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Blurbs and Endorsements for Leadership Step by Step

posted by Joshua on January 23, 2017 in Creativity, Education, Exercises, Leadership, Models
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Leadership Step by Step, the book by Joshua Spodek

Reviews of

Leadership Step by Step

By Joshua Spodek

Joshua is changing the game for leadership development and creating positive change. His insight to give a progression of exercises to practice is a once-in-a-lifetime game-changing advance in our field everyone else will follow. It’s better than business school courses because he has you create real positive change that lasts. Leadership is about doing, not just understanding, and Joshua’s exercises give you both. Leadership Step by Step gets it. Do its exercises and you will too. If you like my style, get coaching from me or buy Joshua’s book.

Marshall Goldsmith, 2015 #1 Leadership Thinker and #1 Executive Coach in the World. NY Times #1 bestselling author of Triggers

In LEADERSHIP STEP BY STEP, Joshua Spodek fills the gap between education and experience for potential leaders. By treating leadership like the art it is, he imbues it with empathy and understanding. This is a book that will improve your business savvy and possibly, your life.

Daniel H. Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

This book doesn’t matter so much, but what you choose to do with it means everything. A hands on, useful, urgent book about leveling up as a leader.

Seth Godin, bestselling author and founder of altMBA

Leadership Step by Step offers that rare breed of learning—genuine, authentic, effective, engaging, and, most of all, fun. It is based on the best leadership philosophy and practice.

The results of doing its exercises insure that you will become an authentic, great leader, able to serve and to live to the best of your ability. Anyone who aspires to lead, to lead more effectively, or to live life to its fullest would benefit from Joshua’s exercises. This is true for business, public service, the social sector, the arts, education, and any sphere where leaders serve.

Frances Hesselbein, Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree, CEO of Girl Scouts, named “Best leader in America” by Peter Drucker

This is practical leadership training made perfect. Bravo!

Booklist, starred review

Of all the hundreds of leadership books that cross my desk each year, Josh Spodek’s LEADERSHIP STEP BY STEP is by far the most practical. Lots of leadership writers tell stories and relate inspiring examples, and so does Josh. But what makes LEADERSHIP STEP BY STEP different are the exercises. If you believe, as I do, that leadership is a skill you need to practice and not just an attribute you’re endowed with at birth, then you’ll immediately see the wisdom in Josh’s approach. And if you work his exercises into your own leadership journey, I promise you’ll emerge as a better leader.

Eric Schurenberg, Inc. Media President and Editor-in-Chief

The art of leadership, like so many other skills, must be learned “hands-on” and through experiences, rather than from business school lectures and abstract analysis. Joshua Spodek has written a great book that takes future leaders through the essential steps of learning to lead. Essential reading for aspiring leaders in any field.

Tony Wagner, bestselling author of CREATING INNOVATORS and THE GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENT GAP, Expert-In-Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab and Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute

Great leaders aren’t born with a ‘leadership gene’; great leaders develop the necessary skills and gain confidence through practice and hard work. In Leadership Step by Step Joshua Spodek presents a thoughtful approach to becoming a highly effective leader that emphasizes the importance of experiential learning. It will serve as a valuable resource for leaders at all levels in any profession. Indeed, Joshua’s practical exercises will help prospective, as well as experienced leaders, to master their craft and ultimately to succeed in leading and inspiring others in their various pursuits.

General Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Army, Ret., commanded troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, served as the 33rd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and 12th commander of U.S. Central Command

In a fresh approach to the topic, Josh Spodek guides his readers on an experiential journey, through a progression of exercises that reveal the inner psychology of leadership and that impart critical skills.

Michael W. Morris, Chavkin-Chang Chair, Professor of Leadership, and founder of the Leadership Lab at Columbia Business School

There are thousands of leadership books published each year. Most are NOT very helpful. Joshua Spodek’s book deserves to break through the clutter. Rather than the usual focus on leadership techniques, this book gets to the holy grail of leading and motivating by helping readers understand themselves and how they land on people.

Michael Feiner, President of Michael C. Feiner Consulting, author of The Feiner Points of Leadership, formerly professor at Columbia Business School and Chief People Officer worldwide at Pepsi-Cola Co.

Refreshingly different and thoroughly practical, Leadership Step by Step serves up valuable tools for readers to build their own path to development. The book weaves back and forth between brief, engaging stories and seemingly simple exercises. But the cumulative effect can be profound, helping readers focus on and sometimes rewrite their own habits of thought and action that were previously invisible.

Daniel Ames, Columbia Business School Professor, Management Division

Our nation and indeed the world are in desperate need for genuine authentic leadership to solve pressing problems. Using his experience at NYU with instilling passion and dedication into students through active experiential learning, Joshua has created a how-to guide to leadership development. It is a book every educator should read.

Paul Horn, NYU Senior Vice Provost for Research and Senior Vice Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship, formerly Senior Vice President and Executive Director of research at IBM, where he oversaw Deep Blue and helped initiate Watson

For years acclaimed NYU professor and executive coach Joshua Spodek was frustrated by the existing literature on leadership. Countless fact-filled books described the subject, but not one actually explained how to become a great leader. Now based on years of teaching experience, Spodek has produced the first systematic manual designed to hone great leadership. Filled with personal insights and detailed daily exercises, LEADERSHIP STEP BY STEP is a vital resource for anyone interested in leading other people.

David Lefer, Industry Professor and Director of the Innovation and Technology Forum at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, co-author of They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engineer, Two Hundred Years of Innovators.

Packed with dozens of thought-provoking exercises that will help you develop the self-awareness and sensitivity to take your leadership game to a new level.

Caroline Webb, author How to Have a Good Day, CEO and founder of Sevenshift, Senior Advisor and Former Partner, McKinsey

Joshua Spodek has written a very important book distilling universal leadership principles into practical exercises that anyone can do and internalize. Rarely is leadership taught practically, often remaining theoretical, still needing decades of hands-on experience. His practical approach accelerates the process of self-discovery, quickly creating a much more effective mindset and view on ourselves and others.

My experience in McKinsey serving top CEOs, to becoming a CEO and scaling a global Internet startup with hundreds of employees in 4 Asian regions, to launching high achieving teams across Europe, shows me the timeless value and universal, underlying principles behind Joshua’s exercises. Do them seriously and you will significantly improve your personal and professional leadership.

All of this experience in simple (yet not easy!) exercises that anyone can use throughout their career—as athletes and musicians improve their performance with the same effective drills over their careers—is refreshing and valuable.

Jose Gaztelu, Managing Director,, former CEO Zalora Group Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand

Being an effective leader is not just about having a vision, it’s about bringing others along with you to achieve that vision. From the very first lesson in Leadership Step by Step, this book sets a tone of simple, self-exploration that tackles this very challenge – not just through high-level concepts, but through methodical, targeted lessons that are both tactical and results-oriented. This book takes leadership from theory to reality – though to achieve the desired results requires effort, and practice, on the part of the reader.

As a student, I was keenly aware that I was getting out exactly what I put into this course. Each lesson builds on the last in a progressive way – focused on small, yet impactful, actions.

I recommend Leadership Step by Step to anyone currently in or on the cusp of a leadership role in their career. It’s for those who take leadership seriously and who know that being an effective, successful leader isn’t something that happens by chance or because of natural abilities alone. These skills can be (must be) learned and thoughtfully honed. This book is a beautifully crafted guide through that process.

Bethany Hale, Associate Partner, IBM

You learn to lead by leading, not just by reading, and LEADERSHIP STEP BY STEP gives you direction to learn by doing. I’ve coached thousands of people over the past decade, and the ones who progress are the ones that get off their duff and act. If you’re willing to work but are struggling to find a starting point, Joshua presents a simple structure of what to do to improve yourself as a leader. Get the book and do the exercises. It really is that simple.

Jordan Harbinger, Co-Founder and host, The Art of Charm

Josh has created the future of leadership development. Simple as that. People call me a “superconnector”… And my business naturally puts me in front of a lot of CEOs, founders, and new executives in charge of suddenly growing businesses (exciting!) who desperately need skills with people and teams beyond what they have (anxiety!). After all, one of the first things they learn is that sales and more revenue doesn’t solve all problems… So they go out looking for leadership training, only to find inspirational books and ideas on leadership… that would be like trying to learn to play the piano by reading about playing the piano. Doesn’t work. There are countless “this one trick” or “get rich quick” schemes that do almost nothing in the long term.

You can’t skip experience, without lots of lost profits, productivity, and worst of all, reputation.

Josh created something I’ve never seen before: a program to give that experience, efficiently and without waste, to create GENUINE LEADERSHIP SKILLS. His exercises aren’t tricks, they’re what leaders ACTUALLY learn from. It’s so simple and so effective, I can’t believe no one had done this before. Leadership Step by Step will save you years of struggle and make you more successful — in business and life!

David Gonzalez, Founder, Simply The Coolest, LLC

Joshua’s book clearly articulates the power and value of empathy to not only lead, but motivate. An important fresh look at leadership, because insecurity and anger are powerful but toxic propellants that, unfortunately, many leaders lead with.

B. Jeffrey Madoff, director, photographer, writer, professor, and founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, Webby award winning producer for Victoria Secret.

Many leadership books leave the reader with more questions than answers. This is book provides not only answers, but actionable insights that can be applied immediately. If you want to become a more effective leader, read this book.

Srinivas Rao, host and co-founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast and bestselling author of Unmistakable: Why Only Is Better Than Best and The Art of Being Unmistakable

Leadership Step by Step has you actually DO things, so you learn at the same time you lead people in your life and work. As young entrepreneurs, we hustle. We don’t have time to read theory that doesn’t connect with what we actually do. We’re busy building! We see too many people caught up in analyzing and preparing and not actually making progress. You’ll learn faster and deeper with Joshua’s book than in any classroom or most other books… and you’ll get things done. If you want to lead real people in real life on real projects, do Joshua’s exercises.

Corianna (Coco) and Brianna (Breezy) Dotson, founders Coco & Breezy

Leadership Step By Step begins by asking, simply: why don’t the world’s best leaders come out of the world’s top leadership programs? Because the way we teach leadership, it turns out, is out of sync with how people learn, perform, and develop mastery!

Joshua Spodek fixes that error, breaking the skill, art, and science of leadership into a series of exercises that guide you to lead people, teams, and yourself beyond what you thought possible. If you want to become a better, more powerful, more empathic, more understanding leader—to take a great leap forward in your leadership journey, both personally and professionally—I could not recommend this book any higher.

Zac Hill, Chief Innovation Officer, The Future Project

Driven by exercises ultimately designed to help you understand and actually change your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors – then connecting this towards influencing others… Joshua Spodek’s new book accomplishes what no other leadership book has done before. And those are doable steps that compound towards actual leadership. These aren’t easy, and take courage and discipline, but they are doable and they can’t help but make the reader a more effective leader.

Michael Lovitch, Founding Partner, the Baby Bathwater Institute

With Leadership Step by Step, Joshua Spodek has created a thoughtful, practical guide for improving your leadership skills by asking us to think deeply about who we are and how our personal beliefs and actions create our leadership qualities. Spodek doesn’t tell us what to think or how to lead, but rather creates a series of thoughtful activities to push us to examine ourselves. At the heart of this book is the idea that to be a better leader, we have to be better people, and this book is a guide for anyone seeking to understand that relationship. It is an important book that can help us all.

Chris Lehmann, founder of Science Leadership Academy and co-author of Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need

Having worked in both business and government, it is clear that leaders who succeed inspire by connecting a vision with experience. Joshua’s methodology gives you those skills. They are simple and work to teach you to lead with experience, not just academic or theoretical knowledge. Together they work as greater than the sum of their parts. They will help you get ahead, whether starting your career, getting promoted to a leadership role, or starting your own venture.

James Prusky, partner and co-founder, Crecera Finance Company


Does holiday joy and family require chainsaws and landfills?

posted by Joshua on January 23, 2017 in Nature
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Look at these wasted trees.

I took these pictures in one-and-a-half blocks! … about two weeks after Christmas, not even after the peak of trees being out on the street. The city is filled with trees chain sawed for a brief stand and then thrown away. I don’t think Manhattan is unique. Where you live probably has similar waste.

Talk about a disposable culture.

How much gas does it take to cut these things with a chainsaw, truck them to the city, truck them out of the city, and dump them in a landfill or wherever they go? I’m sure they farm them, but why not let that land revert to forest? Mulching seems to use a lot of gasoline too.

Jesus was born in the middle east anyway, where there aren’t fir trees. Whatever this tradition is, it’s not from any bible. Every tradition started somehow. Why not start a tradition that doesn’t require throwing away so many trees?

You can create joy without traditions appropriate to a different time and place

If the goal of a holiday is happiness, joy, bringing family together, and things like that, can we all recognize that we can achieve all of those goals without polluting, chain sawing trees, and devoting land that could house forests to fleeting entertainment?

This is no bah humbug perspective. Maybe it would be if the sea levels weren’t rising or people required chain sawing and trucking trees and filling landfills for their happiness.

I believe my message is empowering: you can create happiness, joy, and family bonding without polluting.

Non-judgmental Ethics Sunday: What Should a Congregation Have Told a Betrayed Wife?

posted by Joshua on January 22, 2017 in Ethicist, Nonjudgment
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Continuing my series of responses to the New York Times’, The Ethicist, without imposing values, here is my take on today’s post, “What Should a Congregation Have Told a Betrayed Wife?

I was a member of a Christian congregation for many years. A married father of two children started helping a widow in the parish. Evidently, they later started seeing each other. His wife thought something was up, and she asked people in the congregation whom she considered friends if they knew anything. Everyone denied knowing anything. The father ended up divorcing his wife and marrying the widow. The wife subsequently found out that some of the people she had asked about the situation had lied to her face, even as she was breaking down in front of them. She says that for a long time she was suicidal — not because her husband had cheated on her but because she had been abandoned by everyone in the parish, which must have meant that God had abandoned her, too.

What are the criteria for determining what to say to a betrayed spouse when you know a spouse is cheating and when he or she asks directly what you know? What would have been the ethical culpability of those who lied to her face if she had killed herself? Name Withheld

My response: To your first question about criteria of what to say in such situations, first, the First Amendment restricts government from abridging freedom of speech. I’m not aware of any authority that everyone agrees to. Different people have different opinions, which means many will disagree with any absolute pronouncement. My understanding of the First Amendment is in part for situations like this.

What are we left with? You have to decide for yourself what you think is right and act on it. You haven’t shared enough for us to go on. Was she asking in ways that made people feel comfortable sharing? The opposite? People speak in the contexts of relationships. Maybe everybody believes she will be better off now and felt they were helping her. A one-paragraph description can’t tell enough to determine. In the absence of enough information, I can only say what has worked best for me, which is to try to imagine the situation as best I can from the perspectives of everyone else involved, the options available to me, the consequences of acting on those options, and how people would feel about them. Then I do what I think best given these considerations.

As for ethical culpability, again, not knowing the relationships, who can say? Who knows how she posed the questions? Maybe she would have killed herself sooner had they not lied. She didn’t kill herself and maybe she would have had they spoken otherwise. I don’t see the point in sane adults taking responsibility for other sane adults’ behavior. There is no objective measure of ethical culpability, nor definition of such an abstract philosophical concept, that everyone would agree to. You’re free to conclude what you like, though many will disagree with you. If there was an objective measure, you wouldn’t have asked.

The New York Times response:

You don’t have the right to expect strangers to answer questions about a spouse’s infidelities. It’s not their business, and it’s not your place to make it their business. But here the woman was asking fellow members of a community committed to marriage as an institution and to helping one another be faithful to their marriage vows. (That is, if your congregation is anything like most Christian churches I’ve known.) People who realized what was going on could have taken it up with the pastor, encouraging him or her to discuss the matter with the unfaithful husband and the adulterous widow, both of whom were members of the congregation. The betrayed wife might also have been entitled to assume that the church was a community of people who would ordinarily be truthful with one another, especially about matters on which the church has a strong position. Once her marriage had broken down, sympathy for her and expressions of support would also have been appropriate. So she wasn’t wrong to feel that the church had let her down. Its members failed her in her time of need.

Would those who lied to her have been culpable if she’d killed herself? Although suicide isn’t typically a rational response to difficult circumstances, we can be implicated when harm comes to others through our failure to act with appropriate care. So people who behaved in a way likely to upset a person they knew was suicidal might be partly culpable. But it’s not, in general, reasonable to act on the assumption that people will commit suicide if they find out you have wronged them. This woman’s line of thought — that abandonment by members of her church meant abandonment by God — is the sort of confused thinking that suicidal people often engage in. It’s more a symptom of the problem than a cause of it. (Of course, you can feel bad because you were involved in a terrible outcome even though you can’t be blamed for it: That’s what philosophers call agent-regret.) Even putting aside this hypothetical tragedy, though, your fellow congregants have something to answer for.

After a long, stormy marriage I divorced at the old age of more than 70. About a year ago, I met a very attractive, rather young unmarried woman who had a young daughter and was in need of some support. She seemed willing to put up with an old man, although the age difference between us, as we both agree, clearly prohibits marriage or any other official relationship. Strictly speaking, we don’t have a quid pro quo relationship, although it is not far from that either. However, we both enjoy each other and agree with Woody Allen, who wrote in the screenplay for “Love and Death” that sex without love is an empty experience, “but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.” Should we continue to enjoy such a meaningless experience while it lasts, or do you feel obliged to talk either one of us into having some second thoughts or perhaps even scruples? Name Withheld

My response: I don’t know what you mean by a relationship being “official” or “quid pro quo,” nor why you would call experiences you seem to value “meaningless,” nor why you speak so obtusely about relationships that you quote others’ jokes instead of frankly sharing how you feel. Are you saying that sex without love lacks scruples? Are you saying you can’t love her?

Her having a daughter suggests she’s an adult herself or you would have mentioned if she had her daughter in her teens. So if she’s an adult, society seems to agree that she can drive a car, enlist in the military, sign contracts, take on debt, and so on. Everyone has their opinion. If you believe your age difference prohibits love or “official” relationships, whatever that means, then act according to your values and keep repressing your feelings and retarding the relationship’s development. You could try adopting different perspectives too.

The New York Times response:

You are two consenting, unmarried adults, and nobody is disadvantaged by what you are doing. It might be that your friend’s daughter would be embarrassed if she knew the basis of your arrangement. But she doesn’t have a right to know about her mother’s sex life, and there’s no reason to think she’d be negatively affected, except by being embarrassed. If parents were obliged to avoid doing things that might mortify their children, they’d lead extremely straitened lives. (Indeed, in their children’s teenage years, parents might be required to disappear altogether.) My guess, though, is that if you keep up this empty experience long enough, it might turn into something meaningful for both of you.

More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld

My response: Since you asked, grow up.

The New York Times response:

If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefaction into a sea of sewage. The best way to ensure that the few worthy efforts are picked out is by authentic reviews. Please play your part and refrain from recommending your friend’s unwelcome contribution.

I am a senior in high school. In a group chat on Facebook, my friends make cruel, sexist, objectifying comments. In addition, they throw around slurs. The comments are made under the guise of humor; the slurs are directed at other members of the group. However, they are still clearly terrible. It deeply pains me to see these comments. Over time, every member of the group except me has joined in this comment-making culture. I have drifted away from the friend group. I rarely spend time with them in or outside of school, but I have been friends with some members since I was 4. I’ve never had a friend group aside from this one. I don’t believe my friends to be bad people, just deeply influenced by toxic masculinity. At school, I have an overwhelming workload, and I have plenty of problems to navigate at home. My attempts to change the nature of the group chat have been aggressively rebuffed. I feel I must stake my relationship to the group on changing the culture of the chat. I am tempted to wait until college applications are submitted, to fully challenge the chat culture, as I feel social instability would ensue and be detrimental to my college-application process. Do I have a moral imperative to act now? Name Withheld

My response: No. And if you act as if you do, I predict you will not achieve your goals, but will instead lose friends but feel self-righteous. I’ve written about this many times. I recommend starting with my post, “Don’t be Walter: an example,” and following some of the related links that get listed at the bottom of each post automatically.

The New York Times response:

You’re right to object to the conversations you describe. Their effect is to establish a presupposition that people in your set share a contempt for those groups at whom such abuse is typically directed. Not dissenting leaves this assumption in place — but dissent is hard work. Who wants to be the one person in the group who objects every time a slur is made? So it’s natural to do what you’re doing: to pull away.

Are you obliged to do more? That depends mostly on two things. One is whether there’s anything you can reasonably do that would change the norm. You have tried and failed here already, so you may think the answer is no. The second issue is what the costs to you would be. In your view, they might include a negative effect on your college admissions — a high cost, when the prospects of changing your friends’ behavior are modest. (And getting into the right college will help you find a decent group of new friends!) So cut yourself some slack.

At some point, though, you might try talking to people in your group one on one and in person. You’d be doing a favor to your (perhaps soon to be ex-) friends and the people they’ll interact with in the years ahead if you let them know, when you can, that what they’re doing is shameful.

Reflections on writing

posted by Joshua on January 21, 2017 in Art, Creativity, Exercises, Habits, Leadership, SIDCHAs
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One of my online communities had a thread on writing a book this year. It led me to reflect on writing in a way that might help someone where I was before starting to write.

I consider what I wrote relevant to practicing any craft or developing one’s passion. Here’s what I wrote:

Last year was my big year for writing and finishing my book, Leadership Step by Step. It launches on Amazon a month from tomorrow. I got my first hardcovers from the printer a couple weeks ago.

Last week I learned that Booklist is giving it a starred review. It has blurbs from bestsellers, top TED talkers, and luminaries like

  • Dan Pink
  • Marshall Goldsmith
  • Seth Godin
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Frances Hesselbein
  • Professors from Harvard, Columbia, NYU
  • A 4-star General

and more.

I self-published two books before this one, but I consider this one on another level for going through an established publisher, which came from writing a book proposal before writing the book, which came from working with a professional agent, which came from writing for years, developing the core idea for the book, and telling people about the idea, which led a friend to introduce me to his friend, who is an agent.

Since it’s not on sale yet, I don’t know how successful it will become, though the response from the blurb writers has been positive, so I don’t know if my experience is worth learning from, but of all the things that helped, the first was writing consistently for a long time. I’ve posted to my blog every day since 2011— That meant over 2,000 posts when I started writing the book and nearly 2,500 today.

For me, I made writing not something I struggled to do consistently but like brushing my teeth—something I wouldn’t go to sleep without doing. Can you imagine going to bed without brushing your teeth? I don’t know about you, but it nearly makes my skin crawl. Writing enough got me to where I feel the same about ending a day without writing. But I had to get there. People think I’m disciplined, which helps me write. They have it backward. The writing came first and developed the discipline. Their thinking is like thinking that people lift weights because they’re strong. They started as weak as anyone and became strong because they lift weights.

Writing teaches you many skills valuable for writing: how to come up with ideas to write about, discipline, focus, editing, working through dry periods, handling criticism, sore shoulders, talking about your ideas, finding your voice, getting past clichés, and so on.

Writing consistently for a long time also reveals and develops passion, as with any craft. I kind of liked writing before. I love it now. There’s no way I would have developed that passion without all the writing when I was tired, unmotivated, and so on. I kept writing. Writing consistently enabled me to live what I wrote, since I teach leadership, and clarify my goals. My goal is not “to write a book.”

The book is a means to an end, which is to enable people to practice what I teach, which is empathy, compassion, creating meaning, value, importance, and purpose in their lives and the lives of people around them, and things like that. I’ll measure my success not by sales, but by feedback from people who improved their lives and relationships by doing the exercises in the book. That purpose motivates and guides me so I’m not just writing a book, but using the book as a medium to communicate and influence interested people. Our world and nation could use leadership with those skills, in my opinion. I could only refine, clarify, understand, and state this purpose from writing consistently for a long time.

Another critical element for me was the public accountability of posting publicly. At first I had few subscribers, but I still knew others could read my work and, more importantly, could tell if I didn’t write anything.

A big help that came with working on the book was working with a professional editor, mainly my book agent helping me write my book proposal. I had to develop my craft enough to reach the point where I was worth her time, but then she helped my writing develop a lot more.

Anyway, I’m risking writing too much when my work hasn’t reached the market yet, but I felt compelled to share what developed my craft to the point of having a book with prominent people supporting it:

  • Writing daily for five years, no exception
  • Public accountability
  • Professional editing

Stealing Happiness Back from Comfort

posted by Joshua on January 20, 2017 in Habits, Leadership, SIDCHAs, Stories
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I guest posted today with the Lead Change Group, whose vision and mission are:

Our Vision

The Lead Change Group is a global, virtual community dedicated to encouraging and showcasing great ideas and helping leaders in their own professional growth.


We will encourage, energize and equip one another to leading change – in ourselves, in others, and in our communities. We want to be a resourceful, supportive community sharing and multiplying powerful leadership content.

They have monthly themes, and this month’s was “five thieves of happiness” (control, conceit, consumption, coveting, and comfort), after one of its member’s book’s title.

My story, “Stealing Happiness Back from Comfort,” began

Stealing Happiness Back from Comfort

The winter I renovated my apartment was one of the coldest I remember. I couldn’t stay there during the project. My sister generously let me stay in her family’s house, but the basement guest room was dark and drafty and the commute from Queens was long.

The one-month renovation turned to two, then three, then four, then five. The costs overran to double. Everyone’s patience wore thin. It’s uncomfortable to impose on someone so much, even family, no matter how generous your host.

I taught an evening class in Brooklyn that semester. The commute home went all the way through Manhattan, often after midnight. When the express went local for track work, I would be stuck underground, stalled between stations, not knowing when we would move again.

Read the rest at Stealing Happiness Back from Comfort.

New York Times front page normalizes what makes people fat

posted by Joshua on January 19, 2017 in Fitness, Nature
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The New York Times wrote Saturday on the front page:

Food stamps are supposed to help improve nutrition for the poor, but a study shows that, just like everyone else, food stamp users buy soda and junk food.

Just like everyone else?!?


NYTimes normalizing obesity

“Everyone else” does not buy soda and junk food.

I have never bought soda at this home and I’ve lived here for over 17 years. I haven’t bought junk food for years. I just talked to a friend and she said she doesn’t buy soda either.

To claim that everyone buys soda and junk food normalizes an unhealthy behavior that many people don’t consider normal at all. As long as entitlement programs pay for that junk, it supports all tax payers supporting an industry I don’t want to support, as well as sending people to need health care early, which costs us all too. Some of us love fresh fruits and vegetables and find soda and junk disgusting, not a treat, indulgence, or something that takes effort to enjoy.

I appreciate the article pointing out the travesty that we are all as taxpayers supporting the industry, which I believe we should stop. I don’t appreciate it treating soda as something we all buy, let alone indulge in.

Everyone does not buy soda and junk food. I also just got back from shopping at the Union Square farmers market, where I bought beets, apples, parsnips, carrots, and kohlrabi, all from nearby farms. I love this stuff.

Stop Unwanted Beliefs From Sabotaging Your Self-Improvement: Read my guest post in Tanveer Naseer’s blog

posted by Joshua on January 18, 2017 in Awareness, Leadership, Models, Tips
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Tanveer Naseer is the recipient of several awards and recognitions as one of the top thinkers/writers in the leadership sphere, including being recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts, earning a #3 ranking on HR Examiner’s Top 25 Online Influencers in Leadership, and being consistent ranked on numerous lists as one of Top 15 Leadership Bloggers in the world.

He read an advanced copy of my book and asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I wish we could have recorded our conversation about leadership, writing, and teaching.

I agreed and my guest post just came out. Check it out!

It begins

Stop Unwanted Beliefs From Sabotaging Your Self-Improvement

We’re approaching February and gyms are starting to empty as people drop their resolutions. Maybe you know the pattern: you felt so resolved in December to get fit, start a new venture, or whatever your resolution. For most of us, by Valentines Day that resolve has gone.

What happened?

We were positive we’d do it this time.

More importantly, what can we do about it?

First, some context. After reading my book, “Leadership Step by Step”, Tanveer noted how New Year’s Day leads people to think about self-improvement and suggested relating it to my chapters on unwanted beliefs and changing them. I love the topic, which is at the core of leading yourself, which helps you lead others.

Read the rest at Stop Unwanted Beliefs From Sabotaging Your Self-Improvement.

Tanveer Naseer Screenshot

Listen to a wonderful interview of me by Sami Honkonen of Boss Level podcast

posted by Joshua on January 17, 2017 in Exercises, Freedom, Leadership, Models, Perception
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Sami Honkonen records

Boss Level Podcast

Interviews with interesting people doing awesome things

Boss Level is a podcast on people and organizations aiming for the boss level. Boss level is the status a person or an organization achieves by making a better quality of life for themselves and others by doing what they need to do regardless of all the haters and obstacles out there.

I love his interview of me, “Joshua Spodek and seven years of burpees,” which he posted today. If you like my material and, especially, if you’re curious about my long-term direction and goals for it—my passion, or one of them, for those who’ve done my book and leadership course‘s Unit 4: Leading Others exercises—he brings them up at the end.

He introduces the interview with

In this episode I’m interviewing Joshua Spodek. He teaches leadership at New York University, has a PhD in astrophysics and does burpees everyday. I think that’s a pretty amazing one line description for anyone. His book Leadership Step by Step will be released in a couple of weeks.

We talk about his principles for getting things done, his routines, his views on leadership, and we do a five minute walk-through of his book. We end the interview with some empathy and book recommendations.

Recommended listening: Joshua Spodek and seven years of burpees.

Leadership Step by Step, the book by Joshua Spodek

Abandoning King’s Dream on His Holiday?

posted by Joshua on January 16, 2017 in Blog
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Walking to class today, Martin Luther King Junior Day, I saw this sign on Sixth Avenue, saying, simply,

“I’m Sorry.

— White People”.

It doesn’t make sense to me except to judge people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Maybe there’s some context where it makes sense and doesn’t abandon what King called for.

I'm Sorry -- White People

Can anyone make more sense of it?

Non-judgmental Ethics Sunday: What to Do About a Physician Who May Be a Quack

posted by Joshua on January 15, 2017 in Ethicist, Nonjudgment, Perception
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Continuing my series of responses to the New York Times’, The Ethicist, without imposing values, here is my take on today’s post, “What to Do About a Physician Who May Be a Quack.”

I live in an affluent community in New Jersey. I am a scientist with a Ph.D. and have worked for a company that researched Lyme disease. I am very involved with our hospital, where the head of the neurology department is a leading expert in Lyme. I consider myself quite knowledgeable about the disease.

Here is my problem: There is a family-practice physician in our community who is diagnosing Lyme disease in many of my friends and acquaintances (and their families). The doctor attended an Ivy League college and a well-respected medical school, but she has no specialized training in Lyme disease. What is perplexing to me is that most every patient she sees comes back with a diagnosis of a Lyme-related “condition.” Most of her treatments are not covered by insurance, because they have no basis in evidence, and cost her patients $30,000 a year or more. Moreover, the test she uses for “diagnosis” has never been validated and is not used in New Jersey or New York; all her samples have to be shipped to a lab out of state.

Adding to my concerns is that some of these patients saw a Lyme-disease expert first and were told that they did not have the disease. Moreover, the numbers don’t add up — the C.D.C. reports an annual incidence of 29 cases per 100,000 people in New Jersey. I know of more than 12 people who have received diagnoses from this physician alone. I do not know 40,000 people, so the odds are against my knowing 12 people with the disease, even taking into consideration that Lyme may be underreported.

I believe that this physician is taking advantage of the varied and sometimes vague symptoms of Lyme disease to make a lot of money off patients. And this misdiagnosis may be malpractice, as she could be harming patients in the process; patients may have symptoms of another illness that is being overlooked.

I am extremely concerned that this doctor is essentially a quack. I feel very strongly that I need to take action, but I do not know what that action should be. Name Withheld

My response: You didn’t ask any questions, so thank you for sharing.

The New York Times response:

Let me cavil with your statistics. You don’t specify when these people you know received their diagnoses, but let’s suppose you’re talking about a four-year period. To go by the available C.D.C. numbers, the four-year average incidence, for the years preceding this one, is 33.75 per 100,000 in New Jersey. The C.D.C. estimates that the number of Lyme diagnoses each year is about 10 times as high as the number reported to it. So it’s reasonable to raise its yearly incidence rate, which is based on those official reports, by a factor of 10. You don’t know 40,000 New Jersey residents, but let’s suppose you know 1,000 of them. The probability that you would know more than 12 patients who receive a Lyme diagnosis in that period would be around 60 percent, making reasonable assumptions. The likelihood that they’ve been seen by this one physician is lower, of course, but we’re no longer in the realm of the vanishingly improbable.

For all that, you make a persuasive case that this doctor is wasting her patients’ money and that she may be failing to deal with real problems by misidentifying them as symptoms of Lyme disease. Because these treatments are not covered by insurance, though, these people have been put on notice that they are receiving an unsupported therapy. Some, you say, have even been told by experts that they don’t have Lyme disease. If they are being exploited, they are abetting their own exploitation. They’re doctor-shopping, as affluent people occasionally do. Some may be hypochondriacs, others people with vague, genuine symptoms they would like to give a name to. What’s more, this doctor may sincerely believe that the test she’s using is catching difficult cases, that the condition is underdiagnosed and that she’s really helping.

Good intentions are perfectly consistent with your suspicion that she’s doing harm here, in violation of the Hippocratic oath. That’s a bad thing, but alas, I’m not sure you can do a lot about it. You could make your case in conversation with those of her patients you’re acquainted with. Given what they already know, though, my bet is that they won’t take much notice. You could also file a complaint with the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, but your identity may not remain confidential if it proceeds against this doctor. And this would be a hard case to bring if, as I fear, most of her patients are grateful for their Lyme-disease diagnosis.

Our daughter has been dating a young man for five years. She is a senior at a public university. Her boyfriend has completed two years of community college and one semester of private college and recently tried to transfer to her public university. He owes the private college tens of thousands of dollars. The private college won’t release his transcript without full payment, so he couldn’t provide the transcript to the public university, and thus it denied him final admission.

Three months ago, our daughter asked us to help. We offered to give him $10,000, which he was reluctant to accept but then agreed to after our urging and reassurances. Two and a half months went by as we waited for him to raise the rest of the money and negotiate terms with the private college and its collection agency. However, two weeks ago, we withdrew our offer after discussing the issue with our friends and family, who strongly warned us against such a financial entanglement.

My wife, friends and family feel certain that we did the right thing. Their reasoning is that creating a financially dependent relationship in which Mom and Dad’s money can be counted on whenever it is needed is a bad precedent to set for our daughter. Others have said that her boyfriend will eventually be grateful that we did this: If he finds a way to pay off the loan and go to the university, he will value it more and be more proud of himself. Further, my wife says that my daughter should be doing more herself to help him rather than asking us for the money.

I agree with all that, and yet I really feel for her boyfriend as a person, a young man, who has had to deal with many family misfortunes not of his making. He has paid for all his community college himself. He screwed up by going to the private college and not making payments. I don’t see him as the right person for my daughter in the long term. We’ve never felt really close to him. And yet I feel as though we handled this poorly and there may still be another option. What are your thoughts? Name Withheld

My response: I don’t see how giving someone money entangles them. Putting conditions on the money could entangle him. Were you giving, loaning, or what?

How does a gift imply you’ll do it whenever it’s needed? I don’t understand the terms of the offer. If you give it, once you give it, it seems to me, it’s out of your hands.

If you want to attach conditions to the offer, you sound like you’re proposing a deal, not a gift.  If so, I recommend writing a contract instead of assuming obligations he may not understand, agree with, or agree than he accepts them. My point isn’t to bring lawyers in but to clarify what you’re agreeing to. You sound like you’re assuming terms others aren’t.

Personally, I see a lot of the past events as past sunken costs which I wouldn’t factor in to my actions and would look forward instead. If you don’t expect the relationship to last, I don’t see the point in investing in a future you won’t be a part of.

The New York Times response:

It’s worth noting the background problem here: This young man was drawn into debt he can’t afford by the private college that he attended. Taking advantage of vulnerable people — in this case, a young man with ambitions and neither money nor family support — is a paradigm of exploitation. Nor is the college’s decision to withhold his transcript entirely rational, because that reduces the probability that the college will be paid in the end. Our president-elect has said he wants to help with student debt, but the plans he has described so far do not suggest a program that will solve this young man’s problem, and recent Republican orthodoxy runs against plans for college-debt refinancing or forgiveness. I doubt, in short, that there’s relief for him in sight.

None of this is your fault, of course. But I agree that you’ve handled this situation poorly. Making an offer and then withdrawing it was unkind — worse, surely, than never having made the offer. And I’m puzzled at the notion that “creating a financially dependent relationship” is a “bad precedent” to set for your daughter. She hasn’t proposed that she should be able to rely on you whenever she needs to for the rest of her life. She’s asking for help for the man I assume she’s planning to make a life with, so that he can get on with his education. With the right start in their life together, in fact, they’re much less likely to have to ask for help in future.

But the rest of your circle probably wouldn’t feel as they do if your daughter were the one in trouble. I suspect that they’ve misdescribed their objection: What they really think is that it’s not worth investing in a young man if he isn’t going to end up in your family. That’s not a crazy thought, especially given your doubts about him. So I suggest you tell your daughter the truth. And if she stops speaking to you for a while, you can reassure your wife and friends that she won’t be asking for money from you again anytime soon.