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.

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 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