The Ten Secrets Of Podcasting (and what I’ve learned)

james altucher podcast

I’m totally selfish and I’m shy.

I wanted to talk to you. I read your books. You invented something I liked. Or you said one thing that blew me away.

Or I was a fan of your music. Or, heck, you went into outer space. Or inner space.

Whatever. I wanted to call you and have a conversation. Maybe you would like me. Maybe you would be my friend.

Secretly, deep down, I wanted you to be my friend and say, “Hey, let’s hang out. A lot!”

But how can I do it? You would NEVER take my call if I just called you cold.

So I started a podcast. And then I started calling people. I called Cheryl Strayed, Mark Cuban, Coolio, Arianna Huffington, Wayne Dyer, Peter Thiel, Amanda Palmer, and hundreds more.

I talked to you. Some people I actually did become friends with. Others I just learned from. I learned a lot.

I encourage every socially abnormal person who is curious to start a podcast. Or…if you don’t want to start a podcast, find some way to interview people. To learn from them.

Someone asked me recently what they need to know to start a podcast. I have no clue. I lied to you also.

But here’s what I wrote and I hope there are some gems here.

I plan on learning a lot more. I might already have 30 calls into you because I’m very annoying.

Tips On Podcasting:

A) You Have To Reach Out To Lots of People you normally wouldn’t reach out to. That’s hard and uncomfortable and rewarding.
But the only way to master something is to practice. I am practicing being incredibly uncomfortable. So I practice it every day.
Pick all of your heroes. Reach out to all of them. One in 50 might respond.

B) Listen and Learn A lot, because there are stakes on the line – your ability to succeed in the interview.

You will never get this chance again. Don’t blow it.
Don’t even let a sentence go by if you have the small itch of curiosity tagged to it. Be curious about every word.

When someone says, “And then I had a coke problem and then …” STOP! “Why did you have a coke problem? How did you get over it.”
You know how it goes.

C) Learn To Be Intimidated

I can say there is a technique for this but there isn’t. Only a lot of research and experience was able to do it for me.

I just fill all the holes with questions. It’s a blitzkrieg of curiosity and that helps my nervousness until we find a common point.

When you have a guest like Coolio, where I had no point of reference in our entire lifetimes I just had to keep shooting questions until we found a point in common (addiction. Love. You know – regular stuff).

D) Persistence

You have to learn to be persistent. because nobody responds to you the first time around.

As one person wisely (thank you Gillian Zoe Segal) told me, “Don’t take a ‘No’ from someone who doesn’t have the ability to say ‘Yes’.

This worked for me at least 50 times.

But the one that stands out in my mind right now is Judy Blume, the best author of my childhood. Judy Blume taught me how to love. But I took at least a dozen different routes before she was able to say “Yes”.

E) Sell Yourself 

You have to learn to sell yourself. because nobody wants to be on your podcast until they know who you are.

Come up with at least five reasons why someone should waste their valuable time talking to you.

F) Humor

You have to be funny. Because an entertaining podcast is better than an education one (think documentaries, for instance).

I watch standup comedy before every podcast I do. I need to be on On ON!

Heck, I have guests coming over tonight. I need to listen to comedy as soon as I post this.

G) Find the Broader Meaning of Their Lives

You have to find universal messages and get the guests that speak for those messages. This is how you build audience.

If you have a guest who discovered how to cure cancer, explore what happened in their life to make them want to devote their entire lifetime to curing cancer.

The art of suffering is universal. Tease out that art.

Get those guests. Stories are the map of that suffering.

H) Multiple Media

You have to take the content you learned in an interview and slice it into multiple media (podcasts, writing, photos, etc).

Because people will read you, listen to you , watch you, in many formats and you want to reach as many people as possible.

I never know how people will interact with my content. It takes all forms. So if you have a message, then get it out there. Message over medium.

And, by the way, rule #1: have a message.

I) Consistent

You have to keep going and be regular.

People don’t want a podcast “whenever we feel like it” – they want to know you are there for them every…(pick a day) Wednesday afternoon and that you won’t let them down.

Also, you get better each time. And “in person” is better than not. Then you get to be friends with your guest.

When you are in person, you get to see their facial reactions. You get to know when to interrupt. You get to know each other.

J) Persistence, Part II

You have to keep doing, even when it seems like there are no results.
You keep going because

  1. Audience builds over time
  2. It’s actually life changing for you to do a good podcast.

Note: I haven’t mentioned money. Yet.

But if you do a podcast there are many ways to make money. But you have to do these ten things first.

Please do them. It’s worth it.

And, for any astronauts, rappers, artists, writers, innovators, inventors, or comedians out there…I’m looking at you.

Meanwhile, I hope I can get over my shyness over time. I hope I can talk to you and not be so intimidated all of the time.


Last year I recorded and published over 50 interviews with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, celebrities, and all around choose-yourselfers. And now I want to give away many of their books free to you. All you have to do is claim your entry here.

  • So…when I start my podcast do you want to be on it James?

    Seriously though, great article and great advice thank you.

    …and I was actually serious about the podcast thing.

    :)

  • Thanks, ay. Well, I made some errs, but it’s not because I wanted to. Mostly I get told I’m not podcasting at all, just a writer. It’s hard to get all of this done when people are constantly telling you falsehoods about what you are clearly doing, but I think I managed to hit most of these great pointers. Cheers!

  • Ben Smith

    Great tips, James. Listening to your podcast – and a couple of other people’s – inspired me to start mine. It’s a great feeling to be able to read these tips and apply them in practice, rather than just in theory. Because I actually did it already!

  • Mary

    I just discovered your podcast and I am loving so many of these interviews! But to be honest I came here to beg you to interview Penelope Trunk. It would make my life!

  • Brano Biznar

    Thank you sir!