My pick of the podcasts that have meant the most to me in 2019 (so far!), featuring: Scott Adams and Naval Ravikant, Tim Ferriss, Richard Herring, Sam Harris, and Brian Koppelman (plus honourable mentions for Michael Rapaport and Leonard Maltin!).
Somehow, we’re already one-quarter of the way through 2019. Already a vintage year for podcasts. I thought it high time for a quick pause to reflect on the best of the year’s podcasts to date.
The world of podcasting is so huge, so immersive. Each time I think I’ve exhausted all there is to hear, I will chance upon a new podcast that opens up whole new avenues of exploration and inspiration.
Podcasting is your personal diary
Podcasting can be anything, can go anywhere. The only constraint is the limit of what the human mind can express through words. Podcasting is anything you want it to be.
Podcasting is “a personal diary.” This is according to Michael Rapaport, from his hilarious (and none-more-New York) March 2018 appearance on Joey Diaz’s The Church of What’s Happening Now* podcast, alongside Nick Turturro. Rapaport says of podcasting:
“I love the free-for-all of it. It’s such an outlet. It’s such a fun place to gather and articulate your thoughts. When you [Joey Diaz] came on my show, you said something that was interesting. My dog Weezy was barking, and you said if the dog’s barking, it’s a podcast, if there’s police sirens, it’s a podcast, if you spill your drink and go ‘Oh fuck’ it’s a podcast. It’s true. It’s like a personal diary. It’s your thoughts, it’s your ideas, it’s your highs, it’s your lows, it’s your colonoscopy. And that’s the thing I love about doing it.”
This is what I love about listening to podcasts, too. All of human life is here. You are deep in these people’s lives, their worldview, just as their voice is right there, between your ears.
My top 5 podcasts of January to March 2019
These are my top five podcasts so far in 2019. What podcasts have spoken to you this year? Please do get in touch and let me know – I am always excited to receive new recommendations for what to hear next!
5: Brian Koppelman/Geddy Lee
Where does creativity spring from? Brian Koppelman’s fascinating conversation with Geddy Lee of Rush offers some possible answers to this impossible question.** I had something of a eureka moment listening to this. These gents’ views on creativity are so close to ideas I have long stumbled towards, but have never been able to put into words. Koppelman and Lee hit on what I would term three foundations of creativity. These three foundations of creativity are:
- Failed imitation;
- Self-confidence; and
- Trust in the subconscious.
This is ingenious. This is perfect. Please don’t miss the chance to revel in what Koppelman and Lee have to say. Then go and create something new, add something to this world. Trust your subconscious.
4: Sam Harris/Stephen Fry
“I can’t even say the word mindfulness without blushing.” Sam Harris – author and expert on meditation and many matters most mindful – throws Stephen Fry’s words back at him, in the loveliest way. This is a true meeting of minds. An embarrassment of riches, touching on so many topics, including: empathy and embarrassment; why cows don’t get bored; and the wit, wisdom and appetites of Christopher Hitchens.
I love Fry’s take on why our modern age of abundance seems to make it so hard for us to focus on anything for longer than a few seconds:
“You wonder if it’s the sweetshop – or the candy store as you would say – mentality of content provision now is such that everything is available. Einstein had a great phrase. He always wore the same clothes like Steve Jobs always wore his turtleneck and his Levis. ‘Why Albert?’ ‘I want to avoid option paralysis.’ We are paralysed by the fact there are so many things we can choose. If we don’t have the ability for everything else to go out of focus and to be sharp on that one thing that we need to, either for pleasure or for practical purposes, then we have lost.”
3: Richard Herring/Adam Buxton
Always a treat when Buxton and Herring meet! Doctor Buckles’ fourth appearance on the excellent RHLSTP is charming and highly amusing. Aptly for a podcast released in the first week of February, it includes a healthy amount of Groundhog Day-related chat and silliness, including Mr Buxton’s rousing singalong of the Pennsylvania Polka. I got a real jolt of excitement listening to this on a freezing early morning commute, when I realised that I had made a tiny and indirect contribution to its subject matter. See the tweets below for more…***
2: Tim Ferriss/Susan Cain
“So often when you see someone who’s really good at almost anything, it’s because they started out exactly the opposite, and then they cared so much about fixing that problem.” This is Susan Cain (introvert, author of two wonderful books on introversion – Quiet and Quiet Revolution, and creator of a hugely successful TED Talk on the power of introverts), from her outstanding January 2019 appearance on the Tim Ferriss podcast. A card-carrying introvert myself, I was transfixed by Cain’s words here on overcoming fear and embracing creativity. I wrote more about it in To swim from thought to expression.
- Download Tim Ferriss’ chat with Susan Cain.
- Read the transcript of Tim Ferriss’ chat with Susan Cain.
1: Scott Adams/Naval Ravikant
“The real universal basic income is cannabis and video games.” This is Naval Ravikant’s knowingly mischievous updating of Juvenal’s prescription of “bread and circuses” to placate and pacify the masses of ancient Rome. Naval speaks these words in his fascinating February 2019 Periscope conversation with Dilbert creator Scott Adams.
These two gents’ minds and intelligence are extraordinary. To listen to them talk for an hour is to bask in a wonderful freeflow of wisdom and insight. I was inspired to write a blog post entitled Everybody here belongs, inspired by Naval’s exploration of the idea that addiction is the most modern of afflictions (“We live in an era of too much abundance. This is the modern struggle,” he argues). I look forward to the next instalments of this ongoing dialogue between Naval and Scott, and raise my cup of coffee in tribute. Simultaneous sip!
Now please do get in touch and let me know your own podcast recommendations!
UPDATE (Sunday 31 March 2019)
I am thankful to Charles Assisi for sharing a whole host of recommendations for episodes of Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street podcast. To my shame, I had previously only heard the excellent Naval Ravikant episode of this podcast. But I will be lending an ear to each of Charles’ recommended episodes over the coming weeks.
Here are links to each of Charles’ first five Farnam Street recommendations:
Here are three further Farnam Street recommendations from Mr Assisi:
I am thankful also to Sudhir Bharadhwaj, who kindly chimed in with some further Farnam Street recommendations:
I have also created a YouTube playlist of my favourite podcasts of 2019. I will be adding to this playlist as the year progresses, so please do consider subscribing to my YouTube channel see my latest recommendations. Please note, though, that not all podcasters upload their wares to YouTube, so sadly I have not been able to include the Brian Koppelman/Geddy Lee conversation in this playlist. I have, however, been able to include Rich Roll’s fantastic March 2019 conversation with Mr Koppelman, which is highly recommended. Please let me know your own favourite podcasts!
* Gentle reader: Be advised that this episode of The Church of What’s Happening Now contains what we might term rum language:
** OK, this one is actually from December 2018. I was the tiniest bit late to the party, only catching it at the start of the New Year. But this one had such a profound impact on me that it had to be included here.
*** Adam Buxton recounts the tale of Stephen Tobolowsky’s (the actor who portrays Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day) claim to having inspired Talking Heads’ song Radiohead, which in turn gave the band Radiohead their moniker. A few months previously – and knowing of Adam’s friendship with and love of Radiohead – I had sent him a link to the episode of Maltin on Movies (perhaps the world’s loveliest and most good-natured podcast, hosted by film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie Maltin) in which Tobolowsky shares this very tale. Please do give it a listen. You will want nothing more than to spend the rest of your life hearing Tobolowsky telling stories (and I don’t mean that in a Groundhog Day sense!).
- Scott Adams – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.
- Scott Adams – Win Bigly.
- Susan Cain – Quiet
- Susan Cain – Quiet Revolution
- Tim Ferriss – Tools of Titans.
- Tim Ferriss – Tribe of Mentors.
- Stephen Fry – Moab Is My Washpot.
- Sam Harris – Waking Up.
- Richard Herring – Emergency Questions.
- Geddy Lee – Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass.
- Leonard Maltin – Maltin’s Movie Guide.
- Stephen Tobolowsky – My Adventures With God.
- Skeleton with Skeletapple headphones (perhaps mildly influenced by Rodin’s The Thinker) #Sketchulence by MJCarty.
- American Gothic podcast listeners via Wikimedia Commons.
- Stephen Fry via Wikimedia Commons.
- Naval Ravikant via Wikimedia Commons.