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by | 23 Jun 2018

I keep meeting people who have never listened to a podcast and don’t even know what the fuss is all about.

So here’s a little introduction to podcasts. And as Simon Sinek teaches us, let’s start with Why.

Why should I listen to podcasts? 

How many hours per day do you spend pottering about without much cognitive engagement? I’m thinking about the activities such as:

  • Making breakfast
  • Washing up the dishes
  • Commuting
  • Doing the laundry
  • Cleaning the house, doing minor repairs
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Going for a run / to the gym

I’d like to suggest: Consider using those moments of low brain activity by listening to interesting content. That could be an audiobook, a lecture, or — a podcast.

Before we go any further, let’s get a valid concern out of the way:

“Doesn’t constantly streaming content into your brain turn it into mush? What about mindfulness?”

You’re absolutely right, there is a risk of getting used to having a constant stream of information piping into your brain. Developing an addiction is very possible, and I’m sure I’ve been there before myself. That’s why Saturdays are my phone-free days.

Simply be mindful of when you’re using podcasts and make sure you have enough moments of mindfulness where you just focus on one activity and don’t do anything else.

If you’re indeed such a master of zen that you want to be present for everything you, including the dishwashing and wiping your breakfast table clean — power to you. In that case, you might consider listening to podcasts mindfully, and fully engaged, sitting on a chair and just surrendering to the ideas and information coming at you.

“But when I listen to something, I prefer music.”

Listen, imaginary counter-arguer: I’m not trying to twist your arm here. You do whatever floats your boat. I’m just saying that it’s worth considering adding knowledge, information and new ideas to your world and filling up those low-engagement moments. And for that, podcasts are the way to go. If you prefer listening to Tayor Swift for the 245th time over exploring the nature of good vs evil with a neuroscientist, go for it.

Try it out and see. I love music and adding a good song to a bike ride or a tube journey often adds the extra spring into my step. But I’ve changed my default habit to listening to interesting things, and music has become the exception.

 

“Audiobooks or Podcasts?”

That’s really a matter of taste. I have a problem with audiobooks: as content goes, they are heavily edited and usually have a lot of interesting content per inch. I often lose the thread when I listen to audiobooks. You have to pay more attention to them than to podcasts. And that is not always doable, as even those low-involvement tasks like cleaning the house require some brainpower. The conversational style of podcasts is better suited, I find.

 

“How do I listen to Podcasts?”

Simply go to your phone’s app platform (App Store on iPhone, Google Play on Android) and download a podcast app.

On iPhone, I recommend Overcast.

 

… as well as the iPhone native app.

 

Recently, I’ve found that Overcast has had a few bugs, so I’ve shifted over to the iPhone app which tends to work more reliably.

On Android, my top pick is Podcast Player.

Google Podcasts is also decent, although it doesn’t have a feature I consider crucial: Variable speed.

In those apps, you can either browse the most popular podcasts or search for one directly by tapping the Plus sign (Overcast) or the search looking glass (iPhone Podcasts).

Once you subscribe to a podcast, the app will automatically download the latest episode once it comes out. Every time you check in to your app, you will be able to choose what you want to listen to.

And then, when you’re about to hit the gym, walk to the bus stop or patch up your bike tyre, pop in the headphones and listen to whatever tickles your gonads in that moment.

As I mentioned, what I find helpful is to speed up the podcast. Most conversations can be sped up to 1.5x the original speed, which means you get all the more info into your brain.

 

“Which podcasts do you recommend?”

I have a couple of favourites.

The Ben Shapiro Show – Conservative political commentary. Very US-centric, but occasionally also comments on world politics. Although I don’t agree with everything Ben says (notably some of his religious views), it’s a breath of fresh air that has helped me tremendously in my recent political awakening.

Waking Up Podcast with Sam Harris – Sam Harris is one of the foremost atheists, although he’s not a fan of the label. I like his podcast for simply being about anything he finds interesting. He will one day talk to someone about how to eat well, and the next episode will be about the ethical conundrums of empathy. His most frequent explorations are into the topics of consciousness, mindfulness, morality, but he also often strays into politics, his intense dislike of Trump, and the perils of Islam (and religion more generally).

The Tim Ferriss Show – The granddaddy of all podcasts. With millions of listeners every week, Tim interviews top performers in all walks of life and deconstructs what makes them tick.

The Joe Rogan Experience – Another hugely popular podcast, most noted for its length. Joe is able to converse with someone for 4.5 hours. I love his interview style which is not an interview style at all, it feels very natural and conversational.

There’s tons more, but these I find myself going back to most frequently.

 

Conclusion

So consider it! Listening to podcasts is like being a fly on a wall with some great minds in the room. I have found it to be a deeply enriching experience, and I’feel I’ve boosted my intelligence thanks to them.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

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