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!