Over the past couple years I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. Some have been for entertainment such as Hang Out With Me by Myq Kaplan, Strangers, or Criminal. Others were more informative like Stuff You Should Know, Smart People Podcast or Freakonomics. The largest category was sermons (or similar) such as The Briefing by Albert Mohler, Truth for Life, The Bible Study Hour, Cross Politic, and Desiring God.
I had a routine. Most mornings, after I would read my Bible and pray, I’d start playing the podcasts. I had taken advantage of the player I was using and had them downloaded and placed in a playlist in a specific priority. So the first episode I listened to every morning was The Briefing. I’d listen to them as I brushed my teeth, or when I was making breakfast. I listened as I drove into work. Occasionally, I’d get done by the time I got to work, other times I’d listen as I drove home. I listened to all of the episodes at 2.5x. It was the only way to get through that many hours of podcasts in such a short amount of time.
Over the past few months I started cutting out podcasts. I unsubscribed to The West Wing Weekly, in part because in order to follow along, I also needed to watch an episode of The West Wing on Netflix. I enjoy the show, but I didn’t want to have that burden every week. Then I started removing other shows when I realized that most of the time I skipped several of their episodes.
At this point, I’m subscribed to 2 podcasts: Desiring God’s Message of the Day and the Dave Ramsey show. I haven’t really listened to either in a about a month. And I switched Desiring God from 2.5x back to 1x.
This was all deliberate. I realized that even though I could hear at 2.5x and even understand at 2.5x, it was actually robbing me of the experience. There’s a reason John Piper doesn’t speak at 2.5x, he wants the weight of his words to land on the hearers. I was turning the experience into something that was a todo list item. I didn’t really care if I grasped the bulk of the episodes, I cared more about being able to cross the item off of my daily list.
Going through this exercise has helped me reflect. One of the reasons I wanted to listen at 2.5x was that there was so many podcasts that I wanted to listen to that I wouldn’t have time if I listened at 1x. I was trying to cram in so much information. In some ways, I think it highlighted my fight to resist finiteness.
There’s so much that I want to do, so many things that I want to be good at. I want to be a good developer, a good conference speaker, a good Pluralsight author. In some ways, those things are related. For example, I can do something at work and then give a conference talk on it, and turn that into a Pluralsight course.
However, my interests aren’t limited to just that. I want to be good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. I spend over 200 hours a year training them. But there’s not really any overlap between software development and BJJ. I can’t get better at BJJ by learning about functional programming, as an example.
Something I would like to be able to do, but it’s always at the bottom of my priority list, is work on my Greek and Hebrew skills that I learned at Southern Seminary and possibly even read the Bible in the original languages.
There are things I have to do, like mow the yard, get oil changes, take the trash out etc.
And all of that is not even mentioning the things that are really important to me, or at least should be, growing in my faith or being a good father and husband.
At the end of the day, I can only do so much, and even less if I want to be good at it. Knowing this helps me set my priorities. I want to be good at speaking. But if that means I need to speak at 10 or more conferences in the course of a year, I don’t have a desire to do that. It conflicts with too many other things that I want to do.
After all, much like you, I’m only finite. I can only accomplish so much. To be truly effective, I need to direct my energies on the things that really matter to me.