BY KEISHA JOHNSON
One of our first guests on Living the Dream in Canada radio show shared of arriving in Canada as a shy teen who had to quickly find her voice with clarity and confidence. Marsha Brown said she learned how to transform adversity into opportunity and that mastering this art, later led her to strengthen her voice as an advocate for women and girls especially those at risk of homelessness and abuse.
As I interviewed more guests on the show, I noticed that almost every one mentioned this notion of ‘finding your voice’. By this they mean finding your distinction!
Your voice is what you stand for and represent. It’s your brand or your trade mark. Your voice is what you are known for. Your voice echoes the cause that you live for or are willing to die for. Your voice is what speaks for you when you are present and when you are not.
My acute sensory mechanism took note that ‘finding your voice’ inevitably surfaces, almost like a rite of passage in the lives of the people who we recognize and celebrate as living legends, trailblazers, game changers and trendsetters.
Another guest, The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine reflected that throughout her life- from a young girl in Grenada and all through her career in Canada spanning education, representational politics, being a policy advisor and mentor- she remained a diligent advocate for social justice and fairness. That’s her voice.
Similarly, retired army officer and correctional services consultant Kevin Junor, shared how his personal conviction to always lead by example gained him national and international acclaim as a servant leader. Comedian and promoter Jay Martin distinguished himself as the renaissance man and king of clean comedy. Branding guru Nadine Spencer lives by, ‘people matter’ while another of our guests, Lance Constantine’s voice echoes ‘I am revolution’.
The definitive voice of each of these leaders within our community reflects who they are at their core. Their stories evidence a distinct pattern. And it is this: finding their voice directs where they focus their energies in everything they do and who they associate and align with. As these themes are repeated in their lives, it becomes the ‘voice’ we recognize them by and translates into what we value and celebrate or honor them for.
Pause for a second and think of the most famous person you admire. What are they known and celebrated for? If you can answer that question instantly, then they too found their voice. Now ask the same questions of yourself. What do people know you for? What do they associate with you when your name comes up in conversation? Is the image they have of you true to who you really are? Is it what you want to be known and remembered for?
These questions help gauge whether or not you have found your voice. For when you find your voice, others will take notice. Even if they don’t like you or if they disagree with what you represent, they will never misinterpret or have to guess what you stand for.
Some folks may say that’s neither here nor there for them. But the reality is, in the current Information Age and with social media infiltration, your ‘voice’ is among your most valuable assets. Just think, most people who don’t know you or who want to know more about you for personal or professional reasons, seek you out first on the internet. They form an opinion of you based on what they find.
Clarifying therefore what you stand for, defend and represent is too important to be left to chance.
Finally, finding your voice is not something someone else can do for you. That’s partially why it’s a rite of passage. Yes, there are professionals who can help you to unearth your voice. But the conviction of knowing, believing and owning your voice comes first from you. Remember, your voice represents you when you are present and when you are not.