Sometimes I Fail

We do new things exactly because they force us to grow. That is what this post is about. The details of my process aren’t really what matters. What does matter is that I tried something new and was horrible at it, but as a result I learned a lot. If I have to wait until I am an expert to start creating, I will never create anything.

So if you don’t want to read through my struggle, stop here, but go out and try new things. Make your mistakes and get better in the process. Say yes to challenges where you might fail. Say yes to adventures when they present themselves.

There is a list of my lessons learned at the bottom that you might want to take a look at.

As part of a current project, I am building a podcast (more on that later). The plan involves conducting interviews with former students to discuss how prepared they were for the work that they currently do and the challenges that they face. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a long time. Bursting with energy for the project, I dove into creating the first episode.

I created the script, bought a quality microphone and arranged my first interview with a former student who is doing some really innovative work. The conversation was thought provoking and inspirational. I was eager to share it with the world so I rushed home and got to work.

That’s when reality hit me. I don’t know very much about podcasting just yet.

For example, my excellent microphone has a variety of settings. I chose the correct one, but positioned us incorrectly in relation to the microphone. This left the sound of my voice very clear, but hers as a distant whisper. Instead I captured the echoing sound of passing vehicles and people on the street nearby. Technology manuals today often do a good job of simplifying for the reader. That doesn’t mean that things are simple. Lesson learned. Understand your equipment.

Once I realized that I had a problem I set out to fix it. I dove into a platform that I know well and used it to try to clean up the mess. Using GarageBand, I cut the interview into separate tracks so that I could raise the volume of her voice.

However, doing so also raised the volume of the ambient noise, resulting in a hideous buzz! Which required me to learn about the mixing board. I was able to reduce the buzz and make the track audible, but now my voice was clear and her’s sounded like it was on a radio in the 1920’s.

After a few hours of that, with audio that was still not podcast quality. I went to Google to find a fix. I discovered a tool called AUDACITY that while it has its faults has a suite of sound editing tools that are amazing. One of them allows you to eliminate background noise in a sound clip. I set to work. I had to start over from the original recording though, and had to re-cut the audio to adjust the volume…again.

At this point it was 3 am.  I had to acknowledge that the I would never save the interview. It just wouldn’t work. Heartbroken, I realized that I would have to redo it if I ever wanted to publish it in the podcast. The message in the interview was lost to poor sound quality and I couldn’t fix it no matter how hard I tried.

But looking back, I’m not sure how I ever would have learned so much about audio and sound editing if I had not made the simple error. The sound quality serve as a creative limit that forced me to learn and grow.

I’ll include the final audio here for those of you who made it through to the end of this story, and for me so that one day I can look back on it and compare it to future work that goes better.

Podcast Attempt Number 1

So as a note to my future self, here is what I learned:

  1. Dive in. Stop worrying. Even though it may not work out, the work, the process and the learning are all worth it. Swallow your pride.
  2. Your inner perfectionist is often your greatest enemy when it comes to creativity and productivity. For me, I realize that I need to accept the imperfections in what I create. Otherwise I leave things unfinished and forgotten.
  3. Know your tools. Really know them. This is where things started going south. I bought a good microphone, it is a technical tool and I need to have a technical understanding of it.
  4. Tools that are easy, often contain technical limits that are the result of that simplicity. GarageBand is great because it can be learned quickly, but as I became more technically knowledgeable, it reached a wall created by that same simplicity.
  5. Audacity is a go to audio tool. I’m glad I found it.


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