Initiative: Exclusive Excerpt from Columbia Career Coach's New Book

Joshua Spodek '93CC, '96, '99GSAS, '06BUS
June 07, 2019

In celebration of the launch of his new book, Initiative, Columbia Career Coach Joshua Spodek shares an exclusive excerpt about his "Method Initiative" with The Low Down.

Curious about what the Method Initiative is exactly? Find Spodek's book on Amazon or Indiebound, and visit his website to learn more about him.


The media and academics prognosticate that jobs of tomorrow don't exist, trying to scare us into thinking we aren't prepared and can't prepare. They suggest that artificial intelligence and robots will make our jobs obsolete. They say we are becoming increasingly isolated.

You've read the articles. In a typical example, The Guardian states that, "experts now predict that a tipping point in robotic deployments is imminent—and that much of the developed world simply isn’t prepared for such a radical transition. . . Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They’re not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years."

Method Initiative suggests otherwise.

These doomsayers base their views on an outdated view of work, jobs, and relationships. Sadly, they lead people to continue seeking income by sending résumés and hoping to find jobs instead of creating them. Looking for work that way is saying, "please pay me, I'll do anything you ask"—not particularly dignified, if you ask me, nor likely to lead to meaningful work.

If you don't create opportunities, what can you do but accept what the employer offers?

You don't have to accept that model. Here's another:

  1. There's you.
  2. There's what you need and want to live—food, water, shelter, money, furniture, appliances, internet connections, love, support, and so on.
  3. Between you and these resources are people who control access to them.
  4. If you behave and communicate in ways that they want to reciprocate and reward you, they will.

Method Initiative teaches you to behave and communicate those ways.

Increased automation improves a Method Initiator's situation. You can choose what communities you want to work with by choosing what problems to solve. Less menial work means more social interaction, where Method skills shine. Automation enables you to base your projects on human connection.

No matter what fields are automated, a Method Initiator lacking resources can find people with them, identify their problems, help solve them, and receive access to the resources.

More technology improves a Method Initiator's situation too. Many people worry that tech jobs require training and become obsolete increasingly fast. But tech work has always and will always require leadership, management, and vision that tech workers tend to lack.

Tech people tend to work in solution space, putting technology before people. Method Initiators tend to work in the problem space. We work with people to solve their problems. When new technologies enable new solutions, we use them. It helps to know how the technologies work, but we can just as well involve tech workers in the process.

Since Method Initiators and tech workers work in complementary spaces, they don't compete. Method Initiators want more tech workers. We welcome their growth, not fear it. Tech workers become another circle in the visual model of exercises 7 and 8. Method Initiative skills bring meaning, value, and purpose to technology.

Method Initiative leads you to see people's problems as opportunities to help them so that they reward you. Helping people with greater resources usually means greater reward per person helped. Helping people with lesser resources usually means you help more people. Resources can be material, like food and money, or not, like connections to others or emotional support.

As I see it, teaching Method Initiative helps society redistribute resources voluntarily and mutually beneficially. If you lack a resource others have, you can initiate ways to help them.

Initiators who see people as people first—not as labels or positions on an organization chart, as job seekers tend to—have always and will always find ways to help people enough that they reward us back. We enjoy the process because almost nothing inspires like helping others so much that they reward you for it.

That's why many successful initiators leave school before finishing. When you know you can help people enough that they'll reward you and you'll enjoy doing it, learning more facts, taking more tests, and writing more papers holds you back. Anyone who likes learning can always do so, which they'll do out of desire, not coercion.

Method Living

The same way Method Initiative brings people together at work to cooperate and collaborate on passions, not just transactions, it does so in the rest of life. It replaces isolation and alienation with support and understanding.

Living by Method principles, Method Living, makes life about people—empathy, compassion, service, action, listening, understanding, making other feel understood, and so on.

Method Initiative and Education

I've taught Method Initiative to students as young as high school. They loved it, saying things like “During the beginning of this course I didn’t really believe that I could be able to come up with a good idea that I might be able to take to market. I didn’t know that so many good ideas just occurred to everyone so often and that really gave me inspiration and resolve to just work on my idea even harder.” You saw how it led to them tackling challenging issues in the finance exercise. What people who haven't done Method Initiative expect to be the hardest becomes the most engaging when acting on your own initiative, not out of coercion. Teens aren't too young nor is any age too old.

I've often said and hold that if this course and my leadership course had been available I would have taken them instead of business school, and Columbia's was a top five program at the time. Business school and their networks may be the best resource for people going into banking, consulting, or multinational corporate work, but for anything else, the ability to initiate a project and lead it creates a more fulfilling life of service, more security, and more meaningful relationships. Learning it takes a lot less time and resources.

(I often describe my courses as the fastest, cheapest way to get an MBA—start a project, grow it, lead it to where you need the professional services of an MBA, and hire one. There's your MBA! He or she will likely appreciate your hiring him or her for likely having created more interesting work and creating more meaning, value, importance, purpose, and passion than most business school types.)

Beyond people using this book to learn and practice Method Initiative for themselves, I hope teachers and parents us it to teach the next generation to look forward to change with confidence and enthusiasm. Other programs I've seen seem relatively contrived instead of based on what successful initiators do, jargon-filled, less personal, and more aimed at transactions than relationships, meaning, purpose, and passion.

Students whose class projects take off have asked me advice on leaving school to run them. I suggest they get that advice from their parents, but whatever their choice, having the option improves their lives. If they stay, they will stay to enjoy school more, learn more, and participate in extracurriculars more. They'll learn because they want to, not out of fear or coercion.

Isn't that what we want for ourselves and our children—the ability, desire, and skills to serve others while enjoying life themselves, creating meaning, value, importance, purpose, and passion?

All it takes is practice.

Image courtesy of Joshua Spodek.

Spodek, bestselling author of Leadership Step by Step, coaches executives, entrepreneurs, and rising leaders, with over a decade of experience coaching and over two decades of leadership and entrepreneurial experience. He is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU, leadership coach for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., and founder of He leads keynote talks and workshops in leadership, entrepreneurship, and creativity. He holds five Ivy League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel Prize winner. He co-founded and led as CEO or COO several ventures and holds six patents. Learn more about Spodek and the rest of the Columbia Career Coaches Network.


Spodek also shared a sneak peek of Initiative back in February, ahead of its launch. Read it here.