I just spent years researching and writing a book about voice.
Why would I do that? Honestly, if I offered you ten potential books to read, and a book about voice was among them, I’d guess that the voice book would probably be among the least preferred.
So given that I knew it would be a difficult topic, and an even harder sell, (when I could easily shoot for a commercially safe, no-brainer topic), why a book about voice?
Here’s the deal:
1. I commmitted to myself a long time ago that I will never write books about obvious things. Voice is anything but obvious. It’s often an afterthought for people who are more concerned with scrambling to the top of the hill they’re climbing. (Until they realized they’ve been climbing the wrong hill for years.)
2. I also committed that I will strive to lead the people who read my work, not just serve up red meat to the masses. I’m far less interested in being liked than I am in being faithful to my calling. Voice is not the obvious commercial choice, if my goal was just to sell a lot of books. However, my objective is long-term impact, not to be a short-term blip on the rankings radar.
I wrote Louder Than Words because voice is the thread that ties all of your best work together.
People who don’t understand the importance of voice – and make the effort to develop their core and compelling why – will eventually wither on the vine. They are likely to discover very late in their career that they have spent themselves on something that didn’t really matter personally or in terms of their overall contribution. That they sold themselves out in little ways each day, and they received little in return. They built someone else’s body of work.
Your voice is what’s being called out of you. It’s the sustaining fuel for your best work, and it’s what drives your most resonant contribution. It’s what defines those occasional moments when you come alive and completely change the game. When you are harnessing the power of your authentic voice, other people step back and say “whoah.”
Regardless of how powerful those moments are, many people think they are just serendipity or happenstance. They quickly forget about them and move on to the next project. They don’t stop to consider how they might be able to cause those moments to occur more frequently. (They can, and that’s why I wrote the book.)
Here are three misconceptions about voice that I discovered while writing the book:
I have my whole life to find my voice, so why bother now?
No! There is an urgency to how you engage each and every day. When you defer self-awareness because of more urgent things, you in turn defer your best work. You have a finite amount of time, and each day you choose to defer the process of developing your voice is a day you’ll never get back. The best time to start is right now.
I already know my “thing”, so I don’t have to worry about developing my voice.
Again, no! The most compelling, resonant contributors I interviewed in Louder Than Words spent many years developing their voice, and – here’s the key – they never stopped. Neil Peart, widely considered one of the greatest drummers in rock history, was once asked in an interview with Rolling Stone about his notoriously challenging practice regimen. He still takes lessons! His reply? “What is a master but a master student?” He remains committed to the continual process of development, because he knows that contribution is as much about the process of improvement as it is about the visible results. When you commit to continuous growth and development, work becomes more fulfilling. (This is why it’s so personally gratifying to me when CEO’s and extremely accomplished people reflect back to me how much they have connected with and implemented the principles in Louder Than Words.)
Voice is the “soft stuff”. I want the tips and tricks.
Ugh. We are experiencing tip and trick overload in our culture. If we could harness the power drain from energy spent reading articles about productivity tips each day, we wouldn’t feel the need to read the articles. We love the idea of getting things done, but we don’t really want to get things done. What to know how to become as productive as all of those business celebrities you read about in the tips and tricks articles? Discover what’s worth working for, and then spend yourself on it. Period! You can try to dissect the habits of CEO’s and entrepreneurs all you want, but the ones who seperate themselves from the pack have something that listicles could never provide: a compelling why. They’ve developed their voice, and it fuels their fire every single day.
Please read this carefully, because it is very important: if you do not find your voice – your compelling why – you will eventually wither on the vine like so many others before you.
This is not an issue to be dealt with at some point, once things are more settled.
The goal isn’t to be settled, it’s to be unsettled. To be so moved that you cannot leave things as they are. To feel so compelled to go to work each day because you know that there is something that you can uniquely provide, and if you don’t do it, it simply won’t get done.
This, friends, is how you begin to thrive, and when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing.