My Podcast Gear: recording, editing, and publishing

a podcast studio mic

I’ve learned a lot from creating a podcast series: from asking good questions and improving my spoken delivery; to sales, marketing, and audio engineering.

As much as podcasts are a hot trend right now and plenty of people are jumping on podcasting in part because of that, I do genuinely believe there are many skills that can be built by getting involved in podcasting. So much so, I’d like to see every school include podcasts on the curriculum.

One of my earlier learning curves in starting my podcast was figuring out what equipment I needed, especially as I was working on tight a budget (this was a side project after all, and I’m a lean startup kinda guy...)

After a couple of early recordings using just my laptop’s mic (surprisingly passable, but only just), I invested in a more robust setup which I still use today.

My main point of reference for deciding on my podcast gear ended up being this Kit list from Tim Ferriss. I didn’t buy the whole lot from this selection but it definitely helped me figure out how high-end I needed to go to get the results I wanted.

After being asked a few times of late what I use and how I got set up, here’s a quick post covering my podcast gear, as well as some background on how I edit and publish.

I’ll put together a follow-up on distribution and marketing too.

And if you’ve got any questions on any of this feel free to drop me a line!

Here we go…

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Why Penn & Teller ignored the audience

One of Penn Jillette’s least favourite terms in show business is ’this works’.

It’s easy to let the audience (whether fans, critics, or business people) decide what works, and effectively write your act. This can be counter to the work of a creator.

When Bruce Springsteen wrote Born to Run some people said he was writing songs about girls in cars. Then, once in a while, he’d write some songs about girls in cars.

Was that what he was really doing as an artist, or was he listening to what the audience said they thought he was doing?

Penn believes bad reviews don’t hurt you that much, but good reviews really can. 

In good reviews, people are more likely to speculate on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It’s easy to agree with them, and you can soon find yourself doing just that.

If they’re wrong about why, that’s rarely good for you in the long run.

So Penn & Teller decide not to read their reviews.

Of course, nowadays is a little different to when Born to Run was released.

We create a lot of things in full view, with other people. Comments are open, feedback is everywhere. 

The challenge now is how to let other people inform the work in the right way, rather than the way that hurts you.


Penn Jillette on The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Bonus: Penn & Teller, live, and upside down…


Knowing what’s more trouble than it’s worth

A friend was recently given a cheesemaking class as a gift. 

The class focused on how to make the soft Italian cheese burrata.

It was a thoughtful gift: he likes cooking, traditional crafts, and learning how things work. He also loves burrata.

The class was thorough, authentic, educational and fun.

But it didn’t really work out.

He realised making burrata was just more trouble than it was worth.

There’s a long setup, it’s messy, and easy to make mistakes. 

The option of paying $7, $10, $12, or even $15 for burrata from a shop or a restaurant was still far more appealing to him.

The class itself was worth it, but building the actual core skill to a useable level (and thus rendering the alternatives at least partially redundant) just wasn’t.

Whether gifts, hobbies, or ventures, we often put ourselves at a disadvantage by taking on things that are more trouble than they’re worth.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask what would really this thing worthwhile for us.

It could be the outcome, the effort, the experience, or even discovering it’s not in fact worth it.

This way, we can choose to step in fully, or just save ourselves the trouble.

Undertaking an Annual Life Review (a Guide & Template)

This Medium post by Steve Schlafman hit my Twitter feed earlier this week.

I’ve tried reviews like this before but the process always felt either overly complicated and heavy, or too ethereal.

Steve’s method strikes a really good balance.

As I was working through it, I realised I was straddling two Google docs (one Sheet and one Doc), so I merged them into one and added some formatting to clean it up a bit and make it easier to navigate.

I was tempted to dive in on adding some more functionality but I think this time less is more.

Steve kindly agreed to share this template in the original post – hopefully it’ll help you undertake your own annual life review.

I’m happy to offer feedback if you’d like to share your own review – just drop me a line.

Original post:

https://medium.com/@schlaf/how-to-conduct-an-annual-life-review-that-will-catapult-you-into-the-new-year-d5aaffebac1f

Template:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ais6wP0HxoFfvHR9JVkf2sw2ft_EUBtb42JYOr6ObGo/edit?usp=sharing

What kind of artist are you?

Finding out with three lines, a few dots, and a long-sleeved shirt

Note: I found this post in my drafts today as I was looking for the shirt diagram. This post originates from May 2015. Even though some of my thinking has evolved since then I’ve decided to publish it in its original form.

Storage Solutions

When I moved into my current flat, clothes storage became a hot topic of conversation (I’m of that age now…).

The bedroom’s long and fairly narrow shape meant we needed to utilise height. We didn’t want to default to Ikea, and a lovely hand-crafted wardrobe was a little out of budget.

After much deliberation, a shopfitters’ storage rack was purchased; floor to ceiling on castors, with three shelves and two rails for jackets, trousers and of course shirts.

Once assembly was complete (slightly quicker than an Ikea nightmare build, but only just), I loaded everything on board only to find I had a surplus.

We’d vowed to keep the new place bereft of clutter, so I started working through everything, culling anything that had been on the substitute’s bench for more than 6 months.

When it came to the pile of shirts I’d rapidly thrown into a bag on moving day, I was shocked to discover that nearly half were either too long, some too wide (the ‘tent’ look), or with sleeves too short.


The Shirt Dilemma

Months later, long after the ill-advised purchases had been given to a better home, I saw this going around on Twitter;

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2018 List: Podcasts

Like a lot of people, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts this year.

It’s too distracting for me to listen to them while I’m working, but I’m lucky enough to live in a central area of a very walkable city so there are plenty of excuses for me to listen to the spoken word whilst in the space between. 

Subway commute, walking commute, or scenic route, plus going to the gym, airports or train stations.

Last week someone said to me they’d love to see inside other people’s Netflix history as it would tell them so much about that person.

Perhaps podcasts are even more personal, and telling.

As you can probably deduce from this list, my listening themes this year have revolved around entrepreneurship, dealing with transitions, and understanding the self.

I’ve struggled with fiction podcasts (definitely still prefer books, and the paper kind at that), although I’d like to dive into these more in 2019

In no particular order here are my favourite podcast episodes I’ve listened to this year – and one that I skipped.

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Two quick tips on Trend Spotting

This quote from Beth Comstock is a nice heuristic for spotting emerging trends.

Another way of looking at this is through writing.

If you notice something and find yourself writing it down three times in a short space of time, you may have just spotted a trend.

Go back to those notebooks and look for the patterns.

Who knows what you may find.


PS. I’m putting together a recorded version of a class I did on Trend Spotting (including the above Beth Comstock quote plus a bunch of other tactics and exercises)  – that’ll be going live next week.

7 things I learnt in 2018

As the calendar rolls deeper into December people often like to say ‘I’ve learned a lot this year‘.

Whilst probably true, we don’t often think about exactly what we’re we referring to. 

Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed in myself this year. 

Note: Rather than taking lots of time to put this together, I’ve deliberately avoided putting extensive deep thought into it.  These items have come mainly from instinct; things that have been recurrent themes for me over the course of the year and through the specific experiences I’ve had. The full article took an hour or so to write, but the list itself came about in less than 2 minutes.

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The Quick No

I once had a meeting at a prestigious London address. 

You probably know the kind of place – an immaculate 4 storey Georgian townhouse where even the flowers outside are imposing.

After waiting 10 minutes or so in the reception area, I went in for my meeting.

It was one of those meetings that come about from time to time. A slightly tenuous 2nd or 3rd degree referral, possible scope for interesting collaboration, often doubtful but usually worth a look. [1]

On my way home, I got a message flash up on my phone. 

“How did it go?”. 

I replied, “In and out in 12 minutes”.

10 seconds later; “Oh well”

They must have been right – 12 minutes can’t be good, surely?


Everyone says rejection sucks. Being told “No” is the worst. We also read about people who found enormous success after they were told No 1476 times in a row.

But the worst thing isn’t rejection. 

The worst is silence. Indifference, ambivalence, tumbleweed.

I’d rather have the Quick No.

And I knew it was exactly 12 minutes as on arrival I took my watch off and put it on the table in front of me. 

There wasn’t any point in wasting anyone’s time.

[1] Derek Sivers’ ‘Hell Yes or No’ post hadn’t entered my life at this point, but I do still believe that there are interesting things that can happen just outside Hell Yes…at the Adjacent Possible of meetings if you will.

Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

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