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“Me and the Big Bang Theorist”: Less Cancer Founder Bill Couzens writes about meeting me

posted by Joshua on April 18, 2017 in Fitness, Habits, Nonjudgment
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Bill Couzens founded Less Cancer. He also founded National Cancer Prevention Day & Forum and initiated the US Congressional Cancer Prevention Caucus.

In other words, he cares about an important issue and gets things done.

He was also recently diagnosed with diabetes. He sought medical and dietary help. He also sensed he could use help with motivation and leading his life. Type 2 diabetes often results from behaviors that, when you change them, the condition stops, at least as far as I know.

His web search found me. He contacted me shortly before business brought him to New York City. We met in person the other day.

Between our call and visit, he pointed out quickly and several times that no one gave it to him straight like I did, which he said he needed. People were forgiving and accepting of behavior that contributed to diabetes.

Diabetes doesn’t care about his feelings. He wanted support that would work, not spare his feelings. He ate plenty of sugar, but was, in my opinion, lying to himself and others that he was still eating healthy. He knew what he should stop eating intellectually, but when intellect faces off against the sweet taste of sugar, or almost any other physical pleasure, intellect usually loses. Unless you’ve developed skills to handle the challenge, which is what I teach.

Still, he seemed to feel vulnerable about the diagnosis, so he needed sensitivity and empathy.

I sensed he needed tough love, which I gave him.

He also writes for Thrive Global and yesterday he published his account of our interaction. I’m honored and flattered at his account.

I should mention that he was serious about change and ready to commit. It’s unfortunate that it took such a dramatic problem to jolt him to reconsider his behavior. Like many of us, he followed what society told him about eating, to accept engineered food as healthy, and to accept excuses instead of responsibility so much that he didn’t realize it.

He has a lot of unconscious habits to make conscious and then replace. I don’t think it will be easy, but I also expect the rewards will be greater than he expects. Besides the medical condition, I think he’s going to enjoy a more delicious diet and a life of more responsibility and therefore integrity.

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Bill Couzens' article on Joshua Spodek

Bill Couzens’ article on Joshua Spodek. The picture is of me buying fresh zucchini from my neighborhood produce vendor as ingredients to show Bill how to make one of my famous vegetable stews from scratch, with no packaged food or food with fiber removed. Read the story for more details.

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The Sasha Laghonh interview: “Meet Joshua Spodek: Author, Academic & Entrepreneur”

posted by Joshua on April 17, 2017 in Audio
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Today Sasha Laghonh of Sasha Talks and her podcast Moving Mountains posted her interview of me.

What holds people back

I like when an interviewer researches my background. Sasha did. She asked meaningful questions, motivating me to think and share about choices I’ve made and things I’ve written that weren’t obvious but were meaningful.

Plus she asked about love, money, and power, and who doesn’t like those topics?

Here’s the interview:

From Sasha’s about page:

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Sasha Laghonh brings over fifteen years of experience to the commercial and spiritual realm by working with private and commercial clients hosting diverse backgrounds and life endeavors. As a seasoned MBA professional she also specializes in Organizational & Human Behavior which grants her a broad base from which to approach many topics. These tools drive her corporate career by executing diverse business strategies in complex and evolving environments.  As a Life Strategies & Business Coach she works with clients ready to transform their lives by offering customized sessions relevant to their needs.

​To complement her career, she is an innate spiritualist hosting abilities that allow her to deliver intuitive insights derived from questions possessing various degrees of complexity. By applying these insights as a self development tool, one can empower themselves by making better decisions with clarity and confidence. Recognized as one of the best readers in 2012, Sasha continues to share her craft with global clients through private sessions, professional groups and global media including print.

All are welcome to tune into her shows “Sasha Talks Spirituality” (c. 2012), “Awaken with Sasha” (c. 2013-2014), “Sasha Talks” (c. 2012-present) on BBS and “Moving Mountains with Sasha (c. 2016).  Sasha’s work is presented through various media appearances and private speaking engagements.  As a frequent guest on FM/AM radio and online media she is able to educate audiences on lifestyle choices and spirituality. For pleasure Sasha enjoys traveling, teaching and raising awareness of various humanitarian efforts. Bring an open mind and heart to experience the difference. ​

Non-judgmental Ethics Sunday: Is It O.K. to Marry an Amnesiac?

posted by Joshua on April 16, 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, “Is It O.K. to Marry an Amnesiac?

My sister suffered a brain injury two years ago that left her with severe short-term memory loss. She has made a very good recovery, but she still requires full-time supervision and cannot work. On a typical day, she wakes up unable to remember how old she is, what city she lives in or what she did the previous day. Thankfully, she has retained most of her original personality; however, she is very easily confused, and her maturity level is similar to when she was a teenager.

About a year ago, a distant friend of our family learned of her condition and began a closer friendship with her. Their relationship has now turned romantic, and they are planning to move in together and are also discussing marriage. While I’m very happy that my sister has found someone to love and care for her, and I have no reason to believe that this man would ever cause her any harm, I’m having a very hard time accepting their relationship. He is a successful, well-educated man who is several years her senior, and I find myself questioning his motives—she’s very beautiful and sweet, but she finds it very hard to follow a conversation for any length of time.

A psychiatrist has deemed that she is able to make her own personal decisions (but not financial decisions). However, I don’t think she is able to make an informed decision in this situation.

My response: It’s ethically acceptable to someone who accepts it ethically and it isn’t to someone who doesn’t.

It’s as simple as that. You’re asking about people’s opinions. Some feel one way, others feel others.

I suspect your greater concern is if you can live with the consequences of your choices if you choose for someone else. One way you risk depriving her of possible joy, intimacy, support, and all that comes with a closer friendship, though you may protect her from being hurt. The other way gives the opposite risks and rewards.

Accepting that there is no book in the sky with absolute answers means you alone are responsible for your choices, including ones that affect others.

You may not have asked to take responsibility for someone who can’t choose for herself, but now you have it. If you could change the past, you probably would. You can’t, so I recommend coming to terms with your responsibility and what comes with it.

The New York Times response:

Your sister’s brain injury — and the fact that she can’t manage a checking account — make her vulnerable to all kinds of abuse. And yes, there can be something slightly creepy about falling for someone who is not capable of sustained conversation. You may be wondering whether this man is erotically engaged by her vulnerability.

Still, all this could be quite aboveboard. Maybe this man is indeed making her happy. As the pop song has it, “People fall in love in mysterious ways.” Judging from the psychiatrist’s assessment, too, the issue of autonomy here is complicated.

And people can have conflicting intuitions about these matters. Consider a couple of news stories from the past few years. An Iowa farmer was physically intimate with his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient at a nursing home, and charged with sexual abuse; a physician at the nursing home maintained that because of her dementia, she wasn’t equipped to give consent. A jury found him not guilty. In an article published in this magazine, jurors were presented with the case of a New Jersey philosopher who believed in “facilitated communication” and who, evidently convinced that she could converse with a nonverbal, mentally disabled man, became physically intimate with him. The jurors convicted her of sexual assault.

The situation you sketch is different from these: a newly romantic relationship, but with a woman who probably has more of the ingredients of autonomy than the Iowan’s wife had and certainly more than the nonverbal New Jersey man had. Our intuitions are formed by analogies — our minds go to a story of sexual exploitation or to a story of unlikely love. But those analogies never fit very exactly; typically, they’re more like mittens than gloves.

You ask if it’s ethically acceptable for an able-minded person to date someone with a cognitive disability. The answer is, sometimes, yes. What’s not so clear is whether it’s O.K. for this man to be dating your sister. The desiderata of protecting and respecting can be at odds. So it’s a fraught situation. Without putting aside your sense of watchful caution, though, you might want to give it the benefit of the doubt.

A year ago, I started a job as a clerk at a State Supreme Court. I love my boss, really like the people I work with and am satisfied in the work that I do. I am currently in school obtaining a second degree and studying to become an intelligence analyst. This job gives me the flexibility to work full time, support my family and still go to school.

When I interviewed for the job, the chief clerk stated that he knew he couldn’t keep me forever but asked that I give him at least two years. (No contracts were signed because my state is an “at will” employment state.) He did tell me that if another job came along sooner, he would understand.

Fast-forward to today. A position has opened up on the floor below mine for a court analyst. It pays twice as much and is directly related to what I am about to graduate with a degree in. When it opened up, I desperately wanted to apply, but the following considerations have stopped me: I have been in my current position for only a year; my direct supervisor in the position is going on maternity leave in another month; and if I don’t get the job, I do not want my boss (the chief clerk) to think less of me. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work here at the court. I do not want to be disloyal to my boss or leave anyone in a difficult position during my supervisor’s maternity leave. I also worry that if I apply and do not get the position, I may be passed over for internal promotions or other positions because I will be perceived as neither a team player nor a reliable employee.

My question is: What is the ethical answer here? Do I stay at my current job for another year, hoping for a similar opportunity to work in a field related to what I am studying, and keep my reputation as a hardworking, loyal and reliable employee? Or do I apply for the job (which would provide a better opportunity for my family as well) and hope for the best? Name Withheld

My response: I wish people would read my answers to earlier questions, since the answers to past installments apply.

Your strategy of asking for judgment on an abstract philosophical point and yes/no questions distracts from coming up with alternatives. I suggest that instead of looking for judgment and a small number of options that you create more alternatives, in particular involving people affected by your actions in the process. Then to pick what you do not by abstract philosophical concepts but by considering whom you will affect, how, and how you expect they’ll feel—that is, through empathy and compassion.

Developing your social skills will reveal more options and increase their chances of success, liberating you from the false constraints now restricting your ability to see alternatives that could improve your relationships as you take on a new position.

The New York Times response:

I am not an expert on whether your chief clerk holds grudges or on attitudes to loyalty in your office. So on the prudential issues, your guess is as good as mine — better, actually. But you also raise the ethical question of what your obligations are. Your boss asked you to take your current job only if you were willing to commit for two years, which, at the time, you were. It would be wrong to break that undertaking simply because it has become inconvenient. But wait: Your boss explicitly said he would “understand” if something better came along in less than two years. Presumably, he meant something like: “It would be reasonable if you took a better job.” He didn’t say he expected you to stay given those circumstances. So what you’re contemplating may not violate the understanding you have.

I’m thinking about the issue as one between two freely consenting adults. In the context of employment at will, your boss has no legal duty to keep you on, and absent a contract, you have no legal duty to stay. Yet you two were obviously in very unequal positions when you had your original conversations. You might be tempted to say to yourself: “He knew that if I wanted the job, I was bound to say that I’d stay for a couple of years, whatever I actually felt. So he was exploiting my weak bargaining position. The deal I made was, in effect, coerced. I shouldn’t regard it as morally binding.” But again, wait! It can’t be O.K. to make an insincere promise just to get a job you want. What’s more, you clearly don’t feel exploited, given that you speak of gratitude for having been employed. And your boss has apparently earned your loyalty in other ways since. Even if you felt pressured when you took the job, then, you’re not excused from taking his interests into account now.

There is, in any case, an ethical way to sort out the situation between you and the chief clerk. Explain to him what you’ve explained to me. You’re grateful to him for the opportunity he provided you. And you don’t want to be disloyal by inconveniencing him while your supervisor is on maternity leave. So ask him what he expects of you. Whatever he asks you to do — and whatever you finally decide to do — you’ll have taken seriously your responsibilities to him and let him see that you’ve done so. You might still decide that this is an opportunity too good to pass up. But having the conversation is a way to be sure that you’re taking the boss’s needs into consideration.

High praise no one would have told me before

posted by Joshua on April 15, 2017 in Exercises, Relationships
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The host of a podcast we just recorded emailed:

Again, I so enjoyed our conversation today. Thank you for bring your whole self to the table. … I loved it. (and I know my audience will love it too.)

I never used to hear that I brought my whole self to anything. On the contrary, as I’ll share below, I spent the first few decades of my life only able to do the opposite.

One of the most popular exercises in Leadership Step by Step—both the book and the online course—is the Authentic Voice exercise. Students tell me how it enables them to speak more authentically than ever, and that doing so leads others to speak newly authentically back. In other words, they learn to lead others by leading and improving themselves. (There’s a reason it has 98% 5-star reviews).

I practice the exercise all the time. People today call me natural, which makes me feel honored and flattered, but if they think I started this way, they miss the work I put into it. The exercise emerged from practices I developed from watching what worked with others, fitting it into the progression of exercises, and coaching many people.

I enjoy seeing my students use the exercise to improve themselves in a week what took me years. I envy them too.

The cringe-worthy experience that motivated me

Part of my motivation to learning how to speak authentically was an experience I share sometimes in podcast interviews. Within a short time, in graduate school, three people from three different parts of my life said nearly the same thing:

Josh, I’ve known you a long time, but I still don’t feel like I know the real you.

Hearing that hurt. Who wants to know people for a long time only to find your longtime friends feel they know you only superficially? But I protected myself then to the point of not sharing many important things about me.

Their comments, and how I felt hearing them, led me to decide that I would change how I met people and connected to them so I wouldn’t stay aloof for years.

Fast forward to today. After years of practice, I enjoy sharing things I used to protect. I use the public nature of podcasts to motivate me to speak yet more openly, the opposite of what I used to do.

Part of the result is that nearly all my relationships now are better than nearly any of them from before. Another result is that I can teach people how to open up in ways that others open up back.

For now, I’m just appreciating that people whose big life projects are to interview people tell me that I stand out for being open and candid.

What 80s pop music teaches us about global warming

posted by Joshua on April 14, 2017 in Awareness, Leadership, Nature
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Most people seem to view acting to avoid polluting and caring about the environment as deprivation and sacrifice. They seem to ask, “why should I sacrifice something I like, like flying, meat, air conditioning, etc? If billions of others don’t, then what I do doesn’t matter.

The result is most of the world, or at least most of America, contributing to global warming beyond nearly any contribution by anyone in history, well beyond the Paris agreement’s allotment per person.

For me the answer is clear, that behaviors that pollute less, like not flying, eating fresh vegetables, and dressing for the weather so you don’t have to heat or cool the air, improve my life. Not polluting improves my life.

Few people see not flying as better for them than flying, though.

What 80s pop music teaches us about global warming

The other day I stumbled on the song below for the first time in maybe a decade or more.

Listening to the words, the song applies to today nearly as much as then.

The reason to avoid polluting: Because we are the world, which we’ve somehow we’ve lost sight of. We could use this message today.

Instead of calling for others to change their behavior and to pass laws, we could all take more responsibility for how our actions affect others, including future generations. We are the children.

Maybe the time has come for another “We Are the World” to change people’s behavior.

Unhelpful, inactionable “advice” people say for themselves, not for you

posted by Joshua on April 13, 2017 in Tips
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Here are some things people often say that isn’t useful or helpful, though people probably think it is when they say it.

  • Be yourself
  • Play with feeling
  • Think outside the box
  • Put yourself out there
  • Fail
  • Fail early
  • Fail often
  • You shouldn’t care so much what other people think

If you find yourself saying any of these phrases, thinking you’re helping someone, you probably aren’t because they don’t tell someone what to do. I suggest that you’re probably saying something to hear yourself talk or to avoid saying nothing.

Similarly pointless, to children:

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • I remember you when you were this big.

Farnoosh Torabi interviews me for her So Money podcast

posted by Joshua on April 12, 2017 in Audio, Education, Leadership
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I’d heard about and listened to the award-winning #1 So Money podcast for a while, so I felt honored and flattered to be a guest.

This morning Farnoosh posted the interview!

She covers money more specifically than most. Since I grew up keeping talk about private finances quiet, she led me to speak about some things I rarely do, which led to some life-level realizations I am grateful to her for uncovering.

I was surprised to find myself sharing some things publicly I didn’t even realize about myself.

Listen to the podcast!

Farnoosh Torabi's interview of Joshua Spodek for her award winning #1 So Money podcast

Farnoosh Torabi’s interview of Joshua Spodek for her award-winning #1 So Money podcast

From Farnoosh’s about page:

My audience has been growing up. . . So have I.

At the age of 22, I was over $30,000 in debt. I made $18 an hour. Before taxes. With a Master’s degree. In New York City. Those early years involved lots of borrowed clothes, canned tuna, and $5 Footlong Subway sandwiches. But it was worth it. Because, as I slowly climbed out of debt in the most expensive city in the country, I realized that there was a void. . .

Young adults had no access to effective, fun, or even digestible financial advice.

As a financial reporter, I empathized with young professionals who felt financially drained and lost. I jumped at the opportunity to help educate that demographic, to get them excited about taking control of their financial life.

It was the start of a beautiful relationship with my audience – one where we continue to grow together.

My first book, You’re So Money – Live Rich Even When You’re Not, published in 2008 and was a nationally acclaimed tell-all for young adults searching for financial independence. Soon the book took on a life of its own and I began making regular appearances on the NBC Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America and writing for several top magazines including Glamour, Marie Claire and O, The Oprah Magazine.

At the same time, I began coaching Americans who were struggling with piles of debt and other money challenges on SoapNet’s reality series Bank of Mom and Dad and on TLC’s makeover program, REAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. Then came the Webby-nominated personal financial seriesFinancially Fit on Yahoo! where for three years I served a daily dose of money inspiration to millions of viewers.

But money isn’t just dollars and cents.

It’s a deeply layered issue.

It’s not enough to walk into someone’s home and share 5 straight-forward tips on how to get out of debt. There are psychological, mental, and emotional barriers that prevent us from taking action around money.

I was fascinated. I wanted to learn more about the emotional connections that people have with money. This research led to my 2nd book, Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset & Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life.

As I developed this whole new way of talking about money and relating to people around their finances, my career matured. The types of issues I tackled matured. I matured.

I was no longer just “the lady who helps you with a budget.” I was a trusted friend and a shoulder to cry on.

I began helping people unravel deeply buried knots, so they could finally clean up their financial messes.

And my audience and I are still figuring out how to balance everything, now that our lives have shifted.

I’ve fallen in love.

I’ve gotten married.

I’ve become a mom – twice.

When women make more, the world becomes a better place.

As the breadwinner in my family, I arrived at an interesting emotional and financial paradigm in my early 30’s.

The fact is, while female breadwinners are on the rise, society still expects men to take the financial lead as breadwinners in their households.

This economic shift can lead to guilt, shame, and questions of identity for both sexes. Money is already a bone of contention for most people; when she makes more, however, the plot thickens.

This led to my latest book, When She Makes More,  a resource for any woman who brings home the bacon and hopes to keep her love and family life alive and thriving. Based on dozens of personal interviews and an academic study of nearly 1,000 top-earning women, the book reveals 10 counterintuitive rules these women must follow in the 21st century to manage (and take advantage of) this unique circumstance—emotionally, socially, and financially.

More to come…

Fifteen years into my life’s work, I feel like I’ve just begun. I’m having a blast hosting So Money, a podcast I launched in 2015 that features intimate conversations with inspiring and highly-accomplished individuals from Tony Robbins to Seth Godin to Sallie Krawcheck, all about their personal money lessons – good, bad and ugly.

I continue to speak across the country to audiences large and small. I love collaborating with forward-thinking brands, as they develop financial campaigns for their audiences.

And lately, I’ve started to more formally answer a question that seems to pop up everywhere I go: Farnoosh, how did you launch your career as an expert and become an authority in your field?

For me, the path began with a simple book. Along the way, I connected many dots, leveraged the right resources and made lots of mistakes.  I realized those experiences were worth sharing. And in 2016, I launched a private 1:1 coaching practice, as well as the Book to Brand workshop in New York and look forward to bringing my professional insights to the masses in very near the future.

I couldn’t have done all of this without the constant support and feedback from you, my audience. I am deeply grateful. Thank you.

Hope you’ll stay along for the entire journey!

Listen to the podcast!