When I was a journalism student, the manager of the campus radio station asked me if I would take over a current affairs call-in program on Sunday evenings.
“Once the calls start, the show pretty much runs itself,” he said. (Liar!)
I showed up on Sunday night with two fellow journalism students, MaryLou and Chip. We spent a few minutes talking about current events and waited for the phones to light up.
No one called.
Fifteen minutes into the show, we ran out of things to say. In desperation, we ran public service announcements and called our friends to ask them to phone in.
No one was home. (Cell phones didn’t exist yet.)
Finally, Chip got a guy in his dorm to pick up and we went back on air. It did not go well. The poor guy had no idea what we were talking about and had been drinking most of the afternoon. He hung up on us.
Chip spent the last six minutes of the show doing his impression of the 80s television character ALF. (Which, for the record, was brilliant. I still crack up when I think about it.)
I learned a lot from those painful 30 minutes:
- The station manager didn’t listen to the show. He never said a word about it.
- Never believe the person that says something is easy.
- True friends will stay with you and watch every long second tick by.
- When you start at the bottom, every other show you do will look brilliant by comparison.
I’m happy to say that the show got better. (How could it not?)
The mettle I gained from that first fiasco helped me later:
- The time I was thrown into an interview with a person about which I knew nothing. NOTHING. Not even his name.
- The time an official blew off my repeated requests for an interview, so I staked out his office and approached him on the way to his car. (He agreed to come on the show.)
- The time two guests nearly came to blows in the studio.
Is failure painful? Yes.
Does failure have its benefits? Depends on what we learn from it.