We met for the first time about two years ago at a JDRF TypeOneNation in Dallas, and over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the community that Rob Howe is building through his podcast, Diabetics Doing Things. Today, Rob is visiting SixUntilMe to share his diabetes diagnosis, how he ended up starting a podcast, and a curious little tidbit about the Harlem Globetrotters.
Kerri: Hey Rob – thanks for taking the time to talk today. Can you introduce yourself to SixUntilMe readers?
Rob: Hi everyone! First of all, thanks to Kerri for this interview. She’s awesome and I’m super glad to be able to meet all of you via this article! My name is Rob Howe and I’m 30 years old and live in Dallas Texas with my girlfriend and our two dogs and one cat. I’m an entrepreneur and run two of my own businesses, Recreation Dallas, a full-service marketing agency and Diabetics Doing Things (the reason I’m here), my podcast and online community. My 14th Diaversary was on January 1, and I’ve been active in the DOC since late 2015.
Kerri: Being diagnosed as a teenager can be a rough transition from “before” into the “after.” What was your diagnosis experience like?
Rob: Totally. I often joke that it was great that I was diagnosed at 16, because I was way too cool and knew everything already, but teens have it especially tough with T1D, because it’s super tough to be a teenager anyway, and throwing diabetes in the mix can often be super overwhelming. As far as my own diagnosis, I didn’t have anything to compare it to until I started talking to many people with T1D about their diagnosis stories, but I learned that it couldn’t have gone smoother.
My team at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas was incredibly encouraging, and told me something that I still remember word for word, “Every dream you have for your life is still within reach, as long as you take care of your diabetes.”
Kerri: And before advocacy, you played professional basketball, right? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Rob: So when I was told at the urgent care clinic that I probably had Type-1 Diabetes and needed to go to the hospital immediately, I had about a 20 minute drive to get to Children’s. My mom and I mostly rode in silence, it was a rainy day and I remember crying and being really afraid that I’d never be able to play basketball again. I didn’t know anything about T1D at that point, and basketball was my favorite thing and I’d already made these plans in my head of becoming a college and pro player, so I was a little devastated. So it was super helpful when the doctors told me that I could still play as long as I took care of myself. So I really just threw myself 100% into becoming the best basketball player I could be, was First Team All-State in High School and then got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and played there 4 years.
After I graduated, I really wanted to chase my dream of being a pro basketball player. It’s what I always wanted to be when I was growing up, and even though I had a great first job as a marketing manager at USA Boxing, I knew I had to chase the dream. So I went to all these camps all over the country and played my butt off, hired a trainer, spent all my extra time and money making myself the best player I could be, and I kept coming up short. A team I signed with in Germany got bought and cancelled all their overseas contracts a week before I was supposed to go, there were few entry level jobs because of the NBA lockout, etc. etc. But I was just so stubborn and worked my butt off so eventually my dream came true and I got to travel the world playing against the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters. That’s a long story, but I got to play basketball on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of Iran, so I mean it was pretty awesome.
Kerri: What made you make the change from basketball to the diabetes online community?
Rob: I was in Bogota Colombia in 2015 on a work exchange, and I wasn’t allowed to travel outside the hotel without my translator for safety reasons (also I don’t speak Spanish), so I had a lot of time to myself and so I set aside time to think about what I wanted to do with my life outside of work. My career was going well, but I was really searching for that “millennial fulfillment” that gets made fun of so often. My dad told me a long time ago that I “seemed to be happiest when I’m helping people” and that’s remained true throughout my life, so I just had this sudden idea that maybe I could help people with Diabetes. I knew I didn’t want to write a blog every week, so I just settled on trying out a podcast and 114 published episodes later here we are.
Rob: I was curious more than anything, and maybe a little lazy. I just didn’t see a scenario where I would enjoy writing a blog, but I knew I’d love meeting and talking to people and helping tell their stories, so I figured a podcast would be fun. I had ZERO podcasting experience but I just used the power of the internet to come up with a workable solution that would allow me to do it. I did the first 75 episodes on like $50 worth of equipment and had a blast.
Kerri: What’s challenging about podcasting? What’s the best part of it?
Rob: I think the most challenging thing is the scheduling. Everyone is so busy (including me) so finding a block of unbroken time (usually about an hour) can be challenging, especially if you’re on the other side of the world or in a different time zone. I’ve definitely recorded podcasts at 6am my time and I’ve had guests on around the world later than 11p their time. Luckily I found some tools and systems to help me with that as I’ve continued to do the pod, but at first it was really challenging. The best part is getting to hear and be involved in the stories of the guests. I’ve met SO MANY incredible people from all walks of life around the world, and I feel like I really know them after we talk. It’s a super rewarding and life-enriching exercise. Sometimes I start interviews and I’m super tired or burned out, and I leave the interview feeling full and refreshed and genuinely happy. I mentioned it earlier, but it’s that energy that keeps me coming back for more. I love this, that’s why I do it.
Kerri: What do you hope listeners gain from your podcast?
Rob: I hope that anyone searching for someone with Diabetes who does the thing they love can find them on the Diabetics Doing Things podcast. Diabetes doesn’t affect just one kind of person, so I try to find as many diverse stories as possible to make Diabetes success stories more accessible for an audience of broad interests.
Kerri: And how can people find you and your stories?
Rob: I joke that I’m like the easiest person to find on the internet, but Instagram is the best place to find me personally, and if you want to hear Diabetics Doing Things, we’re also on instagram, or our website and on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play at Diabetics Doing Things Podcast. Be on the lookout for my new podcast series called “Tools of Type 1s” where nearly 75 of my favorite T1Ds answer the questions I’m dying to know.
Thanks for stopping by, Rob! Check out his podcast for new episodes dropping weekly.