My Favorite Podcasts: 2014 Edition

I mostly use my “before going to sleep” and “eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner” times to listen to podcasts. I think one of the good aspects of owning a car or having a commute to work is one has dead time that can be used productively. I don’t have that. And before I made this list I didn’t think I listened to a lot of podcasts. I was wrong. There are two handfuls that I find consistently interesting and then a bunch more that I listen to in varying degrees of regularity.

My podcast listening is mostly skewed towards comedy and science. As much as I enjoy business and marketing I process that kind of information better via books and blogs.

With that I bring you, in no particular order, several podcasts you should check out if you haven’t already. (All links open in a new window.)

StarTalk Radio

StarTalk Radio is by far, without a doubt, my favorite podcast. If I could only listen to one this would be it. The subtitle of this show should be, “educate yourself out of ignorance.” Which I guess is kind of redundant since education often leads to intelligence and, let’s say, anti-ignorance.

Even if you hate science Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice is so amazing he will lull you into a trance like few people can. Then he’ll hit you with knowledge bombs left, right, and center and you’ll never be the same.

I’ve listened to every episode of this show. I think it’s the only podcast I can say that for.

I highly recommend this one if you believe in astrology or crystal healing or anything of its ilk. Mr. Tyson is an astronomer — let’s get technical, he’s an astrophysicist — and will quickly, kindly, and non-judgmentally steer your mind happily towards the truth.

Doug Stanhope’s Podcast

Mr. Stanhope is vulgar, politically incorrect, and funny. He’s also often drunk or at least pretending to be. I’m a Louis CK fan as much as the next person, but Stanhope takes “did he really just say that out loud?” to a new level. (So does Jim Jefferies, but Jefferies doesn’t have a podcast.)

Freakonomics Radio

I’ve not read the Freakonomics books yet, though I probably should if the podcast is any indication of the quality of the books. They take a rational, measured, approach to such diverse topics as, “Does religion make you happy?” and “The upside of quitting.”

Skeptoid

This one is tough to recommend. It’s a fantastic podcast. But the creator, Brian Dunning, recently started serving a 15 month prison sentence on federal charges related to illicitly making a few million dollars with the eBay affiliate program nearly 10 years ago. It now has a new host. And it’s still good.

Improv For Humans

This is a recent find and a fun listen. I’ve never done improv, but I love the idea of it. Creating funny on the spot isn’t easy, but Matt Besser and friends do it consistently.

Tiny House Chat

More on this topic in 2015. But if you’re interested in tiny houses and simplicity this is the podcast for you.

Probably Science

This is what I wish I had created with the now-in-limbo Effin’ With podcast. I like that the hosts don’t pretend to know what they don’t know. The tagline is, “Four professional comedians/incompetent scientists take you through this week in science. Incompetently.”

WTF with Marc Maron

I’ve been listening to this one since September of 2009. I had just arrived in Sydney, Australia on my first solo international trip and was looking for stuff to listen to while riding the metro. Back in those days Maron begged for money on every episode (I donated) and now he has a successful TV show and supposedly earns upwards of $20k per podcast episode via advertising. I stopped listening for a while a year or two ago, but started listening again this year. He’s a great interviewer and in 10 years will probably be Larry King level as far as respect goes. (Though Larry King is one of the worst interviewers I can name so not sure why he gets that respect.)

RadioLab

It seems everybody I know already knows RadioLab, but if you don’t well now you do. It’s probably the most interestingly edited podcast around and it will keep you thoroughly engaged.

Others

There are a bunch of other podcasts I listen to as well, though with more irregularity. Some of that may be due to the fact that they’re not regularly updated. Let’s call these honorable mentions.

No Meat Athlete Radio (I listen to most of these. It’s definitely for you if you’re into plant-based fitness.)

– Tropical MBA (As I already mentioned, I don’t regularly listen to business or marketing podcasts, but I promise this one is worth your 30 minutes. I don’t quite listen to every episode, but I listen often.)

– Doug Loves Movies (I’m not a movie buff, but if the guests are good I’ll listen.)

Brain Science Podcast (I love this, but I’ve only listened to about 5 episodes thus far.)

Serial (This is a new one and an interesting form of journalism.)

Wits (Mostly an improv comedy podcast. It’s good but I prefer the aforementioned Improv For Humans.)

The Champs (White guys who only have black guests on the show. Often funny.)

The James Altucher Show (I’ve only listened to a few, but they were good. Except the Biz Markie episode, oh goodness.)

When I look at it like this it seems like I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, but it’s about 30 minutes per day plus a comedy podcast as I’m falling asleep. (I don’t often re-listen to the parts I missed after falling asleep.)

Based on what you’ve seen here if there’s a podcast you think I should listen to please share it in the comments.

What could you do in 48 hours?

The 48 Hour eBook Challenge

My friend Neil and I just hosted the first 48 Hour eBook Challenge so, in this case, a better question is, “could you write an eBook in 48 hours?”

Sometime last year self-publishing superstar JA Konrath posted an 8 Hour eBook Challenge on his blog. While I knew it would be possible for me to write and publish something in 8 hours, I didn’t participate for a myriad reasons, but the idea stayed top of mind. Maybe because I love doing work sprints, which are incredibly taxing, but also incredibly rewarding.

You’ll recall I wrote and published an eBook/audiobook in 96 hours about 2 months ago. That was also inspired by JA Konrath. But I thought I could one-up my own challenge even if I couldn’t quite reach 8 hours.

48 hours sounded good to me. It’s just one weekend. There are a lot worse things I could do in a weekend. And most weekends I don’t accomplish anything of merit at all.

So Neil and I brainstormed how it would work, created a Facebook event a couple weeks in advance of our set date, and invited some folks.

As you can probably guess based on how humans are, although a handful were interested, nobody showed up. Oh well! Neil and I got to work anyway.

In case you want to do your own 48 hour eBook Challenge this is what I learned and what I suggest. Don’t use it as the only way, use it as a guideline.

Write about something you know.

Travel Passes BookIn other words, something that won’t require much research time.

I had three ideas going into Friday night’s first work session. I wanted to write a new book on minimalism, because I’m not happy with The Luxury of Less. I also wanted to write a book on vegan/vegetarian-ism that’s not preachy and not based on pseudoscience. But upon reflection I knew it would take much more than 48 hours to do either of those books justice.

A few hours before we began I finally decided on a topic, how to get free press passes when traveling, which gives you free access to most tourist attractions. It’s something I’ve done only twice, but I’ve also only tried twice and I know it works. That makes me more of an expert than most people on this topic and it’s something that isn’t complex. I could write less than 10,000 words and it would be enough for someone to go out and do it themselves.

Press pass hint: keep your pitch short and to the point — what can you offer? — when e-mailing the tourist board you’re targeting.

Choose a comfortable place to work.

We could have done better on this point. We chose a great “art house” movie theatre that has WiFi, lots of decent food/coffee, and ample space to work. But there was a film festival going on so it was busy and noisy and the WiFi didn’t work most of the weekend (probably because of the thousands of festival-goers).

Get firm commitments from participants.

If I were to do it over I’d have only invited people who were willing to commit to renting a hotel room or office space and paid in advance.

Had we known it would be just Neil and I we might have done the challenge at one of our respective flats. As it was we were looking for a larger place to work and since nobody showed up we didn’t need it. We were thinking too much about their comfort assuming they were humans of their word. We decided to go through with the original plan and stick with the movie theatre anyway. We didn’t plan out anything else and time spent on searching at that point would have been time not spent writing. (We ran into this issue a bit on Saturday evening when we decided the theatre wasn’t working and spent the better part of an hour looking for an alternative.)

I know full well about the terrible human tendency to break commitments and yet it seems to surprise me every time. There’s a lesson in there about not holding other people to my standards, but I digress …

Plan out food and breaks in advance.

If I were to do this again I’d plan the specific foods/restaurants I would eat. Maybe even plan a food delivery schedule in advance. Mostly I ate at the theatre’s bistro, which has a few vegan & vegetarian choices, but one can only eat so many salads and sandwiches. Actually, I didn’t consume enough calories at all and should have eaten more salads and sandwiches. I was too busy writing a book to worry about silly foodstuffs!

I was also bad at taking short breaks. Neil had a 45 minute timer set. But I’d work through for 2-3 hours before standing up and taking a breather. That said, I think for a work sprint of this magnitude that might be a necessity. If I’m tearing through my writing it’s not helpful to stop, get off track, and then try to get back into the flow.

48HourChallengeNeilandKarol

Neil and I pretending to write for the camera.

Get enough sleep.

Doing a project like this is exhausting and feeling rested helps. I got about 7 hours of sleep each night, which was OK. Preferably, I would have scheduled a couple 20 minute naps as well.

Focus on what matters.

What matters is your content. Is what you’re writing about good enough to get the point across? Good. You’re not looking to win awards here. This is not a literary competition. This is about writing about something you know and sharing it with the world. Don’t waste time fixing sentences that aren’t perfect. They won’t be perfect. Write!

Brainstorm / write on Friday night.

I spent the first hour or so with pen & paper writing out notes and key points I wanted to cover in the book. Then I fired up Scrivener and copied each main point into a new chapter along with its relevant notes. I’d barely written anything and already had the skeleton of a book!

Note: I highly recommend you use Scrivener for your challenge. If you don’t want to spend the $45 (it’s worth it) just use their 30 day trial. It’ll save you lots of headaches during formatting.

From there I simply started at the introduction and worked my way through each chapter. By the end of the night — 11pm in this case — I had 2,332 words written. My goal for the night had been 1,000 words, but I now realize that 2,000 is a much better goal for the short Friday night session so I’m glad it worked out like that.

Write, write, and write some more on Saturday.

That’s it. Finish all your main writing today. Don’t worry about editing. Write as clearly as you can, of course, but don’t try to be perfect.

You want to get about 5,000 words written during the extended Saturday session for a 2 day total of 7,000 or so. I didn’t hit my 5,000 word goal — more like 4,500 — because I felt I had written enough detail about everything I wanted to cover and I hate adding fluff. After edits my book ended up at about 6,500 words.

Edit / design / format on Sunday.

Besides editing you have to remember that you’ll need to design a cover (use Canva.com‘s Kindle cover template if you’re not a designer) and format for Kindle (Scrivener makes this easy). That’s why you want to finish writing on Saturday. Spend the first 4-5 hours of your Sunday editing/fixing and set a hard, “OK, I’m done” deadline. Then move on to designing the cover (it won’t be great, that’s OK) and formatting for Kindle.

If you’ve never done any graphic design spend an hour or two going through the Canva tutorials prior to your 48 hour challenge. I would also recommend you go through Scrivener tutorials prior to your 48 hour challenge as well.

Don’t get discouraged.

It’s difficult writing a short eBook in a weekend. Don’t think otherwise. But don’t get discouraged if it’s not coming along well. Take a break when you need to and get back to it. I find setting hard goals helps me, but you do whatever helps you.

Use bits of “non-thinking” time for other tasks.

If you’re having issues writing or if you’re feeling discouraged use that time for other tasks like the cover design and the Kindle formatting. I started my cover design on Saturday when I had a brief period of, “I think this is all I have to say on this topic, but it doesn’t feel quite done yet.” I didn’t get far into designing the cover before I had more thoughts to write.

The Goal Is To Ship

That’s it. The goal isn’t to make a lot of money. And the goal isn’t to write the end-all be-all book about your topic. The goal is to write and publish a short eBook. Maybe the goal is also to prove to yourself you can do something that you didn’t think you could do.

If you’re not happy with your book after publishing it you can make it better at a later date. Though I recommend taking some time off from the topic and letting your thoughts percolate before doing that.

Want To Write Your Own eBook In 48 Hours?

Good! Go, go, go!

When you’re done post in the comments about how it went and what you learned and I’ll send you a copy of my own 48 hour ebook.

And in case you don’t want to go it alone I’m hosting a 48 Hour eBook Challenge on January 9-11, 2015, live via Google Hangouts (or some other real-time chat software). 48 hours, $1 per hour, limited to 20 writers. Everybody who completes the goal and publishes will be written about here on the blog on January 13. You have to commit now, but commitment is part of the fun.

Who’s in?

New book: What I learned losing $7,211 creating iPhone apps

Don't make these mistakes. Click the cover to buy this book.

Don’t make these mistakes. Click the cover to buy this book.

I’ve made some dumb financial decisions and mistakes in my time (e.g. buying a gently used BMW 530i on eBay for cash; buying a 2,400 sq ft house; selling most of my AAPL stock 5 years ago), but this is definitely in the Top 3.

I’ve been wanting to write this for a year or so, but I was too embarrassed to publicly share how badly I messed up. As far as a business is concerned it’s the most I’ve ever lost, because I always limited my losses (usually to a few hundred, maybe a thousand, dollars). To be honest, most of my business failures were quite profitable. In this case, however, I kept throwing good money after bad and then gave up and moved onto other things.

What was initially going to be a short article ballooned into a 7,500 word eBook when I actually sat down to write last week. Start to finish, including narrating the audio book, this came out in a blaze of writing and editing over a 96 hour period. The only aspect of the book I’m not thrilled with is the cover, which I spent about an hour on. I am obviously not a book cover designer so I could either try to be perfect or just ship it.

What I Learned Losing … is available exclusively on Amazon for $2.99. The 40 minute audio book (narrated by me) is also available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes for less than $5.

It would be cool if you picked it up and left an honest review on Amazon. Click here.

Here’s the introduction to the book to get a feel for it …

No Happy Ending

Thank you for investing your $10 (or less) into this short book. It should take you less than 30 minutes to read and that small cash and time investment will pay dividends. Thank me later.

Now let’s get this out of the way. This book does not have a happy ending. And I’m an unconscionable idiot.

How is that for a start?

See, I knew better than all of this. I’ve been in business for myself since the year 2000 when I quit my last job working on the computers at the Wayne State University Business School in Detroit, MI. I was basically tech support for the department so it wasn’t particularly challenging. But it paid $12/hour and that wasn’t too bad for a 19 year old with few expenses. During that time I had started a small web design business as well as selling on eBay and doing a little affiliate marketing. After about 4 months of working at the Business School I knew I could either continue earning $12/hour for the duration of my studies or I could jump head first into the small successes I was having with my side businesses. I obviously jumped in head first. It wasn’t always easy, but my Senior year in University I earned about $40k profit. My first year out of school was my first 6 figure year on my own.

I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Which makes writing this book all the more difficult. I’d already learned these lessons I’m sharing with you today. They’ve been ingrained in my psyche over the years of success and failure. But I got complacent. I let my ego get the best of me. I was going to jump into the app game and make a lot of money. My past success had already predetermined my future success. Or so I thought.

Here is how it went down. In 2012 I had divested myself of other businesses so I had time and money on my hands. I decided I was going to spend $10,000, what I internally called The $10,000 App Project, to figure out exactly how to make money with mobile apps. iPhone / iOS apps to start, because that’s where the money is. (False, but that’s the general consensus, isn’t it?) Over the next 6 months I created and launched 4 iPhone apps, along with 2 free versions with ads and in-app purchases. Only one app came even close to breaking even (it’s about break even, but I haven’t done exact accounting in a while). The rest were total and utter failures. To the tune of over $7,000USD.

Don’t feel sorry for me. In this case, my loss is your gain. Thankfully I was in a position to lose that money. I didn’t enjoy losing it, but I’m not broke or destitute because of it. And I learned — relearned as it were — some important lessons in the process. I certainly would have preferred to have spent $10,000 and turned it into a thriving app business, but sometimes lessons are learned — again, relearned — the hard way. So be it. At least you can learn from my stupidity and keep yourself from making the same mistakes I did.

And that’s the key.

This short book will save you money if, and it’s a big IF, you do not do what I did. Learn from my mistakes. If you’re just getting started you’re not smarter. You’re not going to be “the one” to get lucky while disregarding the rules I’ve laid out here. The market works the way it works for a reason. People buy Product X and not Product Y for a reason. And while I did clearly learn that again by the time my app experiment was over, I didn’t want to put good money after bad any longer and moved on to other projects. I let failure beat me this time.

My apps are still available in the app store, as sort of relics to my past, a harsh reminder of what was and what could have been had I had instruction like what you’re reading right now. Or had I used what I already knew instead of thinking I was smarter than the system.

My apps currently earn about $50/month. It costs $99/year just to keep apps in the Apple App Store so what my apps earn amounts to pocket change. In other words, and in case I didn’t make it clear already, my app business was a total and utter failure.

My goal with this book is either to get you to quit the app business before you start because you’re not willing to do what’s necessary or to give you a jumpstart by learning from the mistakes of someone who’s failed miserably. If I succeed in doing either of those then I will have saved you (or hopefully made you) a lot of money.

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Pick up What I Learned Losing $7,211 in the iPhone Apps Business on Amazon by clicking here.

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