I have never got into podcasts, partly perhaps as I don’t have a good setup for it. I don’t listen to a lot of music on a daily basis, either, other than the radio, for the same reason. Yeah, sure, I have a smart phone, an MP3 player, and a tablet, all of it which I can theoretically set up with music and regular podcasts for listening in the car, etc. But I’ve never set all my pieces up to do that easily, which just presents friction to the transaction. I don’t do audiobooks, I rarely watch TED talks, I didn’t put french lessons on my various gadgets to use in for the car. I’ve had plans to get all the music going for some time now, and it is at least organized. But I haven’t decided between Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music, etc. let alone podcast options.
I do have Media Monkey Gold running pretty well on my desktop now, and it will likely be my media manager for the future. Some quirks to work out still, and one of them was podcasts. MMG has some ones already linked by default, and today I figured out how to go into iTunes, find the link, copy it into MMG, and bob’s your uncle, I seem to be able to do this with any iTunes podcast easily. If it isn’t in iTunes, I’ll figure it out later.
Because, from time to time, I do see reviews of new podcasts that people are super excited by, and I think, “Hmm, sounds interesting.” I particularly like the idea of small size snippets of experts sharing info. Or a small insight into a world that I don’t inhabit myself — a scientist, a doctor, a rapper, an actor, etc.
When I saw the latest review of a new podcast called Sincerely, X, I was a bit skeptical. Oooh, how exciting, people talking about things too difficult to share, and so they are sharing their stories anonymously. Not. More likely to be people sharing made-up stories that they heard from a friend of a friend who knew someone who once talked to someone who was a roadie for a small band, and sharing it all for the titillation factor. Which would normally mean that I would just skip it entirely, just as I skip the chat groups that do the same thing or the various websites with a high Kardashian-factor of TMI and ego.
Except for one thing. This one was by TED Talks. And TED Talks have street cred. Most of their stuff, albeit not all, is pretty damn good. A free, open form of the The Learning Company / Great Courses approach of getting really knowledgeable and engaging people to talk about something important to them. So perhaps, just maybe, the TED talks might have a format that would work. And I love their intro. A safe space to talk about things that you can’t discuss publicly. Substance over style. Intimate inspirations. Ideas over identity. Pretty compelling description.
Episode 1 is, in my view, a poor start. It is called Dr. Burnout, and the idea behind her anonymous talk is that doctors get burned out, they stop seeing patients as people, they go on autopilot, and they stop engaging. Don’t get me wrong, I think the topic could be awesome, and if she put a panel together of five or six doctors talking about their experiences where they “check out” themselves, how they feel about it, what they do about it, how they reengage or not, all of that could be good. But the speaker’s example of this is a man who was very sick, in her hospital, he wanted to leave, and she didn’t try to talk him out of it. Two days later he was dead of an internal bleed after being readmitted to the ICU. This person is showing so many signs in her presentation of post-facto-over-rationalization that it is amazing that she apparently got help from someone (therapist perhaps?) and they didn’t call her on her BS. She says, quite bluntly, that the person died of internal bleeding and if only he had stayed at the hospital, she would have caught it, no problem, he’d still be alive. Really? Would she be able to say that in front of a group of other doctors? Probably not, because everyone would tell her she doesn’t know that, and guess what, lots of things don’t present with irascible patients because the patient’s personality gets in the way of helping them. Sometimes they’re just asshats, sometimes they’re asshats because of fear, and sometimes they’re asshats because of internal pain they can’t artculate around the asshattery. There were at least five times in her talk where my BS meter went on overload, often for her sweeping generalizations. Things she WANTS to believe are true, because they make her talk more impactful if you ASSUME they are universally true.
Here’s my take. She was burned out, sure. She was looking for a change. And she saw a jerk of a patient, felt guilty she didn’t try harder after he died, and now wants to use that guilt to rationalize a large-scale change in her life. She could read Jeffrey Kottler’s “Change” and see a lot of similarities in her reaction, not to the event which is hardly uncommon but in her way of interpreting what it meant. And as with a lot of large-scale change that you aren’t quite secure about, or where the change leads the person to become a large-scale advocate, there is an internal need to make it bigger than she is, a start of a movement to talk about burnout. Selling it to herself as much as selling it to others. If that’s her catalyst, it’s pretty weak.
I feel like the TED Talks people who helped her think about it really didn’t narrow the focus, and there are likely more people out there with REAL burnout impacts that would be more helpful to hear about than this one. A swing and a miss for me. (1/5)
Episode 2 is called Pepper Spray and is about a woman having a horrible, no good, very bad day, at least in her own perception. She is clearly having the symptoms of a panic attack, which escalates when people treat her poorly in a retail environment. Up until the end of the “snapping event”, including a description of a person who helped de-escalate the situation, the podcast is awesome. When she gets to a part explaining the causes and triggers, and what it means beyond that, the podcast starts to slip. She tries to argue that she is not excusing the behaviour, but yet she tosses out four or five reasons why she isn’t responsible. The “insight” into the experience is great, her “solutions” for others are not (3/5).
Episode 3 is called Ex-Con and is about a prisoner’s experience with other prisoners. The fact that he was a hedge-fund manager, who ended up slipping up with a small change that spiraled into a “deep hole of deception” yet received a sentence of seven years, indicates that there is a lot of context missing. But it doesn’t matter, as it is not his message. His premise is that there are lots of people in jail who represent wasted capital because he saw some people in jail who were brilliant, resourceful, and ingenuous. They all wanted an opportunity, with the view that if they got a shot, they’d make the most of it. Of course, his big theory is muted a bit — without the conscious awareness — because he had a bonding moment with a young black man who asked him how he ended up there, an educated white man with resources, i.e. if the white guy had all the opportunities ended up there, then how accurate is the view that the big “solution” is to give the others an opportunity? Nevertheless he notes that there is an opportunity for “nano-degrees” while in jail and that they should be planning for the day of release from the date of incarceration. It’s not revolutionary, but it is well-articulated. However, there is very little reason for it to be anonymous. If he is the “poster child” for rehab, then why is he anonymous? That isn’t clear, but it’s still a decent interview. (3/5)
Episode 4 is called Sad in Silicon Valley and is about a serial entrepreneur who went to sleep a successful CEO and woke up three days later a mental health patient. Severe depression and anxiety. Separate from his individual challenge, his talk is mostly about the experience of finding and accessing mental health services — psychiatrist vs. pscyhologist, individual or group therapy, etc. $300K and ten years worth of mental health services later, and he still didn’t know what was wrong with himself. He was looking for a cure, and mostly he just saw self-reported symptoms and non-evidence based methods of treatments. For the speaker, better services in mental health face three big barriers — cost, access and privacy — and he thinks Silicon Valley could help provide disruption to the industry using big data and evidence. While he talks about some new ideas with social media, online video chats, apps like Headspace, and e-monitoring of brain states, there is little in the way of concrete proposals to disrupt the industry. Mostly it is just him saying tech should be able to help. A great idea, but with a lot of padding at the end, mostly around pop psych interpretations of addiction to technology and avoiding over-reliance (4/5).
Episode 5 is called Equality Executive and is about how the need for gender equality in industry has been recognized for over 25 years yet without any change in numbers in the actual boardrooms. For the speaker, productivity and profit as a business imperative is clearly represented by the evidence — lots of studies have shown that having women in C-suites leads to more profit. For her, the reasons why it hasn’t happened is three-fold — no metrics or framework to fix it, just good intentions…real change requires real commitment with real consequences for failure to deliver; it’s not HR who will provide the solution, as they want the current culture to remain stable, not create disruption; and failing to address unconscious or invisible bias and assumptions. I’m less confident when it comes to the situation of Millenials, as she argues that they aren’t prepared to fight productively for what they want (like Baby Boomer women supposedly were), so they just leave instead. From an interesting angle, I really like the reason why she doesn’t want to do it publicly but only anonymously — if she does it publicly, she thinks people will think she wants to sell people a solution, i.e. she’s marketing her business, so she de-coupled it in order to keep it pure and not tainted by the idea of commercial self-interest. It’s the only one to date that really needs to be anonymous, or at least has a reason that seems plausible and justifiable. It’s not perfect, a little too much “problem”, not enough clarity around the “how” of the solutions, but it’s pretty well done. (5/5)
Episode 6 is called Rescued by Ritual, and is the one that caught my interest, and justified the investment in figuring out how to access podcasts now rather than later. It is nominally about a woman leaving a violent relationship, the path to healing that she followed, and her doctor now advocating it as a best practice to be followed by others. I am a great believer in rituals to cement change, kind of as described in different terms in Jeffrey Kottler’s book “Change”, so I was interested in the premise of this episode. Unfortunately, the first 12 minutes are not about the ritual but rather about her back story, none of which is particularly different from traditional abuse stories. I confess I was looking for the actual ritual part to be a little more “external” instead of simple internal mindfulness. Essentially she focuses on someone she “loves”, and with that person in mind, focuses on the love she feels for them, directing as much energy as possible into that feeling. This is a bit different, but not terribly so, from the ritual of being mindful of gratitude each day — the old “count your blessings” adage on steroids — except it makes it all encompassing as a thought. Meditating on love, so to speak. Positive, sure, but it didn’t strike me as revolutionary. (2/5)
So I tried the podcast, and I’m glad it was enough of a draw to figure out a good approach to podcasts. I liked the rationale of the Equality Executive, the initial premise of the ex-con rehab story, and the opening story of the pepper spray story. But I don’t feel like I got much from the six podcasts, and it isn’t compelling enough to continue. I’m out.