Embrace Your Voice

Advice from CEOs with voice disorders — “Embrace it!”

We interviewed two CEOs with spasmodic dysphonia, Kevin Hancock from Hancock Lumber and Jaime Schmidt from Schmidt Naturals. In both interviews, the focus was on how SD has impacted their individual leadership styles.  We asked the question, “what advice would you give to someone living with SD?”  We were was surprised to get the same answer from both Schmidt and Hancock, “Embrace your voice”

We can all understand the expression, but what does it really mean? If you look at a thesaurus to really understand the intrinsic meaning of a word you’ll find: hug, include, incorporate, accept, welcome, support, adopt, enfold, comprise, take on. It’s interesting that those are some of the same ideas that would also be included in the concept of self-love.

Acceptance is key

The unexpected diagnosis of SD probably threw your life out of balance. It likely impacted you emotionally, professionally, and in your personal relationships. There’s no doubt that you felt at least once or twice or a million times, that things were worse for you. But there is a theme from the folks with SD who participate and contribute to the organization; they all express some sort of acceptance of their SD. And that acceptance forces them to think differently about the events and circumstances of their lives. Schmidt admits that she plans business travel and speaking events around her Botox® treatments.  She didn’t quit doing speaking engagements, but she has had to adapt.  

Practice self-love

So here is some advice from a few of the over 4 million Google results on self-love with a disability.

  • Find and make great friends. There is a saying, “friends are the family you choose.” The good ones will offer support and accept you just the way you are.
  • Focus on your strengths not your weaknesses. Don’t dwell on what you cannot do, think about what you can and enjoy doing, then do it more often. Imagine the confidence you’ll build when you’re repeatedly successful.
  • Don’t measure yourself against anything else, not even YOU before YOU had SD. The problem with measurements is that there’s always some that fall below the baseline. Don’t compare, your normal is that all that matters.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are already an extremely strong person. You solve problems most people cannot, you know how to adapt, you know how to live with SD.
  • Connect with people. People will be curious about your voice, even if they do not say anything. Once you tell them about your disorder, they will admire you, listen more closely when you speak, and whether you realize it or not, you will become an inspiration.
  • Find a supportive community. There are support groups with people who have SD, just like you. Find one on the website.

Practice gratefulness

You need to practice being grateful, especially when you’re struggling with negativity, maybe even a little depression. Write down at least one thing you are grateful for every day. When you think about it, write it. After a time, you may just find yourself feeling a little better. Check out the free app called Gratitude. Totally free grateful logging. Search the app store for it.

Embracing something can lead to growth, helping you experience life in a new way, with a new perspective, that can transform your life in ways you never thought possible. And Hancock admits, “In losing a piece of myself, I found a better me”.