The podcast that guarantees free energy

The duo behind the increasingly popular Access To Inspiration podcast explain why their listeners are enthralled by extraordinary stories from people who are ‘unalike’ them. 

As well as skiing to the North Pole and taking part in Channel 4’s Superhuman series, Sue Stockdale has run for Scotland. So when she compares her podcast to putting her running shoes on, you know she takes it seriously.

“Creating a podcast is just like running,” Sue says. “You don’t need much kit. You just need to prepare thoroughly, then really go for it”.

Sue is the co-founder and host of the Access To Inspiration podcast. Three series into the adventure, she’s taking stock of what has made the project a success – both in terms of the content and feedback from the show’s rapidly growing audience.

“Each episode brings the listener close to someone who has a great story to tell about their experiences and what they’ve learned from them,” she explains. “I like to interview people that you won’t necessarily have heard of – it makes their stories even more of a revelation. They’re all extraordinarily inspirational in their own way.”

Recent episodes (which are never longer than a user-friendly 25 minutes) have included the commander of an Antarctic research base, a Michelin-starred chef, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and the woman behind a sports rehabilitation programme for female refugees.

Shared curiosity

The idea for the project emerged over coffee during a business trip to New Zealand with the other co-founder Clive Steeper. “We were thinking about how people often look to celebrities or people with big social media followings for inspiration,” says Sue. “But there are so many other voices with far more to offer – and a big appeal of Access to Inspiration is the genuine diversity of the characters we feature and the focus on featuring people who are ‘unalike you’. For me, it’s all about the joy of shared curiosity.”

Clive is very much involved behind the scenes, helping to shape the themes, content and ethos of the series. Indeed, he was also the guest in one episode, sharing lessons he’d learned from the world of motor racing.

“Many people are increasingly drawn towards their own little echo chambers,” says Clive. “They tend to follow people who are like them, who think the same way. But if you stare at the same flat-screen TV all day, it will start to damage your peripheral vision. The podcast helps people to think bigger and see beyond their own world.”

The adventurer and the catalyst

Sue Stockdale headshot   Clive Steeper

Sue and Clive are both business coaches and the podcast dovetails neatly with those roles, particularly given that they have their own inspirational stories to share. In 1994, Sue became the first woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole, and she has undertaken several other expeditions, helping to forge her reputation as an outstanding motivational speaker. Meanwhile, after a 20-year career in industry and sport, Clive has worked with many senior CEOs as a ‘business catalyst’.

They’re both fans of Desert Island Discs which, as with Access To Inspiration, is built around an individual telling their story. Inspirational storytelling has been at the heart of human life since the days of cave paintings and Sue and Clive believe that we turn our back on its power at our peril.

“You can probably now buy an app that claims to provide algorithm-generated nuggets of inspiration,” says Clive. “But nothing is as inspirational as learning from the stories of other human beings. Inspiration is free energy, and that energy is contagious.”

Five episodes of Access to Inspiration that we particularly love – and why:

  1. John-David Bartoe: An astronaut going into space   His perspective on seeing Earth for the first time from space is genuinely awe-inspiring. 
  2. Amelia Lin:  The profound impact of education on her life and work   How two parents’ desire to give their children more opportunities than they had enjoyed led to astonishing outcomes.
  3. Paul Rose: At the front line of exploration and adventure   His life-long mantra of ‘be useful’ is simple, practical and something we can all learn from. 
  4. Nauja Bianco: Life ‘up north’ being a global Greenlander   A fascinating glimpse into life in a country that relatively few people have visited. 
  5. Keith Crutcher: the brain and its ability to adapt   Keith helps us all understand what we can do to cope with a changing world. 

Words: Fraser Allen