Thursday, August 28, 2008

Listen to Yourself

I'm doing a course in professional voice & voice over.  I now have two CDs of my tracks.  Listening to yourself is a strange but enlightening experience.

I find I sound better than I feared, and not as good as I hoped.

My piano students say they find the same thing when they hear recordings of themselves.

Once I start listening, I can hear tiny hesitations or stumbles, which I can then choose whether to work on - or not.  Some variations are "just us", they are the tiny things that make up our style, our sound.  Other 'variations' have me cringing... "I don't really sound like that... do I?" 

Knowledge is power, and until I know what I sound like, I'm working in the dark.

I think that might be a metaphor we can use in the rest of our life too.  So many little hiccups in our personal life come because we haven't listened to ourself.  Or have listened from our own narrow focus, not the other person's:

"You tried really hard, and I know you'll do better next time!"
It's meant to be encouraging, and it is.  It also gives the game away that I thought this attempt wasn't actually any good.

"I'll try to get it a bit better next time..."
When a student said this to me, I said:  "How about trying to get it a lot better, then?  Why limit yourself to just a bit better?" It's better to concentrate on what you'll do to get better, than how much you'll get better.

So, have a listen to yourself.  See what you find out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Magic Carpet Ride...

I'm on a magic carpet ride, thanks to this book.  I've even done a bit of time travel.

Brian Murphy, international religious writer for Associated Press, writes compelling stories about his 'carpet pilgrimage'.  It's personal, but not self-indulgent.

At times, it is so poignant, I have to stop for a day.  To let my tears dry, sometimes, or to think about what I have read:
"It's like this," he said.  "Death comes.  We leave this world for another.  This is the cycle.  We cannot change it.  But I see other types of death around us too.  These are little deaths.  I'm talking about losing the stories of our grandparents.  I'm talking about how we feel distant from nature now.  Will generations from now know the beautiful colors locked in this simple root?  I often think the answer is no, and my heart break."
He looked at me hard.
"Tell this story," he urged.  "Tell it well if you can." (p.6)
Travelogue, art history, philosophy, religion and politics all combine.  If you've ever wondered about life in post-Taliban Afghanistan, this is a great book.

The writing is clear and direct.  The author's voice is humane - even humble - as Murphy comes face-to-face with lingering assumptions and romantic notions which, in spite of intelligence and shrewdness, somehow survived his journalistic career.
"[This is]...a scrapbook from a world that, if not yet vanishing, is certainly under threat.
I imagine my goal could seem too modest or lightweight compared with the immense body of literature on wild carpets and their history.  I could reply by repeating a snippet from a Turkmen folk saying from central Asia:  Carpets are our soul....I hope others will listen.
I like to think that, maybe, a few more people will skim their palms over a carpet's knots, marvel at the colors, and wonder:  Who was here before? What dyer, with arms stained by madder, mixed these colors? What would the weaver want to say to me?" (p.7)
I hope you enjoy it too.

Monday, August 4, 2008

When in doubt...ask.

Marketing and Parenting are not as different as you might thing.

I watched a woman try to bribe her child with an icecream. She wanted him to be quiet while she bought a whatchamacallit. He was bored. She told him she would buy him an icecream. As a bribe, it didn't work.

Not that I advocate bribery, necessarily.

Two problems.

1) She didn't check that an icecream was a suitable incentive.

2) - and perhaps more crucially - she didn't link the incentive with the required behaviour.

So the child got his icecream, the mother got a headache and both were a bit confused by the mild ill-will created on both sides.

When working with pre-schoolers (and adults too, if I'm honest) I check that the 'reward' is going to inspire.

"If you can be quiet until I finish talking to Mum, I will give you this shiny sticker. Do you think that the sticker will help you remember to be very quiet?"

Marketers need to remember this more often. 

Today I was offered a $60 MYER voucher to attend a marketing seminar. I explained that I wasn't planning to buy, and had attended the seminar in the past (and I didn't buy then either). The poor phonesalesman told me three times about the voucher. It was not motivating.

If he'd asked me was I interested in winning a $60 MYER voucher, I would have said, "No" and we could both have got on with something useful.

So, don't assume.  When in doubt...ask.