The Podcast Wanderer

The Podcast Wanderer

On March I listened to 73 episodes from 45 different podcasts. Many of those shows were new to me, and there’s a good chance I won’t come back to many of them again. That’s not because those shows were bad — It’s simply because only one particular episode intrigued me, so I already got what I wanted from them.  

I like to think of myself as a “podcast wanderer.” This is a term I came up with to describe people who listen to standalone episodes from many different podcasts.

(I also considered “podcast nomad” or “nomad listener” but right now I like “wanderer” because of the song by Dion which describes the way I treat podcasts so well)

I’m much like Dion, but instead of being capricious towards women, it’s towards podcasts.

Where an episode comes from does not matter to me. What matters are the topics discussed or who the guests are. That’s why I’m not very loyal to any particular podcast.

I think sticking to a few shows increases the chances that I’ll listen to mediocre episodes. Or, if not mediocre, then episodes that I’m just not that interested in. So I jump from podcast to podcast to maximize my enjoyment.

Of course, that’s not the case with story-based shows which are meant to be fully consumed. I’m talking about the majority of podcasts that are standalone interviews.

I wonder how many people treat podcasts the way I do. Are you one of them?

Right now, there are many companies in the podcast industry, whether it’s an app or a site, that are focused on helping me discover new shows. However, not many are focused on helping me discover specific episodes!

I think there’s a missed opportunity there.

Edit: to try and fill this need in my own little way, I’ve decided to create a Twitter account that helps people find good episodes. It’s called The Podcast Wanderer. Follow me there if you like!

Surrounding yourself with successful people (through podcasts!)

Being around successful people is empowering. It causes you to expand your idea of how far you can reach. This is why I believe growing up in big cities — specifically places with a high concentration of successful people and an abundance of opportunities — can be a huge boost.

To not raise your children in that environment (if you have the means to do it comfortably) borders on negligence. But that’s a topic for another day.

I often hear the quote, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” I couldn’t agree with it more.

I wasn’t around many successful people growing up. In fact, I was around people who were the opposite of successful. As a result, I had a hard time believing I was capable of much.

I’m barely waking up to my potential and it’s largely thanks to podcasts.

Through the medium I’ve been able to fill the hole that my immediate environment neglects. Thanks to podcasts, I’ve been in the room with hundreds (if not thousands) of highly successful people. This has expanded my idea of what I’m capable of.

Even if I never reach their level of success, I will still go further than I previously thought possible.

Podcasts are so awesome.

Don’t be a completist

How many chapters have gone unread because I didn’t want to take on the whole book?

How many days of exercise have I skipped because I didn’t want to drain myself completely?

How many blog posts have gone unwritten because I didn’t have a neat conclusion?

I bet if I wasn’t determined to have conventional standards from the start, I would learn and grow a lot faster.

My Favorite Podcasts of March 2019

My Favorite Podcasts of March 2019

I love podcasts. I often say they have educated me more than school ever did. The more time passes, the more this is true. The problem is that the more time passes, the more podcasts there are, and the more podcasts there are, the harder it is to choose what to listen to. That's why I started publicly documenting all the podcasts I listen to in the hope of helping people make more informed decisions. (see table above)

I wish everyone did the same. In an age where information is basically unlimited, we need more curators! Well as they say, be the change you want to see in the world.

I'm already documenting the podcasts I listen to, but I think I'm going to take it a step further and post about my favorite listens at the end of each month. Because why not make it easier for you?


On March, I listened to 72 episodes from 45 different podcasts. This added up to 63 hours worth. (Though I listen to a lot of them at 2x speed, or more)

Here are my 5 favorite episodes in no particular order:

Mike Solana: Problems inventing the future, Problem Sighted

Mike (@micsolana) is the vice president of Founders Fund, a venture capital firm founded by Peter Thiel. This was my first time hearing about Mike. Now I'm a fan, and not just because he's a libertarian. 

This episode showcases a view of the future from the perspective of a story teller.  And let me tell you, it looks awesome.

He argues that there's a disconnect between how technology is perceived and how great the possibilities are. He challenges the all too common, pessimistic view of our future. I found this refreshing.  

The part that stuck with me the most was Mike's argument that wealth grows. He brought up the fact that there are thousands of billionaires when, not too long ago, there was only one. (I just looked it up. There's 2,208!) And this has not resulted in us having less wealth. In fact, we have more.

Eric Weinstein: Revolutionary Ideas in Science, Math, and Society, Artificial Intelligence

Seemingly in response to the previous podcast, this conversation between Lex Fridman (@lexfridman) and Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) has a more pessimistic take on technology (particularly AI). Eric expresses a strong concern about AI. He argues that even if things seem to be going fine, the bad things are still there, only in the form of potential energy. That idea really grabbed me.

Despite the gloominess, I think this episode has best-of-the-year potential. It was full of interesting ideas and it was challenging. I think Lex and Eric make a great duo — I would love to see them together again. Maybe they should even start their own podcast!

This episode touches on way more topics than AI — it also covers capitalism, Kung Fu Panda, academics, 14 dimensional observerse (whatever the hell that is) and more. If you're looking for an intellectual rollercoaster, then this it. But first, I should warn you it can get pretty mind-bending. Basically, you must be this smart to ride 👉 160 IQ.

Daniel Kahneman: The Map of Misunderstanding, Making Sense With Sam Harris

This podcast is very much like the one above — it presents interesting after interesting ideas. Ideas that are so unique and yet so simple in retrospect (my favorite kind!). This is my first time ever hearing about Daniel Kahneman. How that's possible I do not know. 

In this episode I learned that some of the most celebrated studies are riddled with bias, and therefore not replicable. "The more surprising a result is the less likely it is correct."

I also learned that our intuition betrays us when making moral decisions. For example, showing a picture of a poor girl in need makes us give more than if we were shown a picture of the same girl and her brother. And the amount we give drops drastically when we are shown many more kids in need. This is a very interesting revelation, which I think explains why there is moral panic about (in my opinion) small things and indifference towards (imo) big things. 

This podcast is 2 hours long, so you can be sure to hear many more interesting ideas. 

Dave Gerhardt: Legendary Marketing Lightning Strike, Follow Your Different

This podcast introduced me to three big things which I'm now very interested in: Dave Gerhardt and David Cancel (my new favorite people to learn from), category design, and conversational marketing (aka chatbots).

This podcast gave me a new understanding on marketing: now that companies pretty much have the same technology, it's the relationship between you and your customers that makes you stand out.

Ever since hearing this episode, I've gone down a rabbit hole of chatbots and conversational marketing. At this point, I'm fully sold that this is the future of marketing and I'm excited to learn more. 

It's also worth mentioning that I really like the chemistry between Dave and the host, Christopher Lochhead

If you like this episode, you should listen to the one with David Cancel too.

Mike Solana: How Capitalism Will Get Us to Mars and Beyond, Reason Podcast

After listening to Solana for the first time on the Problems Sighted podcast, I knew I wanted to hear more. So I did. 

Even though it's a repeated guest, I feel the need to include this episode on the list because it includes the story of how he got to meet and work for Peter Thiel. It was a cool story of right place, right time. Of course, this is not to take away from his proactive past that got him there in the first place.

In this episode, I learned a bit about Thiel's peculiar personality. I loved it.

It also includes an awesome rant about capitalism vs socialism at the end. 

Because you get to know more about Mike as a person, I recommend you listen to this one before the other one.


So thats the best of the month according to me. What about you? Let me know. I really love getting recommendations. You can reach me through my Twitter or however else you see fit.

Why I left college

I dropped out of college for the same reason an atheist stops attending church: I refused to suspend my disbelief any longer. Specifically, I stopped blindly accepting the narrative that says you need college to have a great career.

During high school, I attended a school named IDEA. Boasting a 100% college acceptance rate, the only purpose of an IDEA public school was to prepare and get kids into college. They are like Catholic schools but, instead of worshipping God, we worshipped higher education. 

During my time there, my teachers and counselors enforced the idea that if I didn’t go to college, my chances of having a great career would drastically diminish. To question that assumption, or to entertain the idea that maybe not all kids are best served by a 4 year university, was blasphemy. They expected your full cooperation in their goal to get that 100% acceptance rate. Because nothing screams education like not being allowed to think and make decisions for yourself.

Back then, I accepted the doctrine — I believed that college would teach me the skills that employers value. That is, until I reached the promised land. 

College was not too different from high school. The classes were just a bit more challenging and I had more freedom. While those things were great, a major question still bugged me: how much of what I'm doing in class is connected to launching a great career? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was taking it on faith that my academic work would translate to the real world. 

I saw the same doubt in other students too. But they just "knew" they needed that degree, so they followed the ritual.

I spent three years in college, yet I didn't feel any more employable than before. It wasn’t until I changed my major for the third time that I started to be honest with myself about the fact that school was not a good option for me and my goals. I had a strong need to feel that my line of study had a tangible use for something that I cared about. I wanted something more realistic and less ritualistic.

Though it was painful, I stopped attending college. Instead I decided to try my hand at creating an online business. It was a site where I reviewed hunting gear. Through this endeavor I learned lots of useful things, like how to create a website and how to write for an audience. 

The biggest thing I learned, however, was that I always had the ability to directly make things happen for myself. I never needed to wait for permission from a higher power to start creating awesome things that other people value. I believe this “permissionless mindset" is the most valuable thing a person can learn: it will create many more opportunities than a generic degree ever could. 

If you’re a high school student, I urge you to examine what it is you want out of your life, and then think critically about how to get there. It’s likely you will find that most of what you learn (and soon forget) from college won’t be needed. 

I know there are lots of job listings that say you need a degree, but more often than not you can bypass that. Because in reality, employers don’t care about what you can do in a classroom, they care about what you can do for them. Find out how to prove your worth. With the time and money you would have spent for college, I bet you’re smart enough to figure out how to get your foot in many more doors than a degree ever could.

Oh and if you don’t yet know what it is you want, I recommend reading Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. It’s a book I wish a had read back when I was in high school (although it didn’t exist yet).

Be unapologetic about your methods.

Some people argue about the superiority of old-fashion reading. They may have a point, since there are studies which conclude it helps you retain more information than listening.

Even if that’s true, I think it is wrong to look down on people who choose to listen rather than read. The reason why is because there’s something valuable about removing friction.

I once heard someone tell a story about a person asking his priest what translation of the bible he should get. The priest replied with, “the one that you’ll actually read.” In this exchange lies a very valuable lesson: choosing a path that you’ll stick with is better than choosing a "superior" option that you won’t stick with. Because something is infinitely better than nothing.

That might seem obvious, but I’m willing to bet we’ve all, at some point, missed out on personal progress just because we viewed the path with less friction as inferior, and yet failed to commit to the superior path. 

I started to listen to audiobooks around 2010. I did read the old-fashion way before (and still do sometimes), but once I switched, the amount of books I finished increased significantly. Without audiobooks, and the friction they removed, there are a lot of books I wouldn’t have consumed at all. 

Sometimes I consume books by listening to the narrator (or text-to-speech) AND reading along. I’ve found that this complete immersion helps me retain information better while still reducing the effort of reading myself. (Could this be more superior than just reading?)

Anyway, my point is that we should not stigmatize audiobooks.

Sometimes it's best to do what you find more appealing because it will be your best bet for personal progress. Don’t worry if it’s objectively worse in a vacuum. Be unapologetic about your methods.

Breaking Smart Notes # 4

Name of Essay: Purist Versus Pragmatists

There are two approaches to technology:

Purist

  • Not agile. 
  • Precious about the way things should be.
  •  Careful about keeping technology pure.
  • Mixing and matching is not welcome.
  • Start complex.

Pragmatist  

  • Agile. 
  • Not precious about the way things should be.
  • Leave out what doesn't work.
  • Mixing and matching is welcome.
  • Start simple.
  • creative

In the late 90s there were passionate debates about browsers and the future of the internet. 

  • There were purists that didn't like the messy way in which the browser was developing. 
  • Pragmatists saw the browser evolving as it should: embodying many contending ideas.
    • The vision of pragmatists eventually won when it came to the future of the internet. 

The pragmatic approach to technology is the dominant way that software is used.

This pragmatic, agile approach to building things has spread to things other than the internet: engineering, business, politics.  

Purist building was necessary back then—because if you failed the first time, you might not get another chance—but not anymore. 

  • Trial and error was too risky and slow, so productivity was favored over creativity.

With the help of smaller and cheaper computers, hands-on hacking became possible. 

  • programers turned from an interchangeable member of a large team to a uniquely creative hacker who pursued personal goals.   

A group of researchers called the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) set out to lay out what would become the "government" of the internet. 

  • Their pragmatist beliefs is embodied in this quote: "We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code."

In the 80's Japan set out on a purist, government-led approach to software. They hit a dead end, while the pragmatic U.S. created the modern internet. 

The pragmatic approach is the best approach in every field now that everything is eaten by software.

Breaking Smart Notes # 3

Name of Essay: Towards a Mass Flourishing

These essays are not about answering 'what' or 'when' — they are about explaining 'how'

  • instead of trying to predict the future, and therefore limiting ourselves, we need to have a hacker ethos.
    • trying to predict the future is of a "pastoral mindset." It causes us to be attached to a 'what' and 'when' which is costly if we're wrong.
    • Inventing the future is easier than predicting it.

Small teams are better than corporations. "Small enough to be fed by two pizzas."

  • Because it's more flexible. More opportunity for experimentation.
  • Long term, strict and expensive scripts (like school) will have a diminishing role in shaping the future.

There are four characteristics of how the future will emerge:

  1. As collaboration technologies improve, the innovative culture from Silicon Valley will spread.
  2. It will unfold through small two pizza groups who will have very large impacts. 
  3. Gradual improvement of well-being and quality of life will increase across the world.
    • It won't be smooth but the overall trend will be upwards.
  4. Rapid decline in the cost of solutions to problems. From everything to education and healthcare. 

This positive incline can can be called "slouching utopia": a condition of gradual, increasing quality of life available, at gradually declining cost, to a gradually expanding portion of the global population. 

The future of work

People will engage in satisfying new needs in ways that can't be anticipated. 

While we can't predict exactly what the work will be the future, we can say that it will "take on an experimental, trial-and-error character." 

  • work will be about getting constant feedback and improvement. Constant learning. (hacker ethos)

Work will be challenging and therefore fulfilling. The unchallenging and predictable work will be taken by machines. 

  • That vision is called 'mass flourishing', coined by Edmund Phelps.

We are "slouching towards a consumer and producer utopia"

That may sound overly dramatic but — when you take into consideration how language and money has changed humanity, and realize that software is even more powerful than those — it is not so crazy to think that. 

Breaking Smart Notes # 2

Name of essay: Getting Reoriented

Software is eating the world.

We underestimate the increasing power of software. 

4 Reasons why. First 3 are not unique to this software era.

  1. Technological change unfolds exponentially (like compound interest) — we overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate in the long run.
  2. During the transition, it gets chaotic. We shift our attention from the quiet change to the economic crises, political affairs and apocalyptic fears. 
  3. Impact of software appears in disguised form. i.e. drones appear to be driven by hardware innovations, but it was mostly software innovations.
  4. The most important and unique takeaway is that we underestimate this revolution because it is led by “brash young kids rather than sober adults."

Using software as leverage, people don’t have to follow a strict social order to create economic, political and social wealth, unlike before. 

To get ahead, you must adopt a hacker ethos — "a problem solving sensibility based on rapid trial-and-error and creative improvisation. "

Software has disrupted the traditional life script, which went like this: 12 years of regimented industrial schooling, 4 years devoted to specialization, lifetime employment with predictable seniority-based promotions, and middle-class lifestyles.

  • “Instead of software, the traditional script runs on what we might call paperware: bureaucratic processes constructed from the older soft technologies of writing and money. Instead of the hackers ethos of flexible and creative improvisation, it is based on the credentials ethos of degrees, certification, licenses and regulations. Instead of being based on achieving financial autonomy early, it is based on taking significant debt (for college and home ownership) early.”
    • This was once a life style that worked but not anymore. Despite that, many people are still following that path and betting on the old social order. 

Software is a Promethean technology: it emerged within a mature, industrial social order (AT&T, IBM, DARPA, MIT), but its true potential was unleashed by an emerging one (Silicon Valley), which gains power as a result. 

Each of us are faced with a dilemma: "should I abandon some of my investments in the industrial social order and join the dynamic new social order, or hold on to the status quo as long as possible?”

  • While some are breaking out of it, others are choosing to hold on to it more tenaciously than ever.
    • the latter can be said to have a “pastoral mindset” — one marked by yearning for lost or unattained utopias.
  • “The future depends on increasing numbers of people choosing the Promethean option."

My Thoughts

The main takeaway I got from this essay is the importance of shifting our mindset. To get ahead in this new wold dominated by software, we need to embrace the uncertainties. We need to be open to experiment and stop relying on the predictable and rigid path that was laid out during the industrial era.  

To do this, we need to adopt an entrepreneurial sensibility, where we do less planning and more creating through trial-and-error. Software is so accessible that anyone connected to the developing world can be like this.

This essay elicits frustration from me because, when I look around, I see many people betting on the old path. I see many young kids being put on a system that no longer sets them up for success. I see many parents that believe in the importance of traditional school and college more than ever. I see many people who think the solution to our lagging educational system is to throw more money at it. 

Many people are unknowingly setting themselves up, or being set up, for failure. This will continue unless they fundamentally change their mindset.

Breaking Smart Notes # 1

Name of Essay: A New Soft Technology

Software started blowing up around the year 2000. It existed before, but it was mostly used to solve problems of the industrial age rather than to explore possibilities.

"After written language and money, software is only the third major soft technology to appear in human civilization."

Soft technology: an innovation that can be used in a variety of physical forms.

  • think of money - it can be embodied in credit cards, checks, paper, coins, precious metals.
  • similarly, software can be embodied in any sort of computing hardware. 
    • Unlike money, though, software can be applied to almost everything — from cars to light bulbs. Eventually, hardware will be so cheap that software will be in everything. (it’s eating the world!) This vision is called the Internet of Things.

The societal impact if software is more profound than what economic numbers show. For example, it has allowed young people who aren't in any labor statistics to learn programming and contribute to open-source projects, and get to a professional level quickly.  This is what it means to break smart.

  • "Breaking smart: an economic actor using early mastery of emerging technological leverage to wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future." 

Today, a kid could create so much economic value with just a computer and an internet connection. The return of investment can easily be as significant as paying 100k over 4 years to acquire a degree. In the most extreme cases it can be as significant as the creation of a new industry. 

  • an extreme example is when Shawn Fanning created Napster as a teen, which created an explosion in independent music production. 

Because of the fact that computing potential is constantly increasing we are headed towards the collective vision called the Internet of Things.

  • Putting a chip and software into everything is estimated to bring around 2.7 to 14 trillion in economic value: comparable to the entire GDP of the US

Software & Ridesharing

The story of Uber and Lyft can explain the subtle yet profound impact that software has on the economy.

At first these companies seemed like they were just an easy way to finding and paying for rides. Then it became obvious that they completely eliminated human dispatchers and lowered the level of expertise required for driver. It also solved the problem of trust and safety through GPS tracking and ratings.

All of that allowed for an increase in driver supply and lowering of cost.

This ridesharing revolution has had second-hand effects

  • The increased convenience created more careless lifestyles.
  • People now are willing to go to places where it was inconvenient before with public transportation
  • Suburbanization, which is driven in part by car ownership, is being disrupted
  • Lower demand of cars. This leads to lowered lifestyle cost and spare money that is used for other things.

The software infrastructure used for ridesharing is effecting businesses like delivery services and is paving the way for driverless cars. 

Our relationship to cars is changing

  • "To generations of Americans, owning a car represented freedom. To the next generation, not owning a car will represent freedom."

All of these changes are occurring essentially because of one app.


"The impact is more than economic. Every aspect of the global industrial social order is being transformed by software."

  • Just like how language and money, but A LOT more powerful. Software can go wherever money and language can go and beyond. "Software can also eat both, and take them to places they can't go alone."

Because the impact is so dramatic, the risk of being on the wrong side of this transformation is costly. This is true at all levels: from individuals to businesses to nations.

My Thoughts

This essay helped me understand how a technology's effect could be subtle yet profound. It now makes sense to me how the future of software is being underestimated.