The Greatest of All Disciplines: Work Ethic

The Greatest of All Disciplines: Work Ethic

by Tracy Johnson

There were three important turning points in my career. Each proved to be a building block for my career. But none of these lessons would have been learned, if it weren’t for one trait that I’m really proud of. And you’ll find that trait in nearly every radio superstar you’ve ever met. It’s work ethic.

The first turning point was when I took myself off the air from hosting the #1 morning show in Lincoln, Nebraska. That may not sound like a huge career accomplishment, but hey, #1 is #1. However, as the Program Director of the station, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have the talent to become a truly great personality. It turned out to be a smart move, because programming, management and coaching has been very, very good to me. But you know what? That was a winning show because of one thing: Work ethic.

A few years later, my mentor Alan Burns told me that I was one of the most creative people he’d ever met. This blew me away because I never considered it a strength. He went on to explain that creativity is being able to recognize good ideas and know what to do with them. That lightbulb moment changed everything. Though not gifted with the ability to come up with purely original ideas or create from scratch, I learned to be creative by working hard to find solutions.

And the third moment was shortly after arriving in San Diego and hiring Jeff & Jer to help resurrect a dying radio station. The year that followed resulted in a rise from worst to first (#19 to #1).  It was one of the busiest and most exciting times of my career. Were we brilliant? Maybe. But nobody outworked us.

Those three events had one thing in common. They were all powered by a non-stop, dedicated commitment to success. A work ethic.

#1 Trait For Success: Work Ethic

You want great success? Work at it. There’s no way I had the natural talent to host a #1 morning show, even in a smaller market. Creativity in knowing what to do with ideas? It comes from working at it. And worst-to-first doesn’t happen unless you’re committed.

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In fact, absent of hard work, no one is really great at anything.

Tom Brady was considered an average talent coming out of college. He became the greatest quarterback in history (sorry Marino and Manning fans).

Do you think Jack Nicholson’s career as one of the all-time great actors was because of a gift that just happened? I don’t think so.

Steve Martin’s success in the entertainment business was a result of working harder than anyone else, persevering and finding his “voice” through endless trial and error. And rejection. And never giving up.

Ryan Seacrest didn’t become one of America’s most recognized personality brands by accident or just being in the right place at the right time. He worked at it.

You need a baseline of talent to be great at whatever it is that you want to do. But chances are, you wouldn’t want to work at something for which you have absolutely no talent. And when you pursue a career based on your gifts, the work that goes into it doesn’t seem like as much effort. Most of us have an endless energy for our passion.

Work Ethic: The Grind & The Push

But there’s also a personal commitment every single day, because even your passion can be a grind. Those daily tasks aren’t as much fun as the rewards that come with success. And it’s in those moments-in the grind-when your gifts-your talent-is wasted.

That’s when it gets hard. It’s the moments when you’d rather be at lunch than finishing show prep. Or you want to hit the gym, but know you should be editing that interview for tomorrow morning. This morning’s show was awesome, and you should be posting some highlights or even turning it into a video, but that nap sure sounds good.

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This is when you have to push, because no matter how great you are, someone else is just as talented and they’re working harder. A funny thing happens when talented people work hard. Success follows, because talent is a combination of using your gifts and making a commitment to excellence.


When you have the right idea, and a vision for your future, it’s about repetition. Repetition leads to excellence. Athletes win games at practice and in training. It’s just that the results are enjoyed on game day.

A lot of people have talent. The ones that get to the top practice more, train harder and care more.

Jerry Seinfeld is an example of an entertainer with a relentless commitment to creating new content  Knowing that comedy doesn’t write itself, Seinfeld talks about the process of creating:

Really? There are people who think, ‘I’ll just sit around and do absolutely nothing, and somehow the work will get done?

If you have talent, and I believe you do, the question is whether you have the discipline and work ethic to turn that talent into something that will find an audience on the radio?

So figure out what you want to be great at. Then go be great at it. You control your future and your destiny because you-and only you-control your work ethic.

Now I’m excited. I wonder if it’s too late to still be a great air personality. Yeah, probably.

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Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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