—Joshua Spodek's adventures in stewardship—

(Formerly Leadership and the Environment)

Community, support, vision, stories, role Models, experience.

Leadership turns feeling alone and complacent into action.

We bring leaders to the environment to share what works. Less facts, figures, and gloom. More stories, reflection, self-awareness, connection, support, and community.

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431: I sang every day for two months, unplugged (still going)

January 20, 2021
My solo episodes are a podcast-within-a-podcast: my views on relevant topics. Volume 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
Solo Episodes, volume 16

431: I sang every day for two months, unplugged (still going)

What do you do if you use less power? No social media? No listening to music? No TV?

Sound like a fate worse than death?

Inspired by guests on my podcast who find amazing activities to live by their environmental values, I committed to turning off all my electronics to sing every day. I've almost never sung in my life beyond Happy Birthday and The Star Spangled Banner so I'm mortified to play my remedial results live, but I love it. I know I'll keep going so today's recording isn't the end.

I recorded singing a couple songs at the beginning. to record I opened the laptop, all other times I sang with the power off. At night I had to open the door to the hallway to read the words with my apartment lights out until I started singing outside during my daily walks picking up litter.

So far I've spent zero dollars. The first two weeks I sang fifteen minutes a day. Later I shifted to at least one song, so a few minutes a day.

Today's episode starts with my describing the experience and a few stories, then with neither pride nor shame, I play the "before" recording, then the "after."

The track listing:


  • 14:42 The Beatles, Across the Universe
  • 19:30 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps


  • 22:40 The Beatles, Across the Universe
  • 26:28 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • 28:44 John Denver, I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane
  • 31:26 Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
  • 33:01 Spandau Ballet, True
  • 36:12 The Cure, Pictures of You
  • 38:54 Earth, Wind, and Fire, September
  • 42:19 Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land

430: Rabbi Yonatan Neril, part 1: The Eco Bible

January 18, 2021

In the midst of several episodes on religious approaches to sustainability I learned of today's guest, Rabbi Yonatan Neril's book The Eco Bible: An Ecological Commentary on Genesis and Exodus.

He founded and directs the international Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, including its Jewish Eco Seminars branch. He wrote the book to shine new light on how the Hebrew Bible and great religious thinkers have urged human care and stewardship of nature for thousands of years as a central message of spiritual wisdom.

He has spoken internationally on religion and the environment, including at the UN Environment Assembly, the Fez Climate Conscience Summit, the Parliament of World Religions, and the Pontifical Urban University. He co-organized twelve interfaith environmental conferences in Jerusalem, New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

On a personal note, I saw the chance to learn about my family and upbringing. My father is the person I know most knowledgeable and practicing about Judaism. He is also among the people I know among the most resistant to reconsidering views on nature, pollution, and considering changing how he interacts with it. I was curious how his religion influences him.

Yonatan presented another approach full of joy, community, connection, service, and faith. I can't say others all approach it like a chore or burden, like something we have to do but really don't want to, but I sure see that approach more. I like Yonatan's mood more.

429: What about jobs?

January 17, 2021

"What about jobs?" people often ask to counter proposals to constrain some activity. Today's episode answers.

Here are the notes I read from:

  • What about jobs?
  • People out of work drain on society, not so happy
  • Store near me that sells trinkets
  • Of any value?
  • I'd prefer a hug, shoulder rub, or make me dinner
  • Many stages to make: plastic from oil, factory to make, transportation, store clerk
  • Factory, put near landfill
  • What about trucks and boats?
  • Better to drive and sail around in circles
  • Absurd, but actually better world paying to do worthless work with more hugs, shoulder rubs, and home-made dinners, oil in ground, people not displaced, skies clearer
  • Classic historical case of buggy whips
  • If legislated, people wouldn't die.
  • People out of work now clamor to work. People love to serve.
  • I don't know where people's faith in entrepreneurship goes. Constraints breed creativity.
  • Need problem to exist to solve it. If you wait for planned jobs to exist before demand, will never happen. If you keep going in counterproductive industries, we'll destroy Earth's ability to sustain life and society.
  • Economists are incredibly wrong in this area, especially free-market, Ayn Rand types.
  • I'm studying Edwards Deming. Japan: government and industry post WWII did what would be anticompetitive in U.S., but transformed nation and world, more happiness and products, no shortage of competition. Have you seen pictures of Sao Paolo before and after banning billboards.
  • So I'm pretty sure that if we outlawed just producing dioxins and PFOS and carcinogens and created some jobs programs to teach Initiative, which would be enough, or something better if you know, as other nations without our addiction problems do, we'd improve the world by everyone's standards, including the free-market, Ayn Rand types.
  • I think at the root is a belief that people want to be lazy. I just don't see it in at least 99%. If last 1% say 5% scare you, are you really going to let your fears of 5% of people drive economic policy to ecological ruin?
  • I would much rather have shoulder-rubs, dinner made for me, or to make dinner for her, hugs, and what entrepreneurs come up with than destroyed planet. Remember, all those trinkets mean extracting oil for materials, to drive factories, truck, boats, etc to deliver, $1.6B to haul away.

428: Vanessa Friedman: The New York Times Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic

January 14, 2021

Vanessa Friedman sees the fashion world from a vantage point few others can as the Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic at the New York Times. She arrived there after pioneering roles covering fashion at Financial Times in a first-ever role there, InStyle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and Elle.

She shares the industry's forays into sustainability---or responsible fashion in her terms---as well as sharing her thoughts on it.

Right off the bat she talked about reducing consumption, which I differentiate from reusing and recycling, which most people jump to, but I consider tactical. Reducing is strategic. Harder to get at first, but leads to easier life and work.

I was awkward, as I don't know the fashion world, but you can hear from her that environmental responsibility is catching on in fashion. Barely so far, but in some places at least authentically and growing. It looks like there's hope in the industry, though they have a long way to go, a lot of resistance, and many players acting in the opposite direction.

I'm also glad to hear Vanessa's personal attention, thoughtfulness, interest, which all sounded heartfelt, thorough, and genuine. At the New York Times she's at a leverage point so I suspect she will influence. I like that celebrities are acting because, however small that change, they influence others. I believe they can help change culture.

427: Behind the Mic: Attraction and leadership

January 3, 2021

Former guest and founder of the most popular men’s dating advice website Chase Amante guest-hosted me to continue the conversation I started with Dov Baron on learning attraction, dating, and seduction and applying it to leadership. My conversations with Dov are in earlier Behind the Mic episodes.

I start by sharing why I broached this topic at first with Dov, despite it not obviously connecting to sustainability. The short answer is that leadership for me means sharing relevant parts of yourself candidly and openly. While business school leadership classes opened the door for my learning social and emotions skills of leadership, practicing in the world of learning attraction gave me practice on many social and emotional skills for leadership. After mastering them, I honed how to coach and teach them being hired by one of the top gurus in the field.

We treat misconceptions about the field, or at least our exposure to it and our practices and community. I'm sure some will retain misconceptions and misapply them.

We also shared about our experiences in the field.

426: Why unplug?

January 1, 2021

I'm in my second month since I unplugged my fridge. Why unplug it?

Not because I think its power makes anything more than a negligible difference. This episode describes why.

Here are my notes I read from:

The other two reasons I unplug the fridge. The first was after reading Vietnam and much of the world ferments, I was curious to learn fermentation. Second is reading how much backup power a grid needs to maintain perfect uptime. Resilience. Each bit after 99% costs a lot more. Alternatively, 95% requires almost no backup. Third is to learn and grow myself. Neediness and entitlement, especially to things that hurt others and nobody needed for hundreds of thousands of years, doesn't make me better person. Do you know anyone spoiled? Do you describe them as "You know what I love about Kate? She's spoiled and acts entitled."

425: General William “Kip” Ward, part 1: Security, Stability, and Sustainability Start with People

December 28, 2020

Kip Ward is a retired General who, among other things, was the first leader of the Africa Command. He shares his background so you can hear it from him. It's extensive, having served at every level of the army. I met him through previous guest Frances Hesselbein and watched a few videos in which he spoke of leadership, which I linked to below.

He spoke of things I don't see in sustainability and environmental stewardship but work. I took away from those talks

  • Addressing the conditions that led to a situation
  • Good, effective governance through sustained efforts, which he contrasts with technology or authority
  • Authority and force being the last option, despite it being what he was trained in to reach that level
  • Understanding the society and people you want to lead. Their interests and views drive all you do. You have to know your team and goals, but theirs drive strategy.
  • Get to know people and what matters to them.
  • Listen.
  • Do yourself what you expect them to do.

I particularly like his commitment for reasons you'll understand when you hear it. Kip is choosing deliberately. I believe action by leaders helps others to follow.

424: Brent Suter, part 3: We don't have to steward. We get to.

December 23, 2020

If you haven't listened to Brent and my first two episodes, I recommend listening to them first. Also, I recommend reading Milwaukee Brewers’ Brent Suter Sharing Love and Joy.

I haven't approached the environment from a religious view and Brent and I spoke about plenty of interesting things the first two times, so we didn't get to it. Lately listeners have probably heard how much William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and their peers have become role models. I wrote Brent to see if he knew more about them and could share.

He said he was happy to. I'm not used to talking about religion in public, but he was and was happy to record. I reread the story about his Christianity and was pleasantly surprised to see words he connects with his work that I do---joy, light, love faith, kindness, service, mission---that are the opposite most environmentalists seem to. They look at stewardship like chore, obligation, burden, sacrifice.

I've started saying "I don't have to steward. I get to." Taking responsibility for how my acts affect others and changing my behavior to avoid hurting them doesn't hold me back from flying. It connects me with humanity.

If you asked if I expected my work would overlap this much with someone based in Jesus relative to nearly any scientist or environmentalist, nearly all of whom tell me they don't want to do more, I wouldn't have believed. As much as science determines the problem, the solution will not come from science but creating purpose and meaning.

If you consider yourself religious and religion motivates you to act in stewardship and I sound like I'm missing more than Brent and I covered, contact me. I'd love to learn more.

423: Kelly Allan, part 2: Restoring joy to work through Deming and stewardship

December 18, 2020

We correct two big misunderstandings.

First, most people associate acting on the environment with obligation, chore, deprivation, and sacrifice. We lead them to feel that way when we tell them what to do. We may think we're right because the science says so, but leadership depends not on how right you are but how the person you want to motivate feels.

Second, people don't know Deming, or associate him, to the extent they know him, with statistics and how they felt about math problems in school. When you get Deming, you see understanding patterns reveals effective leadership, which is liberating, even fun.

Kelly shares how digging dirt and planting plants became fun when led effectively. Since everyone cares about the environment in some way---after all we all breathe, eat, and drink---we can all feel this way.

As I speak to more people in the Deming community, I sense we are forming a strategy to apply Deming's work to sustainability. As he turned around Japan in a few years to lead the world, so can we lead our communities.

Kelly being on the Deming Institute board, before and after recording this conversation, we talked about involving people who practiced and mastered Deming's approach. Something is going to happen with this community. We are going to contribute to lead people, companies, and industries to embrace sustainability with passion and joy, stopping wrongly expecting burden, chore, deprivation, and sacrifice. Our culture has disconnected us from what brings reward and joy. Great leadership will restore it.

If you're into improving your leadership, especially in the style of Deming, you sense we're on the ground floor of a change on the scale of Japan's transformation in 1950, and you want in, contact me.

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