Barrett Brooks

How and when do you listen to podcasts?

I listen to podcasts every morning as I’m getting ready for my day.

I also listen to podcasts when I ride my bike around town (my primary mode of transportation), on long car rides by myself (like going to the Oregon coast or to ski at Mt. Hood).

Sometimes I’ll listen while I’m doing dishes or cooking.

Basically, anytime I’m doing something that doesn’t require a ton of mental capacity, I typically listen to music or a podcast.

What podcasts do you listen to?

Shows I subscribe to

I typically subscribe to podcasts that help me stay up to date on world events and US politics. I start everyday by listening to the New York Times Daily and WSJ’s Potomac Watch. I find that these two shows tend to illuminate perspectives on the news from a more liberal (NYT) and conservative (WSJ) point of view. NPR’s politics podcast comes out weekly and then when special news breaks. I find that show to be more middle of the aisle.

This tells you something about me: I don’t want anyone telling me what to think about what’s happening in the world. I want to hear the news from many angles and then form a nuanced opinion that doesn’t cater to dogma or party-lines. I believe political parties have created a false choice in how we build a better future and one of the great ways that business, government, and nonprofit leaders can combat that is by being independent thinkers who look for solutions to problems.

Dan Carlin is quite simply one of the most interesting independent thinkers of our time. Hardcore History is one of the most in-depth and well researched history podcasts I’ve ever heard. The guy is just a nerd in the best way possible and I love it. He brings that same perspective to his Common Sense show, which I would describe as a Libertarian view on current events.

I find that knowing what’s going on in the world keeps me connected to what actually matters to everyday people. To what is affecting people who aren’t in the startup bubble. To the problems that startups should exist to solve. That’s what I cater my daily listening towards.

Story-driven shows (binge listening)

Some content -- whether tv, film, podcasts, or otherwise -- is just meant to entertain. Entertainment for entertainment’s sake is so undervalued as a tool for learning, exploring new ideas, and making connections to new possibilities in our minds. Fiction (and dramatized non-fiction) are these beautiful mediums for getting lost in story. Getting lost in story makes me more creative, connects me to what I selfishly want (which I’m bad at) and it helps me experience more joy.

Good for Revisiting every 12-18 Months

Seth Godin has been an incredible teacher and mentor in my life. I find that listening to Startup School every 12-18 months re-connects me to my inner entrepreneur. It helps me think through the work I’m currently doing, evaluate whether I’m staying true to what I want from my life and work, and reevaluate everything we’re doing at work to make sure it’s serving our goals.

I listen to Manager Tools Basics for one major reason: I worry that leadership and management are lost arts. I worry that our generation is losing the ability to truly serve people through great management and leadership. This podcast is a tactical look at management strategies to help people do their best work, and at the end of the day that’s what I care most about: helping my team (and anyone else I interact with for that matter) do the best work of their lives. Anything I can do to enable that is time well-spent.

Interview Shows

I rarely subscribe to an interview show because that allows someone else to drive my learning agenda. No one knows my interests and goals better than me, so I trust my own curation better than any single podcast host.

Ezra Klein has to be one of the clearest and most well-informed voices of our times. His work at Vox and now his work on his podcast is phenomenal. He’s such a nerdy, intelligent, thoughtful interviewer. His questions and the topics he covers are so smart, so purposeful. I love the way he guides a conversation and pulls insight out of his guests. Add to that the diversity of guest he invites onto the show and the variety of subject matter, and it’s just a great way to learn.

Longform inspires me because every guest is a writer of some kind. Writing is at the core of who I am as a person and a professional and I find that staying inspired by other writers is helpful for sticking to my own writing habits.

Krista Tippett might be one of the the most thoughtful people I’ve ever listened to on a set of headphones. Her interviews are deep, vulnerable, caring, raw. She’s a huge gift to this era of podcasting.

The Future Thinkers podcast is a chance to have my mind blown whenever I listen. If you want to imagine what it might be like to live in the future, this is the place to do it. Some of the ideas I’ve heard on this show are hard to even comprehend. If you live in a future that might exist, I think it’s much harder to be surprised by any given path we take as a species. And I use that word -- species -- very intentionally because increasingly I see the biggest challenges we face as species-related challenges, not city or race or nationality or religion-related. Those challenges still exist, of course, but if we don’t think critically about the species-level issues, all of the other stuff won’t matter.

I’m sure The Tim Ferriss Show is a cliche for this audience at this point, so I won’t add much here. I’ll scroll through the feed every once in a while and pick a couple to listen to. Sometimes they’re great!

And of course, there’s a laundry list of shows I’ve listened to in the past that served a purpose for a time and now I no longer listen to.

Are there any podcast episodes that have had a big impact on your life, business, or thinking?

Not really. I find that the way my mind works is that I read, watch, or listen to many different books, shows, podcasts, movies, documentaries, etc and from each little thing I’ll store away a few tidbits of knowledge or slivers of an idea. Those come back to me in the form of interesting conversation starters, or ideas for an ad campaign, or new business ideas, or fuel for dinner party conversations or whatever.

It’s the aggregate of the content we consume that influences us over time. While one piece of content might represent a mile marker, it’s how that piece interacts with everything else we know and learn that determines how it’ll affect us.

That said, I will never forget this rant from John in S-Town (warning: quite explicit). Hearing it for the first time during the first listen of that show was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

About Barrett

Barrett Brooks is the director of marketing at ConvertKit. He thinks of himself as a servant leader, entrepreneur, sustainability advocate, optimist, avid learner, writer and outdoor enthusiast. Based in Portland, OR, His work is driven by the belief that business is one of the most powerful forces for good in the world. You can find him hiking, skiing, reading, throwing a dinner party, or generally asking deep questions of the people he loves in his spare time.