E27: What’s Next Series | Jeffrey K. Walker – From Vetrepreneur to Authorpreneur

by | Dec 16, 2020

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The Succession Stories “What’s Next Series” features conversations with entrepreneurs about changes in their life and their business. Laurie Barkman speaks with Jeffrey K. Walker, Air Force Veteran and former JAG prosecutor. After retiring, Jeff grew a military consulting practice that took him to 34 countries over seven years before parting ways with his partners. Eventually Jeff followed his true passion- writing, and became an award-winning author of World War I historical fiction novels. If you’re thinking about a transition in your business, this episode may provide inspiration to help you find your next.

Listen to learn more about:

  • Jeff’s succession story about fractured family relationships and reconciliation
  • Knowing when it was time to make a change
  • Separating from his founding partners to avoid succession problems
  • Taking up a writing career after age 50
  • Getting over your fears about the future

Show Notes:

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Episode Transcript:

Welcome to the Succession Stories Podcast, I’m Laurie Barkman. I work with business owners to maximize value, create options for the future, and be happy in your next.

I’m excited to share the “What’s Next Series” as part of Succession Stories.

These conversations spotlight the theme of transitions.

Changes can come at you unexpectedly, or be planned. Are you ready?

After all – in business and life – succession is about transitions and how you embrace “what’s next” matters.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more resources to build value in your business and plan your transition. Visit SmallDotBig.com and sign up today.

This is the second installment of the What’s Next Series, conversations with entrepreneurs about changes in their life and their business. Today I’m joined by Jeffrey Walker. He’s a US Air Force Veteran and former JAG prosecutor. After retiring from the military, Jeff became a vetrepreneur and grew an international consulting practice that took him to 34 countries over seven years before parting ways with his partners. Eventually Jeff followed his true passion…writing, and became an award-winning author of World War I historical fiction novels. If you’re thinking about a transition in your business, I hope this episode provides inspiration to help you find your next.

Laurie Barkman:

Jeff, welcome to Succession Stories. I’m really looking forward to our conversation today. We were introduced by Rick Terrien who was on the show in an earlier episode, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I appreciate that you’ve come here today to have a conversation about a couple of things. One is your family’s succession story, and also that you’re open about sharing your transition stories in your career, and ultimately what you’re doing today which is really fascinating. So welcome. And let’s start by talking about you. Can you give me a brief background?

Jeff Walker:

Let me start by saying thank you for having me, Laurie. It’s just always a pleasure to be on interesting podcasts like this, and you’ve got such a remarkably cool market niche going here. I’m excited to be part of it.

So I grew up in a very stereotypical Midwest, small town, sort of a single industry town. And went to a big township high school. And went away because I wanted to get out of that small town desperately from as far back, as I can remember. I went away to school in New Orleans. I did a lot of growing up in New Orleans when I was at Tulane. I spent about a nanosecond after graduating as a stockbroker, a job which I absolutely loathed it turned out, and searched for something that would be whatever the opposite of stockbroker was. And it turned out that was B-52 navigator. So I joined the Air Force and went to officer training, went to navigator school, went to bomber school, flew bombers. I had a forced transition in there where I was medically grounded from aviation. By the way, there is like 240 excludable conditions for flying in the Air Force. So you don’t have to people think, oh, well you’re really sick. Well, no. Things like sleepwalking or wetting your bed after age 12, neither one of which were actually.

Laurie Barkman:

Those weren’t yours though, right?

Jeff Walker:

And it’s really quite remarkable. How many ways you can get yourself grounded.

Laurie Barkman:

You can share as much as you want on the show. It’s all good. It’s all good.

Jeff Walker:

Yeah. So kind of I went through some grieving process losing my aviation career, which defined a lot of me at that time. And the Air Force offered me a great opportunity. They sent me all expense paid with my Captain’s salary to Georgetown Law for three years. And I became a JAG – Judge Advocate military lawyer. And that’s where I spent the rest of my 20 years in the Air Force. I retired right at 20 years as early as I could, as a Lieutenant Colonel. Started a small DOD consulting company with a couple of other retired Air Force guys and did pretty well with that. Built that up over a period of about seven years. There’s another succession story there, I suppose. I got the seven year itch, sold my shares back to my other founding partners and took an appointment as a law professor and an Assistant Dean at a law school in New York City ran international programs there.

Jeff Walker:

Taught Criminal Law and International Law. After five years, my wife who was from Upstate West New York, Rochester, not up the Hudson, and myself from a small town in Illinois, really had enough of New York City. My apologies to the New Yorkers out there. And moved back to the house we kept in Virginia in the Tidewater area of Virginia and Williamsburg. And my wife said to me, at that point, you’ve been talking about writing fiction all the time I’ve known you. Take a year off and write some fiction. And that’s how I got into the authorpreneur business, another business transition for me. I liked the notion of authorpreneurship. That phrase I think was invented by Joanna Penn who’s a remarkable author herself, and consultant and speaker, and I’ve seen and heard her many times. I love writing, but I also like selling books. So that’s why I referred to it as authorpreneurship, which of course fits in wonderfully with what Rick Terrien is doing, what you’re doing, which is what I guess got me full circle back to the show.

Laurie Barkman:

Yeah. Well, thanks for that introduction. And it’s hard to summarize such a wonderful career like yours in a few sentences, what you were able to do, but just the highlights I’ll call out that I thought were really cool is, when you left the Air Force and became what some people call a vetrepreneur – veterans who start their own companies. So you certainly have a lot of experience with that. So maybe we’ll hit on that a little bit later. And then also, as you said, an authorpreneur, so that’s great. So entrepreneurship full-stop is part of your DNA, which brings us to your family. Tell us about your family’s business and what they did and who was involved from your family in the company.

Jeff Walker:

The family business is still going strong by the way. My cousin, Paul who’s a year older than me, is now the CEO. This company was started by my grandfather during the Second World War. My grandfather was a remarkable story in and of himself. He dropped out of high school, rode the rails for a while and ended up in the Marine Corps right after the First World War and was very quickly made into an Officer. He hadn’t even graduated from high school and was discharged medically after getting malaria serving in the gunboat diplomacy days in Haiti. So he’s got five kids and it’s The Depression and he’s out of a job. He did some WPA work and he went to one of the factories in my hometown and went to the owner and said, I will do anything. I just need to work. And he said, look all I can do is give you a job as a janitor.

Jeff Walker:

Literally handed him a broom and said, go sweep the factory. And within about 18 months, my grandfather was the Plant Manager for that company. So a very bright man in his own right. During the Second World War, as anybody who knows anything about the manufacturing sector during that period, if you could put nut A on bolt B during that time you could get a government contract. Everything was working. So my was while running at full tilt, a company doing war production as Plant Manager was encouraged by the owner of the company to start his own side business to do subcontract work. So he was working, 80-90 hours a week, basically two full-time jobs during the war. And of course when the war ended and the war production immediately dropped off, he had his own company and he had three sons.

Jeff Walker:

My dad being one of them coming back from the service. All three of them came back at grandpa’s instance – request – to help build the company that he had started during the war. My father always said a little bit, I think of bitterness about that. He really wanted to go to university and gave that up to come back and join the family business, but was a successful businessman. So fast forward to when I was a young adult, this is a classic problem that I know you’ve discovered and talked about and probably written about, podcasted about, that third generation succession in a family business. So grandpa one guy, three sons, three guys, they all grew up in the same household with the same father and did okay with that for a long, long time. My dad was the first one who wanted out, and that was an opportunity for my oldest uncle to reset.

Jeff Walker:

It was a generational ownership of the company he had five sons of his own. So that’s really what happened, but I saw a lot of acrimony and bad feeling between the brothers around that, that shocked me. I was certainly old enough. I was in the Air Force as a Lieutenant, by that point in time I guess. And these men had been these towering figures in my life growing up, you know, obviously these three men, my dad and my two uncles were such a huge presence in my life. And to see how hard that was, how that ripped apart their personal relationships at the end of my dad’s participation in the company, that was the catalyst. And my father had carried a lot of guilt for that as well. But they did finally reset. And again, the company under the ownership and management of my uncle, Pat, my oldest uncle’s, sons is doing quite well. But again, they’ve got five sons and a brother-in-law running that company.

Jeff Walker:

So they’re going to have another succession problem coming very soon because they’re all in their 60’s now. So witnessing that was a real shocker for me. I never had any desire myself to go into the family business. I’d done some summer work there when I was in college in the shop running press brakes and degreasing parts and things like that. My dad and my uncle saw that was a character builder for us to go do summer work in the hot factory, doing the most low level entry level stuff we could do. I asked my dad about that years later and said, you know, I never had any desire to come into the business. Why did you make me go and work there in the summer? The pay was good. He said, because I knew it would make you go back to college, a very wise thing.

Jeff Walker:

So that was my connection. I had a brother who desperately wanted to be in the company business and the family company, I should say. And, and that didn’t turn out well. That was part of the fallout from the succession story. So it left me with a very bad personal experience of having witnessed just secondhand through my father, how that succession, how difficult that was, how really, really difficult that was. My father died four years later and there really hadn’t been any peace amongst the brothers until his funeral when the two remaining brothers finally sat down and talked. It was just so acrimonious until the end.

Laurie Barkman:

So Jeff, thank you for sharing that. And I’m sure that was a really difficult time. That was four years from when your father left the company to his death. Is that right? Is that what you said?

Jeff Walker:

Yeah, I think it’s yeah, for four and a half years, I think that’s correct.

Laurie Barkman:

Did he know he was sick when he decided to leave?

Jeff Walker:

Consciously. No, subconsciously maybe. I mean, look he died of lung cancer and has smoked three to four packs a day for decades. So I think there was a there was certainly a clue there and he’d never been robustly healthy, I don’t think as far back as I can remember.

Laurie Barkman:

After he left, was there just no relationship at all between the three brothers?

Jeff Walker:

Two, yes. My father and one brother and then the other brother was sort of on the outs. I played an odd part in that actually that I was back, I was in law school. Actually I was a captain, I guess wasn’t I. You know, when someone is dying of cancer or some other disease like that, it’s never straight down. It’s always this up and down. So I was flying back. I kept getting these calls saying, you know, dad’s dying, you should come out now. I did that a couple of times. And during the last of those, my dad was bemoaning not seeing his brother and in between sort of the morphine. And I just got in the car and drove over to my uncle’s office and sat down and said, if you want to talk to your brother while he’s still alive, you better do it today or tomorrow. So I sort of forced that reconciliation, I guess, in that regard. I’m glad I did that. Not easy.

Laurie Barkman:

I know that’s not easy. Were you there during their conversation or did you leave the room?

Jeff Walker:

I asked my uncle if he wanted me to stay because my father was, by that time, was sort of hard to understand. And he looked at me and said, I’ve known him longer than you have. He’s my brother. I went down and had coffee with his assistant who’d come with them. And, we sat in the cafeteria for an hour while they talked. Yeah.

Laurie Barkman:

Well, you play an important role there at the end.

Jeff Walker:

Totally accidentally, totally accidentally.

Laurie Barkman:

You were sensitive to the situation. So let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about you and your career. I was curious about when did you know it was time to make a change? You said you left the military right at 20 years. So there is a magic number there for retirement. So I can surmise, why you chose that. But if you want to talk a little bit about some of the other transitions that led you down the path, ultimately to being a writer, that would be interesting to hear.

Jeff Walker:

Yeah, good question. I left right at 20. I could have stayed till 30. I left at 20 mostly because I saw what senior ranking lawyers in the military did. And it didn’t involve very much law. It involved a lot of hand law and a lot of managing personnel. And it just didn’t appeal to me. I’d done a tour at the Pentagon and seen upfront at the highest levels with the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, what his day was like and it wasn’t something I aspired to. So I retired at age 43 and ever since I’ve been getting paid to breathe in and breathe out every morning. So that’s a pretty good deal, getting a pension at 43, that’s actually enabled some of the other things I’ve done. You can’t live exclusively on a Lieutenant Colonel’s pension, but it allows a financial cushion for taking a lot of other risks.

Jeff Walker:

So at that point I was throwing a lot of chum in the water to find out what my next career was going to be and I ran into an old friend who, and I think in the commissary, the military supermarket on base, right before I retired. And he said, I heard you’re retiring, do you have anything planned? I said, no. He said, well, I’ve been doing individual consulting since I retired back to DOD, Department of Defense, and I’m turning away work. I’m going to start my own company. Why don’t you come and be a partner in that? Let’s start a company together. We brought in a third founding partner as well, who happened to be my friend’s old Air Force Academy roommate. So yeah, they went back a long way and we had some very rapid success.

Jeff Walker:

We outpaced our strategic plan almost immediately on growth of the company. And I was doing some other stuff on the side. I was only doing it part-time. I had to give that up very, very quickly just to concentrate full-time on the company. It grew nicely at a great pace. We’ve we formed a separate subsidiary that I ran to do international work mostly to protect the security clearance stuff from the other side of the company, because we were going to be hiring a lot of foreigners for the overseas work. And I won’t go into that, but that can muddy up the whole security clearance problem. And that went along, and perked along quite nicely. On my international side, we did work in 34 countries in those seven years. So it was very interesting.

Jeff Walker:

I was traveling a lot. It was work I loved. During that time, I spent a year in Baghdad running a big program that was funded by the State Department. That was interesting being awakened by rockets and mortars many mornings. So after seven years, I was getting itchy, the three founding partners had different views of what the strategic vision of the company should be going forward, and had some fairly nasty arguments about that. And I of course getting these flashbacks of succession problems with my dad and my uncles had no desire to go down that rabbit hole. So I realized in disagreements, I was going to be out voted the two thirds to one third of the shares right. I said make me a fair offer and I’ll leave. And they did. And, about three or four months later, I was offered a job, by the Dean of this law school St. John’s up in New York. And I said, hey, this is great. Let’s do this. So we moved to New York and, that’s why I made that succession. Then, after five years burned out on New York and that was unplanned, fell into it because it was a great idea with my wife’s suggestion, that I write books and it’s gone pretty well.

Laurie Barkman:

Well, I think that’s really a special thing that she recognized in you. That was something that you’ve always wanted to do. And she gave you the encouragement to go chase it.

Jeff Walker:

My life maxim has always been it’s better to be lucky than smart. And I just lucked into marrying up. I mean, I married such a good woman, and Kathy has been so remarkably supportive and wonderful and a contributor to the business now as well, a significant contributor to the business.

Laurie Barkman:

She helps you with editing. Is that what she does?

Jeff Walker:

Turns out my wife is an outstanding literary editor. She all the way from developmental to line editing to proofing. I mean, she’s really, really good at it, which of course is sweat equity for us. We don’t have to pay somebody on the outside. If you’re serious about your editing, which I encourage any author to be pleased you’re talking anywhere from probably $2,500 to $5000, $6,000 a book to hire a really good quality outside editor to do this stuff Kathy does more than that actually probably be hitting $10,000 a book. So that’s a lot of sweat equity she puts in. When you think about it, if you put a price tag on it, that’s a lot of money.

Laurie Barkman:

Absolutely. So let’s talk about your writing. I think this is a really incredible thing how you’re tying together a lot of pieces from your background and interests. So what kind of books do you write and what inspires you to write them?

Jeff Walker:

I write whatever I want to write. There’s this old saying among writers, there’s so many old saws- pieces of advice – among writers, some of them are just nonsense. They say write what you know. I disagree with that. Write what you want to know, I think is a better way to say that. And that may include knowing yourself if you’re writing memoir or thinly veiled autobiographical fiction. If you want to know yourself, then write about yourself that way. But I see it as a growth experience. So I’ve been writing professionally most of my adult life as a lawyer. So I came to writing with the toolbox, with the mechanics fairly well settled, I have pretty impeccable grammar and spelling and punctuation, and I can put together coherent sentences and paragraphs and write to a theme and that sort of thing. I’d never written fiction before, although, as I’ve often said, many of my opposing counsel will tell you I’ve been writing fiction for years. Isn’t that part of the job?

Jeff Walker:

I had initially wanted to write for the first project about the sort of big idea, the meta-theme of how war breaks everything and everybody, and how we struggle to put things back together again, including ourselves and others. And initially I thought of setting the modern day so Iraq and Afghanistan. And realized pretty quickly on that there’s a lot of young women and men coming back from those wars still very, very traumatized by their experience. And they’re just in the last few years really finding their own voice in writing, in memoir, in fiction, in poetry, and there’s some great stuff coming out. And it felt as an older vet, the gray haired vet, that I was misappropriating their stories before they had a chance to tell them. Maybe that was a little bit of cowardice on my part, but it just didn’t feel fair to me.

Jeff Walker:

Well, it was the centenary of the First World War. So I thought, what the heck great idea. I can tell all the stories I want to tell. PTSD. Yep. Shell shock. Surviving catastrophic wounds. World War one was the first big conflict where there was a somewhat modern system of getting people off the battlefield where they would otherwise have died of these horrible wounds exactly like Iraq and Afghanistan. Addiction coming out of World War I, a lot of morphia addiction, morphine addiction. And, of course, alcohol, obviously the same thing coming out of these wars. So I could tell the same stories, but in this interesting historical context. And of course the post-war period where my books spend about two-thirds of their time. It’s the 1920s. I mean, how cool was that? I knew a lot about the First World War.

Jeff Walker:

I didn’t know a lot about the 1920s. So what I really wanted to learn was that period, the post-war period. And that was a fascinating research deep dive for me. And I think turned into some interesting and pretty decent stories. They’ve won all three of the books in that trilogy. The trilogy is called Sweet Wine of Youth Trilogy, all three of the books have won awards. Two of them are Amazon international best sellers now.

Laurie Barkman:

Wow, look at you that’s a fascinating thing!

Jeff Walker:

It turns out they love me in Canada. I’m like the Tim Horton’s honey cruller of historical fiction. So, yeah, the Canadians keep buying my books. I’ve hit number one in Canada. Actually one of the books displaced Margaret Atwood for a couple of days. I was so excited. I mean, she’s like a national monument in Canada.

Jeff Walker:

So yeah, there’s been, we sold a lot of books. They’ve been critically well-received and I’m working on the fourth and fifth book now. I always try to keep two in process at any time. So like when you send out a fourth draft of one, to some outside readers, you’re not waiting anxiously chewing your nails, you have something else to work on. So I try to dovetail the books. I’ve always got two going at a time. I’m also working on a nonfiction piece now, that’s complimentary of, and in collaboration sort of roughly with Rick Terrien’s work on The Ageless Startup, Ageless Entrepreneurship. His book that just came out is being very well received, and Rick is a true expert in that area. So what I’m looking at is a piece of that as The Ageless Authorpreneur, writing after 50 basically. Taking up a writing career after 50. What I call “Your Write Turn” is the project with the appropriate spelling pun in the middle there. That’s what the book will, that’s the working title for that book. It will start as a collection of blog posts. I’ve done eight or nine “Your Write Turn” blog posts on my blog. And that’ll be the initial nut at the center of that project. And we’ll expand that out and work from there.

Laurie Barkman:

That sounds great. We’ll have to have you back on, maybe you and Rick together, and we can talk about that.

Jeff Walker:

That would be fun, Rick and I have been arguing for decades.

Laurie Barkman:

And that’s because?

Jeff Walker (22:14):

Yeah, full confession. He’s my, brother-in-law. Another guy who married up. Like my sister. I’ve always adored my sister since as far back as I can possibly remember. And I think my brother-in-law Rick did a good thing marrying her by the way, vice versa. Terrific guy. I’m as close to him as my brothers, maybe closer. So yeah, I think they’re great, great couple fun to be around really, really, really good people.

Laurie Barkman (22:41):

Well, I know he is going to listen to this and he’s going to love that shout out. I wanted to ask for your books. Did you happen to write about the Spanish flu?

Jeff Walker:

I wish with the absolute perfect clarity of hindsight, I wish I’d written more about the Spanish flu. It makes a guest appearance, a cameo, a couple of times in two of the books. I used it in the second book to kill off a minor character. And that was important to the brother of the main character and off stage, he dies with the Spanish flu. And in the third book, I used it for a much more important supporting character. He survived the Spanish flu, and I also used it as a device. He was a young man. Part of his backstory that’s important is he got into the First World War a little bit too late. He missed the war. He missed all the excitement because he was recovering from the Spanish flu and didn’t get to the frontlines until two days after the Armistice.

Jeff Walker:

So I used it as a timing for that particular character. I use it instrumentally. I didn’t really use it as an important narrative piece. And I kind of wish I had, it was a tragic and fascinating thing. And the big difference between the current COVID pandemic and the Spanish flu pandemic which is also a form of a COVID virus or coronavirus, I should say. Was it overwhelmingly hit younger people fatally. So people from the ages of 18 to about 35 were by far the group most susceptible to dying from the flu. And the problem was, and they’ve seen this a little bit with this virus, but it’s not widespread, that the healthier your immune system is the worse it was for you with the Spanish flu. They define that this effect now it’s called a cetirizine storm where your immune system detects this and just goes into super turbo overdrive.

Jeff Walker:

What happens is with the Spanish flu is that it filled up your lungs with fluid. Your immune system did that. That was your immune response, not the virus itself. And these young people ended up basically drowning in their own lungs, a horrible way to go. And of course at the time you have all of these people in that age group jammed into army camps and living in dugouts and trenches and what have you. So I don’t remember the exact figures, but I believe almost as many American Doughboys died of Spanish influenza as died of combat wounds in the First World War.

Laurie Barkman

Incredible.

Jeff Walker:

Of course the US got into it late, right at the time, basically as the Spanish flu took hold. In fact, it may have started within the US Army. Some people say the patient zero was a cook at Fort Riley Kansas in 1918. Some say it probably emerged earlier than that, but certainly with America, that’s where it started.

Laurie Barkman:

Yeah. Well, that’s incredible. So I want to shift now to what I’ll call the rapid fire. What I call my fast five questions. The first one for you is who has had the greatest impact on you and why?

Jeff Walker:

Not trying to garner good husband points, I have to say my wife. As we’ve already talked about, she’s an amazing partner in my authorpreneurship business. We met at the university. We were both doing our junior abroad in Scotland at St. Andrew’s when we met. I was a total mess as a teenager and she called me on my nonsense and has never led me backslide since. Mother of my children. She is decidedly my best friend and has been through 19 moves and 20 years in the Air Force. And now a couple of grandkids. She’s just such a remarkable woman in so many ways. And has from the very beginning, made me want to want to be a better man.

Laurie Barkman:

Wonderful. What are you reading right now?

Jeff Walker:

Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, which is an interesting book, also a movie by the way. Yeah, it’s just interesting. I try to read, I don’t read any specific genres particularly. I avoid reading periods that I’m writing in. Like when I was writing World War I in the ‘20’s, I didn’t read anything from that period, any fiction from that period, just because I don’t want to have subconscious plagiarism issues or anything. Other than that, I always say, I only want to read good writing. I don’t care what the genre is. As long as it’s good writing, I used to finish every book I bought because I’m stubborn as a reader. I don’t do that anymore. My time’s too valuable, if I get 30 or 40 pages into a book and it’s bad writing, it gets chucked overboard. I review books historical fiction books for a really well-respected website. And I have been exposed to some really bad writing as a result and some really fine writing. But I give it 25, 30, 40 pages, and then that’s all they get from me.

Laurie Barkman:

What’s one leadership trait that brings you success?

Jeff Walker:

I learned this from my first Bomber Squadron Commander who was from Pittsburgh like you, by the way. You’re in Pittsburgh, aren’t you?

Laurie Barkman:

I am.

Jeff Walker:

He always said that he thought the key to being a great leader was to share the praise with everybody but yourself and jealously hoard all the blame. So I think it’s a great way to look at this. Any successes, and we had a very successful squadron. We were winning all kinds of competitions and everything else. Colonel Pacini was really, really good at, Hey, it’s this, guy’s doing this, guy’s doing this crews’ doing. I just got out of their way. That was one of the things he used to always say, all I had to do is get out of their way. But if there was blame, it stopped at his desk. If there was something that goes wrong, it stopped at his desk.

Jeff Walker:

Now he may have taken his ounce of flesh out of you behind closed doors, but publicly all the blame stopped with him. And I tried to emulate that at every job I’ve done as a manager, as a leader, because honestly, if you create an organization where everybody thinks you’ve got great people working for you, it just reflects on you. You know, they’re gonna think you’re a great leader and a great manager too. I don’t seem to have had that need to sort of hoard all the credit and praise to myself, which I guess is good. That must just be a DNA thing. I’ve always actually been kind of uncomfortable in that position of being wildly praised for things. I try to avoid that cause it makes me uncomfortable.

Laurie Barkman:

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Jeff Walker:

I as a fiction writer now, it’s gotta be Ernest Hemingway– whose birthday his 121st birthday was just a couple of days ago actually. Hemingway, a troublesome guy he was basically a pig. Let’s be honest. He was a loudish drunk and an Anti-Semite and a racist and a misogynist and all those horrible things. I love his work. I don’t love him. I’d sure like to see what made him tick. That’s why I really like to have dinner with Ernest Hemingway just to see what made that guy tick.

Laurie Barkman:

And you wouldn’t want to get him mad I’m sure.

Jeff Walker:

I wouldn’t want to get him drunk. Cause he had a habit of inviting you out for fist fights every day.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s right. Now you did share one favorite saying earlier, I asked you a question that led you to that. Do you have an overall favorite saying or mantra that you live by?

Jeff Walker:

Yeah, most decidedly. I love FDR Franklin Roosevelt and his,

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

has just echoed and resonated in my brain so many times throughout my life and all these transitions and different jobs and everything.

So much of what I’ve seen. I saw this with really brave people I knew in the military coming out of the military and being turned into quivering puddles of anxious jelly. What comes next? And it’s all fear. It’s fear of the unknown. It’s fear of how am I going to make money. It’s fear of is my family going to be okay. Fear is such a crippling and almost always irrational emotion. And I’ve seen it in business time and time and time again. I won’t make the jump to do, to start my own company. I won’t make the jump to expand into this new market area that needs to be served because of fear. And again, it’s such a crippling emotion, you know, and yeah, I’ve laid awake at night, worried about if we’re going to make payroll at the end of the month. I know what that’s like, as F. Scott Fitzgerald, I think said, I don’t want to misquote him, “In the dark night of the soul, it’s always 3 AM.” That staring at the ceiling at 3 AM is something anybody who started their own business knows, I think. You just have to work your way through it.

Laurie Barkman:

You do. You have to work your way through it. So how do people find you online? You mentioned that you’ve got a series of books. Is there a website they can go to?

Jeff Walker:

I do have an author website that’s got a blog. I blog, I post a new blog every Sunday afternoon. That’s JeffreyKWalker.com. That’s where you can find all sorts of stuff about me and my books and also the blogs. There’s 100, almost 170 posts up there. Now I’ve been blogging for three, four years now. And of course my books can be purchased at all the usual suspects. So Amazon, of course, if you go to Amazon and put Jeffrey K. Walker in the search bar, I’m the only author that’ll pop up. My three books will pop up there. Barnes and Noble, I get can get them eBooks from Kindle, from Nook, from Kobo, from iBooks, I guess they are Apple Books now aren’t they. Yeah, all the usual suspect places.

Laurie Barkman:

Awesome. So the people will certainly find you and I’ll include the link in the show notes.

Jeff Walker:

Thank you.

Laurie Barkman:

Jeff, thank you so much for being on Succession Stories and being part of the What’s Next Series. I love how you told your story about your family, and yourself, and finding your next. So thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing everything.

Jeff Walker:

Thanks for having me, Laurie, it was a true pleasure.

Laurie Barkman:

Innovation, transition growth, easy to say but hard to do.

If you’re an entrepreneur facing these challenges, I get it.

I work with businesses from small to big for strategic planning with your team to achieve your vision.

Visit smalldotbig.com to schedule a call with me. I’d love to connect with you.

Be sure to catch the next Succession Stories episode with more insights for next generation entrepreneurs.

Thanks for listening.

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