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Giving Yourself Permission to Suck

I clearly remember my very first podcast interview. I don’t remember my second podcast interview, because it went without a hiccup. So you can maybe see where I’m going with this.

Translation: the first one was…memorable.

It was for a podcast titled Outside the Music Box, and I wanted to explore Albert Einstein’s love of music. Einstein loved to play his violin so much he even said in an interview that had he not chosen the field of physics, he would have been a musician.

Well, thank goodness he didn’t choose to be a violinist – his mind was put to much better use as a physicist. But that love of music intrigued me, so much so that I wanted to talk about it on my new podcast.

So I did a bit of research (fancy term for a google search) and found a fellow who’s a physics professor at Oxford University who’s lectured and published a few videos about Einstein; he even collaborated with a professional violinist for his presentations.

That’s my man, I thought. But…this was definitely outside my comfort zone. Not only was I doing interviews for the first time in my life, I was interviewing a freaking physics professor at Oxford. It may not sound intimidating reading this copy, but it sure was for me at the time.

I would have greatly preferred to get a few interviews under my belt before taking on this challenge. My years as a performer taught me that preparation is the key to dealing with intimidating situations. With enough preparation, you can handle anything.

It turns out this person was my first ever interview. I had never interviewed anyone, for any reason, not even for the high school newspaper. Well, the show must go on, as they say. I was determined to be a podcaster, and I was going to just soldier on and get it done.

I spent the time between confirming the Skype call (probably a week or so) visualizing this interview; visualizing asking the questions, my voice, my phrasing. I was as prepared as I could be given the circumstances. We exchanged pleasantries on the call, I hit record, and…

Blankness. I froze. The neurons in my brain that ordinarily tell my tongue to move and produce sounds in a manner in which communication with other human beings is possible – they just up and quit working. Went on strike, some sort of dispute over “benefits” I later learned.

In moments like this, PANIC is at the ready, waiting on the performer to falter just enough to get its foot in the door and eventually ruin the whole event.

Fortunately I had enough performing experience that I was able to draw on in this moment of near-catastrophe. I apologized to my guest, who was very gracious through all of it, then took a few deep breaths, waited a moment, and began.

I’m not going to say that I hit a homerun, but I will say I hit the ball squarely. A respectable showing for a first interview, and given the circumstances, a bit of a feather in the old cap.

All this to say that if you’re concerned about how you’re going to sound or present yourself at the very beginning of any endeavor, be it a podcast, a youtube channel, or what have you, rest assured that you’re not going to sound very good.

Why would you expect to sound like a pro your first time? When you made love to your spouse the first time, was it fantastic? Probably not. In fact, it was probably disappointing.

Such is life. Your audience doesn’t expect you to sound great. They expect you to sound terrible. If you can manage to sound like you have some experience under your belt, then that’s terrific, but that’s not why people tune in. They tune in because you have a message. You care about this message so much that you’re willing to confront those fears of getting out there and just getting it done.

Your listeners/fans/followers will appreciate that far more than sterling production quality.

So if you didn’t get all that, get this: Give yourself permission to suck. If it’s not 100%, or even 65% of what you want right out the gate, it’s okay. You’ll get better.

Episode credits:

Directed by: James Newcomb

Produced by: James Newcomb

All creative genius provided by: James Newcomb

Blame for James’ trivial goof in said production NOT cast by: Sana Dorry

No animals nor egos were unnecessarily damaged in the production of this podcast episode.

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