3 minutes and 58 seconds…

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of ‘positive thinking’ – ensuring you are in control of your frame of mind.

Something happened to me this week in voiceover, It wasn’t a life-changing thing, but it did impact me; it impacted my confidence.

However, it wasn’t a bad thing that happened, it was a good thing! So what’s wrong with letting positive things impact your confidence? I’ll tell you.

Incidentally, this piece isn’t just about Voiceover, but about what I mean by ‘positive-thinking’ and why it’s vital.


Firstly, let’s be clear on what positive thinking is not:

  • Running around blissfully grinning from ear to ear, while the world falls about those ears
  • Blind ignorance
  • Pretending things are great when they aren’t
  • Wishy-washy fuzzy sunshine mode

Positive thinking, for me, is about recognising that the outcome is directly affected by your belief of how it’s going to turn out.

Henry Ford was quoted as saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re probably right”. There is some debate on whether it was actually Ford who originated it. In 1905 (some 40 years prior) a poem by Walter D Wintle entitled ‘Thinking’ was published for the Unity Tract Society.

The first lines of the poem are:

If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.

And it ends…

But soon or late the man who wins

Apologies for publishing the innate sexism – I guess it was the early 20th Century and people still had a lot to learn! But it looks familiar doesn’t it? I have put a link to the full poem at the end of the blog if you wanna read it all.

These days, there is plenty of discussion on the web about positive thinking, and the validity or otherwise of ‘believing you can’. Sadly, some lazy chatter takes the comments at face value – and tests them by seeing whether they apply to ‘being able to levitate’ or such some other nonsense.

Infinite number of Monkeys+typewriters = 2/3 of the internet – Steve O’Neill 2014

You can decide whether it was Ford, Wintle, or someone else who coined it – but what does is “whether you think you can or you can’t…” saying ?

I believe it refers to the fact that success, achievement and quality comes via an open gate. A gate which is opened by believing that the success is possible, and something worth working towards. Of course, you need to work towards it with vigour and determination – but always with a belief in ‘yes’ it will happen.

YOU have to open the gate, and YOU have to work hard AND – sometimes – FAIL.

Now that might sound like a contradiction, how can it be good to fail if you believed you were going to succeed?

The answer is simple – failure to meet the goal is disappointing, but it still has value if you learn by it.

Failure without learning is total failure, that’s fairly clear.

But I believe that succeeding without learning is just as bad.

Let me explain why:


On 6th May 2014 it was the 60th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s success at breaking the four minute mile barrier.

This event is often used in training and sports motivation as significant – that before it happened, medical science said ‘your lungs would explode and your heart would jump out of your mouth‘ etc. The anecdotes continue that within ‘X days X number of people beat the barrier‘ because they suddenly believed etc. It would be a neat story if all the rhetoric were true, but sadly it wasn’t.

Believing is important – but only part of the story.

Within 46 days Bannister’s record WAS broken and bettered to 3 minutes and 58 seconds – a story which we don’t hear so much about.

Of course there’s significance in 4 minutes, we like round numbers and neat things – we tend to celebrate:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • New Year
  • Centuries
  • Things that go faster than 100mph
  • Weekends

We don’t usually celebrate:

  • Being 17 years 5 months and 3 days old
  • The 23rd day of November
  • Things passing the 83mph barrier
  • Tuesdays

And yet the things which happen on those days, after that period of time, at that speed, or at that point in our life are just as important as the nice neat round numbers.

Whatever you are working towards, you must have two things:

1) A goal

2) The belief you can reach it

Without BOTH of these, what do you achieve?

Arguably you’ll achieve what you set out to achieve – nothing.

Ok, so you’ve set a target. However, if you don’t believe you can achieve it – what is the point of setting the target in the first place?

The goal or target doesn’t have to be a round number – in fact I would argue it shouldn’t be a round number, because it then becomes about the roundness of the number (4 minutes etc) and not the achievement or what you can actually do.

No one set out to break the 3 minute and 58 second barrier, yet it’s clearly a better achievement.

And the belief you will succeed should NOT be about blind ignorance – otherwise it will dent your confidence every time you miss the goal – or you’ll just be too busy smiling to notice.

It’s easy to be positive when you’re winning. True courage, true reward comes from focusing on a positive outcome to drive you via failure – towards success.


I am not interested in the size of a voiceover job, how glamorous it is or whether it’s going to get me fame – I’ll leave those ambitions for the ’20 somethings’ in life, I am interested in making it the best quality I can, something to be proud of, and delivering the best result I can for the client.

If I don’t achieve something I planned to – an audition, securing a role, a quality recording etc – I work hard at reviewing why, because it’s important to review.

What’s more important, is what you are going to do differently next time.

Sometimes – it’s nothing. You don’t need to do anything differently, because it genuinely was external factors which influenced the outcome. Casting is subjective, if someone thinks our voice fits, it’s a matter of taste. But we MUST know the difference – because if we let those external factors become the reason, the success (or failure) EVERY time, then we’ve lost it.

And that’s where your plan, and positive attitude come in together – because each time you can compare the outcome to your plan and decide:

1) I met the plan – don’t change anything

2) I fell short of something – change something

3) The plan is wrong – change the plan


Back to my original point, why did I get upset because I was HAPPY at the outcome?

Because I allowed the external factor of the success to affect my confidence.

And that isn’t my plan. My plan is not:

Hope you get a success where you didn’t expect it


Expect results when you least expect them

How can you DO anything about those outcomes? you can’t!

In reviewing why I achieved the success – a small success but a success –  I became clear on what I should do differently next time around.

Because, if I do it differently next time – it’s more likely to result in a success as opposed to a failure.

That’s what I mean by positive thinking:

Being clear on what WILL affect the outcome in a positive way

Reviewing your successes is as important as reviewing your failures – because if you are clear on WHY it was a success, you’re more likely to be able to replicate it next time.

So, my suggestion is – when you get a win if course smile, enjoy – DO get excited. But when the feeling has passed, review REALLY clearly why you got that win, what worked, how it met with your plan, and then set out to replicate it next time.

THEN – you’ll open the gate.

Then, you can ultimately have ANY colour rainbow you want, so long as it’s…


In summary then:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Set goals and targets based on what you CAN achieve, some simple, some stretching – but ALL achievable
  3. Focus on what WILL support you achieving the goals
  4. Identify what WON’T support you – and ditch it
  5. Review the results, and compare them to the plan
  6. Identify what YOU did which supported the positive outcomes, and commit to doing MORE of those things (be clear about what YOU did, separate the external factors)
  7. Identify what YOU did which did NOT support the positive outcomes, and bin them
  8. Review the plan, it’s flexible!
  9. Challenge everything you read on the internet – including this, find contrary evidence and then make up your OWN mind
  10. Actually I just re-read point 9, and I’m now I’m stuck in a bit of a paradox – but you get the point!!!
  11. Don’t always aim to create lists of things with nice round numbers

Have a great day








5 thoughts on “3 minutes and 58 seconds…

  1. dabvoiceovergal

    Positively spot-on, brother. “I am not interested in the size of a voiceover job, how glamorous it is or whether it’s going to get me fame – I’ll leave those ambitions for the ’20 somethings’ in life, I am interested in making it the best quality I can, something to be proud of, and delivering the best result I can for the client.” You could’ve pulled the same words from my heart, mind and mouth, SteeVO! Solid blog. 🙂

    1. steveoneillvoice Post author

      Aw thank you SO much Debs – such kind words, and I’m really glad some of what I wrote resonated with you. It makes the effort worthwhile, and you know better than many how much effort goes into these things, so THANK YOU! 🙂

      1. dabvoiceovergal

        Sharing is caring, brother! And it always feels good to acknowledge each other’s work.:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s