It seems fair to say that Michigan students and graduates are intelligent, highly ambitious individuals who strive to make a difference in the world. This sheer determination is a great thing, since it’s important to not only have the self-confidence and swagger to set big goals, but also an unrelenting work ethic to achieve them.
That being said, the pressure to meet our goals and exceed our expectations can easily lead to self-criticism. This is especially true if we don’t see ourselves making enough progress within a certain period of time.
I was reminded of this lesson first-hand in January.
Sitting in my New York City apartment, I was speaking with a legendary figure in Michigan Athletics. The entire conversation was surreal to me as we spoke about Bo Schembechler, Tom Brady, and other Michigan athletes. It was like I was a student in a master class on University of Michigan history and how to live a great life.
However, there was one point of the discussion that stuck out.
The most important thing holding people back from their goals, my guest told me, is negative self-talk. “How we talk to ourselves, how we process, how we begin to become brutally honest with ourselves . . . When we start talking about the number-one thing, it’s ‘How do I talk to myself? Am I honest with myself? Can I see myself more clearly than everyone else?’”
His answer struck home.
I was speaking with Greg Harden, Michigan’s executive associate athletic director, for The Power Of Bold, a podcast I started several months ago. Greg was once even called “Michigan’s secret weapon” by Desmond Howard and was coach to Michigan legends like Tom Brady and Jalen Rose. Here, Greg was providing lessons about athletics and life to my audience. Yet I couldn’t stop asking myself—during and after the interview—whether my internal dialogue was holding me back from my career dreams.
After the interview, I made it a priority to be nicer to myself and to eliminate as much negative self-talk as possible. It’s too easy to never be satisfied, to continue setting goals higher and higher, and to forego any celebration of small wins. Doing this leads to burnout and a never-ending search for that one thing that will ultimately bring us happiness. Instead, we should be gentler with ourselves, recognizing that we can still be hungry and ambitious while understanding that, as Greg says, “who we are isn’t defined by what we do.”
This story and the insights I gathered represent just one amazing example of what I’ve experienced since starting a podcast. Starting and hosting a podcast has been one of the most educational, insightful, and fun experiences that I’ve had in my young professional life.
But let’s back up.
In August 2006, I arrived at the University of Michigan as an eager, energetic freshman, ready to make an impact on campus. After moving into Markley Hall and settling into my classes, I began looking around for a club to join. Since I had been a political and news junkie since high school, I chose to become a staff writer for The Michigan Review. After some time covering campus and state news, I, along with some friends, decided to start a podcast at the Review.
The podcast focused on political and business news, both at the local and national level. We were lucky enough to interview renowned individuals like Senator Joe Lieberman, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, and automotive legend Bob Lutz. Starting a podcast taught me the power of taking a risk and the sheer thrill of releasing a new product into the world.
Fast-forward to the present: I’m a licensed attorney in New York City who chose to leave my job at a large international law firm to become an entrepreneur. To document my experience and to help people who want to take a career risk, I started The Power of Bold, a podcast for individuals seeking to break through the fear in their professional lives.
I have been fortunate enough to interview prominent guests including entrepreneurs, creators, and sporting professionals. The podcast is an excellent resource for listeners who feel stuck in their careers, mostly out of fear of trying something new. And selfishly, what’s better than getting to ask questions and gain insights from world-class performers?
Luckily, we’re living in a time when it’s easier than ever to be a creator. Starting a podcast is simple and inexpensive. Better yet, we’re still in the early innings in the podcast industry. According to a recent study, in 2013, 15 percent of men and 9 percent of women listened to a podcast in the last month. In 2017, those numbers were 27 percent of men and 21 percent of women.
There is extreme value in hosting your own podcast. The benefits are nearly endless: You get to unearth and deliver valuable insights to your listeners, interview extremely interesting people, learn how to cold email potential guests, and develop marketing strategies to spread the word about your podcast. By producing the best show that you can, the benefits flow indirectly to you. By pleasing your audience, you acquire so many skills and insights that you can apply to your own life.
In addition, one of the most underrated benefits is that you get to hear yourself speak with other people.
It can be awkward and intimidating at first, but upon reflection, it is such a crucial exercise. Listening to your episodes gives you a sense of your communication style and helps you make improvments as necessary. In fact, you’re able to take those improvements and leverage them in other aspects of your life, whether you’re engaging in a high-stakes meeting at your job or giving an impromptu speech in front of your colleagues.
The logistics of launching a podcast aren't difficult. To start, all you need is a computer, microphone, and editing software (I use Apple’s GarageBand.) While there are some additional steps to upload your podcast to iTunes and other podcast directories, there are countless resources to guide you.
Granted, this isn’t an insignificant time commitment. It takes time to come up with episode ideas, book guests, and market your podcast. There are also the mental aspects of releasing something out into the world. It’s easy to fear judgment from family or friends, or think that what you’re releasing isn’t “good enough.” This is where “negative self-talk,” as Harden explains, prevents you from further action. As someone who tends to be a perfectionist, I get it.
Even though it may be scary to release a product to the public, the pride that you’ll feel is unlike anything else. There’s something to be said about transforming from a consumer into a producer. And who knows: While speaking with a guest, you may uncover some important insights that will be life-changing, not only for your audience, but for you.
The opportunity to be a creator is out there. Are you ready?