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Leadership and the Power of Your Voice

Feb 10, 2024

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth.  Each of you is an original.  Each of you has a distinctive voice.  When you find it, your story will be told.  You will be heard.”


                                                                                                            - John Grisham


As human beings, I believe one of the most amazing gifts we possess is the power of our voice.


Through it, we can inspire others to dream through the power of oration, lift spirits through the gift of song and open hearts through the whisper of “I love you.”


As a professional speaker, I am very privileged to use my voice regularly to inspire and educate others.  As a martial arts and self-defense master instructor, I use my voice to empower others and teach them to access their own strength through the martial arts Ki-Hap (spirit yell) and using the ferocity of voice to fend off a potential assailant.  Inspiring others to find the power of their voice has been one of the greatest gifts of my career. 


But nothing has been as rewarding as seeing my own son find the power of his voice.


For most of his early life, accessing the power of his voice was a challenge for my son, Jason.  Due to frequent ear infections as a toddler, his speech was delayed.  So much so, he was taught sign language as young child to help him to overcome the frustration of not being able to verbally communicate his needs.


As an elementary schooler, he eventually found his full capacity for verbal communication, with one caveat, this is when he also began his struggles with dis-fluency or stuttering.  Stuttering would follow Jason from elementary school into his high school years, seeming to intensify as he grew older and became more and more self-conscious about his inability to speak clearly.


There is nothing more painful as a parent than to watch your child struggle in their speech.  I wanted so badly for the words to flow easily from him.  I constantly found myself balancing the fine line of providing him tools for when he struggled and doing my best not to show impatience or draw attention to it.


Then, when Jason was 17, something shifted.  He and two of his close friends were scheduled to test for their Senior 3rd Degree Black Belts.  This test would prove to be the most challenging of their decade-long martial arts careers.  In addition to numerous physical requirements, they were challenged with a vast array of personal development assignments.  They also were placed in positions of leadership among their Black Belt Candidate classmates.


One of their major testing requirements was to create and perform a musical “creative form” (pre-arranged, choreographed movements) to showcase their skills.  These “creative forms” were often the highlight of our Black Belt testings, as students demonstrated their physical abilities, creativity and passion. 


Even though this was the case, in the weeks prior to his testing, Jason approached me with interesting alternative to this requirement when he said,


“Dad, I know I could do a musical form for my testing, but what would really challenge me would be for me to give a speech."



My heart sank as he shared his idea.  What would happen if he began stuttering and couldn’t get through his speech?  My fatherly instincts wanted nothing more than to say no to protect him, but the martial arts instructor in me knew this was the perfect challenge for him. 


The testing day arrived, and Jason and his two friends gave masterful performances.  As usual, the creative forms portion of our testing was a huge success.  It was now time for me to hand Jason the microphone, with over 300 audience members, fellow students and a testing board of master instructors looking on.  I felt my heart stop as I handed him the mic.


And then it happened.  With everyone in rapt attention, Jason delivered a most impassioned and inspiring speech without one bit of a stutter.  When he finished, the audience rose to their feet in wild applause and I came out to from behind the judges table to greet him with a massive bear hug and tears in my eyes.  My son had found his voice.


After that moment, almost like magic, Jason’s stuttering almost came to a complete stop.  He now began to confidently teach younger students at our martial arts school, something he later admitted to me he had avoided for years because of potential embarrassment. 


Soon after, he went onto college to major in film studies, where he confidently led a film crews of his peers while directing projects.  Four years later, I would proudly sit in the audience of his college graduation, where he was chosen to represent his class as the student speaker of their commencement.  Once again, he moved us all with his inspiring speech – without a stutter.   


He now runs his own business called Stories to Light Film & Photography where he helps others ignite their voice through his work.


In sharing this story (sniff, sniff), I can’t help but think how it can apply to our lives.  Here are three simple, yet important ideas for how we can find and express our voice.


  • Learn to say “Yes” – Often, the most profound experiences in our lives are right on the other side of our fears. Say “yes” to the things that scare you and you will discover what Emerson meant when he said, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”


  • Learn to say “No” – When something does not align with your vision and values, have the courage to say “no”. When you are courageous enough to say no to what doesn’t serve you, you will be amazed at the power you will experience.  Or as one of my teachers once said to me, “Powerful “NO’s” lead to even more powerful “YES’s”.


  • Learn to say “I’m here!” - Simply show up and put yourself in positions where you can share.  If needed, make them small at first and allow your confidence to build as you step out.  The world needs your voice.  It is meant to be shared.  That’s why it was given to you.


This week, I challenge all of us to share the power of our voice.  Where is there an opportunity to speak your truth, whether it be in speech, song or the written word?  There is greatness inside of you that is looking to be expressed and shared. 


Who knows, your reaching deep to share the power of your voice may be all it takes to inspire someone else to do the same.


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching



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