Building Better Networks

It was a privilege to share my Networking workshop with Civic and Business leaders at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center yesterday!

Networking often feels more like a burden than an opportunity. I see frustration and fatigue on the faces of those who attend my talk as they walk in the door. Elevator pitches, role plays, referral minimums and monthly fees are draining – we all know it!

But something changes in those same faces as I challenge them to make Networking a relational event instead of a transactional event. Suddenly, the burden dissipates and people realize there is a better way. Common bonds will always out-perform Business Cards; peers will out-last pitches; and relationships will out-live referrals.

My sincere thanks to the City of Dunedin and the Dunedin Kiwanis Club for letting me bring my message to their community!

Say ‘Yes’ to Special Operations

When I was asked if I would be the guest speaker for a meeting at US Special Operations Command headquarters, there was only one right answer… ‘YES’

While I no longer wear a uniform, I am still proud to serve and defend my nation in any way possible. And when USSOCOM contacted me and asked me to come in for a demonstration, it took me a moment to realize that my nation was calling me back. This time, I could serve without a uniform, without a gun, and with a full beard! I didn’t have to call anyone sir or ma’am, and the senior leaders at headquarters simply called me, ‘Andy.’

As Americans, we owe special gratitude to those who still wear the uniform, still make the sacrifices, and still promise to be on the front line while the rest of us enjoy our freedoms. Walking through Special Operation Command headquarters today remind me how humble and brave America’s troops can be. On any given day, they could be out in the cold, the heat, getting shot at, and losing sleep. But when they come home, they reach their hand out across the table to us, say hello, and live to serve.

They do not expect our thanks, which makes it all the more powerful when we give it. Thank you to all the troops serving at home and abroad, and know that you can count on me anytime to give back.

An International Evening

Many thanks to the Tampa Bay International Business Council (TBIBC) for inviting me to be their Keynote Speaker and Special Guest last night at the Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) in Historic Ybor City! I was overjoyed to find myself again immersed in an international atmosphere, from the brick-paved Cubano streets to the Asian, European and Latino council members. Tampa is destined to become an international business center with organizations like the TBIBC leading the way!

While I appreciated the praise for my keynote, I believe the true highlight of the evening was the GIFF screening of the new documentary, “The China Hustle.” Brilliantly shot and absolutely compelling, this documentary was uniquely timely and relevant for me. My¬†personal and professional experiences in China, along with recent news about Chinese domestic, foreign and business policy, came to a head as I watched this film play out. My compliments to Magnolia Pictures and the courageous cast who made this film possible. I sincerely support their mission to inspire more people to ask hard questions about our fiscal relationship with China.

Espionage and Culture

I enjoyed a great crowd and great questions during my ‘Espionage by the Numbers’ presentation at the Carrollwood Cultural Center tonight!

Espionage has come to the forefront of conversation in our current world. With Cold War style espionage happening hand-in-hand with soft-power espionage, whistle-blowers bringing conspiracy theory to reality, and confusion between enemy and ally, never before as the topic of espionage been more relevant. As a former Agency officer and forever dedicated public servant, I was proud and humbled to see my audience so informed and hungry to learn more.

Our culture has always been shaped by spying, even though we never knew it. But the modern world is different. Information is available everywhere, tearing away the fabric of secrecy and bringing things to light that challenge our worldview and force us to ask hard questions about truth, deceit, trust and responsibility. I’m proud to be one of the voices engaging in the conversation. I look forward to hearing your questions; we only grow by asking.

Breaking Into the Network

Nobody likes networking. It is awkward, uncomfortable, and painfully reminiscent of high school prom. We all know the flood of self-consciousness that comes as you put on your best fake smile and sling business cards around a table of strangers. But while some hope and pray for a better way, others make it happen.

I contend that networking isn’t about sales, promotion, or schmoozing. Networking is about building lasting connections – building relationships. And today I spent my lunch hour introducing a dozen Tampa Bay professionals to networking comfortably and effectively. I taught them how to network like spies.

Spies follow three simple rules: 1. Don’t talk about yourself, 2. Find a common Bond, 3. Get a second meeting. Effective Networking follows the same rules. I saw a dozen people discover their networking potential today with these rules. Will you find your own potential?

Youth Matters

I spent my Sunday evening with an impressive group of young men – the Young Men’s Service League of Tampa. I was not aware of this organization before they contacted me, and now find myself hugely supportive their community-building mission.

Born in 2001, YMSL is an organization focused on fostering closer mother-son relationships through service oriented acts in the community.

Like many sons, my mother has a special place in my heart; part hero, part Police officer, and all love. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to meet this group and advance the lives of these sons and the men they will become.

Writers Rock!

If only I had learned how much fun writers have when I was in grade school! I would have turned to writing as soon as I learned how to spell my name. Instead, it took an invitation from the Florida Writers Association, St Petersburg chapter, to teach me.

After talking about my book, my background, and my personal mission for over an hour, this detail-oriented group of writers was relentless in peppering me with insightful and challenging questions until the moment the doors closed behind us.

In my search for critical thinkers and achievers, this visit is at the top of my favorite places. While I was thankful for the chance to talk about the difference between ‘Lonely and Alone,’ I was fully privileged to connect with this group of like minded visionaries.

And for the 5 ladies who shut the place down with me… I’d be your ‘Charlie’ any day!

True Talent

I spent my afternoon rediscovering Tampa’s beauty with photographer and gifted creative Caleb Daniel. I hired Caleb based on a peer recommendation but found him to be far more than just a talented photographer. The best artists are able to see beauty as it lives in the moment. Caleb introduced me to moments I never would have noticed had he not been there beside me.

The mission of the day was to get new professional headshots. Instead, Caleb found a way to unlock my joy and comfort and capture them on film. I have high ambitions for 2018, and with people like Caleb supporting me I have every faith that my ambitions will be met.

I do not envy him the job of going through our hundreds of photos from today, finishing them and preparing them for social media, marketing, and promotional use. I do envy him, however, his totally natural way of loving every minute he is alive. Thank you for making my world a little brighter today, Caleb.

Growth in Groups

I was privileged to see a recent project I’ve been working on come to life this week! In the Fall of 2017, actor and voice talent Colby Boothman-Shepard (Jurassic World, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mythbusters) asked me to serve as a consultant on a new film screenplay he was developing. This past Sunday, I got to see that screenplay read through by a group of talented men and women at the beautiful Andi Matheny Acting Studio in St Petersburg, Florida!

Watching Colby’s creative journey to develop his screenplay was humbling and impressive. I have a new respect now for those brave enough to make a career in the film industry. But even more impressive was seeing the host of people who came together for nearly four hours to breathe life into Colby’s work under bright lights and the watchful eye of an experienced Hollywood veteran – the lovely Andi Matheny herself!

I have stood side-by-side with paramilitary, Special Forces, and elite intelligence operators for more than a decade. This Sunday reminded me that whether you are part of a cast or combatants, growth is found in groups that choose to focus on a shared goal. Well done and good luck, Colby!

Opportunity Ahead

If there is anything I have learned over my professional years, it’s that opportunities only stop appearing when we stop looking for them. No amount of frustration, discouragement, or fatigue will impact the availability of opportunity. For those who seek it, it will be found. For those who stop looking, it will illude.

2018 will be an exciting year for me not because of anything I do, but because I will keep my eyes open. Opportunity awaits you as well, if you are willing to look. I will look where no one else is looking, I will try where I have never tried before. And I invite you to join me.

Happy 2018, and Happy Hunting!