You Can Only Fail if You Give Up w/ Richard Midson

Updated: Feb 3

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hey everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess with the mostest Adrienne MacIain. And today we're here with Richard Midson. Please introduce yourself, sir.

Richard Midson 0:11

Thank you very much. And it's wonderful to be on your show. I love your show because of the kind of questions that you ask. And I've listened to quite a few of your episodes, and I love this. But having been someone that used to ask questions, because I used to work in radio news, this is going to be really quite a different experience for me with you asking me questions, so you're probably gonna have to shut me up so that I answer the questions that you want. But it's gonna be really interesting. But basically, I used to be in radio news, I used to be a broadcaster, I spent 10 years as a reporter, a news editor, and I used to present a rolling news teletype to CNN or what do you call it? The American? Yeah, I can't remember the other news channels in America. But I used to do this on the radio. So I used to present five days a week, and I used to present relevant news. But the thing I'm used to doing is asking other people questions. I'm not used to telling my story, and this is why I was fascinated by your show, and the way that you draw stories out of people. And I thought, right, I'm gonna have to submit to Adrienne here and see what she can get out of me. So I'm a bit nervous, I gotta admit.

Adrienne MacIain 1:14

Yes, you must bow to the process. No, I think it's actually, what I like about this process is it's a very collaborative process. And so what I try to do, you know, I ask my questions, but I also just sort of let people take it in whatever direction it naturally kind of flows. So we'll just see what see what happens, Richard. But welcome, I'm so glad to have you here. I've never had someone who was a professional journalist on before, so this is very exciting for me. So, let's just jump right in with the first question, which is, what story are you not telling?

Richard Midson 1:51

When I saw that you asked this to other people, and I thought, what is that story? And it's actually the fact that I haven't really, apart from friends, ever explained my story as to what happened to me. Because, I mean, I've never appeared, as I say, I've never been a guest on a show to talk about me. I always ask the questions. And the more, I've kind of been thinking about it. And over my life, I realized that there's been a lot of moments in my life where, because I just sort of said, To hell with it, I achieve things. And there's a lot of examples, so you're gonna have to cut me off if I start to rabbit on, or if you think people are gonna start getting bored by this. But I mean, to give you sort of a little bit of a concept of that is that I remember in my early 20s, I was working for a travel firm. And I used to put a headset on every day. You turn up in the morning, you put this headset on, put the microphone on, and you switched on your phone, and you weren't allowed to turn it off. And after each person came through, you just got another one delivered. And there was one day where I had just absolutely had enough, I think we've all been through these moments, right? Where even though you know it's not logical to do this, you do it. And I just cut 10 people off, I just cut them off, I couldn't stand it, I absolutely lost it. I hated this job. And after lunch, I ended up in the boardroom with the manager, strangely enough. And we discussed sales targets, which I at the time said that I wasn't particularly interested in or cared about, which didn't go down very well. And it was made very clear to me that perhaps I should find another job. And the thing was, though, that during my lunch breaks, I used to dash out of the office, and I would go to a local radio station, because I got to know some of the people that worked at this local radio station. So purely for hobby, for a bit of fun, as a distraction from this job, I used to go to the radio station and I used to help out in any way I could, just as a kind of hobby thing. Because I never thought you could actually do this. Radio was something that other people did. But because I knew a few people, they said Oh, come in here to help out. So I did. So used to dash off there and come back after my lunch break rather than just sitting in the canteen and doing nothing. And so there was needing to get another job, so I applied for another job. And, you know, I mean, every one of us has had very different backgrounds, but for me, I was brought up in a very stable, very loving family. And that stability partly came from having, my dad had a proper job in an office that he had been at all his life. And that was what gave us stability. And so naturally, I kind of assumed you had to have a proper job. And that meant working in an office pushing paper around. So I simply didn't believe that you could ever get into journalism or you could be in radio. So there was, I applied for a proper job, I got a job with a firm that sold bricks, which was as interesting as it sounds, it was. Two weeks after I started, I hated them, they hated me, we parted ways. So again, I was out of there. So something was kind of going, This is all going wrong, Rick, you've got to start listening to yourself a bit more.

Adrienne MacIain 5:01


Richard Midson 5:02

And a friend of mine from this radio station was the editor of a local newspaper. And I said to him, can I come into your office and use your office to keep warm while I apply for a proper job? But of course, the moment I got in there, I couldn't help myself. So I started... I mean, it's just impossible! You've got all these people, all this energy, all this excitement about, you know, what stories can we find? What can we put out today? Who interesting people can we go and meet? And the second week I was there, I wrote the front page lead story exclusive for the paper. I say, okay, something is happening here, I have got to start listening to myself. Because it wasn't even planned, it was just happening without me trying. You know, this I think is a big theme of m y life, you've got to try, as hard as you fight yourself, to listen to this call. So I started doing that, and I started going into the radio session more because I had time and realized how much I was loving it. And I started applying for regular jobs. And then I decided to apply for a journalism course. Now, I didn't think I was going to get on this. And it was at that time, that someone very close to me said, I've got to be honest with you, you don't have what it takes to be a journalist. But I applied, and I thought, Well, what harm is it? It's like applying for any job, you know. You apply for 10 jobs, you might get one interview. Well, whatever, let's just apply. And I went on this selection day for this thing, and it was a knockout day, so if you are there at the end of the day, you have a place on the course. At each stage of the day, so several times during the day, they just cut people from it, and they just say Go home. And at the end of the day, I was still there. And at the time, this was the top course for journalism in the country, and there I was, with the place being offered on this course. So what's happening here, you know, how is this happening? I can't do journalism, I don't have what it takes to be a journalist. So I went to the radio station next day, and they said, Look, if you drop the course, we will employ you and train you to be a journalist here at the radio station. Okay, so suddenly, I've got an offer for the top course in the country and I've got an offer for a job, even though I've got no skills, and I don't have any ability to be a journalist. So I rang up the course. And I said, What do you think I should do? And they said, Take the job. Get trained. He said...

Adrienne MacIain 7:28

Take the job, idiot!

Richard Midson 7:30

Yeah, yeah. Literally, I mean, you summed it up beautifully, Take the job, idiot. Two weeks later, I was sitting there reading a 20 minute news program to thousands of people across London and the UK, and being paid for it. So you know, a few months before I was screaming and pulling my hair out, trying to deal with all these annoying people that I just couldn't stand. When you when you're about to read a news bulletin, you hear a jingle. So that gives you your time until you hear a sort of dun dun dun. And you know that you come in at that certain point. And I used to hear this jingle, and I still remember the feeling, and I can't help but smile thinking of it, that jingle would start and I would burst out laughing because I simply couldn't believe that someone was paying me to do something fun. I mean, they don't, do they? Surely every job has to be horrible.

Adrienne MacIain 8:21

Oh, God. I mean, when you feel that, it is the, I have never experienced anything like that high.

Richard Midson 8:29

I bet you have. We all have. That's the thing, we've all had those moments, where, and I think the biggest problem is that we don't take advantage of them. And I didn't deliberately take it, but somehow it just sort of happened. Yeah, so I'm sure you have.

Adrienne MacIain 8:46

No, that's what I mean. I'm just saying like that I don't know of anything better than that feeling when you realize, wait, I'm doing what I love to do, and someone's paying me for it?

Richard Midson 8:58

I mean, how is it possible? How is it possible?

Adrienne MacIain 9:00

And yet, here we are.

Richard Midson 9:01

And so there's you doing it, I did it too. So it just shows that anyone can ultimately do it. You know, people used to come, I mean, to cut to cut a long story short, a few years later, I was the editor at the second largest news organization, one of the duty editors in the UK behind the BBC. I was responsible for news going out to 300 local radio stations around the whole of the United Kingdom. So this was two years after I'd been told I didn't have what it took to be a journalist. And I was the editor in charge of journalists who had had training, who done these courses for three years. I had no training at all. It was all purely because I was so excited by it, and so passionate about it, and just enjoyed it. So it was all just spontaneous. So I just think that people have these things inside them, and I'm glad I kind of let myself go for it. I just think we've all got to give in to ourselves sometimes.

Adrienne MacIain 9:57

Absolutely. You got to go out of your own way, and just start giving your gifts 100%. You know, there's story after story of famous people who were told at some point, specifically, do not do this, like, you're no good at this. Right? Lucille Ball's the first one that comes to my mind. Her acting teacher told her do anything but act. So don't listen to people, that's just their opinion. Right? And it may not even be a well informed opinion, frankly. Never disqualify yourself for what you really want to do. I've seen people do this over and over again, where they see an opportunity, but then they go, Oh, I'm not qualified for that. Do you know how many people ended up in positions that they were 100% not qualified for just by having the hutzpah to try?

Richard Midson 10:48

But it's also I think, is that when you're a lot look younger, as well, you have you have a lot more thoughts about I can't do this. And as you start to get older, you start to get more blase, I think, in my experience, and you don't care so much. And I think you have to say forget what other people say, and just try it. Now, if you then hate it, then there's your answer. But don't listen to what other people say. If they say this is rubbish, or boring, try it anyway.

Adrienne MacIain 11:16


Richard Midson 11:17

If you decide it's rubbish, or boring, that's fine. But don't let anyone else decide.

Adrienne MacIain 11:21

Absolutely. You gotta listen to that gut. But sometimes someone can say something that kind of triggers you, like you were you were saying, you know, back at the beginning, like you started to think like, hmm, wait a second. When I was an executive assistant, I was in a review, you know, one of those performance reviews. And my boss at the time said to me, so what do you really want to do? And it was an interesting question. Right? Because right there, it's kind of is a loaded question right away, like, you clearly are not cut out for this work. So what do you really want to be doing? And so I was a little bit insulted, like, taken aback. But at the same time, I was like, that's an interesting question, what do I really want to do? And so I started saying, you know, Oh, I guess I could do HR or I could do something else. And he was like, You strike me as a creative type.

Richard Midson 12:09


Adrienne MacIain 12:10

And I had this moment where I was like, yeah, but, I mean, being a creative type, like, that doesn't pay. And he gave me this look. And he's like, hold on a second. And so he goes out, and he starts gathering up all these people that do creative jobs in this company, and bringing them in one by one and saying, How much do you make? How much do you make? How much do you make? And then he turns to me and said, I don't ever want to hear you say again that creative types don't make money. And I was like, Wow, point taken.

Richard Midson 12:42

So fantastic when you have a mentor. You know, if you've got someone to actually show you how to do it. I mean, I think for me, I didn't so much have a mentor, I had people that allowed me to try things. So it's like, an example I use sometimes is that, I mean, you remember the old mobile phones? They used to be like bricks, didn't they?

Adrienne MacIain 13:03

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Richard Midson 13:04

I mean, literally a brick, they were so heavy. And I was always into motorsport. And I liked this, it's called rally driving. This is where they drive very fast cars through forest tracks, closed forest tracks. And I went to this event at Silverstone Racetrack. And I just thought, I want to do something creative. And I said to the chap in charge of sport, and this is before I was working there, I said, Look, why don't I do a live interview inside a rally car? Now, this is before you had, you know, the kind of kit that you have now to do live broadcast. So this was with a mobile phone built like a brick with a poor sounding microphone on it. And he was like, Well, we'll just try it, and I can always cut you off if it gets too distorted, and we'll just say, Oh, they're driving off into the distance or something like that. So he gave me the opportunity. So I literally started, and we were sitting in this car at one side of this car park area. And I started off and I held the phone upside down, I knew we were live, and I interviewed the driver by pointing the microphone at the bottom of the phone towards him, like you would if you imagine you holding a microphone in your hand. So I did a little interview like that, and I said, Well, let's get going. And he floored the throttle, and we blasted off, and I just carried on talking into this microphone. And I know that later on, they sort of cut off after a bit. But it was the fact that they let me try this, and I got such a tremendous buzz out of it, that it allowed me to then go and be more creative with other things. So a bit like you having that mentor there who was demonstrating and showing what was possible by this person saying, Try it. I was no longer, like, thinking, Oh, no, I shouldn't try this, it might not work. He was like, Let's try it and if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter. So it gave me the same opportunity you have with a mentor to be creative, to sort of expand what you thought was possible.

Adrienne MacIain 14:54

Have you had any mentors that have really made an impact on you?

Richard Midson 14:58

It's a really good question, that. I mean, I've had people who have given me opportunities, but I haven't had anyone that's really trained me.

Adrienne MacIain 15:09

Kind of taken you under their wing?

Richard Midson 15:11

Yeah. And it sounds quite selfish, but I almost wish I had had. Because hearing your story, I'm very jealous.

Adrienne MacIain 15:20

Well, and it's funny because I didn't consider him particularly a mentor. Like, he was my boss and we didn't spend much time together, and that was actually the first time that he had kind of taken an interest in me and my future, and then he fired me. It was the best thing that could have happened.

Richard Midson 15:39

You're kidding!

Adrienne MacIain 15:39

No, it was the best thing that could have happened, because then I realized, like, Yeah, he's right, I'm not an executive assistant, that's not really what I want to do. But what is it about executive assistance that resonated with me? And what part of that can I expand into what I actually want to do?

Richard Midson 15:57

So why did you end up as an executive assistant? I gotta be careful here that I don't start trying to interview you.

Adrienne MacIain 16:04

Well, so I'd gotten my PhD in drama, and I thought that I was going to be an academic. And I started to apply for academic jobs. And I went in and I, you know, did my big song and dance presentation, you know, and I would teach a class and I would go through this whole thing. And I kept getting the same feedback, which is, She didn't seem very professional to us. She seemed very unprofessional. And I was like, What does that mean? She has very unprofessional attire. And I said, Well, you had me teach an African dance class, so I was wearing dance clothes. Um, did you expect me to wear a suit? I don't, you know. And so I started to realize just little by little like, academia has a lot of weird rules that I don't quite understand, nor do I agree with. And so I started teaching just kind of on my own here and there in different acting schools and stuff like that. But I realized after a while that this was never really going to pay the bills in the way that I needed it to. And I had a daughter, and I just really wanted her, like you said, to have a nice, stable home, and in my mind, that was, you know, you'd get a proper job, same thing. And so I thought, what can I do? You know, I'm looking around at this area, and I'm in Seattle, and all the jobs are in tech, they're tech companies. And there's a ton of those jobs. But like, what could I do for these tech companies? And I wasn't thinking at the time about writing or anything like that, I was just thinking like, what could I do right now? And I figured the most entry level position that I could think of was admin.

Richard Midson 17:48

Something safe, stable, pushing paper, just like I was doing.

Adrienne MacIain 17:52

Exactly! Aiming as low as I possibly could, right.

Richard Midson 17:56

I can ge