I’m no stranger to snow having grown up in South Bend, Indiana. Not just a few flurries here and there, we’re talking full-blown, lake-effect, mom-it’s-hard-to-even-walk-in-this-snow kinda snow. A few feet following a blizzard was typical. Did it earn us a day off from school? Not normally. Just when you thought, “Alright, we’ve definitely got the day off today,” is when the school district distributors of pain laughed out our assumptions and told us school was open while laughing like Dr. Evil.
My Uncle Doug and Aunt Carol moved to Gallatin, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville) when I was a kid. My mom often told us that our cousins, Brenda and Char, got the day off from school although there was just one itty bitty inch of snow on the ground. My sister and I would look at each other in stunned disbelief. It would’ve been nice to have a day off instead of unintentionally training for the Winter Olympics on the way to school.
I didn’t see the big picture then, but I see it now.
Another story comes to mind. There was a really smart kid in high school who was actually upset when we didn’t get a homework assignment one day. I sarcastically thought, “Man, this guy would be an absolute blast to hang out with at parties.” Looking back, his stance actually makes sense. He wasn’t being challenged that day. He wasn’t growing and getting better. He was looking at the big picture while I was only focusing on the day itself.
I don’t expect kids to say, “Extra homework? Awesome!” I don’t think grade-schoolers need to say, “No snow day? Thank goodness, I was worried we’d be stuck building a snowman and sledding!” There’s nothing wrong with embracing things that are fun. The problem is when we want to avoid things that help us improve.
Ask yourself this — what’s something you dislike doing although it’s actually helpful? The #1 thing I dislike doing in sports radio, although it helps me improve, is listening to my shows. There’s a tendency for me to think, “Okay that show is done, on to the next one.” I also feel like an egomaniac if someone walks by while I’m listening to my own show. The only thing missing is me hugging and kissing myself while yelling like Terrell Owens, “I love me some me!”
It isn’t about ego though. It’s about improvement. Yeah, the show just ended, but that doesn’t mean my job is done. Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was a master at watching film and critiquing his hitting mechanics. I remember seeing ancient footage of former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs camped out by an old-school film projector while studying every player’s movement. Imagine if each player and coach said, “The game just ended. Why would we go back and watch it?”
I wanted to learn how to play guitar back when I was younger. It’s tough getting started because nobody is good immediately. It wasn’t any fun to play because I was horrid. It takes time, patience, and lots of reps. One year I decided that I was going to play for at least 30 minutes every single day. Establishing that routine made it much easier to get better. Plus, I didn’t have to practice from sunrise to sunset to make strides.
The same thing applies to air checking shows. You don’t need to listen to every second to improve. Get in the habit of listening to bits and pieces regularly. Start by picking out 10 minutes — just one little segment. Choose something that was really good and pinpoint what worked. Select something that was awful and figure out why. Listen to a segment from last month that you halfway remember and pay attention to the entire layout. Something will stand out. It always does.
Listening to yourself while also talking during a show, is completely different than listening without talking. Many things stand out more when you’re only listening — how fast you speak, how long, how loud, your crutches, your strengths and weaknesses — it’s all there. In sports they say that the “eye in the sky don’t lie.” It basically means the video tape reveals everything about the quality of play or lack thereof. It’s the same exact idea with a radio show recording. The tape is the ultimate truth teller. If it’s the ultimate truth teller, what sense does it make to avoid it?
NFL players often dread film study because coaches can make it painful. “Jones, you miserable excuse for a blankety blank, your effort is bleepety bleep and [censored, NSFW, parental advisory explicit content].” If your PD makes the process that brutal, he’ll be in HR jail soon. However, you shouldn’t need a good manager to take initiative for you. Listening to your shows is helpful. Resisting something that’s beneficial is like guarding against getting sleep and drinking water. Don’t oppose things that help.
Just make sure you understand the difference between what’s making you better, and what’s keeping you the same. You aren’t lazy without any potential if you cheer an occasional day off. You’re just more likely to embrace undesirable work if you understand that it’s helping you grow. Your perspective will change and what was once unwanted will be much more tolerable.
Former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells once said, “This is what you work all offseason for. This is why you lift all them weights. This is why you do all that (bleep).” He was focusing his players on the Super Bowl payoff of their hard work. We often focus on the process instead of the payoff — what we have to do instead of why we are doing it. It should be the opposite. If we’re always aware of the reward our hard work should lead to, it makes the process of putting in the time much less difficult.
Stay focused on the payoff more than the process.
Air checking my show is something I had to talk myself into. Once I dwelled on the payoff of improving, the process of listening was easier to embrace. What about you? What do you dislike that is actually helpful? What tasks will be much more pleasant if you change your perspective? It’s crazy, sometimes the things that help us improve are the same things we fight against the most. That’s when a mindset makeover is needed. It’s amazing how the tasks we dread magically change when the payoff is the primary focus.