Episode: 25 |
Josh Spodek:
Leadership Step by Step:


Josh Spodek

Leadership Step by Step

Show Notes

Our guest today is Josh Spodek, the author of Leadership Step by Step.

Josh is an independent professional who

  • coaches individual clients
  • teaches leadership and entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at NYU
  • does speaking engagements
  • runs online courses in leadership and entrepreneurship on SpodekAcademy.com

For the show we met at Josh’s apartment in Greenwich Village, and in the first part of our conversation we discuss the blackboard in his room and the new course he is currently developing, which is sketched out in chalk.

We also talk about what Josh has learned from blogging every single day since 2011, the impact on his fitness from doing 90,000 burpees over the past few years, and how he fits four months of garbage into one tote bag.

Josh’s approach to teaching leadership and entrepreneurship is very experiential and organized around a series of exercises. We discuss several of these, including what you can learn from three raisins.

You can learn more about Josh and take his online course at http://spodekacademy.com/

And buy his book here:


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Our guest today is Josh Spodek, the author of Leadership Step by Step, Become the Person Others Follow. Josh is an independent professional based in New York City who coaches individual clients. He teaches leadership and entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at NYU. He does speaking engagements, and he runs online courses in leadership and entrepreneurship at SpodekAcademy.com. That’s S P O D E K Academy.com. For the show, we met at Josh’s apartment in Greenwich Village, and in the first part of our conversation, we discuss the blackboard in his room and the new course he’s currently developing, which is sketched out in chalk. We also talk about what Josh has learned from blogging every single day since 2011, the impact on his fitness from doing 90,000 burpees over the past few years, and how he fits four months of garbage into one tote bag. Josh’s approach to teaching leadership and entrepreneurship is very experiential and organized around a series of exercises. We discuss several of these including what you can learn from three raisins. I had a great time chatting with Josh, and I hope you find some practical tips that you can implement today.

Josh, I am so excited to have you on the show.

Josh Spodek: I’m really excited to be on the show, too. I really like in-person. I think it adds a lot to it.

Will Bachman: All right, and I’ll say that I’m here in Josh’s apartment. Before we sit down, Josh, why don’t you give me a little tour. When I first walked in, you were showing me a bag over here. Could you just give us a visual description of what we’ve got over here in this bag?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, so this is my canvas bag where I collect my landfill garbage. I compost. The compost is basically all the wet stuff, then I recycle the paper, plastic, metal, and the rest goes in this canvas bag. Since it’s not wet, I can just reuse the bag. It’s the size of a regular tote bag. People can’t see it, but you know the size of a tote bag. This is, today is May 10th, and the last time that I emptied it, I take it down the hall and empty it down the chute. The last time I emptied it was December 4th, so I’m in my sixth month. Just before you came in, I was taking pictures of it, because I was about to empty it.

Will Bachman: So, Josh, you’re really putting me to shame here, because just to paint a visual picture here, again, it’s the size of a normal tote bag. In here, we have a few Amazon, sticky, puffy envelopes and a bunch of plastic stuff and some dirt from the floor. That is about the amount of garbage that we generate before breakfast, I’d say, at my house. I am totally impressed.

Josh Spodek: I hope more than impressed, I hope you-

Will Bachman: Inspired.

Josh Spodek: Feel motivated to … Yeah. I look at it. You were picking out some stuff, and I’m like, “Oh, I could have done … There’s lots of stuff that I could have avoided.” The more you do it, the more you do it more. It gets easier.

Will Bachman: I’m standing in front of a blackboard, here. Talk to me a little. Not many people have a blackboard in the living room. That’s pretty cool. What do you have on the blackboard here?

Josh Spodek: Well, okay. So, I’ve got to mention the reason I have the blackboard is that when I was getting my PhD, I knew that I was leaving academia. My dad asked me, “What do you want to … ” He wanted to get me a gift. He’s a professor, so I like blackboards. I don’t like whiteboards. So, I asked him to get me a blackboard. It was a gift from my father for getting my PhD. At the time I thought I was going to be gone from academia forever. What do we have on it? We have on the left is my kettle bell routine, so swings, deadlift, squat, bench, lat, military, and so that’s so I can remember what weights I’m doing and how many reps of each to do.

Will Bachman: You want to walk through how many reps? This is pretty impressive here. Swings, three by 15. What is this 53? What do these numbers mean?

Josh Spodek: 53 is because it’s 53 pounds. It’s 24 kilograms, so whatever the … The two columns on the right are what order I do it in, because I wrote it in. I just reordered it so I have less waiting time in between reps, so I don’t leg, leg, leg, back, back, back, arm, arm, arm like that. I do leg, back, arm, anyway.

Will Bachman: This is something that you do every day?

Josh Spodek: On, man.

Will Bachman: Walk us through this. This is-

Josh Spodek: People who know me know that I do burpees every day. There’s certain things that I do every day. Every morning and every evening, I do burpees. When I say burpees, it’s really burpees, followed by stretching, followed by back, followed by arms. That’s a 10 minute routine that I have not missed a day doing since I started in December 2011.

Will Bachman: All right.

Josh Spodek: Then, people also know that I write on my blog every day. I haven’t missed a day in that since January 2011. Along the way, I started doing cold showers. Cold showers are really difficult, but they’re really … Read my blog to see why I like cold showers so much. It’s not because it’s good for your hair or good for your skin. I don’t believe any of that stuff. I don’t think anyone’s done a double blind study on that one, but really it’s invigorating for one thing, but it’s really, it trains you to do what you said you were going to do.

Will Bachman: Could you just say, “I’ll take a hot shower every day?”

Josh Spodek: Well, that’s not hard.

Will Bachman: Okay, good point.

Josh Spodek: Let’s go in the upper right corner of my board. It’s not easy, but it’s better.

Will Bachman: Okay, that’s-

Josh Spodek: That’s a keynote talk that I’ve prepared. Look, we got a nation full of people. I would say a large majority are doing what’s easy even when they know what is better by their own terms.

Will Bachman: That’s true, that’s true.

Josh Spodek: I think most people prefer to do what’s better to what’s easy. Hopefully you have things that are easy and better, but some things are easy and not better. Some things are better and not easy. You generally do better in your life choosing the better. How do you do that? It’s hard for a lot of people. Taking cold showers trains you to do what’s better. What I get in return is the ability to the difficult thing, the better thing, even when it’s not easy.

Will Bachman: No, I guess I have seen this advice before. It teaches you not to flinch. It teaches you to suck it up and to endure something, and realize you can get through it. Is that the thinking?

Josh Spodek: You could say that, except I wouldn’t … After a while it’s not enduring. Look, these are my marathon-

Will Bachman: All right.

Josh Spodek: From running the marathon.

Will Bachman: We’ve got the Philadelphia Marathon here, and we’ve got the-

Josh Spodek: New York.

Will Bachman: New York Marathon, all right.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, it’s challenging, but a lot of people do it. They’re not all just enduring. It’s an endurance race, but there’s something joyful to it. There’s something awesome to it. There’s something tremendous to it. There’s a community aspect to it.

Will Bachman: It certainly wakes you up.

Josh Spodek: It’s like that. If you look at everything that is discomfort, that causes discomfort as something you have to endure, you’re missing out on some of the best stuff, I think.

Will Bachman: So, it’s training yourself to do something a little bit more-

Josh Spodek: To live by high values.

Will Bachman: What have we got here on the middle of the board? Exercises for course on healthy living, good life. What’s that about?

Josh Spodek: On my site, SpodekAcademy.com, I have courses that I’ve been offering at NYU and then through my site. There’s one on leadership. There’s one on entrepreneurship. There’s one on sales. There’s one that combines all those called The Fundamentals of Hustling. What I’ve found is that a lot of people, my coaching clients, I get a lot of, we solve the issue between them and the CEO. We solved the issue between them and the board that they came to me for. But, then they find out their relationship with their spouse or their kids starts changing. They start looking for coaching in life. It generally goes from business stuff to life stuff. So, all my courses are exercises, sets of exercises. I’ve been putting together the exercises that I think would make up my next course to offer, would be on healthy living and a good life. These are, I think I have 10 different exercises there that would put together as mainly … The leadership stuff is on self-awareness. It starts off with self-awareness and speaking authentically and exercises to build empathy and compassion, and leadership stuff.

Will Bachman: Can we give a little preview? Can we read the list here? Or, is this …

Josh Spodek: The entrepreneurship stuff is on taking initiative and responsibility.

Will Bachman: Let’s sit down here. Let’s grab a chair.

Josh Spodek: The life stuff is really mainly on sleep, exercise, and food, which to me are the big … If you got those worked out, life is going to be … You got a good foundation. If you don’t have those worked out, you can do everything you want, but if you don’t sleep well, eat well, and exercise, I think you’re going to have trouble with everything else. My courses are always based on giving people things to do. What do we have? We’ve got the first one. The one is over the whole course of the course, eight hours of sleep per night. Now, some people need seven, some people need nine. It’s the right amount for you. That’s a challenge. After each exercise, you always have to write up your reflection. You get to read other people’s experiences and people get to read yours. Then, there’s burpees.

Will Bachman: Not everyone in the world knows what burpees is. Some people think it’s a seed company, so what is a burpee, exactly?

Josh Spodek: Burpee is literally, what it is, is you drop down from standing up. You drop down, do a push up, and then jump up.

Will Bachman: Okay, got it.

Josh Spodek: If you could only do one thing, because it’s full body. It’s very low risk of injury. You don’t need equipment.

Will Bachman: You’ve done a few of these yourself. What, a couple hundred or so?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, in September, I’ll hit 100,000.

Will Bachman: 100,000 burpees. Wow.

Josh Spodek: I used to think this is really awesome. Now, I think of it more as brushing my teeth. I would not think of going to sleep without brushing my teeth. I don’t need an app to brush my teeth. I don’t need a graph or something to connect me with a bunch of friends to make sure I keep up with it. As a result, I live a life of someone who brushes his teeth. As far as I know, I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t brush their teeth every day, but they’re not part of my life. My life is filled with people who brush their teeth every day. If you live according to your values, then you will have a community around you of people who support you and live by similar values, or at least complementary values. 

Will Bachman: We talked about burpees. Next stop is no food packaging, no fiber removed food. What’s fiber? What’s that, like rice?

Josh Spodek: Oh, so fiber removed, food where fiber has been removed.

Will Bachman: Like white bread, for example.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, the big things are white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and the big thing for me was people say you shouldn’t have too much processed food. I’m a geek. To me, what does processed mean? I’ve got to nail this down, because if I chop up vegetables and fry them with garlic and onions, is that processing? If so, should I only eat raw? Some people do that. I wanted to figure out for myself what differentiates. What’s the key differentiation between a Twinkie and an apple. I don’t know anyone who has a problem with eating apples. I know people say don’t eat Twinkies. I thought for a while, and I thought, I think, to me, if you removed fiber. It’s a weird thing to do.

It’s natural. Sorry, it’s not natural. It’s standard now. We live in a world in which Wonderbread is all over the place. Twinkies are all over the place. Doritos are all over the place. But, for me, now that I think of it, taking fiber out of food is just kind of an odd thing to do. I won’t eat white bread, but I’ll eat whole wheat bread. It turns out, that combined with my other thing of not eating foods, not packaged foods, has led to a total renaissance in my eating and health that I’ve never eaten more delicious, more conveniently, more cheaply, more connecting with people.

Will Bachman: I’ve got to say, on the wheat, I’ll just put in a plug here. One of the best purchases that we had in our family under a hundred dollars was this thing called a Victorio wheat mill. You buy the whole grain wheat berries, the whole wheat, like the whole thing, the whole grain. You buy the whole grain of the wheat. He’s pulling out his whole grain, here. He’s got his wheat berries here. Josh has got his wheat berries in his hand. And, it’s a hand operated wheat grinder. You grind the wheat berries into flour, and it makes the best pancakes in the world. Right? Because, if you buy whole wheat at the store, you’re thinking, “Oh, I’m buying whole wheat bread. Good thing. Whatever.” That actually has part of the wheat still removed, because if you grind wheat, the germ, the oil starts going bad.

Josh Spodek: It turns rancid.

Will Bachman: Rancid immediately. But, if you grind it yourself at home, which is super easy, you can make these awesome pancakes. I recommend that to listeners. 70 bucks, it’s the Victorio wheat mill.

Josh Spodek: Tip of the hat for having a hand, because I’ve got my blender over here, which I put it in there, and it does that. It’s the same with orange juice. We all know, hopefully people know that orange juice is basically sugar. But, if you buy orange juice from the store and open the package, fresh squeezed, it still lasts for a while in your fridge. But, if you squeeze oranges, it goes rancid really quick, which I wrote. Then, I got this PR flack, wrote me, and was like, it’s actually really good. I was like, “No.”

Will Bachman: I think if you fly into some airports in Florida-

Josh Spodek: They’ll give it to you.

Will Bachman: No, I was going to say, and you look down. They have these massive tanks that look like those things that they store gasoline in, but those actually store-

Josh Spodek: Just OJ, yeah.

Will Bachman: Orange juice. All right, next on the list, get rid of half your books. All right, talk to me about that one.

Josh Spodek: Okay, the wall that we’re looking at here used to be books, the whole wall. My dad being a history professor, I grew up in a house filled with books. I thought books are a cool thing to have up and people can come over and see how smart I am. I went through this process. I thought, you know, I’ve got books I really like here, but there’s also some dumb stuff I should just get rid of. I got rid of a bunch of books. I took them to the bookstore. When I got rid of them, I looked up on my shelf, and I was like, there are books on the border. Maybe I should keep them, maybe not.

Actually, these books that were on the border, now that the junk ones are gone, the ones on the border are not … They don’t measure up. Then, I got rid of more, and more, and more, and then finally I was left with a dictionary and thesaurus and Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, which eventually I got rid of those, too. Most people say that this apartment has not that much stuff in it. I feel like there’s still a lot of stuff in it. Getting rid of stuff has been a tremendously valuable experience for me.

Will Bachman: I’ll add two things to that. One is I think a library is like an orchard. You have to prune it occasionally to keep it healthy, so I love your point about the books. I will put in a suggestion or idea for listeners that do have, and somewhere in their community, either if you live in a row house or in the suburbs, or you have some place if you’re in the city, to build a little free library. We built a little free library in front of our house. It’s just a little box with a little clear door in front. We put our books there. Neighbors come by. They take books out. They drop books off. It’s just a nice addition to the community. Dorp them off at the used book store or create a little free library. It’s just to create a little bit of community in your space.

Josh Spodek: I’m so glad that you said the word community a few times there, because for me, there’s a few things that all the stuff of not polluting and getting rid of stuff, a few things that it keeps coming back to. It’s a lot of the relationships to the people around me. Community, that is what … I’m avoiding flying for a year. I’m actually in my 14th month of not flying. I’m not sitting in my apartment staring at the wall instead of going to Costa Rica. If you restrict it, I don’t want to be less happy. What I’ve found is that I feel that I’m more happy than I was when I’m chasing all this travel stuff. It brings me in touch with my community. Especially, food, because I’m going to farmer’s markets, and I’m getting to know the people. I go out to the farm, and I never did stuff like that before. Community is one of the main things that comes out of it, and I think it’s one of the things we’ve lost.

Traveling around the world, people can say I’m in the community of third culture kids or something like that. I don’t know. There are people who are traveling all over the place. They’re like, “Hey, I’m part of this global community.” I’m like, “You haven’t talked to the people. You’ve never seen them face to face. You’ve never made eye contact with them.” To me, for me, I can’t speak for anybody else. For me, this is better.

Will Bachman: All right. That’s cool. Let’s see, so no news or social media. Talk to me about that, no news.

Josh Spodek: That’s not something I’ve made up, but hopefully people have done it. You go for a week and just don’t read the paper. Don’t go on social media. That doesn’t mean stare at the wall. Do something else.

Will Bachman: Yeah, Tim Ferriss has a big thing about taking the media diet, cutting out the newspaper. Boy, now, I’ve been off and on at media diet. I’m on it right now, I’ve got to say. I feel so much more productive. It’s so easy to get sucked in and just want to be checking Politico all day long.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, they’ve got teams of people to figure out how to make a little red dot draw your eye up. Fighting against that is really tough unless you just don’t get in in the first place.

Will Bachman: Their business is to scare the wits out of you, right? So you keep reading.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, you’re talking about the paper? It’s to engage you. It’s to keep you there. My courses are built on getting you to do things and learn by doing, and the experience of doing. There’s no substitute for doing that.

Will Bachman: Yeah, so we’ve got cold showers, talked about that. Then, what’s the next one?

Josh Spodek: [SIDCHA 00:17:31] of your choice.

Will Bachman: SIDCHA? What’s SIDCHA?

Josh Spodek: SIDCHA stands for self-imposed daily challenging healthy activity.

Will Bachman: All right, that’s cool.

Josh Spodek: It’s about habit formation, but a SIDCHA is a little more than a habit, because brushing your teeth is a habit, but that’s not particularly challenging.

Will Bachman: SIDCHA. I have a SIDCHA that I’ve been doing, which does not compete with your 100,000 burpees, but I’ve been doing 100 push ups per day.

Josh Spodek: That’s just as much.

Will Bachman: Not all at once. 100 over the course of the day. So, if I do 10 10 times, that counts, right? It’s cumulative. So, I’ve been doing that for 30 days. That is actually, it’s my minor little SIDCHA compared to what you’ve got on your board, but it actually, I recommend it as a starting point.

Josh Spodek: Why just a … Are you going to continue it?

Will Bachman: Yeah. I’m going to continue it. Maybe I’ll work up to more per day, but it’s a great starting point for someone who doesn’t like doing push ups. You don’t have to do them all at once, just 100 total in a day.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, my burpees started with 10 burpees a day. Eventually, 10 becomes easy and you do 11. Then, 11 becomes easy and you do 12. You’ll probably do more than 100 pushups at some point. Or, maybe you’ll add, because push ups is just pushing. You might do something like pull ups or sit ups. You just-

Will Bachman: Yeah, add on to it.

Josh Spodek: Eventually, you’re like, “This is too easy.”

Will Bachman: Get rid of half your clothes. That’s the next one on the list.

Josh Spodek: Yeah. That’s kind of similar to the book thing. Most of us have … I guess the rule of thumb is generally if you haven’t worn it in a year, probably worth getting rid of. So, it’s just getting people to do what I think everyone … How many people listening to this have thought about but not actually done it, aggressively prune your stuff? Obviously everyone gets rid of something at some point.

Will Bachman: Yeah, it’s a great exercise. Marie Kondo, tidying up, awesome. Gratitude emails.

Josh Spodek: That came out of an experience. There’s a lot of different forms of this exercise. One of them is you write down three things that you’re grateful for before you go to sleep. The one that I did, I don’t know if you know Joe [Polish 00:19:31]. He spoke at a class, and I talked to him afterward. His version of it was write 10 emails per day for one week to people, gratitude emails. He didn’t specify any more than that. I had to figure out for myself what it meant for me. I did it, and it was a tremendous experience. I chose, I’m only going to write what I’m grateful for, and I’m not going to write anything else.

So, if I also have some issue with them, I’m not going to write that. People are writing back to me, being like, oh, they’re so happy. I’m like, “I’m still angry at you, but I’m not saying that.” Before the week is done, people are writing me back. Some of the emails that I’m getting back are really long and heartfelt. Now I’ve got to write more. Of course, I’m very happy to, but it’s really an exercise that just grows and grows, and eventually goes back down again because you can’t keep in touch with everyone all the time. I can’t. It was a growth experience, a really fun experience, and so I made that one of them.

Then, authentic voice, the last one is an exercise from my book, for my leadership book. It’s to write down your inner monologue. So, that came from [Shureka Morale 00:20:42] the way that you and I met. It’s to write down your inner monologue, the voice inside your head, word for word. Not what you’re thinking about, but what you’re think, the exact words. Then, I build on that, and build on that to get you more attuned to your inner monologue and the voices in your head. Eventually, I work up to one, which is to speak that voice in the moment without filtering it.

What I find is that people are scared at first, because they’re afraid of … There’s a reason for the filter, but like any skill, when you first do something, you’re not skilled at it. As you practice, you get better. Yeah, you’re going to make mistakes. Just go with it. But, with your inner monologue and speaking authentically, with practice, you realize that that filter is like training wheels. It’s helpful, but once you get there, you don’t need it anymore. It’s keeping you from improving your form. Everyone who does it, they come back and they say, “I’ve said things I never thought I could say before.” The big thing is people respond to them, saying back to them stuff that that person had never said before. This is a big example of leading yourself, leading to, that leads others whether you want to or not, because it’s a matter of integrity and openness and candor. It’s really easy to do if you do it, but it’s scary.

Will Bachman: So this is an exercise that you would do not just by yourself in a room, but with somebody else?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, some people have to work up to it.

Will Bachman: Yeah, I would probably need to work up to it.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, I say outright when I teach it, is if you want, start by just staring at a wall and just talk to the wall with no one else there. You’ll hear your voice. Then, maybe you can work up to a mirror. Then, work up to a camera, and watch the video afterward. But, when I teach it in university, I say by the end of the week, make sure you talk to someone, speaking. The more you practice it, the more natural it becomes, like any skill. We all had trouble walking at the beginning. We fell down many times. It was very physically painful, but most of us walk pretty well now.

Will Bachman: Yeah, so to speak. Let’s turn here to your book and your practice. I’m holding your book in my hand here. I love your book. It’s full of really powerful exercises. Leadership Step by Step, Become the Person Others Follow. Talk to me a little bit about the book. We jumped right into the conversation. Give us a overview of your practice.

Josh Spodek: Let’s see. I want to point out that it’s not just exercises, but it’s a progression of exercises that all fit together. A big inspiration for me, actually, let me give some context. I went to business school, and I took leadership classes. Overwhelmingly, the classes I took were still based in case study and lecture, reading psychology papers, writing papers, analytical papers. I really liked those courses and they made a big difference for me in my life, but I still out in the world found that I would try to lead, and I was thinking of what did I learn in that class? How do I apply that here? It was almost as if I was starting from scratch.

Then, independently to that, a big shift for me was watching Inside the Actor’s Studio, which I was just watching because I enjoy the interviews. I’m noticing a couple things about these actors. One is that on the social and emotional side, maybe not on the business side, but the social and emotional side, they were off the charts. They’re incredibly skilled. They could read the audience. They could evoke emotions. They could express emotions. They’re in contact with the interviewer, James Lipton, and well beyond any MBA that I met. The more I watched it, I also found that many of them dropped out of school, dropped out of high school. Okay, so how do I make sense of this? I went to an Ivy League business school, the pinnacle of education for leadership at least.

Then, I’m watching these people who dropped out of school, and they’re superior. Their skills are greater by all the measures that I could think of. I don’t know if they could balance a balance sheet or do a discount of cash flow, but a lot of leaders don’t need to do that either. But, in terms of the social and emotional skills, they were way off the charts. So, how do I make sense of this? The more I learned, the more I learned about names like Stanislavski, and Stella Adler, and Lee Strasberg, and Sanford Meisner, and all these teachers. They didn’t drop out of education. They dropped out of traditional education, and they went into learning acting.

Method acting is a style of learning and a style of practice to develop the skills that they have. It’s to develop social and emotional skills. After I studied it more, I ended up taking Meisner technique classes. People who know acting classes, Meisner technique is one subset of method acting. You begin with basics. You begin with the fundamentals, and you practice them. So, if it’s piano, you play scales and when you get good at that, you go up to the next set of exercises, which is maybe playing simple pieces. In acting, you begin with, in Meisner technique, you begin with the repetition exercise. You gradually work up. Each exercise is a little bit more challenging than the one before, and so on, and so on. It’s natural in this style of learning.

Talk to a great athlete. I just met and worked with Byron Scott who just came out with his book. He was a Laker. He won three rings with the Lakers in the Showtime era. It was Kareem, and Magic, and really cool guy. He talked about how he learned. I was like, “How come so many athletes make it into leadership and not many leadership leaders go into acting … go into sports?” He was like, “Because we fail, and we do stuff, and we learn teamwork. We learn we have to support each other, and things like that, that no amount of reading psychology papers, no amount of reading about other people’s lives in case studies, no amount of debating case studies is going to get you what happens when somebody’s depending on you, and you have to perform beyond what you thought you could.”

I took that structure of starting with the basics. You have to put a lot of work into creating effective exercises. You can’t just say … It’s like telling a leader, “Go be yourself.” To me, I don’t find that actionable. So, you have to come up with effective exercises. That’s why I spend so much time. I’m not indicating this, to select the exercises, to pick the order in which they go in, to make sure the beginning ones are things that anyone can do, and the next ones, by the time you’re doing it with other people interacting with you, you’ve developed a sense of confidence. I’m not just throwing people out to the wolves. And, you’ll get the theory.

Okay, so Leadership Step by Step is the culmination of years of working on taking that structure, and you learn the theory by doing it. I put the work into figuring out what’s the theory. Ask any of my students, what’s the theory behind this, and they’ll tell you.

Will Bachman: Talk to me about your business a little bit right now. What are the different revenue lines? It sounds like you’re doing some teaching. You do some one-on-one coaching. You do training seminars. Walk me through the different service lines that you offer.

Josh Spodek: You just answered it. There’s teaching, so NYU. It looks like things are hoping at Columbia. That’s the stable … If I’m at a party and someone says, “So, what do you do?” I’ll often say I’m a professor. Universities are famous for being very political, very bureaucratic. I’m not a fan of being bogged down in bureaucracy and politics. Also, I can only reach a few dozen students at a time. Separately, I have Spodek Academy, which is where I offer my courses online. It’s the exact same courses in the exact same order using the exact same software. The only difference is that you’re not in person, and you can do a week for one, and two weeks for the next, then a month for the next, and the next one doing two days, and so forth.

But, it has this online forum so that when you finish each exercise, to get to the next one, you have to write your reflection in the forum. That came from John Dewey and all this other style of learning that I didn’t make up, but there’s all this research that shows reflection is very valuable. You learn by doing but you internalize and you generalize when you reflect on it. When you see everyone else’s posts, no two people do the same exercise the same way. You see, oh, they did it that way, or I thought of that, but I didn’t really think much of it. Now, that person really went into it. And, people meet each other. People who have met on the forums have met in person and I hear about that, and that’s really cool.

Will Bachman: So you’ve got the NYU, you’ve got the online Spodek Academy, and I’ll just … That’s S P O D E K Academy.com, right?

Josh Spodek: Dot com, yeah. Then, there’s the book. People buy the book. The book is all the same exercises in all the same order. It doesn’t have the forum, and it doesn’t have the recordings. This is the roughly $20 version. The courses are hundreds of dollars, then if you go in person, I had to look this up. The NYU students pay $6,000 for the course. That’s a lot.

Will Bachman: You are offering a $5,990 discount if you buy it on Amazon. 

Josh Spodek: Yes, it makes a great gift.

Will Bachman: All right.

Josh Spodek: Since the book came out, there’s been a lot of interest in the speaking stuff. I’ve done some speaking, and that’s really exciting, especially because we the acting background, I did this one with Marshall Goldsmith in February. Anyone who knows Marshall, his schedule is insane. He put together with not much time to spare. We were still putting stuff together the morning of. Minutes before Marshall introduced me, I was still making stuff happen. This is to say, I didn’t really get to prepare as much as I would like to have. Three hours. There were a few people who leapt to their feet at the end of it. I didn’t get the entire room standing ovation, but a good number of them, it was a good number of standing ovation. Several people leapt to their feet.

Will Bachman: That’s great. That is available online somewhere?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, if you go to Facebook, if you go to Leadership Step by Step, my group page, then if you email me or message me, I’ll give you the link. But, if you search, you’ll find that it was on live, so it’s streamed.

Will Bachman: Go on Facebook, look for Leadership Step by Step fan page group, and somewhere it’ll be on there.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, it was February 4th, I believe, and it took a little while to process, so it’s probably a couple days after February 4th. You’ve got to go back.

Will Bachman: You’re giving speeches. I guess, New York area, because you’re not flying to them, right? So, don’t invite-

Josh Spodek: Oh, I take it back. I’ve been invited to do one in California. Oh, my laptop is closed, but I’m going to take a train out to California and back.

Will Bachman: I love it. All right, great way to see the country. So, speak in California. So, if you want Josh, you’ve got to book him in advance and it’s got to be served by Amtrak. That’s awesome. Coaching, is that part of your portfolio of activities? Tell me about how that works.

Josh Spodek: It’s funny. In the past couple of years, every client I have has found me, and has contacted me, and has said, “Here’s why you should coach me.” The pay goes … this is the opposite of how sales usually works, but it’s been going very well. When I work with someone one-on-one, some of them just want to … They’ve read the book, or they want to do the course, but they want personalized attention. But, when you work one-on-one, then you can skip stuff that’s not relevant, or that they’ve done before, or you can go in an order that’s important to them. One client of mine, we did a lot of the exercises in the book. I heard from him, it was a couple months ago. He came to me. He had applied to business school four years in a row, didn’t get in. He wanted help getting into business school. That was one of the main things.

He was a tech guy on path to CTO if he stayed at the company, but he wasn’t really that into staying with the company that much longer. So, he gets into Cornell and Oxford. Oxford or Cambridge, I forget which. But, then chooses not to go to either. Five years, he’d been working on this, gets in, but he realizes that was just going to get him ahead in the way that everybody else was, but that’s not really what he wanted. So, this tech guy, if you met him in person, you’d see he dresses really well, not like any tech guy that I’ve met. Stylish.

Will Bachman: No offense to tech guys out there.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, I’m not tech. I’m science, but I’m pretty geeky. He also was really … is into photography. He decides to take a break and try to figure out with the stuff that we’ve been working on, he’s learning more about himself. Anyway, he meets this guy who was the founder or CEO or both of a fashion company. The guy’s talking to him about tech stuff. My client says to him, “All right, I can work on the tech stuff, but I’m really into fashion.” He outright says, “I told him I have no experience in fashion, but I really want to work on that.” This is his words. “I led him to hire me.” The guys said to him what a lot of people say to people who use this style of my style of leadership. He says, “Look, I can teach you fashion, but I can’t teach you getting it, and you get it.” But, that stuff, that getting it, was my exercises. I teach getting it.

Will Bachman: Powerful. So, how do you think about shaping your practice over time now? You’ve got a really interesting portfolio. You’re doing coaching. You’ve got online academy training. In-person, I guess an adjunct professor role, or-

Josh Spodek: Adjunct professor, yeah.

Will Bachman: Adjunct professor role. How do you see that portfolio evolving over time?

Josh Spodek: It’s hard for me to predict too far into the future, but I can tell you that I wasn’t really going the corporate route before, but the book changed all that because of the interest that is popping up. I’m seeing that the opportunity to speak in front of groups there, I’m reaching thousands of people at a time. I haven’t been booked for thousands, yet. It’s been like 500.

Will Bachman: That’s good.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, it’s definitely a different experience than a couple dozen. I can reach more people that way, and it happens to pay a lot more money, too. That’s kind of nice. I wasn’t looking corporate, because I wanted to reach people more, but it was just blinders that I had of not realizing that I’m still in front of human beings. This is a route that I wasn’t thinking of that looks like it’s going to be where I’m putting more attention in the next 2017 for sure.

Will Bachman: What have you done to … and it sounds like you’ve done a lot, you’ve already talked about the blog and the book, but in terms of your portfolio of activities to raise your visibility and to help spread the messages that you have, tell me about those activities.

Josh Spodek: Okay, there’s a bunch of stuff that I have, like the workshops of How to Make a Meaningful Connection, Feet Forward, which is Marshall’s, but he’s given that. He likes that I’m doing that, especially because I’ve added to it. There’s workshops. I just list a couple workshops. All these, not all of them, but most of these exercises from the book make excellent workshops.

Will Bachman: You’ll do these to the general public? Or, are you doing these for corporate …

Josh Spodek: Oh, corporate. Corporate, also student groups because student groups, I don’t get paid for that, but the corporate stuff, yeah. Usually it’s workshops, then there’s the talks. The talks are more 45 minutes to 60 minutes. There, it’s less interactive than a workshop, but I still make it interactive. I want people to do something. One thing I’m also doing is because the environment is very important to me, I want to change the view that people have of if you change your behavior to reduce your impact on climate change and global warming and sea levels rising, using up our resources, I think a lot of people look at that, and their mental model, their mindset is that means deprivation. That means sacrifice. In my case, it means delicious. It means community.

Will Bachman: Right, abundance. Talk to me a bit about what you’ve done over time to build the following and stay in touch with people that are interested in your work. You have your blog. Do you have a newsletter? Do you keep an email list of folks? Tell me a bit about how you interact with your audience.

Josh Spodek: I have the blog, and I post every day, but I’ve got to confess that given the choice between developing new material and marketing the material I have, I will almost always choose developing new material. As a result, people are shocked. How have I not heard of you? It’s because I’m really not good at … Let me put it more positively. I would love to find someone who loves marketing and doesn’t have something to market, and would like to work with me, because I’ve got tons of material that is … I’m not putting it out there nearly as effectively as I can. People don’t like what they’ve never heard of. I think there’s a big gap between what I have to offer and my success at getting it out there. It’s done okay, but I’m not nearly on the scale of others.

Will Bachman: But, you have it set up right now. You post your blog post, and then it automatically goes on LinkedIn?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, it automatically goes to-

Will Bachman: Tweets?

Josh Spodek: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and I think Google Plus.

Will Bachman: Okay, all right. Then, do you interact much? Do you-

Josh Spodek: I have had contact. There are people who’ve contacted me, and we formed friendships, like really tight stuff. That’s really cool, but I try to interact to the extent I can. That’s how clients find me, but I think there’s a lot of … What’s the word, activity left on the table. There’s a team to form that hasn’t yet formed. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m partly saying this in case someone listening is like, “I’ve been looking for someone like that. I’m the complement to his skills.”

Will Bachman: Yeah, so contact Josh if you want to be his social media marketing … Talk to me about this new book you have, you’re working on. I’m curious how you are going about developing the exercises and content and testing it, and so forth, talking to entrepreneurs, testing it out. Talk to me about how Entrepreneurship Step by Step is coming together.

Josh Spodek: Oh, well Entrepreneurship Step by Step is going to be, that’s going to be a much faster process, because the course exists. I’ve been teaching it for years. The course came in large part from a lot of people I speak to say they want to start a company. I ask them why they don’t start. The most common answers are I don’t have the great idea, but the more I looked at companies that have great ideas, Google, Facebook, Walmart, they started off with terrible ideas. Google, they didn’t know what they wanted. They wanted to sell their technology to Yahoo. They would have been happy to get a million dollars. The world is full of successful people who start off with not great ideas. Here are all these people saying I can’t start because I don’t have a great idea. The exercises I’ve created, every lean course that I’ve seen says start with a team and an idea. That’s the hard part. That’s like saying, “Here’s how to win an Olympic gold medal. First, be number one in the world. Then, go to the Olympics.”

Will Bachman: And win!

Josh Spodek: Yeah, I think more valuable than a great idea is an okay idea plus listening, plus the skills to do something about it. Listening to the market, being flexible, iterating. I put together exercises that walk you through understanding what your interests are, finding places in the market that have holes in them, unmet needs in the market, and creating relationships with people around you. I give you scripts to follow to take your okay ideas and develop them into more constructive ideas, things that people will pay you for. In the process, develop relationships with people in the market so that you become a peer with people and it’s amazing. I do this with undergrads, and by the end of it, they’re talking to CEOs. Actually, one of these students, I later found out she was really freaked out and almost didn’t take the class because she didn’t want to do this.

One of the homework assignments, she sent an email out to one of the companies, and they wrote back, and basically said, “If you give us a proposal, the project’s yours.” She ended up working with this company, and that ended up … I got invited to speak at Harvard. I brought her. She’s spoken at Harvard about this. What else has she done? She was written up in Forbes for this thing, and it was like she didn’t know that it was going to happen.

Will Bachman: Let’s mention her name. Do you want to-

Josh Spodek: Oh, Grace Pozniak. Yeah, and she’s on … I write about her on my blog sometimes. You can see on YouTube, you can find the video of her speaking at Harvard.

Will Bachman: That’s cool.

Josh Spodek: Talk about the right place at the right time, of course, right place, right time, it’s all over the place if you hustle. So, this course teaches you that. Amazing!

Will Bachman: That’s cool.

Josh Spodek: That’s just the homework from the class.

Will Bachman: Unpack that term, hustle, for me. You mention that term hustle. Unpack that. What’s it mean to you?

Josh Spodek: Okay, people my age and older, hustle, I think we associate it with the magazine on the movie, but people younger than me, hustle means hustle. You’re moving around. To me, one of the big pieces of entrepreneurship, actually … Entrepreneurship is doing something where you don’t have the resources, but if you can make it happen, then everyone will be glad that you did it except your competition. In this country, usually entrepreneurship people associate it mostly with tech, Shark Tank, stuff like that. The Fundamentals of Hustling, my course, is the combination of leadership, entrepreneurship, and sales, my three other courses all in one.

It’s to get you from someone who knows that they could have a project, and they want that. It could be their life, but they haven’t even begun yet. They don’t know how to begin. That course takes you from zero and gets you to, you have project you created that’s valuable to others that people are paying you for that you are leading a team that you’ve attracted based on their values, and it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve been developing that for a long, long time, and people really like the combination of those courses.

Will Bachman: That’s awesome. Tell me about your blog for a minute. You’ve been writing this thing every day, right? Was there a point where anything shifted for you where you felt, was there a particular post where you felt it kind of took off or got noticed, or where you just personally felt a change in your attitude towards the blog?

Josh Spodek: It’s changed. At the beginning, I thought it would … I had a few ideas in the order 10, less than 100. I thought, “All right, I’ll just write as long as I can, and when I run out of ideas, I’ll … I don’t know.” Actually, there’s something it began with, which has been a major theme in my life. My friend Sebastian who set up the page, set up my WordPress thing, I asked him how often do you do posts? Is it like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, whatever? He said, “Every day.” He looks at me, he goes, “If you miss one day, you can miss two. If you miss two, it’s all over.” The web is littered with blogs that are people writing for a while, then they don’t write for a little bit, then it’s gone. Not gone, it’s still up there.

People look at what I do, and they think I must be super disciplined. The reason I habitualize these things is because I’m lazy, because I’m full of excuses. I just do what it takes to take away those excuses and make it easier for me to do what I value.

Will Bachman: Behind the curtain here, do you write several posts and vv them up in the queue, then a couple days off? Or, is it literally every day you write it from scratch and post it that day, and that’s it?

Josh Spodek: My rules is that a new post has to go up every day, sometimes more than one. If lots of stuff is going on, I’ll write. Sometimes I’ll do two. Lately, it’s been one a day, but I can do … it’s not breaking my rules if I do five in a day, and then don’t post for the next four days. I time it so they come out.

Will Bachman: You’ll queue them up, so you’ll queue them to publish over the next … You’ll write it today, but it’s scheduled to publish tomorrow?

Josh Spodek: Yeah, and in the time since I’ve started, I’ve had two trips to North Korea, which means no internet access for two weeks, and I’ve had at least one of these Vipassana meditation retreats where it’s no talking, no writing for basically, I guess it’s nine days. Yeah, those, two weeks ahead of time, I have to do extra posts.

Will Bachman: Extra work ahead of time. North Korea? Tell me about that trip. What was that about?

Josh Spodek: If you go on my blog, I wrote a lot about it. Basically, I didn’t think much about North Korea. It wasn’t part of my mindset, and a friend of mine, Jordan Harbinger, emails me one day. The email’s on the blog. He just says, it was like, “By the way, I’m going to North Korea. Be jealous.” So, we talk on the phone about it, and he’s telling me about this trip. He says, “Do you want to go?” As he’s saying it, my thoughts are, “I don’t have time, and I don’t have money to do this. This is not … doesn’t fit in.” As my thoughts are, “I don’t have time. I don’t have money.” Out of my lips comes, “Yes!” A once in a lifetime thing, and anyone who knows Jordan, he’s the Art of Charm guy.

In podcasting, he’s really big, but he is an awesome guy. He used to live in New York. That’s where I met him. If Jordan invites you to do something, say yes. It’s going to be awesome. I was just saying yes to a friend that I knew would be a good time. I kind of knew it was this rogue nation. I didn’t think much of it. Since, I’ve learned a lot about it. I wrote a book on it. I actually spoke at Columbia Business School on North Korea and strategy. Yeah, I can’t say it was a formative experience, but it was one of the great experiences of my life, both trips.

Will Bachman: Wow, all right.

Josh Spodek: And, I highly recommend going. Although, I also recommend not flying too much, because it [crosstalk 00:46:21] so much.

Will Bachman: But, don’t go around trying to talk to too many locals or take posters home with you or something.

Josh Spodek: Well, they know what … Why doesn’t the North Korean government let you in? Because your money’s green. They want your money, and they’ll take you to sell you posters, and they sell you lots of stuff. Anything, they’ll sell stuff to you.

Will Bachman: Yeah. As we get close to the end of the hour here, maybe you could share a couple of the exercises from your book to give people a flavor from it. What are some of the ones that you recommend people start with to give people a sense of what your book’s about, and maybe some practical things that they can start?

Josh Spodek: Sure. I’m going to give you a little context that I talked about how each exercise leads one to the next. I divide it into units. The first unit is Understand Yourself. The next is Lead Yourself, then Understand Others, then Lead Others. There’s a certain linearity to that, of growing difficulty. Understand Yourself is about mindfulness. It’s about your senses and how you process them, and how your beliefs influence your perception, your biases. Lead Yourself is about habit formation, speaking authentically. The authentic voice exercise is in there. How to get people to give you advice that you can act on. Understand Others takes what you’ve learned in the first two units and applies it. Some of what you learned was about yourself, but a lot of it was about being human. It’s applying to others about human emotional system.

The last one is Lead Yourself, is how to … The real core of it is how to lead without being based on authority. That’s useful for managing people, but leading people, to get people to want to do stuff, so they’re glad, so they come back to you and thank you for getting them to work really hard. The really core of it is behaving in ways to make people feel comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities, what matters to them, what they care about, what motivates them, and then connecting that motivation to the task. They feel that imbues it with meaning and purpose. Let’s start at the very beginning. This is all experiential. If I just tell you this stuff works or how to do it, it’s like telling someone, play with feeling. It’s not that effective.

The first exercise, well, the first is a personal essay, but that’s not really getting into it yet. We’ve all written personal essays. The first one that’s really into it is the Three Raisins exercise. It’s a mindfulness exercise. Every year, I ask my students when I teach in person, I say, I assign it, and they’re like, “This sounds weird.” I’m like, “Is it really weird?” They’re like, “Yeah, it’s kind of weird,” and I say afterward, “Was it weird?” And they go, “Yeah, it was kind of weird,” and I say, “Should I not assign it next year?” And, they’re like, “No, definitely assign it. This is a really great exercise.”

Will Bachman: All right, so this is really great. So, try this at home.

Josh Spodek: Get three raisins.

Will Bachman: Three.

Josh Spodek: If you don’t like raisins, you can use dried apricots or peanuts or something, but three raisins. You put them in front of you, and clear off your schedule for an hour. It’s not going to take you an hour, but just clear it off so you’re not going to be distracted. Turn off the phone. Put away the books. Turn off the computer. This is you and these three raisins.

Will Bachman: Not an expensive exercise, right here. This is-

Josh Spodek: Yeah, three raisins. Then, eat the three raisins one at a time using all your senses. So, as if you’ve never seen a raisin before. Maybe think you’re an alien. It’s your first time on the planet, and don’t start the second one until you’ve completely finished the first one, until it’s completely down. The recordings that I do of the person I did this exercise first with, he finished in three minutes. He had to redo it, because it can take you a while to do this. If you pick it up, you feel it. Sometimes they’ve been dried out. Some have been dried more than others. Maybe it’s moist. Look at it. Each raisin is unique. They’ve got this iridescence to them. Sometimes they’re one color. There are green ones. There are brown ones. Then, maybe drop it on the table. What does it sounds like? It sounds different than a ping pong ball when it hits. Then, does it have a smell? Put it in your mouth. Now, roll it around, then bite into it. This might take a while, then get to the next one, and eventually the next one. Then, write up your experience.

When I did it the first time, when I did it was half an hour, and I started picking up all these sounds and noises around me. I live in an apartment building. I could hear the dogs down the hall, and I could hear people. I hear people outside in traffic, but I started noticing other things. But, the big one is that I noticed the flavor, a flavor that I hadn’t paid attention to since maybe the first raisin I ever had. I didn’t notice that flavor, but that’s the raisin flavor. That’s amazing. That’s a really flavorful thing that I normally, most of my life, I don’t really pay attention to. I’m just like, “Oh, sweet. Good. Swallow.”

You start thinking, if I wasn’t paying attention to this raisin, the flavor of the raisin, what else have I not been paying attention to? For me, it was people, facial expressions, tone of voice. I’m just paying attention to the matter of fact stuff. Since then, I eat less now as a result, because I’m savoring more. This is one exercise. This is why a lot of people who do my course, they say this is the best exercise. I think they would pick whatever I did first, the first experiential one, I think they’d pick that as being the most.

Will Bachman: It raises your awareness, raises your mindfulness. It’s like the mindfulness diet, so to speak.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, it also sets the tone that, “Oh, I’m going to get stuff from this course that’s not something I can read in a book.” I can tell you, there’s no leader who became great because they read more books and analyzed and wrote more papers. It’s all because of stuff that they did. The stuff that’s unique to you, if you want to take a leadership role in these things, if you have the skills, you can do it. If you don’t have the skills, these opportunities will pass you by.

Will Bachman: I wanted to ask you one more thing, get back to something you talked about before, which was the acting class.

Josh Spodek: Meisner technique.

Will Bachman: Meisner technique. Tell me just a little bit about that class. Was that a couple hours per day or full time? What kind of exercises did they do? I’m curious what that class on the technique was like.

Josh Spodek: I’m living in New York City with Broadway. I have access to in-person courses that in Hollywood they’ll have, but not everywhere. A friend of mine was taking classes there. What happened, actually, when I was watching Inside the Actor’s Studio and forming all these questions about how they learned, it turns out that this is like 2008, 2009. I know, because my friend’s … Pardon me, my friend’s business was tanking because of the market, and he switched over to become an actor. He was in his 30s, a big deal. I should say, it’s really cool, because now friends call me up, and they’re like, “Hey, your friend [Farren 00:53:05], he’s on Daredevil!” He’s making big stuff. It’s really cool.

Will Bachman: Wow.

Josh Spodek: I kept asking these questions, and one day he just says, “Josh, if you really want to find out, take the course.” I thought, you’re doing a two year conservatory style learning. I don’t have two years. He goes, “Yeah, there’s a summer intensive.” So, I did the summer intensive.

Will Bachman: And how long is that? What’s the-

Josh Spodek: Six weeks.

Will Bachman: Six weeks.

Josh Spodek: And July 4th was in the middle of it, so it’s like technically, it’s two months of calendar time.

Will Bachman: Full day, like all day?

Josh Spodek: Yeah. You have your option. You have to take at least the acting class, but there’s also, I took voice and movement. There’s also Alexander technique and camera work, which I didn’t do, which I wish I’d done Alexander technique. The main one is the acting class. You meet in groups of about 20 students, and you do these exercises, the same structure as what I’ve been talking about. For me, I said to myself, I want to get maximum value out of this. For the time that I’m taking this class, it is my number one priority. Short of death in the family, this is what I’m doing. If I love it so much that I want to become an actor, I’m going to do it. I wanted to be prepared for that. That didn’t happen, but it could’ve, and I put everything I had into it. I was there to learn about the human leadership stuff and acting.

You start off by doing repetition exercise, which is just embarrassingly simple, almost. You just say back to each other, “You’re wearing a white shirt,” and you say back, “I’m wearing a white shirt.” “You’re wearing a white shirt.” “I’m wearing a white shirt.” “You’re wearing a white shirt.” We say that back and forth, and you think there’s nothing to it. You start picking up different things that you would have. It’s the simplest thing that you could do that’s acting, the absolute, anything … Take away anymore, and it’s no longer acting. The very base thing.

Then, the next one is, as you do more exercises, you can start adding little things in. You can react, and I might say, “You’re wearing a white shirt,” and you might say, “I’m wearing a white shirt!” Different expression. “You’re wearing a white shirt!” “I’m wearing a white shirt.” And you get this emotional interchange. Later, you can start changing it to saying, “I’m wearing a white shirt, and I’m tired of you saying that.” Then, the other person has to keep repeating that. You get this contact, this being in touch with the other person. You start coming alive because when you act, there’s a script that says what you’re saying, but what you’re doing, there’s a meaning.

If you just read the lines, it’s not there, but if you understand the role and you understand the character, some of it you have to make up, each actor, but some of it’s there. The clues are there, and that’s what makes method acting. It’s not just acting. It’s also the scripts and so forth that come with it. That comes alive, but you have to learn to think about one thing while doing another. You’re attaching meaning to what you’re doing based on something in your life, in your imagination. In leadership, that’s been major thing for me.

When managers can say to someone, “Do this, and if you do it well, you get a bonus. Do it wrong, and I’m going to fire you.” That’s working with behavior. It’s working with what you can see. It’s working with what you can measure. A leader, you’re working not just with that. Meaning is when there’s an emotion attached to what happens, and how do you get to people’s emotions? What’s going on inside their heads? A manager need not know or care, but a leader, I’m not going to say must, but in my style, you get to what those things are that people care about, and get that. Work with those things.

Will Bachman: So, having gone through this, the Meisner technique, the acting classes, do you think for someone who aspires to be a leader or an independent professional, listener of the show, can someone get value out of taking acting classes that are not two months full time, but is there an abbreviated version that you think people could get value out of, getting that kind of training?

Josh Spodek: Yeah. One of the things that I like about experiential stuff is that there’s workshops and things, Improv for Leaders, Jazz for Leaders, Orchestral Conducting for Leaders, Acting for Leaders, all these things. I think they’re very useful, and they get great reviews, as well they should, because they give you all these skills that you wouldn’t get from just reading and writing, from what I would say is intellectually challenging, but socially and emotionally passive. Here’s the thing. Say you do really well in learning acting, or you learn really well. Improv is useful for leaders to have, improv skills. So, you take an improv class. Great, now you’ve developed this improv.

I think the real value of it is that you’ve gotten this experiential learning happening. What happens if you do well? Do you take more improv? Because, more improv is just going to take you to Saturday Night Live, which might be what you want to do in life. You might want to take a different turn, but if you want to become an executive, or you want to take on a leadership role, what I’ve done is I’ve gotten exercises from the practice of leadership and given you exercises that are what you’re going to be doing later, what successful leaders do. There’s great value in doing anything experiential, anything active learning, anything method-like. The thing is, it’s going to take you in a direction. Do it. By all means, I would never say to someone, “Don’t do them.” But, why not get the exercises from the field that you’re actually in, because leadership is an art.

Leadership has just as much richness and complexity as playing an instrument or acting. So, to say, should a leader take acting classes? Yes, as much as a jazz musician should take improv classes. It won’t hurt. It’s a nice kind of … What’s the term in sports? Cross-training.

Will Bachman: Cross-training.

Josh Spodek: Yeah, but I would say if you really want to lead, focus on leadership stuff. That’s why I put the exercises in that I do.

Will Bachman: All right, so check out the book, Leadership Step by Step, Become the Person Others Follow, and visit SpodekAcademy.com. Josh, this has been awesome. It’s been so much fun having this conversation. Hope we come back for a reprise. Really appreciate you taking the time. This has been awesome.

Josh Spodek: Thanks for coming over to my apartment and getting me to describe this intimate scene for all the listeners, but thank you very much. I look forward to next time, too.

Will Bachman: Fantastic.

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