Hate your commute? Struggle to motivate yourself to hit the treadmill? Perhaps both these problems (and many more) have the same solution. Why not turn these odds and ends of unpleasant time into opportunities to learn by popping on a podcast? That's how many luminaries like Bill Gates manage to find time to feed their brains despite their insane schedules, after all.
All you need is a few good suggestions of where to start. A fabulously useful Quora thread responding to a questioner who wanted to know "What podcast has made you smarter?" offers tons of great ideas covering topics from design and spirituality to health and entrepreneurship. Happy listening!
1. The Tim Ferriss Show
In an incredibly diverse list of recommendations, the Tim Ferriss Show comes up again and again. "These are long form interviews. Each podcast is almost two hours," explains business consultant Colin Christensen. "I'm always impressed. Tim is also a master question guy -- the questions he asks lead to hints on how to make your life better in un-thought-of ways." The show is also the source of lots of unexpected but interesting book recommendations.
2. The James Altucher Show
Probably the second-most mentioned podcast is the James Altucher Show. The entrepreneur and author "hosts top-notch writers and entrepreneurs on his show and asks unique, carefully thought out questions. His provocative, witty, and honest approach to each conversation is what makes this podcast engaging and fun," claims fellow entrepreneur Nela Canovic. The episodes featuring Tony Robbins, author Michael Singer, and singer Jewel are her personal favorites if you're wondering where to start.
3. Hidden Brain
"Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships," writes researcher Etip Sinid. That's both helpful information for your personal life and handy to know if your work involves persuading others.
4. On Being
Life isn't all about persuasion, productivity, and making money. Living well means developing wisdom as well as worldly success. Podcasts can help with this too. Several respondents suggested On Being with Krista Tippett to feed your spiritual and moral intelligence, including Sinid and math teacher/podcast enthusiast David Walker.
5. 99% Invisible
This one "is about all the thought that goes into the things we don't think about -- the unnoticed architecture and design," according to Sinip. Several respondents suggest it both for design enthusiasts and for people who simply want to see the world with fresh eyes.
6. The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson
"Shawn is an author, nutritionist, and coach, and he hosts a fantastic educational show on many interesting topics related to health, fitness, and personal growth," notes Canovic, who calls this one of her current top-three favorite podcasts.
"Look for tips on how to learn faster and increase focus with memory expert Jim Kwik (No. 197), how to embrace change and become emotionally agile with Dr. Susan David (No. 185), and how to stop the stress cycle with Dr. Pedram Shojai (No. 142)," she suggests.
7. Planet Money
Looking to get smarter about money? Then Brian Sanders, CEO of podcast app Nexcast, suggests Planet Money by NPR. It delves into the "very interesting economics of everyday things. Not only for finance or econ people by any means," he notes.
8. Freakonomics Radio
Sanders also recommends this classic podcast. Computer science student Kalvin Lam agrees: "Stephen Dubner is great. He takes things we see in everyday life -- the president, gender barriers, the internet, suicide -- and breaks these concepts down to their core. With each episode, he explores the 'hidden side' of things. Why do people commit suicide more in Hungary? How much influence does the U.S. president really have?"
9. News in Slow Spanish
Lam also points out a less often discussed way podcasts can develop your brain -- by helping you master a new language. News in Slow Spanish is particularly useful, he feels. "The Spanish is slower than normal for your understanding! What's not to like? ¡Que se abra el telón!" he writes.
10. How to Start a Startup by Y Combinator and Stanford University
This one is pretty much self-recommending if you're an Inc.com reader. "In this podcast you can listen to talks from Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz, Paul Graham, Adora Cheung, Peter Thiel, Alex Schultz, Kevin Hale, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Ben Silbermann, Alfred Lin, Patrick and John Collison, Aaron Levie, Reid Hoffman and more," explains recent grad Joseph O'Brien.
Podcast enthusiasts: What's the most under-rated podcast more people should know about?