10 podcasts guaranteed to make you smarter

If you're looking to really make the most of your daily commute, these podcasts are guaranteed to make a smarter man out of you...

Most modern gentlemen have a curious trait in common: a desperate lack of time combined with a constant desire for self-improvement. Perhaps that’s why the podcast, with its quick, easily- digestible format, has become such fertile territory for entrepreneurial thinking, and accessible, every day learning.

But, with an ever-growing cacophony of voices pleading for your attention, it can be hard to know whose advice to take. With that in mind, we’ve curated a quick playlist of the ten podcasts that we swear by over at Gentleman’s Journal HQ.

Turn on and tune in to make your fortune or change your mind.

1. Fresh Air with Terry Gross

The most downloaded podcast of 2016, recommending Fresh Air to an American audience is tantamount to gently suggesting a British person check out Radio 4. But, for those yet uninitiated, this is the one-stop podcast for getting a closer insight into the lives of some of the greatest celebrities and writers to have lived.

With over 4o years of experience interviewing some of the world’s most interesting characters underneath her belt, Terry Gross’ skills go above and beyond the basics and delve deep into the lives of some of the most interesting people.

2. FT Start Up Stories

Another candid interview show that reveals the inner workings of the industry, the Start Up Stories podcast approaches entrepreneurship with all the pragmatism and balance that you’d expect from the Pink Pages.

Jonathan Moules’ show is particularly interested in the businesses that don’t perhaps often make the headlines – the quiet, industrious and ingenious enterprises that can tell us much more about real working life than the well-worn stories of Uber, Snapchat or Facebook.

3. WTF With Marc Maron

Already a staple for most regular podcast listeners, WTF With Marc Maron has been creating thought-provoking, controversial and insightful content since 2009. Across a now 1000-episode strong history, Maron has interviewed some of the world’s most famous people, from the late Robin Williams to Barack Obama and Louis Theroux.

His angry preambles are dynamite and he even makes the adverts sound furious. Highlights include his recent conversation with Mandy Moore, and a good place to start is with the Jennifer Lawrence episode, in which she out-talks him and is rip-roaring company rather than line-toeing Hollywood ingenue.

4. How I Built This

An engrossing nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the classic start-up journey. In a series of interviews with various company founders and CEOs, How I Built This takes its listeners from the very germ of an idea through to the failures and triumphs and right up to the present day.

The detail, candour and verve with which these entrepreneurs recount their stories is daunting and inspiring in equal measure, but the general effect after each episode is an overwhelming desire to get out there and do it – whatever “it” happens to be. Recent highlights include an interview with Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell, who tells us the unlikely story of how he built his mother’s motto – “you can always make money if you know how to make a good burger” – into an international super chain.

5. This American Life

We guarantee that, after each hour-long episode of This American Life, you’ll walk away with brand-new insight to the world. That said, not all the information transmitted in This American Life is a hard fact. In some episodes, you’ll hear people recall their peculiar lived experiences first-hand; in others, you’ll learn about random topics like a heist in the niche fly fish lure trade.

This American Life is a masterclass in investigative journalism — and the podcast to seek out if you’re looking to feel a little more in touch with the world around you. 

6. The Bottom Line

The BBC’s Bottom Line leverages all its institutional clout to gather together a bewildering and varied cast of business leaders and world famous entrepreneurs. Nimbly hosted by Newsnight’s Evan Davis, the podcast digs deep into the business issues that really matter, and is rarely afraid to put its guests on the spot. Topics range from corporate espionage to the UK space industry to the warring world of fast food giants, and everything in between.

7. The GaryVee Audio Experience

Gary Vaynerchuk’s bro-inflected, over-enunciated, slightly-sweary schtick might wrankle as many as it inspires, but the original start up guru knows his stuff. His podcast is an ever-growing, daily-updated mish mash of interviews with CEOs and founders, stirring speeches, scattered meditations and his own bittersweet start up stories.

A good antidote to the microscopic analysis of other business podcasts, Gary Vee’s show provides a healthy dose of daily motivation.

8. In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg,” a weekly BBC Radio 4 program that has aired in the U.K. since 1998, consists of a conversation between its host and three academics about some worthy cultural or historical subject—recently, Picasso’s “Guernica,” feathered dinosaurs, Germaine de Stael, and the Picts

Melvyn Bragg takes a look at the history of the world. This BBC produced podcast takes an in-depth look at different areas of history and explores these with notable guests.

9. The Intelligence by The Economist

The Intelligence is a new current-affairs podcast, published every weekday from January 29th, that provides a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. Drawing on the expertise of The Economist’s global network of correspondents, each episode digs past the headlines to get to the stories beneath—and to stories that aren’t making headlines, but should be.

For a daily burst of global illumination, you need more than just the facts — you need The Intelligence.

10. The Gentleman’s Journal Podcast

And then, of course, comes our own humble podcast. We like to think that what sets our our new in-depth interview series apart from the competition is the sheer calibre of the guests. A bit like eavesdropping on the world’s most interesting power lunches, the Gentleman’s Journal Podcast brings you unprecedented access to the upper echelons of business success.

In each episode, we interview the men of influence that other shows can’t reach. Men like Nicholas Coleridge of Conde Nast, Pierre LaGrange of Huntsman, Henry Porter of Vanity Fair, and Paul Smith of, well, Paul Smith. Spend half an hour in their company, and it’s hard not to come away sounding, feeling and thinking smarter.

Further Reading