My second episode with guest Dan McPherson of Leaders Must Lead on race. Probably one more after this one. Say someone doesn't know something about race but wants to. If that person sees others talking about the subject get chastised and even fired, how can that person learn? If anything, won't they learn not to ask? If so, won't they remain ignorant? Doesn't ignorance contribute to racism. Dan and I discuss these questions and more. He shares some surprising personal stories of being attacked and more, as do I.
Following up my conversations on sex, drugs, and rock & roll with Dov, previous podcast guest Dan McPherson of Leaders Must Lead and I talk about race. We start be reviewing our relationship and why we chose to record a conversation on race. We then talk about risks for white people talking publicly about race, even innocent topics everybody would value being covered. Frankly, I feel vulnerable and scared talking about my personal experience in our current climate. Then how when I hear whites describe their experiences regarding race, they sound foreign. Often the stories of people of color sound like mine. Once in my life did I hear a white person's situation sound familiar to mine, a couple months ago. We talk about why the term fragility doesn't seem to apply. Then we mostly flow about talking about our experiences regarding race.
Dov and I started by talking about experiencing fun for the first time. I'm not the most fun person ever but a lot more now than before. He handled context that kept me from recording before despite knowing I wanted to. By context I mean legality, framing, and things that if you don't cover it's just talking about drugs, not life. I shared a few stories showing how I integrated the social skills the MDMA experience helped prompt, which leadership work eventually complemented and augmented when I went to business school. But the deep part of this episode is my sharing my experiences of powerlessness as a man compared to women, as well as the stories of few men who experienced similar situations that suggest to me my situation isn't rare. Note that I don't describe problems with women but a system and culture that says hashtag believe women without accountability or equality. My leadership work has been leading me to become famous but I've been afraid to get past a certain level for fear of one of the stories I tell in this episode. I had to share this to liberate myself from that fear. Again, I'm not afraid of the truth, nor of women, but of an unfair system and, for that matter, a culture that is predisposed to silence me in this area. Since recording I found some old emails from her. She found my girlfriend, I don't know how. She found postings of mine and tried to out my anonymous identity as an attraction coach, she included a picture of me with my girlfriend in an email to me, I think implying she knew things about me I hadn't told her and could act on them. One of her last emails to me listed things she wanted me to know and said "and you really don't know what I can do", which to this day I take seriously. I've held a lot of this stuff inside since the mid-90s---the experience with the woman in grad school, the late 90s my experiences with ecstasy, the late 2000s learning attraction and seduction, and the mid-2010s seeing the unaccountable power society gave a woman should she choose to act on it. But my practice is openness, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, sharing your whole self, and integration. Not sharing the experiences in this episode held me from my potential. My leadership work is about helping people improve their relationships with themselves and people they care about. I find they work best when I don't hold part of myself back, especially the most important parts, or separate parts of myself. Sharing this stuff has been a new beginning---no longer censoring myself out of fear of hashtag movements silencing my voice and experience. I'm moving to stop holding back experiences I found most developmental. EDIT: After recording this episode I shared the story with my mom. After she heard me describe the stories with women, she told me that the woman emailed her! In this case, she seems to have a lot more power. If a man wrote "You don't know what I can do" or contacted a woman's mother, he could end up in jail. If a man complains, many people will ask what he did to deserve it. Again, my issue is with a culture, not truth or women in general. Sharing these stories has opened me to share and has given me courage to act despite the fear.
Here are the notes for the introduction I read for this episode: This episode covers a few big experiences that led to my dedication and intensity, starting from sports, my relationship with my father, acting lessons, and various highs and lows. The intriguing stuff about drugs comes about two-thirds through. Since recording this episode, I've asked a bunch of people their thoughts on sharing about taking them. I guess I'm behind the times that I still think sharing doing something illegal was a problem, but everyone talks about how normal it is to talk about, citing Michael Pollan, Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Snoop Dogg, and so on. What's wrong with our laws that they're this out of touch with society? Dov starts asking me about my childhood, when I always felt on the outside looking in, wanting to hear from others what to like. Early sports teammates led to a couple experiences that led to my dedication to sport and life, learning not to skip games or practice. Not getting playing time in a big game led me to taking competition seriously. eventually evolving to top of some fields but still never developed killer instinct. We covered my relationship with my father guiding my leadership direction to compassion, empathy, making someone feel understood, and support. I share why I love teaching and coaching leadership, at least some reasons. Anyway, the experience of connection from ecstasy predicated and enabled my leadership of connection, empathy, understanding, and other social and emotional skills. Dov nailed at the end how important feeling understood and making others feel understood is to me, as rarely feeling understood. We covered how meaningful in my coaching practice I find it that clients regularly tell me that people they lead cry tears of gratitude, saying no one has listened to them so much and made them feel so understood so that they could at last devote themselves without inhibition to act with passion. I reiterate that despite the hundreds of people I've taught to lead this way, no one has devoted themselves to lead me this way or to make me feel understood, despite my telling them that simply doing the exercises in my book verbatim will do it. I'm sad to say, not my family, friends, managers, girlfriends, . . . no one. I don't know what's wrong. Anyway, back to this episode, I finally started entering the inside crowd in New York City clubs, though also playing ultimate. After decades, I started replacing insecurity and tentativeness with security and confidence. Ultimately, my experience with ecstasy revealed to me emotional intensity I from then on knew I could recreate if I tried, as could anyone. But all of what I shared so far, what I felt until this point of speaking with Dov made me fear opening up. It all just allowed me to surface the real source of my fear -- being a victim of what could only be called sexual assault, knowing other men who were victims of sexual assault, and the fear of mainstream society. To clarify, I'm not afraid of the truth, but I'm afraid of hashtag movements that, well . . . I asked Dov for another episode, so you'll have to wait for it to find out my greater fears.
For background, first listen to my first Sex, Drug, and Rock and Roll episode, part 1: Rock and Roll, how Bruce Springsteen's Broadway show motivated me at last to share some episodes about me. Listeners have asked to know me. I tried to put myself in the background, considering leadership and nature the important parts of the podcast, as well as the guests. Bruce sharing personal stories showed me the value of sharing, in his case about the man behind the music and in mine the man behind the podcast. In that episode, I committed to sharing more about myself and sank my ships, so, like Cortes, I couldn't retreat. Still, weeks passed without sharing. I shared my fear to act with leadership guru and past guest, Dov Baron. I talk about his episodes possibly most for his committing so fully. He said: "Here's the solution: I'm going to interview you as a guest on your podcast." I immediately saw he had the solution. Since seeing James Lipton being a guest on his show Inside the Actors Studio, I'd thought of copying the idea. I knew Dov would guest-host perfectly for why I loved him as a guest. Today's episode is the first of three episodes he interviewed me for, each delving into parts of me I've feared sharing publicly. I think you'll enjoy them. Within the first few minutes, he asked what politically incorrect views I held and what people misunderstood about me. Dov led me to share without my usual evaluating my words while saying them when talking about sensitive subjects. He spoke supportively, sharing about himself and giving views that enabled me to share what I usually protect. Only in the third episode do we reach my most poignant fears, but Dov laid the foundations in these first few minutes. This first episode is about my relationships with women, which I worked to change late in life in a deliberate, non-mainstream way. We cover how little intimacy I felt with them in my first few decades, then how my learning about vulnerability and support led to blossoming of relationships in all parts of life. My working on relationships with women contributed more to my leadership development than probably business school, where I took classes from top professors at one of the top schools for the field in the world. I talk about how following mainstream advice and learning from women led me to feel shame and hide my most important parts. I also talk about how I feared mainstream views about how I overcame prejudices that came from mainstream society, since I overcame them through what the mainstream called misogynist. They call it pick-up artistry, but my experience, starting late in life, nearly 40, was the opposite of the common caricature. On the contrary, I first learned to open up with women, then with everyone---family, coworkers, everyone I met. I'm still often socially awkward and restrained, but less than before. This first conversation with Dov is my first foray into conquering fears that people could hurt me, but also realizing it wasn't me they'd attack, but their misunderstanding of me. Listen to all three episodes to get the full picture. I thought the fears I mention in this episode were my big ones, but they actually set the stage for the ones in the third. I can't express my gratitude enough to Dov. I alternate between finding this episode cathartic from sharing deep, important things and obvious, like doesn't everyone have rites of passage. In any case, I feel liberated from having to hide these things. I'm also disappointed that I live in a world that demeans what led to some of the most important growth in my life while supporting what actually led to me being withdrawn while feeling full of myself. Relistening to the episode, I could sense a new beginning. I could sense fading the fears in the puritanical culture of people attacking me. But now I feel strengthened to continue being myself despite the fact that they get parades and I don't, that people celebrate their sexuality while they suppress mine. Still, the next two episodes go further.
Growing up in Philadelphia in the 70s meant Bruce Springsteen was a part of my life. I’ll always remember a fan in a promotional radio b-roll clip from one of the classic rock stations saying excitedly, definitively, “He’s the best, he’s Bruce. . . He’s the Boss!” One of the earliest albums I bought was Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. My high school girlfriend’s older brother saw every show of his he could. I loved the Beatles most as a kid, but I’ve come to appreciate Bruce more over the years. I don’t know anyone else who does anything like him, so raw, open, and honest, yet able to fill stadiums for weeks on end—not in music anyway. Maybe Muhammad Ali. If Woody Allen kept making movies at the Annie Hall level? Fellini? Malcolm X? I’m sure there are others that did the same but didn’t speak to me as personally. Billy Holiday? I didn’t know his show Springsteen on Broadway was on TV. I watched it and couldn’t believe what I saw—how touching, personal, and meaningful a rock star could make a show. He spoke and sang so personally, the performance defied what I could imagine anyone expecting. The New York Times review, ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ Reveals the Artist, Real and Intense, described it well so I won’t try. Besides, you can watch it. Wikipedia summarized critical reactions: The New York Times said “as portraits of artists go, there may never have been anything as real—and beautiful—on Broadway”. Rolling Stone noted “it is one of the most compelling and profound shows by a rock musician in recent memory”. The Guardian observed “there’s a fragility and a new light cast on the songs and his relationship with Scialfa, as if he stands in her emotional shadow”. Variety reported the show “is as much a self-made monument to its master’s vision and hurricane-force ambition as it is to his life and career, and it bears the mark of a self-made man who’ll write his own history”. On June 10, 2018, Springsteen received a special Tony Award for Springsteen on Broadway. In his words: I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work. All of it together is in pursuit of my constant goal to provide an entertaining evening and to communicate something of value. Inspiration Why the title of this blog post: The Joshua Spodek Show? I’m writing in the throes of inspiration to stop holding back important parts of my life. People keep asking more about me, what motivates me so much to what they see as extreme, but seems normal to me. My paychecks from NYU and the corporate world kept me from sharing about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Meanwhile, the more I shared, in drips and drabs, the more people appreciated what I shared. Sharing intimate parts of my life led to more coaching clients seeking more rebirth and growth. I haven’t considered these hidden parts meaningful since I thought everyone lived their versions, but I loved hearing Bruce share his on Broadway and realized I loved hearing him share himself his whole life. Meanwhile, the virus decimated my speaking and workshop business despite it revealing the world’s catastrophic lack of environmental leadership. NYU’s culture of academic, theoretical, compliance-based education increasingly clashes with my active, experiential, project-based way of teaching they give lip service to but don’t practice. What have I got to lose? Restoring nature requires change on his scale. Can I do it? I don’t know, but not by holding back. Last year a couple volunteers who helped with my podcast persuaded me to change the podcast name to the Joshua Spodek Show. I held back because I considered the overlapping topics of leadership and the environment the foreground and myself the background. For that matter, I sat down years ago to tell my mom, sister, and others close to me about my partying, the girls, and how influential they were in making me me. Nobody had a problem. I still held back. Springsteen on Broadway led me to say fuck it and share myself. I’ll follow the advice of people who believed in me and the mission that’s swept me up and change the podcast name. I have to figure out how in WordPress and the podcast hosting site so it might take a while. I’m not sure if I’ll try to figure out how to start or just dive in and scuttle my ships like Cortes. I hope I don’t fuck up. Wish me luck. Here's the Risky Business scene on video.