A big-name radio industry guy once told me I'd never be hired as a radio talk show host. "Try something else." A few days later, I applied for this job at CJOB. And just like that, I gave up a good life I had worked so hard to establish in Toronto, to return to Winnipeg. Even though I had no idea what I was doing. You see, I'm afraid of everything, but I'm not afraid to do anything.
I was a nationally syndicated writer. I had also done radio and TV before. But I had never been a talk show host. And without any training, I was given Charles Adler's old timeslot. No experience. No pressure. Right? Wrong. It's the first day of my show, September 3rd, 2013. 1:04pm. The red light on the mic turns on. And the first words out of my mouth: "Hi. I'm Charles Adler." The rest of the show went downhill from there. I wanted to quit ...
I couldn't do this. I didn't know how to do this. I'm not like the guys at CJOB, and if I pretend to be, you'll know it. Worse. I'll know it. But I realized, almost immediately, the more authentic I am, the less I screw up - and the easier it'll be to own my screw-ups.
I figured out the three keys to my show very quickly, but entirely organically:
1. I didn't know exactly how I'd do the show, I just knew exactly what I didn't want to do. Talking politics or spewing out my opinions was not me. Don't get me wrong ... Since I was little the two topics of choice for my dad and me have been politics ... and produce. (You know me better to think I had a normal upbringing.) I also did a double honours major in university - theatre and political science. But you can be very political without ever talking about politics. And I didn't want the show to be about my opinions, because how much does that really matter? I wanted to move you to think or feel or connect or maybe look at things from a different perspective. Whether that changed, validated or strengthened your opinion that's all that mattered. And you don't have to be moved to epiphanies ... just to move you to smile is nice too.
2. After my first few phone guests, I knew it wouldn't work to have guests join by phone. I would do this radio talk show like a TV talk show and have guests join me in-studio. In with handshakes ... out with hugs. It was in those face-to-face moments before we went on-air, or moments off-air during commercials, where I discovered the true stories we needed to discuss on-air. And it was in those face-to-face moments, on-air, when guests stopped talking, but I saw they still had so much more to say and I kept silent, that they divulged - and perhaps discovered - what they really wanted to share.
3. This is the doozy: This would be a social good talk show. It would have to create social impact. I just had no clue how to accomplish that. But it accomplished itself, because of the power of connection.
So when I announced last Tuesday that I have decided to resign from CJOB and move forward, your kind messages began to overwhelmingly flow in. And I realized something incredible. In some form or another, I knew almost every single person commenting on my Facebook and Twitter ... or sending me emails or texts. I even knew the strangers - or I should say those whom I've yet to meet. How? Because we have become so connected.
Over the past three years, I've had about 5000 guests join in-studio on this show. What? Yup. Shocked me too, when I just made the calculations. And even though I'm technically the content producer, I've had thousands of producers help me, because I really consider you my producers. Whether it's from our conversations offline, online, on the show, or people who come up to me in Sobey's ... (Yes, some people are big in Japan, I'm big in grocery stores. Politics and produce. Makes sense, I guess.) Well, that's how a lot of my ideas have been generated.
The studio has been my classroom. And I've never learned as much as I have in the past three years. Fom sharing stories with Nobel Peace Prize and Academy Award winners to Martin Luther King Jr.'s right-hand-man to comedians to prisoners-of-war to difference-makers in our community. And whether it was about bettering mental health, our city or ourselves, I had the privilege to be in a position where I could connect people. And I saw how that connection bred kindness, which spread like a contagion: Social good.
My most memorable shows will always be my signature TGPF: Thank Good People Friday. Listeners would call in to tell us something nice someone did for them that week. And from the stories of neighbours shovelling driveways, to a father thanking nurses as he sits next to his dying son in the hospital, or the thousands and thousands of dollars in unsolicited generosity that happened as you heard of your neighbours' challenges and just wanted to help them ... TGPF has always been magic. It's been my drug.
And the same way I respond to every email you send me, I respond to every goodbye message or comment you've bestowed upon me. These have exceeded the standard goodbye and have all been heartbreaking and heart-filling. David, my first fan as he credits himself (though I credit him as my first producer), said I made him feel like someone. Sarah credited me for helping her finally escape a low to become happier, healthier and more empowered. And Justin wrote me this message that encompassed everything I ever wanted to accomplish here, if even with one person:
"Just FYI, your radio show changed my life and my outlook on it. I stand up when things don't feel right. My depression and anxiety have almost gone. I listen every day. Thanks for everything. I live my life now and believe over the next few years I'm gonna make an impact in others' lives as well. You gave me the courage that one person can make a difference."
But the truth is, I didn't make David feel like he's someone. He showed me he's someone. And the truth is that Sarah and Justin and anyone who thanks me and says I've impacted them in any way, well, I have to thank you for being brave and kind and open. Because if you weren't those things, nothing I would have done or said would have mattered nearly as much or at all.
You are never alone. There is always somewhere left to go. And you are always more capable than you think you are. You have proven this to me. And I think you've even proven this to yourself.
So I must thank CJOB for giving me the opportunity to live this dream. And of course I wish CJOB and my colleagues all the best. And a huge thank you to my parents: Mumby and Papa for just being there. I've needed them more as an adult than I did as a 6-year-old. Mostly, thank you for taking your time to listen to the show ... to thoughtfully connect with me ... and for giving me a chance even when I really had no idea what I was doing.
I will miss you. But will always have everything you've given me. And let's stay connected here and on Facebook and Twitter @DahliaKurtz and Instagram @DahliaKurtz. Because no matter where I end up, we're always the same distance through the Internet.
Now I'm excited for the possibilities to serve my community and create social good on an even greater scale. So, yes, I'm moving forward. But what do I have planned next? Sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.
Stay tuned ...
SAY IT FORWARD.