Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning (and Growing) from Failure

This week, we celebrate the 200th episode of Coaster Radio.  As part of the festivities, I did a lot of thinking about how the show began.

Longtime listeners may not know this, but Coaster Radio only exists because another show failed... and I was that show's Senior Producer.

Mario and Flava join other cast members on the set of our show.
Walt Disney once said... 

"It is good to have a failure while you are young because it teaches you so much."

When I was in my 20's, I would have laughed this quote off as something that "old" people say.

But as I look back on that time and on one of the biggest disappointments of my professional life... I totally agree with Uncle Walt.

When I was 26 years old, I was hired by a Washington, DC television station to create an interactive show for teenagers that "educated as it entertained."

I was young and energetic and believed I could do anything.  I guess that's why the station managment gave me a shot.  But looking back now with the benefit of more experience and more wisdom, I realize I had no business leading a show like this.  I wasn't ready and I was in way over my head.
A young EB shows one of the interns how to run a camera.
It was during this time that I met a few other television producers who worked on the show with me.

Mario and Mike (who you know as Flava) were the backbone of that show and made it run each day.  They were also on-camera hosts.

I also met a guy named EB... a producer and director who had a knack for building monstrous soundstage sets out of junk.
The amazing cast of our show... with Mario and Flava in the center.
The other really interesting part of the show was that it was hosted by local high school and college students.  These were "real kids" and not professional actors like you'd see on "The Mickey Mouse Club."  It led to a more authentic and raw program.

We worked long and hard to make the show a success.  And despite the odds of having a limited budget, a green crew and no promotion, the show ran for over a year.  But one day, we ran out of steam... management called us to their offices to tell us they were pulling the plug.

The good news was that none of us were fired.  But the bad news was that management wanted us to sit tight until they could dream up a new project for us to work on... one that ultimately would never come.

I had worked on this show day and night for more than two years! When it was gone, I felt numb.  It felt like there was a big empty hole in my life.  The worst part was, there was no new project to fill it.

I didn't know what to do.  I couldn't sleep.  I needed to be creative.  I needed to produce something.
Behind the Scenes of the show that preceded
 I was feeling kind of listless until my wife Molly brought me an article about something new called "podcasting."

I was always a big fan of theme parks and thrill rides.  And, I always had a secret desire to be on the radio.  As crazy as it sounded, I thought it would be fun to merge those two loves.

As I read the podcasting article, I started to realize that this new technology could actually make the theme park show a reality.

I also happened to know the perfect group of people to help me pull it off.

So, it was because one project failed that another one began and eventually succeeded.  It was the perfect hobby and one that took my mind off of "real-life" troubles until I could right the ship again.

That's me today... older and wiser!
I learned so much from that period in my life.  I credit it with making me a better producer today.  I went on to create productions for people like President Bill Clinton, Regis Philbin, Elton John, Michael J. Fox and other well-known personalities.

Many of the kids who were cast members of the show have gone on to have big success in their careers as well.  In fact, you can see some of them on Broadway stages, network television and on the pages of some of your favorite magazines.

And, without that show, I would have never met Mario, Flava and EB.  Those guys all have gone on to do great things and continue to thrive.  They are geniuses in each of their fields.

So, here's a series of clips from the old TV show featuring Mario and Flava.  This comes from the music video portion of the show, but you might be able to catch glimpses of what would eventually become (Come on! We're shooting at a water park!)

So watch, enjoy and remember... it's totally OK to fail.  But don't stay down.


Emmett Wrenn (WDWdreaming) said...

This is one of the best posts I've read on this site. Way back when CR started, I knew you guys worked together on a show, but I had no idea under what circumstances that ended. Now I know that CR was sort of a phoenix rising from the ashes endeavor, and you guys' passion for it makes so much sense now. Great job, Mike!

On a sidenote, I can't believe it took me this long to realize that *all* of you guys use stagenames on CR, not just the obvious ones ;-)

Emmett Wrenn (WDWdreaming) said...

And oh yeah, I totally agree with the idea of failing young being a good thing. If I could go back in time, I'd encourage my 20-something self to try and fail as much as possible. The outcome is so worth the pain. (I count 2, maybe 3 failed endeavors of my own, but there was room for more)

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