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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finding Your Voice

It was twenty five years ago that I accidentally and involuntarily wandered into the world of singing. It is no exaggeration when I say that when I was growing up, I was convinced that singing in front of people was the single most embarrassing thing I could do, next to running through the mall in my underwear.

After I was thrown into a situation where I was forced to sing a solo, (another story for another time), I found that somewhere deep inside, something was awakened. It was many, many months later before I took the next step into this new world. When I did, I had made a friend who was much more experienced and kind of mentored me along in that next step. He introduced me to the world of background tracks. These are cassette tapes of individual songs with everything but the lead vocals on them. My friend and I would go to our church on Saturdays, when no one else was around, and we would just sing for hours.

As I was brand new into this, I really had no idea what I sounded like. I had a tendency to mimic the voice and style of the original singer. I figured that whatever the song originally sounded like was what it was supposed to sound like. It would be quite some time before I discovered my own sound, and that I didn't have to sound like someone else to make a song work.

In the ensuing 25 years, I have developed my own style. My own sound. Through those years, I have been able to do other people's songs, but personalize them with my own sound. This hasn't necessarily made a song better or worse, but it's been mine. I've even had many occasions where people would hear a song on the radio and think of me because they knew my style so well, they felt it was one I really should do.

Whether in the arts or just in life, we have to find our voice. We have to find our own way of communicating what is deep within our hearts. It may be artistically, or it may be in acts of service. A week or so ago, I wrote about my friend "Ruth" who found her voice in the world by making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children and abused women. Others have found their voice in their marketplace by being a positive influence to their co-workers.

I saw a quote by Oscar Wilde yesterday on Facebook. I had never heard it before, but it was both funny and profound.

"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

Great advice! The fact is, you have your own unique voice. Your voice has been molded and influenced by your environment and your experiences. These influences are what make your voice different than everyone else. Have you even tried to find it? It's there. If you haven't, it may be a bit awkward at first. You may even find yourself mimicking the voices of those who have influenced you. That's OK. They're kind of like training wheels for you. But keep plugging away at it. Your voice is in there. You just have to let it out.

If you're not sure where to begin, here's a tip. What is your passion? What fuels you? For me, it's this. It's sharing my thoughts and experiences with you in hopes that it will serve to encourage and motivate you. At the same time, it's serving to help me take the lessons in life that I'm learning and make them more tangible for my own growth. More and more, I'm finding this "new" voice, which isn't so new at all, is propelling me into a new trajectory in my life. It's exciting, it's challenging, and it's serving a purpose which goes way beyond anything I ever expected. This is why I want to encourage you to find your voice. You have lives to touch that I can't.

Your voice is one that someone is dying to hear. It just may be that neither one of you knows it yet.

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