what I've learned through podcasting (so far)
WOW it's been a while since I've blogged. Put my thoughts in a somewhat cohesive space for the potential masses to enjoy. It's definitely a vulnerable thing - hence why I've probably avoided it. Come to think of it, blogging is also super weird because no matter the level of relationship you have with someone, they all of a sudden have unprecedented access to your thoughts at the time (dependent on how honest you've really been). I pride myself in being the right amount of conspicuous in most instances, but online, anything goes.
I wanted to take a chance, in any case, to share with you all a bit of my story behind starting "anticulture" (which I am currently working on Season 2 of). The truth is, I've wanted to have a podcast for a few years now. And I know, it's a trend for a lot of people (who typically thought they could pull off what Sarah Koenig did with "Serial"), but trust me, it's harder than it seems.
I think the most difficult part is the self-motivation that starting a project like this requires. Honestly, you probably don't believe in yourself to actually put pen to paper in most instances, and I struggled with that for a long time. There's sure a heck of a lot to think about. Branding, sound quality, script writing, booking reliable guests, having a niche premise, yada, yada, yada. You also do NOT want to come off as just another person, attempting something they may or may not be good at. That's probably the biggest fear: will people think I'm a wannabe if I put my effort into this? At least, that was one of my biggest fears.
Another thing I want to be honest with about right off the bat is that I am seriously not the entrepreneur type. And no, I'm not calling this minuscule 5-part podcast a business - what I mean is, I don't typically come up with unique creative ideas - let alone actually execute them. If you're interested, here's the REAL story:
This whole thing actually starts a super long time ago. Probably when I was still in junior high. Well, that would be the first time I stated out loud my intentions of maybe one day becoming a talk show host (yes, seriously, I want to have a talk show). I must admit I'm not entirely sure where that idea came from, but I did know that I recognized from a young age that I unreasonably enjoyed articulating myself a whole lot more than my peers. I loved reading (my first novel was "Treasure Island" in the second grade) and I loved public speaking (there was a brief stint while I was homeschooled where I actually took Junior Toastmasters and was awarded best in class - grade four). I always felt a little weird having this propensity and awe surrounding discussion and written and spoken words - but I loved it so much I just didn't care. And, it gathered me a lot of friends that I committed myself to being kind to and trying to see the best in.
Another thing I knew is that people are the most fascinating thing in the world to me. They still are. The uniqueness of individuality truly is a gift, and crazily enough, it's a gift we can share with others. Whether or not we can see where someone is coming from, if we remove ourselves from our own little bubbles, we can actually come to almost experience someone else's tactile life - a life completely different from ours with completely different beliefs, dreams, and outlooks. This is a gift that can easily be abused - our own foundational thinking can be challenged in ways we agreed with ourselves it would never be. And that is both the magic and the curse of true relationship.
"Anticulture" was something I prayed about. "God," I would say a few times every couple months from 2013-2017... "It would be SO cool to have a podcast. But I'm not going to do anything with it unless You give me a really good idea and if You don't give me a good idea, I'll know I shouldn't be pursuing that." Now - God knew that I wanted to be a talk show host and actually, I got accepted into a very competitive Broadcast Journalism program here in the city (20 students are admitted out of around 500 annual applicants, screened after a recorded report, a group interview, headshot, and written report). That's another story - but I ended up choosing International Relations (a full degree) alternatively. I certainly don't regret this decision, but my curiousity about broadcasting, journalism, and people never ceased.
One night, summer 2017, in fact the summer I graduated from that program, I came across someone's Facebook description that many people would find awfully offensive. It read: "Albertan for life. Fit in or f**k off." I won't say who that was - but a hint is that they're on my podcast...lol.
This Facebook "bio" (or "description" or whatever you call that thing underneath your profile picture) REALLY intrigued me. I was chewing on it on a drive back from a friend's house and I remember thinking... "I'm Albertan, aren't I? How on Earth does this person feel like that is SUCH a strong part of their identity as to put something like that on their profile page?" I mean, that's obviously their primary identifier. And how strange that it is, since I was born and raised Albertan and definitely didn't feel as strongly (even though in many instances that is also my primary identifier).
That thought got me thinking - wow. I wonder how many people who identify as Albertans have a different perspective on what that means. Identity is important. And cultural identity is a huge part of that - a part that I never really experienced myself coming from a biracial family and also having weird fascinations with other cultures. Alberta - I never associated culture with my province. But for this guy - it was the thing that he latched on to the most. It got me thinking about culture in a much larger sense, too. I have always felt that I am in a little bit of a weird position in this world. People have been very open with me about their candid cultural opinions - probably because they have no idea who I am. I'm culturally ambiguous, I keep my own opinions to myself, and I love people no matter what. You'll always get my 100% if we happen to cross paths. I guess I'm a safe place. Even in my travels to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Latin world...people treated me like a local - they favoured me - they were honest with me. Why? Maybe because I come with no cultural bias. Yes, Canadian, but what does that even mean? It's already a welcome idea - PLUS I'm not fully white. Maybe, I could help facilitate some interesting discussions about culture publicly. In fact, I could CHALLENGE people who haven't had the same experiences as me to ASK questions, instead of just labeling people as the "other" (whether overtly or subconsciously). I knew that I could dig deeper with so-called "racists", but I could also hear the candid opinions of an Indigenous guest or an immigrant family at the same time. They would all be honest with me. They have been in the past...I would just need to record it somehow.
Even this infamous person who wrote this questionable bio about themselves - sure, I don't agree with them. But I'm sure they have a powerful justification for thinking the way they do. Yes, I could easily judge them and throw them away as a racist or a close-minded individual...but what if there's a story there? What if there's a way I can highlight this idea that I can disagree with someone but still treat them with respect based on their own experiences? (Which, truthfully, are just as powerful as any of my own experiences - at least, in their world they are). We can't move forward if we're selective and I think it is SO important to realize that particularly in a mosaic society like Alberta.
The idea shaped, shifted, and grew and the more I shared the premise, the more people agreed to help me out. Suddenly, I had a ton of guests, I had a little bit more motivation, and I thought for a moment I could pull this off. I even thought for a moment that doing so might be an act of response to God...who I had been praying to about this for years.
I still couldn't do it.
It could've been laziness, or just the fact that I lacked self confidence, but honestly something was still stopping me. I kid you not - it took a friend of mine who knew nothing about this to have a dream about this, a trip to India, and also an encounter with God that woke me up one morning and decided "Yep. I need to commit to this." (Another long story you can ask me privately if interested).
Fast forward to now - 5 episodes are out. The premise was solidified. People listened. I ended the fifth episode and honestly almost smacked myself for being out of content already. I had done something no one had done yet by releasing this. I realized my heart really got energy from giving other people a platform to just be honest. I connected and met with such diverse groups of Albertans and I became so connected to this province I didn't really understand before. I gained the attention of newscasters, people in government, business owners, and more. Just from 5 episodes. And man - between iTunes and SoundCloud, each episode has about 250 unique plays. HOW!?
I am so thankful I followed this small step towards my big dreams, and it feels so natural. I am grateful for my church, my family, my full time job, my home, and all my friends - but this - this feels like the most natural component of my whole life. And that is what makes me realize I cannot stop now.
Throughout this summer, I am recording my episodes for Season 2. I am putting some more money into this round and I am gathering quite a lot of bigger named guests. It's been a struggle in so many ways, but there is good things to come and I'm choosing to trust the process. Some takeaways: 1. PEOPLE are the most valuable resource we all have access to. If you feel discouraged in your social skills, I would encourage you to grow them. Start reading more. Don't expect people to invest in you - you take the initiative. Join a community - whether sports, church, or whether that simply looks like being more involved in your workplace - do it. 2. PRAY into your dreams. The God I believe in delights in giving us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). 3. Despite your fears, MOVE FORWARD. Self-motivation is a choice. It is not something that will magically appear one day. Take the steps you need to take. Thank you for reading, everyone (if you made it this far). I'm so excited to share season 2 with you, and thank you for being supportive as always. I tried to make this short but also cohesive. Hopefully I succeeded. Best, j o s i a h
PS. You can listen to all the episodes of anticulture through my splashpage here. Please "like" and "follow" the social media links while you're at it :)