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How to be Unsuccessful as a Podcast Host and Why it Matters

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How are you doing in podcasting as a guest, host, or both?

In the pursuit of success, it’s easy to lose sight of our original intentions. Sometimes, embracing the possibility of being ‘unsuccessful’ can lead to a deeper level of success through maintaining our integrity and staying true to ourselves. In this post, Paul Granger explains how being unsuccessful as a podcaster could be the very thing that leads to the most impact on your life and the lives of your audience!

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Read the Blog Post: Celebrating Unsuccessfulness as a Podcast Host

Picture this: a dimly lit, serene room where an elderly man lies in a bed. The space is filled with his loved ones – his family, children, and grandchildren – all trying their best to hold back their tears. But the old man himself is crying, and not because he knows his time is almost up. No, his tears stem from a painful realization that has taken hold of him in his final moments.

You see, this man had accomplished so much throughout his life. He was at the top of his class, an expert in his field, wealthy, and well-known. But amidst all the hustle and bustle of his pursuit of success, he failed to prioritize what truly mattered. The family members gathered around him now. In the midst of his life, it made sense to focus on his career and financial goals, but in the end, he understood what he had lost and how little he had truly gained.

This anecdote is a familiar one, and we might nod along to its cautionary message. But when it comes to applying it to our own lives, we often fall short, and it’s understandable. Functionally, it seems like success matters. If you are not successful, how can you put food on the table? If you do not have a good reputation, how will you be respected? We equate success with thriving so much that we avoid being unsuccessful at all costs. 

Why You Need To Be Unsuccessful

You might be surprised to hear that I’m not here to give you tips on landing big guests, increasing your ranking, or monetizing your episodes. I’m going to equip you to be unsuccessful. It might sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. Sometimes we get so caught up in the pursuit of success that we lose sight of what it really means. We chase after numbers, sponsorships, high-profile guests, and acclaim without considering whether they align with our original intentions for starting a podcast.

Don’t get me wrong, these things can be valuable, but we need to ask ourselves if they truly represent success for our podcast. 

When we first start a podcast, we often have a clear idea of why we’re doing it. Maybe we want to make a difference, encourage others, or invest in our gifts and passions. But then we start hearing about what success in podcasting is supposed to look like, and our priorities can shift without us even realizing it.

That’s why it’s important to do a heart-motive check and practice some humble introspection. We need to be honest with ourselves about why we started our podcast and what we hope to achieve with it. If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming successful in the eyes of others but missing our target entirely.

If we can hone our understanding of true success in our podcast, we can find a deeper value and more robust success than following best practices alone could ever provide. It might mean appearing unsuccessful to others, but if it aligns with our goals and values, that’s okay.

Why Alignment is So Important

Imagine you neglected to take your car for regular tire alignments, thinking that it’s driving fine. However, in reality, the car can quickly get out of alignment, and if left unchecked, it may eventually run off the road.

The same is true for our podcast. It may seem like everything is running smoothly, but if it’s not aligned with our core values and goals, we could end up feeling burnt out, frustrated, or creating content that’s far from what we initially intended.

That’s why it’s important to practice humble introspection regularly. Humble introspection means taking the time to reflect on our decisions and asking ourselves questions like, “Why am I doing this?” or “What am I ultimately after, and does what I’m doing align with that?”

The goal isn’t to determine what’s right or wrong, as life is rarely that straightforward. Instead, it’s about understanding what’s driving us and where we’re heading.

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to process some questions together that can help us realign our thoughts and podcast.

Question 1

Are you ready to really define success for you?

It’s time to think about what true success means to you beyond the traditional metrics like wealth, reputation, and power. Let’s take a lesson from the elderly man on his deathbed. He knew all the normal metrics of success, but he realized too late that he had neglected what really mattered to him – his family. It’s a matter of prioritization. We can care about many things, but if we don’t acknowledge where they fall on our priority list, we may neglect them for the sake of other things.

As podcasters, it’s easy to get caught up in the metrics of success like sponsors, advertisers, monetization, high-profile guests, and increasing listeners. However, if you’re here, I’m guessing your podcast exists for something deeper. Maybe it’s to create a space that doesn’t yet exist, to highlight something important that’s gone unseen, or to document your personal journey or healing.

It’s crucial to solidify the core of why your podcast exists so that you know what it needs to survive and thrive. By understanding what truly matters to you, you can avoid neglecting important things for the sake of progress.

So, take a moment to think about what would truly matter to you at the end of it all. When your podcast is on its deathbed, what would allow you to close it down with peace and joy? This perspective can help you orient your podcast in the right direction. For example, you may say that even if one person is impacted, it’s worth it. But are you truly bought into that mindset?

Let’s move on to the next question to explore this further.

Question 2

Are you willing to do unsuccessful things?

Have you ever thought about doing something that might not necessarily be considered successful? Let me tell you a story that might change your mind.

So, I once had a podcast season where I was exploring the concept of healing. I talked about everything from miraculous recoveries to unanswered prayers and how to find God in the midst of it all. During this time, I connected with a guest who had a long-term disability, and I thought it would make for a great conversation.

But as I was preparing for the interview, I realized that if I only focused on her disability, I might not be honoring her as a whole person. I didn’t want to make assumptions about who she was based on one aspect of her life. I wanted to engage with her as someone who had a story to tell, not just as a “disabled person.”

So, I decided to let her guide the conversation and share whatever she wanted to share. And you know what? We talked for almost ten minutes before the topic of her disability even came up. But when it did, it felt more organic and honest because we had built a relationship and trust first.

The conversation ended up taking a completely different direction than what I had planned. Instead of just talking about disability, we talked about empathy, which was not even on my radar. And you know what else? My guest later told me how much she appreciated that I didn’t make a broad sweep of who she was and what she had to offer.

The point is, sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to do what we think is “successful” that we forget to honor the people we are talking to. So, ask yourself, are you willing to do something that might not be considered successful but will honor your guest and lead to a more valuable interaction? When you acknowledge this willingness, you might be surprised at the incredible value it can bring.

Question 3

Are you willing to look unsuccessful to others?

Have you ever felt pressure to appear successful in the eyes of others, even if it means sacrificing your own values or goals? It’s a common dilemma that many of us face. We want to achieve our aspirations, but we also want to be seen as competent and accomplished by others.

If we are to achieve true success, we need to break free from that pressure.

The team at PodMatch recently made this exact bold move. They had to weigh the value of high numbers against the quality of their user experience. They knew that cutting their user base in half might make them appear unsuccessful, but they prioritized their core value of quality over quantity.

 And in the end, it paid off. They received positive feedback from the remaining users and saw real success.

So the question remains: are you willing to look unsuccessful to others if it means staying true to your values and goals? It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s an important one. We often fall into the trap of pursuing the perception of success rather than actual success. Too often, we base our decisions on what others might think of us. But true success may require us to take unconventional or even risky paths that don’t align with societal norms.

Ultimately, it’s up to us to define our own success and pursue it with integrity and purpose. Even if it means facing criticism or appearing unsuccessful to others. So take a moment to reflect on your own goals and values. Then ask yourself if you’re willing to take bold steps to achieve them, even if it means looking unsuccessful in the eyes of others.

Question 4

Are you willing to celebrate your unsuccessfulness?

It’s a difficult one because we often associate success with things that are measurable, like numbers and rankings. But as podcasters, we need to be willing to redefine success and celebrate our unsuccessfulness.

Instead of focusing on rankings and numbers, we should celebrate the impact we have on our listeners. The fact that we are able to connect with them on a personal level and provide value through our content is a success in itself. It’s important to shift our focus away from the external validation of rankings and toward the internal validation of the value we provide.

The comparison mindset is another challenge that podcasters face. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to other more successful podcasts and feeling like we’re not measuring up. It’s important to remind ourselves that our value is not based on our rank or success compared to others.

We need to encourage ourselves and affirm our own values, just like we do with our children. Maybe we’re not the fastest or the best. But we have our own unique talents and strengths that make us valuable. It’s important to recognize those strengths and celebrate them.

Celebrating Our Unsuccessfulness

What if we shift our focus to the things that don’t show up on the charts? 

One way to do this is to keep a running document, a journal of encouragement. Imagine looking back on kind messages from listeners or noting conversations that made you feel good about what you do. These moments can be restorative and remind you of the impact your podcast is having. And don’t forget to celebrate healthy milestones! Making it past ten episodes or reaching a hundred takes perseverance, and it’s worth celebrating. 

Celebrating anniversaries is another way to focus on what matters. Reflecting on past episodes that were meaningful or sharing your excitement about hitting a new year mark can shift your thoughts from perceptions of success to the things that actually matter. Plus, your authentic excitement might just encourage someone to become a new listener. 

It’s also important to remember that we humans are designed for community. While it’s essential to know how to do the internal work of knowing who we are and learning to be content no matter what others say, coming alongside each other and celebrating unsuccessfulness together can be a profound source of encouragement. 

As podcasters, we have an opportunity to encourage, inspire, and support each other. What you’re doing matters. The value of an impacted life carries far more weight than a spot on a chart or a new sponsor. So don’t get caught up in hypothetical critics or rankings. You’re here because you’re willing to challenge your understanding of how podcasts work. 

You may feel unsuccessful at times, but that doesn’t mean you’re not making an impact. You’re doing something that matters and that’s worth celebrating.

 


About Paul Granger

Paul Granger is the content-creator at wheredidyouseeGod.com and host of the “Where did you see God? Podcast”.  For the last two decades, he has served in several inner-city ministries and now serves his community in a support-based capacity.  He is part of a broadcasting team through YWAM City Lights and a grateful husband and father of three.


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