Why I Subscribe to Podcasts

As far as I see it, there are two types of people: those who think they can multitask and those who know better. With minor exceptions, multitasking breaks focus and slows productivity. This is one of those exceptions. 
You can call it a habit, a goal, a standard or crazy, but I try to walk at least 10,000 steps–about five miles–every day. In the past month I have done this 28 of 31 days. As I walk I listen to podcasts. I subscribe to several and they fall into three categories. 

About half the walk is an audio version of the PBS News Hour. Once a week, I satisfy my inner science geek with This Week in Science. These and a couple others remind me that there is an outside world.
Personal Growth

I pick up an assortment of personal growth podcasts doing interviews or offering ideas. Some of these lead to books to read, either in full or through a Blinkist summary. If I’m not hooked in the first couple minutes, I’m on to the next topic. 

This category covers hobbies and entertainment. 


By playing these podcasts while I walk, I can get a briefing on current events, pick up some useful ideas and catch a few messages about my hobbies while allocating the time to health and exercise. I generally play the podcasts at 1.5 speed, as fast as possible without distorting voices. 
Truthfully, this time is for the exercise. The podcasts are scanned for potential interests but not rigorously studied. Over the past few years that I’ve done this, the News Hour has dutifully reported the Dow Jones Industrial Average over 1000 times and I couldn’t guess it within 10% or even define it accurately. I guess I was right–I can’t multitask, but it does make walking those miles more pleasant. 

Your Turn

What podcasts do you follow and why? Are you giving them your full attention?

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10% Happier by Dan Harris

Author Dan Harris gives us a guided tour through modern self-help icons — as he describes it a mixture of brilliant ideas and dubious science– and ends up with a 2500 year old answer–meditation. 
Ideally, a book like this makes sense and inspires me to reconsider my thinking. In this case, I found a sensible presentation that didn’t offer me anything unexpected. The author thinks the way I do, recognizing and separating the valuable from the rest by asking the question “is it useful?”
In his job as a reporter for CBS television, Harris met and interviewed religious leaders, media icons and others. Behind the scenes, the book reveals how and why he reacted to each, how and why meditation became a big part of his life, passing the challenge of his professional skepticism. 

Both book and author take a deep dive into the culture of meditation. Toward the end, he offers his own insights as a list. The written version includes an appendix with the steps for trying meditation yourself.

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The Art of Learning

When I mentioned to a friend that I was reading the book The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, she asked why. “Is there anything you don’t know about learning!”?51GZMEe2iFL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

I think of myself as reasonably smart, but I used that gift to get through school. As an adult, I have come to understand the value of leveraging my strengths and therefore look for small improvements on things I do well.

Is there anything I don’t know about learning?  Since I don’t know what I don’t know, all I can do is assume there is.

As Waitzkin points out:

“..there are clear distinctions between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great, and what it takes to be among the best. If your goal is to be mediocre, then you have a considerable margin for error.”

I was particularly intrigued by a 3 step approach to resilient, self-sufficient performance.

1. Flow with the distraction, like a blade of grass bending to the wind.

2. Use the distraction, inspiring ourselves with what initially would have thrown us off our games.

3. Recreate the inspiring settings internally.

The book covers developing mental skills, especially focus, to compete at elite and world-class levels as illustrated by the author’s experiences in two different competitive arenas.

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Now, Later or Never

by Jay Elkes

Many things can be delegated, but not physical fitness. As Jim Rohn said “you can’t hire someone to do your push-ups for you.” When it comes to health, we are all responsible for ourselves. For anything you might do, there are three possible times to do it: now, later, or never.

“You can’t hire someone to do your push-ups for you.”— Jim Rohn

The Power of Never

Habits can be hard to break and addictions even more so, but the most direct path to any goal starts with a stop doing list. Many diets list what to eat (for example more vegetables), dealing with what not to eat (for example sugar) by implication. Try identifying a short list of things you eat frequently but should never eat. By itself, that might be enough.

This isn’t just about diet. In the Automatic Millionaire, David Bach talks about the Latte Factor, then cumulative effect of frequent small expenses on lifetime prosperity. Doing something that doesn’t contribute to your goals takes time and resources from something that does.

The most important items on your stop doing list aren’t just consuming resources, they work against your goal. A 250 calorie jelly donut would take an hour of walking to burn off. If you skip the donut and the walk, you’re 250 calories ahead. If you skip the donut and do the walk, you’rre 500 calories ahead, which for many is the difference between maintaining and losing weight.

Later: Procrastination vs Planning

Everything you do means the rest of your list must wait. Important things must be postponed, they must wait for later. If this is part of a plan where important items will get their turn, great. If it is procrastination, it needs to be addressed. Here are a couple key questions.

Did you put the task on your calendar? If so, this is planning. If not, check the next question,

Did you put it on a list you’ll get to? This is also planning. If not, odds are against ever completing the task.

Now: The Moment of Decision

“Our lives are changed by our moments of decision.”— Anthony Robbins

On October 29, 2011 I set a goal to lose 23 pounds. I put the goal in writing, along with a plan for things I would do and stop doing. I had made a decision. The weight came off and hasn’t come back.

If something changes in the external world, you’ve made a decision. If not, you’ve made a wish. In my case, I implemented my stop eating list and started a daily exercise regimen that continues to this day. Until consistent action has been started, no real decision has been made. That moment of decision, that moment where consistent action begins, has a name. We call it “now” and it is the only time anything can change.


Deciding not to do something frees up time and resources. Deciding not to do something counterproductive is a big step toward achieving your goal.

Putting something off until later can be either procrastination or planning. If it isn’t on paper somewhere, it’s probably procrastination. Don’t fool yourself.

“Inaction that results from indulgence is procrastination. Inaction that results from attention is patience.”— Rory Vaden

You know you’ve decided to change your life when planning stops and action begins. All you need to know are the outcome you want and the next action to take.

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