Life-changing Podcasts, Books, and Films That Are Helping Us Cope in 2020

Their lessons have allowed us to navigate through this unsteady year with more hope and resilience.

Oliver Rossi/ Getty Images
Oliver Rossi/ Getty Images

In the months we’ve spent indoors during lockdown, many of us have had the opportunity to read more books, get hooked onto new podcasts, watch films and talks, and even try online classes — broadening our perspectives and worlds from the safety of our homes. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us one film, podcast, book, talk, documentary or class that has helped them cope during this unsteady year, and what they’ve taken away from it. Which of these will you check out?

The Tim Ferriss Show

“Tim Ferriss’s podcast has changed my life. It has allowed me to be a fly on the wall of conversations with leaders in politics, fitness, science, history, storytelling, sports and more. It also gave me the life hacks I needed to lose 23 pounds and find the person I was meant to be. I have learned countless lessons in resilience and grit that have been invaluable especially during this trying time. And it has fulfilled my yearning for lifelong learning and my goal of never being the smartest person in the room. I highly recommend it.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, speaker and life coach, Toronto, ON, Canada

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

“I recently decided to re-read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. The book begins with the line, ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.’ This message reminded me of the value of being open and accepting of the total unknown of these times. The book has allowed me space to look for the silver linings, see the opportunities, and embrace the time for me to reset, review and recalibrate my life. I have doubled down on my morning yoga and meditation practice, which has now become embedded in my life and as automatic as brushing my teeth. Starting every day this way keeps me grounded as I face and even welcome the new uncertainties that each day brings. Thanks to this book, each day is now a joy.”

—Marguerite Orane, leadership coach and public speaker, Toronto, ON, Canada 

The Diamond Cutter by Michael Roach

“About twenty years ago, I very accidentally read the book The Diamond Cutter. On the surface, it appears to be a memoir about a Western man who leaves his world, becomes a monk, and then returns to New York many years later. Not being a Buddhist or particularly religious, I have no idea why his story was so attractive to me, but I was elated by what I found in this book about meditation. Roach’s clear description of meditation as just sitting and holding a space for new ideas to emerge was the most wonderful gift I ever received. The idea of giving myself permission to let thoughts arise while sitting in silence was an earth-shattering concept after believing that meditation meant ‘emptying’ or ‘silencing’ the mind. I began to try this new idea of meditation immediately by setting a timer for five minutes and noticing what came up in my mind. Soon, I was sitting for ten to twenty minutes, just listening and hearing my own new ideas. Many of my most creative and ingenious ideas still surface using this method. I began my meditation practice the day I read that book, and have shared it with so many others during challenging times.”

—Dr. Sharon Ufberg, transformational biz coach, Hermosa Beach, CA

Meditative Story” podcast

“Earlier this summer, I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s Meditative Story podcast episode, ‘There is no one way.’ The episode really made me think differently.  We had just moved to a new house and our daughters were both eager to put their thumbprints on the home. In order to save some money, the girls decided to paint the vanities in their respective bathrooms. I knew the project would require patience and time, neither of which are a strong suit of my daughters. The results were less than ideal, and the girls were frustrated and I was frustrated, but listening to the Meditative Story podcast gave me some peace, perspective and acceptance in that moment. I even shared the podcast with my oldest daughter, and it made a big difference in our daily attitudes during these trying days. I am grateful to Meditative Story for helping me through this different and difficult time.”

—Chris C. Georgetown, SC

Atomic Habits by James Clear

“One of the best tips that I’ve read in 2020 is how to habit stack, from Atomic Habits. This enabled me to adopt new habits into my routines and get them to stick. The idea was to write down the new habit directly after a current habit, creating a link between the desired behavior and something you already do, thus creating a habit stack. This was the tip I’ve used to successfully keep a morning journal after years of aborted attempts to be consistent. I wrote down that after making my coffee in the morning, I will complete an entry in my journal. With this stack in place, I was able to journal over 90% of the mornings in 2020 so far. Atomic Habits has even helped me manage my stress during the coronavirus crisis.”

—Andrew McMichael, service centre manager, healthcare, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Overcoming Trichotillomania: The Power of Awareness

“The COVID-19 lockdown has created a lot of anxiety for me. I suffer from Trichotillomania, a compulsive hair pulling disorder. It’s something I don’t realize is happening when I am stressed. I am trying to juggle the little work I have left and homeschooling my kids. I found Aneela Idnani’s TEDx talk recently called ‘Overcoming Trichotillomania: The Power of Awareness.’ She made me realize I am not alone with this mental health condition. While I thought I couldn’t control it, I’ve learned I can own my healing. This lesson resonates because these uncertain times have made me feel powerless, but now I know I have power!”

—Bobbie H., graphic designer, New York, NY

Montalvo International Women in Life and Leadership” podcast

“I recently launched a podcast of my own entitled Montalvo International Women in Life and Leadership, and the first guest, Paula Bruce, is an empowerment coach. One of the key concepts she stated that gave me so much encouragement was that ‘failure isn’t final.’ As a business owner in the midst of so many things going on in life, it was such a great reminder that there is always more to come if you’re willing to choose to see one step further.”

—Antonette Montalvo, pediatric nurse practitioner and nurse entrepreneur, SC

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“I started reading The Water Dancer before the recent social unrest. I started reading the book in March but did not finish it until July. The deeper the story drew me in, the more the fiction plot line felt like history — true history… the history of Black people in America. In the book, history is told through the eyes of a conductor: one who is charged in the underground railroad with the passage of slaves to freedom. With historic precision, Coates weaves tales of fact and fiction into seamless threads of a time of pain, joy, and sorrow. We see through the prism of a young black man what life was and is yet to be. It is a profound read, masterfully told by an authentic storyteller. It feels more relevant than ever today.”

—JoAnn Rolle, dean of business, Brooklyn, NY

Green Book

“Amidst the racial tensions around us, I was struck anew after watching Green Book, a biopic about international African American concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley. When I was in the sixth grade, I was labeled an Oreo: Black on the outside but white at the center. As I recall, the classmate hurled the comment my way because I jerked my head away after she tried to touch my hair. It sounds silly, but I recall that day vividly because it was the day I received an education on double consciousness which would later inform my perspective on the importance of code switching. After watching the movie Green Book, I was empathetic of Shirley’s identity crisis as he developed a friendship with his tough-talking Italian-American chauffeur while traversing the Deep South on a piano concert tour in 1962. I remembered the sixth grade memory as Don Shirley says, ‘If I’m not black enough and I’m not white enough and I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what the hell am I?’ As Black people, we are not a monolith.”

—Tiffani Knowles, author and professor, Miami, FL

Mission Blue

“A few months ago, I watched a documentary called Mission Blue. I was introduced to an incredible woman, Sylvia Earle. She is a marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer. She was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Time magazine named her the first Hero for the Planet in 1998. Earle is committed to protecting the ocean and its wildlife. She’s unwavering in her passion and commitment. This movie made me realize how little attention we pay to that which we don’t see. From the outside, the ocean always looks like the ocean, until we dive deep into the ocean with Earle. Watching this movie educated me on the serious state of our oceans, and the incredible passion of this pioneer.”

—Nicki Anderson, leadership director at Benedictine University, Lisle, IL

Is there a lesson from a movie, book, or podcast that’s helped you navigate recent challenges in your life? Share it with us in the comments.

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