A question was recently posed by Chris Cowan on The Hobby Podcaster Facebook group. He asked where the line was between podcasting as a hobby and being considered a professional. If you make money on your hobby podcast does that move you into the professional category? The conversation quickly shifted to the question of motivation… why and how we do what we do in the practice of podcasting. This is an important subject for me and what began as a short reply quickly became an entire post; the one you’re now reading. You may not agree with my particular slant on the topic—and if you don’t I would love to hear from you—but I think most of us would agree that our culture generally values Image over Integrity. This article is a critique of that distorted value, its influence on podcasting and our motivations in general.
My nine-year-old daughter and I had a talk tonight.
Due to some major life changes Jenna is transferring from our former church’s school into Public School next year. She’s gone to cheer camp every year expecting to try out for the squad in 4th grade. Tryouts for next year were this week. Her best friend (a pastor’s kid herself) tried-out and was selected. It was hard on Jenna but she was gracious and strong.
Some Preferential Treatment
Pastor’s kids always make it on the squad. Always. I told her tonight that even though I know she would have been chosen had she tried out, that the primary reason for her selection might not have been her skill but her position as a pastor’s kid. Her eyes popped open, her jaw dropped. She said, “I’m glad I didn’t get in cause I would have quit!” I’m a proud Dad. We both decided that it’s best to achieve things we earn naturally instead of working the system or relying on advantage to get where we want to be. If we succeed, we want it to be because we have actually succeeded.
My whole adult life I’ve seen people work the system. I’ve seen it in Ministry, in Business and I see it in Podcasting: People who present themselves as being more talented, caring or valuable than they actually are. They excel at convincing others to accept, even praise, the image they put out. They achieve popularity and success through short-cuts and back-roads. They put in the work, only they typically work at things that some would consider surface and self-centered.
A Certain Type
In Kid’s Ministry it’s the kid’s pastor who has the $50,000 custom designed chapel but nothing to offer in the service, who signs up to speak at every conference, produces lavish public events for the publicity, and puts Coach, Mentor, or Consultant on their own business card so that people will start calling them that.
In Business it’s the person who excels by finding and exploiting flaws in others, who keeps the latest office hours so they can appear to be the hardest working. They take credit for the successes of their underlings and in the same day will blame them for his mistakes. They play golf with the right people, live in the right place, belong to the right clubs, and hide as much of themselves as they must to fit the role they’re carving out for themselves.
In Podcasting it’s the Social Media Guru’s, the SEO Experts, the How I Made Millions Doing Cool Crap people… anyone who is long on link-bait and short on actual content. They are remarkably skilled at manipulating search results. They know which keywords to write about so people will come to their site to read those hyperlinked keywords 22 times in each paragraph. They can become whoever they want to be online, micromanaging their image and dictating exactly what they want people to know about themselves.
Self-centered achieving starts with dollar signs, a beeline, and a greed-grin. It sees human need as an exploitable weakness at worst, and a ladder-rung at the very least. Selfishness never prompts anyone to truly meet a need; it induces us to skim along the surface of the issue doing the bare minimum to appear noble… with clean hands intact. A selfish hand is still help, some would say but doesn’t the bait offer a little nutrition before the trap springs? The selfish help themselves. Meeting your needs meets their needs more. And it all works because people believe the hype, the image, the impression of sincerity. That’s why the selfish work it rather than earn it.
It’s All About Motivation
This is far from a blanket statement about successful podcasters. It applies exclusively to those, both hobbyist and professional, who have a misplaced motivation. Motivation dictates every choice you make. If motivated by riches and fame, every choice is determined by, “Does this get me closer to my goal or not?” If you’re motivation is to help others or provide a valuable service, likewise your choices will move you in that direction. When you’re selfless self-promotion and branding evolves into a simple offer to help or entertain. There’s nothing wrong with being paid for what you do and what you offer, but when the dollar becomes the focus, it takes your eyes off of people. If someone shared insight or know-how freely with you, don’t charge others for it. If you become successful and well-known, let it be because you were genuinely talented, caring and valuable.
Incidental, Organic Success
I will probably never be a famous. My daughter may never become a cheerleader. But whatever we achieve and whatever success we see will be incidental, organic even, as we attempt to live a life that serves more than it’s served, gives more than it takes, under-sells then over-delivers and doesn’t get bitter as the others rise so fast and so high above us. We will be content to do the work, meet real needs, get our hands dirty, and ultimately, for us, to honor The One who made us who is the ultimate reason for doing anything beyond looking out for number one.
Thanks For Reading!
I appreciate your having read this post. I would appreciate your feedback even more.
- Does it really matter what your motivation is as long as you are helping people?
- Is it possible to strike a balance between self-centered motives and selfless ones?
- Do you agree that what we really need is just a few more Success Coaches, SEO Wizards and Make Money Online Gurus?
- I stated that I believe that honoring God is the ultimate reason for a selfless lifestyle. What is your response? If you are not religious, what do you believe drives a selfless lifestyle?
- Why do we as a society value Image over Integrity, especially in regards to those who entertain us?