Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Excellence and Arrogance

Lately I’ve been getting very interested in the lives and mentalities of today’s most successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and creatives. I guess I’ve been drawn into a prototyping mentality - the idea that people have certainly done what I’m doing, have done it better, and have a wealth of experience that I can learn from. The end result is that I make less mistakes, avoid some of the pitfalls that they fell into, and accelerate quicker on my own path. 

I was listening to a speech by Bo Eason, an ex NFL player and now successful motivational speaker, and he spoke a bit about the struggles he had with wanting to be the absolute best at what he did. That may not sound like a struggle, but it was more about what it did to his mentality and how he interacted with other people. It got me thinking.

There exists this state that sits firmly in between arrogance and excellence that I feel like I’ve been tiptoeing around in for a lot of my life. In work environments and social circles, I’ve had supervisors accuse me of arrogance or condescension. I had one boss in the Air Force, who was probably the worst manager I’ve ever had in my life, specifically go out of her way to knock people down a peg (and gossip about it with other airmen afterwards - she was a real superstar).

I’m not saying folks have always been wrong. I’m not saying there weren’t times where I put too much swagger in an underdeveloped idea, or lacked the empathy to present myself in a way that was considerate to others. It’s a personal weakness of mine, and something I’ve been struggling with for my whole life. But I also think it’s something that’s grossly misinterpreted, to the detriment of anyone who wants to exude one of the most powerful, alluring, and dangerous aspects of personality there is: confidence.

That fickle ally: confidence. People constantly say that’s what make someone attractive over anything else. It’s what star athletes say liberates them on the field of competition. But too much of it - or just a little of it for the wrong reason - and the contempt is quick in coming from all around you.

That’s why I think it’s extremely important to try and occupy a duality that’s actually sort of looked down upon in many respects, especially in politics (god forbid someone changes their mind when they get new information! Be loyal to your ignorance or we won’t vote for you! I digress).

I like to have “strong opinions, loosely held.” I love that phrase. I first heard it on a Tim Ferriss podcast, in which he was interviewing a prominent - and brilliant - Silicon Valley venture capitalist and technology buff. The phrase gives shape to the amorphous philosophy I’ve been developing since high school that kind of started with the way I approached music. When I was not playing, I always considered myself a student. There was always something I could do better. When that instrument started making noise in a performance, however, I was the greatest player in the world. Those times when I let one of those two attitudes slip into the wrong situation is where I got in trouble. Either my playing was flat and boring, or I reached a plateau and couldn’t get any better.

A fantastic quote by one of my favorite composers, Frederic Chopin, was delivered to one of his students. He warned:

“I see that timidity and lack of self-confidence form a kind of armor around you, but through this armor I perceive something else that you don’t always dare to express, and so you deprive us all.”

Going back to where we started regarding success stories, there’s a common thread of advice I keep hearing from all of the most successful people in the world. If you’re scared of being confident, of pursuing excellence, because there is pressure all around you to remain mediocre, then you need to change your environment. Immediately. Always remember that you are the average of the five people you hang around with most; if they are making you guilty of your own strengths, then you’ve gone as far as you can go until you swap those folks out for someone who genuinely thinks you have the capacity to be the best in the world at what you do.

Bottom line? Being able to approach people confidently, to approach your work or your hobbies or whatever without timidity making you second-guess yourself, allows you to perform like you are actually preparedto perform. Being able to let go of that confidence and learn, communicate, and improve is just as essential. Saying to yourself “I am absolutely doing this right, until I learn that I am doing this wrong” is, in my strong opinion, the way to excellence. But, of course, if you have another way to look at it, I’m open.

The First Month of Mechanical Failure

I can’t believe that MECHANICAL FAILURE has been out for over a month now. It’s been a crazy, wild ride - one that I never really imagined would happen.

We had a great launch party over at Barnes and Noble Santa Monica. They were gracious and pleasant hosts, and kept announcing me as the voice of Fox McCloud over the speakers.

Barnes and Noble literally compared me to Douglas Adams, which left me about one sneeze away from peeing my pants in excitement. The Hitchhiker’s Guide books are absolute icons of science fiction humor, and to be compared to such awesomeness was so aweseomly awesome. And I even made impressions overseas at SFCrowsNest, which helped allay some fears I had about my humor not working as well in the UK.

Some marvelous reviews came flying in on the Amazon page, which has somehow stayed in the 4-digit book rankings on the Kindle store. That’s really great tenacity for a debut novel. It means that out of the bajillion books on Kindle, Mechanical Failure has steadily remained in the top 7,000 or so. It even dipped as low as 5,900. Those are numbers I can live with. Probably my favorite review was this one, where I inspired someone to neglect his newborn and his wife. That’s the kind of disruption of lives I like to see.

In a moment of fan awesomeness, I literally had someone specifically request that I write an iconic Star Fox quote in their copy of the book.

And of course, I had a homecoming book-signing in my hometown of Sparta NJ, where I sat in this classy setup. I feel like I need to be wearing a smoking vest here, or something.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’m setting up some other signings all across the country; keep an eye on my events page, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter if you want updates on when I’ll be in your neck of the woods. WORLDCON is coming up in Kansas City from Aug 17-21st, so you’ll find me there as well. In the meantime, I’ll be trying not to forget about my other career as a voice actor, and sharing news on some big projects in the pipe for 2016.

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to everyone that helped make this possible. I could never have done any of this without an incredible network of support from family, friends, and industry professionals. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that no man is an island. But I did go boogie boarding the other day and floated on my back for a few minutes in the Pacific Ocean…so I guess that’s a load of crap.

*Haven’t checked it out yet? Head over to my books page!*

Welcome to the New Website!

Hi everyone! Some of you more discerning, observant types might have noticed that something is slightly different about joezieja.com. Well, you’re right.

In partnership with the excellent designers over at Cubicflow, I’ve taken all of my disparate internet resources and merged them into one, comprehensive page. I discovered that trying to split myself into multiple personas was both inefficient and bad for my therapist, and I wanted a central web location.

You might have been redirected here from Voices By Joe, which used to be the home for all of my voiceover stuff. Don’t fret! You’ll still find all of the same content here, but it’s organized in a more streamlined, easy-to-access format. As of right now, please continue to use the contact form to reach out to me regarding new projects. I’ll likely be shuffling around some email addresses soon, but it will hopefully be transparent to you.

If you find anything out of sorts, please feel free to either let me know here in the comments section or give me a shout on the contact page. You may find that you’ll need to re-follow the blog if you had done so previously. You’ll find a space to do just that over to the right. While you’re at it, I encourage you to hit me up on Facebook and Twitter, where I post all kinds of news and fun stuff on a daily basis relating to writing, humor, voice acting, and general nerdery.

For now, enjoy exploring the new site!

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