What is common sense? If I ask you to define it, what would you say? It’s a tricky question. Google doesn’t even have the answer. It’s a question I asked, and answered. I wrote a book about it. The Book on Common Sense.
The question came up while I was writing the modern English version of Common Sense by Thomas Paine. The principles in that book, and the philosophy of common sense, are a big part of what I talk about.
The other influence is Earl Nightingale. Earl Nightingale was a broadcaster, and a pioneer in the personal development field. He became famous for an audio book he created, called “The Strangest Secret”. It was Earl Nightingale, and that audio book, that inspired my audio book, Uncommon Advice.
That’s what this podcast is about. Common sense, and personal responsibility.
Ah, this podcast has been such a journey. It’s a great story and I’m happy to tell you about it.
I grew up in the 70's. Back then we had rotary phones, radio, and this weird thing called common sense. I had two older brothers, meat heads. We were raised by our single mother. Crazy times.
We lived on the bottom floor of a small duplex my mother bought, by saving tips from a part time waitressing job. It was a small town, an old mill town. A small working class neighborhood outside Philadelphia. It was a tough neighborhood, old school tough. There was still a code. Mom was tough too. That was a time when kids still got smacked, and she wasn't afraid to do it. She was an active duty Marine, and didn't take much crap.
She also worked hard, and she was independent. And she taught us basic values. Values that you don't hear as much about today. Values like personal responsibility, and to constantly seek to improve yourself. I remember she gave me a dictionary. I still have it today. She wrote inside, “imagine how much you'll know, if you just learn one new word a day”. That mindset still sticks with me.
If you’re old enough to remember the 70's, you'll remember that radio was BIG! Back in 1975 a Philadelphia station started a talk radio program. The station was called WWDB 96.5 FM. That program ran for 25 years, and that was my first introduction to talk radio.
I think I was about 8 years old when my older brother introduced me to talk radio, and I ABSOLUTELY loved it. I couldn't get enough of it. I know that sounds weird, and I guess it is, but it’s true. I loved talk radio even as a kid. While most kids my age were playing with Star Wars, Lego stuff, and playing Atari, I was listening to talk radio.
That's back in a time when 8 track tapes were still popular. We still had the old rotary phone you dialed in a circle, it took forever to make a call. Cable TV, and the internet hadn't even been invented yet. Heck we didn't even have a remote for the TV. My brother was the remote!
The radio was still very popular for entertainment, and as a way to connect with the world. Every night we would listen to talk radio until we fell asleep. Those guys, who were talking at that time, personified wisdom to me. They just seemed like the guys who had all the answers. As a matter of fact, they were very respectful, and courteous. They were not rude, and they didn't curse. But, they were knowledgeable, professional, and they told it like it was. They weren't influenced by political correctness, and all the nonsense that seems to influence commentary today.
You know when you’re young, especially when you’re young, people influence you. They impact the way you look at things. Whether it's a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a coach, or whatever. They influence the way you act, but also the way you think. The guys on that station had a big influence on me. These guys taught me the value of common sense, and they also introduced me to the power of the spoken word.
By the time I was a teenager, I had gotten a bit rebellious. At 17 I ran away to join the Marine Corps. I was a bit of what you might call a disgruntled teenager. It's not that I was bad, I would say I was more like aggressive. The Marine Corps was a perfect fit for me, and in a lot of ways, maybe it was my destiny. Both my parents were Marines, and I was born in Beaufort South Carolina which is where the Marine Corps boot camp at Paris Island is located. So in a lot of ways I went back to my roots, and I still consider myself a bit of a Good Ol’ Boy. What I mean by that is common sense thinking, plain talk, and telling it like it is. I try to bring some of that to the show.
While most other podcasts are resorting to foul language, name calling, and even spreading rumors, I've resisted all that. So, I try to be nice, but sometimes, when people don't make sense - IT'S HARD! That's kind of the point of the show - Common Sense. I laugh at some of the stuff I see and hear, because as us good ol’ boys sometimes say, "That just don't make sense".
When I came home from the Marine Corps, I was just 20 years old. I was a lean, mean, combat veteran, and to say the aggressiveness of my teen years had reached a new level would be an understatement.
I was a serious young man, very serious, and approached everything that way. I was anxious to have a successful career in real estate development. I tried some college for a few semesters, but I just couldn't fit in. The kids seemed so immature to me, and I was so serious that their carrying on, and lack of discipline bothered me. I was driven, very driven, and I worked hard. It was during this time I was influenced by another voice.
Somewhere along the line, I got an audio program on cassette tape. So this is still the time before CD's, and the digital age. I was driving an hour each way to work every day, and staying true to my aggressive self, I didn't want to waste that time. I would buy these motivational books that were on tape. You know today all this stuff is digital, but back then they were on cassette tapes.
They came in these boxes, and I had stacks of them. I don't even remember how I got them, but I had a bunch of these things. Well, one of the programs called “Lead The Field” really had an impact on my life. I had no idea at the time who was behind the voice on those tapes.
Little did I know, I was listening to one of the greatest orators of all time - Earl Nightingale. Earl Nightingale was a radio show host, who published the first spoken word record, that achieved the gold record status of a million sales. This was a time when these things happened by word of mouth, so this was truly extraordinary.
Earl had an iconic voice that some have described as prophetic, and he communicated very simple truths. What I also did not know at the time was Earl Nightingale, and I share a common bond. Similar backgrounds, both Marines, and ironically we both enlisted at 17. Earl's voice, poise, attitude, and message have heavily influenced me.
The power of words amazed me, and that still remains today. Those early years shaped my thinking to always have a positive attitude, always ask questions, and always seek the truth. As I've matured my aggressive, Ready Aim Fire attitude has changed to a more of a strategic approach.
But one thing has remained unchanged. My mother always taught me to fight for what you believe in. That means speaking up, and using the power of words to make a difference. That's my passion. As I've seen the world change, not all of it has been good. The media today is a mess. The voice of common sense, has been replaced with half-truths, deceptions, and out and out lies. People can't agree on much of anything, and there are changes happening that threaten our culture. The very fabric this country has worn.
I don't have a staff or a fancy studio. But I do have a voice, common sense, and a desire to make a difference in the world.
I like to look at this show as the B-side. The term B-side, comes from old vinyl records. All the popular stuff was on the A-side, and then there was sometimes 1 or 2 tracks on the B-side, or the back. We live in a time filled with noise, lot's and lot's of noise. I hope to be the bonus stuff on the “B-side”.
I think the change we see in media, the degradation of quality, is a result of the barriers to entry being lowered, thanks to available technology. Which interestingly, is how radio started. It was all done by amateurs before it went to commercial broadcast. But now, the digital age has given the opportunity to anyone to bring their voice, and opinions to the world. Ironically this show is also a product of that same opportunity. It makes me wonder what advice or criticisms the old school guys might have given me.
The point is, I try to take current events, and issues, to break through all the noise and distractions, and bring a program that encourages people to think in a common sense approach. Of course I have my way of looking at things, and I share some of that. But, the idea is to share the truth, and create a conversation where you can form your own opinion about that those truths.
At its core this show is about freedom, reason, and common sense. Common sense thinking, common sense talk. I also push personal responsibility. Our thoughts and our ideas, are our most powerful possessions. My goal is to help you shape those thoughts, and ideas with intriguing conversation, based on simple truths.
We talk about politics, current events, and in staying true to old school talk radio, and other general interest topics. There's also short motivational, inspirational segments that reflect the influence of Earl Nightingale. In the end I hope to bring clarity to a noisy world.
I got started in podcasting on a whim. Almost literally. I had thought about doing Podcasting in the past, years ago, when it was called an internet radio show, but I never did. Then about two years ago I was having breakfast with my brother. He’s a motivating guy and he’s stays plugged into all the latest self-help stuff. While we were talking, he mentioned podcasts. And I said, you know I’ve always wondered about podcasts, how can I get them? And he said, “You have an iPhone?” I said yes. He said do you see that little purple button that says podcasts? I said yes. He said press that.
So besides feeling like an idiot I couldn’t wait to check it out. It had been years since I listened to talk radio. So, I’m out in the parking lot, and I press the purple button, and Boom! All this fantastic talk radio. I was in my glory. All the big names ON DEMAND! It was great! I began listening like 3 hours a day.
So I was listening away, and in a few weeks I thought, something’s missing. I had Googled, top talk radio shows, and I found Michael Savage. That was a treat, I had never heard him before, and now I listen to him just about every day. The guys a broadcasting genius.
But I thought something was missing. You can kind of tell most of these programs are following a script. It’s the same stuff, the same issues, the same take on it, it’s just getting regurgitated over, and over again. You can tell.
So me being me, I thought, ah…I could do that better. So I went and I dug up my old, old dusty files from years ago, when I thought about doing an internet radio show. I still had the files with all the ideas, and my whole plan. And in there, was a note, Blog Talk Radio. Blog Talk Radio is a podcast hosting platform. So I looked up Blog Talk Radio.
Now here’s what made Blog Talk Radio the premiere internet radio hosting site back in the day. You would call into a phone number from your phone, and you would do the show that way. With nothing but a phone. It was cool back then, but the quality was terrible. It was like old AM radio.
Well they’ve changed now. When I went back and looked them up, they were offering a free one month trial, and I thought Wow, I should give this a try. So I did. I decided I was going to record 3 shows to see if I liked it. I had this old portable microphone. I recorded a little sample on my phone to practice. That first episode was terrible. So I deleted it, and I promised myself right then, I would never delete another show. It was going to be raw and real.
So I switched from using my phone, to using the little portable recorder. I tested the sound and, I ended up putting the microphone in a cardboard box so the sound quality would be a little richer. That’s how the first 3 episodes were recorded. Literally out of a cardboard box.
Anyway, I recorded those 3 shows. They were terrible, but I LOVED it. It was definitely humbling. I thought I was going to be naturally as good as the big guys. That wasn’t the case, and I realized early on I was going to have to practice. So I decided I was going to do it every day. An hour-long talk show, 5 days a week.
Well, I got burned out in no time flat. While I was doing that, I was really researching what was working in the world of podcasting, because I realized it’s a little different than talk radio.
See here’s the thing with talk radio. They talk in 15 minute cycles because people are tuning in and tuning out constantly throughout the program. So they take 15, maybe 30 minutes of content, and basically repeat it for 3 hours. There’s calls, news breaks, and ads to break it up, and they don’t repeat it verbatim, and they might mix things up a little bit. Podcasting is a little different. You’re talking the WHOLE time. It’s a little more challenging.
But here’s the thing. I think there's a few basic reasons why they're becoming so popular. Podcasting has opened up this whole new channel for creativity, but the thing that it offers you, the listener, is it's kind of like the Netflix of audio.
You can listen on demand. You can listen when you want, how you want, as much or as little as you want. You can rewind, and some podcast players even allow you to speed up the audio and things like that. You don't have to be tuning in at a certain time, or pre-recording, or anything like that. It's right there. It's available on your phone, it's like the Netflix of audio, it's perfect. This whole New World of content.
I remember when I first experienced podcasts. I grew up on talk radio, I've loved talk radio my whole life, and then when I experienced podcasts it was incredible. I could listen to whoever I wanted, when I wanted, when I'm going to sleep, when I'm driving, whatever I want to do. I don't have to be dialed into whatever's playing on the radio. I can listen to what I want to listen to, but here's the problem with podcasts.
There's over six hundred and sixty thousand podcasts out there, and here's the thing, something like ninety percent of them never produce more than ten shows. It's small time amateurs, which is okay, that have only ever produced a couple of shows. And another majority of the remaining ten percent never produce more than fifty shows.
So you've got all these different listings that are kinda clogging up the system. And there's not really a good directory. You can find directories that show everything, but it's really kind of hard to sort through those to find a good podcast. Most of the top charts, of the top listings, show you what's most popular, but most popular doesn't always mean good.
And that’s what I was trying to figure out, and I guess to some extent I still am. What’s good? What makes a podcast good?
One thing I decided was that the level of integrity would be high. When you look at all the fake news, fake headlines, and fake personalities out there, it kind of makes you wonder, right? It goes on and on. Everywhere you turn we're all bombarded with all this news and information every day. It's on your phone, It's on the TV, you go to the gas station, and there's a little screen with more news and information. You can't get away from it, and I know everybody's sick of all the fake news and fake information, and the lies.
And, everybody's pointing fingers at everybody else, but here's the thing, it starts with you and me. If we can't expect a basic level of integrity from ourselves, how can we expect it from anybody else? It doesn't work that way.
That's what I try to bring to my podcast, a basic level of integrity. And sometimes, that means saying things that I know aren't going to be popular. That's the beauty that podcasting offers, I'm not beholden to a producer, or a political party, or big sponsors. It gives me the freedom to at least keep my integrity, and at the end of the day, what else is there?In case you don't know here's what integrity is; It means to say and do what's right. When you commit yourself to doing that every day, here's the thing, you don't have anything to worry about. You always did the right thing. You have that confidence.
I don't know, maybe there's a correlation between the lack of integrity that we see, with all the depression and anxiety going on today. So that's kind of my plea, and my purpose in all this, to say hey, take a look at yourself. If everybody did what was right, just a little bit more, I'm convinced that a lot of the problems we see going on, would go away.
But it was challenging getting started. In the beginning I would get 5, maybe 10 listens on a show. It was kind of depressing. That went on for 50 shows. But I just kept plugging away. Working on it every day.
It was right around 50 shows, the listens really picked up. I remember being so excited. I woke up, I think it was Black Friday morning, and I logged in to check the stats, and Boom! 5,000 listens in one day. SO I knew I had a little traction. Then I started getting reviews on iTunes. It was great!
It’s crazy how it’s grown. One thing I noticed as I was studying all the big players, the top shows, and all the big names, is they all had books. It was almost like they were authors, that also did radio or podcasts. So I decided that if that’s the path that was working, that’s the path I would take.
So I started working on a book. Then I got distracted. I was reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. It was just something I picked up as a general interest type thing. I thought it might be good content for the podcast, which it was! I was reading it, and it was like someone had taken a snap shot of my own mind. It was an amazing, weird connection I felt to it. But the problem is, the book was written in 1776 Old English, and it’s very difficult to understand. There’s words they used we don’t use any more. They spoke in weird way, almost backwards from how we speak today. And there were massive run on sentences. So you put all that together, words we don’t use, talking backwards in run on sentences, and it’s pretty dog gone hard to understand.
Well I wasn’t gonna give up. So I started translating it. I got an old dictionary, looked up the words I didn’t know, and I started making notes on what each sentence meant. As I was doing that I thought, I’ll bet people would be interested in this. So I decided to publish it. It ended up taking me a full year to translate it. I sent it off to the editor, which I didn’t even want to have it edited, because I didn’t want the meaning affected. It was so important to me that I precisely kept the original meaning. Well the editor did an amazing job. Absolutely amazing. The final book is great!
One of the things Thomas Paine does, is a short expose on the Origin of Government, let me just read this to you. It’s incredible.
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION.
Every society is a blessing, but government, even at its best, is nothing more than a necessary evil. Government at its worst, is intolerable to the point that the misery we suffer by a government, is the same misery we would suffer without any government. But the misery we suffer is made worse by the fact that we create our own suffering through the government we create. Government, like clothing, is an indication of the sinfulness of humanity. Every ruler's power is a result of the people's own selfishness. If everyone always did what was right and fair, there wouldn't be any need for laws or government. Since that's not the case, people find it necessary to surrender part of their freedom to secure a means of protection. It's a matter of choosing between two evils. For that reason, security of one kind or another, is the sole purpose of government. Therefore, government will unquestionably grow, with the promise of providing better benefits, to providing basic security, in whatever form it needs to be, in order to ensure total control.
All of this assumes the idea that governments have some noble, honest origin, when, more than likely, if we were to trace government back to its origins, we'd find that it all began with a gang of thieves, who wanted to increase their power, and ability to take more. They probably saw an opportunity to offer safety to the quiet, and defenseless people in exchange for frequent contributions back to them.
I love that part of the book. It really kind of explains everything we see going on in politics. A gang of thieves. Don’t ever forget that. It’s common sense.
So during that time I completely stopped working on my first book. The other thing that happened, is that the question came up, what is common sense? And I started looking for an answer to that question. What’s the first thing I did? I googled it. Google didn’t have an answer. There is a definition for common sense, it means sound judgement in practical matters. What does that even mean?
So I started searching for a proper explanation of common sense. It had never been discovered before. Nobody had addressed it. Well, I put together a book on it. The Book on Common Sense. It answers the question, what is Common Sense.
Let me share a little bit of it with you.
Common sense, no nonsense, horse sense, moral sense, what is common sense? It's not an easy question to answer. Google doesn't have an answer. As a matter of fact not only has it proven extremely difficult to define, it’s even harder to replicate. Despite all the technological advancements in computers, processor speeds, and mega computers, researchers have been unable to use artificial intelligence to replicate the common sense of an eight year old. Not even technology can replicate common sense! I think that kind of speaks to the divine nature of it.
President James Madison said, "Philosophy is common sense with big words". In some ways the meaning of common sense is as much philosophical, as it is practical. It comes back to the fundamental nature of knowledge, how things are understood. And, it's also a practical matter of rational thinking. The ability to look at raw facts or events, make observations, and draw accurate conclusions.
The philosopher Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common." That was way back in the 1700's, and we see even less of it these days. Common sense is not so common. That's at least partially true, and we see it play out every day, as opinions are made based on emotion instead of logic and reason. We're in a time where debate is virtually unheard of. It's created a lot of division, and chaos, and not a lot of people offering solutions.
So what is common sense? Let me answer that for you from the book. What is common sense on a fundamental level? The dictionary defines common sense as good sense and sound judgment in practical matters. Sound judgement, that’s incredibly general. Very broad, it doesn’t really define what common sense is at all. The highly educated investment banker Donald G. Smith had another way of describing it. He said, "Common sense and education are highly compatible, in fact neither is worth much without the other."
Here’s how I define common sense, an understanding of basic human nature, the ability to think with logic and reason, the basic difference between right and wrong, and basic math. Human nature, logic and reason, right and wrong, and basic math. But that’s pretty broad too, so let me go a little further into the principles of common sense, at least the way Thomas Paine thought of common sense.
There are four basic questions that lead to common sense. Those four questions are, why, where did this come from, what’s wrong with this picture, does this add up? That’s the four basic questions that lead to a common sense answer. Why, where did this come from, what’s wrong with this picture, and does this add up? If I had to pick one question more important than the rest I’d have to say, questioning why. As a matter of fact I think that’s what made Common Sense by Thomas Paine so persuasive. He explained why and he did it in simple terms. When people don’t understand why, they don’t really understand it at all. There’s people that memorize the books of the bible, and different bible verses, but those people that don’t understand the meaning have gained nothing, and it shows. And, so it goes with anything else. When you don’t understand why something is the way it is, you can’t really understand it at all. It's not a definition. It’s an explanation of a philosophy.
After I published the Book on Common Sense, that was 2 books in about a year, and hundreds of podcasts, I was feeling a little burned out on the whole philosophy, and politics thing. I was itching to get into more personal development.
The other thing I realized, during all that writing and publishing, is during that same busy time, I recorded, and published both books in audio. And I loved doing that, and I realized one other thing. It’s quite different to create an audio book, than it is to write a book. What I mean is that a book designed for audio is different than a book that’s designed to be read. It doesn’t have to be, but if you write it the way you speak it, it doesn’t confirm to normal grammar, AND you’d have to write it at a second grade level. At least it would read like a 2nd grade level. You see, in audio production you have to use different techniques. Like call backs, and repeats. These are things I learned in comedy, and they work well in speaking too. It creates recall. In other words the listener remembers it. In reading, memory is created by seeing the words, and imagining the story. It’s the same with audio, but instead of seeing it’s heard. You’ve gotta use different techniques to make that work.
So I wanted to do something fun to take a break from writing. Not that there’s not writing for an audio book, there is, but it’s more editing than it is writing.
So I decided to create Uncommon Advice for an Extraordinary life. It’s an audio book about attitude. Life changing information. You should check it out. I had so much fun with it, and I give it away! It’s a piece of work I am particularly proud of.
But I also wanted to do something more, so I started writing Be the Lion. I finished that book in a few months, well, that’s not really accurate because a lot of the material in that book, I had been writing since 10 years ago. I wasn’t writing it for a book. I was actually writing it at that time for a blog.
It was going to be called mental toughness. That was the blog, but with all the material I had written, when I started looking at it, made me realized I had a enough information to write a book. I just needed to put it all together, which required a lot more writing. I’ll tell you what, there’s a million, actually like 90,000 self help books. This one is different. You’d have to decide for yourself, I’m particularly happy with the book, and the audio book. I think I was, with the help of the editor, not only to get the point across, which is key, but to create a book that was conversational enough to be good for audio. Which is my thing.
I basically did them both at the same time. I wrote “Be the Lion”, and created “Uncommon Advice for an Extraordinary Life”, around the same time I was producing video, and practicing. I took a month, and produced a video every day. They were all garbage, but it was GREAT practice. It’s something I wish I had done when I first started podcasting. I think I would have gotten off to a better start. But at the same time I’m glad I jumped in. I’m just saying that after the experience of starting a podcast, I was better equipped to move into video.
If I were going to start over again in podcasting, here’s what I’d do. I’d create at least 3 shows, and never publish them. Then I’d work on creating 10 or 12 really high quality shows, and publishing them for a start. That would get the momentum going.
Also, after some testing, and lot’s of practice, I figured out how to make great videos, and they get incredible views on Facebook. Some are over 50,000 views a week. It’s kind of crazy, and I want to publish more. That’s going to be my main promotional strategy.
Where am I going from here? I’m already working on another book, and I plan to steadily release new videos probably 1 or 2 a week.
Now the big thing is, I’m always looking forward to improve the podcast. I want to do that with richer content, so you leave remembering something. If I can leave a lasting impact on people that listen, I think the show will continue to grow. I’ll tell you this much, I love it, and I think I’m addicted.
I want to leave you with this. What's Stopping You From Living Your Dream? I already know the answer. It’s time, money, busy with other things, or you just don't know how. I know, it's all the same excuses we all have. What if you changed that way of thinking? What if you started thinking in terms of "How can I"?
How many people have you ever heard utter the words, coulda, shoulda, woulda? They’re the 3 most damning words in the English language. We all only get so many days, and I'm here to tell you, LIFE IS SHORT. There's no worse feeling in the world than regret, because you can't go back and change time. It's time lost forever, so make the most of it.
Thank you for listening and welcome to the show!