Jad's Open Road

JAD ABUMRAD

Host
RadioLab

“There’s a feeling of dread and a feeling of anxiety that you have at this point, and there’s a tendency to want to curtail the uncertainty…but premature certainty is the enemy—it’s always the enemy.”

INTERESTS:

Radio

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Doubt Failure Fear Individualism Negativity Opportunity Talent Planning Instincts Passion

TAGS:

Adjacent Possible theory, alienate, anxiety, being open, change, combining interests, comfort zone, dread, editing, instant gratification, music, music composition, panic, possibility, questioning, radio, routine, surprise, uncertainty, volunteer

BIOGRAPHY:

“You should be panicking a certain amount of the time,” says Radiolab Co-Host and Producer Jad Abumrad. “Because then you’re right at the edge of what you can do. You need a little bit of uh-oh in your creative life, just enough.” Think about right before a liquid turns to a gas, Jad says. The molecules begin to vibrate and bump into each other and get agitated—things are never happy or comfortable at that moment of change, but sometimes that unhappiness just means you’re doing something worth doing. Jad may be a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and co-host of an award-winning radio show now, but he’s more than familiar with those feelings of dread and uncertainty we all get when we’re testing what’s possible. In fact, he still gets those feelings now when he’s stuck on a story for the show; the doubt comes rushing back in. But, he says, those feelings can help point you in the right direction. Before Jad ever came to radio, he studied music composition, thinking he’d score films. That didn’t really work out, and everyone around him seemed to be doing the things he wanted to do—and making it look easy. His girlfriend (now wife) helpfully suggested that he liked to write, and he liked to make music, and he wasn’t great at either on its own—maybe radio would be a good middle ground. So he spent a year volunteering at a radio station—working odd jobs when he could to get by—and generally feeling pretty terrible. But an important thing happened amidst all that uncertainty: he found that the immediacy of making stories from splicing together bits of audio was both immensely satisfying and more interesting than he ever expected. Now, making Radiolab, he’s continually struck by how weirdly close his job is to the thing he always thought he wanted to do. “I just somehow wrote the script wrong,” he says. “I wanted to be a film scorer, but I think I’m doing that now, weirdly—but I would never have known that this is the job I was imagining.”

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