I’d run out of ideas. It was Sunday night, the interview was scheduled for Tuesday, it was going to be a disaster and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
It all started earlier that week. My buddy Henri Gresset (Episode 2) and I had gotten together for a brainstorming session for our podcast content. I thought it might be helpful to do a little recording to familiarize my guest with the equipment. So we sat down, hit record and talked for a few minutes, then played it back.
And Henri sounded awful. He was muffled, distant, almost incoherent at times.
“Poor, guy,” I thought (note: having exactly ONE episode under my belt…) “He needs to work on his mic technique.”
So I patiently explained to Henri the appropriate distance he needs to be from the mic, what he should visualize in order to project better, you know… the basics. It seemed to help a little bit but still, it sounded pretty bad. He promised to work on it over the weekend.
Sunday evening came around, and we sat down again to record. I had to admit that, hearing him live, Henri sounded great. But again, when we played it back he still sounded bad. We adjusted the software settings, changed seating arrangements – we even switched our mics to see if it was an equipment issue, still terrible. As he was leaving I tried to sound enthusiastic about Tuesday, but it was hard to hide my frustration.
Later that night I asked my wife to read through the questions with me – we did this for my interview with Scott (Episode 1), and I found it helped me prepare transitions between subjects. so we recorded a few minutes and listened back, and I was shocked:
Liz sounded terrible, too.
But that didn’t make any sense! She and I had done this just a few weeks ago and she sounded great. Maybe it was the microphone? We switched, but again she sounded terrible, I sounded…OK. But not great. Hmm… maybe some of my settings were wrong? I checked the gain, watched instructional YouTube videos, restarted my computer, positioned the mics farther away from each other… nothing seemed to work.
Then I listened to the old episode with Scott again, and was amazed – Scott and I both sounded SO much better than what we were dealing with now.
Maybe there was something wrong with the software I was using? I checked all the settings and they looked normal. Then I remembered my computer has its own recording software and, just for kicks, I tried recording using that instead of Audacity.
And it sounded perfect.
Ah ha! I heaved a sigh of relief. So it wasn’t Henri, it wasn’t the equipment, it was Audacity that was the problem. Probably some obscure setting that got adjusted somehow. Annoyed, I restarted the program and committed to doing a detailed review of all settings.
I didn’t have to review for long. When I restarted the program the first thing I saw was this:
And that’s when I remembered: my laptop has a built in microphone. Audacity had defaulted to that instead of to the microphones I was using for the podcast. For almost a week I’d been messing around with microphones which weren’t even on. And the reason Henri and Liz sounded worse than me wasn’t because I had amazing technique – it was because they were farther away from the laptop.
I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. I explained it to Liz, and got a hard eye-roll in return. Then it was time to call Henri and apologize, and explain to him that everything was going to be fine Tuesday. And it was.
Now at this point you might be questioning the title of this post. I spent hours working on this issue, and if I’d had a coach it would have probably been avoided. So why am I glad that I took the DIY approach here? It goes back to my favorite quote about work from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness:
I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself.
And what I found was ego. There was a long list of people and things I blamed before I considered blaming myself.
This happens a lot in my DIY projects, and it can often lead to disaster. For example, how many times in life have I worked on an IKEA project and immediately blamed them:
- I can’t believe they miscounted the screws in this instruction manual… oh well!
- All done… wait what’s this piece for? Must have been included by mistake. In the garbage it goes!
- This board is supposed to fit between these two other boards but it’s not going through. Must have gotten a bad one. Oh well, if I just push a little harder I can probably make it work the way it’s supposed to… SNAP!
When I think about “experience,” whether it be in my work or in my personal life, sometimes it feels like knowledge I’ve acquired through a huge collection of mistakes. But I also hope that, as I continue to make mistakes I can gradually work on the heart of the issue, my ego, and approach my work more humbly going forward.