Radio and The Art Of Sucking

Radio and The Art Of Sucking

by Tracy Johnson

I’ve been struggling with some hard concepts for awhile. It’s about the process of becoming a great personality or great radio station. And I’ve come to a conclusion. Great radio brands are created only when a broadcaster first embraces and excels in the art of sucking.

Part of the satisfaction of being a talent coach to radio personalities is the great joy when talent discovers how their gifts can be applied to achieve excellence. But the journey is hard. And many give up before they find their way. Or they stall because of frustration when they fall short of their own expectations. Or the expectation of others.

You know what I’ve learned, though? It’s okay to suck. In fact, the art of sucking is a necessary part of the journey from learning to mastery.

All of us tend to have an idea that by acquiring the knowledge of how something is done means they have the ability to do that thing. That’s not how it works It’s one thing to have the information and training. It’s quite another to become proficient in that art.

I can study how to throw a baseball for decades, but understanding everything there is to know about it doesn’t mean I can perform it well enough to be a major league pitcher.

Becoming A Black Belt

Martial arts students learn everything they need to become a Black Belt in a relatively short time. But that doesn’t make them a Black Belt. That takes time, training, discipline and a commitment to the craft. Only a few reach the top.

And in the process, there is a lot of sucking. It takes hundreds of hours to learn the skills, and thousands more to become a Black Belt.

Becoming a Black Belt in personality radio is hard. And it’s frustrating. There aren’t many shortcuts. It’s going to suck for awhile, because anything worthwhile stretches you out of your comfort zone.

No matter what you do, in the beginning it’s going to suck, because you suck. Stay with it. You’ll get better and you’ll suck less. And as you keep doing it, eventually you’ll suck so little you’ll be good.

Don’t let the suckiness keep you from starting on your Personality Success Path. Because if you’re going to be great, it has to start from a place of sucking.

The Art Of Sucking and Permission To Fail

Every successful person that ever lived has failed. Many have failed often. But they never stop pursuing their goal.

They push through the art of sucking.

It’s okay to fail. Do it hard. Fail fast and fail big. Then study the performance to figure out why it failed. Then fix it.

Tom Peters once said the key to success is for managers:

Reward Spectacular Failure. Punish Mediocre Success.

Rewards go to those who reach for something spectacular. Anyone can achieve the mediocre just by polishing average skills of performance. But that won’t help you reach your goals.

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The marketplace doesn’t reward average. That’s especially true today and it’s particularly important in personality radio.

If you’re not willing to fail…to push through the process when you suck…if you back off out of fear or because it’s too hard…you will settle for average. And that will not be rewarded.

And I don’t want that for you.

Don’t Be Reckless

Of course, that doesn’t give you a license to justify poor or sloppy performance. Sucking is not a goal. It’s nothing to celebrate. This is about the pursuit of becoming extraordinary and understanding that it won’t happen overnight.

You need a strategy.

And you need a mentor. Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable. We all need someone that tells us the truth we need to hear, not what we want to hear. And we need someone to help us through the sucking.

DeDe McGuire of the syndicated DeDe In the Morning, pushed through the art of sucking to master her radio show. She talks about the process of learning to become a great host.

It was hard, and Geo (K104/Dallas Program Director George Cook) was relentless. We’d listen to audio together. We’d listen to a part of a break that took me 15 seconds to make a point. He challenged me to rephrase it and figure out how to say it in 7. It was hard. So I got it to 7 seconds. Then he told me to figure out how to do it in 5. It wasn’t about the length of the break. It was about mastering the art of brevity. We did this over and over and over until it became a habit. This discipline made the whole show more entertaining.

You see, DeDe had the knowledge. She knew how important it was to be focused, clear and efficient. But she wasn’t yet a Black Belt. She needed help to apply it to her personality.

Maybe your mentor is a manager, program director or consultant. Maybe it’s another air personality. But you need that someone. And while they’re honest, they also need to be encouraging. They must be your biggest fan. They have to want your success as much as you do.

Taking The show

Not everyone reaches the top. The ones that make it are willing to put in the work.

Ryan Seacrest is highly talented, but his greatest asset is his work ethic. Read more about it here.

With support, you can be fearless. Fearless doesn’t mean never being afraid. It means taking on all those challenges and overcoming fear.

It means taking chances and being willing to bravely seek the mastery of your craft.

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Half of success in life is just showing up”. The greatest Hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, took it one step further. The Great One once said:

100% of the shots you don’t take won’t go into the net.

Learn everything you can. Then take the shot. You’re going to miss. You’re going to suck. That’s okay. Study the process and shoot again. You’ll get it.

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Becoming a great personality

What do you need to reach your potential? Start with knowledge. Do you know how to master personality radio? If not, get some help. Here are two resources to start:

1. The Audience Magnet Course is a thorough, 60-lesson online video course that teaches you how to be a great personality.

2. Insiders Radio Network is filled with tutorials, training and resources on every aspect for personality radio.

3. Personality Magnet is curated daily show prep that helps your find unique content each day.

Then start to suck. Push yourself to figure out how to grow. It’s going to suck at first. It’s supposed to suck at first. Before you can master the art of  performance, you have to master the art of sucking. That takes time and repetition. And evaluation.

So get some help. If you have no mentor, use the Air Check Coaching service. Book a session, or series of four sessions. Our talent coaches can help you get where you want to be.


It’s a great time to be a personalities with the ability to lead a loyal community of fans. It’s a terrible time to be an announcer.

Do you have it in you? Are you willing to take the difficult next step on a Personality Success Path?

As baseball Hall of Fame member Duke Snider once said:

Swing hard every time…just in case you happen to hit the ball.

And the next time someone says, “You suck”, celebrate it. Maybe you’re on the path to success.

Ryan Seacrest & the Work Ethic

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