Q&A: Dear 21 Year Old Me

What’s the podcast about?

The show takes a great guest with a fascinating story and ‘goes back in time’ to recall and reflect on their 21st birthday – the fun, the (perhaps embarrassing) speeches, and what the world was like when they were 21. We then reflect on what they thought being 21 would be like, and what they’d say to their 21-year old self now. 

This is a podcast for people who enjoy learning from others and reflecting on their own experiences; someone who’ll be entertained and informed by the guest – and then go away and think about what they’ve learned themselves throughout their own life.

What made you want to do the podcast?

  1. Because I’m naturally curious and interested in what makes people tick – everyone has a story and at 21, many folk were looking to their futures – it seems like a great way to frame a conversation.
  2. Doing this is a challenge – from the planning, the research, the interviewing, and the post-interview work – and I want to push myself.
  3. I enjoy learning from others.

Where did you get the idea from?

In many ways, the show is an amalgam of several ideas of my own and taking various components of interview programs I have enjoyed along the way, along with the informative tone of The Squiz and the ABC’s Planet America.

In terms of ideas, Rachel Corbett’s excellent ‘You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere’ asks folk how they started in the media is done with genuine interest and the interviewees are open and interesting. It’s a great podcast, and highly recommended.

The warm, reflectiveness of ‘going home’ in Julia Zemiro’s ‘Home Delivery’ on ABC-TV always brings a smile. To see some of the guests’ reactions when they see an old teacher they admired, for example, always brings a smile.

San Diego’s KPBS My First Day podcast is a good listen, too – literally walking in people’s shoes as they commence a new job, for example. These, underlined by my innate curiosity and interest in people and what makes them tick, also all serve as inspiration for the show.

Professionally, notwithstanding some dud decisions on my part, (and some equally dud bosses along the way), I’ve been particularly fortunate. Life itself has had its sliding door moments; losing a parent as a child, for example, brings with it some deeper and questioning ‘what if’s’ that are equally important to ask, but not good to dwell on too much.

There’s also much to be said for Friday Night Lights, a show that I connected deeply with (mind you, not understanding much of gridiron) and then wondering, years on, where the characters would have been. Coach Taylor’s mantra of ‘clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose’ is one to reflect upon and while simply expressed, is as elegant as it is true. ‘Mrs Coach’ Tami Taylor, and her loyalty to her family, her principles, and her own self-worth, stood out.

Are you a journalist?

No. I’ve always been interested in people, their stories and wanting to understand what makes people ‘tick’. 

As a teenager, I got involved with community radio, did work experience at 3AW and then in some holidays, ABC Radio News and TV. I edited my school’s yearbook in my final year, did more community radio, and wrote to virtually every paper and radio station where I had family in regional Victoria trying to get a start. I was hooked.

A move to Canberra in the public service saw my goals evolve and by my mid-twenties I’d determined politics would be my career; and in time I became a political adviser.

My ‘sliding door’ career moment in came at 29 when I knocked back a role as a trainee journalist with Fairfax in Sydney and instead continued in politics in Canberra. Since then I’ve made my career leading industry associations in Australia and New Zealand, but I’ve often wondered what I’d say to 21 year-old-me about that decision – and others – that have shaped my life. The idea for the podcast came from wondering what others would say to themselves and how they got to where they are today. 

This series follows A Coffee With, a podcast series I did years ago, and interviews I did as founder and editor of sports opinion website The Armchair Selector. I’ve interviewed journalists Gerard Whateley and Peter Lalor, broadcaster Brenden Wood, and test cricketer Chris Rogers, along with US historian and author Professor Tom Lewis, and New York City history podcaster Greg Young. 

Where can I listen to the show?

Easy! Click here. The show is also on all major podcast players.

I know someone who I think would be great for your show – how can I contact you?

My contact details are here. Potential guest ideas are welcome!

Who are Feel the Magic and why do you mention them?

The loss of my mother when I was 12 is a key reason I support Feel the Magic, an Australian not-for-profit organisation which provides “grief education and support to bereaved children and their families to help alleviate the pain and isolation felt by the loss of a parent, sibling or legal guardian.”

Who edits and produces your show?

I’m a proud client of Pro Podcast Production. Darcy Milne does the show’s voiceovers and editing and I thoroughly recommend Darcy and his team. A shout out to Tim Lee (referred by Darcy – cheers Darcy!) for doing the artwork for the show.

What gear do you use?

Mic: Yeti Blue Nano with a Neewer 6 inch studio microphone round shape wind pop filter mask on a heavy duty Xtreme tripod microphone boom stand.

Recording platform: Riverside.FM

Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M30X Professional Monitor Headphones

Hosting platform: Buzzsprout

Editing: Pre-Darcy – Hindenburg and Alitu. I now record, listen literally to the milli-second where I want edits and email Darcy with the files and instructions.

What would you say to your 21-year-old self? 

Ah! Many, many things, including, for example:

  1. Determine what you can control, what you can influence, and what you can’t control – and spend the needed time on each.
  2. Push yourself hard and be bold. ‘No’ is often the worst thing that you may hear, but you only will find out if you ask.
  3. Slow down and enjoy the fun – and appreciate it.
  4. Do your doctorate (long story….!)
  5. Appreciate the opportunities and take them when they’re offered.
  6. Make considered choices.
  7. Call your family and friends often.
  8. Be involved outside of work and study – more theatre, more sport, more travel.
  9. Make peace with the teenage you.
  10. Take the job in Sydney, Jeremy – take it, make the call, be bold, free yourself of doubt and follow your heart.

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