NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Josh Leider!
Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Josh Leider!
TW: How did you decide to make your adult life in Metro Detroit?
JL: I grew up here, but to be honest, I moved away for a bit (to Denver and Chicago) to get out of “the bubble.” However, I moved home to start a meditation company with my cousin and the second I got back I was reminded of how much I love Metro Detroit. So many good friends, old memories, and being close to family. You can’t beat it. I could do without January and February though...
TW: You spend your days working as the Chief Marketing Officer for MeditationWorks - tell us more!
JL: I think my friends would describe me as a bit of a “serial entrepreneur,” which is odd because everyone in my family is a doctor or lawyer… not sure where the drive came from but it’s definitely in my blood! In college I started my first company and by senior year, I was onto my second called TempoRun (written about in the Jewish News).
I now co-own my third startup, MeditationWorks, with my aunt and cousin Joanne and Jake Leider who founded the business! It’s no news that we are all overly stressed. We are always connected to our emails, phones, social media, etc., and 9-5 work hours don’t exist anymore… it’s more like 9 to forever. Stress really has taken over our lives, leaving a lot of us with sleepless nights and overwhelming days. My team and I are here to fix that! We provide workplace meditation programs to companies all across the US, where individuals at work can learn to practice meditation and live more mindful, stress free lives. No crystals, tree pose, or levitating. Just simple breathing exercises that scientifically change your brain for the better.
In terms of my role, I wear a lot of hats since we are very small. My focus is sales, growth, and strategy, but I also help out with the meditation programming, do a bit of HR, and management. And on good days I get to go lead meditations and lead speaking engagements... I can talk about meditation for days :)
TW: We see you're also a freelance graphic designer - how did that passion come about?
JL: I think I was always interested in the creatives. I remember all I ever wanted to do when I was younger was draw comics with my friends and shoot funny home movies (Spy Kids: Leider Addition was my best). And then in my freshman year of high school, I took a graphic design class. After my first project, my teacher pulled me aside and told me I had a real knack for design, and the rest is history. I really love to design brands from the ground up. I recently designed the logo for Berkley Common, a newer restaurant in Berkley, which I’m really proud of!
TW: We've heard that you love to cook and have a particular fondness for sweet potatoes. Can you share a favorite recipe?
JL: Ahh, sweet potatoes. They hold a very special place in my heart. Nutritious AND delicious. For my 27th birthday, my friends got me a sweet potato with a bow on it. The year before, I got a gift card to the restaurant Sweet Potato Sensations in Redford… reading everything I just wrote I sound like a nut but I just really love sweet potatoes. In terms of a recipe, I’ll be honest, I just bake them plain at 420 degrees until they are crispy, I throw on some salt, pepper, and a little BBQ sauce to top it off... and voila!
TW: You just became a Dog Dad - tell us all about your pup and what that experience has been like so far.
JL: I did, yes! His name is Juneau and I know this may sound biased but he may be the cutest dog on the face of the earth. He is named after my favorite Alaskan city, Juneau. He’s a Lab/Shepherd/Pit mix and he’s six months as of June 27th. Dog Dad life is truly the best. Pros: I have a cute little buddy to hang out with all day every day. I wake up to kisses and I now always have someone to walk with. Cons: Juneau sleeps in my bed and has learned that to wake me up in the morning, all he has to do is sit on my head and stay there until I get annoyed. :)
TW: In the past you've staffed Alaska trips for Camp Tamarack. What are some of your favorite memories?
JL: Oh man, this is a hard question. The Tamarack Alaska trips are truly my heart and soul. They really did make me into the person I am today. They are where I first learned about meditation and connected the dots that summer camp, in a lot of ways, is just one big mindful experience (that’s a whole other story I wrote about: The Science Behind Why Summer Camp Changes Lives). I have two short, favorite memories.
Number one: Hiking to the top of the Chilkoot Pass, which is an insane hike through snowy peaks to cross over from the U.S. into the Yukon. I remember getting to the top of the pass a few minutes before the campers, turning around, and noticing I was above the clouds… the silence was indescribable. Magic.
Number two: During the Alaska trip I took out in 2013, for some reason we got really intrigued by the restaurant Pizza Ranch. Don’t ask why. Anyways, we would talk about it with the kids all the time. Literally every day, during almost every program. Towards the end of the trip they were obsessed. And then on one of our last days on the trip, we blind folded all the kids and told them we were doing one last sunset hike. We took them off the bus slowly to get ready for the hike, they still couldn’t see anything. We played really intense, emotional music and gave a speech about how it was going to be our final hike together. Kids cried, put their arms around each other, etc. After about five minutes of an intense speech, we asked them to all take off their blindfolds and... we were standing in front of a Pizza Ranch!! I’ve never seen a group of campers go crazier in my entire life. We ate a lot of pizza and ranch for dinner. Again, magic.
TW: What's your ideal Saturday?
JL: Three things: A nice long walk with Juneau and his best friend Finn (and his Dad Michael Schwartz), tennis with Max Lippitt (I’m beating him 5 games to 2 this season), and sitting on my couch for a good two hours of reading. I just finished Shoe Dog, the story of Phil Knight and Nike. Excellent book if you haven’t read it. Throw a sweet potato dinner in the mix - greatest day ever.
TW: What fictional place would you most like to travel to and why?
JL: I’m a tad obsessed with Star Wars so really anywhere in that universe. The Death Star would be pretty wild.
TW: How do you like to give back to the community / others?
JL: As of late, I’ve been trying to teach more and more people in the Jewish community about meditation and mindfulness. As Jews, we are a more anxious people due to the traumas we’ve had to face over time. I think our community can really benefit from meditation. I also love anything Tamarack so I try to get involved with their initiatives as much as possible!
TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
JL: Passover by far. Mainly because I use to work at these fancy Passover Vacations in Arizona and Mexico, and by fancy, I mean the Spielberg family attends… They are so much fun and living the high life for a few weeks isn’t so bad. Close second is Chanukah. Big big fan of latkes and applesauce.
TW: What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
JL: I’ll be honest, I don’t feel overly accomplished yet. I still have so much to do and achieve. But I will say that overall, I’m proud I’ve been able to stick to my beliefs and go against the grain. I've turned down many high paying jobs to travel and also start my own companies, but it hasn’t always been easy. The world today over-glamorizes being an entrepreneur with movies and shows like Silicon Valley. You have an idea and then BOOM two years later you are making millions. Nope. It’s a grind. A really hard grind. And a long one too. Five to 10 years for most entrepreneurs. But I live my life by a simple quote: “Entrepreneurs live like others won’t, so in the future they can live like others can’t.” And truthfully, I love the grind! Something about self-starting your own project, no matter how hard, is the most fulfilling.
TW: Would you rather win an Olympic Medal (for what sport?), an Academy Award (in what category?), or Nobel Prize (in what)?
JL: I think a Nobel Prize, because that would mean I did something that truly changed the world, and that’s always been the dream. But if I could win an Olympic medal for eating sweet potatoes, I may choose that.
TW: Best movie ever made, hands down?
JL: I truly cannot answer that, but best TV is Lost, hands down. No questions asked. Closely followed by The Leftovers.
TW: How about a fun fact?
JL: In Alaska I ate a beating salmon heart. Is that a fun fact? We get a little crazy over there.
TW: Finish the sentence: When I go to The Well…
JL: I’m simply thankful organizations like The Well exist. Not everyone has access to a strong Jewish community, or even a community in general. I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have a community that has supported me my whole life and helped mold me into the person I am today.