Favorite Podcasts : November

Yes, the Open Office Is Terrible — But It Doesn’t Have to Be (Ep. 358) : by Freakonomics

It began as a post-war dream for a more collaborative and egalitarian workplace. It has evolved into a nightmare of noise and discomfort. Can the open office be saved, or should we all just be working from home?

The concept of productivity and efficiency is always on my mind, especially when it comes to schools and cultures and how best to make an impact. This episode helped clarify some of my thoughts and struggles and encouraged me to get out more, engage in conversation, and to sacrifice productivity for side chats and unplanned encounters.

The Difference Between Fixing and Healing : by On Being

We thought we could cure everything, but it turns out we can only cure a small amount of human suffering. The rest of it needs to be healed, and that’s different.

Perhaps my favorite of the group, this podcast is slow and beautiful and just about perfect. I’m often inspired by podcasts, but this is one of the few that truly heal. Just brilliant.

Episode 311 – James Clear – The Laws of Behavior Change : by Smart People Podcast

If you are in any way an entrepreneur or artist or person wanting to branch out with new ideas, this podcast is perfect. In it, James Clear discusses:

  • How to overcome the fear of rejection

  • James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’ which I’ve already ordered. If you want to borrow it when I’m done, let me know and I’ll send it your way!

  • Where do you find a ‘vision’ falling in the realm of habit creation?

And so much more. It’s crazy good.

Before the Next One : by This American Life

There’s no rulebook on how to handle a school shooting. And no real way to prepare for one. This week, people take what they’ve learned from these tragedies and try to use that knowledge to save others.

I listened to this shortly after reading Columbine and writing Mass Shootings : We Are Responsible. It is a pretty powerful episode as it interviews the teachers of Stoneman Douglas HS and parents who have lost their children but are refusing to give up hope in humanity. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach it, it is also encouraging.

#20 Soraya : Heavyweight

When Soraya was in college, her favorite professor hired her to help research a book she was writing. But when she fell into a deep depression and dropped out of school, she abandoned both the book and the professor who’d shown her so much kindness. Now, with Jonathan’s help, Soraya wants to make things right—with a grand gesture.

Along with productivity and efficiency, I am also constantly wrestling with the concept of memory. I’ve posted other podcasts on this issue (Malcolm Gladwell and Invisibilia being some of the best), but this episode brought a bit of a different flavor because it deals with depression and the devastating effects it can have on perception vs reality. Not only did it question my understanding of reality, it soothed my soul. It’s a good piece to end on. Trust me.


Chanel just called, to say . . . by Heavyweight

Six Who Sat : Why six women had to sit, so that they could run. by ESPN 30 for 30

Six Who Sat : Why six women had to sit, so that they could run.


Before the 1970s, women were not welcome at the world's great marathons, but a few brave pioneers sought to challenge that system. Six Who Sat tells the story of two iconic moments in women's running, both captured in photographs. The first, from 1968, is of a race director trying to physically restrain a woman from running the Boston Marathon. The second, from 1972, is of a protest at the New York City Marathon that forever changed women's ability to participate in the sport they loved.


While listening to this podcast, Six Who Sat, by the 30 for 30 ESPN podcast, I couldn’t help but think about golfing. I hardly ever golf, but when I do I always notice the different tee boxes: Competition tees (white), men's tees (yellow), women's tees (red) and sometimes blue tees for veterans and juniors. Why hasn’t anyone “sat” for this obvious display of gender bias? Of course the woman’s tee is closer, they can’t hit nearly as far!!!

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Podcasts

Chanel just called, to say . . .

“Maybe not everything is supposed to be comfortable?”

Heavyweight “is the show about journeying back to the moment when everything went wrong,” and then trying to pick up the pieces, make amends, or seek forgiveness. It’s a brilliant show. I’ve listed some of my favorite episodes here, or you can listen to all of them on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Podcasts  :  Short Films

Favorite Podcasts : September

Hello all! And a special welcome to those recently joined! 

For those new, once a month I try and send out some of my favorite podcasts because, as was mentioned in a reply to last month's email, "I've grown weary of 'Here! listen to this podcast' suggestions because episodically they are SOOO hit and miss." And I would agree.

With that in mind, I hope this helps sift through some of the more, "Meh" episodes and provides you with at least a few quality, gonna-pass-this-along podcasts. 

Post No Evil : by Radiolab

Back in 2008 Facebook began writing a document. It was a constitution of sorts, laying out what could and what couldn’t be posted on the site. Back then, the rules were simple, outlawing nudity and gore. Today, they’re anything but. 

I was a bit hesitant of this one. Not anymore. Because Facebook “is now sort of a playground, it’s also sort of an R-rated movie theatre,” and also the front page of a newspaper. And we, the users, are demanding that they make a set of policies that are Just. “And the reality is Justice means a very different thing in each one of these settings.”

Which is what makes this podcast, this discussion, so intriguing.

'President' Once Meant Little More Than 'Foreman' : by Weekend Edition Saturday

In exactly three minutes, my mind was completely unhinged by the our forefather’s lengthy discussion and specific purpose for naming the leader of the free world, “president.”

Gregor : Heavy Weight and Gimlet Media

This might be my favorite of the month.

20 years ago, Gregor lent some CDs to a musician friend. The CDs helped make him a famous rockstar. Now, Gregor would like some recognition. But mostly, he wants his CDs back. 

Two season are available, and once you start, don’t be shocked if you get sucked into them all. I did. Quickly and joyously.

Stroke of Genius: How Derek Amato Became a Musical Savant : by Hidden Brain

At just over 25 minutes, this short podcast will have you sincerely considering if banging the left side of your head against the nearest wall is worth it. Seriously. 

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano. Yes, we're serious. Derek is one of just a few dozen known "sudden savants" or "accidental geniuses"—people who survive severe head injuries and come out the other side with special gifts for music or math or art (via).

Embrace the Shake : TED Talk

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation ... and transcend it.

Sorry, you can’t listen to this one while running or driving, but no worries! Sitting and watching this man will not only entertain, it will inspire.

If five isn't enough and you're looking for more, peruse over here to your heart's content!


Thanks for reading and tagging along!

Happy listening!


Favorite Podcasts : August

1. The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships, by On Being

I'll admit it, without shame, that this podcast was by far my favorite from this past week. It's fantastically convicting and encouraging, and it's also deeply human. 

Here's the summary as written by On Being:

What if the first question we asked on a date were, "How are you crazy? I'm crazy like this"? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton's essay "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person" was one of the most-read articles in The New York Times in recent years. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. Nowhere do we realistically teach ourselves and our children how love deepens and stumbles, survives and evolves over time, and how that process has much more to do with ourselves than with what is right or wrong about our partner. The real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after

Whether you're married, dating, single, or a combination of them all, check this podcast out. It's a keeper. 


2. Life, Interrupted, by Hidden Brain

- This one came to me from my sister, thanks Jenna! - 

"The human brain has become one of the main capitol resources in our economy", yet our understanding of attention and multitasking - of the impacts of text messages and emails - is extremely limited (Did you know it takes your brain, roughly, 20 minutes to switch from task to task? I didn't).

After listening to this podcast, I have a lot of simple (yet profound) changes to make. And not just for productivity sake, but for life and happiness and for cultivating deep relationships (coincided with The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships, the practicality of this podcast increases significantly). 

: Habits of Systematic Mindfulness :

  1. No social media

  2. Organize time

    1. Set strict hours of work

    2. Plan out day

    3. Don't let mood dictate how the day will go

  3. Get comfortable with annoying people

    1. Set expectations of availability

    2. No quick answers

  4. Tally hours of "deep work"

    1. Block out "deep work hours" well in advance

  5. Create a Shutting Down ritual 

    1. Leave nothing hanging

    2. Say a mantra out loud, something like, "Schedule shutdown complete."


3. Declutter, by The Minimalists

They don't like advertisements. But really, they don't need them, because they do enough of it themselves.

To get to the sauce of this podcast, you'll have to endure more then enough self-promotions, casual links to their books, essays, and ways you can support them, but in the end, it's all worth it. And by end I mean the first 20 minutes or so because that's where they wrestle with and answer some pretty great questions. Questions like:

  • What is one thing you always thought you wanted, but then, once you got it, you no longer wanted it? 
  • How do you gradually declutter your home?
  • How do you explain greed in our society?

You can stop listening after these, if you're stretched for time, it does get a bit too preachy. But there's still good stuff in there.


4. Has Lance Finally Come Clean, by Freakonomics

I've never been a huge Lance or Tour de France fan, but I am a fan of this podcast mainly because it wrestles with the process of reconciliation, personally, relationally, and (for those unfortunate few) publicly. 

At the time I listened to this I was dealing with a difficult relationship, still am actually, but at that particular time it was a very broken relationship (no, I won't tell you who it is) and Lance's journey, his thought process and his full circle of understanding hit home. 

Here's an excerpt from my favorite section, where Lance is describing why he finally took ownership of what he did and stopped trying to convince everyone (and himself) why he was being seen and treated unfairly.

Look, “betrayal” is a terrible word. It’s a word that nobody wants, a child to their parent or friend to another friend, a spouse to a spouse, a C.E.O. to — whatever. It’s a very heavy word. Complicit is 100x. For me, I had already started to get my mind and my heart around the fact that people had suffered this tremendous amount of betrayal, and then I was hit with complicit. And it just — it rocked me to the core. But it was, I tell you, it was the greatest — her name is Melissa — it was the greatest gift that anybody has given me the last six years.

And the story he tells after this, the one where a guy is standing on a bar balcony yelling, "F*** you!" is just beautiful.

5. Grass is Greener, by the Moth 

Okay, I'll be honest. I listened to this podcast over a year ago, but I've thought about it a lot recently, and many times in-between. Not only is she a great storyteller, but her conclusion of happiness (for her it's marriage but really, it can be anything - job, community, kids, whatever) is spot-on. 

"The grass isn't greener on the other side, the grass is greener where you water it." 

Sheesh, that's good. And so, so right.


I hope you enjoy!  If you have any favorites, send em along! I'm sure I'll listen to them at one point or another. 

If you want more, check out these top five favorites or peruse over here to your heart's content.


Thanks for reading!

Podcast Favorites : 1-5

 Photo by @_whydad_

Photo by @_whydad_

A friend recently said, "I find that most of my conversations or sentences start with, 'I was listening to a podcast the other day . . .'" and we all laughed with familiarity. Because it's just so true, not only for her, but for most of us, and for sure for me.

So I thought, "Why not compile my favorites and send them off for others to enjoy!" So I will. And so I am.

  1. Why We Choke Under Pressure (and How Not To), by Freakonomics Radio
    "We know that people sometimes don't perform up to their potential, precisely when they want to the most," but why? And how do we stop it? Whether in business, sports, school, and everyday conversations, how do we not fall when the stakes are at their greatest? Freakonomics dives in and tries to provide an answer.
    (While listening, I couldn't stop thinking about How To Fly a Horse : THE SECRET HISTORY OF CREATION, INVENTION, AND DISCOVERY - "Failure is not final. It carries no judgement and yields no conclusions. The word comes from the Latin fallere, to deceive. Failure is deceit." So if you have time, along with the podcast, check out this book also.)
  2. Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis, by Revisionist History
    Perhaps my favorite episode of the season, which is saying a lot because I really really liked episodes 3 and 4 which talk about memory and truth and how we should interpret both. But then, the final episode, the one where I (literally) lol'd, cried ever so slightly, and thought about my entire life and uncertain future, because it's just that good. 
  3. What Wisdom Can We Gain From Nature? by TED Radio Hour - (9:49 minutes long)
    For a species that is supposed to be the top of the food chain, the most evolved or uniquely designed (however you choose to view us), we are fairly dumb, extremely violent, and truly destructive. We're even bad at designing things, which is why we model so much after nature and animals. So why not learn from them?  " . . . in the cathedral of the wild, we get to see the most beautiful parts of ourselves reflected back at us. And it is not only through other people that we get to experience our humanity but through all the creatures that live on this planet."
  4. Superheroes hold umbrellas and cut hair, by the Moth
    This one is a twofer. Two powerful stories of kindness and love, of the kind that boost our spirits and remind us of the beauty of humanity - even in the midst of darkness
    1. In Tim Manley's roughly eight minute story, A Super Hero Gets Sick, he tells of when, as a boy, he become deeply sick. He was terrified of needles and didn't quiet understand all that was happening, as most young kids don't. But what he does know keeps him calm: his mother is at his side because she is his faithful sidekick - as any good superhero must have. 
    2. The second story is from Melanie KostrzewaTold from a parents perspective, Melanie shares of the time her young daughter must undergo a craniotomy, the frustration of not being able to do anything, and the unexpected kindness of a doctor who did more than just save her daughter's life, he saved her hair.
  5. The Process of Procrastination, a TED talk with Tim Urban
    It's funny, enlightening, and worth every one of the 14 minutes. I even wrote about it on my 35 birthday.
    But you could probably just watch it later. 

At the very least, I hope you find these entertaining. At best, inspiring. I know I have been.  

Thanks for reading!

Revisionist History : Season 3

Malcolm Gladwell's fantastic podcast is back for season 3!  The first episode, Divide and Conquer: The Complete, Unabridged History of the World's Most Dangerous Semicolon

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

You can also listen to a special live taping of Malcolm and WorkLife’s Adam Grant (who wrote one of my favorite books of 2017) discussing "how to avoid doing highly undesirable tasks, what makes an idea interesting, and why Malcolm thinks we shouldn't root for the underdog." It's a great listen. I laughed aloud, thought a ton, and got supper geeked about this coming season.  

Gladwell is a genius. 

Happy listening!!!


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Podcasts  :  Malcolm Gladwell

Also, if you haven't signed up for the monthly news letter, please scroll on down and do so! 

Anyone signing up this month will get a handwritten "Thank You!" card. 

Heretics : What if there is no hell?

 Illustration: Adam Maida; Photograph: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Illustration: Adam Maida; Photograph: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

For the past week or so Reverend Carlton Pearson has been on my mind. I first heard his story on the podcast Heretics by This American Life, and ever since, several people have reached out asking if I'd listened to it and what I think of it. Clearly, it has his a nerve. 

In the 1990's, Reverend Carlton Pearson was a rising star in the evangelical movement, but in the early 2000's, after he cast aside the idea of hell, "everything he'd worked for over his entire life" suddenly crumbled (via). Except his faith. 

Which is why he became a heretic.

There's also a movie, produced by James D. Stern under his Endgame Entertainment banner, along with Ira Glass and This American Life banner, distributed by Netflix.

"One of the moments I’m happiest with in our new film," Ira Glass writes, "is the scene where Jason Segel’s character Henry basically breaks up with his friend. Because his friend has come to believe some things Jason does not" (via). 

Everything Henry say comes down, basically to: “This is breaking my heart because I think maybe you’re going to hell and I love you and it feels like there’s nothing I can do or say to stop you.” 

It’s moments like that which made me want to make this film. Years ago, I became aware that there was a huge gap between the way evangelicals are portrayed on TV and in films and in the news, and the evangelicals I know in my personal life. Who are not like the smiling, intolerant hardasses I see in the media, but complicated, sensitive, funny people who take seriously Jesus’s admonition to love one another (via).

And I was reminded of Originals and the idea of "horizontal hostility."

According to Adam Grant, horizontal hostility is the "minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them" (pg 117). Like vegans and vegetarians. Compared to much of the world, these two groups are very similar, which is the problem. Because they are so alike, they can often find horizontal hostility because the other isn’t doing it right and therefore, “making us look bad.”

I would venture to say that the existence of hell is no "minor difference," but, shouldn't it be? At least in terms of the greater commission, to love one another? 

If there was no hell, if everyone was heading to heaven because God's love was indeed big and great enough, should that change anything? They we live and speak and think? Shouldn't we be rejoicing that people everywhere get to experience eternity with a loving God? 

If not, why not? 

And if the idea of hell is why we serve and minister and "love our neighbors," aren't we missing the whole point of the gospel? 

But also, and perhaps to the deepest point, why is someone not aloud to question and struggle? To look at what we've been doing for hundreds of years and say, "I don't know. We may be wrong - because we're human."

 Why are those who question considered heretics and kicked out of the church?

When did being curious and wondering outside of tradition become the unpardonable sin? 

What I find most interesting with all this is, in the end, Reverend Carlton Pearson is ministering and loving the outcasts, the "sinners" and those whom Jesus would have been drawn to. Not the righteous pharisees. 

Which, in the end, is why I tend to side with Reverend Carlton Pearson. Not because I'm convinced he's right, but because I'm convinced in his process, in questioning and wrestling and the willingness to be wrong. Even if it means losing everything. 

Except his faith.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On playing Devil's Advocate  :  Bacon and God's Wrath :  On Empathy

Do something great


My wife sent me this photo on the same morning I listened to this podcast, Do Meaningful Work and Change the World with Adam Braun, "the CEO & Co-Founder of MissionU, a debt-free college alternative for the 21st century that CNN called 'perfect for young people who are eager to launch their career'" (via), and I truly enjoyed it. 

One of the more inspiring, or challenging, portions of the podcast came at near the 30 minute mark. It's his last interview question to anyone wanting to work for him and his ideas. The question is, "What do you consider to be your single greatest success that is unrelated to your career or your family?"

I asked this question to a few friends of mine and, as intended, it engaged us in a lengthy personal conversation about life. Mainly because we disagreed with the question, "There isn't time or energy for much work outside of my career and family!" And maybe that's okay, because the point of the question is to get to know someone, beyond the job, and find their deeper purpose, their deeper self - not what they did. Because it gets to the question of character. 

So when we struggle to find an answer outside of teaching or parenting or husbanding, that's okay, because we're not bragging about what we've done - our simple accomplishments - but the moments of growth, of inspiration, and of where we've been able to see where our work, our ideas, and our presence has been able to change the world. 

What would your answer be?


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living   Favorite Podcasts

The Saint of Dry Creek : a StoryCorp short film

Dont' sneak. . . if you sneak it means you think you're doing the wrong thing. And if you run around your whole life thinking you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul.

Damn, that's good.

StoryCorps was designed by David Irsay to "preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world," and has collected well over 50,000 stories (that number is from June, 2015). 

I first heard of David Irsay and his brilliant development of StoryCorps almost two years ago while walking through the streets of Chengdu, China. He and it was the center piece to the episode The Act of Listening from the podcast TED Radio Hour. Since that night, I've listened to hundreds of podcasts. Yet, this episode has remained one of my all time favorites. 

Thank you Eric Trauger for sending me this video!


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Favorite Podcasts  :  TED Talks  :  StoryCorps films