Practice practice practice

Depending on your own personal history, there isn’t necessarily a lot at stake in how you conduct yourself at a cash register. What I’m trying to get at with my idiosyncratic cashier-focused story is this: there’s a vast difference between the habit of getting by, and the habit of getting better, and you may, without realizing it, be free to choose between them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/02/getting-by-and-getting-better/

I’ve not gone down the exact same rabbit hole as Cain. However, being intentional with my work on the podcast interviews is amazing—it’s the same iterative path of discovery as he’s describing.

I’ve done well over 100 interviews—indoors, outdoors, quiet spaces, noisy spaces, while healthy, while sick-ish, with shy people, with insanely energetic people, during the day, at night, across sunsets with natural light, English-speakers and English-as-second-language speakers, old-ish, young-ish, men, women, couples, teams, while working alone and with an assistant, sleep-deprived and well-rested, with the occasional tech problem, in comfy chairs with tea, in an unpadded folding chair for 12 interviews in a row, well-fed and ravenous, . . .

None of that matters.

The conversations are always amazing. Time after time, once we get into the flow state, it turns out that people are interesting— most of the time surprisingly interesting. The more I work at this, the more I’m coming to believe that the art of communication, and in particular conversation, is the single most important skill for a human to possess.

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Big changes for 2020

For the past 5 years, I’ve been passionately working on a project called Movers Mindset. I’ve been particular about keeping it separate from “me”—in the sense that I would think, “is this idea something I want to put into Movers Mindset or on my blog?” (It sounds weird, I know—why didn’t you tell me years ago?) This led me to wind up with multiple “outlets”; this blog, public Movers Mindset web site and the Forum. As part of my continued efforts to simplify, we’ve taken down the Movers Mindset public web site.

* We didnt literally turn it off, but it’s just a static page about the project, and it powers the technology to make the podcast work. There’ll be nothing new posted there, and everything that was there will slowly appear in the Forum.

The entire Movers Mindset project grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. The project started late in 2015, under a different name, and it was initially simply a web site that shared others’ writing. The project grew, and in 2017 I started a companion podcast involving a team of people. In 2019 I created the Movers Mindset Forum. I’ve worked extremely hard, but none of this would have been possible without so much help from so many people.

The Movers Mindset Forum

Everything Movers Mindset does, everything we create, all the people who work on the project for fair pay—  Everything is made possible by people who value what we create and support our work by joining the Forum.

If you’re already a Forum member, thank you for your support.

If you do join the forum, you instantly gain access to everything. I hope you will consider supporting our work. To learn more, see  Welcome! Join the Movers Mindset Forum .

A note about “access to everything”: I’ve a tremendous amount of stuff to repost into the Forum. I’ll be chipping away at it, but it will take months as I work through it. If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let me know.

Podcast

The Movers Mindset podcast is available wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Just search for movers mindset and you should be set. You can also find a listing of the podcast episodes in the Movers Mindset Forum. See the topics tagged “podcast “.

The public topics for each episode have only the show summary. Forum members can see the members-only Podcasts category where everything else is actually posted.

Thank you!

I hope you find my blog, the Forum, or the podcast interesting. Please consider sharing if you do.

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Prompts and it’s not a test

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 an interview, 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 suspect I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of interviews I’m interested in creating are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting and 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 interview, 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 nor refute.

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Someone has to be the first guinea pig

(Part 4 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

The story behind episode one is challenging. How much do we want to know? How much do we want to share about the birth of the podcast? That all plays into Episode One. I picked Adam as the first guest because I wanted a guinea pig. I had bought a Zoom recorder and some microphones and cables. There’s a guy who did our audio editing for the first two years, and I had sent him some test audio files just to verify that when I press “Record” it does what we think it does.

I had been training with Adam for years, so I approached him and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a podcast. You want to sit down and have a conversation?” In hindsight, I now realize it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually say, “Okay, I’ll sit down with microphones,” but he was totally up for it. I said, “I need a guinea pig. I’m going to screw it up, and I want you to just be game for a radical F-up.” And, sure enough, now I realize the zeroth rule of podcasting is always press “Record” and then double-check that you’ve actually pressed “Record.” These days we actually have a system, because sometimes it still happens. The person who sits in and listens actually takes notes and uses the time codes from the recorder. So you have to actually look at the recorder, and if the timer isn’t running, we know that I haven’t pressed “Record.”

So, of course, when I sat down to record the podcase with Adam, we started right into it. I had looked at my watch and noted the time when we started, but 13 minutes into it I looked at the recorder and realized the recorder wasn’t recording. I said, “Hey, Adam, remember when I asked if you’d be a guinea pig because I’m going to mess it up? I messed it up. We’re not recording.” So then I pressed “Record” and we started over.

In hindsight, I’m really glad I fell on the sword on the first episode, because it taught me to be humble about when I screw up in a recording. If we’ve gone down the wrong path or I ask a dumb question, I immediately own up to it, like, “Whoa, we screwed this up,” or “You know what, that fire engine went by and screwed up your answer.” It taught me a lesson right out of the gate about being humble about the physical craft part of podcasting, because we really only get one chance. If the take that we get isn’t the greatest … It’s our responsibility to present the guest in their best light, and if there’s something wrong with the take, we need to own up to that. So that was the technical side of the first episode.

Tracy was helping at the time and doing some guest research. We had done a bunch of research on Adam and I had even written out some questions. Looking back now, I realized that writing out all your questions is the right thing to do, although I don’t do it now. But what I should’ve then done is crumpled up the list and thrown it away and gone into the interview with nothing between me and the guest. I had a piece of paper—actually, I think I had my computer. I realize now that, yes, you want to think of the questions, but then you also want to just try and forget them.

I stuck to the script with Adam and it worked out well. Adam is very good at talking and finding a thread, but I really wasn’t helping him very much by providing him with a conversation. That’s one of the things that I realize now is really important for guests, especially some guests who are a little more reticent to talk—not just to have the recording equipment and be able to create the physical space, but to create a conversation between myself and the guest where the guest is interested in continuing to talk.

With Adam, I served him these individual questions tennis-style and then asked a follow-up question or made a comment while he was answering. I pretty much just let him run on his train of thought and then I would present him with the next question. The episode is interesting though. The material is good; it still holds up three years later. But I can hear that it’s just me serving him simple questions. I love listening to it occasionally, because it reminds me of how the way that I craft the story that the narrative in each episode is vastly different, which is just a result of me listening to other people’s podcasts and listening to how people structure them, how the craft works, taking courses, and things like that. So that’s a bit of the technical and a little bit of in front of the mic.

There is a moment in that episode pretty early on where I mention an essay that Adam wrote. I don’t know how we found it, but we had come across this essay on the internet that was actually from Adam’s entrance application for college. I said, “Elsewhere you’ve written about … ” and named a couple of things that were in the essay, and it really made him do a double-take. He said something like, “Wow, you really, really dug at me. I kind of wrote that satirically. I don’t know how you ever found that. I need to go look at my social media to see where I had that online that I had forgotten about.” It was a fun moment where I had caught him off guard and at the time I thought, “Oh, that was interesting.” It took me a while to learn this lesson, but, looking back, I realized that just because I have information that’s interesting or even something a little bit controversial about a guest doesn’t mean I actually want to use that.

I’ve found that it can be hard sometimes if I know too much. You can’t forget something, it’s always going to be in the coloring of your questions. But if I know too much and I say, “Hey, I know about this,” that can really change the tone of the conversation. It can be too big of a gun to bring into the conversation. A lot of times it’s more fun to just know all these things about the guest and then to ask them a leading question to give them the opportunity to bring it up if they want. And then if they choose not to, the conversation just flows where they want.

Sometimes I feel more like I’m trying to create rapids in a river and then see how they whitewater raft down what I’ve created. It’s more like creating opportunities. “Hey, I have a couple of these obstacles and we’d like to roll them into the path. You want to go over this one or do you want to go over that one? Or you can go through the open field.” It took me a long time – maybe 50 interviews – to really figure out what I need to bring in, in terms of knowledge about the guest. 

Sometimes there are things that the audience needs to know about because they’re just so awesome and the guest is just going to be too humble and, I’m like, “I’m sorry we have to talk about this because it’s awesome.” But a lot of the time, the things I know about the guests don’t really need to be brought in. It’s just background that helps me color what we’re talking about. So that first interview really went amazingly well considering how I just leapt into it like, “What could possibly go wrong?” There’s a lot that can go wrong, but it really, really well.

I would say the greatest lesson I learned was having nothing between me and the guest. It took me a while to really learn the lesson to literally not put things between me and the guests because I continued doing that for several episodes, but that was the only interview where I showed up with a script or list of questions. I had an idea about how the whole interview should go and that, in my opinion, does not work. It certainly doesn’t work for the way that I do interviews and the way the podcast works.

You can totally think about how you want it to go, but don’t bring that plan to the actual interview. Don’t attempt to lead the guest to a particular place that you have in mind. That was the takeaway. I didn’t learn it immediately after Episode One, but that lesson is there in that first episode. I would say it’s probably in the first six episodes, because there’s some things that changed with seven – it became a lot more nimble at seven and beyond. I think that’s the biggest takeaway: Don’t go in with a preconceived idea of where the conversation is going to go.

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These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

WebSub or PubSubHubbub

I recently found James Cridland’s article, A Podcast Industry Guide to WebSub, or PubSubHubbub. It’s a good unpack of how the RSS-is-a-pull-service impediment to scaling is solved by creating aggregators that support pushing RSS update notifications.

…how does your podcast player notice that daily podcast is out, without polling the podcast’s RSS feed every minute?

I’ve added a link to Cridland’s article to my Deep Dive About Podcast Feeds.

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Road trip to Dylan’s

(Part 3 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

I met Dylan Johanson in 2013. I went to an ADAPT certification course at Kutztown University run by Parkour Generations, and Dylan came down from upstate New York. He hadn’t really had a chance to train with a lot of other people, so this was the first time that he had had a chance to be in a group of roughly 27 candidates for the course, which was enormous. He was just so happy. He was basically running, jumping or laughing the whole time because he had never found such a large group of people with the same passion.

The first day he was sort of playing the, “I’m old,” card because he was in his late 30s at the time, having started parkour after quitting his previous business life. When he eventually bumped into me, it was like, “hey, fellow oldster!” We just sort of clicked, and we wound up walking from the training spots to where lunch was and back and forth. When I started doing the podcast years later, I was always thinking his story was interesting because of—as he talks about in the podcast—his early “days of the ninja”; He would just pick a straight line through Kingston on a Sunday when everything is closed and run over fences, dogs and all that.

He’s over 3 hours by car from me, but I kept trying to find ways to get up and train with him. I made a couple road trips up to his different iterations of the gym. When I finally got a chance to interview him, it was so fun to sit down with no distractions because normally the people that I hang out with, we’re meeting at events, we’re meeting at parkour gyms and things are crazy. For this interview, it was just this chill opportunity for us to sit at his house and relax.

The story of how I got to the actual pressing of record was that I went to a winter retreat that was held in the Catskills. After the event was over, instead of driving the four hours back to where I live, I just drove 45 minutes across the Hudson River. It’s a fond memory for me because I had the quiet drive-time to myself, and I was driving west into a glorious sunset after a deeply introspective, winter immersion retreat.

I drove across the Hudson, and I went directly to the third incarnation of his gym; The gym that I had not yet been to. Everything just came together. There was an adult birthday party happening that evening at the gym, so when I got there, the place was packed with people and all his instructors. I showed up, dropped my bag and went to play on things. It was like the very beginning, “Hey, Dylan, how are you?” “I’m cool.” …and right into showing each other things to try and challenges. It was this perfect, closed loop back to how we met simply jumping and playing.

Eventually the birthday party ended, they closed the gym down, and I went back to Dylan’s to crash for the night. When I travel for podcasting, everything goes with me in one backpack with the rest of my stuff, and normally I just sleep on the floor with my favorite little air mattress. After dinner, I got upgraded to a futon, and it was a great end to terrific day.

In the morning, we sat around his house chatting. His house has some terrific quiet space where you can really recharge. There’s a lot of wood. It’s very much a home. There’s also Tesla, Dylan’s super-sweet love-hound pitpull, and she’s in the podcast too; You don’t hear her, but we talk about her. We sat in his living room with our feet on his coffee table, drinking coffee out of silly-shaped coffee mugs, and just talking about our ADAPT course and other random stuff. I often say that all the episodes are my favorite, but Dylan’s is one of the first where I realized how much having the chance to spend time with the guests before we do the recording changes everything.

The interviews always show the guests’ personality, and you can really get to know them, but it doesn’t work if I literally just walk up and say, “Okay, you ready?” “Yes.” And then press record. It’s priceless to have spent the day before jumping and playing at the gym, dinner at his home, and all night we’re thinking, “what are we going to talk about tomorrow? A leisurely morning with the dog, coffee, and then when we finally did press record, we were just so ready to talk that his interview just clicks. They just fall out like that. There’s little bits here and there that get cut or some do-overs, but it was just so fun.

His story that he tells in the podcast about making ninja lines through quiet, downtown Kingston… that’s literally who Dylan is. Not that he does that every day, but he is literally the person who runs and jumps and plays. In the episode, he talks about some of his favorite spots in Kingston. After the recording, we threw down the recording gear and drove down to Kingston. We went to some of his favorite spots, just randomly jumped on stuff, playing and enjoying ourselves for hours.

It was a fun session for me because it was just the two of us, and we’re both a little older. Now, he’s way better than me athletically, but to get a chance to once again move with this guy that I enjoy training with so much, and in the spots that are his places where he just kept going, “Oh, you got to try this. Oh, you got to try this.” I never had a moment to get bored, he always had the next place in mind. He’s super energetic and fun to follow around.

I didn’t know Dylan when he had his day job. I only met him after he had quit and started working on parkour as a full-time, “how am I going to turn this into an actual project?” job. Simply put, he was trying to create a community. It was in that timeframe when I met him at the ADAPT course. I started running into him at other events, and when he created his first gym I went up. I made another visit when he opened the second incarnation of his gym. I didn’t go up and train with him when he first started his community, but I’ve known him for that whole time.  Eventually he had created the third gym, and that’s when the random confluence of events created the chance to go up for an interview. As I was driving up I was thinking, “I don’t know anybody who’s opened three gyms.” Like three iterations of the same community gym, and that was why that kind of became a thing in the episode; It was me coming to him at the point where he had now done the third one. That’s why when I ask him for advice, he’s very much like, “Yeah, don’t do it. Don’t open three gyms.”

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These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

Podcasts and good old RSS

Once I started seriously listening to podcasts, I quickly reached the point where there are more podcasts, (entire shows, not just episodes,) than I can possibly keep up with. I’m left with the choice between staying subscribed to podcasts where I want to listen to only some of the episodes, or unsubscribing and knowing that I’m missing some gems.

…and then I remember this is all just RSS.

In my podcast player, (which is Overcast,) I now keep only the shows that are my dedicated favorites; shows that I generally listen to every episode. I moved all the other podcasts into my RSS reader, (which is Reeder.) I even added a bunch of shows which I had completely given up hope of being able to even follow them looking for gems.

This had two huge benefits:

First, it improved my podcast listening experience: Not keeping all of those podcast shows subscribed in my podcast player, means less downloading and less skipping. I don’t like having to wait, so I have everything set to pre-download, and removing a lot of podcasts makes a big difference. But even more important, there’s now much less distraction. When I’m in the mood, (or the time, or the place,) to listen to podcasts, I tend to continue listening by default. I’m more likely to listen “just a bit farther” to see if this episode is going to be good, whereas if I had read the summary I might have skipped it altogether. So my podcast listening experience winds up having far more great episodes because it’s just the shows I love.

Second, it actually leads to me finding more gems: When I open my RSS reader, (as I do every day,) I’m in “skimming mode.” I’m looking for things to queue for later reading. (Pocket and Instapaper for the win.) There’s very little effort for me to skim the episode descriptions, and when I find one that looks good I add it to my podcast player. This does require me to switch apps, search, and then add a specific episode. But this small effort helps ensure that the episode is likely to be one I would really like to listen to.

There’s one detail that is a slight snag: How do you find a podcast’s feed URL? We’re all so used to searching in our podcast player apps, but you need the actual podcast feed URL to add it to your RSS reader. You’ll discover that none of the podcast player apps, and none of the directories, (Stitcher, Google, Apple, etc.,) make it easy to find the shows’ underlying podcast URL. The easiest way to do it is to use the handy search on James Cridland’s, Podnews.net (no relation/benefit to me.) It pulls the show’s information from the directories, and explains all the details about that show’s configuration including a handy RSS link icon that has the URL.

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Seattle and back again

I think I may finally have reached a point where travelling is all-out pleasant. Not the sacharine, “I’m excited to be going on a vacation,” pleasant, but the really core-deep, “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is,” sort of pleasant.

For a long time I’ve been dutifully posting every day. It’s important to me because it involves writing and I’m a firm believer of: If you cannot write clearly, then you don’t think as clearly as you think you do. But as I departed for Seattle, I was simply okay with knowing I wasn’t going to write for a week (or more, as it turns out.)

Mind you, I get stopped by TSA every time. Even now that I’ve registered with the TSA as a known traveler, I still get “pulled aside.” On the way out, they looked for the podcast audio cables. On the way back, they wanted to see my bar of soap. Mind you, they’ve run a background check on me, and fingerprinted me to register as a “known traveler.” But at least I get to go to the speedy line for being pulled aside. And it was still pleasant. So many great things lay ahead and behind during both legs of the trip, that I was just like, “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” And, “yes sir, you’ll find the soap in that little black zipper back, in the black plastic case. It’s shaped liked a bar of soap. #sorrynotsorry about the hair.”

Driving into and out of the Cascade Mountains? Bonkers awesome. (Words fail me in case you cannot tell.)

Spending days with 100 friends old and new? Bonkers awesome.

Rustic cabin, roaring wood stove, food, conversations, 30 interviews with all the event presenters and session leaders, and the massive waves of positive comments and thank-you-s for the entire Movers Mindset project and team? Bonkers awesome.

Seattle AirBNB, coffee, 7 incredible interviews for the podcast, coffee, dinnerS with local friends, coffee, playing in Volunteer Park barefoot in “the tree,” coffee, random organic apples, coffee, more friends, more coffee? Bonkers. Awesome.

Home, then exhausted, then bronchitis and maybe some GI complications from my new friend Lyme Disease? Seriously, still bonkers awesome.

Chilly fall evening, grill going, sunset? Definitely bonkers awesome.

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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Get out of the way

This is why “culture” in business matters. Because it allows people to see whether or not they’re allowed to cut the metaphorical knot.

~ Hugh MacCleod, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2019/08/28/gordian-knot-culture/

I was recently asked, “What’s the hardest part, for you, about podcasting?”

Staying out of the way.

I’ve spent so much of my life diving in and fixing things, that it has become my first instinct. To rush in and grab the controls. To attach a sense of artificial urgency to everything. To become frustrated that others aren’t immediately taking action now that a solution or idea has been found.

Certainly, an important step is to first cultivate a team who can do great work. But once that’s done enough, the hard part for me is staying out of their way.

Many people would say that I value action over thought. This is absolutely not the case. I am driven to find evidence, to investigate, to look for previous examples of similar solutions and ideas, to gather data, to analyze, to sort, to organize, to imagine… and then I act— often frenetically.

It is right before that last step that I’m learning to self-intervene.

Ready!

Aim!

Get out of the way.

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