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Lisa Barry
KTIS Minneapolis

Talent Is Never Enough




“A passionate person with limited talent will outperform a passive person who possesses greater talent.”  John. C. Maxwell


Ever listen to a great radio guy and say, “Man, I wish I had that kind of talent.”?   Things would be so different if I had that gift! 


Don’t believe it for one second!!  Think about it…every high school has them, the people who seemingly have it all.  At my school it was Kelly Frost.  He had blonde, beachy hair, was 6’ 1” and had a throwing arm that made him MVP of several football games.  Any time Kelly dropped his ID card on the lunchroom floor; all the girls would scramble like chickens to pick it up.  One day, I saw him coming down the hallway and wanted to smile but I had big buck teeth.  If that wasn’t bad enough, one of those teeth was gray because of a face-first fall on the driveway one summer.   Once we got close enough to make eye contact, I smiled half-way and stammered unintelligible words.   Then he did that dreamy trifecta move consisting of a head-nod, a “hi” and a smile…all at the same time!   Sigh.  Did I mention he got a scholarship too?  Then he flunked out of college and started dealing drugs.   True story.  Talent is way overrated. 


What if you really want to be radio dreamboat but you have multicolored buck teeth?  Do two things:  Work hard and work smart.  And smart means get serious help…whatever it costs.  In 2006, Jason Sharp suggested I work with consultant John Frost (no relation to Kelly the drug dealer).  I arrived at our first air-check session with a mound of show prep, and an mp3 full of awkward interviews with State- Fair barn-workers that I thought were hilarious.  I asked him to be brutally honest, and he was.  Gulp.   But John always kept me in that perfect balance of “you can do this!” and “we’ve got a lot of work to do!”  He’s been an amazing mentor; easily shaving 5 years off my learning curve.  And honestly, how costly is 5 years of wasted time?  I asked him for examples of really good air-talent and began streaming and recording other DJs around the country.  I studied their words, their topics, and their interaction with callers.  I kept journals with detailed notes and ideas.  


Lately it’s been Keith Stevens teaching me the craft of radio and that experience has been like drinking from a fire-hose.    The art of editing phone calls, the magical two-word challenges like “be classy”, “be kind,” “be brief”, and the high-fives when I do it right!    He should write a book!   My ratings have gone from #15 to #1.    Not because I have talent, but because smart people taught me!


Finally, my husband is a talent agent and he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not the most talented musicians that get bookings…it’s the likable ones!  All this is to say, if you want to be the best, talent has little to do with it.  You obviously have some talent or you wouldn’t even be in radio.    “Work hard” and “work smart”.   Out-work your competition and hire great mentors!   Talent is never enough. 


If you want to be inspired further on this, I highly recommend the book “Talent is Never Enough” by John C. Maxwell.


Lisa Barry is a midday radio DJ in Minneapolis/St. Paul on 98.5 KTIS, and Austin, Texas on Spirit 105.9.     Reach Lisa at


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