Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: What podcast has been most influential on your life?
56 points by ricberw on Feb 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 90 comments
If you don’t listen to podcasts, radio programs would work too.

This American Life.

I've learned so much about how other people lives through years of listening to this podcast / radio show. I've literally been in tears during a few episodes, or busting out in laughter at others. One episode about kids who've lost their parents at a young age really helped me connect to my partner.

(Edit: My partner lost her father at a young age. This isn't a topic that most people feel comfortable discussing, even with someone close. The episode came on during a road trip and she broke into tears and turned off the radio because it was bringing back so much emotion. Later I asked her about if her experiences matched that of the people on the show, and she said yes.

So I went back and listened to it on my own and I felt like I learned a lot about her from listening to others share their experience.)

Plus, I think it taught me what it means to be a good, compelling story teller.

The GiantBombcast.

It's a video game show, and I doubt anyone else will list it here. With respect to #SelfImprovement or #Productivity, it hasn't helped me at all.

But every week, GiantBomb offers me more than enough audio and video content on the latest video games. I don't get to play as much anymore because of life, but GiantBomb's general vibe reminds me of reading EGM and GamePro back in the 90s. And keeping up with their content makes me feel like I did when I wanted to read every magazine and GameFAQs page I could to keep up with the latest news.

And the cast is a group of generally great people. Who over time, feel like friends in a conversation you're just not able to speak up and participate in.


Early in my career, I was a regular listener to three tech podcasts: Java Posse, StackOverflow podcast, and Software Engineering Radio. All three were valuable to my career in different ways, but EconTalk has most affected the way I think.

For those who aren't familiar, the host of EconTalk is a professor of economics, so many of his conversations revolve around the world of economics, but since economics touches a lot of things, he ends up talking to a diverse group of people. He is very good at admitting his own bias on the one hand, and then argue against it on the other hand.

Also, I found History of Rome valuable - it's an interesting story, but it also helps cure the chronological snobbery of assuming that our times are vastly different from others.

I tried to get into EconTalk but I found most guests mindnumbingly oblivious to real world concerns. It felt to me that they were just sitting in their offices making up things about the world but never bothered to check their theories.

Not every episode is like that.

Take [0], where John Allison of BB&T discusses his business philosophy, and as an aside mentions that his bank doesn’t issue negative amortization mortgages (a cause of the recession) in 2007.

Or [1], where Michael Lewis discusses Moneyball and The Blind Side.

Or [2], where Christopher Hitchens discusses George Orwell.

Or [3], where Paul Graham talks about Hackers and Painters.

EconTalk has something for everyone.

[0] http://www.econtalk.org/allison-on-strategy-profits-and-self...

[1] http://www.econtalk.org/michael-lewis-on-the-hidden-economic...

[2] http://www.econtalk.org/hitchens-on-orwell/

[3] http://www.econtalk.org/graham-on-start-ups-innovation-and-c...

Also the Frito Lay executive talks about the snack food industry: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/08/odonohoe_on_pot.htm...

Here's a list of one guy's ranked favorites: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TejVbFNWkAaqRYQ4UaZfwNDK...

I can see where you're coming from, but particularly for episodes the past year or two, the host has emphasized two themes worth noting: (1) the inability for models to really explain actual reality (as in how things really are for people), and (2) the importance of understanding that even if economic theory says on the whole things might be better, that they are often worse off for particular people.

Even to the extent that guest are oblivious to real world concerns (or alternate Ivory tower theories, which also happens sometimes), Russ Roberts is pretty good at respectfully challenging guests, and I feel like I at least understand where the guest is coming from.

Maybe I should give it another try. What turned me off was one episode about health care where they talked about free markets, the evils of regulation and socialized health care but couldn’t acknowledge how f...ed up the US systems is versus other developed countries. They seemed more interested in the purity of their ideology vs actually making life better for real people.


Sam's podcast.

The goal of finding the _best_ answer, not _your_ answer changes the conversation completely.

If you want to see clear thinking in practice, this is where you should spend your time.

That's his brand, but I am not convinced that he lives up to that standard. Dude lacks intellectual humility big time, and seems to support scientific racism[0].

[0]: https://samharris.org/ezra-klein-editor-chief/

> Many readers also fail to see how asymmetrical any debate on this topic is. Whatever I say at this point, no matter how scientifically careful, appears to convey an interest in establishing the truth of racial differences (which I do not have and have criticized in others). Does it matter that Stephen J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man was debunked long ago, or that James Flynn now acknowledges that his eponymous effect cannot account for the race-IQ data? No, it doesn’t. This is a moral panic and a no-win situation (and Klein and my other “critics” know that). I did not have Charles Murray on my podcast because I was interested in intelligence differences across races. I had him on in an attempt to correct what I perceived to be a terrible injustice done to an honest scholar. Having attempted that, for better or worse, I will now move on to other topics.

He later, at the request of his audience, did a 2 hour talk with Klein. This is all (the quote above, the links) included in the page linked in parent. You can draw your own conclusions.

I can't say I've listened to many podcasts that have been influential in the sense of improving my career or productivity, but I've listened to a few that I enjoyed a whole lot.

Startup by Gimlet Media is quite good. I really enjoyed the first season.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History is a fun dramatic reading of all sorts of history. I've heard it called "pop history" as a jibe, but I think that's a pretty good description for it. History as action novel makes a little more sense than history as staid recollection.

Cocaine and Rhinestones is a personal favorite right now. I love country and folk music, and it's all about the formation of modern country music, and the people and influences that shaped it.

Hardcore History takes you for a ride. Even if it's "pop history" I feel like it gets me closer to the events then I've ever been before.

Blueprint for Armageddon does a fantastic job of convincing you that war is bad. Don't do war.

That's true. Dan Carlin makes unfounded conclusions from time to time, which you do need to take with a grain of salt. However, he is very upfront with his admission that he is not a professional historian.

This is by far the highest quality media I've ever consumed in my life. He is amazingly hard working and skilled.

I've added Cocaine and Rhinestones to my list. Thanks for the recommendation!

My favorite blog post I've ever written is a long rant about "Country music is dead" (no, it's not). Nobody agrees with me about that essay, apparently.

Software Engineering Daily was the first software podcast which, for me, sparked my interest and delved into technicals but also explained the simple things. At the time I was feeling rather like a novice even though I had a BS in Computer Science, but this podcast really got me excited and made me feel like I was learning what was out there; what was possible to explore. While I still don't understand everything, the broad sweeping topics are great for sparking certain ideas or improving overall understanding of software engineering topics.

Joe Rogan definately. Not even a competition. The long format with interesting people is hard to beat. I love how he doesn't try and smear people when he does the interviews. Of course, I don't listen to every episode but he releases them so often so there is always something interesting to hear about.

Joe Rogan is how journalists should be like.

Rogan is really good with a certain type of guests but he seems to fail with a lot of business guys. His interview with jack Dorsey was just terrible. He also let Lance Armstrong get away with a lot of whining about how jealous people were after him.

But in general I like Rogan a lot. You just have to accept that he is a curious guy that sometimes doesn’t have much background in the topic they are talking about.

And he has a pretty much endless amount of videos so that you can pretty much autoplay them constantly in the background for a good while before running out of videos.

I really like Joe Rogan also, what did you think about the Jack Dorsey interview. Most of the people that like him seemed to think he went soft on him.

I haven't heard that one since I don't know who Jack Dorsey is. :)

His approach is very commendable. He listens, pulls people up when they say things that need further explination or sourcing and has a wide range of guests.

He takes a lot of flak about being "right-wing" or missing things every now and then but I think he honestly tries to do a good a job of getting objective, fact based interesting topics covered by experts or "famous faces"

Being about as left as you can get in the States without being a complete and utter nutjob, I agree with your assessment. He has such an honest way of approaching whatever it is he is talking about. I might disagree with some of his conclusions or premises, but I do enjoy listening to him for a solid alternate point of view.

> He takes a lot of flak about being "right-wing"...

Except Joe Rogan isn't "right-wing" at all. He's very much a "left-leaning centrist".

In no particular order:

The Fundamentalists (Two roommates in LA, a philosopher and a comedian.) Why? A little bit of Freudian outlook on life is super useful. Especially good if you too have Religion Issues.

The Ezra Klein Show (His recent one with Kate Manne was stellar.) Why? Several feel like they've really changed how I think about things.

Pete Holmes' You Made it Weird (You'll need to pick and choose. Try the recent Conner Habib one, or Penn Jillette. Or anyone you're interested in.) Why? On his podcast, Pete's schtick is that he dives right in and asks people about God, and beliefs, etc. It's enlightening to hear people's experiences and journeys.

Just for fun:

The Adventure Zone (start from the beginning, and give them a couple of episodes to stop being juvenile idiots). Why? It's inspiring to see people going all-in on creativity and have it pay off, and their family dynamic is so kind yet hilarious.

Eaten by a Grue (just kidding, but you should listen to it :-)

Radiolab, specifically "The Rhino Hunter" (https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/rhino-hunter)

Made me realise that I'm not qualified to hold an opinion on... well, almost anything. This completely changed the way I think.

that was a great episode

Reply all by Gimlet (just acquired by Spotify).

Amazing in-depth journalism that’s entertaining and informative and some times mind blowing.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me.

No other podcast has helped shape my humor and general positive outlook on life. I know that a lot of the fans of the podcasts fall into the trap of just repeating the jokes and phrases from the podcast over and over, but if you avoid doing that you'll hopefully find you humor being more cheery and light-hearted than it was before. The brothers all seem like genuinely good dudes who try their best to be as good as they can be. Their related podcasts are good too. The Adventure Zone is a great (comedy) DnD podcast (now on other TTRPGs) that they play with their dad. Despite the controversy around the other host, Cool Games Inc. was a surrealist humor podcasts about riffing on game ideas submitted by listeners. There are many more, and most of them are solid.

If you are into RPGs, I highly recommend the 3Ts[0]. Exuberant and (very) irreverent, their "dramatic actual play" is a great Saturday afternoon chore-cast (I also enjoy their regular show episodes).

Also The Grognard Files[1]

Also Fear of a Black Dragon[2]

[0] https://www.patreon.com/TableTopTwats

[1] https://thegrognardfiles.com

[2] https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/fear-of-a-black-dragon

- The Dave Ramsey Show: Dave is not for everyone, for one he is an absolutist and is very religious and politically conservative, but his advice is very simple when it comes to personal finance and provided a solid base for me to learn more about the fundamentals of personal finance. Plus his callers are a great deterrent from doing stupid things with money.

- Marketplace w/ Kai Rysdall: Pound for pound the best economics podcast out there, does a really good job with balancing micro and macro economic trends.

- The Weeds by Vox: Fantastic job of getting into policy details, the hosts are pretty liberal (especially Matt Yglesias) but if you can stomach it you'll learn a lot about the details of policy, especially healthcare.

I really liked your description of The Dave Ramsey Show. That's exactly why he's not for me.

Totally agree with you on Marketplace though.

The a16z podcast tends to provide a ludicrous amount of information and insight on many topics. While many podcasts have interesting hosts, a16z is the least produced, and the most information-dense. They ask the right questions, as you'd expect from those at a solid VC.

For example, the latest episode with Novartis' CEO was an hour of really detailed info on the future of medicine, and the hosts (as always) did a great job of tying technology into the conversation.

It usually makes my head hurt after like 20 minutes, but in the best possible way. :)

No Agenda. I was looking for something different after starting to get burned out from Tech news stuff a few years back. I enjoy the deconstruction of media coverage and events that they do especially when its stuff that the media isn't covering because they are too busy with "Trump did/said today" sensationalism that has taken over the media as of late.

I am shocked I didn't see more love for the greatest podcast in the universe. This show has been extremely important to me for years as well.

In the morning.

Thanks, going to try this on my walk to work today.


It covers everything. It has helped me sharpen my decision making.

It exposed me to Paul Graham, which eventually led me here [0].

It is a collection of conversations, the quality of which is unmatched by anything else I’ve come across.

[0] http://www.econtalk.org/graham-on-start-ups-innovation-and-c...

Easily the How I Built This podcast. Entrepreneurial without the Silicon Valley kool-aid or being too mainstream. Guy is an excellent interviewer and a very entertaining host. And I love how it focuses on a variety of different startups, from Cisco to Starbucks. You definitely have to catch one of his live shows.

Runner-ups: radiolab, TIA, a16z, recode, knowledge project.

I love Hidden Brain, but I find NYT's The Daily to be a great deeper dive on a current issue for my morning commute.

Probably a controversial opinion, but I find the NYT Daily to be too left leaning. I find NPR's politics podcast a little more balanced.

This year definitely jockopodcast. Really helps to put a lot of stuff in perspective.

If you are interested in rock climbing and enjoy british/ Irish humour jamcrack podcast is entertaining.

Also desert islands discs, not a podcast but episodes going back decades with everyone who's anyone on the BBC website

The Joe Rogan Podcast.

I think Joe is pretty great, but is very dependent on who his guest is. I only ever listen when someone I know or trust has recommended an episode.

Cortex and Hello Internet: cortex has very much shaped the way I physically operate (work ethic/process etc.), HI has shaped the way I mentally operate (although that mostly came from a select few episodes, most of them were just entertainment).

Chapo Trap House

Just came to say that and it was already taken.

Ok, Citations Needed.

I mostly listen to podcasts just for fun, but weirdly enough, Mac Power Users. It's a long running podcast about using Apple products and their native software productively.

I like that it's run by non-engineers - seeing people that don't program be more productive than me using just apps and their own smarts is very cool. I've learned a lot of tips and found very good native software through it.

Of course, if you're not invested in the Apple ecosystem, it's probably not for you. Same with The Talk Show, Accidental Tech, Connected, and AppStories.

Indie Hackers. I've learnt SO MUCH from those interviews.

Indie Hackers is very good for giving solid, actionable advice.

Startups for the Rest of Us also does a great job.

To a slightly lesser extent, Tropical MBA is another good one.

The Weeds, by Vox, and Why is This Happening, by MSNBC. Both of them take an hour to explore one topic, usually related to politics or a cultural moment. But it's not just a summary of recent news; they go back into history and provide context from different sides of an issue.

They're staffed by people who are well read and bring much needed nuance to a lot of discussions. I learn something fascinating every time

Stoic Meditations (Massimo Pigliucci): https://anchor.fm/stoicmeditations

Partially Examined Life: https://partiallyexaminedlife.com/

Freakonomics: http://freakonomics.com/

The Enormocast. interview format with the who’s who of rock climbing.

the craig demartino “and then i amputated my leg” episode is harrowing, the two-part hayden kennedy episode about cerro torre and the kompressor route is amazing, the lynn hill interview is wonderful, and he got honnold too.

On Being is hit or miss but the interviews with rep john louis, bishop tutu, eugene peterson, nadia bolz-weber have all stuck with me.

Go Time. For real; I've been able to get my dream job because of the conversations these folks have. I'm bummed they're on hiatus, but.

I really enjoy Sam Harris's 'Making Sense' (formerly 'Waking Up' podcast).

He invites experts on various topics and has informative conversations with them. Some are about scientific topics such as climate change and others are more about personal stories and explorations of thoughts such as recently with Stephen Fry.

Sam's business model is also very exemplary: no ads and the podcasts are free. He has the luxury of having many supporters who donate so that he can keep doing what he is doing and some side businesses like meditation app. What this means is that he doesn't need to shy away from difficult topics and can have more honest conversations on those without some advertiser getting cold feet.

I do wish more podcasts had alternative support methods other than advertising.

Unless the podcast doesn’t have ads and is done mostly out of passion and the host's own growth (The Collective) or I can pay to receive an ad-free feed (CANADALAND) I’m not going to subscribe to the audio-equivalent of a TV talk show.

Why though? Most podcasts with ads also come in an app where you can just skip past the ads with a couple clicks. Is it really not worth doing that to keep a show you like alive?

The few podcasts I listened to with obnoxious ads won't lose much with my lack of listenership (Tim Ferriss podcast)

They usually require more than just a few skips also (last I listened the Tim Ferriss podcast had 4-6 minutes of ads at the beginning and due to the variable length I couldn’t just set an auto-start to when the actual show starts).

Hello Internet :)

Hello Internet is fantastic. I don't know if it has impacted me in a deep dense. I'm flirting with a minimalist lifestyle now, similar to Grey's approach. I've been more open to new interests and hobbies because of the podcast. Mostly, it's just a really good time spent listening.

It's hard to pin it down as influential but when a new episode comes out, it feels like you're about to hang out with friends that you haven't seen for a few weeks.

Just curious - what made it influential for you?

Not so much at all, but it's the only one podcast i'm always looking forward to. So it influence my live some how :)

Akimbo, by Seth Godin (https://www.akimbo.me/)

What I find amazing about this podcast is how it makes you think culture as a fundamental piece of bringing the change to the world.

I have three to recommend:

1. Filkcast. A relatively new podcast by a friend of mine, diving into the world of "filk" music. As a filk musician myself, I think it's wonderful, and it's introduced me to a lot of new music. If you already know/love filk, it's terrific. If you don't know it but like science fiction/fantasy and folk music, you might find something new to love!

2. Hardcore History. Long-form history studies (4-5 hour episodes, with multi-episode series often stretching over 20 hours). The one-off "Celtic Holocaust", about Ceasar's invasion of Gaul, is a good start to get a feel for how it works. The epic "Blueprint for Armageddon", about WWI, is my favorite (and the most bleak). Very much enjoying the current series, "Supernova in the East" (the rise of Imperial Japan, culminating in WWII).

3. Philosophize This! Hour-ish long episodes of the history of philosophy, each episode centered on a particular philosopher or related school of them (sometimes a few episodes for particularly important figures). Starts with the earliest ancient Greeks, and builds forward to almost the present day (recent episodes have covered recent concepts like semiotics, and thinkers like Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault.

I was a (somewhat) early adopter of listening by way of this American life.

I love a bunch posted here already.

Around 2 years ago I subscribed to the audio edition of the economist. Now, I have no time for podcasts but absolutely LOVE the economist and cannot recommend it enough.

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps by Peter Adamson. Told chronologically for the layperson, with consistent tone and running jokes about Buster Keaton. An ambitious project, valuable resource, relaxing, illuminatung, and logical.

Build & Analyze with Marco Arment & Dan Benjamin

Not because it was insightful and entertaining (though it was) but because it was the first tech-related podcast I listened to and inspired me to create my first iPhone app which got me a job.

This is a hard question to answer because there are two possible interpretations to this question. The first is that is asking only for podcasts that have made a significant impact on your life. The second is to simply go through your podcasts and pick the one that has impacted your life the most, however small.

I'll answer according to the latter.

--Astonishing Legends has stretched my mind with the unexplained and opened me to the possibility of greater realities beyond what I immediately see.

--The Lawfare podcast (and Renato Mariotti's On Topic) has given me a (mostly) level headed and legal on-going discussion of the Trump/Russia affair. It has educated me a lot about our legal system and the value of the norms we keep in government.

--Hardcore History's series (basically audiobook length) on World War I has given me a sense about the tragedies and sufferings a previous generation experienced en mass that nobody has experienced today. Gives some perspective on life.

--Hello Internet is a podcast of pure fun that has expanded my hobbies and interests.

--Brain Software has help give me a better understanding of human psychology in the context of hypnosis and NLP.

I really enjoy Hello Internet as well, but in what way has it expanded your hobbies?

Well, I'm more interested in design than I used to be. For instance, my interest in flags is greater. I've entertained the idea of designing my own flag. A lot of the books Grey recommends I like to look into as well.

Late Night Live, Phillip Adams. The smartest people in the world, all of them, 3 a night, 4 nights a week for 20 years, with humour. This is the most remarkable lifetime achievement in radio anywhere - better than Studs Terkel.

I completely agree. It deserves to be better known.

Choose FI. Being exposed to the concept of financial independence, retiring early and providing a framework and mindset for achieving them has completely transformed my life from aimless working for money to working for a goal.

No Dumb Questions - Destin (From SmarterEveryDay) and his friend just talk about different topics. I find they have challenged me to be a better person and father.

Criminal - A show about those who broke the law

Cortex. Introduced me to GTD methodology, and omnifocus. Helped me get my email under control. Made me think about investing in what I'm good at, not trying to improve at what I'm bad at.

Nerdist / ID10T, Conan needs a friend, Here's the thing with Alec Baldwin...

Mostly because I do a lot of UX work, and good interviewing skills are essential for understanding what someone is trying to say.

Making Sense (formerly Waking Up) by Sam Harris and Joe Rogan podcast have been most influential but Mindscape by Sean Carrol has risen to very top of my current favourites.

Despite the backlash it received I found S-Town to be absolutely amazing. It really blew me away and I still think about it a lot.

Radiolab is also very good. Some really memorable episodes.

Human Performance Outliers and Peak Human podcasts. Really changed the way I looked a nutrition and ate, so far with excellent results.

Not sure about most influential but Omega Tau gave me a lot of insight into things that are usually closed of from knowing about.

So I'm a bit late to the party, but I do habe some recomendations.

The podcast that recently has been important to me is: Conversations with Tyler. Some people may have issues with hjs background, being a libertarian. But he has the best interview style I have ever heard. He asks the most thoughtful questions on so many different topics. I always come away learning something new.

One that hasn't been mentioned in this thread is The Moth. It's very liberal, but helps with keeping me compassionate. The way people tell their stories often makes me emotional.

Hello internet is fun, for some reason. Somebody else said. It's like hanging out with friends. With all of the in jokes, it might take a whike to get into.

Radiolab's More Perfect. The first teo seasons are fantastic. It's all about the US supreme court. I don't live in the US but it still grips me.

The Ezra Klein show. Some times hit or miss. But still worth for some of his guests with which Ezra manages to gell with.

The numberphile podcast. A more slow interviewing style, mostly about the personalities behind the world of mathematics.

Radiolab. I've learned quite a bit from it and it has changed the way I look at the world.

Rich Roll. Absolute fave. Not even vegan.

Sam Harris's - Waking Up. I have gotten the most amazing book recommendations from his guests!

Joe Rogan - he generates a lot of content I do not care about but his interviews like Billy Corgan, Elon Musk, Sam Harris, etc are some of the best on the internet. (Bonus - you can watch them on youtube also)

I dont like Ezra Klein's podcast (I think he comes off as a pretentious know-it-all), but I do like that he asks every guest for 3 book recommendations, so I almost always skip to the end to write those down too.


99 percent invisible


cum town

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact