Mistakes as Fertilizer: VO Mindset Gems

I’ve been very fortunate to coach thousands of blossoming voice-over artists (from newbies to pros) for the last eight-plus years. One of my favorite things to do is what I call “hot seat” or “loveseat” coaching, during a Zoom or an in-person session. In case you’re unfamiliar, in this coaching exercise somebody volunteers to be the focus of attention in front of a group, and has prepared a piece of copy. They deliver a read and get adjustments from their peers in real time. Inevitably, regardless of their level of preparation, and regardless of their level of expertise, there’s a goof or a slip or a mumble or a fumble – which happens for every single voice-over human on the planet. 

When the mistake happens, I hear “The Sound.” You know the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, in this case, a sound is worth a million words. “The Sound” is a heavy “ugh” sound, or a disapproving click of the tongue, or an exhale of breath that clearly has some self-judgment within.

That single sound actually transmits an encyclopedia of subtext…entire lengthy conversations going on, beneath the teeny sound! It’s truly a treasure, because it lets me know the students are viewing mistakes as the enemy. In that, there’s an opportunity to mightily level up their process. The subtext typically might sound something like this, if it were spoken aloud: I can’t believe I made a mistake. How crazy, that I couldn’t get through that take without a goof! What is my deal? Yuck, I’m so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get through X, Y or Z without fumbling it. (You get it, the list goes on.)  

Sow your VO field with mistakes, reap the rewards later.

I will say to them what I’d like to gently say to you, today: no voice-over artist in all space and time, anywhere on the planet, ever became a rockstar without making a bazillion mistakes. There is zero way to get to the voice-over career of your dreams without making more mistakes than you could possibly imagine.

What I’d like to do right here and now is offer you a powerful reframe: mistakes are fertilizer. They are not your enemy. They are not a dark mark. They don’t mean you’re doing one single thing wrong. They’re a natural part of your growth as a voice-over artist, and it’s worth repeating: I’ve experienced everybody from brand new VO humans to seasoned celebrity voice-over artists make tons of mistakes – both during coachings and in live sessions. Mistakes are absolutely fertilizer: they make your voice-over garden thrive!

How you think about mistakes is everything. If, on some level, you’re telling yourself, “It’s completely unacceptable to make errors,” or if you’re cranky and impatient with yourself when you do make them…that’s a set-up to be an unhappy, miserable VO artist – and you don’t want that for yourself either.

The pros who have been working forever and making money know this: they make a mistake, and – like they just glanced at a delightful flower – pause for a fraction of a moment and say to the engineer or client, “Pick up!” and move on. It’s a NON-issue. That’s it! Mistakes happen, they’re supremely normal, and nobody thinks they’re a deal breaker.

Fertilizer really does make things grow. That’s the very definition, “a natural or chemical substance added to soil, to increase its fertility.” Mistakes increase the fertility and abundance of the soil – the very foundation – of your VO career.

A few gems to try on for size: 

I’d love to suggest that you start to think about your voice-over mistakes as the powerful awesomeness that they are: fertilizer. Every time you make a mistake, you could even do a little happy dance because you have moved your VO growth forward. As an experiment, you could try out saying “YAY! Awesome! I made a mistake, WOOOO!” (or your version of that) every time it happens for one week – and see what shifts. The aim is to make friends with mistakes, to welcome mistakes, AND to know that they are forward movement if we are nice to ourselves and open to learning from them.

I’d also like to suggest, if you struggle with being kind to yourself around mistakes, that you create a bolstering sentence or phrase or affirmation. This topic is very firmly in the category of voice-over mindset. Knowing how to have a healthy and thriving VO mindset is a mandatory part of your healthy journey…which is why so many of the most wonderful organizations and coaches teach it as a regular part of their training. I have seen mindset work make such a difference in myself, my clients and students that I often teach programs called “Radical Self-Care for Voice-Over Artists,” including a deep-dive into VO mindset. What you’re saying to yourself in your head about your voice-over life, and what you’re saying out loud to other human beings in your world about your voice-over life, matters. A ton.

To be clear, I’m absolutely not asking you to never have an upset moment, or never speak about frustration or disappointment – all emotions are powerful, and all have a place in the human experience. I am asking you to take a look at how you are talking to yourself – in your own head and out loud – about voice-over mistakes. It’s an opportunity to completely change a thought pattern or habit of speech that is no longer serving you, and in doing so, move you forward…more blissfully and fabulously, towards the voice-over life of your visions. Yay, mistakes! Happy fertilizing!

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