Elissa is an award-winning voice and presence coach and the founder of Voice Body Connection. She has delivered several corporate presentations on authentic communication to Google, Instacart, eBay, and more, and her opinions and work have been featured in top publications like Business Insider and NASDAQ.
Elissa’s work is with voice – from the concrete physicality of having a voice and keeping it healthy, to metaphorically sharing your message and leaving your legacy on the world.
Elissa says: “The act of making sound and speaking is a creative act. It begins with an impulse or idea generated inside of you. From there, that impulse is sequenced through a whole complex system in order to come out. On every level, that’s what I deal with in my work: how to take an internal impulse and get it out. So in that sense, I am an excellent advisor to talk about how to take an idea and bring it to life.”
Learn more about Elissa and her work at www.voicebodyconnection.com.
Where did the idea for Voice Body Connection come from?
It came out of one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever gone through. When I was 21 years old, I lost my voice. Up until that point I had spent most of my time singing, dancing, and acting. I had gotten into the habit of pushing my voice way too hard, and one weekend while I was on retreat with my college a cappella group I had a vocal hemorrhage. It was a turning point in my life.
After the hemorrhage I went on vocal rest for a full month, but when I started to speak again I didn’t have much stamina. So I gave up performing and started to research what had happened to me. And that began my path to becoming a vocal coach.
I’ll also share that when I started my business in 2011, it was called “Elissa Weinzimmer, Holistic Voice and Yoga Coach.” Such a mouthful! I was aware of the fact that at some point I was going to need to come up with a clearer name. It took me quite awhile to figure out what that was, but in 2016 I renamed the business Voice Body Connection, as a tribute to the idea of the mind-body connection. As the business has grown and is becoming bigger than just me – especially as I’m starting to train teachers – the brand really feels like a beautiful umbrella that fits everything we’re growing into.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Well, my favorite kind of day looks like this: I get up before 6am. I journal. I meditate. I walk my dog, I do my singing practice. I shower and get dressed. By 9am, I am warming up with my Voice Body Connection Membership Community group. From there I spend a little bit of time doing admin work with my team. Then the afternoon is set aside for meetings, clients, and creative work.
That morning window to do my personal creative work is very, very sacred to me. In the evening, I get to have social time or just wind down. All this makes a perfect day for me. But a lot of days don’t go exactly like this, and that’s okay too. Especially since the most important thing I’m learning about being productive is resting when I’m tired. If I want to stay in flow mode, it’s crucial that I check in frequently with myself about what the next right action is. If I let a To-Do list that I made seven hours ago dictate what I’m supposed to do right now, I can get totally out of alignment. But if I keep coming back and checking in with myself to see what my body is telling me what it needs (which, incidentally, is a fundamental piece of our Voice Body Connection process), that makes for a productive day because it’s a day where I’m operating in collaboration with what actually is happening internally and externally.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Step 1: I think of 100 ideas. Step 2: I let go of 95% of them so I can execute effectively on the ones that matter.
According to Human Design, I’m a manifesting generator. I consider this really lucky because it means I’m the type of person who can think of lots of ideas, and then also do the work to bring those ideas to life. That’s a superpower. And I have my best ideas in moments when I’m not even trying to think of something, like when I am brushing my teeth, taking a shower, or having a conversation with a friend that’s “not related to work”. For instance, recently my sister gave me a great business idea while we were checking in to talk about groceries. I also find a lot of inspiration while I’m immersed in my singing practice. This is why moments of self-care are so important for me. Much of my inspiration and productivity comes out of these moments.
Execution then becomes a question of not exhausting myself and structuring new projects so that I am doing one thing at a time. For much of my life, I have had a habit of putting up far more on my To-Do list than I can actually do. I’ve finally realized that when I do that I wind up feeling defeated. So now I mindfully try to put only a few things on my To-Do list for the day, and work to accomplish them with full presence.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m so excited that more and more people are starting to prioritize being present and being gentle with themselves, and compassionate and loving, as opposed to hustling. I am so not here for the #hustlelife anymore. I was a hustle queen in high school, college, the years after college, and grad school. And I’ve experienced burnout many times along the way. When I went full-time in my business in Fall 2017, I realized that I was the person making myself crazy. And I decided to stop.
Since then, I’ve just slowly but surely been unwinding the ball of anxiety and tension that I wound up for so much of my life, because I thought that I had to be a human robot. That’s not how we work. I’d rather be a human being.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ll double down on this one because it’s so big for me: doing what is actually in alignment with the present moment, as opposed to deciding that my To-Do list from before is the end-all-be-all. I try to constantly reevaluate whether I am taking useful, necessary action at any given moment. And I aim to be as honest with myself as I can, so that if I am doing something that’s spinning my wheels, or that I could be delegating, I have the opportunity to stop and change direction for the better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I wish I could let my younger self know that who I am is so much more important than what I do. That my state of being is so much more important than my state of doing, or than my list of accomplishments. I’m okay with the fact that I’ve learned this on my own timeline. But I do think it would have been freaking awesome to have learned it younger, and I definitely plan on teaching it to my children.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that it is faster to go slow. The truth is, probably plenty of people do agree with me on this, but sometimes even I don’t agree with myself about it! Once I get working on something, it can be very easy to go into override and keep pushing forward without slowing down to celebrate wins, or to pace myself so I don’t burn out. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve learned to go slow, because it will help me move faster in the long run.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask for feedback, often. I talk to other people about my business all the time, including colleagues, friends, and clients. I’m constantly checking in to course correct and make sure that I’m doing things in a way that is relevant and helpful. I’ve also hired coaches, buddied up with fellow entrepreneurs, and joined accelerator cohorts to get this kind of support. I think it’s crucial to continually check in with people. And I remind myself that picking up the phone and making a 10 minute call is a great way to do it. It doesn’t need to take a long time or be a major strategy session: just checking in with a quick phone call can be enough to get the support I need.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Letting go of what’s not working. This isn’t easy, but I know I can’t be afraid to let go of my ideas, even ones that I’ve been working very hard on. Over time, I’ve let many parts of my business fall away in order to make sure that what’s left is really strong. It’s like pruning a tree or a plant: you have to take away the dead stuff or the stuff that is sapping energy in order to have a strong plant. So letting stuff go has been a really important strategy to help me grow my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many, many classes that I advertised, whether in-person or online, where only 1 or 2 people showed up. I would teach anyway, even if it ended up being a private session. But obviously this is disappointing. It’s a hard experience to go through; I think to myself, “Darn, no one’s here, no one wants to do this.” I have experienced this ‘failure’ over and over in my business. And the way I have overcome it is by continuing to show up. Now clearly I don’t want to continually do something in my business when it has proven to be irrelevant. But when it comes to offering my time expertise and teaching, I just keep showing up, no matter how many attendees join. There are always opportunities to grow as an educator, and even the smallest class of students can lead to questions, or powerful, intimate small-group sessions that leave me with insights for my larger workshops.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One time while I was in grad school, I was on an airplane. And I was reading a really dense, confusing article about semiotics and phenomenology. And I did not at all get what I was reading. I had this moment where I thought, “There’s got to be someone on this airplane who could explain this to me, and we’re all a captive audience. I’m sure someone would love to have a conversation!” I wished there was some way for me to (aside from standing up in my seat and making an announcement) ask, “Hey, does anyone understand phenomenology and semiotics?” I wish there was some sort of message board for places where people are a captive audience like on an airplane or a train. If someone could figure out a way to execute that, I would love it. Idea gifted to you!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Oh my goodness, my answer to that is funny… It’s underneath my feet as we speak! It was a rug pad for my office. I think it was 80-something dollars. I lead voice & movement warm-ups a handful of times per week as part of our Voice Body Connection Community. And my downstairs neighbors a couple months ago kindly let me know that when I was doing some of the more emphatic warm-up stuff, I was shaking their ceiling. So now I have a half-inch of cushy memory foam underneath the rug and I must say, it feels delightful. I’m happy I invested that money and I know my neighbors are happy too!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I am unabashedly a super fan of Kajabi. It is an online business platform to house your training videos or your marketing list, and you can even host your website on there, which I am currently doing myself. It’s also my CRM system, which is short for Customer Resource Manager. Kajabi is basically where my business lives. I actually partnered with them a handful of years ago to make a course together, so I can talk Kajabi all day long. Feel free to send me an email if you want to talk to me about Kajabi, because I will be happy to share my experience using the platform.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, is the best and most important somatics book I have ever read (and I have read a lot of books about somatics!). It’s a book about the wisdom of the body, as it applies to racial justice. This book is the most powerful education I have ever received around white supremacy in the United States, and how to heal our racial wounds in this country. I really think we’d be living in a different country and a different world if a lot more of us read this book. I strongly encourage you to check it out. Or better yet, get together a book group and read it with other people.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s a quote by James Baldwin: “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” How gorgeous is that? Life is about the questions, not the answers.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, no matter how successful you are.
- Continue to show up for your ideal clients, no matter how many or how few there are.
- Forget #hustlelife. Slow down, so that you can conserve your energy and sprint when needed.
- Check in with your body during the day to make sure you are taking care of yourself. This will help you be more productive.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.