Treating podcasts like medicine

Afterthoughts: The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

Afterthoughts: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

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Tradition dictates that listening to a podcast is a fairly laid-back exercise; it is something you do to relax or to keep the mind ticking while doing chores. Pick a podcast, and even a specific episode, is an art more than it is a science. You want to pick something engaging, or for lack of a better phrase, something that will not bore you to death. Whether your poison is entertainment, comedy, or philosophy, there are podcasts and related episodes that serve pretty much every niche. This method of choosing something to listen to is what I would describe as reactive in the sense the decision is a response to your individual sensibilities, tastes, and preferences.

The nature of podcasts is that they are easily consumed in parallel to often menial work or activities. That is why the industry of podcasts have spawned seemingly out of the blue from being a niche form of media to competing with video and music. If you are doing chores, exercising, or commuting, I would wager listening to a podcast would be high up on the list of things do in parallel.

So why then do I say they can be like medicine? To understand this, I first need to introduce the idea of how we learn to internalise beliefs. The short answer is repetition, and the long answer is a lot of repetition. Our minds are exposed to a lot of different ideas everyday, and most of them go in one ear and out the other. The more we are exposed to something, the more likely we are to believe it irrespective of the “quality” of the argument. For example, you could watch a documentary about the idea of living with a plant-based diet. It could be filled with unequivocally clear and logical arguments as to why everyone on the planet should adopt the diet. If, however, that was your first and only exposure to it, the prospect of changing to it would be as strange as if someone asked you to run an ultra-marathon. No matter how logical the arguments may sound, you need to become comfortable with the idea of going plant-based, and the only way to do that is more exposure to it. This could mean spending time with people who are plant-based, reading books on the topic, or listening to podcasts about it. Listening to podcasts about something you want to develop a habit of is the most time-effective method of getting there compared to the other two.

Podcasts are like medicine because if you know you want to integrate something new into your lifestyle, the most frictionless way to do it is to consistently listen to podcasts on the topic. The best part of this is that you don’t even need to be paying your full attention to what is being said. Over time, the lessons and language will sink in to the point where it is a no-brainer to do so.

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