There are a number of things I’ve learned in my few decades on this big blue planet. Aside from the important things, like the benefits of making friends with the local baristas, that Sydney traffic is insane and dogs are the most incredible source of unconditional love, I am learning the significance of my voice.
It doesn’t matter what field or sector is your arena – you bring a unique (yes, that word again) vision and perspective. All of your life experience gives you a take on the world that no one else possesses, even if they’ve had a similar upbringing and training to your own. And not one person knows it all. No matter how shiny and brilliant your particular mentor or inspiration may seem, they are flawed and limited, just as we all are. And that, my friends, is fantastic.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I agree. It boosts your confidence to know that someone sees what you do or how you do something as worth emulating. It can inspire you to keep your own bar high and cause you to aim higher. Or, it can lull you into believing that you can just ‘maintain’ your level and that will be enough. But if you’re not constantly seeking to move forward, then a maintenance mentality is effectively a backwards slide into mediocrity.
I’ve learned that the pursuit of excellence can’t be just a slogan or tagline but needs to become a reality if I’m ever to explore the potential that resides within me. Success and fulfilment do not arrive with imitation.
What do we do? Learn to sing your own song. When I look at those who inspire me – no matter what arena – I see a common thread. These people know the value of their voice and follow the courage of their convictions. They’re not constantly looking at everyone else and trying to copy them. They focus on where they’re going and how to get there, taking note of and applying only what is useful. Of course, there are conventions and boundaries which are good to keep, because these benefit others overall. And while we follow our passion firstly for ourselves – we’re good at something, we enjoy it or we see results – ultimately what we do affects others.
We don’t all travel the same path. Some will follow the more traditional route, while others will carve their own trail to reach their potential. It all depends on what works for you. A good example is the art of filmmaking. Some will graduate from film school with diplomas and degrees, others will learn by picking up a camera and just making films. And yet both can produce something that not only makes the screen but also impacts audiences.
And remember, not everyone will like your voice or what you’re singing. There will be critics, those who are jealous or those who just don’t ‘get you’. No problem. Not everyone likes jazz music either. There would never be diversity if we relied on only what was popular.
So, sing your song. You don’t know who you’re influencing or who is listening. Your voice might just be the one someone needs to hear.