Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

“Self Help”



How does an actor sustain some sense of empowered optimism and forward momentum in the face of uncertainty and all the ups and downs?

I don’t see myself as some “self-help guru,” and I don’t think I have any methods for navigating life that are anything original or ground breaking. But, in case it might help, here are a few strategies that I use that seem to have served me well. 

Weathering a rough road

As a freelance actor, you may often feel powerless, buffeted by chance and at the mercy of others. It’s easy to get down on yourself or stuck about seemingly “not getting anywhere” and the constant rejection and uncertainty common to a performer’s life. 

An acting career often kicks along seemingly in slow-motion. Years of prep and training and work can take years to payoff (if they pay off). Staying positive and constructive in the face of all this can be a real challenge. 


Making your own obstacles

You gotta be okay with the bumpy road that is actor’s life. But some seem bent on making their journey longer and bumpier.

A lot of people probably don’t realize that they have become their own biggest obstacle, that they are complicit in amplifying and manufacturing their own difficulties.

If their mind were a road, they would be actively adding potholes rather than laying smooth asphalt.

For example:

  • Dwelling on what you have no control over.
  • Reinforcing unhelpful boundaries or obstacles in your life.
  • Loyalty and commitment to failed strategies and behavior or negative people.
  • Worrying about a thing before it’s an active issue.
  • Charging into a battle you are clearly not equipped to win.
  • Dwelling on dead-ends.
  • Inability or refusal to stop revisiting what has proven toxic, wasteful or injurious.
  • Unwillingness to cut losses and move on.


Two circles: Focusing on what you have influence/control over:

I once saw a simple diagram that I often think of: It showed two intersecting circles. The one circle labeled “Concern” supposedly contains everything that you care about, that you love– what matters to you. The other circle is the”Influence” circle, containing everything you have influence or some control over. Outside these circles is everything you cannot in any way influence or control as well as everything that doesn’t matter to you. 

Here’s my version of these intersecting circles:


The idea is this: You focus your efforts inside the intersection of these two circles- on things that matter to you that you can influence. The more you are able to do this, the bigger this area of overlap becomes, making you more empowered and effective. 

Focusing mind and efforts outside this intersection means either wasting energy on what you cannot influence or don’t really care about. This leads inevitably to frustration and dissatisfaction. 

You build an optimistic and productive path forward by affecting what matters to you, thereby growing a sense of agency in life and career and hopefully expanding your influence and connection with what matters to you.


For me, building and maintaining a career requires a positive outlook assisted by ongoing time management aimed at specific and attainable goals. Here’s a simple process I use: 

Write out a short list of attainable goals

Many versions of an “align your mind to align your life and future” concept can be found in self-help books, religions, therapies, and other programs touting “self improvement,” enlightenment, or whatever. Like dieting, most of them probably work to some degree– as long as you can put up with the part that doesn’t work–and the price tag. I’m typically pretty skeptical of gurus in general. 

At the Self-Help Diner, I tend to skip the menu items and go right to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Take as much of whatever looks good as you want and leave the rest. I tend to trust what’s in front of my eyes, rather than what’s pictured on the menu.

My version of “self-help” is simple (and free) and is neither exciting or original. Basically, it’s just a process of setting goals, combined with what I’d call positive “self-talk,” assisted with some simple time management. Follow the fun with an open, improvisational stance, mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

All I can do is tell you what I do and you can use it or not. 

I start by writing down what I want to accomplish today, this week, this month and this year.  I try to keep my goals specific and attainable.  The list is simple and do-able. I write down where I want to go, what I want to improve, how I’d like to change or feel differently. I try to aim my mind at where “the possible” intersects with what really matters to me.

A version of task management journaling I’ve recently discovered is called “bullet journaling.” I find is simple and quite powerful and effective. I love it. Look it up.

Recognizing and removing self-imposed roadblocks

During this, I am also constantly trying to identify and neutralize any of the mental roadblocks I may be setting for myself. This might include anything I say or do to reinforce an inaccurate or disproportionately negative view of myself and my situation (e.g. “I always lose,” “I’m so unlucky,” “I don’t deserve this,” “I’ll never be able to change this,” “Everything’s against me,” “I’ve never done this and never will,” etc). These self-defeating mantras often turn out to be exaggerations or misunderstandings, when more closely inspected.

Then, I try and pay special attention to how I talk to myself so as to change this negativity, to bend my thoughts in a more positive and hopeful direction. It’s a kind of “self-talk.” I talk to myself constantly about the goals I’ve set.

Essentially, I use my goals list and my self-assessment to “narrate my day” differently. I consciously try to reinforce “mantras” that I choose. I’ve found this habit of talking myself into accomplishing my goals effective. I also find talking myself out of a dead-end or negative mind-space can be effective as well.

As I talk to myself, I try to emphasize the possible instead of the impossible, solutions instead of obstacles, progress instead of missteps. The goals I’ve decided on and my progress towards them remain central to my focus. I try to acknowledge all ground gained as a victory and a positive step forward. 

This applies to what I say as well as what I think in response to anything positive or negative. I believe the habit of response and the tone and direction of your response as you talk to yourself and others about your day, your life, the bumps in your road, powerfully affect the path out of your difficulties as well as the possibilities ahead of you (or lack thereof).

I track my progress with a task management app and revisit my list regularly (I like the Wunderlist app, but the basic Apple task app is okay). Also, I’ve been using what’s called “bullet journalling” recently, where you write it all out and map out your goals and life events and other details concisely, filtering them out as you go, all hand written. I like it and find it very helpful and motivating. Look it up.

Checking off tasks and goals as “completed” gives me a sense of quantifiable progress, no matter how small the steps. (I’ve got the kind of brain that responds to this.) I find I need it, as many of my projects these days are rather open-ended and the “pay off” is quite delayed.

Another helpful habit I’ve cultivated is daily journaling. I call mine “dry erase journaling” because I erase it after each day’s entry. The idea is I have a space of complete and utter honesty where I can say, express or let out everything- the good, the bad, the ugly. Because I erase it, there is no need for self-editing. I want to know all that’s inside me, whether I like it or not- give it a bit of time to crawl out of its hole and move around a bit before it resubmerges to its safer solitude. I think  an artist (or really anyone) owes it to themselves to “Know Thyself.” So why not do this in a way that allows maximum honesty and freedom? All you have, all you’re left with is who you are anyway. I’m not writing this journal for posterity or anyone by myself- so I don’t need to conserve my entries. I know myself better after journalling, and that’s the payoff. That’s my “dry erase journal.”

Finally, back in the light of day, I’ve discovered daily “mindfulness meditation” as very helpful in dialing down my reactivity and dialing in a sense of calm connection and mental readiness. I like Sam Harris’s “Waking Up” app, but there are many good sources for learning meditation.

I have found that if you set your health and mind well, you will unlock a sense of agency and satisfaction in your daily living as well as an increased positive momentum in your career.

That’s how I try to maintain a sense of positive progress in my career and personal life. I am surprised to see that I can often realize what I want to happen by deliberately setting my mind and my mouth to focus on my goals in this positive manner.

14 Responses »

  1. Dear Mr. Baker,

    Hello, firstly I want to reiterate what everyone else has said and say thank you for this website and also this information in particular… I used to suffer from anxiety and this sort of cognitive thinking really helps, not only people like me but everyone… I mean, the world and life can be pretty intense and I think when trying for a career like this (which I seriously am) its good to remember to make a plan and to work at it diligently without getting too tied up in the self-defeating mantras. I live and work in London and I’m working at my plan to wow an agent and get out to L.A in the next seven years. I’m doing the courses and learning the positives from the No’s and the Yes’s and building on my performance with each little step… I will get there in the end. I’ve wanted to be a Voice Actor since I was a teen but it’s only now I’ve had the courage to really try and give it my all.

    Anyway, thank you so much. You’re a hero.


  2. Hey Dee!

    What task management app do you favor? I have long believed that writing down goals, and referring to them frequently, tends to lead to results with surprisingly little heavy effort. My experience here has mostly been in group business planning. I really dig the idea of turning this strategy in a personal direction.

    Thanks for sharing–what a great resource!


  3. […] I ve been writing fan fiction about [a particular animated show]. [Do] you know an e mail of someone who can evaluate my work?

    • I would suggest you research the show creators you admire and either send your work to their representation or better yet connecting with them in person at a convention if you want feed back. Most artists in animation have art school training. If that’s your passion and talent, find the schools that feed the shows you love (Cal Arts, for example) and get training and make connections there.

  4. …As a guy from a small town…, what is the best way to get serious feedback on a reel aside from traveling to hot VA areas such as LA, Chicago, NYC?

    [Also,}… Did you even have to deal with being in a position where you have some indication that you have the talent to move forward, but haven’t necessarily acquired all the skills, resources, or know-how to move forward?

    I feel as if I have hit a huge roadblock and am unsure how to move forward reaching out for more feedback that is pivotal for my future success.

    • Your own ears will tell you a lot when you compare your favorite voice actors‘ demos to yours by visiting their agencys‘ sites. Some good voice teacher in the market you target may do Skype and demo critique remotely. Moving forward always felt like jumping off a high diving board to me. You are never assured of success or whether your hopes are favorably confirmed. Best you can do is fortify your talent locally before taking your calculated risk. I always found that „readiness“ is best confirmed by either a live audience or a paycheck, or preferably both.

  5. …when I see [other voice actors perform] makes me realize how my effort may not be enough despite my ambition and need for training. This takes the fun away from my desire to voice act. I am losing confidence in my abilities.

    • Don’t focus too much on comparing yourself with your heroes. At best they provide inspiration or instruction but beyond that, you must found your enthusiasm on the enjoyment of improving your craft and on the process itself. This focus secures a better path towards continued improvement, no matter how far it leads you. Focus on unearthing your own talent and potential, not on becoming someone else. Find enjoyment in that.

Newer Comments ›

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2020

%d bloggers like this: