I feel like a performer on 1950s television: constantly spinning plates to keep them balanced on spears. My life has often been hectic—even when I’m overloaded, I still constantly seek new opportunities to “be productive.” This has manifested itself over the years in freelance writing, fill-in TV news reading, and even a stint as a copywriter for adult dating websites. I’ve always needed something to do.
Working in broadcasting means I have weird hours, especially now that I’m employed as a swing announcer. That means I fill in whenever someone takes vacation or leaves the station. Right now, I’m filling in for middays and afternoon drive—eight hours, five days a week. Plus six hours Saturday and Sunday.
On top of that, I’m also the Senior Editor at a magazine. I’m responsible for interviewing subjects, writing features, and editing copy.
A month ago, I began keeping track of where I chose to spend my time. The reality is I can do anything I want, I just need to budget for it in my calendar. Although this is not indicative of an average week, here’s what my current Monday-Friday looks like:
4:30am wake, coffee, writing (magazine)
8:00am shower, breakfast
8:30am prepping radio show
6:30pm dinner, writing (personal)
8:00pm wife time
The Cold Truth
There’s a lot going on, but mostly everything is accounted for. “Wife time” may seem oddly clinical, but the reality is we’re both busy people and need to align our schedules. In the past, we’ve sacrificed time together for the sake of our careers and not only was it fruitless (we were both miserable and I was fired), it also defeated the purpose of working so hard: to have more time and resources for each other. We also go to the gym together every day, which is a huge part of our routine: it gives us more time together and keeps us accountable with our health and fitness.
Creating boundaries was also a huge part of scheduling my time. Although there are some exceptions, I aim for as little overlap as possible. It allows me to focus on one project at a time and give my full attention to it. Trying to manage five tasks at once—with constant email, Facebook, and WhatsApp notifications—is counterproductive and will usually result in sloppier work. You’ll also waste a lot more time switching back and forth between projects.
I still haven’t fine-tuned everything—my schedule is bound to change from week to week—but I’m much happier knowing that I have deliberately budgeted my time. I can also get a lot more work done, because I’m not being distracted by ongoing, unfinished projects. This is only a starting point and I’m excited to push time management to its full potential.
Somebody wrote something mean about me on the Internet. And it hurt a little bit. I felt small and insecure and suddenly jumped to conclusions: nobody likes me; I’m bad at my craft; and I’m probably getting fired.
The reality is, this individual doesn’t know me. Even if he or she does, why bother giving credence to an opinion which belongs to someone who clearly doesn’t respect me? If it was truly something constructive, the individual would have contacted me privately by phone, email, or social media. Instead, the comment was made publicly on an industry message board.
Taking some responsibility
To be honest, it’s partially my fault—I went looking for it. My career is in a period of transition and I’m taking on new responsibilities in my job. My brand of radio is being exposed to a new audience that may or may not like what I have to say or how I say it. And as an autonomous human being, that is his or her right. I have opinions, too—we all do. It comes down to a matter of how we express them.
In broadcasting we have the term “beige” and most personalities avoid it like the plague. Positive feedback is best and negative is a close second. Beige means indifference. Beige means nobody cares. So in that sense, I should be elated: at least somebody’s talking about me.
bad news travels fast
The problem, however, is that negative feedback travels far faster than its opposite. And if that seed is planted early in the minds of my superiors—the people who can have a lasting impact, good or bad, on my career—I’m suddenly swimming upstream.
There’s also the issue of letting it impact my performance. Even though a bad review is better than no review, it can be difficult to take it for what it is and simply move on. You may find yourself second-guessing decisions based on a single person’s bad mood. It can have a domino effect and leave you emotionally and mentally out of commission for a while. You become obsessed with what this individual might think of nearly everything you do.
seek validation from within
Instead, become obsessed with what you think. Let good and bad feedback represent maybe 20% of your decision-making when it comes to performing your tasks. Sometimes, my boss will text me “good job” after a show—it’s awesome to hear that! But if I start to rely on that as validation, as opposed to how I feel I’ve performed, I won’t be able to accurately judge in the future how I’m doing. I’ll be hooked on external input.
Let the judgements of others add some seasoning to your decisions, but realize that your opinion of yourself is the ribeye in the grand scheme of things. There is something to be learned from peoples’ opinions, but take mean comments on the Internet for what they are: mean comments on the Internet.
Tell me if you’ve been here before: there’s a terrific networking opportunity and you’re scared witless of attending. After all, you don’t know anybody there. And if it’s a collection of your industry peers, they’re all smarter and more successful than you. Funnier, too. Why bother going—what could you possibly add? You’ll end up standing alone, nursing an overpriced beer all night.
Guess what? Nearly everyone else there is thinking the same thing. Industry power players—men and women who have dominated in their careers—are just as nervous as those down the food chain. They may know more attendees than you do, but they may also fear replacement by younger, hungrier professionals. People in the same room, cozying up, just to overtake.
Don’t believe me? If you’re at the intermediate level in your field, you’ve probably felt the same way about beginners. I certainly have. I’m five years into my professional career and have huge respect for a lot of people with half my experience. I’m also worried a few are campaigning for my job. So I can empathize with people who have twice my experience—some of them are probably thinking the same thing about me.
You’re not alone
We like to think we’re alone in our insecurities, but the reality is it’s one of the things that connects us. Think back to an event you’ve previously attended. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably saw some people just like you: standing alone, looking lost, and trying not to seem nervous despite being overwhelmingly so. It’s likely you didn’t approach any of these people because, even though you were in the exact same position, you didn’t think you were worth their time. The entire evening, you prayed for someone to approach you and strike up conversation. Yet, you weren’t willing to do the same thing for anyone else.
This is something I’ve always struggled with. As a broadcaster, I’m able to maintain a conversation with just about anyone. I’m an engaging speaker and a genuine listener. But incorporating myself within a group makes me incredibly nervous. I’m afraid I’ll say something stupid or make a fool of myself. And I may. But I may also make lasting personal or professional relationships.
Here’s a perfect example. During Canadian Music Week, the radio industry descends upon Toronto and the bulk of the events are within a twenty minute walk from my apartment. Every year, there’s a giant party with nearly all attending radio professionals. It would be incredible for my career to meet some executives and fellow announcers—people who can help me improve my craft and provide future opportunities. But I’m petrified of going; I have a positive feedback loop telling me the following:
Some people think you suck, and it’ll be embarrassing when you meet;
Other attendees will think you’re a self-serving ladder-climber; and
These points are constantly running through my head and I’m subconsciously—and purposefully—looking for any excuse not to attend: I have to get up early for work the next day or my apartment is a mess and I really need to clean up. Those are poor excuses given the importance of this event. And the positive feedback loop is just as foolish—the above can be reframed to be as follows:
If some people—who have never met me, by the way—have negative opinions of me, here’s my chance to correct the story;
The purpose of a networking event is to network: everyone in attendance wants to improve his or her future; and
I have a number of unique experiences—like working for a radio station in Dubai—that people will find interesting.
expect more of yourself
Whatever your apprehension is about being in a large group of people, remember this: they want to be accepted and engaged just like you do. If they didn’t, they would be at home. It’s the same with you—you’re there because you have a goal to achieve. Maybe it’s chatting with perspective employers, meeting industry peers with whom you have online relationships, or getting a better understanding of your field and where within you fit. Know that you’ll get from the experience whatever you’re willing to take. So make it something positive.
You can lie to other people but you should never to yourself. That’s not to say you can’t—most of us do everyday. And by denying you’re guilty of this, you’re lying to yourself right now. Personal honesty is the only way to move forward and fulfill your potential.
What are the lies we tell ourselves? Let’s take a look at a few of the popular ones:
There’s no way I can do that.
Imagine you’re at the gym. It’s leg day. You’re in the middle of an six-rep set of barbell squats. The pain in your ass and thighs is incredible—but are you manufacturing some of it, mentally? The reality is, you could likely finish the set and even tack on a few extra reps. But because by nature we chase comfort, we seek—sometimes unconsciously—any excuse to eliminate discomfort. Even if we deliberately put ourselves in a given situation in the first place. You won’t be able to finish the set because you’ve already made up your mind about it.
I can’t do anything right.
Really? Anything? So you can’t calculate Pi to the sixteenth digit on your first try, but maybe you’re a fabulous writer. You were probably pretty lousy at the latter when you started, too. But you persevered. You stuck with it. And at some point, you got a better. It’s the same with everything else. When I first met my wife, she barely cooked and when she did it was awful. The woman could burn a glass of water. But eventually, after fighting through the frustration, she got better. It was through realizing the same principles of effort and perseverance applied to proficiency at cooking as they did to the rest of her acquired skillset.
Finally, here’s my favourite:
I don’t have enough time.
You’ve probably read the oft-reposted quote that you have as many hours in the day as Beyonce. I think you can even buy it on a T-shirt. And while it’s true no human has more hours in a given day than any other, that’s a poor example. Beyonce is a near-billionaire with a staff that would rival most medium-sized cities. She’s able to accomplish much more than the average person, because she has offloaded most or all of the daily tasks—including the offloading of daily tasks—with which many of us are saddled. She has also experienced exponentially greater success because of decades of hard work. You could get there, too. But you’ll need to put in the same twenty years she did.
See, it’s easy to become despondent. You may work eight hours a day and spend another two hours commuting. Maybe you have kids or take care of your parents. You feel exhausted all the time. And yet you still find time to waste. Don’t believe me? According to a Nielsen report, the average North American spends nearly eleven hours on screen time. Out of 168 hours in a week, over fifty are spent on mobile devices. You have more than enough time to spend chasing your dreams or simply finishing a half-read novel. Instead, you’re choosing to spend it scrolling through social media. One use of your time is not necessarily objectively better than another—it’s up to you to define your priorities.
Lying to yourself puts you at a disadvantage, because you intentionally blind yourself to reality. This isn’t a directive to self-abuse and nitpick every single one of your faults, but rather to realize that your capacity for achievement is far greater than most are willing to admit. Why? Because by accepting the reality of vast potential, you’re also accepting the possibility of wasted potential.
In each of the above examples, there is a desire to avoid trying or to quickly give up. Both are deeply rooted in a fear of failure. By first admitting you fear failure and doing everything in your power to succeed—every time you want or need to attempt something—you can feel confident knowing, whatever the outcome, you were honest with yourself. And if you do fail, know that eventually you won’t.
Is there someone in your life you dread encountering: someone whose behaviour is beyond frustrating and actually harmful? This doesn’t necessarily refer to physical harm, although it can. I’m talking about a person who, after spending some time together, leaves you feeling angry or sad or both. This is a toxic relationship and it’s likely you, like most people, are part of many. Utilizing the following steps will allow you to curate a group of people who love and respect you. This will make you a stronger, happier person.
One of my best friends in high school, Joe*, was a lot of fun to hang around with. In high school. After I moved out of my parents’ house and started attending University, we continued hanging out. But Joe started taking a lot of liberties.
He assumed that because I had my own place and he did not, that he could show up unannounced and crash on my couch whenever he wanted. I had a job and he didn’t, so naturally, I was always on the hook for the bar tab whenever we went out. If we were staying in, I was responsible for supplying the alcohol. And the snacks. And apparently, in the case of one demand that thankfully never came to fruition, my bed. So he could hook up with a stranger at the bar we were at (don’t worry, he was kind enough to buy her a couple drinks…on my tab). This was one of the rare moments I put down my foot. Later that same night he spilt wing sauce on my carpet and negated to tell me. He left before I found out.
It’s easy to Joe is not a particularly great friend. It eventually got to the point where he would show up with an empty gas tank and I would have to give him gas money just to get him out of my apartment. I hated getting together with Joe, but I was afraid of losing a friend. After all, he was my fun buddy from high school!
The reality was, Joe had stopped being my friend a long time earlier. He became a taker, with no thought for me or my feelings. To him, I had become a couch and an open tab. But I’m to blame, too; to me, Joe was less a friend than a connection to my adolescence.
Relationships need to be more than mutually-beneficial in order to function properly. They also require mutual respect. Eventually, Joe and I were unable to resolve simple arguments because neither of us had respect for each other.
On the other hand, my wife and I have been able to weather some incredibly taxing situations because we support each other. I’m willing to go to any lengths for Dominique, because I know she appreciates my effort and would happily do the same for me.
At a certain point, I began keeping track of debits and credits in my friendship with Joe. In a healthy relationship, this shouldn’t be the case. You should be willing to help each other because you value each other as teammates instead of opponents.
Some relationships turn toxic due to a lack of communication. When I felt like Joe was beginning to take advantage of me or acting toward me in a way I didn’t like, I should have spoken to him about it. It’s much easier after the fact to identify the tipping point than it is during the situation. That’s why it’s important to step back periodically and assess your relationships.
Do your friends, loved ones, and coworkers know how you want to be treated? If a co-worker constantly passes work onto you, and you don’t voice dissatisfaction, he may assume you’re okay with it. Maybe he thinks he’s paying you a compliment by giving you projects he deems too difficult or important for himself. Wife asks you to put the kids to bed every night? She may think you’re faster at getting them to sleep and that way you’ll have more time to spend together.
You may think people should just know that certain behaviour is poor. But, if you haven’t voiced disapproval, how are others supposed to know? Some may even look at the previous examples and see them as completely understandable–they’ve done that before. Just like you hate mint chocolate chip ice cream or love Cardi B, it isn’t the case for everyone.
Try to put yourself on the other side: someone suddenly snaps at you for doing something you thought was completely acceptable. More than that–you thought the other person liked it! After all, how could you know otherwise? He never brought it up.
Be aware that when you begin communicating your expectations, you will likely be met with opposition. And understandably so. You’re doing more than asking them to change their behaviour–you’re telling them what they do is hurtful. Would you like to hear that? Imagine the emotions you would feel: anger about being criticized; sadness about having hurt someone; confusion about why they haven’t said anything until now. The longer a habit has been formed, the harder it is to change. Especially if you were the one who, indeliberately, helped reinforce it.
If you’re finally fed up with how people are treating you, you have three options:
Ask others to change their behaviour and be patient while they adjust. Do this in cases in which you want to save the relationship (friends, significant others) or need to (coworkers, bosses).
Dissolve the relationship, communicating the reason(s) why. This may be after you have made repeated attempts to verbalize your displeasure and the other party is unwilling or unable to change behaviour. Some relationships are better graduating into the best memories of those people–while you can still remember the good times.
Ghost. In extreme situations, or if an individual isn’t worth the time or effort, block his number, delete him from your social media, and ignore any oeuvres he may make.
Whatever your decision, it’s time to begin…
Embracing Quality over Quantity
It’s likely you have close friends you never seem to have time for. And, depending on your schedule, that may really be true. But if you don’t have enough time for people you like, why spend any with people you don’t? Remember Joe? I begrudgingly spent time with him, at the expense of people whose company I enjoyed. People who liked me for me. While I was angrily picking up the bar tab for the sixth time in a row, I could have been enjoying a nice evening with a number of other friends.
This goes for family, too. If, after communicating your expectations, your loved ones choose not to change behaviours, begin limiting time spent together. Outside the most extreme of circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend ghosting on close family members. That doesn’t mean you can’t begin limiting their access to you. If you can’t do an entire weekend with a family member, try an evening. If even dinner seems too daunting, try lunch somewhere neutral. Explain that as she improves her behaviour toward you and your relationship improves, you can spend more time together. Put the ball in her court and make her accountable.
While you fix or ditch toxic relationships, you should spend more time with people you like. Or make some new friends, ensuring you properly communicate from the beginning. Flag behaviour in a good-natured and agreeable way. Phrases like, “I don’t like it when people…” as opposed to “You need to stop doing…” After all, these are your feelings–you need to take ownership over what you do and do not like.
Your time is valuable and you shouldn’t waste it on people who don’t respect you. The pain of losing a friend or significant other will be replaced quickly with much more powerful feelings of happiness and relief. Remember to be honest and open with behaviour you do and do not like. Someone unwilling to respect you is forfeiting access to you. Spend your time on people who care about you.
Having a clear plan of where you want to go and how to get there affords you a better opportunity to enjoy the journey. You may have a few planned or unplanned detours. Or maybe along the way you discover what you really want to see or do. Be open to these new experiences and allow them to shape your journey. And make sure you have a solid plan to make it happen.
Setting and accomplishing goals involves the following three things:
Working in tandem, these will become ingrained in your subconscious, to the point where your behaviour will be a series of automatic responses to external (and internal) stimuli. While you drive to work, shop for groceries, and brush your teeth, your mind will be on cruise control, entrenching in your physiology behaviour necessary to accomplish your goals.
Understanding your limitations is important, but so is fully realizing your dreams. If you want to be a professional athlete, write it down. If you’re four-foot-eight, write down something other than “NBA player.” Similarly, if you want to own a successful consulting business, but don’t have any business experience, give yourself a longer timeline.
Honesty also means being true to yourself. Managing a billion-dollar hedge fund is an ambitious goal and accomplishing it will likely give you great pride…if it is something you are truly passionate about. If you have a distrust of banking institutions, perhaps chose a different, but similarly ambitious goal. Or manage a billion-dollar hedge fund in a way that aligns what you do with your values.
My first job in radio was at a country music station. I don’t by any means hate that or any other genre (good music is good music), but I didn’t identify with it. However, it was an opportunity to break into the broadcasting industry. Am I saying you’re a hypocrite unless every aspect of your every decision aligns perfectly with your values? Absolutely not. Within most decisions, there is an element of compromise.
I wasn’t a fan of the music we played, but I love communicating with people. So I made my radio show as interactive as possible. I ingrained myself in the community and was able to connect with my audience in a much more direct and personal way than merely discussing the music I played. I changed the parameters of my objective (“host a radio show”) so that my actions were honest and deliberate and in line with my values (“create personal bonds with my listeners”).
You can do the same thing with your goals. Reframe “manage a billion-dollar hedge fund” to “build wealth for my clients in a responsible and transparent manner.” Then, you can take pride knowing any action you take to achieve that goal will be congruent with who you are and what you believe.
Your environment will change (if it doesn’t, you aren’t growing). You need to be open to and constantly consuming new information. This can be difficult because facts are often at odds with feelings. If you want to purchase a Corvette, but you learn your company is downsizing your department, you’ll likely change your plans. Maybe you’ll put off the purchase until you have a clearer picture of where your job stands. Or you’ll rent the car for a few weeks instead of buying it right away.
Let’s say you want to start an independent clothing line. You make the clothing locally and pay your staff a livable wage. You provide benefits. The hours are flexible. You learn the textiles you buy are produced in a factory in which workers are mistreated. Suddenly, your world has seriously changed. Armed with this new information, you need to make a choice. Do you continue supporting a supplier whose behaviour doesn’t align with your values, or do you adjust the parameters of your goal? Maybe some of your profits are invested in workers’ rights initiatives. Or you switch to another supplier. Or perhaps you are satisfied with that these workers, despite their situation, are at least generating income because of you.
When I was in high school, my dream was to host a morning radio show in Toronto. No TV. No print. Just radio. When I graduated from Ryerson University’s broadcasting program and started working in the industry, I quickly realized that simply “doing radio,” in the traditional sense, was no longer enough to survive in the medium, let alone prosper. Being open to the information I was receiving, I learned radio wasn’t in competition only with itself, but established and evolving media.
A radio station’s online presence is more than a placeholder for the call letters and phone number, but a way to attract a unique audience as well as build further rapport with listeners. Announcers are repurposing radio shows as podcasts to compete with long-format audio. We need to create compelling video in order to capture market share from YouTube and Netflix. Some radio stations have in-studio cameras and syndicate shows on visual mediums to collect revenue from television. Plus, many media companies are replacing live announcers with network (or imported) programming.
The industry is changing and I need to keep up. Therefore, I have reframed my own goal from “host a morning radio show in Toronto” to “be an effective storyteller for as wide an audience as possible.” This means engagement in podcasting, video production, writing, and public speaking. I still want to host a morning show in Toronto, but this is now part of a bigger goal to spread my talent—and message—as wide as possible.
Earlier we talked about writing down your goals. Do it again. And again. And several times a day, every day. Do it until you can recite them backwards, in your sleep. And then keep doing it.
You need to be constantly aware of your goals as well as the fact that you haven’t yet completed them. This should be personally inspiring, but it should also be painful. This way, regardless of your approach to life, you have something to seek (accomplishing your goals) and something to avoid (the pain of failing).
Become so focused on accomplishing your goals that doing so becomes part of your subconscious. Every choice you make will serve self-improvement. If you want a shredded body, you will automatically choose healthy food options. You’ll find excuses to be constantly active, instead of the reverse. You’ll never hit the snooze button on your alarm clock because that 6am workout will bring you closer to accomplishing your goal.
But this comes from developing more than moderate interest in self-improvement. How many times have you sabotaged yourself by taking a break? You diet for a week, then cheat. You feel weak for failing.
This is different from the pain we discussed earlier. When you are constantly improving, it creates a snowball effect. You still haven’t accomplished your goal, but everything you do brings you closer to it. You’re motivated. When you decide to eat the cheeseburger you’re not supposed to, your self-sabotage demotivates you. Knowingly making a bad decision makes you more likely to do so again in the future.
Dedicating yourself to personal fulfilment means you will have to make sacrifices. Exercising daily at 6am means you can’t stay out late drinking. It means passing up on plans to be in bed early enough to get quality rest. The pain associated with personal sacrifice is a reward compared to the pain of half-assing your journey and leaving your goals unaccomplished. Conversely, the joy you will experience alongside daily gains, and ultimately personal fulfilment, will more than justify the frustration you feel along the way.
Setting and accomplishing any goal boils down to this:
Be honest with your capacity for greatness and the environment in which you live.
See new information and reframe your goals to align with your values.
Obsess over personal growth so that attaining it permeates your every action.
It’s more than believing in yourself. It’s rewiring your entire system for the express purpose of accomplishing your goals to make Earth a better place for you and your loved ones.
Question: what is a goal you are currently working toward?
“You haven’t worked in radio until you’ve been fired.” That, according to anyone who has worked in radio and been fired. I didn’t understand the significance of the statement until August 2017, when I lost my job.
Nothing was physically any different: I was still blinking and breathing. I didn’t evaporate. There were immediate changes mentally and emotionally, some for the better and many not. I felt free. I also felt lost. It was an opportunity to discover myself.
It can be especially difficult for broadcasters to process job termination because so much of what we do is who we are. But the inverse is also true. It can feel like you have been stripped of your identity and because you have been momentarily deluded into thinking your broadcasting career is over, you think it’s irrevocable. You feel displaced.
You may feel like you’re owed something, but the reality is you aren’t. In fact, maybe your termination was just what you needed. Perhaps you were too comfortable. Or too invested in your job. The latter isn’t to say you shouldn’t be passionate about what you do but rather you had forgotten (or convinced yourself otherwise) that it’s only a job.
And it is a privilege. Many of us have dreamed for years about working in broadcasting. We have put so much of ourselves into starting and maintaining our careers that the borders of who we are and what we do become often muddled and usually erased. The immense emotional and financial sacrifices that have been made can, upon termination, coalesce and make you feel forsaken by the very institution to which you’ve given yourself.
You need to diversify and begin devoting more of your time to other passions. This has the effect of sharing your emotional validation among activities other than radio. It also allows you to garner a secondary income. During a career intermission, this allows you to focus on something other than the job hunt while making enough money to keep you solvent until you secure your next on-air gig. It gives you balance.
There will come a point, regardless of the circumstances of your termination, when you’ll consider the whole affair a hit job. After all, you were the consummate professional! After seeing anecdotally and across social media your former company and colleagues carrying on without you, you’ll feel sadness or anger or both. Everything about their presence will seem contrived. You’ll want to let the world, especially your industry peers and former listeners, know what a legion of horribles they are. You have a right to tell your side of the story!
And you do. But programmers have a right to read your ire and pass on hiring you because of it. The reality is that broadcasters are fired daily for a myriad of reasons. These same programmers have been tasked with termination—they know it’s difficult. But they also know that how a broadcaster deals with the situation is indicative of his or her character. Taking to social media to voice your anger shows a lack of restraint and an inability to properly deal with the inevitability of change that can define the industry.
After my termination, I articulated my emotions, by hand, and stored the document in my desk for future reference. Then, I spoke to a couple of family members and close friends. My wife and I went out for drinks and we developed a plan. I vented. I cried. But I did it within a context and sample of people whereby I received the emotional support and direction I needed. I didn’t thrust my irritation upon the Internet and instead had individual, offline conversations with people who provided help and not judgement.
Check your ego and ask for opportunities to showcase and improve your talent. After five years of full-time on-air experience, I became an unpaid intern. Kid Craig gave me the opportunity to produce audio and video content which, several times a week, was broadcasted and streamed by 102.1 the Edge, one of the biggest radio stations in Toronto. This enabled me to approach programmers with fresh content—I no longer had to rely solely on work from my increasingly distant last job. After a couple months, I was able to leverage my hard work into two weeks of on-air cover at Q107 (thanks to PD Blair Bartrem)—more fresh content for the demo which ultimately landed me my current gig.
Whether you’re currently employed as a broadcaster or between gigs, the goal is to become and remain as connected as possible within the industry, but to realize that radio is only one part of your life. Stay visible—for the right reasons. And understand that you are more than where you work.
If you work in radio, you’ve probably relocated once or twice. My first gig took me 4,000km Northwest to Dawson Creek, BC. It was difficult leaving Toronto because my whole world was there. Granted, my wife (then-girlfriend) was joining me, but what about family, friends? My local hangouts? They were all going to be three time zones away.
I had built my life in Southern Ontario over twenty-two years, and it felt like it was dissolving behind me. Not only did I have the pressures of a new job, I also had to make new friends, explore an unfamiliar area, and try to recreate some semblance of the day-to-day I was used to. I remember meeting a few buddies the week before I left for Dawson Creek and trying to capture every moment: what was eaten, said. I didn’t want to leave any of it behind.
Eighteen months later, I left once again: this time for Dubai. I had finally built up a solid group of friends, had a routine, and, most importantly, knew the Happy Hour specials around town. Leaving for the UAE was doubly hard, because in addition to the difficulties Dawson Creek brought, I was also leaving the cultural comforts of my home country. I wasn’t tasked simply with finding a new apartment, I also had to endure the visa process, obtain a new driver’s license, get a handle on currency exchange rates, and garner an understanding of local laws and customs. Plus, I would no longer be a six-hour plane ride from home; Toronto to Dubai (usually) means two eight-hour flights and a layover.
The nature of broadcasting means people are constantly moving. I lost a lot of good friendships not only because I had to relocate, but because they had to, as well. Friends and co-workers become family, especially when international travel is involved. While some of us bring partners, many of us literally fly solo. We become incredibly dependant on each other and when these people exit our lives, it’s painful. Granted, we can keep in touch online, but outside of rare exceptions, communication tapers off quickly. It’s just… different. It’s the same with people back home: we chat on FaceTime or Skype, see familiar faces and places. But they’re not here, and we’re not there.
In July, I left once more: Dubai for Toronto. The last few days were tough, at first: it was difficult saying goodbye to yet another group of people I would likely never see again. Hugs and handshakes. Final drinks at favourite bars. Then, as I always do, I tried to capture every moment. But instead of dwelling on what would soon be no longer, I focused on what was. The friendships, experiences. I realized that most things aren’t forever, and there’s beauty in that. Sometimes, close relationships graduate to fond memories, and that’s okay. We’re no longer cave people, living our entire lives in single square miles, but travelers of an increasingly shrinking globe.
Try to realize the other half of leaving is arriving. It’ll be uncomfortable at first, but new places hold opportunities to challenge yourself, to grow. Remember the experiences you’ve shared with the people you’ve met, and use these to form the basis of the always-evolving you. Look back and relive the moments you’ve created, but keep your head in the present and experience what’s happening now. You’re about to arrive at a brand new adventure.
When I was in University, a professor told me about The Grind: repeating the same tasks every day for forty years, give or take. You wake up, go to work, and come home. And at some point throughout the week, you clean the sink and buy groceries. Granted, your professional life may be dotted with promotions and other successes, but basically you go in every day until you no longer have to. It can become kind of a drag.
Some people will tell you they work in industries where “every day is a new adventure!” That is horse shit. Brain surgeon seems like a wild, exciting profession, until you realize that’s all it is: brain surgery, every. single. day. Or take what I do: I’m a radio presenter. Live broadcasting must be crazy, right?! All I do is talk into a microphone. Twenty times a day.
A solution to The Grind is focusing on the minutia. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But by concentrating on the particulars of your profession, you begin to hone your craft. Think about the mechanics of what you do: the hundreds of microscopic movements that make up your tasks, like the ticking of a watch.
We make the mistake of trying to improve our overall situations, when we should be drilling down to the singular fragments. Again, consider my profession: I want to become a better radio presenter. I need to refine the way I sit, the volume of my voice, the rhythm of my speech, how I tease new music, and chat with callers, among hundreds of other individual things. The progression of performance will be the sum of many microscopic improvements.
The Grind is more than your career, it’s also a barometer of passion. Whenever we start new projects, we become easily excited. Every new idea is a chance to create something big. But as days become months, the spark diminishes. Eventually, that bright, shiny venture dulls. Remember that workout program lifestyle change you started in January? Three weeks later, you were hanging clothing on your treadmill, and tripping over kettlebells. The Grind is constantly taunting you, waiting for you to fold. Don’t.
Why should people bother listening to you? What are you giving them that they can’t get elsewhere? As a listener, how many times have you thought, “they talked about that on the morning show,” or, “station X just did the same thing”? With some planning and effort, a single piece of prep can produce a unique and entertaining experience.
Telling a good story comes down to forging a path for content, and giving your unique take on it. The Young Turks and InfoWars can tell two wildly different stories from a single news item. While the former may comment on the socioeconomic effects of voter ID laws, the latter could focus on how polling officers are really alien-lizard hybrids. Each outlet explore avenues wildly different from each other, but both own their respective narratives.
How can you make a story yours? By having the conversation no one else is. Take Rihanna’s weight gain, for instance: she’s getting a lot of heat about it. If chatting about her change in appearance is somehow unavoidable, explore alternatives to the standard (and lazy), “would you still date her?” Maybe you or your listener have recently gained some weight: “have you ever put on your favourite pair of jeans and, for some strange reason, you can’t seem to zip them up?” At that moment, we’re all sharing a memory: we’re in front of our mirrors, bit of a belly, violently tugging on our waistbands. See the difference?