Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and today’s guest is Arthur Samuel Joseph, Founder and Chairman of the Vocal Awareness Institute.
Arthur is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost communication strategists and authorities on the human voice. His voice and leadership training program, Vocal Awareness, teaches communication mastery through a disciplined regimen of specific techniques designed to cultivate and embody and enhance leadership presence and person presence. He has coached the who’s who of the business world and Hollywood and sports, including Angelina Jolie, Shaun Connery, Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Jerry Rice, and the list goes on and on.
Arthur, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Steve, what a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
I have to tell you, I’m very excited about today’s interview, because just from a personal standpoint and selfishly, we’re approaching our 100th podcast interview on this podcast, and I speak and I do webinars, and so selfishly, we’re going to spend the next 30 minutes … And I hope I learn a little bit that I can actually apply to myself. But before we get to all of that, I would love it if you would give everybody listening a little bit more about your background, beyond the bio, so that they understand how you got to this stage in your career.
Absolutely. This is my 53rd year of vocal awareness. With my birthday this upcoming January, it begins my 54th year of the work. I have a Masters in Voice. I’m a classical singer by training, but I’ve always had what I call a knowing. When I hear a voice, I hear who you are, and it creates this imprint.
I was given insights and training at a very, very, young age that enabled me to carve out a new path in communication. Many elements of vocal awareness are actually trademarked, and the entire body of work is copyrighted. I’ve written five books. I teach globally. About 60% of my work is like this, on Skype or FaceTime, all over the world; WeChat, What’s App. I teach empowerment through voice. Vocal awareness is a paradigm shift. I say it so emphatically because voice is power. When we own our voice, we own our power.
One of my clients was just elected to the US Senate out of Arizona. Her name is Kyrsten Sinema. I share this not as a PSA on Kyrsten or making a political statement, but I share this because, if anyone went to YouTube and looked at her campaign announcement from last November, and hear and see in that three minutes and change how Kyrsten communicates. That’s vocal awareness. We don’t just see another politician selling something. We see a woman communicating with us; speaking with us. You believe her. You feel the authenticity, not just of the message but in the messenger.
It’s Not Just What We Say… It’s How We Say It
If we look at any of the Hall of Fame speeches that I craft for my … Among others, I have 20 students in the pro-football Hall of Fame. I write their speeches with them and help them embody them. If you were to go to YouTube and look at Michael Irvin or Emmitt Smith, whose speeches were actually 20 to 28 minutes and fully memorized in vocal awareness, or LaDainian Tomlinson … That went viral. Et cetera, et cetera, you get an example of one of the themes of today’s call for me. It’s not just the message; it’s the messenger. It’s not simply what we say; it’s how we say it.
If I say to you, “Steve, what a joy it is to be in this call with you today. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited,” versus, “Steve, what a joy it is to be on this call with you. I’m really excited.” The first one is bogus, but we don’t necessarily know why. We don’t recognize that it was simply too high and too fast. All we get is that it’s not genuine. The second one, we don’t know that breathe, that my voice is a little deeper. All we hear is, “I trust that man more.”
When I speak about the empowerment through voice, or voice as power, it isn’t big, bombastic sound I’m talking about; it’s integral, honest, genuine communication that I’m speaking about.
As I listen to you, and I’ve listened to so many people on these interviews, you have such a measured and almost a slower pace in your speech, which I find very interesting in listening to you. It’s the first observation I had. You and I haven’t talked before today. Often, we’ll get people on the podcast who, once the microphone is turned on, their speech rate about triples because they feel this instant pressure to get a lot of information out. Very interesting. I hope you tell us a little bit about.
That’s a great observation. That’s a great observation. May I do that right now, or do you want ask me some-
No, go ahead. Go ahead.
Okay. Do you have a stopwatch on your phone or anything nearby?
Okay. I’m at a country club here, down in downtown Dallas today, and there’s something on the screen in front of me. It says, “Located in the heart of the Trophy Club. Trophy Club Country Club offers the only course designed by Ben Hogan.” I’m going to read that four times. If you give me a three, two, one, and time me each time, I’ll show you this little exercise to demonstrate something that pertains to what you just said.
Three, two, one.
Okay. Located in the heart of the Trophy Club. Trophy Club Country Club offers the only course designed by Ben Hogan.
Okay. That was 4.51 seconds.
Three more times.
Yes. Three, two, one.
Located in the heart of the Trophy Club. Trophy Club Country Club offers the only course designed by Ben Hogan.
That was 5.48 seconds.
Three, two, one.
Located in the heart of the Trophy Club. Trophy Club Country Club offers the only course designed by Ben Hogan.
That was seven seconds.
And the last one.
Sure. Three, two, one.
Located in the heart of Trophy Club. Trophy Club Country Club offers the only course designed by Ben Hogan.
That was 6.6 seconds.
Virtually the same time, give or take half a second as the ridiculous one before it, and virtually twice as slow as the first one was fast.
The Root of Effective Communication
Couple of metaphors and examples at play here. In communication, speed is only speed. It is never how fast; rather, how effective. Nothing is gained by going too fast. The first one was not three seconds better because it was three seconds faster. The third and fourth one illustrate that I have a finite amount of time and space.
Your opening. Our elevator pitch. Our podcasts. It’s how I use the energy in that time and space. In vocal awareness, it’s not really how fast; it’s how effective. I teach us how not just to convey data, but how to tell a story. You noted that I speak slower than most, if not all, your guests, but do I speak too slowly? Am I boring? Do I lack interest?
That is the counterargument that you would hear. We judge our clients on delivering webinars. Oftentimes, a client is someone who hasn’t given a presentation before. Their default is to speak quickly, and the argument for that is, “Well, if I speak too slowly, I will lose people. I will go too long. I will bore them.”
Am I going too long or boring you?
Not so far. I’ll let you know.
I’m sure you will. But part of the point is, it actually didn’t occur to you, did it?
And the point is you accept this man’s communication style. But because of how I speak in a technique that we’ll talk about later called visceral language, I see the words that I’m saying. I see the punctuation. I see the comma, the period. If you look at any of these Hall of Fame speeches or Kyrsten’s campaign announcement, it’s all annotated in visceral language, and breaths are marked. They’re strategic. I’m a classical singer. A song without a rest is not the same piece of music. But most of us fill our space with white noise … “Um. Uh.” Because we might lose our audience if we happen to come up for air.
Also, when I go too fast and I don’t breathe effectively, I lose thinking time. In that space right here, for example, I have a nanosecond to capture my next thought, to read my audience, to hear what I’m saying … Now, empowerment through voice, we have control not just of the message but the messenger. This is how I want to embody my story. Does this make sense? Notice I also, by the way, didn’t just say, “This is how I embody my story.” I said, “This is how I embody my story.” I’m subliminally impacting certain words that you take away. Pay attention to that.
It’s so interesting to listen. I’m listening probably better than I have in any interview, because you are adding so many of those things in there. It’s fascinating.
You’ve been doing this for 54 years?
I mean, that is more than a career. That’s mastery for most people, to do anything for that long. I have to imagine that it wasn’t always easy and there may have been a few challenges along the way. What are some of the things that you discovered along the way for yourself that were effective in overcoming those challenges?
I know you told me this is coming on your 100th podcast, and yet in this podcast, as probably in all of them I’m sure, they’re personal. You ask real questions. I appreciate that. I teach a great number of champions in sport … And I’m going to be answering your question in this way. But you look up the word ‘champion’, and it says, “Dazzling skilled in any field.” It is not a sports-centric term.
Then I connect another critical word in the vocal awareness lexicon to that understanding. Audacity. That word means bold, intrepid, fearless, courageous. The root of the word courage is heart. We all have our origin stories, and mine is as bereft as many people’s. Lots and lots of challenges. Single parent mother and poverty and on and on. But my mother, when I was four years old … I don’t know where this idea even came from or where the money came from, because she was putting food on the table and paying rent. She dragged me into an accordion studio for my first lesson when I was four. That changed my life.
I knew at four that music was my life. I knew at 12 that singing was this direction. I began to know at 15 that I hear very differently. I didn’t understand it yet, but I began to know it. At 18, I began teaching. This work was pretty much codified by late teens, early 20s. I have seven rituals. They were intact. Many of the principles, already there. But it took me a long time to understand the work myself.
To be as bold as I am without being arrogant. To be as integral as I strive to be without being arrogant; without overloading people. Just to be in the integrity of the work takes real courage, and to know the truth of what I’m here to do, which is to change the world through voice. We don’t just drop a rock in the water and it sinks to the bottom; we drop a rock in the water and it can send concentric rings across the surface of the pond, touching everything that comes in contact. I learned early on that voice is vibration, just like concentric rings on the surface of the pond.
My journey, my mission, is to help us understand how to integrate the power of our voice in everything we do. People ask, “What’s it like to work with Sean Connery, or to teach Emmitt Smith or Pierce Brosnan, or to train so-and-so?” It’s exciting, I suppose, and it’s gratifying. But the point is, it doesn’t matter if I’m teaching somebody like that, or I’m teaching an old student, Klaus, who struggled with spasmodic dysphonia, or I’m teaching a Holocaust survivor, who felt that she had lost her inner voice as a result of the Holocaust. I helped her find it.
When you ask me that question, it took me a long time to shop up, to be frank, because I was like Punxsutawney Phil. I’d see my own shadow and dart back in my hole. But what enabled this work to prosper was my commitment to the work. The capital W. To surrender. To be in service to my calling. As I boldly did that, day in and day out, year after year, it morphed me. It helped me become the work.
Am I answering your question, I hope, in a constructive way?
I think it’s actually a brilliant answer. It’s funny. Whenever I have these conversations with people, it’s amazing, often, how in sync an answer will be with a thought that I have had recently. One of the things that I’ve given a great deal of thought to for the last 30 or 45 days is the interplay between ourselves as human and the work that we do. We go to work and we do the work, but what I think many of us don’t recognize is that work itself has a very important function in working on us to create us. There’s such an intimate connection between the two.
The Impact of “Shallow” Effort
It’s particularly interesting for me … And I know you’re taking a break in the middle of a seminar. I could probably talk to you for hours on this, but we’ll keep it short. The fact that you’ve focused in this one area for 54 years is absolutely fascinating to me. I see, across our society today, a lot of shallow effort. In other words, people never really get deep and get to the point of mastery with their work. I think they suffer, and I think we all collectively suffer because we don’t get the benefit of what they have to contribute, because they didn’t allow it to really get in them. I appreciate you sharing your experience because I think it’s a very important one.
May I attach a couple of thoughts to-
… what you just said?
One of my favorite quotes comes from the early 20th century psychologist William James, Henry James’ brother, who said, “The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” We’re here to make a difference.
I encourage your listeners to create what I call their vision statement. What is the contribution I want to make? Then the goal statement and timeline, beginning with Q1, say, for 19 through Q4. “If this is where I want to be by the end of Q4, where do I have to be by the end of Q1?” And then Q2, et cetera. And then, “What do I have to do on a daily and weekly basis?” Because in vocal awareness, we also integrate a timeline with this. We don’t just write some theoretical or aspirational statement; we actually create a business plan around it in very tactical ways, so it holds us accountable.
Then, concomitant to that is something called 168 hours. It’s an exercise I write about in my last book, Vocal Leadership: Seven Minutes a Day to Communication Mastery. I’m so honored that it’s a McGraw-Hill publication. But I share it for a couple of reasons.
One, Roger Goodell wrote the forward, and Roger, to me, is one of the most integral people I know, so it’s an honor for me, personally, to have his name on my book. Quite humbling, actually. But two, in there, I talk about something called 168 hours. 7 times 24. How do we spend a week? It’s an exercise on how to structure time, because the single greatest deterrent to our fulfilling our vision is we let ourselves off the hook. There’s nobody to tell us what to do. “Oh, it’s 10:00. I’m tired.” But if we’ve got a midterm tomorrow, it’s happening with or without us, so we’re up doing the all-nighter. We know we’ll do that. But when it comes to ourselves, sometimes our dreams intimidate us.
I created a concept called the Pragmatic Visionary. For all the dreamer does is dreams, but the pragmatic visionary works to make the dream a reality. All this interfaces with the matrix that I’m identifying for you right now. The last construct is our persona state. We live in a society where perception is reality, Steve. An opinion created in three seconds.
Your listeners don’t see me for one nanosecond in this podcast, but they hear me for the 30 or 40 minutes it takes. In all of our communication, only eight percent of our communication is language-based. In this podcast, 92% of what I’m sharing is communicated through my body language and the sound of my voice. Yes, the body speaks, even on a podcast over the telephone. I stay dialed in.
We have our seven rituals, and we put a couple of reminders in front of us, such as, “Take my time. Allow a conscious loving breath. Be in stature,” et cetera. Some of the principles of the work to remind me, to keep me tethered to my persona, because the persona statement asked the question, “How do I want to be known?” “Wow, I had a choice?”
Then, in vocal awareness, I teach you that every single thing in life revolves only around two things: to choose to do something, or to choose not to. It never matters if it’s scary or I’m tired or it’s seemingly daunting. All that matters is how badly I want it. In abdication, I made a choice by walking away, but in vocal awareness, all I care about is, “Does that choice empower me or disempower me?” The persona statement then becomes our mantra to ourselves. “This is how I want to be known.” Then the structures of the work enable us to show up as that each and every day.
Record your conference call and listen back. Record your podcast and listen back. Study it. Write out your opening. Write our your opening. Write out your PowerPoint slides; don’t just do bullets. Write them out and practice them. We don’t realize how much work it takes to be ourselves while others watch. Whereas with you, we could spend hours together, man. I hope I’m not spending too much time.
Not at all. Not at all.
Let’s take a quick break here, because I know there’s some very practical things that you want to share related to vocal awareness. I’m going to come back and give you time to do that because I think they’re going to be very impactful for everyone listening, particularly anyone who ever has to communicate, which is, I think, everybody who’s listening today. I think it’s going to be very powerful for you.
We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be back with more from Arthur.
Welcome back, everyone. This is Steve Gordon, and today, my guest is Arthur Joseph.
Arthur, I just thoroughly enjoyed your insights in the first part of the interview. What I’d like to do now is have you take us into your vocal awareness world. You’ve given us a bit of a high level view, I think, from the first part of the conversation, but for someone who is completely new and maybe hasn’t heard of you before, where would you start to give them context for this?
Well, first of all, I would encourage everybody to take notes from what I’ve said. Create a vocal awareness journal. When you listen back, you’re going to find this is very worthwhile content and clearly something you’ve never heard before, so go back and listen and take note. Then, practice. Think what it takes to practice your opening paragraph.
Before we do any of that, tell me one sentence, Steve, please, about what your mission is. Just one sentence.
Our mission is simple. It’s to create freedom for 10,000 professional service firm owners.
Right. That’s all I want. Tell me that again now, Steve.
To create freedom for 10,000 professional service firm owners.
Now, I’d like you to sit up straight, Steve.
Now, you noticed you held your breath, correct?
Okay. I don’t want you to sit like that anymore.
I can breathe.
A Simple Breathing Exercise for Improving Speech
Instead, I want you to slowly and gracefully, from three inches below your navel … Slowly. It’s art. Gracefully, pull a magic thread literally with your hand, higher and higher and higher, right up to the top of the middle of your head … Middle of your crown chakra. Taller, taller … Put the hand down. I’m going to ask you to take five seconds to allow a conscious, loving breath. It will be slow and silent. I’m going to count you in and breathe slowly with you. At the apex, at the peak of that inhale, give me the same sentence. See one word underlined and see a period at the end of the sentence. In stature. In five. Deeper. Three. Watch the neck and shoulders. Two. Deeper. And begin.
We exist to create freedom for 10,000 professional service firm owners.
Hear the difference?
Underline something. Put what’s called a downbeat in vocal awareness. Put an accent grave over the ‘u’ in that last word, and see a period.
You’ll have to explain to me what that means.
Put an accent over the ‘u’.
And see a period after the word ‘absolutely’, and say the word again.
And now with a breath. Don’t rush.
Hear the difference?
That’s visceral language. Now the word sounds like it was intended to sound. Then we have vocal warmups. Nobody warms up before they communicate, but I don’t know one athlete, one artist, who doesn’t warm up before they perform or compete. In vocal awareness, we warm up our voices in many, many, different ways, but the simplest one is finding the hub of the voice. Somewhat nasally. Lips relaxed and together. A little air expelled out of our nostrils. First, we do this. Mmmmm. Then where that pitch ends up, we begin speaking.
We’re going to put you back in stature. Let me first hear you do that exercise, in three, two, one.
Good. Now we’re going to not rush it the next time. I’m going to ask you to take your hand and diagram what I call and arc; not an arch. It does not descend. I want you to visualize a plane taking off and drive that hand diagonally until you complete that hub sound. Listen to me. Mmmmm.
In three. Use your hand to diagram it. Two. Deeper. And begin.
And the sentence again, please, Steve. Breath. Two.
We exist to give freedom to 10,000 professional service firm owners.
Can you hear the voice has more presence in it, correct?
And we don’t even know what we’re doing yet, and we’re on a podcast. Imagine if we were looking at each other eye-to-eye.
That’s right. We can’t even see each other.
These are some of the empowering techniques. I teach empowerment through voice. That’s trademarked. You can see the impact of the work, correct, in just those couple of moments?
Those are just a few very minor, little tweaks of-
I teach mastery, as you recognized. Mastery is in the subtlety. These techniques may be subtle, but the outcome? Substantial.
Yeah, I can imagine, now, trying to put all of … And I know there are other techniques that you teach. Putting all of that into a conversation like the one we’re having. I can hear you doing it. I know I’m not, and so I can hear the difference. It’s funny, because we’re doing this now, the contrast is stark. At least, to my ear.
It is, absolutely.
I can imagine that doing that in the front of a room or one-on-one with a client … And why I think this is so important … One of the reasons I was so excited today to speak to you today and cover this topic. Is that, for the businesses that we help, for the people that are listening, they get paid based on the advice that they give. In other words, they get paid to communicate ideas, and for those ideas to land with impact on their clients, such that their clients will go and implement those ideas and, in doing so, will get value. You see, all of what they do … Their entire business really is centered around their ability to communicate effectively. I think it’s critically important.
Taking the “White Noise” Out of Your Conversations
Take the word, “I think,” out and say it again.
I know their ability to deliver value to their clients and make an impact in the world-
Is critically important.
Because voice is power. I took out, “I think,” because it’s white noise. Because I’ve already overstayed your welcome with you today, I want people to understand our responsibility is to the work. The capital W. Our responsibility is to be in service to our calling. As I say in one of my books, we never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Think about how much work it might take to be who you are. No longer simply presenting who you are. When Steve was speaking in these last couple of minutes … Steve knows this. Steve was actually listening to himself differently. Not censoring or editing, but simply being mindful. That’s one of the principles of vocal awareness. It’s called conscious awareness. It helps us listen. Once again, gain greater control.
Wonderful. Arthur, thank you very much for sharing some time with me today.
I want to make sure that everyone who is listening knows how to find out more about you and about vocal awareness, and for those who have maybe listened to this and think that maybe they want to get some help with it, I know you’ve setup a special website just for our listeners at vocalawareness.com/unstoppableceo. If you’re listening, you can go there. We’ll link to that in the show notes. If you’re listening on iTunes or listening on our website, there will be a link in the show notes to get you there without having to remember it and type it.
Arthur, where else should people go to connect with you, if they want to find out more?
Well, before that, this offering, I don’t make idly. I make it because I’m enlisting people into what I call the Human Achievement Movement. I want us to really learn how to be the best that’s possible. This course that I’m offering is at a 50% discount, and it’s only available to your listeners.
Thank you. It’s very generous.
Back in my Tony Robbins days, he went and interviewed Robert Cialdini when he’d just written his book on influence; his book about the Law of Scarcity. Your listeners can only get it here. It’s the work I’ve been sharing with you today. It’s visceral language. It’s me on video teaching the work, one-on-one with you. Do take advantage of it, not for me but for yourself.
Then, if people want to find out more, they simply go to vocalawareness.com. They send me emails through support there, and they’re forwarded to me, and I answer them all.
My road is to change the world through voice. Steve, I’m so grateful for this opportunity today.
This has been a joy. I believe there are three fundamental ways that we all make investments every day. We invest with our money, certainly, but more importantly, we invest with our time and with our energy. Today, I think we made a wise investment in the last 45 minutes or so with our time and our energy. Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing with our audience, Arthur. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Thank you so much, Steve. Have a good day.