Uncorking a Story

I can’t think of a year wrought with more challenges than 2020. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for being resentful over the missed milestones including graduations, proms, or for having to delay major life events including weddings or even big trips that were planned. Here’s the thing, though, resentment is poisonous.

Listen in as I reflect on my own struggles with resentment and how I’ve addressed them. If you also struggle with that emotion, here are four tips for overcoming it:

  1. Challenge yourself to focus on the positive things in your life and not the negatives. Don’t go around looking for things to be upset by. Playing the victim is tiring not only for you but for others around you as well. Try to see the world for its beauty, not its scars.
  2. Focus on your own self-esteem. I believe there is an inverse relationship between resentment and self-esteem. When my own self-esteem was low, my resentment towards others was high. Some ways to address your own self esteem include finding things you are good at and doing them often,  exercising regularly, and spending time with people who make you happy.
  3. If you have had some experiences that you can point to that negatively impacted your life, particularly those in childhood, I urge you to seek a professional who can help you work through them. At the very least, open up to a trusted friend about them. There’s no shame in vulnerability and you will feel better after talking to someone about it.
  4. If you have an issue with resentment towards a person, try to see them through a different lens. If they are a family member, try to see them as a fellow human being. By doing so, you might be able to be a bit more understanding towards them and your relationship may improve.

As always, thank you for listening to Uncorking a Story. Happy new year and see you in 2020.

Direct download: Resentment_mixdown.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 12:33pm EDT

Last night I got a text from my cousin Danny who told me that he was watching It’s a Wonderful Life and that sparked a memory of a piece that I had published in my local paper, The Stamford Advocate, eight years ago which was entitled The Gift of Encouragement. 

Listen in as I reflect on how important encouragement is and how we all can do a better job encouraging others. If you do listen in, you will take away the following three points:

  1. Look around and see who’s in your corner. If you surround yourself with people who encourage you, you will find the motivation to pursue your interests and, who knows, maybe do great things. Conversely, if you have people in your life who make everything about them, it’s time to make some decisions about the role they will continue to play in your life. 
  2. Providing encouragement is a gift that keeps on giving. It doesn’t cost you anything and it can make a tremendous impact on someone's life. I am sure that if you look around, there are people in your life who could use the gift of encouragement so please consider giving it!
  3. Actions speak louder than words. Remember, encouragement can come in the form of verbal support but it’s most meaningful when there is action behind it. Don’t just tell someone that you encourage them to do X/Y/Z but find a way to show your support. If a friend is a musician, go to their shows (ditto with comedians). If they want to be a writer, show your support by asking to read their work. The possibilities to show your support are endless.

As always, thanks for taking the time to listen to another episode of Uncorking a Story. I mentioned in the recording that I have a friend who could use a little encouragement—Chris Hart is one of my oldest friends and is on the transplant list for a new liver. My brother and I have started a Go Fund Me campaign for him as he and his fiancee Erin have exhausted all of their savings to cover the cost of his treatments. If you have any extra funds and looking to help keep a good person alive, I ask that you consider donating.

If you liked what you heard, please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, consider sharing Uncorking a Story with a friend. Lastly, I’ll remind you as I always do, that books make great gifts.

Direct download: Who_in_your_corner_mixdown.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 6:13pm EDT

Last week I spoke with a Bostonian named Mary who took a trip to Jamaica during Covid where she was dubbed The White Oprah. Mary lives with Multiple Sclerosis and my conversation with her reminded me about a few things.

  1. Life is about weighing risk and reward. Mary has MS and is considered a higher risk for Covid, but she also decided that the benefits of taking this trip outweighed the risks in her mind. While I wouldn’t necessarily make that decision, it is important to live life on your own terms (and not judge others for doing so).
  2. It’s okay to rely on others for help. Due to issues with mobility, and the fact that she was traveling alone, Mary had to have assistance while making her way through the airport as well as navigating the resort at her destination. There’s no shame in being reliant on others.
  3. Find your cheerleaders. Whether a limitation is thrust up on you or created in your own mind, it is important to have cheerleaders who can help you overcome it. 

This last lesson about limitations reminded me that there was a time when I felt I wasn’t good at networking because I would often leave conferences without landing a new client. While remembering this, I was reminded of a conversation I had with networking expert Diane Darling who taught me that networking is about starting relationships and not signing contracts. I’ve got some great sound clips from that conversation in this episode and I know you are going to love them.

As always, thanks for taking the time to listen to uncorking a story. Please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts so you can stay up to date with the latest episodes. As always, since the holidays are upon us, I have to remind you that books make great gifts!

Direct download: Overcoming_Limitations_mixdown.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 3:05pm EDT

Recently, I caught up with my former boss and mentor Shelley Zalis who is probably the most positive person I’ve ever met in my life. In our conversation, she reminded me how important it is to go after what you want, to always get the deal (however the getting the deal is defined), and why complacency is kryptonite for success.

My conversation with her reminded me of some self-limiting beliefs I once held and that inspired me to revisit an interview I did with Dr. Colleen Georges, a positive psychology coach and author. Her book, RESCRIPT the Story You're Telling Yourself: The Eight Practices to Quiet Your Inner Antagonist, Amplify Your Inner Advocate, & Author a Limitless Life, was written to help people fight the most dangerous foe they will ever face in their lives—the organ between their ears.

You will come away from this episode with the following three takeaways:

  1. Even in the age of COVID-19 the deals and yeses are out there, though we may have to define what they are a little differently and work a lot harder to get them.  
  2. If your business is off this year, don't let that be the headline swimming around in your head. As Dr. Colleen would say, you have to rescript the story you are telling yourself.
  3. Take some time to thank the people who helped make you who you are and, while that includes bosses and mentors, don’t forget to thank your parents and teachers too. There’s no better time than right now to pick up the phone and thank someone for all they did for you.

Thank you for listening to another episode of Uncorking a Story and remember, books make great gifts!

Direct download: Always_a_Yes_mixdown.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 4:51pm EDT

This week, while doing some interviews for a travel client, I met a young man named Matthew reminded me that there is joy in service. 

My conversation with him got me to thinking about how my mother, the church lady of Stamford, CT, would “volunteer” me and my brother Jimmy for various things and how rumors of our “willingness” reached the ears of a certain French teacher at Stamford/Trinity Catholic High School who capitalized on it for what can best be described as indentured servitude. Looking back, though, I realize that there’s great joy in service and that insight inspired today’s episode. 

Happy listening and remember, books make great gifts!

Direct download: The_Joy_of_Service_mixdown.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 1:28pm EDT

Last week I reconnected with an old college friend, Kevin Savage, who recently wrote a post on his blog that got me to thinking about the things that are really important in life. It also reminded me of some conversations I had with three strangers who reminded me how important it is to see the silver linings in any challenging situation. Hitting curveballs was something I wasn’t very good at and the conversation I had with these guys was a reminder that life won’t always throw you perfect pitches, but with the right attitude you can swing away and hit the ball.

I appreciate your listening to another episode in the new format and challenge you to do the following three things this week:

  1. Reach out to an old friend and reconnect. It’s actually something I’ve been trying to do regularly since the pandemic began and it’s been great catching up with people. Don’t just rely on social media to keep your relationships alive—I know it’s tempting and it’s a great place to start a conversation, but nothing beats a live chat. Try and do this at least once per week.
  2. Ask for help. Kevin and I reconnected because he came to me for advice and help. I recognize how hard it is for me to ask anyone for help and it’s something I’ve been working on. I used to feel as if I had to have the answer for everything and take responsibility for every little thing that was asked of me. This led to me eventually feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. It takes some humility to ask others for help but, if you are like me, and feel as if you have to be superman, take off the cape and ask others for help when you need it.
  3. Make the right choice. Remember that every day we have a choice to make to decide what kind of day it is going to be. We can choose to focus on the challenges/negatives of a situation, or we can choose to focus on the opportunities/positives it presents. Focus on the silver linings and you will definitely have a better day (and so will the people around you).

Happy listening, and remember, books make great gifts!

Direct download: Making_a_Choice.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 12:37pm EDT

When I was a kid, sometimes TV shows would have the very special episode, which would deal with a difficult or controversial subject. Do you remember these? Topics dealt with things such as AIDS, teen pregnancy, or drug use. Memorable ones include The Bicycle Man on Different Strokes (The Maytag man was a naughty boy) and A, My Name is Alex, on Family Ties when Alex has to confront his emotions after the death of a friend.

Well, today we have a very special episode of Uncorking a Story. Normally on this show I interview authors about their lives and give them an opportunity to discuss their latest book with you, but I'm changing course with this one. Last week, for my day job, I interviewed a woman whose story stayed with me as I found it both heartbreaking and inspiring.

I walked away from that conversation with a reminder that life can be what we make it. Even when the cards are seemingly stacked against us, we can choose how to frame our situations and what to focus on. Sometimes, it just takes a leap of faith.

I'd really appreciate letting me know what you think of this episode. If you like it, I will share more stories like this in the future. Please email me at michael.carlon@uncorkingastory.com to let me know what you think.

Direct download: The_Interview.mp3
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 4:52pm EDT

Nick Braccia is a Cannes Lions- and Clio-winning writer, director, and producer. In 2018, he co-created and co-executive produced the horror podcast Video Palace for AMC Network's streaming service Shudder. While working at the marketing agency Campfire, he helped to develop immersive, narrative experiences for TV shows like Outcast, Sense8, Watchmen, The Man in the High Castle, Westworld, and The Purge. His new book, Off the Back of a Truck: Unofficial contraband for the Soprano’s Fan, is available for sale now wherever books are sold.

In this interview Nick talks about his background and some important people who have had key influences on his career including a third-grade teacher, an ex-uncle, and a professor at the college of the Holy Cross where he earned his undergraduate degree. We also discuss how important real support, encouragement, and acknowledgement are for writers. Additionally, Nick has an interesting take on how the interaction between putting in the work, being in the right place at the right time, and sheer luck plays in any successful creative endeavor.

Braccia is a member of the Producers Guild of America and lives in Manhattan with his partner, Amanda, and daughter, Evie Blue.

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by Mike Carlon's novel Uncorking a Murder. You can purchase Uncorking a Murder in paperback or e-book format wherever books are sold online. Enjoy the show.

Direct download: The_Nick_Braccia_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 3:31pm EDT

Otto Penzler is regarded as the world's foremost authority on crime, mystery and suspense fiction. He founded The Mysterious Press in 1975, which he later sold to Warner Books (1989). He reacquired the imprint in 2010 and it now publishes original books as an imprint at Grove/Atlantic, and both original works and classic crime fiction through MysteriousPress.com (www.mysteriouspress.com), in partnership with Open Road Integrated Media.

Penzler is a prolific editor, and has won two Edgar Awards, for Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection in 1977 and The Lineup in 2010. The Mystery Writers of America awarded him the prestigious Ellery Queen Award in 1994 and the Raven--the group's highest non-writing award--in 2003.

Listen in as Mike and Otto chat about his life and career including his experiences as a young boy emigrating to the US from Germany during the middle of World War II, how he traded in his desire to become a physicist for either the dreams of being a great American novelist or the center fielder for the New York Yankees, and how some harsh criticism towards his first novel pushed his aspirations in another direction.

Along the way we speak of forbidden love, the importance of betting on oneself, and how a two-thousand-dollar investment in a midtown Manhattan building paid off. His latest anthology, The Big Book of Espionage is available now wherever books are sold and is the perfect holiday gift of anyone in your life who’s into dead drops, double agents, and duplicitous deeds.

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by Mike Carlon’s novel Uncorking a Murder. You can purchase Uncorking a Murder wherever books are sold. Enjoy the show.

Direct download: The_Otto_Penzler_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 3:18pm EDT

There is no doubt that the combination of Covid and what is going on in cities throughout the country has created more than the usual amount of stress in most of us.  Add to that politics – not matter what side of the aisle you are on – and you have a recipe for overwhelming stress. With us today to discuss invisible disabilities – and a way to help you and yours deal with stress – is the Executive Director of the Invisible Disabilities® Association, Jess Stainbrook.

Jess is known for building successful media teams and championing significant visual storytelling efforts through innovative programming and strategic business initiatives. In the broadcast television field, Jess has received 8 Emmy Awards and 29 nominations and his clients include MTV, ESPN, PBS, Discovery Channel, A&E and others.  He has produced and directed major sports programming at events such as the Olympics, World Cup Skiing, Formula 1 Grand Prix, NASCAR, and the NFL Super Bowl. In late 2019, Jess launched IDA’s new Video Podcast, The Invisible No More® Show.   

Listen in as we discuss how his curiosity as a child led him to a career as an Emmy Award winning filmmaker and how being questioned by the KGB led to a significant spiritual conversion. We also talk about the Love Ideas Summit: Exploring the Heart of Relationships which is produced  by the Invisible Disabilities® Association and runs from November 16th-20th. The event is aims to provide resources to help all relationships including couples, families, friends, co-workers, caregivers and business partners. Online, on-demand content will be added daily. Watch at your leisure and pace, anytime over the summit week. Tickets are complimentary and you can register here.

Today’s interview with Jess Stainbrook is brought to you by Mike Carlon’s novel Winning Streak. Winning Streak is the story of how three lives intersect and the journey each takes to learn critical lessons in order to heal from the pain of loss in their lives. Readers will be taken on an emotional journey full of laughter and tears while enjoying this novel which is reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom. You can purchase Winning Streak in ebook or paperback format at Amazon or wherever books are sold online. 

Enjoy the show.

Direct download: The_Final_Interview_Jess.m4a
Category:Entrepreneurs -- posted at: 3:10pm EDT

It’s not every day that I get to talk to someone as interesting and, dare I say, enlightened as author Dustin Lawson. I’m excited to announce that today was one of those days!

Throughout high school and college, Dustin worked as a lion and tiger trainer at a big cat reservation in Ohio and dreamt of becoming the next Jungle Jack Hannah. Fun fact, one of the animals he cared for wound up at Carole Baskin’s big cat sanctuary down in Florida (I hope she didn’t feed her late husband to it).

Just as Abe Froman was the sausage king of Chicago, it’s quite possible that Dustin may have become the Tiger King of Ohio if his pastor hadn’t encouraged him to find his calling outside the world of lions and tigers. Thankfully, he did and after college Dustin spent a year traveling the world as the personal assistant to an author. During his travels, the writing process was demystified, and Dustin found his true calling as a writer. Though I’m getting ahead of myself; an important part of this author’s story is his time in the military or, more accurately, the time he spent trying to get into the military. As a cancer survivor, the military rejected him 13 times over the span of five years before giving him the green light to serve. I joked with him that this experience with rejection was a great warm-up to becoming an author, as rejection definitely comes with the territory.

I’m glad he persevered as a writer because his latest book, The Firing of Dr. Democracy, could be just what our country needs right now. The book introduces us to the fictional character Dr. Democracy, who was created by our founding fathers. Fired by a democracy he helped keep alive for more than two centuries, now unemployed and homeless, Doctor Democracy takes a group of cynical teenagers in town on their senior trip on a midnight tour of Washington D.C. to try and convince them to rise to political power and rehire him so he can help keep democracy from dying of its addiction to partisanship and propaganda.

My conversation with Dustin not only covers his path to becoming the author of nine books, but what he shares in common with the late Sam Kinison, how a crisis of faith led to a major career change, and how he came to meet the late Senator John McCain. We also discuss enlightenment principles, how the rise of cable news, extreme partisanship, and social media threaten those principles, and what the vaccine to these threats might be.

Happy listening!

Direct download: The_Dustin_Lawson_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 1:12pm EDT

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children's book, A Boy Called Christmas, was a runaway hit in his own country and has been translated in over 25 languages. His latest novel, The Midnight Library, will be released in the United States on September 29, 2020.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Matt not only about this forthcoming release but also about his path to becoming a published author. Most authors will tell you that getting published isn’t an easy thing to do and Matt would certainly concur. However, he also was able to accomplish something extraordinary— publish work across multiple genres including non-fiction, adult fiction, and children’s fiction. If nothing else, the publishing industry loves to put authors into nice and neat boxes, but Matt Haig cannot be placed in a box—and readers should celebrate that.

Our conversation takes some interesting twists and turns as we discuss mental health and how fiction writing is cathartic, especially to writers who have experienced anxiety and depression. We also dig into how overcoming obstacles can bring about the confidence to do things one never thought possible. I love the words of advice Matt ends on in our conversation which center around the importance of acceptance and appreciating oneself and to not pretend to be anyone else while writing.

Happy listening!

Direct download: The_Matt_Haig_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 3:20pm EDT

Dan Hill is the author of eight books including Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading OthersTwo Cheers for Democracy: How Emotions Drive Leadership Style; and First Blush: People's Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art

His specialty is analyzing the power of emotions to shape outcomes and personalities. Dan pioneered the use of facial coding in business and has done research for over 50% of the world’s top 100 B2C companies. Media highlights include appearances on ABC’s Good Morning, America and NBC’s The Today Show, plus front-page coverage in The New York Times.

Listen in as I speak with Dan about how he went from being a guy with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English to being recognized as a pioneer of facial coding in the market research industry.

Dan’s blog Faces of the Week can be found at https://emotionswizard.com.

Direct download: The_Dan_Hill_Interview.mp3
Category:Authors -- posted at: 5:14pm EDT

Pat Oates is a comedian, author, podcaster and comedy advice writer. He has been performing stand-up comedy for over 12 years and has appeared on TLC's Extreme Cheapskates, E's Talk Soup, and The Anthony Cumia Show with Dave Landau.

In this interview, Pat discusses how he got into comedy, why he turned an advice column into a book for other comics to learn from, and his other passion—professional wrestling. One of the standout quotes from this conversation is as follows, “I don’t know everything and I don’t know most things. I have to be open to everything and not afraid to ask questions. Always question yourself and don’t be afraid to fail.”

It’s a humbling message that I’ve heard from successful people in other fields—this idea of being open to learning new things and being open to failure. It’s often what separates people who are okay at what they do and people who are truly great at it, and Pat is a GREAT comic.

Pat eats, sleeps and breathes comedy and that passion comes through in his act, his podcasts and his writing. Get a copy of his book from Amazon.com. Any comics who are looking for feedback on their sets or highlight reel can reach out to Pat by email at patoatescomedy@gmail.com.

Happy listening!

Direct download: Pat_Oates_Interview.mp3
Category:Comedians -- posted at: 4:19pm EDT

All I had to do was love them.

That observation pretty much sums up Diane O’Connell’s perspective on how she was able to bond with so many kids who passed through the halls of Stamford/Trinity Catholic High School.

In this interview you will hear about how walking into the main office as a parent, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and cover up (and apparently some pearls), led to Diane landing her dream job as the school’s main office secretary.  You will learn that she’s got some serious pull when it comes to finding parking during a key UCONN basketball game and why Thanksgiving is the first of many “happiest days of the year” for her.

Lastly, you will hear some words of reassurance directed towards the class of 2020 from the heart and soul of Catholic High.

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by Mike Carlon’s novel Motel California, which can be purchased at Amazon.com or wherever books are sold online. Enjoy the show.

Direct download: Diane_Oconnell_Interview.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Over the past few years, I’ve used the Uncorking a Story platform to highlight the work of authors, comedians, and entrepreneurs. I’ve become increasingly interested in uncorking the stories of people who are doing inspiring work in their local communities and that brings me to this current episode featuring Dawn Carpenter of The We Project, a non-profit organization that helps feed, clothe, and mentor needy people in Northern New Jersey.

This past summer, I interviewed Dawn’s husband Derrick for my “day job” as a focus group moderator/user experience researcher. While asking him some warm-up questions to build rapport, I learned that Derrick and his wife run a food rescue organization in Northern New Jersey and he briefly shared with me that the organization was inspired from a tragedy. I wanted to dig into this a little more, but I wasn’t being paid by my client to uncover a human interest story and had to begin asking a series of questions on his use of voice activated mobile assistants.

After our session ended, though, I asked Derrick if I could recontact him to learn more about The We Project and he put me in touch with his wife Dawn, who recently shared her story with me. It is a powerful one that underscores three lessons I’ve learned while doing this podcast.

  1. Something beautiful can arise from something tragic. You will understand what this means when you hear the story of Dawn’s brother, one of the driving forces behind The We Project.
  2. The importance of asking for help. Dawn states very clearly that if you don’t let people know what your needs are, they will never be met. This one really hit home for me, as you will learn in my introduction to this episode.
  3. The importance of putting thoughts into action. A lot of people can dream up ideas, but the ability to put them into action is what separates doers from dreamers. Dawn and her husband Derrick are definitely doers, and I hope you are as inspired by their story as I am.

To learn more about The We Project, visit https://www.facebook.com/wearetheweproject/. Feel free to email Dawn at wearetheweproject@gmail.com or give her a call on (201) 456-8908.

Direct download: Dawn_Carpenter_Interview.m4a
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT