What I’m Listening to: Exercise Your Brain!

Ever since having babies, I have this “thing” that makes it really hard for me to read large blocks of text. I’ve never had it diagnosed nor have I even mentioned it to a professional. It’s either a mental condition or I’m just too lazy to get past 3 paragraphs. Either way, It’s not slowed me down one bit, I’ve just stuck to cookbooks, magazines and YouTube.

I’m actually a highly visual person, preferring to learn and process by seeing. As my parents and grade school teachers can attest to, my auditory sense is probably my weakest.  But since getting this “thing” 10 years ago, I’ve had to adapt. Instead of reading books, I listen.

My least favorite activity in the world is driving. I’m horrible at it and I’d gladly trade-in my youngest child’s kidney for a full-time driver. (Just kidding, Nathan, you know I love you most.)

In the car, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Here are a few of my favorites:


Podcasts I Listen To

1. Daily Knowledge Podcast

Every single weekday, the smart people who run this podcast and TodayIFoundOut.com publish a short podcast teaching you random things like:

  • What did Barney Rubble do for a living?
  • Why crazy people are called “basket cases”?
  • What’s in a camel’s hump?

I call these things, “things you didn’t know that you didn’t know.” Since I’ve cancelled Sirius radio and I don’t like local radio (spoiled by ad-free Songza and Pandora), the kids listen to audiobooks or podcasts. This is one of their favorites. They get to show off to their friends with the knowledge of random facts.


2. The Tim Ferriss Show

This is my newest podcast that I’ve been listening to. Tim Ferriss is the author behind 4-Hour Work Week, a book that I highly recommend and have bought several copies for friends. I was deep into building Steamy Kitchen’s new & improved business model when I first read this book to cut back on the amount of hours worked during the week. While I think some of the changes Tim suggests are pretty drastic (though the book’s premise of only working 4 hours a week is drastic I guess) the advice within the pages are golden, especially if you are currently looking to lift yourself out of a full-time job.

I’m currently reading 4-Hour Chef, which actually isn’t all about cooking, but rather a methodology of rapid-learning and mastering a skill. Tim just uses cooking as an example. When this book and the 4-Hour Body first came out, I kept getting hung up on the “4-Hour” bit. However, think of it as the name of Tim’s “brand” – and not necessarily the promise of “train for 4 hours and you’ll be a chef!”

I love learning. I get a high just feeding my brain with new ideas.

Okay, back to the podcast – Tim’s podcast is new. He’s got 10 episodes as of this post. He interviews today’s thought leaders, innovators and just cool people. What I love – the questions Tim asks aren’t just typical interview questions, but he really tries to dive into his subject’s mind (that sounded evil, but you know what I mean), daily habits & tools, and what shapes their thinking.

Expect to go on many big adventures with these podcasts. Listening to Chase Jarvis (episode 8) led me to listen to Josh Waitzkin (episode 2) which led me purchase Art of Learning audiobook.

Listening to Stephen Dubner (episode 2), author of Freakonomics led me to  start watching Seven Up! movie on Netflix and putting Levels of the Game in my next-to-read list.


3. Freakonomics

Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt are co-authors of one of the most important books (sold 5 million copies in 35 languages) to shape our modern world. The subtitle of the podcast, “Explore the Hidden Side of Everything” is so perfect. Who else would be able to find a commonality between Sumo Wrestlers and Chicago Teachers? The upside of being a quitter? Is college really worth it?

This weekly podcast will exercise your brain and make you question “truths” and explore….well….the hidden side of everything.

I’m currently listening to their newest book, Think Like a Freak audiobook.

4. TED Radio Hour & TED Talks Audio

Have you watched a TED talk? If you haven’t, go here and pick out something that interests you. Prepare to have your mind blown.

TED Talks Audio is just the audio-only podcast of all of the talks. While I’m not always interested in every single talk, it’s nice to scan through the list and download the ones I didn’t have time to watch on YouTube.

TED Radio Hour is hosted by Guy Raz (what a cool name!) Each podcasts revolves around a theme and Guy Raz will hand-pick from 1,700+ TED Talks to weave the story.

Each radio show is based on talks given by riveting speakers on the renowned TED stage, bound together by a common theme such as the thrill of space exploration, going to extremes, the source of happiness or ‘when rights goes wrong’ in our justice system. Since its official launch in March 2013, TED Radio Hour has become the fastest growing program in public radio history and one of the top podcasts in the United States.”


 5. Cool Tools

I’ve been a big fan of the blog, Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly, which features and recommends unusual, best/cheapest useful tool. Basically, the best and cheapest tool for the job.

They’ve just begun their podcast, their first one is with one of my favorite tech people, David Pogue, former NY Times personal tech columnist. Want to know about David Pogue’s favorite Cool Tools? Listen!


6. NPR Podcasts

All of them. This American Life, Planet Money, Snap Judgement.


7. 60 Minutes

I never have time to watch the show…so I listen to it on long car rides. Come on, their show has won 80+ Emmys!


8. The Alton Browncast

My very favorite food personalities has a podcast! Instead of just interviewing the same ol’ food celebrities, Alton also has unexpected – artists, restaurant owners, martial artists. Alton is a great interviewer and always keeps it perfectly-paced and entertaining.

I’ve learned that what makes a good podcast beyond the content is pacing! (which is why I have my Honorable Mentions below)


9. America’s Test Kitchen Radio

Listen to Episode 315: Secrets of Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop and also Episode 316 with my good friend David Lebovitz.

If you go to America’s Test Kitchen website and try to access their past podcasts, they make you register and pay. Boo. Don’t bother. Just subscribe via iTunes where it’s free.


Honorable Mentions:

Stuff You Should Know

With over 100 million downloads, SYSK is one of the most popular podcasts and is hosted by Chuck & Josh. Each week, they’ll each independently research a topic, like “How Avalalanches Work,” “How Amputation Works,” “How Pet Psychics Work,” and for the podcast, Chuck and Josh will come together and discuss/teach us their findings.

Interesting podcast, I’ve learned a lot. But sometimes the filler banter/dialogue between Chuck and Josh can be annoying. Their style of podcasting is more conversational and flowy, as opposed to the scripted Daily Knowledge Podcast (see #1) which is short, snappy and to the point (which I like!)

Go Fork Yourself

Hosted Andrew Zimmern & Molly Mogren. Sometimes funny. Sometimes not. Have a listen and let me know what you think.



Okay, so that’s my list! What are your favorite podcasts? Am I missing any good ones!?

I’m looking for a podcast for our family – something uplifting, inspirational, injection of positive energy. Something like Joel Osteen but without the religious messages. It’s important that my kids will enjoy it too. Any suggestions?


PS: I just found another podcast! I haven’t listened to it yet, but James Altucher is a genius. Read or listen to his books, especially Choose Yourself! James Altucher’s podcast is here and here (he’s got 2 different podcasts)