Success & Jim Valvano

Everybody who knows me knows that I like analogies, particularly sports analogies. Given that, Jim Valvano was the head basketball coach at Iona and North Carolina State where he helped engineer one of the most improbable upsets in basketball history. In 1983, Valvano’s Wolfpack won the ’83 NCAA Championship ( over the heavily favored Houston Cougars. He subsequently died very young of cancer and his courage in the face of his disease has provided one of the greatest moments in televised history ( Today, over 20 years since his death, Valvano’s legacy is nearly mythic, and he still inspires millions to succeed against long odds.

What does Jim Valvano have to do with Voice-Overs?

Years ago I was sitting in a meeting when someone mentioned Jim Valvano and a quote he had made. It went something like: “my only job is to put my players in position to succeed.” At that moment, a light bulb went off in my head. That was my job! I didn’t have a basketball and seven footers, but instead, I had voice-over clients and opportunities to get them work.

Ever since that day, I’ve lived by that phrase and often use it as a sort of mantra when I am bogged down by distractions or dilemmas that have nothing to do with my actual job. I also use the quote as a foundation for goals that I hope to accomplish. For instance, how does hiring a new employee put ACM’s clients in better position to succeed?

Putting Yourself In Position

I wrote a blog piece a couple of weeks ago titled the “Deadly Dozen: the Top Reasons Voice Talent Don’t Succeed” ( in which I detailed many ways to get off-track. But the focus in that piece was more about what not to do. Instead, what does one do to be ready?

Below, I am providing cliché after cliché as if I was a typical coach. Regardless of appearing trite, everything below is expected of any great athlete trying to get better. The same applies for any voice artist. Here are 12 examples of what to do.

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Constantly set and reset goals
  • Be fearless
  • Prepare and study outside of practice
  • Invest in the correct tools
  • Invest in the best coaching
  • Be on time and on schedule
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Keep your emotions in check
  • Visualize success
  • Adapt to changing circumstances
  • Embrace adversity

Training and Discipline

All twelve of these traits take for granted that talent is willing to train and prepare. In athletics, I know the type of rigorous training I endured to be, at best, decent. I also know in hindsight, that I could have been even better if I had been more disciplined.

There was a myth when I was a teenager about great athletes having God-given genetic superiority. Granted, some have more gifts than others, but what I have learned as I got older is that desire, discipline, preparation and hard work trump natural gifts and also lead to far greater sustainable success. In other words, if voice talent put themselves in position to succeed and their agents do the same, a great career is inevitable.


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