I was talking with a friend today. This friend Don has advanced degrees in multiple disciplines, yet he continues to attend grad school to earn more degrees. Barbara Sher, author of the life-changing book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, would say my friend is a scanner because he has varied interests and doesn’t settle on one thing for too long. I also would say that Don doesn’t want to commit to one thing. I’m convinced that he attends grad school so that he can postpone the inevitable time when he must finally make a choice of how he wants his life to proceed.
Today’s conversation got around to my voice-over business. As I talked about recent successes and my plans for the future, Don said, as he has said more than once over the years, “maybe I should look into doing voice-overs.” I tell anyone who asks me that they should explore any serious interest in voice-over work, sheep herding, Italian cooking or whatever. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and wonder “how would my life have been if I had done that?”.
As I have done in previous conversations, I recommended that Don start by reading books on my recommended list of voice-over books and taking some classes.
He asked how I would feel if he took a voice-over class and hit it big. Don is not someone in the incredible ** 81% ** of the Gen Y crowd (18-25 year-olds) who seems to expect fame and wealth as their birthright. Quite simply, Don is yet another person who thinks that making money in voice-over is an easy thing that can be done by anyone. Since he had a few spare hours in his schedule, Don was ready to sign up for the fortune and glory awaiting him as a voice-over actor.
I don’t think he will actually follow through with any action. After all, he is the same person who could never be bothered to even listen to my demos.
Our discussion today reminded me how Don acted when I created my first demo. When you decide to go after your goals, your friends and family will change their attitudes about you. In many cases, that change won’t be a positive one.
Before I made my first voice-over demo, I read books on voice-over, took voice-over classes covering interpretation and technique, and volunteered for 5 years to read for the blind. I ran eBay auctions to save money to have my demo professionally produced. Getting a finished demo in my hands was a monumental step toward my dream that required a lot of time and effort, and I was shocked and hurt by the reaction of several close friends when I asked them about listening to it. I wrote in my journal:
I appreciated Susie’s reaction in part because other people have hurt my feelings with their apparent lack of interest. Randy had seen the artwork and given me suggestions at my request [and did other things like talk to me about recording CDs]. However, Randy acted very bizarre when I asked him if he wanted to hear it. He suddenly remembered something he had to do at that very minute.
Don was no better. I have always been encouraging and supportive of his dreams. I read his novella recently and was the only person outside of his college instructors who understood it. I even made the same comments regarding character development that his instructor made. When I asked him if he would like to hear my long-awaited demo, he brushed me off and said he was too busy.
Even my best friend Erica disappointed me with her lack of reaction. I guess I expected more. If it were HER dream project, she wouldn’t be content with the sparse [comments] devoted to the subject.
Erica had been my best friend for 4-5 years. I felt like she was the sister I never had. We were in constant contact. Unfortunately, everything about our relationship changed in the moment that I created my first voice-over demo and started marketing it. Erica said she felt excluded, and she said I thought that my voice-over career was more important than her. Each time we talked, I felt that she didn’t want to hear about my marketing efforts, equipment purchases and gigs. She even told me that I was spending more time marketing my voice-over demo and playing my harp than I did with her. At one point, in anger that I again was working on marketing when she thought I should be spending time with her, Erica told me that she hoped my voice-over career would keep me company in my old age. Not surprisingly, our friendship disintegrated not too long after that comment.
I didn’t understand until a few years later the reason behind the tremendous negative reactions to my demo and new voice-over career. I always thought that my friends would be true, supportive of my efforts to improve my life and wishing to celebrate my success with me. Barbara Sher alluded to it in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. Everything she wrote about a family also holds true about one’s friends:
Almost any stranger would respect our dreams more easily than our family does. If you don’t believe me, try a comparison test. Next time you’re with a group of strangers, tell them the most offbeat idea you can think of. Tell them your dream is to raise dalmatians in the Himalayas, but you have no contacts in Tibet. Watch their interest pick up. They’ll even try to solve your problem.
INTEREST IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF RESPECT.
You don’t love these strangers, and they don’t love you, but we are all captivated by each other’s visions. It’s in our nature as humans to be intrigued with any new idea — unless we have some personal reason for not doing so. Our families have plenty of personal reasons, but a stranger is a pure soul. It’s possible that one stranger in twenty will react negatively to you, for his own reasons, but you’ll find the other nineteen will say something like, “Interesting idea! My cousin raises dogs!”, or “My neighbor’s been to Nepal! Do you want to talk to her?”
Now, to complete the comparison test, go home and tell your family the same kind of fantasy….How did your family like that? Did they drop their forks before or after they scrambled to talk you out of your “folly”?
When I analyzed the reactions of Randy, Don and Erica, I realized that people have a vested interest in keeping you the same.
If you dare to create goals and attempt to reach them, you make other people think about what’s missing in their own lives. They will take out their frustration over their own lives by directing it at you. Like my former friend Erica, they express their irritation with you about your pro-active activities, when, in fact, they are irritated with themselves for sleepwalking through their lives.
Steven Pressfield illuminated the issue perfectly in his amazing book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (a book that should be on the must-read list for every creative person):
Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. But there’s a parallel peril that must also be guarded against: sabotage by others.
When a writer begins to overcome her Resistance — in other words, when she actually starts to write — she may find that those close to her begin acting strange. They may become moody or sullen, they may get sick; they may accuse the awakening writer of “changing,” of “not being the person she was.” The closer these people are to the awakening writer, the more bizarrely they will act and the more emotion they will put into their actions.
They are trying to sabotage her.
The reason is that they are struggling, consciously or unconsciously, against their own Resistance. The awakening writer’s success becomes a reproach to them. If she can beat these demons, why can’t they?
If you decide to pursue a voice-over career — or take up sheep herding, or Italian cooking, or whatever — I can guarantee you that your relationships with others WILL change. Some relationships will evolve, while others will disappear. You have to ask yourself who you’re living life FOR, and what the good opinion of someone else actually means to you.
Working on your goals fills your life with purpose and makes every moment meaningful. You have to decide whether you are going to live the life you were meant to lead or sit on the sidelines, watching it pass you by. Waiting to get the approval of friends and family about your plans for your dream life is a guaranteed way to ensure that your life will remain exactly as it is today.
Of course, if you can’t decide on a course of action, I have a friend who can recommend several grad schools that will keep you busy!
Elaine Singer says
Glad to see that others are experiencing the same thing as I am. It is a bit disconcerting to say the least.
Hi, Elaine! It’s good to hear from you. I don’t know about you, but I was astonished to read about MY experiences in the books I referenced!
Until I read Steven Pressfield’s book, I blamed myself for relationship problems. I thought maybe Erica was right; maybe I was being selfish and self-centered.
However, I have discovered that being labeled as selfish and self-centered by other people means that I am living the life I love!
Keep envisioning your dream life and actively going after what’s important to you, and you’ll be living the life you love as well!
kara Edwards says
I love this post! You are very wise and have expressed wonderfully what so many of us have experienced. They love us and they want to keep us the same…it’s up to us to block the negative and chase our dreams. Well said Karen!
Charlie Glaize says
Excellent, excellent insight! I have experienced what you are talking about. When I offer ideas in general for friends to enhance their lives, or share how voiceovers using my portable studio allows me to travel and still work … my expecation of their response is something like: “Oh, WOWI It really is possible to live my dream, too. I’m going to break out of the box like Charlie!” …. but I rarely see this kind of reaction.
The frustration is that I would love for these people to read your article so they could see this blind spot in themselves … but they never will, just like Erica will never listen to your demo and you probably don’t even have to use a fake name for Erica in your post … she will never read it.
I’m like you, Karen. I LOVE to see people fulfill their dreams. I started a mens group a few years ago discussing Christian principles for getting in touch with one’s life passion … trying to discover what God created us to become. Could there be anything more important? …. but the class fell kind of flat …. I need to work on my approach, I guess. But I discovered it is hard to inspire people for some reason.
I’ve not been a fan of American Idol until our son got us to start wtching this season. I am thrilled for Jordin Sparks as I have watched her from her first audition all the way to becoming tthis year’s American Idol. It’s fascinating to watch because IDOL shows and accelerated pathway to fulfilling one’s dream … but it’s a telescoped view of life for us all …. keep getting up on the stage of life until you get it right. Ignore the competition … do your best … move onward and upward! …just don’t expect all your friends and family to be giddy about your success.
Christine O'Kelly says
This post is amazing! This phenomenon of people in our lives wanting to hold us down is one that has fascinated me for years. I think that many people need us to serve a purpose in their lives – like a prop. If we change, we don’t serve that purpose for them anymore. I also think that if we move on to bigger and better things, it throws into sharp relief that they have not.
Thank you for this post!
Liz Fuller says
I found your post through your comments on Christine’s blog. What a great article. I find the courage that you and Christine have both displayed in your lives to be very motivating. You seem to have struck a balance that is self-motivated but not self-centered. You treat your dreams as just as important as those around you – not more, but also not less. I think that’s the balance that so many women need to find.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Hi, Liz. Thanks for the note. I am grateful for your observations about me and my dreams, and I’m happy if something I have said is helpful to you. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will get where you’re going!
Hi, Christine! Thanks for the kind comments. You made an astute observation in saying that if we change, we don’t fulfill our purpose for others any more. I enjoyed reading your blog and think you are a woman of many wise observations!
Thanks again, and best wishes for your continued success!
Sarah Palmer says
Thank you so much for recommending that I read this!! It was so appropriate. A woman at work, who I used to get along with…really well actually, has had a steadily decreasing attitude towards me since my promotion in March. It’s been a constant source of anxiety and stress for me in the workplace and is starting to make that job that I love quite unenjoyable and I’ve been having a really hard time dealing with it while maintaining my composure and professionalism. All along I’ve been wondering what I’ve done wrong and why would anyone think I deserve to be treated the way that she’s been treating me. I also like what Christine said above, makes a lot of sense. I just have to keep my head held high and never lose sight of what I’m working for.
Again, thank you for the (many) words of wisdom that you have provided me with 🙂
Greetings, Sarah! Repeat after me: It’s not me, it’s THEM! Really, it is. I’m so glad you got the message even though you aren’t in voice-over. You’ve done nothing wrong!
Keep your eyes on your dream and your feet moving in a forward direction. You can’t change what other people say or do. You can only change how you *choose* to react to them.
Hope to see you soon!
Stephanie Butenhof says
I know I have said this before, but I mean it – you are truly a wealth of knowledge and inspiration! Sometimes I can’t believe that you share all of your insights on your blog, and don’t charge people for it. And it’s so easy to want to #ReadAllTheBlogPosts! I end up getting lost in your blog for hours at a time – but I always come out appreciative that I know know more than I did when I went in. I’m one of those forever curious people, and I love thorough explanations. Your blog feeds that need for me. You rock!
Karen Commins says
Greetings, Stephanie! Thanks so much for the lovely comment! You’re going to swell my head with all of your kind words!
I have always thought that if I could help people on their paths, help would be available for me when I need it. I’m happy to report that theory has proven true. I’m thrilled and grateful to be part of such a talented and giving professional community!
It makes my day to know something I’ve written has been well received and is helpful. Thanks again for stopping by today!