On my 12th birthday, my parents arranged a surprise visit to a really big radio station. I got to sit in with a host I’d listened to for years, be on the mic with him, talk to the producers on the other side of the glass and watch the whole thing unfold. My parents did this because I’d been saying that I wanted to work in radio, and having that experience just cemented the aspiration for me.

Twenty-two years later, I’m doing the job I always imagined I would. I’ve been involved in radio my whole adult life and hosted my daily afternoon show for 10 years this January. Just for fun, here are some of the side effects of the job:


(1) People know way more about me than I do about them

Say I’m standing in a supermarket checkout line and people are chatting about their dogs. Inevitably someone I don’t know will bring me into the conversation like this: “John has two dogs, he knows all about it. Isn’t that right John?” It’s a little disconcerting that people know lots and lots about my life while I know nothing about them, but I always remind myself it’s good for my show. It means people are engaged.

(2) People think I’ll be great at other speaking gigs

This is a huge misconception. Just because someone is good at hosting a radio show doesn’t mean they’ll be a good emcee, or master of ceremonies, or award presenter, or chairperson, or DJ, or debate moderator (okay, I am pretty good at that last one). One should always be aware of their strengths and areas of expertise, and their implied weaknesses. A good cattle farmer may be a terrible steakhouse chef. Someone who’s good at building apartments may be a lousy landlord. A good car salesperson may be a horrible mechanic. I try to be aware of the few things I’m good at and focus on those.

(3) On the other hand, people think they could do my job

Most people have no idea how difficult it is to hold the attention of a radio audience and keep it there. They make a typical mistake: assuming that because something seems effortless, that it is effortless. We could call this the ‘Penn & Teller Effect’, the process by which skill and preparation is employed so well as to make it seem spontaneous and easy, like turning coins into goldfish by blowing on them. Remember the rule of expertise popularized by Malcolm Gladwell: it takes 10,000 hours of practicing something to become an expert at it. I couldn’t just step into your job without a lot of training and practice, and you couldn’t just step into mine.

(4) People are angry at me and I don’t know why

I express some opinions on my show, and one thing is important to remember about opinions: people won’t always concur. When I’m out and about somewhere in some social setting, for every ten people I’m chatting with, one will deliberately show a little hostility or shun me in some way. It’s not a big deal, and I suppose in one way it shows that I’m doing my job (getting a point across successfully, spotlighting issues, provoking responses).

(5) People think I’m just having fun

Is my job fun? Absolutely. But it’s still a job. Not all of it is fun, and it takes a lot of daily work to get to what sounds like a free-and-easy good-ol’-time. I wouldn’t trade you for your job, but I still have bad days, still have paperwork and meetings and an actual office with a desk, still have to deal with troublesome or difficult things, and still have pressure and stress. It’s like planning a party: it takes the work to have the fun.

(6) People want me to listen to their band

All of these are good, well-meaning, wonderful people, but honestly I’m not the person they’re convinced I am. All their intensity and salesmanship is misdirected. Even if I did play their song on the radio, I have a talk show, so it’s not what my audience is tuning in for. I guess there’s always the off-chance that I’ll like it so much that I’ll invite them on the show to talk and perform, but that’s very rare. Also – and I have to be brutally, brutally honest here – most of this category of music is just not very good. (There are exceptions, of course.)

(7) People refer to things I’ve talked about that I don’t even remember saying

This is the most common thing that happens when you have the job I do. “Remember when you said…” “I had to get out of the car so I didn’t hear the rest of it…” And here’s why it happens: I do a two hour show, every weekday. Even if we take out half an hour for commercials, news and other stuff, that means if I haven’t seen you for a month, I’ve done 30 hours of talking since I saw you! The likelihood of me remembering the 5-minute topic you remember is negligible. I barely remember yesterday’s show, let alone the one I did 5 days or 5 weeks ago.

But – and I really mean this – I’m delighted you remembered, because it means that it was worth remembering, and that’s why I do this thing in the first place.