The Starters is one of my favourite podcasts (it’s a show on NBA TV and YouTube, too). Last week the six-person team – Tas Melas, J.E. Skeets, Leigh Ellis, Trey Kerby, Jason Doyle, and Matt Osten – celebrated their 10th Anniversary with an oral history of the show. You don’t need to be a basketball fan to appreciate the incredible career advice shared by these humble, smart, resilient, and pretty darn funny makers of media. Here are six professional lessons from The Starters.
And nice guys, too! The story showcased how love of basketball and passion for making cool stuff for the Internet comes from a very genuine place. Melas, Skeets, Kerby, and Ellis – the on-air talent – seamlessly combine their fandom with serious basketball smarts to deliver an experience that feels like friends nerding-out about hoops over beers as opposed to suited retirees yelling out of the television. They don’t take themselves too seriously and this is one of the many things that makes them super-relatable. Also, at any given time one of them is always wearing plaid…
They’re innovative pioneers
While J.D. didn’t invent podcasting, he might’ve been one of the first Canadian innovators within the medium. He, Melas and Skeets definitely launched one of the first high-quality basketball podcast on the web. Every time I hear entrepreneurs speak about how they made their mark on an industry or a particular craft they always emphasize how important it is to be the first person to market with an idea. In addition to their show podcast, which evolved into a video podcast, The Starters (formally The Basketball Jones) has earned a reputation for creating viral media content. I also like that their creative and fun approach to interviewing is influencing others in the industry, too, because players spewing tired sports clichés is the worst.
They have stick-to-itiveness
Holy crap the work ethic of Melas, Skeets and J.D. was/is incredible. For five years they created content that not only didn’t make any money, it actually cost them money. So they worked other jobs in order to feed their passion project. If you want to know what work ethic and resilience feel like before you sink money and energy into a business or a creative endeavour, listen to the oral history of this show so that you can learn lessons about what it takes to bring an idea to life.
They tolerate risk
Moving from Toronto to Atlanta (the home of NBA TV) for a career opportunity is a risk. In some ways, as the guys noted, it was easy because doing so realized a professional dream. And it was hard because a dozen wives, girlfriends and kids also moved to a community that is very different from the home of The Jones (Toronto, Canada). Sinking so much time into their project was a risk, too. In addition to resilience and adaptability, tolerance for risk is an essential component of your professional toolkit.
They have great relationships
According to producer Osten, one of the most common questions that fans ask about the show is how they haven’t killed each other. I loved how the guys kept it simply and reminded listeners that they genuinely like each other and spend time together outside of the show. Another gem from their 10-year history was a story about how Melas, Skeets and J.D. kept each other motivated when times were busy, challenging and unprofitable, which is something that all of us require throughout our career. More than anything else in our careers it’s our relationships that make us successful (or a lack of good ones that hold us back). Oh, and Leigh also runs a non-insubstantial Twitter army that sends ripples through the Internet.
One of the reasons that I enjoy The Starters is that I’d like to hang out with them – my hunch is that this sentiment is shared by their millions of fans (or friends!). Able to embrace silliness, wordplay and physical comedy (occasionally involving eggnog or a giant pickle), they don’t take themselves too seriously and share the fun with others in ways that bring out the best in people. People love working with folks who are fun, so think about how you can bring joy to your community of colleagues, family and friends.