November 24, 2015

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First Mediaworks

8/05/02 Of Suits And Hippies

Carl was having the time of his life, doing great Radio, when his world changed almost overnight. He had been the sparkling general manager of some of the most successful Radio stations in America. He had more than two decades of success to his credit when he woke up one morning in a dark and ugly world. Instead of creating great Radio, instead of being a leader in the community, instead of creating great promotions, instead of working with advertisers to create great long-term campaigns, Carl had become a captive corporate drone. His life was a monotone buzz of meetings with sneering lawyers, corporate number-mumblers and bloodthirsty overhead-slashers. The monotone was interrupted only for pressurized phone calls announcing impossible expectations.

Carl decided to get out of the business he loved, because the business he was in wasn’t that business anymore. When he called to tell me of his decision, I was disturbed because Radio was losing a natural leader with decades of experience. Even worse, Carl’s heart was broken. He had planned to remain in Radio until he retired, but he simply wasn’t willing to live the last 20 years of his career, dreading every day. Now he was adrift on a sea with no horizon: “Should I become a stock broker or start an ad agency? Do you think I’d make a good teacher?”

“Carl,” I said, “Radio is still fun, still filled with opportunity, still a place where you can be the center of the community and have fun with selling, programming and promotion. You’ll just have to let go of your ego to find happiness.”

I didn’t hear from Carl for about two years and didn’t know how the story ended. Last week, however, Carl called and thanked me for my advice, which he said had led him into the most satisfying years in his entire career.

“Eric,” explained Carl, “when you said I had to let go of my ego, I pondered it for awhile. Then I realized that you were right. I was hung up on being in a major market. Then I bit the bullet and became a GM in a smallish town; but man, oh man, I’ve never had more fun!” His quality of life skyrocketed. His income was lower, “but I’m making plenty of money because the cost of living here is next to nothing. And besides all that, I’m able to innovate, be creative and look forward to waking up every day. This is the life!”

Radio today looks like America in the ’60s. You have your uptight suits in the Establishment, and then you have your independent hippies. And even though some of the independents have gotten pretty big, they’ve remained free in spirit, function and purpose. My friend Carl discovered that hippies know how to have fun.

Good for Carl.

If it seems that I’m always harping about big groups and their practices, it’s only because I hear from so many people who desperately want out. So many great people have already bailed that, today, I just want to say, “Don’t bail on Radio, friend. We need you. If you’re unhappy, please know that there are still some very good groups that remain free in spirit and can give back the joy you once knew. There is a perfect place for you.”

Go find it.

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