Getting Unstuck – Cultivating Curiosity-logo

Getting Unstuck – Cultivating Curiosity

Education Podcasts

Curiosity sits at the intersection of creativity, effective human interactions, problem-solving and purposeful change. Unfortunately, the pace of life — at home, work, and school — often sidetracks our natural curiosity. So, let’s see the familiar from a different angle or something new as a possibility to consider.


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Curiosity sits at the intersection of creativity, effective human interactions, problem-solving and purposeful change. Unfortunately, the pace of life — at home, work, and school — often sidetracks our natural curiosity. So, let’s see the familiar from a different angle or something new as a possibility to consider.




278: Identifying the Business Practices that Create Future Leaders

Summary This is part 2 of my conversation with two very smart guys, Wade Bruffey and Zoltan Sarda, the co-founders of, a partnership-driven software company that helps organizations build and optimize their employee development program. They bring 30 years of experience working with teams and individuals to help people grow and succeed. Organizations using’s frameworks build systems that foster clarity, empower high performance, and help team members take aligned actions. With, organizations create transformation that lasts. In Episode 274, I interviewed Wade and Zoltan. In this episode, they interviewed me for their podcast. Both interviews evolved into deep conversations about hiring practices, organizational purpose and culture, and leadership. Topics in this episode Intuition, leadership, and decision-making. (1:34) Interviewing techniques and storytelling in the workplace. (8:53) Leadership, storytelling, and building a culture. (13:45) Leadership, coaching, and change management in the workplace. (20:34) Using data to inform business decisions. (27:16) Data-driven decision-making and leadership. (29:32) Education assessment and coaching. (32:45) Reflection on business and personal growth. (35:53) The importance of reflection and taking time to think in leadership growth. (38:14) Aligning actions with espoused theories in business and coaching. (39:40) Reflective capacity and coaching in business. (40:51) Leadership, teamwork, and organizational obstacles. (45:52) Social Media Links Website: LinkedIn: Register for GoMobi’s free weekly management workshops: Sign up to be a part of GoMobi’s software launch: Jeff’s book: Shifting - How School Leaders Can Create a Culture of Change


277: How Do They Do That? Behinds the Scenes at the Museum

Guest Jeanne Gutierrez is a Curatorial Scholar in Women's History at the New-York Historical Society. She is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the CUNY Graduate Center. Jeanne is the co-curator of the NYHS “Women’s Work” exhibit. Summary In this episode, Jeanne takes me behind the scenes at the New-York Historical Society to understand the collaborative thinking and effort that goes into curating a major museum exhibit, in this case, “Women’s Work.” From the Museum’s exhibit program description: “What is “women’s work?” How have broad trends in American economic, legal, and political history encouraged women to take certain jobs and restricted them from “men’s work?” How have race, ethnicity, social class, legal status, sexual orientation, and gender presentation impacted these distinctions? In a new exhibition, the Center for Women’s History showcases approximately 45 objects from New-York Historical’s own Museum and Library collections to demonstrate how “women’s work” defies categorization.” Listen for: • What story the curatorial staff is trying to tell about the nature of women’s work. • Why collaboration between curators, scholars, and designers is essential. • How the limited number of artifacts were selected and challenged the team. • Why the staff had to limit the artifact captions to about 100 words. • How the intentional organization and display of artifacts contribute to the story and visitor experience. Social Media / Referenced • • Missionary Rag Baby, 1893–1910


276: Creating the Secure Place for Home, Heart, and Head

My Guest Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer Lang lives in Tel Aviv, where she runs Her prize-winning essays appear in Baltimore Review, Under the Sun, Midway Journal, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an Assistant Editor at Brevity Journal. She is a longtime yoga practitioner and instructor. She has two unconventional books forthcoming, Places We Left Behind: a memoir-in-miniature (9/5/23) and Landed: A yogi's memoir in pieces & poses (10/15/24), both with Vine Leaves Press. Summary In this episode, Jennifer and Jeff explore Jennifer’s memoir, Places We Left Behind: a memoir-in-miniature. They delve into Jennifer's deliberate choice of format, which serves to craft emotional impact through a concise narrative of only 13,000 words. The memoir encapsulates Jennifer’s family life in New York, California, and Israel and explores themes of conflict, commitment, belonging, and the meaning of home. Therapy and yoga emerge as Jennifer's anchors, aiding her in marital challenges. Philippe, her husband, gains insight into her journey through her memoir. The main takeaway for readers is to hold onto their voice and remain true to themselves in the midst of the partnership of marriage. Social Media Links


275: Learning About Leadership and Life from a Fly Fishing Guide

My guest Spencer Seim (rhymes with “time”) lives a life devoted to fishing, environmental issues, and serving people. Since he was 8 years old, Spencer has been obsessed with fly fishing. Spencer has been guiding northern New Mexico and southern Colorado for eighteen years. Eight years ago, he founded ZiaFly, a guide service that focuses on a personalized fishing experience with access to some of the best trout fisheries in the Rockies. Spencer is also very well-versed in fly tying. He’s tied flies commercially, for art, for competitions and of course, for his guided trips. Spencer’s flies have been featured in The Drake magazine, New York Times, Kirk W. Johnson’s book The Feather Thief, and America’s Favorite Flies. Spencer has been mentioned in This American Life, Smithsonian Magazine, and Outside Magazine. The Takeaway Life typically moves along at a fast pace for most of us. By the end of the day, activities we’ve been engaged in are often a murky blur in our rearview mirror. What, then, might be the payoff in slowing down, observing, and reading the environmental water, say, like a fly fisherman? And how do we give ourselves the ability to hold onto and make sense of those moments of pure serendipity? As you listen What is it that drew Spencer to the water and fly fishing? What life lessons can we take away from the fly fisherman’s need to observe and immerse him or herself in the trout’s environment? How did Spencer get involved in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of almost 300 rare bird skins that could be used to tie salmon flies? What is the underlying story of The Feather Thief? How does Kirk Johnson’s decision to write the story rest on one of those rare moments of serendipity in life? How does Spencer distinguish himself as a guide? How does he demonstrate differentiated servant leadership? How does he view guiding as being part of a team? Connect with Spencer ZiaFly website Referenced Home Waters by John Maclean A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean The Element by Sir Ken Robinson Finding Your Element by Sir Ken Robinson


274: Aligning Organizational Values and Employee Behaviors for Improved Results

My Guests Wade Bruffey and Zoltan Sarda are the co-founders of, a partnership-driven software company that helps organizations build and optimize their employee development program. They bring 30 years of experience working with teams and individuals to help people grow and succeed. Organizations using’s frameworks build systems that foster clarity, empower high performance, and help team members take aligned actions. With, organizations create transformation that lasts. Summary Wade and Zoltan discussed the importance of cultivating curiosity, empowering individuals, and creating collaborative relationships to improve decision-making, strategy, and company culture. They also emphasized the need for organizations to hire individuals based on their thinking abilities rather than just their skills, use data-driven approaches to identify the right candidates and align core values with organizational goals and the well-being of customers and employees. Additionally, they discussed how their software helps guide employee development conversations and the importance of leaders investing in training and creating a culture of innovation within organizations. Finally, they talked about their work in helping organizations create supportive, collaborative, high-performing environments by focusing on leadership ownership, people, and core values. Key Points Curiosity: Wade and Zoltan believe that it is important for people to be curious and ask questions. They said that curiosity leads to innovation and problem-solving. Empowerment: They believe that employees should be empowered to make decisions and take initiative. They said that this leads to a more engaged and productive workforce. Collaboration: They believe that collaboration is essential for success. They said that organizations should create a culture where people feel comfortable working together and sharing ideas. Data-driven decision-making: They believe that organizations should use data to make decisions. They said that this helps to ensure that decisions are based on evidence, not on gut instinct. Training and development: They believe that training and development are essential for employee success. They said that organizations should provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs well. Culture of innovation: They believe that organizations need to create a culture of innovation. They said that this requires a supportive environment where people feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. Social Media Links Website: LinkedIn: Register for our free weekly management workshops: Sign up to be a part of our software launch:


273: Getting to Know Your Inner Cave Dweller

Guest Annette Taylor is a part-time researcher of evolutionary psychology who works to understand how our common biology, which evolved from our days as cave dwellers, may help explain various social and antisocial behaviors today. Summary Jeff and Annette discuss the concept of the "cave dweller" inside each person, which refers to our instinctual, psychological, and biological tendencies. Annette shares her personal experience of discovering her own cave dweller, “Claire,” and how it influences her behaviors and interactions with others. Listen for • the inner critic's relationship to the cave dweller • the need for human connection and understanding • the presence of our inner cave dweller in the workplace, highlighting behaviors such as ranking, fear of change, and resistance to new ideas • how inner cave dweller concept can clarify in group/out group conflicts Social Media / Referenced Facebook: X (formally known as Twitter;) LinkedIn: Medium: Website: Spotify:


272: Embracing the Healing Powers of Nature and Community

Guest Scot Simmons is a husband, father, and fly fishing guide. He is 12 years in recovery from addiction and doing well managing depression and anxiety, which started at a young age. Fast forward decades, and he is able to walk and talk in his truth and make purposeful change. Summary Jeff and Scot's conversation delved into their mutual love for fly fishing and the connection it fosters with nature. They emphasized the significance of savoring the process and environment over fixating solely on catching fish. Amidst shared fishing dreams and destinations, Scot revealed his struggles with mental health and how fly fishing served as a therapeutic outlet. He spoke about breaking unhealthy patterns, seeking help, and healing for the sake of his children. The discourse touched on the impact of a viral fishing moment, self-doubt, witnessing George Floyd's murder, and the healing power of community engagement and mentorship. Social media / Referenced Instagram LinkedIn


271: The Empty Library

The Takeaway In this episode, I travel to Berlin, Germany, and the Bebelplatz, a large square in the city's heart. A university borders one side, a church another, and the opera another. Behind me is one of Berlin’s main libraries. Sitting atop one of the buildings is an outdoor bar with large colorful umbrellas to shield the patrons. As calming as the setting is today, it was anything but on the night of May 10, 1933. There, a mob of Nazis, Nazi-leaning students, and citizens gathered to burn an estimated 20,000 books the Nazi regime had deemed culturally and spiritually unfit. The only visual evidence of that event is a subterranean memorial with enough empty library shelves to hold an estimated 20,000 books. Social Media / References,Germany%20on%20May%2010%2C%201933.


270: Rediscovering Oneself Through the Keyboard

Guest Tammy Hader, with a BBA in accounting from Wichita State University, her professional history resides in numbers. In 2018, after a 30-year accounting career, Tammy reinvented herself as a writer. She is an essay writer at Medium, BizCatalyst360, The National Association of Baby Boomer Women,, and WebMD. Tammy is also a contributing author in the Daily Gift Book Series. Walking Old Roads is her first book. Summary Tammy and Jeff discuss her book Walking Old Roads, reflecting on her journey to rediscover her personal sense of kindness and overcome a feeling of disconnection in the current world. She also explores the impact of her corporate career on her withdrawal and the role of role models and faith in regaining a spirit of benevolence. Tammy and Jeff also share insights on trust, genuine connections, and the value of in-person interactions versus technology. Social Media / Referenced


269: Why We Need to Protect Our Last Remaining Wilderness

Guest Doug Peacock is a Vietnam veteran, author, filmmaker, and naturalist – and none of those words do him justice. He is a relentless protector of our physical wilderness and its creatures. Here’s a link to the full bio of an extraordinary individual. Summary Doug Peacock's lifelong fight for American wilderness and grizzly bears began after witnessing the devastating impact of industrialization in the West. He emphasized preserving wilderness for human evolution and consciousness, discussing climate change threats, and advocating for protecting grizzlies from trophy hunting while recognizing the positive impact of wolves on the environment and expressing concern for future generations amidst climate change. Social Media Website Referenced The Monkey Wrench Gang Hal Herring interview on Getting Unstuck


268: Getting the Best Revenge Standing Inside the Room

Summary In this episode, I travel to Wannsee, Germany, a suburb of Berlin, where on January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazis gathered in a villa to resolve various aspects of the “final solution of the Jewish problem.” I need to stand where terror and genocide were launched on a continental scale.


267: The Argument for Giving Students More Voice and Choice

My co-host in this episode is a fellow podcaster and someone I am proud to call a friend – if only a virtual one at the moment, Steve Miletto, EdD. Steve has been an educator in Georgia(US) for 36 years. He has served public school families as a history teacher, assistant principal, high school principal, and RESA Executive Director in the Heart of Georgia RESA (8 years) and now with North Georgia RESA. In 2009, he was the Georgia Principal of the Year and a finalist for NASSP/MetLife National Principal of the Year in 2010. Steve is the host of the highly regarded podcast, Teaching, Learning, Leading K-12. Summary In this discussion, Jeff and Steve use the book Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam Jr. as the basis for their discussion on student agency: student voice and choice about what and how they want to learn. Listeners may know the book by its film name, October Sky. Jeff and Steve use elements from the book to explore the qualities and benefits of student agency, including encouraging student interest, support from adults and mentors, independent learning and critical thinking, overcoming obstacles, learning beyond the school environment, and fostering tangible effort towards goals. Recommendations for future schooling involve faculty connecting with students, understanding their needs, creating opportunities for exploration, prioritizing student interests, and promoting autonomy and project-based learning within the curriculum. Links/References Steve at LinkedIn


266: Combating Antisemitism – Standing Up to Jewish Hate

Guest Matthew E. Berger is executive director of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. He oversees the foundation’s programs to raise awareness about hatred against Jews and to monitor and analyze antisemitism on social media. As executive director, Berger is leading FCAS’ launch of “Stand Up to Jewish Hate,” a multi-platform advertising campaign to educate non-Jews about modern antisemitism and empower them to address hate in their communities. The campaign has introduced the Blue Square emoji as the national symbol for addressing antisemitism, encouraging people everywhere to speak out against intolerance. Summary In this episode, Matthew discusses the work performed by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), which Robert Kraft launched in 2019. FCAS aims to raise awareness about antisemitism and build alliances to fight Jewish hate. We explored various strategies, including advertising, education, and symbolizing support through the Blue Square campaign. Points of discussion • The importance of recognizing and building partnerships to address all forms of hate. • The importance of uniting Jewish groups and building partnerships with other communities to address anti-Semitism and hate. • How to sustain interest and concern beyond Pride Month and how to increase the impact of the foundation's message. • Ways to combat anti-Semitism, including demystifying the Jewish community, education, and addressing anti-Semitism with the same vigor as other forms of hate and injustice. • The issue of increasing levels of hatred and anti-Semitism in society and the need to build a society that values quality and tolerance. • The role of social media in amplifying extremist views and the importance of addressing anti-Semitism as part of a broader societal problem. Social Media / References Facebook, Instagram and TikTok Twitter Website


265: Writing Life's Next Chapter as Innkeepers

Guests Kevin and Sue Harter are the proud innkeepers of Rockwell’s Retreat, the former residence and studio of Norman Rockwell in Arlington, Vermont. Summary Kevin and Sue began their dream and journey of owning an inn more than 25 years ago. Life intervened, and they got busy raising a family, working, and moving around the country. In the summer of 2019, they made an impulsive visit to the Norman Rockwell property in Arlington, VT, and from the moment they drove over the covered bridge, they knew they were about to write their next chapter. By the end of 2019, they became Vermonters and renamed the property “Rockwell’s Retreat.” Our conversation focused on • what it’s like to manage such a historic property • problem-solving and navigating COVID • the importance of building relationships with the local community • the collaborative nature of inn keeping in the Manchester/Arlington area • how to provide guests with a meaningful and relaxing experience Social Media / Links Instagram Facebook Articles featuring the Inn


264: Confronting the Remnants of Hate on the Path to Remembrance

The Takeaway In this episode, I trace the mental and physical journey I took recently in the Netherlands to grasp the murder of more than one hundred thousand Dutch Jews during WWII at the hands of the Nazis. I wanted to move beyond the number and get to the human beings. Physically, the journey took me to several Holocaust-related sites in Amsterdam: the old Jewish Quarter, the Anne Frank House (Annex), the old Dutch Theatre, the Dutch Holocaust Memorial, and of high interest, the sidewalks of Amsterdam. And outside Amsterdam: the Westerbork transit camp. Part of my mental journey involved moving beyond the human tendency to see Anne Frank as symbolic of all Dutch Jews who were murdered. But the larger mental issue was confronting the remnants of hate I saw and how they drove me toward hate.


263: How Can Higher Education Better Prepare Today's Youth for Life?

Guest Mike Magee is President of Minerva University since April 2022. Prior to joining Minerva, he was the founding CEO of Chiefs for Change, a non-profit organization supporting leaders of many of the nation’s largest and most innovative K-12 public education systems. Previously, Magee co-founded and was CEO of Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA). As CEO of RIMA, he built a statewide network of regional, racially, and economically diverse public schools while successfully advocating for sweeping changes to stat education policy. Before starting RIMA, Magee taught American literature and philosophy for a decade at Haverford College, Wheaton College, and the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2004, his book, Emancipating Pragmatism won the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Studies. He is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and for the past several years, has moderated seminars for both the Pahara Institute and the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Magee holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s in political science and English from the College of the Holy Cross. Summary In this episode, Minerva University president Mike Magee and I explore why the school has been ranked the #1 innovative university in the U.S., which is initially evidenced by its unique invitation to apply for admission where prospective applicants are challenged to complete a puzzle. The deeper answer lies in Minerva’s approach to education and people development. Listen for how its approach encompasses global cultural immersion, active learning, interdisciplinary curriculum, project-based learning, and a commitment to developing critical thinking, problem-solving skills, ethical orientation, and diverse perspectives for successful workforce preparation — and of equal importance, the social and emotional development of its students. Links/References Mike at LinkedIn


262: How to Nurture the Antidote to a Fear-based Organizational Culture

My guest Renée Smith, MSOD (she/her) is the founder and CEO of A Human Workplace, a global movement and consultancy committed to making work more human. She led award-winning culture work as a state executive and served in the Governor’s Office as Director of Workplace Transformation for the State of Washington. Smith is a researcher, writer, and speaker who’s reached hundreds of audiences worldwide, making the business case for a human workplace. Summary In Part 2 of this episode, Renée and I explored the antidote to fear in the workplace: love. Love can manifest itself in various ways in professional settings: > Leaders providing genuine care for employees by showing interest and respect and by creating an environment of belonging > Workgroups functioning like a family – team building and acknowledgment of accomplishments > Supporting individuals during personal crises. Other critical considerations for a love-based culture include > Sustainability, as new employees join the organization and the challenge of leadership turnover. > Screening job candidates for their capacity for love. > Leading with human-centered messaging. Social Links Websites (Company) LinkedIn Instagram Referenced The Amari Wave


261: How and Why Does Fear Show Up in the Workplace?

My guest Renée Smith, MSOD (she/her) is the founder and CEO of A Human Workplace, a global movement and consultancy committed to making work more human. She led award-winning culture work as a state executive and served in the Governor’s Office as Director of Workplace Transformation for the State of Washington. Smith is a researcher, writer, and speaker who’s reached hundreds of audiences worldwide, making the business case for a human workplace. Summary Renée and I discussed her journey into organizational development and why she started her organization, A Human Workplace, which aims to eliminate fear in the workplace. Through her research, Renée discovered various fear stories, including > uncertainty after a change initiative, > toxic experiences through betrayal and loss of trust, and > public shaming, harassment, and discrimination. These fear experiences can originate from leaders and team members and have significant physical and emotional consequences for individuals. Fear-based cultures can also have detrimental effects on organizations, such as reduced productivity and higher turnover rates. Social Links Websites (Company) LinkedIn Instagram Referenced The Asshole Survival Guide The No Asshole Rule


260: What I Learned During My Summer Vacation

The Takeaway In this episode, I share thoughts about a tour I recently took in the Hurtgen Forest World War II battlefield, which sits between Belgium and Germany. The Hurtgen Forest was the site of the longest battle the U.S. Army engaged in during World War II, and it is widely considered an egregious failure of strategy and leadership. I wanted to understand why the battle was fought, what elements challenged the U.S. Army’s progress, and what lessons we could take away from a battle that incurred 30,000 to 50,000 casualties (deaths and wounded).


259: How Asking Questions Can Be Your Guiding Light

Guest Kirk Wallace Johnson is the author of The Fishermen and the Dragon: Fear, Greed, and a Fight for Justice on the Gulf Coast, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, and To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind, which covers his efforts on behalf of Iraqi refugees as the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. Summary Our conversations explored several important topics in Kirk’s life: • Why Kirk became passionate about supporting Iraqis who helped America during the Iraqi war gain entry into the U.S. and how that experience led to creating the “List Project” and his first book, To Be a Friend is Fatal. • How he found solace in fly fishing, which led to meeting fly fishing guide Spencer Seim and his writing of The Feather Thief, the story of a million-dollar theft of dead rare birds from the British Museum. • How a Bruce Springsteen song led Kirk to research a conflict between Vietnamese immigrants and the Ku Klux Klan along the Texas Gulf Coast and how Diane Wilson, an environmental activist, took on the corporations that were polluting the water. • Why educational restrictions on certain content stand in the way of helping youth to develop critical thinking. Links/References Kirk on “This American Life” • 499: Taking Names • 607: Didn’t We Solve This One • 654: The Feather Heist • 745: Getting Out Interview with the fly-fishing guide, Spencer Seim