Nethervoice Blog

Just Be You. The Trouble with Authenticity.

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career11 Comments

Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker

Broadway star Danny Bursteinrecently wrote a moving tribute to his wife Rebecca Luker in The Hollywood Reporter. Rebecca passed away due to complications from ALS on Dec. 23, 2020, at the age of 59.

She starred in shows like The Music Man, Mary Poppins, The Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, and The Secret Garden. Luker was nominated for three Tony Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, and two Drama Desk Awards.

Burstein wrote:

“When I described her singing, I used to say, “She opens her mouth and her heart falls out.” That’s exactly how it felt. I know of no other singer who’s had that same effect on me. She had some innate connection to her soul when she sang that made the listener instantly feel the deepest emotions. It made you understand why poets wrote about purity and beauty. It was simply that obvious. That perfect. That special. That connected.”

AUTHENTICITY

In voice over circles, the latest buzz word seems to be authenticity. Clients and booth directors all seem to want it, but no one ever tells you how to get it. “Just be yourself” is another one of those overused, empty phrases.

The trouble is, we’re almost never hired to be ourselves. If that would be the case, we’d be using our own words and not some idiotic script that seems to be penned by a twelve year old.

If we were hired to be ourselves, we wouldn’t be asked to pretend to sell something we’d never buy, or teach something we have no interest in learning.

As voice actors we are paid to pretend, to lie, to fool the listener into believing we love this new deodorant, or we give a damn about the environment.

In our profession, the best liars get the best paychecks and some shiny statue. Perhaps even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, if you’re on camera.

Be yourself, my ass!

Half of the time I don’t even know who I am, so how am I supposed to be this person I’m still trying to get to know?

What people really ask when they want us to be authentic, is to sound natural. Whatever that may be.

“Paul, talk to me the way you would normally talk,” a director once instructed me. “Pretend I’m your best friend.”

That particular director was a notorious, womanizing jerk I would never hang out with if it were not for the money they were paying me to even listen to this guy.

Best friend? Never!

BEING CONVERSATIONAL

Think about what it means to talk like you normally talk. It is a mental exercise in and of itself to imagine yourself listening to yourself when you know no one is listening, but let’s try it anyway.

When I talk, I stammer and stagger, I start over mid-sentence, and I don’t care about proper enunciation and emphasis. I say “uhm” and “ah,” and I often lose my train of thought. It is imperfect, and no one cares. We all mumble and stumble our way through life.

Conversational speech is an unconscious process.

As voice overs we are paid to be perfect. Every word of our script was carefully chosen after much debate and intervention by the legal department. Just as a musician can’t simply make up notes that aren’t in the score, we can’t just burst in with our own, spontaneous version of the text.

Our goal is to ensure the listener clearly understands, remembers, and connects to the approved message the minute they first hear it. The moment they have to think: “What did that guy just say?” we’ve lost our audience and our impact.

It’s our job to be precise and deliberate. Every word gets its own weight; every phrase its own melody. Even every pause is premeditated.

This is an entirely unspontaneous, conscious process.

Natural speech, on the other hand, is impulsive, imperfect, and uncalculated.

That’s why the phrase “Act naturally,” is a ridiculous contradiction in terms.

FABRICATED SPONTANEITY

Only the best actors and singers like Rebecca Luker, can make what they do SEEM and sound spontaneous, as if what they’re saying and singing is invented in the moment.

It’s a professional illusion.

To me, the key to reaching this level of unconscious competence, lies in memorization. You know, the thing voice over artists never do.

Danny Burstein describes his wife’s process as follows:

“She could memorize a lyric in 20 minutes. By contrast, it takes me a week. She read music easily and could make the most beautiful sounds without even trying. That’s not to say she didn’t work hard, she did, but she had an ease with music and lyrics. They liked her and she liked them and they melted into one another very easily.”

When you memorize a text, you become the words, and the words become you. It’s the melting Burstein was referring to. Once you have memorized something, you never have to consciously think about what to say. The words just flow out of you, like a pianist playing a prelude from memory.

It takes a lot of conscious effort (hard work) to attain unconscious competence, but once you know the score, you can focus on actually making music. If you’re still learning the notes, it’s a struggle to play the piece, let alone add some feeling to it and make it sound seamless.

As voice overs, we never get the time or take the time to go off book. We rarely do any memorization. We’re always reading lines, which is one of our occupational weaknesses.

We seldom get to the point where, when we open our mouth, our heart falls out. That’s something that separates the true masters of the craft from those who are making a heroic attempt.

Danny Burstein lovingly remembers his wife:

“Two weeks before she passed she finally began to talk about her own death and asked how it might happen. She’d been in such denial until then. She spoke with her doctor and rejected his offer of a tracheotomy because she knew it would mean that she would never speak or swallow again.

She was extremely weak but told him that she didn’t want to live attached to a machine that way. She told him:

“If I don’t have my voice, I don’t know who I am. My voice is everything I am. I’ll take my chances.”

I broke down sobbing next to her when she said that. I’ve never witnessed anything so brave in my life.”

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Are You an Asset or an Expense?

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play, Promotion, Social Media5 Comments

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelancer, is to see yourself and what you have to offer, as an expense.

Every day, colleagues of mine put in lower bids on Pay to Plays, and charge lower fees, dreading that clients might think they’re too expensive. If a company like Apple or Tesla would use that strategy, it would no longer be in business.

Competing on low price is a desperate attempt to win over clients, used by those who don’t see themselves as valuable enough to land a job based on talent. It reeks of fear instead of competence, confidence, and experience.

THE FEAR FACTOR

Clients love using fear as a tactic to make you lower your rate. They’ll tell you they can easily find someone cheaper. They’ll plead poverty and say they cannot afford you. We’ve all heard it a million times. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

Let me say it again:

You have no way of knowing how much or how little a client can afford.

Successful negotiation is about finding that space between “can afford” and “willing to pay.”

When a client objects to your rate, three things could be going on. They have to do with:

VALUE, NEED, and CONNECTION

If there is little or no personal connection between you and the client, making a deal is so much harder. People who get along find it easier to come to an agreement. If you encounter resistance, strengthen the connection first, then renegotiate.

Let’s say you have created rapport, but the client still seems hesitant, make sure you establish an absolute and urgent need for what you have to offer. Window shoppers aren’t necessarily window buyers. Some clients aren’t serious. They’re just testing the waters to see what’s out there.

Give window shoppers the information they need based on what they think is important. It’s what they need to hear that matters. Not what you want to say. Don’t spend time convincing them they should hire you. Spend that time creating a connection and building trust.

Never mention price until you have established that you meet their needs.

The last reason a client may reject your rate is because they don’t feel you’re worth it. As they say in sales terms: your value proposition is lacking. This brings us back to where I started this story. The client sees you as an expense.

Here’s my take on that:

If you do your job right, you will MAKE your client money instead of COSTING your client money. Even if you’re working for a non-profit, your job is to always add value, and for that you deserve to be fairly compensated.

As a reminder to yourself, copy the following text, print it out, and put it where you can see it:

As long as you’re adding value, you’re not costing anyone anything.

Let’s look at an example of adding value.

PRICY PODS

Apple just launched the AirPods Max at $549. A premium price for a premium product. These things sold out in a matter of days. Here’s what’s remarkable: most buyers did not have a chance to try these headphones out first.

Because of Apple’s reputation and marketing, these buyers believed they’d be getting value for money.

Have I got news for you!

You don’t have to be an Apple to make people bite. As an independent contractor YOU are in charge of your product or service. You are the head of quality control. You are responsible for your reputation, and for your marketing.

So, instead of watching mic reviews on YouTube, or getting into arguments on social media, spend part of your time studying sales and marketing. Instead of spending money on new equipment you don’t really need, have someone build a better website or produce a better demo. Something that tells the world you’re not some amateur, but a real pro!

A NEW MINDSET

Turn the tables around for a change. At least in your head.

You don’t depend on that one client. That client depends on you. The client doesn’t dictate your rate. You determine how much you are worth. Within reason, and within your market, of course.

No matter what number you end up with, you’ve got to KNOW YOUR WORTH and PRICE for PROFIT. Whether you’re just beginning, or you’re a VO veteran. Otherwise you’re merely a hobbyist.

But what if a client refuses to pay what you think is fair?

As a business person you should know that you’re not right for every client, and not every client is right for you.

The great thing about being a freelancer is that there are always more and better opportunities. You just need to find them, or have them find you. That’s part of your job description.

It’s no accomplishment to book a low paying gig. It’s a lot harder to find clients that pay well and give you return business.

THE COST OF ADVERTISING

At the start of this new year, please get it out of your head that you are expensive. The word “expensive” is a comparative deletion. The question is: “expensive, compared to what?”

When you look at the cost of a television commercial, the money spent on a voice over is but a fraction of the total budget.

Unless they’re celebs, VO’s are always cheaper than on-camera actors, and cheaper than the entire crew and equipment needed to film those few seconds. VO’s are way less expensive than the big shot director, the guys who wrote the lousy script, the composer responsible for that ear worm of a tune, and the musicians playing the music.

And I’m not even talking about all the lawyers involved in making sure the campaign is kosher. When I did my David Attenborough soundalike for a national IHOP campaign, three lawyers on two continents were listening in. They had to make sure I didn’t sound too much like the famous British naturalist, or IHOP would get in trouble.

These lawyers were the reason the session took over three hours because the client wanted me to sound more like Attenborough, and the legal team wanted me to tone it down. Every word and every inflection was debated and recreated ad infinitum.

I love Hawaiian French toast, but I’ll never eat at the International House Of Pancakes again!

Do you think these corporate lawyers made more money than the humble voice over doing all the work?

Do I even need to answer that question?

If there’s anything I’d like you to take away from this blog post it is this:

You are an asset. Not an expense.

True pros consistently give more than what they take.

Or in the words of a famous Dutch blogger:

Your added value is always higher than your rate!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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The Long Road to Recovery

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Personal15 Comments

One hour, forty-nine minutes, and forty-seven seconds. That’s the length of the first chapter of the audio book I’m narrating at the moment.

If audio book narration is your bread and butter, a chapter of that length may be no big deal, but to me it’s an eternity. It feels like running a marathon in wet sand.

You see, after I had a stroke on March 26th, 2018, I woke up out of my sedation, unable to utter a coherent sentence. My emotions were all over the place, but I wasn’t able to express myself. It seemed that the signals from my brain to my mouth were completely distorted. (click here to read the full story of my stroke)

At one point I feared I would never be able to speak fluently and passionately again. That’s not exactly ideal if your career consists of talking into a microphone all day long. I felt like a concert pianist who couldn’t use his fingers.

BRAIN PLASTICITY

Thank goodness our brain is this astonishing three-pound organ. In the time after my hospitalization, some of my grey cells started taking over from the ones that were forever lost. After months of speech therapy, I was finally able to read short sentences that eventually turned into paragraphs.

However, due to a persistent tremor in one of my vocal folds (probably a result of Atrial Fibrillation), I was only able to read for a brief period of time before getting hoarse. I had no vocal stamina whatsoever, and it looked like long-form narration wasn’t going to be in my future anymore.

But once again my body surprised me.

Months and months of exercises gave my vocal folds some renewed strength. Within a year or so, I was able to resume my voice over work starting with short scripts, and eventually I took on some longer eLearning projects. But still, after forty-five minutes behind the microphone, my voice would be shot.

During the rest of the day it would be very quiet in our house.

Now, more than two years later, I am happy to report that things have improved considerably. Recently, I felt confident enough to take on my very first audio book, post-stroke.

AUDIO BOOK NARRATION

As you can imagine, being an audio book narrator involves much more than the ability to read for hours at a time. It requires mental strength, focus, and flexibility.

Above all, the narrator needs to keep the listener engaged, especially if the material is quite dry and not so well written. To give you a quick example, here’s a snippet from the book I’m narrating at the moment. Let’s read it out loud together, shall we?

First, take a silent but deep, diaphragmatic breath:

“Capital goods have no value except as intermediate products in the process of turning out final (consumer) goods later, and insofar as the production of final products is more productive with than without them, or, what amounts to the same thing, insofar as he who possesses and can produce with the aid of capital goods is nearer in time to the completion of his ultimate goal than he who must do without them.”

Feel free to breathe in again…

It’s paragraphs like these that made the client call for a professional narrator, rather than a volunteer with too much time on his hands. The entire book is pretty much like this short selection. It’s a fascinating read, but rather dense and academic.

Could I have picked something less challenging to celebrate my reentrance into the underpaid world of spoken books? Certainly, but I had already narrated a couple of other publications in this genre for the client, and he wanted a familiar voice who could comfortably handle a few other European languages.

I’m always up for a challenge, and this one proved to be particularly therapeutic. As I said, it’s like running a marathon in wet sand, and I’m aware that I’m not cranking out the pages the way I used to. Some days I resent ever taking on this project. Other days I feel proud of myself for not giving up. In the process, I have discovered a tremendous benefit of having had a stroke.

MAKE IT STOP

When I started my rehab, I noticed it was very easy for me to be in stimulus overload. My brain simply couldn’t keep track of everything that was happening around me. Hospital waiting rooms, supermarkets, and department stores were the worst. The constant barrage of light and noise was too much for my brain to handle. It didn’t know what to pay attention to. After a while I felt an urgent need to vomit and escape.

You may argue that this is a normal, human response to these relentless triggers, but my reaction was extreme, and it prevented me from functioning. Till this very day I am still not allowed to drive a car, because my brain cannot keep track of traffic.

What it can do very well, however, is be in the moment.

As long as I’m left alone with no distractions, I can concentrate on whatever I am doing in that instant… such as narrating an audio book. When I’m involved in an activity, it’s as if I’m operating in a bubble outside of time and space. In fact, I totally lose my sense of time and will forget to take my medications if I don’t set the alarm.

I once had some milk on the stove and went down to my studio to get on Facebook, and my wife had to tell me that something was burning in the kitchen. I had already forgotten about the milk. People like me are the reason why nice homes burn down.

In my recording studio, however, this renewed focus that comes with being in the moment, is tremendously helpful. I find myself reading entire pages without making any mistakes! So, you can understand my joy when I received the following note from my proof listener:

“Hi Paul, just wanted to let you know that chapter one audio is proofed with no mistakes found.”

We’re talking about one hour, forty-nine minutes, and forty-seven seconds of pretty challenging audio.

A NEW BEGINNING

Two years ago, I thought my voice over career was as good as over, and I was struggling to communicate. Now it finally feels like I am back in business, ready to take on any script clients would like to throw at me!

Looking back, I could not have gotten to this point without the help of my doctors and therapists, nor could I have done it without the ongoing support of my wife and friends.

And lastly, I want to thank you, my readers and colleagues.

You have been checking in with me periodically, and have sent words of encouragement and hope. Whenever I felt down in the dumps and disappointed in myself, you were there to cheer me up. You probably didn’t even know you did it, but I heard you loud and clear. It meant and means the world to me!

So, my wish for the new year is to stay connected.

Soon, I will have a new website which will enable me to keep telling stories that I hope will both entertain and educate.

And yes, I promise to ruffle a few feathers too. I’m afraid I can’t help myself.

Be well. Be safe, and don’t be a stranger!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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What We Must Talk About In 2021

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Journalism & Media, Personal5 Comments

A few years ago, I decided to join yet another social media platform.

Instagram.

It filled me with reservation and trepidation. Here’s what was going through my mind:

1. Do I really want to spend more of my valuable time posting and responding to wisecrack quotes and grumpy cat pictures?

2. Would what I have to say be interesting enough to make a positive difference? I already have a Facebook presence and a blog. Enough already!

3. Social media has become a set of self-indulgent platforms for fakers, where blatant lies appear to be just as important as undeniable truths. Experts get as much exposure as idiots, and no one has time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fast forward a few years, and look at me now. Almost a thousand Insta-posts, over three thousand followers (@nethervoice), and the numbers are growing by the day.

I don’t know why, but companies I’ve never even heard of are now reaching out to me, to see if I’m interested in becoming their “influencer” or “brand ambassador.”

They will pay me if I mention them, link to them, or hold up a product in a picture.

I could be making money in my PJ’s!

Yeah, forget that. I don’t want to be in anyone’s pocket.

MY THREE CRITICAL KEYS

When it comes to my social media presence, three things are vitally important to me:

Credibility, sincerity, and integrity.

My entire reputation is based on those three pillars.

Credibility comes from the latin word “credo,” which means “I believe.” One of the reasons people seem to appreciate what I have to say, is because they trust me.

Trust is not something that can be bought. It is hard earned over a long period of time.

Even though I am known for being opinionated, my opinions are never based on rumors or on things that can’t be fact-checked. I always do my homework. Now, based on the same facts, different people may come to different conclusions, but that’s what makes life so darn interesting.

OUTSPOKEN AND EARNEST

In my eyes, a sincere person is an honest person who walks his or her talk. I’m not one of those people telling others to wear a mask, while taking mine off when I think no one is watching.

When I tell my readers to value their worth and bill the client accordingly, it would be hypocritical for me to charge a low fee to win a bid on a Pay to Play.

When I review a new product on my blog, and the maker decides to give it to me for free, I will still give my honest assessment. I’ll say it again:

My voice is for hire, but my opinion is not for sale.

You know me: I speak my mind, even if it is unpopular, and even if it could hurt my career. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you’re still reading my ramblings?

Being sincere also means opening up to you as a person, and not only as a professional. That’s why this blog isn’t only about voice overs. It’s about people and the imperfections that make them beautiful and vulnerable.

Between you and me, I merely use the prism of voice overs to talk about things that are much more important than being locked up in a vocal booth to make a few bucks.

MORALS AND ETHICS

Integrity is often explained as “uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.” Both credibility and sincerity are part of being a person of integrity.

Yes, in some areas I am relentlessly uncompromising. However, many of my critics mistakenly believe that I’m writing this blog to convince my fans and followers of my truth. Nothing could be further from… the truth.

The truth is: it’s not my intention to change anyone’s mind. I do not possess that superpower. I do want to give my followers reasons to change their own minds, or to strengthen beliefs they already have.

By the way, I don’t like the word followers in the context of social media. People aren’t sheep, although they sometimes display sheepish behavior.

Of course I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook and Instagram, but I don’t expect you to agree with everything I do or say. That would be scary and rather redundant.

Back to integrity.

FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Ethical principles and values are deeply personal. They go back to our unique upbringing and life experience. Our morals and convictions are often shaped by significant emotional events. Those events can be empowering and positive, or terribly traumatic.

What I’m hoping to do on social media and in this blog, is to offer people a fresh and different perspective based on my European upbringing and life experience. Here’s a quick example.

As someone who spent part of his life as a broadcast journalist trying to separate propaganda from facts, I realized early on that the truth is constantly under attack. We all know what happens if you keep on repeating a lie over and over again.

You end up with people who believe there’s no pandemic, vaccines are dangerous, the election was rigged, and Trump has a heart.

I publicly use this blog to expose some of the untruths in our line of work, one of them being that anyone can become a voice over.

Now, I know that because you’re reading this blog you don’t believe that, but as we speak, impressionable newbies affected by COVID are being targeted by certain unethical companies, trying to sell them a dead end dream. We need to warn these hopefuls.

LOOKING AHEAD

I wholeheartedly hope that in 2021 we can not only discuss which microphone works best for VO, what to do with mouth noise, how to land an agent, or which computer is better in the studio, Mac or PC.

I hope we will find time to talk about how we can bring credibility, sincerity, and integrity to our profession.

If you’re up for that, you know where to find me!

One last thing before I go.

You may have noticed that this website is losing some of its functionality. The WordPress theme I’ve been using is no longer supported, comments are sometimes disabled, and your messages don’t always reach me.

The good news is that the brilliant folks at voiceactorwebsites are busy building a new blog-centered site as we speak, to be launched next year.

Thank you for all your support and kind comments in 2020. You’ve made a dark year a lot lighter!

Merry Christmas, and a healthy 2021!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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How to Deal with Distraction

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, PersonalLeave a comment

I’m sure you’ve had moments where, when talking to someone, you could totally tell they’re just not interested.

Their eyes start searching the room, they shift position, and they don’t acknowledge anything of what you’re saying. You might as well be talking to a wall.

“Are you even listening to me?” you finally ask.

“Yeah, yeah…” they answer insincerely, as they bring up their mobile phone and whisper:

“Just give me a sec so I can check my messages. John was supposed to contact me but he never did.”

Defeated, you nod, and they add:

“Thanks man, it’s r e a l l y important.”

The thing is, even if you’re the best paid actor in the world, it’s almost impossible to feign genuine interest. To be interested, you need to at least care about the person you’re talking to, or about the topic of your conversation (preferably both).

You need to care, and you need to show it by giving someone your undivided attention.

Now, to many, that seems to be a novel concept. We’re way too busy to pay attention to anything for longer than ten seconds. I’m actually surprised you’re still reading this blog! Shouldn’t you check your email?

THE POWER OF FOCUS

It has been said that powerful leaders have an extraordinary ability to make the person they’re interacting with feel like they are the most important person in the room. They are masters of being in the moment, totally focused, and aware.

When’s the last time you have experienced that? When did your work partner, or even your life partner, look you in the eye, being fully present, and say:

“Tell me, what’s going on?” followed by silence.

In a world purposely filled with a million distractions, it isn’t easy to shut out all the noise and remain focused. Our mind is always wondering: “What’s next?” “What could I be missing?”

It’s like being in a restaurant. When we’re eating our appetizer, we’re already thinking about the main course, and when we’re eating the main course we’re wondering about dessert. That way we never fully taste what’s in our mouth when we’re eating it.

We deprive ourselves of an amazing experience.

To what end, I wonder?

What does this bring us that’s so important, other than a mild endorphin rush?

DUMP THE DISTRACTIONS

Let’s move from the personal to the professional.

In a way, clients are just like people. They want to be heard. They need to be acknowledged. They want to feel that you care about them and care about the project you’re working on.

So, when you interact with them, make sure you’re done with all distractions. Listen first, before you open your mouth. Make sure you understand what they’re saying. If you don’t, ask for clarification. Then respond.

Tell them what you like about the project, and why it resonates with you. Show them that you’re more than a hired help. Be involved, be engaged, and be excited. Answer questions about your process so they feel comfortable about what’s going to happen next.

This has nothing to do with going “above and beyond.” You do this because that’s how you treat the people you’re in a relationship with.

Those enviable colleagues who consistently secure return business, they have a secret. They know that they have to invest in the relationship first, before they seal the deal and make the sale.

They know that, even though you may think they’re negotiating a $1,500 project, this project may very well lead to another and another. And when you add it all up, this supposedly one-time client, is worth $30,000 by the end of the year.

But let’s go even deeper, shall we?

After all, this is the nether voice blog.

BE HERE NOW

There’s one more reason you should be serious about showing you care, and why you should make an effort to be more in the moment. It has nothing to do with making boatloads of money, or pretending to be interested when you’re not.

Here’s the reason:

You should be in the moment because it’s the only thing that is real.

Think of it this way.

The past is over and will never come back.

Yes, you can have memories, but a memory is nothing but your subjective interpretation of what you believe happened, sometimes years and years ago.

If you are one of those people who is hanging on to memories that are less than positive, please realize that they only live in your mind because you clothe them, feed them, and give them attention.

When will you have the courage to ignore them, and let the past be the past?

If anything, let your past be a resource and not a restraint.

UNPREDICTABLE PREDICTIONS

Let’s move from the past to the future.

The future does not exist because it has yet to happen.

Your idea of the future is a creative construction of what you believe might be. It’s a biased prediction, heavily colored by personal experience. Your idea of the future is just one very narrow possibility among billions of possibilities.

And yet we poison the moment with our worries, as if we know for sure what’s going to happen, making ourselves and those around us miserable.

The NOW is the only thing that exists.

The rest is an illusion.

Here’s the good news:

You can’t change the past, but you can influence the future by what you are doing at this moment.

Oddly enough, NOT doing something, can have just as much of an impact as doing something.

But don’t even think about what’s not going to happen because of all those things you’re not going to do.

Don’t even go there!

Be interested. Be present. Give the now your undivided attention.

It is the most momentous thing you can do.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Reviewing the Melomania 1 Wireless Earbuds

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Gear, Reviews, StudioLeave a comment

photo credit: Cambridge Audio

After Apple killed the 3.5 mm headphone jack in 2016, it started aggressively promoting the wireless AirPods. Even though I’m a huge Apple fan, I never liked these hard plastic pods, not even the original wired version.

It has to do with the shape of the buds, and with the rigid material these pods are made of. For some reason, they never stayed put, and I found these buds uncomfortable because they had no soft silicone tips.

Lastly, I was never blown away by the sound. If sound could be described by a color, these AirPods were definitely a boring dark grey I call “Meh.”

What I did like, was the freedom these wireless earbuds gave me. I could walk around without a long wire hanging out of my ears that was plugged into a device. Exercising in my gym became a lot easier since I didn’t have to worry about wires getting stuck in the equipment.

The biggest bonus of going wireless, however, is the intense feeling of being immersed in sound. That happens when you forget you’re wearing earbuds. With headphones, no matter how comfortable they are, you always know there’s something clamped onto your noggin.

Many types of wireless earbuds are pressed into the ear canal, giving you the feeling the sound is in your head. This makes for great recreational listening, but would these tiny buds also be suitable for audio editing? Can the small driver (the component that converts electrical signals into sound) inside the buds give enough depth and detail? I’ll answer that question at the end of this review.

ENGLISH EARBUDS

Now, why did I choose the Melomania 1’s by Cambridge Audio*? Melomania, by the way, means “great enthusiasm for music.” My main reason for picking these buds was the alleged sound quality.

Whenever I make a new investment, I always read and watch as many reviews as I can find. Almost every review of the Melomania 1 mentioned that they sound much better than one would expect based on the price (I wanted to spend less than $100).

Many of these earbuds have a hyped bass which might be great in the gym, but I hate it. Not the Melomania. Cambridge Audio calls them “audio monitors” because the idea was to make them quite neutral sounding.

I have tried Apple’s second generation AirPods, TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79 earbuds, and most recently the Jabra 75t elite active earbuds. Compared to the Melomania 1, Apple’s AirPods sound tinny and flat. The SoundLiberty sounds muffled and dull. The Jabra’s were okay but unexciting, especially at their price point. FYI, I had to return two renewed sets of Jabra’s because of persistent crackling sounds and frequent loss of bluetooth connection.

RECYCLED MATERIALS

click to enlarge

Before I talk about the Melomania earbuds themselves, I have to mention the packaging they came in.

As one of very few manufacturers, Cambridge Audio has done an outstanding job to make the attractive packaging biodegradable. It’s mostly corrugated cardboard. Even the plastic that was used was made out of corn starch which can be 100% recycled. Kudos for caring about the environment, and for making the box easy to open! I wish more companies would do that.

Let’s now talk about the earbuds. Cambridge audio is including eight different tips. Most of them are silicone, but two pairs are made of memory foam (my favorite).

While fit depends on the size and shape of your ear canal, I found it very easy to get a good seal thanks to the unique bullet shape of these buds. This allows you to twist and turn the buds into place, something that’s not possible with more conventional looking earbuds that rest inside the outer ear. A good seal is critical in getting this rich, immersive sound I was talking about earlier.

Please note: Third party ear tips may not allow these buds to charge when put into the charging case. Cambridge Audio sells a Pack of 10 Replacement Memory Foam tips on Amazon.

These earbuds don’t have a HearThrough or Transparency mode which lets you hear ambient sounds as you are wearing the buds. Be careful when you take them out for a run. You may not be able to hear surrounding traffic very well.

Comfort is highly subjective, and to me, these earbuds are so lightweight and unobtrusive that I quickly forgot I was wearing them. At no point did they slip out of my ears, even when I was running up and down the stairs. Because of the bullet shape, they do stick out of your ears a bit (see top photo), but it didn’t bother me.

I never use earbuds for making phone calls, so I’m not going to critique the microphones in these buds. I can reveal that most reviewers aren’t crazy about them.

WHAT ABOUT THE SOUND QUALITY?

As a professional voice over who wears high-quality headphones all day long, and as someone with a background in classical music, I am a very critical listener. I don’t need bass heavy headphones, but I do want a balanced and detailed soundscape.

I always test new equipment using music I am very familiar with. If I start hearing things I didn’t hear before, my interest is peaked. In that respect, the Melomania 1 wireless headphones did not disappoint. Once you have a good seal, the outside world is pretty much closed off, and you enter an acoustic bubble filled with a rich, balanced and almost audiophile sound. No active noise canceling needed.

I first listened to the last movement of Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony (the 3rd), where the composer literally pulls out all the stops. Wearing these earbuds took me inside the concert hall, surrounded by the majestic sound of a pipe organ. It felt as if the music was inside of my head, instead of trapped in headphones.

Moving on to a different piece, I especially enjoyed the punchy brass section in Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony (last movement). In typical Bruckner style, it was a wall of sound. Powerful, but never overpowering to the point of overmodulation. These tiny earbuds really surprised me!

I also wanted to find out how the Melomania’s sounded with a smaller ensemble. Here’s Lea Desandre, one of my favorite mezzos, singing a feisty Handel aria.

I loved the fact that I could distinguish each individual instrument, from the low bassoon to the theorbo (a kind of lute). The recording sounded very transparent and spacial, with the mezzo in the middle of the action. It’s as close as one can get to a live performance!

Speaking about the spoken word, these earbuds are just terrific because they are so neutral. The podcasts and radio programs I listened to, sounded crystal clear. I had a feeling the presenters were speaking to me, personally. This intimate experience continued while I listened to an audio book.

WE HAVE A WINNER

In my subjective experience, the Melomania 1’s blow all the other ear buds I have used out of the water in terms of sound quality, especially at this price point (they’re on sale as I write this review). It’s pretty incredible that these small “bullets” can produce such an amazingly rich sound stage. Again, during the day I wear $350 cans, and I actually prefer listening to these lightweight buds, if only for sheer comfort.

In terms of battery life, my praise goes on. I have used these tiny earbuds for over a week for at least an hour a day (usually more), and there’s still juice in them. By the way, the compact case (one of the smallest in the market) has a very handy battery level indicator.

According to Cambridge Audio, the Melomania 1 can last up to nine hours on one charge, with a further 36 hours within the charging case. This depends on the volume level, of course, but for such small buds this is impressive and convenient.

There are three things I like less. One is the lack of an app, such as the one Jabra is offering. This Jabra app allows the user to refine the sound with presets and an equalizer. Firmware can’t be updated either. Lastly, to charge these buds one needs a micro-USB cable instead of a USB-C cable. That seems a bit outdated.

Other than that, I’ve become a huge fan of these tiny buds. If you’re a lover of acoustic music, audio books, and podcasts, these musical true wireless earbuds offer unparalleled freedom, and tremendous value for money. And no, Cambridge Audio did not pay me to say that.

EDITING AUDIO

And finally, here’s the question I promised to answer: would I use these or other wireless earbuds for audio editing purposes? No, I wouldn’t, and the reason why can be summarized in one word: Latency.

Latency is a fancy word for delay. Wireless earbuds connect to any device via bluetooth (a Dutch invention, by the way). In a regular wired connection, the typical audio latency is 5-10 ms. In a wireless connection, Bluetooth latency can go anywhere from 34 ms up to 100-300 ms for true wireless earbuds and headphones. If you’re just listening to music, or to a podcast, you won’t notice it.

If you’ve ever tried to watch a video using wireless headphones, you probably experienced that the sound was slightly out of sync with the picture. As I was attempting to edit a voice over track using my earbuds, the same thing happened.

I noticed a slight discrepancy between the visual sound wave in my DAW, and the actual sound in my ears. The sound was always running a fraction behind. Practically speaking this means that you first see the edit you want to make, let’s say a lip smack, and then you hear it. This may seem no big deal on paper, but in reality this is very annoying.

So, I’m back to doing sonic surgery using my all-revealing (and wired) Austrian Audio Hi-X55 headphones.

Airpods Max case (photo credit: Apple)

In January 2021, Cambridge Audio will be releasing the new Melomania Touch True Wireless Headphones with an advertised FIFTY hours of battery life, an app, and a transparency mode, letting outside sounds in. These buds look more like conventional earbuds that resemble hearing aids, so if you don’t like the fit or look of the Melomania 1’s, these might be the ones for you ($149).

Alternatively, you can buy Apple’s new AirPods Max(to be released in the USA on December 15) for the low price of $549. They’re headphones, not buds, but they are wireless. You’ll love the cool, soft Smart Case! Or not.

HEADPHONES AND HEARING LOSS

One final word of warning: noise-induced hearing loss is real! The World Health Organization estimates that “1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices,” in part from listening to music via headphones or earbuds. Cheap, low-quality earbuds fail when it comes to blocking outside noise, leading listeners to turn up the volume even more.

Get this: The maximum output of many devices can get up to 115 dB, which can cause permanent hearing damage in as little as 8 to 15 minutes!

If you wish to protect your ears you have two options: buy active noise-canceling headphones/earbuds, or noise-isolating earbuds like the Melomania 1’s.

To prevent permanent hearing loss, listen to your music or voice over tracks for no more than 60 minutes at a time at no more than 60 percent of your device’s maximum volume.

Do you hear me?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

*as always, bold, blue letters indicate a hyperlink.

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Work, work, work

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Freelancing, Personal, Social MediaLeave a comment

In the USA (where I’ve been living since 1999), people are obsessed with one thing:

WORK.

It’s the only nation in the world where vacation is not a right but a privilege. If and when Americans dare to take a break, it’s usually only for a few days allowing them to… do some more work at home.

When they finally take a vacation, they travel to Europe where they see ten countries in five days and come back exhausted (telling me how much they liked Amsterdam which they think is the capital of Denmark).

Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. Your worth in the USA, is determined by your work. People publicly boast about how much they work, how long they stay in the office, and how much overtime they have clocked up, just to please the Big Kahuna.

These days, people can’t leave their job without checking the email inbox at least a few times a day. It’s an addiction! What if the boss needs you to do something, or a colleague has a question? Heaven forbid you’re not available!

In a way it’s even worse when you work from home, because your job never leaves you. Freelancers are constantly posting on social media about all the amazing projects they are working on, and the ones that are in the pipeline.

“Look at me. I’m still relevant because I’m working my behind off!”

Do you want to know something?

Americans spend more hours working, yet they are less productive than most of the rest of world. People in vacation nations do more in less time while feeling less stressed. To them, work is not their life but a way to make a living. And vacation is not only for fun, it’s also a form of education and preventative healthcare.

What a concept!

Now, because of the pandemic, most of us can’t just jump on a plane and fly away to some tropical destination. But there are plenty of other ways to unwind. Read or listen to a book. Discover new music. Do yoga. Meditate. Cook a meal together. Sleep in. Play a board game. Take up a new hobby.

By the way, I’m not saying you shouldn’t work. Work can be fun and fulfilling, but it is about finding the right balance between rushing and relaxing.

I always welcome December, because I know my work as a voice over slows down. I don’t panic. I don’t complain. I just build it into the rest of the year, and I relax. December is a month to recharge and reconnect. As much as I love my job, recording voice overs is just a means to an end. Things tend to get crazy when I lose sight of that end.

It hasn’t always been this way. A few years ago I thought I had to “prove myself” by doing as much work as I could fit into a day, a month, a year. Until one day, a rescue team found me on the floor of my basement recording studio, paralyzed, and barely breathing.

I had had a massive stroke.

Not taking a break, not slowing down, not stopping to smell the roses can have deadly consequences.

Now that I have pretty much fully recovered (brain cells don’t grow back, unfortunately), I live much more in the moment, and I have left the rat race that was keeping me up at night. And you know what?

I L O V E it!

Slowing down keeps me sane and keeps me safe.

It has been said that those who are close to death often look back, and express their regrets.

Literally no dying person ever said: “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

They do say: “I wish I had been there for the moments that mattered. For the times my spouse and my children needed me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, and had taken more time to enjoy life.”

Please believe me me: your worth is not in your work. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Take a break. For your sake, and for the sake of those who care about you.

Try living without a schedule for a few days. Forget social media. Be spontaneous. Stop feeling guilty because you’re not busy making money. Give yourself permission to pause.

Enjoy unplanned time with your immediate family, and with yourself.

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a crazy year.

So, do something that feeds your soul.

And if that’s hard for you to do, you really need to work on that!

Promise?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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You Are Privileged

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, PersonalLeave a comment

Sometimes I feel we can measure the degree of our privilege by how many things we take for granted.

Is the air we breathe clean? Can we put food on the table? Are we healthy? Do we feel safe? Do we have friends we can count on? Do we love the work we do?

For many of us, the answer to these questions is self-evident. That’s why we live our lives without realizing how privileged we are… until.

Until something happens that shakes up our life.

We end up suffering from terrible allergies. We experience food insecurity. We’re diagnosed with COVID. Our house burns down. Friends fail us. We hate our job…

Isn’t it sad that, for us to really appreciate the good, we often have to experience the opposite?

In a way it’s pretty pathetic that we have to dedicate a special day to being thankful.

Twenty-four hours of madness and indigestion.

And when it’s over, we move on. Pepto-Bismol in hand.

The next day, we shop our inner emptiness away, and retail resurges. Hopefully.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Of course not.

All we need to do is press pause…. and be mindful of the many ordinary blessings that make our life livable and meaningful.

It’s the little, big things we take for granted.

It’s the things that we don’t have to worry about, that are the small stones in the mosaic of our happiness.

Now, this may sound simple, and you might be right.

But everything that looks and sounds simple, never is. All of us can buy the ingredients to a five-star dish, but very few can make a Michelin-star worthy meal. This is a tough lesson to learn in a time of instant gratification.

We want things at the speed of a mouse click. A new computer. A new eye liner. A new career. Just get the right equipment plus a P2P membership, and you’re in business!

Yeah. Right.

It’s easy to buy a blank canvas, some paint, and a few brushes. But that’s just the start of a long, winding road. There’s so much to absorb. So much to learn. And learning never stops.

Let’s be honest.

Very few people were born to be a soccer star like Maradona, or a top tennis player. Very few home cooks get to be a top chef. But you can still enjoy playing the violin, even if you never perform at Carnegie Hall. Many string players have a fulfilling career in an ensemble and not as a soloist.

So, on a day like today, be thankful for the talents you were born with. Be thankful for the people who love you for who you are. They don’t care if you’ll never be front page news. I bet they actually prefer it that way.

Share your talents with the world, and make it a better place because of you.

YOU are a gift, and I am grateful to know you!

Every day of the year.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Elaine Clark Cracked the Podcasting Code

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Journalism & Media, ReviewsLeave a comment

Elaine A. Clark

I usually don’t get hate mail, but there was one story I wrote back in 2015 that rubbed a lot of readers the wrong way.

It wasn’t one of my stories about voices dot com. It wasn’t even an article about the Voice Arts Awards.

It was a blog post called The Problem with Podcasting(as always, bolded words in blue are hyperlinks).

Here’s part of the introduction:

“I spend very little time listening to podcasts. I’d rather read an article, than listen to forty minutes of blah-blah-blah. An article or blog post I can scan in a short amount of time. I search for keywords, and skip the fluff.

Done.

On to the next one.

Am I going to listen to a forty-minute podcast to possibly pick up a few useful ideas?

No thank you.

But there’s another reason why most podcasts are not my cup of tea.

I have no patience for mediocrity, half-ass efforts, or for untalented amateurs playing radio.”

Five years later, I still stand behind what I wrote in 2015, although I must admit that I’ve added a few podcasts to my listening diet. Here are some shows I’m a fan of:

The VO Meter with Paul Stefano and Sean Daeley

Making an Impression & You’re Popping with Simon Lipson

Talking Creative with Samantha Boffin

The VO Socialwith Nic Redman and Leah Marks

Voiceover Sermons with Terrry Daniel

The Voice Castwith Albert-Jan Sluis (in Dutch)

On occasion I will listen to shows like This American Life, Fresh Air, or RadioLab. All these programs are professionally produced, and they make doing the dishes or yard work much more pleasant. But I really can’t stand podcasts that take way too long to get to the point, hosted by nitwits that love to hear themselves talk.

It turns out, I’m not the only one!

A NEW BOOK

Voice Over coach Elaine Clark, author of There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is, just published -as she wrote:

“the book I would want if starting a new podcast or needing to improve an existing one.”

It’s called “Voice-Overs for Podcasting. How to Develop a Career and Make a Profit.”

I just read it, so, let me get straight to the point. Should you buy this book if you’re thinking of podcasting, or if you already have a podcast?

A B S O L U T E L Y!

One hundred percent.

But before you make plans to produce the next Serial (the record breaking podcast by Sarah Koenig), I have some great news for you, and some not so great news.

According to Edison Research, American podcast listenership has grown one hundred percent in the last four years. 67 million Americans listen to at least one podcast a month.

Here’s the daunting news: there are more than 850 thousand active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes. If you’re serious about starting a podcast, you better know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s just like the world of voice overs:

Many are called. Few are chosen.

One of the things that crossed my mind when reading Elaine’s book was this: is podcasting something I could do on the side, to provide some passive income through lucrative sponsorship deals?

A MONEY MAKER

Well, get this. Elaine interviewed six successful podcasters for her book. One of them is Melissa Thom, founder, producer, and host of Spellbound. It takes Melissa two to five days to edit one episode which usually runs for thirty minutes.

Jordan Harbinger, host of the one-hour Jordan Harbinger Show, takes 10 – 20 hours of research, 90 minutes to record, and 9 hours to edit (which he outsources). Podcaster Jason Allan Scottspends one hour of research per minute his guest is on the air.

Most voice overs (Elaine’s target market) don’t have so much time to spare. They’re too busy making money where their mouth is. And as you read Elaine’s book, you’ll discover that monetization is one of the biggest challenges for podcasters.

For most of them, it is and always will be a labor of love.

The key to making money from podcasting is to have a large listener base. Only then are sponsors and advertisers interested in you. Jordan Harbinger says:

“It’s easy to get sponsorships once you get the big numbers. Getting the big numbers is the hard part. You need about 5 to 15 thousand downloads per episode (at the very least) before most sponsors will be interested in your show.”

For Jason Allan Scott, the magic minimum number is 20 thousand downloads per show. So, as in voice overs, being successful at making podcasts is not only about making interesting podcasts, but about being good at selling your podcast to the world! That alone, could easily be a second job, if you have plenty of time on your hand.

But you can’t really sell something until you have a product people actually want to buy, and that’s where Elaine’s book delivers big time. She writes:

“After hundreds of hours of listening, dissecting, and talking to others about podcasts, the universal theme is GET TO THE POINT! Don’t make your story too precious, your intro too long, or your focus too broad. Listeners feel their time is valuable.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Voice-Overs for Podcasting is an invaluable step-by-step guide to baking a mouthwatering podcasting cake, covering the most basic ingredients, to dealing with pitfalls and roadblocks. If you are serious about becoming a podcaster, this book will save you hundreds of hours of research, and will prevent you from trying to reinvent the wheel.

But remember: baking a great cake is about more than following a recipe. It’s about being creative, playful, daring, unusual, boundary-pushing, and about being an original. Those are things you cannot learn from letters printed on a page.

It’s only 134 pages, but Elaine Clark’s book is filled with lists, practical tips and ideas, even scripts that will set you on the right track. In my opinion, there are only two things that will keep her book from reaching a wider audience.

One: The confusing title. Why isn’t it called Podcasting for Voice Overs? No matter how you spin it, the title suggests the book is geared toward voice overs. I believe it should be required reading for anyone who’s thinking of starting a podcast, and for podcasters who want to up their game.

Secondly, I think the cover looks generic and rather uninspiring.

But you know what…

If the cover is one of the only things to critique, you know the content must be pretty stellar!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Stop Being a People Pleaser!

by Paul Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Personal6 Comments

the author

For most of us, pleasing people is the name of the game.

As a freelance service provider, that is why we exist: to please the people that pay us.

It’s how I grew up as a little boy in the Netherlands.

As the son of a minister, I always had to be on my best behavior and do what was expected of me. Children should be seen, not heard, and only speak when spoken to. Pleasing my parents and making them proud became my way of life.

That meant not questioning their authority, eat what they put in front of me, wear what they wanted me to wear, and be quiet when the grown ups were talking. And there was a lot of talking in the parsonage.

As an inquisitive and talkative child, this regime was not easy on me, to say the least. I wanted to engage and be social. I wanted to participate instead of observe.

Most importantly: I wanted to be heard.

Don’t we all?

My young parents were still learning how to run a church, and I think they were in over their heads, especially after the birth of my little sister. So, having a noisy son who always wanted to know everything about everything, must have been challenging. But I was a child. I couldn’t help myself.

After testing the rules over and over again, and being at the receiving end of numerous spankings, I finally learned my lesson.

Sit still. Shut up, and do as you are told.

In a way, this strict upbringing worked well for me. My life was like a coloring book. As long as I colored within the lines, I received praise. I was the good child, but I had to make sure to color the trees green and the sun yellow. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Deviation and disobedience lead inevitably to punishment (always administered by my mother, while my father made himself invisible).

Now, at a certain age, kids are supposed to grow up and rebel against parental authority. I left that job to my sister. She was the wild child, and very good at it, I might add! While I buried myself in books and music, she acted out in every way possible. Coming home late. Fooling around with bad boys. Drugs and drinking.

Meanwhile, I remained the pubescent, immature people pleaser. Mister goody two shoes who had no spine. Perfectly socially acceptable, well-adjusted, and never daring.

How did I stay that way, you may ask? By avoiding confrontation while fostering resentment, deep inside. It’s a coping mechanism many of us know too well. It works until someone really starts pushing our buttons and boundaries, and we can’t take it anymore.

Just wait for that pressure cooker to explode!

And when it does, we not only respond to what triggered us in the first place, but to years of keeping things inside; of sucking things up to keep the peace.

I truly feel for the person at the receiving end of this emotional outburst!

Now, why on earth would I be bringing up the past, in a blog about freelancing and voice overs? Who do I think I am? Sigmund Freud, or Dr. Phil McGraw?

I’m taking you back to my childhood because in my work as a coach I have found that many of us have evolved very little from the time we were a child. It usually manifests itself in our relationship with perceived authority figures. Authority figures such as the clients we serve.

After years and years of growing up, many of my students discover that they’re still the same obedient people pleasers they were as little kids.

Sit still. Shut up, and do as you are told.

One way this manifests itself is in a subservient relationship with clients. If a client wants things done the next day, they deliver the next day, no matter what. If a client wants to pay them in 90 days instead of in 30, they accept 90 days. If a client changes the script after they’ve already delivered the previously approved VO, they record the new text for free. And so on and so forth.

People bend over backwards just to avoid confrontation and rejection.

I see the same pattern when it comes to rates.

The client said he had a limited budget, so why should I ask for more?”

As a coach I always challenge my students. The other day, I said to one of them:

“How do you know how much a client can or cannot afford? Are you psychic? Do you have someone inside the organization? Did you even ask for more money? If not, why not?”

“Well, I’m afraid they’ll give the job to another talent. I want to maintain a good relationship.”

I told him:

“How can you predict with absolute certainty how the client will respond? I mean, out of the hundred plus people that auditioned for this job, they picked you for a reason. That should give you a bit of leverage, don’t you think?

What you are offering is not some kind of cookie anyone can bake; something simple that disappears as soon as you eat it. What you’re about to record will last. It has the power to move minds, and inspire people to take action. Only you can say it the way you say it. That’s why they picked you, for Pete’s sake!”

One of my students was in a pickle because she didn’t allow enough time to finish the eLearning module she was recording.

“Why don’t you call the client and ask for an extension?” I suggested.

“Oh, they’re not going to like that,” she replied. “This is my first time working for them. I need to show that I can handle the job they gave me. Otherwise they’ll never hire me again.”

“Here’s my assignment,” I said: “Call them up. Tell them where you are with the project and how much time you need to complete it, and see what they say.”

A day later she called me back and said:

“I’m so relieved! They gave me until next week to finish it. It turned out they weren’t going to listen to it for the next couple of days anyway, because they’re so swamped. The project manager told me they’d rather have me do a good job and take more time, than to rush things and make mistakes. She even thanked me for keeping her in the loop.”

Those two students had one thing in common. Because they assumed to know how the client would respond, they avoided a confrontation by not asking for what they wanted. Here’s the thing.

If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.

I wasted years of my life being overly concerned about what other people might think. It was the little boy in me that still was intent on pleasing his parents. The boy who always found an easy way out, to avoid conflict and confrontation.

The trouble was, playing it safe usually didn’t get me what I really, really wanted and deserved. I had to learn that it’s okay to gently and respectfully put my foot down, and ask for what I wanted.

When I finally started to speak up for myself, I discovered that the confrontations I dreaded in my mind, hardly ever happened. It was just my very vivid imagination of a worst case scenario that held me back.

These days, the people pleaser in me still plays pictures in his mind. But this time around I make sure to imagine the BEST things that can happen, instead of the most terrible outcome.

Remember this: whether you imagine the worst thing, or the very best thing, you never know how it’s going to turn out. But if you visualize a positive outcome, you’re more likely to be in a positive mindset, and take positive action, leading to a positive result.

All I ask of you, is to try this approach for the next week or so, and experience the difference it makes.

But don’t do it to please me.

Do it for YOU.

Please!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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