Several weeks ago, I was introduced to a talented young man who, like me, is passionate about personal growth and technology. He has been developing a new system grounded in research to help people drive change in their lives personally and professionally.
Before our video call, I visited his website, twitter feed and his other online profiles, only to discover he has not shared much over the years. I could not see what interests him, what he thinks about, and what he values.
While we were talking, I thought to myself, ‘This young man has so much knowledge to share with the world and could help others yet he isn’t using any digital tools to distribute and amplify his work.’ I wondered why this was the case so decided to ask him.
His response was short and simple: “I haven’t found my voice.”
This hit me hard because voice is expression, voice is communication, voice is creation, voice is confidence and voice is power.
Over the last few weeks, the phrase, “I haven’t found my voice” has been echoing in my head. I believe this young man wants to share his ideas badly but there is something getting in his way. He is not alone. There are thousands of people out there who want and deserve to be heard. Once I realized this, I began to ask myself, how does one find his or her voice?
I have been reflecting on that question for the past week. Here is what came up for me based on my experience and a number of conversations with friends.
Believe in yourself just enough to get started:when we start anything, whether it is riding a bike or recording a podcast, the initial step is often the hardest because we feel awkward and might not have command of the skill or craft. Ignore your inner critic that is trying to hold you back. Believe in yourself and just start.
View your work as practice: Every essay you write, every class you teach, every workshop you facilitate, every picture you take, every video you record, every podcast you broadcast is practice. Practice, practice, practice. You can always start over tomorrow. Creation is a practice.
The medium matters: Select a medium that excites you, challenges you, fits into your routine, feels native to you, and allows you to fully express yourself. Experiment. There are a range of online mediums: Twitter. Instagram. Snap. Medium. Wordpress. Podcasts. YouTube. And remember you don’t need to find your voice online. You might be more comfortable conversing, teaching and facilitating in person. That’s ok! Go for it. Remember, not everyone is born to thrive on every medium but we all have the means to test these mediums and discover which ones align with how we want to communicate with the world and share our ideas.
Listen to your inner voice, not your inner critic: Your inner voice often knows exactly what wants to emerge but too often our inner critic gets in the way. If you are inspired to use your voice and create something, give that voice more weight than the other one telling that you’re too busy, not good enough or don’t know what you’re doing. Follow the inspiration.
Be patient and persistent: Finding your voice will take time. People work hard to find their voices and hone their craft. This doesn’t happen over night. And you will likely not feel comfortable at any step in the process. Here’s the good news: if you invest a 15–30 minutes each day, the results will follow. You will create momentum. I have no doubt.
Be genuine: This one is critical. Don’t emulate someone else. Be yourself. Develop your own tone. Follow your values. Follow your interests. Follow what you truly care about. If you honor who are, what matters to you and what you are truly passionate about, your voice will be distinct and it will show.
Don’t compare: If you are recording an interview series, do not compare yourself to Larry King. If you are writing a short story, do not compare yourself to Stephen King. If you are starting a blog, do not compare yourself to Fred Wilson. If you are starting a vlog, do not compare yourself to Casey Neistat. You get the point. Instead, focus on your voice, output and weekly small improvements.
This all is easier said than done. I struggle with writing even though I want to express myself through this medium. I definitely have not invested as much time as I would like but I am trying. In fact, I recently blocked out time on my calendar each week to write. Additionally, I badly want to publish a podcast on leadership but I have not taken the first step. I am aware of this which is the first victory. Creating and finding our voices certainly is not easy but I know it is possible if we invest the time and make it a priority.
I will end with this. It does not matter if you have an audience of one (you!) or an audience of a million. There are people out there waiting to hear (and see) your message. Being heard and seen is a fundamental human desire. Remember that. Follow your inner voice and heart. Speak up. Share. Ignore your inner critic. Let the world see and hear you. We all have something to say and contribute. Now go find and hone your voice. Good luck!