Feeding Your Soul

Columcille Megalyth Park

Photo credit ©Paul Strikwerda

A few weeks ago, I gave you my “formula” for being less busy, and more productive:

Focus on what you’re good at. Outsource the rest.

People who run a successful business hire people who are smarter and more talented than they are, to take care of certain aspects of that business. These experts are able to do things better and quicker, leaving you with more time to focus on your strengths. That’s where the money is!

This philosophy has served me very well, and yet it’s only part of the picture. Today I am going to reveal something to you I haven’t told anyone else. At first, it will sound like a contradiction in terms, but I assure you it is not. It is something essential that took me many, many years to learn, and quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet.

Because it is seemingly contradictory, it confused me to the core, and at first I fought it tooth and nail. But once I discovered the benefits of this strange strategy, I came to embrace it.

TRYING TOO HARD

It all began some ten years ago. I was trying very hard to build my business, working 60 to 70 hour weeks. The idea was that the more I would put into it, the more I would get out of it. That’s only fair, right? It’s the same perverse philosophy that’s behind the torture that is cold calling. The more numbers you dial, the greater the chance of success. That’s what they say, whoever “they” are.

Well, this might be working for some people, but it wasn’t working for me. All that knocking on doors and auditioning for anything under the sun left me exhausted, and disenchanted. Bottom line: I had run into the law of diminishing returns. The more I tried, the less I accomplished.

Have you ever been in a situation like that?

People around me said: “You’re working too hard. Take break. You can’t force success.”

Did I listen? No!

Every time I took a breather, I felt tremendously guilty because I could have and should have been using that time on something useful and productive.

DREAM ON

This voice-over business was supposed to be my dream job. Dream jobs don’t feel like work, and they give you energy, don’t they? It’s the ultimate freedom from the 9 to 5 rat race so many people get caught up in. It was my chance to prove to the world that I could be my own boss, living life on my own terms and turf.

If all of that were true, why didn’t it feel that way? Why was I waking up exhausted before the day had even begun? Why had I become an irritable, self-absorbed, sad sack of a husband who could only converse about finding new ways to get new clients?

“Oh, the first three years are always the hardest,” I told myself and my friends. “Eventually, it is going to get better, and it will all be worth it!” (insert fake smile)

But things didn’t get better, and I didn’t know how to turn it around…. until the day I walked into my local bookstore, and picked up a random paperback from the self-help section. The next thing I did was such a cliché: I closed my eyes, opened a page, and looked at the first thing that caught my eye. It was a quotation:

You can’t give what you don’t have.

I don’t remember the title of the book or who wrote it, but it felt like I had received a message from the universe that could not be ignored. If my business was a flower bed, I had been watering and watering it, until the can was empty, and could not be refilled. No water: no growth. It was crystal clear.

So, what was I to do? Give up? Sit on the couch and watch TV all day long? Play video games?

I looked at the next few lines in the book, and the author had clearly anticipated my question. This was her advice:

“Replenish yourself. Do something that feeds your soul. Something that has nothing to do with work.”

STEPPING OUT OF IT

I’ve always been a lover of the outdoors. That was one of the things that attracted me to America. Endless forests. Majestic mountain ranges. Roaring rivers. Hidden trails.

The day after my revelation I put on my hiking boots, and I disappeared into the woods. For hours. There and then I realized how much I had missed my conversation with nature. I had missed the fresh smell of pine trees, the sweet sound of bird song, and the quiet rustling of the leaves. Not once did I think about my flailing business.

As I was trying to capture what I was experiencing, I thought of something else that was missing in my life: writing!

From the moment my mother taught me how to write, I was always scribbling words on pieces of paper. As a teenager, I would never leave home without a small notebook. In the last few years, however, I had been too busy reading scripts other people had written, and I felt I didn’t have time to put my pen to paper.

When I came back from my walk, it was as if a load had lifted from my shoulders. I could breathe again, and I went to the attic to find my favorite journal which was still half empty, (or half full, depending on how you look at it). Without even thinking, words started flowing from an invisible source within me, as if someone had opened a faucet filled with feelings and ideas.

Then it dawned upon me. What if I were to use my passion for writing, and start a blog for my business? It was something so obvious that I had never thought of it before. It’s like suddenly seeing something that is right in front of you!

And that is how this blog was born.

BOOSTING BUSINESS

In all the years that I’ve been doing voice-overs, nothing has been more vital to the promotion of my business as this blog. Colleagues read it. Clients read it. You are reading it right now.

Here’s the irony and the contradiction: the idea came to me as I was doing my very best not to focus on my business. I was relaxed. I was in the moment. I was feeding my soul.

All of us get stuck from time to time. We get worked up. We feel frustrated. We might even lose faith.

The question is: What should we do about it?

Take my advice. Let it go, and find what feeds your soul. For some this might be through yoga, music, or meditation. Some people paint, or work in the garden. Others start jogging, or get on a bike. There is no right or wrong. Whatever floats your boat.

In a society that is obsessed with work, and where people pride themselves on how many hours they put in, this is a radical shift. To me, it did not feel normal. I had to work hard on not working so hard.

But the moments I chose to feed my soul, turned out to be the most fulfilling and eye-opening moments of my life. They proved to be the answer to the question:

“What for?”

Ultimately, our work is just a means to an end, but to what end?

FINDING MEANING

As I was hiking on that wooded trail, experiencing the serenity of solitude, and the beauty of creation, I realized:

“This is what it’s all about.”

I don’t mean withdrawing from the world, but rediscovering an essential part of that world that is so easily lost. The part that’s more about being, than about doing

Look at it this way: there’s always going to be something in your inbox. You’ll always find a reason to do more work to please more people. But you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t step away from your business from time to time, it will take everything you have, and then some.

Candles that are burned out, can’t spread any light.

Please make time to create moments that matter. These moments will give you the energy to carry on, and the inspiration to evolve, personally and professionally.

The other day, my wife and I went to Columcille Megalith Park, in Bangor, Pennsylvania. It’s a park rooted in Celtic spirituality, and inspired by the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland.

If you’re not in a position to leave your computer right now to go on a hike, take a few minutes to absorb the pictures I took, and listen to the music.

Then get back to what you were doing.

I can almost assure you that you won’t feel the same!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Personal, Promotion

22 Responses to Feeding Your Soul

  1. Howard Ellison

    The original boss of RankXerox in UK used to insist his team never extended their agreed working day. He found (as have some enlightened employers today) that productivity actually goes up when people get a life. The weekly employed optimum in terms of health and loyalty is reckoned to be around 30 hours. Compare and contrast!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    And yet, many American workers are afraid to take time off because they don’t want to lose their jobs. In the Netherlands, a six-week summer vacation is looked upon as “preventative health care.”

    I have dedicated my life to doing more with less, but as a freelancer, work fluctuates and when it rains…

    [Reply]

    Howard Ellison Reply:

    Yes. Wouldn’t it be great if the world were to open up to evident commonsense, wherever it may originate.
    ‘Appliance of Science’ comes to mind – and that’s at least benefitting washing machines, though not so much the guys who toil to make them.

    [Reply]

  2. Ron Bianchi

    better to be human beings than human doings

    [Reply]

  3. Debbie Irwin

    So very true. I’m about to feed my soul in Spain for two weeks. This, after losing both my parents in one year.

    It’s rocked my boat, my business and my buoyancy.
    Trying to be kind to myself in the midst of turmoil.
    Taking some actions to do some things differently.

    Always enjoy reading and being inspired by your posts.
    Thanks!
    Debbie

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your parents, Debbie. Losing both parents in one year must be very tough. I wish you the best of travels, and a safe return!

    [Reply]

  4. Martin Victor

    Nice words, Paul. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Living in my studio in Burbank, CA, I do feel isolated from the world, which is why I try to make frequent trips to the beach part of my lifestyle. Although it’s crowded there on most days, it is still relaxing, and I feel refreshed when I get home, despite the dreaded freeway traffic.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    The beach: one of my favorite places. Just the smell of the salty air alone changes my mood dramatically. Good move, Victor!

    [Reply]

  5. Mike Harrison

    I remember when Luke Skywalker switched off his targeting computer, closed his eyes and let the Force well up inside him before he fired the shots that destroyed the Death Star.

    Letting go can prove amazing.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That’s why all the kids are singing: “Let it go, let it go!” 😉

    [Reply]

  6. Paula Faye Leinweber

    At the risk of sounding repetitive, I too really needed this word today, thank you, Paul!!! Your message and your video both were balm and I do plan to get out and enjoy the Pacific Northwest. Today. Rain or no rain. Thank you! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m so tickled to hear that, Paula! Enjoy the great outdoors as much as you can. Rain or shine!

    [Reply]

  7. Linda

    Hi Paul!

    Beuatiful pictures and insightful lines!
    I was RIGHT NOW after some meditation, thinking about going for a jogging later today, as a medicine for my body and soul… Let go of worries and stress… And thinking how to start writing again for my blog…

    then I read your lines “Colleagues read it. Clients read it. You are reading it right now.”

    Your article is the SIGN from the universe FOR ME that this is what I must really do.

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m so glad that this story came at the right time for you, Linda. Enjoy your “medicine”!

    [Reply]

  8. Stephen Pace

    Thank you for writing this and all your other posts as well! I really needed this one today.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re most welcome, Stephen. Thank you for taking the time to read my musings!

    [Reply]

  9. Debbie Grattan

    Thank you Paul, for a great start to my weekend. Your photos were a perfect reminder of the inspiration we have all around us, and your choice of music is also what I call the MOST beautiful piece of music ever written. I’m actually leaving early today, to take my daughter and a classmate to the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, where high-schoolers from all over the state inspire and enlighten with their talents over the next 3 days. I’m excited to have a short break from work, to re-charge and feel the exuberance of young artists. That’s one way I feed my soul.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Safe and happy travels, Debbie. I wish I could join you on your trip to the Youth Arts Festival. Enjoy!

    [Reply]

  10. Ken Cowan

    Thanks for your thoughts and words Paul. I would take a hike but the pollen count is a killer for people like me. I’ll be hiking though. ttyl Ken in the woods of New Hampshire.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I wish scientists would invent a serum that would make people allergic to allergies! It would be a bestseller.

    [Reply]

  11. Talmadge Ragan

    You are so right, Paul! Thanks for this great reminder.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for taking a few minutes o read my musings, Talmadge. Now… take a hike!

    [Reply]

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