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WFH, Isolation, Rejection and Mental Health with Allison Graham

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Stephanie Ciccarelli
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Are you in a downward spiral? Frustrated with or angry at the world? Allison Graham joins Stephanie Ciccarelli to discuss how life has changed since the pandemic (spoiler alert: there’s no going back to what was ‘normal’ before), how developing a habit of compassionate curiosity benefits you, protecting your mental health, making time for ‘grace and space,’ and ideas for avoiding negativity while working from home.

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Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Hi there, and welcome to Vox Talk, your weekly review from the world of Voice Over. I'm your host, Stephanie Ciccarelli from Voices. Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or alone working from home? Joining me today in the Voices studio is Allison Graham from Elevate Biz. Allison helps high achieving leaders and their teams stop destructive stress patterns that cause overwhelmed to do list anxiety and suboptimal performance. Today, we'll be focusing on how freelance professionals working from home can protect their mental health and how to deal with rejection. Welcome to the show, Allison.

Allison Graham:

Well, it's awesome to be here and awesome to be in your studio and this beautiful place at Voices.com. Oh, my gosh, so great.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

I'm just so happy to see you. You're one of the most positive people that I know, and especially just in this time where everyone's kind of figuring out what they're doing during the pandemic and getting back to a normal sense of what work is like and how to just be normal. You're wonderful to be here, so thank you.

So, Allison, obviously you have a long track record of working with companies big and small, trying to help them to figure out how to do their work best. But you also happen to be someone who can relate to our audience because you do work alone. So this is perfect.

Allison Graham:

Absolutely. And the challenge is, before the pandemic, a lot of us worked alone. Right. If you're a freelancer, that was our lives. But we had these other outlets where we could go after work and go for a walk with some friends or back then we might have gone to a restaurant or got to the gym, and we had all these tools. And then, of course, for the pandemic, those tools away. And I think for a lot of us, we're expecting now to even you've said it, like to be back to normal, and we're looking to what was life before, and we're using that as a marker of what we expect life to be like today. And the truth is, the very notion of change and challenge is that what was is no longer. And so we can't bounce back. We actually cannot go back to the way things were because that no longer exists. And so our normal, I often hear people say, like, ‘when I get through this week,’ ‘when I get through this project,’ ‘when we get past Covid,’ ‘when we get past this,’ then things will be normal. And I call it if X then Y thinking and the problem with that is X rarely happens, and X rarely creates Y. So how do you like, whatever you're feeling right now is your normal? This is it.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Yup, you're not going anywhere.

Allison Graham:

We got to do the best that we possibly can. And that probably means new tools. And not just new tools, but new ways of thinking.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Bingo. I think that that's what it is. It's got to be like a shift of your perspective of where your mind is at, because so much of what goes on in your life is just dictated by your thoughts, right?

Allison Graham:

Oh, my gosh. That mind in our head is fascinating. You know what I mean? Like the storylines that can create often negative if they default to negative. And so I used to really struggle with that. If you want to try to make a day harder, go through your day and then call yourself an idiot to yourself. Say something derogatory about your looks. I've screwed it up again. So many of us have this harsh inner critic, and it just makes everything we do harder. And so figuring out, how can you stop that negative voice? For me, at least, it was one of the most powerful things I ever did to help my mental health and my creativity and my business acumen. Like, all of it, it all stemmed from that inner voice that was so critical.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

And having a dog helps too, right?

Allison Graham:

Oh, my gosh. Well, hey, the dog. And you've got what do we call it? Pandemic puppy.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah. Golden retriever. Yes. So, all laughing aside, because I know that a little light moment there in the midst of our conversation, but from your perspective, Allison, what are some of the main struggles that freelancers have working from home?

Allison Graham:

I think it's the isolation. You can be alone and not be lonely. Right. But when we're alone, and then we start to feel the sense of loneliness and isolation and there's no way out. And I feel boxed in. Especially when you're trying to be creative or you're having to hustle for business, that can be very, very discouraging. And so really noticing your own patterns, I think it's hard to put everybody into a box, to say, this is the struggle we're having. But if there's a lot of fear mongering going on in the ‘collective’ around what's going to happen with our economy, what's happening with the pandemic, what's happening with wars, if you're getting fixated on that stuff and you're on your own, that spiral towards negativity is a very high velocity, deep spinning spiral. Very easy to get sucked into that, especially when you're feeling vulnerable and isolated and you just don't have those tools to come out of it.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

And as you were talking about that, it got my mind, my wheels were turning about how our talent are storytellers. And they are, for better or worse, they are chronicling what's happening right now through the work they do, because they're reading newscasts, they're doing eLearning modules for how to be safe when you do this in the season, in covid and whatever, there's a lot that just kind of they may not think about it that is affecting them, but I'm sure that because of just the heightened, like, how many of them are in broadcast, how many of you listening or having to read out this stuff every day? And it must be affecting you in some way, but just thinking about how the negativity can crop up and in ways that maybe you didn't expect it to, you have got to have a way to handle that. So I'm glad that you're talking to us about how today's today, and there is no going back to what we knew from before, but now we need new tools to cope with what's happening here, so what are some of those ways that we can preserve their mental health?

Allison Graham:

My gosh, you just had so many pieces of little golden nugget. I'm like, okay, wait, because that negativity, like, if you are someone who's broadcasting, if you're doing the reading or having to go through this thing, I think what society would tell you is just shut it down, separate your emotion from it, right? Let it go. The end of the work day, that's not how humans are made. That's not what we do. And so I'm going to challenge you, after you're done reading that negative piece of news, to sit with it for a minute, build in some sort of a routine where you just go like, that really sucked, instead of getting so busy, busy, busy and going on to the next project. Right? And I know we want to get lots of projects. I mean, that's part of the freelance world you need to be able to process. You have to give yourself the space and the grace to process the severity of what is going in and coming out of your mind and your mouth. And without that, your subconscious has got to figure out how to process it. And when you think about your emotions, their energy and motion, we need to give them space, not try to shut them down. I used to be such a ‘gotta go’ technique was what it was called by my doctor. And he's like, don't like how it is over there, so you go over here and we get busy. And I think when we're dealing with collective heaviness, if you don't allow that space and grace, it's going to creep up on you somehow. And I remember earlier in the pandemic, one of my clients, not typically a really negative person, just kind of got this edge about him and he's like, ‘you know what? I'm taking it out on my family, my staff. I'm resenting them. I'm just in this loop.’ And as we started to explore what was happening, turned out he had the news channel on 24/7 and that's not just saying. He went to bed with it when he was walking to work. It was on his iPod, like when he was an iPod. AirPod, sorry. He was just consumed. Dinner table, it was on in the background. And as we started to look at it, I'm like, how can you expect yourself to be positive, optimistic outlook when you're constantly being bombarded with the negative news story? So we need to manage our level of input. What are we putting into our psyche? Because it can definitely impact our mental health.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Oh, for sure it does. And you use the news and podcasts and just media that is everywhere. And even before the pandemic this existed, there has always been something to think about or talk about or something going on and it's really easy to get sucked into that sort of thing. And for talent in particular, as you're reading this and you mentioned something could seep in ways you didn't expect or get you later, just thinking about that tone of voice or an attitude or a perspective or perception of something bleeding into your reads in ways you didn't expect. And I think that for someone who's listening right now could be very interesting to think about because maybe you're not booking jobs because you sound like you're disinterested or you don't like what you're reading, but you don't know that unless you've got a coach listening back or something like that, right? But attitude is important because it does inform kind of what's going on. Whatever's in your heart, it's going to come out of your mouth, right? So that's kind of like from out of the heart, the mouth speaks. So you got to be really careful about what it is that you're putting into your body, into your mind especially. And it could be anything like I'm just thinking about the world of media, I know you're very familiar with this world, but it's everything from art to books to movies to music to podcasts to the printed news media. It's everywhere. And it's like you have to find a way to make sure that, it’s like when you're trying to be fit, you're like staying away from the potato chips. You're staying away from the things that give you acid reflux. You want to not have those things because you know what happens to you if they come into your system. So in the same way, it's almost like we need to approach the media that we are consuming and the voices we're listening to. We have to be judicious and discerning with what we're allowing into our lives because it will come out and it does do damage.

Allison Graham:

It does. And I think you're so bang on when you say you've got to become aware of it. Self awareness in my problem solving framework, which is three parts, it's the second part and it's the most powerful. And so self awareness, the challenge with it is we can very quickly go into judgment and that will absolutely show through everything you do, especially in your voice. And so if you are getting like beating yourself up and really just, ‘oh, I lost that gig,’ I'm going to encourage you to adopt an attitude of compassionate curiosity.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

What's that?

Allison Graham:

Okay, compassionate curiosity is instead of self judgment, you get very curious about your patterns. Isn't that interesting that I did that? Wonder why I didn't? Okay, what could I do better next time having a growth mindset where you're looking at the process and trying to learn from it instead of I lost it, I must suck, right? Like I'm going to the garden to eat some worms. Nobody likes me. And especially in our creative and everybody's been through this before where maybe you're booking a lot and you've got this momentum and there's like an energy about you and it's like you can do no wrong and then maybe something happens and you don't get booked and then you go, oh, maybe I do suck. So self sabotage comes into the mind, right? And then we start like, oh, I got another one. I didn't get it. Then I didn't get another one, and then I didn't get another one. And then all of a sudden you're in this downward spiral and you're looking at that. And with every audition you're more discouraged because we're tying our identity to the outcome, right? I got it or I didn't, as opposed to maybe I just wasn't the right person. I was telling you before we came on air, I had to choose a voice for a video just recently and the company was producing shared with us six. And I got to tell you, every one of them had in their own right, incredible. I could have chosen everyone. But we needed one voice. And so that doesn't mean that Bruce who got it or whoever's name it was, doesn't mean that Bill should never try to audition for a voice acting job again, right, but isn't that how we feel when we get discouraged? Or we're rejected?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Like shut down and feeling like, well, I can do no right? And just out of curiosity, because you did bring this up, what was it that made we'll call him Bruce? What was it that made Bruce the right talent? Like, if they were all equally good, how was it that you were able to come to a conclusion that this person instead of those people?

Allison Graham:

Okay, one of the biggest things is the content of the video is related to very serious topic but very random. Nobody will wonder why I'm doing this, but long story, but to supply chain. So we had to look at who our market was. We're going to be talking to people who are in very transportation, trucking industry, rail industry, and also government and different stakeholders. And so we had to be sure that that voice wasn't going to be very foreign to them, right. So how they talk, it needed to be very assuring and yet strong, right? Like a strong and masculine sort of tone with some women in there too that actually ended up between a man and a woman.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Oh, okay.

Allison Graham:

And so we had to look and it was just the authority level was different in every one of them. And we ultimately went with the one that had the strongest authority, right.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

For the audience?

Allison Graham:

It was all about the audience and also with the animations that were in the video who sort of felt like just a natural fit of if I were watching a cartoon, not that it was a cartoon, who would you think that that character was playing how that character would have sounded?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah. Which voice would best fit that animation? Yes.

Allison Graham:

And so that was really it. And I think the decision was made in less than ten minutes.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Wow, not bad. I'm sure there was some healthy kind of arguing for this voice over that voice. But then it would have ultimately come down to the one and you do need to have that kind of working it hashing it out because every one of those talent put forth a great effort. I'm sure. But yeah, that's interesting. It isn't necessarily you, it's who the audience is and how they are going to best relate to what you're saying. And we have said this so many times, but people want to hear from people who are like them or that they relate to. So that's why you hear if you're trying to hit a certain demographic, you'll hear someone from that demographic generally being the voice, or from an age group or from maybe it's an ad for I don't know what it might be, but a festival. And you want to have someone who sounds like they'd be going to the festival or reading it to you. So yeah, I think that that's really interesting. But yeah, that's the whole rejection piece is kind of like how do you not take it personally? Right?

Allison Graham:

Right. And actually as I explore this a little bit further in my mind, I'm thinking because I have some friends who are voice actors and who do commercials and things like that and I imagine their day of auditioning, putting out the numbers, hoping they get something back and it's such a personal process. Then I imagine the rushed, heavy, heavy deadline and that was only two of us making the decision and we're very aligned and we can work very very quickly. So when I say ten minutes, please don't think we under sold that it probably would have taken somebody else 2 hours to get through the conversation we had at a very high rate of speed, deadline. But not once did I consider what didn't bake into the conversation was does this person need work today? Not that I don't care about every one of them. I'm just saying that the personal feeling of being rejected is a very holistic ‘I'm a person, this is my business, this is what I'm trying to deal with,’ as opposed to the person who's buying, who is only thinking about this 1 minute and a half video that needs to be animated. Do you see what I'm saying? Like they're not rejecting you as a human. They're rejecting that fit for that voice and any other video. And we might need to do more. We might actually need a different voice.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Right.

Allison Graham:

Right. So it's just that feeling. But again, people will say platitudes don't take it personally. Well, you're probably going to take it personally, but right then we got to get compassionately curious about why you're taking it personally and what do you believe that that rejection says about you?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

The ‘what it says about you’ piece is probably the most important. Right?

Allison Graham:

Right. Because it probably actually doesn't say that about you.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
No

Allison Graham:

probably this is the reality of that situation.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Indeed it is. Oh my gosh, I love that compassionate curiosity. Just to just talk through why did this happen and not dwelling on it. I'm sure there's an end to the compassionate curiosity, right?

Allison Graham:

Absolutely. And not per separating would be the word I would use on that. Like just going round and round and round. It's very much about when you notice yourself giving yourself that hard time using absolutes. I remember I was coaching a client and she came in in the meeting and she said, Allison, she said, here's the deal. I'm awful at being a mom, I'm awful at HR, I'm awful at sales. Obviously over the course of 2 hours, at the very end, the closing, I said, look, can you just make me a cheat sheet? And she said about what? I said, Everything you're awful at. And she looked at me like, aren't you mean? And I'm like no, no, you have told me that you are awful at about 20 different things in the course of 2 hours. And she goes, no, I didn't. She didn't even know she was pulling that language about herself. And so I said, listen, I want you to write the word awful on top of your day timer. She still uses pen and paper. And every time you say the word awful in your mind or to somebody else about yourself, I want you to write a little tick. And within 48 hours she was like, oh wow, I do say that a lot. And then we can work at changing that. So the compassionate curiosity is oh do I do that? And now how can I fix it? When do I do it? Not like oh there, I did it again, I suck. That's where we go into judgment. You just play with it.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Oh my goodness. So much for us to even just think about. I really hope everyone here is taking notes or at least plans to listen to this episode a couple of times because I know I probably will. But there's just so much going on. And for talent who are auditioning every day, day in, day out, it can be a grind if you see it that way. But one way to kind of lessen that is to audition for only those jobs you actually believe you're going to book. You have an ability to book. Don't just throw yourself out for anything because then you're putting yourself up for more rejection that you don't need. I'm sure that when someone has a clear, focused goal or an idea of what they're really good at and they spend their energy in those areas, they're going to see a better result.

Allison Graham:

Oh, my gosh. And that's where you can get so compassionately curious, right, about where are my talents best serving and no judgment, I don't belong over there. I belong here. And it's not because you need to protect yourself from rejection that I don't think you should audition for everything. It's because you want to be as efficient and effective with every task that you do in a day. You don't want to be wasting your time because the energy wasted on an addition that you don't think you're going to be able to get and that could impact your mental health. And that feeling of rejection would be better spent on doing a better job. Auditioning for the one that you actually believe is aligned for your skills and talent.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah, I think someone out there needed to hear that today. I'm pretty sure. And maybe it's you. But just audition only for those things that you actually feel drawn to, that you have some personal reason perhaps for doing because that strengthens the case for why you be the best candidate. Because as you were saying earlier, the fellow who booked that spot for Trucking Industry and Transport, they sounded like they fit in, and that was kind of where his voice belonged, or at least the way he presented it in that read, right?

Allison Graham:

Yes.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

So I think that we always tell people, just think, like, if your agent, if you have one, we're sending you out for something, would they send you for this? Because at the end of the day, they want you to do well. They want to make money. They're in a business you can't be inefficient in that way. So if you think either, like an entrepreneur you don't want to be inefficient, or if you have an agent, you can think, well, would my agent send me to this? Yes. No. Then you would pretty much have your answer right away. You don't have to think very long and hard about this. Don't just throw it at the wall because you want to see if it sticks. Like, you've got to at least know that you have some kind of a track record with success in this area. Otherwise it's kind of a waste of your time, their time. Then maybe they won't listen to your audition the next time if you couldn't follow the instructions, if you weren't what they were looking for. So I think that's really interesting to think about, this whole concept of compassionate curiosity and looking into things, but then solving the problem, which is what we all want to do. So obviously we talked a bit about how rejection isn't really about them rejecting you as a person. It's more about you might not have been the right person for the spot, or your tone of voice was different, or maybe you reminded them of like, someone who really annoys them and they don't want to listen to that voice. They don't want to think of that person as they hear you reading the copy, which could be used in a big branding exercise or a commercial or whatever. And sometimes people joke whatever they had for lunch, maybe you didn't agree with them and so they just they went another way. But you have to be, just let it go. People will say, Send it and forget it. I actually saw a comment on Twitter recently, and maybe this person is listening, I don't know. But they were talking about the whole idea of just sending it and forgetting it. And then a month later, all of a sudden, this job that you forgot about that you didn't book pops up in your mind. You're like, whatever happened to that? Why didn't I get it? And then they feel awful, they go to that place, right? And it's like, well, you don't have to go to that place, not if you're listening to what Allison’s saying today. And certainly I'm sure there are lots of other resources and ways you can learn that yourself too, but just don't dwell on what you can't control.

Allison Graham:

And it's interesting about when you say the word control, because we so often are exactly that. Like, don't focus on what's outside of our control. And I look at it a little bit differently. So if you are in a situation where you're feeling overwhelmed and just write down what is within my control and what is not within my control, and then the stuff that is not in your control, I don't want you to ignore it because that's not human nature. Instead, look at it. Get compassionately, curious about how am I feeling about what's not in my control. So you can lean into it, so you can process it and then move forward and do the activity that's in your control. Because I'm a freelancer. I mean, I've been a business owner since on my own when I was a columnist in the media and everything. I think my first column ran in 2003, so I might be aging myself. And that has been a roller coaster ride of business, right? Sometimes they're phenomenal and I'm like, pinch myself, right, and is this happening? And then other times they're like, okay, what can I transfer so that bill doesn't bounce? It's a part of the process. And we also get freedom and we also get to do something that we love, and this is the life we've chosen. And so we have to do what is within our control of the actions to be choosing the right auditions, to be going forward and not wasting time on things that aren't going to work. That is something like having a system for how you apply. How you are doing that activity. When I lose a gig and I'm in the speaking industry, but when I lose out and I really wanted to serve an audience or speak at that conference, I'm like, okay, Ali, it's time to lean in and go find five other conferences where I can open up the conversation about me working with them.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah, you've always got to look for the next opportunity, right? Yeah, that's good. So I know that you use LinkedIn a lot because it's a great tool. I'm using it too. But you by far are using it better, and obviously it's great for you to get your message out about what you're doing and it's a wonderful source of encouragement. I've actually watched a number of your videos and they're like, oh, I feel better for having watched Allison today. You think about things differently in different perspectives. Obviously, social media can be a great outlet to find community, to get support from people. And as I mentioned, you're just really skilled in that area. So could you just share maybe more about the personal side of how you're using LinkedIn or social platform to communicate has actually helped you in your work?

Allison Graham:

Okay. Where it's helped me more than my work is my mental health. So when we're creative people, we need to create. And if somebody is not hiring us to create, then we're perhaps not in flow. Right? So when the pandemic happened and we had our very first lockdown, I was like, oh, I know me because I'm compassionately curious with myself. I know this is not going to be good. This is not good. So I made three rules. Number one, no alcohol in the home during the pandemic. And I love a good glass of wine, but I figured it wasn't going to be good for me, no ordering out because I knew my budget was going to get slashed with all the conferences getting canceled and I was just going to eat at home. And I'm going to create content every day, because if I don't do that, that's the only thing that makes my heart sing when I'm feeling like the more I can, it's not the only thing. Lots of things that make my heart sing, but getting lost in content is really helpful for me. So if that resonates with you, then you need to create. And so I did, I think 185 lockdown lift ups, like live lift ups, where I just got on and riffed about a topic. And I think when we create for social for ourselves, we can serve the people who are like us, who need what we have. And so that felt very aligned and very authentic. For me, it actually was very frustrating because it didn't produce any business. Not directly, shall I say. The business started to come back, obviously after covid and what not. But it was more about serving my own mental health and then serving the people who I believed. Probably felt like I felt. And when you do that from that place, I think that's really helpful. The third thing, though, around why I did the how I use and leverage LinkedIn is I actually don't do a lot of reading of comments on anything that is contentious to the point where I went on about five days ago, before the recording of this, and I started to look at a couple chains. There was something sort of neat, like somebody made a joke about something, a meme that was going around. And I was like, oh, enlighten me. I don't know why that's wrong. Like, I didn't understand. And so people were really thoughtful about how they commented to me. But then I went to look in the other comments and I was like, oh my gosh, this is problematic. Like, people who are like, I disagree, and then people going, you're an idiot, get off. And using other words, by the way, on LinkedIn, get off online. Go back into your hole and crawl. Oh yeah. Like it's just rampant. What's within our control is what we consume. And so I went through that and I would see people who are normally really professional arguing about stuff on social media places, right on LinkedIn where you're trying to protect your thing. First of all, we control what we allow into ourselves. So after I noticed, I was like, oh wow, this is interesting. I'm going to play with it a little bit. I noticed my anxiety level physically heart racing, feeling agitated, tense, increasing as I was going through and reading these things. And so people who are caught up in that, I'm going to guess are probably feeling that level of anxiety and anxiousness and anger that's brewing based on these people who they don't know. And if somebody is adamantly on a different side of a topic than you are, your clever post and well crafted thought is not going to bring them to your side. It's just not going to work. And so with that in mind, when you notice that negativity stop scrolling, don't get involved, I have at times typed a response and deleted it. That will protect longer. This brings up something that I think is plaguing our entire society and its misplaced emotion. People are stuffing down the feelings that really matter. And I'm generalizing, so please just bear with me. We're really fearful about the world economy, about the wars, about ‘insert world issue’ here. There's a collective heaviness. People have what I call coping fatigue, exhausted from having to continually be resilient, and they're just done. They don't have any bandwidth left emotionally. And so they're worried about this over here, but they're not processing it. They're not going through. They're not allowing the emotions, giving it the space and the grace to process it effectively. And so then they get this chance whether it's online, some sort of a silly fight over a marketing meme, and then they just like lash out or they're in a store and they're out of your stock and then they lash out and it really is so misplaced.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah, people's emotions are completely misplaced. They're not taking into account what might actually be going on or what that person's day have been like when they posted or I just don't even need to consume their content. If it's going to affect me in this way, then I don't need to do that. Be looking for uplifting content, people who are positive forces in your life or just kind of helping you to see the good that is out there as opposed to dragging you down into the mud, which is not where any of us really should be, but just like so many different ways to work through it. Having a personal, like a counselor of some kind is not a shameful thing to go get therapy. Mental health is, I think if anything, we've learned over the pandemic is that people are now talking about mental health more than ever, right? And there are so many resources. A lot of people who work in a company, they may have access to it through their benefits, but even if you don't, that doesn't mean that you should not access those resources because they are crucial.

Allison Graham:

And I made a decision that when I go to sleep at night, I'm going to put on something really positive or educational in terms of personal and professional development. And so I fall asleep with YouTube positive ones like Impact Theory or other really cool podcasts that are helping to shape the mind and I can go into and look at some of the really negative stuff, but I know how I feel differently than when I'm choosing to protect my mind and pull it forward. The reason I started doing this work was because this was long before the pandemic and I had had a surgery and things went wrong and they damaged two of my nerves and it feels like still to this point, but like a serrated edge knife just going into my body. And two years after the surgery, I was sitting in my neurologist's office at Mount Sinai Hospital and I was just a mess. Like I was done, I was in so much pain. And at that point out of six people in my life had died very suddenly and I'd had eight major injuries. And so I was in this time of crisis in my life and some of us go through those times where it just feels like the punches will not stop. And I remember sitting across from my doctor and he's like, look, you are going to have to reevaluate your expectations for your life. You are never going to work full time again, you are never going to be off pain medication. And it's time we start talking about you going on disability. And through the desperation and through the tears, like I knew that giving up was not the answer. And as a business owner freelancer trying to get the gigs in the speaking industry, it's when's the next conference? When's the next training? Right? And I had two to 5 hours of functionality a day. And that he said, well, you're going to have to be resilient. And I'm like, okay, I'll figure that out. But it gives you just enough hope. And I figured out it's not just resilience, it's better problem solving for the human experience, which we don't have time to get into today. Though, that inspired in me was this choice, okay, if I have two to 5 hours of functionality, high quality functionality, before my physical pain takes over my entire body and my mind becomes absolute mush, right, and I need to collapse, how am I going to spend that time? There was no time left for the drama. There was no time left for at that time, social media, that was 2009 that I had that conversation with the doctor. But twitter was rampant, right? Like, there were definitely places where you could get caught and lost in that downward spiral. So I had to be very protective of what I put in my mind. I had to go through the process of a little bit more self compassion because I was beating myself up, as I talked about ages ago, right in this conversation. But there was this process of learning that was like, okay, if I do not want my difficult circumstances to define how I show up in my level of success, then I need to have better strategies. And to your point, the reason I brought up this story is because as part of that process, I ended up with a pain psychologist. And he and I saw each other for eight years, almost every two to three weeks. Few gaps in there, but we went through this whole process and trying to redefine my life. I was very blessed to be a part of that program. Program no longer exists. And it led me to believe that it is possible to change how our mind works and to have a stronger mental health and to interrupt the patterns that may be pulling us down.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Wow. Oh, my goodness. I've known over time just some of the things that you've gone through, but I didn't realize that the pain had been from that. But what is impressive is that you found a way with guidance from others and help along the way, of course, right, to say, I'm not going to let this limit me. I'm going to create a business. I know you've been in business for over 15 years doing what you're doing now. Similar story here with us at Voices, of course, because we have a certain vintage at this point, right? But it's just like you overcame those challenges. That's really inspirational. So thank you for sharing that. I think that's meaningful because no doubt there are people who are hearing this today, who are in that very same spot.

Yeah, we all go through these different times in our lives where it does feel like the punches will not stop coming. And I think that there's a lot of people who can relate to that, especially right now, because some people are out of work, some people are unable to do things they normally would do because of restrictions of various kinds. There's any number of times they're probably feeling pretty desperate. But one of the great things about running your own business is that no one can tell you you can't work anymore, and no one can say to you, you can't do that, or like, you can't pay yourself this or whatever. It's very liberating, in that sense. And for those who are listening now, especially those of you who are doing this full time, by full time, I mean, like voice over the main thing, or you're an audio engineer all the time, or you're doing it all day, it really is just amazing that you're able to do that. And I'm like, Congratulations. That's so wonderful. And for those trying to make the transition to kind of get away from what they're doing to doing what they love full time, I'm sure that could do nothing but positive things for your mindset. And for me, I have an autoimmune thyroid issue, and so, like, some days you just don't feel like going to do this or that. But there's just different ways that our body tells us that too much has happened. You need to slow down. And for a lot of us, it comes at a time probably when you've been pushing really hard for a long time, you think, oh, my, burnt out is like, well, you need to slow down. And the pandemic, I've heard some people say it's kind of giving you a bit of I don't know if it's a bit of a gift in some ways for some of us, because it helps you to reassess where you're at and what you're doing. I think part of this whole notion of burnout and I just want to touch on this for a second. I don't know what your thoughts are on burnout, but from what I understand of it, it isn't necessarily that someone isn't loving what they do. Like, no vacation can fix burnout, from what I understand. I've been following a lot of what Patrick Lencioni doesn't know if you're familiar with Patrick Lencioni, but The Table Group and the Working Genius podcast and so on in any way, but something that they'll say is burnout is actually because you are not using those skills and giftings that give you energy. You're using other things that are draining you. You're not working on your genius, so to speak. So it doesn't matter how many vacations you take, how many days off, how many personal days, you know, oh, well, I'm going to go do this. It will make me feel better. But then you go back to doing whatever it is that you're doing. And if it's not that place where you feel that you're doing your best work or that you're appreciated or that you're really adding tremendous value, then you're going to feel like it's not worth it, and why am I here? And then you'll bounce from job to job to job trying to find that thing that's going to help you feel better. But if you don't figure out what it is that you're really great at and how you work best in the team, how you work best by yourself, you know, like, whatever your working frustrations are, they go through the Working Geniuses. Then you have a Working Competency, kind of like, you can do it, but it's not like your thing. If you do too much of it, you'll start to get tired of it. And then there's the Working Frustration area. And I tell you, I could not do what Geoff does. I would pull my hair out. I would not even know what to do. It would not work. I couldn't do, frankly, any of this engineering stuff. So I know the talent who are listening are kind of like, oh, my gosh, that's so me. I hate this part of my job. Right, and you don't want to do it. And then there are people on that side who are more engineering, who are like, oh, I really hate making characters. I just want to do these straight reads because I don't have that fun. But I love editing and I love doing this and that and finding it's like, those are totally different. And then I think about the work that my husband does, that David does, and he just graduated from Harvard, from the OPM program, and goodness gracious, I would never go and do that. I wouldn't. And he knows that. But it's just that's kind of where people thrive and what they do best and what gives them energy and joy is ultimately what is going to help you to get through and navigate these challenges and to feel that your work has value, right? I can't tell you the number of entrepreneurial programs I've turned down because I didn't feel that I was the right person to go. No, ask my husband. Do not ask me. I am not the one you want. I am not the technical founder. Do not ask me to speak on a panel about finance. Do not ask me to do this. And so when you find yourself constantly doing things that fill you up and make you feel good about what you're doing, then you're more than likely not going to find yourself dwelling in that pit where you're reading through all this garbage online and you don't have time for it because you've found other ways to spend that time more beneficially. But I think recognizing what our talents and our gifts and our skills and what makes us unique as people is a huge step in trying to overcome some of these challenges that we're talking about today.

Allison Graham:

Exactly. And you have a team, you and David. Incredible, right? You've created Voices.com and you can complement each other's skill sets. Some of us who are on our own as freelancers do not have the ability to edit or to give somebody else the editing, even if it drains us. So here's where I'm going to offer an idea. What if you recognize it? Become self aware, know where your zone a genius is, craft your days as much as you possibly can to include that as a bare minimum. So for example, my lockdown lift up became creating content and talking with something that lit me up. It didn't mean behind the scenes. I didn't have to make the calls to the clients to try to get the conferences, I didn't have to do the apply to speak at this conference or reach out to this person, which drains me. That kind of stuff just drains me. However, if we do it and then we resent it or we worry about it or we procrastinate on it, I call these barriers to performance where we judge ourselves on it or we get angry about it, all of those things, it makes it harder. So if there are pieces of your day that are out of your zone of genius but you just have to get them done because either you don't have anybody to delegate them to or you can't hire somebody to delegate them. You need to be looking at them and get compassionately curious about how you're doing them and decide, am I doing this as effectively and efficiently as absolutely possible? And every time you complain about them, you are adding another layer of capacity sucking energy into your day. And so that to me is because there are pieces in my business that I do not like. I don't like dealing with money. I have a bookkeeper, but I still have to send her the stuff. Right. I don't like doing the taxes, but I have an accountant who I can send it to, but I still have to put it together, write and answer the questions. And every time that I spend resisting that, I have to do that thing when inevitably I have to do that thing. Right? Yes. Is capacity taken away from that limited resource. Each of us only has so much that we can think, we can feel, we can be and we can do each and every day. And so we have to make choices around it. So those things that suck your energy, do them as fast as you can without any fanfare around them and they will drain you less so you can get back to your zone of genius even faster.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Yeah, that's exactly it. Because you can't eliminate those tasks, right? You can't say, I don't want to go to that meeting.

Allison Graham:

Some people do! (laughter)

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

But you can't get away from everything. You can't outsource everything. Maybe certain aspects of it you can. But as you said, you still got to send the forms. You got to answer the questions again, not…

Allison Graham:

Auditions. So imagine you hate auditions, right? And every day that you have to do an audition, you go, oh, my God, I hate auditions. I got to go do auditions. Your energy is going to be down. It's wasted negative spiraling instead of just going to do the audition, right?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

Oh, my gosh. So much here. Lots of wisdom for everybody. My goodness. Allison, we are going to have to have you come back.

Allison Graham:

Oh, my gosh. I just love talking about this. I will talk with you anytime and if people need resources, just email me Allison at AllisonGraham.com. And I think there are so many videos on YouTube that are underwatched. I think they have like I won't even tell you how few – all the resources are there. If you want other ideas on how do I stop complaining about those auditions or whatever piece of the puzzle, go there and just eat it all up. It's there for you for free.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

That is awesome. And you have so many resources. Again, I will just reiterate that Allison is on LinkedIn and you can follow her there for all of the good stuff she posts and just kind of all these lives that you do. Sometimes I pop in and I watch them. It's fun. But, yeah, so many resources out there. You don't have to spend a dime. Just your time really, you know investing your time. So, yes. Allison, thank you very much and look forward to having you back on again.

Allison Graham:

Thank you.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:

And that's the way we saw the world through the lens of Voice Over this week. Thank you for joining me here today. And I want to give a very special thank you to Allison Graham who is sitting right beside me here. I'm so happy about that. And we will definitely be having her back. But if you love this episode, I want you to do something proactive about it. Either follow what the instructions were, if something you heard, some ideas, or actually let us know because there is nothing that we like to hear more than people saying that we found value because of what was shared on Vox Talk. So for everybody here at Voices, I'm Stephanie Ciccarelli, the host of Vox Talk. Vox talk is produced by Geoff Bremner. We will see you next week.

Stephanie Ciccarelli
Stephanie Ciccarelli is a Co-Founder of Voices. Classically trained in voice as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. For over 25 years, Stephanie has used her voice to communicate what is most important to her through the spoken and written word. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, Stephanie has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Backstage magazine, Stage 32 and the Voices.com blog. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.
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Comments

  • Deryn Oliver
    August 31, 2022, 10:04 am

    I started listening during my lunch break and although I intended to turn off and return to my studio to do an audition I was hooked by Alison’s advice.
    I’d been in that ‘I’m rubbish’ place all morning so thank you so much for lifting me out of the dump and giving me sound advice to use to avoid slipping back in.

    Reply