Recently, the Butler team read John C. Maxwell’s How Successful People Think, which has gotten me thinking about … well, how I think. One of Maxwell’s maxims is that “People can change the way they think,” and I agree entirely. By feeding your brain novel ideas, stories, and frameworks, you can push your thinking in new directions. You can find points of inspiration that help you solve “unsolvable” problems, and achieve “unachievable” goals.
To push my own thinking in new directions, I listen to a number of podcasts that focus almost entirely on telling unique stories, or presenting new ideas from odd angles. On the surface, none of these podcasts has anything to do with my “work.” But each of them has inspired me to take action in both my personal and professional life, and each has changed the way I think.
In the spirit of “Thinking Unselfishly,” I want to share my “think differently” podcast list with y’all – in hopes that they’ll inspire you to think differently as well.
If you’ve checked out my Butler bio, you know that Freakonomics Radio is my favorite show (not just podcast, but show of any type) running. Each week, Stephen J. Dubner explores one or more unique questions from a variety of angles, using interviews, research, and his own unique way of thinking to dig in to why people do things the way they do, and how they could maybe do them better.
While Freakonomics tackles a number of “straightforward” questions that are applicable to any sort of business (like say, Butler Branding or our clients), there are a number of more “off-the-wall” episodes that will expand your thinking in ways you might not expect. From the recent archives, I suggest listening to the episode that features an interview with Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, as well as the recent live episode from L.A. – which cycles through topics such as public transit, earthquakes, and life on other planets.
99% Invisible concerns itself with design and architecture, though honestly, the architecture part doesn’t feature much. In much the same way that The Design of Everyday Things (which we’ve recommended before) is concerned with how design impacts people’s lives, 99% Invisible tells stories of design’s impact on the world around us.
And when I say “design,” I don’t just mean the types of visual or graphic design that Butler Branding specializes in. I mean the design of rules systems (this episode on goalies’ ability to use their hands in soccer was fascinating), the design of urban improvement plans, the design of everything. If you look hard enough, most every problem can be read as a design problem – and 99% Invisible specializes in examining the way designs are created, as well as the effects those designs produce.
While Reply All says it’s about “how people shape the internet, and how the internet shapes people,” the podcast is really a vehicle for co-hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman to explore most any aspect of our modern, techified society that they find interesting. Thankfully, the things that they find interesting are actually interesting, and so I am willing to follow them down whatever rabbit hole they happen to wander into every couple weeks.
Most recently, Reply All‘s episode on America’s wild boar problem (of all things) was truly enlightening, and if you want a Reply All classic, “The Snapchat Thief” is a terrifying oldie-but-a-goodie. If you want to begin considering aspects of modern society that you’d never had reason to think of before, Reply All is the podcast for you. Just be ready to never look at your smartphone, a computer, or (likely) the world the same way again.
This American Life
And finally, we’ll wrap up with a podcast that most everyone should already be listening to. This American Life is a radio classic that broadcasts on over 500 stations throughout the country, as well as most every podcast app. In short, you’ve likely already heard of it, and hopefully, you’ve already listened to an episode or two.
If you haven’t, I can tell you that you’re missing out on some of America’s best storytelling, as well as some of America’s best stories. In my secret identity as a “comics journalist,” I listed a lot of my favorite episodes of This American Life – but if you made me choose just two from that list, I’d send you toward “Petty Tyrant” and “Optimus … Way Past Her Prime.”
As you likely know if you’ve spent any time scrolling through a podcast app, there are way more podcasts than any one person has the time to listen to. And honestly, even my “think differently” list is full of safe, standard picks. That said, if you have a podcast you use to expand and inspire your thinking, be sure to let us know about it in the comments below. The Butler team constantly seeks out new ways of thinking – and one of the ways we do so is by connecting with all of you.