If we blame the economy for all of our freelance failures, perhaps it’s only fair that we should credit the economy for all of our successes. After all: we’re hopelessly helpless.
It’s the economy, stupid!
In 2000, Cleanthi Peters sued Universal Studios for $15,000. Cleanthi claimed to have suffered “extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress” after visiting Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights haunted house. She said it was too scary.
My European friend Philippe is eager to bring these type of examples up whenever he tells me that Americans live in a country of finger-pointers. I agree.
If we get lung cancer from smoking, we blame the tobacco industry. If we slip on a wet surface, it is the cleaning lady’s fault. If we burn our lips on a cup of fresh WaWa-Java, we sue the company that forgot to print a warning.
Heaven forbid we should take some credit for our own actions. Why should we? Blaming someone else could bring in big bucks!
So, what’s next?
Debbie Grattan says
As usual Paul, you are right on the money with this article. Pardon the pun. Indeed, anyone motivated by fear, is playing right into the blame game, and shirking their own responsibility not only as a professional in whatever business they have chosen, but also as a human being. It is only when we realize our own personal power, and start making choices based on that, that we can reap the benefits that are there for the taking. Your articles are always so insightful, and so articulate. Are you a writer in your “other job” ? I’m sure that your VO skills are as top drawer as your writing ability, so you deserve all the rewards that you receive. Bravo!
Paul Strikwerda says
Debbie, you’re the best! I love puns, intended or not. I totally embrace the concept of Personal Power. As Robbins puts it: “In the moment of decision, our destiny is shaped.”
In terms of my ‘other job,’… I do write and record for Internet Voice Coach (see my Claire Dodin interview) but other than that, I am totally devoted to my Double Dutch fans!
I love your “more than just Lip Service” website!
Debbie Grattan says
Thank you so much Paul! I appreciate your support! Debbie
Meg S. says
Well said! The World of Whiners is enough to drive one nuts, and personal responsibility and accountability are becoming something of a rarity. Thanks for sharing your insights, and I hope you continue to lead by example. All the best, and Happy Halloween.
J.S. Gilbert says
I enjoy reading your posts and always feel I benefit from dropping my own dogma in an attempt to look at things the way you do, if for just a moment.
Now, let’s suppose for one moment that I agree to drop all thoughts regarding poor market conditions or as we have all come to hear, “the problem with the economy”, there still tends to be hundreds of other factors that might make one doubt their journey along the voice over path.
Personally, I have done fairly well at this game through a couple of recessions, a dot com bust, terrorist attacks, shifts toward home recording and the influx into the market of 387,642 ex radio folks. It seems to me however that my fight to stay a viable and productive talent grows more formidable each day.
But more than the market forces, this game has changed considerably within the past 20 years. Heck it’s a different game than it was 2 or 3 years ago.
Mohrs Law is knocking on our door in a big way and AT&T along with some other large companies are developing programming languages that will be relatively easily taught and will allow for extremely natural text-to-speech to reach a price point within the next 3 – 4 years that would effectively remove the voice actor from a large percentage of what has been “available work”.
Business doesn’t tend to like human beings very much. We are expensive (even when we’re cheap, unreliable, and tend to not work well in the business economy that looks towards developing zero cost basis.
Even if this synthetic voice actor of the future coming into the game doesn’t tend to upset the apple cart as much as some think, the mass entitlement that is driving throngs of people into creative pursuits like voice-over, tends to often reduce the pool into just so many shipwrecked people adrift at sea. The helicopters can’t tell the people who were first class from those in standard class from those who were crew. Does SEO always win out?
And one of the worst aspects of the movement to all things internet, is that these people never go away. In fact, an actor who passed away three years ago continually pops up in web searches. I was contacted a year and a haof ago by somebody asking me if I had contact info on him. Er, um, yeah – Forrest Lawn.
Maybe it’s not such a great idea to blame things on the economy or as you say, other things beyond our control, but it’s also a very good thing to simply take time out to stop and realize when something simply “sucks”.
As I am apt to say, “The nicest thing about banging one’s head against the wall, is stopping.” One thing our industry needs less of in my opinion are cheerleaders, whose opinions may or may not stem from personal interest or as is often seen on online forums, a personal naivety.
Not that I would ever accuse you of fitting into either of those groups. I certainly agree with you that the bulk of people jumping into the v.o. game right now haven’t a clue as to what it’s like being a freelancer. And maybe we are saying essentially the same thing: Stop blaming outside influences and figure out if you belong here or not.
Thanks for the post and for getting us to do some thinking.
Debbie Grattan says
I had to marvel at the very long and thoughtful response to this question of personal responsibility. I think the key is what we focus on as human beings. Any thought that is based in a “fear” mentality, changes our energy vibration to a lower state, and indeed can actually materialize whatever it is we are most afraid of. Law of Attraction. Though you make very good points here, none of them really matter, if we continue to focus on how we want things to be. There is abundance and prosperity enough for all human beings on the planet, and I believe the only reason that all are not reaping their individual abundance, is entirely due to what they’re paying attention to. It’s not that one doesn’t become educated on what is there, and take appropriate actions towards their goal, but when we focus on negative thoughts, and why it’s “hard” and “going downhill”, then of course the Universe responds with evidence to support our theories. There will always be people, businesses, countries, etc. who thrive within any economic climate, no matter how bleak. I believe, they know the secret, and are using their own personal power of intention to CREATE their own realities, and not merely OBSERVING what they think to be true. Perspective.
Paul Strikwerda says
Just as an artist like Rembrandt van Rijn will never be replaced or surpassed by a student of the painting by numbers-school, I am confident that Yo-Yo Ma will not be “outsampled” by cello-imitating software.
I agree that some voice-over work has been and will be taken over by clever text-to-speech programs. At the same time, I am heartened by the number of banks that have given in to customers who’d rather speak to a real person, than listen to an automated, robotic message.
Just as this world needs sculptors, poets and painters, we need voice-over artists that put some heart and soul into their work of words.
Engineers have a hard time programming (appropriate) emotions into artificial speech. No synthesizer can sing a song like Alanis Morisette. And no computer is able to read a novel like we do.
I agree that some things simply suck. At that point, some of us might say the following words:
“Lord, give me the strength to change what I can, give me the strength to resist what I cannot change and give me the wisdom to understand the difference between the two.”
Paul Strikwerda says
It wasn’t fair to single out the United States as the land of finger-pointers. The Associated Press reports on 10/28:
SAO PAULO – A Brazilian court ruled this week that McDonald’s must pay a former franchise manager $17,500 because he gained 65 pounds (30 kilograms) while working there for a dozen years.
The 32-year-old man said he felt forced to sample the food each day to ensure quality standards remained high, because McDonald’s hired “mystery clients” to randomly visit restaurants and report on the food, service and cleanliness.
The man also said the company offered free lunches to employees, adding to his caloric intake while on the job. His identity was not released.
Basil Sands says
Outstanding article. Those who take personal responsibility for their actions and their future will take their future. Those who whine about everything holding them back will ever be in that throng of pitiful wasted souls who go nowhere and stay there.
Who Dares, Wins
Heather Henderson says
Well, that subject was definitely ripe for a rant, Paul. Nicely done. I might quote you in the next version of my Rates and Policies sheet!
Paul Strikwerda says
As I was writing this piece, I tried to make it more than just complaining about complaining. But I realized that it’s not that easy to live rant-free. I’m glad most people seem to be buying it!
Rick Lance says
Wow, Paul, you did it again, Buddy!
You make such a great point here and you do it with such eloquence and thoughtful perspective.
Debbie and JS I liked your elaboration!
I guess I’m too much of a believer in the human element” to seriously feel very threatened by automated voice technology and the like. Personally, maybe egotistically, I believe in the power of my own voice and the message I can convey to move people. No electronically produced voice will ever replace me. However, I do think that we will continue seeing electro voices being used for certain types of communication where the human element is nonessential.
When I had my commercial photography business (20 years) I saw many changes in the industry simply because every nut with a digital camera called himself a pro photographer. Even though they lacked the “eye” it takes to really become a pro. Major projects began to be done “in house” at corporations. This work being delegated to the company nerd who had a new digital 35mm but no sense of design, composition, color, etc. It hurt a lot of us pros and continues to do so. Pro studio photography (my specialty) became very expensive to maintain…. studio space, upgraded equipment, computer workstations, etc. The competition from amatures was incredible. I decided to ease myself out of it as I pumped up my voice over skills and business practice. Only to realize that the same technology was beginning to affect the voice over industry. With every nut “with a Chinese microphone” trying to do VO work today.
As in the photo biz the slackers and the talentless fall by the wayside. I don’t concern myself with them. Time is better spent improving my skills as talent. Funny thing is, the very technology that was putting a strain on my photo biz ( because I allowed it to) is what propelled my VO career. Since most VO work these days is produced in home studios and sent around the world via the internet.
Paul, to me a basic thread running through your insightful article is this. I learned in high school (somehow, since I was NOT a good student) that we live in a country with an incredible opportunity to be who you can be. Our entire history is based on this principle! To become an individual who’s destiny is in our own hands. As Americans not only is it an opportunity it’s a responsibility that we have living in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. I hope that people always keep this in mind. When we shirk that responsibility tyrants, manipulators and yes, the government will step in to take control of our destinies. I apologize if I’m sounding too political. But it is the season!
Ok, I realize I’m waving the flag here but as a freelancer who has always believed in his own abilities having taken on the photo industry, the music industry and now the VO industry creating success in each area, I’ve seen the world as an activist and not a pacifist. When I fall down I get back up and try not to make the same mistake twice. Always striving to control my own destiny. Willing to take the good with the bad. Never copping a defeatist attitude nor making excuses with ill placed blame. Accepting the circumstances… creating my own destiny! And making me a very happy guy in the process!
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!
Your “rants” are always welcome with me!
J.S. Gilbert says
I did sort of see the whole “whining about whining ” thing earlier. Certainly, in some cases, there is a large degree of whining for whining sake going on in this world. And I do to a certain extent believe in the whole “intent” thing, vibrational energy as David Hawkins lays out in Power Vs. Force, etc. I also try to understand the concept of fear or Love driven and I am re-reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as a result of this Blog.
I do however think that there tends to be quite a bit of blurring going around. For example, a man living in a neighborhood that has numerous break-ins purchases a quality burglar alarm system. Is this smart? Is he driven by fear of being robbed or by the love he has to protect his family? Does his telling his neighbors about the brash of robberies make him a whiner?
Are thousands of people who have found themselves jobless recently driven to voice over because of some love for something they don’t really know anything about or a fear that might have them actually go and take responsibility for re-educating themselves and competing to get back into the workplace. I personally think they are buying into a love that for the most part doesn’t exist. They are buying into the realities of people who teach and sell books and otherwise benefit from their participation.
And if you’re posting here and comparing yourself to being the Rembrandt of voice over, then I might suggest a rather quick reality check is in order. No, I don’t suspect that synthesized voice will replace many national v.o. spots or high end reads, but given that those might only account for 5-10% of the available work and probably a smidgen of the work that anyone who is a frequent visitor to this group might get, it does have the propensity for changing the v.o. industry quite considerably.
Say has anybody seen the new Geico spot that actually plays off of the bad synthesized speech/ animation of that free online program?
A $50 software program by Microsoft turned the world upside down many years ago and helped put thousands of graphic designers in the poor house. Most wishing to continue to make a living had to struggle until luckily, internet web design came to be. They had to adjust to online/ internet designing, learn new skill sets, etc.
The realities are that 96% or more of the people who try their hand at voice over will ever make more than $2,000 in a given year. Realizing this alone as one works diligently to be in the 4% of that minority can be considered “love”.
In theory, there seems to be nothing wrong with having positive thinking, but to what degree. I understand that there are amazing individuals out there who can heal major diseases with only their mind. Does this mean we should advocate a world without medicine.
Ironically, one of the books you will often find more abundant at a used bookstore is “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.”
I was friends with a firm believer in the “Law of Attraction”. He practiced it all the time. He also split town owing me and a bunch of other people considerable amounts of money.
While I certainly wouldn’t point fingers here, simply because I don’t really know anybody, my personal experiences are that many people out there wagging their tales as the immortal optimist, are either heavily in debt, are lucky enough to have spouses supporting them or have no issues as adults taking significant money from their parents.
Oddly, we hear from someone here who had his eyes open to things affecting the photography industry and as a result left that industry and took up voice over, and this after 20 years in photography. Somehow the delegation of work to the company nerd in photography doesn’t translate into the current condition of a 1,200% increase in SAG/ AFTRA work being performed by individuals either directly related to the client, production company or ad agency in the past 10 years. (meaning the owner of the company, the producer’s nephew or the receptionist for the ad agency)
Sorry if it sounds like I’m whining.
If perception is reality, then all I’m saying is that it might not hurt to have people’s perceptions of the voice over industry be just a tad different.
Debbie Grattan says
I just left a very articulate response, but didn’t hit the button at the bottom to save it, and I’m running out of time now, so I will not attempt to re-write it. Darn it, it was GOOD! Suffice to say, that I have issues with what JS has written, and will make my points to the contrary, when I am able, perhaps next week.
Rick Lance says
JS… I was only trying to draw the parallel between what has happened in the photo industry is now happening in the VO industry as well. Both photography and VO have been cheapened due to the ease at which someone can enter the industries. Whether they are talented or not.
Since the technology has made it more accessible. We are bombarded daily by both poor imagery and poor VO audio within the explosion of media worldwide. The sad thing is that this POOR excuse for professional work is and has been so readily accepted by the general public. Making it up to US to see that the professions maintain their integrity.
I don’t think of myself as a “Rembrandt of voice over.” I simply know what I can do and know what my clients expect of me. And I’m still learning. It takes a thick skin and confident attitude to carve your way through the VO maze of insincere people playing around in the VO biz. If they are serious and driven, more power to them. They deserve to excel. It’s a commitment and I’m committed. I’m sure you are too.
J.S. Gilbert says
I certainly don’t mean any offense by my comments. I too am a learner and while it may not be apparent for my various comments along the internet trail, I much prefer to have my eyes opened, my paradigm shifted, and my dogma disrupted.
I think my outlook when I have my head on straight may more closely approach what I understand to be Buddhist. By judging the day, one insinuates that there are better days than others, as opposed to believing that all days are equally glorious.
I do believe with the basic premise of taking responsibility and not blaming others or outside forces for your foibles or perhaps even for accomplishments.
I’m not so sure that anyone who discusses their concerns about the state of the economy, the world, or the state of the block they are living in, is necessarily whining or not taking responsibility.
I’d like to think that I can understand market forces, choose to be unhappy about them, admit to not having the same level of positive experience, and should I choose, screw off by typing stupid responses like I am doing right here, all without being a whiner.
The point I guess I was making had a bit to do with one of the responses here. Some people with positive outlooks on life get cancer and die and some miserable complaining bastards get to live to 98. Quite a few very enlightened and hard working and positive people are losing their homes, filing bankruptcy. More than a few people I know who are well into their 60’s can’t retire, because the companies they worked for went broke and they lost their retirement.
And in something like voice over, while it’s nice to think of oneself as a unique and special being, perhaps even a Rembrandt, inevitably it seems to lie in the hands of those who do the hiring.
To consider this, in my humble opinion, is simply wise.
Yep, I suppose sometimes it does sound like one long endless note being played on the world’s smallest violin.
Paul Strikwerda says
Many thanks to Rick and J.S. for delving deeper. That’s exactly what I had hoped for.
Let’s correct one thing off the bat: I did not compare myself “to being the Rembrandt of voice over”. I picked a Dutch painter as an example of a true artist vs someone who paints by numbers. I wouldn’t dare to compare myself to anyone, and certainly not to one of the giants of Holland’s Golden Age.
As I mentioned in previous blogs, part of human behavior (as I see it) is fear-based and part is geared toward pleasure. On Halloween we witness a strange phenomenon: fear gives some people intense pleasure! I guess that explains why there are roller coaster fanatics and folks who love scary movies.
Anyway, behavior driven by fear is always a reaction intended to move us away from something we wish to avoid, instead of toward something we wish to attain. It’s based on insecurity instead of confidence. That’s why fear is such a bad advisor.
Some schools of thought teach us that whatever we focus on most, is most likely to materialize. That’s why it’s so important to focus on what we want, instead of on what we don’t want.
Whiners by nature, are reactionists, because they focus on what they don’t want or don’t like. In a strange twist, it makes them dependent on the very thing they wish to avoid. They complain for the sake of complaining, instead of offering solutions to make a situation better.
In my article, I attempted to go beyond the rant, and offer an alternative way of thinking. Rick did the same by describing how he made the move from photography to voice-overs. He changed the course of his ship by focusing on a new and exciting career.
People who feel they’re a leaf in the wind, end up feeling helpless and hopeless. You cannot change the things you feel you can’t influence. But people who believe they’re at the helm of their ship, can move away from the storm and set sail toward a new destination (even if they cannot influence the elements).
Although positive thinking might be healthier than negative thinking, good intentions usually aren’t getting us anywhere. We need positive action. Thinking that there are no weeds in our garden doesn’t make them go away. We have to take them out by the roots and sew fresh seeds.
We cannot change people’s perceptions by flipping a switch. We can only offer them our stories, hoping that on some level, they might resonate and bring about a shift in thinking and feeling, ultimately leading to a shift in behavior.
That’s why I am so appreciative of the responses to my blog. Keep them coming!
J.S. Gilbert says
I spent an hour and a half putting a post together here which exploded and was completely lost when I clicked the post your comment button.
So, forgive me if this comes off as stream of consciousness. I don’t have that kind of time again.
I did mention that my comments weren’t meant to insult anyone and while you did bring up the name of a Dutch painter known to have made money in his lifetime, one could just as easily brought up the names of most of the French impressionists, who were lucky enough to have a couple of wealthy friends and patrons help them out. That’s neither here nor there. Or an extreme case of Vincent Van Gogh.
I suppose any artist can simply take the attitude that their painting is the best and place a $3 or 4 million dollar price tag. All the positive thinking in the world isn’t likely to get you that kind of price.
It’s great to think highly of one’s art, but the reality for many artists is quite different.
An approach, which I understand to be somewhat Buddhist says not to judge the day. By doing so, one insinuates that one day may be better than another, as opposed to all days being wonderful and miraculous.
Another aspect of Buddhism deals with an understanding that “Things aren’t fair” One needn’t be crazy about it, but one can benefit from understanding and embracing it as an absolute truth.
The magic of all of this is understanding how we get manipulated. Not a single soul entering voice over wants to think about the one 1,000 who have attempted voice over and were actually able to make a living at it. No, the tendency is to completely blot out the 999 people who didn’t make it and to concentrate on the 1% who did.
But by doing so, you simply are hoping that you will be able to adopt someone else reality as your own. Isn’t it best to really look at things as fully as possible and then work on your own reality?
I am actually researching and writing a book called “The Power of Uppositive Thinking”, which perhaps is why I tend to be drawn to a lot of what Paul writes about.
I find it fascinating to see how many people truly believe they are motivated towards gain, yet deep down have a very firm agenda of being motivated away from loss. Fear/ Love – the same thing. You may be buying into another persons reality which you perceive to be love and transferring it to your own unique situation, which may be anything but love.
Sometimes I am sure I live in my own private world, but the food is good and the seats are comfortable.