051: Changing a community through leadership; Jeff Brown, Part 2 (transcript)

June 15, 2018 by Joshua
in Podcast

Jeff Brown

Jeff is pretty calm but you’ll hear in this conversation his interest to do something environmental turning into a serious leadership project. Now he chooses to work with his community, with this neighborhood. You could work with your company where you work, you could start a new project, it can be with your family, it can be with your friends. If you want to lead and I don’t just mean running the show in some kind of suit-in-the-corner-office way. But if you want people to defer judgment to you, if you want people to listen you, if you want people to trust you, you’re going to go through similar transitions as what he talks about here. You can hear how simple choices on acting on your values can affect entire neighborhoods or in your case it may be companies or your relationship with your family, things like that. You can hear how you can create a project which could be a business, could be something different around living by your environmental values. While you are listening to it I recommend thinking for yourself how you can do similar things to improve your relationships, to create projects for yourself. So let’s listen to Jeff.


Joshua: Jeff, how are you doing?

Jeff: I’m doing very well, sir. Thank you.

Joshua: I’m really curious about you have taken on a challenge that’s beyond what a lot of other people do and I’m curious how it’s gone because most people pick a challenge that only affects them and maybe on the second time or third time they’ll expand to where the influence or impacts or work with others. And so I’m really curious how yours has gone. And do you mind reminding us what your challenge was?

Jeff: Yeah, not at all. It was about me being more intentional about recycling. That’s not something that my wife and I have never done but we certainly don’t do it on a regular basis or hadn’t. And part of the excuse for that is we’ve lived in a subdivision for 15 years and there is no you know pick up service like there are in some neighborhoods and it’s just not convenient necessarily not that that’s a reason not to do it but it’s easy to not do it in part because of that. And so our garage now has not only a large trash can for collecting the bags that get filled from our kitchen during the course of a week but also three additional ones similarly sized labeled, let’s see there’s glass, there’s plastic and cardboard. You know those things they are the containers for the products we consume. It’s interesting to see now that we’ve been you know separating those things out on a regular basis these last few weeks how quickly that stuff accumulates. This isn’t rocket science, I realize that. But to actually do it and then see how fast that stuff ends up is pretty eye opening.

And here’s a couple of things that have resulted from that. There’s a couple of trash pickup services that come to the neighborhood and those are not expensive you know 20 bucks a month or 25 bucks a month or something like that. And now that we’ve begun taking our recycling to the nearby what’s called convenience center where they also accept your garbage we have started just taking that as well since we’re going anyway and saving the 25 bucks a month for that pickup service.

Joshua: My podcast saves you money.

Jeff: That’s right. So you know I read a lot, that’s a book a month as far as I’m concerned and save money there.

Joshua: So the only way that someone around you can recycle is they have to drive all the way there themselves. There’s no curbside.

Jeff: Yeah, there is for trash but not for recyclable. So I’ve begun thinking about is there a business opportunity here that I could tap into or at least get the ball rolling for somebody else to do that? Or is there a nearby service that needs to expand that you know that already exists that you know with a petition or a phone call or two we could get to include our subdivision? So I’m beginning to look into things along those lines just to see what would need to happen to get that ball rolling one way or the other.

Joshua: Are you typically the entrepreneurial type or is this something out of character for you?

Jeff: I am typically the entrepreneurial type when I’m presented with problems or conscious of the problems around me. That’s the problem with many of us is we don’t even really think about it. We just you know a problem presents itself and we try to get it solved but we don’t ever think about, “Well, maybe other people have that problem too and maybe we could have a lot of people solve it all the same time.” And so that’s kind of my mindset more so now in the last 10-15 years of my life than before. But as I was going through this I thought, “I can’t be the only one who finds this either inconvenient or would do this more often if it were more convenient.”

Joshua: You know one of the main problems that I find when people start a challenge is they don’t expect certain things to come up and one of them that comes up is people push back and other people make it difficult. So if someone thinks, “I’m going to make some change” and then a week later they’re doing the change finally and then someone pops in their life, like their mom comes and visits and says, “Hey, let’s have a stake” or something like that and then it’s like, “Oh, it all gets messed up.” But what seems to work really well is to enlist other people on your side to somehow work together or in your case you might start a business for yourself or for someone else that when you use the other people, when you list them and you go to them and say, “You know this is something I can’t do on my own. I wonder if you can help me.” then it goes the opposite way and what was a hurdle becomes a help.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. It makes me want to go to my you know HOA and say you know, “How can we come together and make this happen for this neighborhood and other nearby neighborhoods that don’t currently have a service like this so that more people who were like me and just don’t do it out of a lack of convenience or time would start making time for this? Could we survey the homeowners and find out how many would raise their hands? They all do that. I’ll participate. I’ll be one of those who recycles. So those are kind of the gears that are turning in my head as to how to get that ball rolling.

Joshua: Yeah. You’re talking about your HOA and doing I don’t know a formal survey but maybe talk to do it informally with your close neighbors, maybe offer them to drive their stuff and everyone going on then, “Hey, I’ll pick up your garbage.” It feels like a sort of thing that before you know it will take on a life of its own whether you want it or not. [unintelligible] think it seems like Jeff is the guy who made this happen.

Jeff: Yeah, maybe so. I kind of thought about that you know what if this is something that just takes off and if it does, then that’s great and you know I hand off the reins to somebody else, at least it’s happening. It’s not necessarily you know it’s not like I need another business to run necessarily but you know if that happen, I would be open to that too. But I think at the end of the day the main thing is to find a way to make sure our neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods that aren’t currently getting service like that can so that more people will ultimately do this.

Joshua: A lot of people when I ask them about what they want to do or you know I ask them what about the environment they care about. And then I say, “Do you want to do something, to take up on it?” and some of them say, “Yeah, there’s something I’ve wanted to do” because you know they’ve thought about it before the podcast or maybe they had in mind for a long time. A lot of them say, “I don’t really know what to do.” And some say really don’t know what to do. But most of the ones who don’t know what to do after a couple of minutes of kind of talking about it they say, “You know? I have had this thing that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” And you know I think a big part of leadership is finding out what motivations people already have and giving them the opportunity to work on these things, to apply them to the task at hand.

Jeff: Yeah, and you’re not far off at all when it comes to me. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. And you know when I toss something in the trash like one of those items I mentioned a moment ago you know a bottle or a plastic container or whatever there’s always a little bit of a kind of, I don’t know, a guilt factor that has always kind of been there and I’m like, “You know, I want to you know I probably shouldn’t do that. There’s a better way to handle it.” And so you’re prompting and you questioned me you know a month or so ago was what got it started.

Joshua: Now for me when I look back at getting packaged food or flying as much as I did before I stop flying I looked back and said you know I was living against my values for a long time and I knew it. You know I could have looked up any time to find out how much pollution a flight cost. But I didn’t because I knew what the answer was going to be and I didn’t want to find out that answer because then I have to act on it. I mean looking back you could’ve done it earlier. How do you feel about that? Do you wish you’d done it earlier?

Jeff: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And sort of the excuse was, “Why doesn’t our neighborhood have one of those pickup services?”

Joshua: Someone else should do it. Yeah. There should a law. Once there’s a law, I’ll do it of course but until then it should be someone else. That’s the opposite of leadership. So it’s extra work but work you’re glad you did.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. Especially when I see… I mean it’s just my wife and I, we don’t have kids. We have a few dogs running around but you know it’s really eye opening when you see just how much of that stuff there is in a given week.

Joshua: OK. So you’re talking about how much you’re producing. Has that led you to start… It’s reduce, reuse, recycle in that order. I don’t know if everyone knows that. And recycling is nice but reducing consumption is you know ideally you don’t produce the stuff in the first place. Has it translated yet into “let’s not get that” or “let’s avoid [unintelligible] things”?

Jeff: Yeah, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve seen any impact there yet. It is probably too early to say. I could say that in my mind I haven’t thought about that actually, as you just laid it out. So that gives me some new things to do on going forward.

Joshua: There’s a few people who I have interviewed that you know they do a little bit and then they say, “Now that I’ve done this I realize I can do something.” And then when you think you’re powerless, you don’t see opportunities that you could act on. And then when you get power, when you’re enabled, when you know how to do something you are like, “Oh, and I can do that too and I can do that too.”

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. It’s convicting, I think it is. You know like, “Gosh, how much time have I wasted?”

Joshua: And then there’s the mindset shift which is “I don’t want to do that because I don’t even want to think about that because it makes me feel guilty. Other people, their problem, there should be electric planes and then I could fly. If there are electric plains, I could fly without polluting. But there aren’t. That’s not my fault. That’s someone else’s fault. So their responsibility for the jet fuel.” And instead getting the mindset shift to “Oh, this improves my life and if I improve my life on a small scale, I don’t want to improve on a small scale. I want to improve on a big scale.” And natural to me. I think it naturally occurs that if you once you shift from something being like an annoyance or something you don’t want to deal with and the only way you’ll do it is by small little things and then you realize, “Oh, it doesn’t make my life worse. It makes my life better. Why was I going small? I now want to go big.” That’s been my experience and I want to share that with others.

Joshua: Yeah and that’s kind of I guess the transformation I’ve gone through from you know inconvenience or annoyance to “Oh, that wasn’t so hard. What’s the big deal?” to now wanting to spread that to more people.

Joshua: Yeah, and to me that mindset shift on an individual level I think it enables people to improve their lives. On a big scale that is if I believe that we need systemic change that if you just change a little element here, that if you just improve the technology, it will make things more efficient. But you know if we keep on growing, growing, growing and not changing our beliefs driving the system, then you know you can make everything solar, you can make everything renewable and that’ll just make things more comfortable and it will just grow more people until now we’re out of that again.

Whereas if we say if we make that mindset shift and this is systemic change. If we can change at a cultural level, a social level, the goals that we seek then that’s the key leverage point of a system is the beliefs and the goals driving the system and switching action from annoyance to opportunity is I think one of the major ones. So I’m also curious did you have any big hurdles? I mean were there big challenges, were there things that you were like, “I don’t want to deal with this or something like that?


Jeff: I guess it’s not a big win in the whole scheme of things so I don’t guess but you know a couple of times where as I said it’s just my wife and I so, yeah, the amount of garbage or trash we produce in a given week isn’t an enormous amount by any stretch but those offsetting weeks where I had plastic or cardboard or glass to take,

let me just say those over a couple of weeks or a month those glass filled bags could get kind of heavy. So you kind of plan for that but to try to load all of that up you know I guess was the biggest inconvenience. Thankfully I do own a pickup truck so that made it a little easier. But that would be as far as I would go in saying it was tough and that’s probably stretching it a bit.

Joshua: So yeah, it’s funny that kind of mix of people. You sound like you’re more on the challenge actually ended up being a cakewalk side. Some people have much more modest you know materially speaking, physically speaking much more modest things but mentally until they make that shift it’s really hard.

Jeff: Yeah, I think it has been relatively simple. Also, my wife you know was with me on board and had fun with it and so it was just as simple as announcing, “Hey, let’s do this.” OK, and off we went.

Joshua: I’m curious are you interested in going for a third episode and taking on another personal challenge? No obligation.

Jeff: Oh, sure. Why not? I don’t know what that would be if you’re putting me or asking me to share what that might be now unless you’ve already got one for me.

Joshua: I feel like you’ve already mentioned a couple of things. I mean there is talking of HOA…Here’s the things that I heard you say. Talking to HOA, one that I said was reducing consumption that you hadn’t thought of, so that might be something. There’s talking to the neighbors. And it feels like somewhere down the road I see your community having a truck that picks up compost and garbage. And so, I don’t know. I don’t know what it will take to get that but stuff’s going that way.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I guess that would be the next challenge is just seeing how far I could take that ball down the field. You know we’re outside what are considered the city limits of the community we live in Springhill is the town or outside city limits and inside the city limits, if I’m not mistaken, those are services that are offered to communities but outside city limits it’s seemingly not the case. So I’ve got my work cut out for me to determine how that circle can be enlarged and cover more ground. And I don’t know, I may run into too like you said a brick wall and find out that this doesn’t happen already for lots of quote unquote good reasons. But I’m willing to at least run with it and see if maybe that’s not the case and maybe it’s just not happening because nobody else has decided to carry that torch.

Joshua: So are you up for making a SMART goal out of it?

Jeff: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah.

Joshua: Yes, specific, measurable, I think actionable, realistic, time sensitive, time or something related to time.

Jeff: Yeah. See we had a I guess a month between our first and second call, I guess we can go another month. And let’s see. I could agree to in that time in between now and the next time we meet are reaching out to our HOA and local government I guess too to ask the questions that need to be asked to determine what steps one needs to take to decide to bring this here and be able to come to you next time with the answers to those questions, not necessarily having it done by then but at least have asked the questions of those in positions presumably to answer those questions. Why is this not happening? What can we do to change that?

Joshua: So it sounds like you’ll come in as a problem solver. And it sounds like pretty doable and the deliverable I guess would be that you’d say this is either impossible because some of some mess, or it’s possible then these are the steps you would have to take.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah.

Joshua: So one thing that comes to mind that might help is to talk to a couple of neighbors first in order to get their views.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of sort of take the temperature I guess.

Joshua: So how do you feel about that? Have I just imposed on you because…

Jeff: No, like I said you know I came to this call having already done some research a little but some to begin heading in that direction. And so this basically helps hold me accountable to that. So yeah, it was something that I was already heading toward and looking at the possibility of. And now I have a deadline and somebody is going to ask me about it and whether or not I did it.

Joshua: Yeah. I find public accountability get things done. And I’m also partly talking to the listeners that I hope that they are thinking to themselves, “Oh, I know I could do this and I’ll just do you know step by step and it doesn’t have to be everything at once.” And hopefully I think there’s a lot of people who are going to feel like you like, “Oh, there was that thing I could have done maybe. I did take that little step and maybe another step will help.” And actually, hopefully I haven’t been saying this in podcast but you know as I’m creating the page, I’m creating a page where people can go and sign up for their own personal challenge. And hopefully by the time this interview is up it’ll be well known and like there will be thousands or tens of thousands of people using it already but so far I hope people sign up for it because I want it to be public. You know I want a movement to start. I love that the variety of people that I get on the show such as yourself like some people they’ve always want to do things, some people they have no idea what they want to do and I want to get a range of people to be guests in order that whoever is listening some of the guests it will resonate with them and they’ll feel like, “Yeah, I could follow the person’s footsteps.” Thank you for being a leader.

Jeff: Well, thank you for challenging me.

Joshua: I’m happy to. Especially when you communicate that you like the results. Unless there is anything that I haven’t thought to bring up… Is there anything that I didn’t think to bring up?

Jeff: No, I don’t think so. No, I think you did a great job of covering all the bases.

Joshua: I’d like to close with is there any last messages for listeners that you’d like to leave with them. I mean we’ll be on again but so far.

Jeff: Yeah. And I think probably the obvious one is don’t give in or to be a victim of…I don’t want to say this. Let me let me rephrase that. Go beyond the excuses. When you see something that could improve your life or your community and you’re not taking the steps to do that like I wasn’t, recognize that we often as human beings we put the blame on somebody else for that thing not happening. Like I was doing with “Why don’t we have that service here?” And that was my out. That was how I you know I handled the any sort of checking my gut about you know why I wasn’t you know doing something because I thought nobody would give me the opportunity to do that, nobody made it easy for me and so I think we just need to recognize and be honest with ourselves when those moments are happening and not fall victim to them.

Joshua: I like that message of responsibility, personal responsibility and action, or personal responsibility and enabling and empowering. I can’t help but ask another question. Since you’re talking about taking responsibility and seeing what opportunities you have or what excuses you’re giving. Has any of this applied to other places in life?

Jeff: Well, I think in the past certainly I’ve had benefited from… Though this specific topic you and I have been talking about recycling has not been one that has come up in these conversations. I’ve benefited over the years from having an accountability partner in various areas of life, personal and business and Mastermind groups and people whose job it is if you want to call it that is to make sure that I’m staying true to the things that I care about and want to accomplish and hold me accountable to doing those things.

And that’s something I think more people can benefit from. I know that left on my own, if I’m the only person holding me accountable that that’s often makes it a little bit harder for me personally. And so having those people in those positions in my life the last five-six years has been tremendous for my growth and the growth of my business and professional life and personal life. And so you know sitting here with you and talking about some of the things I think that would you know take this further and then being held accountable to that knowing that I’m going to have to give an account to you that makes all the difference.

Joshua: I was also wondering if your action on this challenge has led you to apply, to find other areas like that you might have been not acting or not noticing something or blaming or something like that?

Jeff: Nothing new. There have been plenty of those in the past but nothing new thankfully.

Joshua: OK. Probably too soon anyway. How do people find you? And let’s promote your blog and things like that.

Jeff: Oh, thanks. Yeah.

Joshua: That’s how we met.

Jeff: So that’s right. That’s the best place to find me is simply readtoleadpodcast.com.

Joshua: Okay, great. And I’ll see you again soon.

Jeff: Thanks.


As I said, Jeff is pretty calm but would you agree that he sounds interested, even enthusiastic in this project? Can you hear the difference between acting, doing and just talking, planning, analyzing? What most people do with environmental things is they just talk around in circles and never actually change their behavior or influence others. He’s acting with his neighborhood. That’s his choice. If you want to lead in other parts of your life, you can do it there too. People will look up to you, people will trust you, people will defer to you, people will be loyal to you, things like that. And it’s that easy to get started. Once you start, things keep going. As you heard he is going to come on for a third episode. Do similar things at your work and you will get promoted, with friends you’ll get invited, and so on. So I’m looking forward to hearing his third time too.

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