The After Action Review

Podcast

Every Veteran business owner has a unique story to tell about their journey through entrepreneurship. Those stories can help inspire, educate, and motivate other Veterans who are either in the middle of their own journey or considering starting one. The After Action Review Podcast (The AAR Podcast) serves as a vehicle to create, promote, and support a network of Veteran entrepreneurs by capturing and sharing their stories with the Veteran community.

The AAR Podcast, is an audio and video podcast for Military and Veteran entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, and non profit organizations. We promote entrepreneurship and Veteran products, business, and service.

Wolves In Wolves Clothing

by Rod Rodrigue

“Fugayzi, fugazi. It’s a whazy. It’s a woozie. It’s fairy dust. it doesn’t exist. It’s never landed. It is no matter. It’s not on the elemental chart. It’s not fucking real.” — Matthew McConaughey, Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Being a Veteran advocate I sincerely want to believe that Veterans mean well and have honorable intentions. That being said, Veterans are also people and as a HUMINT guy my opinion about the best of intentions from the general human population is somewhat low. This is why I get a serious case of “skeptical hippo” eyes when I hear about life coaches, financial consultants, and make money from home schemes.

The issue for me is that often these businesses are dressed up to be Veteran friendly. They’re wearing Veteran apparel like T-Shirts and Hats with military themes, they often talk about their struggle to make it from being a service member to earning 7 figures, or they promise to show you the path to a problem free lifestyle. They manipulate the truth, pictures, and stories to illustrate their “success” on social media. They inflate their numbers with our support and in turn use those numbers to convince others to listen to them. It’s artificial legitimacy.

In all of their products and plans, they all share one major trait. That trait being a lack of “how”. The “how” is the secret behind the magic trick, it’s the thing they want you to break out your credit card for. How will you lead me to personal happiness? How will you coach my life? How will you help me make 7 figures a year? The problem here is that they’re selling information but there is no way to verify the legitimacy of that information without first knowing it. The only way we can try to sift through the nonsense is through that individual’s reputation, and guess what? They’ve literally built their own reputation through purchased social media likes, follower, and cherry picking comments and of course our following as well.

Before you go handing out your credit card to anyone promising you fortune and prosperity, ask yourself what are their qualifications. If the only answer is “I made $X million dollars last year” or “10K followers can’t be wrong”, or my personal favorite “ask (insert notable name), a client of mine” then you’re probably talking to a scam. Credentials matter! Financial consultants should have some type of certifications and affiliations with professional organizations you can confirm. Those million dollar business ideas are 9 times out of 10 pyramid schemes that are now clever disguised as “mulit-level marketing” except that it looks remarkably like a pyramid. If you’re looking for a life coach, chances are you probably need a professional mental health therapist who’s actually been formally educated on how to help you without telling you what to do because at that point you’re just looking for someone to tell you what to do not how to think through your issues. Life coaches are especially worrisome to me because they can purchase $100 online certificate and now you have a 24 year old 4 year military Veteran trying to coach your life for money…as a trained but non-practicing mental health therapist this scares the hell out of me.

Information is not a premium. The internet has become the great equalizer in regards to the power of information. What matters is your willingness to look and apply that information. Want to boost your social media standing for your business? Okay, there companies you can pay and they’ll do it for you but savvy investors and even customers will see right through your artificial ruse and you will not have learned anything about developing content. The same goes for real estate, sales, and just about every potential money making industry. There is a short cut out there, it’ll cost you, and you won’t learn squat from it. In fact in the long run it will probably do more harm than good. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for short cut advice, practical advice seminars, and general advice consultations, you can scour YouTube and I guarantee there’s a reputable person who will bust through bullshit of your industries myths and get to the HOW because they don’t want you to get scammed. The truth sounds a lot like the truth and if you can’t tell the difference maybe you should look into a different industry. That’s not me being a dick, that’s just some honest talk.

Just because it looks like a Veteran and talks like a Veteran doesn’t mean they’re a Veteran. And if they’ve served it doesn’t mean that they’re looking out for Veterans like you. Veterans take pride in their ability to see threats, preparation, and diligence. There are con-artists who will disguise themselves to look and talk like you in order to take your money and your time. They also know you’re less likely to come forward to admit when you’ve been scammed because what proud Veteran wants to admit they’ve been fooled. 
 
 Have you noticed some questionable advertisements by “Veterans”? Have you been a victim of fraud from a Veteran company? You don’t have to name any names if you don’t want to but I’d like to hear about your experiences or encounters with fraudsters. Email me your stories at rodrodriguez@theaarpodcast.com

Rod Rodriguez is a 13 year combat Veteran of the US Army. He holds a B.S. in US Intelligence Studies and an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling. Rod is also the host of The After Action Review (AAR) Podcast, a show dedicated to Veteran entrepreneurship. Visit the The AAR Podcast Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/theaarpodcast and atwww.theaarpodcast.com

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Build an Empire!

“I started my podcast by purchasing a URL and a microphone that I couldn’t afford. I recorded my first podcast in a kitchen with cheap groceries and in a house whose electricity was getting shut off in a few days if a minimum payment wasn’t made. I was going through my own life changing events and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it to the next day much less be a podcaster but I knew if there was ever going to be a point in my life to do this, it was now. I made a crazy decision by other people’s viewpoints but I knew in my gut that I was making the right call.”

One of the sayings that really annoys me is that one about “when life gives you lemons”. You know how it goes, your supposed to make lemonade. The truth is when life gives you lemons it sure doesn’t feel like lemons, but more like a few good punches to the face, and it’s hard to find the positive to that. Then there are points in life that feel like a straight up beating. Most of us have either been through it or are going through it now. It’s that moment in life when it feels like NOTHING is going right. You might find yourself losing money, friends, family, all the above even. It’s those moments that it’s hard to objectively find the silver lining to any of what’s happening.

It’s interesting that it’s in these moments that business owners and founders find the strength to start the pursuit of their passions. It very rare that I talk to anyone whose story goes, “everything was going really well when I decided, hey why not start that business I was thinking of…” The truth is there is something at the bottom of the barrel, when we think we’ve hit rock bottom that in that dark place there is a hidden strength in having nothing left to lose. The difference between the entrepreneur and everyone else is that the entrepreneur seizes that moment as their while the latter allows the moment to seize them.

The sad truth is so many of us are so happy to recover just a sliver of what we’ve lost in those worst of times that we find ourselves content to rebuild our lives in a way that looks remarkably the way it did before it all fell apart. This where the real growth can happen but often we’re so preoccupied with the rebuilding that we don’t stop to consider this an opportunity build something else, something closer to what we’ve dreamt about than what we built and fell apart before.

Those moments present an opportunity to be free of feeling the full weight of risk. The idea of “why not?” and “how much worse could it get?” can be liberating. We can find strength in the risk, the idea of not rebuilding but redesigning the life we want to live. That could mean spending your retirement money on your business idea or selling everything you own to make your idea come to life. Those are frightening things to think about when everything is still going well but when you’re feeling on your last leg, perspective has a way of changing that fear into motivation. But for many that fear won’t change and the desperation for comfort will compel them to play it safe and do what needs to be done not to survive to maintain.

Ask yourself, “if I had nothing to lose, how would I shape my life?” Then do that! You don’t have to wait till life is crumbling around you to make major changes towards your business or nonprofit idea. Don’t wait for the house to burn down to start remodeling, begin simply with buying a URL or writing your idea. Then slowly expand your idea by investing your own money into it. (I want to emphasize your own money because now you’re investing in yourself with hard earned 9–5 money and that will not only make the experience of building your idea more real but it will make it more valuable. The more you invest in it the more you’ll be interested in keeping it alive.) Every day pull a part of your old life down and put up a new piece around your idea.

You might be reading this and you are going through that life crumbling phase right now. Everything is bleak and the last thing you’re thinking about is building a business. I get it, I’ve been there, and I’m also going to let you in on something, I don’t care who you are or how bad things are getting or how bad they’ve become, you HAVE the strength to change all of it. It’s going to be a slow go and it’s probably going to suck…a lot. Sorry to be Debbie Downer but it’s the truth. Here’s the take away, NOW is the time to start envisioning your new life. It’s now when it hard to envision anything but survival that you HAVE to envision yourself thriving! Map it out on a piece of paper, figure out the road map not to where you were but to where you’re going! To hell with lemonade, build an empire!


Rod Rodriguez is a 13 year combat Veteran of the US Army. He holds a B.S. in US Intelligence Studies and an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling. Rod is also the host of The After Action Review (AAR) Podcast, a show dedicated to Veteran entrepreneurship. Visit the The AAR Podcast Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/theaarpodcast and at www.theaarpodcast.com

Army Values Inc.

by Rod Rodriguez

Every Soldier in the US Army is introduced to the Army Values early on in Basic training. From there they will see posters, stenciled stairs, wall paintings, and every other possible public display of the Values. Soldiers memorize the Army Values word for word to pass the multitude of boards the Army provides to prove that they understand what it is the Army stands for. Unfortunately, I can tell you often those words are uttered with as much conviction and purpose as someone reciting the answers to a paper test, it’s merely a check the block action that most almost always immediately data dump after its needed.

It’s only recently that my journey into entrepreneurship has lead me to exploring the value system of a business. What really matters about starting up, the value of content and products, where the soul of a business really lies. If there’s one overwhelming theme that almost every business expert and guru come back to is service. Service to your community, to your customers, providing something of value will the best of intentions and pure commitment to service will almost always yield a business profit over the long run.

Why do you want to start a business? Is it to make money? Is it to buy your dream car? Is it to get famous? What drives your will to become an entrepreneur?

I’m going to get old school here for a moment and dust off the Army Values because I think there’s something to learn and apply from them towards entrepreneurship. I can already hear eyeballs rolling back because you’ve seen these values a thousand times but I want to present them in a new light, the light of business. I think in this light you can figure out what your intentions really are, if your heart is in the right place, because if it’s not you’re almost certainly headed down a road of failure or worse yet fraudulent success.

Loyalty — Customer loyalty is a must for any business. We often think about customer loyalty in the sense of the customer being loyal to a brand or company. Instead I want you to consider your loyalty to your customer. Is your product or content staying true to what you promised them? Is your customer receiving the very best from you? When you commit ourselves to being loyal to our customer, listeners, viewers, or whomever is consuming our content, we in turn ask for their loyalty back. A loyal customer will be there when the chips are down and you can bet that at some point the chips will be down.

Duty — Businesses take time, lots of it! There are no short cuts to quality, but plenty to mediocrity. Entrepreneurs have a duty to their business and to their customers. That duty is the time, work, and dedication to providing what was promised. Sometimes circumstances may occur that interfere with deadlines, products, or content but that should always be addressed open and honestly. It is simply the duty of a business owner to care for the business like they would themselves because in many ways a business is an extension of what you represent and value.

Respect — Respect your customers, your employees, and yourself. Treat those that work for you with dignity and respect and you will earn their hard work. Treat you customers with respect and you will earn their business. Treat yourself with respect and patience and you will earn respect from those around you. Be boss the boss you wish you’d had, emotionally intelligent, approachable, patient and understanding. Respect is a commodity hard earned and easily lost.

Selfless Service — Be more than about profits. It doesn’t matter what your selling, find the meaning in what you’re doing. If your selling fidget spinners consider all the kids benefiting from your product and now able to concentrate on their homework. How many kids will graduate to the next grade because you put a quality product in their hands. Maybe you have a cause like Veteran employment or PTSD that your business is going to offer something to address that issue. Make your business bigger about passion for others and profit will find you.

Honor — Dedicate yourself to a standard of business that you will not deviate from. Be consistent in how you manage yourself, your employees, and your customer interactions. In a world of social media, it’s easy to spread the word when a company’s performance wavers, when they fail to follow through without explanation, or when they completely drop the ball and point fingers at everything but themselves. Honorable conduct means adherence to the values you set forth for your business, even if that means admitting your wrong and it costs you money.

Integrity — It should go without saying but honesty in business is crucial to success. Cutting corners, lying, and cheating is not only morally reprehensible but it can also lead you to financial ruin and legal issues. Being upfront and honest with all parties involved in your business means less stress for you and less potential for disaster. A sure-fire way to lose customers and employees is to lie to them, omit the truth, or try to fool them. Demonstrating integrity on the other hand gains their trust and loyalty. A customer would rather deal with an imperfect but honest business than a glossy huckster.

Personal Courage — Have the courage to start! Have the courage to take the first step into making your business a reality. None of this will matter if you don’t try! And once you do have the courage to confront the challenges that will arise. There will be a multitude of issues that will arise that will slow you down, derail you, but never let it stop you. Today’s most successful companies were founded on layer upon layer of challenges and failures. Accept that this journey is not easy from the start but have the courage to at least try!

The Army Values represents a system for living but it can also be a system for operating your business. Adopt a Value system early on. Know what your about as an entrepreneur and what your business stands for. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor Integrity, and Personal Courage is a good start. Let this system of LDRSHIP guide you and I promise you can’t go wrong.

 

My Baby's Ugly, Now What?

by Rod Rodriguez

I run a podcast, manage its social media accounts, and maintain the website. I started doing all this about a year ago and I have lived through the typical ups and downs of starting a small business centered around a passion with no real idea of how to monetize. This story is hardly unique now a days but what makes it unique to me is that it’s the story of me…so that makes it important.

With valuing the story of my podcast comes a certain level of guarded protectiveness of my product. I’ve often described my podcast and its associated mediums as “my baby”. Like a real baby, I’m proud of what I made! I look at my podcast through the eyes of a proud father, all the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followers are a collective of folks I happily whip out the 100-pic wallet to show my kid off to every time I post. I want to sit back and continue watching my kid grow as he is gently directing him toward what I envision as the best podcast it can be. But here’s the terrible truth. It’s not my baby, it’s a business. And if I want to hold on to the baby analogy then the harsher truth is, maybe my baby is fucking ugly.

That’s a hard pill to swallow for any proud parent, the admission that your kid might be stupid, ugly, and not destined for greatness if they continue down the path they’re going. Now perhaps it’s the not the smartest thing to say about your own product, I doubt you’ll see a Pepsi advertisement any time soon with the tagline “Not as good as Coke to be honest but we do just fine””. One of the purposes of starting my podcast was to document my own journey trying to be one of the Veteran entrepreneurs that I was dedicated to interviewing. I was hoping that by sharing my story of growth others would learn some valuable lessons. Well here’s such a lesson that I’m learning and it’s caused me a little heart ache.

It started when I ran across a YouTube page for an interview format program that seemed to center on Veteran business owners. I’d never heard of this show and they only had a handful of episodes but I quickly recognized the format as being identical to my podcast. I looked at the thumbnails, read the descriptions, and checkout out the banner. Then, I clicked away. I clicked on another video and found myself looking at something else completely. A moment later I had a realization, I hadn’t clicked on any of that sites videos. A site that was for all intents and purposes my competition, I didn’t bother to click on anything. I sat back and reflected on that for moment. Why? Why didn’t I click on a video to at least see what my competition was doing, what it looked like, what it sounded like, after all as I was looking through it I had been feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. Then it hit me. It hit me hard. I hadn’t clicked on anything because…it sucked. I mean damn, did it ever suck. The thumbnails look like garbage, the video quality didn’t look appealing, and the people being interviewed didn’t seem interesting to me because I didn’t know who they were. I even had better reason than most to check it out because they were my competition but I still felt so little interest that clicking for the sake of business wasn’t enough to compel me to click.

Was this what people saw and felt about my podcast? Nah! No way! My baby’s beautiful, right? It’s got followers! It does well, and people have told me it was good…right? For the most part the feedback had been positive but then again, how often does someone tell you that your baby’s ugly, especially when those people are your friends? I went to my own YouTube page and looked around, then all my social media, then my website. I had a moment of detached clarity, looking at my content objectively…my baby was fucking ugly. Damn…

Ok! I’m not ready to toss the ugly baby over a cliff like the Spartans! In fact, this baby has potential, that I know but if I’m going to be honest with myself this kid is going to need a LOT of work, which I’m willing to do and I WANT to do. And so, began a few hours of emotionally depressing honest appraisal of my own work. From coming to terms with its ugliness to facing the facts that I may have reached the limit of my capabilities. Unless I was willing to devote a few hundred hours into developing new skills this podcast might be at the point of where it’s time to move forward and invest some cash into refining the product or this baby goes airborne, after all in the world of business this is Sparta.

I made a list of what I’m doing next. Some pretty exciting things about how this baby is going to evolve and I’m genuinely excited because I think it’s not only going to make the show better but by making the show better I’m improving the chances of making a real impact on Veteran entrepreneurship and advocacy. But here’s the take away, my baby was ugly from the start. In fact, if I were to compare my baby now to when it was born, well one might have questioned my ethics for birthing such a little abomination of a poorly put together podcast. That’s ok though!

Look, your business baby is supposed to be a little bundle of dumpster fire. That’s the point of building your business. I can’t think of one business that was born looking like it belonged on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine. It’s our job to own the mistakes that make our babies so damned ugly then work our butts off to help said baby develop into the visions we have for them. I am my own harshest critic, and is my podcast perfect? Far from! But is it a good show? YEAH! It’s got great content if you’re willing to give it a shot! When I talk about supporting Veteran businesses that’s part of it! It’s like going to the ugly kid’s soccer game! Sure, he’s clumsy, falls down a lot, and a few times almost scored on the wrong goal, but hey that’s someone’s kid and you’re here to support that proud parent. And here’s the kicker, if you stick around long enough you might see the spark of genius in that little ugly little kid.

My podcast is called The After Action Review, and it’s my ugly baby. If you give this ugly kid a chance you’ll find some genuinely helpful stories of entrepreneurship from guys you’ve never heard of through video that screams amateur, but those guys being interviewed are REAL Veterans with REAL stories who took the time to talk with an ugly baby because they care about the parent. Perhaps more important they want YOU to have your very own ugly ass kid!

So now I’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m going to have fun making it all happen…but first I have a soccer game to attend on a YouTube page I had ignored, I here someone’s ugly ass kid is playing.

Digital Mentor

by Rod Rodriguez

 

Almost every expert, best selling writer, or lecturer on the subject of entrepreneurship will agree that one of the most important and valuable things you can do for yourself and your growing business is seek a mentor. Mentorship can be a crucial part of your development as an entrepreneur as it provides you a person who has the experience to guide you, advise you, and motivate you to keep going on those when giving up seems so much easier than slogging through another day.

The problem with mentors is finding them. All too often for entrepreneurs who are outside of an academic institution, finding someone who will take time to talk with you is a real challenge. Not being able to find a mentor can make you feel discouraged and contribute to your justification for giving up on your idea. There are online websites and programs that can help you find a mentor but even then you might be keeping yourself from pursuing those options because your embarrassed or just so unsure of the whole thing that looking for that person makes you uncomfortable.

One option is, YouTube. One of the ways I’ve used YouTube in the past was to educate myself on different aspects of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although I was going to an academy and I had a black belt instructor, on YouTube I had dozens of high level world class instructors teaching me different exotic movements, sharing their thoughts and philosophies on Jiu Jitsu, and also providing me with their lessons learned and advice for training. There are YouTube Jiu Jitsu instructors I honestly feel like I know even though we’ve never met because I’ve consumed hundreds of hours of their material!

As an entrepreneur, I can tell you right away that there are dozens of high level entrepreneurs on YouTube with hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of lectures, tutorials, rants, and classes that will speak to you directly. Seek a YouTube mentor who is immersed in your market and consume everything they’ve put out. One of the guys I follow is Gary Vaynerchuk. If you’re not familiar with who he is then do yourself a HUGE favor and YouTube Gary Vaynerchuk and click on any of his many videos. In a nutshell,  he’s a self made media mogul who started with an online wine business that’s expanded into a media company that he hopes will eventually lead to him buying the NY Jets football team. For months now I’ve been consuming his videos which are chalk full of inspiration, great social media advice, and some uncomfortable truths about my mindset and how I need to change the way I think in order to be the entrepreneur I want to be. His message is accessible to me day and night, I have a variety of topics I can cover through his videos that answer the questions I have at the time. Of course, the video version of Gary Vaynerchuk isn’t a replacement for the real person whose direct mentorship is valued at more money than I’ve made this year but compared to free videos on YouTube, I think I’m getting the bargain here.

There are lots of other personalities on YouTube you can explore such as Grant Cardone whose selling technique, energy, and over the top personality will super charge your desire to sell (WHO’S GOT MY MONEY???) or if you’re looking at developing your leadership skills by upping your emotional intelligence then Tony Robbins’ videos will inspire you to learn more about yourself and to ask some really hard questions. There are also interviews with business leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and many others who share their lessons learned and give practical advice for anyone willing to listen. Tai Lopez, you might remember him as the YouTube “you know whats better than this Lamborghini…knoooowledge” guy, makes a great point about the autobiography of Sam Walton. He wrote his story, the story of how he became a billionaire and most people haven’t read it. Think about that, he left the blue print for how he made his fortune and most people haven’t read it! YouTube is kind of like that. The successful business people are sharing their stories, challenges, and lessons with you and its FREE! You just have to watch!

YouTube has a wealth of knowledge for you to dip into and sure some of these guys can get a bit cheezy or gimmicky. Here’s the thing though, use their knowledge and experience to boost your confidence and interest in entrepreneurship. Then use that to explore the option of finding someone in the market you want to break into for mentorship. You might even find that you both share the same interest in YouTube mentor! I promise you this, the ROI for your time on YouTube will be tremendous but only if you’re pursuing the right information.

So get on YouTube, find Gary Vaynerchuk and take him for a spin. Not your flavor, try Grant Cardone, or Tai Lopez, or all of them. Devote an hour in the morning to hear their message, get fired up, and let them guide you through the steps you need to take to get your business off the ground!

“Ideas are shit! Execution is the game!” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Press Start to Play

by Rod Rodriguez

 

I love playing video games. I’ve been playing video games since an Atari graced my front room television back in the 80s and even now as an adult I find myself eagerly anticipating the next Call of Duty, Destiny 2, or whatever the latest and greatest hyped up super shiny game is getting released. It’s my de-stresser, entertainment, and worse time killer I have aside from getting lost in YouTube. From the earliest and simplest 8 bit games to today’s glossiest virtual reality cinematic experience, one thing has remained consistent across all platforms, titles, and genres.

Press Start

Those two words launch you into a virtual realm of entertainment, adventure, puzzle solving, and princess saving. Press Start is the first step aside from firing up your console required to play the game, and every controller has a Start Button. Regardless of whether you can play the game by pressing other buttons, those other buttons are essentially all Start buttons but you cannot play the game unless you Press Start.

Your business idea is no different in that you must Press Start for it to happen. Just like a video game you will begin at Level 1 and there will be a learning curve but once you get the mechanics of the controls down and get past the awkward phase the game changes a bit. It becomes increasingly difficult throwing new challenges your way that may require some “outside the box” thinking, excellent timing, and tons of failed attempts before you get it right. You may never beat the game but you will enjoy playing it! I’ve never beat one Legend of Zelda game but I’ve played them all and I love the series. Your business may never be a breakaway success but it will be yours and its successes as well as its failures will also be yours and no one elses, and isn’t that the point of becoming an entrepreneur?

Press Start

So there’s your idea in your mind. You see the vision of that business you want to build but your not sure what to do to get this thing going. There’s a Start button on your controller but the truth is your not sure you want to press it because the game of entrepreneurship is terrifying. Your business will involve all the things you don’t have enough of; time, money, and resources. For some, you can’t even find the Start button on your controller! So what do you do? How do you Start?

Here’s my suggestion on how to start, even if you haven’t written one word of your idea on a piece of paper here’s how you can Press Start. Buy the URL to your idea. Purchase www.insertyourtitlehere.com and own that. For less than $50 depending on who you make your purchase through, you have a tangible thing you can look at and see with your businesses name. You’ve pressed the Start button but it’s up to you if you’re going to keep playing. You can build the website yourself for the business you want to build without publishing it for the world to see. Your website could be the draft of your business plan as you try to explain to yourself what it is that your selling, creating, or service your providing.

Press Start

There are lots of different ways to press the Start button. From writing it out, sketching it, or buying some small part of your vision like a coffee grinder for café idea, you have to press the Start button to play. The AAR Podcast was born out four URL’s I purchased in a hotel room in California during the 2015 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championship. I bought the URLs and took it from there and I’m still growing and I still own those other three URLS plus a few more. You can’t play the game until you heed the first command so take a chance and just…

Press Start

#10K2023

10K2023

What is 10K2023? That is my goal for The After Action Review (AAR) Podcast. That is what’s driving me to stay up till 2am editing video, working 12 hours in Kuwait then working another 5 hours at night on the podcast, that’s what I’m pouring my own money into (no sponsors). 10K2023

I’m going to help CREATE 10,000 Veteran Jobs by 2023!

How does a podcast help create 10,000 Veteran Jobs? I do it by supporting and promoting Veteran owned businesses that are in turn employing Veterans. I want The AAR Podcast to become a force multiplier in the world of Veteran business. When someone comes on the show I want there to be an uptick in their sales. I want them to feel a change and have to compensate for that change by hiring more Veterans. The AAR Podcast will be what the Tonight Show was for entertainers.

The AAR Podcast is also about INSPIRATION! I want to inspire that Veteran sitting behind a 9-5 desk mulling over their entrepreneurial dream. When they hear another Veteran talk about the challenges of motivation, the challenges of finding money, the challenges of facing the “naysayers”, then talk about CONQUERING THOSE CHALLENGES, I want that all to become a CALL FOR ACTION! That Veteran behind his or her 9-5 desk should start saying to themselves, “I can do that! I can endure that! I can make this dream happen!” I want that passion to ignite OBSESSION. Obsession to be greater than their cubicle, obsession to create, obsession to OWN their destiny. That obsession will become a new Veteran owned business and that right there will create new jobs for Veterans.

10K2023…imagine that. 10,000 jobs…

That’s 10,000 lives being changed! That’s 10,000 tables with food, 10,000 worry free Christmas’s, 10,000 awesome birthdays, 10,000 people making their rent or paying their mortgage, 10,000 people going to sleep every night knowing that when they wake up in the morning they have a job!

So when I hear a Veteran say, “I have an idea for a business but ehhh I dunno if I’m going to do anything about it.” I think of those 10,000 Veteran jobs and how this one idea could part of that movement. How by sitting on your business idea you’re allowing Veterans to go on by you jobless, homeless, trying to make ends meet, worrying themselves to sleep about their finances, trying to find a way to explain to their child why there won’t be presents under the Christmas tree, or bearing the shame and indignity of waiting in a line for food…all because you’re AFRAID to chase your dream.

10K2023

The AAR Podcast isn’t the sexiest podcast. I run this thing on a shoestring budget. I use what editing and audio skills I’ve taught myself to make the show happen but it HAPPENS! We don’t publish funny videos, there aren’t any finger snaps and hot chicks, there’s no bacon, beer, and guns. There’s a lot of that out there already and I’m glad they’re entertaining Vets and some of those Facebook Famous guys are Vet owned businesses so that’s awesome. The AAR Podcast is different in that it’s a tool for interested Vets to learn from others who’ve walked that road of entrepreneurship, who need inspiration, who want to read articles related to business. The AAR Podcast is here to try and FIRE YOU UP so you go out there and be part of 10K2023. Support these Vets on the podcast by purchasing from them, supporting their social media platforms, sharing their content and videos. By supporting their social media you’re promoting them. You’re NOW PART of their contribution to 10K2023.

So ask yourself, where do you stand with 10K2023? Do support Veterans entrepreneurship with hollow words or with real ACTION?

How will you support #10K2023?

#theaarpodcast #podcast101 #toocoolforsponsors #vetbiz #veteranentrepreneurship #startamovement #militaryentrepreneur #grind #dailyvee #askgaryvee #veterangoals #whatsyourgoal

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Seriously, don’t!

I heard a story today from a 9-5 coworker about a guy he knows who quit his job to become an entrepreneur. I want you think about that sentence for a second. He QUIT his job to BECOME and entrepreneur. Not that he was one and thus quit his day job, he quit to BECOME one. Someone hit the wrong answer buzzer because that ladies and gentlemen is the wrong answer. His excuse for doing so was time, that he didn’t have time to fully devote himself to his business therefore his regular job had to go, OH and he wanted investors so that he could use that money to sustain himself and this new business.

If your skin isn’t crawling from that anecdote then I’m glad you’re reading this. Everyone else can just hang tight because it’s that mentality that I want to address. Thinking that you must quit your job to really devote yourself to your business venture sounds cool in a way. It’s part of that entrepreneur mystique that can lure even the most level headed of us into making some serious mistakes. That mystique carries with it the legends of “all in” kinds of guys who threw caution to the wind and by doing so they could devote their time to the successful startup that launched them into the stratosphere of the worlds riches humans. That mystique is complete bullshit and I can not only point to some very prominent entrepreneurs who made their fortunes slowly but I can also point to a little thing called common sense, common in that everyone should understand the insane risk of expecting things to fall into place when you’re dependent on a very limited cash flow like your investors’ money to live and work off.

 Unfortunately, the Silicon Valley startup-venture-capital-angel-fund-multi-seed-round story of 20 something year old raising $25 million dollars has become the standard by which wanna-be entrepreneurs now hold themselves to. “How can you expect me to work under these conditions? I can’t concentrate on this while I work full time!”

Here’s the truth, many of us will not succeed. That is not an opinion, that is a fact. Most of us will fail for a multitude of reasons. Everything from poor planning to simply a terrible idea or we the aspiring entrepreneur are simply not good at what we’re trying to do at when we’re trying to do it. That’s it. It might not happen. With that in mind, your 9-5 job IS your startup money! That’s the point of the grind! It’s the training ground, the trial that separates ideas from become reality. There is no faster way to kill the “Good Idea Fairy” than with the swift bullet of working after WORK!

The other thing to consider is if you can’t hack working 12,16,18 hours then what makes you think you’re going to be able to do it with your business? The typical response to this is, “Well it’s different when its your own business…” Well yeah! It’s WAY harder! There’s no one there to tell you to get things done, or how it should be done, or how to get it all done. There’s no co-worker for you to BS with it’s literally your ass on the line at that point and if you haven’t set your foundation right when you were working that 9-5 then your whole enterprise will fall taking your investors down with you!

“There’s always a tipping point where you have to leave your job, but the point is, know where that point is before you quit,” said Blumenthal, the co-founder and co-CEO of online glasses retailer Warby Parker. “Because frankly being in the workforce, you’re probably more likely to see opportunities for innovation, opportunities for new businesses as opposed to just sitting at home in your garage.” – Matthew Patane, Warby Parker CEO: Innovators don’t have to be ‘crazy risk takers’

So DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB! In fact, do the best you can do at your job and learn everything from it you can to make your side hustle even better! Use that money to buy what you need, put your skin in the game, show your potential investors that your idea has a foundation built from your blood, sweat, tears, and hard earned cash. That you can account for every moment you spend earning the money you’re about to risk on your business but because you know what that means, that you’re not going to fail without one hell of a fight. We quite the 9-5 when we have BECOME entrepreneurs. When we are successful enough to reach that point of critical mass where it’s time to move forward.

Boots on Ground!

I've made it to Afghanistan! 

The trip was fantastic in that kind of nightmare overseas kind of way. It included a lay over in Maine that took 18 hours due to a fuel leak that one of the passengers caught. According to the guy at the airport briefing us on the situation, had the Soldier sitting by the window next to the wing not seen the fuel leak we might not have made it over the Atlantic...so someone get that guy a medal because the AAR Podcast was almost going to be coming to you either from the belly of a shark or a desert island....WILSON!!!

There was also transient barracks to live in which I didn't mind so much because it's Army living. I did not enjoy waiting on a tarmac in a C-17 for almost three hours crammed tightly in the middle of a row, all with no ventilation or AC. By the time we got in the air I was welcoming the lower temperatures of the upper atmosphere. I didn't even want to land, they could have just opened the back and dropped me out was how badly I didn't want to deal with another hour sitting back on a tarmac baking in the sun.

Ok, bitching is over. I've gone through all the baby steps to finally reach Bagram where the podcast will continue. If you're familiar with the area then you know how lightening fast the internet is. So with that in mind please continue to be patient as I drop the new episodes that I had pre-recorded. Have some great guests lined up, and hopefully some cool surprises along the way.

Continue to Like-Listen-Subscribe-Share

I'll see you at the next episode!

University of Texas of Arlington and Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)-- Manufacturing

Remember around Episode 1 I mentioned going to a Veteran Entrepreneur conference put on by the Texas Veterans Commission? Well I got some information about a program that reported on before. It’s sponsored by the University of Texas of Arlington and it’s an Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)-- Manufacturing

This program is focused specifically for veterans interested in starting a manufacturing business. The program entails a 30-day online training program, a 7-day intensive experience on campus where participants develop their business plans, and a year of legal and accounting support for their launched company. The training, travel expenses, lodging and meals are offered at no cost UT Arlington will run a pilot bootcamp August 11, 2016 with 15 participants interested in the manufacturing sector. The program will draw from key resources at UT Arlington, including:

• World-class entrepreneurship faculty: Diverse, highly experienced and educated in all facets of entrepreneurship.

• Participants will focus on developing next generation assistive technologies, including advanced manufacturing techniques like 3-D printing.

• Access to patents ready for manufacture through an agreement with the U.S. Navy and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, in which hundreds of Naval Research patents are available for the development of business plans for commercialization.

• TMAC / Texas NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center will provide expertise in prototyping and design for manufacturing capabilities.

For More Information contact Dr. Edmund Prater at (eprater@uta.edu)

You can also fill out the form below and I'll send you the application! 

Name *
Name

Memorial Day Post

Instead of writing a blog post about Memorial Day, I decided to record it. This is not a podcast interview. This is me getting way more emotional than I thought I would on the mic. I recorded this because I know I'm not alone in how I feel and I hope this reminds others that it's okay to remember, its okay to feel the way you do, and it's okay to celebrate the lives of those who aren't with us.

Memorial day can be tough. If you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 Press 1, TEXT 838255, or go to www.veteranscrisisline.net for resources and a chat line. OR email me at rodrodriguez@theaarpodcast.com and we we can talk. I mean that!

The Story of Episode 1 or How I Learned to Endure Failure and Love My Podcast

Episode 1 was a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. It was an effort that was supposed to be kind of fun with a friend who I knew had a great story to tell about his experience as a Veteran business owner. It was supposed to be something like a trial run, an interview with the training wheels firmly in place. Where I went wrong was in making the mistake of thinking, “ what can go wrong?”

I did the research into buying the right microphone for a beginner podcast. Before jumping into purchases I read tons of articles, reviews, and specs then decided that the Blue Yeti was the microphone for me. So I bought two of them through Craigslist on account that I was doing this all on a tight budget.  So then I have mics, a laptop that’s old enough to qualify for Social Security, and of course I had the idea for interviews. It was time to get to work, or so I thought. I discovered that my mics had a buzzing sound which meant that they required external power. Then I discovered that I can’t connect two USB mics to the recording software. AND Then I discover that unlike my previous experience in counseling, a podcast interview is totally different and requires practice in and of itself. So I trouble shoot some problems, get some fixes, and I’m ready to talk to Mike and record Episode 1.

The first time it took me an hour to set everything up which surprised me cause I didn’t realize how much there was to set up;  the laptop would make noise if too close to the mics, how we would sit, the echo of the room, and a five year old outside the door being barely distracted by a TV. We start recording and I immediately felt unprepared. My plan for the conversation suddenly felt weird as we start to veer off course. Mike is expertly juggling paying attention to his little girl’s requests for attention and still answering my suddenly inane sounding questions all the while being a great sport against my long pauses, my “ummms”, and “sooo…”, all of which you most likely heard in Episode 1 but trust me it was WAY worse.

After recording over an hour, I play it back over my headphones  and I hear robot voice. I don’t know what it is but it’s as if Mikes talking over himself  for the whole hour plus. We’re bummed out but Mike’s cool about it.

“No worries bro, we’ll get it in take two”, Mike reassured me.

I still feel dumb and slightly embarrassed to have not only wasted my friends time but to look like such an amateur…which I am, but you never want to seem that way. Turns out I had experienced latency due to the two USB’s issue which I thought I had solved but in fact had not. So I start experimenting with different software and find a virtual mixer that solves the latency issue.

“Awesome”,  I think.  “All I’ve got to do now is do some trial runs in the kitchen and I’m golden!”

So that’s what I do with the help of my kids. We play podcast in the kitchen for a few days until I think I got it then I arrange another meeting with Mike. This time he has the gym clear, we have a solid two hours, and the office is set up. I do my own set up relatively fast this tiem , do a sound check , a test recording and its great. So we record a really good session that we’re both happy about. I do a quick check of the last ten minutes of the session…I hear echo. His mic has an echo that is so distracting and so bad that I can’t do anything with it. I try editing it for hours afterwards trying to salvage it but to no avail. Now, I’m really fucking pissed at myself. I start to question how the hell everyone else does this?! I’ve spent all this money and time on something that I apparently am not good at, so what AM I doing? For a moment,  I consider abandoning the whole project all too aware of the irony in that I bought the equipment from people who’d given up on their own recording ideas. The kid I bought the first microphone from when asked why he was selling it told me, “Turns out I rap like garbage”.

I don’t give up. Instead, I start to break down the recording from the ground up. I record in different places, volumes, distances from the microphone. Turns out that since my tests were done in the kitchen which had echo I had assumed the echo was just from the kitchen and not a microphone volume sensitivity issue not to mention the speakers on the laptop had stayed on. Okay, now that I had the solutions I tested it all out again. This time I tried every variation, combination, and scenario of going wrong from loud noise in the back ground, to music, people talking, dogs barking, recording in my garage which is hotter than hell with less ventilation, and recording in my bedroom which it turns out picks up every sound from the street outside. After hours upon hours of trial and error I have it. I call Mike…again.

The office is set up. We turn off the fan. We turn off the A/C. We shut the door to the tiny office also without ventilation. It doesn’t take long for the temperature to start rising but we go forward. We record for an hour. The conversation turns out to be better than the last. We talk openly, candidly, we had fun. As the session winds down I start to feel nervous. The whole time I’d seen our voice pattern move in the software. We at least were recording, but were we recording garbage? Did I fix the problems? Would Mike do a FOURTH session? The interview ends and now it’s the moment of truth. I move the selection arrow to the mid-point of the hour. I put the headphones on and press play. Mike stares at me with a semi-icy look, the stare of a man that is questioning his restraint to throw something heavy at his friend if the recording is screwed up. I stare back wide eyed as I hear…a good recording. NOT GREAT, but good. I give him a thumbs up, he smiles back, and all is well. My confidence is restored.

Okay, so here’s the thing about that whole mess. It wasn’t just about try, try again, the little engine that could, hang in there kitty poster bullshit. I’ve failed a lot in different things. The Army challenged me in different ways and I like to think that I met those challenges with everything I had but I wasn’t always successful. I’ve matured in many ways from a somewhat hot headed individual with limited patience to an older father of three boys with whom my volatility is measured accompanied by a deeper patience. Failure is going to happen and when it does it’s good to have other failures to fall back on to put things in perspective. Early and repetitive success can be devastating when failure strikes. Failing early though preps you slowly for bigger setbacks that would be crushing otherwise but requires you to keep your head in the game. Perseverance isn’t easy, it’s a learned skill.

 I’m still learning this whole podcast thing but my early frustrations and doubt have made me more confident that this endeavor is going to be successful. I know I can push through, solve the problems, and have fun getting better at this interviewing thing. When this stops being fun, then I’ll hang it up but not because I can’t fix a problem.

So about Episode 2, it sounds not-so-great. I recorded it right before Episode 1 and used that experience to fix issues before Mikes third session. My guest Luvina Sabree sounds TERRIFIC, it’s my voice that sounds a bit distant. You can hear me okay but you can hear her perfectly. I’m glad it’s my mic that wasn’t turned up correctly because it’s really about her story and it’s a really good story. Don’t miss Episode 2 coming next Friday.

First Time Go?

Adversity is complex and often oversimplified into bumper sticker slogans and encouraging cat posters.  “Just hang on” isn’t always possible nor is it always the smartest thing to do. This isn’t to say giving up is way to go when the going gets tough, but sometimes you need to fall flat on your face in order to reevaluate why you couldn’t hold on to begin with. Being good at something right away or getting it right the first time sounds good but those occurrences leave little to no room for learning and growth.

For example, I screwed up the audio on an interview TWICE. That’s two plus hours of someone’s time that I ate up because of inexperience at recording. I was sold on some software that had a great reputation but for some reason wasn’t working for me. I was also trying to use equipment that I could afford but wasn’t necessarily the best set up according to those same experts. On one hand I could keep pushing through with the software and setup and try all the variations possible or stop and scrap it all with a hard start over. I chose the latter and not because I wanted to give up on what everyone had agreed upon was the best option, but because I needed to learn the process from scratch. I chose a longer route to recording better by letting go completely and starting from square one. That experience introduced me to new techniques, software, and allowed me to improvise and adapt with what I had to fit my own particular set up.

I’m actually very fortunate because my screw-ups haven’t cost me or anyone money, in the cash-in-hand variety. Time is of course valuable but not in the same way getting a bill in the mail. I look at my set back and challenges and I can honestly say they are in no way comparable to some of the issues I’ve heard from business owners with stores, merchandise, property, utilities, etc. There are thousands upon thousands of dollars’ worth of Murphy’s Law applicability to their endeavors that could cost them their entire venture. My issue cost me a few hours and some free software, not bad in the grand scheme of things. The issue now is that I recognize that this podcast is going to get bigger and with that the issues and stakes will also get bigger. The benefit to stumbling around is that I feel better prepared to meet those challenges.

The Veterans I’ve talked to almost always mention that their experiences in the military prepared them for the adversity of business whether it’s long hours, continuous obstacles, many moving pieces, or anxiety they feel prepared to meet those challenges. I couldn’t agree more with the notion that my military experience has helped me to deal with the challenges of this podcast. The Army taught me a heavy dose of patience, when to take a knee and reevaluate where I’m going, and of course when it’s time to kick the door in and just do it.

Coming to Terms

I am not a business guy. My whole life I’ve worked for someone else both in the Army and in the civilian world, I’ve found myself content making an established organization better… at least trying to. I’m pretty sure everyone at some point has had an idea for a business, an invention, some type of creative expression that they consider ground breaking and solely theirs. Then like most other fanciful ideas it passes and we’re off to the next fleeting thought. This podcast is honestly the first time I have ever put rubber to the road in terms of making an idea become something. It’s exciting to pull the trigger on purchases toward an idea that you had. Seeing something go from in your head to on your screen is a rush and that’s great but throughout this journey which is far from complete there’s been a nagging question in the back of my mind.

Am I an entrepreneur?

Stepping outside of myself for a moment and looking at what I’ve made of this idea so far, my inclination is to say, “No, you’re not an entrepreneur. You don’t have a business; you have a podcast (barely).” Not a penny is being made; in fact several pennies by the thousand have been spent on this with no foreseeable revenue to be made in the future. I put this podcast together purely out of my own interest in creating a community for Veteran business owners that was different from the button down shirts and blazers that seem to symbolize “business attire”. There was never a plan to make money; the plan was to make a show.  A business that doesn’t make money isn’t much of a business as one nay sayer put it to me.

On the other hand I’ll go the route travelled by those who enjoy trying to prove a point, even to themselves by invoking the power of www.dictionary.com and defining the word entrepreneur.

“1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

2. an employer of productive labor; contractor.”

This definition provides something much broader than I was using to define what an entrepreneur was. If we wanted to get all JAG with this it could be said that I am in fact a person who is organizing and managing an enterprise (the podcast and website) with considerable initiative and risk. Well, that last bit about risk may be greatly exaggerated since my experience with the term risk has historically been tied to far more serious consequences than losing a few hundred dollars and time. Either way, it would seem that I may in fact be an entrepreneur!

If we continue to use this definition it seems that we could label several different types of work and skills as examples of entrepreneurship. Looking back on my service in the Army there were several enterprises I was in charge of taking from concept to application on a battlefield that relied on my initiative and certainly carried a tremendous amount of risk. Although I was serving the Army and it’s mission, I was trying to make something happen out of nothing. It wasn’t just me either, from the lowest ranking enlisted guy all the way up the chain there was always someone taking the initiative to try something, to make something happen that would help them accomplish their mission. Some guys got super creative (I’m looking at you mechanics), others could see where to make in place systems more efficient, and in some instances there were individuals who changed the game completely by introducing something no one had thought of yet. Those examples aren’t exclusive either, they can be mixed together in different ways producing some startling results.

So am I entrepreneur? Yeah, I think I might be. You might be too! Take a look at what you do for living or your hobbies? The entrepreneurial seed could already be planted. The hard work your putting into it is helping it grow slowly. Maybe you’re not making money from it, or your skills are being used to make someone else’s business better, or you’ve got somethinggoing on that you just haven’t shared with the world yet. There’s something about thinking of myself as an entrepreneur that is both inspiring and frightening to me. Accepting the idea that I’m an entrepreneur means that I owe it to myself to keep moving forward with my enterprise, whether it’s a million dollar idea or a podcast. It means that the fleeting thought is no longer fleeting, it’s got a home now and it’s my responsibility to feed it and care for it.

Okay, I’m an entrepreneur, great…now what? So far as of the writing of this blog I’ve created a not-so-bad-for-my-first-time-website, bought a mic, and look at that...I wrote my first blog. Not bad for a few weeks of work. Next on my list of things to do before the big launch is record an introduction to the podcast, record the first two interviews, and take some pictures to populate my gallery with. Also, Facebook but that’s its own line of effort. There you have it, I’ve conquered the fear of labeling myself and managed to create a little content on the way. Now what to do about my insecurity of hearing my own voice...ugh!