September 6, 2017 | Posted in General
During a recent interview, I was asked how it felt to have “accomplished so much in radio in the past twenty years and what have you learned?”
The concept of two decades passing since I wormed my way behind a microphone hit me in a strange way. So did the question of what lessons I have learned along the way.
I deferred the longevity thing because it isn’t always the best indicator of effectiveness. There are a handful of radio voices still taking up space for as long as I have that I don’t think add much to improving the human condition but certainly have added to their bank accounts.
What have I learned?
With over 25,000 shows in the can and half as many interviews with authors and others of name and note I guess my learning curve has come full circle.
I learned early on that everyone thinks they are right, based on how they see the world.
I’ve learned that very few people are willing to admit they are wrong, based on how they see the world.
I’ve learned there is no substitute for “showing up” when everyone else has gone home or hung it up.
I’ve learned how to line my thoughts up with my words, (which is akin to an artist choosing the right colors for their work) instead of just vomiting up a verbal stream of constant mind chatter to fill time.
I’ve learned that so much of life is a game of dominoes and connect-a-dots. You gotta flick the first domino to get the others to fall in sequence that creates a ripple effect of connecting points in life, most of which you cannot see at the present moment.
I’ve learned that given the chance and platform, you can have conversation with people that are diametrically opposite to your beliefs and find common ground.
I have learned that what Fred Rogers said is so very true for me. “The space between the host and the audience is sacred and should be treated as such.”
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t ever confuse who you “are” with what you “do” to the point that you become a “human doing” instead of a “human being.”
I’ve learned that no matter how valiant my efforts or great my intent, I cannot control the outcome, only the input. When I started in radio there were four people listening, at my “peak” there were about 3.5 million and while I would love to be doing a daily show reaching the masses with some sort of alternative to the sea of fodder that passes for information, all I can do is be ready if it comes back again.
I’ve learned there will always be someone, somewhere that can’t stand you for reasons that are really none of your business. Conversely there are people who will come out of the woodwork to support you when you are on the journey.
I learned that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Discerning what is or isn’t a good move is a product of experience and time. Don’t major in minor things.
I’ve learned that when it comes to the media, talk radio hosts in particular are often people who know everything, about everything but really haven’t done much of anything…except talk which feeds the advertising base but doesn’t do much in the name of progress.
I’ve learned the effective use of……………………..a pause.
I have learned that people who think something cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people that are doing it. I was told twenty times that “no one will listen to you unless its sports and politics” beware of “experts.”
I’ve learned that I came to the world to do more than just take up space, complain about my lot in life and blame other people for what I am responsible for. If I am lucky I get just about 29,000 days to complete my mission…or not.
I have learned that the moment that “ON AIR” light goes on, I am committed to “paying back” some of the greats that came before me and if I can inform like Edward R. Murrow, entertain like Roy Leonard and inspire like Earl Nightingale then it’s a pretty good use of a microphone.
I’ve learned to be careful of applying a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I have learned that we give way too much power to the word “celebrity” which is a fleeting condition at best.
I’ve learned that I can sit in a really long meeting where absolutely nothing gets accomplished and live to fight another day.
I’ve learned that absolutely nothing is more important than bringing forth that which is inside you, no matter what anyone else thinks of your chances of success, and that which you do for nothing at some point means everything and can lead to just about anything.
I’ve learned that “why” you were born is far more important that “how” or “where.”
I learned that at some point, even a one-man band gets out of tune. The right team is an absolute necessity to move forward. Just make sure when you are climbing the ladder of success its up against a wall of your choosing, not a wall someone else chose for you.
I have learned that the most powerful, live changing conversations I have ever had on the air were so intense I forgot I was on the air…and that thousands of people were simply listening in on what felt like a private-one-on-one talk.
I have learned that the old adage “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” is true…and that the more responsibility I take for my “stuff” the greater my “ability to respond” to the inevitable ups and downs of life, both personally and professionally.
Finally, my oft repeated message holds true. If you squeeze tomatoes you know exactly what kind of juice will come out. If you squeeze humans, be prepared for all kinds of shit to come out and we are being squeezed like never before…so hold on to your lug-nuts, we are all in constant overhaul.
I dug out this article from 1998, after I had been on the air for about a year.
Long way from there to here.
I had no plan, but I kept showing up. I had no direction, but followed the connect-a-dots. I didn’t know “how” but I knew “why.”
Twenty years ago I was 38, living in a motel with my family, had walked from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Chicago and back, zero experience in broadcasting.
Amazing, humbling, hard work, tedious, nerve wracking, glorious and challenging. Difficult, overwhelming, exhausting, exhilarating and…worth it.
Thanks to all of you that have been a part of the path these past twenty years from little WDBC Radio in Escanaba, to Oprah Radio in Chicago, WGN, CBS, from “Power Thoughts” and “Earth Matters” to “Life Matters” and all the specials and programs in between.
What a journey.