In a recent post, I mentioned that I listen to a lot of podcasts while working out, and that they stimulate ideas and help me stay up to date on things in business and technology. I thought it might be interesting to share some of my “go to” podcasts. When I look at the list, it seems eclectic, but I don’t think it is surprising that my interests are all over the map – I’ve always been somewhat of a “renaissance man” or T-Shaped individual.
Wikipedia says, in defining T-shaped:
The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own. The earliest reference is by David Guest in 1991.
The phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” comes to mind when I think of T-shaped people or skills, except of course in that person’s area of expertise, which can be very deep. I think the horizontal bar is not only the ability to collaborate across disciplines, but also the interests of the person with T-shaped skills, i.e., they are interested in a variety of topics and are often good at taking principles and techniques from one discipline and using or adapting them in others.
I consider myself a T-shaped individual and sometimes feel this is both a blessing and a curse; often I desire to develop expertise in a certain area I find interesting, yet I lack the time to become fully immersed in that interest. And while I can learn a lot about a topic, I fear not fully understanding it and am somewhat reluctant to come across as an expert, which sometimes means I don’t share the information I’ve learned.
In my opinion, T-shapedness (if that is a word) has a lot of upside. It leads to curiosity. It leads to learning. It leads to taking guitar lessons at age 54 and subscribing to magazines about front of house sound engineering. It leads to the potential to relate to a lot of different types of people. And it leads to some “odd” tastes in other areas such as music and art — the sorts of things that sometimes make my wife ask “Why do you know that?”
I mention this because when I started looking at the list of podcasts that I listen to on a fairly frequent schedule, I see some odd combinations, but with common threads. Part of the T-Shaped phenomenon is curiosity about many things, listening to and learning about topics outside your work-related life, being a continual learner and sometimes just letting your brain use “idle cycles” to let the subconscious process ideas.
Since podcasts have been a source of inspiration for other blog posts, I thought others might be interested in some of the podcasts to which I subscribe. So, here is a list and a short synopsis of some of the ones I find interesting. Most of the podcasters are active on social media, so I’m listing their twitter handles as well.
Business and/or technology related podcasts:
APM: Marketplace • @Marketplace • Host: Kai Ryssdal • @kairyssdal
Marketplace is heard on many public radio stations and is produced by APM (American Public Media not NPR). The show airs every weekday, usually during the evening “drive time.” I originally listened to the radio version of the show, but found that many times I was not in the car at air time and used the podcast version to stay connected. The show is mainly business focused, and has the goal of helping you make sense of what’s going on in the economy, both domestic and international.
There are several standard segments you can usually count on. Every day there is When We Do the Numbers, where they recap the DOW, NASDAQ and S&P index movements. Other segments are less frequent such as From the Corner Office where Kai interviews the CEO or founder of a company and gains insight on their business. The Corner Office segment has a spinoff podcast of the same name which is usually a longer version of the three to five-minute segment that happens on Marketplace. Past interviews for the Corner Office segment have included executives such as Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX), Phil Knight (Nike), Jim Koch (Sam Adams / Boston Beer Company), and Brian Chesky (Airbnb).
The other interesting aspect of Marketplace is that it has led me to other podcasts. Several years ago, the show had a fairly regular (every two weeks) interview with Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, authors of the Freakonomics books. Dubner eventually created the Freakonomics podcast and Marketplace dropped the segment.
APM: Marketplace Tech • Host: Ben Johnson • @TheBrockJohnson
Another podcast from American Public Media, this weekday show focuses mainly on technology. It is much shorter than Marketplace (six to eight minutes versus 30 for the regular show). While the main show focuses on business and sometimes will feature a technology topic, this show is almost exclusively on technology. While not deep (topics might include drones and virtual reality) it’s enough to keep you aware of trending technology topics. The show has a regular Friday feature called Silicon Talley – a game where we try to stump the guest with numbers from the week’s tech news.
Freakonomics Radio • Host: Stephen Dubner • @freakonomics
Dubner is co-author of the books in the Freakonomics series. If you are not familiar with the books, you owe it to yourself to check them out. (At the very least, go to Freakonomics.com and get a little background.) Dubner, a former New York Times writer, and Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago teamed up to look at the world from an economist view. I met both Dubner and Levitt when they were speaking at a conference that I attended a number of years ago. I told them that I listened to them (at that time they were only on Marketplace) on the podcast and enjoyed the show.
The podcast is released weekly and usually runs somewhere from 35 minutes to an hour. They tackle subjects that have a familiar or broad interest and use economics to explain “the hidden side of everything.” Past topics have included titles such as:
- The Economics of Sleep
- Are Payday Loans Really as Evil as People Say?
- The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap
- How to Win Games and Beat People
- Who Needs Handwriting
This last one lead to an “odd” connection with another podcast to which I subscribe that I’ll mention later.
As the name suggests, this podcast is produced by the Harvard Business Review and is a “weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business School.” This podcast features interviews with some of the authors and/or subjects from the Harvard Business Review magazine. One episode each month is usually a review of the highlights from the current issue of the magazine. The podcast varies in length from 10 to 30 minutes. Many times, this podcast has led me to look more deeply into a topic or seek out a recently published book on an interesting topic. Oddly enough, I stumbled upon this podcast after a meeting presenter’s screen saver (which used his iTunes album covers as the rotating pattern) kicked in and I saw the podcast there and decided to check it out.
Entertainment, Curious interests, hobbies and other podcasts:
APM: A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon
This weekly podcast (released on Mondays) varies in length from 10 to 20 minutes and is the monologue portion from the public radio show that airs on the weekend with host Garrison Keillor. The opening line “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, out one the edge of the prairie” is well known to those who listen to the show, or have had the opportunity to see it live. This podcast does not include the entire live show, I’m assuming due to copyright reasons for the live music that is usually performed. Lately, they have released “bonus” episodes, some of the skits performed by Keillor, as short episodes that usually are released on Tuesdays. Almost always good for a chuckle, you begin to come to know characters such as Pastor Liz from the Lake Wobegon Lutheran church and other townspeople that hang out at the Chatterbox Café.
All Songs Considered (and All Songs Considered +1) • Hosts: Bob Boilen @allsongs and Robin Hilton @NPRobin
If you’ve heard NPR’s All Things Considered on public radio, then this will be somewhat familiar. This podcast, “spins new music from emerging bands and musical icons.”
I think another trait common to T-Shaped persons involves musical tastes. If you look at the music side of my iPod, you’ll find many different styles of music: country, southern rock, jazz, classical, American songbook. I sometimes say that you can find everything from Aerosmith to ZZ Top and a lot in between there. I will admit that many of the songs that are played on this podcast do not fall under the classification of something I would go out and buy (or download from iTunes) but I listen anyway to see what’s going on in the world of music. This podcast can get really interesting during South by Southwest and at times when music icons are in the news (the recent passing of Prince and David Bowie are good examples).
TED Radio Hour • Host: Guy Raz • @guyraz
I almost hesitate to list this podcast under the category of entertainment; I use it more for thought provoking ideas. NPR produces this podcast and, you might think audio alone is not an ideal way to consume a TED talk, this works. This podcast usually groups two or three TED Talks into a common theme, such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation or inexplicable connections. Usually only excerpts from some of the talks are included in the podcast, but it goes a little deeper in that many times the speakers are interviewed about the talk that they gave.
Question of the Day• @QOD • Hosts: James Altucher @jaltucher and Stephen Dubner
Just as listening to Marketplace led me to Freakonomics, Freakonomics led me to Question of the Day. During this 18-to-22-minute podcast, Altucher and Dubner pose questions (often those found on Quora) and sometimes actually get around to answering them. The questions are not always deep, but the discussion is usually interesting and thought provoking.
So, I’ve developed this weird obsession with fountain pens as of late and I’m listening to various podcasts that talk about things that are related to the world of fountain pens. And once you get that addiction, you’ll find other things – like ink, paper, journals and more – that go along with that habit. The Pen Addict is a weekly podcast dedicated to pens (not just of the fountain variety) and pen associated items. The show runs a little over an hour each week (maybe just a little too long, but still enjoyable).
An interesting note about this podcast and the Freakonomics podcast – there have been references in the past on each of these podcasts to the other. Freakonomics once did an episode titled Who Needs Handwriting that was mentioned by The Pen Addict as the premise assumed in the title (which once you listen to the episode, you find that there is actually more learning and connections made in the brain when note taking by hand, rather than by typing on a computer or tablet) caught the attention of the podcast hosts.
Goulet Q&A @GouletPens • Host: Brian Goulet @BrianGoulet_
Another weekly pen related podcast produced by the Goulet Pen company, this podcast answers questions from other addicted pen lovers that have been posted on Goulet’s various social media sites. It’s informative, but often you’ll want to see the YouTube version as Brian will show many of the pens he’s discussing.
NerdsDrinkingPodcast @nerdsdrinking • Hosts: Brian Swanson @thirstyrunner and Joe Ferguson @JoePFerguson
Another weekly podcast, although the hosts have been known to miss their weekly schedule from time to time, where “two beer drinkers with a tech addition living in the Memphis, Tennessee area” talk about current tech topics. They’ve also been known to go down some rabbit holes and discuss things like the latest episode of Star Wars.