Why We Learn

An octave higher, an octave lower

“I hate hearing my own voice.”

One of our most common insecurities. And so we cringe from microphones and cameras.

We tend to perceive our voice – it’s pitch, timbre, cadence, range – as a natural extension of our identity. The cliche says that eyes are the window to the soul, but our voice is its ambassador to the world. When we listen to ourselves speak, we also hear every nagging dread we harbor about our character, that we aren’t adventurous or charismatic or talented or resilient enough.

My favorite story from Derek Sivers’ essential memoir Anything You Want recalls a lesson from his voice coach at the start of his music career. His coach would ask him to sing a song as written. Then, sing again, an octave higher. Then an octave lower.

“Then he’d make me sing it twice as fast. Then twice as slow. Then like Bob Dylan. Then like Tom Waits. Then he’d tell me to sing it like it’s 4 a.m. and a friend woke me up.

…After all of this, he’d say, ‘Now, how did that song go again?’”

What we think of as “our” voice, our singular, unique voice is one of many possible voices we can choose from each day. Our voice is not our Self, any more than our wardrobe.

And as we train the voice, we must train the soul. An octave higher, an octave lower.