Fear can be a good thing. It can help you avoid situations that are truly harmful, keeping you away from the edge of the cliff. But anxiety, groundless fears about what “might” happen, is never good.
Is it always right to jump at an opportunity with both feet? Obviously not. Sometimes the risks really aren’t worth the potential rewards. The way the economy has been the last couple of years has frightened a lot of people. Some of my very good friends have been kicked to the curb by companies for which they productively worked for years. But, this can be a great time to start something new, especially if you have nothing left to lose.
Looking back at the 26 years it took me to go from my first professional voiceover job to full-time voiceover talent, I can clearly see there were 4 wide-open doors of opportunity that I didn’t take. There’s no way for me to wind back the clock and take the other path, so I can’t know for certain how things would have turned out if I’d gone the other way. But I can, with 20-20 hindsight, see those doors even though at the time they weren’t always clear.
The first was in 1988. I had actually been working solo as a voiceover for a year at that point while caring for my first wife, Kathy, as she was losing her battle with cancer. But when I was offered a job a few months after her death I took it rather than continuing to just do the voiceover thing. I had a daughter to raise and provide for and my mindset at the time was that I needed something more stable and predictable.
The second was right at the end of 1993. This was one of the doors that I didn’t see at the time. The network for which I was working had just been sold to a new corporate owner. This new corporation was about to offer me a very nice option to freelance for them, continuing to host 2 weekly music programs. Within 2 months I would have replaced virtually all of my full-time network income. And there were many opportunities on the horizon that would have allowed me to grow my business. One of my very best friends, Charlie Glaize, strongly encouraged me to take the voiceover path. Even with all that I didn’t see the door of opportunity for what it was and instead took the first job offer that came my way.
However, here’s where it gets a little complicated because having taken that job offer (in Pittsburgh) I ended up meeting some of my very best friends, working with The Talent Group, and working for the best boss I ever had. (Update: Second best, now that I’m working for myself.) Had I taken the voiceover path back then, I would have missed all of those wonderful relationships.
The third was in 1999. Things had really taken off with my voiceover business and I was making quite a bit more doing voiceovers than I was from the radio station where I was working. This time, I could see the door clearly. But, as I noted above, I had a great boss. He and I talked at length about things. He suggested caution. “Take another year,” he said, “and see how things go. If they continue to grow, you can always make this move then. If they don’t, you’ll be glad you stayed with something more stable.” It was prudent advice as it turned out because the strike of 2000 put a big dent in my voiceover business.
The fourth and final missed opportunity was in 2003. I had gone to work for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2001 in part because my wife Cinda and I had been looking for years for an opportunity to live close to family and pretty much everyone in my family still lived in Minnesota where the Association was headquartered. But then, 2 weeks after I started, they announced they would be relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina. The time for the move to North Carolina came in 2003. I had an option to take a severance package and stay in Minnesota or move to North Carolina and continue to work for the Association. Here again, I could see the opportunity clearly but I was also very cautious. My time in Minnesota hadn’t yielded any new voiceover clients there. And my business was still recovering from the double hits of the strike in 2000 and the move to a new city the following year. Here again, there were a number of wonderful learning and relationship opportunities I would have missed if I hadn’t taken the path I did.
I started this long screed talking about fear and anxiety. Looking back, I can see clearly that more than once I allowed my anxieties about what might happen to overwhelm me and push me along a path away from my dreams. Of course, sometimes my caution turned out to be well founded. And in every case, there were significant benefits to taking the path I did.
No doubt, your journey is unfolding with a few bumps and turns you didn’t anticipate; but it’s your journey. Each path is unique. Mine certainly was. If your dream isn’t worth pursuing, change direction. Find one that is. Once you find the dream that is worth it, keep moving toward it. You’ll get there. It might take you 26 years like mine did, but I hope it’s a lot less.