This was a fun simple conversation with Dan Pink. If you’ve been listening to this podcast a couple of the recent conversations I’ve had were with people who had some big personal growth that came through overcoming big challenges. I don’t want you to think that this is always going to be a big challenge. In the case of Dan the story is that it was really simple and sometimes these challenges he’d been putting off for some time and you may be thinking of doing something and sometimes it’s really easy. And not only was it easy but it’s something he did with his wife. So it was a group, a community of families sort of thing. If you’re also listening to this one it’s just come out. His book When just hit the market so you’ll get to hear a little bit of us talking about what it’s like to market a big book like that. Also we’ll talk about TED talks a bit, his has been viewed something like 40 million times. So please listen and if you’re thinking it’s got to be a big thing, sometimes it’s really easy.
Joshua: Last time we started right away with recording so I hope you don’t mind that we’re recording right now.
Daniel: Go for it.
Joshua: And a lot of you wants to ask because you’re in the midst of your book comes out, if I remember right in a month, month and a couple days.
Joshua: So I’m probably going to ask look who’s into marketing a book for you, but I also I’m curious with time is tight. When last we spoke you were going to do a month of reducing your meat intake by a fair amount.
Joshua: It’s been a lot more than a month. So I wonder if it’s been a big experience for you, if it’s been a challenge… How did it go?
Daniel: Yeah, it actually went pretty well. My wife and I did it for a month and we decided to continue doing it. And so what I’ve done it’s a little bit idiosyncratic, what we did is we have eliminated beef, pork, chicken and then also milk, cheese, butter from our diet, partly for health reasons, a little bit for moral reasons. And we continue to eat fish and eggs. And I’m happy with it. I mean I’m glad I did it actually and I’m surprised I was able to stick with it. I’m surprised how little I missed that other stuff.
Joshua: So I feel like the story here is not much of a story. It’s like you could… It wasn’t so hard. Was it…[3:28] expectations.
Daniel: Yeah. I was a vegetarian for a few years in my mid to late twenties, something like that, it was for a couple of years. So I had a little bit of experience with that but I’m a little bit older than my late twenties right now. So I’ve got a couple of decades of experience from that and that’s a couple of decades, probably because I had kids and I was eating the usual: hamburger, steak, and I love bacon and chicken in huge amounts, cheese and all that kind of stuff. So anyway to your question Josh, I thought it would be difficult to… I thought I would end up craving the stuff that I was eliminating. And I also thought that there wouldn’t be that much variety in my diet and I would get bored, it would be hard, it would be a hassle and then I would miss stuff. And I found that neither one of those is quite true. On the first part on the missing stuff and the cravings, I basically have none. I mean, every once in a while I really want pizza but that’s it. And I’ve actually started eating something I didn’t think I’d eat before: pizza without cheese, it’s actually not bad and…
Joshua: The good stuff, yeah.
Daniel: Yeah. And so that wasn’t that hard. In terms of finding food to eat it’s actually really not that hard. I mean, there are a lot of options available. So in general it was a positive, clearly and in general it was easier than I would have expected when you and I first chatted.
Joshua: Would you have done it earlier if you knew this outcome would happen?
Daniel: Maybe, yeah.
Joshua: I’m kind of asking because I think a lot of people listening, the guests on the show, a lot of them, they talk about something they want to, like do something they care about in the environment and they’re often like, “I don’t know what to do though.” And then we talk a little bit and something comes out, they always knew there’s something they wanted to do, they just never really allowed it to come forth.
Daniel: Yeah, maybe at a subconscious level but it wasn’t anything that I was like thinking about and saying, “Oh, no, I don’t want to do that.” I can’t remember even the genesis of it. But again, knowing what I know now, I might have done it, I might have done it earlier but I’m glad that I did it now.
Joshua: And so how is it with the wife? Was it just the two of you, was it more than the two of you? Because if you are going to face it, with other people it’s always a big thing.
Daniel: So my wife has been, she’s just a more disciplined person than I am in general, so I think it’s been a little problem with her. Like for instance for me like I had a little bit of turkey on Thanksgiving and there was one other instance, I can’t remember what it was, where I might have had some cheese, like once but I don’t think that she has [5:47] at all in the last several months. So it’s probably better and this is true in many dimensions that it’s probably better for me that I’m married to her than it is for her that she’s married to me.
Joshua: That’s great. And when we spoke before I think you were saying you are dropping down to half the amount but you dropped almost everything. I think you said you were doing half of what you used to have.
Daniel: No, the limitation was on duration. I was only going to do it for a month to see how it goes.
Daniel: Yeah, but I had a beginning and an end. And what we had decided to do, because it turned out to be far less traumatic and far more beneficial than I expected to say “OK, let’s keep doing this for a while.”
Joshua: And do you think about like, till forever? Do you think about that or you’re just like, “Well, we’ll just keep going and not really think…”
Daniel: Forever is a long time, I mean the truth of the matter is I’m not thinking about it all that much. Just sort of what I… I mean, you’re into this stuff. If you do something for a certain amount of time it just becomes ritual and you don’t even think about it. And so when I see, say a hamburger on a menu it’s not like, “Oh, I really wish I had”, and I don’t feel that way at all. It’s like, ”Okay, I’m not going to have a hamburger”.
Joshua: It’s like a nonissues. Yeah.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s interesting. It has become less of an issue. Every once in a while if I’m traveling and I’m really hungry it’s frustrating but I haven’t found it that, I haven’t found it that that difficult.
Joshua: I’m glad to hear that. Since talking to you before there have been some big changes, big social changes have happened, I’m modeling the changes that I’m trying to create off of are like wearing seatbelts. When I was a kid he will get mad at you if you told him what to do. Drink and driving is much less successful, not smoking. And I’d love to see things like, what we do with respect to the environment, go the way of putting on a seatbelt which is… Do you think about putting on a seatbelt? Do you ever drive without one? I’d love for this….
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. Same thing, yeah, exactly.
Joshua: So were there any big hurdles? Were there any big… I mean was there any time you were with friends at dinner and they were like, “Let’s go to the steak house” or something like that or I don’t know. Was there anything that was hard?
Daniel: You know what’s? Interesting is that there might have been but they don’t stick in my memory as anything dramatic or traumatic or incredible, obstacles that I somehow surmounted. There were times, especially early on where I craved pizza, where it was eight o’clock at night and I hadn’t eaten dinner and I was thinking, “God, I would just love a big old pizza right now”. But that went away and once I actually got some food whatever it is that I ate and so that was fine. And otherwise no, it’s for me… Since I have to travel somewhat I was a little bit concerned about what can I eat when I’m traveling because there the options are far, far more limited. But I’ve found that it ended up being doable with travel. So a lot of airports now sell these little packets of hummus and pretzels.
Daniel: So that ends up being that and that being a staple and because I eat eggs, there are also many places are selling hard boiled eggs. So you have like two hard boiled eggs in a thing of hummus and crackers. That’s a pretty good lunch.
Joshua: Listen to this glamorous guy.
Daniel: Yeah, I know, I know. That’s actually a pretty good lunch, you get some good protein there, you are not hungry, it tastes reasonably good, it’s easy to get and so it’s all good.
Joshua: Yeah, I don’t think you need a fork or a spoon if you don’t have one.
Daniel: Yeah, sure, right.
Joshua: And I’m kind of curious, are you thinking about next steps? If this one wasn’t so much than other things on your mind or things you might have been thinking of that now, or maybe it was past what you could’ve done before now you’re like, maybe something’s more achievable.
Daniel: No, I haven’t. I mean, I probably should start thinking that way but I haven’t been, I haven’t been, so in terms of other kinds of behaviors, no.
Joshua: Yeah, I think actually stopping eating beef is like one of the biggest ones. I don’t know the numbers but people just talk about that being one of the biggest changes people can make with respect to the environment. As well…
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, definitely. You know and I knew intellectually some of the reasons for doing it. For instance, if you think about, this is not original to me, I’ve heard said many times but no, cow is a very inefficient way to turn plants into protein and you can turn plants into protein much more directly and that ends up being better for the environment and in general better for people’s bodies. But again I don’t think about, I truly don’t, I mean maybe I should but I don’t really think about what other people are doing. I’m not out there trying to proselytize people to do what I’m doing at all. I just want to make choices of my own life work for me.
Joshua: I asked if you if there were hurdles but were there cases where you were… Did people ask you whether it did not come up, like a lot of times… I guess when I was younger people who were vegetarian it was like a bigger deal and you’d have to explain things. Like now, certainly in Manhattan, the last time I was at a restaurant that didn’t have something on the menu vegetarian was decades ago.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. It depends on, it sort of depends on where in the country you are, I think some of it not all of it is bounded by social class. So people who are college educated probably are slightly more likely to be vegetarians and vegans and people who are not college educated. So if you’re living in a big city and surrounded by a lot of college educated people it’s like it’s not anything you need. I’m not sure, besides with you and my wife if I’ve had a conversation about this with anybody because nobody really… People actually don’t really care what I eat. They care what they eat but not what I eat.
Joshua: I want to feel like, exclusive scoop from my listeners, no one else knows.
Joshua: And I want to wrap up this part about this because I think as, like there’s not much of a story here and that’s the story. It’s like…
Daniel: Yeah, well said. It’s not like big story here and that’s the story. Well said.
Joshua: Yeah. And that hopefully people who are listening if they’re thinking of, “Might I get to do this or not? It’s could be more of a difficult thing than I thought. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe not”. You just take a step and sometimes it’s really easy. So any words to listeners that didn’t come up, any advice or any thoughts?
Daniel: No I think if there’s anything on any kind of behavior change there’s way I think to not quite trick, I would call it trick yourself, which is just… And I do that sometimes like at work productivity is, “Ok. God, I really don’t feel like working but okay, I’ll just do this for five minutes” and then when you start doing it for five minutes you end up actually getting over that initial inertia and moving. So I think there is a… The only advice that I would have would be: start and start small. So don’t say, “I am changing my diet fully and forever”. I mean pretty daunting but I think if you say, “OK, I’ve been trying to go this week without having any beef” or “I’m going to try to go this week not eating beef, chicken or pork” or “I’m going to try to go a smaller segment of time”. We started out with a month and it wasn’t that hard and we sort of just kept doing it.
Joshua: Simple advice. Yeah.
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, I get, I don’t think it’s brain surgery here, just start small.
Joshua: Yeah. When I used to go to the gym, now I do workouts at home but I would just say, “I’m just going to go to the gym” and ”I’m just going to walk in the front door”. [12:52] hours I wouldn’t go.
Daniel: Now it’s like, I mean I do that sometimes with running is what I’ll do is I will put on my running clothes. And I feel like I have a strangely, that’s why I have a jacket on and everything. I have a strangely busy Saturday and Saturday is just packed with work stuff. But if I were to stay in these clothes, like at some point when I’m free of certain obligations and I still have work to do I would change into my running clothes. I still do my work and simply being in those running clothes will make it much more likely that I will run later today rather than if I were not staying in these clothes.
Joshua: Yeah, it really does change your behavior more than you think. More than you expect, I guess.
Joshua: Nice little trick there.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s good. You trick yourself but it also is just, if you think about, some of it is physical and physical in the sense that it’s rooted in Newtonian physics and that a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. So if you are at rest that is you’re not doing something today, chances are you’re not going to be doing that tomorrow. And overcoming that initial inertia takes a lot of force, has to be acted on by the outside force so once you have that force, then a body in motion stays in motion. And if there’s not that much friction out there and you can reduce the friction and you can stay in motion.
Joshua: You know that big thing, because you were saying, “Do these little steps”. Have you ever heard of…Do you know what a trim tab is? Have you ever heard about how boats steer?
Daniel: No. I’m probably the least nautical person you’ve ever met.
Joshua: I learned this because I taught this class in Systems Thinking. I’m going to do this one thing: if you have a big boat and you want to turn it I guess to starboard to the right, you turn the rudder to the left, turn the rudder to the right and eventually the boat will turn. It’s still hard to turn that boat, it’s apparently on the end of a rudder there’s a little rudder and that little rudder makes the whole rudder turn, so you turn the trim tab in the opposite direction the whole rudder turns. So I think, if you look for these little trim tab things…
Daniel: Yeah, that’s a good analogy. I like that.
Joshua: Yeah, it sticks even if I’m not nautical either. So I’d love to ask a few questions about what it’s like going into the launch of When? Are you in the thick of things orare you in the middle of a book tour?
Daniel: No, the book tour doesn’t start till… Doesn’t start for about a month but there’s a lot of enormous amount of preparation. So I’m, there are articles that I need to write based on the book that will appear eventually, I’m doing interviews that will be in the can now and will be released later on. I spent the morning doing some videos so there’s a lot of preparation stuff before the actual launch launch.
Joshua: Is it exciting? Is it overbearing or is it… I’m kind of curious how the motions of it.
Daniel: For me it’s neither exciting nor daunting. For me the key emotion that, I like the challenge. How can I get these ideas out? How can I do cool and creative things? How can I reach people? How can I overcome? It’s very challenging getting ideas out into the world. And can I be as creative and tenacious as possible and getting ideas on the world. So I don’t have, I’m neither pumped up and excited, nor am I daunted. I just, to me it’s just like, it’s a really interesting challenge.
Joshua: Interesting, so it’s just like this is, I got this book, I’ve got some ideas that are out there I think will make the world a better place. What do I do to make you get out there and then you do it.
Daniel: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Joshua: I’m glad to hear that, all the marketing stuff…
Daniel: I’m not a particularly emotional… Personally if it isn’t right, I’m not a particularly like emotionally volatile guy. I just, I don’t have very wide emotional range. So for me, I just think of it as… But I like the challenge. I like that part of it because it’s interesting and it forces you to be creative and it forces you that requires a lot of persistence. And so I like that part of it.
Joshua: OK. Sounds like a recipe for getting the job done.
Daniel: Yeah and getting the job done with some satisfaction it isn’t purely workaday it’s like, I spent two years working on something the book is whatever seventy thousand words long. How do I explain that in two thousand words? How do I explain that in five hundred words? How do I explain that in twenty words? That’s a challenge but it’s a challenge in a positive sense, as a challenge in that it’s a puzzle I want to solve. So it’s interesting but maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve done this for a while. I’m not like neither freaked out nor pumped up, I’m just challenged.
Joshua: OK. All right, now this is the last one, because you told me about the challenges of making them shorter and shorter and shorter. I’m talking to TED, you know TED people. How was it to get the message down to eighteen minutes or less? Was that really hard? Was that a big challenge too or…
Daniel: I mean my view is like, if you have an idea and you can’t explain it in 18 minutes, you don’t have a good idea.
Joshua: So you already had it down before you started?
Daniel: Well, yeah. I mean, I had the idea, I could explain it. I mean it’s usually if you have an idea and you can explain in eighteen minutes then it’s not that good of an idea. Period.
Joshua: Well. There is stories and you have to have like compelling. Like I can explain it just short but then to make it so that people want to act on it.
Daniel: But that’s true, but it’s true for no matter what your limit is. It’s always the … I mean we don’t have infinite time. That’s why that those… So that’s basically the liberation of constraints. So if you say, “Explain your idea in eighteen minutes” you’ve got to be able to do that. But there are some constraints. I think it’s more challenging in “Can you explain it in one minute” and explain your idea in one minute, “Can you explain your idea in thirty seconds?” You know those kinds of constraints force us to be more creative, force us to be sharper and clear.
Joshua: That certainly raises the bar.
Joshua: All right, then let’s wrap up here and thank you very much, I’ll let you get back to your busy Saturday. And I’m going to leave it open just in case something goes on your mind and you think, [18:14] something else. And you want to come back and…
Daniel: I mean, it’s good. I hadn’t thought about that until you planted in my head so maybe there is something like that. In terms of health behaviors, I’m actually fairly healthy. I exercise pretty regularly. So that’s one thing that I don’t feel like I need to do. And I don’t have any other kind of high risk behaviors that are drive without a seatbelt, I don’t do like, extreme sports, I don’t smoke, I’m not a blackout drinker. But there probably are other kinds of things, I don’t know maybe at some point. And I read all the stuff about meditation, I’m never going to meditate, maybe I should take a meditation. But first I got to get this book out.
Joshua: Health is awesome. My focus is more environmental and how it effects pollution and things like that.
Daniel: I mean I’ve got a five-person family, we have one car, it’s a Prius, so that’s not bad. I recycle, I don’t know, so maybe there are other environmental behaviors that I’m missing.
Joshua: Yeah, if one comes up and you feel like talking about it and influencing more people through this podcast…
Daniel: I’m glad for your listeners. I mean, I think it’s, could be something interesting to do the way you did it sort of the before and after, so… Hey, here’s this guy setting out to do this thing and let’s follow up in a couple of months see how he does it and it turned out as you say very thoughtfully, it’s like the story is that it’s not a big story.
Joshua: Yeah, I think that’s great message for listeners. I got a little different, another difference is not just the two parts, but also I don’t tell people what their challenge should be. I ask them what they care about and I have them come up with a challenge. Because there’s a lot of tips out there, that’s why I’m not saying. How about this, how about that? If you come up with it I want to follow but I don’t want to tell you what to do.
Daniel: I see. Okay, that makes sense.
Joshua: All right, I’m going to let you get back to your stuff because I think by looking at the clock it’s time to wrap up. Thank you very much. I’ll send you the link when it’s up.
Daniel: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
Joshua: Take care. Bye.
Sometimes these changes are really easy. A lot of people look at changing your diet is really, really hard. Sometimes it’s easy, as he said it works well to start with something small, build and build and build. That’s what happened with him. I recommend committing to a public personal challenge too. If you go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast, click on commit to a personal challenge, then you’ll add an element of accountability which helps people get things done and it will be public so you will get to lead others.
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