Craig Constantine: Experience, pruning, and benefit

Episode summary

MM LINK (250)
Craig Constantine

Doing the ‘same’ thing over 100 times seems like a lot, but feels like much less when each time is a unique and valuable experience. Craig discusses the process he uses to create space and have authentic conversations with each guest. He unpacks the idea of ‘pruning’ your projects and how reflection is integral to the process. Craig shares his personal reasons for creating the podcast, why video is not on the agenda, and changes we may see moving forward.

Highlight [0:00]

Craig (00:00:05):
If one is efficacious, one is able to take your ideas and make them exist in the world. So if you’re a really good school teacher, not only do you have efficacy, but you have efficacy in an area that’s really important. I’m not saying you have to be changing the world in order to have efficacy, but that for me is what I’m experimenting with now.

Process and the 'right' way [0:28]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Variable number, Art of Retreat podcast
  • numbering, milestones, looking forward
  • The ‘right’ way to do things, what that looks like for us
  • Interview vs conversation, connotations

Creating space [10:28]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Melissa’s role, introductions
  • Preparing for each conversation, taking the time
  • Scheduling conversations, pressure to make it good
  • Empathy: noticing connections, pulling on threads, authentic listening
  • Curiosity, genuine interest, follow through

Pruning [21:57]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • ‘Yes, and…’ vs saying no to everything; learning the lesson of each
  • How to decide what to prune and what to keep; discover your ‘why’
  • Specific goals, reasons, and choices
  • Willingness to start over, value of ideas, re-doing things
  • Making the internal critic useful rather than only detrimental
  • Noticing your annoyances, the things that keep coming up

Craig (00:23:09):
I was going to say the people who tell you that you should say yes to everything, like the whole, yes, I laugh. I’m just like, you people are so cute. Because you will eventually discover that is not absolutely unequivocably. That is not a recipe for success, that is a recipe for insanity and failure. But the asterisk is some people say yes to nothing, so they have to learn. Okay, if your problem is, and this boggles my mind, but if your problem is that you never seem to really start anything, you’re always too afraid to take that leap, then, okay, you need to go do the yes and improv life lesson, go do that. I do not have that problem. No, do not have that problem.

Craig (00:23:52):
My mom literally tells stories of when the cops would call her, me and the other neighbor kid, and then the other kid’s parents would be like, “We don’t know what happened, the kid’s always so well behaved.” My mom would be like, “Craig happened.” It’s like, Craig is great until you mix them with other people, and then everything goes bad. Like everybody always got in trouble as soon Craig showed up. So I have no problems like tackling new projects, taking on ideas, challenges, go, go, go, yes, yes, yes. For me, I had an… I usually have a touch phrase for every year. I had an entire year, might’ve been, now this my real, it was a whole year where my touch phrase was no, N-O with a period behind it. I had a giant hand drawn poster over my desk.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:24:34):
And it was… I just literally practiced saying no to everything. Somebody post a comment and I would have an answer and I’d hit reply and I’d start typing and I’d see the word, no, and I delete my answer. I would just… All I did all year was say no to everything I possibly could, and in that year I only did like 50 new things. My problem is I’m like, “Oh yes.” Okay. So now I can see why some people need to practice saying yes, because I need to practice saying no. So in that sense, that’s one part of the pruning, is me going, “Do I really want to do this project dot, dot, dot, that’s going to take up all this time?” I probably. I really do want to do it, but I probably should say, “No, thank you.” Or a lot of times. It doesn’t happen often, but people try to hand me things like, “Hey, could you?” Because they know I can do it.

Craig (00:25:18):
And I had to learn to say, I prefer not to, or I don’t have time to give that appropriate… I had to learn how to say no, in addition to learning to say no. So that’s one whole part of the pruning.

Melissa (00:25:30):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and there’s the kind of question there, a little bit of how you decide what to say no to, because it’s… The idea of saying no allows you to create space for the things you want to do. So then how do you decide this is a project-

Craig (00:25:45):
Well, the first thing you got to decide is that you don’t like the way things are.

Melissa (00:25:48):
Okay.

Craig (00:25:51):
Yeah. How many socialists does it take to change a light bulb and then Marx? I think it’s Marx, his answer is none. The light bulb contains the seeds of its own revolution. The first thing you have to do is decide that you don’t like, not that you want to change, that’s easy. I definitely want to change. I’d like to weigh 20 pounds less for realsies. Okay, that’s nice.

Craig (00:26:10):
So you have to decide in my opinion, that you’re uncomfortable. I don’t like who I am, and this is really close to the chasm of the bad internal negative voice.

Melissa (00:26:19):
Right.

Craig (00:26:20):
I don’t know about anybody else in the world, but I’m told that other people have the same voice in their head that I do.

Melissa (00:26:24):
Oh, we do.

Craig (00:26:26):
I don’t know, mine’s pretty mean. The ability to decide that you’re uncomfortable or that you don’t like something. And then, “Okay, now I’m going to take action.” So I’ve heard people talk about quitting smoking and saying, I tried to quit, I tried to quit, I tried to quit. But then when I realized if I stopped smoking I’ll live longer and I’ll be around with my kids more, then that was like that, okay, I have a bigger why.

Craig (00:26:46):
So I think that’s… Part of high prune is to go, “I really, really, really want to do this other thing, but I really, really, really want to do these…” The three reallys’ on this one and I have four reallys on the other one, so let’s stick with… You can’t be a master of everything. You can only be-

Melissa (00:27:01):
Yeah. And it’s just not enough time.

Craig (00:27:03):
So that’s part of it, so I think that just takes experience. You have to just, yes yourself to failure a few times. Preferably, don’t do that with marriages and mortgages and…

Melissa (00:27:14):
Yeah. There’s appropriate things to say yes to and get overwhelmed.

Craig (00:27:17):
Like sign out to that podcasting project then make 15 episodes and fade out at 16 and go, yeah, I learned a lesson.

Melissa (00:27:24):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well and yeah. There’s always a lesson to be learned whether or not it’s a failure. Even if the lesson is, don’t say yes to everything or the lesson is, I grew from that and now I’ve got what I needed and move on.

Reflection [36:14]

Personal and interpersonal benefits [40:18]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Started with cool conversations, the podcast facilitates that
  • Allows for pursuing curiosity, personal self-work
  • Opportunity to reflect, be intentional - for both Craig and guests
  • Being present, interested, authentic with another person
  • Meta process occurring during each conversation; good conversation vs good podcast episode
  • 3 words question meta, episode 55
  • Discernment and intention around choosing guests; Melissa’s role and benefits
“And I normally, like I don't think I have a superpower, but that is a wonderful thing to be able to do. If you can do that... Just not as a podcaster, or if you can just do that with random people, go somewhere to a cafe, have a cup of coffee with somebody, and I don't mean if I can do it, I mean if you, the listener can do that, go do that. That makes the world a better place. Because sometimes you hear people talk about, because it's true. It's important that people be seen. And sometimes someone may need many things, but one thing they need right now, RFN, that's a TV show reference, is to be seen. They don't want an answer to their problem, they don't want you to try and help, they want you to just acknowledge that they exist as a human being.”

Craig Constantine

Craig (00:41:30):
So the whole thing started because I was having really cool, what I thought, a really cool conversations with people and the people I was talking with they seem to agree, the conversations were pretty cool. And some of the branding, new friends that I got who had glommed onto the conversation, they also seem to agree. So that’s where it started. It was having cool conversations with people and yes more of that please. Please say that, so I can have some more, maybe references out the wazoo today.

Craig (00:41:51):
And I thought, “All right, well, why don’t I try and capture that?” So in one sense, the podcast has become like a crutch or a cheating way to have cool conversations.

Melissa (00:42:03):
An access.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:42:03):
Yeah. There are people that I have talked to now and not that they would like not talk to somebody who said, “Hey, let’s have a conversation,” but it’d be a little hard. You’d have to like-

Melissa (00:42:16):
Yeah it’s easier to be official to ask someone to carve out three hours of their day, to just talk to you.

Craig (00:42:20):
Just grab somebody that you trained with that you consider like a little bit of a mentor or an example. You know they’re a human being, they put their shoes on one at a time probably. And you’re like, “I want to go have a cool conversation probably.” Just walk up and say, “Hey, I want a cool conversation with you.”

Craig (00:42:36):
They’re probably going to go, "Well, yeah, that’d be cool, but I’m busy. Like, “I’m teaching or I got a thing at two o’clock or call me on…” And it gets hard to make the connection, but if we reach out to them and say, “Hey, we do this podcast, we have this thing, and we’d like to have a conversation with you.” And they’re like, “Oh, this is like a thing.”

Melissa (00:42:53):
It’s real. Yeah.

Craig (00:42:55):
Yeah. Well, okay. And then they get their calendar out and they go, “How about two o’clock on Tuesday?” And I’m like, “Aha, I have a three hour window to get a chance to talk with this person.” So in one sense, it’s just me cheating to get access to people who I could get access to, and it will be a lot easier.

Melissa (00:43:11):
Well…

Craig (00:43:11):
You’re like, it is cheaper to just get on a plane and go talk to them than do everything else. But anyway so that’s part of what I get out of it. It scratches my curiosity edge, big time.

Melissa (00:43:23):
Of course.

Craig (00:43:24):
I’ve had so many… Well, I’ve had over a hundred converse… Well, like North of 250, 300 conversations, not just in this podcast. Hundreds of conversations, just because I have a podcasting hat, I’m a podcaster.

Melissa (00:43:37):
Right.

Craig (00:43:38):
And that wouldn’t have happened. It also is an extremely fertile playground for me to work on my problems. And I don’t mean I turn the guests into therapists and make them all awkward and creepy, you know, creeped out, but it forces me to go, who do I want to be like on the bigger picture. And like, yeah, I want to have this really cool conversation, but I don’t really want to make people cry, but sometimes things get emotional or everybody really, really awkward.

Craig (00:44:09):
Well, if I was a good person, I would be able to engage with that person who was having an emotional moment or I’d be able to like, “Yeah, it’s awkward, but nobody’s going to die.” I feel like this is like an opportunity for growth. I mean, at the moment I’m squirming like, “Oh, this horrible.” But after the fact or before the fact that I’m thinking about, “Oh, this one could be challenging.” That’s an opportunity for me to practice being a human being, being a member of society. (/highlight) And it’s almost like a cage match, really because the headphones have cords.

Craig (00:46:13):
Oh, that’s my favorite. My two favorite moments in every podcast… it doesn’t happen in every podcast. But my two favorite moments are when they realize that they actually have something to say.

Melissa (00:46:20):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And you watch it happen.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:46:23):
And I almost hate to have that moment happen because hello, I can only do 52 of these published weekly a year. So if I asked you to do an interview… Here’s another tip. Almost everybody says, “What do you want to talk to me for?” You all say that. I’m like,-

Melissa (00:46:40):
Everyone feels that way. Everyone has impostor syndrome.

Craig (00:46:42):
… “Well, because you’re freaking awesome and I want to talk to you and I really think more people need to hear your story or whatever I want to talk to you about.” So that is always a fun moment in like, “Oh, I wish you had discovered that 20 years ago,” kind of way. But yeah. Okay. So that’s one moment. The other moment that is my… I love it and it’s all I can do to sit still and try to have a neutral expression is when the guests look at me and go, “No one’s ever asked me that before.” And they don’t mean it like, “Whoa, that’s inappropriate.” They mean it like, “Yeah, that is something that I think about all the time. And I’ve always wanted to find another mind to talk about it.” Oh, my God, and at that point, I’m just like,-

Melissa (00:47:21):
You can’t stop them.

Craig (00:47:21):
… “I hope I can keep up.”

Melissa (00:47:22):
Yeah.

Craig (00:47:22):
Like, “Don’t knock the mic over.” And just try and keep them, keep them, like stay here, that’s always awesome when I see people do that. Sometimes people do that more than once on different topics. And some of us are just like, “Oh, my God, we need more.” Fortunately, I can record 24 hours before I have to change memory cards. So it is wonderful.

Craig (00:47:43):
(quote) And I normally, like I don’t think I have a superpower, but that is a wonderful thing to be able to do. If you can do that… Just not as a podcaster, or if you can just do that with random people, go somewhere to a cafe, have a cup of coffee with somebody, and I don’t mean if I can do it, I mean if you, the listener can do that, go do that. That makes the world a better place. Because sometimes you hear people talk about, because it’s true. It’s important that people be seen. And sometimes someone may need many things, but one thing they need right now, RFN, that’s a TV show reference, is to be seen. They don’t want an answer to their problem, they don’t want you to try and help, they want you to just acknowledge that they exist as a human being. (/quote)

Craig (00:48:22):
So part of what we were just saying, that’s part of what is happening there. So you don’t need microphones in a podcasting kit to do that because putting people in a chair with a microphone adds a whole other layer of like, they tend to lock up, or they grab their defensive pillow or sweat. Everybody has different reactions. (/highlight)

Video vs audio [58:18]

Craig (00:58:51):
From the very beginning we say, “No, we don’t do any video. We don’t record them.” And maybe we should talk a little about what we’ve been doing in the pandemic. But generally we tell the guests upfront, “Audio only.” And how many times have we had the guest open the door and they usually offer us a cup of tea or something and I start setting down a 40 pound bag of stuff. And they’re like, “Is there video?” And I’m like, “No, there’s no video.” And they’re like, “Oh, good.” Because almost everybody is self-conscious and it’s one thing when I give you a set of headphones and you go like, “Is this… Whoa.” They all get startled unless they’ve done it before by the audio. That’s one thing.

Craig (00:59:27):
But it’s another to know that if you shed a tear, people can hear that you’re crying, but if you shed a tear and now, oh, they saw it. It’s like the video it’s not actually as… My opinion, it’s not as personal as audio is, but it suddenly changes the kind of conversation I’m able to create. Remember I said I’m supposed to be here both as a conversation partner and as the interviewer, the person driving the conversation-

Continue reading…

Melissa (00:59:53):
The guide.

Craig (00:59:54):
… the guide. The person serving the 150 or thousands of people. In some cases people who are listening. When you bring a video camera to this, it gets even harder. So we tried, we actually… There is one single podcast that was videoed in person. I’m not going to say who, obviously the guest knows who it is and the video is not even worth. It’s like, “No, no one is going to… No.” And video is also really hard. To do video, I absolutely would need another body and now we’re a three-person team, at least. And the gear isn’t so much bigger, but then there’s lighting and there’s power and-

Melissa (01:00:27):
But there’s a lot more production that involved.

Craig (01:00:28):
Yeah. And the post production is both… Running a video server and stuff on Vimeo or whatever is easy, but now you got post-production editing and all that stuff. So I love that we can capture the conversation and I can do with what fits in our carry-on bag.

Melissa (01:00:45):
Yeah. I also think it’s the level of vulnerability changes because as someone on-mic right now, I’m not thinking about what I look like. I could look like a complete idiot and it wouldn’t matter. I could be waving my arms around and I am. But that’s one less thing I need to think about. So all of my brain is now on not sounding like an idiot and making sure I know what I’m saying and you decide whether it’s working, but…

Craig (01:01:11):
It’s actually pretty surprising how good people are at sounding natural and comfortable. But if you ask them to do something like have a conversation or teach a class, the visual part of it is really hard. People actually discover they really are spastic.

Melissa (01:01:25):
It’s a separate learned skill. And it is learned.

Craig (01:01:27):
But their audio is more natural, I think. So it is easier for somebody who hasn’t been interviewed or been in a recorded situation before. It’s easier to just plop them down and give them headphones on a microphone. It’s easier for them to do well.

Melissa (01:01:39):
I think it goes back to also the amount of organicness that we can create. We talked about organically having a conversation that is set up and the video just makes it nearly impossible. (/highlight)

Potential changes [1:10:17]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Weekly publishing, fear of losing momentum
  • Guiding by what we want the project to be
  • Fear of MM ending before he’s ready; what does the end look like
  • Only recording in person, value there especially post-pandemic

Wrapping up [1:21:18]