Category Archives: False Buddha LLC

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My Appearance on Good Morning Islamorada Sun 103.1 Radio

Hi All!  It has been a while since I’ve done any radio or TV or podcast appearances – but today broke the silence!  I was honored to be asked by Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward to appear on Good Morning Islamorada.

As many of you know, I have cancer.  I am going for the first major surgery on May 23rd.  It has been a long road full of torturous appointments, but I am lucky, as I have had this for a LONG time. It is safe to say that the doctors are shocked.  So, hey, whatever I’ve been doing – it works.  You may want to later subscribe to my portal Cooking in the CIA (I hope to have it live within the next year).

Check out my latest interview on Sun 103.1 Good Morning Islamorada!  Click the play button==>

A Mermaid in Africa: An Interview with Lauren Arthur

We crept through the bushes in the early morning light, struggling to be as quiet as a large group of sixth grade school children could possibly be. Up ahead of us we saw them: elephants bathing in the water. There were rumors of a tiger that would roam around our camp at night. We bathed out of a large ornate Thai pot with frigid water and walked over rope bridges that didn’t look like they could hold us. There were no fences or walls, we were experiencing truly wild nature that would have sent today’s helicopter parents into cardiac arrest.

I will never forget our sixth grade class field trip to Khao Yai in Thailand and I would never trade my experience as a child growing up in 1980s Thailand. It gave me an appreciation for wildlife and the natural world that cannot be matched. That’s why I was thrilled to get the chance to interview naturalist, zoologist, marine biologist, TV presenter, conservation story teller and founder of Too Wild Productions, Lauren Arthur.

Lauren Arthur grew up on the east coast of Scotland, and she spent a lot of time by and in the North Sea. From a young age, she was obsessed with sharks, but she dreamed of being a mermaid when she grew up. Watching the movie Splash as a kid really had her believing it was a real possibility. But then she discovered the reality and the dream of becoming a marine biologist was more realistic and she never wavered from that. She went to the University of Glasgow at seventeen years old and started her undergraduate degree in Zoology. After graduating, she decided to take a year out in Fiji working on a marine conservation project and became a PADI rescue diver. After spending more time in the ocean, she went back to university in Newcastle to work on her master’s in tropical coastal management. She then had the opportunity to complete a socio-economic study on whale sharks in the Maldives for her thesis. After successfully completing this study, she received a job offer in the Maldives and never looked back.

After eight wonderful years in the Maldives, she needed a new challenge and that was offered to her by WildEarth TV. The offer was to become a marine expert for a live TV show filmed underwater. This pilot program was a success and she was invited to become a live TV presenter and field guide in South Africa. After presenting live across Africa for six years, working with broadcasters such as Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, CGTN and Huawei, she began telling conservation stories for WWF and working on wildlife films. She and her partner David then decided to set up their own wildlife filmmaking company creating wildlife films and offering a specialized, immersive course to help build the next generation of wildlife filmmakers.

Dreams do come true.

Lauren lives the life that dreams are made of. She regularly rescued turtles from ghost nets (abandoned fishing nets) whilst working in the Maldives. Sadly, this is a common occurrence, especially with olive ridley turtles, making their way through the Maldives to the ‘Arribada’ in India. She remembers being woken up by security at three in the morning because they had found a huge ghost net, and, without thinking, she ran to rescue the turtles in her tiny, inappropriate pajamas. The memory that sticks out the most to her is rescuing a hawksbill turtle who was barely alive. She had been trained in turtle first aid and knew she needed to give CPR. Giving mouth-to-mouth to a turtle was seriously hard work. There is also a small area on the plastron (underneath side) in between the scutes which is soft and using one finger, one can give chest compressions. Luckily this worked and they were able to save the turtle, and after some rehabilitation, return her to the sea. Lauren does note that turtle breath is exactly what you think it would be!

Lauren believes it is very important to highlight the word ‘conservation’, which people use very casually these days; it’s almost a fashionable term. The word conservation essentially means ‘to conserve’ or ‘prevention of  wasteful use of a resource’. With regards to the conservation of wildlife and our natural world it is important to understand conservation includes many different elements, from education, rehabilitation, land-use management, veterinary work, storytelling and even filmmaking. She advises that if one is looking to go into the field of conservation, they should hone into their skills and think about what they are good at. Consider questions like, do you like numbers? Do you like working with your hands? Understanding soil types and sand movement? Whatever one enjoys, she suggests focusing on that element. People often ask her about how they can have a career in conservation and where they should start. She believes that first one should think about what aspect of conservation they want to be involved in.

As much as we wish we could, we can’t be good at everything. Find your superpower and go from strength to strength from there.

Lauren Arthur has the kind of career I dreamed of as a child. The following is what she shared with me in our interview.

Give me a little history of where you have lived. Do you have a favorite location that you have lived in?

I was born and raised in Scotland but have spent decent amounts of time in Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Ecuadorian Amazon and now live in South Africa. I have traveled extensively through Asia and Africa but my favorite location to visit to date is Ethiopia; it is a surprisingly spectacularly beautiful country filled with remarkable wildlife. To live, it has to be the Maldives or South Africa. Maldives islands are small and I was able to walk the complete circumference of my island in twenty minutes, however, a rich, vibrant coral reef was right on my doorstep. South Africa is so diverse and stunning, you can travel from the African bush to the mountains and sea in a day. It is a country where wilderness adventures await you and that is my kind of life. 

How has your family reacted to you traveling and being around what appears to be sort of dangerous wildlife (at times)? Have they ever been concerned about the locations you are in, etc.? Have you ever felt you were in danger during any of your experiences with wildlife?

I think my parents gave up fretting about my well-being after they realized I was an adventurer and always would be. Sometimes I don’t tell them about my potentially “dangerous” wildlife encounters until afterwards. I think they were slightly concerned when I moved to Africa as it was unknown to them and there are a lot of scary misconceptions about Africa but they assure me they don’t worry any more (I am 37 after all). I can honestly say with my hand on my heart, that I have never felt in danger in any of my wildlife experiences; I have swam with tiger sharks, walked up to lions, walked next elephants, followed a black rhino on foot and rescued a manta ray from a fishing line way too deep with only one breath. 

How do you see the wildlife of Africa surviving over the next ten years or more? 

I think more and more people are becoming aware of the plight of our species across the world. I think as long as practices remain ethical and petting zoos or keeping animals in cages for human pleasure stops, wildlife will hopefully thrive. In saying that, I think it does depend on what species you are referring to. Rhino poaching is a huge issue in South Africa and there are amazing anti-poaching units working hard every day but it is an uphill battle as long as the demand remains the same. It is also said that ‘insectageddon’ is upon us which is a really scary thought. After all, these little creatures keep our world turning and we can’t survive without them. Whether we like it or not, planet Earth is the planet of insects and they have us surrounded. Since arriving in South Africa in 2018, I have seen a decline in the insect populations as each summer ticks by. I haven’t had a summer where insects cover my car windshield in a long time. Although that sounds favorable, it is really not. We need insects around. So that is a very difficult question to answer. 

Tell a story or stories of wildlife conservation success.

I think the Maldives becoming the shark haven that it is today is a remarkable conservation success story. In 2010, the Maldives declared its exclusive economic zone, 90,000 sq. km of the Indian Ocean, as a shark sanctuary. The island nation also banned all imports and exports of shark fins. This protected the tourism industry which is the largest segment of their economy, from the ravages of the shark fin trade. It was a bold and farsighted move on the part of the government of the Maldives. And boy did it pay off! Shark tourism is booming and you can go to Fuvahmulah in the very south of Maldives and swim with tiger, thresher and hammerhead sharks. I suggest everyone ticks that off their bucket list, it is the most amazing experience in the world. 

When it comes to conservation efforts, what is working and what isn’t?

Again, that’s a difficult question since conservation is such a broad topic and different habitats and species are facing different threats across the board. We are racing against our changing climate however, I do believe there is more focus on protecting our natural world and everything in it than ever before. Social media has its downside which I struggle with sometimes but it is also a great tool for educating people about important topics. I live in the Timbavati Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park and they are dropping the fences to expand the area and creating an open system which is fantastic news for animal movement. 

You have had quite the successful life at a young age. Do you have any special qualities or anything that you especially credit with success at such a young age? 

Being completely open to failure. Life will not always go your way but that is part and parcel of the journey. Life may not take you in the direction you want to go either, you may be rerouted and I think being aware of that and being open to criticism and learning from your mistakes is one of the strongest qualities one can have. My hearing is not great and I sometimes struggle to hear, this “disability” has only made me stronger and work twice as hard to compensate for that. 

If you had to give one main tip for success in life, what would it be?

Work hard, play hard. Bit of a cliché I know but enjoy your life but balance that with dedication to work and your passions. I see people partying and socializing all the time without dedicating any time to their dreams or work, and then they wonder why it’s not a success. Life is short and you must enjoy it but also dedicate time and energy to your passion in life. I really believe you get out of life what you put in. 

How do you manage to not only run a business but to promote your business or activities? What is your best channel or platform for featuring your activities and getting people interested?

Multi-tasking is luckily something I really enjoy, but again, it is all about balance and time management (luckily I am a Libra). You can follow Too Wild on instagram @too_wildproductions and on YouTube @toowild500 where we will be releasing some series there in the near future on all our exciting wildlife journeys. 

Do you have any time management tips?

To do lists!!! I love lists, they make me happy. After dinner each night, I will sit at my desk with a cup of tea and plan my to-do list for the next day, understanding the tasks that need prioritizing. This sets me ahead of the game and I feel ready to go the next day. However, in saying that, living in the bush on a construction site means very rarely does my day go to plan but I am prepared for that. A diary really helps me manage my time. 

Do you use any motivational tools to keep you going?

A vision board. I have a little vision board book which I have always had since I was a child and I regularly update and check in with my goals and dreams. I draw, write things down and collect pictures. These goals don’t even have to be realistic at that point in time, just visualize them and stay true to that. Again, might sound cheesy but this technique also helps me develop my ideas and feel creative. Things change over time but that’s normal, just adjust your vision but don’t let it go entirely. 

What makes you happy and/or content?

Being with my partner David and being in nature. Any time I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I step outside and go for a walk in the bush. Sometimes I will sit in my garden and look at all the plants that I planted which have grown so much, and that brings me joy. 

You have achieved A LOT. What is your number one tip for productivity?

Self-care. Sounds crazy but you need to be physically fit and mentally fit to stay motivated and be productive. Although I live in the wilderness, I make sure to exercise every single day, take regular breaks, meditate and practice self care. Once a week, I will spend hours doing my skincare and haircare, not out of vanity, but to take a break from the laptop and look after my well-being. If you feel good about yourself, then that positivity will reflect in your attitude to work and on your productivity levels. 

Tell me about launching South Africa’s first immersive wildlife filmmaking course. When will this course begin and have you had a lot of interest so far?

We will launch our first in September this year, so exciting!! Our course we will not just cover wildlife filmmaking but will also give students a full immersion into the African wild. There will be a module on animal behavior, ecology, phenomenology and ethics of wildlife filmmaking by myself. We will introduce our students to the field of impact producing with our guest speaker and help guide them in their efforts to combine storytelling with social and behavioral science to drive positive change. Our expert tracker will take students into the bush on foot and teach them the basic tracks and signs and how to read the environment around you for more immersive filmmaking. David will teach the students to understand how to use the equipment, build specialized wildlife filming rigs, filming techniques and how to work with human talent. Lastly there will be an extensive module on post-production – how do you shoot for the edit and how do you manage your media. We have had a lot of interest from all around the world. Our course is quite a big commitment financially and time wise but is open to everyone. We have interest from younger people and the older age bracket. 

If you would like to learn more about Lauren Arthur and Too Wild Productions, please visit .

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

You Are Not Alone: An Interview with Dr. Johanna O’Flaherty

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Johanna O’Flaherty, expert in crisis management from a psychological perspective, and a renowned expert in the field of trauma, addiction, and recovery. Dr. O’Flaherty began her journey into this field in a circuitous way. She started out as a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways where she flew all over the world, which she enjoyed very much. While working in this position she observed many of her fellow flight attendants developing eating disorders. While this was not her issue, she developed a drinking problem. She fortunately recognized the problem and got help in 1978. Since then, she has been in a very positive recovery.

Dr. O’Flaherty is no stranger to trauma. During her childhood there were a lot of dysfunctions in her family due to many factors such as poverty and her father’s drinking as well as living in a crowded household. When she was eleven years old, she was very ill with jaundice coupled with rheumatic fever. Subsequently, she was hospitalized for over three months, which by itself was very traumatizing. As a result of her time spent in the hospital, she became very religious and regularly practices the Catholic faith.

Dr. O’Flaherty has published an eBook titled The Correlation Between Trauma and Addiction. She explains that research substantiates that there is a very high correlation between trauma and addiction. People who have experienced traumatic events are indeed more prone to addictions. Untreated trauma can cause individuals who are in recovery from substance abuse to relapse. Research also shows that individuals who have healthy egos and a solid foundation from childhood will have a frame of reference and very good resilience which will enable them to recover very quickly from traumatic experiences. For an individual to have what they call in psychology “good enough parenting” one needs stability in the home. Those that have this will have that frame of reference and will recover from trauma expeditiously. Individuals who have been traumatized and are working on a trauma resolution will indeed recover just as well as the individuals who do not have a history of trauma. However, for those who are still struggling with unresolved trauma or indeed a substance abuse issue, which may include prescription drugs, Dr. O’Flaherty recommends that they seek help from a qualified therapist.

When it comes to traumatizing events, Dr. O’Flaherty can not only reference her own childhood trauma and resulting addiction, but she has been shaped in her adult life with quite a few major traumatic world events with which she has worked hands-on helping people cope. When the Lockerbie Scotland disaster happened in 1988, she was the corporate manager of Pan American’s Employee Assistance Program and she was dispatched to Lockerbie. This was her first experience responding in the aftermath of a major aviation disaster. As a result of responding to Lockerbie and observing employees who were put in a position to take care of the victims’ families without any training, she became very involved with the recovery efforts after returning to the United States. She became a member of the American Transportation Association and assisted in developing what we now know today as care teams to respond and take care of families of the victims of aviation disasters.

Involvement in the Lockerbie disaster was the catalyst for propelling her into a specific field of crisis psychology. Indeed, she became a trailblazer in this field. After the Lockerbie disaster she has responded to several major aviation disasters as a crisis psychologist, to include TWA flight 800 that exploded over Long Island sound in 1996.

As the Director of Employee Assistance Programs for Airlines, she often used to refer people to the Betty Ford Center as well as other treatment centers.

After completing her doctorate in clinical psychology Johanna had a desire to work more closely with individuals suffering from substance abuse and unresolved trauma, therefore she was seeking an opportunity to work in a treatment center where she could use her clinical skills and specialties is substance abuse and trauma resolution. She was very fortunate in that a position became available at the Betty Ford Center and was hired as the Vice President of Treatment Services. She went on to work there for over seven years.

In 2001 she was called to New York to assist with counseling airline employees and facilitating the crisis response training for the New York City Transit Authority after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. She has also conducted critical incident response training for the FBI and first responders.

The most recent major disaster that she has responded to was the October 1, 2017 massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, where fifty-eight people were killed and another 546 people were injured. She continues to maintain a consulting practice and an active schedule as a keynote speaker in crisis management and addiction. She continues to be involved in supporting individuals, particularly first responders and airline employees, in the aftermath of disasters.

During my recent interview with Dr. Johanna O’Flaherty she shared the following with me.

For people who have become addicted to alcohol, and are fighting that urge to drink, what is your best tip?  For instance, what is an alternative for someone who turns to alcohol to cope, is there something they could substitute possibly?

There are many options available for individuals that are suffering from the disease of addiction. My first recommendation is to perhaps try the 12 step programs which are free and always welcoming. I would also recommend that you get an assessment from an addiction specialist.

Who is the strongest person you know and what are the personality traits that you see in them?

There are several people that I admire due to their accomplishments, their inner strength, their integrity, spirituality, and humility. There is no specific person.

What has been your biggest fear in life?

This is an interesting question and there is not one specific fear but rather many over the years. As a young person when I was based as a flight attendant in New York I was very scared of the city and the people, but I did become acclimated and enjoy the city very much.  From an internal perspective due to my family of origin issues and subsequently my own alcoholism I had many fears. Fears that I wouldn’t measure up coupled with low self-esteem and shame.

What has been your biggest challenge in life (if you had to pick one)?

I believe there will always be challenges in my life as I am indeed a consummate student of life and humanity.

Today my challenges are basically maintaining a consistent work life balance. I am at times inclined to overdo it, particularly with work. I enjoy my work very much and strive to maintain a healthy balance.

What do you find is the most common fear or issue of your patients?

The most common fear that patients present in today’s world is fear of the future insecurity based on primarily false information.

If you had to tell someone your number one tip for dealing with anxiety or fear, what would it be?

I would recommend that you find somebody that you can trust a good friend a chaplain a therapist and show your fears. I would also recommend that you minimize media exposure as I note in the media there is a great tendency to escalate fear.

If you had to tell someone your number one tip for dealing with depression, what would it be?

Depression is very complicated so I would recommend that the individual who is suffering from depression seek a therapist.

What is your top tip for coping after tragedy?

My coping tip for particularly responders and therapists who respond to the aftermath of a tragedy is that it is absolutely a priority to take care of oneself. This must be intentional.

What is your biggest project right now?  What are you working toward currently?

I recently published my memoir which is titled Flight with Weighted Wings. I address my involvement in aviation disasters and the Las Vegas shooting in my memoir from a psychological perspective. I am working on another book which hasn’t quite concretized with the title yet.

I continue to run a small private practice in Las Vegas, and I do a lot of public speaking.

I would like to leave the audience with a word of encouragement as this article has highlighted my personal journey, which was challenging and indeed joyful and painful. I would encourage you to read my books, especially my memoir Flight with Weighted Wings. Flight with Weighted Wings is a memoir that is very transparent, and it is a memoir of transformation and inspiration. My memoir will help you to connect with me on an emotional journey. The humanizing aspects of my memoir, sharing my personal experiences, challenges, and successes will demonstrate that you are not alone.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

On Business and Freedom: An Interview with Ken and Craig Chalifour

It was two weeks into my dream job and I realized this was not my dream.  As the woman who shared a cubicle space across from me continued to babble on about how busy she was and another woman popped over, yet again, to explain that I needed to attend another sheet cake function for a birthday, I came to the complete and total realization that I wanted my own business.  I wanted the freedom to be in charge of my own schedule, to make my own rules, and not be forced into the complete waste of time that I saw office chatter as being.

I had this dream of no longer being confined to an office, and having complete control over my own schedule.  It didn’t happen right away of course, but eventually I started out by going part-time with the CIA and working on my own little eBay business during the remainder of my time.  I soon realized that running your own small business is much more time intensive and, honestly, harder than working for someone else.  But it is so much more rewarding!

Years later, I have morphed my business mainly into writing my own books as well as a writing and editing service for clients who either don’t have the time to write, don’t like to write, or just plain can’t write.  But I have found myself frequently bogged down with the daily operations of running a business.  As a creative person, I want to create, and continue to build the business, but the day-to-day operations simply slow me down.  I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Ken and Craig Chalifour of Chalifour Consulting Group.

The Chalifour Consulting Group is a full-service consulting agency for professionals and their businesses. They understand that many challenges arise in business. They determine what the root cause is and implement a cure, not a band-aid. New business methods and best practices are being developed and implemented every day, and the Chalifour Consulting Group’s goal is to ensure success for their clients by leading the charge with new business practices without reinventing the wheel.

Both Ken and Craig Chalifour began their careers in the sales industry. Each of them worked their way up the corporate ladder to owning and being high-level executives at their respective companies. The two have developed a love and great understanding of the business world through many trials and tribulations.

Craig Chalifour has extensive experience delivering exceptional results for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). His career spans roles such as director of business development, vice president of sales, director of corporate training and other leadership positions in the finance and insurance sector. Ken Chalifour has nearly three decades in business. He has a deep understanding of successful enterprise intricacies and the ability to start, scale, and redirect businesses. His experience ranges from construction, including designing and building a 100,000 square foot assisted living facility, as well as owning, operating, and selling multiple businesses, engaging in business acquisitions, holding board positions with non-profit organizations, and collaborating with the FBI on security matters. Ken has founded a successful marketing and web development company, cultivating an international client base and excelling in real estate development and construction. His skills encompass sales, negotiation, analysis, efficiency optimization, business process improvement, communication and generational management.

You can’t teach vision or talent. But you can be prepared.

As having been groomed my entire young life to become a federal employee, then reaching that goal, I never really thought about what running a business actually entails. As such, I was glad to have the opportunity to interview Ken and Craig Chalifour. The following is what they shared with me.

In the business consulting world, what is the biggest problem most companies have? What do most of your clients seek you out for help with?

Our experience has shown that a few of the biggest challenges companies face is both personnel management and growth management.  Determining the right person for a specific roll is predicated on determining the strengths and weaknesses that a person possesses.  It is critical that a person is not occupying a role that they are not well suited for.  Leveraging a person’s strength not only benefits the success of a company, it also creates a culture of success for the individual and the company.  Managing growth is also critical because if you are not prepared to grow through a systematic approach then the product or service you offer becomes degraded.  Your reputation suffers and your customer base dwindles.

Talk a little about what services your business consulting firm offers.

As a full-service consulting firm, we work in the world of business startups and existing business growth management.  We work with people who have a strong desire to start a new business but don’t know what the path forward looks like.  We offer a strategic, step by step approach that outlines the necessary tasks that need to occur in order for the company to come to fruition.  For existing companies, we provide a proprietary process we call The Business Positioning System which involves a three-pronged approach to achieving long term, sustained success.  These steps are discovery, development and implementation.  Through this process, we help re-engineer a company from the ground up and help eliminate ambiguity, create a standard operating procedure and establish goals, milestones and triggers for expansion and growth.  I am a huge boat guy so I tend to use boat metaphors.  For existing businesses we often tell them that what we do is get in their boat, we find the biggest hole and we fill it.  We then find the next biggest hole and fill that.  We continue moving around until all the holes are filled.  Now the boat is sea worthy and won’t sink.  Next we make the boat bigger and stronger and upgrade the engine so that it is worthy of moving further out to sea and withstanding stronger storms while moving forward.

What is the biggest mistake you see most new companies make?

Most companies start a business because they are good at something.  Many of these people and companies lack the foresight and planning at inception which causes challenges as the company grows.  They seldom have growth strategies in place which perpetuates a “put the biggest fire out first” mentality.  This prohibits the ownership from working on expansion, management, training and all the necessary components required to grow and scale.

Since 2020 do you see an increase in people wanting to start their own businesses and work for themselves?

Yes, business ownership is something we see increasing dramatically.

Do you have one particular industry where you see most clients coming from? Or is it all over the map?

No, not a specific industry.  We see people wanting to break away from an existing job because they are proficient at what they are doing and feel like they can be more successful on their own in their own business. 

How do you see the business environment in the US going in the next five years? How has it been in the past few years?

Predicting the exact trajectory of the business environment in the US over the next five years is challenging due to various factors such as economic cycles, political changes, and unforeseen events. However, based on recent trends, it’s likely that the business environment will continue to be dynamic and influenced by factors like technological advancements, globalization, and shifts in consumer behavior. In the past few years, the US business environment has seen steady growth, driven by factors like low unemployment rates, tax reforms, and expansionary fiscal policies. However, challenges such as trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainties, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have also posed significant hurdles. Moving forward, adaptability, innovation, and resilience will be key for businesses to thrive in an evolving landscape.

How do you manage to not only run a business but to promote your business or service? How do you get people interested in your business or service?  Do you have any tips?

One of the most efficient factors in promoting our business is through reviews.  We are extremely proud of the fact that we have many reviews and every one of them is a five star review.  When people conduct a search for a business consultant anywhere in the country, Chalifour Consulting comes up with rave reviews.  This speaks to our ability to provide excellent value to our clients and that is exhibited through these reviews.  Most people who reach out to us to inquire about our services often comment that they found us through a search and they are very impressed with what others are saying about us. 

How do you find the time to do all of the things required for your business? Do you have any time management tips?

Time management is extremely important, but systems and processes facilitate time management techniques.  Becoming more efficient through established procedures removes all ambiguity and allows us to accomplish tasks that directly impact our client base without the confusion.  Software is highly leveraged which allows an organized approach to conducting business.  Customer relationship management, accounting, communication, both internally and externally, financial/accounting, design and marketing are all areas where software is utilized to provide efficient protocols for accomplishing tasks in an expeditious manner.

Do you have any tips for people who may want to get their children into their family business?

Chalifour Consulting is a unified team of professionals that come together to improve our client’s condition, whatever that condition may be.  We are a partnership between father and son.  Our accountant is my wife of thirty-five years and our creative director is my daughter.  Creating a family business is extremely rewarding but caution must prevail when disagreements ensue.  It’s important to separate the family emotions and recognize that decisions must be made and agreement on those decisions is not always present.  Separating business and personal is somewhat of a challenge but all parties must recognize that personal feelings must take a back seat.

Do you use any motivational tools to keep you going?

We do a lot of reading and studying not only industry standard material, but we are also very in tune with what trends and tactics are emerging.  We follow social media influencers and stay up to date on business related changes such as taxes, accounting, marketing and anything that would pertain to business stability and growth.

What makes you happy and/or content?

Working with my family is unbelievably rewarding.  It is also extremely rewarding working with people and companies where we improve their condition, overcome challenges and create a strategic path forward where success is imminent. 

What is your number one tip for productivity?

Remove ambiguity.  Ambiguity breeds mediocrity.  If a clearly defined action is not in place then there is far too much room for interpretation.  If there is too much interpretation there is no solidarity or congruency which then leads to chaos and putting out fires.

Where do most of your clients come from, are they mostly in New Hampshire? How is the business environment there? 

We have clients in forty-eight states and four countries.  Interestingly, we only have two clients in NH.  Most of our business comes from web searches and word of mouth. 

Are your clients mostly small start-up companies or big businesses or a mix?  Tell me a little about your average client.

Our clients range in size from small one person startups to twenty million dollar a year contractors.  We find that the trades (contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc.) tend to be a niche that we are extremely familiar with.  We have worked in virtually every industry and market and find that our average client, regardless of the industry, tends to be the person who is very good at something, starts a business and then recognizes that their growth is out of control and needs help.

What is your ultimate vision for this company in particular?

Truthfully, to help as many people and businesses succeed.

I read that you have collaborated with the FBI. How did you get into that?

I was asked to be on the board of directors for a company called InfraGard.  InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and members of the private sector for the protection of U.S. critical infrastructure. Through seamless collaboration, InfraGard connects owners and operators within critical infrastructure to the FBI, to provide education, information sharing, networking, and workshops on emerging technologies and threats. InfraGard’s membership is dedicated to contributing industry-specific insight and advancing national security.  It was fascinating and extremely insightful.

Ken: How is working with your son? Do you have any challenges you can discuss and how do you deal with them?

Working with Craig is truly a blessing for so many reasons.  Craig and I have developed an insane energy.  We are intensely aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we play to the strengths and build on the weaknesses.  Craig and I have flipped homes and have worked on countless construction projects prior to starting this company and have learned a long time ago how each other thinks and anticipate each other’s moves and thoughts.  Craig has amazing vision and always seems to be three to four moves/thoughts ahead of me.  I have learned to embrace that vision as a tool rather than a deficiency in me.  We both have a very protective nature and want the best for each other.  Our work ethic is matched by each other, and I can’t imagine two people that work better together, especially a father and son duo. We have absolutely had some blow out screaming arguments but we ALWAYS remember that we love each other and want what’s best for each other and our common goal is to be successful at helping people and companies achieve their goals.

Craig: How is working with your dad? Do you have any challenges you can discuss and how do you deal with them.

Working with family can be tough sometimes, but it also has its perks. In my opinion, partnerships in business are always challenging, whether you’re working with family or not. I often advise clients about this. When family is involved, decisions can get emotional, which isn’t usually the case in other partnerships. Figuring out how to separate family matters from business decisions can be hard at first, but it’s important to get the hang of it to make things work smoothly. The process of working with my father is very rewarding and I would not want to be in business with anyone else – our skills complement each other very well and that has been incredibly beneficial.

What has been your biggest challenge in this consulting business endeavor? How did you overcome it?

We are first and foremost in the relationship business.  It is important that we know our clients and how they think and operate.  Becoming aligned with our clients as a business consultant and advisor requires a certain amount of “tough love”.  We develop strategic plans, a path forward, goals and milestones, agendas, tasks and value statements.  It is up to the client to be actionable with these directives.  Many times, our clients are so involved with their company that they can’t find the time to execute those things that will free up time.  We often tell our clients that in order to make more money and be more profitable, you need to make more time and in order to make more time, you must be more efficient.  When working with a client and through our discovery process, we uncover areas of inefficiency that are desperate for change.  We are taking an outside-in look at their business.  We see things as clear as day that need to change, but because the client is so close to the day-to-day operations they may resist or not find the time to complete tasks.  We always say that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always have what you’ve always had.  We strive to break our clients from that mindset and give them the ability to see what we see.

Owning and operating a business can be extremely rewarding for so many reasons.  If done properly, a business can be lucrative and create freedom.  It must be done correctly by integrating efficient systems and processes.  A business is an asset that can increase in value and provide long term benefits such as a sale or a legacy to family or employees.  We love working with people and businesses to help make that happen.

If you would like to learn more about Ken and Craig Chalifour and Chalifour Consulting Group, please visit .

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

On Musical Talent And The Music Industry: An Interview With Shay Watson

As I stared blankly at the sheet in front of me and fidgeted with my drool-coated recorder, I realized I was in over my head.  I had no idea how to read the music on the sheet.  I had no idea where to place my fingers on the instrument.  None of it made any sense to me.  The next semester, I was switched to Thai language class.  That worked much better.  We were, after all, living in Thailand, I was in sixth grade, and my brain was much better suited to learning foreign languages than learning how to read music.  That’s not to say I am not musical.  Some of my earliest memories are of my dad singing songs from the 1950s through the 1970s to me in his humorous way.  I would say I’ve always had a skill with lyrics and the written word.  I always have music playing at my house, and prefer it to the incessant drone of the television.  But musical instruments and reading notes – no, that was not likely to be my thing.

I have always been fascinated with those who can play musical instruments, and even more, those who can write and read music.  I recently had the pleasure of interviewing composer and songwriter Shay Watson.

Shay Watson is most known for his work in television and film as a composer and songwriter.  His songs have been recorded by platinum selling and Grammy nominated artists and can be heard on hit TV shows and movies. In addition to writing for and producing popular artists and bands, Shay has toured as a solo artist and in various bands. He is unique in that he is a multi-instrumentalist who plays and records both proficiently and quickly.  He rarely hires outside musicians.  He typically plays all the instruments on the tracks he creates.  It is rare to find someone who plays as many instruments as he does, is proficient in all of those instruments, sings, writes in as many genres, and records, mixes and masters in the quick turnaround time periods he is given.

From as early as he can remember, Shay wanted to make music when he grew up.  He loved music and sound.  His older brothers played instruments and his extended family was musical.  There were always instruments around, with his very first instrument being piano.  In college, he majored in music, with his principal instruments being piano and trombone.  He was heavily involved in various instrumental ensembles, musical theatre and the college choir and he studied a variety of instruments including piano, brass, violin, accordion, percussion and wind instruments.  He now has two young children who are both learning piano, with his son also very interested in playing drums.

As my mother-in-law is very musically talented, I sense that my children may be also, so I was thrilled to hear what Shay had to say about introducing children to music, as well as how the music industry has changed with streaming, amongst other topics.  The following is what he shared with me.

What is your best tip for a parent who has no musical talent to get a child to be able to read and write music notes?

Have a piano in the house and other instruments laying around.  Let them bang on the piano and explore the instruments.  Bad and odd sounds are fine.  Do this before attempting reading.  As humans we learn to make sounds, mumble, grunt and talk before we learn to read and write.  Music should be the same.  Reading music is important, but we often put the cart before the horse and try to teach children to read before they can make sounds on their instruments.  It’s also important for children to audiate.  Audiation is foundational to musicianship. It takes place when we hear and understand music for which the sound is no longer present or may never have been present. If one can learn to first internalize rhythms and tonal intervals, then it’s easier to teach reading and notation.

How did you break into TV and film music composition? How does one do that?

TV and film music wasn’t on my radar until around 2006.  I had a good friend who had moved to L.A. and done well in that area.  It made me take notice and begin to investigate that world, but it was somewhat of a secondary thought.  At the time, I was more interested in writing for albums and possibly touring again.

Around late 2006 or 2007, I’d formed a duo with fellow singer/songwriter, Joe Nash.  The duo was called ‘Watson & Nash.’  We began touring and working on our album ‘Mile Markers.’  We had the idea to write a song that could be used at sporting events, particularly football.  We, along with songwriter, Bill Whyte, wrote a song titled ‘Bring It On.’  The song was picked up by Fox Sports and ESPN. 

‘Bring It On’ became a door opener for me to begin talking to people who were in the TV and film synchronization (Sync) world.  I linked up early on with a lady named Beth Wernick, who began representing me and shopping my songs and compositions, through her company ‘Imaginary Friends Music Partners (IFMP),’ to various music supervisors.   Beth took my music catalog to Emmy Award winning music supervisor, Paul Antonelli, who was working on a show for Nickelodeon called Hollywood Heights.  The show featured a pop song of mine called, ‘Ready To Fall.’  This furthered my confidence in sync in those early days.  Paul, who through Beth, became a friend of mine began including my songs in the catalogue for popular CBS TV show, ‘The Young and The Restless,’ which was another show that he was supervising for.  This really gave a massive push to my career.  The lead composer/supervisor, RC Cates, along with Paul began using my music weekly.  Once everyone found out that I was well versed in different styles of music, particularly pop, jazz, and lounge chill areas and could play a variety of instruments, they began asking me to create for specific scenes.  This was a jump from trying to place previously written songs in scenes.

At this time I was introduced to the company that provides underscore for various shows on Discovery Networks, A&E, and PBS.  This included Investigative Discovery, Animal Planet, History Channel and a variety of others.  Shows on all these networks began using music, particularly the shows ‘Homicide Hunter,’ ‘Snapped: Killer Couples,’ and ‘Wives With Knives.’  I would provide quite a bit of underscore.

I also began traveling to L.A., along with my main production partner and co-songwriter/composer at the time, Klaus Luchs.  We’d meet with Beth and the other workers at Imaginary Friends Music Partners (IFMP), as well as with the various music supervisors. 

After all these successes, IFMP began getting me spots on various other shows and movies.  I wound up writing and producing the opening theme song for the first movie in the ‘Aliens Ate My Homework’ series.  I also wrote a featured track for ‘Cats and Dogs: Paws Unite’, from the Cats & Dogs Franchise.  Soon, Showtime, HBO, MTV, and a variety of others were using me for both songs and underscore on their shows.  I began also having music made for some Netflix series.    

This also fed into me writing for various popular artists, who were looking to get their music beyond radio and internet and on TV.  This then fed into me getting a ton of song cuts, including songs for albums and radio releases with pop artists.

The years 2007 to around 2011 were my resume building years. 2012-2019 were years where my music exploded onto the scene.  I was very busy during this time period.  At one point, I’d traveled back to my hometown and was sitting in my parents’ living room, switching through channels and happened to switch through four or five shows that were using music of mine.  It was one of those weird feelings that hits you when you realize that your music is serving a purpose and being heard by millions of people worldwide.

Tell me the process for composing a score for TV and movies? How do you begin? Where do you get your ideas?

It happens in different forms.  Most times, for network TV and cable TV, I write both songs and underscore.  Oftentimes when I’m writing songs or instrumental background, as opposed to score or underscore, I’ll simply be given a brief which contains a synopsis of the scene.  It will contain the ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ of the scene.  Sometimes it will contain examples of dialogue and oftentimes the music supervisor will provide a list of ‘references.’  For instance, if the music supervisor wants me to write a song that has the same ‘feel’ as a particular song they’ve previously heard, they will send me that other song to reference, or a list of songs.  The music supervisor will also send me key words or themes that they want to hear in the lyrics.  You have to be careful, though, because the supervisor doesn’t want you ‘writing the scene’ through your song.  You have to write in a manner that seems like you didn’t write the song for the scene but that you wrote a song that ‘happened’ to fit perfectly.  A common phrase you hear is, “don’t write anything too on the nose.”  Meaning, the scene is written, the music is background and should only enhance with slight nods to the scene from a thematically lyrical standpoint. 

For underscore, I may also receive a brief on the scene or the supervisor will send me the scene without any music.  

If I’m sent the visual, it will only have the scene with dialogue and no music.  In those instances, I will pull the video into Pro Tools, which will allow me to write to the visual.  I’ll generally compose, record several options, and send the options to the supervisor for opinions on which option to go with and any changes that need to be made.  At that point, I’ll mix and master what I’ve composed and recorded and send it back to the music supervisor, who will further edit and lock the music to the scene.

I’m often writing and recording simultaneously.  I love layering organic instruments with programmed instruments and merging the two types within sessions.  Also, for any instruments that I don’t play or desire to have an outside player on, I’ll call on other specialized instrumentalists, but for the most part to be cost effective, it’s me playing all or most of the parts within a track. 

I have to always keep in mind that I am background.  Sometimes, I’ll have a song that is a feature in a scene, and carries the scene with the dialogue or I’ll have a composition that intentionally is highlighted, but for the most part, I’m background and not even secondary at times.  That’s the way it should be.  My music is there to accent and enhance the script, the acting, and the other visual elements of the scene.  I often want the music to be mentally ‘felt’ as opposed to mentally ‘heard.’  The listener may be physically hearing the music but if it’s overtly noticeable and distracts from what is happening in moving the plot forward, I have not done my job.  My ego, or some need to be heard, should never factor into the equation.  I will be heard on a portion of the tracks, compositions that I do, but for the most part, I’m only there for support and I must keep that in mind.

How long did it take you to become successful (make money etc.)? 

That is a difficult question to answer because we have to define what constitutes success and even financial success when it comes to songwriting and artistry.  In general, musicians and artists have always struggled and it’s getting tougher, due to streaming and the lack of fans purchasing physical products.  Even the appearance of wealth and having done well financially is sometimes manufactured.  I’ve worked with well-known or multi-platinum selling artists with bad label deals that are barely paying their rent or mortgages.  They are touring and able to make barely enough to pay bills but not that much more.  For some, success is defined as making enough to support yourself or yourself and a family and get to do what you love, even though you aren’t making what, say a tech worker is making.  For others looking at it, if you haven’t made six figures per year you’re not successful.  For some, making $60,000 a year and having your name on a ton of credits is a success.  So success, in general, is subjective.  That said, over this twenty-five year period that I’ve been in the industry, I’ve had great financial years and terrible financial years.  You do have to train yourself to ‘save up for a rainy day,’ because you can easily trick yourself after having a couple of big successes into thinking that the successes will immediately continue and the big money will always be there. 

For me, I had success early on, followed by a huge failure or two, followed by success followed by another deep dark valley, followed by success and a continuing upward slope.  Minus the pandemic, my past decade has been successful from both the financial standpoint and an output notoriety standpoint.

What is your latest project? What are you currently working on?

I’m continually working on music for CBS’, The Young and The Restless.  The company that I write for is one of three that supplies music for the show.  I have a movie that I may be starting very soon.  We’re still working out the details of the deal and I’m not at liberty to give any details or the title away right now but a good friend of mine that is an actress has a major role in the movie and I believe if all goes well with working out the contract, it will be a fun project.

I’m also continually writing and producing songs with the multi-platinum hit band, Blessid Union of Souls.  We began working together a few years ago, through my co-writer and friend Bill DiLuigi, and that’s been a great experience.  It’s very special to me because they were a favorite band of mine during my college days, when they had a string of radio hits.  It’s rare that a songwriter/producer gets to work with essentially their heroes, so that is special to me.  During the pandemic me, Bill, and Blessid’s lead singer, Eliot Sloan wrote their single ‘Smile,’ which was made into a fun video and also their Christmas release, as well as a 4th of July release.  Currently, Eliot is slated to work with me on a solo album of mine that I’m writing and Blessid Union of Souls may be featured on one of the tracks. 

Aside from music I’m developing a pop culture, video podcast with a few friends of mine and an additional true crime podcast with my friend, John Clinebell.    

Tell me a little about the evolution of the music industry since streaming services.

When I first arrived in Nashville, there were rumblings of this thing called Napster.  It was new and had not had a substantial impact on the Nashville community.  This is primarily because, at the time Nashville catered to country music and the country music fan base was still purchasing CDS.  The labels and songwriters were still making good money off album sales.  As more people became aware of Napster in its mp3 file sharing form, it put a dent in some artist’s sales.  Other artists though, said that it actually helped sales by creating hype.  This was in the file sharing stage when iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and Pandora didn’t exist in their current forms.  So I can see how leaked music files could create an intrigue that upped certain sales.  Overall, and this is over simplifying, as internet speeds got faster and faster, we saw the rise of streaming on the platforms that I mentioned and instead of purchasing albums, many fans were streaming albums and not necessarily purchasing and downloading the songs to their iPods and iPhones.  What incentive is there to purchase music when you can pay a small subscription and listen to any song imaginable, or better yet, sit through a couple commercials and hear music for free?  Because of this many labels were losing on mechanical royalties (royalties on physical sales of albums) and had to find a way to keep their doors open.  They wound up signing artists to what is called 360 deals where the label takes a huge percentage on everything (merch, publishing, tour revenue, etc.).  In the past the labels made money primarily on album sales and didn’t reach into these other areas.  If they did reach into the other areas it was at a smaller percentage.

How did you personally navigate the changes in the music industry once iTunes and Napster came along and how did iTunes/Napster etc. affect music composers/artists – did it hurt them? Does it help? How would you compare it with being on a label, what are the pros and cons?

I was fortunate to have had successes early on as a songwriter in the late 90s/early 2000s and then a healthy artist career, with its ups and downs, until around 2010, when I came off the road to focus primarily on TV/film sync licensing.   I came from a time period when much more money was made and more was on the table.  I have young artists/songwriters in who are receiving little for their performances and despite ok streams, still struggling.  I can’t imagine someone approaching the industry for the first time trying to make it as an artist/songwriter who doesn’t substantially tour or a non-touring songwriter.  I will say that streaming didn’t affect sales of my group Ten Mile Drive.  We sold a ton of albums but we also did not market any of the music to streaming platforms.  It was all physical sales.  So if you wanted to take our music home and listen, you had to buy it in CD form.  There are thousands of our albums still floating around but you still won’t find the album online.  This is primarily because we disbanded before streaming platforms took over, any work we’d done with the label was shelved, as we lost the deal during the developmental time before the big launch, and for us to put the previous album up, which was being recut, might muddy legal waters.

Where I felt the effect most was when I came off the road and was not touring.  As a songwriter, in the old days, you could write ‘B sides’ and still make decent money.  Remember the artist makes their money off concerts, merch, album sales and streaming.  The songwriter, who is not the artist, only makes money off mechanical sales and streaming, unless they are licensing songs constantly to TV and film, ads etc.  So, with mechanical sales drastically down, if you aren’t the sole writer on the hit single you are barely making any money.   Per stream, a songwriter (if you are the only writer on the song) gets paid approximately, $0.00069 from YouTube, $0.00133 from Pandora, $0.00402 from Amazon, $0.00437 from Spotify. Those are your biggest streaming services.  So, the songwriter makes less than 1 cent per stream, actually less than half of a cent per song on most platforms.  Most songs have two to three co-writers, so take that less than half cent, then divide if by two or three and that’s what the songwriter makes off streaming.  Now mechanical sales (purchasing a song, not streaming) the songwriter makes 9.1 cents per song.  So to earn $1,000 the song would need to be purchased 11,000 times.  All of that to say, the songwriter who is non-touring, has to be constantly writing hits, the singles, that are going to be purchased, downloaded, and they must keep co-writers to a minimum to make any money, unless they are exploiting the songs in other ways, such as to TV/film.

 Can musical artists still get on a label, or is it all streaming one song, etc.?

Yes, but it’s not as desirable as it used to be.  Now, an artist can do everything a label can do.  Artists can easily distribute their music directly to the public for sale, they can hire a radio promoter, promote through social media, contract with a manager, booking agents, etc., and build substantial careers without a label.  Labels organize all those pieces and front the money.  The typical independent artist doesn’t have wealthy parents or investors who can front two million dollars for a launch, like a label can.  The more money that’s thrown at promotions the better the artist’s odds.  But keep in mind, it all has to be recouped by the label before the artist sees a dime.  There are a ton of artists, a ton I’ve worked with, that got signed and the label either invested and they failed on their release or signed them and held them in a deal for a year or two with promises of a release and dropped them before an album ever came out. 

So bottom line, artists should build their careers themselves and sign only after they’ve made a splash, and then only sign for a single or for option periods that have specific parameters.

What is the creative community like in Nashville, and do you find it harder to break into the Hollywood world not being located directly in California? Is the Tennessee music scene growing? 

The Nashville music scene and the population in general has been growing rapidly and exploding.  When I arrived on the scene twenty-five years ago, Nashville felt like a ‘Big Small’ Town; big city buildings with a small town community feel.  It was easy for me to get connected.  I love people.  I love conversations and getting to know others and I fell in, fortunately in the right circles.  Also, you somewhat ‘grow up’ or rise through the ranks with friends that you make who arrived around the same time, you encourage each other and help each other out.  If someone gets a deal or an in with the older previous guard, then those in that persons circle does to.  Ironically, I’m finding that we are now the old guard to the younger generation that’s hitting the scene. It’s been a great experience for me.  Despite the ups and downs, I’m been very blessed.  In Hollywood, I’ve also had a fairly easier time than most breaking into the world that I’m in.  Sometimes I think it’s because despite being a fairly educated, quick moving composer songwriter, I have a thick South Alabama accent and people want to hear how backwoods I sound.  I was once writing with a New York Broadway composer and he said, “Despite sounding as dumb as dirt, you’re often the smartest guy in the room.”  Now, I don’t know about the smartest guy in the room part but, I’ll take the statement as a compliment.  I’ve always been able to deliver quality and deliver it quickly with no complaining or ego.  I’m super easy, I listen well and I don’t have a lot of drama surrounding me.  I think the people making decisions appreciate that, and I get work and referrals.  I also have a wonderful person, Beth Wernick, with IFMP that represents my catalogue to supervisors.  My song catalogue is approaching ten thousand songs and compositions that I’ve written and recorded over the years.

How do you juggle your career life with your family and home life and do you have any tips?

It is very difficult juggling career life and family life.  My wife and I have been married for twenty-four years this coming June.  We dated for four years prior to getting married, so we’ve been together for close to twenty-eight years.  My wife has been very supportive of me pursuing music from the very beginning.     That has made a world of difference.  We both knew that the life of me beginning as a musician would have many ups and downs.  We have very different personalities.  She is a great organizer, loves making lists and family goals.  I’m detail oriented and organized when it comes to music and production, but I easily get consumed and lost in work and would likely never leave the studio if she didn’t set parameters.  She also helps me guard my time because I often want to give all my time and energy to writing and music production.  She reminds me that sometimes I need hard cut offs in order to rest and rejuvenate.  At a number of long periods over the years I would function off only 3 1/2 – 4 hours of sleep per night and that would always catch up with me.  Now, I only pull all-nighters if there is a hard deadline that I have to meet.  

We also intentionally waited until I was off the road to begin having children.  We both wanted to make sure that I was not always touring and rather at home with the family at night. 

I try to keep weekends completely open for family.  Occasionally, I’ll work but typically, 6 pm on Friday until 6 am on Monday is family time.  On Sundays, we do attend a church, where I lead the music portion of our worship service, but other than Sunday mornings, I try to keep the weekend as family time.  Lately Sundays have been a little more difficult because I’ve been meeting with the other hosts on the video podcast that we’re developing, but I’m typically back home in enough time to have substantial family time. 

Do you think social media is important for artists? Do you use it to engage listeners/followers etc.? Do you have any tips for doing so?

It’s very important.  Social media is oftentimes the artist’s primary means for advertising.  The public expects constant engagement and connection to artists.  Fans need to feel as though they have a means of access and artists should be engaging on not only one, but all major social media fronts.  The engagement and advertising should point fans and listeners to listening and music purchase platforms.  Social media platforms should also be monetized by artists as a source of potential income.  There are lots more moving parts these days when it comes to being a successful artist.  Social media and getting followers and engagement numbers up are also a good indicator to labels as to whether you have that built in fan base that you can sell to. 

There are a lot of people out there right now struggling.  What is your secret to happiness?

As a Christian, my faith in Christ brings me a lot of comfort. 

What do you do to reduce stress?

Prayer, reading, exercising, and I eat pretty healthy.  It is very hard for me to relax and not always feel the need to work. 

Is there anything you want to highlight or talk about specifically? Feel free to talk about anything you would like. 

As both a producer and songwriter, I’m always on the lookout for new, true talent. I love working with both seasoned and new artists/songwriters.  If a person feels as though they have talent, an adaptable spirit and the fortitude to withstand the challenges of an artist’s career, I’m interested in hearing them.  I love finding artists with true talent and the personality to match.  I do tend to avoid ‘high maintenance’ artists.  Quirky is ok, but difficult makes me run the other way.

Shay Watson has had quite the interesting journey and I find it inspirational that he has been able to fashion his vast musical talent into a successful artistic career.  As for that sixth grade drool-coated recorder: I still have it, but now my son actually knows how to play it!

Artists who are interested in working with Shay can audition by finding him on social media.  He responds best to Instagram at shay_watson_musicproducer, and he’s also on X (formerly Twitter) @shaywatsonmusic.

Shay is also on all music platforms.  His music is very varied and reflective of the different genres he works in.  His Spotify artist page spans the past circa twenty-five years.

This article was originally published on

Where To Go From Here: An Interview With Lorraine Rise

As I dodged yet another painful gathering around a large sheet cake and waited for Annie, cake in hand, to pop into my cubicle to ask me for the umpteenth time whether or not I thought so-and-so liked her, I yearned for a job where I could make my own schedule and have some autonomy. The prospect seemed vastly out of reach at the time. A remote job would have been my ultimate dream, but not only were remote jobs uncommon at this time, but Top Secret documents are not allowed outside of a secure building, so my current employment at the Central Intelligence Agency would definitely not grant me that wish.

You see, really my goal was to have freedom.

Years later, as CIA Headquarters was beckoning me back to endless cake gatherings, pointless meetings and mindless office chatter, I finally found a way out. I would take a dramatic risk and start over almost from zero. I had worked undercover for the CIA for the previous eight years, so my work history appeared to be a black hole. Most employers outside of the intelligence community tend to look skeptically at someone whose resume contains such a mysterious gap. Even after I had my cover removed and my resume cleared, finding work after the CIA would be challenging at best.

“No one wants a thirty-seven year old,” a misguided acquaintance informed me. I repeatedly heard that phrase in slightly different forms, referring to both the professional and personal relationship worlds. Needless to say, it didn’t help. At this low point in my life I could have used the services of someone like Lorraine Rise, owner, CEO and head coach at Career UpRising. Ms. Rise is a career coach who works with mid and late career professionals who are looking to change careers, launch a job search, or overcome the age bias. She began in the health and weight loss industry and was a director and regional trainer for Jenny Craig. She was laid off in 2013 and then made a career change to human resources where she supported the recruiting efforts of numerous firms, to include many defense contractors with whom I am very familiar, in the Washington, D.C. area.

While Ms. Rise gained valuable human resources experience in this position, she still yearned for autonomy and freedom in her work life. While she didn’t see entrepreneurship coming, after an experience with a toxic job from which she ended up being fired, all of her experience gave her the motivation to start her own business. Career UpRising was born.

Lorraine founded Career UpRising in 2015, taking everything she had learned and using it to help others who want more from their career, as she had. She offers guidance, accountability, and resources to those who are looking to change fields or launch a job search. Her company also offers support with interview preparation, salary negotiation, networking, resume writing, as well as much more. When she first began, she had little experience and therefore did not charge very much. As time went on, she gained more confidence and gradually started increasing her fees and expanding her services. These days, Lorraine heads a team of professionals and they have served over four hundred clients in dozens of industries, both public and private. Many of her clients come from recognizable firms such as Microsoft, Amazon, Fannie Mae, Coca Cola, IBM and others. The biggest challenge she faced in the beginning days of starting the business was just finding the courage to get started even when she didn’t have a lot of experience. She overcame that challenge by setting small goals and achieving them before moving on to larger ones. Though based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Lorraine’s creation, Career UpRising, now serves clients all across the globe.

As Ms. Rise’s company continues to grow, expanding the ways she can reach more people, she has recently accomplished one of her biggest goals: to write a book.  What You Didn’t Learn In School: Lessons on Growth, Change and Living Your Best Life is a collection of thirty essays, or teachings, from her work as a coach as well as her own experiences. It is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 5, 2023.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ms. Rise. The following is what she shared with me.

How does one become a career coach?

There are training programs and certifications you can earn through a number of organizations. I’ve earned mine through Career Thought Leaders and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. I also leveraged the corporate experience I already had in human resources and recruiting.

Do you have any top tips for how you get out of being “stuck” in your career and life?

Yes, I hear the word “stuck” more than any other word when I talk to clients! Being “stuck” can mean different things to different people. In most cases, it just means they lack clarity on what their next step is or how to get there. We’re never really stuck though. We always have options we just don’t always know what they are or how to make it happen.

Do you have a typical type of client that uses your service? Describe them.

Yes, we work with mid and late career professionals most of whom are forty plus. Many of them are even sixty plus. People are working longer than they used to and this age group still needs to be relevant and competitive in the job market. Many of them have very long job tenures (fifteen, twenty plus years) at one company and starting over after that can be very overwhelming. We enjoy being able to support people at that juncture in their career.

How do you find your clients, or how do they find you, generally speaking?

Most clients find me on LinkedIn. That’s the social media platform where I have the largest following. We also get clients from referrals and internet searches.

Is there a location that you find you get most of your clients from? 

Career UpRising knows no borders! Most of our clients are from the U.S. but we’ve clients in Australia, Europe and even Africa. It always blows me away when international clients find us.

Is there an industry or profession that you find more people trying to get out of, to find something new?

We’ve seen a sharp increase in public school teachers leaving the classroom and transitioning into the corporate world. I believe that the pandemic, as well as the onset of remote work, fueled this change.

Do you find today that people are wanting more remote work?  Do you see more of that or has there been a shift in your experience with people not wanting in-person office jobs and opting for more remote work options?

Yes, there is an incredible desire for remote work. Here in the U.S. though, there is a significant movement called Return to Office (RTO) in which companies are beginning to require workers to be onsite again. Thus, the desire for remote work is high but the opportunities are not as plentiful as you’d think.

I know you work with mid and late career professionals, but what would you advise a recent college graduate looking for a career that they love?

Yes, from time to time, we’ve had younger professionals referred to us—usually from our current clients. Much of what we teach is still applicable to early career professionals and we’re happy to help them.

Some say that there aren’t enough candidates or people who want to work in today’s world – specifically amongst our youngest generations.  Are you finding that in your experiences?  Are businesses having a hard time these days finding good candidates?

Overall, I do think they want to work but it looks different than it used to. The younger generation is pushing for more flexibility, autonomy, and creativity. They are not loyal to one employer and are more likely to embrace entrepreneurship and non-traditional career paths than the older generations.

What do you see mid and late career professionals looking for in a career change? Is there a common thread amongst them?

They want work that is meaningful and that compensates them for the experience they have so far. Many of them also want to pivot to new industries in order expand their skills and their future opportunities.

What is the age of the oldest late career professional you have helped? What were they looking for?

We’ve helped clients who are in their late sixties. I’m not sure if I’ve had anyone in their seventies yet! Oftentimes, they want to work longer in order to stay active and engaged. They could retire but they just don’t want to.

Do you have any resume writing tips?

Yes. Remember that your resume is a marketing tool first and foremost, and it should clearly communicate your qualifications, experience, and value to potential employers using specific, quantifiable achievements when possible. Continuously update your resume as you gain new skills and experiences, and tailor it for each job application to increase your chances of landing interviews.

Do you have a number one tip for being successful in an interview?

Interviews are not just about the employer assessing you, but they are also an opportunity for you to evaluate if the company and role align with your career goals and values. Cultural fit is very important. Approach the interview as a two-way conversation, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure it’s the right fit for you as well. Lastly, use your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Do you have any tips to help with nervousness in an interview? How can an applicant calm their nerves when they are in an interview?

Get to the bottom of why you are nervous. What are you afraid of? Oftentimes, we put too much emphasis on getting a certain job that it makes us overly nervous. There’s too much pressure on the situation. Do some introspection to find the root of the nervousness (usually a fear) and work through that.

How do you personally stay motivated?

Doing work that I love naturally motivates me. I’m very blessed to be in a career that is joyful for me. I think the first step is knowing what motivates you and then building a career around that.

How do you deal with stress?

I’ve learned that stress is a state of mind usually caused by fear. Get to the heart of what you are afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Being judged? These self-created fears are nearly always what cause our stress, not the actual situation.

How do you deal with anxiety?

Writing is very therapeutic for me. If I’m having anxiety, I write it out as a way of releasing it.

Tell me about a time you struggled in your life and how you got yourself out of it.

I’ve had some health challenges over the last four years and my family and my faith definitely got me through. Having a strong support system is critical for getting through hard times.

Do you ever have a day when you dread work or just do not want to go to work? What do you do on those days to get yourself going and in a better frame of mind?

I used to, but not nearly as much now that I work for myself! But yes, I’ve had many days where I’ve dreaded work and it’s a difficult thing to get through. We spend so much time at work, being unhappy there is not tolerable for me! Sometimes you have to focus your vision on the future and use your current situation to motivate you to take action and create a better future. Whenever I’ve been at a bad job, I’ve asked myself: What can I learn from this? How can I use this experience to create, or find, something better?

What is your number one tip for people trying to find work that they love and enjoy doing? How can they find that activity that will be something they like doing, but can also make money while doing?

Know yourself. Know what you enjoy and what you are good at. From there, you can nearly always find a way to monetize it—whether through a job or working for yourself.

Lorraine Rise took a risk and left the corporate world at thirty-one.  She now has a thriving global business where she not only does work she loves, but she is able to give back by helping people find work that they will love. She serves as a wonderful example to her own teenage daughter, showing her that she can do whatever she wants for a living. She doesn’t have to fit into the nine-to-five if she does not choose to. She can carve out her own career.

So can you.

If you would like to learn more about Lorraine Rise and Career UpRising, please visit Her podcast, Career UpRising, can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, as well as on her website.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Inspiring Youth: An Interview With Gail Holman

In today’s world, how do we inspire younger people to develop a purpose in life when it seems they are all glued to their phone screens? I recently had the opportunity to interview Gail Holman of the Sports and Entertainment Division of Compass Real Estate and she opened my eyes to one way we can help the younger generations to realize their potential and create a lucrative lifestyle for themselves. Gail is not only ranked at the top one percent in her industry, but she has sold over $500 million in real estate. But she doesn’t just sell luxury real estate in New York to make herself wealthy, she views her job as a way to expose younger people to the real estate business. Her team consists of all young people, in their twenties and thirties, and she takes it upon herself to teach them the industry so they can live successful, fulfilling lives.

Ms. Holman started out in clothing design but eventually found her groove in furniture and interior design, opening her own showroom in Beverly Hills specializing in high-end furniture and interior design. She ended up returning to her birthplace, New York, and turned her focus to real estate mainly in the North Shore. Over a span of five years she managed to rack up over $500 million in sales. Her early days of working with developers gave her a solid foundation from which to continue growing her network and business and now she leads a very passionate and driven team of real estate professionals. They all genuinely love what they do.

While researching and interviewing Gail, I could see that she is a master of mindset. Growing up, her main goal was to find success in something she truly loved. She always had a vision of owning her own home and having the freedom to travel and see new places. It wasn’t just making it big; it was about enjoying the journey and ensuring she had those personal joys along the way. She stays focused on her goals by crafting a detailed business plan at the onset of each year. She outlines her objectives, which ensures she has a roadmap to guide her throughout the year. She also reviews her performance and goals on a weekly basis. Gail primarily focuses on high-end properties in the Gold Coast area of Long Island, also known as the North Shore of New York. One of her recent goals was to expand into the New York City real estate market, and she accomplished that goal recently with the listing of an $80 million building.  Not bad.

Life is this unique, one-time journey, and I believe in embracing the mindset of “you only live once”.

Ms. Holman truly believes in the importance of following your dreams. She believes that every challenge and opportunity should be approached with the idea that the sky is the limit. It’s not just about achieving success or reaching milestones; it’s about being happy in all that you do. She realizes that we cannot do anything about interest rates or politics – at times, she simply puts her blinders on and keeps going. Sometimes, we just have to work harder.

So, dream big, aim high, and remember that each day is a chance to get closer to where you want to be.

As always, I like to include some of my interview in the hopes that it will give readers some useful tips. The following is what Ms. Holman shared with me:

What is the price range of the real estate you sell? Do you sell solely in New York at this time?

I primarily focus on high-end properties in New York. That’s where my specialty lies. But it’s worth mentioning that while I concentrate on the upper end of the market, my team is versatile and deals with properties across all price ranges. So yes, right now, all our business is in New York.

What is the price range of the rentals you show?

When it comes to rentals, I showcase the crème de la crème. I represent a collection of upscale properties that truly stand out in their luxury and elegance. In terms of pricing, these stunning rentals typically fall between $10K to $20K a month.

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next five to ten years?

The North Shore real estate market is robust, although there is low inventory, it is a prevailing seller’s atmosphere. Despite broader market fluctuations, the unique allure of the North Shore ensures its resilience. Projecting into the next five years, I anticipate continued strength in this distinctive and prosperous segment of the New York market.

Have you noticed many people wanting to move to New York right now? Or have the numbers gone down, have you seen more people leaving New York?

Many individuals are choosing to relocate from New York due to mounting tax burdens and the pressures of escalating inflation. Similarly, these financial challenges deter others from making the move to the state in the first place, highlighting the dual impact of economic constraints on both current residents and potential newcomers.

You sell high-end real estate. In this time, when a lot of people aren’t doing well financially, who are these individuals who can afford such high price tags?

My clientele predominantly comprises successful business owners, individuals in finance, and athletes. Additionally, I’ve observed a noteworthy influx of investments from international sources as well.

For the rentals, who can afford the prices of the rentals these days? In your experience, who is choosing to rent these days versus buying?

It’s really the same demographic as the previous question. My clientele remains consistent and the only difference really is that they have either sold a high priced home, have secondary homes in other places like The Hamptons and Florida, etc.

What age range do you mostly see buying and also renting? Do you see one age group more than others?

Not necessarily. I see all ages from young to old buying and renting. It all depends on their success in their businesses.

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice?

For younger readers who might perceive homeownership as a distant dream, my foremost advice is to speak with a mortgage broker or a bank. These professionals can provide invaluable insights into financing options, potential affordability, and strategic steps to bring them closer to owning a home. There are also programs for the ones still in school to receive loans based on their projected income. Engaging in these conversations early can demystify the process and set a clear pathway toward achieving their real estate aspirations.

Many people I went to high school with are now, even in their late forties, renting. They feel that owning a home is out of reach to them. What kind of tips could you give a fifty-year-old for finally accomplishing that goal of home ownership?

It’s never too late to pursue the dream of homeownership. For those in their late forties and beyond who may feel that owning a home is an elusive goal, it’s crucial to recognize the myriad of opportunities tailored specifically for first-time buyers. Numerous programs are designed to guide and support potential homeowners at any age. Begin with researching first-time buyer programs in your locality, and consider consulting with a real estate advisor or financial counselor who can introduce you to these resources.

What does a brand new first-time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?

For a brand new first-time buyer, there are some essential things to keep in mind when diving into the market. Understanding how much you can afford is crucial. It’s not just about the mortgage; you have to factor in other ongoing costs of owning a home, like maintenance and taxes. Plus, owning a home isn’t just about paying for it. Taking care of your property, from regular upkeep to unexpected repairs, is a significant responsibility. It’s a rewarding journey, but one that requires diligence, planning, and a clear understanding of the full scope of homeownership.

You are a home staging expert. Can you give our readers some insider tips on how to stage a home?

Absolutely! I would recommend engaging a professional. Compass has a concierge program that sellers can utilize for this. Relying on a professional stager can make all the difference. Their expertise and keen eye can transform spaces to maximize appeal. Decluttering and depersonalizing should present a balance of live-in warmth without overwhelming personal artifacts. Remember, the objective is to create a setting where potential buyers can mentally move in and see themselves residing. A well-staged home not only presents better but has been proven to sell faster and often at a better price. While personal touches make a home uniquely yours, when selling, it’s all about broad appeal.

Do you have any management or leadership tips for our readers? How do you manage your team?

Effective leadership and management are pivotal in driving any team toward success. Clear communication is essential to establish open channels of communication. Ensure your team knows they can approach you with their concerns, ideas, and feedback. While it’s crucial to maintain boundaries for work-life balance, I make a conscious effort to be accessible to my team when they truly need guidance or support. Understand what each team member wants to accomplish professionally. Encourage them to set milestones and guide them in achieving those aspirations. Regular team meetings are essential for keeping everyone on the same page. It provides a platform for discussing updates, sharing successes, addressing challenges, and brainstorming solutions. Your team will often mirror your dedication, attitude, and work ethic. Be the embodiment of the values and standards you wish to see in them.

If you would like to learn more about Gail Holman, please visit

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

The Luxury Mindset: An Interview With Marc Hernandez

I recently had the privilege of meeting a truly engaging, energetic and empathetic person. He is someone who combines a love for life and a sense of humor with elegance, grace, charm and an admirable work ethic.

“You have to be interested in, be interesting and good at caring for and engaging with people.”

Marc Hernandez is a luxury real estate agent in Beverly Hills, California. He works with Compass, the number one real estate brokerage in the US. But not only that, he comes from a very interesting background in the entertainment industry. Upon graduating from USC, Marc started out in commercial real estate brokerage and property management, where he was doing quite well. However, it wasn’t enough for him. He wanted something more creative. He wanted something bigger. He wanted entertainment. So he left a six-figure income for the literary and talent agency business where he landed a job in the mailroom with United Talent Agency earning a mere $350 a week. His parents thought he was crazy and he took a huge risk to do so, but he says that he believed he could work his way back up the ladder and it was the best thing he ever did. He credits his experience in literary representation in teaching him his “hustle and flow” and ability to represent, protect and serve high-profile clients.

In the Hollywood assistant world, everyone wants your job. One misstep, and you are out. It is a fast-paced environment with a hundred calls a day, reading scripts for your boss, organizing schedules, and running errands. Marc quickly learned that it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. He clearly makes an impression with people and he shared a story about how back in 1997 he once had to drive the director M. Night Shyamalan to the Sony Pictures Studios lot, then at the beginning of this year he was having a client lunch on the rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Beverly Hills when he ran into Mr. Shyamalan. They recognized each other and had a nice conversation. Marc clearly made an impression and fits his own qualification of “you have to be interested in, be interesting and be good at caring for and engaging with people.”

After his time as a Hollywood assistant, starting his own entertainment company, Crescendo Entertainment Group, and then transitioning to run digital advertising sales for Fox Networks Group specifically with the highly popular show American Idol, he decided to enter the world of luxury real estate. He even had the opportunity to appear on Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles.” Cut to the present where Marc currently heads a team of agents at Compass and is also a member of the Sports & Entertainment Division. I have become fairly familiar with this division of Compass as they deal with high-profile sports and entertainment clients, globally. Coming from the Hollywood world, for Marc it is the perfect fit, as many of his clients are actors, writers, producers and directors. He clearly has the connections from the showbiz world from which he came.

He is also what I would call a branding mastermind. During my research while preparing for my interview with Marc, I learned that he is very good at incorporating pop culture and music references into his marketing, email newsletter and social media initiatives. For example, being a long-time Beatles fan (he used to sing “Hey Jude” for his parents and their friends, as a child. He also has a son named Lennon), the name of his weekly email newsletter is “The BEAT: From Beverly Hills, LA and Beyond.” He knows that creating a personal brand is a cross between heart and mind and that at its core, it comes down to showing your true and authentic self. “We already are the brand, we just need to define, design and distribute it. It’s about knowing who you are, what interests you and what you are passionate about … then sharing it with the world.”

As always, I like to include some tips for people who may be interested in the real estate market in the region each individual is located in as well as their view on how things are going in the market currently and even some personal and leadership tips. The following is what Marc Hernandez shared with me:

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next 5 or 10 years?

We’re currently in a “sideways” market. There’s not enough inventory in the market right now. We’ve seen this shortage for over a decade. Inventory has contracted further as a result of the FOMC’s 11 rate hikes and 22-year high interest rates. The properties that are in the best condition continue to increase in value and fetch multiple offers and sell considerably over list price and those that need repair or upgrades are sitting on the market longer and need price reductions to get them under contract. I think in the next 5 to 10 years, the financial markets will already have normalized and we will see more inventory, more buyers and even stronger value gains.

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice to them?

Find a way. Stop renting and paying someone else’s mortgage. If you think of it, the interest rate on renting is 100%. Find something small, such as a condo, which you can afford. Expand your search beyond the high-demand areas of the city. Get help from parents and start creating wealth now. Real estate, with its forced savings, appreciation gain and mortgage interest tax deduction, is very likely the best asset class for investment.

Since 2020, what changes have you seen in the California real estate market? Have you seen a shift of people moving out of CA (being one of the people who left, I am curious about this), has housing availability become more, or less?  I know the luxury market is probably very different from regular real estate, but do you have any observations?

The market today has even less inventory than it did in 2020. The global pandemic drove people out of the cities and into areas where they could work remotely. Now, we are seeing a return to office and some demand to migrate closer to the city center. Personally, I haven’t seen many people moving out of California but I think migration data might prove otherwise.

Since you deal in the Sports & Entertainment Division of Compass, do you see more of the entertainment figures who are your clients wanting to move out of California in the past few years, or has it stayed pretty much the same?

I am not seeing that. I think the entertainment business in Los Angeles has been, and continues to be, a people magnet. There’s so much of it here in LA, the motion picture and television studios, the streaming companies, the music industry, tech and digital media, advertising … It’s a big draw. Many of my clients are coming here, both nationally and globally, for opportunities in the entertainment industry.

What does a brand new first time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?

As Robert Reffkin, Co-Founder and CEO of Compass, says, no one succeeds alone. They need to know that buying directly from the listing agent, unrepresented, is a process that is not in their best interest, financially. There’s much that a buy-side agent does for a buyer that is important and critical with regard to purchasing a property. A buyer should be educated on the market, the lending process, the purchase contract, offer strategy, how to win multiple offers, real estate inspections, buyer credit negotiation and a good buyer’s agent will cover all of this. Ultimately, this saves the buyer time, money and protects them from making a poor purchase decision.

What do you love most about California and the Los Angeles area in particular? Do you see yourself staying there?  If you were going to move to another state or country, which one would you choose?

I love California and all of its glory. The coastline, the mountains, the deserts, the climate, the metropolitan areas, the small towns, the people and the various businesses headquartered here offer so much to its residents and visitors alike. I will most likely stay in Los Angeles but I would probably consider living in NYC for part of the year.

Do you have any management or leadership tips for our readers? How do you manage your team?

Lead with purpose, care and empathy. I believe that leadership is a process that supports from the bottom up. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s important to ensure everyone is educated, guided and supported. A leader has to ensure that the team has the tools and information to meet objectives and reach success. Leadership works best when being directive, collaborative and protective, rather than autocratic.

How do you personally stay focused on your goals?

I focus on my goals by reviewing them daily. It starts with a consistent morning routine, time blocking and using the Compass platform and CRM for analyzing and driving my business. I also set intentions and manifest good things for me, my family, my business and my relationships.

You seem like you truly love what you do and you truly love life. What would be your advice to someone looking to find their passion or a job they really love? What would be your advice to someone looking to better their life and enjoy it more?

It starts with loving yourself. Know who you are and what makes you happy and then do that with energy and passion. Ask yourself what are the personal traits that make up who you are? Find a way to incorporate them into your career path. Do what you love and the money will follow.

There are a lot of people out there right now struggling.  What is your secret to happiness?

I don’t have a secret, but I am most happy when I am with my family, my friends and my Compass colleagues. Studies show that having a sense of community and belonging contribute to better health and living longer. I am also very happy when I am eating with health and performance in mind and pushing myself physically at the gym and staying active. Health, mindset and a social network are all very important to me.

Tell me about what you do to stay fit.

I typically work out six days per week, for about 1 ½ to 2 hours per day. It’s non-negotiable. I eat only two meals a day, starting at 12 noon and ending at 6pm. My food intake is strictly plant-based. I take a number of supplements. And, I usually get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep every day with a 9 to 5 sleep plan. I occasionally snack after dinner when I shouldn’t, though.

Tell me your number one tip for managing stress? What do you do when you get stressed out?

I sing! I take voice lessons and I have a playlist of songs that I like. So, when stressed, I will go outside for a walk, put on my AirPods, do some vocal warm ups, and then sing songs by Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kravitz and more. It definitely helps me and I hope the neighbors don’t mind.

What is luxury to you? What does it mean, in all aspects of life?

To me, luxury is an association with a high level of price, quality, rarity and extraordinariness. For example, I buy my perfume from Chanel and the line is called “Les Exclusifs.” You can only purchase these fragrances in store at Chanel boutiques, rather than through retailers. So fewer people access and purchase these products and, in my opinion, they are luxury products. In real estate, I see luxury differentiators being location, price, quality, amenities, and privacy.

Marc Hernandez certainly embodies the luxury lifestyle, but he is not averse to getting down in the dirt and rubbing a pig’s belly or saving a hurt hummingbird here and there. He serves on the Board of Directors of The Gentle Barn, where all sorts of animals are rescued and rehabilitated. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of WriteGirl, a non-profit organization that promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls. He strikes me as a person who combines energy, empathy, compassion, elegance, grace and humor into a go-getter real estate superstar persona who shows up no matter the situation.

If you would like to learn more about Marc Hernandez click here.  You can also find him on Instagram @themarchernandez.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

On Email Deliverability, Spam Filters, And Finding Your Passion: An Interview With Yanna Torry Aspraki

What do email deliverability, spam filters, and finding your passion have in common?

Sometimes you meet a person who is just so in love with their work, who truly loves what they do, and it inspires you. As someone who has never loved any job that I’ve had (until becoming a writer), I find people like Yanna Torry Aspraki fascinating. You may recall from my first interview with Ms. Aspraki that she is an email deliverability specialist with exceptional knowledge and skill in areas such as email authentication, list hygiene, and reputation management. She consistently delivers exceptional results for her clients. Her mission is to democratize and simplify email deliverability so that everyone can communicate effectively via email, regardless of their technical expertise, size of their business, or email lists, and to tackle the growing challenge of email deliverability in today’s complex digital landscape. Not only that, it is abundantly clear from talking to her that she just absolutely loves her job!

With so many in the world struggling to find meaning and a purpose in their lives, I decided to focus this interview on Yanna Torry’s philosophies on life and wellness as well as throw in some great tips and information straight from her expert experience in a very specialized world.

You seem like you truly love what you do. What would be your advice to someone looking to find their passion or a job they really love?

Finding your passion or a job you truly love is a personal journey, but I can share some advice based on my own experience as a deliverability specialist. When it comes to discovering your passion, it’s important to reflect on what truly excites you and aligns with your values. For me, I found that I had a deep passion for problem solving and working on things that always changed or evolved. Deliverability keeps me on my toes and I love to be challenged while helping businesses succeed in reaching their customers’ inboxes.

To explore different fields and opportunities, I engaged in activities outside of my current job. I attended webinars, joined groups dedicated to my field and attended conferences related to email deliverability specifically. The best thing was when I networked with professionals in the industry, and took on side projects to broaden my skills. These experiences helped me gain insights into the field and confirmed my passion for deliverability.

Identifying your strengths and skills is crucial in finding a job you love. For me, it was essential to recognize my technical knowledge in email deliverability and my ability to communicate complex concepts effectively. By leveraging my strengths, I was able to find a job that aligned with my expertise and passion.

However, it’s important to remember that the journey to finding your passion may not always be smooth sailing. There will be obstacles and hardships along the way. Whenever I faced challenges, I reminded myself of my personal credo: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ This mindset helped me stay motivated and view everything as valuable learning opportunities. I didn’t allow difficult times to get in the way of my passion for solving deliverability inboxing issues.

In your own search for passion or a job you love, I encourage you to embrace a growth mindset. Approach setbacks as learning experiences and adapt your strategy accordingly. Don’t be afraid to try new things and explore different avenues. Volunteer, take internships, or engage in side projects to gain diverse experiences and uncover new passions. And remember, finding your passion is an active process. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities, networking, and taking action. Don’t wait for the perfect job to come to you; create it through your own efforts. Everything you learn, related or not to your passion, will help in ways you never imagined.

Aside from your work, what are your hobbies?  

Aside from my work in email and deliverability, I find great joy and fulfillment in a variety of hobbies that enrich my life. One of my greatest passions outside of my professional sphere is practicing karate. For the past 28 years, I have wholeheartedly dedicated myself to this martial art, reaching the esteemed rank of a 5th degree black belt. This incredible journey has not only instilled discipline, mental focus, and physical fitness within me but has also shaped my character in profound ways.

In fact, fueled by my love for karate, I embarked on a rewarding endeavor with my sister as we co-owned a karate school that we sold 5 years later. Teaching students of all ages, we had the privilege of sharing our knowledge and passion with others. Guiding aspiring martial artists and witnessing their growth was an immensely fulfilling experience. Moreover, teaching karate not only allowed me to deepen my understanding of the art but also provided an avenue to inspire and motivate individuals on their own paths of self-discovery and personal growth.

Beyond the dojo, another hobby that fills my heart with immense joy is traveling and exploring new places. Immersing myself in diverse cultures and novel environments is a deep-rooted passion of mine. Whether it involves traversing scenic landscapes, uncovering the stories behind historical landmarks, or savoring the flavors of local cuisines, each adventure broadens my perspective and deepens my understanding of the world we inhabit.

In addition to my love for exploration, I have a keen interest in languages. Currently fluent in four, I am continuously driven to expand my linguistic repertoire. Mastering new languages not only facilitates effective communication during my travels but also grants me the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds on a profound level. The opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and immerse myself in diverse cultural contexts adds a vibrant dimension to my experiences.

Embracing an active lifestyle is paramount to my overall well-being, and I prioritize engaging in physical activities. Whether it’s the disciplined practice of karate, the exhilaration of hiking through nature’s breathtaking landscapes, or the excitement of trying out new sports, being physically active invigorates me. By maintaining an active routine, I find balance, preserve my energy, and approach life with a renewed sense of vitality.

Do you ever have a day when you feel like you do NOT want to go to work? If you ever have one of these days, how do you motivate yourself to get going?

In my line of work as a deliverability specialist, there are certainly days when the nature of the job can be challenging. As I deal with clients who may be unaware of why their emails are landing in spam folders or facing difficulties in reaching their intended audience, I often find myself being the bearer of bad news. Explaining the reasons behind their deliverability issues and the necessary changes can sometimes be met with resistance, as businesses may have conflicting priorities between sales and deliverability.

However, despite these challenges, I rarely find myself lacking motivation to engage with email-related tasks. I have a genuine passion for my work, particularly in educating and sharing knowledge with others. This passion helps drive my motivation even on days when I may feel tired or overwhelmed.

To maintain motivation, I prioritize tasks that involve educating people and sharing valuable insights. I find great satisfaction in helping others understand the intricacies of email deliverability and guiding them towards making the right changes to improve their email performance. This focus on education allows me to make a positive impact and contribute to their long-term success.

In instances where I may feel fatigued or in need of a break, I recognize the importance of self-care and work-life balance. Taking time for physical activities or spending quality time with my partner Daniel or my dog Luna helps me recharge and regain energy. These activities provide a refreshing break from work-related challenges, allowing me to return with renewed enthusiasm.

There are a lot of people out there right now struggling.  What is your secret to happiness?

In the face of struggles and challenges, my secret to happiness lies in the support and presence of the right people in my life. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a strong network of individuals who uplift and support me through thick and thin.

My partner, Daniel, plays a significant role in my happiness. His unwavering support, understanding, and love provide a solid foundation for me to navigate through life’s ups and downs. Together, we create a nurturing and fulfilling environment that contributes to my overall well-being and happiness.

Furthermore, my family has been an incredible source of support throughout my journey. Their presence, guidance, and belief in me have been invaluable. Their encouragement fuels my motivation and reminds me of the importance of cherishing the relationships that matter most.

In addition to my personal connections, my business partners at EmailConsul and Especial Mail have played a crucial role in my happiness. We share a common passion for the email industry and support one another’s growth and success. The camaraderie and collaboration within the email geek community further reinforce the idea that we are all in this together. The collective mindset of supporting each other’s success creates a positive and uplifting environment that fosters happiness.

Surrounding myself with the right people who genuinely care about my well-being, success, and happiness has been instrumental. Their support, encouragement, and shared experiences remind me that I am not alone in my journey. Together, we navigate through challenges, celebrate achievements, and find joy in both personal and professional endeavors.

What sets you apart from other deliverability specialists in the industry?

What sets me apart from other deliverability specialists in the industry is my unique ability to bridge the gap between IT deliverability decisions and the business perspective. While my primary focus is to ensure inboxing and maintain high deliverability rates, I understand the importance of striking a balance between deliverability and overall business goals.

I have a deep understanding of the technical intricacies involved in email deliverability, enabling me to implement best practices and strategies that maximize inbox placement. However, what truly sets me apart is my expertise in aligning deliverability efforts with the broader business objectives.

I recognize that deliverability decisions should not be made in isolation; they need to be considered in the context of the business’s specific goals and requirements. By understanding the impact of deliverability on key business metrics such as conversions, customer engagement, and revenue, I can make informed decisions and recommendations that optimize both deliverability and business outcomes.

In other words, I take a holistic approach that considers the business implications of deliverability decisions. I strive to find solutions that allow emails to reach the inbox while minimizing any negative impacts on the overall business performance, such as return on investment or customer satisfaction. This approach ensures that deliverability efforts are not seen as hindrances, but rather as catalysts for business growth and success.

By being a skilled translator between the IT deliverability realm and the business side of things, I can effectively communicate the importance of deliverability practices, address any concerns or objections from stakeholders, and drive the necessary changes without compromising the business’s bottom line.

Can you explain your approach to educating and empowering clients to enhance their email marketing strategies?

My approach to educating and empowering clients is rooted in a commitment to transparency, knowledge sharing, and inclusivity. I firmly believe that every sender, regardless of their size or resources, deserves the opportunity to succeed in their email marketing endeavors. Therefore, I prioritize open communication and freely sharing insights and best practices to empower clients and help them elevate their strategies.

First and foremost, I ensure that my clients have a thorough understanding of the underlying principles and mechanics of email deliverability. By demystifying the technical aspects and providing clear explanations, I empower them to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to improve their deliverability.

I take a collaborative approach, working closely with clients to identify their unique challenges and goals. Through in-depth discussions and analysis, I provide tailored recommendations and strategies that align with their specific needs and aspirations. I focus not only on short-term solutions but also on building a foundation for long-term success.

In addition to one-on-one consultations, I offer educational resources such as workshops, webinars, and guides. These resources cover a wide range of topics, from email authentication and list management to content optimization and engagement strategies. By sharing my knowledge openly, I empower clients to make informed decisions and implement best practices that drive improved email marketing performance.

Moreover, I actively participate in industry forums, conferences, and communities to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments. I believe in the power of collaboration and believe that sharing insights and experiences benefits the entire email marketing community. By staying engaged and connected, I gain valuable knowledge and insights that I can pass on to my clients, further empowering them in their email marketing efforts.

Ultimately, my approach to educating and empowering clients revolves around fostering a culture of transparency, inclusivity, and knowledge exchange. I am dedicated to ensuring that my clients have the necessary tools, understanding, and guidance to enhance their email marketing strategies and achieve their goals, regardless of their size or resources.

Do you actually have real live human contacts at Amazon and Google? How does an average person contact real humans at one of these huge, what I would call, black holes? Can a regular person or small business actually get in touch with a real human being?

Having been in this industry for over a decade, I have indeed established valuable contacts within major email providers such as Amazon and Google. Building relationships with the teams behind these inboxes has been an essential part of my work, allowing me to gain insights and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in deliverability.

As for how an average person can contact real humans at these large companies, the means of communication are typically the same for everyone. Generally, individuals can reach out through the designated channels provided by Amazon, Google, or other email service providers. This may involve contacting their customer support or using their support portals, feedback forms, or community forums.

However, it’s important to note that while these channels may allow for communication, receiving direct responses, changes, or fixes is not guaranteed for the average person. These companies handle an enormous volume of inquiries and requests, making it challenging for them to respond individually to every message they receive. They also receive the same kind of requests from spammers, so they have to be very strict and will not communicate with most people sending requests.

To increase the chances of getting a meaningful response or assistance, it’s advisable to provide clear and concise information about the issue or inquiry, include relevant details, and be patient. It can also be helpful to refer to any applicable documentation or guidelines provided by the email service provider. Be polite, don’t complain and ask for assistance. 

Additionally, small businesses or individuals seeking to enhance their email deliverability may find it beneficial to work with professionals in the field, such as deliverability specialists or email marketing experts such as I. These professionals can provide guidance, best practices, and strategies tailored to the specific needs and goals of the business, and some will have easier access into getting actual answers from ISPs.

In general, establishing direct and ongoing communication with large email service providers can be challenging for the average person or small business due to the sheer volume of requests they receive. However, leveraging industry knowledge, following best practices, and seeking expert guidance can greatly improve the chances of achieving better deliverability and resolving any issues that may arise.

Explain how spam filters get smarter.  How do they change?

Spam filters undergo a continuous process of evolution and improvement, driven by a combination of technological advancements and ongoing learning processes. The ultimate objective is to enhance their effectiveness in accurately identifying and filtering out unwanted or malicious emails. It is worth noting that each inbox service provider approaches this evolution differently, with updates occurring at varying times and priorities shifting from one update to the next. The more tricks senders come up with to “get in the inbox” the more they learn what to detect.

Technological advancements play a crucial role in the development of spam filters. As spammers devise new tactics and techniques to evade detection, spam filters must adapt and incorporate advanced technologies to counter these threats effectively. Machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing are some of the cutting-edge technologies employed to bolster the filtering capabilities. These advancements enable the filters to detect patterns, analyze content, and assess various attributes of incoming emails more accurately.

In addition to technological advancements, spam filters rely on ongoing learning processes to improve their performance. They continually gather and analyze vast amounts of data to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing landscape of spam. This data includes information on new spam campaigns, emerging spam techniques, and evolving trends. By continuously learning from this data, filters can refine their algorithms and rule sets, enabling them to adapt to the latest spam tactics and identify previously unseen patterns or behaviors associated with spam emails.

It’s important to understand that inbox service providers each have their own implementation of spam filters and update schedules. These providers may release updates at different times and prioritize different aspects of spam detection and filtering. What may have been considered less important in one update could become a significant factor in the next. For example, an inbox service provider may place greater emphasis on evaluating sender reputation in one update, while in another update, the focus may shift to engagements or domain authentication.

Furthermore, inbox service providers also take into account feedback and data from users. User reports of spam, false positives, or false negatives help inform the ongoing improvement of the filters. This feedback loop assists in fine-tuning the algorithms and addressing any potential gaps or shortcomings in the filtering process.

Here are some key factors that contribute to the increasing intelligence of spam filters:

  • Machine Learning: Spam filters employ machine learning algorithms that analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and characteristics commonly found in spam emails. By examining these patterns, the filters learn to recognize spam-like attributes, such as specific keywords, suspicious sender addresses, or certain types of formatting. As more data is processed, the filters become better at differentiating between legitimate emails and spam.
  • User Feedback: Spam filters take into account user feedback to refine their filtering mechanisms. When users mark an email as spam or move it to the spam folder, this data is used to train the filter and improve its accuracy. User feedback helps the filter adapt to new spam techniques, ensuring that similar emails are accurately classified in the future.
  • Collaborative Filtering: Spam filters collaborate and share information across different email providers, blocklists etc. This collaboration helps create a collective knowledge base, enabling filters to learn from each other’s experiences. By sharing data on new spam campaigns or emerging threats, spam filters collectively become more effective in detecting and blocking spam across various platforms.
  • Real-Time Analysis: Spam filters analyze incoming emails in real-time, assessing various elements such as the content, structure, and metadata. They compare these elements against known spam patterns and use algorithms to assign a spam probability score. This continuous analysis allows filters to adapt quickly to new spam techniques and identify emerging patterns or behaviors associated with spam emails.
  • Advanced Techniques: To stay ahead of spammers, spam filters utilize advanced techniques. For example, they may employ heuristics, which are rules-based algorithms that consider a range of factors to evaluate the likelihood of an email being spam. Additionally, filters may utilize sender reputation analysis, domain reputation checks, or even sophisticated analysis of images or embedded URLs within emails to make more accurate filtering decisions.
  • Regular Updates: Spam filter providers regularly update their algorithms and rulesets to incorporate new information and adapt to changing spam techniques. These updates are based on ongoing analysis, research, and collaboration within the industry. By continuously refining their algorithms, spam filters can keep pace with evolving spam tactics and provide more effective protection against unwanted emails.

In summary, spam filters get smarter by leveraging machine learning, user feedback, collaborative filtering, real-time analysis, advanced techniques, and regular updates. Through these processes, they learn from vast amounts of data, adapt to new spam techniques, and continuously improve their ability to accurately identify and filter out unwanted or malicious emails, providing users with a more reliable and efficient email experience.

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make in their email marketing plans is overlooking the importance of maintaining a clean and updated email list. While businesses may focus on growing their subscriber base, they often neglect to actively manage the quality and engagement of their list over time.

As a business’s email list expands, it is inevitable that some email addresses will become invalid. People change jobs, switch email providers, or abandon old accounts, resulting in email addresses that are no longer active. If businesses continue to send emails to these inactive or non-existent addresses, it not only wastes valuable resources but also negatively impacts their email deliverability.

Additionally, subscribers may lose interest or disengage over time. They may no longer find the content relevant, feel overwhelmed by frequent emails, or simply lose interest in the brand. Continuing to send emails to these unengaged subscribers can result in diminishing open rates, click-through rates, and overall engagement metrics. It also risks damaging the sender’s reputation with internet service providers (ISPs), potentially leading to emails being marked as spam or not reaching the intended recipients’ inboxes.

Moreover, businesses may overlook the importance of providing clear and easy options for subscribers to unsubscribe or manage their email preferences. Without a straightforward and visible way for recipients to opt-out, some individuals may resort to marking emails as spam instead. This not only impacts the business’s deliverability but also tarnishes its reputation and hinders future email marketing efforts.

Regularly cleaning and updating the email list is crucial for maintaining high deliverability rates and ensuring that messages reach engaged and interested recipients. By regularly reviewing the list and removing inactive or unengaged subscribers, businesses can focus their email marketing efforts on those who are more likely to interact with their content, resulting in higher engagement and better overall campaign performance.

What are some of the differences you have seen between the US and Europe in the world of email and the internet- in terms of privacy and security, any tech type of differences you have noticed? What about the US and Canada?  Canada and Europe?

There are indeed notable differences between the United States, Canada, and Europe when it comes to email, the internet, privacy, and security. In the United States, the regulations surrounding email and internet usage are relatively more lenient compared to Europe. In Europe, strict data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), prioritize user consent and privacy. This means that businesses operating in Europe need to obtain explicit consent from individuals before sending them marketing emails or collecting their personal data.

In terms of tech differences, Europe tends to adopt more stringent security measures and encryption protocols to protect user data. The emphasis on privacy and security in Europe has led to the development of robust systems and tools that prioritize user protection. Canada, on the other hand, shares some similarities with the United States in terms of email and internet regulations but has its own data protection laws that are more aligned with European standards.

As always, Yanna Torry Aspraki is a treasure trove of information, and she has been recognized with many awards due to her exceptional leadership and mentorship in the field of email and deliverability. She is always eager to share her knowledge and expertise with others, and lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Beyond simply sharing knowledge, she has also worked tirelessly to help others advance in their careers and achieve their goals. She has always been eager to help others succeed, without any hidden agendas. Her generosity and genuine kindness have made her a beloved and respected figure in the industry, and have inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps.

If you would like to learn more about Yanna Torry Aspraki, EmailConsul, and her own email marketing tool, please visit,, and

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

On Real Estate And Indiana: An Interview With Ben Jones

For many people it is the biggest transaction of their life – buying a house. Homeownership is also a huge part of the still-alive-and-well American dream, though it may seem out of reach to many in these days of higher interest rates and even higher housing costs. For me, maybe due to my obvious fear of commitment in my younger years, I was not so interested in the idea of owning my own house – until I did. Now, I can honestly say that buying my first house was the best thing I have done for my financial health since paying off my huge amount of credit card debt in my thirties.

I recently had the opportunity to interview third generation real estate expert Ben Jones. Ben has been featured in the last 12 annual special editions of Indianapolis Star as one of the top 3% of Real Estate Agents in Indiana. He has built his business through hard work and a true commitment to his clients. He has an excellent reputation in Central Indiana which clearly shows because most of his business now comes through referrals. He refers to the process as being “like a snowball” – he started with a couple of clients, then they referred him, and those referrals turned into other referrals. His business is now thriving, with sales ranging from mansions, farms, barns, and investor flips. When it comes to real estate, Ben sees it all.

Ben runs a team of eight agents with Compass. He describes his management style as leading by example. He is hands-off with daily tasks- he does not micromanage. He treats his team the way he would like to be treated. He says that rarely does a day go by that he is not talking with or helping one of his team members through something they have going on with a transaction.

For those wanting to get into real estate as a career, Ben has three key pieces of advice. First, be prepared to fail, when first starting out. It took Ben five or six years to become what he would consider “successful”. Second, be persistent and consistent in your day-to-day process. He considers himself a process person.

He has a process on how he lays out his day, works on tasks, how he communicates with and keeps in touch with clients, etc. If he does that, he says his goals tend to get accomplished. 

Third, Ben recommends having six months of income stashed away. In fact, Ben has a mindset of thinking six months ahead.

I was curious about the current state of the real estate market, so I asked him a few questions surrounding real estate in his local area of Indiana. My interview follows:

What is the price range of the real estate you sell?  Do you sell solely in Indiana at this time?

I get this question quite a bit. I sell in all price points. Last month I helped first time buyers close on a $240k house but also got a $4.5 million dollar listing under contract. I enjoy working with people in different stages of life and think they deserve the best representation regardless of price. 

Do you show any rentals?  If so, what are the rental prices in your area generally?

I don’t really show rentals. A decent three bedroom, two bath rental is probably around $2500+ a month.

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next five or ten years?

The market needs inventory. Hopefully in five years we will have more inventory and rates will have come down a bit so first time homebuyers can get into the market. 

Have you noticed many people wanting to move to Indiana right now?

Yes. We have seen an influx of people from Chicago as they don’t want to pay the higher property taxes that Illinois has. Indiana was also a little more ‘open’ compared to other states during the pandemic, which helped fuel people here. 

In this time, when a lot of people aren’t doing well financially, who are the people you see buying right now?

People with strong and steady jobs and equity in their current home that they can tap for a down payment. 

In your experience, who is choosing to rent these days, versus buying?

First time home buyers that cannot find the right first time home. 

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice?

Talk with your trusted lender to run numbers to see if you qualify for buying a home. You are paying a mortgage whether you rent or buy. If you rent you’re paying your landlord’s mortgage. If you buy you’re paying your own. 

What does a brand new first time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?’

There are some ‘hidden costs’ to homeownership. When something breaks, it’s on the homeowner to remedy it. You can’t call the apartment complex or landlord to come fix it. 

Tell me some things you love about Indiana.

The Purdue and IU Rivalry. It makes things fun when they play each other in football and basketball. 

The Indianapolis 500. It’s the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. People travel from all over the world to go to it. If you’ve never been, add it to your bucket list. 

The people. Good Midwestern people who overall are very nice, cordial, caring, and respectful. 

Ben Jones embodies the Midwestern characteristics he mentions. You can see it in the fact that his former clients, even years after purchasing a home through him, still come to him for guidance and advice regarding home repairs and projects on which they are embarking.

You can find out more about Ben Jones at

This article was originally published on OpsLens.