My Favorite Podcasts for Business & Creative Thinking

There’s something overwhelming about digital media these days. Whether it be trying to figure out which of the dozens of new Netflix releases might actually be worthwhile, or having all music from all time available at a tap, or trying to catch up on news & events in your Twitter feed – there’s just a lot out there. It’s too much for anyone to keep up with. I feel the same way with podcasts – there’s an unbelievable amount of great material out there, and frankly I pity the poor person who has enough of a commute to really take advantage of it all.

Some friends and I were together for lunch a few weeks back and struck up our favorites, so I figured I’d share some of mine with the world. Here’s a few of my favorite podcast episodes, which I find really worthwhile as a burst of inspiration and creative thinking during a commute or a trip around town.

Note: All links are to iTunes / Apple Podcasts. 

Freakonomics Radio: When Willpower Isn’t Enough from March 11, 2015 – There’s a topic in here called temptation bundling that has really stuck with me over the years. It’s a really simple idea: pair something you want to do with something you should do. I’ve used it this year to shed more than 20 pounds by pairing Netflix show watching with my elliptical workouts. I now have an almost pavlovian reaction to the idea of watching a “binge-worthy” show that I’ll need to be working out to see it. Great episode, and the Freakonomics podcast is my absolute favorite.

How I Built This: Barbara Corcoran from April 24, 2017 – Guy Raz is a supremely talented interviewer and the production / editing of these podcasts is great. In this particular episode, I found Barbara Corcoran to be a tremendously inspiring person – both that she overcame many technical & professional obstacles to create her business, but also plenty of drama in her personal life. Double-underline hustle. This is a great episode to start on if you’re interested in hearing some worthwhile business founder stories. As an aside – I can also recommend you skip the episode about Rolling Stone Magazine – there’s absolutely no drama in that one. You can tell even Guy is getting exasperated by the lack of conflict or adversity, which for a supremely talented interviewer is no small feat. 

Decrypted (Bloomberg): … Build a Startup Outside Silicon Valley from February 27, 2017 – This series from Bloomberg bounces around many different topics any given week, but this episode certainly feels relevant to someone like me who is “tech” but no longer in the Bay Area. There’s another great stretch of Decrypted episodes from April – May 2017 that seemed to focus on a lot of Chinese & Asia-tech topics, always of interest to me given the time I’ve spent in Macao, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Silicon Valley may have an edge today, but the startups of the future are more mobile than we may realize.

Planet Money: #682 When CEO Pay Exploded from February 6, 2016 – This is another well produced podcast with a consistent format and a worthwhile use of the ‘Subscribe’ button. I think the topic of CEO pay is an interesting one, and this is a good fact-finding episode for that discussion. The only issue with Planet Money is that some of the episodes are more like testing-grounds for other NPR shows, so don’t be surprised if you get something other than economics or business topics. It can often be a good diversion, but if you’re in a mood for steak, no point in someone handing you a piece of kale and saying ‘try it!’

So those are my staple podcasts – Freakonomics Radio, How I Built This, Decrypted, and Planet Money. Here’s a few more that I’m just starting on:

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell – Much like having Steven Dubner host the Freaknomics radio podcast, having Malcom Gladwell host this show really provides an authenticity and perspective that prompts deeper thinking and consideration. I’m only a few episodes in (starting at the beginning) but already I’m enjoying the narratives, and the Gladwell hook is always enjoyable.

Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson – Again, another world-class author has taken to narrating his own podcast, and the results are a thoughtful journey through a bi-weekly topic of disruption. Clear storytelling and a great emphasis on the full history of the topic makes this one a worthwhile listen even for stories you think you already completely understand.

So those are a few of my favorites. I hope if you’re stuck looking for some podcast amusement you’ll give them a shot, because I’d love for their audiences to keep growing so they’ll keep producing them! What I really can’t fathom is how these high-quality productions stay in business? The podcasts themselves typically only include a couple commercial plugs, and even those are done in a low-key and unobtrusive manner. I hope whatever the rewards are, these creators continue to produce great stories and share them on this medium.

Do you have any suggestions for me? Please leave a comment or send me a note on Twitter with your suggestions ( Thanks for reading!



Apple Watch: Sit, Stand, Do a Dance

I’ve had my Apple Watch for almost 6 months now. At first, I was reluctant to even consider one, because watches are round. Rectangular watches aren’t appealing to my eye. They still aren’t. Even as I’m writing this, glancing down at my wrist reveals this smooth-edged eyesore, and I cringe.

But – I’ve managed to overcome most of my style aversion thanks to the cleverness of the device itself.

There’s a litany of reviews for the Apple Watch – this isn’t one of them. What I find really intriguing about the device is the activity circles, which is what I want to speak to now. Namely, the “Time to Stand” circle, and the reminder that comes along with it.

For those who don’t have the device, the Apple Watch is designed to monitor your activity on a regular basis, and if you haven’t stood up for the last 50 minutes (from 9:00-9:50am, for instance), the watch will provide a little alert encouraging you to move around for a minute. When you do this, you fill in 1/12th of your “Stand” circle. Arguably, the easiest of the “circles” to fill, given that all you have to do is stand. This is all premised on the idea that sitting down is unhealthy in the long run. Seems legit.

What’s interesting to me about this, however, is the implication that this kind of thinking has on our lives moving past something as fundamental as standing up.

The first thing that I find interesting is that this is a baked-in application which is practically core to the Apple Watch. If you don’t care about the activity monitors, the case for acquiring one of these devices can’t be that large. This is a fitness device first-and-foremost as far as I can tell. But, as with many Apple devices, you don’t pay for a subscription to access this function. It’s included in the hardware, which is somewhat refreshing.

It’s an agent. It acts on your behalf to make you do something that you might otherwise not even know you weren’t doing. In this case: Standing up. I have absolutely no idea how much I’ve stood or sat in my lifetime, but I’m sure I should be more active than I’ve been in the past. The watch is now my standing agent, which is a role I didn’t even know I needed.

This line of thinking has now got me working on asking this question: What other agents should we be building? If an agent can help me live a healthier life by standing, doing some jogging, and encouraging me to hit calorie goals — where else can I be influenced by something working in my best interests?

I think there are huge swathes of opportunity and I think this premonition of the “bot” economy will start to tip into an “agency” economy. Already, robo-advisors are displacing small but meaningful chunks of the financial services sector. But I think finance is just one of the areas that will be transformed by this emerging capability. How about an amusement agent that figures out how to keep principals entertained while trying new things? How about this whole grocery-delivery thing coming full circle to a nutrition agent which identifies healthy food options and creates new recipes, orders take-out, suggests restaurants, and communicates with my exercise & activities agent? How about mental health agents who are able to connect you with friends in richer ways, including prompts to say hello, ways to meet new people, and checkpoints for all sorts of other indicators and outcomes?

The 3-circles on the Apple watch activities app could be a waning fad, or they could be a harbinger of a future where we’re all working to fill the circles and improve our lives in many ways. I’m optimistic to see where this all takes us.

~ As an aside – this is my first writing in a long time. I’m hoping to get back to it, so stay tuned for more. This was more of a “knock the cobwebs off and go for it” moment. Thanks for reading! ~ 

Jeff, You’re Wrong… But for the Right Reasons

So I just finished reading Jeff Turner’s (@Respres) post on his site: Kenya Exposed More Than Just My Emotions and I felt compelled to deliver a response. Jeff has that effect on his audience – part of what makes him worth following and paying attention to. But I’m a snarky sonofabitch who can’t help but speak up.

The gist of his post was this:

It’s been a week since I’ve updated my public Twitter or Facebook stream. I don’t think anyone has noticed. It’s noisy in both places, lots of people are vying for attention. And I have no desire to broadcast this post on either one of them. I’ve unchecked the “Publish to Twitter” box on this post. I realize that will mean fewer people will ever know this post is here. I don’t care.

And that’s fine. But you’re wrong. For the right reasons, to be sure, but you’ve fallen for a fallacy that I can’t help but call out. Correlation is not causality. People (well, at least myself) noticed your absence, but also respected the fact that you were on a legitimate adventure. That’s worth experiencing in its entirety because it’s not something you get to experience every day.

But imagining that the world is better because you’re NOT adding to the collective conversation is… well, it’s false logic. You’re blaming the network for the noise, but then not adding signal to the stream. That’s backwards. You choosing to disable the “Publish to Twitter” button means that the quality of dialogue is diminished; not improved. [And besides, that one checkbox took me hours to figure out how to build – have some appreciation! Hehehe…]

I’m rambling, so let me get back to the point. The simple fact of the matter is that we’re all participating in a connected environment that has never been imagined. We’re still building it – and there’s a lot of junk to sift through. There’s lots of noise. Our attention spans are pulled in a thousand directions at once. Focus & presence is at a premium. But the reality is that once you have that attention – the attention of an audience – it’s your responsibility to raise the level of discourse to new heights. Abandoning your audience doesn’t provide value for anyone – you or them.

You have the opportunity to educate us. You have the opportunity to share your journey, to share what it meant to you, and to share what you want us to take away from it. You have the opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges and obstacles that exist for the girls that you’ve made part of your life – and to empower us to support them and the millions like them. You have the opportunity to tell a story that compels positive action. Or, you can choose not to. Those are your choices.

You’re part-owner in a piece of social media software designed to create better conversations – to build better dialogue. It shouldn’t come at the cost of looking people face-to-face and discussing what matters. It should compliment it. It should improve upon it. It should broaden our horizons and raise our perspectives. This software isn’t perfect yet; but that perfection is worth striving for. It’s why I keep chipping away at the boulder. If your trip has inspired ways of improving how we pay attention to each other – let’s build it.

There are all kinds of communities. Should we spend more time in the physical ones and perhaps better focus (and reduce) our attention while in the virtual ones? Absolutely. And, should you have paid attention to Head Mutha while she was talking with you? Damn straight.

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When Social Becomes Nonsense (Design)

During my regular rounds of wandering through Twitter, I clicked on a link to a site that left me literally stunned from bad design. Of course, having watched countless websites come and go over the years, I suppose I should be used to it by now, but this smedio site left me completely dumbstruck. Let me show you the screen shot of the site (I’m not going to give it a link because I just don’t want to subject you to the same visual punishment that I received unnecessarily):

Seriously? This is nonsense.

Continue reading When Social Becomes Nonsense (Design)

A Little Perspective on Social Security

Courtesy flickr: angelic0devil6 Lucia Whittaker

During a recent road trip, I had an interesting chat with my buddy Phil. We were talking about the state of America’s despair, and I started taking a pretty hard-line stance on my opinions of social entitlement programs. During the course of the discussion, we talked a bit about the morality of social entitlements (a worthwhile debate in it’s own right), and we also discussed the economics. The two major programs we have today (in entitlements) that keep coming up are Medicare and Social Security. I was curious as to the nature of Social Security, so I looked up a bit more about what the program was designed to do:

On August 14, 1935, the Social Security Act established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind, and the physically handicapped.

via Our Documents – Social Security Act 1935.

These seem like fairly reasonable ideals for which to establish a social welfare program. Essentially, as the name suggests, a security system for those who would frequently be at a loss in society if they didn’t have any personal support system (namely: family, friends, or non-governmental groups like churches or non-profs). Even lightly applying a veil of ignorance to the country as a whole, it’s reasonable to say that we might want to have some money tucked away for people who are truly down on their luck, or have reached old-age with nothing to support a person who is no longer capable of working. Sure, I’m with ya.

So what went wrong?

My position is straightforward but a little morbid: Continue reading A Little Perspective on Social Security