101

It’s a small thing, and it was really really difficult. But I did it.

Instead of sticking to my “publish on Wednesday’s at 10am”… like I did for the first 100 episodes. 101 was published Tuesday around 7pm. I know that sounds dumb—but I’m not be sarcastic or hyperbolic. Over the years I’ve gotten really adamant about that publication day-of-the-week and time-of-the-day. Sure we weren’t able to do one every week… but I kept trying to keep things neat and tidy. “Wednesdays at 10am” was that one little bit of structure.

But really, who cares. Any structure you’re clinging to?

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Faith

The first thing you need to know is that individuals have far more power than ever before in history. […] The second thing you need to know is that the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who changes things is this: Lack of faith. Faith that you can do it. Faith that it’s worth doing. Faith that failure won’t destroy you.

~ Seth Godin from Tribes

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I continue to enjoy the Movers Mindset project for many reasons. In recent months, I’ve been stepping back from the body of work and I keep having the same thought: I think this is really great, but I feel there should be something more useful as a result of all the work. (Useful specifically for me, I mean.) I’m convinced that there are lessons that I’ve missed, or not managed to hold onto; Insights that can only be seen from a perspective that is not within one particular conversation.

So I’ve been tinkering on creating, well, something. I don’t know what it is yet, or how to describe it either. But I have faith that it’s worth trying to create something which enables something new to be extracted from all the conversations I’ve captured.

Some days, I have far more questions than answers to share.

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World class or bust

Gillard had a very simple ethos: “If your stuff isn’t world-class, you’re not going to make it”.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2021/03/19/world-class-or-bust/

The other day I was in a Zoom break-out room with a few other podcasters. I was talking about how for 2021 I’m focusing on doing in-person interviews. How being a slave to a weekly schedule was (is, would continue to be,) putting pressure on creating podcast episodes. Most podcasters—well, every single one that I know of, but there must be some out there who aren’t, so I’m writing “most”… Most podcasters are willing to (happy to?) record virtually as that enables them to stay on their weekly production schedules.

Aside: Everyone believes that regular production is critical for podcast success. I disagree. “What’s one important truth that most people would disagree with you about?” is a good question, and this is currently the best answer that I have.

There are millions of podcast shows and many more millions of episodes. I don’t want to make a single episode of Movers Mindset unless it has some particular value or is special in some way; The human race doesn’t need simply, “one more podcast episode.” I believe that in-person, with the right guest, and with me doing my best work I can co-create something of value to humanity.

And “do it every week” doesn’t figure into that formula at all.

The idea of trying to do something at a world-class-or-bust level is a fairly new one for me. I have lots of hobbies and mostly I don’t care about being world class. But I do care about the Movers Mindset podcast being world class.

Do you have anything you’re intentionally pushing to that level?

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Enabling possibility

I feel my title’s use of “enabling” rather than the more common [that I’ve seen] “creating” is important. (Of course, I don’t craft the titles with reckless abandon; There’d be far more, “Wordy werds” and “Completely different” type titles.) But in the past couple weeks I’ve been focused on the distinction between “to create” and “to enable.”

I’ve been sprinkling a Lonely Hearts-inspired call in a few different places as I think it’s time to bring a writer onto the Movers Mindset team. Each time I post it somewhere, it kicks off one or two conversations with someone. Each of those little conversations gives me a chance to refine how I convey my vision for this new role. (As a certain reader would say, how I convey my intention—hi Angie!)

The first thing I realized is that what I am bringing to this potential new relationship is the resources—the raw material that the team has amassed. I don’t in fact know exactly what the new person would be creating. My intention is to enable someone to create something (some things?) from that raw material. I’m not creating the possibility—it’s there already. My hope is to enable that possibility to come to fruition.

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Microphones and the human voice

This is a well written article about the human voice, and how microphones really work in terms of capturing it. Even if you read this and plan to forget everything—you’ll come out *way* ahead when recording your and your guests’ voices.

https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/facts-about-speech-intelligibility

It’s full of insightful information, about the human voice:

…the voice chances spectrum in almost any other position than when we approach the speaking person with our ear – or microphone. Each position on the head or the chest has its’ own sound color – or timbre. For instance, the spectrum of speech recorded on the chest of a person normally lacks frequencies in the important range of 2-4 kHz. This results in reduced speech intelligibility. If the microphone does not compensate for this you should make corrections with an equalizer.

Important frequencies:

The important frequencies in non-tonal (Western) languages are illustrated by the diagram below. Here, the frequency band around 2 kHz is the most important frequency range regarding perceived intelligibility. Most consonants are found in this frequency band.

…and about what affects intelligibility in a reproduction of the voice:

A lot of research has been carried out in this area. In general, the results demonstrate that:

1. Optimum speech level is constant when background noise level is lower than 40 dB(A)
2. Optimum speech level appears to be the level that maintains around 15 dB(A) of S/N ratio when the background noise level is more than 40 dB(A)
3. Listening difficulty increases as speech level increases under the condition where S/N ratio is good enough to keep intelligibility near perfect

Furthermore, the 1-4 kHz frequency range should be “kept clear”. When, for instance, adding music as background for narration, a parametric equalizer cutting the music 5-10 dB in this frequency range will improve intelligibility.

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Nothing Fails Like Success

There are internet companies (like Basecamp, or like Automattic, makers of WordPress.com, where I work) that charge money for their products and services, and use that money to grow their business. I wish more internet companies could follow that model, but it’s hard to retrofit a legitimate business model to a product that started its life as free.

~ Jeffrey Zeldman from, https://alistapart.com/article/nothing-fails-like-success/

ahahahahahahahahhahaahahhaaa! Sometimes I like to share stuff just because it makes me happy. (The stuff; not the sharing of said stuff, I mean.) I regularly talk about how this web site is a vehicle for my reflection—I’m quite often literally thinking through things. Writing, (tappity-tap-tapping on the keyboard here,) and writing, (scratchity-scritch-skratching with a pen on paper,) are two of the ways I figure out if the dross I regularly find in my head actually corresponds to reality.

When I read sentences like the ones I quoted above, I leap (sometimes literally) to my feet knocking over my chair in the process. It does my weary—deeply deeply weary it be—heart good just to read sentences like this. And I hope—not in the sense that I little value your ability to think and “hope” you’ll finally get what I’m saying; no. I only hope that sometimes, some of the things I share make you happier.

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Listening to comprehend

When you’re in a job interview, a podcast interview, a sales call, a meeting… if we take the approach that this is a test and there’s a right answer, we’re not actually engaging and moving things forward.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2018/08/ignore-the-questions/

In a podcast conversation, if a guest slips into this-is-a-test mode, things get awkward. If I ask, “what’s something people get wrong about you,” the guest will think I’m looking for dirt, and that I want something they’d not want to share. Or worse, they wonder if I already know something, and that I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of conversations I’m interested in sharing are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting, and which are respectful of the subject. So it’s important to create the environment where the guest naturally treats questions as prompts. It turns out that this is easy to do.

If I honestly want the good sort of conversations, then my actions follow automatically. I share things about myself and doing so invites the other person to share. I take things seriously which conveys that I value the interaction and what I’m hearing. I express my interest directly by asking interesting questions; questions which show the other person I’m generally curious. Overall, I demonstrate that I’m listening because I’m interested, rather than because I want to do something with what I’m about to hear.

I’m listening to comprehend; not listening to respond.

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Performing with a safety net

When recording conversations for the Movers Mindset podcast the guests know I’m not going to edit what they say to change their meaning. They know I’m bringing journalistic integrity to the conversation. (I’m not doing strict journalism, but that feature of journalism is present.) I do my best to set up the correct space (physical, emotional and mental,) so that we can co-create the best conversation possible. I’m not digging for dirt, creating tension, nor trying to create any other saccharine artifice. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are performing for an audience. The final necessary piece to facilitating a great conversation is a safety net.

Each conversation… each performance is better if we can reach just a bit farther than we might normally be comfortable doing. That’s why I bring a safety net. I very clearly give the guest a safe word which they can incant at any time to take back what they’ve said.

I don’t include the guest in the post-production process. They’re not invited to review the material, or to give additional thoughts about what to keep or what to cut. In fact, the only people who have time to do that, are wanna-be cooks, who will only mess up the soup if I let them in my kitchen. Instead, I and my team do all the post-production difficult work which is in fact our responsibility. The guest already did the really hard work of being themselves on-mic.

I do also say, “take your time— silence is free and we can easily trim out 30 seconds of you thinking before you speak.” I’ve also a few other little coaching tidbits I share to prep them for being recorded. But it’s the safety net which makes them feel comfortable trying something they might otherwise hesitate about. Part of the magic of a great conversation is how it develops organically, and without the safety net most people dial their caution up a few notches to be safe. With a safety net, most people are delighted to take a leap to see what they can do.

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Some thoughts on file organization

Within the team that creates the Movers Mindset podcast, we assign numbers to our projects. We use “R42” for our 42nd recording project, then R43, and so on. This enables us to start naming things from day one, in a way that we don’t have to change later. If you’re putting your files in a folder, what would you name it, that you could be sure wouldn’t change?

We also use our podcast’s initials on file names, “MM.” When we see files whose name contains, MM-R42… we know what it belongs too. It’s part of the Recording-42 project for Movers Mindset.

We also exclusively use people’s family names on files. So a raw WAV file from an interview is 20200423-MM-SMITH-TR1.wav … April 23, 2020 recording for Movers Mindset, of someone named “Smith”, and this is track one [a recording from one microphone.] 20200423-MM-SMITH-TR2.wav is track two, and so on. No matter where you toss that file, it’s going to make sense.

Eventually, a recording project might lead to one (or more!) episodes of our podcast. They get assigned episode numbers, EP56, EP57, etc. Then we have filenames like MM-EP57… and it’s always clear what that is.

Sometimes we have a dozen files to keep track of in a podcast episode and we end up with
20200423-MM-SMITH-TR1.wav
20200423-MM-SMITH-TR2.wav
MM-EP56-INTRO.wav (introduction recorded after interview)
MM-EP56-OUTRO.wav (outro recorded in post production)
MM-GCORD.wav (a little music ‘button’ used when joining bits of interview)
…the final episode is then MM-EP56-SMITH.mp3

Since I’ve typed this much, here’s another thing we do: We use consistently numbered folders to store the files. Every project has a folder, 2020.04.23 Bob Smith R42/EP56 — we create 2020.04.23 Bob Smith R42 in our archives when we do the raw recording, and at the very end we add the /EP56 to make it easier to find things. In side each project we create five folders 1 assets, 2 recording, 3 episode, 4 publication, and 5 social — the leading number ensure they sort in nice order in various displays. 1 contains anything the guest gives us (photos, writing) or any photos we take during recording. 2 is the raw original recordings, 3 is everything to make a podcast episode (intro, outro, whatever we have to assemble, AND the finished MP3), 4 is anything we create as part of publishing the episode (transcript, articles, highlights ) and 5 is anything that’s ok for social media and sharing. And then we have a multi-terabyte file server with a “few” files on it:

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Self-esteem box

Today, two thoughts popped into my head in rapid suggestion: “Self-esteem box,” and “I’ve never pull-quoted Movers Mindset.”

Brandee Laird

Craig: So for me it’s I know if I go for a walk that’s almost, not always, almost always enough to make it so I can go back into the cave of ugliness and get back to work kind of thing. So what are some things that will help you turn that corner, brighten you up or energize you?

Brandee: Yeah, that’s a great question, because I do get very dark moods pretty often actually, because with compassion comes the pain of caring so much about all these people and all this situation, it feels very futile a lot of times, like what can I do to change this. Yeah, I get there and I have a few tactics, I basically build protocols for myself for when I get in those moods. So one of the first things I go to is my self-esteem box.

Craig: This sounds like a good idea.

Brandee: And my self-esteem box is digital, it’s a digital self-esteem box and what I have done, is I have taken screenshots and copy/pasted and just dumped in all kinds of nice things that people have said, either to me or about me over the years.

So I have this file that is just full of gratitude and compliments and just stuff that I have had to read over and over and over in order to actually believe it. So that’s actually more like last resort is the self-esteem box. If nothing else works, open the self-esteem box, look through here.

Craig: In case of emergency, break glass, right?

Brandee: Totally. Totally. So that’s something I think everyone could and should do that. I guess I’ve never really told anyone about that. But it’s a nice thing.

Craig: I think that’s a really good tactic. People talk about doing gratitude journaling, but the gratitude journaling. I mean, I know that you know what it is, but gratitude journaling is a process which you have to execute on the spot when you feel like you’re having a bad mood. But the idea of having a self-esteem box is a clever one.

Brandee: Why, thank you.

~ Brandee Laird from 46’30”, https://moversmindset.com/72

I think these two thoughts popped into my head as the photo-frame on my wall changed. One of the smartest things I’ve ever done is set up a digital photo-frame. I email it photos of things—you know, all those digital photos you never do anything with. :)

Anyway. I love love LOVE my photo-frame. It’s chock full of hundreds of great photos. It’s not quite a self-esteem box. But it generally has the same effect. Every single time I glance at it it makes me smile.

Meanwhile, ever since I had that conversation with Brandee, (in September 2019,) I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a self-esteem box. I’m not quite sure where to put it [digitally] though; Also, I really do not need to make up yet another system for myself for organizing and storing things.

But the idea keeps calling to me.

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