Photo: Aimee Groth, Business Insider
At the recent Behance 99% Conference on creativity, Radiolab host and creator Jad Abumrad spoke about how difficult it is to launch a startup. It’s a stomach-churning process, and you’ll inevitably have some harsh critics.But that usually means you’re on the right track.
Abumrad started off his presentation by playing a phone call he had with another coworker, who described the early days at the company as filled with “gut churn. Like years and years. My head just hurt because I couldn’t find a way to describe what we were doing with it …. I knew that someday somebody was going to ask us about what’s going on. It was a long time before we were able to answer those questions. During the in-between space we had to just sit with it: gut churn.”
Abumrad said that in moments of high stress, “the body is saying to itself, we’ve got to run for our lives. At the beginning it felt like life or death. It might have something to do with radical uncertainty — how crummy it feels to make something that’s new.”
When he launched the company, he says he had to answer some basic questions, like “What does a host sound like? Chatty, formal, personal, what’s too personal? I had to fill 3 hours a week without money, so I’d borrow and steal. For 20 minutes I’d be like, what do I do, what do I do – so I’d get a sound montage of Lisbon.”
The first time Radiolab replaced the “Fresh Air” timeslot, NPR sent him an excel document filled with feedback from listeners. “There were pages and pages of vitriolic language,” he said. “It’ll knock you in the arse. … [But I was reminded of] the fact that people hating on you means that you’re heading in the right direction.”
Another big gut-churning moment was when Radiolab was on a tour and hosting a huge event in front of a stadium filled with hundreds of people, when there was a tech failure and they couldn’t get their laptops to work. “I have never had such crippling fear,” said Abumrad. “What do you make of a moment like that?”
“Milton [Erickson] said you could take worst feeling in the world and reframe to become the solution. My stomach is exploding; maybe it just means I’m on the right track.”
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