Listen and allow yourself to be transformed

Ryan Holiday asks Tim Ferriss a question

“Why are you excited about podcasts? Are they the future of media?”

Part of Tim Ferriss’ response:

​“I think podcasting—or audio more broadly—is one element in the future of media. Unlike video or print, audio is a natural secondary activity. Audio can be consumed while you commute, cook, exercise, walk the dog, etc.”

​He’s right. The convenience of audio is undoubtedly a factor in the rise of the podcast. Way back when, I used to listen to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington as I was falling asleep. I still listen to them now as I faff around and procrastinate.

But here’s the thing.

Look at some of the guests Tim has had on:

Seth Godin. Naval Ravikant. Chris Sacca. Derek Sivers. B.J. Novak. Kevin Costner. Jamie Foxx. Scott Adams. Wim Hof. Kevin Kelly. Rick Rubin.


Think of a person who has changed your life and is someone you are dying to meet. Now imagine this: 

You get to sit in the corner of the room as Tim and that person talk about their journey, and everything they’ve learnt along the way. Would you sit still? Would you give their conversation all of your attention? Would you try and soak up as much of this incredible opportunity as possible?

If you’re not an idiot, the answer is yes.

Listening to these podcasts is no different from actually being in the room. You get to overhear a conversation between two people that have accomplished much more than the average mortal. Shouldn’t you give it your full attention?

Consider this from Seth Godin, especially the last paragraph:

​“I confess to being fascinated, mystified and horrified by people who tweet notes in real time. I mean, here is one of the giants of his industry, and the best the students can do with their attention is tweet short sentences, out of context, to an unknown audience of busy people who are reading hundreds of other out of context abbreviated notes at the same time? Waste a wasted opportunity. 

From the point of view of the person reading these tweets, it’s hard to see how you’re actually going to learn enough and be moved enough to change your point of view about something. 

From the sender’s point of view, (the student in that room with Fred) what if you sat quietly and actually gulped in all that was being said and displayed and communicated? What if you were there, right there, not halfway there and halfway (mentally) across the world? What if you were interrupting Fred with questions, preparing counter arguments and actually engaging with him?”

​Seth is talking about live tweeting during a lecture. The same rationale applies to cooking, exercising, cleaning, gardening etc. while you listen to a podcast.

What if, instead of doing any of that, you just sit, listen and learn. What if you allow yourself to be changed by what you’re hearing?

These are some of the highest calibre individuals in the world. The least you and I can do is stop whatever the fuck we’re doing, pay attention and take notes. And if you’re not willing to do that, don’t listen at all. Use the time to put some negative space back into your life.

When Lyndon Johnson was becoming a master of the Senate, he had to listen. There was only one way for him to bypass the old Senate system of seniority. He had to understand the senators themselves. What they wanted. What they didn’t want. And most importantly, the desires and fears that directed these impulses.

From his office, he would spend hours making calls. He didn’t talk much. He just listened.

“Lyndon Johnson would stand or sit that way for a long time, motionless, intent, listening—pouring himself into that listening, all his being focused on what the other man was saying, and what the man wasn’t saying; on what he knew about the other man, and on what he didn’t know and was trying to find out.”

​We may not be, like Johnson, trying to become masters of the Senate. But we are trying to become masters of something. To achieve mastery in many areas. In our relationships, in our career, in our life.

So do you not think that we should do as Seth Godin advises?

If you’re going to listen to a podcast, actually listen. Stop whatever you are doing, be still, be quiet. Learn. Question. Challenge. Engage.

Stop whatever you’re doing, pay attention and allow yourself to be transformed.