I’ve had my share of pain and setbacks. I’ve experienced a catastrophic business failure. I’ve been fired by clients. I’ve struggled in my marriage. I’ve had children with chronic and debilitating diseases. And I’ve had my own health crises.
Fortunately, right now things are going well (knock on wood). But I do struggle with one nagging problem I have yet to resolve. It’s dogged me for five years. Just when I think it’s gone, it slips out of the shadows and bites me.
The problem is my voice.
I have always had a decent voice. In fact, one of my first jobs was as a DJ on a local FM radio station. I was the guy who announced, “That was ‘Appalachian Spring’ by Aaron Copland and the London Symphony Orchestra.”
For most of my life, I took my voice for granted. I sang in the choir. I spoke publicly. I recorded a number of audio programs. I always felt it was an asset.
But this all changed overnight. I can still remember the day it happened—September 15th, 2008. This was the very day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. I was the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers at the time.
I was in New York City to meet with a group of bankers who held our debt. Our sales had fallen precipitously in the previous three quarters. (This was in the beginning of what would eventually be known as the Great Recession.) Understandably, they wanted to know why. They also wanted to know what we intended to do about it.
I told my wife, Gail, it was like being called to the principal’s office, only to discover there were twenty principals waiting. It was stressful to say the least.
Actually, the meeting went well. My team and I were prepared. We had credible reasons for our poor performance and a plan for correcting it. The bankers were respectful and asked thoughtful questions.
I tried to sound confident, but I was afraid.
I was worried about the economy, troubled about the future of publishing, and concerned about what this all might mean for the company I was leading. I was also very much aware my job was on the line.
During the meeting, my voice cracked several times. This surprised—and embarrassed—me, but I just assumed I was getting a cold. Maybe all this stress has compromised my immune system, I thought.
But it didn’t get better. The problem would disappear for weeks and then suddenly, out of the blue, strike. I would all but lose my voice.
Finally, in desperation, I went to the Vanderbilt Voice Center. (This is one of the benefits of living in Nashville, where we have so many singers.) They ran me through a battery of tests, including a stroboscopic exam that took digital images of my vocal folds.
The result? Nothing. Everything looked normal.
The doctor suggested I might want to signup for some sessions with a voice therapist. I declined.
This is stupid, I thought. If this is all in my head, I can solve the problem myself. I’ll just use some relaxation techniques and think happy thoughts.
Well, that didn’t work either. Over the last four-and-a-half years, the problem has persisted. Thankfully, it doesn’t usually afflict me when I speak publicly, though it does sometimes show up when I record my podcast, do interviews, or sing in church.
Finally, this last week I decided I had had enough. I was ready to solve the problem. I decided on a five-pronged approach:
- Pray about it. As a person of faith, this is where it starts for me. I am specifically asking God to heal my voice. Unfortunately, for many people, this is where it starts and stops. While this is necessary, it usually isn’t sufficient.
- Educate myself. I decided I would relearn the basics of vocal physiology. I bought a course by Roger Love, one of the world’s leading vocal coaches. It is called, “The Perfect Voice.” I have listened to it once through and am now listening a second time.
- Think positively. Our thoughts have a huge impact on our experience—good and bad. As I began to analyze my thinking about my vocal problems, I realized my inner Narrator was telling me a bad story. I wrested back control and am now telling myself a better one.
Specifically, I am repeating these affirmations several times a day:
- My voice is strong.
- My voice is resonate.
- My voice is clear.
- Take action. This is where the rubber meets the road. Roger Love includes a fifteen-minute vocal warm-up in his Perfect Voice program. I put it on my iPhone and have now made it a part of my morning routine. It is specifically designed to strengthen one’s voice over time.
- Seek outside help. I haven’t taken this step yet—at least not to the level I am willing to go. If the four steps above don’t solve my vocal problem in the next six weeks, I am going back to the Vanderbilt Voice Center and get professional help.
As I was thinking through this issue, I thought this is really the recipe for solving any problem in life. I know it is ridiculously obvious, but I am amazed how many people are stuck (like I was) and don’t know what else they can do.
Whether you want to lose weight, improve your marriage, heal your body, find a job, or get a promotion, this five-part approach provides a way to make it happen.
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