Before we get started

Are we in balance? Are we ready? Have we taken care to do our work at a steady pace? Will we move quick enough to get things done on time, and slow enough to see obvious oversights?

The fighter who prepares the best is usually the fighter that wins.

And the best way to prepare is to accept that a bunch of unexpected stuff is going to happen. That way you won’t be jolted so easily by a curveball or foul play. And so the unexpected becomes expected.

Making stuff is easy (part 2)

Today I was going to write to you about something else, but I forgot what I was going to say. This juicy comment from Stuart on Making stuff is easy stole my attention. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll remember that brilliant thing I was going to tell you.

Stuart writes,

Passionate doesn’t mean romantic. The passionate creator is often faced with the deafening silence of a subscriber count of 0, the barrenness of an empty comment section, and an email list of roommates who signed up just to be nice.

But even with a subscriber count of 1,000, a comment section as lively as Times Square, and an email list of every friend, colleague, and fan they’ve ever met, the passionate creator pretends those things don’t exist. Not because of delusion. Not because they’re above anyone. But because the passionate creator holds close in memory the motivation of deafeningly null subscriber counts, ghost town comment sections, and newsletters sent out to nobody.

Remember where you started.

Making stuff is easy

Hosting a podcast. Writing a blog. Sending out a newsletter. These things aren’t that difficult.

What’s a podcast, anyway? One or two people talking into a mic about stuff that other people might find interesting? What could be so hard about that?

And what, exactly, is a blog post? Words on a screen under a domain name on the Internet.
Not much to it.

But a podcast that thousands of people listen to every week? A blog that kicks off the morning of a thousand people every Thursday?

Still, not that difficult.

One or two people talking into a mic (plus a thousand people listening). Words on a screen under a domain name on the Internet (plus a thousand people reading).

But trying something over and over again until you get the formula right? That’s the hard part.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to creativity, too.

If your project breaks, if you’re not getting the engagement you want, no need to reinvent your wheel.

Instead, try plugging up all the air holes. Tighten your approach. Apply specific constraints. Choose to be this, not that. Stick to a routine. Be relentlessly yourself. Set a ludicrously high bar. If you’re not getting the engagement you want, there’s probably too many holes in your approach. Which means too many excuses for people to listen to any other podcast, to read any other blog but yours.

Making stuff is easy. And it’s especially easy for you because you already have the talent, taste, and tools to make something great.

But there’s a fourth ingredient. An ingredient you need. An ingredient that all the great creators use in their recipes everyday.


From Cullin McGrath to Salman Ansari. From John Daub to Austin Calvert. These creators have a sixth sense for change. They fine-tune their approach until they get it right. They reiterate until everything is in its right place. They stick to what works for them – not for what works for the others. The best creators administer the proper dosage of flexibility.

Because if you use too much flexibility, you’ll end up changing your approach every week and confusing the hell out of everyone. But if you use the right amount of flexibility, you’ll recognize when your approach isn’t helping you get to where you’d like to be.

Sparking Conversations, Best Practices of Podcasting, and The Origin of Penguin Latte (#28)

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

In this episode I’m interviewed by my buddy Robbie Crabtree (@RobbieCrab). Robbie Crabtree is a trial lawyer with a decade of experience handling some of the world’s most brutal court cases. I’m talking domestic violence, child abuse, homicide — all the nasty stuff we’d rather not think about. To call him thick-skinned would be an understatement. Robbie first appeared on the podcast in episode 18, which you can listen to here.

But to call him intimidating would be an overstatement. Robbie’s one of the most generous souls I’ve ever met. He’s also packing 10 years of public speaking experience into a month long online workshop called Performative Speaking (which I’m producing videos for).

So why the heck is this powerhouse trial lawyer interviewing little’ol me? Hell if I know! But Robbie was generous enough to reach out to talk to me about sparking conversations, the best practices of podcasting, constraints, formatting, what to name your show, and much more. This is an episode for anyone thinking of starting their own podcast. So, please enjoy!

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

Every Sunday, I write a weekly newsletter full of advice for creatives, plus extra goodies like drafts of blog posts and previews of the podcast. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.

PS: Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of the excitement of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (or 120 seconds if you’re feeling extra spicy). By leaving a review, you’re making the podcast 1% better. So, if 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better (if I have my math right). Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments. Thanks so much!

You can host a podcast

Because podcasting is the best way to leverage your curiosity.

Because a podcast lets you explore the true final frontier: your perspective.

And because the barrier to entry has never been lower. There’s no gatekeepers. There’s no network execs telling you what to say. It’s just you, a microphone, and your limitless curiosity.

But even though it’s easier than ever, it’s a lot of work to create a podcast that people remember. But that’s exactly how they’ll remember yours: because you put in the work to make it memorable.

Conversations spark insight, connection, and forward momentum. A good conversation is a collaboration between three people. The host, the guest, and the audience participate in making something remarkable.

You can host a podcast.

Which is why I’m starting a new video series called Paul Teaches Podcasting. I’ll be posting at least two videos a month on all things podcasts. Expect tutorials on…

  • The best practices of hosting a podcast
  • Stalking your guests (aka doing your homework)
  • How to have a juicy conversation
  • Getting comfortable on camera and with a mic
  • How to come up with questions on the spot
  • and loads more…

I hope you’ll check it out. And I hope it’ll move you to picking up that mic, reaching out to your favorite people, and hitting record.

Here’s a quick video to get you started.

And if you have any questions about podcasting, reach out to me on Twitter. I love talking about this stuff. I’d be happy to help.



P.S Thanks to Robbie Crabtree for helping with the video.

Every Sunday, I write a weekly newsletter full of advice for creatives, plus extra goodies like drafts of blog posts and previews of the podcast. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.

Bother because you need to

Writing a blog post, recording a podcast, speaking to an audience, delivering something creative — these things take effort. And not only because writing something burns calories (I’m guessing it’s no more than the amount you burn while you sleep). But because it takes a lot of effort to say No.

To say No to notifications.

To say No to checking to see if the world is on fire (spoiler alert: it kind of is).

To say No to all the incoming requests for your time.

Is it selfish to say, “no — all this external stuff isn’t as important as writing the first chapter of my book”? — Probably depends on what the book is for. But if the book you’re writing is going to change readers minds about something, if it’s going to improve their lives, make them smarter, healthier, possibly sexier — then get as selfish as you want.

The temporary selfishness required to create something remarkable leads to your name being immortalized as selfless. I call this selfless self-expression. Selfless self-expression practically requires you to be as selfish with your time as you want. To create something because you need to, not because the world needs it. The world doesn’t need another podcast. The world doesn’t need another cookbook or how-to video. There’s millions of those already.

So why make anything? If everything already exists, why bother? If there’s a gazillion podcasts, books and blogs and how-to-knit-a-sweater videos — why bother?

Because if you don’t bother, you’ll end up kicking yourself for never having bothered to press record, click Publish, or – at the very least – send that postcard to grandma.

You should bother because you need to. You should bother because it’s keeping you up at night. You should bother because your future self will thank you for it. Your past self will thank you for it, too. “Thanks for finally bothering to make something. Now all that time you didn’t spend making it actually means something.”

Ultimately, you should bother because if you don’t, I’ll continue bothering you about starting until you finally do.

A tip for podcast hosts: The Spontaneous Summary

There’s a gazillion tips out there for running a podcast. But there’s hardly any for how to have a good conversation. So here’s a quick tip for all you podcast hosts aspiring to become better conversationalists.

When your guest finishes speaking, summarize what they just told you.

I call this The Spontaneous Summary.

It’s spontaneous because your guest isn’t reading off a script (and neither are you). And it’s a summary because one of the best ways to show someone you’re listening is to test if their ideas work with your ideas.

The Spontaneous Summary is like a form of intellectual eye-contact. “Not only do I see you, but I understand where you’re coming from. And even if I don’t, I’d like to at least try.”

You don’t need to do this all the time (because that’s annoying). But if you do it often enough, your guest will know that you’re paying attention and not playing flappy bird or some damn thing.

The Spontaneous Summary gives your guest a sense of trust and connection. And it gives the conversation a boost of momentum.

Your guest trusts you’re not checking Twitter while they’re speaking. Your guest feels more connected to you as you try to work your way into their worldview. And the conversation gains momentum as your guest knows that speaking to you isn’t a waste of effort.

Here’s the same idea in 5 words.

To be interesting, be interested.

Dale Carnegie

This might sound stupid, but

it’s not.

Let yourself say the stupid thing. As long as you’re not being offensive for the sake of being offensive, you’re fine.

I flinch when I hear myself editing my words out loud. This happens either before or after I speak. Sometimes both. “This might sound stupid, but…” or, “that sounded so…”

But when I watch myself being authentically stupid, without hesitation or self-editing, that’s when I start smiling. I’m not smiling because I enjoy hearing myself saying stupid things. I’m smiling because I wasn’t holding back. I was fully present in my stupidity.

Authenticity doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apologize for saying something unwarranted. Authenticity means no hesitation, no editing.

When you’re editing live in front of somebody, you’re no longer present in the conversation. You’re in the future when you start with “this might sound…” and you’re in the past when you say “that sounded so…” But you’re in the present when you say the stupid thing. There is no ego in the present. Only your stupid Self.

Speaking mode, listening mode, writing mode. All for the present.

Be here now, be authentic, be stupid.

The Michelle Obama of Plumbing

The day that Michelle Obama became a podcaster was the day that a girl in Kansas became insecure. “I can’t do a podcast. I’m no Michelle Obama.”

There are more than 850,000 podcasts. Only a few household names have started podcasts. But apparently, unless we want nobody to listen to our podcast, then we need to become Michelle Obama. We don’t. If we do need to become Michelle Obama, then where are all the “Becoming Michelle Obama So That More People Will Listen To Your Podcast” Udemy courses?

In California, we have 47,600 plumbers. There must be a few household name plumbers who get the job done quicker and better than all the other plumbers.

Plumbers become plumbers because they like tinkering. They like fixing people’s problems. They get satisfaction out of doing the work that nobody else wants to do. (Do plumbers face the resistance? “I can’t be a plumber. There’s too many plumbers. And I have to compete with the Michelle Obama of plumbing? Mom and Dad were right. I should go back to art school.”)

Podcasters start podcasts because they get joy out of having conversations. Podcasters see the value in giving other people a space to share their messages. And by sharing the podcast, they change the culture. They might even change the course of someone’s life.

Being a professional doesn’t necessarily mean remodeling your identity. Being a professional means showing up despite all the Michelle Obamas of your craft.

Perhaps that girl in Kansas thought, “It’s always guys starting podcasts. But Michelle Obama started a podcast. So if she can do it…”

Two kinds of ruts

  1. Everyday is a new challenge, but you’re plateauing. “I’m working my butt off, so why aren’t the numbers going up?”
  2. Everyday is the same, but you’re losing your mind. “I have my routine and safety, and yet…”

In the first kind of rut, there’s a creeping temptation to settle back into the old routine. You’re not getting any better at your craft. You’re getting standing ovations from crickets. Your podcast downloads are the same as last week’s. “Is that accounting firm still hiring?” The way out of this rut is to accept that this is what you signed up for. You signed up for a life of unpredictability. You signed up to make things that might not work. Take the job at the accounting firm if this is too much for you. You’ll survive, but you won’t live.

In the second kind of rut, the “and yet…” is the lingering feeling that there’s something more to life than this. There’s not. Not to this kind of life. There’s nothing more to a life of routine and safety than more routine and safety.

If you’re stuck in the second kind of rut, the way out is to live a different kind of life. I’m not suggesting that you change your name, move to a new city, and start a claymation studio. But you need to drop your reliance on predictability. You need to understand that a paycheck is not the only thing that guarantees next week’s dinner and running water.

Gradual exposure is the best way to adapt to any environment that won’t kill you. You can learn to swim in the pool of unpredictability by wading through shallow waters. No need to dive headfirst into the deep end.