Finding Your Voice in the Crowded Sea of the Internet


What if I’m not saying anything original?
How do I find my voice?

Your Voice Is…

What you care most deeply about.
What you’re a stand for.
What you most want to heal in the world.
What you’d say or do or your affect when acting from your kindest self.
How you’d speak to someone when they are vulnerable and coming to you, for help.
Your enthusiasm, lightness, and joy.
Your shadowy, pissed-off righteousness.

To access it, you…

You look for what you most want to say, even if it’s not an original thought, and you say it.
You look at what no one is saying, and you say that.

“In a room where 
people unanimously maintain 
a conspiracy of silence, 
one word of truth 
sounds like a pistol shot.”

― Czeslaw Milosz

You ask yourself what the people who are most disenfranchised need you to say, for them, because they don’t have the same privilege and access.

You ask yourself what the people with the most power aren’t saying.

How You Access It

You access it by not thinking that you fucking “lost” it, as if “your voice” is your keys, misplaced somewhere.

You have a voice. You have a vision. It’s uniquely yours. It’s informed by your life experience and it will show itself, if you stop buying in to the fear.

Then, you treat writing or speaking into a microphone or being on camera like a craft. This means that you probably won’t articulate it easily, at first.

No one who is committed to her craft waits until it’s perfect, to begin.

If you have something to say, and if you want to say it well, then you’ve got to start talking. Your voice will emerge.

Stop Buying In

If you feel like you have something to say, but you’re worried that what you have to say sounds exactly like what everyone else online is saying, there’s actually one big thing that I recommend above all else:

Stop buying in to that belief system.

How are you buying in? By ruminating on it while doing nothing to shift it. If you know that this belief system stops you, frustrates you, ties you into knots, stop rolling over and playing dead, thinking that golly-gee-gosh, someday you’ll have an a-ha of divine intervention where you’re never plagued by it, again.

When you choose to do nothing to change a belief system that stops you from being all of who you are, you waste years of your life in this space–and the world needs your voice.

Stop thinking that it’s all been said, before, because it hasn’t already been done or said, by you.

That might involve longer term work where you learn how to recognize, and then work with, the inner critic voices.

Or, you might find your way on your own. Be auto-didactic! Meditate and notice your thoughts, journal, walk through the fire, enlist a friend. If you start paying attention, you’ll find the answers that you need.

If you start paying attention, you’ll also “find” your voice, because it was never lost. The issue at hand isn’t finding. The issue at hand is consciously cultivating the conditions for the things that you desire, to emerge. As always, the choice is yours.

how to let people know that you’ve decided to change


You’ve decided: you’re changing.

You’re not going to argue with your husband, anymore.
You’re not going to stay late to work, anymore.
You’re changing careers.
You’re selling everything and moving to Italy.
You’re going to quit drinking, smoking, over-eating, using a substance.

Sometimes, you can just…change. Do it, and people take notice and that’s all you need to do.

Other times, people give you the merest bit of shit about changing. If they’re not being direct in their criticisms of your new behavior, they’ll communicate by raising an eyebrow, making jokes, talking about what you’re doing to everyone but you, or upping the ante and trying to get you to revert to your old behavior by providing you with tempting triggers.

You have two choices: Either pretend not to notice all of these things and continue with your changes, or clue the person in that you’re changing, that’s where this train is headed, and they can get on board or they can watch it pass them by.

If you don’t want to pretend not to notice passive-aggressive behavior, then you get to say something about it. And if you say something about it, then here are a few options:

Option One

Speech: The Train is Leaving the Station

Chances of this going well? Low.
Why? Because most people don’t like being abruptly told that things are going to change and “If you don’t like it, too bad.” Note that this is probably the most frequent way that people approach telling someone about a proposed change, and unfortunately, this conversation is often labeled as “courageous.”

Really, it’s just fear, shouting loudly and hoping to intimidate someone else into not protesting.

It sounds something like: “From here on out, I’m planning to do ___________ differently. I’ll be [insert behavior change]. I hope you’re on board with that, because that’s where I’m headed.”

Option Two

Speech: Pretend The Change Isn’t A Big One

Chances of this going well? In the short-term, okay. This speech is all about minimizing the bigness of the change that is to come, by pretending as though it’s something still being negotiated, not a change that you’ve firmly decided on.

It sounds something like: “I’d like to make these changes. What do you think? Can we work together on that? Give me your feedback.”

In the long-term, this approach can go south, because giving someone the impression that they are allowed to make decisions about the changes you’re intending to make can only work for so long. It’s a bit like saying to someone who’s in love with you, “I’d like to break up. What do you think? Can we work together on that?” The person who’s in love with you is going to hear that and think that there’s still some chance of maintaining the status quo–not good if you’re clear that you’re ready to move on.

Option Three

Speech: Here’s What I’ve Realized

Chances of going well: Good, if you keep the focus on yourself.

(Note: This is the one that I recommend.)

It sounds like: “I’ve realized that I have a tendency to ____________, and when I do that, there’s [insert negative consequences of your tendency to ________]. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do differently, and I’ve decided that from here on out, I want to [insert your behavior changes].”

Note how well this speech can work, with so many different scenarios:

“I’ve realized that I have a tendency to nag at you and this starts arguments, and when I do that, there’s less connection between us. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do differently, and I’ve decided that from here on out, I want to stop and take a breath whenever we start to get into an argument, maybe even pause and leave the room until I’m calm and know I can talk without being combative.”

“I’ve realized that I have a tendency to not live in the present moment, and when I do that, there’s this lack of fulfillment in my life. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do differently, and I’ve decided that from here on out, I want to sell my stuff and live in Bali at an ashram for six months, and then figure out what my next step is, from there.”

“I’ve realized that I have a tendency to drink too much, and when I do that, there’s inevitably a hangover the next day, and the people around me are starting to comment on it. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do differently, and I’ve decided that from here on out, I want to stop drinking and start attending AA meetings.”

“I’ve realized that I have a tendency to stay at work late, and when I do that, there’s a real impact on my family, how well I’m sleeping, and my stress levels. I’ve thought a lot about what I can do differently, and I’ve decided that from here on out, I want to leave work on time every day, and only occasionally work late, and I’m open to coordinating with the other members of our team so that we can figure out how to make sure that everything gets done.”

They Get To Choose

The only way Option Three goes well is if you understand that the other person gets to choose.

You can make the big, mature speech to your husband about not arguing, anymore–and he might agree now but argue, later. Or he might immediately debate with you and tell you how everything’s your fault. Or he might shrug, and you’ll realize that secretly, you were attached to the idea that if you made this big, mature speech, he’d realize how he’s done it all wrong and he’d apologize and you’d fall in love, again.

May or may not happen.

You can make the mature speech about how you’ve decided to sell your shit and move to an ashram, and your family might still think you’re nuts, might still talk about you behind your back, might still be dramatic about illnesses to guilt you into staying. Or, they might passive-aggressively stonewall, pretending “not to care” since “obviously, you don’t care.” Sniff!

May or may not happen.

You can tell your friends that you’ve decided to quit drinking, and they might still invite you out to the bar. You can tell your job that you’ve decided to quit working late, and your boss might retaliate by passing you over for good assignments, making passive-aggressive comments about your change in meetings, pitting co-workers against one another, or straight-up telling you that you can’t leave late and that’s that.

They get to choose.

You making the big, mature speech isn’t about getting a result from someone else.

It’s about communicating in a way that doesn’t steamroll over people, or manipulate anyone into being okay with your decisions by pretending as if the decisions haven’t been made.

Sticking To It

The hard part of change isn’t going to be what you tell other people, even though that might feel like the hard part.

The hard part is whether or not you’ll stick to it.

Will you drop your desired changes like it’s hot, based on how others respond? Will you get sucked into the same, tired arguments?

Or, will you practice the courage of your convictions, sticking to the changes that you know are best for you, even if they’re not the best for someone else?

The Final Speech

The final speech isn’t a speech, exactly. It’s listening and allowing someone else’s feelings. It sounds something like: “I’m committed to this change. Tell me about what’s concerning you, and if there’s a way to work something out while I’m also able to stay committed to the changes I want to make, I’d like to work together with you.”

The person might initially need to vent (so you just listen and let them get it out).

Then: “Let’s take it one specific concern at a time. What’s just one thing?”

If you can look at one thing at a time, and if you are both communicating respectfully, there’s a chance of working together.

If respect isn’t happening, then it might be time to reiterate your earlier speech: “I’ve really thought about [this behavior that I want to change.] I see [these negative consequences.] I’m committed to [changing in this way.]”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And sometimes, despite your best intentions, you walk away. That’s tough. There’s a lot to grieve, in that.

The conversations that open you up to the possibility that it won’t work out, that there will be something to work for and something to grieve, are actually the conversations that are most courageous. Those are the conversations that allow for two humans to meet each other, somewhere, both just wanting to get needs met. Both just hoping for love.

Do it for the love


Early in my online career, I was exploring my own creativity. I was submitting short stories to literary magazines, painting and entering my work into local art shows, watercoloring, making jewelry, and holding portrait sessions. Before that, I’d hung out a shingle creating websites for small businesses, enjoying my time in Photoshop (but ultimately hating the coding).

I heard this, over and over: “I wish I could do what you do, but I don’t think I’d ever make any money.”

So I’d counter back by telling the person that I really wasn’t making a lot of money. I’d point out that what was really paying the bills was my job as a college professor, and art-making was what I did on the side.

Given that, what was the real risk? Why not try?

And often, I’d hear something like this: “I don’t have the time to do my job and make art–and I’m the type of person where, if I’m all-in, then I’m all-in. I’d want to quit my job and get a studio and make art all day, and that isn’t going to pay the bills.”

I’d think this one, tiny-big thought that has, in a renegade way, been a backbone for all of my success: Paying the bills has nothing to do with why I do, what I do.

Motivated by money, or love?

Why are you doing what you do? For money? Or for love?

Paying the bills has nothing to do with the love of what you do. This is craft. This is creative expression. Whether you want to illustrate, take portraits, become a life coach, train for a marathon, or study algebraic equations, those things that you’re passionate about are not supposed to be entered into because you can make money doing them.

You do them because you must. You do them because a life lived without those things feels empty.

If you love the craft of what you do, you’ll do it on nights and weekends, over your lunch hour. You’ll do it because you love to do it, not for the return and not for awards and not because you’ll get praise.

You’ll do it because you love the drag of a Micron pen on paper, or the click of the piano keys, or feeling your synapses fire as you work through an equation. Whatever your particular thing is, you’ll insert it into your life.

Balancing Craft and Business

Before you get your panties in a bunch: money is, yes, important.

I’m not a trust fund baby. My husband does not support me with his salaried job, so that I can be a coach. When we were applying for a mortgage loan and I told the mortgage officer that I was a life coach, he squinched his eyes and smiled and said, “People can actually make money, doing that?”

Then he reviewed my financial statements. He didn’t ask that question, again.

I have spent time in the early years of entrepreneurial hell where I was looking at my dwindling bank account and wondering how I was going to pay bills.

Money and some business know-how matter, and that’s why I integrate marketing training into my life coach training program.

If you decide that you want to meld business and craft, you need to know how to balance the craft of what you do, with the business of what you do.

If the craft overwhelms the business, you’ll never make money. You’ll stay stuck in creating, without understanding why telling people “I’m a writer” doesn’t result in them banging down your door to hand you paid projects.

If the business overwhelms the craft, you’ll end up hating the work the way you hated your old job. You’ll spend so much time “trying to make money” that you’ll end up neglecting your craft–a recipe for misery.

It Might Be a Hobby

If you truly have no interest or desire to learn about marketing, or if you’re so attached to singing the song of how overwhelming it is to start a business, then your craft might be a hobby.

And for the love of god, what is wrong with that? Not everyone needs to have an Etsy shop and a Twitter account.

What is wrong with taking a typography class, even though you’re not going to invent the next Helvetica? What is wrong with training to become a life coach, and using the skill-set to further your leadership role in the board room at your salaried job? What is wrong with painting in your garage? What is wrong with checking out a geometry textbook from the library and working through pages in your spare time?

Nothing is wrong with that, unless your ego is on the line.

Ego says: You gotta build a business, make six figures, be the person they invite to the next TEDx talk, get the publishing deal. Ego obsessively focuses about all the things that have nothing to do with the essentials of craft, and everything to do with getting hype and cash.

Craft is interested in: does this feed my soul? Is it fulfilling? When I look back on my life, will I be happy that I spent the time I had, engaged in this? Craft says, “Let’s turn this into a business or a book deal because that’s how we get to do more of what we love, not because we’re going to make a lot of money.”

If you decide to meld craft and business, this is important: You must love the craft of what you do above all else, because that’s what will carry you through the learning curve and uncertainty of melding craft and business.

Shades of Gray

I’m not saying it’s either-or, the business or the craft.

Let me be clear: I enjoy hype and cash. Book deals and TEDx talks are on my wish-list.

But–those things pale in comparison to how I feel when I’m working with one of our trainees and she models the most incredible coaching. This doesn’t compare to how I feel about my life over-all, because I make time for writing, every single day.

If I reach the end of my life, and never ink the deal or take the stage, I will be okay.

If I had not spent the last decade of my life as a life coach and writer, it would not be okay.

At some point, your desire must become greater than your excuses. I’ll never do this as a full-time job, so what’s the point; I don’t really have enough time; I’m too old so why bother; I’m too young so why would anyone listen to me?

Who the fuck cares if you’ll never be full-time at this, if it’s what you really want to do with your life? What else are you going to do with your life–surf Facebook all day? Watch three hours of Netflix, every night? Those are the more appealing options? Come on, now.

And you know, if you really, truly want to be full-time at your craft, then you’ll hike up your knickers and learn what you need to learn to make that come to fruition. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Everyone thinks the same ten things about money or time or whatever, when they’re afraid.

Your choice is to decide that your soul’s calling matters more than the fear. That’s all on you.