In an impassioned article on the Accidental Creative website, Todd Henry shares three misconceptions about voice that he discovered when writing his latest book, Louder Than Words.
One of these misconceptions is that
Voice is the ‘soft stuff.’
Todd’s response: “Ugh.”
Seriously. Love this response.
Want to know why I’ve been so passionate in my support of this book? That one “ugh” says it all.
That anyone could believe that voice is the “soft stuff” ignites what Todd would call my “compassionate anger.”
And, yet, it doesn’t surprise me. This is the current state of our world.
The Current Landscape
Over the past few years we have witnessed an explosion of new platforms. The options for how to communicate your message are endless. Blogs. Podcasts. E-books. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. YouTube. Pinterest. Periscope. Blab. And so on.
With each new social channel arrives a new crop of “experts,” eager to teach us how to “master” these platforms: how to get more likes, followers, hearts and fans; how to master the various aspects of the “digital channel” in order to stand out, make an impact and be heard above the noise.
To be clear, I believe there’s a lot of value in most of these channels, but this is getting out of hand.
Let’s defer the question of how anyone can be an “expert” in, or attain “mastery” of, something that’s been around for about 5 minutes. Because even if one could be an expert in any of these platforms, even if one could attain mastery over a short-lived form of communication whose rules keep changing, the current focus is on the wrong target.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve mistaken the medium for the message.
These platforms are merely containers; they are channels through which a message can be delivered.
They are not the message.
And without the message—without your unique voice—they are irrelevant.
What does this have to do with voice?
Voice is the Foundation
Far from being the “soft stuff,” voice is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Without clarity around your voice, you’re just building a house of cards; a structure guaranteed to collapse in even the slightest breeze.
Voice comes first.
Discovering who you are and how you are meant to serve in this world comes first.
Before your platform.
Before your podcast.
Before your lead generation.
Before your marketing strategy.
Before your online course.
Before your list.
Before any of it.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog —all of these various platforms—answer the question of “how” and “where” to deliver your message.
Your voice is the “what” and the “why.”
Without voice, you don’t need a list or a platform.
Without voice, you have nothing to offer in an online course, and nothing to say in a podcast.
Without voice, your Vines and Scopes and Blabs are simply contributing to the noise.
Without a clear understanding of who you are, the impact you want to have in this world, and the unique combination of skills and experience you bring to that pursuit—without a clear understanding of your unique voice—these channels are irrelevant. They are simply noise.
Without a clear understanding of who you are and what you offer, you are simply noise.
We don’t need more experts in Periscope. We don’t need to attain mastery over how to use Facebook ads.
We need to attain mastery over ourselves.
Voice comes first.
Voice is the Hard Stuff
I’ve spent the past several years diligently working to uncover my voice. In the past year, especially, I approached this with a renewed sense of urgency. I have made it my full-time job. It’s that important.
I embarked on what I called a “personal excavation:” I ventured deep into the bedrock of my life and started digging to uncover the various influences and patterns that have shaped my thoughts, beliefs and identity. I examined where I’ve felt pulled between who I think I need to be for others and who I really am in my core.
I ripped the band-aid off of some deep wounds and looked in some dark corners. I faced some of my deepest fears and points of shame. I looked at my life with fresh eyes and an unfiltered honesty. All of this has helped me get closer to uncovering my authentic voice.
Trust me when I tell you: this is not “soft stuff.” Not even close.
If you have done even a small amount of this type of soul-searching work, then you know this is the truth. This shit is hard. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s not a one-time deal. It’s a continual process of awareness and digging and refinement.
This is why most people don’t do it. Most people keep their heads in the cloud and ignore the tensions they feel pulling in their soul.
It’s so much easier to pretend to be what you think will be accepted by others than it is to be real with yourself.
It’s so much easier to put some inspirational quotes on Instagram or Facebook than it is to spend months off the social grid examining whether you’re living up to your potential and fulfilling your calling.
Trust me on this; I’ve tried both.
Navigating the channels is the easy part.
Finding your message is what’s hard.
Discovering who you are and the unique transformation that you offer the world, and having the courage to speak your truth—embracing your authentic voice—is the hardest “stuff” there is.
In the end, it is the only “stuff” that actually matters.
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