Episode 89: Using History to Create Your Bigger Future

Do you ever think about your past impacting your future? In this episode Jimmy interviews Lindsay Graham, podcast producer and voice talent for Wondery’s American Elections: Wicked Game and other award-winning podcasts, to learn strategies of implementing history in a manner that helps you create your future.

Lindsay Graham
Lindsay Graham

Episode Keys

  • Why you must understand history to create your future without making the same mistakes as others.
  • How mankind throughout history has repeated similar approaches to resolving challenges of sociological dysfunction.
  • When you should begin the process of building your ideal future.
  • What role luck plays in finding your passion in life.
  • Why it’s important to diversify your approach to achieving your goals by applying history’s lessons.

Podcast Transcription

Good morning! This is Jimmy Williams with Live A Life By Design, your host with the most, to give you your Monday morning moments of motivation that helps you become bigger, better, and bolder in life. You know, the last few weeks, we have had some outstanding guests on our podcast, and we are honored that these individuals take the time from their very busy schedules to help provide you that one word of advice, perhaps, that helps you live life on your own terms in a much bolder fashion.

Well, today’s guest is no different. This gentleman has a storied history of great accomplishments, and he is honoring us today with a few moments, just to learn from him about how history can help us form our future. One of the things I want to visit with you about today before I introduce our podcast guest is, what about your past that you haven’t let go of that’s holding you back from realizing your most potential future?

You know, one thing I tell clients, and I’m a wealth advisor, but what I tell them is I am most horrible at one thing. I am very good at a few things. The one thing that I’m most horrible about is reversing the time in our life. “I can’t bring back yesterday” is a quote I often tell them, but I am great at helping you form your tomorrows in the way you desire.

Today our guest is just an elite performer. He is a Webby Award winner on podcasting. He is the host of American History Tellers, American Scandal, and American Elections: Wicked Game, and is the executive producer of the Audio Drama’s 1865, and Terms. He’s a podcast producer, sound designer, and composer who has worked on Dirty John, Dr. Death, Bad Batch, Business Wars, The Lead, and others, reaching tens of millions of listeners. Through his production company, Airship, our guest seeks to expand human understanding and empathy through storytelling. His capabilities today, folks, will give you such excitement, you’re going to want to go to these podcast episodes of which he speaks and listen to the great stories he brings to life from history. So, today it’s an honor to have with me, Lindsay, not the Senator, Graham. Welcome, Lindsay.

LG: Thank you for having me.

JW: You know, I’ve got to tell you, Lindsay, you are an accomplished podcaster, a great historian speaker, but I understand there’s someone in your life that maybe even has more talent. Would that be, I don’t know, your seven year old daughter? How is she doing?

LG: Well, she’s fantastic. Just yesterday, we were told by her Montessori preschool… Well, not preschool, but grade school, that she won her Home Movie Night. She and I concocted a small home video and we were pleased to have won two categories, funniest and most creative, I believe.

JW: Now, as someone that follows your podcast, that does not shock me at all. This young lady is probably going to have you working for her in about 15 to 20 years, so be careful.

LG: I hope so. I hope so. I want to retire. I need someone to take over.

JW: Understood. Now, I’ve got a little bit of history I want to bring our audience, because I believe it’s important, if you’re doing an audio podcast, Lindsay, that our audience needs to relate to that guest. I want to bring it back, some facts to you. I’m going to take you back to the high school days of Lindsay Graham for a moment, if you’ll flashback with me to that time. I understand that you are partial to certain genres of music, as am I, that may contain such bands as Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Beatles, “but I love the Horn, Miles Davis.” Tell me a little bit how you got into that line of genres of music. That’s quite a breadth.

LG: Oh yeah. And then it gets broader. I mean, that’s just where it started. I mean, I don’t think you can turn on a radio in the late ’80s or early ’90s and not hear the classic rock of that ilk. Zeppelin was big with the kids in ninth grade. I went to, at that time, an all-boys school, so there was plenty of opportunities for amped up young men to be listening to harder rock. But I was just enthralled with music in general from an early age, even though my house wasn’t necessarily that musical. Many people have stories in which their parents were always putting records on and dancing around in the kitchen, and it’s like, that really wasn’t my house. So I’d discovered music on my own and through friends and acquaintances. But yeah, I think it started with those bands, Zeppelin in particular, because then I started going backwards like, “Well, who did Jimmy Page do?” Of course, as we mentioned before the interview started, I picked up guitar as you do if you’re that infatuated with Zeppelin. And so, then you figure out that there’s these other bands called, you know, the Yardbirds. Who else was in the Yardbirds? Well, Clapton and Jeff Beck were in the Yardbirds. And so, who’s Jeff Beck? I know Clapton, but who’s that guy? And then, yeah, Jeff Beck will take you very, very far because he got into fusion jazz stuff in the late ’70s, and that leads you to weird places like Mahavishnu Orchestra. Pretty soon you’ve got more CDs than you really ought to have and enjoy them all.

JW: Got to tell you, Lindsay, you and I might have to go to coffee sometime next time I’m in your area. You’re hitting all the big ones on me now. I listened to a lot of Coltrane. Now don’t laugh. I know that he’s not a guitarist, but I love that phrasing. My love of guitar goes all the way from blues, R&B, jazz comes into rock. I’m not just heavy metal, but I would say more like Van Halen, which I don’t call heavy metal really, but I’m not a Metallica player, kind of stayed to the right of that. But man, I’ve got to tell you, you have the same type of a love for music as I. But let’s talk a little bit about, though, not the guitarist Lindsay Graham, but let’s talk about the spokesman, the great orator that I hear on these podcasts. Let’s just say, how did you get into that role?

LG: Oh, it was an accident. Yeah.

JW: An accident?

LG: I had no designs on this career. Several years ago, I was working at an insurance company. And I was not particularly happy at that insurance company, but it’s a job. But I got fired because probably I was visibly unhappy at this insurance company. And so, I went home to my wife and said… You know, after we got over the shock of losing our income, or my income, she’s fully and gainfully employed, I asked her, I said, “I’d like to see if I can’t make audio a career.” I’ve had for years this audio studio that I’m talking to you from now, as a glorified hobby. I played music, and composed, and recorded bands, and maybe it paid for itself and it kept me off the streets, right? But I wanted to do something more professional. “Let’s see if we can’t eke out a couple of $10,000 and make…” It would be going backwards for me, but I’d be doing something that I loved and be working for myself. And so, I tried it, and I actually found a partner who was looking to do something similar, who had just come down from New York and had a lot of audiobook experience. So we thought, “Hey, audiobooks might be a way to make a living.” It turned out it wasn’t, not for me anyways. Audiobooks are hard to make. But we did make this one podcast called Terms, and it was a strange one to come out the gate up with because it’s not a podcast like most people understand podcasts. It’s not two dudes talking to each other. It’s a fully scripted audio drama with actors and sound design and a big score. And so, it’s a Netflix show without the picture. That was our first effort because we knew podcasting was exploding and we wanted to get into the industry. We were audacious and naive doing it with an audio drama. But there was another audacious and naive company in the world, and that was Wondery, now a behemoth in the podcasting world. But back then, this is almost exactly four years ago, they were much smaller and had a focus driven by their CEO, Hernan, Hernan Lopez, on trying to bring audio drama to the fore of the podcasting sphere. He had a feeling that it could be a new branch of entertainment. That hasn’t happened yet. The podcasting audience hasn’t been found for audio dramas yet. But we pitched Terms to Wondery, as well as many other companies, but Wondery was the only one that called back. They loved it. And so, they are our distributor, and put it on their network and helped us try to monetize with ads. But it was the ads that started my career. I was the composer, sound designer, recordist, and executive producer on Terms. I didn’t write it, I didn’t act in it. The only thing, other than behind the scenes stuff that I did was write and voice the ads, because it didn’t make sense to have, I don’t know, the villain of the show try and sell you a mattress. So it was that accident, just necessity is like, “We’ve got to read the ads. I was like, “Who’s going to do that?” And I just didn’t like the idea of any actor doing it. So I went, “Okay, fine. I’ll do it.” It was that decision, done spur of the moment, that launched my podcasting career because Hernan over at Wondery just liked the sound of my voice and the read of my ads. So I got lucky. I could write an ad and I could read it.

JW: Two important factors you need in audio, right there, two important things.

LG: Certainly in podcasting, yeah. What that led to was I left that audio company. It didn’t work for me. I went back to the 9:00 to 5:00 grind where I could, and I was like, “Well, that was my year and a half experiment of trying to make audio work. Oh well, I guess I’ll go back to what I’m actually trained to do, marketing.” But then I got a call from Hernan who asked, “Hey, we have this new show. We think it’s going to be really big, but the host is a journalist. He can’t endorse any products on air. It’s called Dirty John. Would you like to be the voice of the ads for Dirty John?” This is an easy… You just say yes, right?

JW: Right, right.

LG: Then the second question he had in the same phone call was like, “You’re a history buff, right?” And in my head, I said, “Well, for the purposes of this phone call, yes, I am.” And so I told him yes, and he said, “Well, we’ve got this history show that we’re thinking about. How would you like to host and sound design it?” Again, this is not a question you say no to.

JW: Oh man, you’ve got a great history, pardon the pun, of how you got in this business. I understand you graduated with a degree in what now? What’s your degree in, at the University of-

LG: It finally ended it up, my undergraduate degree, which took me about seven and a half years, finally ended up being a business degree.

JW: But you enjoyed your seven and a half years, right?

LG: There were portions that I enjoyed for sure. The fact that it took me seven and a half years was not enjoyable, no. I’m not a great student, you know, especially when you’re 20. I went back to school, got my MBA, did really well. But I was 34 at that point. I really should have gone to school, taken two or three gap years really to just get myself sorted.

JW: Yeah. You went to University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which has quite a bit of lore about it, right? Virginia-

LG: It is, well, if not the birthplace, certainly the home place of George Washington.

JW: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LG: Named after his mother.

JW: Absolutely. I’ve been a big fan of history. So similar to what you’re saying, I always loved history so much, I thought, “If I could be a history professor.” Then I did some research, and those guys don’t wear new suits. You understand what I mean by that?

LG: Well, you’re describing academia. You have to love it. By the way, podcasting is not too different. These are not fast-track careers.

JW: They are not, and I’ve said this many times. I did not get into this. Matter of fact, I don’t even do any advertising on our show, by the way. Like, for example, your Airship, FM, I give kudos, I give marketing, I give name recognition, I brand for you and all that. I just don’t charge anything because at the end of the day, I want to be free to be me and do what I wish to do, and that’s the beauty about podcasting, right? You can make it what you wish.

LG: Yeah, absolutely. There are very few rules. The industry is growing more professional, and certainly there are FCC rules or suggestions on how you do your ads with host endorsements and things like that. There are boundaries of taste and ethics that you should probably stay within. But in general, podcasting’s pretty phenomenal. If you’ve got something to say that people want to listen to, you can, with hundreds of dollars, start, and then suddenly be talking to billions of people.

JW: Oh, absolutely. So today, Lindsay, far less listener volume than what you’ve experienced, obviously. Again, I just applaud you on the great work you’ve done and the audience you’ve attracted. We’re in 27 countries. We maybe 10, 11,000 unique downloads a month, but we’re getting there. And just having the time of my life doing it. But let’s talk a little bit about your approach to podcasting and history. So, let’s talk about one of my favorites right now, which is the Wicked Game, talking about each of the elections. I want to draw some correlation to that, to the election that we just experienced in our country here in the US. Now, I don’t want to get political with it. I want to talk about drawing some correlations between some of the early candidates to today’s approach, not a particular candidate, but today’s approach on elections. I love some of the reading and the storytelling you give to some of the elections, particularly where one of the founders, of which I adore, President Jefferson kind of was a little bit of a… I’m going to use the term finagler, when it came to politics. He kind of worked some things over and got people in the right corner and promoted himself. That’s what we see today, is it not? I mean, it hadn’t ventured that far from the 1790s.

LG: Well, that’s the entire point of the podcast. Yeah. There’s another great presidential podcast called Presidential. The Washington Post did it. And so, I stole the concept from them. Lily Cunningham is the host. Ahead of the 2016 election, she did a little biography of all 44 presidents leading up to the 2016 election. I thought that that’s a great way to gain momentum 44 weeks leading up to election. But I could do it differently, and I think I could do it with more of an eye to, “Who was Taft?” for instance, and more an eye to, “How did Taft get elected?” Because if you study history, it is inevitable that you will find modern parallels. You could be studying Aztecs and you will say, “Hey, this sounds just like Washington DC right now.” The reason is because we’re all humans. Very, very little cultural differences exist across the globe and across time, and Wicked Game was to point that out. Jefferson, as you mentioned, yeah, he was wily. He’s a smart guy. He knew when to speak when to shut up and when to have someone else speak for him. He invented fake news pretty much.

JW: Absolutely.

LG: And we’ve been wrestling with it ever since.

JW: One of the funniest episodes… Well, I shouldn’t say funny, but I gained a little humor from it, was Martin Van Buren. Now, if you’ve seen pictures or paintings, I should say, of Martin Van Buren, he’s not a big man. Martin Van Buren was a little man, but if you thought of the power he wielded at the nation’s capital to, if you will, put Andrew Jackson in the office, for example, these guys were not stupid, man. Our founders of this country, very intelligent people. But let me pick up on one thing you mentioned. So, if you think about parallels, and you said we are all human, we have a lot in common, what do you think we could do in our country alone coming after this election? We’ve had some division, of course. I just hate the term of categorizing red and blues and all… Just forget all that, but we’re all Americans. What would you think we could do to bring us all back together under this great constitution?

LG: Well, if I had an answer, I’d be screaming it in the streets. I don’t know. I think there’s a confluence of a lot of events. We have a news cycle that’s faster than ever before. We have a social media structure that feeds us exactly what we want to hear. We don’t even know we’re in a feedback loop. All you have to do is start up two Twitter accounts and just follow some random people and compare and contrast what’s being fed to you, what headlines. I think we’ve outmarketed ourselves as humans. We’ve grown so savvy that we’re damaging ourselves, and I don’t know how to fix that except for some sort of return to a devotion to civics. And I couldn’t recommend how to do that. You know, like, maybe reinstate civics as a necessary and mandated course in high school. But understanding how government works, understanding how people work, understanding that this system is imperfect but moving forward, and always just chock full of people. One of the easiest ways to fix the nation is probably to never say “they” when you don’t know who the names of the people you mean. Like, “They are stealing the election.” Who is they? If you can’t name the people, then you don’t know what you’re talking about. And you know, it’s easy to say “they” because that’s a very tribal thing to do, and it makes you feel better, defensive, or aggressive, or like it puts you… But it’s wrong thing to do. Use their names, and if you don’t know them, don’t say it.

JW: That’s good advice. I will tell you this too, I feel like this same thing that could be a double-edged sword for us, that’s so positive in our work and what we do in spreading the joy about this podcast, is social media. By that same token, it can also be the thing that cuts between us and causes division and so forth if we, as you said there, don’t have facts but we spew them out as if we are factual and if we know them, going back to the fake news comment. I will say this, that I believe if we all band together under a unified reason of why we founded this country, and as you said, get more civics involved, don’t you believe that we could take that understanding of commonality and understand, too, that we have some small differences, but at the core, we all want peace, freedom, and pursuit of happiness. What’s your thoughts?

LG: I agree with you completely. I’m a big fan of First Principles, or Toyoda’s 5 Whys, right?

JW: Right.

LG: If you’ve got a problem in your country, and I don’t know what it is. Let’s make one up that’s pretty nonpartisan. Let’s say it’s drainage in your city. You’ve got some localized flooding. You need to fix that. All right well, there’s a lot of ways you can approach it. One’s probably the best one, but it might have some consequences. You might need to buy up some homes or relocate some people. That’s tough to do. But there’s A solution, and then there’s a B solution and a C solution. All of these are facts. These are easily discernible things. So when I say, “What are the first principles or the five whys of…” I think we should remember that we’re trying to solve a problem and not discuss amongst each some other elements. Like, there’s a drainage problem. We need to fix that, and everything should be addressed to that basic principle. And if there is a solution that comes up, you say, Why is that the case?” And you’ll get to your underneath layer. You ask, “Why is that the case?” Within a couple of whys, you realize that it’s not addressing drainage at all. It’s some other special interest or whatever.

JW: That’s one of the things too, that I think we take our eye off that ball of commonality too often. For example, as you said, media move too fast. I feel like our country maybe is trying to break the news so quickly to be the one that broke the story, that we may miss some facts that are integral to that story, having context. You understand what I mean? I think you can come out and call a story a story before you really have all of the introduction, all the facts, and know what the conclusion is. You just start.

LG: Yeah. Well, I think that’s true to, in a great sense, in social media. There are now casts of media. I’m remiss to use the word “mainstream media” because it means so many different things to different people. But there are qualified professional outlets that don’t really rush. They take their time. They pay attention to things. It may be a matter of minutes or maybe a matter of days, but some stories are slow. There is this other class of… I won’t even call them journalists. They’re just informationists that are much faster at the trigger. Because they don’t even do the reporting themselves. It’s more of a repeat function. There’s a fantastic effort, the… Gosh, I’m forgetting the name of it. But it’s the news literacy project. I follow them on Twitter and pay attention to their efforts. They’re just trying to educate the American public on what is real or not and how to figure it out. Like, here are three things you can do whenever you read a headline. Check the date. Check that there is a byline, that someone’s actually putting their name on it. Oftentimes, just those two things and all will dispel 80% of the noise.

JW: Man, that’s good advice as well. I’m going to turn a little corner with you now, Lindsay. I’m going to ask a couple of things personally to you. Is that okay if I dive in?

LG: That’s fine. And if I don’t like it, I’ll say no.

JW: See, that’s the thing I love about you. Here’s the thing I’d want to know. What in your world has been the most fulfilling event of your life, absent your daughter’s birth? What else has been the most fulfilling event in your life, absent your daughter? Because we know she’s number one.

LG: Yeah, absolutely.

JW: But what would be next?

LG: Well, I mean, the easy question that is not incorrect would be my marriage. But I’ll go with where you want me to go and take both of those off the table.

JW: Help your host here a little. He’s not the professional you are, brother. Help me out a little bit.

LG: No, it’s a good question. What is most fulfilling? I will tell you right now, I mean, of course it changed. You ask me when I’m seven, it’s that picture I drew. But right now it absolutely is my career in podcasting. There’s a couple of reasons for that. One, I’m doing it myself. I’m my own boss. That feels great. I’ve had wonderful bosses in the past. I’ve worked on great teams, but it’s something different when you’re building it yourself. It feels good. It’s smaller and I can make decisions that make sense to me. One of the things I hated about working in any sort of structure or organization is that some of the decisions coming from the top down weren’t explained well enough. They were dictums. And so, you just march in a direction that you’re not really sure you want to march in. That doesn’t happen when you’re doing it on your own. Even if you are marching in the wrong direction, you at least know the reason why. And then also I get to have conversations like this, talk about issues that are important to me, and perhaps even persuasively. I think my mission as a podcaster, I try very hard… I have to interject here. I don’t write the bulk of my podcasts. I’ve got a team of researchers and writers and producers. Wondery takes great care the content. And then I have some independent stuff, but even then, I’m not writing four 45-minute podcasts every week. But I am curating it. It’s coming out of my mouth. So I take special care that I am doing this right. And doing it right means that the message is clear, that it’s fair, that it has a purpose. And that purpose, especially in the history space, has been what we were talking about, that understanding some of the victories and mistakes of the past might help you in the present. And remember that we are all people, over and over again. There is no “they”. There’s other people.

JW: I like to say it’s just “us”. I’m a pronoun person that uses the word “us” a lot. I don’t care where you’re from or who you are, it’s us. We’re all in the same boat. So, Lindsay, let’s talk a little bit deeper about this issue of you’re your own boss. Good friend of mine, Simon Sinek, he wrote a book called Start With Why. I don’t know if you’ve read the book. It’s a great lead into why you even start the podcast. I’d like to catch a little bit further on that and say, how do you take the initiation for a new topic of a podcast? How does your group, your team start out going, “Hey, you know what? Here’s an area I have interest in.” What do you do to decide what the next step’s going to be in the next podcast?

LG: Well, yeah, that’s a great question. We’ll start with the first one, History Tellers, American History Tellers. It’s granted that that fell in my lap. I didn’t seek that. That was the accident. But everything after that has been purposeful. So, when History Tellers came along and it shocked everyone, and it went to number one on iTunes the week it debuted, and like, “Well, dang, this might work.” And so, it produced, for me personally, enough income to rival my day job. But it’s a new career and there’s no guarantee that… There’s an end to the contract that I signed. What happens after that? There’s a lot of risk, is what I’m saying. And so, I thought, “Well, the way to manage risk is to build a portfolio. And so, if I had a second show, a second show that did just about the same thing, followed the same successful formula, then I could be comfortable with the risk, because if one went away, it’s not likely that the other one would, unless something catastrophic has happened. And so, that’s how I came up with the idea of American Scandal. It was purely to broaden my portfolio to make sure that I could enter into a new career with some security. I looked around the marketplace of podcasts and thought, “There’s a lot of true crime stuff. I don’t particularly like true crime, but I bet I can combine history and true crime in a way that’s compelling to people.” And so I went back to Wondery within six months of History Teller debuting and said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a second podcast. Here it is.” And you know, they bought it for nothing. Not many zeros on the check there for buying up the IP content. And I didn’t mind. That wasn’t the point. I wasn’t trying to sell an idea. I was trying to sell another multi-month contract that gave me security, and I got it. Turns out Scandal is more popular than the History Tellers. And so, then you start making more decisions, like, “Well, okay, do I have room for further growth? Do I have an appetite for it?” I mean, this is pretty comfortable now. I’m doing something that I love. I’m now doing full time, which I quit my job. But it grew hard and so I hired someone. And then, when I hired someone, I was like, “Well, I need to broaden the portfolio again. I need to try and find a client that we’ll just do editing work on, the backend stuff, to fill out my new employee’s time, to make sure that he’s utilized properly.” That’s what happened. We do all the post-production on another history show from Wondery called Tides… Excuse me, Tides of History. Yeah, it’s just any small business. It’s like, “Okay, we did that. What’s next? Do I want a next? And if I do then, then what should it be?” And then I got to the point where I could do something that I enjoyed. 1865 was fantastic. Then even Wicked Game was not a financial play. It was mission-driven, but half and half. And I have a new podcast coming out in January because Wicked Games is pretty much over now that the elections cycle’s ended.

JW: Or has it? Or has it, Lindsay?

LG: As of right now, though.

JW: I’m sorry. Bad joke. Bad joke.

LG: No. No, we’re still counting.

JW: Excellent. New podcast. What is it?

LG: Well, it furthers our conversation because Wicked Game is ending and I want to replace it. I already have the infrastructure for producing it. I don’t want to step backwards. So I went to Wondery and said, “Hey, I want to do a new podcast to replace Wicked Game. Here’s some ideas. But I want you to pick the one that you think has the most market potential because Wicked Game actually didn’t sell that well in terms of ads. Advertisers didn’t like the political content of it, which we’re about as straight down in the middle as you can get. But-

JW: I’ve got to be honest with you, though, sir, I loved it, man. Not just saying that because you’re on my show. I’ve enjoyed every episode, so-

LG: Well, thank you very much.

JW: I know the advertising may not be what you want, but I loved the show. Rated it very high.

LG: Well, that’s the peculiar thing about this industry. I don’t know… the people who pick the ads, the sponsors, the agencies, and the end sponsors, they rarely even listen to the shows that they advertise on. They’re just looking for brand safety. There’s a lot of podcasts out there. And so, they want to check a few boxes. Is the audience big enough? Is it diverse enough or feels a certain niche? Is it brand safe? Does it talk about sex, drugs, or politics? Well, we were on the politics box, so we didn’t get too many advertisers. This brings me back to the conversation with Wondery. It’s like, “I don’t want that to happen again.” So let’s talk about some brand-safe concepts. Here’s a bunch of mine. Wondery said, “Well, tell you what, you ever thought about doing a business podcast? I was like, “Well, I’ve got an MBA. I probably could.” And so, yeah, we’re going to have kind of a history of business… Same sort of stuff I do, narrative-driven, let’s tell the stories, the great stories of critical moments in global business, who are the victors and who are the losers and how they manage their decisions. That’s coming out in mid January, I think it’s called Business Movers. That may change, but we’re in development right now.

JW: I would never propose you anything that I get credit for. That’s not my point. But I’m hoping you will tackle an episode on Edison and Tesla and their battle to come, the, if you will, the owners of electricity utility in the United States. Because that is a great story by the way. You’d do wonderful in your voice on that.

LG: Well, thank you. I think that was already covered in American Innovations. But, here we go talking about the market again. The market for this show, we’re good with advertisers because it’s a business-focused show. But Edison, Tesla, that’s not modern enough. Audiences want recognizable brands and something in recent memory. Now Edison and Tesla is probably big enough, but if I told another story that was similar to it, like the great sewage wards of Detroit in 1821, which I totally made up just now-

JW: I was going to say I hadn’t heard of that one.

LG: Even though it might be a fascinating story, it doesn’t move. This is the reality of being in media. You make decisions that you don’t want to make to further the cause.

JW: Well, so let’s dig a little deeper. Now I want the audience to know who Lindsay Graham really is. So I’ve got to ask you a very difficult question now. The question’s real simple though. If you were not in this career and you had your choice of any career, notwithstanding economics, notwithstanding anything like that, what would you be? What would you do?

LG: Oh, it’s not difficult at all. If you look over my shoulder, you see a wall full of guitars. And so, the reason I was able to get into podcasting was because I already own the microphones. I already built my little studio. I would be a record producer for sure. I’m not the greatest musician, but I love music and I love the mechanics of it, and making it, and the collaboration that happens in a studio environment. I like how fast it is. There’s so much I like about it. You can be just outrageously creative. So yeah, I would produce bands. That’s a no brainer for me.

You and I have… This is uncanny, we just have so much in common between the guitar loving and so forth and the music genres and things. But I had that choice or an AR man for a music company. The reason being is I could go hear all these new great acts that haven’t yet made it and give them a chance to, kind of like my entrepreneurial side, give them a chance to make it, right?

LG: Right.

JW: It goes back to one of my favorite guitarists, Eddie Van Halen. When Van Halen started out, they were working for pennies, man, doing backyard parties and so forth. They go to a club one night. Just by chance, there’s a man with a record company comes and hears them. They’re blown away and they go, “Where have these guys been?” And that, to me is what’s really cool about music, is you can change someone’s life almost in an instant. Well, that is really good. So let’s build on one more question and I’m going to ask some advice from you, because you’ve been so helpful today. Let me ask you this question. If I were to say to my audience I’ve got a story I wish to tell, how would you recommend they start in podcasting now? They don’t have tons of money. They don’t have tons of capital, but they’ve got a great story. They might have a nice voice like mine, I’m just kidding with that. I have that Southern drawl down pretty well. Your voice sounds very good. But what would you give advice to them on how to start?

LG: There are so many resources on how to do this. It’s a burning question. And I think – now this is flippant, but it’s true – start. How do you start? You start by starting. I am critically aware of the paralysis that will overtake you if you get fearful of your own adequacy or this isn’t good enough. You’ll find that the Titans of podcasting all say the same thing, Ira Glass among them, that there is a gap, he says famously, in what you do and what you want it to be. That just happens. It happens now. It happens today, for him, for me, for everyone. But that gap gets smaller. And so, when you first start, that gap’s big, big enough for you to fall in and drown. But you’re never going to know until you start. There are some other tactics, things, you know. You’re going to have to get some microphones and a laptop and all that stuff. But don’t worry about that at all. If you’ve got a phone in your pocket, you can podcast. Yeah. Then once you start, you focus on storytelling, on the real craft of making sure the story you think is interesting actually comes across as interesting. That’s a whole other three hours of conversation.

JW: That is great advice. I think you’ve been more than generous with information, but I’d love to, if I could ask one favor of you to pour out to our audience, if you could just leave our listeners and subscribers today with just one statement of advice on influence, or podcasting, or history, or entrepreneurism, what would that be?

LG: Well, I don’t want to repeat myself, but starting by starting is pretty good. I’ll think of something else. There are two things that I’ve discovered, that really do help, even though they’re annoying. One is rehearsal. I don’t like to rehearse. I don’t like to practice. I don’t like to study. I’m kind of an in-the-moment sort of person in my regular ordinary life. But when it comes down to it, practicing works. It’s amazing. You do something once and you suck. You do it 10 times and you don’t suck. You know, I’m 46 years old and I’m just figuring this out. This is amazing. So rehearse, practice. Don’t get yourself so nervous about things. This isn’t a best man speech or anything. But if you’ve got any sort of important thing coming up, just rehearse.

JW: Are you trying to tell me, though, Lindsay, that my team, the Dallas Cowboys, which, by the way, I admit, are going to have a rough year this year, that they don’t just show up on Sunday and put on the pads. You mean, they actually practice during the week what they’re going to perform?

LG: Apparently, apparently. I’ve heard that they do this almost every day.

JW: That’s what I understand, is you’re suggesting that we might all do that with whatever craft we’re wishing to create as a value to the marketplace. Whatever that may be, practice it, rehearse it. I’m with you, so I’ve got to be very honest with you, I don’t do a lot of rehearsing. After a while, I can get up and just ask great people like you to give us excellent content. You’re so gracious to do so and I thank you today for sharing with our listeners your background, your words of encouragement and advice. I just want you to know I’d love to help in some way. So here’s what I’d like to do for you if you don’t mind. I’d like to, when you get your new podcast out and I listen to it, I’d love to help you with that. I’m going to mention that in our show notes, as we get ready to produce this show and it goes out to the public. If there’s anything I can do to assist you and your team moving forward, we’d gladly do it here at Live A Life By Design. You’ve been very gracious. Thank you for joining me today.

LG: Oh, I appreciate it, and thank you. It was a good conversation.

JW: Thank you for joining us today on Live A Life By Design. The challenge this week is for each of you to heed the advice of Lindsay, our guest today on the program. The simple yet profound message of just starting. How many of you listening today have a great idea, or wish to move your career in a different manner, or wish to start a whole new company doing something you enjoy, and you just haven’t started? It’s time.

There’s never a better day than today. There’s never a better time than now. Go out, create the life you wish. Don’t live the life you’ve been given if it’s not your passion. As I always say, this is your life. Live it by design.

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