Last week I shared about my penchant for imagining a life do-over; specifically: What if I could live my life over again with all the knowledge I accumulated the first time around? Despite the fascinating rabbit trails such a thought experiment offers, I suggested (and a lot of positive feedback confirmed) that dwelling on the possibilities of a nigh non-existent chance that the space-time continuum might fracture and open a path through the multiverse to an opportunity for a redo isn’t the best use of one’s precious time. Thinking about what might have been can be a fun fantasy, but it will ultimately only prevent us from seizing the present moment and directing ourselves to a better future.
With that topic sufficiently explored for the time being, I considered the concept of “What if…?” to be put to bed in my mind (or at least as put to bed as it ever is for me; Marvel has a whole comic series under that name to explore, after all). And it was…until I was reminded that the “What if…?” conversation is actually a coin with two sides. Not only are we able to put our minds to the task of evaluating our pasts and assessing what we might have done differently if only we had been aware of this one key idea, but we’re also capable of orienting our “What ifs…?” toward the future. What if—see what I did there—instead of investing our “What if…?” energy into what’s already done and over, we applied it to that which is still possible? Suddenly, an entirely new thought experiment is born, this one with the potential to actually be positive and actionable in our lives. So, without further ado, allow me to lead us into a genuinely unexpected Part II of this conversation!
In addition to discussing “What ifs…?” last week, I also mentioned LeVar Burton when I referenced an episode of his podcast. In one way or another, I think we’re all probably familiar with this man who has become one of the world’s greatest storytellers and advocates for the importance of storytelling. Whether it was watching him aboard the Starship Enterprise as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge or teaching children the joys of reading as the host of Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton has had a significant impact on our society’s understanding of and yearning for stories. It will likely come as no surprise, then, that he teaches a MasterClass on the Power of Storytelling, and yours truly eagerly jumped on for the ride. In one of the lessons, entitled The Imagination is Our Superpower, LeVar states that the combination of the words what if is one of the most important in all of language. “When you accept the invitation into the ‘what if…?’” he says, “everything becomes possible.” He goes on to note that we generally encourage exploration of the “what if…?” in children, but for some reason we remove that permission as we get older. Our ability to imagine and visualize possibilities becomes stunted if we don’t exercise it, and that’s a crying shame because chief among the tools we need to solve humanity’s problems, large and small alike, is imagination.
And that’s really what this flip side of the “What If…?” coin is all about: imagination. When applied to the past, “What If…?” allows us to imagine what might have been possible, but when applied to the future, it opens up a world of endless possibility that could actually still come to be. It’s the difference between asking yourself, “What if I had…” vs. “What if I do…” On the surface, it may not seem to be that significant a distinction, but when it comes down to it the orientation of our “What If…?” thinking makes all the difference in the world. In one case, we sit stagnant, often feeding regret. In the other, though, lies the opportunity to set the rest of our lives on a completely new trajectory, if only we have the imagination to visualize it and the right action behind that vision. That is precisely what I was getting at in my conclusion to last week’s conversation. I don’t have to resign myself to a mediocre career in voiceover simply because I didn’t start acting when I was three years old or study theatre at a conservatory. Instead, I can look forward to still having a long and prosperous career as a voice actor because I start taking acting classes today, working with a coach now, continuing to grow at and learn about my craft for the rest of my life. And I don’t have to stop there, either! From there, I can keep asking “What If…?” What if I push the boundaries just a little bit more? What if I truly believe I can achieve more than what I think I’m capable of? What if my wildest dream is really just the first step into something even more unfathomable to me right now? What if…?
Now, I think the caveat surely needs to be made that future-oriented “What ifs…?” can be just as prone to stagnation and wasting time as past-oriented ones. As I said before, our imagination needs to be backed up with an actionable plan in order for us to move forward and see progress. A garden doesn’t bear fruit simply because we imagine all of the delectably fresh produce; we have to get down in the dirt to plant, water, and tend it along the way. When we do, though, WOW… Our “What If…?” can quickly turn into a “How about that!” It's fun to imagine what could have been in an alternate reality—I should know; I still do it quite a bit. But I’m learning it’s even more fun to imagine what might be in this reality and then make it happen with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work. To quote LeVar Burton one last time, “Dreams pull you to your destiny.” What dreams are you holding onto? What do you imagine is possible for your future? If you struggle putting a finger on what that might be for you, I suggest starting with a simple question. What if…?
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories. __________________________________________________________________________________ Are you in need of a quality voiceover for your next project? I'd love to help tell your story! Request a quote or check out my Demos. I look forward to working with you! Tyler Robbert Voiceover Artist | Storyteller firstname.lastname@example.org www.tylerrobbertvo.com Like what you read here? Looking for more ways to sate that hunger for VO-related content? Try checking out some of these other awesome blogs from within the VO community!