by Sterling Tarrant
Here's a true story. When I started dating the girl who was to become my wife, she really didn't know if she wanted to have a long-term relationship with me. We were in Orlando at the time, and she had an old boyfriend in Indianapolis. During the Christmas season of 1986, she went up to see him, at which time he died. He was in his early twenties and he had a brain aneurysm that took his life one night.
When she came back to Orlando the next week, she really, really didn't know if she wanted to have a serious relationship. When a cold fact of life like the death of a friend smacks you in the face, it takes a while to warm back up. There wasn't anything that I could really do for her, just be there. To make a long story short, I was persistent, and in October of 1987 we were wed. I figured out an important concept, and that is, "Time heals all but the present time." In other words I learned how to persevere.
Now, I'm ten years older and I'm sitting in front of a computer keyboard trying to put into words some sort of nebulous thoughts on perseverance. How exactly does perseverance tie in with the role of a Production Director? The first example I thought of was how you have a nugget of an idea for a promo or a spot and you have to pan it out until it becomes gold. There's also perseverance in the way that you try to maintain an upbeat attitude from Monday morning through Saturday, during times when your desk is a spot collector and you have to be a spot remover. Then there's the way that you and everybody else knows that a spot is right. That is, everybody except the client, and you have to persevere to get him to your way of thinking. More often than not, though, the client wins. You don't like it, but you retreat and regroup to the next battle.
So I'm thinking of all of these things and I'm trying to phrase the "battle of perseverance" idea into a question. Something like, "What was the last idea, or spot, or aspect of your job that you had to do battle with?" But each time I posed the question, all I got were answers like "I battle with salespeople, or I battle with writing, or I know there have been times when I've come out victorious, but I just can't remember them right now."
So then I'm thinking about how well and good those answers are, but that's not much to go on for a column. As I'm dialing the phone to make my last call, something happens...just a recording that you occasionally hear: "We're sorry. All circuits are busy. Please try your call again later." Then it hits me. No matter how hard coming up with the perfect piece of production is, no matter how hard I try to phrase an idea or a question into a readable or usable column each month, no matter how hard I try to balance family, career, health, spiritual life, fun, friends and finances, the real joy in life comes through the trying, and trying is a continuous thing. All circuits in your life may be busy, but you gotta keep trying. Radio production is a trying thing.
I believe that when you try hard enough and long enough, it all works out. Either the desired result you're hoping for will come to pass, or you'll find the ultimate direction that you should have been moving in anyway. That's what happened with my wife and me. Certain things had to happen in our lives to lead us together. Some of those things were drastic, I know, but ultimately, through perseverance, we were brought together.
So I'm sitting at the computer keyboard thinking about all these things, hoping that just by trying, I mean, just by trying real hard to sit down and type and type and type, a final nugget will come into place and make this jumble of ideas melt into a pot of gold. Then it happens. A monthly announcer meeting brings it all together. Faron Dice, our Program Director and my cohort, dishes up a bit of wisdom in this thought: "A pro baseball player who makes $10 million a year may not be able to hit the ball. A football player can't get his act together...etc, etc. Can DJs have slumps? I think so. I think we have them more often than we should."
Then Faron proceeds to pass out his top ten ways to get out of a slump, and I finally reach my conclusion. I'm thinking so much about the topic of perseverance because I am in a slump. I am in something that I have to get through, and I have to do it just by trying, by doing, by forcing myself to keep going, or, as Faron points out in his top ten, keep swinging. Here's the rest of his list:
1. Prepare for your show. It could be that you're "winging it" too much. Spend some time carefully putting together the wording for your "live" bits. (For a producer or copywriter, it means learn about what you're selling. Be a student of it. Read about advertising and marketing.--ST)
2. Review and return to basics. If you're stumbling a lot over your words or missing buttons, sometimes you just need to "pull in the oars" a bit. This is not a good time to try very creative things. In football, back to basics is blocking and tackling. (Producers perhaps assign the fancy stuff out. You may need to go back to simple rip and reads for a while, especially if you've been dealing with clients who criticize every little thing. Give yourself a break.--ST)
3. Listen to another announcer or station. Faron says, "When I hear good radio, I want to do good radio."
4. Read a trade article. Many times an article will get you fired up, too. (It gives you new radio ideas and new ways to think about old problems. Plus, it lets you know that you're not alone.--ST)
5. Critique yourself. Find out what's working and what isn't. Be honest with yourself.
6. Keep swinging. In baseball you don't break out of slump by giving up. Step up to the plate and try again. Take some extra batting practice before the game if you need it. (Here's an idea for producers. Make a commercial for a family member telling them what they mean to you. Spend as much time as you want on it. Make it perfect, free yourself up to be insanely creative on a spot that only has the limits of your mind.--ST)
7. Turn the music up loud in the studio. Pull out the lyrics to one of your favorites and sing along. ("Make Me Smile" by "Chicago" works for me.--ST)
8. Pursue an outside interest. Getting away really makes a difference. (My latest diversion...putting together a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. It kept my mind busy on something other than work.--ST)
9. Examine your spirit. Ask yourself, "How's your spiritual life?"
10. Ask for help from someone. Don't isolate yourself. Ask for help from someone you respect.
So, finally it comes together. Random thoughts on perseverance get together into a collection of words that form a column. Words that only come together through sitting down and trying something...typing. By persevering, it all works out. Hopefully, you'll get something out of it, too. Then I will know that persistence pays.