Wide Your World, Part II: Listen Up!

Mainstream radio is pretty much music, news, sports, and some comedy. The music is mainly the same 10 songs over and over again, with each station having its own slight variation on what those 10 songs are. The news is either mainstream headlines and soundbites or political pundits ranting, usually spewing inaccurate information that is not based on actual research. Sports coverage is 90% NFL football, even when it’s basketball and baseball season. How much are your really getting out of this stuff? It seems more and more like they are just trying to keep you busy between commercials. Most of what is on the radio is the same old noise over and over again.

It’s time to listen up! Upgrade the value of the material you listen to every day.

I almost never listen to the radio anymore. If I do, it is National Public Radio (NPR), which is the only thing that seems to be intellectually stimulating. I have reached a point where I just don’t need extra noise in my life… maybe teaching does that to people. 🙂

However, I have a long commute, and while I enjoy it in silence some days, I usually need something to help me stay alert for 55 minutes each way. I don’t do a lot of music because it has to play too loudly, and you can’t really appreciate the nuances of good music over the sound of a car driving 70 MPH on the interstate. NPR and ESPN Radio are tolerable, but that gets old after awhile. More and more, I have been listening to podcasts and audiobooks (for audiobook tips, see Widen Your World, Part I: Read a Book!).

Podcasts are great car listening because they explore new ideas, much like books do, but they also stay current with weekly updates, so you feel a little more anchored to what is happening in the world right now than you do when listening to an audiobook that may have been published years ago. Many podcasts interview different guests every episode, so you get so many perspectives.

Here are a few of my favorite podcasts.

The Art of Manliness interviews authors and experts on various subjects that revolve around improving your quality of life. They cover everything: finance, style, social skills, survival, career advancement, etc. Since many of the guests are authors, I have discovered some fantastic books on this podcast, like Mastery by Robert Greene and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Design Matters interviews artists and designers of every variety. It is a great way to learn about general art concepts, as well as entrepreneurship, and just generally interesting topics, like how pop-up books are made or how someone creates works of art with nothing but Sharpee pens.

Freakonomics and Planet Money are two great NPR shows available as podcasts that explore all kinds of interesting current events and economic questions.

Money for the Rest of Us is a personal finance podcast that is sort of like a weekly audio essay. David Stein talks about various financial and economic concepts in relation to current events and his personal experiences. He makes great use of metaphors and supports each thesis with academic research. Every episode is fresh, informative, and thought-provoking.

Revisionist History is a high-quality production with a best-selling author do a season of weekly shows every summer. Malcolm Gladwell researches historical events and uncovers the hidden forces at work that contradict our assumptions. Every episode is an awakening.

Planetary Radio and StarTalk feed my inner space science nerd with great weekly episodes about the latest in space science, astrophysics, and sci-fi culture.

There are many other great podcasts out there, so don’t end your search here.

“Widen Your World, Part III” is coming soon!

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