Don’t Talk To Strangers, Listen To Them

25 Podcasts That Can Help Change Your Life

Photo by Darío Méndez on Unsplash

You Are What (And Who) You Listen To

Few things have a greater impact on human emotion than sound. Beginning in the womb and continuing throughout adulthood, most of us live enveloped in a world of noise, music, and of course speech.

Over time, some sounds become so familiar that they go virtually unnoticed, merely existing as the background noise of our daily lives. Others, however, call out to us so profoundly, that they cannot be ignored.

Sound Is Personal

For better or for worse, these inescapable audio waves can scare us, amuse us, and even make us question our lives. The outcome is ultimately different for everyone. While we may hear or listen to the same sounds as those near us and far from us, how we interpret and experience them is entirely individual.

What is soothing to one person, can be disruptive to another — every reaction depends on one’s prior experiences and predispositions. Where you’re from, where you’ve traveled, your personal beliefs, all affect how sound makes you feel today.

Sounds create mental pictures in our heads, evoking memories that transport us to places, both good and bad. Every day, different sounds hold the potential to tie us to our past and propel us into the future — if we let them.

Sound Is Persuasive

Audio waves, especially in the form of music, also establish moods. This can be witnessed every time we walk into a store or coffee shop. Upbeat music blaring from the speakers makes us feel more awake, walk faster and make quicker (impulse?), buying decisions. Slow music, conversely, calms us down and makes us feel welcome.

Possibly the most simple example of the power of sound is the use of white noise. Machines, and now apps, programmed with specific pitches and tones create environments to help people (and babies) relax, and usually, fall asleep. Simple low-level beats, humming, birds or sounds of nature can convince our minds that a noisy New York City bedroom is instead, a peaceful Sedona spa.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is that of film audio design — likely the most powerful example of persuasion. If you haven’t, try watching any movie, especially a thriller, with the sound off. Undoubtedly, you’ll notice how important, yet overlooked, music is to the emotional journey of every good story.

Sound cues set the tone of each scene, establish characters as good or evil, and chaperone the viewer along a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Sound Is Provocative

Sound, specifically human speech, can also insight action. Whether it be a Presidential address, an anarchist’s manifesto, or a coach’s pre-game pump-up speech, words can move groups and speak to us individually.

Today, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what and who we listen to. We can choose to ignore certain segments of the press, people in our communities, and issues around the world — in favor of submerging our heads into an echo-chamber of like-minded thoughts and opinions.

What happens, however, when we seek out new and different people to listen to? What happens when we allow diverse voices into our ears and minds? Human connection, empathy, and intrigue — that’s what can happen.

Unlike the written word, speech carries with it the personality and character of each unique voice and person. Stories are more vibrant, palpable and relatable when they’re dictated to us, in-person, as well as via recordings.

Audio interviews become dynamic exchanges between people, often taking bold twists and turns — that don’t come across the same way on paper. Without the more invasive and prying eyes of video, audio can also allow people to be more of themselves. Involuntary sighs, laughter, and genuine human emotions are captured by microphones, and spilled out to listeners, conveying so much more than words can state alone.

Podcasts, for me, have been personal, persuasive and provocative conversations — and the encouragement from total strangers, I never realized I needed. Encouragement to give up everything familiar to embark on the completely unknown.

For two years, I spent every moment of my commute, walks to the grocery store, gym, coffee shops, and visits to friends and family, consuming podcasts. I began with my first passion, wine, but was quickly hooked by a variety of podcasts about business, travel, and self-improvement. As I strayed further from my comfort-zone of wine, the more my mindset changed.

I began shedding self-doubt, I began believing in the voices I carried in my pocket every day. Podcasts became my cheering squad, constantly feeding my curiosity and desire to do something different, to forge my own path. Podcasts made me believe it was possible to be creative, to have my own opinions. I was no longer complacent or satisfied with being just another employee of company X.

After years of contemplation, podcasts helped me take a leap of faith, leave NYC, and move to Italy — knowing no one. I did not go alone, however, the voices from these podcasts traveled with me to vineyards to learn about winemaking and on countless train and bus rides exploring the Italian countryside. Today, they remain with me on every walk under the beautiful portici of Bologna.

To help others pursue a life they want, I’ve created a short guide to some of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and entertaining podcasts. I hope that these can too help you change your life — or at the very least, open your ears to different voices, and your mind to new possibilities.

Business & Entrepreneurship Podcasts

How I Built This — Top-ranked NPR podcast detailing the fascinating stories of how some of today’s most important consumer brands and companies came to be household names.

The Tim Ferriss Show — One of the most well-known and successful podcasts out there. Tim provides in-depth (and long) interviews with top performers, entrepreneurs, and business people from all walks of life. His podcast will make you question your limits and challenge yourself.

Inc. Uncensored — If you’re looking for insight into some of the fastest-growing companies and entrepreneurs, check out Inc. Magazine’s informative and entertaining podcast. They cover trending weekly news items, as well as provide teasers about the magazine’s feature stories and exciting new businesses they are reporting on.

Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman — Co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid profiles high-profile businesses who’ve achieved what many strive for, and few reach, massive scale.

Positively Gotham Gal — Joanne Wilson, founder of Gotham Gal Ventures, and The Women’s Entrepreneur Festival, interviews female founders to shed light on how to best navigate the ever-changing start-up world.

The School of Greatness — A former athlete, Lewis Howes, takes listeners on a journey into the minds of highly successful, sometimes famous, personalities, musicians, athletes, business owners and more.

The Podcast Dude — For people like myself, who are interested in starting a podcast. Aaron Dowd, producer and host takes you through tactical and practical ways to get started, stay motivated and achieve your podcast goals!

Podcasts For Travel Lovers

Extra Pack of Peanuts — Like catching up with old friends, that’s how I’d describe the light-hearted podcast from husband and wife team, Travis and Heather Sherry. Podcasting since 2013, they share their personal travel stories, city guides, best-of lists, and interviews with other adventurers from around the world. They’ve built a location-independent lifestyle, based around traveling as much as they can, and they want to help you do the same.

Podcast from Italy- Get an unedited, inside look, at life in rural Italy from Ashley and Jason Bartner. 12 years ago, this young couple moved from NYC to Le Marche, Italy to open an agriturismo (inn) and cooking school, in the middle of nowhere.

On their sporadic podcast, they chat about everyday farm life, cooking, and the many, often hilarious, lessons they’ve learned along the way. Ashley and Jason helped me believe that a new life in Italy was attainable, for those who wanted it badly enough.

Travel with Rick Steves — Rick Steves needs no introduction, he is the original king of guidebooks and inciting wanderlust. He and his travel expert guests take you through interesting countries, cities, and traditions around the world.

Andy Steves’ Travel — Rick Steves’ son, Andy, didn’t fall far from the tree. Andy’s podcast is geared towards backpacker travelers, looking for affordable travel tips and destinations.

JUMP with Traveling Jackie — Originally a budget travel blogger/podcaster, Jackie now based in the US, inspires travelers through a variety of interviews and guides to great destinations. She also hosts trips to South America.

Taste of Prague- An interesting podcast from a terrific local tour company, of the same name, in Prague, Czech Republic. Owner Jan, interviews local chefs, business owners and people in the tourism industry, to provide listeners a taste of local life and how the city has changed. He also does on-location podcasts with food and wine professionals from other travel destinations around the world.

Food, Wine, and Restaurant Podcasts

VinePair — An entertaining podcast from a drinks media brand of the same name. Join co-founder Adam Teeter and sommelier Zach Geballe, in weekly banter about current beverage industry news.

In the Drink- The most influential podcast on my wine journey is from restauranteur and sommelier, Joe Campanale. Today, the owner of two wine-focused restaurants in Brooklyn (Fausto and LaLaou), Joe was part of the original team at the Epicurean Group, who own L’Artusi, Anfora, dell’Anima, and other highly acclaimed Italian food and wine spots in New York.

Originally part of Heritage Radio Network, Joe has been interviewing incredible winemakers from Italy, as well as influential people in the world of natural wine. He’s passionate, articulate and has a great rapport with guests.

All in the Industry — Shari Bayer, PR pro and food lover hosts a fun and informative podcast on all things restaurant industry. Get an inside look into kitchens, chefs’ lives and the food scene of cities across America with Shari’s lighthearted approach. Tune in live or listen to the weekly podcasts on Heritage Radio Network.

The David Chang Show — David Chang, a tremendously successful chef/ restaurateur gives a humble and earnest look at life at the helm of a growing empire. He is charismatic, raw and relatable. Whether recounting trials and tribulations of his own life or chatting with colleagues in the industry, Dave gives you a taste of his world and makes you hungry for more.

The Grape Nation — A great place to start for novice to intermediate wine aficionados. Every week, Sam Benrubi and his wine industry guests taste and talk about wine and what’s happening in different corners of the industry. Touted as the un-snobby wine podcast, the interviews are delivered in an easy-going format to make learning more fun.

Italian Wine Podcast — If you’re looking for in-depth interviews with Italian winemakers, and experts, look no further than Monty Waldin’s podcast. Not for the beginner, as some shows can get quite detailed, search the 275-episode archive to see if any of your favorite winemakers have been profiled. In addition to a podcaster, Monty is a wine writer, maker and proponent of natural and biodynamic wines.

Speaking Broadly — Another great Heritage Radio Network podcast is from Dana Cowin, the long-time editor of Food & Wine magazine. Dana interviews women in the world of food and sometimes wine, sharing inspirational stories, hardships and lessons learned.

Wine For Normal People — Elizabeth Schneider, a wine writer, author, and long-time podcaster, talks about wine in an approachable, “normal” way. Often chatting with her husband, a wine drinker with little factual knowledge, the two cover topics, and common questions casual and curious wine drinkers will find helpful. Elizabeth also interviews wine experts, winemakers (usually from the US), and hosts online tasting classes and events.

Podcasts For History Buffs & The Ever-Curious

Hidden Brain — NPR is awesome. That said, Hidden Brain explains stories of human behavior and society in a fun and understandable way. The well-researched podcasts truly make you think, wonder and question so much of how things exist around us today.

Stuff You Should Know — This not too serious podcast about sometimes serious topics, helps you discover random facts, people and historical events, you never knew you cared about. Hosts, Josh and Chuck, keep the show lively and lighthearted, breaking down obscure topics for us all to comprehend.

Freakonomics Radio — Another top-rated podcast hails from the author of the Freakonomics books, Stephen J. Dubner. He interviews intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and experts from all sorts of fields, shedding light on the complex intricacies of global economics and culture.

TED Radio Hour — If you’ve ever watched a TED talk, you’ll love TED Radio Hour, covering similar topics, revisiting previous talks and airing brand new interviews with fascinating guests. Learn about everything from human psychology to business, to art, and humanity.

Fresh Air — As its name suggests, Fresh Air covers topical and contemporary issues facing us all today. Interesting guests and deep dives into modern-day life give you a fresh perspective every week on NPR.

The sheer number and variety of podcasts available today are enormous, so if none of the above spark your interest, I encourage you to take a few minutes to search (Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.) for ones that speak to your passion, test drive a few shows and then let serendipity do the rest.

Founder of GrapeRevival.com, a natural wine & travel brand. I write about life lessons, personal growth, ex-pat life, & wine. Always curious. In Bologna, Italy.

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