Uncorking a Story
Episode 16 - Wayne Lavender

Wayne Lavender is the Executive Director of The Foundation 4 Orphans (F4O); an international organization dedicated to supporting the emotional, educational, physical and spiritual needs of orphans in some of the world’s most poor and war torn places.

Listen in to hear Wayne discuss how reading books such as Death of a Salesman encouraged him to reflect on the kind of impact he wanted his own life to have in the world. Hear how his calling to the ministry at an early age led to his ordination as a Methodist minister in 1984 and eventually to his first trip to Mozambique, where he experienced extreme poverty first hand. Wayne recalls how seeing this with his own eyes “captured his heart” and encouraged him to rally the support of those back home to help the most vulnerable among us.

After Mozambique, F4O established a presence in Iraq, where war has left countless thousands of children orphaned. Wayne discusses how he never felt safer than when amongst the Kurdish people who welcomed him – and other Americans – with open arms (and hearts). Next, F4O has its sights on breaking ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a new orphanage is “shovel ready.”

At the end of this interview you will hear how passionate Wayne is in his belief that caring for orphans is the highest form of charity on the earth and how it is a means to create a more peaceful world.

To support the Foundation for Orphans, visit www.F4O.org or call Wayne directly at 203-417-7362. His email address is wayne@F4O.org.

Direct download: Wayne_Lavendar_-_121616_3.34_PM.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 9:11am EDT

Shortly before her daughter was to begin kindergarten, Allison heard the words that no parent wants to hear – your daughter has cancer.  As treatments progressed, and hair was lost, her daughter Meredith was eager to find some item of clothing that would help her blend in with her peers; scarves called too much attention to her and hats didn’t do the trick. Enter the hoodie. Meredith found that wearing hoodies helped her feel more like a regular kid and they quickly became her favorite thing to wear.

Inspired by what Toms Shoes was doing with footwear, Allison decided to create a “One for One” movement with hoodies. Today, for everyone who purchases a hoodie through BraveHoods, the company will donate one to a child going through cancer treatments or to the family members of that child because, as Allison points out, cancer is a family affair.

In this interview, you will hear much more than how Allison started BraveHoods; you will hear about the kindness given by strangers during moments of intense anxiety and fear and how these moments inspired Allison to reach out and remind other mothers, and fathers, to breathe. You will hear stereotypes about New Yorkers dispelled and, importantly, learn how you can help support BraveHoods and bring delight to some brave kids going through cancer treatments as well as to their families.

Learn more at www.bravehoods.org

This episode is brought to you by the new novel Winning Streak – a story about a young man struggling to come to get his life back on track after the sudden death of his father.

Pick up winning streak at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you buy books online. Available in e-book or paperback, if you still buy those things.

Direct download: AlisonYacht.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:43pm EDT

Episode 14 - Jeryl Abramson

In the course of my job, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who have shared their stories with me (and my clients) over the past 20 years. Of course it is fair to say that some of these stories stand out more than others.

About seven years ago, I found myself in Arizona interviewing professional athletes including Brian Roberts who played for the Baltimore Orioles and Dhani Jones who was a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals. In addition to professional athletes, I was also interviewing high school athletes; who would have thought that my conversation with a high school athlete’s mother would be the one I remembered most from that project almost a decade ago?

I was hired to interview a student named Zack when I engaged his mother, Jeryl, in some small talk. She told me she was from upstate NY and had recently moved to Phoenix but still owned some property in NY State.  I told her that my aunt and uncle owned a farm in Little Falls, NY and she told me that her property was in Bethel.  My ears perked up; she appeared to be the age of someone who may have attended Woodstock in 1969 (due to issues obtaining permits, festival organizers wound up holding the festival billed as “3 Days of Peace and Music” at a farm in Bethel, NY approximately 60 miles away from the town of Woodstock).  After a moment of silence, and a sly smile, she blew my mind by admitting, “My husband and I own Max Yasgur’s homestead.”

If you don't know who Max Yasgur is, Google his name. Now.

Fast forward seven years and I find myself back in Phoenix; this time interviewing people about banking. On a whim, I search for Jeryl on Facebook and send her an invite which, to my surprise, is accepted. I asked if she could spend thirty minutes or so speaking to me and she welcomed the opportunity.

We discussed what it was like to be a teenager in the later part of the 1960s and how she would travel from her home in Brooklyn to nearby Manhattan in order to see a “who’s who” of bands at the Fillmore East. Jeryl also talks about how she and her mother, who were vacationing in upstate NY in the summer of 1969, brought food and water to people stranded on the thruway during the Woodstock festival as well as how she, and her late husband Roy, came to own the Yasgur Homestead.

However, the story doesn’t end in the 60’s. Jeryl shares the struggles she and Roy faced with the town of Bethel as the two, in true hippie spirit, tried to “welcome hippies home” every summer to commemorate those three days in 1969. Rolling Stone named Woodstock as “One of the 50 moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll” so it is only natural that people would want to make a pilgrimage to such a site; however, the town put up nothing but roadblocks to anniversaries and reunions. After 17 years of battling the town, the required permit allowing gatherings was issued but it was a bittersweet victory for Jeryl; her beloved husband Roy died weeks earlier.  

This conversation is filled with great stories of the sixties as well as the drama of a legal battle that stretched from the 90s and into the 2000s. You will also hear Jeryl’s take on the music industry today and why she feels so strongly that artist’s should retain the rights to their music. Above all, though, you will hear a story from someone who experienced a period of time in American culture that transcends generations; a time that may have divided old and young but also united people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and persuasions.  I hope you enjoy Jeryl’s story as much as I enjoyed uncorking it! Feel free to send any feedback you have to mike@uncorkingastory.com and happy listening. 

This episode is sponsored by the novel Return to Casa Grande. Visit www.returntocasagrande.com to learn more.

Direct download: Jeryl_Abramson_Podcast_-_2_27_16_7.10_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm EDT

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Mezzapelle, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Contagious Optimism movement (www.contagiousoptimism.com).  He truly believes that we all have the capacity to make optimism contagious just by sharing our life’s adventures. That belief, along with a push from his Alma Mater Fairfield University, fueled Dave’s desire to write and publish a bestselling book series that contains real stories from real people around the globe demonstrating that every cloud has a silver lining. Today, the Contagious Optimism movement has grown beyond books to include TED talks and a series of Contagious Optimism LIVE events featuring  powerful talks from real people around the globe accompanied by music and entertainment.

I met him at the Contagious Optimism offices in Jupiter Florida and I must admit that finding the office was a bit of a challenge as his road has multiple names.  Giving up on my GPS, I called Dave to see if he could guide me in and when he asked me for a landmark I looked around and saw a sign for Carlin Park – I took it as a sign that I was on the right track!  The interview began a bit shakily at first given I was “greeted” by one of his dogs who used my Achilles tendon as a chew toy; fortunately for me I’m not that tasty and the dog turned his attention to something else.

As you listen to this interview you will agree that Dave is a fascinating guy and will quickly come to understand how someone like him could establish a movement called Contagious Optimism; he’s one of the most optimistic guys I have ever met. He as the ability to put thought into action and we discuss this quality at length in the interview.  I am coming to see how important that characteristic is in predicting one’s likelihood of success in any of life’s endeavors and the role optimism plays (why else would someone pursue an idea unless they believed they could work?).

Listen up as we talk about his early entrepreneurial initiatives and how he made lemonade out of lemons after his plan to work for IBM after spending three of his college years there as an intern took an unexpected turn.  Additionally, you will hear his take on the power of self discovery and why it is critical to always remind yourself of what your goals are.  Don’t miss the last five minutes of this interview when Dave gives his younger self three pieces of critical advice that he has learned in his journey of keeping his glass “completely full.”

Since we want to help make optimism contagious, the first 10 people to share this interview on Twitter will receive a free Contagious Optimism tee-shirt! Just go to our feed @uncorkingastory and use the #contagiousoptimism when you retweet!

As always, your feedback is welcome. Feel free to let us know what you think by emailing your comments to mike@uncorkingastory.com. Happy listening!

Direct download: Dave_Mezzapelle_.m4a
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 11:07am EDT

Episode 12 - Andy Greenfield

How important is curiosity in business? Andy Greenfield has a point of view. 

In 1996 I was a 22-year-old kid working in the new field of digital marketing while Andy was pioneering new ways of conducting business online.  By that point in time, he was already a successful entrepreneur although he would never use that term to describe himself back then. In his words, he was simply a guy who had the ability to put his thoughts into action.

In this interview Andy discusses the impact his upbringing had on his successes later in life and the role that curiosity played in it.  He discusses how this curiosity was nourished by his parents, who would serve as role models for how to treat other people with equality.

Andy’s path to running and selling two of the world’s most successful research firms, Greenfield Consulting and Greenfield Online, was not what you might call linear (or traditional). He dropped out of college, started a tennis court lighting business, moved to Colorado to build houses, and then had a conversation that would literally change his life. He went back to school, finished his undergraduate degree, completed graduate studies in philosophy and then…went into advertising.

But Andy didn’t stop there. You will have to listen to the interview to hear about his run in with the Mafia while running a limousine business, how the adage timing is everything was certainly true in his career, and why one should always trust their grandfather.

Andy has some advice for anyone looking to succeed in life:

  1. Trust your instincts, they are there for a reason
  2. Listen twice as much as you speak
  3. Don’t look back

Listen to the interview to learn more!

Direct download: Andy_Greenfield_Podcast_-_1_28_16_9.10_PM.m4a
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 9:21pm EDT