Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Feed Your Inner Brainiac: Blogs & Podcasts to Fuel the Fire - Part 2 of 2



Feeding your brain doesn't need to be restricted to reading books.  There are many great in-depth blogs and podcasts that can get you there too.

In the previous post I listed some of my recent favorite books to fuel your interests, plant new seeds, and get you excited about learning.

In this post, I’m giving you my favorite blogs and podcasts, with specific articles and episodes from the last six months that have influenced me to think a bit more and harder.

Let me know what you think and if there are some you’d recommend.

Blogs
  • Farnam Street
    The site slogan says it all: "Upgrade Your Thinking"!

    That's exactly what you get out of this site.  The site was founded by Shane Parrish, "a former cybersecruity expert with Canada's top intelligence agency" (link to article by The New York Times). That certainly got my attention and interest to find out what this guy had to say. 

    The site is an aggregate of blogs about deep learning, mental models, how to read better, among many other topics on the subject of learning.  Parrish recommends slow reading to internalize many of the concepts he presents.  In fact, I got turned on to him after reading his Medium article on how Speed Reading is Bullshit.

    Be forewarned: though he has many articles that are shorter, there are some that take 30 to 60 minutes to read.  They're all well worth it.
  • Design Luck by Zat Rana
    Zat Rana is another author whose works published on Medium got me interested in his blog, Design Luck.

    His blog focuses on psychology, sociology and philosophy. He has an interesting take on happiness and meaning of life or, as he likes to call it, "The Simple Art of Not Being Miserable". 

    I loved reading It's not What You Know. It's How You Think to learn that all struggles boil down to an internal one to make sense of the world by finding patterns that help us navigate it. It smacks of the mental models concept from Farnam Street, with a more philosophical / historical take on it.

    I've tended to set goals in my life, many far reaching and long-term with shorter-term milestones to help me get there. I've had some disappointments, but it's largely worked for me. 

    However, I got a whole new perspective about goals when I read Zat's All Goals Are Problematic -- Except One. It's a great exploration about setting a direction and evaluating at any point whether what you're doing is working toward that direction.  It reminded me of The One Thing book, recommended in the previous article.
  • Wait But Why
    The Wait But Why blog's an oldie in the sense that the newest article on here is from April 2017.  However, these articles are so well researched, referenced, and important that they're worth a read.

    I can't recall how I found this blog.  The site's authors originally envisioned selling artifacts that were related to their articles, though I'm not sure that system worked out. I certainly didn't buy any, but I appreciated what they'd put together.

    My favorite reads are parts of multi-series articles, each of which will take you anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to read.  They are best read over a few days to allow for digestion of the concepts.

    I recommend the series about Elon Musk and how his vision will change our future, The AI Revolution that delves into the possible outcomes of AI and what it could mean for human's evolution or extinction, and the very tactical but eye-opening article on Your Life in Weeks where you realize how much productive time you really have.

    Although this is an older blog, there are A LOT of posts here that you can spend weeks reading.  I'm still digging through their archives via an email subscription that recycles the material. 

Podcasts
I admit, I'm late to the whole podcast thing, but there are a few that I find interesting.
  • Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam
    Holly cow, is this a good podcast!

    I listened to one of his repeat podcasts on NPR One and I was hooked.  One of my relatives had talked about his podcasts and how they focus on science and sociology, with an emphasis on science.  Shankar brings together some of the best minds in the world to talk about current events and sociology topics, providing results of many studies that seem counter-intuitive.

    I loved listening to BS Jobs: How Meaningless Work Wears Us Down to understand the psychology of such scenarios...and how to get out of them.

    My want to get outdoors was reinforced once I better understood why we need to be around greenery in his podcast on Our Better Nature: How the Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life.

    I was very surprised by how our genetic coding AND reinforcements through family and society make for predictable markers of our politics as individuals and society when I heard Nature, Nurture And Your Politics.  This one tied in well with his next podcast about the reasons many Americans voted for Trump in Voting With A Middle Finger: Two Views On The White Working Class. I came away from it having a much better understanding of the pains of middle class America.
  • Bag Man by Rachel Maddow
    I know there are many who don't like Rachel Maddow, given she's an MSNBC news anchor and left leaning.  I take what she says with a grain of salt and think she's very good on finding details to bubble them up to our attention, however she decides to interpret them.

    I happened on her mini-series podcast, Bag Man, via NPR One (have I given away my politics yet?).  It's about the partially-forgotten first Vice President of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew.  As it turns out, he was a very polarizing figure and a crook, involved in many payoffs before AND during his time in the White House. 

    This was a fascinating story in what it revealed about the techniques corrupt politicians use to manipulate the media, some of which has been employed more so in the last few years to rile up Americans against each other. 

    I found a great many lessons in the podcasts that have helped me better consume media and understand the political games, as well as how to have civil conversations with people who have opposing perspectives.
  • Duolingo
    I'm sure many have heard of Duolingo, the app, for leaning a new language. I've been using it to learn and reinforce what little Spanish I know.

    As I wanted to get a better ear for Spanish speaking people, I tuned in to the Duolingo Podcast and I was not disappointed.  Not only is this a great way of hearing native Spanish speaking folks speaking their own dialect from around the world, the stories they tell are fascinating.  They focus on day to day adventures and struggles of people in those countries.

    The podcasts ended up not only helping me better understand the spoken language, but get a better world view without necessarily traveling to all the places they referenced.
Bonus
Though it doesn't fit in as a blog or podcast, one of the best subscriptions I've purchased is to Medium.  It's where I first learned of Shane Parrish and Zat Rana. There are many great articles posted here daily and anyone can find something they're interested in.

As a final bonus, I highly recommend using Pocket for saving articles in a central location to read later, archive, take notes on, and generally better consume them when you're able to.  This is a great tool to ensure you're NOT speed reading and truly digesting the content.

Enjoy!