Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flyin' Like Felix

Jocks remind me of Felix Baumgartener.

Remember Felix Baumgartener's heroic jump from the edge of space? He was on the radio with Joseph Kittenger, the former record-holder, all the way up. On an average of once a minute Joe gave Felix encouragement, or praise. “You're good, buddy, everything's on schedule,” or “That's great Felix, well done,” came about every 60 seconds. Joe knows about being way up with the big jump to come, about the hypoxia, the vertigo, the fear of failure and the pressure that can assail a person who's isolated and performing a daring feat. Joe supported Felix. Felix's flawless landing owed something to Joe.

And we radio personalities owe a lot to our support.  We do need support, because we deal with similar conditions.

We create in a vacuum.
  We're in sterile studios, we have limited contact with each other and we have a very limited ability to hear each other or our stations.  We have to take special steps to be able to hear ourselves.

We make high-pressure decisions.
  A creative person makes the best choice out of a million other choices and we do that about 50 times a shift, give or take. Some choices are better than others, but with our names, our voices, and our visions for radio on the line 250 times a week, we never lose the burning desire to make each of those 250 jumps worth a listener's time. We have a need to stick each and every landing.

We must protect ourselves in a hostile environment.  Felix monitored the plummeting temperatures and oxygen levels outside and kept his cool. We have to do a similar thing all the time. The internal critic blathers a constant dialogue in a jock's mind, and listener lines are peppered with critics. Technology tosses us roadblocks and delays when we least expect it.  That's the basic level of adversity.  If you also work in a hostile atmosphere or with a nonconstructive PD (I am lucky enough to have only constructive PDs at the moment) that's another element of adversity. 

We deal with variables all the time.  Content is a variable. We ride the gain of the news cycle and content services to feed the gaping maw that is three to five content breaks per hour for at least four hours, in my case on three formats. To find fresh, compelling, relevant and memorable pieces of unique content per day is rigorous, but that's not where our job ends.  We need to customize it for our listeners and ourselves, write it up in a way that is even more compelling and fresh and memorable, and then voice it with just the right delivery - up to thirty-six times in four hours. 

Any creative person who is under pressure to create compelling original content in that bulk rides into the stratosphere with name, and voice and reputation on the line every moment.  All of these things mean the world to us. The world, in the same way that Felix's little capsule was his world, his protection in a vast, sometimes hostile environment. We are strapped to our craft and will always be, because our craft is the love of our lives.  The thing we cling to is in the stratosphere.

That's why we need that support.  We need a friendly voice from the ground. 

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