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 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.

Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek once said,
If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough…and that’s a big mistake.

Everyone tends think that knowledge and experience equals expertise. Knowing how something is done doesn’t produce the ability to do that thing. That’s not how it works.

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.

It’s one thing to have information and training. It’s another to become proficient in the art.

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 are no shortcuts. It’s going to suck for awhile, because anything worthwhile stretches you out of your comfort zone.

Stick with the process and it will pay off. As Winston Churchill said:

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

In the beginning it’s going to suck, because you suck…at first. Stay with it. It’ll get better and you’ll suck less. Keep doing it and eventually you’ll suck so little, you’ll be good.

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 often. But they never stop pursuing the goal.

You might also like:  Air Check Sessions That Don't Suck Seminar on Demand

They push through the 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 described the key to success 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.

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

Without the courage to fail…to push through the process…you will settle for average. And that will not be rewarded.

Don’t Be Reckless

Of course, that isn’t 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 a mentor. Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable. Someone that tells the truth.

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.

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.

Take The Shot

Not everyone reaches the top. The ones that make it put in the effort.

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

Great performers are fearless. That doesn’t mean never being afraid. It means taking on challenges and overcoming fear.

It means taking chances to bravely seek mastery.

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever, once said:

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

Learn everything. 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.

You might also like:  A Programmer Air Checks Santa

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 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.


It’s a great time to be a personality that leads a loyal community of fans. It’s a terrible time to be an announcer.

Do you have it? Take the difficult next step on the 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

Air Check Coaching Service

How to Fix the 25% of Your Programming That Sucks

How Radio Companies Can Finally Get Help For Talent

Audience Magnet Video Training Course For Personalities

Personality Magnet Show Prep Service For Personalities

Opt In Image
Topics - Bits - Features - Games - More

"The service is really outstanding. I love the moral dilemma situations each day. We get tons of feedback from listeners. The topics in Personality Magnet drive real listener calls." - Andreas Hinsberger, Programming Chief, Antenne Vorarlberg, Austria

Just $24/month or $249/year.




Air Checks That Don’t Suck ebook
eBook, $6.95

17 creative techniques to turn air check meetings into exciting, fun sessions. PERSONALITY MAGNET: Daily Show Prep Topics - Bits - Features - Games - More "The service is really outstanding. I love the […]

Treat Them Like Dogs Seminar on Demand
Webinar, $19.00

TREAT THEM LIKE DOGS. Coaching air personalities is a lot like raising puppies! This seminar for program directors shows you how to approach the care and feeding of highly talented – and sensitive – […]

The New Insiders Radio Network

Is This Really Radio's Most Valuable Resource For Personalities Programmers and Promotion Managers?