Humans with Josh Levent

A podcast for people who want the world to slow down and become more human.

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Episode 8

The Big Picture, Connecting the Dots of Experience: Meet Tinashe Mashungu

Tinashe Mashungu was born in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, and he has lived all over the country. His father was an agro-economist, and in many ways, Tinashe has followed in his footsteps, though his path has taken him in many different directions.

He studied computer science in high school and came to the US to attend Reed College and study physics. After getting a feel for the program, Tinashe switched his major to maths and economics, writing his thesis on structural adjustment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Though he wasn’t able to see it at the time, in retrospect, Tinashe recognises that all of his education, experiences, and opportunities have given him a unique set of skills and led him to where he is today, with the desire and capability to create change in Zimbabwe, in Africa, and in the world.

What makes Tinashe human is his drive to keep going and keep learning even when the big picture isn’t visible yet and the passion he has for using technology to accelerate progress in Africa.

On today’s podcast:

  • Tinashe’s early life and boarding school experience began the formation of his character

  • He studied mathematics, physics, computer science; he wanted to be an engineer

  • He changed his major at Reed College to study economics

  • At the World Economic Forum, Tinashe showcased his work and started thinking about bigger problems

  • Tinashe wants to democratise energy provision and create energy inclusion in Africa

Episode 7

Finding Balance in the Passionate Pursuit of Life: Meet Laura Curau

Laura Curau was born in the small town of Münsterlingen, Switzerland and lived most of her life in nearby Weinfelden. Her and her twin brother are the youngest of four siblings, raised by supportive, enterprising, and politically involved parents.

Ever since she was a young girl, Laura enjoyed learning and being good at things, though in school she was often bullied because of this.

Her political involvement began in her teenage years, and her journey to becoming national campaign manager for one of the largest political parties in Switzerland, taught her a lot about work-life balance, asking for help, and knowing when to quit.

What makes Laura human are her passion for life, desire to connect with others, and willingness to search for the balance between hard work and the pursuit of fulfillment.

On today’s podcast:

  • Laura’s family were her role models

  • Her political activity began in her teenage years

  • She excelled academically but struggled socially in school

  • Traveling with Up With People was life changing and inspiring

  • Dealing with burnout at work

  • Learning to ask for help


Episode 6

Relearning How to Walk in Confidence: Meet Bongiwe Beja

Bongiwe Beja was born in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, to a Zulu mother and a Xhosa father. She is the youngest of four children, a brother and two other sisters. Bongiwe describes her upbringing and how her parents, particularly her father, worked very hard to make sure that their children have all the opportunities that they themselves didn’t have.

Bongiwe also talks about how she started drumming when she was 10. By the age of 15, she was already the head percussionist of a youth orchestra.

Her ambition and determination helped her build an astonishing career in South Africa. And, oddly enough, her divorce contributed to that, because after her husband left she started putting everything into her work.

What makes Bongiwe human are her strength and passion, and the way she chose to redefine herself while going through the grief of divorce. Bongiwe refused to link her identity to anyone, rewrote her story and learned how to walk in confidence all over again.

On today’s podcast:

  • The strong, positive influence of Bongiwe’s sister

  • How her love of music, drama and math were born

  • Her first life-changing experience

  • Studying finance and entrepreneurship at university

  • Her dramatic marriage and having to raise her daughter on her own

  • Her drive to become an African leader


Episode 5

Constantly Seeking the Truth: Meet Yushan Chen

My guest today is Yushan Chen, a 29-year old Chinese filmmaker now living in Los Angeles. Yushan talks about her very strict education, only being allowed by her parents to read good books and listen to Western classical music.

She also talks about her rebellions, one of which was learning how to play the Jinghu, a traditional two-stringed Chinese instrument with a sharp sound, which is very hard to play.

She takes us through falling in love and discovering rock music, dealing with depression and getting out of it and studying filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles (among other subjects).

What makes Yushan very human is her constant search for the truth and her belief that women should be free, independent and brave.

On today’s podcast:

  • Her earliest memory and her first rebellion

  • Her tough years within the Chinese educational system

  • Falling in love and discovering rock and metal music

  • Studying journalism at university and being disappointed with the career prospects in China

  • Dealing with depression

  • The path that led her to filmmaking


Episode 4

Searching for His Role in Life: Meet Varun Venugopal Gupta

Varun Venugopal Gupta was born in India into a middle-class family. Growing up, he lived in many cities, was raised a very independent kid and was given a lot of freedom to do what he wanted.

One of the things that makes him deeply human is his constant search for himself, for his role in society. Today he shares his journey so far, he tells us about his love of theatre and explains how he ended up making his own luck and regaining his confidence after quite a disastrous school experience.

On today’s podcast:

  • Being raised very independent

  • His adventurous first day at school

  • Studying 12-13 hours every day from age 14 to 16

  • His first failure, stammering and not being able to fit in

  • How a leadership seminar gave him his confidence back

  • Co-founding a social enterprise focused on employability


Episode 3

On a Journey to Find Meaningful Work: Meet Gemma Milne

Gemma Milne is a British science writer and speaker on innovation and technology. Despite being a high-achiever (or maybe because of it), she struggled to find work that was meaningful to her. This is one of the things that makes her very human.

Another thing that makes her human is her self-awareness around the desire for attention. Other topics we covered in today’s podcast include her wanting to become a dolphin trainer and later astronaut, attending Space School in Houston and working for the advertising giant Ogilvy.

On today’s podcast:

  • Her earliest memories and her fondness for maths

  • Wanting to be an dolphin trainer as a child and later an astronaut

  • Dealing with rejection and overcoming complacency

  • Being bullied for being intelligent and taking revenge by attending Space School

  • Her disappointment with Ogilvy

  • Transitioning to science writing and starting to write a book


Episode 2

Empathy Is the Answer: Meet Business Analyst Mosidi Modise

Today I’m speaking to Mosidi Modise, a South African social entrepreneur and finance intrapreneur at Allan Gray. When I met Mosidi I was immediately calmed by her presence. Her empathy and kindness make her deeply human, as well as her energy and passion to make a difference in the world.

On top of her full-time job at Allan Gray, Mosidi is trying to raise awareness around sexual harassment and help reduce violence and homelessness, as well as prepare people for the fourth industrial revolution.

We talk about her upbringing in the Freestate province of South Africa, and how she ended up running a guesthouse at the tender age of 20. We also spend some time discussing running and nature, passions we both share.

On today’s podcast:

  • Mosidi’s education, avoiding the cool kids and gravitating towards people with positive energy

  • Running a guesthouse, studying marketing at the university and then doing an MBA in entrepreneurship

  • Moving to Cape Town and starting work at Allan Gray

  • Joining the Global Shapers hub and helping marginalised communities

  • Helping create awareness around sexual harassment in South Africa

  • Her efforts to help reduce violence and homelessness


Episode 1

Overcoming Failure: Meet Filmmaker & Entrepreneur Francis Rafal

My first guest is Francis Rafal, an Austrian filmmaker and entrepreneur. When I first met him in May I was struck by his playfulness. This is something that will come across in our conversation today, and what I think makes him deeply human.

The other thing that makes Francis human is his failure. He almost went bankrupt a couple of years ago, after dealing with several financial disasters in his business.

On today’s podcast:

  • Entrepreneurial from a young age

  • Shooting his first video, attending civil service and going to Train the Trainer classes

  • Studying physics and launching his first company

  • First real trouble: going almost bankrupt

  • Receiving support from his network and founding two more businesses

  • Working to make the world less polarized



The podcast for people who want the world to slow down and become more human. Josh Levent creates a space for empathetic connections to people on the other side of the planet through biographical interviews of ordinary people. Take a moment to catch your breath, hit pause on life and curl up on a sofa with Humans in your earbuds. We all need to take a moment to nurture our inner child, heal our wounds and enjoy the real-life stories of others. With his break-out podcast, Josh creates a Gezelligheid (sense of cozy togetherness) for all of us. If you’ve ever felt a sense of sonder (the sudden realisation that every stranger has a life as complex as your own) you’ll find that Humans makes you feel less alone.