Wow, I can’t believe I’ve had the privilege of doing this podcast for 5 years! Today is the 300th episode! Initially, I was going to do a mash-up of my favorite episodes. That is still coming.
Instead, I decided to record an episode on what having a podcast has taught me (not lessons about what guests have taught me).
Consistency is one of my top values and is essential to everything. Consistency compounds over time. Whether it’s the food you’re eating, training or exercise, setting boundaries for kids (and pets!), how you show up in your relationships, and podcasting, it matters. When I first started this podcast, I committed to doing it for 5 years. I know that sounds like a long time and it is, but making a really long term commitment helps me weather periods of low motivation. There have been plenty of times I’ve wanted to quit or say that I just don’t feel like doing the podcast. Making a commitment to yourself and honoring that commitment is a muscle. From my newsletter to this podcast, people have suggested that it’s okay if I take time off if I need it because ultimately my listeners or readers won’t mind if I need to take time off. The thing is that I would know that I backslid on my commitment. Commitments and consistency for me are internally driven. There are different tendencies for motivation. If you didn’t listen to my podcast with Gretchen Rubin and The Four Tendencies, I highly recommend the podcast episode and the book. For some people, consistency may be easier to achieve if it’s supported by external accountability. Seeing the output of consistency and the reward of consistency also helps motivation. A surprising thing about the podcast is that it has been an astromonical amount of work- a lot more work than I thought! Also, from day 1 I hired Roma to help me with the audio engineering and created a part time position after a couple of years to help with things like uploading the show, helping me create digital assets, and show notes for some of the episodes (shout out Rebecca!). Most of the time, the podcast is well-planned and I’m usually a couple weeks ahead of publishing. There has been the odd time where I had to put out a show the same week as a recording because I didn’t have a backlog. It’s stressful, but it has always come together. You get to 5 years as a podcaster (or as I mentioned before, in just about anything), by staying consistent. Consistency and hard work are interrelated and often have meaningful outcomes. Initially I wanted to say “successful outcomes” but success can be defined in a number of ways and the bar for success keeps moving.
There is No End Point
There is no end point when it comes to a podcast! I could have said I am stopping at 5 years, but my initial commitment was to see how it goes for 5 years and then reassess. When you love the work and the process, you don’t think about the endpoint as much. You don’t think, “I’ll be happy when I get to 5 years so I can stop” or “I’ll be happy when I’m done” because it’s an ongoing process. The purpose is the attempt at mastery. When I was naming this show, mastery was a word I wanted to use in the title. For a few reasons, we went with “The Sonya Looney Show.” I have considered changing the name of the podcast to take my name out of it. I don’t have any other time-based goals moving forward (I’m not committing to another 5 years), but I personally get so much value and fulfillment doing this show that I’ll continue doing it until I no longer get that added meaning to my life. It’s not about trying to make it to the top of the charts, becoming a famous podcaster, making money (although any or all would be welcome). For me, I do it because I love it and it’s part of my calling to help people find their best. When you love work for the sake of the work itself, there is no end point, just more data points on a meandering trajectory.
Metrics Don’t Matter As Much
I used to check my metrics and now? I might look once a month. It might sound like it’s a bad idea and I should be trying to find hacks to get more listeners or do more episodes like the top episodes. While getting top downloads or seeing tons of growth is very motivating, it’s a secondary or tertiary objective. My primary objective is to create interesting episodes by learning as much as I can from the guest, and then having a conversation that sparks curiosity and maybe even meaningful changes in others’ lives. I can do that whether I have 1,000 downloads or 1 million downloads. I’m not saying I don’t care about metrics- the more people that listen is more positive change, but that number will always be a moving target. I like that you can’t see the number of downloads on other shows and that it takes an effort for me to find it. In fact, on Instagram, I turned off all metrics- I can’t see likes on other peoples’ posts or my own because it just doesn’t matter. It’s easy to get trapped in either getting my ego involved (lots of likes = I’m validated and I matter) versus not as many likes as I think I should be getting (I’m losing relevance) all while comparing to what I would see on others’ posts. Metrics matter in certain specific instances, but again, it goes back to doing the work for the original reason you started. In sports, an example would be getting too caught up in trying to get a result or trying to get to a certain outcome and then losing the fun of it which is why you started in the first place. Purpose first, metrics second (or third!).
I heard a Haitian proverb the other day- beyond mountains there are more mountains.
Podcasting has been an amazing catalyst for education. Love of learning is one of my strengths and getting to exercise it in the podcast feels deeply fulfilling.
My podcast is a weekly show. That means I’m always looking for new topics and guests. I frequently get asked how I have come up with ideas for 5 years. It comes from paying attention to conversations I’m having, conversations I’m listening to, and constantly improving my education. Fortunately, the podcast covers a lot of personal interests so it’s not a chore to come up with something new. I will say that one of the bigger challenges is covering similar topics over and over. The thing I’ve learned is I can have 3 guests who are all experts in the same area and they can basically say the same things, but they way we interpret their message and how they convey it can land in different ways.
How to Listen
Podcasting has really helped me improve my listening and conversation skills. I actually realized after I did my health coaching certificate that a lot of skills use din health coaching are also used in podcasting. Active listening is a skill where you listen to the person talking, understand what they are saying, reflect back to them what they said, and then remember that information for a later date. Podcasting isn’t about hearing myself talk, but helping others bloom more into their story or information they are trying to share with the world. Having a platform to support other people where everyone wins (the guest wins because they get to share what they are doing, and both you, the listener, and I win because we get to learn) is rewarding. I also personally love audio and love podcasts. I learn really well when I’m in motion like walking or riding my bike when I listen to a podcast. Listening is also something that requires patience. You can feel the urge to talk bubble up in your body and learning to control the urge helps everywhere in my life.
Reaching Out, Rejection and Impostor Syndrome
There’s always a little bit of impostor syndrome. I’ve reached out to some guests and been happily surprised they want to come on the show. I’ve also learned that the more I revere the guest, the more I tend to over-prepare for the podcast. Being over-prepared is actually not a good thing because I’m a little too versed in the topic. I over-prepare because I want to ask unique questions. I also have noticed myself wanting someone I’m interviewing to like me and wanting to be their friend. When you try too hard, you don’t show up as your best self. (Like when you try too hard on a technical descent, you ride worse). It takes courage to relax and be yourself.
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