Joshua Spodek earned such praise as “Best and Brightest” (Esquire Magazine’s Genius Issue), “Astrophysicist turned new media whiz” (NBC), and “Rocket Scientist” (Forbes Magazine and ABC News) with success in such diverse fields as science, invention, entrepreneurship, art, leadership, coaching, and education, becoming a modern renaissance man.
He holds five Ivy-League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, both from Columbia University, where he studied under a Nobel Prize winner. He helped build an X-ray observational satellite orbiting the Earth as part of a multi-billion-dollar decade-plus mission led by the European Space Agency with NASA. He left academia to co-found a venture, Submedia, to bring to market his invention — a technology to show motion-pictures to subway riders moving between stations — starting the field of commercial in-tunnel motion-pictures. Submedia has grown worldwide to install dozens of displays in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. He holds six patents. He co-founded and helped lead several education ventures, including partnering with New York City Public Schools. As an artist he has shown large public art installations in New York City’s Bryant Park and Union Square and Amsterdam’s Dam Square. He has had solo shows in New York City, group shows across the country, and has shown in museums, Art Basel Miami Beach, MTV, and more. He has taught art at NYU-Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and Parsons the New School for Design.
Fascinated and surprised at how well business schools taught leadership, which he had previously thought unteachable, he studied it, soon becoming a leadership and executive coach for Columbia Business School’s Program on Social Intelligence (and to private clients). He leads seminars in Leadership, Creativity, Sales, Strategy, and Motivation at institutions including Columbia Business School, NYU-Stern School of Business, INSEAD, the New York Academy of Science, and in private corporations. As one of few people in the world to have visited North Korea twice, he has lectured on North Korean strategy at Columbia University and in South Korea and China. He wrote a book on North Korean strategy reviewed as “a very thought-provoking read that may totally change how you interpret the country.”
He has been quoted and profiled by ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Fox, UPN, NY1, CNN, CNN-International, WNYC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USAToday, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The New York Observer, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, Newsweek, Forbes Magazine, Worth Magazine, Esquire Magazine, The Guardian, Nikkei Shimbun, Tokyo-1, The South China Morning Post, The Taipei Times, The Village Voice, Artlog, PSFK, Metropolis Magazine, Salon.com, Gothamist, Slashdot, Artlog, The Architectural League of New York, and more. His work has won an Obie Award for Design Excellence and reached the semifinals in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards.
He finished five marathons and counting (3:51 best), competed at the World and National level of Ultimate Frisbee (with teams ranked #5 at College Nationals, #8 at Club Nationals, and #11 at Worlds), including captaining his college team as well as playing at the first Ultimate Tournament in Pyongyang, North Korea. For fun he swam across the Hudson River and has jumped out of airplanes. He has visited 21 countries, including years in Paris, Ahmedabad (India), and Shanghai. He lives in New York City’s West Village and blogs daily at www.joshuaspodek.com.
A personal word
I do what I love in life and do my best to cut out what I don’t. Loving what you do means you will do more than if you don’t, so I’ve accomplished a few things to high levels while enjoying the process.
I’ve also made my life easy and fun. I think anyone can. In fact I think making life easy and fun is easy and fun, like me swimming across the Hudson River with a friend for fun in the picture on this site’s main page. This site shares how I do it so you love what you do while accomplishing more than you thought you could too.
Your values and mine differ so you’ll want to do different things than I, but if the magnitude of my successes is something you want while living an easy, fun life loving what you do, read my blog. If you love what you do and live with that passion, I’d love to meet you. Please contact me.
… what I do …
About this blog
See the New? Start here page.
Resources and inspirations
The best place to find more, besides contacting me, is one of my seminars or classes. If I haven’t posted about an upcoming one recently, check with me for something coming up.
Here are some sources that have been influential or inspirational to me.
- Marshall Goldsmith – Great executive coach, author, and mentor. Great resources at his website, his Harvard Business Review column, and his feedforward practice, which is about the best advice I’ve ever come across for improving your behavior.
- The Art of What Works: How Success Really Happens, by Bill Duggan – One of the best books on how to get things done by a great professor at Columbia Business School. I was fortunate enough to take a couple classes from him before they became among the school’s most popular. One of the more popular courses is Napoleon’s Glance, also the title of another of Bill’s books, but I found The Art of What Works resonated with me more.
- Getting to Yes – the book on negotiation. It also was a major influence in getting me to see business not necessarily as competitive and to see others’ perspectives as valid as my own. Let’s see if I can still list its four principles from memory: 1) rely on objective criteria, 2) look for mutual gain, 3) separate the people from the problem, and 4) focus on interests, not positions. Not bad.
- Peter Drucker – He wrote the book, many times over, on management and leadership. You could almost say he created the fields. The first book of his I read was The Effective Executive, which I recommend.
- The Fifth Discipline – This management book introduced me to mental models, system thinking, and personal mastery. I’m not sure how influential it was for others, but it was for me for those introductions. I skimmed this book recently and it didn’t quite stand the test of time for me.
- Competition Demystified, by Bruce Greenwald – the book on strategy by the professor of value investing at the school on value investing. The New York Times called him “a guru to Wall Street gurus.” The book focuses on strategy for large companies, but easily translates to entrepreneurship. I wouldn’t start or invest in a company without reading this book.
- Hitendra Wadhwa – I took a course with him in business school. Just after I left he began a course called Personal Leadership and Success. I haven’t taken the course, but it looks close to mine.
- Steven Pinker – His book, How The Mind Works, covers a lot of what evolutionary psychology means. I also ran into him and his wife once on Greenwich Avenue, a couple blocks from home. Delightful couple. They referred to a Ted video I had seen but couldn’t recall until just after we said goodbye, at which point I felt silly.
- Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene was my first foray into evolutionary psychology and was one of the first books on nature that opened me to science that wasn’t physics being comparably interesting as physics. I saw him speak at a book signing once.
- The Red Queen, by Matt Ridley – my first exposure to tracing how the effects of evolutionary psychology propagate throughout human culture. A major influence in seeing beyond social programming and recognizing how much institutions influence society for their own benefits, often to the individual’s detriment, despite everyone in them thinking they are doing what’s best.
- Robert Wright – His book, The Moral Animal, had some great insights into how we evolved as humans, especially our emotions.
- David Buss – wrote the textbook on evolutionary psychology, the foundation for a scientific understanding of self-awareness.
- Charles Darwin – I put his name here to motivate myself to read the Origin of Species, the Descent of Man, and the Expression of Emotions first hand. I’ve only read a few passages so far. Obviously his contributions to our understanding of nature towers above most others’. He’s up there with some of the top physicists.
- Donella Meadows – Her book, Thinking in Systems: A Primer, changed my thinking as much as nearly any other book. Viewing the world from a systems perspective makes many things make sense and helps you be more calm. She co-authored Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update, which expresses my perspective on the intersection of ecology, economy, and environment better than any other I’ve seen. It just gets it. If you’ve read the book and would like to discuss it, please contact me.
- Martin Seligman – among other huge contributions to psychology he co-founded the sub-field of Positive Psychology, wrote many foundational works in it, and continues to teach at Penn. I’ve worked with a few graduates of his program.
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – the other co-founder of Positive Psychology and founder of the study of flow, among other great contributions to psychology.
- Richard Feynman – One of the great physicists of the twentieth century, though not as well known as, say, Einstein or Heisenberg. His views on nature, beauty, honesty, and why we learn are among the most meaningful to me. Decades after I left actively researching physics, I’m as interested in his perspective as ever. His videos are amazing. Watch them all!
- Sex at Dawn – a recent book speculating that human emotions and behaviors related to sexuality may not be as genetically based as many suspected, but may result more from our social environments that we created since the advent of agriculture. It’s science, so who knows how observation and experiment will affect it, but the same goes for incumbent theories.
- Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond – changed my perspective on cultures and how they developed and founded my perspective on finding natural explanations for some parts of human behavior. A big motivator for me creating my Model.
- Jacob Goldenberg – I took a course called Systematic Creativity in Business from him, which was revelatory and inspiring. His book, Creativity in Product Innovation, covered the subject matter of the course, albeit technically. I haven’t read his other book, Cracking the Ad Code, yet. When I consult to creative types — artists, musicians, designers — I draw heavily from Jacob’s book, and they report it to be very effective.
- Robert Weisberg – His book, Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius, was as revelatory as Jacob’s course. Creativity is less romantic and mythical but more accessible than mainstream beliefs suggest.
- Genrich Altshuller – His theory of inventive problem solving, TRIZ, implements the ideas of Goldenberg and Weisberg. He preceded them. I know Jacob’s work derived from his. I don’t know if Weisberg’s did.
- Tao Te Ching – Here is my favorite translation, free for download or purchase. I don’t know how accurate it is, but I am more concerned with its accessibility and utility in improving my life, which it’s great about. It endures as one of the oldest books for a reason. Written like no other book, it doesn’t just say its message. It says things that after you read them you think and act differently, in a way that improves your life.
- Srikumar Rao – I took his course, Creativity and Personal Mastery, at Columbia Business School. A lot (most?) of my perspective on personal leadership comes from him. I come from a more scientific perspective. I find his more mystical. His books, Are You Ready To Succeed and Happiness at Work, are inspirational and at the root of understanding value, meaning, purpose, passion, etc and what to do about it. Every time I buy a copy I give it away soon after because of the value it brings others.
- Anthony Robbins – I don’t know his stuff that much. Only that while creating my seminar a friend told me I should listen to his stuff and lent me a few Anthony Robbins CDs. The content was what I was writing, so I was intrigued. Later I read a book of his and found it right on, even though I wouldn’t have expected his message to resonate beforehand.
- Neil Strauss – Whatever your views on so-called pick-up artists, his empowering book, The Game, shows how someone can transform from zero to hero through dedication, practice, and learning in one of the most important yet emotionally challenging parts of life. Plus we toured North Korea together.
- Chuang Tze – His book followed the Tao Te Ching and is as valuable. Here’s a free online version.
- David Allen – his book, Getting Things Done, inspires a lot of people to take control of their lives with specific and actionable behavior and beliefs. What made it great for me was meeting him and hearing his explanation for the book: “I’m a freedom junkie.”
- S. N. Goenka – his practice of vipassana meditation is amazing. My first experience of meditation was a ten-day retreat with no reading, writing, talking, etc. Very useful. While I don’t recommend it because it’s hard and I don’t want the responsibility for someone going on my recommendation and not liking it, nearly anyone would benefit from it.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn – His book, Full Catastrophe Living, was one of my earliest sources of increasing what he calls mindfulness. It’s calming and helps you focus. Here is a great video of him.
I have changed my environments, beliefs, and behavior significantly from learning how the following people lived. Others may be as inspirational, but these are the ones I’ve acted on. I’ll add more as I think of them. Some become such a part of who you are you forget about them. (I’ll leave finding how they weave together as an exercise to the reader)
- Henry Thoreau — Walden and Civil Disobedience inspire me to live by my values more than any other work I can think of.
- Mohandas Gandhi
- Martin King, jr
- Nelson Mandela
- Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen — Creators of the General Public License and various other Free Software foundations.
- Jean-Dominique Bauby — Author of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. You are not your body. You can bring about in your life any meaning you want, independent of the material resources available.
- Viktor Frankl — Survivor of Auschwitz and author of Man’s Search For Meaning. Only you can control your emotions. You can bring about whatever emotions you want. I wrote more about him here.
- Mark Zupan — Significant character in the movie Murderball and author of the book Gimp. Your body is not who you are. You can bring about any meaning you want through your environments, beliefs, and behaviors.
Videos (I know there are a bunch of great videos in the following series. I’ll have to post links to them as I re-watch them)
- Ted talks
- Google talks
- Richard Feynman videos
Hmm… more than one woman belongs up there, although Donella Meadows influences me daily more than almost anyone. I’ve posted on meaningful role models — for example here, here, and of course here — but I think more belong here. I’ll think of them.