When you talk to leaders they usually tell the story about finding their voice. Be it a writer, a visual artist, a public speaker or anyone working with others, it takes time to find their voice and then develop it. As we gain experience and maturity we are better able to understand who we are, what we believe and what we are willing to stand for. Those things are not developed in a vacuum or the safety of one place. It takes times, experience and often turmoil to truly understand our voice.
I think of Oprah Winfrey who overcame abuse, prejudice and being a female in a male dominated field. She once said she has had horrible things said to her in public and private settings. She chose long ago to only respond to those words with kindness. In other words, her voice was not going to be one that perpetuated or spoke words that brought people down, she wanted her voice to only lift people up. Our voice is as much a choice as it is a habit.
Artists too struggle with their artistic voice. So many artists come to me and ask me to critique their work. I first ask them how they found their voice, their focus, their themes. When they cannot answer that question with a clear concept I do not need to add any other feedback. I encourage them to keep working until they find what they want to say in their work. Once they have come back and we can talk again. Allowing others the space to find their voice provides an environment where they can try, fail, win, try again and succeed more. Not everyone gets it the first time around. Our voice does not change with our audience or medium, our voice when we know it is clear, consistent and truly expresses ourself.
So how did you find your voice? What about your work tells people who you are? Do you stand for excellence, making money, kindness, joy or something else? Would you be blue to describe your voice? Could other people ‘hear’ your voice and know it was you? Maybe you are still searching? Maybe you are still testing the waters and finding what it is you want to say in your work. As Madeleine Albright tells us here, once you find your voice never be silent again.