Stop Giving All The Answers

One of the joys of visiting Facebook voice-over groups is this. Every day, you’ll find questions from VO-colleagues that have been asked and answered a gazillion times. In most cases, the person asking the question is new to VO (yet they’re on the Voice-Over Professionals group), and simply too lazy to do a quick search, and they want to be spoon-fed like a cry-baby.

This is not unique to VO, by the way. You’ll find the same phenomenon in almost any group on social media. In this age of information, laziness, willful ignorance, and an attitude of entitlement is alive and well!

Now, I can already hear my critics say: “Stop it already! There’s no need to bash beginners. Be supportive. You were a novice once. I’m sure a lot of people helped you out when you were new to this.”

True, but things were very different when I first stepped up to the microphone. This happened in 1980 (yes, I’m that old). I was seventeen when a national broadcaster picked me to produce and present youth radio shows in the Netherlands. I had lots of ideas, but no clue about how to bring those ideas to the airwaves.

Back then, everybody was using typewriters, rotary phones, and Rolodexes. There was no Internet to do research. No social media. No YouTube tutorials. No place like Quora to share knowledge. I totally depended on the information I was able to dig up myself, and on the help from those who were already working in the business.

SELF-RELIANT

I still have the same attitude I had when I was young. Before I would bother a pro, I would do everything in my power to find the answers myself. I did this out of respect for the experts’ time, and out of respect for myself.

Looking back, my quest for knowledge taught me more than the quick-and-easy answers the pros could have given me. To this day I am convinced that when we’re on a journey to find our own solutions, the knowledge tends to stick much better because we’re invested in the process.

I see this as a coach. My students ask predictable questions all the time. “Should I record sitting down or standing up? How do I protect my voice? What’s the best voice-over travel kit? Where can I find practice scripts? PC or Mac?”

It would be easy for me to answer these questions based on my experience. But what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for the rest of the world. Voice-overs is not a one-size-fits-all business. My job is to make sure the individual I am coaching finds something that caters to his or her unique needs and budget.

If I were to give them all the answers on a silver platter, I’d make my students lazy and dependent, but if I send them on a quest, they’d have to do the work, and depend on themselves. Don’t get me wrong: I won’t send them on a wild goose chase. Like a tour guide, I point them in a certain direction, but they have to explore the area by themselves and report back to me. Why is this important?

FORCED CHOICES

We live in a time of algorithms. Algorithms determine what pops up in your Facebook feed. Algorithms decide what products Amazon thinks you should buy. Algorithms suggest which people to befriend, and which jobs you should go after. In an ocean of information, cutting-edge technology beyond our control filters what reaches us and what doesn’t. We are being spoon-fed by artificial intelligence.

As fascinating as this new technology may be, I believe people should use their own initiative and intelligence to gather and evaluate information first. I want them to become critical, knowledgeable voters, consumers, and professionals who are able and ready to make their own choices. You don’t need Netflix to tell you what you want to watch.

A word of warning. Our society doesn’t necessarily like these independent thinkers, because they don’t conform to the norm. These people question what’s being presented to them, and refuse to be manipulated. They don’t buy into hypes, they’re not impressed by assumed authority, and tend not to fall for schemes that take advantage of the willfully ignorant.

This pro-active, non-conformist, and critical mindset is exactly what I’d like my students, colleagues, and readers to develop. As more and more people flood the freelance market, it is vitally important to question the easy answers, to not do what everybody does, and to be the instigator of our own success.

WINNING ATTITUDE

This mindset alone will make you stand out, and increase your chances in the unregulated world of voice acting. Why is that? Because so many people are afraid to be different, so many people love the reward but don’t want to do the work, and so many believe BS because they can’t distinguish between fact and fiction.

You don’t want to be like so many people.

So, the next time you feel tempted to answer one of those common questions on social media, ask yourself the following:

“Will a baby ever learn to walk, if we carry her everywhere?”

“Is it better to teach a new colleague how to fish, or do we feed him a fish?”

“Are we really helping this person by spoon-feeding them information, or are we enabling a lazy attitude that is counterproductive to a successful career?”

Don’t expect me to answer that for you!

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, Freelancing, Internet, Social Media

9 Responses to Stop Giving All The Answers

  1. Lauri Jo Daniels

    Before I started this career I researched everything I could and joined the groups I could just to read everything there. I am still fairly new and have questions all the time, but what I couldn’t learn on my own I learned at conferences, in workshops, and through coaches – that I paid for!
    What galls me is that most of the people I see doing this are close to my age. They are people who used card catalogs and dug through indexes to locate microfiche to do school reports. They know how to research the hard way and I’m pretty sure they know how to use Google. When it’s younger people, in their 20s, I am sure it is a generational entitlement. My 16 year old always asks me things she could have just googled herself (I will never understand this!). They just have to be taught how to put in some effort. People in their 30s and older and definitely just being lazy. It’s incredibly annoying.

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  2. Stephen Knight

    Right on you elder cocker, you! I remember walking 5 miles to the nearest library (through the snow in the winter) to do my research, explore new ideas, keep up with new trends, locate colleagues and more.

    It gave me a chance to better focus, be away from constant noise including Radio, TV (when it was Broadcasting), and curious, read: interrupting and often annoying, Associates, friends or family. There was plenty of time for that when I wasn’t working on a project or script. Also, walking back from the library with all the ideas, images, and satisfaction from completing my goals or assignment running through my mind was magical.

    Oh yeah, BTW, I am now as guilty as the next person in signing onto the internet and search engines and exploring. Now the challenge is to make sure that I’m able to discern reality from the BS that shows up in the results of my searches.

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  3. Jim Edgar

    I think that a lot of people have never learned how to ask questions. As a young man, I hung out on USENET back when the information was good and the contributors prickly. Getting scorched for not doing basic resource was a common hazard. It was pretty brutal and the expectation was that you asked a direct and specific question. These days, it is very easy to spill out whatever immediate question pops up in one’s brain.
    The strength of the current network and immediate access is helpful of course – I don’t want to do anything to undercut the resource we all have access to. Dealing with interface-X which won’t work on version-Y of connection-method-Z used to take months to find an answer. Don’t want to go back…
    But, I also managed (and will continue) to ask some incredibly naive and stupid questions along the way, so I try to stay patient and nudge folks to the need to refine their questions, resisting the urge to just share a link to LMGTFY.com
    Like you, I do appreciate and recognize when someone has taken that extra step to do background research. Curiously enough, those seem to be the folks who stick around and seem to find a way to make it in this biz.
    Thanks for all you do, Paul!

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  4. Rowell Gormon

    …glad you’re back and in fine form, Paul. My favorite bit in your post is the part that reaches beyond VO:

    “Our society doesn’t necessarily like these independent thinkers, because they don’t conform to the norm. These people question what’s being presented to them, and refuse to be manipulated. They don’t buy into hypes, they’re not impressed by assumed authority, and tend not to fall for schemes that take advantage of the willfully ignorant.”

    Glad to know I’m not the only “square peg” who hates being shoved into a round hole.

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  5. Paul Boucher

    Paul – I had my usual “parental” reaction to this, meaning: YES! Let’s quit being “helicopter parents” for VO newbies.

    By all means, point them toward resources, give them pros and cons, but let’s let them do SOME work. It’s FUN to answer some of these questions. The first 10, 20, 30 times.

    Then you realize your effort, hard work, and desire to mentor are being taken for granted AND taken advantage of by people who really are lazy, among other adjectives that can be applied. There are exceptions to this of course, but it’s a point well-made Paul.

    Thank you for articulating it cooly and reasonably.

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  6. Paul Garner

    As a young man I “learned to learn” rather than just wait for people to tell me the answers. The joy was, and still is, in the hunt for the knowledge I need to improve in VO and life in general! Thanks, Paul.

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  7. Lenny

    Heard you in various PC- love your story and your book. You are a straight shooter. Reading your book and hearing you speak makes me cringe at times. Truth makes people cringe. So thank you.
    In the VO Meter PC you mentioned that you love and have at home the CAD E 100. Is that still the case? I have the rode shot gun mic and am thinking of purchasing another mic for my Christmas present and was considering the cad since it fits my budget. Do you still recommend it?
    Thanks
    Lenny

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Lenny, I’m glad I still have the ability to make people cringe. When that happens, I hope it’s because I make people think. That’s all I can strive for as a blogger.

    To answer your question, I still believe the CAD E 100 S is tremendous value, although the price has gone up a bit. Wait until it comes back on Massdrop for a better deal.

    If you’ve read last week’s blog, you know that I now recommend the Rode NT1 microphone because it is even cheaper than the CAD. You already own a shotgun, so you don’t really need another supercardioid mic. Happy shopping!

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    Briggan Reply:

    I loved this post, Paul. Thank you so much. I have noticed this tendency for “spoon feeding” basic information in paid workshops and webinars, with world class coaches, CD’s, producers, and talent. There are so many free sources of knowledge out there, with so much valuable insight and comparison, the time you spend actively learning it for yourself has the most value. Your case in point, I purchased the NT1 for myself as my first mic, after weeks of leaning toward the Cad e100s, but only after watching DOZENS of mic shootouts. Because of that, I know WHY I wanted that mic, HOW it worked better for my voice, and what I wanted from the NEXT mic(416), that’ll be different. For me, LEARNING has more value than being INFORMED. Thanks again

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