Once again going on the Beeb.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic- I was planning on going to London to do a studio interview for a BBC documentary … but my planning lagged … I didn’t really want to give up sunny days in summertime Prague for dreary days in rainy London. I delayed. “We can book you into a studio in Prague,” they said.
So they made arrangements for me to do the interview at Sleepwalker Studio, which happened to be across the street from the park that I do exercises in each day anyway.
It seemed too banal and simple to work — are the handholds of our self concepts really so flimsy? Is there really so little actual weight behind what we say we like and what we don’t like? Can we just tell ourselves that were something different and have it be so?
I showed up a half hour early … I always arrive early but that was pushing it a little, so I kind of just stumbled around in the streets looking over some notes on the subject matter. It’s not a good strategy to try to script interview responses, but you have to know your numbers. A $6 billion project is a lot different than a $3 billion one. Although this is really only backup knowledge — nobody really cares about numbers; what they’re really after from me are stories, impressions of what it’s like to actually be there.
Lanzhou. Or Lanzhou New Area to be specific.
Here’s a couple articles that I’ve written about the place on Forbes:
And a post on Vagabond Journey:
I use to get really nervous before doing media appearances. I had a set narrative for myself that I didn’t like doing them, that I wasn’t good at them. I would still do them, of course, but the toll they took would leave me exhausted. I thought I was a hermit.
In the lead up to my first book coming out I had a string of big media appearances to do. I feared them. But then something happened:
It was early 2015 and I was standing on my balcony in Xiamen waiting to go live on a national Australian radio program. I was already tapped in and could hear the commercials playing. I knew that I would be going on next. In five minutes, three minutes, one minute … I believe I was crunched up in a pathetic little ball on the balcony, but then something opened up, I’m not sure what, and I had a strange thought:
Rather than saying to myself that I don’t like this why don’t I instead say that I like it? It seemed too banal and simple to work — are the handholds of our self concepts really so flimsy? Is there really so little actual weight behind what we say we like and what we don’t like? Can we just tell ourselves that were something different and have it be so?
As I pondered this I relaxed, and then something beautiful happened: I began thinking about how fortunate I was for the opportunity to tell people on some far off continent about what I was doing. I was overcome with a feeling of awe that these guys in Australia felt that I was doing something interesting enough to have me on their show. Wow, I thought, this is really something special … and it doesn’t have to be this way. If a few things were slightly twisted in another direction I wouldn’t have been there waiting to go on the radio — I would have been sitting in obscurity, toiling in the dark. What happened didn’t have to happen, and the chance that it actually did was so incredibly slim. This was something special, and I felt like a spoiled little ingrate for not honoring how amazing this opportunity was. I then smiled. The nervousness washed away as I filled up with this deep feeling of appreciation.
I did the interview. It went well. But more than anything, I had fun.
When I hung up the phone and looked out over the nighttime city I knew that I suddenly had something to work with. So I began practicing — cultivating a better media voice and rhythm of speaking. It wasn’t easy and the details are rather dull, but I was now preparing for something that I enjoyed — that I embraced — rather than something I tried to avoid. That shift in perspective changed everything.
As I stood outside the sound studio in Prague I was excited. I was smiling, getting pumped up kind of like I used to as a hockey player as a kid. I was getting ready to go play a game. Media appearances for chroniclers is like playing a gig for a musician. I had an audience who wanted to consume what I have to offer. It was show time.
I walked into the studio, hung out with the engineer for a while, and then sat in the booth in front of a mic. The room was dark, and there were only a couple track lights pointed on me. Nobody else was in the room. I stretched by arms out wide, made myself as big as possible and breathed deep. I smiled. We began. I told stories for an hour. I had fun.
Some of my other BBC appearances:
- On BBC World News Today – 11/23/2018
- Khorgos Gateway BBC Documentary
- Making A Documentary With BBC At Khorgos
- Back To Kazakhstan To Work On A Film With BBC
- BBC World, Las “ciudades fantasma”, la paradójica estrategia de urbanización China
- BBC World Service (Radio), Newshour, July 31, 2017
- BBC World News, Today, July 12, 2017