Bringing your voice to the world

Too many of us are waiting. Waiting until all our concerns and worries are resolved, we have financial security, our stock options vest, our children are settled, we have a strong relationship. Are you waiting for something?

Meanwhile, life speeds by, gaining momentum as we grow older.

Let’s get over our waiting and start now.

Everywhere one looks the world is calling for clarity, compassion, and commitment to the greater good. You have an irreplaceable contribution to make. You are a unique intersection of many conversations, relationships, human concerns, skills, virtues and insights. Each moment the world is inviting you, reaching out to you.

If you hold back, knowing what you know about the condition of the world and feeling what you feel about the suffering of so many people, you undoubtedly will pay a huge price. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the cost in your life, and in the lives of family, friends, colleagues and clients:

  • A sense of not fitting in, of not really having a place, a restless experience of belonging nowhere
  • A deep, hollow feeling that nothing matters: big triumphs and terrible failures don’t register; simultaneous busyness and numbness
  • A relentless background mood of resentment that appears as criticism, envy, belittling other’s success and, sometimes, hopelessness or despair
  • A searing, piercing experience of regret, one of the most painful emotions, that‘s accompanied by self-castigating thoughts and severe somatic contraction

On the other hand, when we do look inward to uncover our voice and become skillful in our expression, we have opened up the chance to have a hugely fulfilling life. It’s not that we will necessarily have fame and financial rewards—so much of that depends upon the vagaries of time and place—but what becomes possible is unifying ourselves inside and out.

When we begin to authentically express we find out in the act itself who we are, just like in speaking itself we find out what we have to say. Giving form to our voice establishes an inner unity that may at first be fleeting, but over time becomes more established and lasting.

The unity gets extended to the outer world because we already have that in mind as we formulate our expression and because we have to use the materials of the outer world: shared language, musical notation, paint, clay and so on. We may never receive the anticipated feedback we crave but the world has already met us by providing means for us to express. And the world is always changed by our expression even if no one else notices. Something new exists: a painting, poem, play, puppet, program, puzzle.

And of course our expression gives us individual, personal feedback in every case. How well did I give form to the feeling? How skillful was I with the selected media?  Did my speaking move people to take action? Did what I wrote bring compassion to a difficult situation? Even when we feel or conclude that our expression is being ignored, that’s not possible. We may not be getting the attention of our selected, important-to-us audience; nonetheless, we and the world have been altered.

I’ve been doing my best to lay out the case for bringing your voice to the world. Perhaps I’ve said some things that help you (it’s not lost on me that I’m attempting to demonstrate what I’m talking about) and perhaps you need no convincing or prodding. Maybe what you need are some practical steps. Here are some. Also the practice and book of the quarter and, as earlier stated, our next issue of Distinctions and two upcoming New Ventures West events will explore the topic more extensively.

Some ways to begin:

  • Always have with you a way to capture ideas, inspiration or something interesting. Twyla Tharp suggests this in her important book,  The Creative Habit. These small pieces can add up to a full expression as well as indicating to you what you’re paying attention to at the moment.
  • What situation, concern, breakdown, community, feeling, mystery, experience do you want to express something about? Explore whatever this is in great depth.
  • Whose expression do you admire? Find out why. What is affecting about it for you?
  • Set aside time to practice your expression. Speak up at meetings. Journal, write poems, shoot photographs, paint, whatever it takes for you to open up your expression by giving it your time and attention.
  • Read the book of the quarter, Art and Fear, and begin to work with your fear. In the end, in the middle and at the beginning, fear is what stops us even if it looks like something else.

In any case please stop waiting.

New Ventures West