001: Dan Pink, Conversation 1: When to act, full transcript

November 30, 2017 by Joshua
in Podcast

Dan Pink

Hi. This is Joshua Spodek and this is Leadership and the Environment. You’re not the only one who cares about your impact enough to act. You’re part of a global community undeterred by people saying, “If others don’t change first, then what I do doesn’t matter,” and other excuses. We’ve read the science. We can do this.

This show is about personal responsibility, acting and improving your life by your values as guest after guest says, “The challenge was hard. But thank you for getting me to do it. I wish I’d done it earlier.” Listen on for leaders to inspire you, hear their struggles and then act. Go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast to commit to a public personal challenge of your own. You’re not alone and you don’t have to wait for others.

Joshua: Hello everyone and welcome to my conversation on leadership and environment with Dan Pink. It begins with how he and I met which is as he put it “me trashing him in the major Media Publication Inc.” And it turns out he’s actually a pretty regular guy, just a regular guy with over 40 million views of his TED Talk and several number one best sellers. So, quite a storyteller. And if you’re interested in influence, he shares a lot of the behind-the-scenes techniques. He talks about his next book, When, and about his writing and editing techniques especially cutting out, especially a big theme that shows up in this podcast of putting the reader first. He talks about how does his research, science and how to make science useful, where his ideas come from and things like that. So if you’re interested in the leadership part of the Leadership and the Environment podcast, the first part of this conversation is going to be great. And then we’ll hear what his personal challenge is going to be which he was planning on doing it before and I’ll let you listen. And here’s the conversation.

Daniel: Hi Josh.

Joshua: Good afternoon. How are you doing?

Daniel: Good.

Joshua: So we could do audio, we could do video or…

Daniel: You tell me what’s best for you.

Daniel: Let’s stick with audio just so that, I think so that the people at home they can get the full thing that we’re getting so there’s nothing that we’re getting besides that. And actually something I’ve been doing lately which is up to you if you want is that I find that the conversation at the beginning just before the podcast begins is often very interesting. Often after the end is too. So my recording starts as like it’s already started.

Daniel: Fine with me.

Joshua: So cool, then we’re in it right now.

Daniel: Absolutely. We are in it right now. I learned as a journalist that back in the old days when there were tape recorders I never turned off the tape recorder. I used to use these like little mini cassettes.

Joshua: The really small ones.

Daniel: Yeah. I would never turn off the recorder until the person I was interviewing had left and was out of view. Because I realized a lot of times when people at the end of their [3:00] interview, people say, “Oh yeah, that’s one of the things that was bugging me.” And then, I get the best stuff.

Joshua: Yeah. I’ve joked around that I think there should be a podcast of like the prepodcast postpodcast podcast.

Daniel: That’s a funny idea actually, that’s actually kind of clever.

Joshua: Yeah. I see with you I didn’t want to ambush you. With friends I can do it. I’d give you the option. I’m really glad that you went for letting it come out as it is because I think it’s better for the listeners.

Daniel: Yeah, so I am all for it. Go for it.

Joshua: Cool. And so if so everyone who didn’t already know this is the Leadership and the Environment podcast. This is Joshua Spodek, I’m here with Daniel Pink. There’s just like a bunch of things I want to start off with because you come out with a new book and you’ve been very gracious that I can’t imagine this stress that goes into, or maybe you’ve done enough huge book launches. But one you’re giving time in a what I imagine is a lot of stuff going on. I kind of want to share how we met and then I kind of want to talk about some of the stuff that I’ve learned from you. And I think I want to start with… Can I start with how we met and leave it as a teaser if you’re up for describing a little bit about the next book?

Daniel: Go for it.

Joshua: So I’m a little nervous because I don’t want to make it seem like you’re… I had a great time meeting you and I don’t want to flood you with people thinking, “Oh, it’s easy to meet Dan Pink.” Maybe you like that, maybe you don’t but…

Daniel: Well, it might be easy to meet me. Most people don’t enjoy the experience so you’re the exception there.

Joshua: Well, so what happened was I was writing… I work a lot on the difference between motivation and in education how to teach differently. I learned a lot through case study and lectures and I didn’t find that very effective in teaching me effective skills. And so drives are like a natural book for me to read and I was writing about how… I had criticism to drive, which was that you talk about these scientists who discover these things about motivation, it’s different than what people expect. But they also almost get fired. And I think probably they don’t want to get fired. And so if you’re good at motivation, if you’re almost fired, it’s probably not a sign you are great at the practice of motivation. Even if on the theory on motivation.

So I started writing this article for Inc. because I have a column there and I’m about to publish it and I think, “Do I want to criticize a guy who’s got like tens of millions of views of his TED talk and like bestsellers and stuff. It’s possible he might read this and get pissed off.” Like I don’t know. So I contacted you and I said, “So you know, I’m not trying to be critical, I’m trying to illustrate this idea.” And you write back very graciously and what I remember you saying was…It was like a respectful disagreement. You said, “I see what you are getting at. I disagree but I respect that you put the article out.” And that started things off. And I really liked that. It felt like for me as a budding author at the time I didn’t know if my book would succeed or not. And it gave me a lot of encouragement. So thank you.

Daniel: Well, sure. And I guess the moral of the story is the best way to get to know me is to just trash me in public. I’m totally kidding. I’m totally kidding. I think that I appreciate that story, Josh. And I think that one of the things that…I live here in Washington D.C. and one of the things that I have noticed having lived in Washington D.C. now for almost 25 years is essentially the demise here, especially here in Washington, of respectful disagreement. And I think it’s extremely harmful for our culture and for ideas. Things have become so tribal that people believe what their tribe says and disagree with what the other tribe says. And they don’t listen, they don’t think, they don’t change their minds. So maybe we are for your listeners out there role modelling some behavior. And the disagreement was not like a vast disagreement either. I mean, I remember right.

Joshua: You talk about D.C., that the disagreement there and it’s like name calling and all this stuff. Actually I was not long ago listening to a Sam Harris podcast and he got in some real disagreement with, I forgot who he was. It might have been the guy from Dilbert, Scott Adams. And at the end, they were really like, it sounded almost angry each other and then at the end both of them were like, “That was great!” And I said, “That is great.” There is not enough of it.

Daniel: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Joshua: And now I’m really curious about the next book coming out because… It’s called When, is that right?

Daniel: Yes, sir.

Joshua: And something about the stuff that you do is like so simple and so like I feel like when I read your stuff or even just look at what it’s about, it reminds me of Michelangelo saying, “I took away everything that wasn’t David and what was left was David” or someone else said, “When you take away everything…” Greatness is something it’s not when there’s nothing more to add, it’s when there’s nothing more to take away. Do you think of that when you write? Is that something that drives you?

Daniel: A little bit. I mean I appreciate that kind of reference. Yeah, I mean I do think that a big part of writing or even conveying ideas is “What do you leave out?” I don’t see myself and what I do in that way of there’s a block of stone and my job is to discover the statue within. I’m not that elegant or artistic. But I do think that there is something to be said. I think a lot of writing is leaving stuff out. And so when I write and especially when I edit and rewrite, I tend to be pretty ruthless about what I keep in and what I don’t. So I try to make as an editor when I read over my stuff or a draft of things, I basically every sentence, just about every word but certainly every sentence, has to justify itself to me. Look at a sentence “Say why should I not kill you right now?” And that sentence has to defend itself. And I think that’s a way there to write with greater clarity. I think it’s a way to convey ideas more sharply and with greater simplicity.

Joshua: And it sounds like you’re talking about not just your writing process but this sounds like more of a life process. Because I think there’s the writing… There’s like the ideas you come up with because just the titles of your books are pretty compelling and it feels like…You are not so much [9:00] writing, I take it, because there’s the videos, there’s the coming up with the ideas and there’s the writing.

Daniel: I mean I have to say I think you’re giving me too much credit for being deliberative and strategic. I like to try stuff, see what works and see what doesn’t, and I think that the willingness to try stuff, discard what doesn’t work and keep what does work is really key. I don’t know if that’s necessarily some underlying process of how everyone should work. It’s certainly how I do work.

And I like to put myself as much as possible in the reader’s shoes or the viewer’s shoes. I’ve seen so many books that I find are padded, that I feel it’s like reading a kid’s term paper. Well, just because you found it out and did the research, it doesn’t mean you have to include it. And so especially in writing books I just feel like anybody who spends 20 bucks and spends several hours, like that’s a pretty high bar here. I don’t want to waste our time.

Joshua: Were you always like that? Or did it come in time? Is that a discipline that you have to reinforce?

Daniel: Oh, it’s definitely is about getting more disciplined, it’s about getting more mature, it’s about just getting better at something that is very hard to get good at.

Joshua: OK. So if I’m listening and am thinking, “God, it’s really hard to do,” then you also feel that way and it’s not like it comes easier to some people.

Daniel: For me I will speak to my own experience, I’ve been doing this for a reasonably long time and I still find writing very hard. I don’t sit down and 2000 words just come spilling out of me. Seriously, that’s not how I work. I think of writing in some way as a blue-collar profession in that I liken it to building a wall. So every day I show up and I put some bricks in the wall and I try to make the brick straight stand up, support their previous bricks and then I come back the next day and do the same thing, and do the next day and do a thing, and the next day do a thing and then I look at it and it’s like, “Oh my God, it’s wobbly, it’s not straight. Got to take out those bricks, come back and put a brick the next day.”

I think of it as a job where the key skill is showing up. Showing up and doing the work. I don’t believe in inspiration. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in showing up and doing the work. Whether you want to or not and mostly if I waited until I was ready to write or inspired, I would never get anything done.

Joshua: Have you looked at my blog by any chance? I’m curious now.

Daniel: I have not or at least not recently.

Joshua: Because one of my habits is to write a blog post a day. And so I have not missed a day since January 2011 so I’ll hit the 27 000th post pretty soon.

Daniel: That’s incredible. I didn’t realize that you were posting every day, that’s incredible discipline. But think of all you’ve learned in doing that.

Joshua: Yeah. People keep asking me. I think a common reaction from people is like, “Oh, you have a lot of discipline,” and they’re saying it in a way of like excusing themselves, like this is why I don’t do it because you have discipline but I don’t. But it’s the opposite. It’s that writing is what gave me the discipline and my writing hasn’t improved nearly as much as I would like it to have. But my discipline and what it’s given me in the rest of life is like [12:08].

Daniel: Totally, totally. I have not exhibited that degree of dedication. Seth Godin has been doing this for a long time as well. And it’s really remarkable. And so I think that’s the way to do it. I tend to be… When I work on a big project, whether it’s a book or a long article that is I show up every day, I show up at the same time, I give myself a word count and I often use the, you might have even blogged about this, the Jerry Seinfeld technique, where each day you put a check on the calendar.

Joshua: Oh, just tell me about that. I don’t actually know that episode.

Daniel: Yeah, well it’s not an episode, it’s actually not an episode of Seinfeld the show, it’s practice of Jerry the comedian who he has to write all the time.

So imagine a calendar. So if I write today, we happen to be talking on the 24th of a month, I put an X. And then if I write tomorrow, I put an X on the 25th and if I keep writing every day, it’s like I got a streak going on and I don’t want to break it.

Joshua: Something that drove me is the guy who set up my WordPress page. I asked him, “How often do I blog? Is it like Monday, Wednesday, Friday? Is it five times a week? What is it?” And he looks at me dead on and he just says, “Every day. If you miss one day, you can miss two. If you miss two, it’s all over.” And then I only did the checks because it’s just like, “Did I do it?”

In fact last night I posted just after midnight. I allow myself like before I fall asleep if it’s past midnight, it’s okay. And it was like I almost forgot and I was about to go to sleep and I was like, “Oh, I got to write a post.” And so it’s very easy, I don’t have any apps, I don’t have any e-mails with friends to make sure I did it or stuff like that, it’s just if I did it, yes, if not, do it, then go to sleep.

Daniel: Yeah. There is that. I don’t know who the source is but a great musician who says, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. If I don’t practice two days, the critics know it. If I don’t practice three days, the audience knows it.”

Joshua: I think I’ve heard of that. I can’t think of where it came from.

Daniel: I don’t know either.

Joshua: So now I want to actually [14:23] timing. I’m curious can you share a bit about When?

Daniel: Yeah, sure.

Joshua: Like a sneak preview for the audience.

Daniel: Yeah, yeah, I will give a super short sneak preview. So yeah, so this is a book about timing. So we all have this notion that timing is everything, right? So we believe that. But we tend to think the timing is an art, or it’s intuition guesswork, it’s an art. And what I’ve discovered after some excruciatingly difficult research and writing is that actually it’s more of a science than we think. And there is this body of research out there across many, many fields so for instance in [14:56] mostly about psychology, some about economics. This is much more sprawling research in biology, endocrinology, anesthesiology as well as social psychology, economics, anthropology, neuroscience that allows us to make better decisions about when to do things, better, smarter, evidence based decisions about when to do things.

And so that sort of high concept view of this book is that there are gazillions of how-to books out there. I wanted to write a when-to book. And I wrote it largely, it’s going to sound silly but I wrote the book in large part because I wanted to read it. I was actually…The idea of this book came when I was looking for a book like this. Because I realized like how many timely decisions I made and was like, “Okay, someone must have written a book about like timing,” and they hadn’t. And so in order to read this book I had to write it.

Joshua: So there’s a couple of questions came to mind, and the first one that came to mind was something you said at the beginning because you’re talking about all the science, you do a lot of research and your background is in law, I guess there must have been some transition, you wrote for Al Gore who is like I guess politics legal/science. I would have thought your background was in science.

Daniel: It almost was. I was a Linguistics major as an undergraduate. Linguistics is a pretty interesting field because it sits at that juncture in many ways of behavioral science and biological science. And increasingly now, not so much when I was studying, but computational science.

But I was a middle class kid from central Ohio. So there’s no way I was going to go get a graduate degree in Linguistics. So instead I went to law school. And mistakenly, that’s all I thought.

But I’ve always been deeply interested in the social science. And again, I don’t portrait myself as….I’m not a scientist but I love talking to the people who are scientists, I love interviewing them, I love reading their work. And one of the things that many scientists don’t do a good enough job of is explaining what they…I think there’s a couple of things I think they don’t do a good enough job of. One is explaining what they found in language that regular people can understand. And second is much of the academic world remains very silo. So the psychologists often don’t talk to the economists, the economists certainly are not going to talk to the anthropologists. The anthropologists aren’t going to talk to the biologists. But in many realms each of these three disciplines are asking somewhat similar questions. This is true to some extent in motivation. It’s true in a large extent in timing. So you have for instance medical researches showing things like this.

Here’s a couple examples of this. That endoscopies are… You are going for a colonoscopy, right, there shouldn’t be any difference in your colonoscopy if you do it in the morning or in the afternoon. But there is a lot of research showing that actually is, that endoscopies probably have as many [18:05] in the afternoon exams versus morning exams.

Joshua: Is it like the judges and the convictions?

Daniel: Yeah, I read about the judges. To me the judges thing is an interesting story because it’s really a story about breaks and the importance of taking breaks. But yes, so that’s a good example of it. So you have this research in say endoscopy. And then you say, “Oh, wait a second. There are four times as many errors in anesthesia in hospitals at 3pm than at 9:00 am. That’s kind of interesting.” That’s an anesthesiology, endocrinology. But then you go, you have economists, one of the economists at the University of Chicago studying a test scores in L.A. finding that student test scores in L.A. looking at profiles of two million students found that students do less well in math in the afternoon than in the morning. And so here you have research in anesthesiology, research in endoscopy and research in economics that are all kind of reaching very similar conclusions. And so what I tried to do is where there are similarities and knit those together.

Joshua: I spoke recently to an environmental engineer at a major oil company. He’s not allowed to say which one but he was on. And he’s talking about science and he’s talking about science and we both agreed afterward it wasn’t as compelling and intriguing as it could be. But when you talk about your stuff, it’s like that’s kind of interesting. I would like to know how these fit together and, “Oh, I could use that in my life.”

Daniel: Yeah, yeah. You’re very nice to say that too. I mean I do look at it a little through that lens. Like this is somewhat interesting but why should I care? And I care because I like this research has changed how I live my life. So I would like for instance, my elder daughter how to get her wisdom teeth taken out. And was in the throes of this research. And I said, “OK, you are having the first appointment of the day, you are not having that appointment if you’re going under general anesthesia.”

Joshua: That’s why you wrote the book.

Daniel: Even things like I’ve not gotten a colonoscopy yet but I’m at roughly the age where I should probably be getting one fairly soon. And there is no way, on God’s earth, I would schedule anything but a morning colonoscopy.

Joshua: It makes you think like I hadn’t thought about that. A few writers are kind of like that. And I guess that’s why you got all these viewers.


Feeling inspired? Do you like hearing others acting that you’re not alone? Go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast to hear other interviews. But even more valuable, join the growing community of people who care enough to act, not just talk. Read the list of people who’ve taken on personal challenges and then commit to one yourself. Don’t be surprised if you end up loving it, changing more and finding people following you without you even trying. That’s what happens when you improve your life by living by your values.


Joshua: Motivation seems to be a big thing. Do you also talk about how to make timing work for you? Because usually they say chance favors the prepared mind and things like that. Do you touch on things like that?

Daniel: Not really. It’s a great question because when you think about this is a very tough subject, the subject of timing it’s a tough subject. Because I don’t want to write about time. That’s a very elusive subject, very complex subject dealing with physics and perception and all that. And then some of my timing is as you say luck, fortune. And that’s a very hard topic to write about in an evidence-based way.

What this book is about and readers will be able to find out more about it in January is why do beginnings matter so much. What happens at the midpoint of something? Why do endings matter? How do people synchronize in time? How do breaks in time change our performance? How does the way we think about time affect our behavior? Why does the language we speak and how it recons with tenses, verb tenses, change our perspective?

Joshua: So you said that you connected it to your daughter and it’s the book that you wanted to read that wasn’t there. Did you share…Was your story of what prompted it in the first place?

Daniel: No. I mean what really what prompted it was my own curiosity. But I realized I was making all of these decisions about when to do things. But I was making it in a completely intuitive, non-rational, non-evidence based way. And I figured there’s got to be a way to make these decisions better. And I realized that there were but the research was splattered across all of these disciplines.

Joshua: So it feels like I think of Isaac Newton he’s is quoted a saying like, “I’m a kid playing on a beach and there’s a whole bunch of ocean out there, like I’m playing with a few shells. Meanwhile the vast ocean is just out there.” I feel like you’re collecting shells, putting together and seeing what you make of it. Is that childlike wonder that [23:02]

Daniel: Well, I don’t know if it felt like wonder. I look at it more like, again I go back to something much more blue-collar, as sometimes I talk about this in terms of a mosaic. Let’s say you’re someone who’s making a mosaic and you have these tiny little tiles. And so what you’re doing is you’re gathering tiles and you’re trying to fashion it into a broader mosaic. And that requires collecting a lot of tiles, throwing away a lot of tiles, putting tiles in one place and realizing they don’t belong there and spending a lot of time until the picture actually emerges.

Joshua: I am going to ask even though you talked about this already. I am going to ask a personal tip for the throwing away tiles part. I mean you said that it’s a discipline. To me that’s the thing that I would like to work on most. I feel like probably listeners would benefit from it too. Is there any tips you could give there that makes it easier? I mean maybe except for reading that book?

Daniel: Like throwing stuff away?

Joshua: Yeah, like stuff that is valuable.

Daniel: I’ll give you one very simple thing. Don’t throw anything away permanently. That’s more than anything else. It’s like here’s the thing. When I cut something out of a book or an article, I don’t like put it in the trash and empty the trash. I put it into a folder and say, “You know what? I can always go back and put it back in.” And I rarely do. That’s the thing. And so that makes it less daunting. So you’re not pressing delete. You’re not lighting it all on fire and burning it to the ground to never see it again. Just see if you can do without it. And if you can, you should.

Joshua: So would you say that what you’re doing there is kind of a trick that you play on yourself?

Daniel: Maybe a little bit. I mean I’m conscious that I’m doing it. It’s just that for writers or creators of any kind, if you create something, you produce something, it’s hard to get rid of it. Because it’s ours. It’s totally natural. So I guess it might fall into the category of trick. So what I do is like I’m not really getting rid of it. I’m just putting it in a folder for now and I can always come back and retrieve it. It’s just a way to move forward and see what it looks like without that piece that I’ve taken out of.

Joshua: The reason I ask is probably this theory that I have is I think a lot of people especially very successful ones, the things that a lot of people wish that they could do better I think a lot of people who are successful have tricks that they do like. Like I do my exercises every day, I do burpees every day. And before I do them… It’s like I think a lot of people think somehow it gets easier after a while but it doesn’t. It’s still hard to do and it’s hard to like I stand there and I’m like, “Ok, now I’ll start. Ok, now I’ll start.”

But I find it that after I do some crunches so if I put down the padding that I do to my conscious on it like gets me to start. And I know that it’s not really starting but does get me started and I think a lot of people have these tricks and I think a lot of people they wish that they could be like Arnold Schwarzenegger who just loves going to the gym and he just lifts weights. But I bet he has tricks too.

Daniel: OK. I’ll give you some tricks then. Now I understand what you mean by trick. Yeah, totally a trick. OK. So I’ll give you another one. I run, I don’t always like to run. I find that simply forcing myself to put on my running shoes is enough. I’ve just got put them on and say to myself, “You don’t have to run. Just put on your shoes. OK. I’ll put on my shoes.”

I also use to maintain some discipline, I also use the Pomodoro Technique many, many times. So that technique where you set a certain amount of time and you write for X amount of time, you work for X amount of time with no distractions and then you take a break. So I say okay, what I am going to do is I don’t really feel like doing anything but I’m just going to do 30 minutes right now and that’s it. After 30 minutes I can go back screwing around. And so what happens I do my 30 minutes and I’m like oh, okay, let me do another 30 minutes and then I do another 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes.

Joshua: So this lends credence to this tricks theory of mine that everyone has their tricks.

Daniel: Yeah, I think so. I think so. I mean yeah, tricks have its practices. Call it what you will.

Joshua: So talking about discipline and talking about motivation, when I wrote you about this podcast, it’s leadership and environment and I want to switch topics or kind of move over to environment. First of all, is it something that’s important to you? Is it something that you care about or you think about much?

Daniel: Leadership?

Joshua: Oh, the environment in particular.

Daniel: Oh you mean like the natural environment?

Joshua: Yeah.

Daniel: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Joshua: And that in a little bit I am going to invite you, you don’t have to but I’ll invite you to take on a personal challenge. And before I do that what is the environment… Is it something you care about? Is it something you’re active about? What did you think about when you got the invitation?

Daniel: Here’s where I am on this. I mean I’m not especially active but I think that it’s worthy. And the older I get, the more I realize its importance.

Joshua: OK. So it’s growing in importance because it’s something I like to talk you about. It’s trying to motivate people to do so. I think that a lot of people want to do stuff but don’t. And I think that if you value something and it’s just easier not to, you’ve got to tell yourself something so you can sleep at night. I mean people kind of reinforce and dig in their heels without meaning to.

Daniel: Yeah. And also I mean I think the other way to change and of course there’s another way to change your behavior is just doing the right thing easier.

Joshua: Yeah I think that’s it like Elon Musk, I think he’s doing that extremely well. I think it’s just this car emits less locally and even globally it emits less too. So it’s like making a comfortable car, a safe car and he’s making it very easy.

Daniel: Yeah. I’ll give you a more mundane example from my own life. So my elder daughter, she is now 20 but maybe when she was 10, so I guess about 10 years ago, maybe, probably 10 maybe nine somewhere on there, so I’ve always worked at home in one house. First house, I worked in the third floor. Today I work in the garage 22 steps from our back door. And so, my kids see me when they’re around. And my elder daughter when she was maybe 10 realized that I was not recycling white paper. I was just throwing it in my trash. And she knew that from school or something like that, “You should really be recycling this white paper, not just throwing it away.” And so what does she do? She could have hectored me and she could have said, “Oh, come on. You got to do this.” Instead, you know what she did? She made me a separate wastebasket for white paper.

Joshua: So she made it easy for you.

Daniel: Yeah. And so suddenly I’m recycling white paper.

Joshua: And then is it the case that once you got in the habit of it, then it was natural?

Daniel: Yeah.

Joshua: I think that my overall strategy is that a lot of people associate changing behavior with depravation or sacrifice and they think that it’s hard to do or something that will make their life worse. And what drove me to do this podcast is… I mean the podcast is a subset of I believe that we were lacking leadership in the environment. I think whatever leadership we have is moving the opposite direction that I think is the way that most people want to go. And I think that if I can get people to try it…

What happened to me is that like I did these little experiments of going without packaged food for a while, just eating it with no packaging and not flying for a while. And it seemed like not doing stuff but when I did, it got very positive. And so what I want to do is get people guests that people know that I want to try them… I want to get them to take on these little challenges. And I think that the second conversations are going to be the really interesting ones where people are like, “Oh, I didn’t realize it.” You had interaction with your daughter and it’s like a bonding experience.

Daniel: Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t know if it was a bonding experience for her. It was a masterful behavior change technique on her part.

Joshua: So, okay, a masterful technique. Also, well I guess an association that you make… You associate recycling with your daughter, at least with recycling white paper.

Daniel: Recycling white paper, yeah, yeah.

Joshua: So what I’m going to ask you to do if you’re up for it and it’s your option is to think of something that is relevant to you of your choice and it doesn’t have to… The goal is not to solve the world’s problems overnight. That would be too much. That’s something that moves in you, that matters to you and it can be short term. And in fact almost that I have been doing were like in the order of a week or two weeks or maybe a couple months at tops, and then the second conversation will we revisit how it went.

Daniel: Great. I mean I’ve already worked a few days late but I’ve actually already made that kind of commitment literally starting four days ago. So I am going to use that as my…

Joshua: Just to make sure. Is it something that you did in anticipation of this conversation?

Daniel: No. But it works.

Joshua: Ok, because I made a rule that if someone’s already doing something, then they have to do something new.

Daniel: But I’ve already been doing it for four days.

Joshua: So what is it? If it is something that you want to do, then… I think what I want is people to be able to make these changes.

Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. So my wife and I are going a month, and this is partly for environmental reasons not entirely for environment reasons but partly for environmental reasons, going a month without eating beef, chicken, pork or dairy products.

Joshua: OK. And I have a feeling I know the answer to this but just to be sure, what prompted it? What’s the goal?

Daniel: It was three things. It’s actually more deliberate of than most things in my life. It was three things. One of them was…A three-legged stool. Personal health, some concerns about treatment of animals and environment. So if you think about how cows are an incredibly inefficient way to turn plants into protein.

Joshua: Yeah. Not only that.

Daniel: Yeah. I mean inefficient destructive way to turn plants into protein. So let’s see what it would be like to go a month without eating beef or chicken or pork and get our protein from mostly plant-based sources, getting rid of dairy as well.

Joshua: I’m curious, did you plan it out? Or did you just say we’re just going to stop or… What went into it?

Daniel: It’s a conversation that we’d been having for a couple of months based on reading we’ve done, other people’s experiences, I thought reasonably compelling evidence on all three of those fronts, both personal health, treatment of animals and environment. But again I mean we’re doing it for a month just to see how it goes. It’s not a massive lifelong commitment necessarily. But it could be, who knows.

Joshua: Yeah I guess that’s what an experiment does as you find out. I’m curious how it’s gone so far but I’m going to save that question for later. How much meat do you normally eat? Is it like do you normally not eat that much or is it normally like nearly every meal?

Daniel: Oh no, not every meal at all. That’s a beef, chicken, pork. I would probably eat beef, chicken or pork for maybe three or four times a week.

Joshua: Ok, I guess it’s a decent amount. A month is a significant drop.

Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. And in the same way with diaries, it’s like cheese and milk and all that.

Joshua: Are you cutting those two?

Daniel: Yeah.

Joshua: Also, full not quite vegan, I guess you have fish in that list.

Daniel: Yeah.

Joshua: And have you hit yet? I’m learning a lot from talking to people about this because a lot of people, the big challenges seem to come to be places so far. One is interacting with other people. Now you and your wife are already on it together but a lot of times someone will say something to me and then they talk to the spouse and suddenly all falls apart. And the other thing is that when people travel it seems to throw things out of whack.

Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. I can totally see that. And I did it in part intentionally during a period… We did it after a trip and during a period when I knew I wasn’t going to have a huge amount of travel.

Joshua: I think that makes it a lot easier. And if you were to continue it, I think the practice you get this way, will make it a lot easier when you do travel.

Daniel: I agree. I agree.

Joshua: Some people like to go for the full on. But I think it’s the unexpected thing that makes it hard. If you expect to travel, then that might make it easier. But I could tell you that what I’m finding is people hit these unforeseen things and that’s when it falls apart by, they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t realize I was going to be visiting my mom and she always makes stake.” And suddenly they don’t know how to deal with that and then a lot of times people say, “Well I can’t do it. I didn’t do it. So it’s over.”

Daniel: Right. Right. Yeah. We’ll see whether I hit one of those crucibles. But so far, so good.

Joshua: And we can keep talking, I would like to keep talking but before wrapping up, is there anything to cover, anything I didn’t think to ask that’s good to bring up?

Daniel: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I mean this question of making these small commitment and following up is really quite fascinating. So I’d be curious to see what you find out from other people as well.

Joshua: Yeah. I mean my goal is I really hope that the podcast catches on and the people listen and say [36:07] for TED and you’re saying you have one clear message. And the message what I’m trying to get across is that I want to change the association of changing behavior from depravations sacrifice to opportunity for growth and discovery and living by our values. And I think that when people talk about it, the second conversations are going to be like, “This was great. I’m glad I did it.” I had already had a few that were like it fell apart, it was too hard, I couldn’t do it. And now I have third conversation scheduled with some people who was like, “It was harder than I thought. But I do want to do it.”

But I want people to see like it’s not… I don’t want to present a Disney story of like, “Oh, it’s just trivial. You just have to do it right and it’s easy.” So that’s what I’m working on and I hope something comes out of it that really makes a difference.

All right. So as much as I would like to after hang up keep going, I want to give the listeners everything. So when we hang up, then we hang up and we won’t get to enjoy the enjoyable conversation afterward. Great to talk to you and I’ll talk to you in about a month. Good luck with the meat thing.

Daniel: Ok. Bye.


A month with no beef, chicken or dairy. That sounds like bigger than most people go for a month, it seems like a long time, especially for someone who has meat, chicken, dairy several times a week. I think this probably resonates with a lot of people listening. That’s the sort of thing that you’ve heard about factory farming and global warming and the emissions of methane that people want to do. So I’m really curious to see how this works out. I wonder also how he will handle the unforeseen challenges, how he resolves these things, what things he gets to work. And I kind of wonder if I’d prefer him to go through and have an easy time of it and say, “Look how easy it was” or if he has to go through challenges so that we can learn from his experiences. But stay tuned and we’ll hear.

Did you feel inspired to? Then act. Go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast and click to commit to your personal challenge so you can inspire others. Value means better and worse and living by your values means living better by your values. You may struggle at first but it’s the hero’s journey from living by others values to living by yours. People say that little things add up. I won’t argue against it. But what I find counts is acting, doing something, anything. Starts that mindset shift from the debilitating “Others should act first” or making excuses to the empowering “I can make a difference and living by my values improves my life. I don’t have to wait for others to act first.”

I’m looking for leaders, people who will bring what works here in this podcast to communities I haven’t reached. Billions of people want to change their behavior. There is room for leadership, from personal leadership of just yourself to whatever scale you want. Start by acting and changing yourself. Go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast and commit to your personal challenge.

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