Putting in the Reps: A Love Letter to Podcasting & Practice

This week, I celebrated both the release of my book and the 400th episode of my podcast. It’s been a big week.

Just about seven years ago, my production team at CreativeLive and I launched this little podcast baby out in the world. For the first 120 or so episodes, we produced the show together under the name Profit. Power. Pursuit. In May 2017, we renamed the show What Works and started producing it with the crackerjack team that used to be in-house, but is now known as YellowHouse.Media.

I’ve learned a lot about interviewing, storytelling, and audio production since then! I learned more about who I want to talk to and what topics I want to cover.

The show today is an extension of our original vision.

While much has changed about the show, including the name, what hasn’t changed is my deep desire to think critically and creatively about the ways we work today.

The What Works podcast has been and remains the body of work that I am most proud of. Those early episodes were rough. And if I listened back to them, I’m quite sure I’d need a stiff drink. Luckily, podcast feeds are limited to 300 episodes.

But I’m the podcaster I am today because I made those 399 episodes. I fumbled some interview questions and absolutely nailed others. I backed down from some sticky subjects and tackled others head-on. I’ve lost focus and regained it. I’ve gotten way behind and way ahead.

I remind all of the podcasters I work with today that they can’t compare my 347th episode to their 30th. Yes, they benefit from what my team and I have learned over the years but that pales in comparison to putting in the reps.

And that is the most important lesson making this podcast has taught me: the value of practice.

I started my journey to self-employment back in 2008, shortly after my daughter was born. I’ve called myself many things since then: blogger, web designer, marketing consultant, business coach, and community builder. There was a time when I insisted that my only title was CEO because my day-to-day work didn’t look like business coaching, consulting, or even community building.

Today, I’m back to calling myself what I do: I’m a writer, podcaster, and producer.

For what it’s worth, these titles don’t feel like mile markers on the path to something else—which is how I’ve felt about all of the titles I’ve held to this point. I’m not a cafe supervisor waiting to become a sales manager waiting to become a general manager. I’m not a business coach on the path to becoming a CEO. And the reason is that writing, podcasting, and producing aren’t mile markers on the path because they are the path.

Writing, podcasting, and producing are practices woven into how I move through the world.

Whatever else I am, I will always be a writer and producer. I will always yearn to make sense of the world around me in words. I will always find ways to package up those words and turn them into ideas and art others can engage with. And I choose to walk that path every single day.

Podcasting was the first medium in which I really came to understand what it means to have a practice. When my main activity was blogging, I urgently focused on getting the next post out—originally, three times a day. That’s how us maker-and-design bloggers rolled back then. When I was coaching, I could never quite establish a rhythm for myself.

But podcasting has a steady cadence—sustainable pace.

When I first started podcasting, I batch-recorded 10-12 episodes over two days out in our Seattle studio. Then, each episode would drip out week by week. Every other month or so, I flew back out to the West Coast to do it all over again. I wasn’t adept at pacing yet, but even then I could lean into that 60 to 90-day cycle. After a winter storm got between me and the Space Needle, I started recording the show at home. At first, I stuck with the every-other-month pace. But that didn’t last long.

I started scheduling interviews whenever they fit my guests’ schedules. At that point, I began to sink into the weekly rhythm of producing the show. Within this new pacing and with the benefit of my practice, I discovered that I could experiment with new ideas and techniques: more thoughtful intros and outros, better ads, and stronger frameworks for interviews. Eventually, I discovered steady pacing created the space to try more sophisticated techniques —work that’s really come to fruition over the last 50 or so episodes.

Today, the podcasters we work with at YellowHouse.Media are often shocked by how relentless the practice of podcasting can be. Interviewing is a strange beast—you barely talk but somehow it’s exhausting and you’re never quite sure if you’ve done enough research or if your questions will get you what you want from your guest. The schedule is unabating—releasing content on the same day of the week two or four times a month is more structure than many hosts have ever given to their content creation. And promoting a podcast can be a pretty thankless job!

What I remind them—and you—is that practice is the key to overcoming all of the challenges of podcasting. Simple processes and routines to begin with lead to the space to play later on. The goal isn’t to start a podcast sounding like you’ve already produced 400 episodes over seven years. The goal is to do just enough that you’re proud of what you’re doing—and can do it again next week, and the week after that.

Of course, that’s true for any endeavor that requires practice—which is most of them.

There was a time when the idea of a practice or practicing was anathema to me. If I couldn’t do it up to my expectations the first or second time out, well, I just wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t interested in skill-building, process, or maintenance. I didn’t want to run drills or do conditioning—just put me in the game, coach.

Podcasting changed that for me.

Podcasting helped me to find satisfaction in practice and consistency.

Producing What Works introduced me to the pleasure of doing the same thing over and over again—and discovering something new every time.

I don’t know what the 500th episode of What Works will sound like. But I know how I’ll get there. I’ll keep up with my practice and stay curious about what I learn.

Want to learn more about how practice has helped me grow personally and professionally?

Check out this excerpt from my new book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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