[I want to begin with a huge clarification: None of what I write here is a personal comment on Sam or Shaan (or Rob), they are both awesome (as far as I can tell), and people have feelings so I want to make sure, in case anything gets misconstrued... I write this review with peace and love, peace and love.]
If you want to listen to the podcast go here: https://www.mfmpod.com/
I have never written anything like this before, but something compelled me to write it, so here I am. Let me start by stating the obvious:
I really enjoy the MFM (My First Million) podcast, I found it by accident when trying out a new set of wireless headphones, I booted up Spotify and their podcast was recommended. I think I binged on three or four episodes, I was hooked.
What's it all about?
MFM is a podcast focused on generating, talking about and dissecting businesses, business models and ideas. Sometimes the episode is simply the host, Sam Parr and Shaan Puri (and Ben Wilson, producer/contributor), discussing interesting businesses they've recently noticed, or invested in. Other times they will have a guest on to discuss a topic, recently they've talked about copywriting and online courses with subject matter experts. The shows tend to last around one hour. Okay, boring intro out of the way, the show is much more than it sounds.
Beneath the kimono
There is a quote from one of my favourite philosophers, Dolly Parton - "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap"
The point being, the shows easily going, conversational style seems so simple and easy. Its really not. It's clear to me that Sam and Shaan put a lot of effort into making the show feel so effortless, there is a lot of research, thought about the format and a dusting of "that thing you can't quite describe". This is not by accident. Listeners love the 'Laissez-faire' style, the tangents, the rapport, but they often miss the fact that this is possible due to the steps taken to prepare, and undoubtedly review their performance in the podcast. This is a lesson to those that want to get into this sort of thing, its the work that goes unseen that lays the foundations for success.
Patterns that work really well
- Cold open. Jumping straight into some of the best content of the show from the off, either by way of snippeting something to be later played or by literally going all in from the get go.. no priming. Now you know cold openings you'll see them everywhere. (My favourite cold open of all time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO8N3L_aERg). I actually heard Sam and Shaan discuss the fact they don't introduce anything on show 223, it seemed unintentional to begin with, which is great, following traditional formats will get you traditional results.
- Improv style 'Yes and' continuations. It's a cliché that's over-referenced but both Sam and Shaan defeat all dead ends in a few subtle ways. Firstly, they always have an opinion. Sounds obvious, but it takes some doing to always offer a thought on a topic, often these are insightful and novel, I personally think its part of the magic dust that makes the show so good (this is their value-add). Secondly, when they don't know something, they rarely say 'I don't know', they'll have guess, there are no penalties for being wrong, which lead me to the third point. There is no mocking or ridiculing, of each other, or subjects in a mean spirited way, this makes the ambiance of the show friendly and welcoming. There is some light ribbing but all in good faith.
- Its hard to hate someone who hates themselves. Both Shaan and Sam admit huge mistakes they have made, both appear extremely self-reflective and as a pattern I've noticed in life in general, when you deal with someone who clearly is hard on themselves in a mission of self improvement, you inadvertently cut them more slack. In this case, they appear more likeable and relatable.
- Asking non-obvious questions. When the show invites guests on, it rarely feels like an interview, its more of a 'retrospective' (in the software development scrum style, 'what went well', 'what could be improved'). The hosts ask a combination of direct factual questions e.g. "how much did X cost?" and more open ended, often philosophical questions, e.g. "why didn't you do X?"
Not all conversations are equal
One trap that the MFM podcast avoids is something I call over-priming. When you are sitting in a coffee shop or bar with your friends you never say "Now I am going to talk about chicken thighs", you just start talking about chicken thighs. They revealed that one technique they use is to often never know what the other person is going to talk about, this creates the spontaneity that natural conversations have. All too often, pre-primed, pre-rehearsed lines sound hollow and too perfect, instant-hot takes are how the real world works, including instant reversals upon receipt of new information.
Facts then feelings. Its clear to all that listen to the podcast that their is a lot of interest in the numbers, the money being made, the share prices, the losses. Starting with the facts, then working to the feelings (what are the repercussions of these facts) make the podcast feel more tangible. We all have an innate interest in other peoples huge success, and losses, its human nature and I like the fact they don't shirk away from asking direct questions to each other and to guests.
Opportunities for change
1) The advertisements could do with being recorded in three or four different formats. Hearing the same identical advertisement three times a week, grinds a little, I mean I am absolutely certain Jordan Harbinger is a great guy but I'm starting to dislike him (jk). There is a somewhat hilarious (to me) dichotomy of a podcast that is dynamic and fresh, but uses pre-recorded advertisements, I literally go out of my way to find my phone and skip an ad if I have heard it ten times before. I guess this means others may feel the same way.
2) Show notes. Oh my goodness, this fruit is so low hanging its on the floor. Each show references a lot of interesting topics and people, but the show notes seem sparse to me. I wouldn't expect much, but a link to each company discussed in the shows would be perfect. If the idea of the podcast is to help listeners generate business ideas, missing out most of the links to referenced materials feels like leaving a lot on the table (Sorry Ben, I know this probably means more work for you)
3) Has there ever been any research done into how swearing affects podcast consumption? I have zero problem with it, we're all adults, I just kind of wondered. Are we all going to look back and say "wow, 20% of people secretly don't listen to podcasts with swearing". There is one small practical advantage to this, I can't currently listen to the podcast in the car with the kids, or at the desk through the speakers if the kids are around. This point can be ignored, it was just a random thought.
I really enjoy the podcast and I'm thankful they take the time to do it. Keep up the great work. I think its hard to fake charisma, and this podcast has tonnes of it.
So to you Sam, Shaan, and Rob (who we all know secretly is the glue that keeps things super slick), well played, well played.