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the surprising way to expand your range

The Surprising Way To Expand Your Range

by | Jan 10, 2014 | Authenticity & Transparency, By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

If you’re hitting a wall as you work to achieve your goals, try backing off and softening past your limits to expand your range.

The Surprising Lesson

I’ve always found great joy in singing. In fact, I was voted “most likely to spontaneously burst into song” in high school.

From grade school through college, I sang in every choir available, always as an alto. My voice was so low that in a pinch, I would help out the tenors. Each time I had a new director, I would announce, “I’m an alto, I don’t sing above a third space C.” I’m solid with tight harmony, so no one argued.

I would have loved to sing higher but accepted the range I was given.

How Do You Expand Your Range?

Shortly after college graduation, my friends Jeff and Catherine asked me to sing at their wedding. The music was tricky, so I used my first real paycheck to hire a voice teacher from Peabody to help me prepare. I approached my voice teacher, Laura, as I had every music teacher since Ms. Elsie, my church junior choir director. “I’m an alto … what’s the best way to expand my range?

Laura’s first question was, “How do you know?”

I just laughed, “Oh you’ll see … but I’m okay with it … I’m just here to get some help with these complicated runs.”

“Let’s not make any assumptions.”

I then belted out my best alto bravado, stopped at C and smiled. “See?”

“Your pushing too hard. You want it too much. Lighten up, back off and sing it like Julia Child.”

Backing off felt scary, I was attached to my “big voice.”

Within two weeks, my range had expanded North a full octave. I’ve sung first soprano for the past two decades. Broader range led to a breadth of expanded opportunities.

Pushing too hard created false limits. There were new songs to be sung, but I couldn’t hear them.

When we push to perfect who we are, we lose sight of the talents waiting backstage ready to stretch our range.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Jon Mertz

    I feel this right now, Karin. Pushing hard to make an initiative just right is creating roadblocks in my thought process and in just getting the work done. Just taking a deep breath, taking a step back can help rejuvenate and just know our previous work can continue to develop without added pressure. Great thoughts. Thank you. Jon

  2. Sheila Johnson

    This one presented itself at the exact right moment for me..Thank you!

  3. letsgrowleaders

    Jon, Thanks so much. It’s tough, because sometimes pushing is needed, and sometimes it’s the breath you describe. When I get stuck on writing, I find if I take a walk, the ideas flow. I need to take more of my own advice in this arena.

  4. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- your first novel is about “When we push to perfect who we are, we lose sight of the talents waiting backstage ready to stretch our range”. Your conflict with assumptions. And ours too.
    My handwriting is lousy. I assumed that was it is a given talent. I restricted my improving it. I paid for that. Finally, I pushed my limits. I started learning computers to type for me. I found a substitute.
    I hope you extend your writing to novels, Karin. May be I would be an equivalent impact to Laura in your years ahead.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, I appreciate your “pushing…” Actually before I go the novel route, I’m thinking fiction children’s book on leadership… it’s in the queue 😉 You, and this village, is my Laura… Namaste.

  5. Matt McWilliams

    I’ve the same is true in golf. When I wanted it so bad that I practiced TOO much, gritted teeth, or lifted too much weight, I often found myself with bloody hands the day before a tournament or a torn muscle. Not a great recipe for success.

    When I learned to back off and spend more time working on the mental side of things, that is when I started winning in droves.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, Bloody hands? Yikes! Great story. Thanks so much.

  6. sarah

    my first time responding…. but this really spoke to me. I’m in a new leadership position and much is expected so I am pushing to get things done. I’m hitting road blocks that I know are put there by me because I want so badly to “go for gold.” Perhaps a step back, a few deep breaths and a walk around the block will open up another way to approach the challenges. Thank you for sharing…

    • letsgrowleaders

      Sarah, I’m so glad you did! Stepping back is vital, particularly when you’re new. Please come back… the more we share, the more we all learn. Namaste.

  7. Steve Borek

    I back off to expand my client’s range.

    Whenever I’m having a telephone call with a coaching client, I ask a question that comes to me in the moment, then sit back and wait.

    I sit back and listen to all the layers of their answer.
    I sit back and listen without any agenda.
    I hold a safe space for them to express their deepest thoughts.

    In essence, I’m not backing up, I’m working the light board way in the back of the room. Invisible, if you will. Shining the spotlight on my client front stage and center.

    People say I’m a motivator. Couldn’t be further from the truth. If I have to motivate you, that means you don’t want to do it in the first place.

    I’m in the human development biz = Expanding the client’s range.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, Such a perfect example. Leaders can learn a great deal from coaching techniques. I recently did an end of year appraisal, where I stepped back and asked questions for the first 50 minutes. The last 10 we collaborated on action. I can’t wait to see the magic this guy’s going to do this year. His range is about to explode…. that’s the real fun in all this.

  8. LaRae Quy

    Wow! What a powerful personal example of how we can box ourselves into a pattern of thinking! It’s a vivid illustration of the potential we have deep within ourselves if we simple get out of that comfort zone.

    Essentially, it’s being comfortable with having a beginner’s mind even after we’ve seen ourselves as experts.

    Love this! And I agree with one of your other commentors: you should write a novel 🙂

    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, Such an important point. It’s easy to learn as a beginner when we’re learning something new… but so much harder when we think we’ve got a grip. Loosening that grip could be just the key.

  9. Terri Klass

    It is so important that we keep an open mind to whatever we tackle in our personal or business lives.

    I have seen many people assume they couldn’t switch careers or try a new position because they were fixated on only singing alto.

    Kudos to you and loved learning how much you love to sing, Karin!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Terri, Thanks so much. We do get stuck in comfort… it feels safe…It’s scary to expand our range… but so worth it.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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