A Star is Born - Thoughts on a Physically Painful Voice

I was reading this article today about how Bradley Cooper created the voice for his character in A Star is Born and I feel upset.

Please, please don't read stuff like this and think this is how voice training is done. Please don't read stuff like this and try to emulate anything described.

Some takeaways:

Cooper.jpg

1. Pain is a message. Pain when vocalizing is a major message!

If your voice hurts or you are losing your voice, that is a sign that there are some training and vocal health strategies you need to enact. When using vocal technique and support, you should be able to speak for hours, perform for days without strain or pain. And yes, you can come back from strain, polyps, etc.

2. Are you training? Who is on your team?

Anyone who uses their voice for a living should have vocal training and a personal practice. Your voice is the result of a bunch of muscles working together in coordination. You wouldn't compete in a triathlon or in the NFL without prior training, regular practice, and having a warm-up and cool-down on days when you need to be "on."

3. Training Matters

A vocal coach that isn't teaching clients how to speak without strain (and hasn't taught a client that your oesophagus is where the food goes, not the voice) scares me. I don't know this one, they aren't interviewed, and I'm certainly not here to criticise their approach. It seems Cooper missed something - or the interviewer did- which then promotes misperceptions to readers.

4. Good technique increases your options

You can create a voice for your character that is lower, higher, and otherwise different from your optimum voice. Your voice must be supported by your body, not ripping your vocal folds - and not "physically painful to create".


If you watch A Star Is Born (or watch the preview), keep in mind how painful Cooper's chosen voice is - and that there are other choices available to you. Suffering and intentionally creating injury is needless - even for us masochists.


Takeaways:

Have a regular vocal practice. Get a voice teacher as part of your team. I want you to reflect now on who constitutes your team to support your profession and what practices you have daily, weekly, monthly, and annually to keep you growing and going.

Your industry is difficult enough. Longevity matters.


Recognized for her passion, knowledge, and support of her clients’ individual journeys toward their best selves, Frances Mulinix brings over 20 years of experience in coaching, voice, movement, and performance to support her clients in breaking down blocks, opening the voice, and reaching achievements they had previously not thought possible. Transform your relationship to your mind, body, and voice, bringing new confidence and creativity to your life.


Transform Your Talk: Ten Tips

TransformYourTalk.jpg

 

When working with clients preparing to give a presentation, we rehearse and break down the speech in detail. We also get into how best to prepare prior to the talk, how to manage unexpected things that might occur during the talk, and how to decompress afterward. Here are some general considerations to get you started:

1. Drink Water

It is important to hydrate your voice well before your talk, even more so if you are in a dry environment or tend to get a dry mouth when speaking. If you are using a microphone, it will amplify those qualities in your voice even further. A warm-up that incorporates your articulators will help to prevent tongue suction and popping. If possible, have water with you when speaking. Don't be afraid to pause at an opportune point in your presentation in order to take a drink if you need it.

2. Get Excited, Not Anxious. 

When we drive a car, we don't stare at the barriers. Instead, we look where we want to go. Prior to a competition, athletes will go through every aspect of the game or course, imagining everything detail. As Vanessa Van Edwards says, "Anxiety and excitement are similar emotions the only difference is mindset." Focus on where you want to go, on how exciting this opportunity is. Instead of thinking, "I have to do this" change your mindset into "I get to do this!"

 

TransformYourTalk3.jpg

3. Channel Your Nerves

While waiting, move your body. Walk, shake out your hands, contract and release your muscles without movement at the joints, push against a wall. Listen to a song that gets you dancing. Use power poses

4. Breathe

Bring your awareness to your breathing and consciously drop it down into your diaphragm. If you feel adrenaline course through your body or anxiety rachet up, simply inhale for a slow count of four, exhale for a slow count of four. Inhale for a slow count of five, exhale for a slow count of five. Inhale for a slow count of six, exhale for a slow count of six. Inhale for a slow count of seven, exhale for a slow count of seven.   

5. Move with Purpose

When speaking, nervous speakers will often sway or pace or gesticulate in ways that are distracting. It's a good idea to video yourself in order to notice your "tells." A good strategy is the "rule of three" sometimes used in theatre.If you notice that you are repeating a gesture more than three times, you are not supporting your words. Instead, walk a "map" of your ideas. When making a new point, walk to a new spot. If getting personal or driving a point home, walk toward the audience. If the room needs to breathe, or you are speaking more universally, put greater space between yourself and the audience. 

Source: http://voice-international.com/

Source: http://voice-international.com/

6. Your greatest Asset is Your Voice

The quality of your voice can support the content of your talk or detract from it. Developing a voice that is expressive, powerful, and authentic is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself. This includes the musicality of your voice, the pace with which you speak, how and where you pause, the words you emphasize, and more. The more skilled and intentional you are with your voice, the better you can craft your talk, and the more influential you are.

7. Allow People to Adjust to Your Delivery

Open your talk with a well-rehearsed opening and speak at a slightly slower pace with attention to emphasis and inflection. This will give the audience time to "tune their ear" to the sound of your voice and any accent differences between you.

Pictured: Artiz Aduriz

Pictured: Artiz Aduriz

8. The Audience Wants You to Succeed

Remember that each person in the audience took the time to show up to see your talk. They want you to do well. Few speakers are their best if they perceive the audience as antagonists. Come in with an energy of welcome, high regard, and excitement. Put your focus on them instead of your nervousness and you will transform as a speaker.  

9. Allow For the Unexpected

No matter how much you rehearse, allow there to be room for something to happen. Technical glitches, or tripping over your own feet doesn't have to be embarrassing or a "loss of face," it can be an opportunity. Have a joke ready or be prepared to ad lib. The audience might take it as an opportunity to relax. 

10. Be Prepared To Be Done.

It is a skillful speaker who has a decompression strategy in place. A presentation will take a lot of energy and may stir up anxiety - which will lead to a crash. You may also experience a lot of emotions stirred up inside you. Have something set up beforehand such as a debrief with a trusted friend, sit down and write a reflection, go for a walk, or sit in a hot tub or bath. Take some deep breaths, shake out your hands.

Sources And Further Reading:

A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage

Does body language help a TED Talk go viral? 5 nonverbal patterns from blockbuster talks

You Are Contagious - Vanessa Van Edwards

Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are - Amy Cuddy

Is Your Voice Ruining Your Life? - Roger Love

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


#CreativeInnovative with Emma Dean: Leading From The Heart

Emma Dean Reflects on Forging A Unique Creative Path And Using The Healing Power of Music to Build Community

 

This is the fourth in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Born in Brisbane, Emma Dean is Australia's best-kept musical secret. A genre-bending powerhouse with a heavenly voice, she garners accolades and conquers the hearts of audiences and critics wherever she performs. In 2013, she lit New York's off-Broadway scene on fire and the New York Post named her “one of 10 artists to know." 

Returning to Brisbane, Emma fell in love with music all over again. While her work has always been ethereal and electric,  this latest phase of her career is a whole different level of musical magic - new creative collaborations, a community choir, and a business collective.

Emma Dean's many contributions to the communities in which she comes into contact are immeasurable. She is someone who lifts up and inspires others simply by embodying what it is to be a creative entrepreneur who leads with her heart. 

Note: "Tall Poppy Syndrome" refers to an aspect of Australian culture where people who are seen as aspiring to excellence are targeted, resented, criticised. It is often contrasted with the way America tends to celebrate those who work hard with the dream of attaining success.


F: You have spent a lot of time in Australia, but also have worked in New York. 

E: Yes, Brisbane is home. Though, I have lived in both Sydney and New York. Both of these places were vibrant and alive, but I have found I need somewhere smaller and quieter to create. 

F: How did the New York scene compare to communities in Australia? 

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

E: Both Aussies and New Yorkers are a friendly bunch. The thing I loved most about New York was the non-existence of ‘tall poppy syndrome’. If you were talented and good at what you do, people would WANT to work with you, not find a way to cut you down. What I missed about Brisbane, in particular, was space and time. Everyone in New York was so busy, juggling multiple jobs, sometimes just to get by. I missed having the space (I lived in a shoebox) and time to invite friends over to eat and jam and drink wine. 

Working in New York taught me about what I didn’t want. I saw firsthand what I needed to do in order to climb the ‘ladder of success’ as an original musician and I realized I wasn’t cut out for it. So, I had to redefine what ‘success’ meant for me. I continue to redefine it’s meaning all the time, but I always come down to a few simple things: Success, to me, is to lead a rich life, full of adventure, earning a comfortable living from musical pursuits, working to create a supportive and thriving musical community, helping people find their unique creative voice, and always nurturing my own. 

F: What skills served you in these different places?

E: In New York I was often asked, “So, are you any good?” As an Australian with a long history of dealing with ‘tall poppy syndrome’, my ‘humble’ answers often sparked remarks like, “Oh stop all this false modesty!” I found that really challenging. I was also told, at the age of 29 that I should lie and say I was 24. New York certainly taught me how to hustle, took me to my edges, and brought me out of my shell. I still struggle with confidence, but I do believe the experience of living in New York made me prove to myself that I am tougher than I think! 

F: You have released EPs with an American label. What has it been like engaging with companies in America and Australia?

E: I had a really positive experience with Candy Rat Records in America. One of the owners – Holly - I now call my ‘US Mum’! They were very nurturing, which I think is a quality lacking in a lot of music companies these days where the emphasis is to keep churning out new material rather than nurturing and growing raw talent. Nowadays I don’t have much experience dealing with companies at all, as I am 100% independent. If I met someone who wanted to work with me, I would need to feel nurtured and safe and that they were as passionate about my work as I am. 

F: Tell me a little about your background in the arts.

Photographer: Kate Davies @ KD Photography

Photographer: Kate Davies @ KD Photography

E: I started at a classical ballet school when I was 2 and a classical music school when I was 3. By the age of 6, I was learning classical violin and a few years later, a horrible dance teacher told my mum that my bum was too big to be a ballerina, so as much as I loved dance, an emphasis was placed strongly on music. In late primary school I began learning piano, though I was a terrible student and only wanted to write my own music rather than learn the pieces my teacher had given me! I was terribly shy growing up, so I used to lock myself away in my bedroom and compose songs, kind of like a diary entry. When I was 13, I started my first band – Halo. We performed my biggest gig to date, at The Brisbane Entertainment Centre in front of about 7000 people, when I was just 14. Band politics and hormonal teenage girls did not make for a good mix, so the band broke up a couple of years later. Though it sparked my love of singing, so I auditioned for the school musical – Little Shop Of Horrors – and got in as the lead character, Audrey. After school, I had a gap year and completed by AMus A in classical violin and then went on to audition successfully for the Queensland Conservatorium Of Music in Jazz Voice and completed my Bachelor Of Music. I have also trained with Brisbane physical theatre company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, which gave me a brilliant insight and awareness of my body and made me remember how much I love to move, beautiful big bum and all! 

F: Your projects often involve collaboration with other creative professionals and incorporate music with dance. What are the benefits and challenges of working this way?

E: I have tried to ‘go solo’ and I just get lonely. One of my favourite spaces is the rehearsal room, bouncing ideas off other creatives. It’s a space that can open your mind to new possibilities; things you might not have thought of before. As previously mentioned, I grew up studying dance, so movement has been an important part of my performance history. As much as I adore music, I have been equally as intrigued with the physical interpretation of it, and adore pieces with both music and movement. I suppose it is a natural progression to merge the two art forms in my work. 

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/album/dr-dream-and-the-imaginary-pop-cabaret

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/album/dr-dream-and-the-imaginary-pop-cabaret

F: How did you decide to take your art in this direction?

E: I actually wanted to get into acting so I contacted Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre and they so bravely asked if I wanted to audition for one of their productions – The Tempest. I got the role as Arial and this is where I met my dance collaborator, Jamie Kendall. The rest is history. 

F: Did this require you to take on additional training?

E: Yes! I began training with Zen Zen Zo and was in a number of their productions. I had to increase my fitness and get reacquainted with my body. It was life-changing. 

F: What drives you to be a musician?

E: It is when I feel most in flow, and connected to myself and the world around me. 

F: Am I correct in understanding that you have managed to make music an aspect of all of your jobs as a performer and teacher. How did you make that choice?

E: Yes, you are right! This has been the case for a number of years now, and I am blessed to have this reality. I perform, write songs, teach, arrange choir music, hold workshops and conduct my community choir – Cheep Trill. I made that choice because I’m not good at anything else. Ha ha! 

F: How do you create? From where do you draw your inspiration?

E: It depends. I used to really completely on the creative force to strike me down. Then things got busy. I am sometimes part of the I Heart Songwriting Group which encourages members to write one song in an hour each week. When it comes to my arrangements, I have to be very disciplined as I’m usually on very strict deadlines. 

F: When I look at your biography, I don’t know where to start, you have performed with Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, been nominated for a myriad of awards, played sold-out shows, and, above all, are known for creating moving and innovative performances. When you consider your career thus far, of what accomplishments are you most proud?

E: Starting my community choir, Cheep Trill, which is now 150 singers strong and in two locations in Brisbane; writing a vocal arrangement of You’re the Voice for John Farnham to sing with 2500 choristers, singing out about domestic violence; moving to New York and giving it a red hot go; and the work I am currently doing with my brother – our upcoming EP and Cabaret, Broken Romantics A Vicious Song Cycle… 

F: How do you manage burnout/feed yourself creatively? 

E: Wine. 

F:  Part of the Vibrance philosophy is that some training in voice, movement, and performance gives individuals concrete and adaptable skills that enable them to excel at whatever endeavours they choose.

E: Yes, I agree! I think voice/movement/performance skills train you to listen, to adapt, to compromise, to negotiate, to work alongside other people who have similar beliefs AND different beliefs. I also think training in these ways gets you in touch with who YOU are – with your body, your mind, your soul. 

F: Yes, exactly! And in your own experience, what adaptable skills have you gained through your training that you apply in other contexts?

E: My singing training has helped me with public speaking. My jazz and improvising training has helped me to create work on the fly, under pressure. My movement training has helped me to be more at peace with my own unique body. Working in performance teams has taught me how to work alongside other humans in a respectful way. 

F: Then how do you set boundaries with regards to managing your personal from your creative spaces?

E: I am an incredibly private person and live alone. However, I also teach and work from home so I am constantly having to invite people into my personal space so I can work. I try to set boundaries around work times, however, this is an ongoing process for me that I am constantly refining. 

 

F: Do you use intuition and aesthetic to help you manage this process?

I am trying to listen to my intuition more when it comes to work. I am trying to embrace Michael Leunig’s JOMO (the joy of missing out) mentality, as my tendency is to take on too much work, even if it doesn’t feel right. I think as freelance artists we get used to saying YES to everything for fear that the work will one day dry up. I’m trying to shift this and feel into my decisions more. Is it a F*** YES or just a YES? 

F: Your work involves you being involved in several communities - the music community, theatre community, and wider community. What drives you to do this? What do you get out of this engagement?

E: I feel like I am mostly connected with communities I have built myself, such as Cheep Trill community choir. The reason for this is because I have never really felt like I fit in a box or been part of the music or theatre communities. Instead I have lived on the fringe of all of these worlds. 

F: That's one of the incredible things about you, the entrepreneur in you creates something unique and the artist in you fills it it magic! Tell me about your community choir Cheep Trill. How did your idea to form it originate?

E: The idea was born from loneliness and a lack of community when I was living in New York. I decided I would move back home to Brisbane and I wrote a facebook status asking if anyone would be interested in joining a singing group. The next day I opened my email and facebook and had approximately one hundred inquiries. The choir has grown exponentially and we now have two locations and 150 members. 

From our humble beginnings rehearsing on a verandah in Everton Park, we have expanded into two locations. This allows us to keep growing but also keep an intimate feel at rehearsals. We have a north and a south side location to also cater for people’s many a varying locations. 

F:  What are your proudest accomplishments?

One of my proudest moments was arranging ‘You’re The Voice’ for 2500 choristers (including Cheep Trill) to sing at a Queensland Music Festival performance, singing out about domestic violence. John Farnham made a surprise appearance and sang the arrangement with the choir. It was the only different arrangement of that song that John Farnham had ever sung. 

Another proud moment was singing at Queensland Performance Arts Centre concert hall stage and ROCKING OUT! Also, seeing the female Cheep Trill members accompany Deb Conway, Clare Bowditch and a bunch of other amazing female artists at The Tivoli, singing my arrangement of Hymn To Her by Pretenders. 

F: That's remarkable - and in a comparatively short time. It also strikes me that Cheep Trill integrates your skills as a composer/arranger, teacher/conductor, and singer/musician. You have been teaching private lessons for several years. What first drew you to teaching?

E: At first, it was quite simply the need to fund my art (and being a bad waitress). 

F: Who do you teach?

E: I have actually quit my teaching job in 2017 because choir work was getting too busy. I was teaching beginners or people with naturally good voices but limited experience, mostly between the ages of 20-40. 

F: Wow, that's really exciting! What approaches have you developed to work with choirs or individuals?

E: I put emphasis in finding my students’ unique voice and working with that, rather than teaching a particular technique or telling them how they should sound. 

I try to make each lesson fun as well as informative and challenging

I value wo rds, so putting strong emphasis on story telling as well as technique 

F: Describe your dream student

E: Someone hungry to learn, able to take constructive criticism, someone who practices, who listens, who is excited to try new genres and who is interested in song arrangement and writing! 

Source: Emma Dean's YouTube channel

Source: Emma Dean's YouTube channel

F: What do you say to people who claim to “not be creative”?

E: I’d probably say ‘B******t’. Then I would try to create something with them and prove them wrong. 

F: How can musical training benefit someone who doesn’t wish to be a singer or musician?

E: Listening skills, confidence, connection, storytelling, public speaking, controlling nerves and breathing, fun and play, creative release, a sense of belonging, a sense of achievement…and the list goes on. 

F: What are the moments that reward you as a teacher?

E: When someone walks away from a lesson feeling happier and more connected than when they walked in. Simple. 

F: In your own learning, did you have any teachers who were pivotal ? What qualities or actions made them so influential? 

E: My high school music teacher, Narelle McCoy! She is a firey, passionate, highly intelligent red head and she forced me to audition for the school musical after I had been in hospital with depression. She believed in me and showed me that I could do more than I ever imagined. She was the reason I realised I could become a singer and probably the reason I had red hair for so long too! 

Source: https://www.tigercommon.com/

Source: https://www.tigercommon.com/

F: What is your business?  What is unique about it/them?

E: The Tiger Common is my music school. We are different because we place emphasis on community and try to connect our students as much as we can, through choir, workshops and other informal events. Our mission is to encourage creativity, human connection, self-love and respect through the magical and healing powers of music.

F: How did you get into starting your own business?

E: I had already started Cheep Trill and I was working with Tony Dean (my brother) and Corinne Buzianczuk and we were looking to ‘formalise’ what we did and include our teaching work and workshops. It was a natural progression. 

F: Do you feel that there are unique challenges when ones’s business is so personal?

E: It is certainly harder to not take conflict personally when you run a heart-based business. But I have learnt that the bigger we get, the more likely it is that we will not be able to please everyone. 

F: What was the toughest learning curve that you experienced?

E: The toughest thing to do so far was splitting the choir in two. We were responding to so many location requests and we thought the best idea would be to have a north and a south side location. However, many of the choristers believed this meant we were splitting up the family. Another tough learning curve was to figure out what to do when we would receive gig requests for a choir of 50 people. We have 150. We are still figuring this out! 

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/track/feed-it

Source: https://emmadean.bandcamp.com/track/feed-it

F: What are the most useful strategies that support your business and work?

E: Honestly, the key is communication. Tony, Corinne and I have a whatsapp thread that has been invaluable and we have regular in person meetings. Knowing where all our different strengths lie has been incredible. 

F: What performer skills have come in useful in your business?

E: Standing in front of a choir for two hours two nights a week and trying to teach as well as entertain is a performance in itself. My career as a performer has been invaluable! 

F: Is there a tension between your career as an artist and your business?

E: Only when it comes to scheduling!  In terms of the creative stuff, the business feeds into the artist stuff and vice versa! I feel more balanced than ever before because both itches are being scratched. The business also helps to take the pressure off needing to make a certain amount of money from my artistic pursuit! 

F: How do you go about networking/promoting your business?

E: Word of mouth has been the most valuable thing alongside performing in front of new audiences! 

F: What challenges does your business experience?

E: Community choirs have TAKEN OFF here in Brisbane (and perhaps everywhere!) which is a wonderful thing. Recently we had an experience where we had an idea to expand the business and reached out to a venue with a proposal. We didn’t hear back and then next thing we knew, an acquaintance was doing the exact idea we proposed at the same venue… This might have been a coincidence, but it took me about six months to emotionally recover. Now I keep things closer to my chest and instead of comparing our business to others, I focus on making our business the best it can be. 

F: Yes! I have definitely seen that happen a few times in a city like Brisbane, unfortunately. When I get excited, I like to share or bounce ideas off others and I have to remember to stay quiet. Where do you see your business going?

E: I actually don’t want it to get much bigger, because the sense of community is lost when it gets too big. I am being contracted to do a lot of other choir work outside of Cheep Trill which is keeping me busy without disrupting the preciousness of my own choir community. 

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

Source: http://www.emmadean.com/

F: What is the most draining aspect of your business?

E: It involves constant, time-consuming  music arranging and having to be somewhere in real time to actually make money.  So there is no passive income, it’s just a bit of a long hard slog. A slog which I love and enjoy, but a slog nonetheless! 

 

F: And how do you manage maintain your enthusiasm for this work? 

E: As mentioned, I don’t manage this very well. Wine? 

 

You can follow Emma Dean through her websiteInstagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube channel or on Candyrat Records. You can read further interviews with Emma Dean and articles about her career here.

We didn't have nearly enough time to cover everything! I invite you to learn more about The Tiger Common, a collaboration between Emma Dean, Tony Dean, and Corinne Buzianczuk offering creative workshops, musical coaching, and the community choir Cheep Trill in order to build a community united by a love of music.

 

We can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: 


Success Is...

With the beginning of a new year, it is common to take stock and set goals for the months ahead. An important aspect of this process is to understand the elements of what ensures success. There are six skills that successful people excel at and you can develop to ensure your success. This framework shapes the Vibrance philosophy and influences how we teach our clients.

 

1. Grit

Grit is a marathon, not a sprint
— Angela Lee Duckworth
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The foundation for success is grit. Grit means having the motivation to work toward your goals, the perseverance to keep going when things get difficult, and the passion to keep your heart and soul in the work. As Duckworth argues, Grit is key to success.

Impress this on your mind: grit is not based on talent or intelligence. In fact, those with talent may become complacent, preferring to coast along thinking they can fool everyone. Despite being intelligent, individuals may be ill-equipped with problem-solving skills to meet challenges and setbacks. Grit will get you where you are determined to go, and the skills you acquire along the way will make you more successful at success.

 Part of grit is developing a growth mindset. This contrasts with a fixed mindset, the belief that failure must be avoided at all costs because it reflects a failure of the individual's intelligence or character. A growth mindset acknowledges that the human mind is plastic. It adapts and changes all the time. This means that we always have the ability to learn if we put in the effort and grow our passion for learning. Think of what you would teach a child, that they are not a failure, but rather their plan was not adequate to meet the demands of the situation or that they have not yet acquired all the skills they need to meet the challenge. Failure is never permanent if you cultivate a growth mindset. 

My husband has an incredible a growth mindset and I learn much from his example. He was raised with the ADB philosophy, Always Do Your Best. The outcome was less important than process as long as he was doing his best. If he knew that he was and learning along the way he was realizing his potential. My husband has taught me that there is always a solution, one simply needs to find it.

 

2. Discipline

Discipline builds on your gritty foundation. To succeed at anything you must put in the time. More than that, it must be quality, focused time. You cannot phone it in. You must be fully present and bring your complete concentration to the activity.

learn-practice-and-improve-on-three-red-dice-for-betting-on-your-future-in-attaining-new-s-Stock-Photo.jpeg

 

For some endeavors, this takes the form of practice. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of diligent practice? This is certainly part of the puzzle in situations with stable structures and unchanging rules. Individuals must also be good at practicing and know how they best learn. This means constantly building skills and aptitude, raising the bar constantly so that there is failure at times, and having a feedback loop in order to perceive areas for improvement and to take appropriate action (think of dancers practicing with a mirror or artists attending a weekly class).

Always do your best .jpg

I like to use sports analogies because people understand that athletics entail effort, challenge, focus, hours, practice, and difficulty - elements that some are less willing to apply to other areas of their lives. A person gets stronger quickly at the gym by lifting heavy weights until failure (8-12 reps) meaning their muscles simply cannot complete the exercise with full range and structural integrity. They will use the mirror, peer feedback, and video recordings to improve their form. They will follow a regime that challenges them mentally and physically while ensuring adequate recovery and nutrition to maintain progress. Lastly, they will incorporate enough diversity that they stay passionate and prevent injury, tedium, and burnout. 

For other contexts where there are no set rules or constantly changing frameworks, as is often the case with creative and entrepreneurial endeavours, practice, however diligent is not the X factor, Instead, discipline may take on another form. A choreographer will get into the studio space 4-5 days a week, an artist will paint for a set number of hours a day, a writer will commit to writing a certain number of words before bed. A stockbroker building a client base may determine a quota of cold calls for the afternoon, a medical specialist may read a specific number of articles a week, an entrepreneur building a business will decide upon a minimum number of meetings a fortnight. 

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most consistent and successful comedians in the industry. On Lifehacker, Brad Isaac relays a story regarding receiving advice from Seinfeld about becoming successful. Seinfeld has since claimed that this advice was never his to give, but the  "Seinfeld Method" remains the stuff of legend. Isaac claimed,

"[Seinfeld] said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

'After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.' ”

3. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are often described as "soft skills" (to contrast with the "hard skills" of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and are becoming recognized as more important than ever.

These include:

  • communication skills (verbal, non-verbal communication, listening skills)
  • emotional intelligence
  • team-working
  • negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills
  • conflict resolution
  • problem-solving and decision-making

As Cathy N. Davidson describes, 

"among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas [....]

[Google] enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs [....]

Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety.  "

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    One of the simplest ways you can develop your interpersonal skills is to slow down, listen, and observe without immediately thinking of what you want to say or of the next place to which you must run off. Try it with your friends and romantic partners, listen to them without trying to solve problems or to judge. Try it with your coworkers and notice what changes.

    Another important skill to develop is to understand facial expressions. This will allow individuals to better develop connection, rapport, and trust, in an individual's professional and personal life. Facial expressions have been found to be universal across cultures, both in interpretation and production. There are seven basic emotions, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. This field has been widely developed by Dr. Paul Eckman. We now understand the concept of micro-expressions, involuntary responses that can be as brief as 1/30 of a second, and therefore can be a very honest portrayal of emotion. 

    Vibrance offers programs to build interpersonal skills in young people and adults.

    4. Failure (is Success)

    You will become clever through your mistakes.
    — German proverb

    Ooooof, this one is very difficult for me!

    Set time at the start of the week and month to set new goals and reassess old ones. Starting now, your aim is to fail at 20-50% of the goals you set yourself while aiming to attain 100% of them.

    This indicates that you are setting goals that are just the right challenge, with the stakes being high enough that  you must exert yourself. If failure is possible, you will work harder - within reason.

    With my school-aged students, I will often pick up a pencil, do a bicep curl, and ask "will this make me stronger quickly?"

    "No," they will say.

    "If I used a much heavier weight instead, will this make me stronger?"

    "Yes!" they exclaim.

    "If I try to pick up a truck, will I get stronger?"

    Mixed answers.

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    "No, I won't because a truck is too heavy for my muscles to engage at all" (at least at this stage). If the bar is set too high, it can be demoralizing, failure seems certain. Here is where my husband offers another bit of wisdom, how do you eat an elephant? The answer?One bite at a time. Break larger tasks into manageable pieces. Maybe I cannot lift an entire truck, but I could work on flipping one of its tires, once, then twice, then ten times and more.

    That being said, ensure that you don't become attached to output or outcome. Some days may not appear productive. You may be gathering inspiration, learning a new skill,  or finding yourself going down some dead-ends before finding the right path.

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Another sports analogy: I attended a triathlon workshop that focused on transitions. Being new to this sport, I had not realized how much strategy and practice is involved in ensuring smooth transitions that will support your overall performance at a triathlon event! The coach reminded us to keep moving forward and to find economy in movement. When switching from the swimming to the cycling, have your equipment arranged so that you can bend down once instead of multiple times. Then move forward as you finish buckling your helmet and arranging your number. If you practice enough, you can even keep your cycling shoes clicked into your pedals and learn to fasten your shoes as you get onto the bike! Find ways to introduce economy of effort into your day and know that forward momentum (whether a slow plod or a lightning-fast sprint) is progress. Sometimes, just showing up and putting in a diligent effort is forward momentum.

    Failure is how one learns. Whenever I am embarking on a creative endeavour, it feels as if I have to fail a few times in order to figure out how I need to do it. Bring curiosity to your risks and focus on mastery instead of success. We see this in children. A toddler learning to roll over or to walk will try and fail - until they succeed. As we get older, failure is associated with shame and fear of looking incompetent to others. As adults, we must ensure that we support failure in others and facilitate reflection and learning. Perform post-mortems of your own failures without ego or shame, commit to remediating any areas in which you need to improve, and your progress will be exponential.  This is growth mindset in action.

    Embracing failure will also reduce suffering. Think of the opportunities you have missed due to fear of failure, the agony you experienced when venturing into unchartered territory resulted in a mess instead of success. How might you have changed your experience by looking for the learning opportunities in every "failure?"

     

    5. Mentorship

    In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.
    — Phil Collins
    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Better yet, conduct post-mortems with a mentor. Find someone you respect, who shares some of our values, and is willing to give you their time. Ideally, this would be on a monthly basis. In health occupations, this is a common aspect of professional development. A mentor can offer you perspective, inspiration, and accountability. Be prepared to be vulnerable and transparent. Picking the right mentor is vital. They must be able to balance empathy with neutrality. Ensure that they do not shut you down or frustrate your vision, but that they still challenge you and hold you to account.

    In the future as you progress, consider mentoring others. Again, ensure this is free from your ego. We often learn best by teaching others and it supports perspective-taking. Don't become attached to your mentee's progress. In my dramaturgy course, I remember my close friend talking about the choreographer she was working with. My friend personally didn't find the performance that they were working on personally engaging however, she realized that it didn't matter. The performance wasn't her "baby." Her role was to support this choreographer in bringing forth her baby.

     

    6. Voice and Body

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    Often, my clients come to me hating the sound of their voices. Therefore, when they speak to others, it is under duress and tension. They will even say their own name apologetically or with contempt, revoking the power of their existence. Listen to your voicemail message and hear how you say your name.

    Voice teacher Roger Love rightly us to percieve our voices exist as a gift for others. If we want to speak to our selves, we can simply speak in our minds. In order to reach others, we much open our mouths.    By thinking of our voices as a gift, this moves our attention away from our selves, our nerves, our inner-talk so we can focus on reaching the other person and reading their responses.

    People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. The way that you speak informs your listeners as to whether they consider you a knowledgeable and trustworthy person. For example, if I end every statement as if I am asking a question, I am unlikely to convince a client that I know what I am doing or have anything useful to teach them. If I use a monotone speaking voice, I am unlikely to maintain a client's attention long enough for them to retain any information I am trying to share.

    The body, breath, and voice are inexorably linked. Amy Cuddy's research focusses on the way that body language impacts our body chemistry, the way we see ourselves, and the way we are seen. In training the body and voice we can transform our lives. 

    Peter Strick's research uncovered evidence indicating that our stress responses are tied to the primary sensory and motor cortices through complex networks:

    "The motor areas in the brain connect to the adrenal glands. In the primary motor cortex of the brain, there’s a map of the human body—areas that correspond to the face, arm, and leg area, as well as a region that controls the axial body muscles (known to many people now as 'the core').

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    The Pitt team didn't think the primary motor cortex would control the adrenal medulla at all. But there are a whole lot of neurons there that do. And when you look at where those neurons are located, most are in the axial muscle part of that cortex.

    'Something about axial control has an impact on stress responses,' Strick reasons. 'There’s all this evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress. And when you see somebody that's depressed or stressed out, you notice changes in their posture. When you stand up straight, it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel.  Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress. And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.' "

    The body is how we encounter and filter the world. This, in response, shapes our inner world which, in turn, influences how we re-encounter and interpret our surroundings in a constant loop.

    Vibrance specialises in training the body and voice to be free of unnecessary tension, to be dynamic, supple, and supportive of our presence in the world.

     

    Other Reading:

    Six elements of success adapted from Science of People

     

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


    #CreativeInnovative with Natalie Schneck: Dancing the Bottom Line

    Natalie Schneck On Bringing Dance to Every Body, Building a Business, and Achieving Balance

    This is the first in a regular series of blog posts in which I speak with exciting artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs exploring how their creative skills have enabled them to do incredible things in their personal and professional lives.

    You can find all of these interviews by searching for the tag #CreativeInnovative.

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    Natalie Schneck is a performer, dancer, choreographer, teacher, and entrepreneur. She is the Founder and Owner of the dance company 123 Steps Ahead. As 123 Steps Ahead's first American partner, Vibrance is very excited to bring this program to the Atlanta area in 2018. Stay tuned!

    F: We first met each other in 2004 and were in the same theatre ensemble at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts. While we remained friends, our lives have taken us in different paths. However, what is remarkable is how our complementary underlying values have directed our lives. This has led to an exciting new chapter, a partnership allowing us to foster and support each other professionally. 

    N: Yes, you and I ended up in quite an eclectic ensemble at SFU and what was great about the group was the collective work ethic we created. I feel like that work ethic combined with a strong inclination for innovation and creativity has absolutely brought us to this new and exciting chapter! 

    F: To start with, tell me a little about your training in the arts.

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    N: I’ve been involved in creative arts since preschool. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta. As a teenager I performed in several musical theatre shows both in and out of school, and took some dance lessons. I went on to complete a BFA in theatre performance from SFU followed by a year intensive of contemporary dance technique and choreographic training at Concordia University in Montreal. Throughout my training, I was often creating and performing in my own theatre and dance works or in the work of other artists. One of the highlights of my performance career was my very first professional dance contract in French choreographer Jerome Bel’s international hit piece, The Show Must Go On. I also had the pleasure of dancing in a creation by Catherine Gaudet for the 2015 TransFormation program.  I have been lucky to have my own work shown across Canada, in Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, and Toronto. Recently, I created and performed a show in Vancouver with musician and composer Elliot Vaughan, under Iffy South, his band's name.

    F: Has your training taken you to other places? What are some of the most interesting locations you have experienced? 

    N: Yes, I took a trip to Berlin and Poznań, Poland a few years ago and spent time in the underground dance clubs moving to industrial music, eurodance, and dubstep. I also saw shows at small theatres and cabarets. I’ll never forget witnessing the woman dancing alone in a park in Poland, the park was idealistic in its landscaping while she was totally disheveled in her movements. These images and experiences continue to be very inspiring and informative for my artistic work. 

    More formally, I took dance workshops with Polish and American artists in Portland as part of the TBA festival and I found that city energetic and also soothing, especially during festival time. I also took classes in NYC and that was cool, being taught by former Russian ballet stars in Manhattan and then learning from a contemporary company in Brooklyn, it was a good experience to get both types of work in my body. Then, being chosen to work with Compagnie Marie Chouinard in Montreal for an répertorie intensive of The Rite of Spring. I loved that! So imaginative and open, a lot of release and breath work and you can see this softness and responsiveness in the bodies of her dancers. 

    F: You have created some incredible projects, many of which are collaborative and call on your ability to communicate. 

    N: Thank you! Yes, communication really is a skill. 

    F: What are the benefits and challenges of collaboration? 

    N: The benefits are that you are working with people and the challenges are that you are working with people! Haha. But in all seriousness, when you collaborate you are able to work with another perspective, another skill set and another sensibility, this can be such a strength if it aligns well.  The challenge is separating the actual work from one’s own personal projections and what I call “stuff” while still expressing a sensitivity and openness – it is quite delicate and requires a lot of presence. I always think about laying the most fertile and fun ground for someone else to flourish and for his or her ideas to come to fruition - for each person that looks quite different. A good question I like to remember is, “what does this person need right now?” 

    F: Yes, I find myself asking the same thing! It’s a totally different mindset when you make it about where the other person is “at” and use that awareness to shape your communication with them.

    N: Yes, communication has to be flexible because connecting with other people requires flexibility, people come to the lunch or coffee table with a lot of their own stuff and it’s complicated. Flexibility and knowing when to actively listen is important. 

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    "communication has to be flexible because connecting with other people requires flexibility, people come to the lunch or coffee table with a lot of their own stuff and it’s complicated. Flexibility and knowing when to actively listen is important."

     

    F: For you, what are some of the accomplishments of which you are most proud?

    N: First, I am developing a life for myself that is true to who I am (this is ongoing), I have lived where I want to live, I have allowed myself time and space to become and evolve as an artist, I have met amazing and inspiring people from all walks of life. 

    The second is in creating the 123 Steps Ahead program and seeing the positive impact it is having on people, it really is a feeling like no other. 

    Third is my education. I think education is so important and I really do have mine to thank as a gateway to a different and beautiful life. 

    F: How did you decide to take your art in the direction of creating 123 Steps Ahead? 

    N: I started working in education in Montreal and I saw the benefits of physical educational programming. I also Loved the kids and wanted to be able to take my training and experience in the arts into a program that would benefit them long term. 

    I am passionate about dance being for everybody and I fundamentally believe in this. This does not mean that I think “democratizing dance” is better than say training intensively in ballet since the time one was three. Rather, it is a different way of seeing a possible dance training trajectory for someone. I have an innate sense of justice I think the 123 philosophy really is an extension of this.

    F: Did this require you to take on additional training/encountered learning curves?

    N: I did the additional year of training at Concordia in Montreal as a mature student and then it was many workshops and ordering books on fundamentals of creative movement for children and youth that I would draw from in my research and creation of a curriculum, it was also consulting OT’s such as yourself, Educational Psychologists and RCC’s. All of this was necessary for where I am now. 

    F: Are you able to make your creativity an aspect of all of your jobs?

    N: My creativity and rigour is always present. Sometimes it comes out in my ability to hyper-focus and concentrate on a task, or in ow I collaborate on a new idea or come out with innovative solutions to problems big or small. Or just dipping into my sensitivity when I see that a colleague is needing something different from me in terms of communication. 

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    F: Do you have other (non-creative) work that you engage in? How did you make that choice?

    N: Yes – I work in development at The Cultch, a contemporary arts theatre and gallery in the city; I chose this particular job because it required a solid combination of skills I already have along with the opportunity to sharpen new skills such as running campaigns and copywriting. 

    F: And that dovetails with your business education, another way to combine that with the arts and support you own business. 

    How do you use your performance skills in undertaking “non-creative” jobs?

    N: I am an active and present listener with coworkers and clients. I also can read situations quickly and respond appropriately. I am skilled at problem solving quickly, at reading situations and the emotional tone quickly and adjusting. Emotionally intelligence is immensely valuable; reading between the lines of communication and responding appropriately, or knowing that if something seemingly negative happens it is almost always not personal. And also awareness of other cultures, when I am in Montreal I do my best to speak french, stuff like that…it goes a long way.

    F: How do you create? From where do you draw inspiration?

    N: It really depends. Sometimes ideas come to me quickly and intensely and I have to respond and then sometimes there is nothing for a little while. My inspiration is not consistent but I do know that when I feel inspired I am committed to that feeling and it is almost like I have to respond to it – I have to express something put of it. Lately, it has been music, a lot of music, which aligns well with my program and with my choreographic work; I love how words in a rhythmic form such as a song can fit so well with movements.  

    F: What role does communication, performance, and using your voice/body to connect to others, to create an impact have in your life? 

     N: It plays a huge role on a daily basis, my work really only manifests through other people so clarity of communication both physical and verbal is vital and necessary. Also, you can’t do it alone in this world so earning how to connect genuinely and in the present with other people is key. 

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    F: You're juggling two jobs and still creating work! How do you prevent burnout? 

    N: I take a day off – a true day off and I let myself flow, just do whatever I want in no order and in no set rhythm, this is usually quite nourishing creatively. 

    F: Oh my goodness! I do the same I need a day or two that isn’t run on the clock, where my brain can just idle and process as it needs to.

    Do you set boundaries with regards to managing your personal from your creative spaces? 

    N: Good question. Personally I am actually quite introverted. I need a lot of alone time and I enjoy being alone. So I suppose that’s a boundary in itself. It’s like when I collaborate it’s social time and I enjoy that, but I know at the end of the night or day I am going home alone and I need that. I also work to keep relationships in the context they are in, if it’s work it’s work, if it’s friends and business then it’s friends and business, if it’s intimate then it’s intimate. However, I think adapting and compartmentalizing too much is not good – it means I can’t be my holistic and genuine self. I am aware that my ability to compartmentalize can be an impediment so I practice flexibility with these ideas as things always change.

    F: Yes, I like people and I like finding those who collaborate well, but I also find myself “on” around others and know that I recharge alone.

    What roles do intuition and aesthetic play in your personal life?

    N: Intuition has come more and more into play as I get older. I just have feelings about situations, both work and personal, and I have started to trust those feelings more and respond or make decisions in accordance. I am always drawn to creating a certain aesthetic; I am really sensitive to space so I like things minimal for the most part. Although one of my dreams jobs is doing window displays! I think it would be fun – maybe 123 Steps Ahead will have a window display one day. 

    F: Can you give us an idea of what some of the communities with which you are identified?

    N: I connect to the artistic community, families and youth, the business community, the philanthropist community, the legal community. I think it informs me in the sense that I take on projects that are both creative and pragmatic. I love meeting new people and I am forever curious about people. Before I go to dinner or coffee with someone I often think “I can’t wait to hear this person’s story!” This excites me. I love people and I am fascinated by where they come from them, all the experiences they’ve had, and how all this has shaped their perspective and what’s important to them. 

    F: Has your community activism evolved?  What lessons have you learned along the way?

    N: It really has. I am proud of bringing 123 Steps Ahead to so many people so far and leaving a positive and empowering experience with them. What have I learned along the way? To get really comfortable with failure, to make friends with the idea – when you try something new there’s growing pains, there’s iterations, and there’s problem solving, all these things are OK and necessary. 

    F: What type of students do you teach?

    N: Right now we teach children, youth and adults from 18 months – no limit …we want to pilot a senior’s program and we are currently looking at PEI as a starting place. At all levels. Just be open and imaginative with a sense of humour. 

    F: What values underpin your teaching approach?

    N: I believe in the value of 123 Steps Ahead because our program is graded to meet each client, child or adult, at his or level, developing functional and efficient movement in a creative and fun environment. 123 Steps Ahead is about the democratisation of dance, creating opportunities for children and adults regardless of their circumstance, to experience a dance class and to receive dance training. The 123 Steps Ahead kids are not judged on technique or by living up to a coded dance standard; they are nurtured and encouraged to grow from the level they are at. With 123 Steps Ahead, there is space for everybody, and every person is a valuable member of the class. This ideology works to create confidence in each child that his or her presence and ideas are worthwhile, and regardless of background, everybody has a voice and a valuable contribution to make. This way, we build confidence and social skills.

    We have grown throughout Canada, offering our program in community centres, schools, and daycares. Recently,  in partnership with March of Dimes Canada, we have been able to offer our program to children who have special needs. This year, we started offering private sessions with children and adults. Now it is time to begin expanding this program into the United States.  

    Image used with parental permission

    Image used with parental permission

    F: What do you say to people who claim to “not be creative”?

    N: I just don’t agree! I think creativity is a human quality and yes there are varying levels but I believe that everyone has creative ability, it just comes out in different forms and on different scales and that’s actually really cool. 

     F: What are the moments that reward you as a teacher?

    N: When a student take a concept and tries it autonomously; when he or she is able to fully integrate a movement pattern; when we work together to see that “failing” at something actually just created another movement that is more beautiful in it’s authenticity.  

     

    F: How did you get into starting your own business? 

    N: I was in Montreal. I was lonely, uncomfortable, and felt challenged by being an outsider and at a transitional time in my life. Making art in theatre and dance didn’t hold the same meaning for me anymore. I started leaning towards teaching more so then performing and I found this aligned passion working with kids. I loved seeing the positive impact I could bring to them. This started with teaching a sports program to several public and private groups in Montreal, then, because schools and daycares wanted me to stay on board working with the kids, I proposed a creative movement program that I had begun to create - 123 Steps Ahead. 

    F: What was the toughest learning curve that you experienced? How did you tackle this phase? 

    N: My very first class of 123 Steps Ahead in Montreal was very difficult, it felt like I was continually failing and it almost caused me to not take a much larger contract which would have been such a mistake! My program ran so well at Garderie Papillon. What got me through was my ability to problem solve and then to incorporate solutions that worked into my next contract. Also being aware that personalizing the situation was not useful. 

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    F: It’s all that creation process isn’t it, not everything works out the first time. The wheels fall off and you think either, “Oh now I know what to do” or, “I have no idea what the solution is but that isn’t it!”

    Do you feel that there are unique challenges when ones’s business is so personal to you? 

    N: Yes I feel highly responsible, which is true – I am, for many things. I think practicing boundaries is crucial. Otherwise it is easy to become overwhelmed. I am also interested in having a business partner; it just needs to be the right fit. I suppose we are doing a sort of model of this, and I like it! It feels right (there’s that intuition!)

    F: What are the most useful strategies/tools/devices/programs that support your business and work? 

    N: Definitely our lesson plan manual and the website. I am actually in the process of transitioning over to Square Space. And then there are our partners, March of Dimes Canada, CPE terre des Enfants to name a few…Vibrance Center soon as well!

    F: As an entrepreneur, what creative skills come in useful?

    N: Knowing when to be extroverted, bringing form to the chaos, problem solving, emotional intelligence, sensitivity to other people, also knowing when to let go of an idea or a possible contract or partner

    I have a sense of humor. Also personality wise I am innately practical and work with “the bottom line” but I also allow myself space for creativity. When I feel myself becoming severe or falling into the anxiety of the high stakes I practice self care, maybe it’s a movie, maybe a bath or a dance class, this always helps. 

    F: How has the landscape of your sector changed? Have customer’s expectations changed? 

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    N: I think now more then ever parents are looking for programming that will instill confidence and social skills in their children along with physical literacy that will be with them for the rest of their lives. I can speak to the huge benefits of exercise and physical activity as a healthy regulation and coping tool 

    As my program doesn’t teach traditional coded dance such as ballet and some schools really want defined dance programs – hip hop, ballet, etc. That is just not 123, and it’s crucial that we stick with our branding and our value system, even though it means losing some contracts. 

    F: Where do you see your business going?

    N: Eventually 123 Steps Ahead will be global for children, youth, and families. We will also expand to adults and seniors. It’s really going to open up a “I can do it” attitude in learning dance and break down the notion of elitism. I think we will have a whole new global generation of dancers that are amazing just the way they are. I am excited for this!

    You can follow 123 Steps Ahead through the website, Facebook page, and Instagram

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


    When Did You Lose Your Voice?

    Becoming an excellent public speaker will help you in every part of your career. But there is an even more important reason to learn to speak well to an audience. Psychologists tell us that your level of self-esteem, or ‘how much you like yourself,’ largely determines the quality of your inner and outer life. The better and more persuasively you speak, the more you like yourself. The more you like yourself, the more optimistic and confident you are. The more you like yourself, the most positive and personable you are in your relationships with others. The more you like yourself, the healthier, happier, and more positive you become in everything you do.
    — Brian Tracy

    When I work with adult clients, I often hear something along the lines of, "I hate the sound of my voice."

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    Instead of thinking of your voice as something to be beaten, cajoled, or "fixed" I want you to think of when you decided your voice betrayed you. Were you called on to read aloud in class and found your voice let you down? Were you asked to report to a Manager and found your tongue had become heavy and dull, stopping the words in your brain from forming in your mouth? Was there a time when you felt consumed by great emotion, but when you opened your mouth you didn't recognize the voice that emerged?

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    In actuality, it is not the voice that is the problem. Rather than fixate on the voice, start with the breath and the body. In times of stress or pressure, we respond with flight/fight/freeze. Our breathing changes, our body gets tense. We constrict. And a constricted self does not support the voice.

    Somewhere along the way, you have taught yourself coping mechanisms - useful for survival, but not for much else. I work with clients to set down new neurological patterns, habits that enable them to be relaxed and connected so that they can speak without strain, without feeling as if their brains have shut down.

    A constricted self does not support the voice.

    When I start working with my clients, we look at what is happening in the body and voice, what unique patterns have formed. In order to build vocal skills, we often start with the breath and the body. However, this is not yoga or relaxation class. Our focus is always on the voice, creating a strong instrument that is supported, expressive, and clear.  Once the breath is located in and supported by the body, we learn to use the voice as an expressive instrument. I often talk about "painting with the voice" as there are so many rich ways to illustrate the content of your speech with the quality of your voice. When your voice confidently supports your message, listeners find you more trustworthy, can follow your train of thought, and will better retain what you tell them.

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    I have worked with teachers whose voices were squeaky and breathy. I have worked with managers whose bodies revealed nervous energy, undercutting their authority. I have worked with heads of Police and Fire departments whose rigid bodies resulted in flat voices. I have worked with entrepreneurs who had trouble communicating their stream of ideas effectively to possible investors. I have worked with individuals who dream of becoming influencers and coaches in their field of expertise, yet who found being seen and heard exhausting and uncomfortable.

    you have the choice to give up or grow.

    Each client learned about their own foibles and each client saw shifts as we set down new neurological pathways for their voice and body, resulting in growing confidence in their voice. My favourite moments are those "wow!" experiences when clients surprise themselves with an unexpected breakthrough that they previously imagined impossible.

    If you find you have a burning desire to communicate yet are experiencing trouble in finding your true voice, you have the choice to give up or grow. I offer practical techniques, a rich range of experiences, an unwavering base of support, and a great deal of enthusiasm for your progress.

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: