Four podcasts for a worthwhile distraction

Chase Roberts
4 min readMar 17, 2020


Whether you’re a founder needing a mental break from the rigor of building a startup or, frankly, anyone in search of something other than COVID-19 news, a podcast is a useful form of mental distraction. For me, the best kind of distraction is that which takes me on a journey into a new set of ideas. I selected four timeless podcast episodes to let the mind wander into new territory. No politics, no pandemics, no religion, no current events — just ideas.

Annaka Harris — On Consciousness

The After On Podcast by Rob Reid

“Our experience of consciousness is so intrinsic to who we are, we rarely notice that something mysterious is going on. Consciousness is experience itself, and it is therefore easy to miss the profound question staring us in the face in each moment: Why would any collection of matter in the universe be conscious?” — Annaka Harris, New York Times bestselling author of “CONSCIOUS: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind.” What better way to give the mind a break from reality than to explore the depths of how it works? Author and founder of Rhapsody (where are my ’90s peeps?) Rob Reid interviews Annaka Harris in what is a fascinating journey into the mind.

Tracy K. Smith Changed How I Read Poetry

The Ezra Klein Show

As a venture capitalist, my mind lives in the practicality of technologies applied to an economic machine. This thinking leaves me craving something less practical like poetry and the arts. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and 22nd Poet Laureate of the U.S., Tracy K. Smith takes listeners on a journey into the nature of poetry. She describes language as “a system that has principles that tells me something is authorized to be said because the structure by which it’s said is sound. That helps me to winnow away the unsound thinking that I have.” This description sets the foundation for her definition of poetry: “…the language that sits really close to feelings that defy language. Poetry nudges some of our feelings of joy or confusion or desire toward feelings that we can recognize and describe.” Listen to this episode for a discussion about the intersection of language and the human experience.

Getting Better by Being Wrong with Annie Duke

The Knowledge Project Podcast by Shane Parrish

Shane Perrish, known for endlessly searching for ways to live and think better, interviews best-selling author and professional poker player, Annie Duke, about how thinking in probabilities can improve decision making. She discusses the bias created by decision outcomes, which are a poor indicator of decision quality. For example, if a driver gets behind the wheel while under the influence and makes it home safely, the outcome does not reflect the indisputably poor decision. She also lays out the strategic benefits of assigning probabilities to outcomes as a matter of habit. Her ideas continue to reflect my days

Nick Kokonas — How to Apply World-Class Creativity to Business, Art, and Life

The Tim Ferriss Show

Nick Kokonas is one of the most impressive first-principles thinkers I’ve encountered. As co-owner/co-founder of The Alinea Group and founder and CEO of Tock, he’s had a massive impact on the culinary world. The renowned 3 Michelin star restaurant, Alinea, ushered a new age of gastronomy (this video says it all). Nick starts with why before accepting convention, for example: It costs tens of thousands of dollars to wash white tablecloths every year. Why do we need them? To avoid water rings on the tables? Let’s just chill our water to the point of no condensation. Solved. Nick provides multiple anecdotes of how this thinking led to new ventures and success as an entrepreneur. From philosophy to finance, this is a tasty treat for your mind.

Bonus Tip: My Favorite Podcast Player

If you use your smartphone’s native podcasting app, I suspect you’d describe it as fine but not great. Having clocked nearly 117 days of total podcast listening (don’t judge me), I’d highly recommend Pocket Casts (download on iOS & Android).

Not only can you adjust the playback speed to 1/10th minute increments, but you can also auto-trim silence, choose to auto-download certain podcasts, and pre-determine where they will show up in your queue (bottom or top). The design and user interface are 💯.