Jad Abumrad, co-creator and host of the hit podcast Radiolab, lives his life according to two principles, he revealed to a crowded Kaul Auditorium on Saturday: “chase the antelope” and “follow the odds.” If the juxtaposition of a plains-dwelling ungulate and a poker game seems absurd yet intriguing, then you have a sense for who Abumrad is.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Abumrad got his undergraduate degree from the Oberlin Conservatory. It was on the long drives from Nashville to Oberlin that he fell in love with broadcast journalism. The best known product of that love, Radiolab, has earned Abumrad a MacArthur Grant and a Peabody Award.
Jad began the Radiolab project in November 2003, during a breakfast with his friend and fellow Oberlin alum Robert Krulwich. Since then, the show has exploded in popularity with an average 1.4 million listeners tuning in each week. Their most listened-to piece is also their most recent—an exploration of financier Bernie Madoff’s “Ponzi Supernova.”
But it was not always easy-going for this now-lauded program. Abumrad described the feeling of existential dread, which he calls “gut-churn,” that he felt in its fledgeling years; dread that he would one day have to justify his creative decisions or, even worse, that he might fail.
Abumrad’s cure for this “gut-churn” is threefold. First: embrace it. You might find exactly what you’re looking for in the swirling vortex of your discomfort. Second: (and here we return to his guiding principles) “chase the antelope.” As the hunters of days-past tracked an antelope to death, so should you pursue your passion. Third: “follow the odds.” Remember that not every project must be a success. You have your whole life to come out with a profit, so learn when to take the L.
Embrace the churn, chase the antelope, follow the odds—valuable insights for any endeavor.