065: Jeff Brown, part 4: Inspiring others through action (transcript)

July 20, 2018 by Joshua
in Podcast

Jeff Brown

As someone who does not enjoy dealing with my co-op board, Jeff talking about his homeowner’s association, the HOA and laughing about it nearly blew my mind. And he’s connecting with companies, dozens of people, he’s making a difference. This fourth conversation is more than I expected when I started this podcast. I expected to be happy with a few people coming back for second conversations at all. But he’s enjoying what he’s doing. He’s enjoying something he never would have started. But it’s something that was on his mind. So I ask you what’s on your mind that you will enjoy the more that you do it? And I also have to mention speaking of influencing others as a direct result of Jeff’s actions I’ve started talking to my co-op in my building about reducing its energy use, about composting and about greening the roof and seeing if we can put some plants up there or maybe some solar up there.

Also, I am going to use this opportunity to allude to something, I’m not going to tell the whole story but previous guest Sandy Reisky has a nonprofit called Generation 180, listen to that conversation to get more details about it. But they’ve been working in New York City and I started volunteering with them to work on putting solar on schools, that’s one of the big projects of Generation 180, and it turns out that the school literally across the street from where I live has a green roof, has some solar on the roof that a woman there spent years making it happen. But once it happened other schools have come to her for education, for how to make solar happen there because after she did this, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, said he wanted solar on I think 60 schools. And she’s a big part of that. It turns out I’m right across the street from that so that made it very quick for me to work with the Education’s Department of Sustainability and I won’t go into a whole lot more because this is really about Jeff but Jeff got me going on this stuff. I don’t want to go on. I will make all that the subject of a future conversation but I did want to point out how Jeff has inspired me as has Sandy. Also, a quick note. The first couple of things that I say the microphone is messed up but that gets fixed after a second and enjoy the conversation.


Joshua: I’m here with Jeff. How are you doing?

Jeff: I am doing fantastic sir. How are you?

Joshua: I’m good. You know I’m a little nervous talking to you because most people I talk to take on challenges that I’ve already taken on and/or you know maybe it’s something like driving less, not have a car. So that’s an easy one. You did something that I’m scared to do because I have a co-op board and I’ve talked to them about doing some things like recycling and stuff like that. And I mean we have recycling in the building but to do more and, oh man, it’s difficult to work with them. And you’re taking on that challenge. And so that ups my game. You know it’s a challenge. Of course, I want you to succeed and that will motivate me and that’s the whole point of the podcast. So I’m kind of curious of how things are working out for you. When I hear some people when I say HOA, they’re like, “Oghhh.” And you’re like, I don’t know if it’s [unintelligible] but also you’re like, “Hey, this is really cool, this is something that I can read. I can be an entrepreneur.” So I’m really curious.

Jeff: Well, since we last talked I’ve gotten quite a few more comments on that post I mentioned I put up the last time we talked on a site called nextdoor.com where much of our subdivision and community communicates, a lot of folks expressing interest in a service, the curb service for recyclables, and one person even mentioned that one of the trash pickup companies had surveyed the neighborhood at one point and ended up replying back to everyone at the end of it all but there wasn’t enough interest to show which baffles me because virtually everybody who was commenting on my post is like, “Yes, I’m interested. Yes, I’m interested. Yes, I’m interested.” And right before Christmas – New Year holiday one of the last posts from me in that thread was sort of, “OK. There seems to be a lot of folks interested. What are the next steps? Do we get HOA involved? You know what’s next?” So Diane, a fellow member of the community, has sort of taken it upon herself to reach out to the two or three different trash collection companies that offer that service already to see if this is a service they could provide and if so, you know what the charge for that would be.

Joshua: Part of me is saying it sounds like this is now like a regular project. This is like something you have a work where you…

Jeff: Yeah, thanks for that. I appreciate it.

Joshua: All right. Well, I guess the other thing is like you’re like, “I can’t see what could go wrong.” I’m like, “You haven’t talked to my co-op board then.” Now the third thing is what you just brought up which is like, “Oh, thanks for bringing this up.”

So now this is something I say a lot to people is that when I talk to my guests a common response is something words like, “This is something I’m glad I did it. I wish I’d done it early. Like it’s harder than I expected but I’m glad that I’m doing it and thank you for prompting me because it’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a while.” And every time I write I’m like, sometimes there are quotes around it, and I’m like, “Did people actually see these exact words?” You are doing something that I definitely prompted you to do it but I didn’t [unintelligible]. And I’m not giving you any deadlines on it. Is it fair to say… Or how would you put it? OK. You’re now doing work that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Jeff: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. I probably would have just left this up to somebody else to do. It’s crossed my mind and I’ve wondered as many others apparently have who commented on my post, “You know why isn’t there a service like this already offered in it?” And again, it looks like one of the companies, there are several that offer trash collection services in our community, and apparently or at least one of those has put out the feelers and didn’t feel like it was worthwhile to do it. But my hope is between the comments and feedback that I’ve gotten and you know comments like, “We would use it for sure. Thank you.” I mean it’s kind of the consensus of these probably 30 or so comments that have come in now.

Joshua: So now I want to talk to the listeners, to anyone listening right now, you know one of the things about this podcast is I’m not just looking for followers. I’m happy for people listen to the podcast and say, “Jeff is doing this thing. I should do this thing too. I’m going to follow in his footsteps” or you know all the other guests. And you know if Jeff isn’t doing this thing, maybe you already have recycling in your neighborhood and you want to do something with cleaning the water, something like that. OK. You do your thing. It’s great to have followers. And then I say I really want to find leaders because I want… You know 7 billion plus people have to change their behavior but I’m not going to reach a billion people. Even if I have reached a billion people, I would have been the most influential person in all of history and it still wouldn’t be enough. We got to get leaders to reach other groups that I wouldn’t reach on my own and hopefully some of these leaders will pass me by because this is kind of I’m out on a limb here, I feel like I’m really scared and nervous. But if other people can lead more effectively and can tap into groups that I would never reach, great. And now the new message is also the more that you lead, the less work you have to do and the more you’ll get done, if you lead effectively. So listen how Jeff is doing it.

Jeff: Well, yeah. And in this case, I mean if we follow that to its conclusion that comes back to you in that sense. Because I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it had not been for you. Now my neighbors, my community doesn’t necessarily realize you’re a part of the process but I do. And then now your listeners too. So I think that’s awesome.

Joshua: Yeah. I mean people who listen to this podcast a lot will pick up that my whole practice, this is my book is get people to share what motivates them and I don’t come up with a task. What’s a task that the guest can do and then I make that connection for them so that they’re acting on their value, not me telling them what to do and that’s what made this whole podcast happened was there’s too many people telling people what to do. I actually did this search just for the fun of it. I typed in like “tips to reduce global warming” or “tips to improve the environment”. It was like 60 million hits came back. So if each one has one tip that’s tens of millions of tips out there. And yet people aren’t doing these things. So will 10 million plus one tip? Is that what is that we need? One more tip? I don’t think so. And the science is out there. There’s plenty of science out there and you know that’s only for global warming. You don’t need a whole lot of science to see that there’s a lot of plastic in the world. You look at the plastic, the production rates are going through the roof and telling people what to do that’s not effective leadership. I mean it might be in some cases but I don’t think it’s working here.

And so I think what’s lacking is someone to connect the values to what’s to be done. And so, I think that there’s a lot of people… I think a lot of the guests that I work with… People who are listening are going to hear that a lot of the guests I think I’m leading them in a way that they end up wanting to do these things which seems to be the case with you. And if you’re listening this podcast enough I think you’ll develop your leadership skills. Well, you have to practice it yourself. I’m doing it. Yeah, this is like that’s what I’m doing is I talk to people, “What about the environment you care about?”, “What’s something that you could do to act on that?” And if they respond to that, there have been a couple where I haven’t gotten anywhere and then I leave it at that because I’m not trying to motivate everyone in the world. I’m sure I am not trying to motivate anyone. I’m trying to lead people which happens when the motivations are already there.

And then, once that’s there once, they have something that they internally want to act on and about half the time they knew what it was ahead of time, they had something that they’ve been thinking about that they wanted to do. And the other times to walk through like what could you do and you know sometimes I share with them what other people have done and we work out something they can do. And then I go into management mode. Once the leadership is done, it’s OK, let’s make it a SMART goal. How long do you think this will take? And then I give some support in terms of like here are some things that have caused problems for others, like when you deal with other people, when you travel. And of course, you’re crediting me but I’ve to credit Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and all the people that I’m getting this from because I didn’t make this stuff up. This principle actually I’m thinking most of Eisenhower who said this great quote of like, “Leadership is getting someone to do what you want for their reasons.” He said it better than I could. And when I saw it I was like, “Oh, well. I’m onto something here” because Eisenhower led pretty well. I’m speaking English because Eisenhower led very well.

And I hope people listening are thinking… I hope that they’re thinking, “What are my values? Are the values that I haven’t acted on that I could act on? And then what can I do?” And I hope they’re also thinking, “Once it kicks in, with whom can I now take the next step and are there groups that Josh isn’t reaching that I can?” And maybe it will be taking their project to make it really bigger, maybe they’ll be doing a podcast like Leadership and the Environment for Europe or something like that.

Jeff: Do you like it for me to comment…

Joshua: Oh, yeah. I mean I just kind of stated what my long-term goal… I want listeners to listen and find fulfillment and find reward and find living by their values which leads to integrity and that’s on the individual scale, each listener, and then I hope you know…. And then a little bit past that would be to go to the page that says Commit to a Personal Challenge on the podcast. So everyone, go to joshuaspodek.com/podcast, click on Commit to a Personal Challenge and then they can share publicly what they are doing so that will add the accountability. A lot of the guests say, “Knowing that they’re going to be back on here, helps me get through it.” So once you make it public non-leaders don’t like accountability because they feel like they want a way out. But leaders and people who really want to improve the lives want accountability because it helps them get things done. So it will add that extra kind of below. And if you want to take it to a bigger stage or bigger level is to take on a leadership role which you’re doing automatically in your project. Your personal challenge would be that, “Oh, I think your personal challenge…” I forget if it’s up because I asked to put it up and I think there were bugs in the page at the time. I think they have been resolved. But other people hopefully they will say, “Jeff sounds pretty happy with what he’s doing. I bet I would be pretty happy too.” Fulfillment. That’s something I like in my life. For someone else it would be I don’t know the satisfaction of a job well done or it would be impetus to work even harder. Depends on who you are and what you like but this… By the way, I hope you don’t mind my indulging in this… I haven’t gotten many conversations number three and it takes on a different tember than the conversation one which is more about them and what the challenge will be. The second one which is more about how was the project and this is… I’m indulging myself and I hope I’m not talking too much.

Jeff: Not at all. I’m learning as you’re speaking.

Joshua: As I’ve done this podcast more at the beginning, their challenges were bringing a mug with them to get coffee so they wouldn’t have to get a disposable cup or not eating meat for a couple of weeks. Cool. Great. It’s a great start and what’s important is that they’re acting because once they act, then they start feeling, “Oh, I do make a difference and I do like this. It has improved my life. I wish I’d done this earlier.” That’s the general gist that I seem to be getting. But if everyone in the world stops using disposable coffee cups and uses mugs and stops there, we haven’t changed much. So it’s a great starting point but what comes next?

And so taking on an HOA, a couple of people have gotten rid of the car. One person has chosen to get rid of his car. He moved to Europe and in the process he and his wife decided, “OK, we’re moving from Texas to Antwerp.” Antwerp, I think we can get by without a car and he used this podcast as the impetus to take on that challenge. Another guy is…. Have you talked to Dov Baron? Has he been on your podcast?

Jeff: No.

Joshua: His book. I really liked his book so I’m not saying you should do it but I really like talking to him. And his personal challenge was to go for a month putting no more than 100 kilometers on the car of his dream which was this Jaguar, aspirational vehicle. And at the end of the period on the second conversation, he said, “Let’s go for a third conversation. Between now and then I want to decide if I’m going to get rid of the Jag entirely.” And I never suggested that. That was him based on you know he knows the value of a Jag and now he knows the value of not Jag and it looks like it’s kind of even in his mind at this stage or when we spoke and it may be that he’s, “Okay. I don’t need the Jag.” And that’s not out of ignorance, that’s out of experience and knowing the value of having it and knowing the value of not using it. And so I’m really glad to see challenges going to the next level because ultimately a lot of people are going to have to make somethings what look like big challenges. I hope that they see are big improvements of their lives. That’s one of the main shifts that I want to get is people feeling like you know, “Oh, taking other people’s considerations into my choices makes my life better.”

Jeff: Oh, I know for me as I said earlier the thing that I most look forward to is just the pride of seeing other neighbors following suit as this thing begins to snowball and thinking upon the impact that in the long-term going to have on the community at large.


Joshua: I love that it’s become pride for you. For most people garbage is not a very… “That’s what I get rid of. That’s not what I bring into my life.” And you haven’t hit a big hurdle yet. That might change your tune although it might make it a bigger source of fulfillment. I’m not sure. Have you considered what might happen? What hurdles might come?” I mean there are several that have not happened that could have happened. Maybe you responded or maybe you even say, “Don’t bother me.”

Jeff: Yeah. Not really. Sort of the mentality for me has been well you know cross that bridge when I get there even if you know some sort of hiccup happens along the way. I mean I guess you know if I think about your experience I mean I guess maybe I’m a little naive when it comes to the HOA. So maybe I’ll find out it’s not as simple a process as I expect it to be. And as I look at that I’m like we have a trash service. How can anybody say no to a recycling service you know? Why would that not be considered a good idea? You know what HOA would allow themselves to, assuming they’re in the position to use a veto that kind of possibility. So not an HOA, that’s the leaders are which who are going to stand for very long. You know if that’s the tact you’re going to take, don’t be surprised if members of the community decide that you don’t need to be in that position any longer. That’s how I see it.

Joshua: Yes. I’m really interested to see how this goes and maybe it’ll get me to where I stuck it in curbside composting. It’s like that would be like next step here. Long term. I got this roof and only half the roof is… I’m in a 15-16-storey building with like 100 units in it and something like that and on the top there’s a roof and there’s the roof deck which is really cool in the summer, it’s a great place to go. And half the roof isn’t used. I don’t know, it’s like pipes and stuff there. Someday I got to go to them and say, “Can I put a garden up there?” And so that’s what I’m like. I’m like if you succeeded to…The garden, I have to start doing this. I really want to.

And I mean I don’t know if I’ve talked to you about how much joy I have when I go to the farmer’s market and get fresh vegetables and something I never would have expected before this whole thing about not packaged food. And I have in my window right now I got mint, basil, I’ve got a fig tree that my sister gave me a sapling and I had all these salad greens growing, it’s winter now so they’re not growing, so I have to plant them soon. And it’s really cool. I love it. I’m going to put habanero plant in there because I want to get… well, I guess I like habanero. And it’s a small plant and small habaneros are still effective. So you know a corn plant wouldn’t [unintelligible] in Manhattan. I’m saying this partly to motivate myself because I don’t know how am I going to get tons of dirt up on the roof.

But your attitude like I’m like why wouldn’t someone do that? Everyone talks about how the rooftops of Manhattan, of New York City, of all cities should have greens and stuff like that. In World War II we had victory gardens. In every place you could grow vegetables people would because there’s a patriotic thing to support fighting the Nazis. And then it would have been a natural thing to do. So why wouldn’t it be now? I’m listening to you, I’m getting motivated back. I’m also curious you said you’re learning. At first, I thought, “Oh, it’s obvious what he’s learning. He’s learning what I am saying.” But I bet that people listening are going to learn different things from what you learned. I’m curious what are you learning from what I’m saying?

Jeff: Well, I mean if I were to sort of drill down to I guess the essence of what you’re saying and what I’ve learned through this this entire process going back to what you said earlier about how when you take on a project like this my thinking in the very beginning was especially as I started to do internet research was, “Am I going to have the time for this?, So I have the bandwidth for this? I mean a lot of thing is going on you know. What have I gotten myself into?” All those kinds of things. And with each week, if you want to call this workload for me it has lessened every single week and it’s just like I assumed this was going to go in the opposite direction.

And so I hadn’t really thought about that consciously until you know you basically said as much. And I’m like oh yeah, you’re right because it’s gotten easier as we move on and not harder, not more difficult, not more plates to spend but fewer and so that was pretty eye opening to me because I did not anticipate that at all.

Joshua: So that gives you a new target I guess. It gives you a new direction and more impetus I guess because less work, more done. That’s a good way to go.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Joshua: Now you also have a ReadtoLeap podcast so you’ve read a lot of leadership books.

Jeff: A few.

Joshua: So it’s interesting that you’ll be finding new stuff. See the whole principle behind my book is like you’ve got to act, you got to do, you can’t just read. Oh, man, who’s I was talking…I was talking about. Navy SEALs. All of these articles, somehow I think the media world has learned that if you put Navy SEAL in the title of your article you get a lot of hits so there’s like a million stories about Navy SEALs. And it is like Jocko and all these other people out there who are doing all the stuff. It’s like people who read the stories, if you read about it like I don’t think the article is that effective because if they were, then the Navy SEALs would read articles but they don’t. You know they go to Hell Week and stuff like that. So you’ve got to do. And so I think that you’re now doing something, you’re leading people, you’ve stumbled into it, you are leading people but you are leading people and you’re finding stuff out that in all the books you’ve read it hasn’t come up. Or maybe it has come up and maybe you’re looking back and you’re like, “Oh, I read that but it didn’t really resonate.” I’m not sure. I think you got to do stuff. That’s what my book is about, it’s about exercises. You got to do stuff and then you learn in a way that you never could have just from reading.

Jeff: I guess the part that really drill down and that little further it’s not so much that it shocked me that the workload has lessened week to week as much as it is not having to ask people to help. In other words, people have volunteered to help. I’ve stated and laid out you know the desired goal and asked questions about what’s the step, what would you do here or who would want this, and as those questions have been asked other folks have just jumped in and started pitching in without being asked to do so and so that really is at the heart of kind of what has surprised me I think more than anything.

Joshua: OK so there’s two questions. One, why are they doing it? And two, why were your expectations off?

Jeff: As far as the why they’re doing it, I think maybe they were like me. You know when I started recycling and you know manually taking it to the convenience centers, maybe they’re like me and thought to themselves, “Why isn’t there a service like this?” In fact, several of the comments that came in were folks who, “Hey, we just moved here and the community we came from had this and we’ve always wondered why there isn’t a service like this here. We would love that.” And that kind of feedback. As far as your other question as to you know why that surprises me I guess I think it’s how you asked it, I don’t know. I guess I just figured that once I started the ball rolling and began to get feedback that people would continue to look for me to take the ball and drive it down the field, just getting their input along the way. I just didn’t expect that people would say, “Oh, I’ll do this. I’ll do that” without being asked.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the corporate world and oftentimes not every job I’ve ever had but oftentimes you know people have a very finite idea of what fits into their job description and before they do anything outside that job description they have to be told or they have to be asked. And I guess maybe the decades I spent in that world has conditioned me not to expect people to just naturally do things without being asked to do them that don’t fit inside their job description.

Joshua: It doesn’t fit inside their job … I’m trying to get what’s the difference between the corporate world and this that makes that difference. I have an idea but I want to hear what you think.

Jeff: I don’t know. Maybe it has to do with…. I think most of us, many of us, understand each have a more heightened awareness of environmental issues and maybe many have thought for a long time that, “Well, we don’t have this because it’s just not an option.” But you know maybe all it took was somebody coming along and saying, “Well, this maybe could be an option if we put our heads together and think through it.” And I think as I am on the outside looking in and trying to sort of I’m going to make some assumptions as to why people have acted the way they do but I think part of it is them being super passionate about this idea and not starting it on their own maybe because they just weren’t sure how to go about it but they see somebody else taking the reins and they’re like, “I want to be a part of that movement.” And rather than ask permission to be a part of that movement they’ve just decided they’re going to take permission and make themselves part of that movement because they like the feeling they get when they do it.

Joshua: Yes. So you touched on a few of the things that I think is the key thing. When you said there is a passion and the feeling they get I think this is an internal motivation and often at work it’s external incentives. So you tapped into something that was already there and not only was it there but it’s like no one’s afraid about sharing it. You know it doesn’t make you particularly vulnerable to say, “I support recycling” whereas at a company you’re often doing something that’s pretty far removed from what the company is about. Maybe you’re not even into what the company is about. And so, people still have motivations but it takes a lot more work on the leaders’ part to get it out, social and emotional work to make the person feel comfortable sharing it. And most people don’t do that. And so you don’t tap into the internal motivation, you’re just stuck with the external stuff and then, “Do this and I’ll pay you”. You know that’ll get a certain amount of work out of someone but you don’t have to worry about that. They’re doing it for… The reasons are already there which is generally the case. I think people working on projects like these, if you come in and tell people, “This is what you have to do” like kids do that with their parents. They come home from school and they’re like, “Oh, today we learned about this and mommy you should turn off the light whenever you leave the room.” Or something like that. A lot of people do what the kids do too. But that’s not what you’re doing because you’re taking initiative and you’re figuring out what’s to be done and then giving them space to step in.

Jeff: Well, I hope so. Yeah. Again, it’s difficult for me to look at this and feel like you know I can take any sort of credit. I just had somebody prompt me to ask some questions is how I see it. And I feel like the bulk of what I’ve done so far is ask questions. And the chief among them, Why? Why not?” You know and that seems to have [unintelligible] in a number of people, three or four dozen anyway at this point. And it’s interesting to see that sometimes all it takes is for somebody to say “Why not?”.


Do you want to enjoy a project that gets you respect, pride, leadership roles, promotions, raises, job offers? Can you tell that acting on your environmental values will create those things? Yes, really promotions, raises, job offers. People talking about what they want done and so, you can help them. That’s job offers. If you want to act but you haven’t thought of something, contact me at josh@spodek.net. I mentioned that I’m looking for leaders. You can start a Leadership and the Environment for your community, if you don’t already have something in mind. You can meet people in your world. Or for example, listen to Robbie Samuel’s first conversation with me about how he meets C-Suite leaders from places like Google. Pretty big stuff. This stuff is all there for you. A lot of people look at environmental things as distractions, deprivation, sacrifice, it’s an opportunity. This is an area of global demand and you can hear it happening with Jeff. You can make it happen for yourself. I hope you’ll do it.

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