Hey, you! Yes, you. You are a big lazy SLOB with no drive and purpose. That’s why you did a search for ‘best motivational podcasts’.
Motivation! You want it! You need it! You can barely get out of bed, while your friends are achieving their goals and living their dreams. What’s wrong with you? What’s the answer?
We both know what the answer is – a podcast. A motivational podcast that will change your brain chemistry and give you everything that your traitorous DNA didn’t. A podcast that will literally inject so much purpose into your ears that it fills your whole body like a cream puff and you start literally sweating motivation.
And because you currently don’t have enough motivation to find that podcast, I’ve done it for you. My goal was to listen to one popular motivational podcast a day for a week, but I lost count. Let’s agree to say that I ‘overdelivered’ and not ‘am woefully disorganised’.
Day 1 – The Overwhelmed Brain Podcast
To prevent myself from getting TOO motivated, I started with a short one, just 11 minutes long. A good amount of time to invest in self-improvement.
Well – there wasn’t quite enough self-improvement, and a bit too much self-enrichment. Basically it was a ten minute advert for this guy’s life coaching. He said the podcast would expire, meaning it would be deleted from his iTunes feed at a certain point. STOCKS ARE LIMITED! BUY MY COACHING TODAY!
I actually snorted when I heard:
I don’t want to make this whole episode an infomercial.
Dude, it is an infomercial. IT IS.
Now, it’s totally unfair to listen to one ten-minute stretch of one episode and make generalisations from that. But that’s what I’m doing.
Instead of getting motivated I found myself imagining what the guy’s coaching sessions would be like.
Hey buddy, thanks for paying 249 dollars for 90 minutes of coaching! Very shortly we will begin changing your life forever! But first, I want to start this coaching session by upselling you on some complementary products. How about this handsome mug and slippers combo? Guaranteed to boost your self esteem by decluttering your bank balance!
Did the podcast motivate me?
Yes, it motivated me to get out of bed and type a few bitchy paragraphs. At some point I realised the guy was talking about grieving. Is this still his sales pitch? How to grieve for your lost money?
Finally some music swelled behind his voice and I felt a powerful sense of relief: It’s nearly over! Great! Now I can get on with my day.
By the way, I went to Soundcloud to see if there was an audio clip so you could judge for yourself. There is one. Guess what? It’s an infomercial! That one got taken down :( Here’s some other one.
Day 2 – Operation Self Reset
Are you ready to reset?
You’re looking good today
Have you been improving one percent every day?
If you aren’t more motivated after reading that, you’re doing life wrong! You know how computers get full of weird bits of data and they work better after a reset? That’s what this podcast is all about.
It starts out very promisingly. Then he gets into the topic of the episode, which is ‘Tools to Get More Energy.’
It’s a long monologue about oil. Have you ever suffered the real-life company of an oil evangelist? I have, and it was all I could do to stop my eyes rolling so far into the back of my head that I spent the rest of my life looking at my oblongata. Here are some genuine extracts from his sermon:
You can buy oil ready mixed but I prefer to mix my own oil.
I smell like the Caribbean and that intrigues my wife.
He also recommends wheatgrass. Because of how it feels. We are in the world of feelings, people. There’s no science here. No data. Example: he goes on to extol the benefits of drinking lemon water. I couldn’t find any clinical trials that showed any proven benefits. I did find one article that said it was all a myth.
I’m open minded about such things, but if you’re just telling me how something feels I’m not really going to listen. You have to say ‘gargling coconut oil makes my mouth feel fresh and it contains anti-oxidants that have been proven to neutralise harmful bacteria.’
The host at least is upfront about some of his beliefs, saying he doesn’t know enough about them to talk about it on the show. Fair enough, though he does still recommend them.
Weirdly, he mention having a dog. It seems to be one of his tools to get more energy. Um, how about 20 dogs?
Another of his recommended tools is listening to audiobooks. That’s handy, because he can send his listeners to Audible to get a free audiobook. Huh. SCEPTICAL CLAIM ALERT.
And one free audiobook? That’s lame. American Podcast Pals readers who sign up through this link can get TWO free audiobooks. Suck it, motivation guy!
20 mins into the episode comes the first tip that seems really useful. He suggests setting a ten minute timer when going on Facebook or YouTube. Simple, but effective. I approve.
But the next thing out of his mouth is “I also have a vision board.”
(Vision boards DON’T WORK. Don’t bother leaving comments that they do. I know for a scientific fact that they don’t. I’ve had a vision board on my bedroom wall full of pictures of Scarlett Johansson and I’m no closer to meeting her than 5 years ago.)
He also talks about having an acupuncture mat. That’s when I realize that this episode isn’t really about tools the guy uses. It’s a list of stuff he bought on impulse and feels he has to justify to his wife.
I actually agree with him about some things. Continual improvement instead of revolution. Trying to put healthy stuff in your body instead of junk. But his goal is maximum performance. I think it’s okay to be tired and lazy sometimes. Certain people act like drinking kale juice 24/7 will give you infinite energy and success. It won’t.
Here’s a clip of a different show than the one I listened to. Have a listen – maybe you’ll like it more than I did.
Day 3 – Good Life Project
Next to get a listen was The Good Life Project. I assume there’s already a website and fanbase because BLAM! The guy just starts into his motivational speech with no introduction at all. Who is he? What’s his aim? NO TIME. Let’s get you motivated first, then we’ll explain all that later. Or not.
Despite the lack of introduction or context, I was almost hooked. The content was interesting – about why so many managers kill the creativity of their employees. Everything the anonymous presenter said seemed legit, and if I had any employees I’d definitely want to be aware of how my fear of innovation stifled their output.
So he made a lot of good points but they were all on the negative side. i.e. Don’t do this, this is a mistake, try to avoid that. No action items. Nothing you could try out today. Dude, tell me what to do! Don’t leave it all up to me. I’ve got an innovation problem and need help! Example. He instructs us to do this:
Equip leaders with the mindset and ability to embrace truly innovative ideas.
Okay but HOW.
The episode seemed a bit business focused but the other episode titles didn’t appear to have much relevance to business, so maybe the podcast has something for everyone.
The nameless host has a nice voice, but it’s rather downbeat. It’s a voice lacking in energy. If you’re going to boost my motivation you’re going to have to keep my ears on their toes.
So it’s the best one so far but I didn’t feel any different at the end than at the start. Maybe a little more sleepy.
Oh, and he said his name right at the end. Jonathan something.
Day 4 – Inspire Nation
2 mins in, they’ve asked me to ‘rate and review the show’ what seems to be EIGHT times. Look, I get that iTunes promotes podcasts with ratings to the top of the search results, and hosts should definitely remind fans to rate and review their shows. I get the importance of rating and reviewing. I myself sometimes rate and/or review shows I like. But rating and reviewing a podcast is NOT the first step. Before I rate your podcast on iTunes you have to provide me some value. Prior to me reviewing your podcast on iTunes, you have to hook me as a listener. Putting the ‘please rate and review us’ plea towards the end of an episode might be less effective, but it’s also less FUCKING ANNOYING.
I was so pissed I nearly turned off. That would have been a shame, since I would have missed the host’s sinister fake laugh. Honestly, it’s both hilariously insincere and just blood-curdling.
I forced myself to keep listening for a while longer. It was an interview with a ‘holistic dentist’ who wants to treat the whole body, not just the teeth. God! No! NOOO! Just give me a filling and send me the bill. There’s no cosmic truth to teeth.
You can hear the laugh at 02:35 on this clip, and at 03:34,
Day 5 – On Air With Ella
I listened to episode 54, and in the intro the host (Ella, natch) asks, ‘Is Kale Bad For You?’ This introduction is the podcast equivalent of clickbait. We’re supposed to think
oh my god I’ve been eating so much kale! Is kale giving me cancer?!
Okay, maybe I would. So let’s give it a fair listen with no preconceptions.
Ella answers the question ‘How do I eat right in a restaurant?’ and the first thing she says is ‘don’t ruin the experience of the people you’re out with.’ Holy moly! That’s legit good advice. Wait, there’s more. She suggest having food rules in place.
I think of it as making a decision once instead of making a decision every time I go out.
Hey, I like this woman. Plain English, common sense, no esoteric mumbo jumbo. She’s off to a strong start.
Now she’s talking about exercise – when she said the word ‘exercise’ I felt fat and guilty because I haven’t done much recently. But she’s so positive and peppy about it that I want to DO ALL THE EXERCISE! Whoo! Let’s go!
Motivation: ROAR! LET'S DO THIS!
p.s. In her answer to the kale question she quotes SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH and her answer is reasoned and nuanced. I literally can’t believe it; I was beginning to think all these motivational podcasts were just for hippies.
Day 6 -Daily Motivation
This started with some chill music, and an even chiller voice came on. Perhaps too chill – at times the host, Paul Andrew, sounds bored. I could totally imagine him doing a guided meditation and me just getting totally knocked out.
The calming effect was somewhat ruined by the sounds of (I think?) a toddler screaming somewhere in the guy’s house. Also what might have been the crackling of a log on a fire. Normally that’d be soothing but I found it grating here.
The episode was 7 minutes and when it was ending I realised I hadn’t listened to a single word after the intro, so distracted was I by trying to work out what the background noises were.
For that reason I’m slightly negative about it. Also to be motivational I think it needs to be a bit more upbeat.
Day 7 – The Lively Show
Instead of listening to the latest episode on the feed and then posting a completely different episode, this time I decided to listen to the one I was going to link to. Makes sense, right? Took me a week to figure it out.
Edit – seems they’ve taken the episode I heard off Soundcloud, so no link for you.
I like the intro music. It’s perky. And the host’s voice is upbeat. Yay! Okay now motivate me, please. (Note – the latest (Thanksgiving) episode is over an hour long – this isn’t the podcast for a quick boost.)
Okay so this one is full of phrases like ‘self-love’, ‘energy healing’, ‘tapping’ yourself as a therapy. With no sense of irony, the guest says about her boyfriend:
He would be tapping himself all night long.
Wow. And lol. But mainly wow.
And a lot of talk about eating disorders. So The Lively Show is not for me – at all – but people talking about their struggles and dealing with them can be inspirational and helpful. I’m sure there are loads of people who love this podcast.
Day 8 – The Daily Boost
Intro – upbeat, aspirational music. Host’s voice – How are ya? Yes! This is what I was expecting when I started this.
Scott Smith says his is ‘the most popular daily motivational program in the world’. He’s got a good radio voice and pace (almost everyone else on this list talks too fast or too slow). I’d be amazed if he has never worked in broadcasting.
A few minutes in, he’s promoting some product of his. Motivational guru pushing his products all the time. SCAM ALERT! Oh, but it’s free. So he makes a podcast every day for free and gives away other content for free. I LIKE.
He instructs listeners to stop for a couple of minutes and ask themselves:
Is my life going the way I want?
Powerful question! The most provocative, motivational question anyone has asked in these many hours of motivational podcasts. I’m sold.
The Daily Boost seems to be a GREAT podcast for normal people (i.e. people who don’t believe
Oh, and he mentions a course he created that costs money. But he does it at the end, after we’ve got a sense that he’s someone worth listening to, and it isn’t at all pushy. I took a peek at his landing page (the one with all the sales guff on it) and it looks like something he’s put a lot of work into. SOUND THE FAIR EXCHANGE OF VALUE KLAXON!
Motivation: UNTO THE FRAY!
Day 9 – Zen Habits Radio
This is odd. It seems to be a guy just reading the blog posts of one Leo Babauta. It really is mostly about habits. Is that useful? Is that motivational?
I would say yes. I once did a mini-course called ‘Three Tiny Habits’ and that was great fun, and one of the new habits stuck and is helpful.
I think the main problem I have with this podcast is that each blog post (they seem to be very short) is a self-contained thought. When you read the blog you would naturally stop and think about what you’ve just heard. You give yourself time to process what you read, to think if it has any application to your life, to start to shift your thought patterns.
But with the podcast it’s right on to the next point. They really should put long pauses between the sections. Give the listener time to contemplate.
So I’m going to call this a fail, but suggest you go over to the Zen Habits blog and take a look – you’ll get more out of it.