The more research I did, the more I realized how podcasting could serve as a wonderful tool to build authenticity. After watching a webinar on Podcaster’s Paradise, I pulled out my credit card and paid $1,000 to enroll in the podcasting course. Through that course, I learned everything I needed to launch Earning Freedom, which would become my new podcast. I purchased microphones and software to get started. Then I retained Scott Houston, an audio engineer to set up my podcasting studio. I retained Brent Boates, a graphic designer to create my logos. I retained Zach Swinehart to redesign MichaelSantos.com so it could more easily accommodate podcasts. And on March 15, 2015, I launched the Earning Freedom podcast on iTunes.
When I began Earning Freedom, I envisioned the podcast as part of my overall strategy to create digital products and services. I set a goal of creating new content for an ongoing show that would follow a coherent structure. Each episode would last roughly 30 minutes and adhere to one of three formats:
- I would share strategies that I learned from masterminds who taught me how to overcome struggle.
- I would interview formerly incarcerated individuals who emerged successfully, and they would discuss how their adjustments inside contributed to their successful transition into society.
- I would interview business and community leaders, asking them about strategies they used to build successful organizations—and also asking them to offer guidance for people who lived in struggle. What steps could they take to transition into lives of relevance, meaning, and contribution?
I considered the podcast as another seed that I would plant to grow my garden of resources, and it would become part of the Earning Freedom mastermind course. If I nurtured this seed every day, the investment of time, energy, and resources would add value to society. People would see how they could use the same strategies that empowered people through prison to achieve a higher potential in their lives. Regardless of what struggles or challenges they faced, strategies would always exist to build and grow and create value. Through Earning Freedom, I would strive to inspire people. If I succeeded, a revenue stream would follow. I especially liked that the Earning Freedom podcast would allow me to transmit ideas around the world, providing inspiration and actionable lessons that anyone could use to enhance prospects for success.
I used an Adobe software program to convert each recording into an MP3 format. Then I would write show notes and social media messages to promote the podcast. I subscribed to Libsyn, an easily accessible Internet cloud-based platform to host the podcast. From Libsyn, I created an automated feed that loaded each new episode of Earning Freedom into iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and other podcasting hosting services. By creating this production process, I could begin building a library of inspiring content with actionable messages.
After launching, the show rose to reach number two in Apple’s “New and Noteworthy” in the self-help category. As a consequence of the publicity, more people reached out to hire me for ghostwriting services and to assist their preparations for a successful journey through prison.
Although I could supplement my income by providing consulting or writing services, I didn’t want to divert too much attention to one-on-one projects. Creating a business around digital products remained the focus, and I intended to use the Earning Freedom podcast as an integral component of the strategy. By the end of 2015, I recorded more than 200 episodes, featuring guests from every sector of society.
Several guests described their transformation while in prison. They spoke about how their adjustment patterns led to awesome opportunities upon release. Some guests spoke about going into prison with histories of violence and substance abuse. Their transformation inside led to their becoming college graduates. The show featured formerly incarcerated individuals who emerged to become practicing lawyers, authors, and entrepreneurs. The Earning Freedom podcast also featured interviews with high profile community leaders.
Without a staff to assist me, I needed to organize the process. Since every episode was a digital file, stored on an Internet server, I created a system that would make it easier for others to assist me with the production process. Even my mother, who is in her mid-70s, played a role in helping to build the Earning Freedom program. Each day she would log into different web-based programs like Google, Hootsuite, and Twitter to bring more attention to the program. As a consequence of that work, I found more guests who would tell their inspiring stories.
For example, I once sent random Twitter messages to community leaders looking for guests. I received a reply from Lou Cirne, the Chief Executive Officer of New Relic. New Relic is a multi-billion dollar company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange. While interviewing Lou in his office, he told me what he would expect from a formerly incarcerated individual who wanted to transition into the job market. The Earning Freedom podcast also featured interviews with Dan Caldwell, the founder of TapouT, the legendary clothing company catering to the growing market for mixed-martial arts. I interviewed best-selling author Michael Port. And I interviewed Johnny Lee Dumas, host of the top-rated podcast Entrepreneur on Fire.
What do all of those guests have in common? Each of them helped me communicate a message that I learned from other masterminds. Namely: it’s never too early, and it’s never too late to begin sowing seeds for a better life. Their stories show that if we choose to live in the world as it exists, rather than as we wish it would be, we can create pathways that lead us to success. That strategy of deliberateness worked for the many formerly incarcerated people I feature on the Earning Freedom podcast. The strategy worked for formerly incarcerated individuals who emerged successfully. The strategy worked for business and community leaders I interviewed. And the strategy continues to work for me.
I’m convinced a strategy of deliberateness will work for anyone who chooses to lead a values-based, goal-oriented life.
Selling Earning Freedom:
After recording a sufficient number of episodes, and writing a lesson plan that facilitators could use to teach the course, I began to distribute the Earning Freedom program. Mike Tausek worked with his team to introduce the program to men in Maine’s high-security prison. After completing the course, Mike sent me several testimonials from the men inside.
Last week Diane said that on the first day of class (because I was mad) I couldn’t get hot water for my coffee. She said I gave an attitude (which I did). I was going to be in trouble. … In the past I would’ve just “F” this class and went back to my room. But I didn’t because I am trying to change. These classes have really helped me grow. I want to say Thank You to Michael Santos Diane and Deputy Warden Tausik for this great opportunity to teach myself and others. It can be done. It’s not about what you did yesterday. It’s about what you’re going to do today and with the rest of your life. I want to thank myself for actually gritting my teeth and just baring it that day. My last self would’ve just quit and wouldn’t have been rewarded through this Mastermind course. It has been a significant part of changing my thoughts. I’d like to say thanks and congratulations to all of my “peers” for giving this group a chance and sticking together through this great process. Again, thanks for the opportunity. It really has influenced me in a way that nothing else has.
Sincerely, Eric Lauderhill
Eric’s testimonial convinced me that through digital programs like Earning Freedom, more people would find hope they needed to overcome struggle and prepare for success. My challenge was finding more purchase orders, as I would need a revenue stream to build a sustainable business.