Sometimes advice is planted like a seed within you and sprouts years later when you least expect it.

One piece of advice I heard several years ago now rings true to me. I think I would have had more success at an earlier age if I would have understood the meaning of the words. Instead, I stubbornly fought against it. The advice was simple and enigmatic, like something Mr. Miyagi would say to Danielson in The Karate Kid. I heard the words, but I didn’t put it all together. Until later.

The advice:

“Take what you consider to be your weakness, and lean into it.”

As I read it again, I fully understand my lack of initial comprehension. It is vague advice that is counterintuitive. Why would I “lean into” my weakness? A weakness is a disadvantage.

My perceived disadvantage was my Southern accent. Let’s just say that I sounded like I was from Tennessee. Because, well, I am from Tennessee.

In high school, I decided I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, therefore, I needed to speak General American. I wanted to sound like Marv Albert, Vin Scully, and Jim Nance. I diligently studied voice and diction, linguistics, and dialect in college. I learned all about my Southern accent and did everything in my power to make it go away. Then years later, when my career passion turned to voice over work, I would occasionally audition for projects that required a genuine Southern accent. I knew I knew how to do that. My accent had been my long-time foe. I knew it well. We had battled and I had won. To my surprise, I began getting a lot of work that spotlighted my natural Tennessee accent. Those projects were my most lucrative and prestigious. Apparently, I was good at it. So, I embraced it- “leaned into it.” When I realized that my perceived weakness was my greatest strength, my voice over career blossomed. My Tennessee accent separated me from the masses. It was genuine. It was me.

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