What's wrong with you if podcasts don't have a place in your life?

(Originally sent to all our subscribers via Edition 11 of our weekly smartletter.)


Why don’t you start a podcast?

After being told for the umpteenth time that we should do a podcast, we asked ourselves: "well, should we?" First, we asked how many of us in the team really listened to a podcast.

Answer: just two. That too, not very regularly. Some others have tried them out (we call it "adding it to our curiosity diet") but the habit hasn't stuck. 

The internet is flooded with podcasts. It's never been easier to launch one, host one, or to find a topic for one. (Remember the same thing happened with books, blogs and newsletters (ahem)). But do we have anything worth saying, and can we command an audience's attention for it?

Honestly, the answers to them right now seem to be "maybe" and "no" respectively. But we're still interested in knowing who listens to podcasts and why. Is it just a fad of the year, a genuine channel for learning and entertainment, or just a vanity item for a content producer?

Ten years ago, we'd probably not asked these questions - we'd have plunged right in. But these days, having spent so much time soaking up knowledge about why and how humans change their behaviour, we always pause to ask how someone will make time for something new.

Our 'speed of light' is time

A fundamental constraint of our universe is the speed of light - you can't, except in some theorized settings, go faster than it. Analogously, for humans, time is such a constraint. Worse, we don't know how much time we have, but we know it's limited (until we evolve into Homo Deus!).

So everything you introduce into your already packed lives either has to come at the cost of something else, or piggy-bank on something. The nice thing about podcasts are that they are amenable to 'piggy-banking'. On the flip side, it takes deliberate effort to be part of your curiosity diet.

So if you are not listening to podcasts, there's nothing wrong with you. However, if your time and your curiosity diet is not as deliberately architected as possible, we might not be able to say the same thing.

Before we go, here are three things that have worked for the two of us who do listen to podcasts:

  • Podcasts have a symbiotic relationship with household tasks that you can do largely on autopilot. Cooking dinner and hanging clothes to dry are good examples. 

  • A lightly strenuous activity, like a brisk walk or a treadmill run, is a classic situation for something audio. There's something about it that focuses the mind nicely.

  • We are a remote-first organisation with no office commute, so we don't have something that desperately craves a content rush. But when we have upcoming trips to/from airports, our travel checklist does remind us to load up on podcasts. (Thank you Bengaluru airport!)

Are you an active podcast listener? What are your podcast hacks? Do you think we should bother with a podcast? Is there a podcast we should add to our playlist? Should we stop asking so many questions about podcasts?

If you plan to try podcasts, some podcast recommendations for topics around personal growth systems, unconventional thinking, curiosity, decision-making and the like:

  1. The Knowledge Project: long interviews on mental models, ideas, and thinking better

  2. Akimbo: Change, Culture, Marketing

  3. RadioLab: Science podcasts done well

  4. Andreeson Horowitz: tech, business, and the future

  5. Hidden Brain: psychology and related topics

  6. In Our Time: placid conversations on a wide swathe of topics from culture, history, and science 

  7. Our quizzing/curiosity arm "Thinq2Win" has a post on podcasts for the insanely curious (look for the comments)

If you have your own recommendations, please tell us via the comments below.

To make curiosity a system, start by subscribing to The Upleveler, our weekly smartletter.