The Passion Puzzle

The Passion Puzzle

by Tracy Johnson

As a performer, you want to inspire a large fan base of raving fans. That leads to ratings success, bonuses and satisfaction in this amazing, wonderful business of radio. But how do we do that? What is it that separates good, well-executed shows from those that are more important than just presenting an acceptable listening experience? The difference is passion. And it’s complicated. You have to figure out the passion puzzle.

Passion is an interesting thing. It’s hard to define, and it’s elusive.

I work with many personalities who love being on the radio, but don’t really have a passionate fire that drives their performance. These shows are often technically solid, but lack that hard-to-define special ingredient that transcends mastery of the basics. Yet that ingredient makes all the difference in the world.

Give me one personality that lacks experience but has a burning desire to succeed and we’ll create a success. It may take awhile, but it will happen. It’s the #1 ingredient, and one of the things I emphasize in my Audience Magnet Course.

No matter what line of work you’re in, each success story begins with passion. You cannot inspire others unless you’re inspired yourself. Passion is a puzzle.

Most of us know it when they see it, but often we have a hard time discovering it.

The Passion Puzzle

Some personalities have told me they got into radio to follow a passion for music. Or a passion for entertaining.

But is it really a passion or just a strong interest?

Roy WIlliams, The Wizard of Ads, says following your passion is a myth. He believes we don’t succeed by following our passion, but rather by being passionate about what we do. And that “what we do” can be anything.

Williams says that of all the truly successful people he’s worked with, not a single one has ever said they got into their business because they followed their passion. Instead, he says,

The “Follow-Your-Passion” myth is pervasive because successful people are usually passionate. But those people would have been passionate about whatever they chose to do. Their jobs don’t give them passion. They give passion to their jobs.

Aah. Maybe that’s it. Perhaps pouring your heart and soul into what you do produces success. We have it backwards. We shouldn’t follow our passion, but allow passion to follow us, wherever it may lead.

That takes a little pressure off, doesn’t it?

Leonardo’s Passion

Williams quotes Leonardo da Vinci:

People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.

The concept makes sense, but what does it mean for radio performers? What does a passionate performance sound like? And how can you tell when a show is truly performing with passion?

Here are a few indicators:

  • Personalities find ways to become interested in content that appeals to their target audience. And they do it by being true to their authentic personality brand.
  • A commitment to excellence inspired by passion doesn’t keep office hours. I can almost always identify shows that are likely to fail. They’re the ones that become distracted, bored or disinterested when meeting about their show. It’s like they have somewhere else more important that they’d rather be.
  • A morning personality that never complains about not being able to stay out at night because they have to get up early to do their radio show. They follow a modified schedule because that’s what it takes to be at their best.
  • There is an opportunity to host a major event with a large group of listeners and potential listeners. The air personality doesn’t remember to ask if there’s a talent fee involved, because that’s not the most important consideration.
  • They have a burning desire for feedback, critique and air check sessions. Because they know that’s what it takes to be the best.


I really love the thought that passion follows you, not vice versa. It puts you in control of your destiny. And it adds a layer of responsibility to seek excellence in everything you do. It’s how you learn to use your gifts to become the best you can be.

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