by Tracy Johnson
I’m often asked the most important attribute for successful radio personalities. You might expect the response to be “Be funny.” Making listeners laugh is the most valuable trait for personalities, for sure. But the single most important attribute for a performer in any field is confidence. Wouldn’t it be great to see the results of an industry survey about personalities and programmers about second-guessing and self-doubt? I’m guessing the percentages would be high for personalities. Talent has to feel bullet-proof to perform, but many are afraid of complaints or criticism. Confidence is shaken to the core. Maybe this will help. Here’s an inspiration from an unlikely source: Steve Martin.
Steve Martin has been a popular entertainer for decades. As a standup comedian, he sold out arenas, which led to appearances on Saturday Night Live. He even had a top hit when the King Tut exhibit first came to America. Do you remember this classic?
That was followed by a series of movies. Over the years, he’s become an accomplished writer, producer, and actor.
But like most stories of wildly successful people, his success path was rocky. His breakthrough came when he stopped letting outsiders affect his vision for performing.
In the early 70s, Martin was trying to find his way in standup comedy. He was ouncing from club to club with little success and less pay. At a key time in his life, Martin asked for advice from one person he thought he could trust: his agent. Who would have more insight into the market for his skills?
Steve was shocked by what he heard:
Face it. I’ve seen a lot of guys like you, Steve. It’s time to face the facts. You’re neer going to make it in standup.
At this low time in his career, Martin decided to change his routine and stop trying to be better than other comedians. Instead, he explored the wackier side of his personality. Out of desperation, he went for it with everything he had.
Suddenly, he was more marketable because he was unique. And by performing material based on aspects of his real-life personality, his confidence grew. This is a common story in show business. Read this article about how Lucille Ball only found success by being Willing To Be Weird.
Steve Martin has an inspiring story, for sure. But what does that mean for radio personalities?
Steve Martin once described how he found his personal recipe for success. He said:
Come from an honest place and connect with the truth. Speak in full living color with different shades of real. Be authentic, but colored by altered perception.
That’s a heavy statement. It’s loaded with incredible insight and meaning. Spend some time with it. Unpack it. Process it. Then figure out how to apply that to your personality.
Radio needs great personalities, and that can only happen when performers are confident. There will always be doubts and insecurities, but finding your voice and committing to unlocking the talent within can overcome self-doubt.
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