Your Mess Can Become Your Message

Episode 16 with Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014

A 24-year old CEO, Singer, and International Speaker from Omaha, Nebraska, Megan Swanson is a real go-getter.

As a former Miss Nebraska, having represented her state at the Miss America 2015 pageant, Megan is passionate about equipping young individuals. During her year, she traveled 40,000 miles, speaking to tens of thousands of individuals regarding her platform of Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Financial Wellness. After her year as Miss Nebraska, Megan realized there was still MUCH work to be done- and her pageant coaching firm “Powerhouse Pageantry” was born, equipping young pageant women all over the United States to win in their interviews and on stage questions.

Megan now travels the country speaking, coaching, and performing her music.

She can be found on all social media outlets @megan_swanson, or at go.mspageantcoach.com

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher.

Also, grab the summary of the first 15 podcast guests:

Tips & Strategies for Emerging Thought Leaders and Message-Driven Creatives: Volume 1

 

 

Perhaps It’s Time to Stop “Leading” and Focus on Influencing

Episode 14 with Dr. Neal Schnoor

The concept of leadership is a good one, but is it possible that we’ve turned it into a list of behaviors we “do” in order to get people to do what we think they should do? Dr. Neal Schnoor, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor of UNK, presents an interesting proposition to focus on influence, rather than leadership.

In this interview we discuss:

Connect with Dr. Neal Schnoor here:

 

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

 

Dr. Schnoor provides counsel and assistance to the Chancellor relative to the comprehensive executive portfolio. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet and Administrative Council and serves as UNK’s chief compliance officer. Previously, Dr. Schnoor served as Dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College. For thirteen years prior he was a member of the faculty at UNK, where he held tenure in both the College of Education and College of Fine Arts and Humanities and served as Coordinator of K-12 and Secondary Education and Director of Bands. He has published articles in state and national journals and presented papers at state, national, and international conferences and served as a higher education representative to the Effective Educator 2020 Summit and on Nebraska’s statewide committee for developing state teacher/leader standards. Dr. Schnoor is one of only a few individuals to have been elected President of both the Nebraska Music Educators Association and Nebraska State Bandmasters Association and he continues to present clinics and leadership development sessions for students and educators. Dr. Schnoor earned PhD and MM degrees from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and BFAE from Wayne State College.

 

Hey, it’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. I am honored to have Dr. Neal Schnoor with me today. When I first decided that the premis of this podcast would be helping creative leaders develop their message and their voice of influence, there were a few names that immediately came to mind as people I want to interview and Dr. Schnoor was one of them.

I met him at the University of Nebraska, Kearney when I was a music education student and he was the director of bands. And he also taught a secondary education class that I was in and it really felt like that secondary education class felt a lot more like a life leadership kind of class. So I gained so much from his influence and I loved the way that he communicated and it just seems to resonate with me.

 

Andrea: So today, I’m so thrilled to have you with me on the podcast, Dr. Neal Schnoor.

Dr. Schnoor: Well, Andrea it’s just a thrill to catch up with a former student and find the wonderful things you are doing to help people and to see your life unfold. That’s the best part of being a teacher. It’s sort of like being a parent; you get to watch your kids grow up and it’s just a pleasure.

Andrea: Well, thank you. Now, you’re not a director of bands of UNK anymore, what is your position now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: So currently, I serve as the Senior Adviser to the Chancellor for executive affairs. While I was band directing, I got involved in teacher education and kind of did both of those things and then have the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, Wayne State College and served as the Dean of Education and Counseling and then I’d been back in this role for about five years now.

Andrea: So what all does this mean that you’re a Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, it’s sounds like right hand man king of thing, it’s that kind of description of it?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It is and it’s a little hard to describe to people because it just sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. But in general, I work with strategic planning, compliance. Chancellor refers to me as this crisis manager, so I can get some of the sensitive, legal and personnel things, just really trying to help the executive team here function best, and think short term and long term. So every day, is an adventure and that’s what I love the most.

Andrea: Are you in a classroom at all now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Not very often, although, I still try to do at least one honor band every year and I’ve probably stayed more active trying to do leadership. I just love working with teenagers and we’ll probably talk as we go on. I’ve almost gotten to where I hate the word ‘leadership.’ I’m really more into influence and helping kids, not to get sidetrack at the beginning, but to help them deal with the anxiety in that process because I’m just seeing them what are college students here, adults or high school students, their level of anxiety are so high. So I try to work that in as well.

Andrea: Oh yeah, we definitely need to get into that. But before we go there, I’m excited about that.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I sidetrack you are ready, didn’t I?

Andrea: No, not at all. You know, I was thinking today again about how…I just cannot help but go deep fast. I invited you to take the Fascinate Assessment®, which you haven’t heard of before, and you did and it was so fun to find out that you and I are so similar in our voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: But it’s really interesting, isn’t it?

Andrea: Yeah, so the two things that come out on top are Innovation and Power and they’re just flipped for you, Power and Innovation which is kind of a language of leadership. But you don’t like that word, so I love that you don’t like that word, you’re ‘going to tell me more about that later. But I suppose, it’s a language of influence then willingness to share your opinions and guide people and then innovation is creativity. So you come out as like the Change Agent as what the thing says and so the archetype is. So I’m wondering what was your impression when you found that out about yourself?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, my first thing is I ran it across my filter, my wife, Theresa, and I showed her those things and I said “Do this described me for better or worse?” And she said “Yeah, most of them. That really is you.” I’ve never gotten too hung up on it but as I read those descriptors, I really did feel like they fit a lot of aspects of what I hope to do. Some of what I do in this job, again for better or for worse is just to ask good questions. I think that just, is there another way to do things? Are we looking at all the information? Are we considering people’s strengths and weaknesses and things like that?

So the word probably caught me, you have to explain it to your listeners better but the word power kind of took me aback because I don’t want to be authoritarian. I think I explained in our class one time, that that’s how I started teaching. I simply was demanding and, kind of my way or the highway, and the kids taught me pretty quickly that there were a lot better ways to engage them. So tell us a little more about power, Andrea, what that means?

Andrea: Yeah, I was definitely taken aback by that word too and that was my exact experience is that I think I have this natural bent towards telling people what to do, which is not a form of real influence. I mean, you can tell people what to do and try to get them to comply with you, but that doesn’t really change who they are in the inside.

So I really struggled with that word as well. But at the same time, I realized that for me, when I looked at it, because I didn’t want that, I pulled back in some ways where I wasn’t sharing as passionately or intensely or whatever as maybe I could in a way that was not. I guess in a way that’s compelling instead of, I don’t know what’s the different word, yeah authoritative.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, instead of drawing people in, it can kind of turn them off. And so I think sometimes in our passion, some people misread that as maybe even arrogance and so on. So yeah, such fine lines in there.

Andrea: I always considered you to be very powerful. In this more positive way, your voice is that way and when I say voice, I’m talking about your style, your tone whatever. I mean, it’s confident.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. You know, one of the things I was thinking about, Andrea, and again this can go a lot of directions, but you had kind of talked when we initially visited about have we always had this voice, or have I had this voice? It really made me think really hard about something we’ve talked in class as Stephen Covey described to as secondary traits people have a hard time seeing that. And the more I’ve developed, the more I think I’m finally catching up with where we really are, our intellect, our passion, charisma, and communication skills, those were actually all secondary traits.

And I guess one way to understand that as he explained it, those are things you could lose. Say you had a traumatic brain injury, those things would go away. But the essence of who you are is still the same and will hopefully .. a little bit but some people call it the soul or consciousness or those kinds of things. But the real challenge for me is that I think I’ve always been able to use those secondary traits that I had to influence other people, where over the years I’ve tried much harder to get at the “But am I doing it for the right reasons?” Because you know, there have been a lot of leaders who have all these leadership skills that we’ll talk about.

And if you go down as I often talk in my leadership presentations, I’ll ask the students when we set lists who are your leaders and always was positive ones. But I’ll draw them to figures like who are some other leaders that who really had these skills very powerfully and some horrible leaders have had those skills that even Adolf Hitler had all these leadership skills what’s missing? Well, we might argue consciousness. So yeah, have we had this voice? I think so. Have we always used it? Well, that’s another therapy session for me I think.

Andrea: That’s the reason why I love the idea of developing one’s voice. Yes, we have a style or we have these secondary qualities that you’re talking about. We have even a message and things that we’re wanting to share but then it’s really important to take it through a process of development that edits the message and turns the voice into a tone that is compelling, that is drawing in and inviting instead of pressure and that sort of thing. Who have you read or what are some of the things that you have encountered over the years, beside your students that you’ve already mentioned, that have influenced the development then of your voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, you know, it’s interesting. And we may work into faith but my Christian faith has been strong throughout my life, and yet I think as all people are aware the stronger that is probably the more you question it. And to me that’s always actually a good sign, but it is interesting. I started reading a philosopher, his name is Jacob Needleman, and what attracted to me initially is his efforts to put together Judaism, Christianity. He looked in Hinduism and so he’s looking for some central truths, so to speak. And I just like his voice, his message, and how he looked for rather than differences similarities.

And so that kind of led me looking for things and lately, I’ve really, really found Michael Singer’s work to be powerful, a book called The Untethered Soul. It kind of profoundly moved me to look more at that consciousness. And I’ve shared it with family members, nieces and nephews and they’ve all found it to be compelling. There’s another one called, The Surrender Experiment, The Power of Now is a very strong book and then different things I just looked at these universals and what I’ve gained is somewhat say that’s leading away from Christianity, it’s actually kind of reinforced that stronger.

So I guess digging, you say, you like to dig deep. For me, it has been a real challenge just because of my nature to quite the voice in my head. So I was drawn to your voice because for about the last four or five years, I have tried to really identify with it’s not a false voice, but our thinking minds will think around problem. And if we allow it to do that and where are psyche in it’s kind of overactive, freaked out way to constantly talk in our head.

If we can identify those for what they are and realized where the consciousness within that perceives those voices, that perceives the emotional state where in, then those things quit running our lives and instead, we simply fully experience each moment. And we know that we’re the one watching even though we might be sad, even though we might be happy that’s not us. That’s just something we’re experiencing.

Andrea: How does that tie in to your message about anxiety?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It’s actually the major point. We really do talk, you know, our psyche to put ourselves in touch with it, that’s what I think Singer talks about it really eloquently which is, you know, for hundreds or thousands or millions of years with these biological creatures for a great period of time, the psyche kept us from – it’s that hair on the back of your neck that told you a bear was coming and you reacted. Most of us don’t have to fear for our physical safety walking to work in the morning, and so we kind of set this psyche, we’ve given in a different job which is to really kind of fuss about how we feel all the time and it just talks to us if you hear it.

The best example I always give to kids is that’s psyche and your thinking mind, if you pass a friend in the hallway and you say hello and they ignore you, just pay attention to that mind “What did I do? I didn’t deserve that. What’s wrong with her today? Oh my God, I’m so stupid. I bet she’s mad because I didn’t call.”

It’s everywhere. If you start listening to it and paying attention to it then you see that it’s not going to solve your problems, it presents every possible option that’s out there. And if you become aware of it and simply watch it, it’s amazing how much power you have to not live in that reactive state.

Andrea: So watching it is the answer. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah. Just watch it; do not get involve with it. If you do, it will suck you in. I mean, we’ve all done it before. So for instance, it could seemingly a silly example but we spent 90% of our lives in that silly example. My wife is quiet. My mind starts working. I wonder what I did now. I wonder if she had a bad day. I wonder for something I can do to help. All of those are not bad in and of themselves but that’s just are thinking mind. And if I sit back for a moment and say “Wow and how’s that making me feel and some of those things?” I’m less apt to say, “Well, what’s wrong today?” It’s just amazing how reactive we are, not even fully reading.

So back to the example, then I ask the kids the person passed in the hallway and your mind is going a thousand miles an hour and 15 minute later, your friend comes back up and says “I think I just passed you in the hallway but I get a text and my pet died, I was really busy.” And all of those negative thoughts that we wasted 15 minutes crucifying ourselves didn’t even need to happen.

So much a more proactive responses might even be to give them a little space or simply to follow them and say “Hey, just now I said hello. Is there anything happening with you or something?” You know, it’s just more proactive ways. It’s been a journey for me for five years to see how frequently my perceptions, attitudes, emotions, thoughts, or mood can negatively affect a reaction. It’s not about me. My job here is to solve problems or help others find their solutions to their problems. And the clearer I can be and the more I get my emotions out of it, the more help I can be to them.

Andrea: That is so true. I think there was a time when I realized that…I mean, I’m sure everybody kind of goes this at one point I hope, but when you start to realize that not everything is about you, people’s reactions are not necessarily about you. It’s hard a thing to swallow at first because when you’re a baby, everything is about you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah!

Andrea: And then as you start to realize that other people are having other experiences that are unseen. And you may never know about, you may never understand what’s going on inside of somebody then the question for me became “What do I have to offer them?” Instead of “What do I need from them? Do I need them to tell me hello? Do I need them to acknowledge me?” Or “Do I have something to offer them instead?”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: You know, Andrea, it’s along those lines reading your book and we could talk about that for an hour. I so enjoyed that, but one key thing that really hit me is that I got to know you better. I realized I was interacting with you every day and had no idea what was going on in your mind. You know, we get so focused on, well it’s a class and…

I perceived whether you might be understanding a concept, or you read your students to see if they have a performance look. But we frequently looked true life either assuming or not paying attention but there’s a whole consciousness in every person we talk to and we’ll get very complex. You know, it hit me very powerfully and wonderful reminder for me.

Andrea: Thank you. I think the other part that’s hard is me knowing that I have so much going on in my head. It’s easy for me to assume that other people have a lot going on inside of them. And I think that one of the hard things for me is to say, it’s okay if I don’t know and to let people just have their experience and not need to be a part of it that inner experience. I don’t know if that’s very common but…

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I think so and the other piece there is you talk about, for instance my work here in this current role and what a slippery slope it can be. I mean my job in some ways is to be problem solver. And so I find a world of difference in a very slippery slope between problem solving and helping people come to their solutions or help them find some that are inevitable. And doing that for the right reason which is to serve or that slippery slope  because 180 degrees worse I derived my value and sense of worth and it strokes my ego to be seen as the problem solver.

It sets a challenge I think in all of our lives that we identify with our roles, and yet, even the most noble “service” we do or the donation we give, do we give it in the spirit of true for giving. The right hand doesn’t know what’s the left is doing, although we do it to stroke our own ego to feel better about ourselves that we’re a “giving” person. I find that to be a dilemma I’ll continue to wrestle with for my life.

Andrea: I agree. I think that that’s something that is, especially for people as we have both described ourselves to be, we care about that motivation. Sometimes, it can be tempting to like you were talking the voice in your head and it can be tempting to analyze that and pick up that part so much that we don’t end up offering what we have to offer them because it feels, am I doing this for the right reasons? And it can become that cycle inside of the head that’s just like “Well then maybe I shouldn’t offer that at all.” What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, that’s interesting. My first reaction there to what you said is absolutely, many of the things that I share aren’t that place of consciousness I’m talking about, it’s my mind. There are wonderful instruments. I hope anyone that listens doesn’t think I’m negative about that or think that “No, that’s the beauty of it.” But our greatest asset can be our worst weapon, and so that constantly thinking, I mean, Singer’s book made me just sits back. And he describes it in this early chapter that he was just sitting there and you started listening to this.

I mean, when you first do it, you will be amazed that it’s just an incessant noise in your head. It is a voice that constantly talks to you and we can so identify with it. Don’t get too involved, just watch it. It’s a notorious flip-flopper like I did the example in the hallway. She did that. He did that. Why is that? I’m so stupid, I mean there’s the self-blame and self-loathing comes in then it would be followed up almost immediately if you watch with “Oh but I have the right to do that.” She’s just unfair. She’s unkind and that’s not right.” It’ll switch to righteous indignation. It’s just everywhere.

So that’s our thinking mind and it’s not bad. It’s not trying overtly to harness it. Honestly, both in The Power of Now, I think that’s where it’s presented and in Singer’s book most directly, I’m sure many, many, many other excellent resources. Just notice it and don’t get involve in its energy and overtime you become quieter inside. And the quieter I can be then I’m tapping into that ability to think beyond my history, my own perceptions.

Honestly, Andrea, I see it in myself and maybe I’m just the scoundrel out there. But we really build up a veritable wall of our mental perceptions how we think the world should be. We even have a belief system and some of those beliefs, we don’t question very often and then we turn around and either judge ourselves or judge others based on not reality, just the reality that we’ve created of how we think the world should go and often how the world should go just to make us happy. It gets really, really complex but my take away and what I’ve tried to do is to be quieter. These things happen and I think we touch the Divine in those moments of quiet.

Andrea: I’ve recently, and when I said recently pretty much since I don’t maybe last few years, and I think that this is part of when I was trying to accomplish with the book has explained this change at least the start of the transformation of me being so in my head starting to realize that I could let that go. I didn’t have to or I guess like what you’re saying engage with it. When I get stressed out now, I think what I end up doing is, I see things that happen. Like the dogs, the dogs get into the trash.

This happens quite frequently at our house and I feel attacked. I’m like “Uh these stupid dogs,” and start to get really frustrated inside and then I start to realize that I’m doing that. “What service is this to me?” Like these dogs could care less what I think about the fact that they got into the trash. Only it’s doing is making me more frustrated, burning these pathways in my brain to negativity and victimization and those sorts of things, which puts me in a position where I end up being more bitter or irritated or whatever. I have less of the things that I really want to offer my family. I have less of that to give.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, it does. I love that example because we often think of such things and we’re going to change the world, but the dog knocks over the trash is so immediate. I mean, you just nailed it. Why did that hit your stuff so to speak so hard? Well, one reason is because you’re busy, you got something else to do and you got to go clean up that trash. But really, it goes that step further to think for whose mental model thought they could set the world in a place the dog wouldn’t knock over trashcan and that’s what we do.

We, literally every day…we don’t even have control of our own thoughts and emotions many times, and yet we project that and think somehow we can influence and control other people’s thoughts. And there’s a whole a lot of consciousness that work in there, but yeah, what a great example. Those things still suck me up, you know, like “Oh man, I don’t wanna go clean that mess up.”

Andrea: And what’s funny is that Aaron will try to tell me, “Andrea, they’re dogs” and try to tell me that “that’s what happens.” In which actually this makes me think of something that you’ve said before in that class that I ended up writing about a couple of years ago because it was burned in my brain. Well, what you said in class was “don’t you dare yell at the kids in your classroom essentially, don’t you dare yell at them for your lack of classroom management.” So I’m thinking about how Aaron would say to me, “these are dogs. This is what happens and probably we should have let the dogs outside or something instead.” But now, it feels like “Okay, well, I’m gonna look it that way then it’s my fault.”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Oh I see, yeah.

Andrea: So how do you balance that you know just sort of saying “Well, I could have let them out. I guess, we’ll let them out next time and not let emotion get tied with it,” or what would you do?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, I mean that’s certainly one thing right there because there are four different directions we can go. But if I think about those and I’m going to tell on myself here, so I’ll sound like and might be a little arrogant first but then the next part will come. So one of the things when I do presentations, the best comment I like and especially with the young teachers, one of them come up and say “Oh, it was so good to hear that someone like you had those problems.” They feel like and we often listen to gurus, we seek out all these resources and we think that person has the answers.

So now, to tell on myself, why could I tell the class with such genuineness and honesty and seemingly know-at-all-ness these because I’d screwed it up for three years, because I had gotten mad at students for how they were acting when I realized that had I done my sitting arrangements the first day, so they knew what to sit. Had I spent the first day or week even if needed to be to explain to them what my expectations were or behavior for how to enter the room so that we could maximize…again, the end goals, some people think that’s a power trip. No, I wanted to maximize every possible second of making music, and I didn’t want to waste it scolding a kid or whether they needed to ask for permission to use the restroom.

So all of those discipline problems, that hundreds of thousands of fires I put out every day or simply a matter that at the beginning I didn’t think through of a set of procedures and explain my expectations to those students because I still believe, sure I was a willful child and I broke the rules and did things like that. But in general 85% of kids will do 85% of the things you asked them to do, simply because you clarify and didn’t ask them to do it.

So that really resonates with me but not to miss that fact that how do we know this? I tell my kids all that or “How do you know how to get around there? How do you know not to drive there?” Because I did it and I blew up my tire and I had to learn the hard way. So yeah, part of it, you would go back and say, “You and Aaron must go out and buy a trashcan with a lid on it,” because you might say…you spent this whole psycho analysis of “Why does it bother me so much that the dog knocked over the trashcan and it shouldn’t bother me. Haven’t I grown up that these things don’t hit my stuff or whatever?” And the solution is perhaps, to buy a trashcan with a lid on it, you know. It’s kind of fun.

Andrea: So first of all, it’s such a great advice about the classroom management.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: About trashcans.

Andrea: Yeah and about trashcans. I knew this is going to happen, you know that right? Anyway, it’s a joy to be able to talk with somebody when you do kind of speak the same languages and that sense that we’re talking about before. And I think anybody, no matter what your style is, it’s just easy to have those conversations with people they’re kind of like you. I want to go back to what you said about why you’re able to share that message about classroom management with such conviction. Now, you hesitated, you didn’t want to use the word power, but I would say that was powerful.

When you communicated that we shouldn’t blame kids or yell at kids for our own lack of classroom management, it was an incredibly powerful statement. And I want to suggest that maybe it’s because like you have said, you could speak that because you would experience it. And I would call that a redemptive message. I would call that, you know what, this is something that comes out of your experience of either pain or messing up, whatever it might be.

There was some sort of transformation that occurred that got you to a point where you could say, no that is not the way. And then it comes across so authentic, genuine and powerful because it is born out of that pain and that experience that you had previous. I feel like maybe that is where the power really comes in. And I say power again as we’re talking about before I guess. It’s powerful because it comes from that place.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, and I think we’re unpacking again that word power, gave us both pause, but I like where you’re going with it. I noticed my power wasn’t being smart and what I knew about classrooms. My power was learning from experience trying different things, being able to share that with you. And I think hopefully the other message that came across is you all have unique gifts and some of what I do may not work for you and some of what you do won’t work for me. And so it’s kind of aligning with those elements of ourselves that are authentic I think.

Andrea: I think it also helps give us permission to not look at those difficulties that we face, the struggles that we’re having with so much, I don’t know and feeling like it’s a catastrophe. Because then when we do experience that pain and that suffering that messing up essentially, hurting other people or messing up yourself that there is potential to turn that into something really beautiful in the end.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely!

Andrea: And so when we’re in the middle of it, though maybe we need to feel the weight of it, there’s still hope.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! I’m so glad and just like you said, I knew that something would come out that we weren’t thinking. And for me is how many times you’ve mentioned and what a great topic that I think we avoid and that’s pain. And in general, and this is very general, we tend to either look at the past and cling to those things which we should not do that led to joy. We want to feel good and we reject or repress pain.

And so it’s a hard step for some people but we should experience pain fully. And when I said to be quiet, I’ll use the phrase, I haven’t use it a lot but I used it a lot is to sit with pain, is to sit with joy, sit with jealousy, just be present with it. Don’t try to change it. Don’t judge yourself. So when I get back of that, I know it’s going to sound freakish to people but the answer is not to try to fix it. They answer is to get quiet simply experience it. And really, most people who have done any kind of meditation, always talking about meditation. Yeah, I am but a lot of people meditate with the purpose of becoming a better person and you’ve missed the point already.

It is a process that can happen and will happen by itself if you’re able to sit with, and I hate to say it but people think “You’ve lost your mind, dude.” But sitting with pain, pain is part of life. I don’t want to not experience part of my life but then to bring in that other piece we talked about, so we start building these mental models. And here how dangerous it gets, people think it’s Muslims versus Christians.

I grew up in a little town of Nebraska and there was literally sort of a philosophical and almost we don’t talk to each other. We certainly don’t date each other between Lutherans and Catholics. We’ll find ways to differ if we allow ourselves to and so sitting with these experiences of pain and not building these walls of our concepts. Because as soon as those walls get hit, we experience discomfort which leads back to that word, anxiety which causes us pain. And if we repress those, it’s not good. So just sitting with it, just recognizing it that this is just something I’m feeling. It’s not me.

So my big message to students, if you looked in the mirror this morning and saw your face and then you had plastic surgery tomorrow that totally transformed that face, would that be the same you in there that’s looking at that image? And they get that. They connect with that. Is it the same you that’s sitting there, that’s experiences pain as well as joy, as well hurt? It is unless we allow our emotions to be us, and then we’re simply bouncing all over the world wishing that would make us happy. It’s tough. It’s really tough to not get involved in that negative energy.

Andrea: I like the idea of… like I don’t want totally separate myself from my emotion. I like the idea that my emotion could still be an indicator of what’s going inside of me or who I am as a person, and yet that I could ground that in something deeper like observe it like you were talking about. But then run it through, you know, ask myself then what do I really believe about this.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. I’m really with you, Andrea, because I think I could negate that. It’s a human endowment. Well, as we talked about with learning, if there’s an emotional tie in, people learn. If it’s a purely academic tie in, they tend not learn as well. So I guess it’s just flipping the onus. It’s the you that experiences all these things, but you are not just what you experienced. There’s a level of control. So here’s the simple one, the next time the dog knocks it over, instead of going right it, my thinking mind kept this and I’ll say “Well, go buy a trashcan with a lid on it.”

You might spend two minutes simply going “What part of me is so bothered by that being knocked over.” It would be an interesting two minutes. I don’t know what you’d come up with. I guess that’s where us going with leadership and not lose that way. We go out and we talk about having charisma, having passion, discipline. What are some other ones, Andrea? Great communication skills.   Those are all secondary traits. Where do we have to go to find that core that allows us to be disciplined?

When I’ve had a disagreement with my wife, it affects my mood. I sure hope people hear when they come to me, don’t think in their mind “Well, don’t go to him today, he’s in a bad mood.” We have to be deeper than how we feel at the moment but that is not negated all of sitting with those emotions and what they teach us. Does that help a little bit because I don’t want to say the emotions are childish and we should get rid of them?

Andrea: Right, I do think so. I think that’s good. So when you were talking about leadership then, you’re saying, we don’t want to…I want you to explain this leadership concept here before we go. I want to understand what your distinction between leadership and influence.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Okay and this is maybe just my hang up, but as soon as something becomes a $10 billion cottage industry, I get fearful. So I’m telling you if you want to make money right now, if you’ve got a shlick thing and you go out there and tell them, you know, great leaders are purpose driven. I have nothing against purpose driven leadership, it’s good. Okay, so the real challenge is finding your purpose because it’s the most searched for. So anyway, that’s just a silly example probably shouldn’t be used because that’s way more in-depth.

But 90% of time when you go to them, they talk about this secondary traits. We have to be more confident. You have to be firm but approachable, communications strategies. They’re all good. But how are you able to come to a place where you’re able to truly open up and listen to what another person’s saying without already trying to solve their problems. So where I’m going with that is, I started thinking less about leadership which implies, you are going to go out and do something that move these other people and try to bring it more inside, “where do I develop that inner sense of right and wrong of consciousness, of awareness of openness to the needs of those people?”

I rarely see those presenters get up and start and say, “what are you hoping to get today? Where are you at your life because it will be all over the place?” And I used the word carefully because I don’t mean to their deep concepts that are quite superficial. If you just tell somebody, “You got to be more positive.” “Oh people say, that’s it the power of positivity.” Well, what is that mean when you just lost your job or your child is sick? There’s another powerful book out there that I didn’t talk about called the Prosperity Gospel. There’s a very dangerous that a lot of people and this happens to be Christianity but I put it in leadership. They go out and say, “If you do these things, you will not only be successful but you’ll be rich.” Not true, not true. I mean, if we take at the core as a Christian, Christ, was he happy all the time? Was he rich? Did he have a nice house?

It so subsumes to me the gospel and what it really means which is to find that internal presence, that connection with the divine moving. It doesn’t matter if you’re sweep on streets or president of the United States, it influences us. I’ve often thought, maybe my role here is not the work I do. Maybe my work was to be a good dad to Graham and Graham is going to do something in the world that’s transformation or maybe he is the transformational figure. And I was simply the support network or the training ground.

So I hope that’s not too vague of an answer, but to me when you go into leadership, too much of it is about do these things and you will be successful, win friends and whatever rather than, you need to get in touch with yourself and be really authentic about that and really think about what success means for you. If it’s having a nice car, nothing wrong with that necessarily but you find out, you buy that new car and a day later, you’re just worried about the payment you got to make. That’s a rumbling answer, I apologize.

Andrea: No, no. You got me thinking. I find that I also tend to shoot for the being of who we are instead of a doing and I’d like to talk about that. I’d like to figure out why we do the things that we do and all those sorts of things. The difficulty I find is that in communicating this message of being an influencer versus doing leadership, it’s easier to communicate how to do leadership. It’s easier to say, this is the path because when you’re talking about becoming an influencer, you’re talking about things that are harder to pin down.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It really are, and I think too and not in a bad way, but we often project this out in the big thing, changing the world. I’m ever more challenged to be a positive influencer just in my own home and in one-on-one relationships. I find it much easier to go out and say motivate or large crowd and not one-on-one. Sometimes it’s really hard to explain this but I think that’s the importance of your work because all around this, I think I’ve seen it on your website so much, none of this stuff can we give to someone.

We can only hope to inspire them and get them on a path, but for instance when I talk about solitude and taking the time to think to realize this becoming you’re talking about or I might have called it consciousness or awareness or enlightenment as good Buddhist would call it, you have to do it. No one can do it for you and you can’t read it in a book. As a matter of fact, one of the favorite things I’ve heard, her name is Pema Chodron, a Buddhist priest who said “Quit looking at this library of resources, just pick one and do it.”

I think there’s tremendous wisdom. I go to a lot of workshops and good friends of mine “Have you read this? Have you read this? Have you read that?” I’ve actually slowed down my reading in some ways and I tried to pick a few that resonates and go deep and try to really do what they say rather than just being able to go out and say “Here’s what you can do” to experience it myself in some way.

Andrea: Hmmm, because when you experience it then you can offer it in a different way than you could before and then you could if you just learn it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! Well, the other thought Andrea, and I don’t want to interrupt where you’re going as you think through this, but I think we’ve also given ourselves, our mind that says but also our emotions and our sense of who we are. We’ve given ourselves an impossible task. We have said to be authentic, we have said to be open and all those things and yet we’ve given ourselves the impossible task in our mind, we want everyone to like us. And so you want to talk about another one. None of these things I talked about as in either/or.

When I interact with people and I get feedback from them that can lead me to “Oh Neal, you’re being a jerk, you need to stop doing that.” So it’s valuable feedback. At the same time when you’re authentic and you share your voice and you say it very passionately and openly, there will be some that not only dislike you but truly hate you because they disagree so passionately with you. And to be comfortable with the fact which I’m not yet, it still hurts me especially if I offended them in some way.

But we’ve given ourselves the impossible task. We’re going to be a mother or a father and my wife is going to like this because of what we do and people will all like me. There are two different people and they will like and dislike different things. So we struggle with it and if anyone has answer, I’ll be tuning in to your future podcasts. But anyway, we have to surrender to the fact when we thought through well and we’re confident in who we are without offending or judging or hurting other people, simply speaking that truth with our authentic voice is going to make us some enemies or at least cause some people to be aggravated. The best compliment you could ever pay me is when you said I made you think. If I did that, please don’t say “I’m gonna do what he said.”

Andrea: Right and that’s what I look for in their leaders. That’s what I look for people to have influence. They have more influence over me when they get me thinking than if they were to tell me what to do and I went out and did it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, yeah. I agree.

Andrea: Yeah because when we really integrate that into who we are and we apply it, we think through it and we decide, we start to become that, you know. Maybe we move in one little step in that direction where the person was trying to lead us. But that’s more powerful than it would be to just put on whatever they told us put and doing it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Uh-hmm, absolutely and staying open to the influence of others. Obviously, there are some bad ideas out there for people. On the other hand, we are snap judgers. We often look at something that they tell you and say I either like it or dislike it. It’s just what we do. We categorize traits if you think about. Again, let’s take it out of the realm of psychology and the incredibly complex human. We walk down the street and say I like that kind of tree but I don’t like that kind of tree. What’s wrong with just letting the tree be a tree? Why do we have to label it?

Well again, it’s not psychosis but we just have a tendency to build these mental models of how the world should be and that’s our likes and dislikes and even our beliefs. Just to take a step back and say “I can just appreciate that tree,” rather than say “I like the color of its leaves.” Yeah, if you catch yourself doing these simple things, I think you’re on a good path that many traditions have pursued which leads believe it or not to some really, really deep understandings. But if we jump to “How do I solve this problem myself?” And “Why I’m aren’t getting better at this?” Or “Everything is gonna go well.”

I know when I’m near where I can sit quietly for 30 minutes. Sit for three and then tomorrow, it’s four. That’s growth. Many people set health goals. I just experienced it myself. I’ve workout for three weeks because I got this nasty virus and it’s driving me crazy. But if you start a goal and you get sick and then you don’t exercise for a week, often that’s all it took for us not to start. And so we get dissuaded very quickly. So it’s a journey. I just love folks like you for taking the time to help us think through that.

Andrea: Oh yeah, I feel the same way. Okay, so Dr. Schnoor, if anybody wanted to engage you in conversation about this or invite you to come and speak to their teachers, their students to do a band workshop, where could they find you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Where they can find me at schnoorn.unk.edu or I got a Gmail account, schnoornealatgmail.com, LinkedIn, Facebook. Again, to me it’s that interaction with other people, I would love to talk with folks about this.

Andrea: Awesome! Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time to do this and this has been just a great conversation for me. I love just the fact that we could dive in so deep, and hopefully, there are people out here, the Influencer listening that maybe even us digging in-depth like this makes them feel less alone, because I think it’s hard to think about things like this and feel like you don’t have anybody to talk to. So thank you for engaging with me and engaging with the listener.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, it’s a pleasure, and Andrea, if you ever get the chance in the future if somebody, I’d love nothing more than somebody call and say, that guy is full of it and I’d love to talk again.

Andrea: Yeah that would be fun.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: This could sound condescending, but I mean it with all good thoughts. I’m just so proud of you, the work you’ve done and to catch up with you and to see the journey you’ve been on since you sat in that classroom. Well, I won’t say how many years ago. We won’t give our age or what, but the work you’re doing is so important and I thank you for it.

Andrea: Thank you!

 

 

How to Accept Your True Voice and then Find the Grace to Let it Go

Episode 13 with Dr. Anne Foradori

We have a great episode today, filled with information about accepting your true voice and navigating the changes in life while finding a new expressions for your Voice of Influence. Don’t miss the great lesson at the end where Dr. Foradori helps us learn techniques for making our speaking voice resonate and carry through a crowd.

Anne Foradori has appeared in recital, concert, and opera in the Midwest. She has performed works by several American composers, and has presented at national MTNA and NATS conventions. She made her New York debut at Symphony Space in 2007. Dr. Foradori has published in the Journal of Singing and contributed to the American National Biography. Dr. Foradori teaches voice and coordinates opera and musical theatre at the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she is Professor of Voice.

Transcript

(approximate transcript)

 

Andrea: Well, I am here right now with my former voice professor, Dr. Anne Foradori. I’m so excited to be here. We’re actually sitting here in person. Thank you for meeting me.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Thanks for asking me. I looked forward to this since you brought it up a while ago so…

Andrea: Yeah this is so fun. So we were already kind of started to talk about voice a little bit but I think, we should start…we’ll go back when I was here. I came in as a junior.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: And what was really funny is that I started, and this is something that I will tell everybody and show off from the rooftops, but I started doing voice major at another school. That’s a very pretty famous music school in Nashville and I got here and just working with you blew all of that away, all of it. I learned so much like I walked in the door, and first of all, you were just nice and then I remember you asked me if I could belt.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes. Well, because of where you’d gone to school and what I could hear in your voice. So I wondered if that was anything you had a background in.

Andrea: Yeah and I was like “Oh sure I can.” I had no idea what it was. I just thought that singing loud. So you had me start to sing and I just started singing loud. You were like “Whow, wait a second, you’re gonna kill yourself.” I don’t know if you remember that but I do.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I do and later on that you another student were both accepted to the NATS winter workshop master class. And so we had to prepare for that. So we had a trip to New York that was very exciting.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. It was unbelievable. I mean, again, it was sort of like you came out of blue and you just sort of handed it to me, “We’re gonna go to New York.” You found a grant and you just took us to New York to be on Broadway and see Broadway. I started to sing and that was unbelievable. I think it was one of those things that helped you to see that even though you’re in a little small Nebraska school, because you’re in _____ right now. I don’t think I introduced that but University of Nebraska at Kearney, which is really close to where I grew up, and just the idea that we’re not limited by our geographical situation. Of course, you are to some degree but you really help me to see that you could really reach beyond that. It was so cool.

Dr. Anne Foraderi: And fun for me too, fun for me to be a voice teacher of students who may not have had opportunities yet to spread their wings and go to other places and to provide those experiences for them.

Andrea: Yeah. I think you do that all the time. It’s just what you do, right?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Well yes.

Andrea: Definitely it is. Yeah, so how long have you been teaching voice?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Okay well, the short story or the long story? I finished the master’s degree in 1979, and started to teach right away. I’ve gone to Cleveland Institute of Music, and I taught for their preparatory adult education students. So I had a great big voice studio, and I also taught for a community college in Cleveland and taught music appreciation class. And I taught for music for senior citizens classes then I taught voice class and class piano at a community college to teach a lot of preparations.

And was a music director for a couple of shows then I taught four years at an all girls’ high school. So I had a choir, large mixed choir and a show choir, those were sort of up and coming and I taught a drama class and was music director for whatever we did for musicals. So I did that for about 10 years and it was very satisfying and I love working with high school students.

But there was something in me that when the students were ready to graduate, high school students are ready to graduate and going to college, there was a part of me that “Oh I just wanna give them two more art songs. I just wanna have them lessons as college students. I just wanna get you to a competition.” So I made up my mind to go back to school and get a terminal degree. I had always thought at the back of my mind I might get a doctorate but I was teaching and I was enjoying it.

So it took some soul searching. I don’t make decisions quickly and at that point, I thought, well there are three areas that interested me. One would be to get a doctorate in voice, which I did and the other was to get a doctorate in  comparative arts for that then you end up going to teaching in combined college arts program. And the other one was to be an attorney.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, because I had the energy for it and I had interest in the law. And I thought “Well, if I work as an attorney and I want to do anything very much with it and that makes it difficult to balance that in the family,” and I could not get singing out of my system. There was more to be sung and more to be taught. So that it made that choice pretty easy in the long run. So then I went to school and got a doctorate and then taught for a year in Indiana State before I came here 23 years ago.

Andrea: Wow!

Dr. Anne Foradori: I know a long time.

Andrea: But that’s impressive that you stuck yourself a long here.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, a lot of people change career paths, but I always found something new and exciting, either developing a class or students I’m working with or my own singing and research that just keeps me motivated to work at this.

Andrea: I’m just wondering, why teaching and not performing, you know as far as a focus?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, you and I have spoken a little bit about personality types and I was telling you about different, not assessment, I’m not sure what to call them, tests. Everything from the Myers & Briggs to other personality tests and I always have…well, two things, first my mother who was both a teacher and then a theater administrator. The professional side that she works in, she was a managing director. She did all the business end of the theater for professional theater. But she taught before that, she taught high school and she taught college. So I had that role model.

And the second was, because I love them both, and they each that needed to be scratched as performer, I could do in a city large enough like Cleveland, I had a soloist position in a large prominent church in the city. I could do whatever gigs I want to during the year and balance that in my teaching. So it was sort of the best of both worlds to be able to do things and then it was also a way to get invested in both but not that to commit to one till I felt like I went back to get a doctorate.

By the time I went back to get a doctorate, I was already in my 30’s and that’s not late. But in terms of making opportunities as a performer that’s older than most of the summer assistant programs and things like that usually dry up by the time you reach your late 20’s. And by then I had firmly thought that really what I want to do was continue to develop my own voice and to work with others. I had made that firm decision and then got to work in graduate school as teaching associate, so it sort of cemented it and I’ve been in to look for that path.

Andrea: That makes sense.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It does and I think for people who want to teach in a college level, there are kind of two ways to get there. The first is to have been a famous singer off somewhere and made a career in that and then come to college teaching with the information you have from your experience. And then the other is to follow a path where you do some performing but do a lot of more studying of pedagogy in working with students and that’s the path I took.

Andrea: It fits you so well and one of the things that I always really appreciated was you’re so attentive to your students from you walk in the door and you sense that some things is off.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It’s an interesting balancing act, because we are not your counselors, we are not your parents; we’re your voice teachers. But that being said, we teach this discipline in a one-to-one manner. It’s not the same as going to a lecture class where other students in it where the teacher may notice you or may not notice you unless they call on you. There is no escape, it’s just the two of us for the half of hour or the hour whatever the time period is.

And so there’s that and that kind of symbiotic type of relationship we have. The other is that, I think I’m biased because I’m a singer, more than any other musician, we have a different personal investment in what we do and we just do. If you’re singing and you don’t like the sound of your voice and it’s not a technical aspect that can be fixed, we go through a lot of soul searching and learning to love our voice giving ourselves permission to love our instrument. That’s a hard thing to do. We joke about it, we say “hate my voice, hate me.” We cannot take it personally. Can I get spiritual here for a moment?

Andrea: Of course.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Just the gift God puts on each of us to be an individual as a singer, you might be able to tell a certain pianist by a style or certain wind player by their tone. But you can always identify a singer. So with that comes both this great celebration of the gift we have, the individual gift and also the horrifying responsibility of having to achieve at a certain level. And if you don’t, is it because I have not learned my techniques enough or is it because my voice is unworthy and not beautiful enough instrument?

And that’s the thing that young singers struggle with a lot and even older singers struggle with and getting through that discovering your voice literally and figuratively is a challenge. And that’s one of the things I hope I do with students by the time they enter the studio and then by the time they graduate that they’ve had enough Aha-moments and have come to the realization that they are worthy. And that their instruments are worthy of developing and that their voices are intrinsically tied to their being but it’s not the sum of all their being.

So I have a framed card, it was a greeting card with a code on it that’s on my desk and I love it because it was , but she said she really got it from her French writer. So good for her for giving up the credit there, but it says “The end is nothing, the road is all.” And that’s really profound and it’s true in terms of finding your individual voice, but it isn’t true entirely with musicians because what we do is very public.

So for students having to come to groups with knowing that the journey is always present and the journey isn’t less as important as what you discover. Because you discover things about yourself along the journey before you get to the end. But no one wants to hear a C- choir. We have this struggle all the time of wanting to invest in the journey and know that we’ve grow and our voice grows by following the path and the journey. But knowing that still we have to be a little product oriented and that can be tough.

There are a lot of students who studied in high school or were involved in their plays, musicals, and choirs in high school, when they get to college and maybe start as a music major but then, I don’t want to say it’s no longer fun, the party came easily to them and their voice grows and developed and they find that it’s not fun as they thought it would be. And so it’s time for them to leave that in a good place in their hearts and spirit and to be participating musical where they want but maybe not pursue it as a career.

Andrea: Oh, of course while you’re talking, I’m remembering both my experience as a student but then also my experience in the last few years of this figurative voice that you’re talking about. This Voice of Influence that I’m trying to grapple with and I love the comparison of the two because it’s just seems so incredibly powerful and true that everything you just said also applies finding your voice that’s going to make a difference. And I have this saying that your voice matters but you can make it matter more and it’s that idea of developing your voice that yes, there is a product.

And so when you do put out something whether it’d be singing in front of people or a black poster whatever, it needs to be edited. It needs to have gone through a process of refinement in a sense to really make the biggest different that it can make and really connect to the audience or whatever. So all that you’ve just said I feel like it totally applies to this other voice as well. Do you feel that way?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, and that’s why I said, the voice is not the sum of your being. Sometimes when the students will do a recital, I will tell them specifically to do not listen to your tape for at least two weeks. Don’t listen your recording. You need to live in a moment of euphoria that comes with performing and with feeling like you put your whole heart into your activity and that you communicated with your audience.

And you don’t ever really hear that entirely on a sound recording because you don’t see their facial expressions and their acting and how visual they are with it that they don’t experience what they’re experiencing in life with the audiences reactions and things. And so just know that this is a little museum piece of what you did and this is a snap shot of a moment. You will sing these songs different ways on different occasion.

If I can count on one hand the times in lifetime when I think I had a perfect performance, then it’s just not entirely there. I remember saying to a colleague once when I was performing some new music and I wasn’t sure that everything I sung was a correct pitch. Some of it maybe a little “ish” and this colleague said, “Well, you know when someone is hitting a 3.33 batting average and they’re on a baseball team, that means that every three times they come up to bat, they get a hit.”

And we think that at 3.33 batting average is pretty damn good. So why do as musicians, because we’re in the midst of creating live art that’s very fluid and changing. If I sang only a third of the right note, I would think I was a failure. Yet in other aspects of life, someone would get a third or something accomplished and depending on how you view project as a whole, then you would think it was a great success otherwise.

And that was a really good way for me to look at approaching performing, and in this case, performing a new music where you part of bringing a piece to life is working with the composer. And sometimes, you’re a little wrong and you have a note that flipped up, you have to be kind yourself about that. Know that you’re creating fluid art. This is not a sound recording or commercial sound recording…

Andrea: Where you go back and make all these little changes, yeah.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So yeah, I think that discovering your voice whether it’s your voice in a classroom as a teacher or in a studio as a teacher or as you said writing a blog post or doing a podcast, finding your voice is a life-long process. I mean, it isn’t anything we ever entirely get to…we get to stages I think where we’re happy with our voice.

In 2007, I had West Nile encephalitis, probably bitten by a mosquito of gardening in the evening and I ended up in the hospital for several days and then home for three weeks. And it was difficult for me to think clearly because of the encephalitis and I eventually came through it well. But it started sort of an emotion of other things happening that my immune system and defense system were not strong.

And so I had that in 2007. I had aortic stenosis and a heart valve replaced in 2011, and then in 2015, I had two kinds of cancer. And with each one of these episodes, each one of these challenges, I begin to look at my own message, my own voice what was my next step, what was next role. And I have, one doesn’t say bounce back, but I have recovered from each of these, thank God and I feel like I have more to give to things.

But the last voice from the cancer combined with turning 60 and then having a very aggressive chemotherapy treatment really did the end of my singing voice. And you can hear my speaking voice is rough now. So again, that was me looking at what is my voice as a teacher and if my singing voice is not going to be my singing voice, what will be my voice? What is going to be my outlet for creativity and what will be the next step I take? And it’s unlike when I got to the sort of the end of the road teaching high school and teaching for 10 years between degrees. And I was thinking, what was my voice be next, will it be in the classroom, will it be in a courtroom which would mean going going to law school. Where is my voice most connected to the core of me?

And so for me when I was going to chemotherapy, I talked to a lot of great school friends on Facebook who have lots of advice for me. And someone said “Oh, write a blog, do a blog.” And then someone suggested, “Oh do a blog about getting through cancer.” I was like “Oh my gosh, how horrible would that be.” Because I don’t want any illnesses I’ve had to define me. I feel like that’s part of as my sister said, “Any scars you have in surgery is like the path or the map of your life, different travels you take.” And people do that now saying “Oh see these stretch marks on my elbows when I blah, blah, blah.” “See these stitches on my skin I got as a kid.” And mine are much bigger stitches but they’re just a part of the story of my life, not my whole life. So that’s how I got involved in the other blog I’m doing now.

Andrea: So tell me about the other blog. It’s a food blog, but I would love to hear more about why that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, since I was going to not try to sing on a professional level anymore, I thought “Well, what was I thinking of when I went to college? What would I have majored in if I didn’t major in music?” You know, go back to the things that you like the most. And before we use the word foodie thing right, other people got subscriptions to National Geographic. We got subscription to housing garden magazine and gourmet magazine. So that was the reading magazine around my house when I was growing up. And my parents’ idea of a good time was to go to New York for weekend, go out to eat and buy some French cookware.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I guess I had no choice I was sort of indoctrinated at an early age. And I remember even as preteener or teen when the gourmet magazine came, there were two things that always struck me. One was a gourmet travel section where some would just go and snap pictures of wonderful food all over the world and I would think, “What kind of job is this, this is great?”

And the other one was something they put out every month that was called gourmet meal of the month and it was a whole menu that was some kind of a protein that would be a roast, turkey or goose or whatever and then several side dishes or maybe a salad of some kind and then dessert. They’d have it all in a sort of a big banquet table and then they even suggest wines for it.

And every month, my parents made at least a portion of the gourmet meal of the month. They never bought the fancy wines but they would do things like make the roast or whatever and several side dishes and maybe the dessert every month. I just thought, it was the most wonderful way to grow up. My parents, one of their combined voices they had as a couple was in the kitchen. My dad is like the chef. My mom is the baker and I have more pictures of us with my parents in the kitchen cooking or serving big family meals.

And this was just a part of our lives that, part of my getting my new voice because I was going to use the singing voice so much was my culinary voice and my storytelling voice. So I worry the first I thought for every recipe I put, and I have an eight paragraph story that goes with it. And I wondered if people would respond to that, and so far, they have been. I have a small following but I can only do it as much as time allows because I still teach fulltime.

Andrea: Right. How does your story connect with your food?

Dr. Anne Foradori: It might something as simple as…or there was one week, I went in the recipe files from my mom’s. We moved out here. My dad moved out here and lived with me. And they’re all handwritten cards or my grandmother’s cased typed cards. She typed them and she had always would have the date and who gave her the recipe on it. And then she’d have her own little stories to tell about “you can use this or this, but I like to use this first or something.”

And there are some recipes in there. I made a pineapple upside down cake, a recipe that belonged to my great aunt, who I’m quite sure was my mother sister-in-law, my grandfather sister. And she was Aunt Ally who was smart and a smart, snappy dresser and really beautiful and would show up for these family events with this pineapple upside down cake. I’d remember this as a child, and I think she finely relented and gave the recipe to my grandmother who felt it was triumphant to get all if she gives her this recipe.

So these family stories about food, and I have another recipe card that’s in my grandmother’s handwriting marked 1919 that was from her mother-in-law about sort of a homemade Fig Newton cookie, sugar cookie with a ground fig filling. And the back of it, my grandmother had thought and wrote something like “Oh mother I love these cookies, her eyes lit up every time she made them and she thought she was a making a delicious cookie and it was still frugal.”

And just this whole little narrative that went around this and you know, that is not anything new. There are new family stories told around the dinner table and family occasions. And so a part of what I’m doing is finding recipes. Some of which are re-imagined that have been family recipes and stories to go with them. This week is going to be about Mother’s Day and I have a picture in the blog that will be my grandmother holding me as an infant and my sister who is about 16 months looking at my mom sort of smiling next to her, introducing my sister to me.

So three generations there and just the joy in my mom’s face and her voice what she did as a mother and what she discovered in a creative hand she had in our upbringing and what she introduced us to. That’s all part of the side stories about my grandparents and my dad. And it has been good because whenever I do the blog, it’s sort of a family affair because I cook what I want and then my son who is artistic takes beautiful pictures. And I’ve had a couple of other former students who are now photographers take pictures.

And I told students “No, I wasn’t making money on this but you can take home dinner to your family.” And I said come on over, have a meal and when I was writing this up originally, the narrative word or something has become sort of a catch phrase I use in it. There was just sort of our life that I use in this now was there’s always room for one word at the table. And that’s sort of a philosophy of life that I live and a philosophy that my parents always lived.

So for me, room for one more at the table means you have someone wants a voice lesson and I’m not horribly overloaded, there’s room to squeeze another one in during the week. Or someone needs some extra advising and something like that, there’s always another hour to make that happen. Part of my voice is wanting to have a generosity of spirit. I felt that sort of drives to me. So anyway, that’s a little bit about with the blog is about.

Andrea: Have you always felt this connected to your family?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes

Andrea: Or it’s just a new thing?

Dr. Anne Foradori: I would hear my grandmother tells us a story of their youth and then I would say something to this aunt who’s 10 years younger. I said, grandma told this story of such and such. And she said, “I didn’t remember that.” Or she’d say “I didn’t remember those details.” Well, of course, they may have lived over the same thing but with 10 years of difference in their childhood. So I always thought that that was interesting in terms of hearing my grandmother relayed that she had a great sense of drama in telling our family story and how other siblings who were younger may have lived through it. But the experience was not the same because of the distance and that. So yes, my grandmother was a great story teller. I’ve always had this connectedness.

Andrea: I’m curious what it was like for you when like emotionally when you realized that you didn’t have as much of a singing voice anymore? Was that difficult?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes and no. You are prepared for different stages of life, different ways. When I was 49, once I got 49 and a half, I just started to refer to myself as almost 50. So I said, “Well, I’m almost 50, I’m almost 50.” When I turned, I thought “Well, I’m only 50.” So I think in my mind I have prepared myself and knowing having said in that voice in pedagogy to understand that woman’s voice have changed and cartilage that was once flexible becomes more calcified and with that all the things that come with it and that some people are singing to their 60s and some do not. It’s like preparing yourself for anything when you get to middle age and then wake up one morning and say “Oh I couldn’t have any more babies, could I?”

So there was not sadness, there was just an adjustment to other things and my students have said “Well, come and sing, sing first.” And the truth is if I got one drop enough, I could do more singing and I can always demonstrate lessons. But again, that comes to how I judge myself and what I want to experience to be and if the experience is going to be such that it’s difficult for me or painful for me because I can’t sing as I do when I was 40, 20 years old, then instead of being sad about it, I turn the corner and say “But there’s other things I can do. There’s so more I ca n do and my interests are broad.”

So I’m working on a paper now to send up to publication and five musicals that changed the face of musical theater in America. So I’m interested in that and food blog and working on projects with students. So I don’t miss it because the minute that one thing was taken off the table, many things came in in it’s place. I think there’s a passing of that and I think because I always combine singing with teaching, it’s not like one day, I woke up from the Metropolitan Opera and couldn’t sing, you know.

I always knew it had to be part of a balance for being a teacher and a musician. So sad for about five minutes and then I thought and through chemo and I’m alive. And so the bigger picture for all of that was…I had my surgery done in Omaha and then I had chemo back here but I know when I was in the hospital in Omaha and due to complications I had to stay about 10 days. And I remember the physician, my colleague just come in and said she could not believe what a positive spirit I had. I was just so positive and I just said to her “You know, I’m just glad this was caught and I’m alive and I’m just glad to be here, just grateful to be alive and so what was there to complain about. I have so much more than so many other people.

I tried to keep that as my focus and my approach of things. I remember when my son was little, we had many talks about the difference between need and want. He would just “I need, I need, I need.” And I said, “No, you want, you want, you want,” and that’s different than needing. So do I need to sing? No, I don’t need to sing because there are other things. I need to live. I need to have a voice. I need to feel like that voice matters. But it can be done through many different ways. One of my friends once said that the people who are most successful in life have a good Plan B. So I’m okay with going with Plan B sometimes.

Andrea: You mentioned the desire to be generous before and the fact that you feel that gratitude and also you have this attitude of abundance that you can be generous then. And I think that that is a really powerful thing too to have those core beliefs that there is enough, there is always room for one more, there is always…and I’m grateful for what I have. That puts you in a position of power to be able to offer generously.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Here’s a saying in among the philosophers that a reflected life it is worth living. So I try to be thoughtful in how I make decisions especially if it all includes other people. I try to be thoughtful and I try to examine my life a little bit everyday and that’s different from beating yourself up for the things that you aren’t accomplishing immediately. You have to be patient with yourself. But in the long run of life, I see…some of like I mentioned my mom about being a good role model. And one of a very few people I think I know in life who I think died with maybe no or very little regret because she lived a very honest, very true life. And she when was at her most ill and I went home to visit and I knew I would not see her again and I was teary, and she used like great line from A League of Their Own,”There’s no crying in baseball.” We had that as running joke and we cry “There’s no crying in baseball.”

And I think that was her way of saying, I have lived a good life. Don’t be sorry for me. So that would be the greatest thing if anybody said at the end of the day, the end of whatever my end of the day is I lived a good life. I was a good person, I lived a good life. I think that’s a huge accomplishment. It sounds very basic and it sounds like a “Are you underselling yourself? You don’t want to cure cancer? You don’t want this, you don’t want that?”

But I think that some people are made for overt big changes. Some people are meant to discover things scientifically or go to the moon. And then some people work consistently and quietly for change and good things through their own way. And I think I’m in that category B. I always want to be in the classroom or in a studio with the students. I didn’t want to be an administrator running a program.

I think half of discovering your voice is recognizing what your gifts are. Not feeling dwarf by saying “Well, I’m not really good in this,” but understanding what your gifts are and how to use those gifts to speak to others. What are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? And from that, how do you develop those gifts to be a voice that you can use to bring your point of view for an advocate for others or whatever you want to do with that.

And I think that’s interesting, understanding and recognizing that your voice comes from your gifts. So the first part of that is understanding, recognizing, and appreciating yourself and your own gifts. And if you appreciate your gifts then you think you are worthy to bring them to the table and then you develop your voice and serve others too. But it comes with the recognition of “These are the things I do that are good and worthy and are good to share with others.”

Andrea: I think maybe everybody does this to some degree but where we view other people’s gifts and we admire them and then we kind of make this assumption that our gifts aren’t as powerful, strong, meaningful, or effect2ive or whatever it might be that we’re trying to aspire to be. How do you think that people can recognize their gifts as being good?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Sometimes, it’s good to what I say as a personal inventory. What are the things I like and what are the things I don’t like. So I might make a list of “Here are the things that I wish were different in my life.” I only can put down things over which I have control. I can’t say world peace, because that isn’t my personal responsibility. I’m only responsible for myself contributing towards that. So I might make an inventory or I might do that with singers, I might say “We’re gonna talk about your voice today.” Especially if they’re having a hard time with something technical and they’re frustrated, I’ll say “Here are the things, I can write down five things about your voice that I really like.”

And I then I don’t let them necessarily write down things they don’t like in their voices. And you write down five things about your voice that you like and then we’ll compare the notes. So they have to start by looking at themselves in a positive light instead of do’s and dont’s, what do I like and what do I don’t like. So I’m just going to say, this is what I like about your singing voice and this is what I like and I want you to write down five things about your voice.

Andrea: How does that affect them?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, I think they’re surprised because it’s usually hard for them to come up with five things because they want to be critical of themselves and I just make them do it.

Andrea: Why is that, why do we do that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: We blame it all on original sin. I think it’s in our human nature if you were raised in an atmosphere family whatever where you taught humility. It becomes a habit. But I mean, it becomes sort of something that informs how we view ourselves and we view the world. But there are also as false humility and that’s something we have to be careful of. If you have a gift like a gift of a voice and if you choose to develop it and develop it to the best of your ability then bravo for you. And if you don’t then that is your loss, but everybody has some gifts. Everybody has something to give and it’s precious because it was given to you.

We don’t self manufacture gifts. Those are given to us. We develop them. We bring them to the light. We can do that but we’re hard on ourselves. I think understanding where gifts come from really important. We don’t receive gifts unless there is some good intention behind it. After my junior recital that’s way back, I wasn’t entirely pleased with how I sing. I was very hard with myself. And sometimes after recital when visiting with friends and family and a couple of people came up to me and said nice things to me and then I tried to talk it the way like “Yes, but then there was then one note and dah dah dah.”

And my voice teacher, a wise woman, came stood up next to me and I felt a little pinch on my arm and she said “Just take a compliment.” I remember thinking “Yeah, why can I just say thank you and be done with it.” That’s hard to do, but I think it’s important to do and important to recognize that you have the gift. And I think you mentioned earlier people comparing themselves with one another, “Is my gift big enough? Is my gift good enough? Is it good enough to develop?”

I have heard more voices what I would consider a very good instrument, not the top natural instrument to come to school but a very fine instrument who work like dogs. And in the end, you know, it really is a little story, The Tortoise and the Hare of who gets ahead. The person who was taken what they have as a gift and work and work and work to develop it. So that’s a puzzling question on why we’re so hard on ourselves and why we don’t just accept gifts.

Andrea: Okay, so I have some like technical questions.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Okay.

Andrea: Now, I think that most of the people they’re listening, Influencers who are listening is not necessarily thinking about their singing voice. But I think if they just got a ton of other information which is fabulous, but I do think that we each have a speaking voice. I think that so much of what you taught me about singing applies to speaking whether it would be one-on-one or in front of a crowd.

And so I’ve noticed this in some speakers who might have a powerful voice in a sense. They have very strong opinions but in particular women tend to hold back on the way that they express those opinions. And I’m not even talking about theoretically now or figuratively. I’m actually talking about actual vocalizing of the way that they’re talking, where almost that connection of breath and phrasing those sorts of things, and breath support, they aren’t there. And I’m thinking I want to get them singing so I can show them what’s this means. So I think that you do a better job than I do right now explaining what connection of breath is and why that matters.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, if I spoke this whole time where I should be speaking, my voice would probably not have been tired. So if I were going to work with a professional voice user and developing there tone and timbre and strength with their speaking voice, there are few things I would address. The first is define what we call an optimal speaking pitch. We are not valley girls anymore but we’re in a society fry in the end of it. I hear from mostly young actresses and people who are interviewed, they talk and all of a sudden their voice fries at the end.

Andrea: Yes that vocal fry.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And that’s not very good for your voice, so to find the optimal speaking pitch, should I do this in piano?

Andrea: Sure that would be great.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So to find your optimal speaking pitch, so I’m going to say for a mezzo-soprano your two octave range, I’m just going to say is a e. So we’ll just pick that up [played piano]. So the top note of the bottom third…is about where your optimal speaking pitches. So what I would do first in working with someone is I would just say, I want you to talk and I’m not asking you to sing but I want you to keep this pitch in your ear, this is your optimal speaking pitch.

So my name is Anne Foradori and I’m doing this interview today with Andrea Wenburg and we are talking about developing voice or finding your voice. So if I had spoken like that through the whole time this interview, my voice would not be roughed, but it might sound affected. But when you’re speaking it in front of a crowd, you do not mind a little bit of a lift because we don’t want to fry at the end. So I would say the first thing would be defined about where your optimal speaking pitch is. So for here, I would say would be about for you is e. So you want to give it a go?

Andrea: I really do enjoy speaking and read about that tone.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yeah, okay. It seems high.

Andrea: Yes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I usually say to people if it seems a little high, give yourself a break and go back down half a step and work on it like that. So finding an optimal speaking pitch is the first thing. The second is to do some exercises with that where you are whether I have that pitch still in my head, I would be saying “Unfrozen, stop holding back and release the real you.” Then I would start to try to connect voice to it. And for people who are Harry Potter fans, I say it’s the professor Trelawney School of Divination.  So I have students play that for fun on their optimal speaking pitch or trying to speak an elongated fashion.

The other thing to find if you see my voice cleared up breath, part of the other thing you find if you use an optimal speaking pitch is that you cannot sustain that higher pitch of speaking without graph. So speaking quietly, you don’t need breath support like that but if I want my voice to carry, I have to have breath connected to it or you run out of it.

So I would probably work on some exercises and made them do that too then I would also work on the two what I just call ‘quick’ or exercises that are great that are noninvasive singing exercises. But first is a lip throw like a motor boat and they put voice on that. A lip throw is one the fastest way you can warm up a voice if you can’t be somewhere where you can sing loudly and that you can take that high. Shall we do it together?

Andrea: Sure.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Let’s go ahead. Okay, so when you take that high, you don’t feel pressure on your throat but you can feel pressure up on your resonate area in your face. And you see how much breath pressure you need to get up that high to sing so that’s a good reminder of how much breath pressure you need when you’re going to speak. But I would say for anybody who wants to develop their speaking voice to find their optimal pitch and then they warm up their voice like they would as a singer.

There’s a phrase in Italian: sing as you speak, or I’d say, you speak as you sing. And so the same rules apply to singing as applied to speaking. And there have been an occasion to hear a professional singer speak whether on the stage or somewhere else, the voice is elevated like this, you know, you hear resonate sound. Those are the first things I’d start with that would help somebody or professional speaker to develop their speaking voice or their singing voice.

Andrea: Uh-hmm and that vocal fry thing, I remember you’re giving me an article actually and you’re explaining too that that’s just a vocal chord beating each other up really and that’s what I’m doing right now kind of. But I speak up higher then my vocal chords are not hurting each other so I can do it longer.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: I’ve got more longevity with this particular voice at this particular time and in general. I’m not going to end up with vocal nodules so not be able to really talk. The other thing I remember you’re saying too which I think is very interesting and powerful is that well placed vocal abuse is okay sometimes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, so…alright, for instance say your singing a musical theater piece where you want to growl and a sound like that, so someone wants told me in terms of…I don’t know if I heard this on a funny episode or something like phrase or what, but someone was talking about how dry they wanted their martini and the response was, I want a fork full of liquid. Well, the joke of course is a fork full of any liquid is just a teeny bit of liquid as you can imagine. So you want a fork full of a liquid for anything that you do that would enhance the sound or for something in the sound like a vocal fry or a glottal stroke or any of those kinds of things…

Andrea: Explain the glottal stroke real quick?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, instead of starting with the air puffing the glottis apart, the vocal chords apart, and the truth if you’re singing in German and start with a vowel sometimes that vowel starts with a hard sound or glottal stroke. So a little bit of bad is okay, won’t kill you or people. Ethel Merman of whatever she was singing in a hard belt with a lot of some vocal abuse in there too.

But a phrase I use a whole lot with students who are using especially learning belt is I’d say “Don’t make your sound breath starved. Don’t cut it out, you know, you don’t want your voice to sound like you pulling the neck on a balloon. Let me hear out that the breath is what feeds us all the time.” So having the breath in the sound is important terms of the development of speaking voice too.

Andrea: I think that that’s really important. Breath is huge and we often don’t take a big enough one.

Dr. Anne Foradori: We often and we often sort of speak to the end and impress the sound. All of that is hard and the voice in terms of the fatigue factor.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for this time.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well thank you. This has been sort of gone all over the place but that’s okay.

Andrea: That’s the great thing about having your own podcast. You can do whatever you want to.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I guess.

Andrea: Well, yes, thank you so much and I appreciate your voice in my life on so many different levels and the experiences you have given me. Thank you for what you’re doing to students as well. I appreciate it.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And I especially like before we started that you’re articulating through this in a voice that each voice is worthy to be heard. Everybody’s voice has something to add to conversation with your voice no matter; even it feels like it’s a small contribution. All contributions are welcome and that the table is big enough for people to be there and every voice deserves to be heard.

Sometimes even the voice that may seem like it’s a voice in the wilderness or they may seem like the message is a small, it’s important to that person and so it’s important that it’s heard. We all become more generous and are giving if we feel like what we offer is acknowledged and appreciated even on the most basic level, even if what we do seems like the most basic act of kindness. Sometimes even just someone saying, thank you is all we need to feel inspired to be more generous and to be a better giver.

Andrea: Uh so true. Thank you!

Dr. Anne Foradori: You’re welcome!

 

END

How to Dress Your Identity & Message

Episode 11 with Author & Stylist Toi Sweeney

If you think you know what fashion is, Toi Sweeney is going to blow your mind in this interview. This interview isn’t about superficial tips to be sure other people like how you look, oh no! In fact, this is what I said in the middle of the interview:

“People are going to you for fashion tips, but what you’re giving them is identity.”

In the first few minutes you get to hear us discuss our experience of working with each other when I went to Philadelphia to get styling assistance from Toi. It was a blast and I am sure you’re going to love this interview with author and stylist Toi Sweeney.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen here, on Stitcher or iTunes

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If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my one to one offerings here.

Andrea: Toi Sweeney, welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Toi: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be speaking with you today.

Andrea: I don’t think we’ve talked since we did shop, since you shopped for me in Philadelphia.

Toi: It was so much fun. It was so much fun.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Well, we’re going to tell everybody about that but first, let’s tell the Influencer listening where we met, shall we? Do you want to do the honors?

Toi: Oh my goodness, sure. So we met in the Fascinate Advantage advisors’ group. We were two of what maybe like 14 exceptional leaders that are in that advisory group and it was really, really, really fantastic…fascinating I might say.

Andrea: Indeed, always. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ll know that sometimes I talk about this Fascinate Assessment because it is something that I use to help me understand people’s voices, to understand what they’re communicating and how they’re communicating that to the world and how other people perceive them. It just seems like a really powerful tool. Have you used it a lot with your clients and other people since we took the class, Toi?

Toi: Honestly, since I’m finishing my book, I hadn’t use it that much as I would like. So I was really excited about meeting you and then being able to communicate that because you were kind of helping to test drive my big idea about how I would use it on my clients. And so as you’ve been probably talking about on your podcast with all of the different archetypes you know if you are Maverick Leader and I’m the kind of or whatever then what is that look like when it comes to your real identities. So I really wanted to play around with that a little bit more and you gave me the opportunity to do that so that’s why I have to make sure I thank you wholeheartedly for that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Yeah, it was a real privilege. So after we met in this Fascinate course which was a virtual thing, we actually got on the phone and talked about business and Toi’s book that is out now. And we were talking about these things and then she started talking about branding and possibility of using me as an example. So I was all about that because I’m somebody who, I so want…you know, Toi, I really want to express who I am on inside and let that come out but at the same time, I’ve been hiding it for a long time.

So when I found out that my archetype for the Fascinate Assessment was the Maverick Leader and that’s innovation plus power which means the language of creativity plus the language of leadership, that wasn’t was I was expecting. And I think I have been softening my voice and my self-expression for long because I don’t want to appear too bossy, you know, powerful I guess. So when I took the assessment and that’s what came out, and I was like “Oh my goodness, I…”

And I started looking at myself and my clothing, and I already knew that I wasn’t very trendy but fashionable. But I mean, you know, I walked in to this shop with you, you had already….anyway, when I walked in, I had on very blend clothing. I had tennis shoes, jeans and this very plain like navy blue shirt.

Toi: And that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, it was okay.

Toi: You haven’t had the Toi Sweeney experience yet.

Andrea: No.

Toi: So that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, but when you looked at that, it communicates a different message than probably what my voice really communicates which is that creativity and leadership and it wasn’t very powerful image, my clothing. So anyway, Toi ended up going through process with me ahead of time that helped her identify some things about how she wanted to help me convey who I am. So Toi, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you did?

Toi: Well, the first thing that we talked about was I wanted to talk to you about your mission. We talked about your vision. We talked about your values, you core values, your perceived value and all of those things and then what’s more important to me was just a little a little talk about your image where you are versus where you want to be. And isn’t just the way every aspect of our lives are so we want to be here but we’re actually over here.

And so once we kind of talked about those things, I think and pictures. So as you were talking to me, I was listening and kind of formulate in my head what I think you should look like. Then as per the usual with my clients, I give them my style test which is just kind of tell me to pick the right items off the rack, which is going to tell me that you like separates over dresses.

It’s going to tell me you know your level of comfort if you prefer sneakers or strappy sandals that when you walk into the room, do you care more about being powerful? Do you care more about being innovative? Do you care more about being comfortable at the end of the day, because if you’re not comfortable then if you’re speaking in front of a crowd obviously, right then you’re not going to be your best self. And my greatest intention is to always lead you better than I found you. And not knowing necessarily in a negative way but just like, you know, I want to do my part to encourage and inspire you as well.

And so we just talked about all of those things, and so we did your style test and it just revealed that you really love feeling in being effortless. There’s a level of comfort there but at the end of the day, you want to be powerful but you also really want to be very comfortable. So we decided that we’re going to give you a very effortless style but that speaks to the Fascinate, you are an innovative leader and that you are very creative. If anyone has ever had the opportunity and the privilege to speak with you regarding your business, you have ideas. I tell you, you’re doing this all the time.

And so I wanted to take all of those things and just really incorporate it into your look and so that’s what we did. So after that when we hang up the phone, I looked at your skin color, your eye color, and your current hair color and I looked at the colors that were going suit you best. I think I reached back out to you and said the most important question “What do you wanna say, what do you want to say?” You know, because you can do all those things and what’s a normal image consultant would do.

So all of those things are as for normal, but for me I took that all information and I felt through it through your brand and I felt through your Fascinate Advantage and then I helped you kind of create this unicorn if you will that looks so… I mean, if anybody have seen the after pictures that was so effortless and it looked like it took no time. But honestly, it was a lot of work, right?

Andrea: For you… I thought it was pretty effortless myself.

Toi: Which is should be for my client. Yeah, it was effortless. You show up and everything is done for you. You just tried things on and when we’re kind of we’re through what we’re going to purchase and why we’re going to purchase it. And then we grouped it all together and then you were pretty much finished unless the next step is that you’re travelling and have a big event and then I’ll come over and you know how to get packed and put some different outfits and stuff together.

So that’s the main thing that kind of sets me apart from other fashion stylist and other image consultants is that I care so deeply about your voice and the message that you’re conveying. And you know, you really, really walk into a room and before you say one word, people want to get to know you. You are so fascinating in the sense that they come over to you. So you don’t have a message that you go over to them, because it is the conversation piece like “Oh, I like that jacket. Oh I like…you know whatever.” It’s just that I really want you to be able to walk into the room, feel your absolute best and crush it and I think you did that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes. So I’ll share my perspective as somebody coming in. I travelled a long way to get to Philadelphia, which was amazing and I walked in and you brought me into this dressing room that was huge and there’s clothes, like so many clothes lining the walls already. She’d done all this work previous to me coming. So all she had me in the nerve. She was on the floor, so she started having me tries things on and I think it was maybe the second thing I tried on. I was just like my whole being in countenance and everything sort of lifted because I was like “What?”

Toi: And I was nervous because you were saying anything at last. I was thinking “Oh man, I might have messed this one up.” And you looked in so cute and you were looking at the mirror and you were smiling and you started giggling. You have my favorite laugh in the world and you started laughing and you like “Yeah.” And I was like “You like it?” And you like “Yeah, I like it a lot.”

Andrea: Oh my goodness. I could not believe what I was looking at the mirror.

Toi: It was great!

Andrea: It was. People have asked me since then you know, “Would you have picked these clothes off the rack?” And I said “No, I wouldn’t have because first of all I don’t know anything about fashion. But second of all, even if you told me there was this big line up of things that were fashionable; I wouldn’t have the guts to pick up stuff off the rack because I just don’t feel confident in my ability, first of all. But also just understanding the fashion, understanding what fits me like I wouldn’t have known, you know. I just wouldn’t have known.

And so when I put it on, it was so different than anything else that I owned and then you put shoes on me and different pair of pants and what not, and I just about fell over. Because I was like “Oh my gosh.” And there was this one girl that I had in mind but she’s in her 20s and she’s the cutest little thing and I saw myself in the mirror and I’m like “I’m just like her. I look like her,” and I’ve been admiring her and her style for so long and I’m like “Oh my gosh.” You just said to me, years have fallen off of you.

Toi: Yeah, I mean there are so many A-ha moments in that fitting room, you know. I think that we walked away with you looking a lot younger. The most important thing that I do for my clients and then I stressed in my book is that “You wanna look relevant.” So it’s not about the trends. When we were picking items, we don’t mean a $5,000 dress or a $2,000 shirt or anything crazy like that. It wasn’t this like costume made pieces. It was really, really about at the end of the day making you look longer, you know less essentially the parts of our bodies that we love until we can work on the other stuff. We might want to talk some stuff a week for now.

Andrea: Yeah exactly.

Toi: You know, we talked about…and we did that. And so I was saying you know, “See the difference if you put this top on?” And then you took it here and we tied it there. If you’re like me that tend to gain weight in your belly, you know, I know how to make myself look long and lean because I’m only 5’3”. And so it was just manipulating basic, classic, beautiful clothing just to make you look your best and then adding the right accessories.

And so you showed up and looked like you came to shut it down. I have to tell you what blown me away the most about the shop, it wasn’t what we did in the fitting room but I have to tell you like the next day, we shoot some pictures and we did all that stuff but it was after everything was completely finished.

And you could have put back on your clothing that you travelled in and you didn’t. And you put on this gorgeous denim top, which was a basic denim top and I was like “We’re not doing the button-down.” We ended up doing like more of a pull over because button-downs for anybody is they’re very difficult to wear. And you saw that because they tend to open, if you have to put it down and if you don’t have the fattest belly then it folds there.

So you put that on, you put your new jeans on and you had your new fashionable sneakers on, because again, it was your style about effortless and it was very polished and it was powerful in the sense. And you looked a million dollar and all you were wearing was like denim on denim look. You know what I mean, like were sitting in a restaurant and having brunch and I’m looking around and I was like “Does she owns this restaurant?” You looked like you belong there.

Andrea: Yeah, my confidence level just walking into that nice little restaurant that we went to, I mean, it was just so different. Even the shoes that I was wearing, I always wear tennis shoes because my feet hurt all the time. But you got me shoes, you found me shoes that didn’t hurt my feet but was cute and that’s what… So anyway, walking in this different kind of shoes and let alone the hair and makeup and the clothing, I felt so much more…I just felt like I was standing in my power.

Toi: You looked fabulous. I mean, it was so obvious. And I just kept saying like “Look at her, look at her confidence.” I mean the way you sat or everything. You spoke differently.

Andrea: I did.

Toi: I mean everything about you completely blown me away and I mean it wholeheartedly. I was in awe of what we accomplished. I really, really was and then you went to read your post afterwards and I just like you know, I got to see this like 5-year-old giddy little girl giggling in the fitting room and you walked out this fabulous woman that looked like she was so ready to take on the world. It was awesome. It was so awesome.

Andrea: Yeah and it was wild. I got a speaking gig like the next week at a conference and I was “Oh my gosh, I have my weeks’ worth of clothing and I’m gonna rock it.” I just felt so amazing just knowing that I was prepared in that way so that I could bring my best. I honestly, I think I have always felt really uncomfortable. I feel very comfortable in front of a crowd but as far as my appearance goes, I’ve sort have done it besides the fact that I don’t feel comfortable in my appearance, like I’ve sort of reason above the fact that I don’t feel that great about my body or that I don’t feel that great. But when you put clothes on me, it was like “I felt great in this body too, like I don’t even care.”

Toi: Absolutely. Right, I mean because at the end of the day, you know like I have in seven days, I have to go on television, and you know I got on the scale this morning and I was like “Oh so, the last 45 days, you have been finishing your book and doing this different tours speaking engagement and all those these things and you’re not taking care of yourself because you decided that it was going to be okay that you went all on your book, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

Toi: And so right now I have to be honest and say “Well, can I lose 25 pounds in seven days, probably not.” And so what do we do, we show up and rock it out where you are. And so the difference is in what I talked about in the book is that not only are you going to the biggest things are, so now you’re able to dress your message, right? But what you’re saying, right here you say is that it’s easy like you can focus on preparing for the main things and you don’t have to worry and fret about how are you going to look. The worst thing is showing up and not looking the part.

Andrea: Yes.

Toi: You know because we talked about this in Fascinate Advantage group. And in those 8 seconds, they’ve already decided if you have deserved or earned the right to be on that stage. You know, we all know that we have, right? But isn’t it so magical standing there knowing that you do so that you feel that way also, right? And so that really is what is about and so the continued process would be that we’re going to work on is just getting your closet to the point where you can wake up in the morning and you can have 15 minutes to get somewhere and everything that you grab is magnificent.

And that everyday even if you just dropping the kids off of the bus and it’s a tunic and leggings and a fashion sneaker and shirt, and wear your sunglasses on and grabbed that gorgeous handbag that you bought, and you’re still rocking it out where you are like “Okay, so I have my coffee, and I have 15 minutes to get dressed and still look amazing.” That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: And I looked amazing and I don’t know, there’s something about that putting on clothing that matches who I am on the inside and sort of draws out the best of me. And I think that’s what so powerful about what you’re offering people in general is that we don’t have to master it up on our own. Like there is a way to sort of put these things on that are going to call out of us and release it out of us. Whereas, if I’m just dressed in my sweats and a t-shirt to take my kids to school, what are my kids seeing up me? You know, what am I feeling about who I am and how I’m going to attack the next thing on my list of things to do today. All those sorts of things, I’m like “This is so transformational.”

Toi: It is. You know, I always say, when you look and you feel good, when you’re feeling good, you’re confident and when you’re confident the world is yours. But I will take it one step further and since we’re talking about the kids was I sight this in the book that there was an article that was written about the headmaster in the UK, and she sends out letters to all the parents that basically said “Hey, when you drop your kids off in the morning or you pick them up in the afternoon, can you please not wear your pajamas.” What kind of message are we sending are we sending to the kids,” you know, and that just blew my mind.

Andrea: Wow! Shoot!

Toi: You know, I’m like “If you saw the way I drop my kids…” and I’m guilty of it too. You know, but I’ve got my closet to the point where it is a ____ somebody is like “Oh that was amazing.” I’m like “Really?”

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes.

Toi: You know what I mean, and so that’s what I’m really talking about is that if you put together a brand, you know, dress-the-message type of closet right then anything that you grab and so can you imagine that being at home and receiving that email of like “You did not show up today and we need you to not only show up for yourself but to show up for the kids.” And what are you saying to them and then you think about the fact that in our Fascination group, one of the guys released an article about the fact that everybody was hiring freelancers and personal branding was so important. What are we teaching our children about dressing the message? What are we teaching them about being able to sell themselves, because we’re all selling something rather yourself or a product, right?

Andrea: And when you’re saying selling, you’re saying compelling communication which is exactly what this podcast is about, compelling communication. So even if you’re oppose to the word selling, dear Influencers, understand that compelling communication is sort of that same thing. So that’s exactly what you’re talking about.

Toi: Yes, so you know, it’s so important and I think that at the end of the day, I’m talking about simple things. You know, I want you to show up as your best self. I want you to be able to give a 100% to all of the things that are so important to you and I’m saying “Hey, do you need some help with dressing your message, then let me help you with that part so that you can be the best writer. You can be the best podcaster; you could be the best leader. You can be the best mom. You can be the best entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about these things. If you can’t hear some simple steps that you can take, you know, if you’re saying, “You’re in Philadelphia. I can’t afford to fly there,” here are some steps that you can take to at least start the process.

I’m really excited about your journey and what you have coming and all the things that you’ve been able to accomplish and just how gorgeous you looked now. Now listen, your headshots look great but when we took your picture that day you looked amazing and we just kicked it up a knot, that’s all we did. If you look your headshot and the images that we took side by side, you looks great. You look fine, but I don’t allow my customers to dwell on the possibility of fine or okay. Why would you settle for being great when you can be exceptional, when you can be amazing?

Andrea: Yeah. Okay, so last week I had some friends get together, they said, we want to see these clothes. So this is the best and I want to tell this story because I think it’s so important to copying up this part of your message. But what happened was they all sort of just sat down and I told the story about how we met and why I went out there and all that sort of thing. When I went back into this bedroom and I put on my first outfit and I walked out and they were like…first of all, before anybody saw me, I was in the hallway grinning from ear to ear, almost like trying to hide my grin, you know, like “Oh my gosh, I don’t wanna look like a little kid right now,” but I feel like that little girl who’s in her brand new dress running out to spin in front of her dad. You know like “I know, I’m beautiful and just enjoying the way that I am.”

You know, that is what’s going on inside of me and then I walked out there and they all just like gushed. They were just like “Huh, oh my goodness.” And this is just the clothing, you know and the shoes and the look that you gave me then I went back and I went back and forth, and went back and forth. And you know even the most casual things were like, I sort of progressed in I guess dressiness as I went through in the most casual things, they were like “Oh my gosh, I can totally see you speaking in that.” And I thought, “Oh gosh you haven’t even seen me the good stuff.”

So anyway, it was working and they’re saying this is the image that you should be in front of people you know. And then this is the really funny part, the next day, I got I snap from my one of my friends and she was like “Okay, I just want you to know that I was looking through my closet and I’m trying to figure out what to put on and I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder what Toi would think of this.”

Toi: I hear that.

Andrea: It was so great.

Toi: It’s so humbling. I think that that is just “Hey that’s awesome, that’s so fantastic.” You know, just message me next time and attach images.

Andrea: Well, I think they all came away wanting to buy your book.

Toi: Oh that’s nice.

Andrea: You know because they want to know…they saw the transformation in me, in one of their dear friends, and they saw how you had been able to make inside come out on me and they were so inspired and they were…these are the things that they were saying. So I see all that too because I think that people should know that there are so much more potential that we don’t have to stay where you are. I felt stuck in that, in my brand of clothing because I didn’t know what to do. And so I really, I’m excited for your book. Now this book, let’s talk about your book for a little while. So tell us about your book and the format that you chose.

Toi: So the book is titled Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand, because we are all while we choose to believe it or not, everybody is a brand because you’re already putting something out into the world. People are already perceiving that brand; good, better and different. So if you are a brand, you might be a well-dressed brand. And so it’s really funny because when I was meeting my book designer, he showed me the typical kind of eBook layout and I hated it to completely being honest. I hated it so much. I was like “This is horrible. I hate everything about this.”

Andrea: Because it was just words?

Toi: It was just normal, you know, and I don’t do normal. I think you’ve got to spend a weekend with me so you know, I don’t do boring and I don’t do normal. So I was really bored and I was just too typical. And so what I asked him to do was to lay out the same way you would lay out a fashion magazine. And he said “We’re gonna need a lot more images.” I was like “Oh boy!” So leaving Corporate America just seven months ago and having a bunch of gorgeous talented friends, I reached out to a couple of people and say “Can I ask some pictures?”

And so I’m really, really excited to bring you guys something that’s more like a fashion magazine and also you know video. It’s an eBook that features video and images. I’m so proud of this. It is so exceptional and I just can’t even believe that it’s here. I can’t even believe that it’s done. So I’m so excited for everybody to kind of dive into it and really it’s a quick read and like I said, it’s really engaging. It’s kind of like part television, part fashion magazine if you will.

Andrea: Yeah. So what do think the results are for the person who buys your book and reads it and watches the videos, what are they going to leave with?

Toi: It’s funny that you asked that question, or I find that interesting that you asked that question, because when I was talking to my copywriter, she said “I have to be honest…” You know what I’m thinking, “oh boy.” And she said, you know, and I heard this before, I haven’t thought much the way that I looked like. I put myself together and I feel like I was doing just fine but you really make look at it from a different perspective.

And so if you walk away and you’re thinking about your clothing the same thing that was happening with your friends when they saw you, if you just have that moment of “Wow, what I wear really does matter, number 1.” Number 2, it’s so important for me to not only create a look for myself, but also to create a signature style for myself. Have that set things that you’re known for would be my second thing that I want people to kind of walk away with.

And the third thing is what you can do. It’s actually really simple to kind of create a signature look, and I just kind of give you some things like if you wear glasses and you can’t leave without wearing your glasses then make that part of your look. It’s really is about embracing who you are and just exploding that out into the world in a way that they cannot ignore you. That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: So what are some other examples of signature style? You said glasses or just to give me a couple of tangibles.

Toi: Yes, so if you’re someone like I have a client who loves…I have two clients actually, who are both completely obsessed of stripes so then don’t wear them because right now, stripes are very relevant in the industries. So don’t wear them the same way that somebody else wears them. Right now, it’s trendy to wear stripes with floral, so you buy stripes shirt and you have a floral design on top that’s different than the traditional nautical what everybody else is doing. Don’t do that. Don’t do what everybody else is doing.

Maybe you wear it this way and instead of you wearing maybe a stripes shirt, again that’s everybody else is doing, maybe you got a cute sundress and you wear stripe wedges or stripe flats or get a stripe handbag. You just incorporate your signature whatever it is into your lives and you should wear it everybody. It should be a reflection of something that you’re going to do every day, and so that’s it. It can be pop of color on your lips, you know, regardless if you wear all black or if you wear whatever color.

Regardless, I can expect that when I see you, there’s going to be red or pink or whatever on your lips. So think about Victoria Beckham, you know, she does wear a ton of color if any on her lips, regardless of whatever they’re wearing. Kim Kardashian, regardless of whatever they’re wearing, it’s always a smoky eyes and a nude lips that’s their signature style. Just think about those things in your life.

I always say for busy moms and busy mom-preneurs if it’s your kids then maybe you have a necklace that has a meaning to you or something that signifies when you started your business, whatever it is that’s important to you that should be your anchor and build out from there. Like a lot of men, collect watches, cufflinks and things like that. Those are things that you can build around and start to build your personal brand image around the things that you love.

Andrea: I can imagine at this point, but I’d like to hear from you what is the benefit of having that thing that signature thing?

Toi: That’s a very good question. I’ve never been asked that before and I’m so excited to answer it.

Andrea: Yay!

Toi: Well, I just think that it anchors you, right? Because every time I ask someone what they want to say, everyone wants to feel most, and out of all my clients, I have one that give me a different style. Everyone wants to be approachable; no one wants to be seen as someone that doesn’t get along with others and all those type of things. Approachable, it is probably the number one answer, right?

Andrea: Interesting.

Toi: And I think that we all seek or should seek in all of our greatness to be humble because it’s never, it’s about us right? We never really got to anywhere by ourselves and I think that that’s just an important message for me and that’s just kind of me projecting them on to my clients like you need a place to call home. You need a home base, because when you’re that nervous and when you’re that excited and you’re really up and against and it’s stressful to do all the things that we all accomplish in a day. It’s stressful to try to working out at a fulltime job, your business is a fulltime job, working a fulltime job and taking care of your family, and so you just need a place that’s home base.

So we just kind of need that something that we can touch or look at that reminds you that somebody loves you, somebody has your back that you got this that you didn’t get there alone. Like I wear a lot of crosses because of my faith, I wear a little M sometimes for my son that passed away, you know, that just reminds me that like I’m okay, you’re okay. We can do this. It’s like a quiet way of screaming, I got this, and then you build all the other stuff on top of that so that at night when you strip the lashes off and you remove the lipstick, you’re back at home base.

Andrea: Okay, first of all I’m tearing up here. No, I mean for anybody that has ever said that fashion and your appearance is superficial, if they just hear what you just said, they’ve just totally taken back everything they ever said about that because that was so beautiful. What you just said was so beautiful and deep and meaningful. That’s speaks to me personally in a way that being trendy or just looking your best for other people and that sort of thing, that doesn’t speak to me. But when you just said what you just said, that is just so convicting and it opens my mind to “Oh wow, there’s something really meaningful in my appearance.” Wow that was so powerful.

Toi: Because it should be, and I think that again that would kind of sets me apart because I really do when I think about the sounds like not humble but it’s true. When I sign into social media and I say to you that I love you then when you get to know me, you know that it really is coming from a genuine place. And so it’s important to me that you have a home base, because life gets tough. It gets tough for all of us and so if it’s just about the stuff, you lose that stuff.

You know all the stuff will come and go but if you’re anchoring yourself in your home whether that’s your faith or your family or whatever that’s for you then you have a better chance of being unshakable. You know what I mean? And so at the end of the day when I’m saying dress for message that’s what it is about. That’s why I’m saying that it’s important for you. I want to know what’s your vision is because I want to know where you’re going. That’s all about stuff. I want to know what you’re values are because that’s the piece that we’re going to choose that represents something to you.

Andrea: This is like therapy. I mean, yeah retail therapy exactly. No, you know, it’s not. It’s so different in that. It’s so good. So many important things for us to really consider and I can only imagine the kind of impact that your book have on the hearts of the people that read it because they might be going to you expecting fashion tips. But what you’re giving them is identity and that hope that anchoring themselves in who they are and expressing self-expression and those really deep things that I love so much.

Toi: You know, I kind of like see some fashion in there and that I feel like…

Andrea: Oh yeah, I’m sure you did, yes.

Toi: You know, It’s a fashion book, but thank you for what you just said because…and now I’m going to try not to tear up because it’s so much more to me than that. I feel like my purpose is about so much more than that and I think that God has given me the life that he has given me and all the trials because I have something bigger to say than just the clothing.

Anybody can go out there and put an outfit together and that’s not what I do. You can go to Nordstrom, you can go to anybody. There are a thousand fashion stylists. Everybody is an image consultant and that’s not really…at the end of the day, I hope that I deliver so much more than that and that when you look in the mirror like you did, you see your own story for all of the glory that it is and for the all the things that made you use of that when you stepped up on the stage and you’re talking to people about their voice, it’s authentic. But not in the way that we’re all tossing that word around and it just gets on my system. It truly really is authentic, for real.

Andrea: For real.

Toi: For real, authentic.

Andrea: Yes, yes. Oh gosh, yeah. That’s a good stuff. So Toi then can I ask you where does your fashion for this come from? What is in your story? Where you’ve been? What sort of things has happened that has motivated you to be so passionate about this?

Toi: Oh my goodness, so many things like all of us. I mean, the short answer is…I’ll give you the quick notes, you know, it’s just like everybody. You come into this world and you have natural loves, right? I’ve always love art, music and fashion. I grew up thinking that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is. She has such a great sense of style and I was left to my own so I really learned to depend on myself a lot and just not allowing all the negative things, learning in my 20s to love myself because I didn’t love the negative stuff in, right?

And so my goal in my 20s was really learning and to made a conscious effort to really learn on how to love myself. I did it because I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I was funny, you know, and I always had a great sense of style. But I didn’t really love myself. So once I realized that, I kind of put that as a priority so that when I finally did met my husband, “you have to accept me and all of me, for who I am. I love myself too much to settle for anything less than what I deserve.”

So when we got married, you know, he travelled a lot. He would be gone 14 weeks at a time and I really wanted to start this business. I really wanted to start a family so when we comes home, we tried for three years to have a baby and nothing was happening. And then after all of the infertilities in six months and I have a uterine eruption. I lost our first son, Myles, and it ripped my heart out and it just drawn me to nothing, to ground zero. By the way, I was still working in Corporate America just really trying to dive into this career that I had of time to make it a different aspect of the fashion industry and dealing with just the tough stuff there as well.

And so before that, we talking about divorce and all these hard things that you kind go through and just really, really standing that ground zero and decided to still look up. And fashion and putting on my power was such a great part of that for me. It’s always been my saving grace as far as like “Okay, Lord, I’m gonna anchor myself,” and you still have to get out of bed and I need a look. If I dressed how I feel, there’s going to be a problem. So let me go one better and I take it until I made it and then it really just it.

And so now, when I see women who don’t stand in their power, and I see women not dressing and living up to their full potential, I take it on us like personal vendetta like “Oh, you can do this.” This is not okay. This is not just okay and so you got to get up and I take my own advice. You have to get up, put your big girl panties on and go seize the day. I’d stopped and nobody cares, work harder like nobody cares about your personal problems. I care about that big thing and for me it was just being stuck in my career, losing my son and almost losing my husband and almost losing my life. It was all of those things.

You know, I also was told I was stupid that I wasn’t pretty. I was told all of those things and so if I don’t know how to do anything else by the grace of God and because of my love for Christ, I know how to survive. I know how to do that so when I’m telling you, it does kind of matter if you have messy hair and red lipstick on because it might just change you in that moment. One moment leads to another moment because now you’re talking to a stranger at son’s doctor appointment or on your daughter’s recital, right?

And it turns out that she is the blah, blah, blah, of blah blah and you’re like “Oh my gosh, thank God, I showed up that day. Oh thank God, at least even though I was wearing the leggings or the jeggings but at least I had on a good shoe and a handbag, you know what I mean? Because what you’re doing is telling the world that you care enough. You care enough to be treated a certain way. You care enough to show up for them and for yourself because that’s always saying at the end of the day, you say, I love me enough to do this and I love you enough that I’ll do it for you too.

Andrea:  I’m so inspired and I can’t believe that I teared up so much on this podcast today. But obviously, I mean I know personally what you’re talking about now. I get it. You know, it’s not just the longing inside of me anymore like you’ve given that gift to me and what I think, I think that your message is so desperately needed amongst women of all ages. Men too for sure, men definitely applies but hey, you’re going to gain a stronger voice with women as you have the opportunity to speak in colleges like you have in various settings where you get a chance to really speak to the heart and address that. I mean that’s really powerful stuff right there.

Toi: Yeah, that means everything. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Andrea: So Toi, why don’t you share how we can now, now that we’re so inspired, how do we go find your book?

Toi: So you can log on to iTunes into your account and purchase a Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand. My name is a funny name. And my social media under that name except for Twitter, it’s sweeneytoi. But yeah, if you have an Android, we loaded it up on Cobo so you can still be able to get it that way. I’m really, really excited to spy it and let me know your thoughts. Please reach out to me on social media and say hi because I love that. I hate the term fashion profession. So hopefully, it’s much more, more than that but I have a passion for people for sure and just helping you to dress the message.

Andrea: Yes, and we will definitely link your book into the show notes. So if you’re listening on iTunes, as soon as you’re done with this, go poke the link to the book and your already on iTunes or Apple podcast is what they’re calling it now, you’re going to be taken right to the book. Just go ahead and get that thing because this is pretty exciting stuff and I know that you’re going to appreciate the things that Toi has to share with you. And if nothing else to say thank you for everything that she just gave us today. So thank you so much Toi from the bottom of my heart, from myself personally and for the audience who I know this Influencer that’s listening is really touched. So thank you so much!

Toi: Thank you so much for having me!

 

If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my 1 to 1 offerings here.

Dare to Live Outside the Fences

Episode 06 with Terry Weaver

Terry Weaver is a speaker, author, event producer, podcaster, and ideapreneur whose passion is to see others live life alive; whether through helping others see their dreams become reality, traveling around the world challenging students to change the world, leading teams of people to do more together than they could alone, or hanging out with Mickey Mouse.
With a background in the music business, Terry has helped creatives navigate the journey from the garage to the biggest stages in the world. Whether it’s getting to the stage of Grammys®, helping entrepreneurs with a six-figure product launch, or leading conversations with key thought leaders his mission is always the same to help leaders take what they are doing to the next level. Terry and his wife Leslie live outside Nashville, Tennessee with their miniature schnauzer.

Mentioned in this episode:

 

I don’t have a transcript for this interview today, but grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair and listen in by pushing play above or in iTunes (here).

 

About the Voice of Influence Podcast

00 Episode & Transcript

In this episode you’ll learn about the premise of the Voice of Influence podcast and what you can expect.

  • Do you want to know that you belong somewhere and your voice can make an impact?
  • Maybe you know your voice matters, but you want to make it matter more.
  • Why my creativity, sensitivity and intensity is both a blessing and a struggle.
  • Andrea connects her experience as a vocal student at Belmont University and the University of Nebraska – Kearney with the idea of developing a Voice of Influence.

Mentioned in the podcast:

Please listen via iTunes or Stitcher.

It would mean a lot to have you subscribe, rate and review on these platforms!

Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea Joy Wenburg and you’re listening to the first episode – the About episode of the Voice of Influence podcast. In this episode I’m going to share with you just a little bit about myself and the premise of the podcast and what you can expect.

So I am Andrea Joy Wenburg, author of UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You. I grew up in Holdrege, Nebraska. I loved my experience there. I had lots of great friendships, amazing teachers and opportunities to learn and grow. And what I found out there was that I could sing. Now, this podcast isn’t about the singing voice, but it relates so give me just a minute to tie it all together for you.

I found out that I could sing and it was something that I really loved to do. I would get up in front of an audience and sing and I felt like I could really connect with the audience. I felt like they were hearing my message and when I was particularly in the zone – feeling the message in the song, I felt like I was really connecting. And I thought, “you know what? I want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to connect with an audience like that.”

So I ended up going to school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN because I thought I wanted to be a recording artist. I wanted to stand up on stage and connect with an audience.

Well, it didn’t take me too long to realize that I actually don’t have the drive to do what it takes to pursue that dream and that though I wanted to be the next Sandi Patty (a gospel singer at the time), I realized when I got down there that there were a lot of other girls wanting to be the next Sandi Patty, as well. So it became evident that I didn’t have that start quality or the drive to pursue that dream.

I redirected my focus to helping other people find and use their voices. I went back to school in Nebraska to become a music teacher. Now, what was interesting is that I refused to even apply to this school when I was in high school because I thought, “I’m never going to be able to stretch my wings in Nebraska.”

Well, when I got back to UNK, my experience with a vocal instructor there went above and beyond any music experience I had in Nashville, which was surprising to me. When I stepped into Dr. Foradori’s office, she asked me “So, Andrea, do you know about this or that” and I said, “Ya, I get all this!”

But as we got going in lessons she realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. And at one point she said to me, “You know, Andrea, once you really understand what it means to connect your breath, you’re going to carry with you a foundation for singing that’s going to carry with you no matter what you sing. Once you understand this one concept and it really clicks inside of you and you get that, it’s going to totally transform the way you sing everything else.”

Eventually I did get that concept and it did totally transform the way that I sang everything else. I did have that support underneath of me with breath and what it took for me to sing like I wanted to sing.

Now, I say all of this because since then I have focused more on what it means to find and develop a voice of influence in the world, because there is something else that I really care about.

I’m somebody who cares a lot about – and I think maybe everybody does – that we want to know that we have a seat at the table. And when I say seat at the table, I’m thinking like when you walk into a cafeteria and there’s a bunch of people sitting and you wonder, “where do I fit?”

And when I say seat at the table when talking about is when you walk into a room and there’s a bunch of people sitting around maybe it’s like a cafeteria and you’re wondering, which table do I fit at? Where do I fit?” This is something that I really struggled with in my life. I wondered “where do I really fit?”

Well, it’s nice to have somebody turn around and say, “Well Andrea, why don’t you sit down at our table. We want you to sit here.” That feels great because then you feel like you belong and are excepted and you connect. With other people. The thing that I really realized, though, was that’s not the only thing I want. I also want to know that when I say something, it matters. That my voice makes a difference. So, if you’re sitting at that table and you’re thinking, “I don’t really feel like these people are listening to what I have to say.” Or you start to speak up and they say, oh that’s stupid.” Or they write you off. Or they say it doesn’t matter, or whatever. They don’t have a respect for what you have to say for your vioce.

That’s a little harder place to be in. Because then it feels like you are being used, not like I belong and I making a difference, “they invited me to sit here, but I’m not actually getting to have an impact on the dialogue.” Which is different than saying, I want to have all of my ideas taken for everybody to believe everything that I say, and that the buck stops here, kind of thing. I’m not saying that.

I’m saying that we want to have our voice matter in the dialogue of life.

So, when I think about that, and I think about the voice of influence and what that means how that relates to what it means to have a voice, I realized that there is something really special about this idea of the connecting of breath on the one side, and how that applies to the way that we connect with other people with our voice of influence. When we have certain things, When we change certain things about the way that we speak that or message or the way that we are communicating, when we change those certain things, or we get those certain things, then our voice, no matter where we go, in our relationships, at home, at work, or in the world. Whatever audience you’re trying to speak to, when you really carry with you that voice of influence, it will matter more with everybody, everywhere you go. And your voice and message has a better shot of actually making a transformational difference in the life of the person you are speaking with.

Because, when we really do have that voice of influence, it’s not just about saying, “this is what you should do, this is what I want.” That sort of thing. It’s not necessarily that, because we can always try to shame people into doing what we want them to do. But that’s not the kind of person I think you are. You are the kind of person who really once to make a difference in the heart of a person. Because you know that when somebody changes on the inside, it’s going to come out in so many different ways on the outside. And that is way more powerful than just changing and outward thing.

So, this podcast is about developing a voice of influence, understanding where it comes from, why we are the way that we are. Who we are. What we really want to say, and how we can say it in a way that is truly a transformational kind of message.

That is the basic premise of this podcast.

I want to mention that last year I published a book called UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the real you. And that book is actually my story about me and my voice. So, if you are ever interested in reading or listening to that book – I am currently working on the audio version and it will hopefully be out very soon. So, if you are listening to this in the near future, it’s probably out. You can look it up on Amazon or find it here.

It’s my story about me, and trying to understand what my voice is like. Coming to grips with the fact that I am super creative, but also really sensitive and that being creative, sensitive and having a lot of intensity – that those things altogether became both a great power, and a great struggle. And something that could actually get in the way of me using my voice and connecting with other people.

That is what the book is about, and I would encourage you to check it out if you’re interested. And now I want to tell you what you can expect from this podcast.

We are going to be on a regular rhythm of 1, 45 minute interview and one short after show kind of episode where I will be speaking for maybe five minutes, reflecting on something that came up in the episode before that. The interviews will be interviews with experts, leaders, Thought leaders – people who really have well-developed voice of influence or something they can really speak to that would be helpful or interesting to you.

It’s really important to me that you don’t just listen to the interviews and forget them. So I want to offer these little episodes that you could listen to on the way to work or whatever, and be something you could chew on that would really make your voice matter more.

That’s the basic rhythm, that we will have an interview and then a short segment. And for April we will be doing an interview and a short segment, two times each week. We will be doing a lot of those episodes in here in April 2017 and after that we will settle into a rhythm of an interview on Monday and a short segment on Thursday each week.

That is the basic premise and what you can expect from this podcast. I also want to let you know that I’ve opened up a Voice of Influence Community Facebook group for message-driven leaders. So if you are interested in communicating with other people who want to develop their voice of influence, and discuss different things that come up on the podcast, then that would be a great place for you. I would love to have you.

And the final thing I want to mention to you is that in every beginning and ending of the podcast, we say, “Your voice matters, but you can make it matter more.” And what I mean by that, is that inherently, because you are a human being created by God, your voice – your thoughts and feelings and how you express them, that matters. And no matter what anyone tells you, I believe that you matter, and your voice matters.

However, I do think that there are some people who are able to develop that voice in such a way, that we can make it matter more. Meaning, we can make a bigger difference. So although you really cannot matter anymore or less in one sense, in another sense, in the sense of how much impact you have on the world, and relationships and things like that, you can make your voice matter more. You do that, by developing it. You do that by using it.

It’s just like when I was in Dr. Foradori’s voice studio and she would have me sing, and if it didn’t come out right, she would have me mimic her, or she would give me the tools that I needed, or she would suggest that I try something new and feel something different in my mouth or that sort of thing. And she would also help me find the right music for my voice. Which, I think is like finding the right message for your voice of influence.

There are many different correlations that I will be making or referencing here on the podcast, but my point in the end is that I really hope you will take the time to develop your voice of influence. And rather than just be somebody who sings every once in a while in the car so that nobody else can hear them, if you are listening to this podcast, it is because you don’t just want to sing in the car. It’s because you want your voice to matter beyond the immediate where you are at right now. You wanted to matter in your relationships, in your home, in your work, and in the world.

So, that’s what we’re here for. I am so glad that you are here. And I hope that you will join me in the voice of influence community Facebook group. You can find a link to that here or search for it in Facebook.

Thank you so much for being here in this about me episode. I am truly honored that you have given me a few minutes of your time today and anytime that you come back, man! I am really honored that you would take the time to be with us. So thank you.

Your voice matters. Now let’s make it matter more.

Join the Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group here.

Like a Little Girl in a Candle Store

Last weekend I let my daughter and niece spend as much time in Bath & Bodyworks as they wanted. It was Amelia’s birthday weekend away and my mom and I enjoyed watching the girls do big girl things and delight in their time with each other. I watched for 45 minutes as they meandered around the store, sniffing randomly chosen candles, lotions and sprays. They each had a little money to burn and they wanted to find the perfectly scented treasure to bring home.

It was pretty darn cute. But I took note of their pattern. They didn’t methodically work their way around the store, they just smelled something, reacted to it, then set it down and wandered a few steps before doing it again. It was only when they began to get hungry that they finally made their decisions so they could go to lunch.

Decisions, Decisions.

Being on this journey to figure out what the heck I’m trying to accomplish with my book, blog and business feels a bit like wandering around, sniffing all of the scents, trying to figure out where I should commitment. I’ve been told that everything changes once you really know who you’re writing for and what you’re offering those people, but I don’t want to decide! I want to grab all of the candles and bring them home.

But as Marie Forleo says, “if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.” Ugh.

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes to actually make a decision! I’m constantly thinking of ways I could contribute, so much so that I get lost in the mingling aromas of the ideas and don’t even know what I’m smelling anymore.

But that’s part of the dilemma creative people face. The world of possibilities looms so large that it’s tempting to freeze right in our tracks. We often need community and mentors to guide us in our decision making processes. So I sought out help.

Podcasts, online courses, articles, books and great conversations have stretched and challenged me to hone my message so it aligns with who I am and makes a significant contribution to the world. And just as I’ve said from the beginning of my blogging journey, and as evidenced in my book, I want to help you do the same.

I see creative, sensitive, empathetic people hold in their thoughts and lock their voice in like I see with timid singers and it pains me. These people have insights and perceptions that could make a significant impact in their relationships and the world, and yet they stay quiet for any number of reasons. It’s quite a bit like this little movie clip I love so much.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you don’t share your opinions because you don’t want to make other people feel as you’ve felt in the past – run over by someone else’s agenda. Or maybe you don’t share your wisdom because you’re worried people would think YOU think you’re full of yourself. Maybe you hold your voice in until you can’t hold back anymore and it explodes. Maybe you just don’t think your voice matters that much.

What if?

But what if you developed your voice and let ‘er rip like these kids?! Wouldn’t it be amazing to move with more confidence, humility and power instead of holding back? What if you’re voice has more potential than you realize?

Well, that’s why I’m here. I may still be sniffing around a little, but I’ve found a good stopping point for now. Just as I used to help singers find their authentic voice and develop as a singer, I always have and always will do what I can to guide others as they find and develop their voice of self-expression so they can make the difference they are born to make.

Do you believe your voice matters when you use it? Do you feel completely confident every time you step onto any stage in life, knowing that you know exactly what you want to say and how you can deliver your message so the people listening will be moved by your words? If so, you don’t need to waste your time on this website because you’ve already got what I have to offer: compelling communication strategy.

But if you know you have more to offer than your voice is delivering, you’re in the right place. If you have something you want your loved one, your team or the world to hear and yet you can’t seem to get it to come out right or it just doesn’t seem to be making the difference you know it could, stick around.

 

 

In April I’ll be launching a new podcast entitled “Voice of Influence.” It’s been a year in the making and the name of it changed recently when I had a massive breakthrough about the message and focus of the show. The podcast (previously “Brand Revelations”) will feature interviews with experts and leaders who share the story of their own voice of influence, as well as practical advice based on their area of expertise. I will also have short segments where I bring you into my “voice studio” and share actionable insights that you can apply, one at a time, to make your voice matter more.

Read more about the Voice of Influence podcast here. The interviews I’m lining up are truly amazing and will offer actionable insights to help you develop YOUR Voice of Influence even more.

If you’re really interested in the podcast, I’d love to have you join the launch team. I have some really cool thank you gifts for the 25 people who commit! Apply for the Voice of Influence podcast launch team here! Apply by March 21st.

Do this Before You Kick 2016 to the Curb

The other day I did something I’ve been wanting to do for months, possibly even a year or two. But fear and lack of technical understanding kept me holding back; and you know how I feel about holding back. You see, I’ve been hiding behind the written word for the past couple of years. In a way, writing was a wonderful way to allow my voice to emerge, but it’s time to up the game.

I do not consider myself to be a writer. I’m a thinker. A strategic activator. I want to share ideas and begin or further the dialogue. I want to call out your deeply authentic voice because I want to hear it and I believe it matters. A couple of months ago I started offering more videos, and I will continue to do so. But I also want to try audio. So I started recording audio and today I’m going to share with you an edited transcript of that audio, along with the opportunity to listen. Just press play – or read – or both. Whatever works best for you. Then let me know what you’re going to bring to 2017!

Own 2017

I understand why so many people are discouraged with 2016. It’s been a doozy! Between the bloodshed around the world, the US presidential election and the loss of so many pop culture icons, let alone your personal pain and loss, I completely understand why you might be ready to move on.

But if you are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, please don’t throw your hands in front of your face, turn away and then say, “I hope you treat me well, 2017 because 2016 sure didn’t.”

I get it. Truly, I do. Some circumstances can leave us feeling frozen as victims to our circumstances. But I would be remiss if I stayed right here and didn’t call out the deeper, stronger YOU.

Who Are You?

In 2016, WHO YOU ARE didn’t change. WHO YOU ARE came out more powerfully because of what happened in 2016. That’s what’s going to happen in 2017, as well. Whatever happens in 2017, it is going to call out the depths of who you are and ask, “How are you going to meet me?” 2017 doesn’t have anything to say about who you are, but it will definitely call you out.

Most likely, you’re not a victim to 2016. Because WHO YOU ARE doesn’t have to change based on your circumstances.

We put the blame on 2016 – circumstances – other people – God – whomever. And we say, “It’s your fault that I feel so crummy.” And there is some truth to that because we are effected by one another. But we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to our circumstances.*

There is something really critical about the moment that you realize that you feel oppressed. Because in that moment you can’t be complacent anymore. It’s that moment that you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Am I going to fall to my circumstances or am I going to rise up? Am I going to let other people tell me who I am or am I going to tell other people – show other people – who I am?!”

Are you going to let other people and tell you that your voice doesn’t matter – that your contribution doesn’t mean anything? Or are you going to look at them and say, “But it does. And I’ll show you how.”

Find Your Grit

Grit says, “Ya, knock me down, but I’m going to get back up and keep going.” You can choose to lay down and give up. I’ve certainly done that before. But the thing is that most of us have a choice. There are people in this world who are seriously oppressed. But that is not most of us. Most of us have choices. Most of us could rise to the occasion. Most of us could get up and look at our circumstances and say, “I’m going to keep going.”

I look at 2017 and I’m nervous. But I’m also excited. I want to keep pressing on and moving forward, no matter how many people pay attention.

What does it mean for you to show grit in 2017? Are you going to blame 2016 for everything negative thing that happened to you and to your ideals? Or are you going to look at 2016 with grit in your teeth and say, “thanks for the experience. It’s time for me to show 2017 WHO I AM.”

Remember who you are. Own it. Keep moving forward and build momentum as you head into 2017. How? Be sure to listen to the voices that help you do so and use discernment to tune out the ones that don’t. Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and/or SoundCloud. I plan on being a voice that helps you remember WHO YOU ARE.

*If you truly have no voice in your circumstances, whatever they may be, I want to encourage you to seek out help from someone who will listen to you and possibly help you move out of them. I know it may be complicated, but know that I’m for you.

Stop Waiting to be Discovered; You Can Fight Darth Vader, Too

It wasn’t like she asked for the opportunity. We simply walked into the auditorium to save seats up close because we knew Grant was excited to see the Jedi training show on our Disney cruise.

Amelia Jedi TrainingA woman stopped Amelia in the aisle and inquired, “Do you like Star Wars?”

“Ya,” Amelia responded.

What was she supposed to say? She never showed an ounce of interest in it until that morning when she decided to join us for the little show, but it might be rude to say anything else.

“Would you like to come up on stage and be trained as a Jedi?” the woman offered.

“Sure,” Amelia shrugged.

My stomach sank to the floor and before I could stop it, I turned into the ungrateful mom who asks for an extra freebie for her other child. “Her brother would like it so much more,” I pleaded with my eyes as the words came out. I knew Amelia wouldn’t mind giving up her spot so her brother could do it.

But they didn’t have time to wait for him. So they whisked Amelia away and the next time we saw her, she was wearing a brown robe and holding a coveted light saber. Grant was giddy when he realized she was going on stage but by the time she had her turn doing what every Star Wars fan ever dreamed of doing (fighting Darth Vader!) the question hit him.

IMG_7442“Why her and not me?”

I knew exactly how he felt. For years I read other people’s books, watched other speakers give presentations and listened to other people’s podcasts. And all the while I wondered, “Why them and not me?”

Maybe you’ve asked that question before.

Why did he get that part and not me?
Why is she married and not me?
Why does he get to travel for work and not me?
Why are they happy in their marriage and not me?

I’m sure we can all come up with answers to those questions.

He sucked up to the director.
She’s must be more comfortable talking to guys than I am.
He’s been in the job longer than I have.
If I had a spouse like that I’d be happy, too.

Maybe there is truth to some of these assumptions, or maybe they are just excuses. My reason for not doing what I longed to do certainly was…

“Because they haven’t discovered me yet.”

Do you hear how passive that sounds? I was waiting and waiting for someone to see me in a crowd and say, “I choose you, Andrea. It’s your turn now!” Because I assumed that the powers-that-be were the only ones who could finally give me my big break. They were the ones who could decide if I’d get that book deal…that speaking engagement…that interview. I was waiting to be discovered so I could make the impact I longed to make. 

%22I don't know what you long to do, be or say. But whatever it is, you won't get there by waiting to be discovered.%22

 

The statement, “God will make it happen if it’s supposed to happen,” is just as passive.

Yes, I just said that. Do you want to know why? Because whatever you believe about God, you still have to get up out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. God doesn’t do that for you.

Sometimes YOU have to act. YOU have to move.

You work your tail off for the next part.
You take risks to become more comfortable around guys.
You display the integrity, intelligence and grit it takes to travel for your job.
You stop demanding your spouse to make you happy and find your happiness in something more reliable.*

What are you waiting for?

Grant was quite disappointed by the time the Jedi training concluded. He tucked his head into my neck and I picked him up to carry him out of the auditorium. I let everyone else move on and then I paused in the aisle to speak to my son.

“Grant, I know you’re disappointed, but that happens a lot in life. Look up at that stage. Do you want to be up on that stage someday? If you really do, I believe you can. If you want to be a magician or get a job as a Lego Creator, I believe you can. But those things don’t just happen. You have to focus and work hard for it instead of being upset with others when you’re not chosen.”

Grant came home with all of the moves Amelia learned in her Jedi training and now the boy is ready to fight his own Darth Vader.

I don’t know what you long to do, be or say. But whatever it is, you won’t get there by waiting to be discovered. Take a risk and take action. Someone needs what you have to offer. 

*Relationships are complicated. Please seek wise counsel if you are struggling in your relationships.  

AJW_FacebookProfileImage_11

Would you like to read my story? Read the Prologue HERE or go directly to Amazon to purchase the book HERE.