The sixth of Todd Henry’s Everyday Acts of Bravery: Find Your Voice.
Like most of these everyday acts, it takes a moment of thought to understand what finding your voice has to do with bravery.
Then again, anyone who’s ever stood mute and allowed someone to verbally abuse them understands this concept intuitively. Anyone who’s ever stood by while a friend said something insensitive, or bigoted, or just plain wrong, understands how finding your voice might require courage. Anyone who’s ever held their questions about the boss’s plan, and later watched that plan fail, understands.
Finding your voice requires courage and steadiness. It requires a willingness to make mistakes. It requires a willingness to be wrong.
After all, if we speak up, we open ourselves to criticism. What if others don’t like what we have to say? What if they argue with us? What if it turns out we’re wrong, and somebody takes our advice and ends up sleeping under a bridge?
Questions like these are the reason most of us keep our mouths shut. They’re the reason it takes courage to find your voice.
So how do you find your voice?
Todd describes it in terms of taking small, strategic risks every day. To find your voice, you have to answer three questions:
- What subjects resonate with me? What do I want to write, speak, or paint about, or make the subject of my medium of choice?
- What subjects am I good at writing, speaking, painting on (these may not be the same as the subjects that resonate with you, but there should be some overlap)?
- What subjects resonate with the people I want to reach? What do they want to hear, read, or learn about?
How do you find the answers to these questions? You try a lot of different techniques. You screw up a lot. You come prepared to abandon directions that aren’t working for you, even if it means giving up something you really love talking about in favor of something the people you really want to reach want to hear about. You set your priorities and stick to them, using them to inform your work rather than chasing the shiny object of the moment.
You do things you find hard in order to discover where your towering strengths are. Because you have towering strengths. There is something you can do better than anybody, if you only have the courage to figure out what it is.
And that’s what finding your voice is really about, I think. Finding the thing you can do better than anybody else.
How do you find your voice? What small, strategic risks do you take daily?