Pull a rabbit out of your hat

One my close friends made the comment "You're usually able to pull a rabbit out of your hat", after I just offered a solution to a problem he has been trying to solve. The reason I am able do this really has very little to do with magic. I just know a solution exists, or there is a library to help get the job done. That sounds magical, and it doesn't require being all knowing either, in truth its just because I exposed myself to the concept, library, or technique. Think of it as building a index of possibilities in your mind. Listening to Podcasts you get exposed to many skills you may not have otherwise picked up.

Mirroring

We tend to emulate the people we like most or interact with most, its called "mirroring", this is also why husbands and wives tend to look like each other after years of being together. It's not because they may or may not actually have similar genetics, its because overtime they tend to make the same facial expressions and mirror each other. We also tend to speak, hold ourselves and even laugh like the people we hang around.

You are the sum of the 5 people you hang out with most often

I learned of this powerful psychological concept years ago, and I since then I make an effort to surround myself with people I know will be a good influence on me. It turns out your mother was right! You shouldn't hang around with people you wouldn't want to be like.

We mirror people mentally, this is why a son will almost inevitably say something his father would have said. We are the product of the people we surround ourselves with. This is just a fact of how we work in social settings. We can't always surround ourselves with the most brilliant scientists or the best programmers in the world, but we can do the next best thing. We can listen to podcasts where they talk about their ideas and have conversations about programming topics. While this is not as good as talking directly to them, many of the benefits will show up. You will gain insight
into their thought patterns and potentially pick up some of these patterns. You will be introduced to new ideas and be forced to question your current positions.

This might seem a bit far fetched and that this cannot come from just listening to podcasts, but in these effects are more subtle than you realize. afterall listening to a podcast is atleast 50% of having a conversation and arguably the more important part for actually gaining knowledge. No one ever talked their way to earning a PHD. Much of the time I listen to podcasts and I find myself being able to call on concepts, news, or techniques I have heard talked about on the shows. The psychological effects of mirroring are extremely powerful and can be used to your benefit. All you need to do is listen.

here are some of my favorite podcasts:

Ruby Rogues
Javascript Jabber
Tenative.fm
Bikeshed.fm
giantrobots.fm
Ruby on Rails Podcast
Ruby 5 - Ruby News
5 Minutes of Javascript
Codenewbie Podcast
Ruby Steps Podcast