The After Action Review

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.

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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 and at

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.