Optimize your body, brain, and voice for success: eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, exercise, and get 8 hours of sleep each night. These may seem like simple tenants of self-care, but they are so vitally important. They are also the first things that go out the window when we get busy, stressed, or face adversity. Early meeting? Skip breakfast. Busy day? Suddenly, it’s 2pm and all you’ve had to drink is coffee. Behind on a project? Don’t sleep. What we may not realize is that in sacrificing our self-care, we are actually sacrificing our ability to regulate our anxiety and emotions, think creatively, problem solve, and focus.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Doyle.
Jessica Doyle is a vocal coach, professor and researcher who works with women, from pop stars, to CEO’s, to entrepreneurs, to harness the power of their voices: in their heads and out of their mouths. Jessica’s key notes, public speaking engagements, workshops, and coachings impact and engage audiences from 5 to 1,000 both in person and remotely. Her website is: www.jessicablighdoyle.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I started out working as a performer myself, I have a masters degree in opera performance, before branching out and becoming a vocal coach for actors and singers. Past and current clients of mine can be seen and heard on and off Broadway, in tv/film, and on major records labels. By day, I’m a professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at East Carolina University where I work with singers in the musical theatre program.
My other passion is working with women’s voices. A few years back, I began noticing that there was a lot of content being developed to empower women, and a lot of content on public speaking, but very little cross over. No one was talking about how to go from shifting your mindset, and journaling about what you want, to actually opening your mouth and asking for it, as well as how to correct the common critiques women often face when speaking: being too quiet, a pitch that’s too high or shrill, and a lack of energy in the voice (à la a Kardashian) which results in a gritty tone called vocal fry.
That’s where I come in. I combine my knowledge and experience working with voices and performance anxiety to teach women how to create a clear, confident voice living within a body that isn’t afraid to use it. I’ve worked with women in groups of 5 to 1,000: from CEO’s, to entrepreneurs, to women working in male dominated industries, like STEM. My clients are usually highly professional, educated women at the top of their game who come to me because they’ve become the face and voice of their company. They need to go from talking only about their specialty to talking to the media, having tough conversations with team members, and/or dealing with toxicity in the workplace. The most common comment I hear is, “I went to school for 20 years, but no one teaches you how to do these things.”
Most recently, I lead a series of workshops for UKBA 2021 Gold Winner in Diversity & Inclusion, SpeakOut Revolution, on speaking up against toxicity in the workplace and on using your voice to create positive change.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My inspiration to begin working with women’s voices came from my oldest, and one of my dearest, friends. We’ve been best friends for over 30 years. She is the epitome of the women who seek out my help: a quadruple board certified physician, consistently listed as a top doc in her field, professional, and highly educated who found herself, even with all her credentials and successes, being taken advantage of at work. She needed to speak up for herself, and she was terrified mbecause, in all her years of advanced education and experience, no one had ever taught her how to do that.
That was the lightbulb moment for me. My work was all about creating confident voices and dealing with performance anxiety. Wasn’t the idea of ‘performance’ the same whether the person was on an actual stage or in a boardroom? Singing to an audience of thousands or pitching a client? I’ve found the answer to be a resounding ‘yes.’ I chose to specifically target women because, I believe, we are in an age of female empowerment. Women are through the door, we have a seat at the table, and now it’s time to speak up.
Do women want to create change? To speak up against toxic culture? To speak their truth authentically? Do women want more wealth? To grow a seven figure business? To join the C-suite?
Do women have big dreams? Life changing..next generation inspiring..Earth shattering dreams?
Yes! But somewhere between the aim and the arrival women are getting lost. My goal is to fix this. I want to help women change their lives and the lives of those in their family, their community, their country, and the world. It’s what fuels my fire, and everything else I do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am not a public speaking coach. To me, public speaking is a middle-aged white guy standing in front of a podium sharing details I don’t need to know on a topic I’m not all that interested in. He thinks he’s funny. His mustache is funny. My work is for women who are ready to find their voices and use them to change their lives.
Your voice is powerful! In the way you speak to others, and the way you speak to yourself, lies the power to change your entire life. The best part is that you can harness that power! You are in control. My work uniquely combines voice science, brain science, and girl power to teach women how to literally reprogram their minds, bodies, and voices to be more confident when speaking. Not only making changes to the external voice, the voice coming out of your mouth, but to the internal voice, the ever-present voice in your head.
Women are busy. At many of my talks, the women in the audience are balancing full time careers, family, side hustles, aging parents..the list goes on. If a woman is going to dedicate some of her free time to something, it better be effective and it better be efficient. I utilize the latest research on the science of how the brain learns to give my clients the tools to optimize their brains for creating change. By preparing the brain and body, and utilizing specific practice techniques, I can help women speak in a clearer, more confident voice and go from being afraid of speaking up to energized by the possibilities of asking for, and getting, what they want in about 10 minutes a day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This is a perfect follow up question to talking about brain science. I happen to have fairly unlimited access to Terrence Doyle, one of the country’s leading authors and speakers on how the brain learns. He’s a USA Best Book Award for Education Winner, as well as the author of 7 other books on learning and the brain, has presented at over 500 colleges and universities around the world, and is currently working with the US Airforce to change the way they train. He also happens to be my biggest supporter and fan, my dad.
My dad has been my sounding board, my cheerleader, and constantly on call to answer questions about how we can make learning new material more effective and efficient. He even answers his phone in the golf course, which is saying something. We presented together at the Lilly Conference for Innovation in Higher Education and were dubbed, “the dream team.” I think it’s very rare that our relationship is both personal and professional. I’m very lucky.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
For me, resilience begins with the voice. It’s choosing to speak up, speak out, and use your voice to create positive change, even in the face of adversity. Adversity often begets silence and silence often signals acceptance. Perhaps the adversity seems too much to overcome, so we stop trying. Perhaps the risk of speaking up in the face of adversity seems too great, so we stay silent. Perhaps we think our voice doesn’t matter, our dreams are too big, or that previous failure means we are forever destined to fail. Resilience is choosing to try again, it’s the rebound.
My background is in theatre, and in theatre we treasure failure. It’s not seen as a negative, or as an end. Instead, it’s seen as opening the door to other choices, and to other possibilities. One of my dear friends, a director, tells his actors to, “fail spectacularly,” because, when you do, it means you’ve fully committed to your choice. So, it didn’t work out. Ok, take what you’ve learned from that choice and make another one.
I see resilient people as being creative and courageous. To be resilient, is to realize there must be more than one way to get where you want to go. Then you must have the courage to work through the obstacles until you find it.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is choosing to try. Resilience is choosing to try again..and again..and again.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I just watched Respect, the movie about Aretha Franklin’s life. It’s really a movie about her journey to find her voice, as a singer and as a woman, which resonates deeply with me. It’s also a lesson in resilience. She, and I didn’t know his until watching the movie, put out something like 9 albums, over nearly a decade, before ever having a hit. She was a 10-year, overnight success, which I think is the case with so many highly successful people. They’ve been doing the work for years, but suddenly the public takes notice. We often don’t see the work that came before, or the resilience.
The movie also goes into her personal life, which was not easy. She faced more challenges before the age of 25 than most people will face in their lifetime, myself included. To see her use her voice in the way that she did, and I’m not even talking about her singing, but speaking up, and standing up, and failing, and trying again. What a resilient woman.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
To be honest, there isn’t, or if someone ever did, I guess I didn’t listen very well. I ask my students, when they’re working on a song, “Why is it (while you’re singing) that someone doesn’t cut you off?” The answer is, “Well, because the composer didn’t write for someone to,” but what if that wasn’t the case? If this was real life, and you were sharing your story or making your plan, why doesn’t someone cut you off? To me, the answer has to be that you are so passionate, dedicated, and energized about what you are saying that you don’t give them the opportunity to. I like to think that’s how I live my life.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The last two years have certainly been the greatest setback to hit my industry, well, ever. When the pandemic shut down Broadway, and effectively all entertainment venues, it left those of us who work in them, either directly or, as I do, in a supportive way, wondering what was next. I remember reading a post an actor friend of mine wrote on social media when we weren’t sure when, or if, theatre was going to come back. It said something like, “I’ve dedicated years of my life to training in a highly specialized field, gotten to the top of it, and now I’m supposed to just give that up?” That was a question we were all grappling with.
By day, I’m a professor in a theatre department, and the idea of training students for a career that, in the future, may or may not exist was certainly daunting. Not to mention, we pivoted from teaching face-to-face to totally online in, like, a week. Making that transition was difficult in all of academia, but for those of us in the arts, who teach performance-based classes, it was especially so.
I’m so proud of our courage, our creativity, and our resilience. We’re still a long way from “normal,” who knows if things will ever be as they once were, but we’re making it work. For me, that meant learning very quickly how to teach effectively online. I still work with many of my students online and I joke with them about how (and I’m dating myself here) when I took voice lessons, I would bring a tape to record them on and my professor would walk me down to the faculty work room at the end of our session to copy my music for the next week. Now it’s: press record on Zoom, open an additional window to view a pdf of my student’s music, type notes in the chat…
The upside of this global shift to online working is that it has opened channels to so many more clients for me. I’m a virtual partner with a corporate health and wellness company based in San Francisco, and many of the nonprofits and corporations I’ve worked with over the past year have been in the UK. At one point, I found myself on a call with a contact in Germany, who was wanting to connect me with a contact of hers in Manila who was doing some very interesting work with conveying leadership skills through the sound of the voice. I remember thinking, “Wow. A year ago, this would not have seemed possible, and now, it’s commonplace.” A pandemic silver lining.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Growing up, the discussion around my family’s dinner table wasn’t about monetary success or finding your passion (though my parents always supported my passions) it was, “How are you going to leave this world a better place than you found it?” My parents are both (now retired) college professors and, I think, the attitude of giving back and the desire to positively impact the next generation came with that territory.
The idea that there was a greater calling to my life and my life’s work, and that I had the power to create positive change, contributed hugely to my resilience.
My path hasn’t been a straight one, and there were many times when I considered changing it completely. My husband jokes, when we were first dating, he found test review guides for the GRE, the MCAT, the LSAT and the DAT on my desk. I had just opened my vocal studio and was struggling to figure out being both an artist and an entrepreneur. My first office space was in a building owned by a friend of my parents’ who let me have 3 months rent free so I could get started, a gift I am forever grateful for. I worked part time at a daycare, literally wiping butts for minimum wage, to pay my rent while building my client base. It wasn’t easy, and I considered quitting many times, but I truly believed in the power of the voice and how I could positively impact so many people by teaching them how to harness that power.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Optimize your body, brain, and voice for success: eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, exercise, and get 8 hours of sleep each night. These may seem like simple tenants of self-care, but they are so vitally important. They are also the first things that go out the window when we get busy, stressed, or face adversity. Early meeting? Skip breakfast. Busy day? Suddenly, it’s 2pm and all you’ve had to drink is coffee. Behind on a project? Don’t sleep. What we may not realize is that in sacrificing our selfcare, we are actually sacrificing our ability to regulate our anxiety and emotions, think creatively, problem solve, and focus.
- Speak clearly: The voice is made up of skeletal muscle, the same type of muscle we work in the gym, and to be at its best it needs to be warmed up. A quick, easy warm up is humming through a straw. Take a regular drinking straw, place it in your mouth, and hum through it going up and down through the range of your voice (like a siren). All it takes is 2–3 minutes to warm up the voice and prepare it to sound its best.
- Portray confidence: Mehrabian’s Principle of Communication is 7–38–55: 7% of what we communicate is the words we say, 38% is our tone of voice, and 55% is our body language. Being in proper alignment: the head balanced on the spine, shoulders down and back, collar bone parallel to the floor, knees soft, feet shoulder width apart and flat on the floor portrays ease, comfort and confidence even if we’re not feeling that way internally.
- Practice: I find that much of the anxiety of speaking up comes from the unknown: what if my legs start shaking, what if I get off track and can’t remember where I was, what if someone asks an unexpected question? We can mitigate the unknown by preparing for it. Find it hard to catch your breath when speaking? Do jumping jacks for a minute, then give your talk. Unexpected questions? Work with a partner, have them interrupt you, and practice getting back on track. The more prepared we are, the less anxious we will be.
- Self Talk Matters: Your brain is incredible: virtually limitless information storage, processing speeds upwards of 260 mph, and over 100,000 neurons in a tissue sample the size of a single grain of sand. Your brain hosts the world’s most powerful tech. Your thoughts have power. In fact, your thoughts are so powerful that your brain treats thinking and doing the same way. Just thinking about an action causes the same motor neurons to fire as actually doing the action. We can think our way into calm and confidence, but we can also think our way out of it. Practicing resilience is also about stopping the negative, fearful, “I can’t” thoughts, and turning them into positive, strong, “What if I could” thoughts. By changing the way in which we speak to ourselves, we can literally retrain our brains to be more confident, more courageous, and more resilient.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Change Your Voice, Change Your Life: Your voice is the secret weapon to success you’ve always had, but never knew how to use, until now. I want all people, but especially women, to know how powerful their voices are! I want to inspire women to ask for what they want, create change, speak up against toxic culture, speak their truth authentically, start businesses, create wealth, and see that their dreams can be life changing for themselves, their families, their communities, and the world.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Oh, please tag Glennon Doyle. I became a fan of Glennon’s after reading Untamed. She is such a shining example of resilience, courage, and, frankly, failing spectacularly. She has chosen to use her voice for such positive change and to champion other women and girls to do the same. She is more than welcome to bring her wife Abby as well. ☺
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!