Everything is perception. Perception is everything.

Some people believe that auditioning is nothing but a numbers game.

Let me tell you a story.

Two groups of kids were playing outside. Someone had written a big number 6 on the street, and a fight had broken out because of it.

One group claimed that the number was actually a 9. The other group insisted it was a 6. Before the debate got totally out of hand, a little girl shouted:

“You’re all wrong. Can’t you see it’s just a circle with a line?”

The kids decided that she was right and they went on to do some cloud spotting. But as they were lying in the grass, another fight broke out.

“That cloud looks just like a giant elf,” said one of them.

“No way,” said another kid. “It’s a fairy. Anyone can see that!”


How on earth is it possible to come to very different conclusions, based on the same input? Well, the simple answer is that most of us tend to select information based on what resonates with our model of the world. The rest is conveniently filtered out. In other words:

We see what we want to see, and we hear what we want to hear.

A young psychologist decided to test this principle. During a road trip to promote his first book, he had breakfast in a different diner every morning. And every morning he ordered “scramberred eggs.” Not once did a waitress ask: “Excuse me sir, what did you just say?” He always got a plate of scrambled eggs, because that’s what the waitress believed he said.

As a trained journalist I happen to be a professional skeptic. I was taught to always check my sources, and in the absence of empirical evidence, do my own fact-finding. So, when I read the “scramberred eggs” anecdote, I decided to put it to the test, but with a slight twist.


One of my favorite sound engineers was a huge fan of a crooner known for songs like “Stardust,” “Mona Lisa,” and “When I Fall in Love.” During a break I innocently asked:

“Hey Mike, did you know that they just discovered an unknown recording by Napkin Cole?”

He said: “Really? Where did you hear that?”

For the next half hour, all we talked about was Napkin Cole. I must have pronounced the name at least 40 times that way, and not once did Mike raise an eyebrow. It was unforgettable… Next week I will ask him about his favorite female jazz singer: Elephant Gerald.

Having strong preconceptions is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, taking things for granted means that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s the principle of generalization upon which all learning is based. On the other hand, it closes us off to valuable new information. Worst of all, it seems to happen beyond our control.

For us voice-over pros this can be frightening. Whenever we record a demo, we’re basing our approach on our take on the text. We put that info through our filters and come up with a unique interpretation of the script. That part we can control. But once this demo reaches the ears of the client, everything depends on what unknown filters are operating in his or her brain. Sometimes, the effect can be unexpected and surprising.


A few years ago, I auditioned for an amazing job. It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, and I just knew that it was going to be my big break. Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops to make sure my demo was spot-on. Only after I was completely satisfied that I had absolutely nailed it, did I send my demo on its way.

An hour later I received a generic rejection. It was a huge slap in the face, and I felt like a complete failure. I listened to my demo over and over again, and I couldn’t figure out what had gone so horribly wrong.

A year later I finally got the answer.

By chance I ran into a colleague of the voice-seeker who had so cruelly crushed my dreams. He recognized my voice, and we started talking about that fateful project I had auditioned for.

I said to him: “I have to ask… I know I would have been perfect for this project. Tell me: Why didn’t I get the job?”

He paused for a moment and replied:

“I know exactly why.

You sounded too much like the producer’s ex-boyfriend.”

When I heard those words, two very conflicting emotions boiled up to the surface. I was both livid and relieved. My angry ego shouted: How could this woman have been so unprofessional?

At the same time I was glad to know that there was nothing I could have done to change her mind.

Ancient wisdom tells us that the world we see is a mirror of who we are.

Everything is perception.

Perception is everything.

It is written in the clouds.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

Send to Kindle

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

13 Responses to Everything is perception. Perception is everything.

  1. Bill Johnston

    Paul, I couldn’t help but break out in a fit of laughing when I got to your “punch line.” Maybe it was just to release the tension I had built up in reading the story. Maybe it was because it brought home to me how perverse life can seem. Yet, it almost perfectly reflects the way it is. We just don’t know what sense or sensibility is going to be stimulated in another through exposure to the product we deliver. I’m still giggling as I complete this comment.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m glad my story made you laugh. That made me smile! I guess it’s human nature to think in associations of things that are not necessarily linked. Nothing has a meaning, but the meaning we give to it. That’s why I subscribe to the idea of a subjective reality.


  2. Stephen Knight

    Hey! Whatd’ya have against Napkin Cole?! His daughter, Nationally Cole is quite the song stylist, too…


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Nat King Cole is one of my favorite crooners, and the musical apple did not fall far from the singing tree.


  3. Natasha Marchewka

    Thus, the level playing field in that you never know why someone does or doesn’t like your sound. It never about us! So…we move on until someone else falls in love with our sound and then again we must realize, it’s not about us.

    P. S. I’m in love with your blogs…perception? Perhaps. More likely, good taste.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As long as our recordings have no technical flaws, and our delivery is intelligible. The rest is a crap shoot. Whether you’re a big gun or a small one.


  4. Kent Ingram

    I can think of so many instances like the one with the producer, Paul! Along with perception, it’s also remarkable how our human brains fill in information, when the subconscious sees something that’s out-of-place, but which the conscious brain hasn’t detected yet.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Rationalization always happens after the fact. First we experience. Then we evaluate.


  5. Mike Hanson

    Paul, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mistaken for some’s ex.

    Some responses have been downright terrifying.

    One of the worst was from one of my exes. When I suggested she was mistaken, that her perception of me was all wrong, I didn’t help myself.

    Sometimes wiseassery back fires. But it’s my brand and wins me more gigs than it loses


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Do wise asses wear smarty pants?


    Nancy Groth Reply:



  6. Kevin Scheuller

    Paul, you heart breaker, you; making her think of her ex-boyfriend.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I don’t know what got into me, Kevin.


Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: