The first time I listened to a podcast, I was very reluctant. I just started walking to work (a new routine I was decided to take, partly because of my Fitbit), and I needed something useful to do. Listening to music seemed like a waste of time—and reading while walking didn’t seem prudent. 😉 I started looking into popular podcasts and became immediately addicted.
The best thing about podcasts is that they’re portable. I could be running, walking or just sitting, and I could still listen. Unlike reading, it doesn’t require being stationary.
More importantly, many podcasts are incredibly interesting and insightful. Listening to podcasts is one of the best uses of your commute time.
What makes a great podcast?
My favorite podcasts tend to have two things: stories and insight. They also have curious hosts and credible (and often provocative) guests.
The best podcasts not only provide answers, they also spark new questions.
Top podcasts to gain wisdom, inspiration and more
I recommend these podcasts if you’re looking to expand your thinking in health, wisdom and wealth.
This WNYC Studios podcast is hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, one of the co-authors of the best-selling “Freaknomics” books. It’s well produced, usually featuring a nice mix of personal stories and academic research. Stephen is affable and naturally curious, and he brings out the best in his guests, including many economists. The podcast’s promise is to explore “the hidden side of everything,” and it definitely does that by teasing out thought-provoking facts about thing that may seem mundane.
If you’ve never listened to a Freakonomics podcast, start with “How to Become Great at Just About Anything.”
The TED Radio Hour
TED videos are great, but listening to them without visuals isn’t just as amazing. In many talks, you lose a lot of crucial context if you can’t see the presenter’s slides.
Enter NPR’s TED Radio Hour.
This podcast is based on TED Talks, but instead of merely giving you the audio version of each presentation, it weaves in several talks into one cohesive episode. Host Guy Raz also interviews TED speakers to get additional context and extra information. The result: episodes that are rich, diverse and interesting.
One recent fave of mine is called “Painfully Funny,” an episode exploring the use of humor during tough times.
The Tim Ferriss Show
If you want to learn from the titans, you have to listen to Tim Ferriss.
Tim’s interviews are long—usually almost two hours—but they are worth listening to. He’s not afraid to go deep and cover a wide range of topics in one seating. He asks guests like Dr. Brené Brown, Derek Sivers and Matt Mullenweg about their routines, favorite books and most memorable failures. The conversations are often educational, personal and fascinating.
Confession: It was because of Tim and his guests that I took on meditation more seriously. Many of his guests talk about the power of mindful meditation, leading me to look more into it.
If you don’t have time to listen to Tim’s past episodes (there are hundreds of them), I suggest picking up Tools of Titans for a summary of his previous shows.
How I Built This
You don’t have to see yourself as an entrepreneur to learn a thing or two from this NPR podcast. Hosted by Guy Raz (yes, the same Guy from the TED Radio Hour), How I Built This features interviews with entrepreneurs who went on to build incredible businesses. A favorite of mine is with Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson.
— How I Built This (@HowIBuiltThis) January 30, 2017
I first learned about Debbie Millman, host of Design Matters, when she was featured in The Tim Ferriss Show. I’m glad I did because Debbie is an incredible host.
In Design Matters, she talks to designers, writers, musicians and other creative people about their process, opinions and life. Debbie’s soothing voice and insightful questions make this a must-hear podcast for anyone looking to explore design’s impact in our world today.
What podcasts are missing from this list?
I’ve been listening to podcasts for a year now, and in many ways, I’m still a newbie. Every few weeks, I still discover new interesting series. In the future, I might update this list with more recommendations.
In the meantime, if you have a favorite that I missed, please let me know.