My podcast was born of a desire to pass on the lovely anecdotes I was discovering when meeting some of my better-known clients. They would often share these amazing stories about how they achieved success or overcame challenges in life. One day, I mentioned to my son, Tom, I was going to take all the anecdotes and put them in a book. He held his head in his hands and said, “Dad, that’s so old-school, writing a book; who writes books anymore? You’ve got to do a podcast.”
I said, “If you could start by telling me what a podcast is, I’ll gladly consider it?” That was three years ago, but I took his instructions and I called one of my clients, who was the most decorated Paralympic athlete in British history at the time and asked, “Do you mind if we have a half-hour conversation and record it? It won’t be scripted or rehearsed; we’ll just imagine we are down in a bar with a glass of wine or a beer and have a conversation.”
She said, “Yeah, that’s fine.” So we had this conversation and, long story short, 210 guests and three years later, my podcast is still going strong: 131,000 subscribers from 49 countries. The whole thing has taken on a life of its own.
I wanted guests to share the fact that they were cut of the same cloth as the rest of us; it’s easy to forget even “successful” people have challenges.
I remember one particular guest, who had been referred to me. He was 18 years old at the time and suffered from a condition called neurofibromatosis, a rare condition where cancerous tumors grow randomly throughout the nervous system. He was blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, had three inoperable tumors on his spine and one in his brain. The prognosis for this young man was not good, yet he was the most philosophical, down-to-earth person I’ve ever met; he just seemed so “free.”
I learned that when he wasn’t training to be a Paralympic athlete, which was still his dream despite his medical condition, he was teaching younger children to swim. And when he wasn’t doing those two things, he was stacking shelves at his local supermarket to help his mom and dad with the medical bills. It was incredibly humbling. And what I learned on this journey is that people love to talk about three things: themselves, their problems and their pleasures.
I also learned people are generally comfortable talking about pain because it’s something which can be just as meaningful and positive for others as the successes. It makes us feel that we are not alone in our struggles in life because we all have them, in whatever form they take. Success means different things to different people: For this young man, success was about getting to the next day. For another next guest, success was about winning their eighth gold medal. It’s all relative – and yet it’s all the same!
Alessandro M. Forte, FCII, FPFS, is a 25-year MDRT member from London, England, U.K. Hear more in the MDRT Podcast: