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12 life lessons I learned from creating my first podcast

I shared my 12 life principles with the world. Now I’m reflecting on what I’ve learnt. These 12 ideas are relevant for everyone - whether you want to maximise your impact at work, nurture your relationships, or share powerful stories.

1. Select your impact vehicle wisely

Creating my 12 principles for an extraordinary life was the culmination of a five-year personal development journey. I'd consumed mountains of personal development literature, experimented with countless systems for living and reflected each day in my journal. I was excited to share my principles with the world. But how? Since listening to TED Radio Hour, Tim Ferris and other podcasts, I'd dreamed of having my own show one day. I decided audio was a strong format for me. I'm an extrovert experienced with public speaking who loves hearing the sound of their own voice...

2. Check your ego with external perspectives

Before deciding on my 12 principles, I redrafted them multiple times, based on feedback from mentors, friends and clients. Acquiring opinions from others enabled me to validate that these were ideas worth sharing. My friend and digital strategy mentor, Lauren Razavi, crushed my notion of sharing my principles alone - rightfully stating that "no one wants to hear a Tom Marshall monologue about his life principles". I wasn’t a credible authority (yet 😀). I adopted her idea of interviewing 12 guests who embodied each principle and, after recording a positively received pilot episode, "Principled?" was born.

3. Everyone wants to feel heard

I excitedly started reaching out to a shortlist of potential guests, some of who were a bit of a long shot (particularly Lewis Hamilton). But most people accepted my invitation, reminding me that everyone wants to be heard. People love voicing their ideas and sharing their stories - not just as a self-advertisement, but to connect with a like-minded human being.

4. Vulnerability is a choice

One of the best gifts I've ever received is a pack of question cards to facilitate deep connection. While they promote vulnerability by offering intense questions, my partner doesn’t have to answer. In some interviews I felt frustrated when my guest didn't fully open up. I could sense they were hovering on the surface, unwilling to dive into the depths of their experiences. While we can create the space for others to be vulnerable, they must take the leap.

5. Stories are more impactful than expertise

One of my pet hates at conferences is seeing poorly delivered presentations from CEO's. Their title and experience supposedly makes them entitled to represent their organisations on stage. However, if you're unable to tell compelling stories, your expertise is worthless. I had many fantastic guests with fascinating life experiences. But the ones who stood out were those who could tell authentic stories, irrespective of their backgrounds and perceived position on the social ladder. One of the most popular episodes was with Bernie Hörl, a Tiny House builder & resident. His story of ditching his fast-paced London corporate life for communal Tiny House living was incredibly impactful.

6. If it's novel, iterate.

I reached out to many guests simultaneously and recorded my first eight episodes in quick succession. Big mistake. After reflecting on my conversations, I realised that I needed a new storyline. Rather than Tom being an expert proving his 12 principles through interviewing 12 guests, it should be Tom as a young personal development nerd testing his principles. If I'd recorded three episodes and then reflected, I would have uncovered my desire for this new narrative sooner and been able to focus on it for the rest of the show.

7. Raise the stakes to raise your standards

Publishing one episode per week raised the stakes. Producing the podcast took more time than most shows, since I decided to add my story about the principle before each interview. It forced me to write and record a personal story each week, while also editing the episode - alongside my other obligations. Being accountable to my listeners lifted my performance levels.

8. External pressure saps intrinsic motivation, when it hits a threshold

Accountability to others is an effective performance tool. Shameless plug: that's why I created Level-up, a goal coaching programme based on this proven method. But when it's Sunday night and the episode has to be online by Monday morning, that external pressure reaches a threshold that saps the fun from my work - ultimately reducing the quality.

9. Embrace the process - in its entirety

Making each episode involved up to an hour of great conversation, with the remaining 80% of my time spent editing, promoting and smaller mind-numbing tasks. Producing great work depends on accepting that not all of it will energise you or utilise your full intellectual capacity. The process is necessary in its entirety to create the outcome we ultimately desire.

10. To maximise your impact, think digitally

My entrepreneurial friends frequently reminded me that my podcast was evergreen, digital content, valuable for building my brand. But aside from this, it enabled me to impact people who I would never reach, spread across over 100 cities around the world. Now that my 12 principles are immortalised online, my future unborn grandchildren can learn life lessons from me, even after my physical body has rotted away.

11. Ideas are only as valuable as their execution

Everyone has a podcast these days - at least in my network of entrepreneurial personal development spirits. What separates the successful shows from the ones that go unlistened is how well they execute their concepts. It's the packaging, promotion and storytelling. Tens of companies had the idea of renting out your home to strangers online, but Airbnb won, because they had THE best execution. My short-term focus on measurable results that I controlled blinded me to the emphasis I should have placed on promotion. I didn't reach out to large publications about my show, because the results were uncertain. Although, as an evergreen show, I still have time to fix this 😉

12. Celebrate your successes

I danced around my office to the Sugarbabes (a guility pleasure) when my first episode went live. "I have my own podcast, wahey!" Celebrating after each episode went live helped me maintain my intense weekly publishing cadence. But by episode 8, I stopped celebrating. The novelty had worn off. I'm often so focused on my next goal that I forget to celebrate what I've just achieved. This almost happened after finishing the show, but deciding that I would reflect with this article helped me feel grateful for my achievements. To ceremonially finish off the podcast and remind me of how I want to live, I'm framing my 12 principles in my office. Drop me a DM if you'd like me to order a print for you too.

Want to listen to the show?

Here are my most popular episodes:

Principle 1 - Unleashing your Authentic Self with Relationships Coach, Brian Bloom

Principle 7 - Crafting your Environment with Tiny House builder, Bernie Hörl

Principle 10 - Integrating your Work and Life with Digital Nomad, Lauren Razavi.


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