My name is Gardner Douglas and I finally feel like I found my calling. For a long time, I felt like my creativity was being unutilized and maybe even dead. There were times I even thought that the chapter in my life called “Greatest Creations” was closed for good and had no chance of opening backup. Podcasting not only opened that chapter up, but it started so many more. I not only get to wear new hats and learn different jobs, but I have the privilege of having total control. I’m going to tell you how I got started, what it takes to keep it going and what it’s doing for me on a personal level.
My two loves of shucking oysters and being fascinated by people’s story collided when I took a position as a security officer. I had a supervisor that had not one podcast but a few. I was totally stunned not because of my thoughts of “How is he doing it all?”, but “What is a Podcast?”. He broke down to me that podcasting was simply an audio form of telling a story and you can really make it what you want. He also pointed out that you don’t have to be famous to start nor do you need a following already. You just need to be willing to put in the time and be dedicated.
He realized I was sitting on an untapped market of knowledge. The more we spoke I realized I could do this with just a little help from him and YouTube because isn’t that where we learn everything? Like a racehorse I was off and fast out the gate. Little did he know that he had just unlocked a caged bird of creativity. This was great for me because I could now be a journalist, blogger, producer, host, sound technician and many other titles that I thought I would never be assigned.
With my 10 year plus experience in shucking oysters, setting up raw bars, and content creating for social media accounts I thought “how hard could this be”? I can honestly say the hardest part was just starting. For a while I felt like I had to be a master of all to even put out an episode. In the large scheme I still feel that way, but I still tell anyone” just start”. On a blank sheet of paper, I started writing things that fell under different categories like questions I wanted to ask, trending topics in science, a to do for the podcast, and people I wanted to interview. With these guidelines I felt balanced and at least had a starting point.
The list created structure and I knew without it I would be all over the place. At the top of the to do list was coming up with a title and logo. The title and logo are your first impression before the listener ever gets to the content. Good thing for me I had the podcast guru to help select the name and refer me to a professional graphic designer. With these tasks crossed off “The Oyster Ninja Podcast” was born.
Next on the list was more of a question for me not just a tick to cross off the list. I had to dig deep and ask myself who would even want to come on my podcast and talk to thousands of listening folks about what they do and why? The other thing was once I get them on the show what would I ask them or talk about? Granted I was a national ranking shucker, but I had no experience in journalism or interviewing. This was harder than coming up with a title believe it or not. I reached out to a bunch of people and got turned a bunch of times.
I realized a couple of things from this task. One is Cold Calling is not for everyone ,but to be successful at it you need in depth research about them or the product. At first, I would just shoot the same email out and hope for the best or look up a nonprofit online and give them a call asking for someone in charge. This got me nowhere, so I changed some things up and started tailoring my emails to the company. What this means is I included something they recently accomplished or talked about why I thought them coming on the podcast would be beneficial to them. The next lesson is work with what you have. I didn’t know a bunch of scientist or authors, but I did know some willing oyster shuckers and farmers. They would sit down with me not just to tell their story ,but also to support what I was trying to accomplish. This was one of the best things I could have done because when we sat down to record there was no tension other than normal nervousness of doing something new. The ending product sounded just like two old friends sat down to talk and a microphone just happened to be clipped and recording. This also helped with the awkwardness of can I ask this or when can I ask this?
The next task to check off was sound equipment. I had no previous knowledge of sound boards, mixers, the different types of microphones, or even how to edit the episode when finished. It became obvious more than a few times that I had gone to far, but quitting was not an option. I took to YouTube like it was a part time job that didn’t pay. I watched a range of videos like how to edit a podcast, how to get noise out of the background, and even how to promote my podcast. This is a short list by far on topics, but all that to say if you want to learn something the answers are out there for you. No matter how many videos you watch and people you talk with it still comes down to just start.
After weeks of procrastinating I finally took the jump recorded a show. I interviewed one of the kindest, hardworking, innovative, thoughtful person to ever walk this planet “myself”. On that first episode I basically put out my intentions for the podcast and just put myself out there to get some feedback. The next episode was ten times better I spoke with an oyster farmer and he was so informative. That’s a great feeling when you’re learning right along with the listeners. No matter how much research I did I felt like there is always something new coming up. Also, something stuck with me from a video I watched that said to ask the person you interview a question they have never been asked before or listen to/read past interviews and see what you would have done differently. I love it when people reply with a “I’ve never been asked that before” or “That’s a good question let me think”.
Almost like “Field of Dreams” “if you build it, they will come”. In my situation I felt like all I had to do was put forth the effort and the rest would follow. What this means is always staying up on current events and tons of reading articles. Also joining newsletters that fill your inbox up with tons goodies. One newsletter that sticks out is Ocean Conservancy and their fight against ocean acidification. The entire blog post was filled with tons of important information that I had never even thought or heard about. I figured if I hadn’t heard of these things, someone else is in the same bout I’m in. After I finished reading, I used my new technique of writing emails and really put my heart and soul into it expressing why I thought someone should come on my podcast. Hard work does pay off and the actual man behind the acidification program agreed to come on the show. To this day that episode is one of the most popular that could have never happened if I didn’t learn how to present the podcast.
It brings me joy when someone sends me an email telling me how they have been listening to my podcast from the beginning or even if they found it by accident, but they love it. It also makes me happy when people now reach out to me and say that I want the oyster ninja to tell my story. This really does put fuel to the fire for me. No matter how tired from the long nights of trying to get the sound just right, making sure the photo dimensions are right for the album art or even something simple like writing the description. The podcast is bigger than me and if I can’t give 100 percent, I just won’t give at all.
The podcast is my relief of stress and sometimes my stressor but in a more controlled way. I don’t put any more stress on me than I can handle. One day I learned about oysters, which leads me into the oyster farm, which turns into me learning about farming techniques and then of course the actual farmer. This is the tangled web that I live for and really wouldn’t have any other way.