To make a better podcast, you need to be a better podcaster, right? Listening to this show (and doing the work) will help, but… how long is that going to take? And is the advice of long-time podcasters always a good thing?
This part four of a four-part miniseries on time and podcasting. Part one covered your own personal time horizon as a podcaster. Part two talked about the length of time it takes to make a better podcast. Part three waded into the crashing waves of just how long a podcast episode should be.
Today we’ll examine the time it takes to actually get better at podcasting so you can, if you wish, call yourself an expert.
Podcasting is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to grow an audience. It takes time to develop a rhythm and a flow. It takes time to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t work. And all that time takes… well, time.
Yet time is a double-edged sword. Yes, experience is critical. But just because something (or someone) has been around a very long time, it doesn’t mean that it is (or they are) still relevant today.
My name — Evo — means “epoch”, or a super-long time scale. I think about time and how things span time quite a bit. It’s just what my weirdo brain likes to focus on. It’s because of that weirdo brain and my ability to bring long time scales into any conversation that earned me my given name in the first place. (If you’re interested in origin stories.)
But I’m not the only one who thinks about time. You’ve probably heard a phrase popularized by Malcolm Gladwell: It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything.
I don’t think there’s much in the scientific literature to back up that nicely-rounded number, but I think it’s a fine number to use from a directional and scale perspective. Because you have to practice. You have to practice a lot. You’re not going to be a pro tomorrow at a skill you picked up yesterday. (Although that doesn’t stop people from learning how to do something over a weekend and hanging out their self-proclaimed expert shingle.)
How attainable is that 10,000-hour number? If you practice the art and craft of podcasting for one hour a day, every day, it’ll take you almost 27 and a half years to reach 10,000 hours.
No one has been podcasting for that long. Because podcasting hasn’t been around that long.
But that’s not what Malcolm meant. Spending a dedicated one hour out of 24 each and every day for one-third of your life isn’t a sustainable way to master a skill. That’s how you get better at a hobby, maybe.
Dedicated people — professionals who also want to become an expert in their profession — apply full-time-job-level dedication. Spending eight hours a day instead of one cuts those 27 years down to three.
So in three to four years, you really could achieve that 10,000-hour mark and be considered a podcasting expert. Hours spent making your podcast, reading, thinking, researching, collaborating… all the aspects of podcasting.
But is that what made me an expert? I’ve been podcasting for 15 years now. That’s about half of the original 27 years. I’m not sure if I averaged an hour a day every day for the first half of my career or not. But this has been my only job since 2016, and I’ve been working with many other podcasters, helping with podcasting strategies and ensuring podcasting fits within their businesses. Even though I’m kind of lazy, I’m probably not too far off the mark of somewhere in the neighborhood of eight hours a day. And I’ve been doing that for about four years now… so that probably gets me to the 10,000 hours!
Notice how my emphasis is on the last four years of my career. Not the first 11. What I do today is vastly different than what I was doing back in October of 2004. It’s not that the experiences I gained over those first 11 years were worthless; far from it! I just don’t think that “total time involved” is all that important when it comes to what makes me an expert.
People who are dedicated to doing one thing for a long time tend to lose sight of external changes that influence their industry. Intense focus — specialization, really — requires you to stay on top of what’s happening directly in your field, but often at the expense of macro-level shifts. So while you keep your edge sharp on that one thing, you can fall behind in other aspects, making you a bit out of touch.
I worry about this happening to me. Honestly, I’m worried it’s already happened. So I actively fight the worry by constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone as I try — perhaps in vain — to keep up with new trends inside and outside of podcasting. But I recognize that there is much that I just don’t have a handle on, and I fear that that’s going to intensify as time relentlessly marches on.
But I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard.
Working hard to craft the skills necessary to make a better podcast and to become a better podcaster is going to take time. You’re not going to be an expert podcaster in six months. You’ll be better than you were six months from now, to be sure. But you won’t be an expert. After three years of dedicated work? Maybe. But then the world will shift right out from under you.
Here’s the message hidden in this angst-filled episode and post: Always be learning. Always look for new stuff. Question the advice you get from everyone. Even if they’ve been around for 15 years. Make sure the advice, opinions, and experience that person has racked up are still relevant today and likely will be in the future.
There’s wisdom in the phrase “Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.” But on reflection, I’m not sure I buy it. There’s definitely value in doing anything for a long time. But there also value in learning new things Even with 206 episodes of this particular show under my belt, I’m learning and trying out new things all the time. If only to keep irrelevance at bay for just a little longer.
I appreciate you for spending your valuable time with these episodes. Even though I’m only asking nine minutes of your day, four days a week, I still appreciate your time.
I’ll be back next week with a brand new miniseries, all about making podcasting better. In the meantime, please check out PodcastLaunch.pro for more services I offer.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 206th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.