Eighteen months ago I embarked on a new journey: podcasting. 2018 has been described as the ‘year of the podcast’ with latest figures suggesting six million of us listen to a podcast every week – up from 3.8 million two years ago.
Instead of listening to music on the daily commute or early morning run, people are choosing to listen to a podcast – and the numbers are rising.
Accessibility has never been easier, fuelled by the growth in smartphones. Half of podcast listeners in the UK are under 35 and the 15-24 age group has seen the steepest growth, which is why broadcasters are investing in new shows.
When I launched my podcast – Mind Your Own Business – it was a leap into the unknown. It certainly felt a little odd at first, talking away to myself on the top of Mount Snowdon!
I’ve shared some of my experiences in business and interviewed some extraordinary characters along the way – all with an inspirational story to share.
We’ve touched on everything from overcoming adversity, goal-setting, self-belief, mental health and many others. Recording these podcasts has driven me to meet more and more interesting people and I’ve found the experience fulfilling, humbling and, at times, intensely emotional. Judging by the feedback on social media I’m not the only one.
One of my recent ones is the remarkable Bonita Norris, who became the youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 22 and has also skied to the North Pole. Bonita has been pushed to the limits in some of the most extreme environments in the world. Her experiences are especially relevant in the world of business where we all push ourselves to the limit.
I’m a great believer in the parallels between sport and business. A strong mindset, determination and focus are traits as common in sports people as they are in successful entrepreneurs.
Somebody who straddles the worlds of sport and business is Gary Neville. A sporting legend who made his name at Manchester United as part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s world-renowned ‘Class of ’92’ he’s now a successful businessman who spoke in our podcast about being bombarded with emails and the importance of switching off. “I want to go back to people ringing me up, I want to go back to meeting people face-to-face,” he told me. “I want it to stop, I’ve had enough.”
From top left: Tom Hunt, Steve Hill MBE, Freya Lewis and Bonita Norris
Not all the people I’ve interviewed are well known but their stories are no less inspirational. Steve Hill MBE is not your average primary school teacher. Each year his class decide on an epic challenge for him to tackle, ranging from climbing the world’s toughest mountains and trekking through jungles to running ultra-marathons in the Arctic. A regular Indiana Jones, in Steve’s classroom ‘can’t’ is a swear word. Instead he lives by the mantra ‘I can and I will – just watch me’.
Equally inspirational was 18-year-old Tom Hunt. He’d gone travelling around Europe with his mates after finishing his A-Levels when he suddenly felt exhausted. He flew home early and was diagnosed with leukaemia a few days later. Determined not to be defined by cancer, he started documenting his journey on social media and, together with his brother, is raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. He’s amazing.
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I’m often asked to define success. For some it can be making £1m; scaling a business to £100m; landing your dream job but, in its simplest form, it can be staying alive. “It hits you hard” was how Tom described his cancer diagnosis. “It’s not the nicest thing to hear but you’ve got to get on with it haven’t you?” Wow!
Podcasts are personal in a way that radio and TV aren’t. I think I’ve seen most things in business but nothing could have prepared me for meeting 16-year-old Freya Lewis.
She was just three metres away from the bomb that exploded at Manchester Arena in 2017 that left her fighting for her life and killed her friend Nell Jones. As a father of four daughters myself I was in awe as she spoke about being on life support, undergoing 70 hours of surgery and learning to walk again. She’s also raised £60,000 for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
What I’ve learnt in doing all of this is listening, learning as a leader, taking time out to meet inspirational people who are helping others and then sharing their stories.