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The Dirty Secret In Podcasting

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There is a dirty little secret in podcasting.  Amidst all of the industry collaboration and the explosive demand for different types of shows, podcast hosts hold something close to the vest.  

What we do is selfish.

I recently read an essay written by George Orwell, titled “Why I Write“.  He believed there were four “great motives for writing” that served as reasoning for why any writer wants to share his prose with the world.  The four motives are:

  1.  Sheer egoism:  (explained below)
  2.  Aesthetic enthusiasm:  perception of beauty in the world; appreciation; gratitude
  3.  Historical impulse:  the pursuit of the truth; facts.  
  4.  Political purpose:   Not politics in the traditional sense; politics as in “influence”…to persuade.  

We are all a unique blend of these four motives.  One of us may lead with aesthetic enthusiasm, followed closely by impulse and others.  Another person may be lead with political purpose.

The motive that most intrigued me, but didn’t really surprise me, was the first:  sheer egoism.  Orwell goes on to describe what he means:  “A desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc.  It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one.  Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen – in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”

It made me think about the work that I do, and why I do it.  Specifically, when it comes to developing and producing content through my podcast.

I think all of us, especially those of us with interview podcasts, feel like we are cheating.   

Let’s take my podcast for example:  The Sweet Adversity Podcast.  My goal with the podcast is to explore a specific theme, and to test an hypothesis:  does adversity create opportunity?  And if so, is this the consistent reason why the successful and fulfilled have achieved their definition of success and fulfillment?  Through interviews with high performers across multiple disciplines (world class athletes, successful CEO’s and entrepreneurs, authors and artists), I work to deconstruct how struggle and obstacles have defined their approach to life and how their response to adversity allows them to differentiate themselves from the average.

In what other situation would I be able to reach out to people I admire and interview them for 45 minutes about their life, their work, and how they achieved their goals?  I would venture to say none.  It feels like cheating.  But it’s cheating with more work involved.  More preparation.

I’ve interviewed almost 50 guests now, including people like Wired Magazine founder Kevin Kelly, Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena, editor/author/literary agent Shawn Coyne, and former NFL linebacker/National Champion Bobby Carpenter.  All of these connections developed one of two ways:  

  1.  A cold email
  2.  A warm introduction through a mutual friend

I interview these folks to find out for myself, what the secret ingredients are of their stories.  To find out what the critical inflection points and decisions are that started them on their journeys.  I get to publicly document these conversations, and share them with an audience.  I get a benefit.  They get a benefit.

This piece is not about how selfish and egotistical podcasters are.  This piece is about perspective.  It’s about how, in pursuit of work that matters, when we feel fulfilled, we provide great value to others.  It is VERY difficult to provide great value to others without feeling valued or pursuing value and purpose in our own lives.  

Don’t be afraid of being selfish.  Don’t be afraid of doing what you want as a path to developing content and value for others.  Why?  Because many times self interest is the path to helping others.TC mark

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