I love listening to podcasts. The app I used the most on my very first iPhone, well before I got hooked on LinkedIn, was the podcast app. 

When I was living in Shanghai several years ago, podcasts kept me company, entertained me, and fed my brain on my half-hour morning and evening commute by taxi to and from work each day. Today, as long as my wife and kids are not in the car, I can forget about the time and gas I waste battling terrible drivers and immerse myself in intellectually-stimulating conversations by people who think deeply and also happen to have pleasant voices. 

One podcast I discovered earlier this year, Akimbo, has quickly become my go-to source of brain stimulation. It's hosted by Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and author of 18 bestselling books, some of which have entered the marketing canon, like Permission Marketing, Tribes, and Purple Cow. According to his website, Akimbo is "a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something." 

If I were to write the tagline for it, I'd say it's a podcast that delves deep into topics of practical relevance to people, with a view to helping them think through possible solutions. Godin kicks off each episode with a story about a cultural phenomenon or historical anecdote, and then he asks a provocative (and often humorous) question that hooks the listener.

Topic-wise, Godin covers a lot of ground. In "Thrash Now (and Ship Early)," Godin talks about the need to focus on working through the biggest problems on a project early on in the "critical path," or project timeline. Engage in intensive problem-solving and creative sessions too late, he argues, and you risk losing the chance to influence the outcome of a project. 

"The alernative is to thrash at the beginning, because when we thrash at the beginning it's cheap, when we thrash at the beginning we can use a whiteboard, we don't have to use millions of dollars of software code."

Godin also makes an appeal to those who wield power in an organization to get involved early on in a project. "If someone claims to have authority in your organization, they need to be in the meeting at the beginning. They may not come to the meeting at the end. Those people, the ones who claim to have authority, if they're there at the beginning, they can have influence, they can have input, they can take responsiblity. But as the project advances, they've got to get out of the way."

In "You're It: The Power (and the Myth) of Getting Picked," Godin ruminates on the decline of the gatekeepers and the opportunities this trend is creating for people to pursue their passions and unlock their full potential. 

"If you like writing novels, if you have something to share, if you want to make a documentary, if you want to do improv, if you want to solve interesting statistical problems, if you want to do marketing, then go do it. If you want to do marketing, don't wait to get a job working for Marketing, Incorporated. Go find your favorite charity and volunteer to do marketing for them."

"We are not our resume, not anymore. We are our work, the work we've chosen to do, the work we've put into the world. This imbalance between no gatekeepers, but lots of people unwilling to pick themselves: It's not going to last forever. There is no better moment to pick yourself than right now. Because after all, if you're not willing to pick yourself, who will?"

Like many podcasts with a wide reach, Godin has started to insert ads into some of his episodes. But one of the most refreshingly surprising features of his podcast is when he introduces a "message from our featured non-profit." A representative of a small and otherwise obscure non-profit organization -- Mobile Clinic, which provides free medical care to about 100 people in a small town in Haiti, or Khata Life, which "encourages leadership and education in Nepal" -- gets a snippet of airtime on each episode to make their pitch and leave their website address. It's a creative counter-balance to the inevitably corporate tone of some of his paid advertisers.

Got a question for Seth? Record it on his website, and maybe, just maybe, he'll play it back for everyone else to hear with his insightful response. 

Published on: Oct 31, 2018