Since I started listening to podcasts almost two years ago I’ve become obsessed.  There are podcasts that I look forward to every week, and specific episodes that have dramatically changed my life, or had deep emotional impacts on me.  I usually spend a few hours everyday listening to my favorite podcasts, so following my theme of shifting from consumption to creation, I decided to try and make my own podcast.  The motivation for this experiment was Tim Ferriss’ one sentence summary of how he initially started his podcast (see overview).  What I did, and my recommendations for how to start a podcast are listed in the one-pager below:

Solopreneurship Mini-Course #2: Making a Podcast

Overview:

Record six episodes of the podcast, making sure to release the episodes on a regular schedule (I chose once a week).

Recording the Episodes:

Get together with a friend over who you have some of your most interesting conversations with, and that you aren’t worried will “try to perform” for the podcast (emotional authenticity is what I connect with and look for in podcasts).  Get comfortable, start talking, and record the podcast on your iPhone as a voice memo.

Editing the Episodes:

Use garage band.  Sync your iPhone to the computer, it will add the voice memos to iTunes automatically.  Drag and drop the segments into garage band and edit out anything undesirable (trash talking, loud noises, etc…).

Releasing the Episodes:

Put them somewhere that is easily accessible for your friends.  I upload them via SoundCloud and embed them on my website, which I share to Facebook, so people that know me know when I release a new episode.

Getting People Involved:

Encourage the people that listen to your podcast to send you some feedback, or just let you know that they listened to it.  This is what keeps me motivated to keep making the podcasts, and helps me hear some helpful feedback (that the emotional stories are people’s favorite), as well as some feedback I’m uninterested in listening to (“it’s too long”).

Monetizing:

Make a show notes page, and provide affiliate links to anything interesting you recommended in the podcast, as well as some cool photos, videos, or useful information so your listeners gain some value by visiting the page.

That’s it.  While podcasting has taken up a significant portion of my time lately, and I do more than what I’ve described above (any additional choices I make are for purely artistic purposes), it really is very simple.

The final product

The final product

Now for my review of this mini-course:

First I’ll examine the purely financial and “business related” aspects of this experiment.  I am NOT making money off of the podcast, in fact I am currently losing money on the podcast.  Unless you have a major audience, which at the time I am writing this article, I am very far from, it’s hard to expect that making a podcast (particularly one like mine, with no big name guests, advertising, or other compelling reasons for people who haven’t already listened to and enjoyed the podcast to check it out) will be a profitable decision in your first six episodes.  In general, nobody ever clicks on the affiliate links in my show notes section, and I think I’ve made ~$2 from affiliate sales.  I spend about $15 and (more importantly) 25 hours a month recording, producing, editing, and publishing the podcast.  From this perspective it may seem as though the podcast experiment has been a failure, but I should mention that I really was never in it for the money, and as (assuming if) the audience for the podcast grows, it could conceivably reach a point in the next year where advertisers may be interested in supporting the podcast.

My podcast earnings last month

My podcast earnings last month

The podcast could eventually serve as a method for helping people discover my website and the other things I do/plan on doing, although at this point, this is all speculative.  Keeping the conversation rooted in reality, I never expected to make any money off of the podcast.  A major goal I have for my website is to get more traffic, and while there was a very nebulous spike in traffic associated with my As a Man Thinketh article trending on StumbleUpon, it is now clear that the podcast is the primary driver of traffic to my website.  To my surprise, there are already over 500 plays of the podcast on my SoundCloud, and I have personally heard from around 20 people that have listened to every episode start to finish!  I am essentially making 2 hour long recordings of my conversations with friends, so I think it’s incredible that anybody listens to it.  It’s even more remarkable that there are people that enjoy listening to the podcast, and get excited enough after finishing episodes to call me or message me, asking questions and telling me about their favorite moments (which I really appreciate).

Recent traffic statistics showing how Paleomodern Polymaths episodes are becoming the main source of traffic to my website

Recent statistics showing how Paleomodern Polymaths episodes are becoming the main source of traffic to my website

One might naively assume that the purpose of the solopreneur course is to build my platform into a profitable business, or develop passive income streams, and while those are certainly goals I’m interested in, they are not my main priority.  A major way that The Four Hour Work Week impacted my life was helping me realize that you can either work a job that pays you money so you can afford the things you want and want to do, or you can shortcut the process and participate in a job that provides the things that you want in your life.  An example is a lawyer who works a high income job can either save his money to go to surf retreats in the Caribbean for his vacations, or instead choose to become a surf instructor in the Caribbean, where he would make less money, but would instead be living the lifestyle he desires for a larger percentage of his life by ensuring that it is part of his job.  This concept is called lifestyle design and is exactly what I’m trying to pursue with many of my solopreneuer mini-courses.

Intellectually the podcast has been an opportunity to for me to invite smart and interesting people to hang out, and learn from them in a manner which seems productive for both parties (I have a new piece of content for my website, and they have been featured on a podcast).  There’s something about recording the podcast that allows me to really dig into my guests, and ask questions that I would have been too intimidated to ask only a few months ago.  If I had to pick only one theme to design my life around, it would be learning, and I learn more impactful things in the 2-3 hour conversations I have than I would in a typical week in college.  Recording these conversations gives me the option of making them free and available to the public, so anyone can learn from them, even if they have no connection me to or my guests.  I have already benefited intellectually from the podcast, Laura’s tips have really improved my skating (to the point where I actually think I’m an above average skateboarder now), Raymond helped give me some scientific background for the things I believe about learning, Jamil gave me some really useful ideas about meditation, and honestly there’s more life changing information I’ve uncovered while recording the podcast than I could list here even if I felt it were beneficial to this article.

The largest benefits that the podcast has had on my life (and appears to still have) are the emotional benefits.  I started the podcast after listening to Rich Roll describe the effects it’s had on his social life, “It’s very personal, and I can tell you from having done the podcast for a couple of years now… when I travel to other places people will stop me on the street or on the subway, and they really do feel like they know you, and in certain respects they do!  I have 400 hours of me talking, out freely, out floating around on the internet.  They probably know me more than (they know) most people.”, To which Ryan Holiday added,  “You’re analyzing a person way deeper than you would ever get (to) with your friends”.  I have been open about the fact that I am making the podcast as a way to develop relationships and build intimacy with others, which is why I try to keep the tone focused on personal conversations instead of semi-professional interviews and I reveal so much about my feelings and personal life in every episode.  Although I didn’t think many people would listen to the podcast, I was curious to find out if people listening to the podcast would “feel like they knew me better”, the more they listened.  After releasing the first episode I was already reconnecting with friends I hadn’t talked to in years, on a level that I hadn’t experienced in a while.  People were telling me they cared about me, that they could relate to the moments where I opened up emotionally, and that they were available for emotional support whenever it sounded like I was dealing with something difficult.  So I leaned in, I opened up more, and decided, as a vulnerability challenge, that I wouldn’t publish a podcast episode unless I revealed things about myself that I was uncomfortable making available publicly (and for more recent episodes, even talking about privately).  Because I felt starved for intimacy (I touch on this in episode three) I hoped that the podcast could become a way that people could easily add a little more intimacy to their lives, so I try to have with difficult conversations with Ryan and our guests, and connect as well as I possibly can.  The primary positive feedback I receive from the podcast is that people’s favorite moments are those exact stories we were afraid to tell on air (Ryan’s LYFT story, my half marathon story, Ryan’s nightmare, …).

What working on the podcast looks like

What working on the podcast looks like

Since beginning the podcast, I reconnected with Ray, Jamil, and Tyler all because they let me know they enjoyed listening.  I neither expected them to find the podcast, or thought that I would ever get back in touch with any of these people, but now I regularly spend time with Tyler, and Ray gives some of the most insightful and encouraging feedback for my podcast and website.  The podcast has dramatically increased the intimacy in my already somewhat established relationships.  I spent four years of my life either living in the same building as Brandon and Megan, or spending multiple hours everyday inside and outside of class with them, and I always felt like we were friends, but we were never really close.  In college, for whatever reason, we mostly ended up talking about school stress, and we never really moved past the location based friendship that the Astronomy/Physics double major provided us.  Now I have had extremely intimate discussions with both of them, and I feel like I actually know who Brandon and Megan are beyond the surface level, and I consider them both good friends.  I feel like I have already learned so much from these two, and I have so much more to learn that is much more impactful and applicable than how to solve the Lane-Emden equation or how to calculate uncertainties from a Monte Carlo simulation.  The podcast is even improving my longest and most intimate relationships.  Laura and I have been friends forever, but she’s a very busy person, and its hard to keep up on everything while we’re in different cities.  Since she started listening to the podcast I feel like she’s developed a deeper understanding of how I think, who I am, and what’s going on in my life.

The podcast has been the underlying structure that keeps Ryan and I spending a few hours a week together having face-to-face conversations.  It has led us to hang out (much) more outside of that, and been the perfect tool for keeping up to date with each others lives and emotional states.  In the second episode we started talking about influence, and realized how much of an impact we’ve had on each other’s lives and how important our friendship really is, even though we’d been neglecting it in our college years.  Since then we’ve been trying to get deeper every week, we ask each other the the questions we need to be asked, and we practice being completely honest and vulnerable with each other (and on the air).  I’ve gotten to know Ryan on a much different level than I’ve ever known him before, and that’s crazy considering that he was my absolute best friend growing up.  Knowing that we’re recording a podcast the next week, and having a desire to ask difficult and revealing questions has changed the dynamic of our relationship as well.  Now we’ve really been examining each others lives, and realized that we know things about each other that we don’t even know about ourselves, and on (and off) the air we bring these ideas to each other’s consciousness, creating an introspective experience that cannot be found from within, but can only be found through someone outside of yourself.

This brings me to the person I’ve learned the most about from doing the podcast, myself.  Listening to the podcast I’ve been able to notice my speech patterns, and see how my ideas develop.  I’ve dramatically improved my interview, and conversation skills, to the point where I regularly get recognized for my ability to get people to reveal their secrets (as opposed to under a year ago where I struggled to even have a real conversation with Brandon, Megan, or any of the other people I spent most of my time with).  I have become more honest with myself and others (partially due to the fact that I regularly emotionally expose myself online, which makes opening up to an individual seem like nothing in comparison and the fact that I spend hours every week listening to myself when I’m editing or relistening to old episodes of the podcast).

People tell the truth through their actions, and my actions are that I’ve already recorded ten episodes of the podcast and released eight, so this mini-experiment has been undeniably successful.  Podcasting has helped me build a following on my website, make friends, given me new learning experiments to try, gain insights into myself, given me an excuse to study interesting people, build intimacy (without needing to be present), and taught me how fulfilling it can be to work with other people.