You’re reading an excerpt of Stop Asking Questions, by Andrew Warner, a veteran podcast host of 2000+ episodes. The book explains how to lead high-impact interviews and learn anything from anyone. Master the craft of interviewing with this complete digital package. Purchase now for lifetime access to the book and extensive audio and video resources.
How to Create Momentum and Keep Going
I’ve talked to dozens of people who started podcasts and quit after just a few episodes. Many were embarrassed—they had good conversation skills but could only produce a handful of interviews. What was wrong with them?
I feel for them. In fact, I was in their shoes. Episode #8 of Mixergy was almost my last.
Episode #8 was with Bill Reichert, founder of Garage Technology Ventures. I remember thinking how hesitant he seemed to talk with me. My interview style was completely unpolished. Our conversation was full of “ums” and “ahs” and slow responses. I worried he regretted interviewing with me because my audience was so small.
Afterward, I felt like such a failure that I wanted to give up interviewing. I was ready to quit. But I couldn’t. Not because I was determined—my motivation was all but gone. I couldn’t give up because I had already scheduled more interviews.
A friend of mine had already introduced me to Tyler Suchman, a search engine optimization expert, which was a new skill at the time. And I had already booked Tara Hunt, who was teaching people, like the founder of Zappos, about social media. I had to keep going because I’d already committed to interviewing them and others.
The best way to ensure you keep going is to schedule interviews ahead of time. Most new interviewers do the opposite. They schedule a few to get a sense of the format and then plan to schedule more after evaluating the first batch. This is a mistake because your first episodes will almost definitely fail to live up to your expectations. What you need is momentum. We live in a self-help world, where we’re taught that people become successful through intrinsic motivation. That’s not the only way to get ahead. Let your commitment to another person drive you—or rather, pull you—even when you doubt yourself.
In the more than ten years I’ve been interviewing, I’ve rarely had a month without at least five guests booked in advance. That’s how I keep getting past my inner doubt and continue improving.
Inner doubt is powerful. It can stop us. But it’s also a liar. Years later, I went back to read a transcript of my interview with Bill. I realized it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought at the time. With the benefit of a decade of experience, what I perceived was his discomfort was actually an expression of vulnerability. In the interview, he admitted to investing in about 100 internet startups at the worst time in the industry’s history: the Dot Com crash. Instead of feigning invincibility, Bill admitted to a mistake. It was the beginning of the type of openness that built my show’s reputation. Good thing I had interviews scheduled after that and didn’t give up.
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When I moved from California to Argentina, I had no idea what my new home country would be like. Where would I record? Would the internet be stable? Would our remote locale cause a lag and screw up my conversation’s rhythm? There were so many challenges. But they didn’t stop me. Before I got on my flight, I scheduled interviews for just a few days later. That forced Olivia and me to race through Buenos Aires looking for an office to rent. I remember the pressure. But it also allowed us to explore different parts of the city. Most importantly, it strengthened my commitment to the interviews.
And it all worked out. I found a good office. I had a strong internet connection. I recorded my interviews.
You’ll always have challenges and doubts about your work. I still do. The 2,052nd interview I published was with Ray J, the musician and tv star. I wanted to understand how his earphones company, RAYCON, did over $100M in sales. For an hour after it was done, I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I kept going over in my head all the things I could have done differently. Was I too complimentary? Did I drive hard enough for numbers when he told me he struggled financially at times? Should I have done this? Did I do too much of that? I felt lousy.
Doesn’t matter. It didn’t stop me because I had four interviews scheduled for the following week and four more for the week after that. I created momentum to keep myself going.
When Ray J’s interview was published, listeners told me how much they loved it. They didn’t know all the questions I wished I had asked or things I wished I had done differently. The interview had much more substance than my inner doubts allowed me to realize.
The only way to keep going is to have more interviews scheduled. Keep your calendar full.
My goal isn’t to bind you to what worked for me but to give you ways to enjoy interviews and learn from them.
I started writing this book at a challenging time. San Francisco, my hometown of nine years, went into lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I went from working at an office I loved to recording my interviews on a small card table in a corner of my bedroom. I was miserable about the change and didn’t fail to mention it in interviews.
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