020: Joshua Spodek: The Big Picture (transcript)
I wanted to do an episode on the big picture. I have no illusions that the episodes so far I’ve not made a very big effect on the environment in terms of carbon dioxide levels or emissions or pollution. But this podcast is about much more than just a podcast. So I want to talk about where I’m going with it, what the big plans are and at the end how you can help.
So first off, it’s not just the environment. It’s leadership and the environment. I think environment people get, although I want to point out it’s not just global warming, it’s also pollution, resource depletion, extinctions, all these other things, overpopulation and stuff like that. The leadership part is also important. My goal is not to tell people what to do or to order people what to do or to gain authority to force people to do things but it’s to lead people to enjoy, to want to do the changes, to live by their environmental values. That’s leadership as opposed to coercion or convincing. So I haven’t done a lot so far and actually even over many episodes if I keep doing what I’m doing now to get one person here or there to live by their environmental values, that’s still not going to change very much. One at a time we wouldn’t get anywhere near the changes we need to prevent some of the worst-case scenarios that scientists are predicting. And again, not just about global warming, also about pollution, mercury in our food, resource depletion, running out of fish in the ocean and things like that. I also want to point that I’m not doing what doesn’t work and I want to go through a few things that I’m not doing because I think a lot of people out there are doing these things. I’m not going to stop them but I don’t think that they’re being very effective.
So, the first one is spreading facts and information. This was important a long time ago and people didn’t know what global warming was, what the issues were. So I support spreading information, I support educating people so that they know what’s going on because some people don’t. But spreading information does not change people’s behavior. My big example here is food. We have more information and spread more information than ever about nutrition and diseases of excess. People know what’s healthy, what’s not healthy. It doesn’t change that people eat very unhealthy food. We have more diseases of excess than ever. There’s more diabetes, more people with heart disease. And if you listen to Marshall Goldsmith in one of my earlier episodes, he’ll say telling people what to do doesn’t get them to change. That’s why his globally known and his corporations pay him so much money to work with them because he gets the job done. People just reading books on their own don’t get the job done. We’ve sold more diet books than any other book. People read this stuff. It doesn’t lead to a change in behavior.
Another thing that doesn’t work is doom, gloom, guilt and blame. I don’t know about the relationships you’ve had in your life but in my life people being all doom and gloom and guilt and blame with me has not helped me. It tends to push me away. And I find that happens when I try to use it on others. Especially if your goal is to influence people who have the most material stuff. These are the people who are emitting the most. If you dwell on all this terrible stuff I think they’re going to look at what they havenâ€™t said and say, â€œLook at how well I’m doing. Look at how annoying that person is. I don’t want to work with that person.â€ So I find that doom and gloom, guilt and blame tends to push people away more than influence them.
Another thing is giving people tips, for example, to say to people, â€œHere’s this one little tip that if you do it, it will lessen your impact on the environmentâ€ or lessen or something like that. You think people don’t know that they can look up what tips they can do? It’s the same with facts. If people aren’t acting on these tips, it’s not that they don’t have them. It’s not that they’re not aware of them. They’re not acting on them despite knowing about them. Giving them more tips when they’re already swimming in tips and not acting on them is just going to be more noise. And with all of these strategies of trying to influence other people’s behaviors when people try to do something and it doesn’t work and they feel strongly about it, that’s when they start flipping out. They get more and more frantic and their emotions get more and more intense. It comes off to the other person as neediness. Neediness is one of the most in my experience one of the most repulsive behaviors that anyone can exhibit. If someone’s needy, they’re implying to you â€œMy interests are more important than yours.â€ People are wary of following someone who puts his or her interests before theirs because they know that if the chips are down, if that person is looking out for him or herself first, the followers are going to be stuck. So if you’re exuding neediness, you’re making people wary of you. If you start sharing more doom and gloom and it starts getting more and more doom and more and more gloom. Journalists do this like crazy. They take a staid report from scientists and then they amp up the doom and they amp up the gloom and they’re counterproductive to what they probably really want which is to influence people. Instead they’re pushing people away. They’re making people think â€œI don’t want to follow that person.â€ I don’t find this effective. This is not how I try to do things.
So there are two big things driving my approach. The first one, when I changed my behavior to impact the environment less, it made my life better. That’s why you hear me all the time talking about delicious. That is the number one thing that I think of when I change my behavior. The first big thing that I did was to avoid packaged food and as you’ve heard me say over and over again, yes, there was a challenge because I knew how to eat packaged food. It produced a lot of garbage but I knew what to do and it took me a while to figure out how to make food from scratch that tasted really delicious but I stuck with it. And what started off as deprivation and sacrifice became delicious. And it turns out also saving money more convenient. I got to know my farmers, people coming to my apartment more, so it’s more social.
And look, I’ve met people they don’t care if their food is healthy, they don’t care if their food is cheap but I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like delicious and that’s what changing my behavior with respect to the environment brought me and that’s what I’m bringing to other people. I am bringing as a side effect that they will lessen their impact on the environment if they’re hurting it or hopefully improve their effect on the environment if they’re helping it. What I’m really bringing to them is to improve their lives. Now I’m working with people who believe what I do about when they look at the evidence they find that their impact on the environment is hurting things, it’s hurting other people and they want to change. That’s my audience. I’m not trying to work with people who disagree, who think that what they’re doing doesn’t affect anything, whatever. I agree with the IPCC results and their recommendations and I’m here to help people if their environmental values are to lessen their impact but they’re not behaving consistently with that. I want to help them act on their beliefs. That’s the first thing is number one I want to help people live more delicious, and delicious can be lots of things. If it’s about food delicious, if it’s about travel it’s to find as I did more community, more diverse cultures, more adventure without all the pollution that comes out of the planes when you travel by plane. Delicious comes in many forms.
The other big thing driving my approach is I’m basing it on my style of leadership which gets incredible reviews from my students and my clients and the corporations where I consult. And it’s in my book Leadership: Step by Step. But in a nutshell, it’s to behave and communicate in ways to make other people feel comfortable sharing what motivates them, what their passions are, what they value. Normally those are the things that make them feel vulnerable so people don’t usually share those things but when they do share those things to connect those things, the motivations that were there before you ever met them to connect those motivations to a task that imbues that task with meaning and purpose for that person. So they do it for themselves, not for you. The result is that they work much harder than they would have before. And if you do it effectively, they thank you afterward for getting them to work so hard. That’s why I work with people who care about the environment the way that I do is that I’m not convincing them of anything. I’m helping them reveal and share values related to the environment and then to act on them. I do it on a podcast so that you at home can listen and hopefully also get in touch with your values and act on them if you’re not already. This is why I insist when people say you’re getting people to do things for the environment, I say that’s the side effect. The main effect is I’m getting them to live by their environmental values. What does value mean? Value comes from evaluate or the same root as evaluate. It means what’s good or bad. When you live by your values you have more good in your life. I’m not telling you what’s good or bad, or the guest. I’m not telling guests what’s good or bad. I’m helping them share what’s good or bad for them and then to act on what’s good or bad and make their life better.
Now if I work with one person at a time, again, that’s not going to get me very far. My goal beyond any one episode or the entire podcast is to change the beliefs and goals of a system. If you want to change a system, you have to work with the leverage points of that system. An element or just a person here or there doesn’t do the trick.
So how do you change a system? When I look around I see a point of leverage as people with influence and getting them to be on the show and getting them to share their environmental values and to act on them because thenâ€¦ When I first decided to take on a leadership role with the environment I thought what is missing is not doom and gloom, it’s not a bunch of facts, it’s not a bunch of tips. We have all of that. They worked for time but to get people to change behavior we need, I believe, something like leadership in the style of Nelson Mandela Martin, Luther King, Vaclav Havel, Gandhi. I didn’t see anybody doing anything like that. At first, I felt a little awkward saying I’m going to be the Martin Luther King, the Nelson Mandela of the environment. Now I see there are already people with much more influence than I have. Think like Oprah, Barack, Sergey, Larry, Elon, Bill, Zuckerberg you know people like this they have a lot of influence and I realize my goal is not for me to be the Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela of the environment but to enable the people who already have this influence to become the Nelson Mandela, the Martin Luther King, the Thomas Jefferson. Except not to be the fathers and mothers of a nation but to be the fathers and the mothers of a new system based on different goals, different beliefs, instead of growth at any cost which is contributing to the problem. But when to say enough and to appreciate and value what you have? Instead of saying you can’t tell me what to do, to act with empathy and compassion. Instead of saying, â€œFor me to change my behavior, that’s deprivation, thatâ€™s sacrificeâ€ to say â€œThis is an opportunity to grow. This is an opportunity to understand and live by my values.â€
So I would love to have an Oprah, a Barack on this show and to help them share what their values are and to live by their values. I think if you talk about someone with 10 billion dollars in the bank, they can get on their jet, if they want some Thai food tonight, they can fly to Thailand, get their meal and come back tomorrow. And it’s no big deal. Even if they have all of that wealth and they can do that without thinking twice about it, I think that they will still appreciate more to get to know the farmers in their area, what’s a local food that they can eat, maybe to learn how to cook themselves, maybe to spend more time with their family. And if someone like that maybe if they decide to switch from having a several 100000 square foot homes to having a smaller number of maybe 50 000 square foot homes or 10000 square foot homes they are still basically living in mansions. If one of them changes the absolute amount of change for someone to go from 100000 square foot house to 20000 square foot house or to get rid of an airplane is like tens of thousands of people like you and me to switch from say an internal combustion engine car to an electric vehicle. Now beyond the absolute change that they would have is they have the chance to influence large parts of the population. That’s what influence means. If the people with 10 billion dollars in the bank, if they start having less material stuff and showing off that material stuff less, then the people with 1 billionâ€¦ I think it’s kind of funny. If you have 1 billion and you’re showing off that you have more than the people with 10 billion, it’s kind of weird. I think they would have to scale back too. And if the people’s one billion scale back, then the people with the 100 million have to scale back and if the people 100 million scale back, then I think the people with 1 million have to scale back and so on.
If you’re Sergey and Larry, you can make Google carbon neutral. But people still see what they have. I read an article a while ago, the headline said the top three executives of Google had eight airplanes. I don’t know how many airplanes you need but I think eight is more than you need. So if they dropped down to a smaller number of airplanes, maybe none, maybe they just flew first class, I think that that would set the tone for a lot of other people not feeling like theyâ€¦ See, a long time ago cigarettes were viewed asâ€¦ They were viewed a lot like Humphrey Bogart and not much like lung cancer. I think today that switched. I think people associate cigarettes with lung cancer a lot more than Humphrey Bogart. A long time ago if someone was so rich that they had a jet. I think people said all they looked up to that a lot and maybe a little bit of that’s a bit of pollution coming out the back. I don’t think we switched over yet. I think people still look more jetâ€™s like something cool to have. But I think in the long run at some point that’s going to switch and people are going to look at a jet and say, â€œWhy are you polluting so much?â€ and they’re not going to envy that anymore.
And so all these people who are well-known I think, one, if I have them on the show some of them they don’t care about the environment. All right maybe they won’t be so effective to have on the show. But I think many of them do care about the environment and like you and me they think if I change but no one else does, what difference does it make, even if they’re making a big difference compared to you and me. Well, one, they’ll be part of a community and they’ll be able to live by their values and I hope pollute less. The other is that I think if they’re out there in the public eye, I think a lot of them legacy is important to them. And I give them the opportunity to be the fathers and the mothers of a new way of looking at things. And I think that legacy is not something, this is not something small. Changes like these, of changing big values, it makes sense to do it now because we have a deadline of sea levels rising and things like that. Otherwise these things tend to happen once every few centuries, once every thousand years. I mean if you think of Buddha, someone like that he was once a prince and he changed to live by his values as a monk and twenty-five hundred years later we still know him and the princes that were his peers at the time we don’t know them.
And so I offer to the Musks and the Gates and the Zukerbergs and so forth of today and it’s not just people who are rich but it’s also people who win the Super Bowl trophies and the people who have the most downloads and win the Grammys and the Oscars and political people you know the people who others follow all of them can have a legacy that can last centuries, maybe thousands of years. And by the way, I think that the people who don’t make these changes, I suspect that future generations will do with them what current generations do with people who owned slaves back then which is their names get wiped off the building and their statues get taken down from the parks. And I think that someone like Bill Gates may make a lot of progress on malaria and may make a lot of progress on education and things like that but just like we say people back then knew slavery may be legal but we didn’t like it. I mean everybody knew that there was something wrong with it and it may be legal to do what you want with pollution today but I think future generations will look back and say, â€œThey knewâ€ and if they don’t act, their names will be taken off the buildings and the statues will be taken off the park.
And that is what I’m going for here is to influence the influencers in order for them to become the Martin Luther King, the Nelson Mandela, the Vaclav Havel, the Thomas Jefferson of the environment and to create systemic change. That’s the overall strategy. So it begins with this podcast but I want to get increasingly influential people to live by their environmental values and to make it more possible for others so that people don’t have to say, â€œIf I do it but no one else does, what’s the point?â€ I don’t want people to feel lonely. I think billions of people, probably a majority of the people on the planet want to change their behavior but just don’t know how.
How you can help? Number one, commit to a personal challenge yourself if you think that other people will change but you don’t have to or you have to wait for others to, that’s the opposite of leadership you’re probably not listening to this podcast called Leadership and the Environment if you don’t want to lead in some way. You can take a leadership role. One, you can lead. Two, in my experience it will improve your life. That’s what living by your values means. I already said that. So please go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast, click on commit to a personal challenge and take on a personal challenge. I should also mention that most influential people I think they act like fashion. The most fashionable people they set new trends. But where did they get ideas from? They often get it from street fashion and you and I are street fashion in terms of environmental behavior. So, the most influential people they still take their cues from everybody. And so, the more that we change the more they will be motivated to change.
Number two, if you know people who care about the environment and are very influential â€“ authors, actors, athletes, politicians, entrepreneurs, you know the types, please ask them if they would like to be on the show and introduce them to me, to my team and let’s have them on the show because they can be leaders to other leaders. They can be the Vaclav Havelâ€™s, the Nelson Mandelaâ€™s of the environment and like you and me they don’t have to feel alone.
And number three, while I’m happy to have followers on this podcast I’m happy for people to listen and say, â€œI’m going to change my behavior because of what I heard on the Leadership and the Environment podcast.â€ More than followers, this movement will benefit from leaders because I think, I hope that I am being influential I hope that people are listening to me and following what I’m saying, butut we have to change billions of people’s behavior and I’m not going to reach all of them so Iâ€¦ You know actually, there’s one person who may be starting Leadership and the Environment Europe. That person will reach people that I wouldn’t reach. How about Leadership and the Environment South America leadership? Leadership and the Environment Africa? Leadership and the Environment Asia? Leadership and the Environment Young? Leadership and the Environment Old? Leadership and the Environment Female? Leadership and the Environment Rich? Leadership and the Environment Poor? All these different areas that I’m not going to reach. I’m going to reach a small fraction of them. So if you listen to this podcast and you find it influential and you would like to lead others and you believe in this and you want to become a leader, there is more than enough opportunity for you to be a leader, for you to make a difference, for you to do the opposite of â€œIf everyone else doesn’t change, then what’s the point for me changing?â€ You can get others to change and I can tell you it is incredibly rewarding and I’ve barely gotten started.
So to summarize, the reason I’m doing this podcast is to make a big difference. I have not made a big difference yet. I’ve had a small number of people make small changes to their lives but the goal is much bigger. The goal is systemic change and the goal is to make people feel better by living by their values and as a side effect to improve their affect on the environment.
The three big ways that you can help. Number one, commit to a personal challenge yourself, ideally do it on this podcast so that others can see it. The accountability will help you. Number two, please if you know people who are influential and would like to be on this podcast or like their voice and for them to lead others, please put them in touch with me. And number three, if you would like to lead, please contact me and talk about taking on a leadership role, Leadership and the Environment X for whatever X happens to be for your specialty. Thank you.
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