TOP TEN: The Most Inspiring Podcasts We Are Listening To Right Now

I was a late arrival to the world of podcasts. In the car, when not embarrassing the kids by blasting out music from my 1990s heyday, I usually preferred to listen to news or talk radio. But then came 2020. The news cycle shrank to a news turning-circle, revolving around the same catastrophically-depressing themes day after day, so that my morning commute started to have a lasting negative impact on my mood and motivation.

A sympathetic friend at Banyan Workspace gave me some suggestions of her favourite podcasts to listen to instead, although it took me a while to give them a try. When we live in a world of continual “Breaking News!” notifications, the FOMO can be hard to switch off. But once I finally broke the habit, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Despite what the 24hr news channels would have you believe, there is a wealth of exciting, change-making things happening in the world, and far more interesting and inspirational people to listen to. 

So take a deep breath, step out of your comfort zone and give one of these brilliant podcasts a listen:

1. The Happiness Lab

If you are looking to break out of the fog of Covid / protests / economy / politics like I was, consider turning to the scientists for help. Yale psychology professor Dr Laurie Santos dissects why people find it so hard to simply be happy nowadays, and offers thought-provoking, accessible and culturally-relevant insights into how to break the cycle of negative thoughts. Without a doubt, this is my favourite podcast for these troubled times.

2. Mothers of Invention

If you are as dismayed as I am by the return of Hong Kong’s pollution after the clear skies of Covid, take the time to listen to the many women at the forefront of the battle against climate change as they sit down for a chat with the former Irish president Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins. This charismatic (if somewhat unlikely!) double-act presents an intriguingly feminist take on a man-made problem.

3. How To Fail

In this era of perfection (hello, Instagram), Elizabeth Day provides a refreshing look at how the ability to learn from our mistakes is a necessary step on the road to success. The simple format sees Day interviewing a wide range of seemingly successful people, including many household names, and discovering how they have dealt with the failures that life has thrown at them, by turning them to their advantage or inspiring a change of pace or direction. A must-listen for helicopter parents and their offspring everywhere.

4. Costing The Earth

This slick BBC podcast takes a fascinating look at mankind’s impact on the environment, managing to provide in-depth knowledge and investigative reporting while still remaining broadly accessible, in the way the BBC always excels at. Despite the rather depressing subject matter, it keeps things positive by focusing on innovative solutions being created to combat the crisis, leaving listeners both hopeful and inspired to take action themselves. 

5. Sustainable Asia

Another sustainability one, but this time one that tackles the issue from Hong Kong’s own backyard. So much of what we hear on environmental issues is taken from the perspective of the West, but a global issue calls for global action. Discover what different countries in Asia are doing to make a change, and what you can do to help.

6. TED Talks Daily

It may be an obvious one, but TED Talks are the gold standard when it comes to easily-digestible, bite-size chunks of inspiration, so any list of inspiring podcasts would be incomplete without the marvellous TED Talks Daily. By turns informative, challenging, motivational and thought-provoking, each one is short enough to squeeze in over the course of just a few MTR stops and yet they remain with you long after. 

7. Hong Kong Confidential

Whether you are a long-term Hong Konger or whether you are fresh off the boat and wondering about the types of people you are now living among, Hong Kong Confidential is the perfect Sunday morning listen. Aussie expat Jules Hannaford interviews a broad range of people who call this city home, from human rights lawyers to authors to abuse survivors, and who are happy to share their experiences, insights and wisdom. Listen and learn.

8. GreenBiz 350

A weekly business podcast that takes you behind the scenes of companies that are revolutionizing their corporate sustainability. From clean energy to the circular economy, discover the advancements that are being made to keep the business world moving forward into a brighter, cleaner future. And if you want to just be inspired by the highlights, try GreenBiz Centre Stage.

9. Hurry Slowly

Do you ever find that the more you try to achieve, the less you end up getting done? In today’s world, the pressure to do and be everything can seem relentless. Hurry Slowly provides an antidote to this, teaching us that by slowing down and stepping back, we actually increase our productivity, boost our creativity and resilience, and avoid mental exhaustion. Host Jocelyn Glei’s fascinating interviews always leave me feeling lighter, calmer and more in control of my life.

10. #Impact

If you have been inspired by what you have heard from the above, you can join #Impact. Not so much a podcast as a podcasting community, it provides a platform for purpose-driven organisations or individuals to tell their story, from right here in Hong Kong. If you are interested in Giving Back, this is a great place to hear about many different worthy causes. And if you have a story of your own that you would like to share, #Impact helps you create a podcast of your own to do just that, with free online tutorials, podcasting courses and mentorship programmes. Be the change you want to see in the world!

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