Keeping My Chin Up

I feel a sense of guilt that I don’t miss working in episodes of my podcast. The Chin-Up Podcast was short-lived, lasting around four months, I only published 15 episodes, all but one involving an interview with a guest who somehow employed physical activity to manage emotions or psychological issues. I enjoyed the interviews once the initial few minutes of introductions were underway during the scheduled call, but in all honesty, I’d get so nervous beforehand that there was really only one call I can remember not dreading. I think the conversations were good for my social skills and confidence and it felt rewarding to connect with other people and discuss meaningful topics with substance rather than shallow fluff. I made some new friendships and strengthened others and worked on my listening and conversational skills. In these ways, the podcast project was certainly successful in my personal goals with it and its benefits are long-lasting instead of exclusively confined to the podcast work. I now feel more confident and capable when talking with other people and feel practiced in the art of making others feel comfortable being authentic, raw, and open. It was fun to collaborate with Ben and watch his editing, musical, and recording expertise in action in a tangible way.

While the public reception of The Chin-Up Podcast was underwhelming in terms of my aspirations, it brought to light two interesting lessons for me. The first is that it’s always most important to make sure the reasons you do recreational things are personally meaningful so that even in the absence of significant public acceptance or reaction, you, the creator, enjoyed the process or found it meaningful. If you’re only doing something that’s supposed to be fun for the consumption of others and with expectations of their enthusiasm for it matching yours, you are likely setting yourself up for disappointment or failure, unless you’re doing a lot of market research and specifically tailoring your project or product to the evidence-based determined needs. Fortunately, in my case, my priorities with The Chin-Up Podcast always put my personal intended benefits in the forefront, as selfish as that may seem. I knew that I would be unable to control the reaction or reception of others, and it’s not like I solicited the advice from anyone about what they wanted to hear in a podcast. I chose a topic and format that I would enjoy in a vacuum, without the need of others appreciating my work for it to be valuable to me. Since this was my hunch going into an artistic project and thus I planned accordingly, this was less of a lesson “learned” than one confirmed. What I did learn, the second lesson, was that at least for me, I can try to set no expectations involving other people (in this case, the public response to my podcast), but some degree of expectation seems to still exist. As I launched my project, I felt like I didn’t care too much about how many downloads or subscribers I would get for my show. It’s true that my priority was my own personal growth anticipated to be achievable through engaging in such a project, with the secondary hope that I would enjoy the work.

With that said, I found that I still cared about the number of downloads I got and more importantly, the frequency of receiving affirming messages from listeners that the podcast spoke to them or they enjoyed an episode for one reason or another. As embarrassed as I am to admit it because it makes me feel shallow, these forms of external validation were important to me. I felt confident and like I was doing something meaningful when people would send me messages that an episode made them feel less alone or that they learned something valuable. I felt like my effort was more worthwhile than just practicing social skills when the number of downloads increased and people seemed to derive meaning or pleasure from my “product.” I went into the project thinking I wouldn’t care about these metrics because I felt committed to my goals of personal growth, but somewhere in me, these rather normal human thoughts (I think) still existed in some way. As my experience and skills grew with each successive episode, the law of diminishing returns absolutely came into play on the personal growth side of goals. I attained and improved my social skills and confidence, which then just left the goal of fun and enjoyment. I didn’t find the process to be much fun, though I derived pride from each finished episode. In the end, this was not enough to make me want to continue. I started looking at the metrics and wanting to receive signs of external validation that it was helping others to supplement the motivation to continue. These proved to be minimal at best and thus, I decided to cease the project.

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