In the book “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. He discovered that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. For some, the mere mention of 10,000 hours is already in the category of WTF. For others, the first thought is to find a shortcut. But if Gladwell’s conclusion is true, how can we leverage this idea to achieve greatness in our profession? After all, 10,000 hours is only three-and-a-half hours a day for about seven years. Does this sound like too much time? Guess what? The seven years will pass either way.
Here are six insights to help you achieve voiceover mastery.
1. Mastery is a state of practice. Whatever the skill you wish to pursue, the ultimate skill is the art of practicing. Practice is a never-ending path of growth. What may seem like mundane drills or tedious exercises gradually gives way to a meditation of mind, body, and spirit. Ask any top athlete how they perform the most dazzling physical feats, and they’ll tell you that it occurs in the heat of the moment without thinking about it. This is the result of practice. This is how mastery reveals itself.
2. Mastery and expertise are not the same. Expertise is the ability to merge skills, knowledge, and devotion in a specific area. One can reach a level of expertise that becomes routine or static. Mastery, on the other hand, is a lifestyle of pursuing the excellence of evolution. We believe that mastery is not static. We’ve all heard people proudly state, “I can do it with my eyes closed.” That’s the case with static expertise. In the case of mastery, your mind’s eye must always be open to possibility. This way you are available to take on what is new, unexpected, or opportune. Mastery has no level at which it is complete. It is complete only when your life is complete. Even then, it is likely to be passed on in spirit to those with whom you share your skills.
3. Mastery equals humility. Mastery is a state of humility and respect for acquiring knowledge, skills, and intuition. We honor that which we know, that which we seek to know, and that which we do not yet know to seek. Mastery is an evolving acquisition of talent for which quantification has no meaning and only faith and devotion can give rise to. Mastery is an infinite pursuit that only occasionally pierces the fabric of that to which we are completely blind. Blind spots, being what they are, cannot be seen in advance. But we know they are there and on rare occasions, the pursuit of mastery reveals them to us. Be inspired by what you can learn and who you can be.
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6 Insights to Voiceover Mastery Continued…
4. Mastery is a culture. When learning, try on the possibility of swimming out to sea without concern for retaining enough strength to return to shore.
How you learn and what you is governed by your thirst. Quenching your thirst is not the end game but the catalyst for staying thirsty.
The art of practice is never to achieve selfish goals, but to develop wisdom and character as your ultimate commitments.
The mirror, figuratively and actually, is your most trustworthy training partner.
Honor and respect the devotion of your teachers. The ultimate respect you can show your teacher is to embody what is taught.
5. Mastery is the goal. Voiceover acting remains a mystery to most people because of its behind-the-scenes roots and the unspoken code of secrecy that long protected the job security of the few who reigned supreme. For the most part, breaking into the business was all most people felt obliged to contemplate, and the goal was to find the quickest route to making a buck. Mastery wasn’t really a consideration, except for those already so inclined. But with the abundance of digital media ramping up demand came a plethora of low-quality, ill-considered voiceover projects (for which talent are paid slave wages) that diminished the need for the highest quality talent and hence the notion of mastery. There will always be lowbrow productions and there will always be people scrambling for the financial scraps left on the floor.
6. Mastery pierces through mediocrity. As with any field of endeavor, voice acting has plenty of room for mediocrity. And, like any profession, mediocrity makes up the largest slice of the pie. With the proliferation of relatively inexpensive home recording studios, pay-to-play websites, and a ton of online teaching tools, almost anyone can glean a bit of knowledge and prematurely hang out a shingle that says, “voice for hire.” Everyone has to start somewhere, right? The truest path to success, however, is the pursuit of mastery at all levels of the business. The pursuit of mastery doesn’t mean you won’t have bumps in the road. In fact, it may mean even bigger challenges initially. But by virtue of making mastery your goal, you will develop an internal compass that guides you through the morass of mediocrity to a career that you will love and enjoy while working with appreciative clients who pay you fairly for your talent.
Acknowledging the pursuit of mastery opens new doors and possibilities that are not possible with a shortsighted take-the-money-and run approach. Mastery is a higher path. When you choose to walk this path, you and everyone around you will benefit.
Go forth, grasshopper.