Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Finding Inspiration From Diverse Sources


I never really listened to podcasts until a couple of weeks ago. I know that does sound strange, but I had a bad experience a few years ago when I tried to listen to lectures on iTunes on my phone, and found it really difficult - maybe it was the ambient noise (I tried listening while traveling on public transport) or maybe I just couldn’t get into the topic. Whatever it was, I gave up. It was a shame, because I believe in trying new methods for learning, and in my recent book Anyone Can Get An A+ I recommend adding videos and audio books and lectures to the set of learning materials when trying to master a subject. I felt slightly strange giving advice that I myself found it hard to follow, but I knew there would be students who would gain a lot more from those sort of materials than I do.

Somehow I stumbled on to listening to a popular podcast on self-publishing (Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn Podcast), and I found that I really loved listening to it and found it very useful. In fact, I started to listen to episodes I downloaded while on the treadmill at the gym, and I found myself getting motivated to work out more often, and for longer times, than I normally would, just because I wanted to listen more. I even began to listen while waiting in line at the grocery store, on the bus, and while cooking.

As soon as I discovered that I could actually listen to podcasts, I tried out a few others. I downloaded a test episode from a few shows - others on self-publishing, on writing, and even on productivity (readers will recognize that these are precisely the topics of this blog, and obviously subjects I am really interested in). I have found a few interesting shows, and even episodes that I didn’t enjoy as much because I didn’t quite connect to the host, I found some really useful tips.

The most important thing - I learnt a lot from the various shows, advice on marketing my books, knowledge of the industry, really useful productivity tips that I can’t wait to start to implement. And I got a lot of ideas while listening, which weren’t directly from the podcasts, but ideas triggered indirectly. I got the idea for four books (I am not kidding!) and many blog post ideas. I was actually joking to myself that I should probably start carrying my laptop to the gym, and start typing right there.

In fact, I think the most productive thing I have done this year so far is to start listening to these shows, because I feel like I am in a completely different head-space when I am listening. I love to read, I read a lot more than most (and certainly more than I post on my Goodreads page), and I never thought that anything could be better than learning from someone else’s wisdom and experiences through reading what they have to say. Except now I realize, that while I will always cherish the lessons from books, hearing someone talking and really walking you through their experiences really makes the knowledge much more accessible. This was even the case where I had read the transcript of the audio sometime back (yes, I hated listening to audio so much I would just look for the transcript where possible).

I also find listening to people who are successful in an area that I am trying to develop, makes me start thinking of myself differently about that area. That sounds complicated  - but what I really mean is that if I listen to someone who is really productive talking about improving productivity, I start to unconsciously model my thinking and behavior around what that person said. This is similar to the life advice I read somewhere that we are the sum-total of the five people we spend the most time with. I know that’s kind of scary (unless you happen to best friends with Oprah or JK Rowling or Richard Branson), and although we can’t always choose our environment (you’re stuck with your colleagues and your boss for instance), we can choose who we allow into our head-space (or who we choose to emulate our behavior on). By listening to people who are successful in an area that I want to improve in, I have already started to change the ticker tape of thoughts in my head from “how come nothing is changing” or “why is someone else succeeding and not me” to “have I done my writing today?” or “let’s try to implement these marketing suggestions”.

As you can tell, I am pretty excited about my discovery, and as usual, I am telling everyone within earshot - I already tried to convert my parents into podcast listeners, subtly dropping, “so I was listening to this podcast and it said...” into almost every conversation. Watch this space on an update on how successful I am in that regard, but in the meantime, I thought I would share here about my new method for finding inspiration. And my final parting piece of advice - branch out. If you are a business professional, by all means listen to HBR and The Economist podcasts, but also try out something on literature or history. If you are a writer, listen to some of the fabulous shows out there that interview writers and talk about marketing, and then check out something on science, or philosophy. Just sample something different, and you never know, you might get the idea for your next great project!
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