Subscribe to my mailing list!

... and get a free excerpt from my book,
including the preface and first five chapters.

Select daily, weekly, or both:

The One Way Ticket Show podcast: the American Revolution and Leadership

posted by Joshua on February 15, 2017 in Audio, Choosing/Decision-Making, Freedom, Leadership
Leave a comment

Steven Shalowitz, host of The One Way Ticket Show podcast, posted yesterday our interview, “Josh’s one way ticket is back to this historic time in American history,” which covers the time in history I would choose to go to if I could magically go there with no chance to return, as well as Leadership Step by Step.

Click here to listen!

I find the show fascinating, as well as his guests, who include Nobel Prize winners, heads of state, heads of industry, and more, including, at last, me.

Spodek on the One Way Ticket Show

From the podcast’s about page:

Forbes profiles three graduates of my course!

posted by Joshua on February 14, 2017 in Education, Entrepreneurship, Exercises, Stories
Leave a comment

Forbes’s Carrie Kerpen profiled three graduates of my entrepreneurship course in, “Three Important Lessons Women Learn Early In Their Careers.”

The three students—Nikita, Grace, and Nahima—did the course’s exercises with diligence and discipline. None of them knew how experiential the course would be and didn’t expect to create projects that impassioned them or their customers as much as they did.

In other words, they didn’t have secret or magical skills you and I don’t. They had direction and worked at it. You can too (shameless plug: if you take my course).

Her story begins:

I often write about the wisdom I’ve gained from women with long, successful careers. But I’ve learned just as much from young women at the very start of their journeys, too. I recently had the pleasure of hearing incredible stories from three former students from Josh Spodek’s social entrepreneurship class at NYU—and each woman had an important leadership lesson to share.

You Are Your Own Best Advocate

As a sophomore at NYU, Nikita Roach decided to try a course in the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship. “At the time, I did not plan to start a business, develop a product, or innovate a solution,” she remembers.

Read the rest at Three Important Lessons Women Learn Early In Their Careers!

About Carrie:

Carrie Kerpen is CEO and co-founder of Likeable Media, an award-winning digital content studio that is a 4 time winner of Crain’s “Best Places to Work in NYC.” A regular podcaster, keynote speaker, and columnist for Inc. and Forbes, she provides a behind the scenes look at what the digital revolution has done for women’s professional careers, personal lives, and overall senses of self. Follow her on Twitter @carriekerpen or visit her at

Carrie Kerpen Forbes

Becoming The Person Others Follow: the Art of Authenticity awesome second interview!

posted by Joshua on February 14, 2017 in Leadership, Relationships
Leave a comment

Laura Coe, host of The Art of Authenticity podcast, posted today our second interview, “Joshua Spodek: Becoming The Person Others Follow,” which covers Leadership Step by Step, along with authenticity in general.

Laura is a wonderful interviewer who genuinely cares about her guests. A second interview means more familiarity and comfort, which means covering perspectives and details beyond what a first interview can cover.

Listen to the interview!

(scroll down)

Here are Laura’s notes:

In this episode of Art of Authenticity I had a thoughtful conversation with Joshua Spodek, an astrophysicist, entrepreneur, leader, and author of the book Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow.

Today, we have our very first repeat guest. We have Joshua Spodek joining us. He is a professor at NYU and a columnist for Inc, he holds—are you ready—five Ivy League degrees. If you’re having a complex at the moment, join me, because I am as well.

He has a PhD in Astrophysics, and an MBA from Columbia, where he studied under a Nobel Laureate, he has done a lot of different things with his life, and at the moment, he is working on helping people in leadership, an executive coach for Columbia’s business school, and he’s just worked really hard on this idea of how to teach people how to lead.

He believes very strongly that leading happens from experiencing it yourself. He’s written a book, Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow. It’s all about creating positive change, but how to do it, specifically, with actual guidance step-by-step, with exercises that he has used in his teachings and he is sharing with you.

I am confident that Joshua has a ton to offer. Go check out his book, you can buy it right now on Amazon. If you’re looking to find out more about Joshua, you can find him at, and I know that I haven’t had anybody on twice before, but I thought his book and his approach is particularly cool, and I thought you guys might be interested. So enjoy the show!

Listen to the podcast (note the show notes below):

About the podcast:

It’s time to get authentic—without the fluff. With The Art of Authenticity, Laura Coe—mother, author, entrepreneur, and philosophy lover—gets real people to get honest, get specific, and go deep about what it really means to live an authentic life and feel amazing, everyday. From figuring out step-by-step how to get the career and relationships that best reflect who you are, to understanding the intricacies of your own mental and physical health, The Art of Authenticity is a real-world guide on becoming the the best, most true version of yourself and the key to finally living a lighter, freer life.

Show Notes

  • Why Joshua used a publisher for “Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow” [3:28]
  • Why Joshua chose to write a book about leadership step by step [4:56]
  • Leadership Bias: Are you naturally a leader? Can you learn to be a leader? [7:26]
  • Coaching people can be beneficial in business and personal relationships [9:41]
  • How to motivate someone when you do not have authority over them [12:12]
  • Why might employees not want to open up to people in management [14:14]
  • How to handle working with a difficult boss [19:22]
  • Joshua’s opinion on what makes a good teacher when teaching leadership [23:25]
  • Joshua’s experience and advice on marketing [24:45]
  • Overcoming our internal critiques of ourselves [28:53]
  • Where is the book be available on Amazon and Joshua’s contact information [35:24]


Episode Resources

Non-judgmental Ethics Sunday: Can a Researcher Studying an Alzheimer’s Treatment Try It on Himself?

posted by Joshua on February 12, 2017 in Ethicist, Nonjudgment
Leave a comment

Continuing my series of responses to the New York Times’, The Ethicist, without imposing values, here is my take on today’s post, “Can a Researcher Studying an Alzheimer’s Treatment Try It on Himself?

I’m an older scientist who has spent decades leading a small laboratory at a well-known medical center. Much of our work is purely for the joy of discovery, but we also seek badly needed cures for illnesses. A cure for Alzheimer’s disease is beginning to look attainable with technology we are pioneering. While investigating genes for early-onset Alzheimer’s, we invented a gene-transfer method that stopped the brain damage and restored cognitive function. Eureka! Sadly, my doctor has just given me a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s. Given that no truly effective treatment is out there yet, can I try dosing myself with our potential cure? Do I have the right, given that I will otherwise die of dementia before a clinical trial could even begin? I plan to do this alone. None of my people will know about it. It’s something like a high-altitude, low-opening jump. It is not reversible and may be dangerous. But is it wrong? Name Withheld

My response: You didn’t ask if it was legal or what medical societies believed about it. You asked if it was wrong. That’s a specific question that’s easy to answer, though it’s not yes or no.

There is no definitive answer about its rightness or wrongness. If there was, you would have looked up the definitive answer and not had to ask a newspaper columnist. The concepts of rightness and wrongness about people’s behavior are people’s opinions. People may feel strongly about their opinion, meaning they think they are right, but others disagree with them who feel they are just as right.

I suggest you ask the consequences of your actions and how they affect others.

The New York Times response:

I’m sorry to hear about your illness. As our diagnostic capacities regarding dementia increase, more and more people face this distressing news. That makes the work you are doing especially important, and I’m glad that you have hopes for the approach that your lab is studying. I can see the temptation you face.

What’s more, the history of medicine is full of cases in which researchers experimented on themselves. Salk gave himself his polio vaccine before it was given to the public. The inventor of Valium tranquilized himself before tranquilizing the multitudes. Barry Marshall, the researcher who identified Helicobacter pylori as a cause of stomach ulcers, gagged down a bacteria-laden broth and studied the results. One reason this practice was permissible — even heroic at times — was that because the subject was the experimenter himself, informed consent wasn’t an issue. There are obvious limits to such “n of 1” case studies — an anecdote isn’t data — but knowledge has sometimes been advanced this way.

Because you are entitled, in my view, to take your own life if you have normal mental competence, you have the right to risk your own life, especially in the interest of improving the quality of your remaining years. And if having subjected yourself to this experimental treatment, you experienced drastic improvement and revealed what you’d done, it’s conceivable that you could help accelerate the process of moving the therapy to clinical trials. (Or not: Early dementia can be episodic, and its progression may lack a fixed course.)

Still, what you’re proposing raises some moral considerations you should weigh carefully. One is that the biological materials and intellectual property involved aren’t yours. You would be stealing them. Perhaps you’ve determined that the loss to their institutional owners would be de minimis. A bigger issue is that you would be breaching your understanding with your employers. And that’s important, because there could be larger risks to them.

What the risks (and therefore the ethical issues) are would depend on how the genes were transferred. If you did it by editing the genes of your own pluripotent stem cells, that would involve no obvious risks to others that I can see. Suppose we were talking about a genetically modified viral vector, however. That would raise biosafety issues: Is it “replication competent” — is there any chance of shedding and spreading? Has a rigorous hazard assessment been done? Once the virus was released from the lab, your employers, as well as you, could be liable for the consequences. At least in theory, there could be an exposure risk to people who, unlike you, aren’t in a position to give informed consent. You’re well placed to assess the probabilities here, but not as well placed as a properly constituted human-subjects review committee.

My mother, who is 89, fell and broke her hip last summer. Before that, she had come somewhat unmoored from reality (confused about what year it was, thinking long-dead relatives were alive, suspecting that people were plotting against her). She had also become incontinent, was unable to dress herself and sometimes needed to be fed.

After her hospitalization for the broken hip and weeks of inpatient rehab and physical therapy, we were told she needed round-the-clock care. The family could not provide it (my father is physically disabled), and there was no money to hire someone to be with her 24 hours a day. We placed her in the dementia ward of a nursing home.

She doesn’t understand why she is in this facility, or that she will not go home. Without assistance, she cannot get in or out of bed, make it from the bed to the bathroom or dress herself. She thinks she is doing all of these things, but in fact she is not.

If we tell her that she is in this facility for the rest of her life, she will forget. Each time we tell her, the shock will be as if she is learning this for the first time.

My question is: When she asks about going home to my father, do we redirect and give vague answers, as we have done thus far? Or do we tell her, even though she won’t remember the answer and will ask again and again, causing her fresh pain each time? Name Withheld

My response: Same answer as the message above. What are the consequences of your actions to the people affected? What other measures do you have? Abstract philosophical ethics?

The New York Times response:

Perhaps medical science will one day alleviate these problems. But for the foreseeable future, many of us will, like your mother, become slowly unmoored from reality as we grow older. That makes a difference as to how we should be treated. You are understandably anguished by the thought of lying to your mother. Someone who has a normal command of her faculties is entitled to the truth; it will help her manage her life in the ways she sees fit. Lying to those with whom we have intimate relationships — as well as keeping important truths from them — is disrespectful, in part because it is disempowering.

But your mother has reached the point where she is not managing her life at all. She doesn’t need to be told the distressing truth because she can’t do anything with it; her response to relearning what’s happening will just be a sequence of painful episodes. The fact that her agency and her comprehension are limited means that what you’re obliged to tell her is limited. Indeed, because the truth will cause her so much pain, you may even have a duty not to share it with her.

In hospitals, doctors are often employed in part-time administrative jobs. To take on those administrative tasks, the doctor will reduce patient-care time. A doctor typically does this sort of work for two to four years as a diversion and to gain a deeper understanding of the health care system. There are typically rather few interested applicants.

My colleagues and I recently became aware that the large hospital system we work with has a policy to adjust the hourly compensation to match that of the doctor’s specialty. This has the effect that a highly compensated surgeon will be paid much more than a pediatrician for the same work. Of course, the surgeon is unlikely to accept an administrative position if it entails a significant pay cut. Yet, given that a doctor with any specialty can do the administrative job and one whose specialty is less remunerative may well have more administrative experience, the policy seems unethical.

Should equal pay for equal work apply, or is this simply a case of supply and demand, in which market forces rule? Name Withheld

My response: If it seems unethical, then why are you asking what principles apply? Your question implies the answer you probably suspect, which is that there is no concrete answer everyone will agree with. There is no absolute measure of what people’s time is worth. Different people have different values, which lead to different opinions of people’s worth. One person may evaluate based on equal pay for equal work. Another may evaluate based on supply and demand. Others both or neither.

My hunch is they pay people what they need to to get the work done by qualified people without paying much more. If they paid less they wouldn’t get the quality they needed. If they paid more, they’d get more than enough people working there and realize they could pay less.

They’re probably open to your influence if you’re skilled at negotiating salaries. If you’re not interested in changing things but could, you sound like you’re implying you accept the situation. If you don’t, why aren’t you doing anything about it?

The New York Times response:

Wages are set in order to get people to do things. If you want people in various specialties to do administrative work, you’re going to have to pay people from highly paid specialties more. So what about the principle of equal pay for equal work?

Like many principles framed in terms of equality, it is really about something else. It’s about the moral idea that we shouldn’t treat people differently on the basis of irrelevant features. Gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran status and so on shouldn’t count in determining wages — unless they’re relevant. (In other words, there’s nothing wrong with paying veterans more if you need people with combat experience and that’s what it takes.)

Here the specialty isn’t an irrelevant feature, so it’s O.K. to take it into account. Otherwise, as you note, there would be no highly compensated surgeons who had an in-depth understanding of the hospital’s administration. I’m guessing you agree that this would be unfortunate.

Is leading with empathy and compassion soft? Will you get taken advantage of?

posted by Joshua on February 11, 2017 in Leadership, Relationships, Tips
Leave a comment

A reader wrote with some questions common enough from other readers to share. His second message is the common one. The first sets the context of dealing with a difficult person. Here’s the first message:

I’d like to know how to deal with the type who is indifferent to the possible adverse repercussions for his actions (or lack thereof) and may actually want to deliberately trigger you to intervene and micromanage even if that’s the last thing you have time for and it defeats the purpose of having the individual take on a role in the first place.

In other words, you may assume that the person is on your team due to idle talk in their initial application and evaluation, but once they’re given the opportunity, it appears as if they’re more on a fishing expedition to invade privacy and look to sabotage you and prevent any progress or trigger a negative reaction.

I know that may sound absurd to anyone who is logical, reasonable and trusting, but I swear to you that it does exist and it’s almost impossible to detect from the outset. The type knows what to say to serve as a form of bait that you have reason to enlist him. The other type who is also looking to sabotage may be detected based on your gut, because something feels off. That’s very different than the person who tells you what you want to hear.

I hope that you understand the question.

I responded


Glad to hear from you. This gets covered in the fourth unit of my leadership course, which is on leading others.

I’ll say a few words about it here. If they help, great. If it needs more explanation, let me know.

I find the most important thing here is to look at things from their perspective until their behavior makes sense. In particular, instead of saying this person is micromanaging, triggering, etc, I presume that he believes he’s doing something constructive. I may not see him as constructive, but he doesn’t see himself as destructive either. We’ve all had times where we did something we thought would improve things that others saw us as messing up or trying to.

When I understand his motivations as he sees and feels them, then I have the tools to lead him. I can connect his actual motivations to the task (or figure out how to part ways if necessary). Trying to get him to do things for my reasons isn’t working.

The question to answer is what is he doing from his perspective? When you answer that question, you’ve empathized with him. My course walks people through the process of leading people empathetically like this. It takes practice to develop skills to handle difficult people, but the exercises I teach give you exercises that work.

Does that help?


His second message asked a common question based on a common misconception:

Excellent points, but isn’t there concern that if one comes across as empathetic, he will be perceived as “weak” and be potentially taken advantage of?

I wrote back:

I would have thought that way before. On the contrary, think of why people disrupt. It’s usually because they think they know better but don’t feel listened to or understood.

Empathy is not the same thing as touchy-feely or soft.

Making someone feel understood, which is another skill my course covers, tends to disarm them. Instead of acting up and disrupting, they find they can express themselves constructively. They have strong motivation, otherwise they wouldn’t act up. Effectively leadership channels that motivation to the team task.

This is what I teach in my course. It doesn’t look dramatic so you don’t see it on TV or movies. They want what’s dramatic because that sells movie tickets and commercials, so they imply undramatic isn’t as good.

It works. People you lead this way want you to lead them again. They want to be led through the emotions they care about. If they worked hard and went through an interview process to get into the company, they care about it and results. That means they want to be led. The question is if you have the social and emotional skills to have them share their motivations and then channel them. Schools teach intellectual skills, not social and emotional skills, so they don’t teach this stuff.

Does that help?

Forbes on marketing Leadership Step by Step

posted by Joshua on February 10, 2017 in Entrepreneurship, Leadership
Leave a comment

forbes logo

Cheryl Conner at Forbes wrote, “Three Entrepreneurs Share How They Took Their Public Relations Strategy To A New Level,” which covered me. Lord knows I’m in the middle of public relations!

Anyone who has seen me in person this year has heard me say “I can’t believe how much work goes into launching a book.”

I’m the third of three entrepreneurs profiled in the story. The part about me begins

Joshua Spodek is a New York City-based executive coach and academic (he’s an adjunct professor for NYU) who is passionate about transformative leadership, creativity, strategy and motivation. His problem: A great book that nobody knew about. “I signed my contract with a publisher [the American Management Association] almost exactly a year ago to write my book, Leadership Step by Step,” Spodek said. “When I finished, I faced what many successful authors had told me, but I hadn’t felt in my gut until then: No matter how good my book is, it won’t matter if people don’t know it exists.”

Spodek was confident about the book’s quality. “It teaches people to lead,” he said. “It’s not about leadership, like nearly every other book on the subject–it’s about how to lead. It’s the difference between a book on music theory and one that provides the exercises you need to learn to play the piano. My book is like musical scales for leadership.”

Read the rest at Three Entrepreneurs Share How They Took Their Public Relations Strategy To A New Level, which covers hustle, resolve, results, and more. It points out how much more I’ve learned and grown since starting to market that I didn’t when I only wrote in my blog without trying to connect with my readers.

Marketing is more than promotion. Marketing is two-way communication. I was only doing it in one direction when only writing on my blog.

You already know about Forbes. About Cheryl Conner:

I am an entrepreneur and communications expert from Salt Lake City and founder of SnappConner PR. I am the author of Beyond PR: Communicate Like A Champ In The Digital Age, available on Amazon. I am co-creator of Content University, which helps entrepreneurs and executives learn to write and to tell their stories better, and how to use their strong thought leadership content to advance their companies. Content University is available at The opinions I express (especially when tongue in cheek) are entirely my own. My newsletter, the Snappington Post, is available from

Thanks also to Bhupinder Nayyar, cofounder and COO of publishing site Bameslog, for creating the connection.