believe Americans place too much importance on looking good and less on feeling good. The advantages of feeling healthy outweigh the advantages of looking good in a swimsuit, and I think it’s hard for Americans to focus on what’s really important in keeping your body running well. (Myself included)

  29. Erica

    My father died from complications of obesity, so this is a huge area in my life that I focus on. I do yoga and a little Pilates daily and do a three-hour workout with my husband at our gym (including walking to and from) every other day. Our diet is very healthy too. While I’ve always enjoyed exercise, watching my dad suffer kicked me into high gear. I’m grateful that Stephen pushes me when I’m lazy – having a gym buddy helps a lot.

  30. Rob Sciglimpaglia

    This may sound kind of funny, but one of the reasons I do on camera work along with VO work is for the reason you speak of, which is to stay in shape. When I was just doing VO, and sitting behind a desk lawyering, I started to pack on the pounds. Then I started doing on camera work, including all the disciplines that come along with it to look good on camera, like exercising and movement classes. All it takes is one glance at yourself on screen if you’ve packed on a few extra pounds to motivate you to change!

  31. Paul Strikwerda

    Thank you for sharing, Susan. My health affects everything I do. It affects the way I feel, the way I act and how much energy I have to take on the world. Getting back into shape may seem like a near-impossible task, but I believe it can be done!

  32. Susan

    I think this topic is very relevant and should be talked about openly. One’s voice is part of one’s body and is affected by one’s general health. Some chronic health problems resulting from obesity cause shortness of breath, which naturally affects our narrating. Others cause acid reflux, which can cause hoarseness. I, too, have put on weight over the years, and take meds. Trying to get into shape feels more and more like a Sisyphean task!

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