List of Things That Scare the Hell out of Me

Halloween is just a day away, so I figured I would post about things that have me scared…and it has nothing to do with ghosts, goblins, or demons. I recently stopped paying attention to news programs and Facebook, other than for purposes related to my job. I needed to do it because the outlook for the future of the United States seems pretty depressing for me, and in fact…it scares the hell out of me.

I should just go right into the list, before I get side-tracked. What scares the hell out of me?

1. The death of the “family” ideal in the United States.americangothic

When 1 out of 2 married couples get divorced, the majority of the time for financial reasons, we have lost control of the one thing that gives us power individually to survive in an ever-changing world…family. I am lucky to have a wife no one could pry me away from for any reason, but sadly that makes me unique. There is also a new form of “cheating” in the US: Financial cheating, by having your own “financial life” separate from the marriage.

2. No one pays attention anymore.im with stupid

The US has become a “screen-addicted” nation where we think all of our attention must be focused on the screen in front of us. For all the genius inventions that exist today, the dumbest thing I deal with is avoiding people crossing the street, while I am driving. It makes no sense. The smartest people in the world wear black clothing at night, and cross the street while checking their phones, as if the 2-ton machine driving at them will know they are not paying attention.

3. People feel no need to talk anymore to those in front of them.

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We are able to communicate with people globally so well, that we have now replaced that for face-to-face interactions. The trickle-down effect has resulted in a nation of people who are rude, and choose to ignore those in front of them like spamming Facebook requests.

4. The US has become a nation that is purely “survival of the fittest”.

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I tell you now…I am “Screwed Cross-Screwed Shield”, if I choose to live in the US forever. Why? I have a seizure disorder. Healthcare is high priced. Insurance is a legalized form of extortion that no business wants to pay for under any regulation, and inflation is so bad that the cost medical care is rising, as the average paycheck is decreasing. In 2005, a 9-day hospital stay cost $45,000 for me, and after insurance, I owed $6000. That same year, I needed dental work which ran me close to $10,000. After filing taxes, I realized I made a total of $15,000 for the year on a $38,000 salary. Even though I had insurance in 2005, it was limited. Keep in mind, I learned long ago not to feel entitled to anything. However, the current set up of today’s system favors people who can work 2 jobs, and never get sick. The US just scares the hell out of me. It has become a modern day “Logan’s Run”.

5. People today have no sense or urgency or thirst for knowledge or adventure.

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Why should they? They have a smartphone. They can ask it questions like a trained monkey, and the phone provides answers. Meanwhile, the person  aka. trained monkey, completely loses the opportunity to think for him or herself.

6. The Internet is bulls*** and no one has figured that out, yet.

The Internet has done more to kill the economy simply by turning us into productive machines. We can produce and produce all day because of it, but as a result the demand outweighs the supply in a short period of time, meaning that a person’s job becomes disposable in a very short period of time. In recent years, people are often hired on “contract” because they are so productive they are only needed for a short period of time. Since the Internet went mainstream, the economy has slowly tanked, as the Internet acts like one big digital Walmart. The Internet is bullsh** because most of the people building websites offer false promises in the beginning to get enough test dummies to get past beta stages. Words like “transparency” and “trust”, which once stood for something, are now used as tools to lie to people for the purposes of sales. We also build so much crap online that no one “needs”, and pass it off as a necessity, when the truth is if the Internet disappeared tomorrow, the world would be much better off.

7. The job market is a joke online.

I challenge anyone to start looking for work online. When you start getting phone calls and spam about training programs and schools, after applying for work online, you will see how your quest for employment online is just a way for websites to get your personal information to sell you classes. But you want a job, right? Not classes. Good ole’ bait and switch. All the technology in the world, and people use it to act like the typical ass***oles we have dealt with since time began.

8. Politicians involvement in the stock market.4707561738_8b7ab20fb2_n

How the hell can you have lawmakers buy interest in a company, when they are the very people regulating the market? Now, I know they are smart enough to see why this is a conflict of interest, and they do not care.

I was once told as a child, “Your taxes will pay for the services of the government”. I have now, as an adult, realized how the US economy is one big Ponzi scheme. Sadly, people in the US would sooner put a neighbor out of business than actually take a stand against wrong-doings of the government. Politicians involvement in the stock market has turned the US into the very monarchy the founding fathers fought against back in the 1700’s.

9. The truly apathetic government.

On the 1st year anniversary of “Superstorm” Sandy (another bullsh** tactic by insurance companies because if they called it a “Hurricane” they would pay out much more), I am reminded how Federal Aid did not reach victims until 8 months after the storm. I rag on people from the northeast for being rude, but if there was  ever a reason to be angry at the government for not helping citizens in a disaster….this was it. 8 months???  We had a faster response time to the Tsunami in Indonesia!

10. Crappy job market.

In truth, I brought this fear on myself this year by quitting a job I had for nearly 5 years when I should not have without a plan. However, as I mentioned earlier with the “survival of the fittest” factor, I had gotten to a point where I was literally killing myself on the job, just to get it done. Working for websites is not a “job”. It is a “lifestyle”, which may explain why people with no family ties or connections enjoy it so much, while those with families only last a few years. The US is a “live to work” nation in a nation of consumers. We want and want and want and want, but sadly have forgotten what we need.

Myself, I have this seizure disorder and I was staring at a computer screen for 70 hours a week in a highly stressful position. I was committing suicide with a laptop. Thankfully, my belief in a family ideal is what saved me for now. The job market right now … I have never seen it this bad before in my life, and I regret spending all my life’s energy in a lifestyle job that was killing me slowly.

Finally…

11. We are getting dumber by the day.2079121875_296581a624

I watched this commercial the other day for a Google phone where a person asks, “How do I get home?”, and is pleased the phone knows….and I cannot believe no one sees what is wrong with that. You see, when I was a child there was this thing my parents taught me called, “Learning how to survive on my own.” I was taught, “If we ever get separated, you find your way home {insert directions}”. What it taught me back then was the art of being “RESOURCEFUL”. Even to this day, I do not trust GPS for the lone reason that it runs on battery power that dies in two hours. However, I plan to be around for 80+ years, and that means as I get older I am going to need to know how to take care of myself, in order to survive.

There is one more point to this…I remember growing up that this elderly woman in our neighborhood used to walk around asking everyone, “Where do I live?”. She suffered from dementia. What if she had an Android? Would she find her way home? No. The last thing I want to have happen to me is to be forced to rely on technology to live and find my way home. I would rather rely on family and people who care about me. When I look at all the technology being created that encourages us to “think less”, “read less”, or “do less”, I quickly turn my attention to the creators of such technology and notice something very funny…They are always reading, always thinking, and always doing something new.

Therefore, what makes us dumber by the day is the belief that technology exists to “solve problems”, when it does quite the opposite, and does anything BUT make us “smarter”. It exists much like an alcoholic beverage…Great in tiny amounts for a buzz…dangerous if you have too much, especially when driving. You would never find the owner of Samuel Adams dipping into the company brew, and you won’t find creators of websites using their own technology.

I cannot help but look at the people who create technology encouraging consumers to “think, act, or do” less, and think of the words “hypocrisy”, “addiction”, and “gypsy”. A hypocrit always lies about his/her intentions. An addict always places a label of necessity on things they do not need. A gypsy always tries to pass off something as “amazing” or “smarter” to distract from the fact it is just a toy. Today’s adults and youth have more “toys” they think they cannot live without, and sadly they think it makes them “smarter” for knowing how to use them, when they are failing to use the very tool they were born with…their brains.

The epic story of how college prepared me for today’s world over 20 years ago

I attended Wagner College in Staten Island, New York from 1991 to 1995, with the unique combination of majoring in theatre and attending on a golf scholarship. Even though I turn 40 years old this year, and I am still paying off student loans, I can honestly say, “I am glad I went to college”. Furthermore, I firmly believe the generation of tomorrow that believes college is out of the question or too expensive, is missing something they will regret and never truly know why, or if by chance they do realize opportunity has been lost, they will not have the time or energy to go back to school.

There are hot-button topics in the media today, that I honestly look at and wonder to myself, “What is big friggin’ deal, and why haven’t we grown out of this yet, or done anything about it?”.  I am referring to topics such as:

  • Same-sex marriage
  • Interracial parents in advertising
  • Homosexual athletes or “coming out” stories
  • Unemployment and poverty
  • Religious debates and terrorism
  • Violent content in media
  • Immigration
  • Marijuana legalization

I can honestly say all of the above were topics that I “got over” by 1996, and by that I mean, “I do not have to think about where I stand on these matters, nor question my own beliefs, and I have patience with those who have a hard time with change.” I also never complain by saying, “That person is sooooo mean to people.” My time in college, both living life on campus and attending classes, gave me an education in “how to handle myself as an adult” in the future. Please let me explain, and I will be as entertaining as possible to keep your attention.   I promise!

First point: I would not have gotten over such topics, if not for the people I met, ate lunch and went to class with, or even lived with in their dorm rooms. I will also mention one possible regret I do have, that helped me to appreciate college even more. Now…

Same-sex marriage

I grew up Catholic in an Irish family, and at age 18 went to college where I majored in theatre. I am straight. For most of the ’90’s people who stated they were straight, would finish with, “Not there’s anything wrong with that.” They did a whole Seinfeld episode on it, and to me…there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriage. In theatre, I worked with men who dated each other, and their relationships looked just as real as anyone else that age. There were fights, drama, make-ups, break-ups, and yes…sex.

At age 18, it was new and a bit scary to me, I admit, but if I did not go to college and learn, I would have stayed hidden in my own little world where I believe everyone should be like me. In spite of my fear, those I went to school with were very accepting of each other, so for me to run around quoting the Bible, would have made me a bigger target of hatred than those gay couples who wanted to be married, as far back as 1991. To see them announce their marriages on Facebook in 2013 is just wonderful. It’s about time.

Interracial parents in advertising

I have no idea why people exploded over the whole Cheerios campaign ad, or paid any attention to Youtube comment trolls.

In college, the sexiest couple on campus were a black male football player, and white female basketball player. I do not remember their names, but let me tell you, they looked like they could run a kingdom. Only an idiot would tell them, “You should not date because you are interracial.” This was in 1992, mind you. I looked up to this couple with respect, admiration, and as a couple, just used to think, “Damn…I wish I could be like that.”.  There were many interracial couples on campus, and I just left school thinking, “They are people. What’s the big deal?”.

Actually, after college, I toured the United States and worked in Times Square as a DJ. I found that my “race-neutral” attitude had to be turned off in some states for safety reasons (bad to flirt), but for NYC it was perfect. I am that way because of my time in college. I am married to a black woman, and maybe only dated one white woman in my life.  Btw…There have always been idiot racists. We are all descendents of stupid people, but college helps us put things in perspective.

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Me and the Mrs. :)

Homosexual Athletes and “coming out” stories

Let me just say…The ONLY reason this is still news is because the majority of straight people in the world are a***oles. For all the people I went to college with that “came out of the closet”, and were met with parents or lovers disowning them or breaking up with them in anger, all I had to see was the pain in their eyes to figure out, “This is ***ucked up.” In fact, it reminded me of the 1970’s when divorced women were suddenly no longer welcome in the Catholic church. To hate someone for being true to themselves is just disgusting. In fact, while in college I even knew of a few athletes who experimented with homosexuality, among many other things that made them more “freaky” than homosexual.

Ironically…the physically strongest men on campus could not admit what they were, but the 125 lb tap dancer had the strength and courage to be honest with themselves. The fact that they were on campus with others, gave them a great support group or safety net to process these emotions, before hitting the real world. Back in 1991, people came out of the closet for themselves, and not to get on Reality TV. One last thing on this…The first time a man hit on me at age 18, I turned red-faced and did not know what to do. Luckily, I had a friend and teacher who sat all of us down to talk about it. This can only happen in college. When it happens now, I take it as a great compliment. I do admit though, that at times in college we tried to force beliefs down people’s throats, such as naming an intramural softball team of theatre majors “Damn Straight”. College is definitely a better place to come out, while surrounded by a safety net of others still learning or dealing with the pain of rejection.

Unemployment and Poverty

This one is simple. If you want a group of friends for your entire life, who do what you do for a living, you need to go to college and live on a campus with them. I chose to go into acting, and it is not an easy business. The people I met in school are still people I communicate with, and help out whenever possible. The people you meet in college are your network for life, and when you are down and out, they will be there for you. Each one of the people in the slideshow below has helped one, or many of their fellow alumni, get work. For those in entertainment, I am just proud as hell when I see my friends on television, movies, or in the credits of something.  These are “real” friends; not Facebook marketers or mouse-clickers. I have only been unemployed once since 1995, and I always had friends helping me out when I needed it. I would do the same for them in a heartbeat, and they know that about me.

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Religious debates and terrorism

Many forget that there was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center nearly a decade before 9/11. It was just as scary. In college, no one was ever being singled out for their religion, be it Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Hindu etc. In fact, a group of my friends were known as “The God Squad”, and they went to church every Sunday. Oh, and they still had homosexual friends, or friends who were Athiest. There was something about college buddies that if you knew they really cared about something, you left them alone and let them do it. I have seen such maturity dissolve over the last 20 years, but it still remains a part of me.

Violent content in media

Do you know I still remember the day I walked on campus and saw OJ Simpson running from the police in a white Ford Bronco? The one thing I started to see change in the 1990’s was that news programs began to see how sensationalism leads to viewers. While in college I had the chance to watch new cable news networks report on the Bosnian War,while watching with two foreign exchange students who literally watched their neighborhoods get destroyed on live television. They were basketball players, who came over to the United States to go to school. In fact, the two of them became good friends with me, and were the first to really show me that the world is really small. We are all responsible for what we watch on TV, how we feel about it, and how we respond to it.

Basically, I learned in college, “If you do not like violent media, do not watch it. You will see how it changes the way you think when you stop exposing yourself to negativity.”  In fact, some of the smartest people I know today, refuse to watch anything other than comedy, or cartoons. As for the people I went to school with, we just loved being silly on camera. Many times…that maybe all the “violence” going on; kids making jokes. Here are my friends and I in college:

Immigration

All I can say is that I attended college with people from Russia, Japan, Bosnia, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, India, and the United States. This experience with “people” helped me land my jobs at ESPN, a DJ in Times Square, AIG, and Voice123, where I worked with people from Egypt, Colombia, Russia, China, Korea, Thailand and England.  The deal is this…college helps you learn how to communicate and network globally, or at least it should. In my college years, it certainly did by having me live on campus with them long enough to realize, “Oh, they are good people…and some are idiots.” I very much became “people neutral”. I even played on a softball team with two short baseball players from Japan, who simply were the best players on the team. I just cannot fear people because they are from a specific country.

To give you a simple statement, if I had to write Immigration Policy for the US, I would have it like this…Is he/she a good guy policy? “If the person has a criminal record of either stealing, lying, cheating, or any other form of crime, they cannot be allowed into the United States. If they commit such crimes after arriving in the United States, they must go back.”

I know…it is simple. But I really have no problem with where a person is from, until they start breaking laws of basic human decency.   My Facebook page is littered with photos of all these great people I have met because of college.

Marijuana legalization

Hey…people have been trying to make this legal for DECADES, and I learned in college exactly why it will never be legalized: Over 55% of the people in prison in the United States are there on drug offenses. Good luck trying to tell the very lucrative professions of prison systems, corrections officers, staffing, contractors, and yes … drug dealers…that suddenly 55% of their business is going away. If anything, my history classes from college taught me that we are more likely to legalize it, and then make it illegal again, after it is discovered why we made it illegal in the first place. I also learned in college that I will not smoke marijuana because it screws with my head, makes me want White Castle burgers, and makes me very angry (not paranoid), and it was only a “contact high”.

College is the place to experiment with being stupid, along with friends to help you realize, “Yeah..we should not do that after college, but now is ok.” Get that out of your system while in college. We know it does not kill you, and you can still be president, too. :P

The one regret I can never take back…

For my entire time in college, there were people who were attracted to me, but I decided I would remain so career-focused that I would not let something like “sex” get in the way of success. In truth, I was afraid of getting someone pregnant because a friend of mine had a baby when she was 15 yrs old, and I knew others as well who became teenage mothers. I thought, “Wow! How easy is it to get pregnant! Sex is bad.”.  However, a friend of mine told me one day at age 18, “Steven, you do want to realize later in life that you could have done so much more. If a woman is attracted to you, you should at least date.”  I ignored the advice, and many years later at a reunion party, a woman told me, “So many people wondered what you would be like in bed!”, and I thought, “Dammit! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me!”.

So…maybe I regret that I did not spend as much time discovering women in college, but that is ok because I am happily married now. However, my wife loves me for being smart, and given we are an interracial couple, I am not sure I would have been as willing to date her, if I did not go to college.

All I have mentioned in this blog post relates to the importance of the social interaction that takes place when one attends a place of learning, and chooses to live there, as well. The experience of acquiring knowledge and application of knowledge for four years straight, is something everyone should experience. Social media and online universities simply wont provide the same life education that a learning institution can.

I still pay for my student loans, yes, but I am a better person for attending college, and it prepared me for today’s world over 20 years ago.

My quandary and experience with immigration reform

This blog post is inspired by a recent Mashable article on the high-tech immigration debate.

I wanted to write about my experiences with immigration, and the quandary surrounding whether or not I should support it. Unfortunately, as sure as I was once, I am not as much anymore.

My quandary

My main quandary with immigration stems from the simple fact that I like people. If I like you enough, find you unique, and I trust you, I do not care where you are from. I am “this way” because I grew up in New York City, studied theatre for many years, traveled around the United States and to other countries like Egypt, Colombia, and Guam. As a six-year old, I used to take the Staten Island Ferry and city buses, looking like a runaway child, but I Eqyptalways enjoyed the people I talked with. I once had a man try to trade me his camel for a hockey jersey. I found that when you get the chance to sit down and talk with people directly, removing all outside influences of media, you get the truth. You find out there are lots of good people out there in the world, and ALL of them have problems. They have problems with their neighbors, government, religion, finances, love life, etc. We all want the same basic things out of life, and it is just about finding who is willing to pick up the tab.

In addition, I like to give people assistance and help them. Sadly, the older I get I seem to remember more stories of people who took advantage of my kind giving nature to the point of martyrdom. In a day and age of democratized information, there is a heightened awareness of what people “really mean when they say something”. For example, for a business to claim they bring economic growth to a country when they have been hiring overseas paying 3rd world wages, and no taxes to the government, I fail to see how this stimulates growth for anyone, but the business owner. To use it as a reason for “immigration reform”, is truly just a load of nonsense. In short, is it to be believed that because they now have visas to work in the US, that this will somehow stimulate growth for those currently living and working in the US? It is believable as Reagan’s voodoo economics, and it leads to the next point of my quandary: The history of immigration in the US.

Quandary with history

There has been no other time in the history of the world where news, education, and information was so readily available to every common individual to form an opinion. With that said, the United States suffers from an interesting paradigm: We are completely aware that the things we did to start this country over the last 300 years…and well…we kind of acted like assh*les on more than one occasion, and we are all technically “immigrants”.

In relation to the topic of immigrationmatrix-screensaver-for-windows-7

Pardon the brevity of this vague history lesson…but there is something very “Matrix-y” about it. When we first immigrated to the newly discovered western world, we started killing off those who lived here, then ummm…imported immigrants against their will, treating them like garbage, while enlisting help from the “old world” to fight wars with us, only to turn around and say, “Ummm…God said this land is OURS now, so you all have to get out. But thanks!!! Really!!!” Shortly after, we opened our doors again, until we decided, “WAIT! Oh crap! Now it is too crowded.”, and we isolated ourselves in our own little world until Japan and Germany taught us that was a bad idea. Sadly, the only lesson we took from that experience was that “war stimulates economy”, so anytime the US economy dips…we declare war on something.  All of this to say, “Let us not act like we have not been here before!” We know what this “reform” is all about: Money. It is always about money, and not people. To put some sort of emotional spin on it to imply that someone against reform, must be indicative of some grand evil, is just an insult to anyone’s intelligence. The history books dictate: People want to come live here, start businesses here, and work here, and they are going to hire their own next of kin and/or people they care about back home, which means those who have been here in the US a long time will be fighting to survive.

I state this because anyone who brings up topics surrounding racial or cultural opinions, is only trying to distract from the fact that this debate is all about money. People in the US have their culture and economic clashes, just like every other country. Why should the US serve as a doormat for the capitalistic whims of entrepreneurs, who were not born in the US? The laws and regulations in the US are here for a reason; to provide the very same safety and regulation that others wish to come here and experience. If a person wants to start a business in the US, it is for the very same reasons that those already living here wish to, as well. But again, let us never forget that to get what we want, as human beings, we say and do whatever we must until we get it. When our needs change, we boldly change our behavior towards greed, stating proudly, “Hey…it is only business.” If it is only “business”, then do the world a favor and leave the emotional semantics out of the debate.

My experienceinauguration

I have worked for companies before with staff in other countries. I enjoyed it, and the more I became attached to the staff, the sadder it made me that they could not freely visit me, as I did them. Particularly, I remember writing sponsor letters more than once to try and get them visas.

I also remember how many times they were rejected. I remember certain words that were used by staff to express their anger in light of their association to me, which involved insulting my very own culture. It did not make me feel happy to help people, who turned around and attacked me for not getting what they want. “Defending people who turn around and screw the US” is a hot-button topic with many US citizens for obvious reasons. Why help those who ask for help, but offer no appreciation in return. In truth, myself, I do not know what is wrong with “these f**ing gringos” some days, but I certainly know that the US puts a strong emphasis in the legal system on “truth”. For all its faults and weaknesses, the US legal system operates under the theory that a person who cannot be trusted to tell the truth in small matters, certainly cannot be trusted in large matters either (ie. run a business in the US, visit a friend, etc). I remember these visas were denied, not by a government living in the US, but by officials living in the same country as the applicants. What I truly found “wrong” about the entire process was that applicants had to pay to go through all this rejection.

Still, when folks wanted to come stay with me I was cool with it, and they were with me staying in their country. In fact, many times I wondered why staff wanted to live in the US, given the ridiculously high taxes we pay here; ironic given “unfair taxes” was reason enough for the founding fathers of the US to flip off King George in 1776 (and there were Loyalists to the king back then as well…their “economic system”).

My stance on this…Simple requests

  • Please, no one introduce this like it is a new topic. We have all been here before.
  • Please, no one introduce race or stories of unfair treatment in an immigration process. Everyone protects their own, no matter where they are from. Let’s graduate past the obvious.
  • If a person wants to live in the United States, they should be subject to the same rules and regulations that every natural born-citizen deals with at the time they apply to live here. Welcome to Disneyland.
  • If you want to change the rules, learn them, and re-invent them. Do not expect things just because you have a successful business.  In a capitalist country, for every person making money, someone else gets screwed. Unless you are a trillionaire philanthropist, you deserve no special treatment.
  • Be honest with the people of the country you want to live in when you debate immigration. Do not ask the entire country to be brave for you, when they do not know you, and then hide your intentions like a coward. It makes you look dishonest.
  • Be honest with yourself. Do not try to appeal to the “American Dream” bumper-sticker companies, and do not try to sell your business in the debate process.
  • Be honest about the fact that this is more about personal business growth and money, than it is bringing family and workers to the US.
  • Do not get mad or call people stupid, if they ask you to prove you belong in the US. All countries are like this, and certainly, all people who love their country.

In 250 years, when this debate comes up again in the self-predicted “Great Martian Immigration Debate”, you will at least have the history books written in your favor because you did what was best for everyone today, and not just your own personal needs involving business.

Final stance…If you truly are a good person of good intentions with great ideas to help your new fellow Americans, by all means, reform should happen for you. If you take advantage of good people, like myself who believe in doing well by others, do not be surprised if things do not go your way, or if laws close you out. Karma and the legal system can be a real b*tch, especially in a country that is so seemingly aware, and quite often too dismissive, of moral ethics and honesty.

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

What needs to be disrupted and why

“Hey! Look at me! I can build a website! Now, I will disrupt your business!”

Right? Wrong. It would be wonderful if life worked that way, but it normally doesn’t. “Disruption” is a buzzword among people developing websites because it contains the perfect combination of “Richard III” Shakespeare drama, Harvard business, and the saga of Robin Hood. There are a great deal of attempts to disrupt online; all claiming to offer some form of disruption for an industry. However, the industries that NEED to be disrupted seem to escaping without being touched.

Industries needing disruption, and this may be geared more towards the United States:

The Insurance Industry: Why?insurance

The insurance industry is almost 100 years old. Take the biggest “too big to fail” insurance industry, started in Shanghai, China back in 1919. The founder originally offered insurance to shipping companies who lost cargo due to storms. C.V. Starr, founder, started growing the company based around ideals of family, continuing education, working within the politics of a country, and offering a service people can trust. As is the usual case with most successful businesses, the further the industry becomes removed from its founding ideals, the more greed takes over. Insurance companies like this, and any insurance company, makes it a point for underwriters to create policies that pay out as little as possible, or not at all.

In addition, the medical insurance industry in the United States has turned into an ethical disaster. Good people needing medical attention have to face the disgusting question before visiting a doctor or hospital, “Can I afford this?”. Lack of money is a leading cause of stress, and stress is a leading cause of many health problems. When good people begin dying, or damaging their health, because they fear the cost of medical treatment, there is a gross need for disruption of an industry. I do remember working for a “too big to fail” company, and interestingly enough, they had paid doctors on staff that I could visit, if needed. This was great, but when given a prescription for expensive medicine, the bills begin to add up.

If a person is making $50,000/year, and has a medical condition or need for dental work, they can trust that $6,000 – $20,000 a year will go to treatment and medication. Add to the fact the government already takes 50% of a paycheck for taxes, and it is easy to see why this industry, and the following, needs disruption as well. It is truly sad to live in a country where only the strong survive, literally.

Taxes and/or the tax code: Why?tax

It is written, “The will of the capitalist often leads to his/her economic suicide”, and taxes may just be an example of this. The United States was started by people who believed in disruption. They disrupted a monarchy that existed for hundreds of years, for one of many reasons being: Unfair taxes.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where a tax code has become its own form of government, and it is no wonder why business owners do their best to avoid paying unemployment and social security taxes; mainly through hiring employees and calling them “independent contractors”. Compared to 70-years ago, where the Federal branch of government was involved in only 5% of the nation’s economy, today’s government is more than 40% involved in the nation’s economy. When lawmakers and politicians are able to own and invest in businesses that they themselves set the tax code for, there is conflict of interest. It is painfully obvious, and others see it is “the way things ought to be”, while others find it grossly unfair. Disruption is needed to prove which one is right. Perhaps the scariest outcome will be if wealthy “disruptors” buy in to the same process currently killing the middle-class, in the belief that “it is just what a capitalist does”. The way the U.S. has mistakenly created this problem is by asking the US government to either create new taxes to protect their own needs. The reasons behind every “tax” come from somewhere to pay for something. The more we have asked the Federal government to intervene, the worse things have gotten.

Signs that something is “wrong” with the above are when business developers and owners do something very “capitalist”, and leave the very country they live in to escape overhead costs they see as “unjustified”. For example, when an entrepreneur from Chicago, Illinois moves to Shanghai, China because he sees the greatest opportunity outside of his own country (just like CV Starr did in 1919). Even more so, when a web development community decides to leave the United States in 2013, so he/she may get dental or medical treatment in Latin America, and while on this trip…hires a staff for his new website company. Is this “un-American”? Not at all…because the US is a capitalist nation, but it just so happens the insurance and taxes make it an unwise business decision to start a business in the very country they were born in.

Information Displayed by Website Marketing: Why?

This is a quickie…Just how can everything in the world be the first, the biggest, or the most, at anything. Years ago, I used to love watching David Horowitz, who had a show called “Fight Back!”, in which he tried products, looking to see if they did exactly what they claim to be doing. 99% of the time…they did not. The over-saturation of websites has led to a saturation of bullsh*t-marketing, and currently, there is no accountability for truth in a web marketplace. Personally, I trust websites as much as I trust imported discount jewelry sales on Canal St. in NYC, and to me, they possess the same integrity and should be stopped.

Education System (to make us smarter again): Why?

The democratization of information that exists today has had a negative effect on society. The human brain is not able to chemically process “consequence of action” until age 25. However, there is a society of youth today who are learning things long before they can actually process what it means. If I were to say to a 14-yr old, “You should be careful about what you say to people on social media”, his/her initial response may be, “Hey! What about my rights of free speech!?!”.

In essence, the child would have a point, but what he/she does not understand is that “just because you say something or do a Google search to learn something”, does not dictate society will find you intelligent or give you what you want. In fact, they may begin to view you as just another “subway preacher”. Teachers in the US today deal with students, who are in fact afraid to learn because information is so readily available to them. One of the most rewarding things in life is discovering something you never knew before, and using that information to create something better. Today’s education system is fighting an uphill battle against a society of children, and parents, who behave shamelessly with the belief that all they have to do to get what they want or appear to have an illusion of knowledge, is crowdsource help on social media or do a Google search.  I do in fact believe that certain information should be available to those who can handle it, which creates a problem: The Internet is mob rule, and in a mob rule society, no one is allowed to play God.

What does that mean? Are we hopeless? No. It means this form of disruption will not come from a website. It must come from inside the home, and what parents allow their kids to learn and when. I have intelligent nieces and nephews, and I know for a fact this is because of my intelligent brothers and sister who offer a strong family support system. This form of disruption must involve “no media”. One of the best web developers I know, in fact comes from a strong family, and never watches television. Go figure: The less he pays attention to people’s random meanderings, the better he does in life.

Foot note: One thing parents have to do is let teachers teach again. Sending them off to school is pointless, if a parent is seen as the main authority figure. A child will manipulate any situation for his/her own comfort zone, if the child recognizes a weakness in the united front that should exist between parents and teachers. I firmly believe children should be given tools to grow as functional members of society, who know how to take care of themselves as adults. This is not achieved through the process of giving a child everything they ask for, or say they want. The most rewarding experience for anyone is to work towards a goal and achieve it. A child given anything they want will never experience what this feels like, and over the course of his/her lifetime, will stand less of a chance of becoming successful. (success as in…confident in their own achievements)

This photo below applies to education, and any business owner. In terms of “making things better”, we can only do what we know, until we know better.

teacher

Why give power to those who don’t give back

power struggle

Recently, I contacted every social connection I had made over the last few years to let them know of an agent looking to sign new voice talent. It was fun to give back, and if you are interested email me at stevenlowell9@gmail.com.

This agent was of the understanding that most of the connections I have either came from social media, college, or worked on P2P sites. After hearing many auditions, this voice over agent felt inspired enough to send me an email (see below), and it made me wonder why voice talent often give power to those, who do not give back. This is especially odd given the online business world survives on “give and take”. After hearing several auditions, I was sent an email by this agent, which reads:

“to Steven

[Why] are these people doing work on low-paying jobs on [P2P sites]? They are really good!

Sincerely, 
Voiceover Department”

The only thing I edited from that email was the shock and awe that led to some profanity, and  I completely understand it. I know how good many people are, and have often wondered the same thing myself. Getting back to my original point, “Why do voice talent give power to those who do not give back?”. I have some thoughts, and would love to hear yours, too. Why do people give power to those who do not give back? They are usually:

  1. Convinced they must act desperate to get work
  2. Believing that every day they don’t audition, they are not trying
  3. Trying to people-please everyone; not realizing some they attempt to please, don’t give a damn about them or anyone
  4. Attracted to the success of the powerful
  5. Someone has convinced them, “You are not good enough. You need me.”

I think out of all the above, #5 bothers me the most for it is the way a dictator usually thinks. The plain fact is this…and if you are a voice talent…you need to stamp or tattoo this somewhere on your body so you never forget it!

  • “Find a balance of power that serves your career”  (I hope you have big arms if you tattoo that!)

This means:

  • Do what is right by you, even if it is not always profitable…because doing the right thing is always profitable in the end.
  • Do not let anyone ever convince you that you are worth less than you think you are worth.
  • Actions speak louder than words
  • Never take anything personal.

Did you know that 74% of Americans would rather be unemployed than work for someone who does not care about their work performance? I interpret this to mean that a smart worker understands there is no career growth doing things for a business, that will not give back even the slightest bit of acknowledgement or advice. In this fast-changing world of “time” as a currency, career-growth is of the utmost importance.

Conclusion: Whether you audition for an agent or a website, remember you are both businesses. Act as such, and save the drama for behind the mic! You will be much happier that way, and feel more in control of your business.

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

Excellent book for everyone running their own biz

Recently, I had the chance to read a book by Peter Shankman, the founder of HARO, a website that connects reporters with qualified sources on demand.

For the past few years, many of the business decisions and actions I took were influenced by his advice I had seen him give in social media, public appearances, and even Youtube videos. To say, “I became an evangelist of his school of thought” is an understatement. He always focuses on getting to the heart of the matter, and lucky for me, he is a huge advocate of great customer service, and friend of Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos (a company that is well-known for customer satisfaction). Given I was in a position where customer service was primary importance, while balancing sales and social media, what they taught about business was of great importance to me.

Nice Companies Finish First

This is why I recommend for every voice actor running their own business, the following book! It lights a fire under you that you cannot ignore!

“Nice Companies Finish First – Why Cutthroat Management Is Over and Collaboration Is In”

Now, this book has nothing to do with “how to be a voice talent”, not at all. Some voice actors may look at the title and think, “WHAT!?! The voice over industry is a cutthroat business!”. This book is not inviting anyone to be a doormat. Some would love to have you believe the voice over business is cutthroat because it serves their agenda. Others love being in a cutthroat business because it serves a darker side to an individual who craves drama and conflict. However, when dealing with clients…business is business and drama is for “behind the mic”. Every voice actor, at some point, has to act as their own business, and stop being an artist for a little while. If you can bring to the table a professional side of business no one has ever seen, given the new age of social media communication, the customers will become your best marketing tools. This is an age where no secret exists for too long, and a person who acts in a cutthroat manner focusing only on profit, will not survive.

I also offer this recommendation because those who read this book, may truly begin to understand how I think. I will even say the book restored a faith in myself that I had lost over the past couple of months, even with so many kind and generous voice talent supporting me. For that, I thank all of you. And hey…you never know…you may just find that your attitude towards business is the same as those big companies you find yourself voicing for everyday. That knowledge alone may make you more competitive than someone with great talent, lacking a professional business sense.

Taking one small quote from the book, “Accept ultimate responsibility for the global impact of decisions made at every level of [your] company…because real profits come from doing the right thing.”

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

Filtering out negativity in an online voice over world

too loud

Sadly, “filtering out negativity” is not a new topic, a necessary skill, and something I learned how to do years ago, while a theatre student in college.

I very much remember standing at a theatre call board to see who got in the next stage production at school. I remember standing next to people, and learning what the word “diva” meant, but something did not sit right with me when people complained about how someone else was not talented, or that they were wronged for not being chosen. Something did not sit right, and it was probably my background and love for sports. My mindset was always:

  • “Walk it off.”
  • “I lost. I will get ‘em next time.”
  • and my dad’s favorite…“You’ll survive.”

“I will survive.” I had no idea, at age 18, how that saying made me have more in common with fellow theatre students than I realized. Regardless, in an online world filled with opinions, one must remember the quote:

  • “A fly in stink, thinks his world is made of stink.”

Let’s say you have been hearing many negative things lately, that tend to disagree with the very nucleus of what makes you…”you”. I promise you, if you filter out the negativity, you will find more people to work with simply because the process of filtering out the negative, will help you find like-minded, positive people to work with.

How to filter out negativity:blogphoto8310

  • Are you in a Facebook group with lots of complaining? Leave it.
  • Are you connected in social media to someone who constantly says things that bother you? Block them.
  • Do you get emails from people who say nasty things to you, or ask you to think a way you wish to not think? Mark them as spam.
  • Do you read forum posts and start to believe everything people say? Then, stop reading it.
  • Do you think you will somehow miss something useful, your life will fall apart, or you will lose work, if you do any of the above? WRONG.

If there was one useful lesson learned about working at a website, it was that “The world goes on with or without me. How I survive is dictated by what I choose to give importance to in my life.” A poignant time in my life was after working one summer’s evening, when someone had threatened me via email, stating how he would “destroy me”. That very same hot summer night, I made my usual big gulp trip to the 7-Eleven, where I used make it a point to buy this homeless guy food…just because I wanted to do it. He remarked to me that same night, “You are a saint for helping me out.” It made me think, “Am I bastard like the angry email said, or a saint like the homeless guy said?”.

I then burst out laughing because it hit me:

  • “If I know I am trying to do the right thing, I should listen to everyone, but only to focus on solutions; not complaining about problems.”

What the online world never prepared anyone for was how people do not always get along or understand each other because it is human nature. There is no way you can make everyone happy all of the time. What the online world did do was give us the technology to ignore, block, and avoid people. But they do not market these tools very often, right? Why not?

  • Because it is a negative topic, and in our heart of hearts, when our world gets too negative, the business of working online suffers.

Get what I am saying? If what someone says disturbs your nucleus of “you”, just ignore it, walk away from it, or go buy a homeless man a burrito and soda. All of it will make you feel better, and that will help you make the best possible choices for yourself because you wasted no energy feeling negative.

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

How I got started in voice overs

old vcr

I wanted to have some fun today with this posting, and go all the way back to 1979, when I very first had the idea, “I wanna do voice overs!!!”. The interesting part about this may be that technology was involved, even way back then. Here is how I got started in voice overs…

  • Dubbing over poorly dubbed kung fu movies with my friends every Saturday.

The very first video cassette recorders made for home usage in the 70’s, had a very large audio dub button on it. This allowed me, and two or three of my good friends, to do the following:

  1. Saturday 12pm: Drink lots of Coca-Cola
  2. Saturday 1pm: Record bad kung fu movie.
  3. Saturday 3pm: Play it back, while dubbing over the audio
  4. Saturday 5pm: Laugh hysterically at our own voices
  5. Saturday 7pm: Go home for dinner
  6. Saturday 9pm: Go back to friends for sleep over.
  7. Saturday 10pm -1am: Repeat processes #2, #3, and #4, until yelled at to go to sleep, or Saturday Night Live ends (depends which came first).

Those VHS tapes are gone now, but there are examples of such efforts on Youtube, that reminded me of how silly we sounded back then.

Here is an example:

Now, was this officially “starting” in the business? The seed was definitely planted, and theoretically…does the process of growing a flower not begin with the planting of a seed? Regardless, around that time, more “talking toys” started to come out from Texas Instruments and Mattel Electronics, such as “Speak and Spell” or “Intellivision”…

…and each time something new came out, it increased my desire to get into the business. I was also helped by the fact that my mother was often told how she should put her platinum blonde son into commercials or movies, which got my ego raised up. I became a bit of a showman at an early age.

Another thing I started doing after kung fu movies bored me; I got a video camera. I began making stop action films (be careful…youtube added some vulgar music to it)

…with my GI Joe toys, which seemed like an insane idea to people I knew, for more than two decades, until a cartoon called “Robot Chicken” came out. Turns out, I had brethren.

I was trying to create what I saw on TV in the old GI Joe cartoons from the ’80’s. I did not know what I was doing. I was only ten or twelve years old. Around high school, I hit puberty and voice overs went on hiatus, as I struggled like most high school kids did/always do, but the biggest difference is that what I did back in the 1980’s, is now extremely popular. I still remember my first year of high school when I showed one of my tapes to a new friend, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Years later, after connecting on Facebook, he told me, “I always admired your guts.” Go figure.

The moral of this reflection is that “getting started in voice overs” is not such an insane concept, as many with experience would express. The industry is forever evolving, and everything is always being “revolutionized” or “disrupted”. Life is also filled with people who love to hate and criticize. I got started in voice overs through the mindset of wanting to create, having fun with friends, childish energy, and showing off. I chose to create, and I never listened to critics. I ignored them until I had to listen because there are times in life where sacrifice becomes martyrdom, and food, money, and shelter are necessities. Food, stability, and money are not guaranteed in voice overs, and sometimes one must take a break to re-tool. However, I fell in love with voice overs when I was six years old, and entertaining became part of my nucleus, which is probably why I am still doing this today. I do not feel like I chose to start a voice over career. I feel like it chose me, and the more I worked at it, the more things started working out, because it can happen. But can your nucleus stand all the risk and sacrifices? Mine easily could because I became a tough kung fu master at age six….all with a cheap microphone and an over-sized VCR. :)

Never forget where you came from. It tends to explain a great deal more than you think.

How did you get started?

About the author

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

Business as usual…Old sayings that ring true again

business as usual

Something has been happening in 2013. It appears that the Internet is getting back to business as usual, global economy or not. With that, comes the importance to remember all of the old things your mamma, teachers, and bosses taught you just 20-years ago. I want to share a list of old saying that rang true again for me this year:

  • “Be careful of how you treat people on the way up. You may just meet them on the way down again.”
  • “Never forget where you came from. You may be working for the very people you took the time to educate one day.”
  • “People will remember what you say on a bad day, more than a good day. Sometimes it is better to stay quiet on a bad day.”
  • “Doing things just because others do it……is not a good reason to do something.”
  • “Actions speak louder than words.”

Where is this coming from? For the past few years, I was in and out of all the news about new tech gadgets coming out, and it was a great deal of fun. However, after all the noise from marketers, as the dust settled each time, I realized we are all very simple people; even when we want to act like we can re-invent the wheel, or create a software that leads to singularity. We are forever motivated by the same basic desires and needs for financial, mental, and or in some cases, spiritual stability (however that may translate to each of us…we all have a “sacred cow” of some sort). Some people fail, while others succeed, and the choices they make in reaction, can be more of determination of what happens than the original intentional action taken.

One major thing happens now, in light of all the technology available today:

  • We pay more attention to the emails people write than any other form of technology, and the grammar within the email.

Business as usual…How we speak, write, think, and behave, says more about us than anything. In light of all the new ways to do things faster, it is the one way a person can grow or destroy his/her business.

About the author

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

VO Peeps presents two great webinars for voice actors

Voice123 webinar with VO Peeps

Sign up for great information!

Two of my favorite things to do at my last gig working at Voice123 were:

  • Blogging (of course)
  • Webinars for voice talent on using Voice123 (with candid Q&A sessions)

Call me a fool, but I like people. I like talking to them, and I especially like helping fellow voice talent achieve their goal of booking solid voiceover work! Why? It is a rewarding experience, especially when past attendees of these webinars would write me with stories of success due to the webinar the very next day. SO…

Now, I realize that some webinars on P2P sites make bold promises, but this webinar is different. It is being held after my six-year run as Community Manager of Voice123, and THAT was a great learning experience. What good is knowledge, if you cannot share it to make a better voiceover industry? Well, I can guarantee you this webinar is NOT a waste of time! Come to it, and ask me anything…and I do mean anything.

Debunk all myths and get information on how to use Voice123, that you will NOT get anywhere else!

About the author

Steven Lowell is a blogger, voice actor, and voice-over industry advocate

Steven Lowell

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