When I started my first podcast, The Brute Strength Podcast, over 5 years ago I nearly shit myself before and during every episode.
I was so consumed with imposter syndrome and general self-doubt. I would book guests and regularly cancel for some bullshit reason.
I specifically remember doing this with Jessica Lucero, one of the best American Weightlifters of the past decade. I was so afraid of making a mistake that I straight up cancelled the interview a day before we were supposed to record. Jess, if you’re reading this, thanks for bearing with me and doing the awesome interviews we’ve done over the years.
A little more vulnerable is the fact that even a few years ago doing a WAG Podcast with Adee I stopped halfway through the show and cried because I thought I sucked so badly.
5 years after starting the first podcast and thousands of combined hours later I can say confidently that I’m really damn good.
I’ve been affirmed by people I really look up to and respect that I’m one of the best interviewers they’ve ever been interviewed by. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons on this journey related to creating content as well as about life in general.
Creating stuff that you’re proud of
The #1 thing I wish I knew and accepted in the beginning is that it’s ok to suck at first.
I watched this amazing 2 minute video by Ira Glass where he explains this: when we start creating something it’s usually because we have good taste. In the first couple years when we are creating things it’s just not that good. We experience a gap between what we want to create and what we are capable of creating at that time. This is where most people quit.
If we simply stick with it, our creative work will eventually match our ambitions.
Too many people take their initial sucking to mean that they’re just not good at it. But most of the people that are the best in the world at something sucked at it and/or were embarrassed by their work in the beginning.
Creating a lot of stuff is the MOST important factor in creating good stuff at some point.
No amount of reading or listening to other people’s podcasts could prepare me for the level of presence and curiosity I would need to bring into my own interviews. Just like reading about baseball can never prepare you for hitting a 90 mile per hour fastball.
The real learning happens by doing.
At some point it’s not enough just to create stuff
As sport psychologist Michael Gervais reframes the common adage, “Patterns make perfect.”
I’ve learned to be intentional about how I can improve my craft. Rather than just going through the motions, in order to really create something I’m proud of, I have to set clear goals for myself.
Some of my goals related to podcasting have been:
- Allow for longer pauses in my podcasts rather than trying to immediately fill the silence
- Listen to people and follow my natural curiosity. Be willing to abandon the original plan in service to what feels most alive in the moment.
Some other things I’ve learned:
- Create a regular practice of self-reflection
For a long time after each episode I would reflect on the moments that I thought went best and which didn’t. Then I would put my insights at the top of my question list for the next guest. That way when I started preparing for the next show, I remembered what I wanted to do to improve.
- Create a feedback loop
The tighter the feedback loop, the faster we learn.
We can get better at sports so quickly in the beginning because we can see how we did immediately. You either hit the ball or you don’t. You sink the shot or you don’t.
When creating knowledge work of some sort (podcast, blog, videos) it’s a lot tougher. David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene and Range, calls this a “wicked learning environment.” You can check out my interview with him here where we dive deep into the learning process.
In order to learn most effectively, we need to proactively seek out feedback from our audience because it’s not inherently baked in like a sport.
One way I did this last year is by creating a small group of my regular listeners. Each week I asked them to listen to a solo episode I put out and had them fill out a 4 question survey. This was so frickin helpful to my growth.
- You don’t have to literally be a professional to start treating yourself like a pro
These days I prepare for episodes even more than when I started.
Inspired by my buddy Chris Williamson who has the top podcast in the UK, I also block off 30 minutes before each podcast now to do some breath work and really get in a good state of mind.
I don’t make money from advertising on my podcasts, so I’m not technically a professional podcaster, but I do my best to act as if I was a pro. More on that in Steven Pressfield’s book Turning Pro.
I still get nervous before starting most interviews. I still stutter sometimes and make mistakes. I’ve simply learned to manage those emotions better and remind myself that I’ve put in the reps. And I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to be me.
Podcasting with my grandparents
Here’s a story of some of the most impactful interviews of my life.
I grew up in a Catholic family.
My ancestors as far back as I can see were also Catholic. Growing up I went to church once on Sunday and again on Tuesday mornings at school.
As a kid none of it ever resonated with me a bit. So much so that as soon as I left the house at 17, I started calling myself an atheist. I didn’t identify with the religion I grew up in, so I adopted the religion of atheism. At least I could be certain about something (i.e. there is no god)!
About 5 years ago, my beliefs around this started to loosen up a little bit and I became more open minded.
Spiritual practices like meditation and eventually yoga started becoming a bigger part of my life. I started to become open to the idea that there may be a “power greater than myself” somewhere out there.
A little over a year ago I started a project of conducting video interviews with my 4 grandparents.
Partly so that my entire family could see them telling their life stories. Mainly so that I could better understand our family system and how I turned into who I am.
Here’s what has stood out to me most so far:
I asked questions like “Papere (my grandpa), one of the things I admire most about you is your discipline. Where did you learn that?” He told me a specific story of watching this particular Catholic “brother” that worked at his school. He said that that man was so disciplined in what he did, and he wanted to emulate that. My grandpa is the single most disciplined person I’ve ever met, and that’s where he learned it.
I asked my grandma, Mamere, who has been in a wheelchair for the past 20 years and experienced an enormous amount of physical pain, “You are always able to see the silver lining in any challenging life scenario. Where does that come from?” Without hesitation she quoted something from the bible about “offering up your cross.” I think this means acknowledging that our challenges and suffering in life are an opportunity to practice virtues.
What I saw is that every one of their biggest strengths they attribute to something related to their religion. I realized in that moment that so many of the things I love most about myself I learned from these people.
This experience has been so relieving to me. For over 10 years, I felt like I was disowning a part of myself and my heritage. It has allowed me to appreciate what that religion has done for my family and what I have gained from it.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been really afraid to share the role that spirituality plays in my life today. If I’m honest it feels like the most important thing in my life.
As I said a few weeks ago, my spirituality mostly has to do with spending more time doing things that I’m naturally present doing and less time doing things where I feel distracted. It’s about practicing loving myself and my life just as it is rather than constantly striving towards some future goal. I would say I’m pretty shitty at this, but it’s what I’m working on.
I have no desire to follow any organized religion, but this experience has opened my eyes to learning what I can from these philosophies that have been around for thousands of years.
I’ve loved watching some of the video series Jordan Peterson does dissecting the bible, for instance.
I can’t recommend interviewing your elders enough. It’s an amazing way to connect with them. They will likely be thrilled to tell you their stories, and there is so much to learn from them.
Here’s the list of questions I use if you’re interested.
Some other things you may want to check out
My wife, Adee, started a new blog, and it is fire! She talking about some relatively taboo or untouched subjects like sex post partum, how we’ve fought since having our son and what we’ve learned from it, and so much more personal and relationship wisdom.
I just released a podcast with former pro boxer Mike Lee where we talk about how to respond when you literally get punched in the mouth and other mindset related topics.
Lastly, we just released a WAG Podcast on the hedonic treadmill and a couple different stoic philosophy practices. It’s basically about to practice loving what you already have in life.
If you’ve been loving this blog, I would so appreciate it if you would share it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up to my newsletter which is where I send these posts straight to your inbox. My intention is to make this blog one of the best things you read all week. To make you think, laugh and hopefully leave you feeling a little more relaxed – like a nice long exhale.