Podcast recommendations for a better life and career from Fortune’s 40 under 40

September 5, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

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They say listening to podcasts makes you smarter, and if the accomplishments of Fortune’s 40 under 40 are anything to go by, that certainly appears to be true. Across a spectrum of professions from finance to entertainment, some of the brightest young minds use podcasts to stay sharp and informed.

Here are some of the top choices for podcasts from this year’s 40 under 40.

Charlotte Clymer, writer, LGBTQ advocate, and consultant

I love Radiolab from WNYC Studios. The way they take a subject and look at it from numerous angles, uncovering meaning in every facet, is so inspiring and motivating. Anytime I feel the need for a little push that’s authentic and earnest, I’ll listen to an episode or two to be reminded of what brilliant and thoughtful folks are doing in the world.

Mona Chalabi, data editor for Guardian U.S.

I loved, loved, loved The Ballad of Billy Balls by iO Tillett Wright. In the podcast, I think iO walks a delicate line between journalism and inserting himself into the story, and he does it incredibly well! I think that’s always a difficult balance for any journalist, and iO showed me the value to listeners of occasionally letting yourself into the story.

Adelina Grozdanova, cofounder and head of investor group at Upgrade

A few years ago I came across a podcast by John Allison that he did after he had retired as CEO of BB&T Bank. He discusses the values and philosophy that guided his career.

Two parts resonated with me the most. First, his emphasis on being a lifelong learner, always trying to read and learn more from one’s experiences—especially the failures. One key point he makes is to “evade less and focus more.” He gives an example that some of the best leaders fail when they evade and don’t analyze information because they won’t like the answer. Be equally comfortable with success and failure and never stop learning from either one.

The second one is about the importance of self-esteem to one’s happiness. Unlike a lot of things in life, self-esteem can’t be given, it has to be earned. For most of us the fundamental driver of self-esteem happens to be work because of the long hours and energy that we commit to work. My favorite quote from the podcast is the following: “Something I said to the employees of BB&T many times: It matters a lot to BB&T whether you do your job well, but it matters a lot more to you. You might fool me about how well you do your job, you might fool your boss about how well you do your job, but you will never fool you. If you don’t do your work the best you can possibly do it, given your level of skill, given your level of knowledge…you’ll lower your self-esteem. Good news is, the flip side is also true. Do your work the best you can possibly do it and you’ll raise your self-esteem, which is more important than whether you get a promotion or more money because it’s fundamentally about your character.”

Ron Steslow, cofounder and adviser for The Lincoln Project

Making Sense with Sam Harris. Sam’s wide-ranging and fearless conversations often help me draw connections between things I’m thinking about or working on. I also listen to the Slate Political Gabfest with John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon, and David Plotz, with religious consistency—love that trio.

Kristin Smith, executive director for Blockchain Association

Crypto is super complicated. There’s a lot of jargon. There are a lot of factions within the industry. I didn’t start getting into it until 2017, so I had a lot of catching up to do. The biggest help in getting up to speed was Laura Shin’s Unchained podcast. She talks to everyone in the field and has a sort of methodical way of explaining the issues that I found really helpful. Over time, by listening to her, I was able to learn the crypto basics. It gave me the knowledge and confidence to make the change to specialize in this industry.

Jason Kander, president of national expansion for Veterans Community Project

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is a go-to for me. Though I’m not a comedian or an actor or a musician, I gain a lot of wisdom from the conversations he has with entertainers and am able to relate it to the performative aspects of my work.

Racquel Bracken, partner at Venrock

Anything on How I Built This with Guy Raz. The stories from entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses and the never-ending tales of heartache, perseverance, and resilience. I am a resilience junkie—I think it’s the most important quality in great humans, and I love getting to celebrate stories of coming back from being down but not out!

Taylor Lorenz, technology reporter at the New York Times

Yeah, But Still is an excellent Internet-culture podcast that is constantly keeping me informed about new and weird things happening on the Internet. I love it, and the topics they discuss always inspire me. 

Prem Tumkosit, managing director at Merck Global Health Innovation Fund

Ultimately, a lot of what I do as an investor is use analysis to tell the story of ideas, companies, and people. So I find that the most helpful podcasts are the ones where you can see how the author or storyteller can help you structure a strong narrative. The podcasts that I go to are things like This American Life, Radiolab, and the Risk podcast—shows that explain complicated or uncomfortable topics in a way that people can understand or relate to.

Lindsey Finch, global privacy and data protection officer at Salesforce

Kara Swisher’s podcasts—currently Pivot and previously Recode Decode. She helps me stay on top of what is happening with the tech industry with a healthy side of policy.

Last, but not least: A bonus audiobook from…

Steve Martocci, cofounder and CEO at Splice

Recently I listened to The Outsiders audiobook, which my board member Adam D’Augelli recommended. It’s full of stories of nontraditional CEOs and how they evolved and thrived as capital allocators. The transition from founder to CEO isn’t easy and continually changes as you scale. The stories in the book are helping to guide me into the next phase of my journey.