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We sat down with Caroline Goyder who has worked for many years as a voice teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and has spent the last ten years developing a system to help her non-acting clients to perform with the same poise, presence and power in everyday life.
Resilience matters to a successful career, but boy is it hard to do. In the words of the inimitable Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. And coming back confident from criticism or rejection is much harder to do when your voice – the bridge between mind, body and spirit, also happens to be your career.
So, how can we all learn to fail, fail again, fail better – in the words of Samuel Beckett?
I was working as a voice coach at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama when I figured A list actors might have some answers on this question. Their staying power testifies to more than luck – it tells you they have learned how to access “the temperament” to bounce back on their way to the top.
Here are some of their top tips for confidence:
Bounce Back from Rejection:
When you get turned down for your dream job it hurts. It can help to remember that most performers experience far more rejection than success. We just notice the success. Kate Winslet auditioned for four years as a young actor, before she landed her first part. The trick, as A listers will tell you is to get straight back up when they knock you down. “Rejection is a real beast of a problem” says Minnie Driver, “In those dark moments I give myself half an hour to feel rage. Failure is disempowering so you have to find ways to empower yourself again. That requires sitting quietly, breathing and checking in with everything that is really good in my life. At one time I was down to; my family loves me, my legs work, I’m going swimming tomorrow, I’ve got fifty quid left”.
Think ‘How Can I Help?’:
The actor Bill Nighy believes that when you start to feel nervous or negative, it’s important to flip your perspective. Rather than worrying about what they think of you, focus your attention out on what you can do to help. Because in the end, they are just as nervous as you are – in their case of choosing the wrong person. As Nighy says the first step is always to prepare, both in terms of your content and your attitude. “I tried, in the old days, to invent not preparing as a process. It didn’t work. I apparently also had a tendency to look disinterested, if not actually unhappy in my efforts to appear relaxed. This didn’t help, so I learned to lighten my expression. Allow them to break or fill silences. It’s not your responsibility. I find I usually regret the third cup of coffee”.
Keep Criticism in Perspective:
The most crucial professional skill of all is the ability to learn from useful criticism – however tough – and to protect yourself from the words that hurt and hinder. As the actor Alan Cumming puts it, it helps to have a process to deal with the criticism, “Keep in perspective why it was said and what was the reason behind it. Sometimes people think you’ll work better if you’re criticized. Start to analyse it a bit. Often criticism says more about the person giving it to you. Today is the worst you’re ever going to feel about it – and you can use it as a spur…to move on.”
Keep these three principles in your toolkit to support your through tough times – because the more you can embrace the tough times and keep going, the greater the enjoyment when success does come your way. Your career as a North American voiceover artist is not far away!
Caroline Goyder is the author of Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority (Ebury) and The Star Qualities (Macmillan). You can find her at @carolinegoyder
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