Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work)
Even (especially) if you don’t know yours yet
I felt trapped as I approached graduation. My advanced degrees led me to ask what I could do with them. They narrowed my options.
Wait. Isn’t narrowing options the opposite of what education is for?
Initiative will show you why your education likely did the same to you and why organizations claiming to promote entrepreneurship—like Shark Tank, media treating entrepreneurs like rock stars, and business plan competitions—discourage people taking initiative. Entrepreneurial activity is lower now than in generations.
Initiative then shows a way out: how to create in your life the success of hundreds of clients and students of a variety of ages, cultures, and interests. Its exercises work.
Initiative shares stories of people who started, often with no ideas, to develop projects they loved and others rewarded them for.
Initiative goes beyond “just” entrepreneurship. You can apply it to start for-profits, not-for-profits, community organizations, hobbies, or anything that takes initiative.
You can use it to gain responsibilities at your current job, get promoted, and get job offers.
You will unearth passions you forgot you had.
You will meet and lead valuable people in any field to see you as a peer and support you.
You will only wish you started earlier.
For projects begun from Initiative‘s exercises, results include
- One participant became a Y Combinator company
- Coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Forbes, Inc, TechCrunch, etc
- One gave a TEDx talk on his project
- One spoke at Harvard on her project
- Funding from Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Eric Schmidt
- One led a team of medical engineers (while she was an undergraduate)
- One was named a Dalai Lama fellow
- Plenty of others have gotten funding, promotions, jobs, etc
Jonathan from Chapter 1 shares his experience:
Here is a Wall Street Journal article about his project: For Struggling Consumers, a Cheaper Way to File for Bankruptcy (and without the paywall).
An Initiators’ Roundtable
RJ, Grace, and Nikita from the book and three others share their experiences:
An interview with Dan, who did the exercises from the book
Whether leading or following, you need to read Initiative. I have long yearned for such a book—the most clear and persuasive on personal development and leadership I’ve found in 60 years of adulthood. Spodek’s focus on initiative and reflection matches what I found important serving in and leading organizations from a few people to over 15,000 Marines and Sailors. He illustrates key ideas with meaningful examples and helpful practical exercises. It’s lucid, succinct, easy to read, and deeply profound. It has earned a prominent place in my library.
— Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, US Marine Corps (Retired)
The disease is helplessness and inaction, and Joshua Spodek has the cure: Initiative. By taking initiative, we can connect with our passions and with people who can nurture those passions into actionable ideas that make money, create happiness, or maybe even change the world. Spodek starts off with some hard truths about today’s business environment, then follows up with the Method Initiative, a series of exercises that will help you identify your interests and create those connections that lead to success.
— Daniel Pink, author of When and Drive
Joshua Spodek’s Initiative enables everyone to imagine more and to do more through simple, effective exercises, illustrated with profiles of people who did them. Imagination spurts action that leads to change, and Initiative helps point the way with systems in government, education and business.
— Beth Comstock, author of Imagine It Forward
Many congratulations to Josh Spodek for Initiative! I loved his comparison of Shark Tank to the dog show. The common “wisdom” of expecting passion to automatically lead to action only works if you’re amazingly lucky. Initiative gives you a powerful toolkit to explore your interests and passions and create what makes you excited to work – how to make your own luck. No more Monday morning blues. If you work through the exercises here, you’ll stop saying “somebody should fix that” and become the one who does, to the world’s benefit, and especially your own.
— Alan Iny, Global Leader, Creativity and Scenarios, Boston Consulting Group and co-author of Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity
Joshua Spodek restores the humanity, soul, and passion to the entrepreneurial spirit that built our nation. With simple steps and diverse stories, Initiative walks you through finding your passion and bringing it to life with confidence.
— Frances Hesselbein, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, president and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute
If you’ve ever wanted to start a project but weren’t sure how, Initiative is the missing piece. With effective, step-by-step exercises and engaging real-life stories, this book will show you how to become someone who can start projects you love from scratch.
— Dorie Clark, Duke University Fuqua School of Business professor and author of Entrepreneurial You and Stand Out
I’ve led clients and students through the book’s exercises from gray-haired executives and entrepreneurs who have sold their businesses to high school students, about 50/50 male/female, from all over the world, with interests from STEM to business to fashion to education and so on.
Here are some reviews from NYU students, though reviews from professionals look similar:
“This is one of the greatest classes I have ever taken. It was engaging, thought provoking, challenging, and fun. Josh is an incredible teacher, mentor, and friend to everyone in the class who is passionate about the subject matter. If I could take this class all over again, I would”
“10/10 would take again! I loved every second of this class, but what’s cooler, is that I think I may have loved the homework even more.”
“As a senior, this was the first course that challenged me, asking me to think outside my comfort zones. Yet, it is also where I developed a strong network of supporters through group projects.”
“Message for future students: Take the course seriously. Take advantage of every aspect of the course. In my seven semesters at NYU, it’s easily been one of the most valuable courses I’ve taken; please give it the time it deserves. Don’t be scared to reach out to people, anyone at all, for advice. The worst they can say is no and the best is invaluable.”
“Take the course! As a senior, I think it’s incredibly necessary for students to be equipped with some business knowledge before going into the ‘real world.’ Furthermore, the class taught me how to create sustainable solutions to remedy problems I’m passionate about. I’m incredibly grateful for the business and social tools I gained from this course.”
“This class was one of those “life classes” where everything you learn is really applicable to your everyday life. It wasn’t like all of the math classes I took throughout my years of schooling where I rarely saw any real life application. The five themes especially, are extraordinarily important to your daily life. They are helpful to more than just entrepreneurship. They can be used in almost all of my dealings in life. That is when you know a class is valuable and the knowledge gained is important. I now can see the importance of asking for advice. The humility that comes with it is so important in all of my dealings. There is so much benefit to improving ideas and being flexible. If you aren’t flexible in life, I believe you will have a much harder time succeeding in whatever you are trying to do. If you work to improve your skills, expand your strengths, and minimize your weaknesses, you will find more success. Great ideas come ALL THE TIME. You just have to be open minded and flexible to them. Work on them, and when the going gets tough, work even harder to see if you can find a solution.”
“I cannot even begin to express how much I have enjoyed this course. It is by far the best class I have taken while at NYU. Thank you, Josh, for your time, wisdom, and passion. It made an incredible impact on my life.”
Read more reviews here.
Focus on RJ
A behind-the-scenes conversation on creating the book
Here are the highlights from a podcast interview describing the book, how it came about, and more from behind the scenes.