For This American Life producer Stephanie Foo, the key to achieving your dreams is giving yourself permission to fail.
Huck’s Fiftieth Anniversary Special collects lessons learned and creative advice from fifty of the most inspiring people we know. Each day we’ll be sharing a new excerpt from the magazine. Today, Stephanie Foo tells how she got her dream job - as a producer at This American Life - by being really good at failing.
#28 – Stephanie Foo
Stephanie Foo always knew she wanted to tell stories. She sent her work to editors throughout college, and graduated with high hopes in 2008 – exactly when all the newspapers and magazines started collapsing. Bitten but not beaten, she took a job teaching journalism at a local high school and continued to write in her spare time. But then something new fell into her life. “Every day, while I was laying out the student’s newspaper, I would listen to episodes of This American Life and Radiolab back-to-back,” she says. “For eight hours a day, I would find myself sobbing and laughing out loud in reaction to this amazing, emotional thing in a way that I’d never really experienced with print. Eventually I was like, ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this with my life.’ My whole life took place while listening to radio, so why not try and do it?”
With the flick of a switch, Stephanie changed tack and started listening for stories. She borrowed her boss’s tape recorder, hitchhiked to the world’s biggest porn convention in search of leads, and eventually started her own storytelling podcast called Get Me on This American Life. But here’s the best bit. It totally worked.
“I got this job by putting myself in a position where I could fail, and I’m constantly trying to do that in my work. Next week I’m doing this incredibly intimate story about my grandmother where I talk about my life in a scary, terrifying way and I think that’s something that Ira does all the time. He just did a tour where he danced around on stage while telling radio stories. If that’s not setting yourself up for failure, I don’t know what is. “
This is just a short excerpt from Huck’s Fiftieth Special, a collection of fifty personal stories from fifty inspiring lives.