21 Podcasts That Will Change Your Life

2005 for me was a year of great change and transition in my life. I was 28 and had started to begin to focus on the things that were important to me both personally and professionally.

My first and probably most crucial decision I made was to get married to my beautiful wife Brandi (luckily for me, she too was onboard with this decision). Subsequent to that, we found a house and took on a mortgage to begin a life and a family together.

Professionally, I began to take my role as a designer more seriously. At this time, there was a movement that was just starting to take hold around design having a seat at the table in business. The immediate influencers that were championing this cause in me were two former managers and mentors, Tony Camoratto and Lisa Blackshear. While these two wonderful people were distinct in their style and personalities, both saw the importance of having designers as an integral part of any business conversation.

At that same time I was taking ownership of my life, I fell upon a new medium of digital media that was mind and ear opening. Helping me not only focus but in turn, shift my mindset on possibilities.

Jack Meet Podcasts, Podcasts Meet Jack

Like many at this time (remember it’s 2005), I was buying into the Steve Jobs-driven ecosystem of Apple products using iTunes as my music player of choice to drown out the inner-office distractions so that I could do the best job I could. While iTunes and early versions of podcasts had been around prior to 2005, it was the inclusion of these subscription-based audio dispatches through the Apple-sponsored version that I stumbled upon and began to explore.

After inquisitively delving into the world behind this new icon in my music player, I was quickly introduced to a world of genres, personalities, and perspectives that I had not previously availed myself to through more traditional mediums of books, magazines, etc. It was an efficient way to pique my interest in a subject, idea, or person from which I could reflect upon and delve deeper to educate myself.

From an experiential standpoint, it was just fun. Like kids who have teachers who make learning fun (my wife is one of those amazing people), I didn’t even realize that I was learning. I first started off jumping into my core areas of interest–basketball, comedy, pop culture, music and then quickly found this organic hybridization of topics cropping up from both mainstream media providers as well as independent, guy-in-his-garage type podcasters. The really interesting thing about the medium at this time is that the playing field was kind of level. Similar to the beginnings of the internet, everyone was trying to figure out this nebulous space which mixed traditional constructs borrowed from radio, TV, and publishing with people just trying to get their voice or agenda heard on a wider scale.

They say that some of the biggest successes occur at the nexus of a good idea and good timing and for me, my awareness of podcasts came at the time when I was just realizing that it was time to step up and do more. The information and entertainment I consumed were a constant source of energy and inspiration that I could draw from at any point of the day.

Awareness and Appreciation

Fast-forward eleven years later and I’m a changed man. At home, I’m a husband and father of two wonderful girls who have made me more sensitive and empathetic to the world around me (partial credit can be given to my daughters forcing me to play with them and their dolls).

The idea of time and how precious it is was something that also became front and center to me due in large part to the passing of my father-in-law. Treating each day like a gift and an opportunity to do something great has been something that hit me square in the face and was a life lesson you can hear about from a multitude of podcasts but is only truly relatable when you experience it.

Professionally, I was initially given an opportunity in a large financial firm to introduce user experience to an industry that had largely ignored its customers. With the help and encouragement of a former boss and now friend and fellow Motivate Design colleague Christo Claassens, I worked to refine my skill sets to be a more well-rounded design professional. The lunches that Christo and our team had were the stuff of legends. We shared stories, perspectives, and ideas much of which started with the statement “So, I just heard on this podcast…”

After the better part of six years and countless business structure reorganizations, I began to realize that stagnation is the death-knell of a creative person. Spurred by my life experiences and accrued on the job education I gained, it was time to take on new challenges. For me, I had to take myself out of my comfort zone and started entertaining opportunities in the New York metro area. After taking a half-step forward working for another large, more UX-oriented financial organization, I was challenged by my now boss and all around inspirational dynamo Mona Patel (if you don’t believe me, just read her book) to come and work for her.

Thanks to Mona and the wonderful people at Motivate Design, I am now exposed to new challenges and opportunities that I could have never even thought were possible let alone solvable eleven years ago.

Today when my kids don’t do it first, podcasts get me going in the morning and make me aware that anything is possible–you just have to be ready, willing, and open to the ideas and opportunities when they come to you.

My Podcast Rotation (Right Now)

In no particular order, the list below contains the podcast titles that I am currently listening to. If you’re new to podcasts, dive in and enjoy! If you’re an avid listener, please share with me your favs in the comments below!

This is Product Management

TED Radio Hour


99% Invisible


NPR Fresh Air

HBR IdeaCast



Reply All


Surprisingly Awesome

Studio 360

Curious Minds: Innovation | Inspiration | Improvement

The Accidental Creative

This American Life


Comedy Bang Bang!

All Songs Considered

Sound Opinions

Pop Culture Happy Hour

The Bill Simmons Podcast

I know there are a lot, but each one brings their own flavor and stories and I challenge you to find your own rotation that inspires you, makes you laugh, and makes you think.

Tell us what your favorite podcast is or even favorite episode from one of the above on Twitter or say “Hey!” on Facebook. Also, learn more about the experiences we design at motivatedesign.com.

by: Jack Cole, Director, UX Design