Wed, 24 March 2021
An interview I did this week got me to thinking about how little things can make a big difference.
This one Uncorks a story about U2 and a Bodega owner I met this week whose business is being threatened by the pandemic. Listen in to see the connection between them. Trust me, it will be one to grow on.
Mon, 22 February 2021
This past weekend, my sister gave me one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received—a stack of letters I had written to my grandparents back in the 1980s. This inspired me to record and share this episode with you.
Reaching out and touching someone used to mean picking up the phone and calling them. Today, it means Facetiming them or maybe just sending them a text. How about this, instead of doing that, why not write an old-fashioned letter? Fold it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it, and send it by mail. Sure it will take a lot longer to get to the recipient than an email or text, but some things are worth waiting for.
Sat, 13 February 2021
This week I sat in on the first of hopefully many episodes of Comedy Roads, an online show featuring interviews with established stand up comedians reflecting on their path to success. It's hosted by the one and only Bob DiBuono.
A-Lister Eddie Brill told a story about performing in front of 12 people that I'll never forget and it inspired me to reflect on the importance of always giving 100% whenever you make a commitment to something.
Find more about Comedy Roads by clicking here.
Tue, 26 January 2021
I had a conversation with an old friend and prospective client last week about a challenge her business is facing—attracting men to use their service. They have a new spokesperson they’ve tapped to help with that effort, but they have no idea what he should be saying to raise interest from guys.
So, in the spirit of partnership and wanting to land some new business, I held some Curiosity Conversations with men who wanted to lose weight about their approach to doing so. I call them Curiosity Conversations because I didn’t approach these interviews with a formal discussion guide. Rather, I just followed my nose—my curiosity—to learn all I could from guys who wanted to lose weight. What I found were a number of contradictions:
The reality is this goes beyond weight loss. The three points above could summarize our approach to everything from career management to personal relationships. We approach them on our own terms, we don’t recognize how our emotions impact our behavior, and we don’t want to ask for help (and in my case directions!).
Listen in to hear it first hand from some of the guys I met while doing this work. As an added bonus, you’ll hear my own personal struggles with weight and why I could relate to every word these guys spoke to me last week.
Interestingly, all of the guys I spoke with said they had a newfound energy and confidence just talking with me about the topic. This alone led me to believe that my prospective client has a huge opportunity with this market because their service model is all about accountability and building connections. I believe they already have all the tools at their disposal to set up men for success with lifestyle changes, but like the guys I interviewed, they just need some help in how to use those tools effectively. The good news is that I’m confident that my business can help them succeed with men.
Fri, 15 January 2021
When I was a kid, we used to take these road trips from Connecticut to Florida to visit my grandparents. I know that may sound like a huge waste of time when you can just fly there in a little over two hours, but the fact is we remember more about the adventures we had on those car trips than we do about the actual vacations themselves. We truly enjoyed the journey.
At some point in time, and I can’t pinpoint when exactly, I started to disregard the journey. My life became a game of what’s next, instead of focusing on what is. When I look back on my kids, I realize that I just couldn’t wait for them to get to the next stage of development from crawling, to walking, to talking, and the next thing I knew I blinked and was dropping them off at college. At some point, I stopped enjoying the journey.
I found myself getting distracted by work. I was buried answering emails on my phone when I should have been enjoying whatever movie was on. In short, I didn’t live in the moment. Here’s the thing, as efficient as I was living my life, I was blind to what I was missing out on.
This all reminded me of a conversation I had with Shihan Manny Esmeraldo, the senior instructor at the Karate studio my kids and I used to train at. Listen in as I recap what he has to say about the importance of enjoying the journey. At the end, I share four tips for how we can do a better job at living in the moment including:
Thanks for listening to another episode of uncorking a story. If you like what you hear please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, we appreciate you telling a friend about the podcast as that helps us spread the uncorking a story message to more people.
We will be back with another episode on Monday. And next Thursday, wow do I have a treat for you. But I’ll tell you more about that on Monday.
Thanks for listening!
Mon, 11 January 2021
I heard Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt yesterday and it got me thinking about how important it is to reinvent oneself periodically.
We live on a planet that does not stay still. It spins on its axis causing day and night. It circles around a star, moving through time and space, and as it does, seasons change. And that’s not all; fashions change, art changes, culture changes, all because we change.
Whether in business, or in personal relationships, at some point we will find that we have to reinvent ourselves in order to stay relevant with the changing times. All of these thoughts came to me on my morning run and I felt compelled to share them in this episode on reinvention. If you don’t have the time to listen, here are some Cliff’s notes:
Listen in to find out more!
Thu, 7 January 2021
I was introduced to the work of Viktor Frankl as an undergraduate student studying psychology. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is divided into two parts; the first is a memoir of his experiences living in a concentration camp during World War II and the second details his theory of Logotherapy, which involves identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about and then immersively imagining that outcome.
He’s also adamant that, in order to lead a fulfilling life, we must find meaning in three areas: work, love, and in finding courage in the face of danger.
In this episode, I uncork stories from three people who have done just that.
Throughout the episode, I recount my own struggles in these areas and challenge you to reflect on how you might be able to find meaning in work, love, and courage.
Busted Halo https://bustedhalo.com/
Gay Hendricks https://hendricks.com/
The Invisible Disabilities Association https://invisibledisabilities.org/
Thanks for listening.
Thu, 31 December 2020
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:
As always, thank you for listening to Uncorking a Story. Happy new year and see you in 2020.
Sun, 27 December 2020
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:
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.
Mon, 21 December 2020
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.
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!
Fri, 18 December 2020
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:
Thank you for listening to another episode of Uncorking a Story and remember, books make great gifts!
Wed, 16 December 2020
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!
Sun, 13 December 2020
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:
Happy listening, and remember, books make great gifts!
Fri, 11 December 2020
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you think.
Tue, 7 January 2020
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.
Mon, 15 January 2018
Today is a big day for Uncorking a story because I get to share with you my conversation with Bruce Miller, the creator of Smart Alex - a new, better for you, snack food. I love talking to entrepreneurs because I’m always left feeling inspired by their stories; the drive and ability to put thought into action is a skill that few people have and I think it’s worth uncorking the stories of those who do so successfully. Bruce Miller, though, didn’t set out to be a snack food disruptor (whatever that is). At an early age, he demonstrated a talent in art and his parents encouraged that by enrolling 11-year-old Bruce in a painting class. From there it was off to art school in New Haven for college and then onto jobs at smaller ad agencies in Connecticut and New York before landing at Jordan McGrath, Case, and Taylor where he worked under James Jordan as a copywriter. My mother always said that behind every great man is an even better woman and interwoven in this interview is a love story. After moving to California to service his biggest client, Bruce kept up a long-distance relationship with a woman named Maria Guella. They soon became engaged and she, as well as the professional transition Bruce made at that time, would play an important role in the Smart Alex story. This podcast is being brought to you by my new book Motel California, the third in my Farrah Graham series. If you like an intriguing story with colorful and comical characters, Motel California is what you need to be reading right now. You can buy it online wherever books are sold (or give the image to the right a little clickity click, click, click). You can learn more about Smart Alex at: www.smartalexfoods.com Download Here
Tue, 14 March 2017
John Seigel Boettner is a social studies teacher at Santa Barbara Middle School, but he’s not like one I ever had. It’s a special kind of person who can take middle school kids on a cross country bicycle trip across the United States and an even more special person who can do that through the Republic of Rwanda in central eastern Africa (Yes, that Rwanda). You see, John uses cycling and life experiences to teach his students lessons that they will never forget. In short, John is the kind of teacher you remember; the kind of teacher whose memory will hit you first as you think about the person you’ve become and consider how you got to that place. We don’t get many teachers like that in life but when we do, we should celebrate them.
I met john at an industry conference this past January. Now, you may be saying to yourself, Mike, you are not a teacher, what kind of conference could you possibly have met john at? Well, our paths do cross, but it’s not where you might think.
At Santa Barbara Middle School, John helped form an organization called Teen Press. You see, in addition to being an avid cyclist, John is also a film buff and he often uses film as a teaching aid. Years ago, when the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was coming to town, John wanted to give his students a chance to talk to some influential filmmakers. He had his students apply for press credentials and taught them some interviewing skills; but one important lesson he impressed upon his fledgling journalists was to go beyond the questions that Hollywood types get asked all the time; Who are you wearing? What’s your relationship status? What’s it like working with so and so? Instead, he wanted his kids to uncover what these people are like as human beings. And that's why, at one red carpet event, they handed Amy Adams a burrito!
This is where our paths cross. I interview people for a living for both this podcast and for clients who hire me to run marketing studies. The kids of Teen Press interview filmmakers, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders. Al Gore, Will Smith, burrito loving Amy Adams, and Clint Eastwood are just some of the names that the Teen Press of SBMS have interviewed. Someone in an industry association I am part of heard about Teen Press and invited John and some of his former students to teach a bunch of professional moderators (many of whom have spent more time interviewing people than these kids have been alive) – how to uncover humanness in an interview. It left a mark on me, so much so that I think I just created a new word, and I am pleased to share John’s personal story, in more detail, with you.
This interview is brought to you by my book Uncorking a Murder. A retired detective short on time works with podcaster Farrah Graham to right a wrong in this “Serial meets Gone Girl” thriller. Pick up Uncorking a Murder at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, or wherever books are sold online. Available in paperback and eBook editions.
Sat, 17 December 2016
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.
Sat, 13 February 2016
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 email@example.com. Happy listening!
Thu, 28 January 2016
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:
Listen to the interview to learn more!
Tue, 14 May 2013
In 1996 I was barely 22 years old when I started my career in advertising. I worked for a company called FCB direct, which was owned by a holding company known as True North Communications. No offense to Brian Rafferty, my boss at the time, but the job kind of sucked. I was estimating call volume for a large telecommunications client who was using long format commercials to advertise their One Rate calling plan. My primary task was to calculate the estimated number of calls the client's telemarketing center could expect to receive after one of these commercials aired. We had to know the gross rating points of each program that the commercial was aired during and then provide estimates back to our client so they could staff up their telemarking center with the optimal number of representatives. I was commuting into NY and still living at home with my parents and barely making enough money to get to and from Manhattan.
Then one day in late 1996, a memo came across my desk announcing that True North "did a deal" with a digital agency in Westport, CT called Modem Media. I went to their website and knew that I needed to work there. In early 1997 my wish became a reality and I was hired into Modem's Research Department.
The years I spent at Modem were the best of my career. I worked hard, I played harder, and I was fortunate enough to meet some really great people. Recently, there was a party held in Westport to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Modem Media. A great time was had by all! At that party I caught up with one of Modem's co-founders, GM O'Connell, and asked if he would be a guest on this podcast. He said yes and we met the following week at his home in Connecticut.
We chatted about what led up to the start of Modem Media and what the early days were like. We discuss growing pains, lessons learned, and life post Modem. I enjoyed our chat and hope you do as well.
One apology to make up front, we did the interview outside as it was too nice a day to stay inside. As such, from time to time, the wind makes an appearance on this recording (I have since purchased a wind guard for my recording unit). We had this conversation over a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet and I suggest you uncork a bottle of the same as you listen to this; it will take your mind off the wind!
Tue, 23 April 2013
When I woke up this morning, I never could have predicted that one of my elementary school teachers, a Catholic nun named Dorothy Collins, would be introducing me to a post-op transexual named Cynthia. Let me explain.
There are people in our lives who have a profound impact on us. Sr. Dorothy was one of those people for me. My family moved to Connecticut when I was 9 years old which meant my twin brother Jimmy and I would be starting the 1983-1984 school year in a new school. I was entering 4th grade and I was nervous. My nervousness turned to fear when I found out a nun would be my teacher because my prior experiences with nuns was not so good. My first grade teacher, Sr. Peter Marie, made Joe Pesci's Tommy Devito character from Goodfellas seem like a nice guy. Luckily for me, Sr Dorothy was nothing like I expected; she had a big smile and an even bigger heart (and she never asked if she was there to amuse me).
We re-connected recently at a reunion and I asked to interview her for my podcast. She accepted on the condition that I help her serve guests at the Soup Kitchen where she works a few days a week. Our interview picks up right after we served hot meals to approximately 1,200 homeless people in New York. Listen to this interview and your assumptions of just what a nun is may be challenged. Listen to the end and you will hear me drop the tagline, "looks like a pump but feels like a sneaker."
I feel strongly that we should say thank you to the people in our lives who have had an impact on us. However, reflecting on this makes me realize that as people have an impact on me, I also have an impact on others. This is something we should all remember whenever we are in the presence of someone whose life we may be touching.
As always, I hope you enjoy this podcast and feel free to join the conversation at www.uncorkingastory.com
As always, I hope you enjoy this podcast and feel free to join the conversation at www.uncorkingastory.com