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When Nothing Will Save You

My wife Sana gave some interesting perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the vast majority of the planet into a radically different lifestyle from what we were accustomed.

To sum up her thoughts: “Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Their government is concerned with maintaining a global empire across the globe. Now that the coronavirus has hit, they’ve been caught flat-footed. The government’s response has been laughable, and people who are living paycheck to paycheck are in panic mode after only a few weeks being out of work.

“Other nations, by contrast, are more capable of coping with the changes. Nations like Iran, who have been under sanctions for as long as they can remember, learn self-sufficiency. As a result, the people and the government have plenty of money when a pandemic hits. Vietnamese have been trained to save, and not go into debt for purchases of cars and houses. They’re enjoying this break their government has given them.”

It was a refreshing perspective for me, as I’ve admittedly become a bit hooked on what I call “coronaporn.” Coronaporn is a fixation on every piece of news on the coronavirus, sharing it with everyone and their mother, usually accompanied by a weird fetish with government leaders who are supposed to somehow have answers for the problem. It’s as addictive as any drug or sexual pornography out there, and I’ve been saddened to see people close to me become hooked on it as well.

At any rate, this period of relative quiet has put me in mind of several moments during my life where doing nothing was the best thing for me. I’ve realized that my own impulses can have the impact of a category 5 hurricane on my life. Sometimes doing nothing is what saves you from utter destruction.

Someone disrespects you or shows a lack of respect. Do nothing; it’s better than reacting with a hot head and saying something you’ll regret.

You’re frustrated with the speed in which a project is building. Do nothing; it’s better than making some impulsive decision that will crush any momentum you may have.

You feel trapped in an unfulfilling gig. You’re holding onto it because it’s your bread and butter, but deep down you want to do something else. Do nothing (aside from doing the work of course); wait, be still, maybe put feelers out for other gigs, be grateful that you actually have a gig.

We’re conditioned to believe that activity = virtue, that inaction is anathema to a life worth pursuing.

Then a global pandemic hits and you’re forced into inaction. Whether the government’s response is overreach, unjust, completely rational, etc. is irrelevant. We’ve got to deal with reality here. It could be that “nothing” is what you need to do if you feel like violating the order. If you’ve worked at something for years and years and can’t pay your bills after being out of work for two weeks, maybe you’re doing something wrong.

Not being a Negative Ned here, just trying to offer a different perspective.

What will you be doing a year from now?

I had a great chat today with a gal who’s starting a brand new podcast and hired me to help her get it off the ground. She’s just about ready to go and we’re just now putting the finishing touches on the little details like artwork, music, stuff like that.

Toward the end of our call today, she said something that was music to my ears.

“This is what I’m going to be doing a year from now, so I want to do it right.”

That’s not verbatim what she said, but it was words to that effect.

It hit me between the eyes personally because that’s been one of my biggest weaknesses as an online entrepreneur. I have this tendency to get the shiny object syndrome and just chase whatever seems cool at the time. It’s something I’ve worked on over the last year or so, with varying results, some of which are positive.

So I was gratified to hear her say that, and believe me, it wasn’t because of any influence I had on her. It’s her and her years of experience as a professional, and that professional mentality will no doubt translate to success with her new podcast.

Plus I have a solid client for the foreseeable future, so that’s a nice bonus 🙂

What will you be doing a year from now?

It’s not a question that gets asked a lot, what with our attention spans that span a few seconds at most with anti-social media and the like.

I finished my purge of my Facebook account today, and I must say it feels pretty good. It’s a big distraction if you ask me. Getting “updated” on the goings on of people I knew 10 years prior prevents one from the things that really matter, like making a living, planning beyond 5 minutes into the future.

These days, any time I think about taking on a new endeavor, I ask myself, “Will you be doing this a year from now?” If the answer isn’t an immediate YES! I just don’t do it.

It changes the perspective thinking in those terms. If I start a new podcast and it seems like it’s getting low numbers, I just say, “That’s okay, it will be doing better in a year.”

The long game. It’s a mentality I’ve learned the hard way. And so has anyone who’s accomplished anything of any value. But it’s the only game to play if you want to have a lasting impact.

It’s a mentality that I’ll be teaching at The Easy School of Hard Knocks over the years (Yes, it will be around a year from now ;). Right now I’ve got a few simple courses you can check out and purchase if you can brace yourself for some serious sticker shock.

More will be coming soon.

Why yes, Mr. Zuckerberg, I do want to unfriend over 2000 people today, thank you

Yesterday I did something a bit radical, and was a long time overdue.

I went on a unfriending binge on my Facebook account.

I took the advice of a business mentor of mine and severely cut back on my list of friends. And hilariously, Facebook won’t let me unfriend anyone for an undetermined amount of time.

Because spam, dontcha know.

I had unfriended over 2,000 people in the span of about 6 hours yesterday, and sure as shoot, they put the brakes on that.

My eventual goal is to get it to under 100 friends. Family, friends I actually speak to in a meaningful way, that sort of thing.

I have to say it was quite liberating. People I knew from a church I attended 10 years ago are still on my friends list. Why do I need to know what’s going on their lives 10 years later? I’m here, they’re there. That’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned.

A lot of people like to stay in touch with others, and that’s all well and good. I just like to keep my inner circle, well, inner.

Enough about that

Another thing that is liberating, although it requires more effort than culling one’s Facebook account, is taking meaningful action toward becoming a better person, be it a musician, an entrepreneur, a barber, what have you.

To that end, I’m excited to announce plans for the very first feature course at The Easy School of Hard Knocks on Viktor Frankl’s classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning. 

It will start around the beginning of April and will go, well, until we’re done reading and discussing it.

I’ll announce more details later, but want to give you a heads up about it now.

There are several courses currently available at The Easy School of Hard Knocks. And they’re priced to sell.

A few of y’all have checked it out and tried out a course.

Dear Podcast Host, You’re Not the Listener. Sincerely, The Listener

The one thing that every podcast host wants is for other people to listen to their podcast. And obviously, we want the listening experience to be a positive one so that they’ll keep coming back for more.

It’s tempting for the podcast host to take the role of the active listener: on the edge of their seat, looking the guest in the eye, nodding and verbally affirming what they say while doing an interview. That’s just good manners when you’re having a conversation, right?

But when you the host are affirming what they have to say, perhaps coaching and coaxing the best answer from them, it’s important that you don’t detract from the experience of the listeners, i.e. those who press “play” on their iPhone and listen to your show.

Imagine two performers on the stage, giving a concert for others to listen to and enjoy. When one is playing or singing, what does the other performer do? They get out of the way. They stand off to the side, smile, maybe dance a little bit to the beat. Whatever they do, they make sure the other person gets the spotlight during their solo.

Your role as the host is to be one of those performers, only you want your guest to have the spotlight on them as much as possible. Perhaps it sounds disingenuous, but the more you keep the focus off of you during an interview, the more your audience will enjoy your show.

That being said, here are a few things I’ve seen podcast hosts do that detract from the experience of their listeners:

  • Excessive “Hmms” “uh huhs” “right” “got it”. These are what I call the audio equivalent of the “head nod” that you see in a TV interview. Every so often, the interviewer will appear on the screen, nodding their head in agreement. This is to make the experience more engaging for viewers (quite effectively I might add.) Interestingly, these are usually filmed after the interview is done and spliced in during post-production.While you definitely want some of those “head nods” in your audio interview, keep them to a  minimum. If you hire an editor, make sure they know to leave a few in to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Lack of clarity in follow up to a guest’s answer. Follow up questions or dialogue are good, but make sure they’re targeted and confident. If you want to move on to another topic, perhaps briefly summarize their thought, add some finality, and boldly move on to the next question. For reference, here are some good transition phrases that will either finish a thought or rabbit hole into another one:
    • So it sounds to me like…
    • I always thought _______, but I’m hearing from you that…
    • I find it interesting that you…
  • Injecting personal experiences with the guest’s experiences. Obviously, you the host want to be personable and relatable to your audience. Nevertheless, resist the urge to share your own personal experiences in detail. The last thing you want to do is upstage your guest. Yes, I know it’s your show, just trust me. Something like, “I’ve experienced that first-hand with horrifying results,” is engaging, affirms what they’ve said, and keeps the spotlight on your guest.

I like to think of a podcast interview as a game of hot potato. Once the guest gives me the hot potato in the form of finishing their question, I try to give it back to them ASAP. I’m featuring so and so to discuss this issue, to give their perspective on that problem. I’m the host who owns the villa, my guest is the guest of honor who gets the spotlight for an hour. I’m doing all the thankless work behind the scenes to make it all possible. And at the end of the day, I get all the credit. I enjoy a glass of wine on the veranda overlooking the mountains that have been gently kissed with the sun’s benevolent rays.

In summary, you the podcast host are in control. While the guest is answering your question, you’re busy thinking of the follow-up question, thinking of the right transition phrase, etc. You’re definitely not enjoying a friendly chat with another human being. You’re hard at work making the listening experience as enjoyable as possible for others.

Hopefully these tips will help in your journey, and give more detailed instructions to your editor if you have the luxury of paying for one. If you have any questions, comments, or any ideas of your own to add to the discussion, let me know in the comments section below!

Man’s Greatest Fear…

…is dying without having really lived.

In the fall of 2018, I was going through a pretty rough time. I had recently separated from my wife of 12 years, and she was saying some really nasty things about me.

I mean, things that innocent men spend years of their lives in prison if they’re convicted in court. I was all too familiar with the biased court system in the U.S., so I wasn’t about to do or say anything stupid.

And because of her unfounded fear of the monster she had created in her mind, she kept my time with my beautiful son to an absolute minimum.

Yes, it was bad. I was angry, hurt, and perhaps a bit depressed.

But I lived on the beach. Virginia Beach to be exact. And I would often take walks along the beach to think about things. My past, my future, my goals and aspirations.

I also had a burning desire to succeed as an entrepreneur. I had started and put on hiatus a podcast devoted to teaching musicians how to make money making music.

I could have succeeded at it, but things happened. Some of those things were well within my control, some were not at all in my control.

But the whole experience taught me that doing a podcast – and making money with it – is HARD WORK!

Well, let me clarify… Doing a podcast is easy. The steps required to do it isn’t exactly rocket surgery.

You record something, upload it, create some basic artwork, publish it and you’re off to the races.

Pretty easy stuff.

What isn’t so easy is sticking with it when all you hear are crickets for weeks, months, even years.

We live in an era of instant gratification. Things that once took years to do – if they could be done at all – can now be done by clicking a few buttons. It’s no wonder that so many people start a business, and then flame out when they’re not a millionaire on Day 7!

‘Cuz it’s easy, but you definitely learn plenty of lessons at the School of Hard Knocks along the way.

This is what was on my mind as I walked along the shore of Virginia Beach in the fall of ’18. The fact that doing a podcast is technically easy to do, but I had definitely learned some hard lessons at the proverbial “School of Hard Knocks” along the way.

Egad! The Easy School of Hard Knocks!

It just sounded like a catchy name for a business. Most definitely something that fits my weird personality and sense of humor.

And just like that, The Easy School of Hard Knocks was “a thing” as the chillren like to say.

Now here it is, the beginning of 2020 and The Easy School of Hard Knocks is finally online. (Let’s just say one of the lessons I learned at the “School of Hard Knocks” is to bide your time when considering a decision. “Shiny object syndrome” is real, folks. And it’s to be taken seriously.)

So, what is the point of The Easy School of Hard Knocks? Well, believe it or not there are a few people who have managed to succeed at this thing called entrepreneurship, be it online or offline.

In most if not all of these cases, these folks have taken things that are easy to do (a podcast, a blog, an online learning platform, etc.) and have created a system that’s EASY TO OPERATE ONCE IMPLEMENTED CORRECTLY.

The Easy School of Hard Knocks will teach you the nuts and bolts of succeeding as an entrepreneur. You’ll find lots of courses that will teach you the basic things like starting a podcast, operating a blog, and so on…

And you’ll also find courses – and more importantly fellow travelers on the train – that will help you develop:

• A success-oriented mindset
• Healthy lifestyle habits
• Relationship building

And much much more.

To sum up, you’ll get the tools, the motivation, and the occasional tough love that it takes to be successful at whatever you choose to undertake.

I’m glad you’re here!

-James Newcomb — Founder and Headmaster, The Easy School of Hard Knocks

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