Home 7 Insightful Podcasts You Should Start Listening to Before 2021

7 Insightful Podcasts You Should Start Listening to Before 2021

By now, we’re all tired of Zoom calls and webinars. So, when your eyes need a break, why not relax with a podcast?

Informative, entertaining, silly, or thought-provoking, podcasts let you choose exactly what you want to hear and empower you to listen on your own time. No fiddling with password-protected meeting invitations or sitting through virtual keynotes — just the quality content you need whenever you’re ready to hear it.

Although great podcasts are worth every minute, bad ones make every minute feel like 10. If you want to get the most from your podcast time, don’t waste your ears on boring hosts or dull topics. Get the most from every listen by optimizing your downtime with engaging content that entertains you, teaches you, or helps you escape for a while.

Here are the top podcasts you should start before the end of the year:

1. HawkeTalk

Great stories make the world go round, and HawkeTalk is filled with some of the greatest stories from the greatest people. Host Erik Huberman, founder and CEO of Hawke Media, goes behind the scenes to reveal the origin stories of the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, athletes, authors, and more.

HawkeTalk is a newer offering, so you still have time to catch up before more big names create a crowded backlog. Listen to former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman detail his difficult journey to the top, then see what drives Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price to pursue his vision. Be sure to check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s episode to hear how the Wine Library entrepreneur got his start shoveling driveways at seven years old.

2. Home Cooking

For many, quarantine became an opportunity to fine-tune their skills in the kitchen. Everyone needs to eat, so taking some time to develop your cooking skills with a bit of help from the masters is always a worthwhile investment.

Listen to Samin Nosrat (author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and co-host Hrishikesh Hirway as they help you decide what to cook and how to cook it. Pleasant conversations and humor mix with food insights to deliver a can’t-miss podcast experience for home cooks of all skill levels. Learning to cook may not help you grow a business or get a promotion, but if you’re going to feed yourself anyway, you may as well do a good job of it.

3. Decoder Ring

If you ever find yourself daydreaming about questions that start out, “I wonder what…” then this is the podcast for you. Willa Paskin brings a delightfully curious approach to answer nagging cultural questions that range from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Never could figure out why “Karen” became the most popular insult of 2020? Too afraid to ask about the history of unicorn poop? Wondering what happened to the term “metrosexual” and the scores of people who embraced it? Whatever your curiosity, Decoder Ring probably shares it and is willing to do the legwork to unravel the mystery.

4. Bodies

Despite the fact that everyone has a body, all bodies seem to work differently and experience different problems. Every other person has a story about an issue that medical professionals had trouble diagnosing. Some, of course, have more trouble than others.

Bodies follows the trickiest stories to provide a practical yet personal examination of stories of women who have struggled to get the right diagnosis or treatment. This podcast not only brings some sobering and necessary insights into the medical world, but also challenges each of us to examine our biases. Why do we think what we do of others? How do we decide what to believe and what to doubt? Bodies is a masterclass in thought leadership to help answer these questions and more.

5. Entrepreneurs on Fire

First off: no, this is not a version of Hot Ones aimed at entrepreneurs. Rather than eat spicy wings and try to withstand the pain, entrepreneurs appear on Entrepreneurs on Fire to reveal the stories, strategies, and worldviews that helped them grow their businesses. Past guests have included Tony Robbins, Amy Porterfield, and more than 2,000 others.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur yourself, a professional, or someone who just enjoys great stories about amazing people, don’t let this one slip by. It may be difficult to catch up with all 2,000-plus episodes before New Year’s, but don’t let the immense back catalog discourage you. Find a few names you know, then kick back and listen to stories you never would have suspected.

6. Reply All

Reply All is a podcast about the internet. Kind of. In reality, Reply All starts with a focus on technology, then uses that as a launching pad to talk all things modern life and the ways in which technology has reshaped what it means to be a person.

The show has more than 150 meaty episodes to dig into, but new listeners can check out the Where to Get Started page for a curated collection of some of the show’s best. It would be impossible to cover the range of strangeness that Reply All manages to dig out from the corners of the human experience in one paragraph. Push past the deceptively boring title and dive in headfirst. You can thank yourself later.

7. HBR IdeaCast

In case you were unaware, Harvard Business Review tends to attract some fairly smart people. HBR IdeaCast gives listeners a direct line to those smart people’s brains with episodes on everything from remote management to trauma recovery.

The hosts are not all Fortune 500 CEOs, either. Megan Rapinoe, U.S. women’s soccer star and World Cup champion, shared her thoughts on leadership and allyship earlier this year. Two prominent psychologists joined forces for an episode to argue against the modern concept of work-life balance for working parents (hint: leading and parenting are a lot alike).

Two decades ago, people would have paid top dollar for the insights that podcasts give away for free today. Why let all that value go to waste? Listen to a podcast while you exercise, take a walk, cook dinner, or tune out of a Zoom meeting you didn’t need to attend in the first place. Your eyes could use the break, and your brain will thank you for the change of pace.

Image credit: Magda Ehlers; Pexels

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Brad Anderson
Former editor

Brad is the former editor who oversaw contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase.

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