Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Ignore Ryan Holiday And Just Start Your Podcast

Ryan Holiday published Please, Please, For the Love of God: Do Not Start a Podcast and its making the rounds on the interwebs. For some, it seems, its saying what many people have been thinking and is thus bringing in a sigh of relief that someone has said it. For others, it sounds like the same old, same old line from people who have made it telling people who havent that they shouldnt start and instead go do something different.

My take is mostly on the latter side of things.

The tricky part here is that Ryan is a masterful media manipulator, so its hard to tell which parts of his essay were for a provocative rant for attention and which parts he meant to be more than straw men and to be legitimately useful for people. Its precisely because his piece weaves in so many threads that its worth detangling.

Lets start with where I with Ryan. From his article:

Because lots of other people are doing it is a really poor reason to do anything. […] If one were to really look at the motivation and intention behind far too many of the people trying to get in on the boom, those are the exact reasons theyd find. People want to capture the same success theyve seen others have – but they dont ask why those people have it […] As a general rule: when everyone is talking about some trend, the smart money ignores it and does the opposite. Meanwhile, its the lazy, selfish and the lame that try to imitate and cash in […] Ive noticed that for far too many podcasters almost everything they say and do could be boiled down to them trying to do as little work as possible and impose on others as much as possible […] And then these people are surprised when their shows are boring, have no listeners and advertisers arent lining up to buy out their inventory. Was there any other possibility. Theyre barely even . […] instead of half-assing it and coasting, people should find something else [they] can whole-ass.

Lets step aside the fact that this may rest upon the fundamental attribution error, namely that we assume motivations are good and reasonable when, for the same actions, we assume other peoples motivations are less than noble. Id instead like to state another general rule, if I may: to find authentic and sustainable success in any content-based media, you have to love the media from the beginning. Otherwise, youll go through the motions and cut so many corners that youll end up with nothing but a soulless circle full of your own self-promotion and frustrations.

Weve got to be careful here, though, because loving the media need not mean loving the conventions of the media. I dont particularly love the conventions of many podcasts, but I love a media form that allows us to capture authentic and deep conversations. In a similar way, I love what books and blogs allow us to share and consume, even if I dont love the conventions of either.

Heres another line where were in agreement:

Worse than the laziness is the transparent lying and transparent manipulation that is rampant with the new crop of me-too podcasts […] The ultimate admission that they dont have an audience of their own – that the show is actually a lame attempt to siphon off fans from people who do as though that were the only growth strategy available.

While I find this an odd thrust coming from Ryan whose book recounted many of his successful and questionable exploits to manipulate the media outright lying to get peoples attention is annoying and deplorable.

There are other lines and sentiments I might agree with, as well, but theyre mostly things that we can all agree with: dont lie to folks and do the work. The rest starts to get especially shaky.

Influencers Make Less Influential People More Influential

Lets pick up the media manipulation bit. Heres Ryan:

Then they proceed to list their trademark famous guests (I wont list the names because Id rather not embarrass anyone) which can seem persuasive until the fortieth time you see a certain name used like this in an email and realize . (Emphasis his.)

This has less to do with podcasting than general growth strategies for new creators across just about every media I know of. New musicians get known names to join a song. New authors get established authors to write a preface or a slice of the book. People host telesummits and websummits with the usual suspects so theyll be on stage with the established usual suspects. And while Ryan hasnt pitched me yet (and probably wont after I publish this), I imagine that he uses some degrees of the social proof that hes criticizing for his up-and-coming clients OR that he did before he was Ryan Holiday.

Which creates an interesting tension in his thrust here: if more influencers would agree to interview requests from newcomers without assessing whether its all things considered a good use of their time, then we wouldnt see as many of these types of pitches. At the same time, if they agreed, then theyre in Ryans seemingly less-than list of people who will apparently agree to any interview request from anyone at anytime.

That leaves new creators in a bind, for unless they have the good fortune of knowing influencers or knowing someone who knows influencers, its tough to get influencers attention. As much as wed like to live in the build something great and theyll come world, the reality is that influencers bring your creative efforts influence faster than toiling away in artistic obscurity. Being prepared to toil away in artistic obscurity – aka doing the work – isnt inconsistent with asking others to support your work and/or give you a boost.

This Seats Taken

The most striking tension I felt with Ryans argument is that its syntactically the same argument elites have been using to keep newcomers out for, well, millennia. Structurally, it looks like this: Theres already enough great people doing [whatevers in question]. It also takes a lot of work, skill, and time to do it well. We dont need more [artists / authors / bloggers / programmers / leaders / politicians]; we need more [listeners / viewers / readers / followers ]. You should be in the latter.

That this is coming from people who have made it or in the process of making it – and ironically from people who are relatively new to the scene – makes it all the worse. Surely, it was just as true for them as it was for whoever theyre saying it to. Except, and this is an important except, the newcomer was apparently talented, virtuous, hard-working, or genius enough for it not to apply to them. (Back to the fundamental attribution error.)

There are some wholl think Im reading more into Ryans words here, but lets take a look:

There are even some new shows Im enjoying. Lance Armstrongs podcast is fantastic. Malcolm Gladwells Neil Strauss and Gabby Reece But these were people who have real platforms, who clearly took the time to understand the medium, and most importantly, they have actually invested the time and resources to do it right. They arent looking to cash in either – theyre actually excited about the opportunity to explore a new art form.

For comprehensiveness, lets list out the rest of the great podcasters he mentioned: Jordan Harbinger, Marc Maron, Brian Koppelmen, Tim Ferriss, Rich Roll, James Altucher, and Lewis Howes.

Of the eleven people he mentioned, one is a woman (co-)host and one appears to be a minority. All had some type of creative success they started podcasting. All clearly have the time, money, and success to leverage and create model podcasts.

What are we to take of this? By his words and examples, if youre not a white, successful man, well, do not start a podcast. The world would be a better place if you didnt.

To be clear here, Im not saying Ryan is himself intentionally racist, sexist, or classist. What I am saying is that his examples, tone, and argument lead to a perpetuation of white patriarchal values and norms. Were we to follow his line of thinking, we can expect to hear the same narratives, norms, and values in the decades to come as we have in the decades past.

When I hear elitist arguments akin to Ryans, I cant help but think of the scene in Forrest Gump when all the kids keep saying this seats taken, when clearly theres room for a new person to sit down. That we move on to another seat only reinforces the social dynamic that keeps power structures in place. Its time we not just move on and agree that the seats taken.

Most of Us Dont Start Out Great Or Knowing What Our Jam Is

While were discussing social norms, lets get another one on the table: theres a wide swath of people who arent prodigies, geniuses, or people who had their creative skills nurtured when they were children. A lot of people have been told, in as many words, that they should be a part of the quiet, consumptive class and let the people with talent do their thing. This is especially the case for women, minorities, and the poor.

The result of this is that a lot of people end up making it all the way through high school and even college without ever considering that theyre creative or have anything worth saying or sharing. And because they got a late jump on starting, theyre not as talented as people who have had those creative skills cultivated since they were young. Theyre comparing their skills as new practic creatives with the honed skills of practic creatives.

Clearly, in a race like this, the new runners wont be as good as the people whove transcended running the race and are now defining what the rules are.

Additionally, the wonderful world we live in now is creating new expressive platforms that were all figuring out as we go along. While its undeniable that general photogenic, comedic, rhetorical, theatrical, and charismatic skills learned elsewhere are transferable to new media, anyone over the age of 25 wasnt formally taught how to and encouraged to use Snap, Twitter, or podcasting tools.

The fact that a lot of people are still figuring out what their creative marks are in constantly evolving free platforms with no barrier to entry means that were going to see a of bad creations. Adults are putting the drawings, songs, poems, and stories they didnt get to write as kids on the refrigerator of the world, the internet.

On that note, while there are clearly benefits were new creators to do their research and learn from the masters, a downside is that this has a tendency to perpetuate certain memes, norms, best practices, and forms in open new media when we catch peoples creations before theyve developed their own style. While its rarely formally taught, the imitate, assimilate, and innovate growth cycle is an intuitive and natural way for us to make our way and we spend a long time in that imitate state.

So its not just that we get to experience a lot of peoples first expressions, we get to experience peoples imitative first expressions in media that they may not be good at yet. This is maddening for the elites, critics, fashionistas, gatekeepers, and editors of the world and theres no end to the instances of bad art, hucksters, phonies, hacks, and copycats.

But as Clay Shirky argued in , theres also no end to the instances of brilliant newcomers, gamechangers, boundary-pushers, category-busters, synthesist, subversive storytellers, engaging entertainers, and truly interesting and unique people to find. Many of this latter bunch of people wouldnt have or didnt make it in traditional educational or artistic venues.

This public creative process is messy. Much like bloggers co-evolve with their blogs, creatives co-evolve with their creations in public. Theyre figuring out what theyre good at and what their jam is as they go along, but thats how we all go along. We dont figure out what our thing is by researching and listening to other people do their thing. We figure out what our thing is by trying it, being terrible at it at first, but seeing that theres enough there for you to keep at it, all while understanding that anything worth doing well is worth doing badly in the beginning.

But lets be honest: if were really showing up for our own work, were all figuring it out as we go along. How about being honest about that and shuck the this seats taken mindset?

The World Need More Listeners

Heres Ryan:

I am down on copycats and trend followers. I like podcasting too much and value my own sanity (and the sanity of other awesome people) too much to think that the world needs us to collectively waste time on other peoples self-indulgent personal brand building. […] Its because I love podcast that I am happy listening. The world more listeners. We could probably make do with less talking. So unless were going to put in the kind of work that Jordan or some of the greats have done, lets just be listeners – until we find something we are willing to invest in.

The world need more listeners, and not just when it comes to podcasting. The thing is, we dont get to decide what people should be listening to and what they find important.

Im with Ryan that we dont need more copycats, as well. The trick here is that the research and understanding of the medium hes recommending is going to lead to more people differentiating on sizzle and not on substance because its the same narratives and frames rehashed over and over again. I think weve lost when the remarkable part of a podcast is that it happens in a hot barrel sauna or its done on Google Hangouts with masks on.

But, again, I dont get to decide what the attention market will value. I cant fathom why people love Snap, but clearly Snap is doing something for lots of people. As a general rule, business parable books and case studies turned into best practices dont do for me, but, again, they clearly have a place in the attention marketplace.

I also happen to think theres a growing audience of people who want more than tips, narratives, and life strategies from people whove managed to leverage their privilege. There are unheard and untold stories of weirdos, freaks, outliers, misfits, underdogs, and the overlooked i.e. the rest of us and the promise of the fact that we can all be creators and publishers is that we can both create those stories and find them.

I personally would rather hear an underproduced, unrehearsed conversation from Skype or a cheap telephone conference line that actually moves me, educates me, or makes me a better person than to hear a pristine show that follows all the best practices but manages to spend 30 minutes of my time saying nothing worth remembering or thats rehashing the same topics and arc time and time again. Im willing to look at those refrigerator drawings and see the tree in the acorn rather than demanding that its a tree already. I know upon listening to a podcast whether the host is still figuring out her voice, and Im happy to stick in there until she makes her way if shes talking about something Im interested in and is making an honest effort to do her best, with whatever means and experience she has.

Its also a fact that not every podcaster is going to make it or stick with it long enough to get whatever level of success theyre after. Its easy to start and not so easy to keep going. In the process, people will figure out that its their jam or that they didnt have as much to say (via podcasting) as they thought or that the quick successes they thought theyd rack up because its an easy media dont happen. In one view, theyve wasted their time and ours in the process. On another, they havent wasted their time because theyve been in the creative process and, on the listeners side, Im going to go with Russells the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

In the world of creativity writ large, artists come and go. A lot of would-be professional artists dont make it. A lot of top artists are the ones people wrote off, and a lot of people who were thought to make it easy never did. And, in a very real sense, its all been done before. (But not by you, for us.)

I dont and cant know whether youll stick it out or be successful. I dont and cant know what the attention market will value.

But what I do know is that you absolutely should saying something and creating something if youve got something inside you that needs to come out. Sooner rather than later. And especially if youve been told not to.

Because the world would be a better place if more people actually added to the creative chorus, even if they start out off key, sound like someone else in the beginning, havent bought the fancy clothes, or decide to stop singing later.

My request of you is this: once you start adding to this big chorus were all a part of, remember that there are people who want to start singing but are scared to or have been told that they should be a listener. Invite them to stand next to you rather than crowding them out.

Originally found at

The post Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Ignore Ryan Holiday And Just Start Your Podcast appeared first on Holiday Guide To Everything.

Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Ignore Ryan Holiday And Just Start Your Podcast

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