Podcasts are a great way of learning
Podcasts are a great way of learning from the experience of others. Through conversations, you get access to the thinking of people that you normally would not have access to.
Podcasts can also be an incredible time sink. As of 2022, there are around 2 million active podcasts, and 48 million published episodes. There are podcasts that are fun and entertaining, but you don’t get much learning or insights. (I know it because I’ve been there…) So I’m always pruning my list, removing the ones that have become stale and adding fresh ones.
I mentally divide the podcasts I listen to into two groups. The first group is about deeper subjects. I frequently play again some parts of the conversations to get a better understanding, to write down an idea, or to take notes about some insightful part. Even better, some of these podcasts provide transcripts. These podcasts are not about the new and shiny, but about topics that will still be relevant several years from now.
Some podcasts in this group are:
- Conversations with Tyler, by Tyler Cowen. Tyler is best known for his work as an Economist at the Mercator Center at George Mason University and his blog Marginal Revolution. I like his direct, thoughtful and challenging style of interviewing. He has very interesting guests on his podcast. Some examples are Marc Andreessen on Learning to Love the Humanities, Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention, Jordan Peterson on Mythology, Fame, and Reading People, Daniel Kahneman on Cutting Through the Noise, and William MacAskill on Effective Altruism.
- Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin. Each episode is around 30 minutes. The first part is Seth talking about a specific topic. The second part is Seth answering questions from Akimbo listeners. Seth Godin is not only brilliant but a great storyteller. (Check out this great episode about Status Roles.)
- Lex Fridman Podcast. Lex Fridman is an AI researcher at MIT, but his podcast is about “conversations about the nature of intelligence, consciousness, love, and power.” Also available as YouTube videos. Some of his guests include Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Wolfram, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ray Kurzweil.
- The Knowledge Project, by Shane Parrish. Farnam Street Blog is an indispensable resource about mental models, decision making, learning and thinking, among other topics. Shane has super interesting guests on his podcast and does a great job preparing for the interviews. Some sample episodes include Keeping the Flywheel in Motion with Jim Collins, The Power of Possible with Kat Cole, The Essentials of Leadership with Marshall Goldsmith, Insights For Making Better Decisions with Gary Klein, The Principles of Persuasion with Robert Cialdini, and The Art of Letting Other People have your Way with Chris Voss.
- Stratechery, by Ben Thompson. “Stratechery provides analysis of the strategy and business side of technology and media and the impact of technology on society.” Ben Thompson writes the best analysis of the tech industry I know of, and Stratechery is one of the few memberships I pay for. Totally worth it. His podcast is a collection of his articles in audio format. Weekly articles and podcast episodes are free. Check, for example, this recent interview with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang About Building the Omniverse Cloud.
- The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long-Term Thinking. I discovered the Long Now Foundation thanks to Kevin Kelly. I especially enjoyed the talk about Climate Futures by Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Ministry for the Future.
The second group are podcasts containing useful information, don’t require deeper reasoning, are more tactical or ephemeral. I don’t listen to every episode of these podcasts… just those I find interesting enough.
- Love Your Work, by David Kadavy. Most of David’s episodes are 10 minutes long at most. He explains an idea around work, creativity, or productivity, and that’s it.
- Cory Doctorow. I think I’ve read every book Cory Doctorow has published, both fiction and non-fiction. His podcast is about society and the internet, and how to prevent its domination by corporations and governments to control it. Many times he reads one of his recent articles.
- The Rework Podcast, by 37signals. A podcast about the better way to work and run your business. Most of the time the show is hosted by 37signals’ founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
- Writing Excuses, with Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re are in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” I’m not into writing fiction or fantasy… yet. This is a rare podcast where these award-winning authors share their experiences and give solid advice.
- Accidental Tech Podcast, hosted by Marco Arment, Casey List, and John Siracusa. I enjoy listening occasionally to these three great nerds discuss Apple, programming, etc. I also enjoy their naive and uninformed view of what happens outside the US and 1st World countries.
Grab your favorite podcast app and start listening to podcasts. I use Overcast, but Pocket Casts is also a great alternative. If you are already into podcasts, do you have recommendations of great podcasts that I’m missing?