How To Start A Podcast When Your Biggest Roadblock Is Yourself

In the few weeks since I’ve started the Podcast Love newsletter, I’ve received a lot of requests of topics to cover. One of the most asked questions—if not the most asked—goes something like this:

I have this great idea for a show, but I don’t know where to begin. How do I start my podcast?

The people asking these questions are would-be creators who have an idea they think is good. They have a desire to create something. And they think they can be successful with it in whichever way they define success.

But for whatever reason — perfection paralysis, lack of confidence, perceived lack of time — these people have hit a roadblock and can’t move forward.

I’ve hit that barrier many times myself. But here’s the trick that’s worked for me nearly every single time I’ve wanted start something:

Set traps for yourself, each one leading up to the next, culminating with your ultimate deadline.

In late October 2017, I released a show called The Decisionthe podcast where people try to convince me to finally abandon the Knicks and become a fan of their favorite NBA team.

I’ve written about this, but the reason why I made the show was because I hadn’t released anything in over two years, and I really wanted to put something into the world.

In the months leading up to the release, I had no idea that by late October, I’d have released 35 episodes. I had an idea I thought would be good. I spoke to some friends about it; almost all of them said they would listen to it and encouraged me to make it.

My paralysis.

But I didn’t think I could.

I felt like I didn’t have the time or energy: I was working on my main show, Pitchteaching at NYU, and running a consulting practice. Even though my friends told me how much they liked the idea, I wasn’t sure if anyone else would want to listen. And I felt extreme anxiety around making a brand new thing—because that thing could fail.

For me, failure is incredibly difficult. I have a diagnosed anxiety issue, specifically related to rejection. If I made something bad, people would judge me as a failure, all my radio friends would think I sucked at making radio, and no one would like me anymore. (Or something like that.)

So, for months, I didn’t make this thing that I thought would be awesome and make me happy.

And then the NBA season was about to start. That was a natural deadline for a podcast that acted basically as a season preview show.

So I had my ultimate deadline. I just needed to force myself to do it.

Setting traps for myself.

That’s when I set a trap for myself: I posted something on Facebook.

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I asked if my friends wanted to talk to me about a project I was doing. And people started reaching out to me about themselves, their friends, and their family members.

At that point, the ball was rolling. Slowly, but rolling nonetheless.

Now that people were reaching out to me and volunteering their time, I’d feel like a jerk if I didn’t follow up. So I made appointments to talk to people—otherwise known as pre-interviews. If they were excited about the project and I thought they would be good guests, why wouldn’t I book them? So we booked an interview. And then, inevitably, we did the interview after it was booked. Because that’s what comes next.

At that point, I was deep into production of that episode. I was rolling!

Posting on Facebook was the smallest task, a very low lift. But for me in this process, it was huge. I set a trap for myself , which in turn set another trap, which in turn set another trap, and so on and so forth.

A few weeks later, I’d released all 35 episodes of The Decision — all stemming from a Facebook post.

Why did it work?

My theory is that this method worked for me because I made myself beholden to people. In the past, I’d asked friends to hold me accountable, but there were no real consequences.

So I made them unwitting partners in my journey. If I didn’t follow through, I’d feel like I was letting my friends down. I don’t like feeling like that.

Trapping into a deadline.

I set my trap on the front end — the Facebook trap led to another trap, then another, and another, until my external deadline of the NBA season opening night.

You can also approach trapping yourself on the back end, into a deadline.

You might tell a friend or family member that instead of buying them a birthday card, you’ll make them a lovely, creative audio piece.

Ask your teacher or professor if you can make an audio piece instead of writing a paper.

Or maybe press your boss to let you experiment with audio in an upcoming presentation.

If they say yes — well damn, now you’ve trapped yourself. You have to start!

And if you’re struggling at starting after setting your deadline, guess what you can do? Set a trap at the front end.

Go forth and set your traps.

If you’re stuck like I was, it could be just the boost you need to get your project off the ground.

Alex Kapelman