Every Business Owner Should Listen to These 3 Very Non-Business (But Very British) Podcasts
The problems of one person or one business are seldom significant in the context of a big world with a long, long history. Paradoxically, that is very comforting.
Because I live in a city I do a lot of walking. Because I have a number of clients to visit I do a lot of driving. Because I speak frequently I frequently travel. Back in the day I used to listen to a lot of music. I still do. But nowadays I also listen to podcasts. I use an app called Castbox where I subscribe to about 15 or so of my favorites and bookmark specific episodes to go back and listen to whenever I have time.
Are they business related? No.
Maybe it's because I read a lot of business content every day. Or maybe it's because I'm so absorbed in my business that I need a break. But even though I don't listen to business podcasts, the ones I do listen to are having a big impact on how I manage my life...and my company. So let me share with you three great podcasts that aren't business related, but will help you manage your business -- and your world -- just a little better.
Warning: they're all British and they're all from the BBC. I'm not sure why that is, but who cares? All three are excellent.
The first is In Our Time. This is a weekly interview show where the longtime host, Melvynn Bragg, sits down with a panel of stuffy, sometimes arrogant, usually brilliant and always very-British academics -- professors from Cambridge, Oxford, University College London and the like -- to discuss a single topic in history for an hour. How did the Dutch East India Company become the largest corporation in the world and did you know it had its own military and currency? How did shopkeepers manage to profit under Augustus? What was it like during 1565's Seige of Malta or 1478's Spanish Inquisition? How has penicillin changed society and why did the Maya civilization become so powerful?
Each panelist is an expert in their field. They discusses the topic with Bragg and each other, and I promise you that you'll be much smarter after the hour's over. More importantly, you'll find yourself putting your stupid, little, meaningless life and the inconsequential blip of a business that you run into historical perspective. We all need a little of that.
The second podcast I love is called Desert Island Discs. The program, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, has always run on the same premise: the person being interviewed is "forced" to be left on a desert island and can only bring eight pieces of music with them. What will they be? Stephen Hawking chose Mozart's Requiem as one of his eight, Bill Gates is a David Bowie fan and David Beckham would bring, among others, the Doobie Brothers "What A Fool Believes." But it's not the music - it's the stories behind the music and why the "castaway" chose each song. During the typically 30-minute interview you'll get an in-depth look into both the famous and not-so-famous people's lives who you normally don't hear on mainstream shows. You'll learn how a World War II fighter pilot (Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown) kept his cool during the Battle of Britain, how the leader of Britain's fascist party (Lady Mosley) deals with people who hate her, and what really frightened a famous American actress (Marlene Dietrich). By listening to the life stories of interesting people you will find yourself better defining your own story life story...and purpose.
Finally, I love The Last Word because I love obituaries. I know that sounds morbid but c'mon...do you ever think about that guy sitting on the subway across from you or the elderly lady in the supermarket line and what they did in their lives? When you ask, you learn.
On The Last Word, another weekly BBC show that's been on for decades, you get the stories of five interesting people from around the world who all shared the same morbid fate: they just died. The hosts on this show interview friends, family and colleagues who knew them. You find out about people you've never heard of who did incredible things during their lives. Among those dearly departed recently profiled were Peter Arthur Firmin (an artist and puppet maker that founded a company that made a number of popular children's programs), Khurshid Hassan Drabu (an English judge, law lecturer and Muslim community leader who was the first Muslim to be a judge in Britain) and Ingvar Kamprad (the founder of Ikea).
No, these podcasts don't tell me how to increase cash flow, hire employees or buy technology. They don't offer advice on starting up a business or getting a loan. They tell stories of people and events in history. From these stories I learn better how to deal with the events and problems in my own life and business. From these three podcasts I've learned that very ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things and that history does indeed repeat itself. All of this keeps me grounded, sane and better prepared to deal with the day-to-day problems of balancing a family life while running a small company.
I'm always looking for more good podcasts like these. And no, they don't have to be British! Any suggestions?
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