Gaining Mastery of the ‘Self’s’ For Personal and Professional Development By Kerri Garbis, CEO Ovation

Kerri Garbis, CEO Ovation

Years ago, I had a friend ask why I still took voice lessons. “You’ve been a professional singer since the age of twelve,” he said,” so why do you go to voice lessons every week? Don’t you know what you’re doing by now?” I responded by asking him, “you’re a trainer, and you’re in good shape. Why do you still work out?” He quickly answered, “because I’m dealing with muscles and they’ll atrophy, and I’ll get weak if I’m not working out and training them correctly and………Oh” He got it.

We need to grow or at least maintain our muscles no matter if they are actual muscles or not. And mastery doesn’t mean perfection but rather an extensive knowledge of a subject or experience with a skill. It is accomplished through continued exploring, practicing, and doing. 

Here is how to gain mastery of the ‘self’s’ for personal and professional development:

Identify your habits

I’m very much of the belief that if you can name it, you can tame it. If you struggle with identifying what your unproductive habits are, ask for feedback someone trusted. An even more insightful way to determine the habits that are slowing down your mastery is to think about feedback or comments you’ve received more than twice. For example, you get asked multiple times to clarify the same point by numerous people, or you’re repeatedly asked a similar question from different sources. This self-assessment can illuminate a habit or two that is getting in your way.

Replace (don’t omit) the non-productive ones

With the habit identified, search for a productive practice to replace it. At Ovation, we talk a lot about using filler words or “um,” which can lower credibility quickly for any subject matter expert. Instead of attempting to stop saying “um,” we recommend that the action of pausing replaces it. Requiring yourself only to stop doing something is about as productive as telling you not to think about the color pink.

Make it a practice to practice

Whatever mastery you are going for, select one element at a time and focus on that. For example, to work on your pre-presentation nerves, begin a daily practice of diaphragmic breathing. (Check out Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing for a fantastic step-by-step process). If you make it a daily routine, then this nerve-combative breathing will be much more accessible when you are nervous. The muscles will remember, even when the brain forgets.

Start Doing

This one takes the least amount of cognitive energy than the rest. By now, you’ll be thinking about the skill(s) less. They’ll be in your muscle memory. Now is the time to check-in with yourself and the progress of the mastery. Think about implementing the practice of better posture by setting an alarm, every thirty-minutes to remind yourself to sit-up. If you practice diligently, after a while, you’ll notice every time you hear the alarm, you’re already sitting up straight. You’re ready for the next step when you experience hours of just doing without requiring a check-in.

Get teaching

Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist, is known for saying, “If you want to LEARN something well, EXPLAIN it!” and I wholeheartedly believe it’s true. Proficient mastery includes the ability to teach, explain, and, most importantly, lead by example. Sharing your experience, knowledge, and best practices with those around you is a powerfully affirming part of the mastery journey. I’m proud to say I began my company around this practice many years ago.

For more information visit

About the Author

Kerri Garbis, President and founder of Ovation, has trained hundreds of business professionals internationally. Her enthusiasm, humor, and energy inspires multiple repeat client engagements. 

Kerri is a Professional Speech Writer certified by the Professional Speechwriters Association, a Business Etiquette Expert, certified by The Emily Post Institute, and an Emotional Intelligence Expert, certified by The Hay Group. She ensures that every Ovation consultant delivers the highest level of client-focused professional training. 

In collaboration with the design team, Kerri creates customized and dynamic curriculum, tailor-made for every client. Company-wide dedication to this standard sets Ovation apart from the competition. 

A professional actress since childhood, Kerri began her studies in voice and theatre at The Baltimore School for the Arts before earning her BFA in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University. She was in the Broadway-bound musical, Angels, off-Broadway in That Time of The Year, and sang or screeched on a stage in every state (except Hawaii) in the National Tours of Evita (as Evita) and Singin’ In The Rain (as Lina Lamont). Favorite credits include Spelling Bee in Boston, Ruthless! In Philadelphia, and I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti (a one-woman play) at various theatres that allowed her to cook on stage! You may also have seen her catching a pass from a New England Patriot, singing a Christmas carol, or complaining of bloating in a television commercial. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.  Kerri’s first book, Presentation Skills for Managers, is available now from McGraw-Hill.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.