How To Motivate Your “Audio Engineer” Identity


A little secret about me:


I love the NBC show Parks and Recreation.


Last night, two of my favorite characters taught us some important lessons on how (not) to motivate others.


For this week’s installment of “How To Motivate Your 8 Voice Over Identities”, I compare their hilarious motivational methods to research-based methods to help you motivate your “Audio Engineer” identity to become more proficient, efficient, and capable in audio editing, formatting, sound studio construction, etc. In fact, you can apply these methods to any part of your life where you need a little kick in the pants.

Disclaimer: most voice over talent are NOT audio engineers. I call it your “Audio Engineer” identity only as a way to make sure you take this role and identity seriously.


If you haven’t seen Parks and Rec before, you really should. It is about a parks and recreation department led by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) in the fictional small town of Pawnee, Indiana. It’s similar to The Office in that it feels like a documentary but is actually a hilarious, scripted (with lots of improv) comedy.


Two of my favorite characters:


Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) – the city manager and “an extremely positive person who is constantly upbeat and energetic” (Wikipedia).

Ron Swanson (pictured above – Nick Offerman) – the director of the parks department and an extremely deadpan and masculine man who “actively works to make city hall less effective and despises interacting with the public” (Wikipedia).


In a brand new episode from last night, these two leaders (polar opposites of each other) have a competition to see who can better motivate Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir), an incompetent office employee, to organize and file documents. You can see how the competition begins in the video below.



Chris’ technique: Motivate Jerry by saying he is smart, capable and able to accomplish anything.

Ron’s technique: Motivate Jerry with fear and hunger. He withholds candy from Jerry and tells him to file the documents or else he won’t get his food (candy).

You can watch the entire competition and episode using this link. Once NBC takes it down, you will eventually be able to watch it on Netflix.


Spoiler alert: neither motivational technique works very well.


Chris motivates Jerry by empowering him with those words from before. This does motivate Jerry to file the documents; however, he doesn’t file very many because he is so proud about the kind words of praise that he spends 20 minutes of the day telling his wife about it on the phone.

Ron motivates Jerry into organizing his files by withholding food from Jerry. This scares Jerry and makes him worry about getting his food. He organizes more of Ron’s files than Chris’, but he makes many more mistakes while organizing them.


How does Chris Traeger’s motivational technique compare to real motivational research?


Chris uses words of praise. He tells Jerry he’s smart, capable, and is able to accomplish anything. While these are nice thoughts, research tells us that when you are praised for being smart rather than working hard, you are more likely to give up if things get difficult. This is somewhat what happens with Jerry. He focuses on those words of praise rather than focusing on pushing through the tedious task of organizing the files. If Chris were to say that Jerry is a very hard worker, regardless of the task, he would presumably be more motivated to complete the tedious and mundane task.


How (not) to apply Chris Traeger’s technique to your “Audio Engineer” identity


In your journey to become a more proficient, efficient, and capable “Audio Engineer”:


You must praise your “Audio Engineer” identity for working hard – Editing can be an extremely difficult and tedious task at times. If you focus on praising yourself for working hard, you will be more likely to push through difficult tasks like figuring out how to organize and format a 7 hour long audiobook or figuring out how to match a new mic’s sound with an old recording.


How does Ron Swanson’s motivational technique compare to real motivational research?


Ron scares Jerry by withholding his food. He tells Jerry that the project must get done or he can’t eat. He is using fear as well as well as the external reward of food. While Jerry does organize a lot of files, he does a terrible job. According to researchers, the fear of failure can often lead to procrastination and therefore poorer performance. When you are afraid to do something, you procrastinate. However, further research shows that if you are competent in the task, you are less likely to procrastinate even if you are afraid to fail. With Jerry, he does his job but has terrible performance because of that fear.

Also, similar to motivating your “Voice Over Talent” identity, using an external reward (food) can be counter-productive when motivating yourself to do a complicated task such as editing. You have no intrinsic or inner drive to do a good job. You only care about the rewards and not the quality or importance of the work in itself. Again, Jerry doesn’t do a good job because he’s focusing on the external reward rather than the work itself.


How (not) to apply Ron Swanson’s technique to your “Audio Engineer” identity


In your journey to become a more proficient, efficient, and capable “Audio Engineer”:


Focus on competency so fear doesn’t hold you back from difficult challenges – Learn from voice talents and audio engineers like Dan Friedman and Dan Lenard. Dan Friedman has an extremely helpful blog helping voice over talent with their recording studio setup, recording software, proper equipment and more. Dan Lenard hosts a free web show with George Whittam every Sunday night called EWABS (East-West Audio Body Shop) where they sit down with voice over guests and fans to discuss recording issues and topics.

Find an intrinsic (inner) motivation to become a better “Audio Engineer” – For example, maybe you just really care about the integrity of the voice over audio when sending it to the client, regardless of how much you’re being paid. Or maybe you just really care about doing a good job for yourself because it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you troubleshoot issues and figure out new recording and editing techniques.


I’ll leave you with one final tip from Ron Swanson:


“Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”



I hope you found this information useful, and I encourage you to apply some of it to help you motivate your “Audio Engineer” identity or any other part of your life.


Last Friday, I covered how to motivate your “Voice Over Talent” identity. Next Friday, I cover how to motivate your “Marketing Executive” identity.


Subscribe on the upper right hand side of this page so you don’t miss any of this 8-part blog series about “How To Motivate Your 8 Voice Over Identities.”



Amabile, Teresa M. “Motivating Creativity in Organizations: ON DOING WHAT YOU LOVE AND LOVING WHAT You Do.” California Management Reiew 40.1 (1997): 40-58. Web.

Haghbin, M., McCaffrey, A., & Pychyl, T.A. (2012). The complexity of the relation between fear of failure and procrastination. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. Carleton University. Web.

Mueller, Claudia M., and Carol S. Dweck. “Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Children’s Motivation and Performance.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75.1 (1998): 33-52. Stanford. Web.

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