“So where’d you get your information from, huh?” —Beastie Boys, So What’cha Want
Up until 2006, I had never gone on a run longer than 8 miles. And, truthfully, that lone 8-miler was only because I went for a leisurely jog while on vacation and got lost. It was hot, I didn’t have any water with me—it turned into a death march. Nope, long runs, definitely not my gig.
And then, sick of my workout mix, I downloaded a podcast to listen to while running. I think it was ESPN’s Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons. It was 90 minutes long. I hit ‘play,’ started listening and started running. I hit my usual 5 mile stopping point and was so engrossed in the podcast, I kept on trucking. Mile 6. Mile 7. Past the mythical wall of Mile 8. 90 minutes later, when the podcast was over, I stopped running.
10 miles. BOOM.
That run was the beginning of my reliance on podcasts to make boring shit like running (or mowing the lawn, washing the floors, or long commutes) less boring. For me, podcasts are a great way to efficiently consume entertaining and informative content. And because it is aural, the brain automatically assumes it’s a story, which aids retention. I’m forever dropping trivia or some arcane piece of info on people like “I was listening to this podcast on the Mongol Empire” (Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History) or “I heard this interview with Peter Thiel” (Tim Ferris). Sure, I’m annoying as hell to be around, but my point here is that I AM ACTUALLY LEARNING AND RETAINING INFORMATION.
Podcasting has a few precursors in the audio world, but it didn’t really start until around 2000, and even then, it didn’t gain much traction until 2004ish. I remember hearing in the early 2000s that former MTV VJ Adam Curry was doing a ‘podcast,’ and thought it sounded both weird and dumb.
Today, podcasts are my primary way of consuming content. Sure, I read, but outside of a few blogs and a bunch of industry feeds, the only time I read for pleasure is two pages before bed, which is why it is taking me 3 months and 4 overdue library fines to get thru “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” by Robert Baer. And because it is taking me so frikken long to get thru the thing, my level of retention is next to nothing.
The problem with reading (wow, never thought I’d start a sentence with those words) is that when you are reading, that’s all you’re doing. If you’re like me, you’ve got 38 things to get done today, and if you can make the brainless tasks less boring AND pack some information into your noggin, I’m calling that a win-win.
Here’s my list of podcasts I’m currently earholing:
Self-described “former asshole,” funny comedian who is having an interesting second chapter in life.
Made-a-fortune lost-a-fortune made-a-fortune business guy who has great business and thought-leader guests.
Author of all the massive “Four Hour” books, he breaks down high performance and provides meaningful ways to optimize your life.
Love/hate relationship with this one. He has great guests and he is plenty smart, but his naked need to be right and be cool gets annoying.
Great way to catch up on a sermon I missed.
Perfect content when you don’t have a lot of time but want to sound 6% smarter that day.
Rob Bell, who got evangelicals all riled up by wondering if a loving God would actually send people to hell.
Actually, I have this one chambered. I’ve got a long road trip coming up, and figured I could binge it. Which is killing my wife, who listened to it on our last vacation and has been DYING to talk to me about it.
If you love history, you should listen to this yesterday. Great storytelling. The series on the Mongol Empire amazing. I just finished his 4-parter on WWI, a war I knew nothing about. Fascinating. Only downside is he only releases episodes (which can be as long as 4 hours) every couple of months.
What podcasts am I missing out on? Lemme know at firstname.lastname@example.org.