Authenticity Above All: Reflections On OutKick, The Country’s Most Fearless Brand

If you haven’t had a chance to read Clay’s latest mailbag, take the ten minutes and check it out HERE. While I’m not trying to wash his balls like NBA media does to the Association, I truly believe that this is some of the best writing I’ve read from him in ten years.

Let’s specifically take a second look at his comments regarding taking over Rush Limbaugh’s time slot on Monday (the last question of the mailbag). There’s a lot going on in that response, and it is worth further consideration for a number of reasons. His original remarks will be italicized throughout, and my opinions will follow.

Frog writes:

“As a longtime Rush fan personally (and I’m assuming you are as well), are you worried about how to not screw up his show? I know you will do great (I’ve been a big fan of yours for a couple of years), but those are some big shoes to fill.”

I’m not worried because we’re not doing Rush’s show. No one is ever going to do Rush’s show again. We’re not Rush’s replacement. We’re doing a new show in his timeslot. If anyone did try to do Rush’s show, they’d fail. Because in order to do good radio or TV, you can’t worry about anyone else’s show.
No matter what the medium is: radio, TV, writing, there are many people whose talent I’ve admired. But I don’t write, sound or look like those people on TV because they have a unique voice and I have a unique voice too. I think if you worry about what other people sound like — or how you compare to them — you lose your own voice in the process.

This is excellent advice right from the jump. To be successful in any endeavor, especially media, you have to be willing to be yourself; which, for many people, is a terrifying thought. Like amateur golf, most people assume their ball will probably end up in the trees, and so they’re already thinking about the best place to miss. Their lives are very much dedicated to damage control and mitigating risk. Very few people actually visualize their ball going in the fairway, and even fewer see it going in the cup.

Clay has been claiming for years that being funny, smart, original, and (in my opinion, most importantly) authentic mean most to him, and it shows.

The OutKick brand wasn’t ever built on a fear of failure, but rather a vision of success. And success most often stems from the same place for people no matter the field: the singular willingness to go one’s own way in life. To buck the current and do what others won’t. Clay’s growth from local radio host to national figure, and OutKick’s parallel growth from personal blog to major media outlet, really represent the power of having a strong desire and the belief that it can be achieved.

And I think radio, uniquely, reveals the authentic version of yourself over time. Audiences are smart, and they know whether you are being honest with them or not. No one is a good enough actor to pretend to be someone else for three hours a day, five days a week on radio. It’s just impossible to pull off.

I come from the world of Hollywood entertainment, and he’s right, audiences are smart. Most people can’t conceptualize a scripted drama themselves, but they inherently know when the final product stinks. They seemingly feel betrayed by the letdown. Why? It sounds crazy, but subconsciously they feel like they’re being lied to or patronized. Condescension is always a recipe for disaster.

I quickly earned that to earn the audience, you have to be authentic with them, which ultimately means being authentic with yourself. Living someone else’s life is not only a terrible business strategy, but a terrible existence.

Even if you can’t go follow your exact dream right now, you can certainly lean into your own passions and skills in ways that you’ve never considered. By embracing a touch of selfishness, you’ll actually be helping others in ways that you literally cannot conceive of at the moment. Just look at our situation at this company: Clay refused to waver from authenticity, and not only was he rewarded for it personally, but he was able to give passionate writers like me a chance to finally fulfill my own desire for an authentic professional life.

Accepting any less of yourself is a betrayal no different than the betrayal felt by the audience after a lackluster film or TV show.

I think this advice applies for everyone out there, regardless of your job. You can’t grow without taking risks. When I was a kid, I was terrified of change. This lasted for me all the way to college. I was afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. I think that’s normal. But change is a constant. And if you’re not willing to change too, then you become a dinosaur. And what’s the worst thing that can happen if change happens?
You get fired.
Guess what, I’ve been fired before. It’s not the worst thing imaginable. In fact, it can be a good thing because it frees you up to pursue things you wanted to do anyway. Getting fired is what led me to start OutKick.

There’s really no greater personal lesson than understanding the value of leaving your comfort zone, as it’s the source of all true satisfaction. Even though he’s a confident guy, I’m sure Clay would tell you that every step of his journey has been a departure from comfort—local radio, national sports radio, writing, periscope videos that led to web shows, TV shows, and now the (pinnacle of all media), national news radio.

With each step, though, the uncomfortable became comfortable, which makes this seemingly gargantuan task just feel like the next logical step. No matter your industry, once more success feels like the next logical step, you will always attain it.

OutKick as a whole also finds itself in a departure from comfort as it moves from a small company to a more national, all-encompassing brand. There is so much opportunity here and so much potential for amazing, uncomfortable growth. Plus, because OutKick prides itself on having strong viewpoints about all sorts of breaking news, it forces me to become a better writer and more engaged producer. I couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity, and it’s really all due to a willingness to expand past what’s comfortable.

I was a part of the most successful local radio show in the country in 3HL on 104.5 the Zone here in Nashville. I could have done that show for the next twenty years, if I’d wanted to do that. But after six years, I felt like I’d gone as far as I could in that time slot. I mean, look, I loved the job. It was lots of fun. But I felt like I’d mastered my role there.
And I wanted to see if I could grow and do more.

I grew up in Nashville, and I distinctly remember when Clay started getting popular in local radio. The show was called Three Hour Lunch (later 3HL after a time slot change if I remember correctly), and his voice was unmistakable. Brash, opinionated, and funny, Clay brought a “can’t miss” quality to our then-small market local radio, and I don’t think anyone was surprised to see him flourish afterwards on his own.

He actually published a few of my things when OKTC was still small and taking submissions, including an infamous anonymous mailbag about breast milk that longtime readers will certainly remember. For a young writer trying to find his voice, those were important small steps, and I’m still appreciative. A few years later, like a ferret in their pants, I finally wore him and the team down and am getting my own shot to be brash and authentic. As Clay continues to grow into his new role, I hope to be able to grow into mine and repay the favor.

I couldn’t have gotten to this opportunity without having left local radio when I did. And that required embracing change.
I think that’s good advice, no matter what your profession. True professional growth almost always requires change, and change isn’t easy. But if you aren’t changing, you’re not going to advance. In fact, you’re already finished.

The way in which I’ve seen OutKick change the most is in its dedication to good writing. The site is growing, and will continue to grow, and that’s a great thing. Clay’s writing was always strong in my opinion, but now OutKick is able to offer so much more than just one perspective; and that’s a great thing, too.

I don’t think it’s coincidental at all that this mailbag comes on the heels of OutKick’s sale to Fox and its continued expansion. OutKick’s first act is finishing, and it was a stellar performance. I don’t think the audience ever felt betrayed by the content, and as long as we remain authentic, I don’t think they ever will. I challenge our readers to become more involved, to be more vocal, and to continue coming together as a stronger online community.

Mainstream media likes to act as if they champion everything this column discusses—authenticity, growth, fearlessness—but they are actually terrified of newness in many cases, and therefore must kowtow to the woke mob in order to survive.

Clay proved that independent, smart media can flourish without regurgitating leftist narratives.

If you, the reader, enjoy the perspective and value your 1st amendment freedom, then it’s time to take Clay’s advice and embrace bold change. It’s time to truly become a community of support and friendship; a family. You know how families are: giving your brothers and sisters a hard time is always encouraged, but nobody outside the family is allowed to fuck with them. That’s what OutKick can continue becoming. There will be dick jokes, yes, but there will also be creativity, fearlessness, and loyalty.

Let’s follow Clay’s lead and do something special here.