Over 100 Episodes Later, and The Journey Continues

It all starts with an idea.  A friend approaches you about doing a podcast.  You agree, wondering if you really have anything valuable to add to the content.  The two of you hash out the idea a little and decide to go for it.  So thus John White and I came up with our signature intro for the Nerd Journey podcast.

Ultimately, we’re just two nerds on a journey…

A journey to virtual enlightenment.

So let’s take a trip!

Time flashes by, and you realize you just hit Episode 100.  Though we did share many lessons learned in that episode, I’d like to take a minute to expound upon what the experience has taught me.

It’s been 3 years since the trip began and two years, 5 months since launch.  From career snipers to accomplished public speakers, gamers to HR experts, community builders to community managers, expert communicators to career architects, front line managers to executive leaders, emotional debuggers to Marketing masters, interview ninjas to burnout survivors, CNC machinists to VCPs, the business minded to business owners, through unexpected twists and turns…over twenty-five different guests have shared their stories with us.

Imagine taking classes in your spare time on topics that in a lot of ways are outside your day job.  I bet you would learn to flex (or at least strengthen) some different muscles.  Indeed I have, but I am certainly not a jedi yet.

In the beginning I was afraid of saying something that sounded dumb on the air (still doubting my ability to add a lot to the show), but I knew the overall intent was to be helpful to others.  As we started to get into a routine of plan, record, show notes, edit, release I started getting ideas.  In fact, John and I would have entire conversations where we went back and forth listing off new ideas for things we could cover (which sometimes kept us from focusing on the task at hand).  Something we were doing seemed to generate the next idea automatically.  And as I would lurk on Twitter and LinkedIn I started paying more attention.  It’s not that I was ignoring other people before, but I began to watch and observe them in a different way.

Listening for Stories

It’s like I started listening for stories.  This person took a new job.  This person was laid off.  This person made a really interesting career pivot.  This person suddenly got really specialized in technology XYZ.  I began to wonder what they thought and how they felt in those situations and the reasons behind their decisions.  What could we (and thus our listeners) learn from that?  What advice would that person have for someone in the same situation?  It’s about the advice we wish we had been given earlier in our careers, so John and I really are learning from every single guest and from each other.

What I found was pretty amazing.  When I would approach someone about being on the show, I don’t think I have heard a flat out no yet.  We let potential guests know why we approached them, what we think they have to share (if willing), and that we want to make them look good.  We have a plan for what we want to capture when we hit record, and sometimes we end up with something completely different than we thought (but in a good way).

Sometimes during the interviews I would wonder to myself if it was making sense, if it was flowing, if this is what we really wanted from the conversation.  But every time I would listen back while making the show notes (yes, show notes are my thing) for our episodes, I would realize it happened in a logical way that produced some good content.  And even when I go back and listen to a past episode I catch something I didn’t remember being there the last time I heard it.

Building a Show

Interviews are only one aspect of the show.  Many times John and I have an idea for things we would like to share on an episode with just the two of us.  From one standpoint it is great to have a co-host to riff back and forth with during discussion, but you also need to make sure you contribute something helpful to the discussion.  So if I’m proposing an idea, the next step is working on some type of outline that teases out the idea.  For me, I hate everything being scripted because…it sounds scripted.  But, I can’t be so confident to just ad lib for an entire topic and expect to get a good 10 – 20 minutes of dialogue out of it.  So I end up landing somewhere in the middle.  I like to create some bullet points that will give just enough to expound on a point so that it sounds natural.  And when you have a co-host, you are bound to get an idea that was never listed in the outline while your co-host is making a point.  It keeps the conversation dynamic, which makes it more exciting for the hosts doing the show and thus more interesting to those listening.

In fact, this idea of being dynamic goes back to my math teaching days.  We had to make lesson plans for the week, but the meat of each lesson wasn’t set in stone.  In fact, it was dynamic enough that the lesson could take a completely different form for each class depending on the best way to get the point across.  I had the option at game time to completely audible and change up the script while still working within a given framework (give them enough so that the concepts are understandable and homework problems are achievable based on what we went over together in class).  So when I find myself putting too many words in the show outline, I start to remove some.  And even if the segment is shorter because it was less scripted, there’s more energy and more excitement coming through to the listener.

By the way, we’ve stated that this is a hobby for us, and it absolutely is.  A creative endeavor like having a podcast isn’t something one can usually walk into cold or something to try without being well rested.  There have been days when we recorded on which I could tell I was not as mentally sharp as on other days.  And if you listen closely, you can probably tell I had trouble getting the things I wanted to say hashed out properly before they were uttered (despite my normal coffee consumption).

Getting to Production

Only part of the work happens during the plan and record phase.  It’s not as simple as click publish.  After we record, it’s time to take another pass.  This time I’m listening for mess ups, funny bloopers (things that could be stingers), distracting background noise, and any squirrel chasing that took us too far away from the main discussion.  I try to add links to anything we reference that is a book, article, another podcast, or a concept with with others might not be familiar, inserting time codes to make the editing easier for John.  For interviews, I try to break the discussion into sections so we can chunk into episodes from there (and cut between episodes at a logical place).

There’s also a time sensitivity to the process.  If I don’t get show notes to John with time to spare, it could delay an episode’s release date.  We try to keep enough previous recordings in the bank so that we’re not taking it down to the wire, but sometimes it happens.  If we could always have 4-5 episodes in the can that have notes and full edits, it would be awesome.  But that also gives us a reason to skip our weekly routine of plan, record, do notes, edit now doesn’t it?

There’s another thing…accountability.  We have to hold each other accountable for working on the show every single week.  And when one of us has a busier schedule, the other picks up the slack.

Our Guests So Far

If you’re interested in hearing the nuggets of wisdom our guests have shared, here’s the master list as of this posting.  Each name is a link to the first episode in their series.  Each of these people was kind enough to spend some time with us answering a bunch of questions about career for a couple of hours.  To each person on this list, thank you.  Thank you for letting us learn from you and for sharing your story with the greater community.

Why the Journey Continues

People think when I plug the John White School of Mentoring that it is some kind of a joke.  School started the day I agreed to take the trip with my friend, and class is in session every time we put together a show and record it.  And if you ever wonder why we do this, it’s to gain the knowledge we wish we had years ago and to make sure others not so different than us can learn something from it.  I think we can learn something from anyone.  So if you’re reading this and you learned something from an episode of the show that will help your career, that makes me happy.

There’s only one fitting way to close this post.  In the words of John White,

Farewell, readers.  Tune in next time as the journey continues!

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