Joshua Spodek’s (PhD MBA) book, Leadership Step by Step, launches in February. He is an adjunct professor and coach of leadership and entrepreneurship at NYU and Columbia. His courses are available online at and he blogs daily at

People look at my bio or hear about the things I do and ask how I do them — visiting North Korea (twice), running marathons, working with Nobel Prize winners, getting a PhD, getting an MBA, starting companies, and so on.

I finally figured out the answer.

Here’s how I do all those things: I do them.

That’s it. If you want to go to to North Korea, here’s how you do it: Go to North Korea. There’s no mystery.

Want to do 75,000 burpees? Here’s how: do 75,000 burpees. No mystery. You start with one, then the second, and so on. If you have to take a break, take a break and start later. It took me five years.

Want a PhD? Here’s what I did: I learned a subject enough to get into graduate school, then went and fulfilled the requirements. You can do it too. Here’s how: do the same things.

You can get an MBA the same way. Yeah, it takes time and effort. But all you have to do is do it.

What they’re really asking

I think what people are asking when they ask how I do them is how to find time from other things, which is a question of priorities, which is a question of values, which means knowing your values and acting on them, which means knowing your emotions. If they knew other things would bring them more emotional reward, they wouldn’t care about my things. Apparently, their lives aren’t bringing them the emotional reward they know they could. If they could magically stop time to do these things without detracting from their obligations, then they could do them too.

If they asked what they meant, they’d ask, “How can I get free from my other obligations to do those things?” or “How can I find things like that for myself?”

Nobody asks those questions. If they did they’d realize they could free themselves from their obligations. They’d realize what they thought were obligations were choices and that someone chose not to do them and is still succeeding in life, even excelling, depending on how you value my achievements or believe how rewarding I find my life.

What are you doing that you don’t have to?

What do you consider necessary that isn’t?

What beliefs are confining you into your mental jails?

Your alternatives to the “obligations” of your mind don’t have to match mine. Maybe you don’t want to swim across the Hudson River. What do you want to do? Has anyone else done it? Then you can do it too.

Here’s how: do it.

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Originally published at