Exercise 1: Initiative Personal Essay

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    • #19283
      Joshua
      Keymaster

      Welcome aboard!

      Please post at least 500 words 24 hours before each class.

    • #19313
      Hayden Kessinger
      Participant

      I think it worked!

      • #19314
        Joshua
        Keymaster

        Great!

        Hopefully, we should all be able to post our essays here.

    • #19315
      Joe Spradley
      Participant

      Cool! I’m in too. Should we post our essay as a reply to this thread or start a new one for our entry?

      • #19318
        Joshua
        Keymaster

        Reply to this topic, in particular, my top post beginning “Welcome Aboard!” so that everyone’s essays are at the same level.

        I’ll start new topics each week so everyone’s reflections for each exercise will be in one place for that exercise, as well as people’s comments on each other’s reflections.

    • #19321
      Olivia Ong
      Participant

      Method Initiative Exercise 1: Personal Essay

      What motivated you to learn initiative?
      During the pandemic I had worked with a personal coach who taught me to ‘lean into my resistance’. Not only with the sustainability workshop that I first took, as well as with initiative, I felt great resistance to taking the courses. This was my first curiosity, to lean into the resistance. I was curious about potential blind spots that I would uncover while taking the sustainability workshop, anything I may have missed in my initial concern and critique of an unclear value proposition, as well as the comical offenses I took to Josh telling me that engineers seemed to lack resonance. I, for one, asked myself – what if I’m a fake engineer, and what if I look/act like one, but am not really one? How could he simply write me off as an engineer who lacked resonance without providing me a clear value proposition for me to evaluate my interest? Josh’s blind spot with generalizing engineers or engineer-esque types triggered an annoyance in me and a determination to figure out what I may uncover in mine. I received some feedback from Josh at one point that I interrupted someone consistently I was practicing the Spodek Method with them in one of the sessions. That piece of feedback I often came to conclude myself in reflections after conversations with others prior to the workshop. It was the first time someone so directly told me in a context that wasn’t me directly conversing with the person giving me the feedback. It was a mild stun, a reminder of a repetitive reflection, and a call to be more mindful and intentional in future interactions of all types. While I’m still completing the last homework, much to my chagrin of loose ends dangling indefinitely, leaning into my resistance led me to learn about myself, how I took feedback, how I interacted with others, and more may still unravel.

      My second curiosity came when Josh told a small group of us that if we felt like we didn’t have enough time, that we really ought to take Initiative. It felt counterintuitive, and I felt more resistance. Time to lean in again. However, there were threads of familiarity. When I first met Josh and Evelyn, who led me through the sustainability workshop, we connected over some ongoing efforts I’d had in minimalism, or rather, essentialism. The saying, ‘less is more’, is indeed cliché, but I soon found that to be true for myself when it came to belongings, priorities, commitments, people, etc. I’m still working on a few of these. Over the course of the last 9 years, since my grad school friend James handed me ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,’ I’ve been peeling back the layers of the onion, and still am, of decluttering my life – removing things that don’t matter to me, to make room for more things that do. And so, as counterintuitive as ‘letting go to gain’ is, I figured I had nothing to lose to try. Even if I failed, or quit half way, it would tell me that perhaps it wasn’t my thing nor was the timing right, or perhaps the reward wasn’t great enough, or perhaps the pain wasn’t annoying enough. And so, against my resistance, my curiosity prevailed yet again and here I am, writing the first exercise.

      My third curiosity arose when I listened to the video Josh put together sharing what folks had gotten out of the class. Namely a ‘lady who always said that when she had enough money, she’d pivot to a project she really cared about, who through initiative, completely cut directly to the project she cared about and was thriving.’ Despite Josh’s multiple follow ups and my hesitance to commit yet more time and energy into something that was yet another distraction to my focus, the living evidence of a former student spoke volumes about helping me to focus, and to further shave items from my pot filled with shiny objects. I’d always justified diversifying my attention, but that was only because I didn’t have a means to focus. Initiative seemed to promise clarity and a means to find focus or cut things that are non-essential. How much more ‘Olivia’ could it get, than to pursue intentionality with cultivating essentialism in life?

      As my boyfriend puts it, there comes a time when one ought to ‘shit, or get off the pot’. It seems like that time has matured for me, and there are many things for which I need to make that decision. With great curiosity and much resistance, paired with the skill of leaning into resistance and not running at the first sign of non-resonance, here I am.

      What do you hope or expect to come from learning initiative?
      I hope to come to faster iterations of passion, initiative, action. I have met so many peers in life who are ‘just here for the paycheck’, and I have seen the future of myself in others if something in my life doesn’t give. I aim to acquire skills to shake things up, in myself, in others, and in the community at large. I want to live life with more passion, and I want to help others to thrive as well.

      What do you think about taking responsibility, taking initiative, solving problems, and creating projects?
      I’m still hesitant about how much time and effort these will take. I am incredibly busy, and also incredibly burnt out from doing what I think I ought to be doing, rather than doing what I’m truly inspired to do. If it could be entirely possible to do so without any other constraints, that sounds lovely.

      What are your models for how taking initiative and entrepreneurship work?
      Models for taking initiative include the corporate ladder, for which one finds what someone else wants and gives at least the appearance of giving it to them. My other model for initiative and entrepreneurship work is sales and recruiting in the field of financial services.

      Who are your role models?
      My mother is one of my perpetual role models. Despite never having had a glorious career, she is passionate about people. My childhood memories involve going grocery shopping with my mother and half the town knowing her as she goes out and about. With the exception of a few self-centered folks, most people light up when they see, think about, or hear of my mother. Mama Bee and I don’t always see eye to eye, but we recognize each other as individuals and often agree to disagree. Much of our time together in this season of life, is spent eating, chatting, laughing, and debating. Despite my father’s age-old gripe that she never contributed much financially to the home, I consider her to be far more successful than he is, simply based on the fact that she not only contributed greatly to the raising of my two siblings and I, but that she would have more people who would go out of their way for her because she cares for people in a way that she seeks to serve them, sometimes to her detriment.

      A few high visibility individuals include Jeff Levitan, who created the All For One charity that I am inspired to work with one day, and Ed Mylett, who is huge in the personal development space. On the contrary, anyone who acts entirely in freedom in alignment with their values is a role model to me. Those with incredible self-discipline are also a role model to me.

      What has worked for you so far in creating projects? What hasn’t?
      So far, a persistent thought followed by inspired action has helped me create and follow through with projects. Forcing myself to do what I think I should do or must do has been a struggle.

      Where do you want to take initiative? To business, your social life, family, yourself?
      I would like to take initiative in all areas of my life. In business, to activate those I am leading to also act from initiative and passion. In my social life, to activate people to develop more intentional authentic connections to eradicate loneliness and apathy, to live life with vigor, and to truly feel loved. In my family, to help them find purpose in life and create their own sense of belonging in their respective environments. In myself, to not feel like I need to wait for the feeling of being backed into a corner to decide to ‘shit, or get off the pot’. All this to say that the purpose is to gain street cred with myself, and to trust myself enough to more massively let go of people, places, and things when they don’t align with what I truly am, without regard to any ‘shoulds’ in life.

      What is your relevant history of taking initiative, if any? This can be your first memories, other relevant memories, and so on.
      When I think of all the times I took major action, they were usually because I felt like I was backed into a corner with nowhere to run. I don’t love being backed into a corner. I prefer freedom and being in flow. And so, when I sense that someone else’s freedom counts on my participation, or that my freedom is quickly dwindling, I’ve taken intense bursts of initiative to push the needle forward.

      I am incredibly curious about how to outsmart myself. Other examples of initiative include finding goals large enough to carry the mundane day-to-day. One specific example of this is that when I plan more major outdoors adventures, exercising at least on a weekly basis no longer becomes such a struggle because it enables me to more thoroughly enjoy the outdoors and prevent injury.

      What is the value in taking a course like this?
      The value in taking a course like this is to strip everything away and stand naked in front of oneself. To stop running away from oneself and to confront everything that one thinks they are, everything that one portrays they are, everything that one fears they are, and everything that one truly is and is not.

      Additional Deliverable:
      Field of Interest: Minimalism, decluttering, organization
      1. People closer to field of interest: Heather Hinton, Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus
      2. People with high status or value in field: Marie Kondo, Dawn the Minimal Mom, Gabe Bult
      3. Relevant role models: TK Coleman, Joshua Becker, Cass from Clutterbug

      Field of Interest: Relationships, self-awareness, loneliness
      1. People closer to field of interest: Shanin Engman, Jenn Asidao-Querubin, Conrad Ruiz!
      2. People with high status or value in field: Simon Sinek, Tom/Lisa Bilyeu, Ed Mylett
      3. Relevant role models: Steven Bartlett, Joe Dispenza, Gabor Mate

      Reflections:
      1. Was it easy to think of your relevant experiences, goals, and role models?
      It was relatively easy to think of my relevant experiences and goals, but perhaps not so much my role models. That section was written and edited more times than the others.
      2. Have you thought of someone to share your reflections with?
      There are a few friends I’ve had conversations with about not feeling connected with our traditional corporate careers. These are the folks I’m keen to share with. Others include those who support people development in their teams. I guess in general I’m okay sharing my participation in day to day conversation, though I am relatively reserved in that I tell folks that many things are TBD.
      3. What’s the point of naming people, not positions?
      This requires us to think a little bit deeper and more concretely. Perhaps gives us a place to start in evaluating the degree to which individuals actually participate in the field of interest.

    • #19324
      Hayden Kessinger
      Participant

      What brought me here

      Though I had a positive in the last course I took with Josh, I was quite reluctant to sign up for this one. At the midway point in my internship, I’ve started thinking a lot about what’s next and I was unsure of whether my time would best be spent taking this class or doing something else. I’m particularly interested in exploring other career options in effective altruism (EA) and animal welfare, so spending a few hours per week on this course would mean a few less hours per week to read books about EA or other career advice. I listened to the testimonials from past participants who will be taking the course again with me and was feeling more convinced that it’d be worth my time. However, no matter how many times Josh said, “if you feel like you don’t have enough time, that’s exactly why you should be taking this course”, I still thought, “but, I don’t have time!” It’s funny how we default to that.

      It’s really easy to give up before even trying because it’s sort of part of our culture. For example, a few weeks ago I told my coworkers that I wasn’t using my A/C unit in my window and that the maintenance staff could take it out to put in one of the other rooms. That was met with immediate skepticism and uncertainty. They said things like, “we’ll see how long that lasts” or “wait till it’s 90 degrees.” I genuinely love all of my coworkers, and they meant well, but I was frustrated by their disapproval. Their messaging made me doubt myself and it made it easier to think “you know, it’s hot, I should just use the A/C.” Far too often we think about all the reasons not to do something instead of all the reasons to do something. We pick out the negative things and all of the excuses for why we can’t do things.

      It has been really hot this week. I’m sweating in my room right now. I’ve yet to plug in my A/C and I’m happy. I honestly have very little interest in turning it on. Perhaps some of that is stubbornness and a desire to prove them wrong. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I made this decision because it’s important to me. I gave it a shot, and I realized it’s not that bad. I feel like it’s important to be a model of what’s possible amidst plenty of models of what isn’t (or what appears to be impossible). When I first started on this tangent, I was thinking that I’d probably end up deleting most of it. Who cares about me sweating in my room because I’m not using A/C? But as I arrive at the end of my rambling, I realize that it’s a key part of my motivation for taking this course. I want to be that model of what’s possible and do as good of a job as I can to inspire others to align their actions with their values. The amount of energy I’m refusing to use by not using my dinky A/C unit is pathetically small compared to global energy use. And yet, here I am, sweating in my room listening to the leaves rustle on a beautiful night because I have my windows open. I’ve been frustrated for a while by the general reluctance to take individual actions to be more sustainable. But I still struggle to explain my perspective effectively. I hope through taking this course I might figure out how.

      Anyway, useful or not, that still felt like a lot of rambling. Another motivating factor was hearing a past participant explain that by going through these 10 exercises, he feels like he now has super powers and whenever he wants to do something, he knows he can do it. I was skeptical of this, so I decided to email another past participant to hear her thoughts on if this course would be helpful for me as I search for what’s next in my life. She shared her experience completing the exercises and provided quite a powerful testimony. Ultimately, she concluded: “My guess is that if you join this next workshop series, you will feel unlocked in a way that will answer your own (big!) questions about how to prioritize what you want to do with the rest of your time on earth. Maybe you find new clarity in how you want to approach the rest of your studies, or maybe you discover a passion for a project that becomes the first chapter of a whole new career.” The possibilities she offered are very exciting and exactly what I feel like want right now.

      Still, I remain skeptical that these claims are too good to be true. There is a part of me that’s still thinking like my coworkers, seeing the reasons it won’t work instead of all the possibilities that it will work. But, I’m in it now. So I want to do my best to give the exercises the time and effort they deserve. I’ve already noticed that the “shiny objects” (all the things in life that take our attention away from what’s most important) have started to look more dull. I love cooking and baking but I realized that I was spending way more time making food than I needed. At the end of the day, I really enjoy very simple meals. I’ll still have fun in the kitchen, whipping up more intricate dishes from time to time but I can give myself SO much more time for other stuff just by being more strategic and practical in the kitchen. I’m excited to address more shiny objects that I’m not aware of yet!

      Directing my focus
      So, now to talk about the field I’m interested in focusing on. When we discussed this aspect in class, I jotted down nine things I had an interest in. Many of them are related. Some are more specific, like creating/participating in another fundraising bike/walking tour. Others are more broad, like sustainability or environmental education. The point of the course is not to engage with all the ideas we have — as amazing as they might seem — but to pick something to give our full attention to. Josh writes that it can be changed later and can be as vague as “something with people” to start. It’s also low-stakes so I needn’t worry about getting it perfect the first (or second or third) time.

      Broadly, I want to start with a focus on animal welfare. I have quite a few ideas that would make this more specific, which I’ll include below for my own reference and for anyone to share thoughts/insight on. But for now, I’ll refrain from committing to anything more specific than an interest in animal welfare. I’ll see how the next class session goes and specify (or maybe restart) from there.

      • Long-distance bike/walking tour to raise funds for effective animal welfare organization(s) like The Humane League or Mercy For Animals and bring more awareness to the suffering of animals raised for food. I could connect with people along the way, have conversations about the way animals are treated, and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and human health. I could find vegan (and non-vegan) restaurants and other businesses to support me on the journey and provide them with publicity in return. I’d want to make sure I’m learning from everyone I talk to, rather than trying to preach my own ideas. I want to understand the complexities of this issue, its relevance to all types of people from different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. I want to have conversations, not arguments.
      • Podcast similar to This Sustainable Life and Tooth and Claw where I chat with interesting guests and/or tell stories about amazing everyday animals (dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, cows, etc.). The goal would be to connect guests and listeners to animals more deeply. Create a space where we can appreciate the individuality of animals and consider how we treat them. I could guide them to making their own commitment that would bring joy to their life while also helping animals in some measurable that they choose.
      • Cooking show/blog/other project where I cook/bake fun, easy, delicious, and healthy vegan meals. I’d focus on saving money, making it tasty, and getting people excited to try eating this way. I could host a free potluck for communities once a month (an idea I’m stealing from other students).
      • Coordinating with local schools or other organizations to implement a more plant-based menu.
      • Similar, but slightly different idea: coordinating with organizations/companies to present animal welfare and/or sustainability education to students, staff, executives, etc.
      • Working with The Humane League to run protests and events in the Capital Region. This is something I’m already doing but perhaps I could expand and improve on it. Getting more people involved, making it more effective, etc. In the same vain, I’m working to gain relevant experience to set me up for a high impact career working in animal welfare, environmental protection or other fields. So, I could come up with some sort of project to achieve this goal.

      For the penultimate piece of this exercise, I need to create three lists of three people.

      Three people close to my field of interest

      1. Sydney Fox (The Humane League northeast field organizer)
      2. Sophia Balderson (Hive co-founder)
      3. Caitlin (A new friend I met through Hive who works on Capitol Hill)

      Three people with high status or value in the field

      1. Peter Singer (Philosopher and author with a focus on animal rights and practical ethics)
      2. Melanie Joy (Psychologist and author with a focus on injustice and building healthy relationships)
      3. Lewis Bollard (Open Philanthropy’s animal welfare program director)

      Three relevant role models (I’m lucky to say that my family members are probably my top role models in life but I’ll keep this specific to animal welfare)

      1. Henry Spira (early animal advocate and one of the most effective)
      2. Rich Roll (vegan athlete and podcast host — he has interesting conversations with all kinds of people and is great at asking questions)
      3. Joaquin Phoenix ( I love his oscar speech — I wish more celebrities used their platform like Joaquin)

      To bring this ship to shore, I am supposed to reflect on the value of taking an experiential, exercise-based course in acting with initiative.

      Taking a course like this is valuable to me because…

      • While I know the value of taking initiative, I haven’t mastered it in all settings, and I want to get closer to mastery.
      • I have enough knowledge of all the things I can do but not much knowledge on putting that into action. I hope this course will help me figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ll largely be learning by doing and with the support from classmates, I can work through difficulties even easier.
      • I want to do more things that intimidate and challenge me.
      • I believe it will be difficult to manage alongside work and other interests. Constraints inspire creativity, so I think if nothing else, it will make me better at managing my time and identifying priorities.
      • I’ll be completing the exercises with 5+ other students who have similar interests. I’ll make new friends and connections that will likely help me a lot in my future.

      *NOTE: I wrote and posted this on my Substack as well. I think when I copied it from there to here, the format may have gotten a little wonky.

      • #19330
        Hayden Kessinger
        Participant

        Here are my reflections on my essay:

        Was it easy to think of relevant experiences, goals, and role models? – Yes. I have a relatively clear idea of what I want to focus on and some people to learn from. However, I need to narrow my goals and take specific actions.

        Have you thought of people to share reflections with? – Yes! All of you, maybe some friends/family, and perhaps people from the community group, Hive.

        What’s the point of naming people, not positions? – This makes it real, specific, and personal. It makes that person a human being and more attainable.

        General thoughts:
        I enjoyed writing the essay. As writing often does, it helped me think through ideas and make them more real. I connected with what I think I want to get from this course: improvements in articulating the importance of individual action and mastery of taking initiative in all parts of my life. I came up with people who I can learn from and I think simply writing this essay made me take more responsibility (I reached out to more people and scheduled meetings to discuss specific things like career choice, skill-growing, volunteer events, etc.). I was able to jot down all of my ideas within animal welfare so hopefully I can narrow my focus later or lean on advice from some of you.

    • #19329
      Beth
      Participant

      Exercise 1: Personal Essay

      When Josh sent the email with the video about this course, I opened it without really expecting to sign up but I was curious and wanted to know more. Once I watched the video, I knew I wanted to take the course (I should add that my certainty was at least partially driven by having heard that it was a 10 week course. I missed the statement in the description about the 10 + 20 weeks. A lesson in paying closer attention.) So, what did the video do that rearranged my interest? Let me explain.

      I am retired.

      My prior life that included work was full and fulfilling and characterized by an unusual trajectory. In my college days I was extremely interested in chemistry, an interest that had been cultivated and nurtured by a very passionate and gifted high school chemistry teacher. That led to a bachelor’s degree in chemistry followed by doctoral work in biochemistry. I was extremely interested in the nature and chemistry of thought which led me to change to a new doctoral program in neurochemistry/neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco. That was a world of passionate, motivated and intelligent people that both inspired and challenged me. I was in my early 20’s and still figuring out how I wanted to spend this one glorious life. Understanding myself as a human animal and understanding “where thought comes from” was a driving force. While I had the gift of working with some of the most devoted and capable (and fun!) scientists in the field, I came to recognize that the physical sciences were not going to answer my most passionate questions. My curiosity moved me toward the human animal as a thinker and creator of experience.

      I went on to become licensed as a Marriage and Family therapist which is where I spent much of my professional career. During those 25 years I worked in the County Mental Health Department and in the local K-12 school district where I developed programs, directed programs, supervised contracted programs, and provided direct service to clients. During the time I worked for these institutions, I had a private practice in which I provided counseling services to children, families, and adult individuals. My private practice included consultation with law-enforcement agencies and I assisted in hostage negotiation events, officer debriefing after shootings, and at times working with the victims of crime such as bank personnel after a robbery.

      I retired from my private practice at the age of 52 and shortly thereafter received the news that my job in the school system was being discontinued. I went from having two jobs to having no job and I wasn’t a spring chicken. I had never considered a nursing career, but a family member who was a nurse suggested that my background would make nursing school an option. That suggestion and an experience with a hospice nurse at the death of a family member pushed me in that direction. Thus started my third incarnation in this lifetime. Because of my unusual background and experience, I worked as a full-time critical care nurse for 3 years before becoming a full time nursing instructor, and then tenured professor of nursing at the school I had attended. I continued working part time in critical care while teaching full time. It was from this work that I retired at the age of 64.

      I use the above to demonstrate that my life has been full of meaningful work that has most certainly required initiative and leadership but in a different way than I feel called to now. I was a part of larger systems and institutions that had infrastructure and goals and resources that were foundational to what I did and how I did it.

      I recognize that the above focuses on my professional rather than my personal life, largely because my experiences of initiative and leadership have most often occurred there. My personal life has always been permeated with my interest in how we use our thoughts to narrate meaning. Is the disappointment I just experienced taken in as a confirmation of my incapacity or as a step in the path of learning something new? How do I take responsibility for how to live together, to find a way through the storms, to solve problems, to love each other, to have fun, to grow. I am a human being that has been learning, falling in love, falling out of love, raising children, skiing, camping, having friends, all the while pondering how our chemistry and our experience are interwoven.

      So, now I am retired. I have no external structure on which to act on my own passions, the calling of my deepest heart. This is what brings me here now. This is what spoke to me in Josh’s video. I see in this class an avenue of actualizing my love and ideas in concrete ways that will increase joy in my world and in the larger world. I am in love with my family, my friends and I am in love with this beautiful, amazing planet on which we live. I want all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren to have a planet that nourishes them and brings them joy, awe, and wonder. I am committed to do what I can to help that happen.

      How can I do that with this class? I want to be an agent of love and healing. Life is relational. Everything we do is in relationship to something, our bodies, the people in our lives, the natural world. Our disconnection has wounded us. We are disconnected from ourselves, from each other and from the mother or our nature, the planet herself. Disconnection grows from and is perpetuated by our addictions; to ease, to screens, to dopamine hits, to substances, to consumption and so much more. I am passionate about being an agent of reconnection. ? I want to be a conduit of healing connection.

      I have been thinking about a project in clean up Merida since I participated in a beach clean up last year. I believe it would be a healing experience in that it would help connect us to each other and to the environment in which we live in ways that will make us better.

      Three people close to this “field” of interest:
      1. Kimmy Suki, director of Yucatan Giving Outreach who has organized a number of clean up activities in Merida.
      2. I Love Modesto (there are no names on the website so I emailed them asking for a name and contact information in order to talk to someone specifically
      3. Greg Casini – President of Merida English Library Board and entrepreneur with a lot of experience

      Three people with high status or value in this field:
      1. Ney Villamil – Regional Director Earth Day Mexico
      2. I don’t know how to determine this. I have searched the web for people involved in a larger scale doing community clean up projects but haven’t found names of people.

      Three role models:
      1. Jimmy Carter
      2. John Lewis
      3. Jim Nielsen

      I think taking this course, specifically as an experiential vs. didactic course, is valuable for several reasons. One doesn’t learn how to DO a thing by reading about a thing. One learns how to do a thing by doing the thing. I have had lots of experience with moving from the theoretical to the practical in my work world buy not in my more personal world and I think this course will help my in a step-by-step process realize my ideas. I think the group support and accountability is key. Having a weekly task helps me focus and maintain action in a time frame that keeps me moving. I am looking forward to all that I anticipate learning how to do!

      REFLECTIONS:
      This was a more difficult task than I first thought it would be. I realize it would be better to start earlier in the week with my first iteration of a task as it would give me more time to process and digest what it is I’m doing and pondering. I started on Thursday morning, which did allow some reflection time but I feel the time of letting my thoughts “percolate” is important. It took some time to move from where I have been to where I want to go, but in the end, I feel like it connected inside of me in a way that leaves me feeling more prepared now to move forward than I felt before I did the assignment.

    • #19331
      Evelyn Wallace
      Participant

      Initiative Exercise 1: Personal Essay by Evelyn Wallace

      In the summer between fifth and sixth grade, I spent a week away from home at a summer camp sponsored by the YMCA but operated by rolling generations of outdoor, dirtball, fun-loving hippy types. There was an unspoken rivalry between two popular summer camps, and I somehow ended up in the group with all the cool kids from school. (For those who know me in my present tense state of being—e.g. impeccable style, erudite yet accessible humor and of course trademark humility—you may be surprised to learn that I was not always so hip. It was actually a big effing deal that I was somehow part of the cool group during those formative summers.) Anyway, one of the important philosophical differences between the cool kid summer camp (aka CJH) and the OTHER summer camp was that CJH incorporated a cornerstone overnight backpacking trip for all campers of all skill levels. That means every single camper participated in a three-day, two-night adventure lead by a few teenagers who somehow managed to get every camper out and back safely season after season, year after year. We were rugged and responsible and proud of it.

      My experience as a camper was so influential that I decided at age 15 to return as a leader in training, and eventually as a counselor. One of the phrases CJH used a lot (like, a lot) about how to transition into a leadership role was: take initiative. Notice a camper’s sleeping bag is not gonna cut it for the cold mountain nights? Take initiative and reach out to the Adventure Program Coordinator to organize a loaner. Want to add puff paint to the arts and crafts center? Take initiative and figure out what it would take and make it happen. Camper looking kind of lonely at the weekly camp dance? Take initiative and engage with the wallflower. What I learned is that the whole magical, formative operation depended on kids (teenagers) like us springing to action without being directly asked.

      And you know what? The summers I spent at summer camp were more rewarding, more authentically satisfying than anything I’d learned at school hands down no question not even close. At school, the best I could be was like valedictorian or star in the school play or some other opportunity as defined by the adults in charge, even if some of those positions were somewhat fun. At camp, the best I could was actually be responsible for the actual safety of actual children. And not only the safety, but the fun! Because yes we were responsible to get these kids into the wilderness safely—for three days and two nights, mind you, plus the whole rest of the week back at base camp—but we were also responsible for giving these kids the best week of their lives. We took groups of kids hiking up horse-hooved, dusty inclines, slogging up seemingly endless switchbacks while carrying borrowed frame packs, borrowed sleeping bags, and wearing city sneakers that rubbed little blisters into the heels of feet, all to finally arrive at the most glorious mountain lake they’d ever seat and to eat the best peanut butter and jelly sammich they’d ever tasted. As a counselor, it was my job to help the kids find strength in themselves they didn’t know they had, and in doing so I found strength in myself I didn’t know I had. For reference, if I had done the same hike with my family, I would have been the complainiest one of the bunch.

      That’s all to say that taking a class like this taps into that same authentic sense of doing something meaningful, authentic, important, and yes, even fun that summer camp tapped into. Sure, it takes some energetic output to get anything done, but my prior experience with these Initiative exercises taught me that whatever work I put into whatever project I land on will be as rewarding as my experience as a camp counselor. And I can’t wait to see what shape that takes this time around.

      My Field of Interest: Community organizing, edutainment creators

      1. Three people closer to my field of interest (app for music might include app designers, musicians, friends with lots of music apps, etc.)
      a. Stephen Broyles (social worker/ community organizing pro)
      b. Jeff Forbes (local media/ tech friend)
      c. Adam Conover (from Adam Ruins Everything; he knows how to research bummer subjects and turn them into something funny)

      2. Three people with high status or value in field:
      a. Barack Obama (community organizing is where he got his start, right?)
      b. KRS-One (through his hip-hop rapping/ music but also his Temple of Hip Hop spiritual guidance)
      c. John Oliver (Last Week Tonight)

      3. Three relevant role models:
      a. Adam McKay (he produces edutaining content)
      b. Lisa Ladendorff (she founded a local organization NEON and knows how to get the funding to do the things)
      c. Gloria Allred (dude, she got stuff DONE when the world was against her. Single mama domestic violence survivor putting herself through law school and eventually doing work like prosecuting Bill Cosby? Sign me up)

    • #19334
      Joe Spradley
      Participant

      The Value in Taking Initiative

      Initiative is often the catalyst for personal and professional growth. Reflecting on my journey, I recognize that taking initiative has led to profound learning experiences, from starting a popsicle business to transitioning into the tech industry, and eventually finding my passion in game development and movement leadership. This essay explores these experiences and the lessons learned from them.

      In the first 30 years of my life, I had a few different “jobs” — working at the local golf course, doing student work-study in college, even volunteering as a librarian. However, it wasn’t until starting my own business that I really started learning bigger lessons. My first business was with a high school friend whom I reconnected with right out of college.

      We sold handmade popsicles. Despite the initial excitement, I quickly realized that making and selling popsicles was not my true calling. This venture taught me valuable lessons about the risks of working with friends, the importance of market knowledge, and the challenges of creating a product that stands out. Most importantly, making mobile desserts led me back to what I actually studied in college and had a much greater passion for: mobile games.

      Before starting my next business, I started and ended my career in game development. It wasn’t very long, but after being fired from two out of three roles, I really did some soul searching and took a break. Luckily, I had just become certified as a Pilates teacher and had moved back to my hometown of Nashville, so I had some time to consider my next move. This was right around 2019 when the book “Initiative” was first released. I had met Josh a couple of years earlier (in the DPRK) and I believe I was one of the first people to get a copy. To add to the serendipity, Chris, the professor cited in the example right before Exercise 1, had been one of my favorite teachers at USC—so I felt this was the trail of breadcrumbs I needed to follow.

      I realized that helping others move better through tech resonated more with my intrinsic motivations. However, I made mistakes by forcing solutions to problems I didn’t fully understand. I spent considerable resources without seeing the desired outcomes, leading to personal and professional upheaval. This period taught me the importance of starting fresh, aligning with true passions, and building credibility and understanding before taking significant steps.

      I gained a lot of value from teaching classes of 5 to 6 people, but I really wanted the whole world to learn about Pilates. This is where I think I screwed up and never made it through all the steps of “Initiative.” I had to pivot multiple times because the Venn diagram of people interested in Pilates and Interactive Technology was pretty much just me. I kept trying to force a solution for a problem that didn’t exist, and when I eventually switched to the physical therapy market, I didn’t have enough credibility or understanding. I thought I was doing everything right by following the book but ended up spending a lot of my own money, recruiting a team, and expecting direction to come from a market that didn’t exist. Instead of starting over, I kept trying to shift the solution to fit somewhere. I ended up so far afield that what I was doing didn’t even connect with my intrinsic motivations to help people move better with tech.

      Luckily, my relationship fell apart, my parents divorced, and I moved back to Southern California. Even then, instead of starting at the beginning, I hoped to find a better dog show and get VC funding! Despite these setbacks, I reconnected with my original motivations. I realized that my true passion lies in leading others and helping movement leaders organize and change their culture. This newfound clarity, combined with a deeper awareness of my own dharma, has given me the dedication to do things right from start to finish.

      Current Focus and Future Goals:

      Yet, I still wasn’t jumping out of bed with enthusiasm. So I reached back out to Josh, and here I am looking to go back to the beginning and hone something into a true passion that the world needs from me this time. I have a more committed partnership, and commitment to do this right from start to finish. Whereas before my interest was in leading others to move better, my new aim is to support movement leaders, organize community initiatives, and drive cultural change. This aligns with my broader goals of sustainability, mindfulness, and living joyfully.

      Taking initiative has been a journey of learning, growth, and self-discovery. From early entrepreneurial ventures to professional setbacks and rediscovering my true passions, each step has taught me valuable lessons. As I move forward, I am committed to leveraging these experiences to make a meaningful impact, both in my personal life and in the broader community. Initiative is not just about starting projects; it’s about continuous learning, adapting, and aligning with one’s true purpose.

      Three People Close to This “Field” of Interest:

      1.Joshua Spodek: Author of “Initiative,” Leader in Environmental Sustainability
      2.Cory Bryant: Nashville based Yoga teacher, mentor
      3.Morgan (my partner): cofounder of my web development agency who shares my values and goals.

      Three People with High Status or Value in This Field:

      1.Simon Sinek: Renowned author and motivational speaker known for his work on leadership and the importance of starting with “Why.”
      2.Brené Brown: Researcher and author who explores themes of vulnerability, courage, and leadership.
      3.Jane McGonigal: Author and thought leader on how using game design can improve lives.

      Role Models:

      1. Seth Godin
      2. Marie Kondo
      3. Steve Beshara

    • #19335
      Eunnye
      Participant

      Food scrap backyard composting has been one of my activities to teach community, youth and whenever I can since 2018. I am always excited to act on when I can reduce landfills.

      During last Summer staying in Alpine, NJ not able to find a compost drop off location, I discussed with local parents and I volunteered to initiate a workshop to form youths to learn the value of sustainable living through composting. Now, they have a compost site at the community garden, and three teams of volunteers are rotating to process the materials. This was an accomplishment.

      A couple of months though, I noticed an important missing piece in the current system. I realized students are banking their volunteering hours to collect prizes by their parents’ recommendations and not able to fully understand the bigger picture of being part of the solution to sustainable living. Their interests are weighed on more to get credits and recognition and instead of gathering their own brown materials purchasing mulch to add on.

      I found myself once again frustrated, uncomfortable wanting to find a solution. I suggested to two local parents whom I am close to that I would reengage volunteering. I strongly felt they need Spodek Method one on one practice to connect with their intrinsic motivations and go beyond and joyfully compost and be able to teach others. I travel this Sunday in Fort Lee to meet youths and parents to start.

    • #19336
      Jim Jenkins
      Participant

      INITIATIVE ESSAY, JIM JENKINS 2024-07

      Who am I? Initiative-entrepreneurship-responsibility

      A crusader for just causes, a do gooder, someone who is known for smuggling lost dogs into my University dorm on a very cold night to keep them warm and who is willing to ‘do the right thing’ even though it may create professional strife for me.

      I’m determined, structured, an analytical thinker and logical in achieving goals, with an eye for innovative ideas that moves a purpose or objective forward to make things work better. These traits and my science background makes me a great problem solver; gather relevant information; engage others, look at the broader system, analyze the situation, develop options, try a few things out, plan and execute.

      A considerable amount of my professional work has had to do with identifying problems and influencing change. I prefer to work within the existing system and structure to influence positive change but am also a provoker if I need to be. It is important to me to understand the vision of where we are trying to get to in an initiative. Once I have that, and decide it is a worthy cause, I am usually able to marshal a considerable amount of intrinsic motivation to engage and inspire others to invest time to turn intent into action.

      I see taking responsibility as a hallmark of ‘good leadership by example’. The quote on my Linkedin in page comes from Robert Swan, ‘The biggest threat to the planet is thinking that someone else is going to save it’. Sometimes I take on too much responsibility that ends up diluting my effort or overall outcome. This is something I’m working on to be more selective about the responsibilities that fit the priorities that mean the most to me, don’t let people put their monkey’s on your back. Often enough, I take on extra responsibility on purpose to get my foot in the door on an issue of concern to me or to challenge myself in a new area. It’s that motivation thing again.

      I don’t really think of myself as much of an entrepreneur but I do think I need to become better at it and understanding how they think. Why? because entrepreneurs think differently and it likely has a lot to do with where I’m taking my career next and the cross collaboration I think is needed between communities, commercial enterprises, entrepreneurs….

      Why am I telling you all this?

      Planetary sustainability is about the biggest problem that modern society has ever faced. It is different from most other problems we’ve faced in our current social construct. That means we need to think differently to solve these ‘new’ problems with different solutions. For the most part, so far we’ve been using traditional thinking to solve these new problems. That gets us some incremental improvement, NOT ENOUGH. To borrow a book title from a very famous leadership coach, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.

      I believe I have a lot of transferrable skills and enthusiasm I can bring to bear to create new thinking and outcomes. But, I realize I have to learn new things and change my own thinking or I’ll just be part of the problem. I started a career pivot toward sustainability about 3 years ago. No one asked me to within my company, it was just the right thing to do. Today I estimate 80% of my role has a direct link to sustainability. Some of that is skunk works but so what, you have to start somewhere. Skunk works can turn into something.

      Thoughts on questions:

      What motivated you to learn initiative? What do you hope or expect to come from learning initiative? Strengthen my initiative skills, and broaden my perspective. I have a pretty good plan on where I’m intending to go. I recognize the value of this course as a practice field and structure to aid in getting me where I want to go faster.

      What do you think about taking responsibility, taking initiative, solving problems, and creating projects? Familiar territory for me.

      What are your models for how taking initiative and entrepreneurship work? Collaborative model, you can’t do it all yourself, remember to ask for help, define your desired outcome and your vision of the future and make space for others to share in that vision, build in independent feedback mechanisms into your plan to identify blind spots.

      What has worked for you so far in creating projects? Structure: thoughtful reflection, Clear goals, purpose, meaningful outcome, anticipated problems. What hasn’t? ad hoc, make it up as you go.

      Where do you want to take initiative? To business, your social life, family, yourself? Use it to enact my next career chapter to establish myself as a Known Authority in creating positive sustainability thinking and change.

      What is your relevant history of taking initiative, if any? This can be your first memories, other relevant memories, and so on. For example, current active work projects I took the initiative to define and start.

      Green Products assessment and improvement approach

      Product Chemical Risk Management profiles (sustainability footprints)

      Community ecosystem sanctuary development

      What is the value in taking a course like this? After writing your essay, I recommend sleeping on it, rereading it, and editing it before moving on. Ok, I slept on it. See above but I also expect there will be additional value discovered that I can’t see yet.

      My field of interest: Positive sustainability mindset change leadership that turns intent into action

      The three lists of three people:

      1. Name three people closer to your field of interest:

      Per Espen Stoknes, psychologist and economist

      Eva Gladek, founder of Metabolic, Eva Gladek has a compelling drive to change the way our economy functions. Her passion and determination to shape a sustainable future has led her to work with organizations in nearly every economic sector, from progressive cities and NGOs, to industry leaders.

      2. Name three people with high status or value in your field:

      Chistiana Fugue

      Christiana Figueres – Co-Founder, Global Optimism

      Figueres is an internationally recognized leader on climate action. As Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, she steered the global diplomatic effort that culminated in the 2015 Paris Agreement

      Sally Uren

      Sally Uren, a global expert on sustainable development, has spent the past two decades developing and delivering sustainability strategies. Renowned for her role as the CEO of Forum for the Future, Sally is on a mission to accelerate progress toward a sustainable future – which she aims to do by catalysing transformational change on a global scale.

      Ganesh Shankar –

      Water security, safety and conservation are all issues that are becoming increasingly pressing, which is why it is a focus for Shankar. He is the Founder of FluxGen Technologies, which has the goal of de-risking industries from water crisis, and The Sustainability Mafia, an organization aiming to multiply the impact of sustainability leaders through goal-oriented collaboration

      3. Name three relevant role models: These three can be people who are living or historical. For all three lists, name people, not positions like the CEO of some company. After you make these lists,

      Marshall Goldsmith, Leadership Coach, mindset changes.

      Simon Sinek, English-American author and inspirational speaker, positive thinking, leadership

      Ken Webster (UK) is a leading thinker in the circular economy field. Ken is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost thinkers in the field. From 2010 – 2018, Ken was Head of Innovation for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, shaping current concepts of a ‘circular economy’.. Ken also co-wrote several books including Sense and Susta

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