The massive power of habitually doing what you don’t have to do: The Ziglar Show interview

An early memory is of my mother, when she moved into sales and more entrepreneurship, having Zig Ziglar books. This was the late 70s. I was in grade school and knew nothing of business or this guy, except his memorable name.
I’m pleased to announce that the Ziglar show, featuring Zig Ziglar’s son Tom and Kevin Miller posted an interview of me, “The massive power of habitually doing what you don’t have to do.” Tom and Kevin make a positive and inquisitive team that led to a wonderful conversation.
Kevin, in particular, recognized the value of sidchas, so we talked about them in depth. Kevin “got” them and got me to share their value. In fact, he has kept up a burpee sidcha since before we recorded the conversation.

The Ziglar show with Joshua Spodek
The Ziglar show with Joshua Spodek

Before telling my mom about the interview, I asked her about Zig Ziglar. She wrote:

I do remember using Zig Ziglar stuff.

He had an answer for any objection, and he shared those answers and inspired many people. I was probably using his stuff in real estate. The Wikipedia page does not do him justice, as to his influence.

This quote is probably one of his most famous: “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

After, she added:

You were a good “fit” for this group, because Zig always emphasized doing over thinking… and you made good points that fit in…

So enjoy the interview, decades in the making.

Listen to the conversation.

I hope they don’t mind my including the show highlights from the show page.


Do burpees.

It’s the act of doing something that creates discipline. You aren’t just “born with discipline”

Show Transcription:

[00:15] Welcome to The Ziglar Show, I’m Kevin Miller and I’m here today with my cohost, CEO of Ziglar and the proud son of Zig himself, Tom Ziglar. In this episode we talk with Joshua Spodek. Joshua is an adjunct professor at NYU, an astrophysicist who helped build an X-ray observational satellite for NASA, he’s has 7 ivy league degrees and is an incredibly successful entrepreneur and about 20 other things. In this literally life changing conversation, Joshua dissects a profound concept he coined as “SIDCHA” – Self Imposed, Daily, Challenging, Healthy Activity. Ziglar fans have heard much about daily habits of success. But what came from this discussion was the healthy habit actions are far more valuable to us overall than the sum of…the end result of that particular activity. We are talking about habits we do not HAVE to do. The daily habit of brushing your teeth, getting dressed, going to work, eating…those are have-to habits. Healthy habits we do not have to do are things like morning devotions, exercise, journaling, working on improving a relationship. If we don’t do those things, generally nobody knows or cares and you do not have an immediate negative consequence. The power in doing those things is in choosing to do something you don’t have to do. Something challenging. Joshua’s new book, “Leadership Step by Step” – Become The Person Others Follow is not surprisingly…unlike any other leadership book, as it doesn’t simply teach you leadership skills, it makes you take action and learn how to actually lead. Self-Imposed, Daily, Challenging, Healthy Activities. To grow into a leader, even if it’s simply learning to lead yourself!

[02:19] Joshua has done burpees every day for over 4 years and blogs everyday at his website,

[02:32] If you get value from this show, please tell us by leaving a review in iTunes!

[02:38] Here then, Tom Ziglar and I bring you a massive message from Joshua Spodek:

[02:45] Joshua, so great to have you here. We were of course introduced by my brother Jared Miller who interviewed you on his show, Inipi Radio. You guys connected so well he immediately contacted me and said hey, you need to meet this guy, I think he would resonate with the Ziglar Show. So here we are, and thank you!

[03:07] I am honored to be here and Jared is phenomenal. He led the podcast but he made it very easy to open, to authentic, speak my mind, and it is funny as I see other people talking in different way so credit to him.

[03:30] So you’re an author, university professor with a PhD in astrophysics and you’ve swam across the Hudson River and done burpees every day for six years, 90,000+ and counting.

[03:43] The astrophysics thing is impressive, but as an athlete myself, tell us about burpees. You are infamous for these now and were even talked about by Tim Ferriss and a guest when the topic of burpees came up. I’ve been on a kick for a month or so when, at my office, I set my timer to go off every hour and I do 10 quick burpees. I can’t say I like it when my watch buzzes and the 10 count feels like it takes forever. What’s your story here?

[04:30] Yeah, people often ask me if I enjoyed burpees or if they get easier. It is not that they got easier by time. It is when auto choice gets huge, the weight didn’t get lighter, it got stronger and more able to lift them. Not a single burpee that I done had been easy. Every single set that I finish, I feel like I am gonna do it next time. And what I learn is that it develops discipline.

[05:45] I was going to ask about it, in your book or blog I read enough that it is gonna mix between the two. You actually take task somewhat to that aspect of discipline, I read that about you. People say you must be so discipline and you say no. Explain a little bit of more.

[06:15] Burpee is about body weight, you don’t need any equipment, don’t need any trainer, doesn’t matter about the weather, travel and I look at these things and realizing that there is no excuses left, I can always do burpees.

[10:58] Well we are talking about habits, we mentioned it 100 times, it is really a key thing I want to focus on my show. I wanna back in to a just a second for couple of things from your book “Leadership Step by Step”. I love your research on where leaders come from. It reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” book where he debunked that the big performers are just massively brilliant or genius or super heroes from another dimension. They merely put in more time than most everyone else…10,000 hours approximately. Likewise, you showcase how so many of our top leaders were high performers elsewhere, and question why our leadership schools aren’t producing the top leaders. So who would you pick to lead an initiative for you, an Olympic athlete or the top grad from an ivy league leadership class?

[11:51] Look at some of the presidents we have, practice is all about. I don’t care what sports you play, you are gonna loose it here and then. You have to handle that, you got to pass it. And you learn that. You see a lot of people go from performance like singing and acting, moving to leadership but you are very well see people going to other fields. So that makes me feel that you need a set of skills like to perform, to listen, to empathies and that for me are the major.

[13:45] So give us an example of how someone took performance training elsewhere, let’s say a sport, and extrapolated it to the business world?

[14:17] There is two story that I tell about myself. Now people some times says that Joshua you are natural in such stuffs.  

[23:00] In the spirit of this experiential learning, not mere theory, you wrote a blog that I’m excited about, The Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity (SIDCHA) series. So most of our Ziglar listeners know he was a pioneer of daily habits that lead to success. His self-talk cards that he espoused people to do every day, have literally changed people’s lives. You start off your blog with this statement: Reading, watching, and listening to people tell you how you can develop yourself professionally or personally doesn’t change anything beyond give you a bit of information. People don’t succeed because they have more information. They succeed because they act. But you cite they often don’t act because of…insecurity. Explain that if you will:

[27:46] So many people are afraid what’s gonna happen if they let themselves out there. If you act on something you cared about, that’s meaningful to you and someone you don’t succeed or someone thinks it is silly to do that or someone doesn’t value it, then you can be hurt. This is vulnerable. And so we don’t wanna do that. I feel like I am a child, I wear what I like, I will do what I like to do but when people will see they will laugh, so if you act you will be criticized but if you will keep it inside, you won’t get hurt, you won’t be vulnerable and you will never reach to potential either.   

[29:09] You took aim at all the personal development marketing and filtered through the marketing verbiage and tactics to discern what really DOES help people to take action, which I found fascinating, and I want to walk through your list and break it down because I think it’s profound: First is:

  1. Self-Imposed: that is, you have to chooseto do it. Going to work so you don’t lose your apartment doesn’t count.

Are you basically differentiating between the proactive action where there isn’t necessarily a tangible, acute consequence if you don’t do it, like working out, as opposed to the reactive activities we do because there is a quick, negative response if we don’t?

[30:18] If you choose not to do it, it makes unnecessary for outside world but you still do it, that develop your motivation. It is a combination of terms like self impose, daily health together, makes it something you really learn from. No one just gonna work everyday or following everybody else, that doesn’t develop you, that makes your development, your motivation.

[45:48] 2. Daily: if you don’t do it regularly, you’ll drop them. You don’t have to do it daily, but daily makes it harder to forget. This seems self-explanatory, but what are examples of some healthy activities that are not always done daily and you’d say…should?

[47:21] Sometimes I say Josh you don’t do burpees like when you are too busy or when you are really tired or not feeling well. I ran marathon after doing burpees. So one day I ran 26.2 miles and then I did 50 burpees. Not because I want to punish myself but because I want to do my burpees. Once you are done doing burpees after you finish your 26.2 miles, all the others are easy. And sometimes think what life be like when things are hard or easy, when you say no matter how challenging the things are, I wanna do more challenging things.

[59:33] I do wanna jump in to other pieces i.e. self impose, the second part is daily and you wrote that if you don’t do it regularly, you will drop it. You don’t have to do it daily but daily makes it harder to forget. Seems self explained to me but I wanna some examples of you wouldn’t think of daily but you would say no go ahead and it is better to do it daily.

[59:55] Yes, the couple of things drive me there. One is what you said, no one asks you to brush your teeth. You just brush your teeth. I mean everyone in my life brushes his teeth. I don’t know any people who don’t brushes his teeth daily. So once you make it daily, you make it much simpler and you take the choice out of it. Having choice in it makes it mentally very difficult.

[1:03:28] 3. Challenging: easy things don’t help you. Watching TV, listening to music, and reading don’t qualify. So this reminds me of…stress. We have given stress a bad name, but my partner is a doc who says the opposite of stress, is death. Or at least atrophy. I like thinking about breaking an arm. If you put it in a cast for a month, you take it off and it is weak. It reminds us that the daily stress of what we do with our hands and arms is what keeps them able. It’s interesting then to think about that in all areas of life. Where would you say we are often the most neglectful of challenging ourselves?

[1:04:28] So many places I mean most, one thing that reminds me of diet, possibly because you mentioned it. I mean we certainly go for the things that taste good. In the neighbors they don’t serve you which is healthy but something that is pleasurable, like treat. So my life, I learn to love vegetables. It is more complex, also this reactivity of venting, a lot of watch tvs, you know not choosing deliberately the act of values.

[1:07:05] 4. Healthy: it has to improve your health or well-being. Smoking doesn’t count. For a long time, I lived with a friend who was pro triathlete, he ended up winning Iron Man Canada. As an athlete, he usually ate a lot of…anything. But then a mentor challenged him saying, “if you are serious about your efforts, start approaching everything and asking, will it help or hurt my goal? That spanned from eating to staying up late to watch a movie, to dating and on. Do you have a specific way of filtering your decisions for health?

[1:08:05] There are bunch of different categories that are fallen to. Fitness and heath is one. Ascetic, there are lot of videos who draw everyday, were seen everyday, were dance everyday. So aesthetic is one. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga is another one. Ascetic is like drawing everyday. In business, it can be cold calling everyday if you are in sales. You can write down new business ideas everyday, or five new ideas everyday. If it is social you can talk to stranger everyday. It depends on how the people is challenging. But you can ask some of the time everyday, if for you that is challenging and that is for you.  

[1:10:15] 5. Activity: you have to physically do something. Thinking about things doesn’t count. Writing does. Meditation does. This is a recurring theme here on the Ziglar Show. We are in a culture that has a glut of info. Take personal development, we can read endless new books, read magazines, read blogs, listen to podcasts…we can fill every waking moment with brilliant, valid input. But as Mark Sanborn said in show 481, we can do it as mere entertainment and never do anything. How do you guide yourself an other in a ratio of when to get input and when to stop the input and just take action?

[1:11:19] When I was getting blurred from my book, I contacted lots of people that would you like to recommend my book. And one guy, he runs a coaching company, and I said would you write a book for me and he gave me such response I never heard before. So he said that as a result of coaches to coaches, he got to read two books a year, meaning fewer books and the reason for fewer books he gave me that he picks the book that gives him six months of stuff to work on. And he not actively makes that book meaning to him. And I thought that is really amazing because I was like read more books. But if you read a book and you got a lot of stuffs to read in it and if you jump on the next one and haven’t process the first one, you haven’t made it active. And so that active part is a big piece of it.

[1:13:21] You have a talk on your website about SIDCHA that is over an hour along, and at the front you state your belief that it’s one of the greatest and simplest contributions to humanity of our time. That’s a big statement! But your premise is…this is what will help us finally get what we want in life. It keeps us focused on what is actually important to us.

[1:14:15] I want to make a fine statement that took me long enough, is that Sidcha is a concept, so burpee is like an activity. Drawing and drawing everyday is like activity, taking photographs everyday and post them online for people to judge, that is an activity. The concept of sidcha, what makes it valuable is that see there is a lot of people in here have some habits. They keep adapting new habits and give up on the first one. They teach themselves that sticking with habit is hard. And so what the Sidcha concept says is pick any one of them, it doesn’t matter which one, as long as you will get the benefit of any sidcha and keep it a one thing.  

[1:24:05] This all brings me back to your book. In gaining leadership abilities, you have progressive exercises…no surprise now what we know you! The four units are

  1. Understanding Yourself
  2. Leading Yourself
  3. Understanding Others
  4. Leading Others

And I want to wrap up, we can keep doing this for couple of more hours, I am gonna wrap up on number two. Understanding yourself, I don’t think that gonna be super profound for the Ziglar audience, but number two, Leading yourself. So you’re saying, practice leadership on yourself first, before you attempt to lead others, tell us more…

[1:25:20] I didn’t write specifically about Sidcha in my book but there is a lot of pickup habits that you can pick. There is a big exercise on how to speak authentically. And how to get advisable to people. But as a leader you can not see from other’s prospective, you are acting from outside, they don’t know you from inside. So to be able to communicate authentically, to be able to get advice from others, so the exercise is for how you get to do what you want from others. So understanding yourself prepares you to lead yourself. Understanding and leading yourself prepares you to understand others. Understanding others prepares you to lead others.

[1:26:50] So thank you Josh, I am excited for the book and I am so thankful that we connected. I may be your biggest fan on Sidcha. So thank you, I am so honored that we have done this.

Listen to the conversation.

Leave a Reply