Podcasts Worth a Listen

There are thousands of podcasts out there – it can be overwhelming to dive in and start listening. No matter your interest, there’s a podcast that covers it. I deeply enjoy reading about creativity and happiness, so these podcasts intrigue and delight me. Many people listen while they’re doing other things – driving, walking the dog, cleaning the house – but with these podcasts, I find I need to listen with a pen and paper nearby so I can take notes; they’re that good. Another bonus:  these all hit the time-limit sweet spot for me, anywhere from 40 minutes to just over an hour. Any shorter and I wonder “What’s the point?” Any longer and I think “Who has time for that?!” 

My Top 3 Podcasts

Good Life Project
Hosted by Jonathan Fields, this podcast features full-length interviews as well as “Good Life Project Riffs” – shorter episodes that give you something to think about as you go about your day. Jonathan Fields is someone I can relate to – his career spans everything from practicing lawyer, personal trainer, yoga teacher and studio owner, to entrepreneur and writer. (I imagine he’s someone who would use the phrase “when I grow up” despite being in his early fifties.) Podcast guests tell their stories; be they life-long lessons in the making, research for a book, or how-I-got-here tales. As most guests have a book or project associated with their visit, one could take the cynical view that their appearance on the podcast is nothing more than a marketing shill. But the episodes feel anything but. They’re genuine thoughtful, and insightful; and quite honestly, I’ve read a few of the books as a result. Fields has a way with his guests so they all feel like his close friends, and you’re getting to listen to their conversation. Some episodes are merely entertaining, others have me scribbling furiously as I take notes on things to look up or nuggets of wisdom to remember.

Can’t miss episode: “Dave Evans – Designing Your Life” (January 23, 2017)

Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin is the author of a number of books on examining and changing behavioral habits to improve overall happiness. I first read The Happiness Project and loved Rubin’s practical year-long approach to improving her happiness in several areas of life – marriage, work, friendship, passion, mindfulness, and more. This podcast serves as a natural extension of that book. Rubin, along with her sister Elizabeth Craft, have a delightful and thought-provoking podcast that features segments like Try This at Home, Know Yourself Better, Happiness Hacks, and listener questions. Each of these segments offers tangible, realistic things to try or ponder in your own life. The sisters are fun to listen to, and even after listening to more than a hundred episodes, I still enjoy our weekly meet up. Note: There are also “Little” episodes that come out in between the full-length episodes, often 2-5 minutes. I generally skip these. (See my comment above about the podcast length sweet spot.)

Can’t miss episode: #106 “Our Second Anniversary! Year Two Highlights” (March 1, 2017)

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
I fell for Elizabeth Gilbert many years ago when Eat, Pray, Love first came out. (I often cringe when I hear myself say things like “I loved that book way before the movie!” Yikes.) In 2016, as a prelude to the release of her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear she hosted a podcast called Magic Lessons. On her Facebook page, Gilbert solicited applications from blocked creatives seeking some help getting unstuck; if chosen, they’d become a guest on the show. Each episode follows the same formula: The guest reads an excerpt of their application; they have a conversation with Gilbert that includes both soul-searching and practical homework. Then Gilbert calls on someone in her professional arsenal to offer sage advice to the guest. After intermission, we come back to find out how things are going, what steps the guest has taken, and what’s next. It sounds formulaic, but it’s catchy. She interviews memoirists, poets, musicians, dancers, visual artists, you name it. The guest’s medium isn’t the point; Gilbert and friends’ advice works no matter what creative endeavors you’re interested in.

Can’t miss episode: #204 “Who Gets To Decide Whether You’re a Legitimate Artist?” featuring Mark Nepo (August 19, 2016). “Breaking Surface” at 51:08. This episode spoke to me more than any of the others; so much so I’ve listened to it about three times. “Breaking Surface” by Mark Nepo is such a beautiful poem.

Honorable Mentions

The Failure Factor: Stories of Career Perseverance
Part of the Forbes Podcast Network, host Megan Bruneau tells “compelling stories of successful entrepreneurs’ past failures. Learn from their mistakes and see how they use failure to their advantage.” I don’t know if there are any plans to continue to the podcast, but the 15 or so episodes are a fun listen. Check out the episode with Melissa Hartwig of Whole30.

WTF Podcast
I’m not very familiar with Marc Maron’s work, but as a podcast host he’s just out there enough to make things entertaining. He interviews all manner of celebrities, and you get to learn pretty fun details about their lives while they’re being funny and candid with Marc. (They’re just like us!) His podcast episodes are good for the car, as each one clocks in at an hour twenty or more. I’ve been meaning to catch “Episode 613 – President Barack Obama” that aired back in July 2015.

The Tim Ferriss Show
This is a hit or miss for me – sometimes I really enjoy listening, and sometimes I space out. With many episodes coming in well over two hours, I wonder at how someone could hear themselves talk for that long. Having said that, the conversations are often really interesting and the premise is awesome – Ferriss interviews people who have risen to the top of their fields to distill what makes them tick, what habits and practices contribute to their success. It’s another good podcast for the car, when you’ve got some time on your hands. Check out “Episode 100 –Brené Brown on Vulnerability.”

Still looking to try:

She Explores Podcast
Harder to Kill Radio – Forging Unbreakable Humans
Side Hustle School with Chris Guillebueau

I listen and subscribe to podcast through iTunes on my phone (it’s that little purple and white icon that says “podcasts!”) but there are a bunch of other platforms. How about you? What do you listen to? Given my wide and wandering interests, what podcasts would you recommend?

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