VitalSmarts
Joseph Grenny

Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the episode. It's been edited for clarity.

Boyd Matheson: Business, political and community leaders are constantly faced with the challenge of how to best impact the behavior of those they lead. Solving big issues for individuals, organizations and society as a whole requires more than strong-armed efforts to control behavior. World-renowned author and change agent Joseph Grenny reveals a better way to create rapid change and lasting change as he shares the essential components of transformational influence, all on this episode of "Therefore, What?"

"Therefore, What?" is a weekly podcast that breaks down the news while breaking down barriers, challenges you and the status quo, explores timely topics and timeless principles, and leaves you confident to face what's next. I'm Boyd Matheson, opinion editor for the Deseret News, and this is "Therefore, What?"

We're very pleased to have in the studio with us today Joseph Grenny, one of the great thinkers and strategists in our country today, and not just from a business perspective, but personal relationships and an extraordinary transformational organization called The Other Side Academy that we'll come back to in just a little bit. Joseph, many people know you through your work with VitalSmarts, your writing, influencer, crucial conversations and a host of others. So we want to talk about those first as a model, and then look at some applications across the country. And then as I said, we'll dive into this magical place. People think the Magic Kingdom is in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom is in this place called The Other Side Academy, which we'll talk about in a minute. But give us just a quick tee-up, kind of your journey to get to the principles of influence.

Joseph Grenny: Yeah, so my enduring interest has been human change, which ultimately, and maybe inevitably, brought me to The Other Side Academy of course, too, but change in terms of habits and behavior. And so I've wondered for decades, you know, what do we know in the social sciences about how to create rapid, profound, sustainable behavior change. And I think one of the reasons it's such an urgent topic for all of us is that most of the social problems that we all lament are ultimately problems with behavior. We often try to size them up as funding problems or policy problems or technology problems. But at the end of the day, it's a human being acting a certain way that either creates or solves the problems we have. And so at VitalSmarts, my colleagues and I have tried to ask what kind of body of knowledge has the social sciences accumulated that would help inform moms and dads, you know, mayors, presidents, business people, about how to create the kind of rapid, profound, sustainable behavior change that we all need?

BM: And so often we do just jump to is it a funding problem? Is it a policy problem? It's a lot of the pointing fingers, placing blame, there's got to be a silver bullet somewhere. But what you found is that it's really about how do we influence that behavior? So how do we do that?

JG: Yeah, that's precisely right. So we spent these 30 years going across the planet, trying to find people that actually are doing it, people that are solving problems that you and I would think are completely insoluble, but they're doing it in a way that not only is effective and sustainable, it's also fairly fast. And so what we found is these influencers do three things better than everybody else. The first is they're clearer about what they're trying to achieve and how it will be measured than anyone else. Measurement is an influence strategy. When you're conscious of how you're doing and where you stand in relationship to your goal, it affects behavior. And so that clarity, and that precision around measurement is critical. In the whole nonprofit world, we screw it all up, because so often we're measuring activities rather than outcomes, right? And so then we start paying attention to activities, you know, how many of these kits have we handed out? How many people have we served? Not have we actually solved the problem that we intended. So that's No. 1.

No. 2 is they're clear about what we call the vital behaviors, there usually are just a couple of behaviors that are most consequential in creating the change that we want. And unless you're clear on those, you end up kind of just doing big awareness campaigns. You say, let's have everybody be aware that you know, there's an opioid epidemic, well, that's not going to solve the problem, people know that their brother or sister died of an overdose. What we need to know is what are the vital behaviors that allow this pernicious problem to persist, or that could help pivot it. And then the third, the last, is these people tend to understand that there are a host of sources of influence that shape human behavior. And they understand that you can't pick and choose between them, you have to get them all supporting the change. So parents who are listening today probably, you know, suffer watching their children sit and play video games instead of doing their homework. But few of us step back and say, all right, what are all the sources of influence in our home that make it inevitable that rather than pick up a book, they're going to pick up a joystick, and usually we design our homes to do the very thing that we don't want the kids to be doing. So these sources of influence that shape our behavior, when you start harnessing them in support of the change you're trying to create, change becomes almost inevitable.

BM: All right. Let's look at some specific examples. In fact, I was thinking through the design of my home, as you were talking, it was like, yeah, the TV is the center point of the room, it's the center point of the basement. Let's look at some bigger picture changes that you've noted in some of your books and your work. Give us an example of an area where the change seemed impossible, but by going through and applying these kinds of principles change actually was doable.

JG: Yeah. Well, one of the most remarkable to me was in Thailand. And so the AIDS epidemic was raging out of control in Thailand and taking many, many lives and it was expected to be probably the most infected country in the world within just a few years, when a guy by the name of Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn came on the scene. And here's the beginning of change. The beginning of change is when somebody like him who has a really strong pedigree in the medical sciences starts realizing this isn't ultimately just a medical science problem. It's also a social science problem. This is about human behavior. And he started thinking about it that way, not just as an awareness problem, but are there a few just very vital behaviors that need to change for this epidemic to be stemmed. And not only was he successful, they reduced the number of new AIDS infections across the entire country, 60 million people changing their behavior, if you want to get your head around that, within about a year and a half, they dropped the number of new infections by 88 percent. And then sustained that kind of change. And so that's what brought us to Thailand to say, all right, how does this guy think about that? How do you even take a problem like that apart and create that kind of scale of change? And how could that help me when I've got five teenagers, you know, or whatever else is going on in my life? And he does it exactly the way we described.

No. 1, he started not just measuring, you know, how many condoms have we distributed and so forth. But he starts to ask himself the results question, how many new infections are there? And do we have a measurement strategy across the country that's calling attention to this? And that's keeping our minds focused on it? Well, that took some work to say, do we have a good reporting strategy? And are we rolling this up together? Do we know district by district? Because if you're trying to create change and you can't measure whether or not your interventions are succeeding or failing, you can't improve. So that begins it. The second is, he starts to look at the vital behaviors. Well, it turns out that condom use is one of the biggies, abstinence before marriage is one of the biggies as well. And so they start to realize that because of the rampant sex trade in Thailand, that one of the primary vectors for transmitting the disease was through there. And so you've got many times these exploited women that are drawn into that industry who are exposed to these enormous risks because the clientele, if you want to call them that, that are coming in are demanding that condoms not be used. So one of the primary focuses of Dr. Wiwat was to say, can we create an influence strategy that protects these women, and that interrupts that transmission vehicle, and that primarily got down to them learning to have crucial conversations, then being able to say no and hold a standard and hold a boundary and also to create enforcement and accountability at the level of these brothels, frankly, where a lot of this activity was taking place.

And so as that began to become the focus, they then moved to the next step, which is how do you get all six sources of influence supporting this? How do you get social influence? How do you increase skills? How do you make sure that there's moral clarity about what's going on? How do you make sure supplies and resources and tools are available so that these behaviors can occur? So piece by piece he iterated through this, and literally within an 18-month period of time, condom use goes up, number of new AIDS infections declines, they start also to interrupt this permissive psychology that was in the environment about the trade and remarkable change happened. It's estimated that Dr. Wiwat was responsible directly for helping save over 5 million lives just in Thailand, and then it began to spread to other countries.

BM: So amazing, because you do look at problems like that? And so often, you just kind of throw up your hands and say, well, there's just no way we can move the needle on something like that. So let's look at another example. We had you, as part of the Deseret News, we had a conversation with some high school kids after one of the tragic shootings, which seem to be becoming all too common here in the United States. And it wasn't really so much about, you know, where do you fall on the whole gun debate and gun laws. And that really wasn't the emphasis. But I'd love to have you just talk through some things that we all ought to be thinking about as it relates to an issue like violence and school shootings and those kinds of things.

JG: Yeah. And really, one of the best ways to learn about influence is to ask the Congress question. It's not how can we create change? It's why do we need to create change? What got us into the mess that we're in? Yeah, so I'll sidestep your question for a moment, come very quickly back to it. But you look, for example, at the obesity problem in the United States, and that's something that affects all of us and too often we fail to ask ourselves, not how do you solve the problem, but how do we get into it to begin with, because sources of influence had to change in order for behavior to change? We did this to ourselves. Yeah, we may have done it unconsciously, it could be that there are people that had an economic interest in creating the problem and are profiting from the problem. But every one of the six sources of influence that we described in the influencer book had to change in order for eating habits to change and exercise habits to change and so forth to get us to where we are today. So now you go to the the problem with school shootings is that ...

BM: I was going to accuse you of having talked to my wife this morning, because I know the source of influence — it's called powdered doughnuts for breakfast. This is the real issue. We appreciate the intervention. All right, let's get back the back to guns.

JG: School shootings are the same. Anybody who's paying any attention at all realizes this has become normative behavior, right? So you have a subpopulation of people who are probably depressed and anxious, feeling disconnected from society. And this has become a new vital behavior for them, a way of garnering attention, of feeling validated, of feeling heard and listened to. It's horrific. It's despicable. But the problem is that all of us are kind of unwittingly supporting the sources of influence that are propagating this. So I'll give you one example. When you look at the six sources of influence, social norms becomes one and when something becomes popularized, seems normalized, it's more likely to be adopted, particularly by somebody that's in a psychologically vulnerable place. One of the most common ways that happens is through the press. So you'll have a school shooting, and it's going to make the front headlines, we're going to obsess for an hour and a half on the morning news about it. And not only are we going to do that, we're going to name the shooter, we're going to describe the shooter's methods, we're going to describe the kind of weapons that they use, we're going to actually put up a tally list. It's almost like the NBA Finals, you're going to see the scorecard about how this person's body count relates to the previous shooters.

And when you're a person in that kind of psychological, vulnerable place, seeing this enormous amount of validation and attention is intoxicating. So we're conspiring by organizing these sources of influence that support that. Now you can talk about access to guns as well, it's not a coincidence that in our country you see this more often than in countries where you have less access to guns. Is that the sole source of influence? Absolutely not. But it's one of them, and we can't deny it. So when you start putting powdered white doughnuts on your counter, and you have a box of them in your car, are you more or less likely to eat them, Boyd?

BM: I plead the fifth on that. Absolutely. It's what's around you — access is a source of influence.

JG: I mean, we've done little studies in collaboration with a social scientist named Brian Wansink, that showed you just eat off a larger plate, you eat more food. So access matters. All of these sources of influence, as they change piece by piece start to create a more normative kind of behavior, they create new habits in society, and those create the problems that we lament.

BM: And it seems like so often, that our natural reaction to whatever it is, whether it's powdered doughnuts or school shootings, or whatever it may be, is that our instant response, particularly governments or business response is usually to immediately try to control the behavior. So the debate on guns immediately becomes it's only the access component, as opposed to looking at all the points of influence. How do we get beyond that? How do we get leaders beyond that, so that they're not just saying, well, we just need to control behavior, as opposed to we have opportunities to really influence and ultimately that behavior is going to be a byproduct?

JG: I think you're precisely right about our problems. So imagine that you had a big giant van that got stuck in the mud, and you've got six people who could potentially help you get out. And so you call one of them over and he pushes on the van, but he fails. And so you dismiss him and get the next one, and the next one and the next one, that's how we tend to approach problems. When what you really need to do is get all six of these people pushing against it simultaneously. And then we can break free. And so what we tend to do is we'll say, for example, all right, let's escalate penalties, let's pass a law that we're going to be tough on guns and tough on crime, or whatever it is, and then what happens is that doesn't change things as a pattern. So we say, well, that didn't work. And then we try the new thing, and we get flavors of the month. Well, the problem is not that changing penalties doesn't work. The problem is that it's insufficient. And it's a necessary component of change. You look at how we're approaching the opioid epidemic, and we're going to go beat up on the pharmaceutical companies. And perhaps there's a responsibility there, perhaps that ought to be examined. But if you also aren't examining the social influence of a doctor who's in a room with somebody who's saying, hey, I'm uncomfortable, and they sort of reflexively prescribe that again. And now I feel like I've got the social support of my physician to say, I need this, I need opiates longer in my recovery, unless you look at every element of this, what you end up doing is kind of squeezing one part of the balloon and the air just shifts to the next.

BM: And we see that in so many different areas. But I want to get to a real specific application. I know this has become such a driving force for you. And it's changing so many lives in so many significant ways. And that's this magic place called The Other Side Academy, which to me is the ultimate proving ground for a lot of these principles in terms of why they work. And so let's start kind of with criminal justice reform. You mentioned criminal justice. And is it just penalties? Is it locking people up? But what you found is that it really isn't any of that? Is it?

JG: Yeah, let's talk about ludicrous for a moment, if you want to go there. So we've got somebody who, let's say, has offended for the 25th time. So the average student at The Other Side Academy has been arrested 25 times. For the 25th time, here's the logic of our criminal justice system right now. We say, all right, you've done something that society doesn't like. So what we're going to do is we're going to incarcerate you with people who are even worse than you for three to five years, and then we're going to release you into civil society and assume that you're not going to behave the same way again. It's patently absurd. And then you have conversations in society that say, gosh, why are we providing things like education for people in prison, right? or why are you providing other sorts of, you know, therapeutic options for them, we're pampering them. It's called the correction system, because its original mission was to correct behavior. But what we've done is designed a perfect system to help create even more skillful criminals than we had before. And then we blame them for acquiring the education that we provided for them at great expense. We spend about as much on a person who we incarcerate in the state system as you would going to Harvard for a year. And the good news is they're getting the education that we're paying for, right. And then we blame them when they come out.

So at The Other Side Academy, what we're doing is the precise opposite. So we've got about 100 people who've been arrested an average of 25 times living in an old historic home in downtown Salt Lake City. They were brought there with the understanding that the government was going to provide no resources for them. So they had to learn how to support themselves. And the beauty is if you can learn to live in a healthy community and practice that for a long period of time, a very high accountability one, you're probably better prepared for living in a healthy community when you leave. And that's what The Other Side Academy is, it's a self-reliant two-year minimum opportunity for people to examine their own moral failings, practice becoming a different human being in an environment that holds you intensely accountable for long enough that you can become a new person.

BM: It's always amazing to me to see just the process there. I'll never forget it. We've talked about this before. But I'll never forget sitting in one of those city council meetings, you know, as you were trying to get some expansion work done. And this person, bless their heart, a career bureaucrat of some sort or another, who just could not quite wrap their head around how you could have 100 people in a facility with no guns, with no security cameras, with no ankle bracelets, people who, you know, wouldn't last 15 minutes in prison without getting into a fight or breaking a rule. And suddenly, you've got them not only existing, but running a successful moving company and a thrift store and food trucks and all sorts of other things. And they asked you the question, you know, how on earth is it possible to get that kind of behavior out of these awful horrible criminals? And your response was so powerful. You just said, we asked them. But tell us what's underneath that?

JG: We ask them loudly. It's exactly as you're describing, so people marvel when they come to The Other Side Academy that here we've had this place with people that were slamming dope, that were shooting meth the day before they arrived sometimes. And now here they aren't. We haven't had a single dirty drug test in 3 1/2 years. It's the cleanest, most sober place probably in the entire city. We have men and women living together, and there's no hanky-panky. You know, I'd hold it up against Brigham Young University as being one of the most chaste environments again, in the entire state. It's a marvel that this happens. And the question is how? Well the reason is, because that's the norm. When you get there, the older students are so invested in this kind of an environment and want to maintain these standards that they are the ones that hold you accountable. You go to a prison, and you've got guards and prisoners, and by definition, their mission statements are to oppose each other. The prisoners job is to find all the holes in the system to get away with everything I can, the guards are to catch them. And that's the game.

At The Other Side Academy there's no competing rules. Everybody's job is to maintain the standards and norms. And the students, if they came to a place that had people in white lab coats, if they had people who were officials, or if they had people who were responsible to fix them, they would love it because it would place no responsibility on them. They instantly become the passive recipient of some services we're trying to offer. Many of the changes we try to create in society we struggle with, because we expect too little from those we're trying to help rather than too much. At The Other Side Academy on day 1, students are expected to become part of the solution rather than the problem. And so as you say, we've got people from rival gangs, you know, I'll watch in games. And we can talk later about what that is, and you'll have an African American student sitting next to a person who has a swastika tattooed on them. And you think about, you know, the life history that just tells you about, and we have no violence, we have none of that contention there. And the reason is, because from day 1 you're told not to do that, by your brothers and sisters.

BM: Yeah, I want to drill down on this whole peer influence component to this, and for those who are listening to this podcast, you may not be familiar with The Other Side Academy. Let's start at the beginning. Let's take a student, and I love that you call them students, and go through their journey from the moment someone asked me, well, how does this all start? And I said, well, they have to convince a judge that they're ready to change. I said, but that's really the easy part. The harder part is convincing to get in, so walk us through that journey just real quickly.

JG: Yeah, so a student who may have been arrested is facing new charges is in jail, they write us a letter and they'll say, you know, please, I want a chance to change my life. They'll hear from others in prison or in jail about The Other Side Academy or we'll occasionally go do presentations in the jails. And so they know this option's available. And so they'll write the letter, we then go to jail to interview them. It's a very in-your-face interview. And the purpose of the interview is to start influencing them. It's just to set up a social contract. To say if you're coming here just to beat a sentence, stay. But if you're coming here to change your life, this is what it's going to feel like as you do. And so it's a pretty raw, in your face, they'll tell a little bit about their life story and then we'll play their life story back to them. We'll let them know what a liar, a thief, a manipulator they are, you know, people think we're solving a drug problem at The Other Side Academy. We're not, we're solving a character problem. And so if they're not willing to hear about the kind of human being they've become in their addiction and criminal journey, we can't help. But it sets up a social contract.

So once they arrive, they realize that's the expectation, not just of how people will talk to you, but how you're expected to talk to your brothers and sisters. They then receive an acceptance letter, they'll take that to the prosecutor and the judge. And if they can persuade them, then their sentence is held in abeyance for some period of time, while they can stay for a minimum of two years at The Other Side Academy. And Boyd, I'll tell you, there's nothing more inspiring than at the end of this two years going and appearing in court in front of a judge who's mystified, who's seen that same person 20 or 25 times in their courtroom, and now doesn't even recognize them, who on behalf of the State of Utah says you're forgiven of your outstanding crimes, go live a good life. And so time and time again, we see that occur, but that's the entrance process.

BM: So once they get that approval from the judge, then they come to The Other Side Academy, which is described as this great, old historic mayor's mansion in Salt Lake City. And I always say what's really historic about it is not the bricks and the wood, it's what happens in the building. That is, to me, changing generations, really shifting things in a significant way. Tell us about this lovely place everyone calls the bench.

JG: The bench democratizes access to the possibility of change, so anyone can walk in 24 hours a day and sit on the bench indicating they want to be interviewed. So if you didn't write us from jail, you could walk in off the street, and people do all the time, and sit on the bench. The Other Side Academy costs nothing. And so all you have to do is show a willingness to change your life by sitting there. We'll leave you there for a while and you'll get to see the flow of life, you'll see students coming and going, you'll see on the walls the beliefs that we stand for, and that gives you a chance to reflect, to say, am I really serious about this. Then you're going to be brought into what we call the quorum room. And the quorum room, some of the older people in the house, people that have been there a while longer than you are going to interview, It'll be the same interview that would have happened in jail. And they're going to test whether or not you can take an emotional punch. Because you're going to get a lot of them as you're hearing about yourself. And whether you're really insistent on making the sacrifice it'll require to change your life. And if they believe that then you're accepted.

It's an overwhelming thing for me to watch as these students who were once the broken person themselves are now making a decision about saving the life of somebody that's behind them. And then they'll take them downstairs to the clothing room, and they'll shed all of the clothing that represented who they thought they used to be, whether it was a drug dealer, or whether it was a prostitute, or whether it was you know, some little gang member or something on the street and they shed all of that and they're given humble, simple clothes as they begin their new life. It's an impressive moment.

BM: So they begin there and as you said, they're immediately part of the community which includes job assignments. I always chuckle because you can tell who the newer ones are, because they're cleaning like a 3-foot by 3-foot portion, you know, with a toothbrush and you know, just the discipline of work. Describe some of the things that the students go through, as they start to kind of break down and recreate.

JG: So the phases of their experience at The Other Side Academy are freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. So in the freshman stage, you're on campus all the time. Some of the most difficult behaviors for our students to acquire are just getting up every day at the same time and combing their hair and shaving, and then working a full day and trying to get along with people. Learning to live the same kind of routinized life that everyone else has learned to live. They'll work all day long and it's a good long, hard work day. The transformation of the campus people see when they drive by happen because these freshman are caring scrupulously for the house. And so the campus is absolutely impeccable and that's the freshmen's job.

As they move to sophomores they get called off, we call it. The Other Side Academy runs the No. 1 moving company because they realize it's not just about moving boxes, it's about saving lives. A lot of times we'll be called in because of the ratings and people won't realize that they now have 25 convicted felons in their house They can be a little bit nervous for a little while. And then they start to experience what these students have learned about compassion and integrity and hard work and teamwork. And by the end of the move, we've had many experiences where the mom or dad in the house is saying, hey, I gotta run to the store, will you watch my kids? And those kids are the safest kids in the city because that's who our students are becoming.

BM: It's such a fascinating thing to watch. I think every business leader should have to go watch a move by The Other Side movers because of the conversations that happen there. You don't see that kind of conversation happen in most boardrooms and halls of Congress here in the United States. It's just otherworldly, in terms of crucial conversation, influence, what's the desired result? How do we make it happen? Listening, challenging, being honest, it's inspiring to watch.

JG: Yeah, it definitely is. And the level of integrity is off the charts. I hadn't realized how morally mediocre I was until hanging around with a bunch of felons who are pushing themselves to a higher standard than I ever pushed myself to. And so you know, we have examples time and again where a freshman gets called off to the moving company, and now is a sophomore and is out on a move, and nicks a wall and feels embarrassed about it. And so he doesn't want to admit that he nicked the wall, which is one of our standards, you're transparent about any mistake that you make. And so he'll go back home, and then he'll feel dirty for a couple of weeks. And inevitably come into the quorum and say, You know what, I hid something a couple of weeks ago, and I nicked a wall. And then we'll call that customer back two weeks after the move and say, we nicked your wall, we're going to come out and fix it or we'll pay to have it fixed. What would you like us to do, and it blows their minds. Imagine the people that are doing this, you know, I'm capable of dealing with so much more moral mediocrity in my life, I can sleep with so many sins, you know, and here are people that are showing me a different way of living. And the reason they do that is because they're surrounded by people who help them look at themselves. Something that we rarely do for each other. That's the vital behavior at The Other Side Academy.

BM: And we need that in our homes. We need it in our communities, because we've become accepting of all kinds of mediocrity, whether it's moral mediocrity, whether it's just the way we treat each other, we just become far too accepting of just it's OK, I can sleep, I can drive past that person on the street, or I can drive past my neighbor knowing they need help. And I can justify it in myriad ways — that's not my job. That's not my responsibility today. But you're getting people to a completely different level. And the success speaks for itself. I think one of the great things we saw here locally in Utah, was The Other Side movers moving the police department in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Tell us about that real quick.

JG: That was a tender moment, because many of our students, of course, come from Utah Valley. And so many of these officers in the Pleasant Grove Police Department had arrested many of our students. And we had a little lunch prior to this move taking place where we invited many of those police officers over to The Other Side Academy so they could see what was happening and to see the looks on their faces when they spotted people that they had arrested before, but they had to struggle to recognize them because they don't even appear the same way anymore. And one by one as they shook hands and they had an opportunity to see that there is hope, you know, I got to imagine that being a police person is a discouraging job at times. And you know, you arrest somebody and you give them a pep talk and a lecture, you throw them in jail, you hope that it's going to fix something and it almost never does. But here they got to see that it does. We see the same from judges who tear up when they have a chance to encounter somebody after they've gone through this kind of transformation. And so, you know, back to where we started this with the influencer discussion, if it's possible for somebody who is so deeply broken to become a person of such immense integrity, what else is possible for us in the world? If we can start thinking in a more careful, more systematic way about how you create change? The problem isn't that it's possible. The problem is we're incompetent

BM: I was over in Japan at this G20 interfaith summit. And one of the really interesting questions that was raised was actually the theme of part of the conference. And that was because this change is possible, our working together to make it happen is imperative. And it all stemmed from a great talk. Elder Garrett W. Gong of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave one of the speeches and he talked about just how powerful questions can be. And he used the example of the former Emperor Hirohito and they were dealing with all kinds of pollution problems in Tokyo. And he asked a simple question. He said, why are there no more butterflies in my garden, and it awoke the nation to ask what's the solution to that, and that happens at The Other Side Academy every day and you're expanding now. You've got a new facility in Denver. Give us a quick snapshot of that. And then I want to wrap up with some lessons and some advice from The Other Side.

JG: Yeah. So I about three weeks ago, a group of our older students left Salt Lake City, pioneers in an exodus from Utah this time, and went to Denver to take with them what they've learned. And they spent about three weeks setting up shop, starting a moving company, getting a house arranged, putting a bench in place, meeting people in the jails and getting the word out. As we speak right now, there are four students, and many more on the way who have received acceptance letters. And it's pretty wonderful to watch this happen. These are people I saw come in broken that are now out going into the jails and pulling people out and helping to save their lives. And the whole goal of The Other Side Academy is that there could be a bench in every city in the world that wants one. So as students graduate from Denver, and from Salt Lake City, they'll have opportunities if they choose to choose whatever career they want, or to continue to make some sense of their pasts by saving lives in the future with what they've learned. And so many of them are choosing to do that. It's a special thing to see.

BM: One of the things that we've incorporated here at the Deseret News, we've been able to publish a piece advice from The Other Side. We think these are these are great. Give us a quick snapshot of some of the great life lessons from The Other Side Academy.

JG: Good heavens, yeah, they're abundant. You know, integrity is one you know, the irony that you can learn more about honesty from some of the most dishonest people in the world is incredible. The advice column will be coming out with one on relationships, you can learn a heck of a lot out of relationships by people who have destroyed more of them than most of us ever will. These are people that have thought deeply about that and through The Other Side Academy, they accumulate wisdom. We sit in circles on Tuesday and Friday nights and give feedback to each other. I've been, as have you, in some of the elite boardrooms of the world with some of the wisest, smartest people there are. I'd put the kind of advice I hear in those sacred quarters up against anything that I've ever heard in some of those circles. They get it, they understand the basics of life and that most of the significant problems we face are problems of fundamentals not complexities. And so this advice column will offer advice on relationships, workplace issues, home issues, and so forth from people who have paid a price to learn these ideas.

BM: I think it was the da Vinci quote that caught me that the best way to learn about live bodies is to study dead ones. I think for a lot of us we can learn a lot of lessons from what we've broken in the past.

As it is "Therefore, What?", that is always the final question. And so my question to you is people who have been listening for the last 25 minutes or so, they've heard some powerful examples of transformation. What's the "Therefore, What?" What do you hope people come away from listening to this program today? What do you hope they think different, what you hope they do different?

JG: I hope that they learn to see influence as a learnable skill and influence is complex. The meta message for me is that none of us really controls our behavior directly. The best way to control our behavior is to take control of the things that control us. And all of us are being shaped and influenced by the newspapers we read, by the social media we access, by the things that we don't read, by the people that we don't interact with, as well as those that we do. We're making choices about what will shape our future behavior. The lesson students learn at The Other Side Academy is that if you want to stay the person you now are, you need to take TOSA with you. You need to take The Other Side Academy with you. You need to continue to surround yourself with the sources of influence that will help you get to where you want to be. So my fondest hope is that people realize, No. 1, it is possible to create profound change. And No. 2, the best way to do that is to see the true complexity of what shapes our choices and step up to addressing that complexity.

Comment on this story

BM: Fantastic Joseph. Always appreciate your insight and thanks so much. Remember after the story is told, after the principle is presented, after the discussion and debate have been had, the question for all of us is "Therefore, What?" Don't miss an episode, subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcast or wherever you're listening today. And make sure to rate this episode and leave us a review. Follow us on Deseretnews.com/Tw and subscribe to our newsletter. This is Boyd Matheson, opinion editor for the Deseret News. Thanks for engaging with us on "Therefore, What?"

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