Ego Is The Enemy

John Alexander Ball
5 min readSep 27, 2022

I’m borrowing from Ryan Holliday to talk about how many coaches’ egos get in the way of their effectiveness on podcasts and in presentations.

I don’t know if anyone has ever created a 7 deadly sins of podcasting list but it might be worth having a go at coming up with them, so maybe I’ll give it a try sometime. The theme of this newsletter would be gluttony, not of food or drink but of the ego and how it can get in the way of our best opportunities.

When I started making podcasts, I had a philosophy: “if I’m having fun and my guest is having fun, surely my audience will be having fun too?” I’ve realised more and more through my podcasting career that this isn’t always so and for most podcasters and podcast guests, it’s a huge mistake that ends up costing them listeners and following.

I’ve mentioned before in newsletters how often I hear new podcasters telling me about their shows and they are just recording random conversations about all sorts of things, calling it “real talk” because they’re speaking their mind and then wondering why they don’t have Spotify beating a path to their door within several episodes to sign them.

It’s a perfect mix of naivety and ego which we probably shouldn’t be too surprised by when people have been trained for years now on social media that their opinions about anything are important and deserving of an audience. Hot takes and controversial opinions have been social media currency for a long time but we’re all becoming so desensitized to it that I wonder how much longer this will be true.

I fear there is a similar naivety among coaches and speakers who feel that just going on podcasts as a guest will grow their business just by them showing up and doing the thing. It’s not completely untrue, it can have a benefit and may just depend on the guest and the show as to how much.

For most people, and I do include myself in this, most of your podcast appearances will be little more than a nice conversation that some people may listen to and a handful may even benefit from or take action on. That is essentially why I decided to relaunch my podcast as Podfluence and to make it all about building influence and impact through podcasts.

When I’m considering guests for my own show, I have taken to listening to some of their previous podcast appearances wherever I can because that’s one of the best guides for me as to what kind of guest they will be on my show.

Recently I was checking out a potential guest who looked decent on paper but I wasn’t 100% sure about booking her. I went and listened to some episodes where she’d been a guest and there were 2 things very clear to me from that experience: 1-the interviewers were pretty terrible and quite happy to have their guest do all the speaking and steering the conversation. 2-the guest was doing all the speaking and steering the conversation. Also, it just wasn’t that interesting going into so much detail on her personal history for anyone who doesn’t know who she is. I politely declined her guest application.

I was discussing this with a friend recently who asked if I felt it would be helpful to offer them feedback as to why they were not booked and I said that although it would be potentially helpful, it would be incredibly presumptuous and perhaps even offensive to offer unsolicited feedback to someone I don’t know. I have tried offering some beneficial pointers to people before rather than critical feedback and it is rarely well received or applied. I only give feedback to those who ask now.

You should really only have 2 top aims from your podcast appearances:

  1. Entertain your audience
  2. Educate your audience

Doing both of these at the same time is not super easy and there are many techniques that can help you to do it well, however, blabbing on about your personal history may be a pleasant walk down memory lane for you but it leads your listener to instantly know you are more interested in indulging yourself and your ego than you are in entertaining and helping them. If you achieve both, you will likely gain followers.

Long rambling stories from your life may contain genuine gold but they’re getting missed if everyone has to sift through the silt to find it. Identifying those gold nuggets in your stories and removing the silt around them on behalf of your audience will allow them to shine and your listener to stay tuned in. If your answers go on more than a few minutes and you are the only one speaking in that time, you’re taking too long.

As with so many things, brevity is power. Not that you should be giving one-word or one-sentence answers to everything but you want to nutshell things as much as possible. If a one-hour interview could have been completed in 30-minutes, everyone is losing that time, including you but even more, you are losing impact.

This may take a while to practise but it will absolutely be worthwhile to be much more intentional about what you say and how you say it. I don’t know about you, but I work on this all the time so that I can get to maximising my appearance potential and the more I can do that, the more likely I can convert listeners into followers. If I can do that, you can too.

I’m not sharing any podcast episodes this week as I’m getting busy preparing to relaunch my show, which was planned for the start of September and now looks like it will be the start of October. Best laid plans and all that. I haven’t even thought about a musical energiser to share with you all, so I’m going with a classic from my own ‘pump it up’ playlist from the Queen of 80s pop Madonna.

If any of this has been helpful, entertaining or worthwhile in any way, please subscribe and share it with someone else, maybe even share it with your network. It would be nice to know if there is a good reason for me to continue writing these newsletters. We all need a little validation from time to time. Have a great week and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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John Alexander Ball

Host of the Podfluence podcast. Professional speaker & ethical influence coach. The James Corden of podcasting, a chubby British guy who thinks he’s funny.