My wife and I have watched all ten seasons of Friends from beginning to end more than once. (This is not an achievement of which I commonly boast.) For a long time, it was our comfort show. By season ten, some of the characters had changed dramatically. Rachel had a brain in season ten, whereas in season one she was portrayed as a silly girl who wore shoes with a higher IQ. Ross was super annoying in season one, and by season ten well, he was a little less annoying. I bring it up to make this point: these characters developed over time, episode after episode. A voice, your voice, requires time and practice to develop too.
I have a music degree. I spent most of high school and all of college in a practice room. There's no shortcut. The only way to become a better musician is to practice. And the only way to develop your individual perspective is to practice communicating it – regularly and with discipline.
Fail Publicly, Learn Faster
I always learn more from a performance than from a practice session. There's nothing on the line when you're alone, in a practice room. Make mistakes, start over, slow down, skip a section – it doesn't matter. No one is listening. But put some people in front of you to listen to what you're doing and everything changes. Performing in front of people focuses your attention. When your mind is focused, you learn faster.
So if you're looking for a way to accelerate the process of finding your voice, practice in public. This blog and my podcast are examples of this.
When I speak in public, I am hyper-focused on not embarrassing myself. I think through everything with intention and purpose. I think through my audience's perspective. I ask myself hard questions: is this relevant, boring, slow? I may practice with my wife. This kind of rigorous preparation process will move me further along the path of mastery than passively reading a book, or listening to someone else's speech.
So the next time you're listening to someone speak in public think about this, they are probably learning more about their subject by speaking about it than you are by listening to them as an audience member. How are you going to reverse this?
There are probably a lot of people talking about your topic with much greater authority and expertise. Some people are ninja-like in how they communicate their point of view. It's intimidating to think about adding your voice to a conversation that includes people you admire. (Mitch Joel, Seth Godin, Amy Porterfield, and on and on.) You may think you have nothing more to contribute. And right now, you may even be right. But if you're ever going to find your voice, you have to just start talking.
With time and discipline, you (and the world) may discover that you have something valuable to say after all. Time and discipline. That list of people you admire, this is how they did it. You can too.