THEN: Homeless, Addicted & Convicted…NOW: Time’s “100 Most Influential People”


For the past 15 years, Time magazine has selected it’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” The 2019 issue includes Lady Gaga, Donald Trump, Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Mark Zuckerberg and Dwayne Johnson.

It also includes Desmond Meade, a name you’ve probably never heard before. In 2005, Desmond Meade had three strikes against him. He was homeless. He was a drug addict. And he was a convicted felon. Reaching the lowest point in his life, he was prepared to commit suicide by jumping in front of a moving train. But according to Meade, the train “never came that day.” And he opted to check himself into a rehabilitation facility instead.

He set a new path for himself earning an associates, bachelors and law degree. And then Desmond set his sights on the passage of Florida’s Amendment 4. Officially known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, Amendment 4 was a ballot initiative to restore the voting rights of an estimated 1.5 million Floridians with felony convictions. Political pundits gave the initiative very little chance of ever getting on the ballot let alone passing with the required 60% approval by the electorate.

It took Desmond and his team at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition nearly a decade. But on November 6, 2018, Amendment 4 passed with 65% of the vote.

According to Meade, “I tell people that on November 6th, on election night, the country got to see love winning the day. We had over 5.1 million votes, a million more than any candidate received. And those votes weren’t based on hate and fear, they were based on love, forgiveness, and redemption. Love actually won the day. Love destroyed that Jim Crow law.”

Click here to read the Time magazine article about Desmond Meade, penned by Stacey Abrams, former Democratic Minority Leader for the Georgia House of Representatives.

The Proximity Principle: Ken Coleman’s Formula for Second Act Success


Ken Coleman is a highly-successful ,broadcast personality and career coach who hosts a daily radio show, aptly called “The Ken Coleman Show.” Every day, he counsels thousands of listeners on how to best find their dream job. He also hosts the highly-successful EntreLeadership podcast which consistently ranks among the top five business podcasts on the iTunes charts.

Ken is a genuine “Second Act” success story himself. At the age of 34, Ken started to pursue a broadcast career despite zero background and training in the profession.

Nine years later, he has written a book that draws heavily on that personal experience as well as literally hundreds of telephone calls with his listeners. It’s titled “The Proximity Principle” and it is a strong guide for anyone exploring a second act. The simple formula described by him in his book and this episode:

The Right People + The Right Places = Opportunities

Special thanks to McKenzie Masters and Madison Crowder for the assistance in facilitating this interview. It was an honor to meet and interview Ken Coleman.

A Midlife Shake-up: Stay-At-Home Mom Pursues A Year Of Public Service


This episode is a bit different (and we love “different” here at Second Act Stories). Today, we’ll introduce you to Amy Yontef-McGrath. She lives in Montgomery County, Maryland and is the proud mother of three.

Amy found herself in a bit of a funk as she approached her 49th birthday. She loved her job as a stay-at-home mom. But as her children were getting older and starting to leave the nest, it was clear that she needed something new. As she put it, I needed to “shake-up my life.”

In a stroke of creative genius, she came up with “Follow Me To Fifty,” a year-long journey to complete 50 public service projects in advance of her 50th birthday. Amy joined a group of volunteers in kayaks to clean-up the Anacostia River. She helped a refugee family settle into their new home. She did a monthly-long stint as a food coordinator at the local food bank. She placed American flags on the graves of war veterans on Veterans Day. And along the way, she documented each of these projects in her “Follow Me To Fifty” blog.

Amy’s choice for the 50th project? She took a fifty mile walk along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. “I wanted to go somewhere I’d never gone before. Exploring new things was the theme of the whole year and I wanted the same for the walk.”

Amy Yontef-McGrath giving her “Volunteer of the Year” acceptance speech at Montgomery Serves Annual Awards Ceremony.

Last month Amy was selected as “Volunteer of the Year” by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center. In her acceptance speech, she asked the crowd to “Please keep following me. I’m not done yet.”

No Kid Sleeps On The Floor In Our Town: A Christmas Project Sparks A Second Act


I first learned about Luke Mickelson and Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a non-profit that he founded in 2012, via the CNN Heroes Program. I immediately thought to myself “I have to interview this man.” Then I found out he lives in Twin Falls, Idaho – a mere 2,369 miles from my home in New Jersey.

But as luck would have it, I was traveling to Salt Lake City for a business conference. So I rented a car and drove three hours across Idaho’s wide open spaces to the national headquarters of Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

So what is Sleep in Heavenly Peace? It’s an amazing non-profit with 150 chapters across the United States. In 2018, they built 4,144 bunk beds for children whose families can’t afford a bed for them. In 2019, they expect to build over 10,000 beds.  

On the wall behind Luke Mickelson’s desk, is a framed photo of the 2012 Facebook post that helped launch Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Those might seem like a lot of beds but here’s a scary number. Sleep in Heavenly Peace estimates that 1.5 to 2.0 million kids in America sleep on the floor each night.

Here’s the story of how Luke and his wife Heidi founded “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.” Included in their journey was a decision for Luke to quit his full-time job in order to focus on the organization’s rapid growth.  

Luke and Heidi Mickelson stand in front of the map of Sleep In Heavenly Peace’s 150+ chapters across the United States.

Click here to learn more about and/or donate to Sleep in Heavenly Peace. It is an amazing organization doing amazing work across the United States (with plans to expand internationally in the year ahead).

A Culinary Instructor’s Second Act Brings Fine Dining To A Soup Kitchen


Warren Schueller (on the left in the purple t-shirt) worked for 28 years as a chemistry teacher in Staten Island, New York.

But at the age of 57 he began working with a group called Careers Through Culinary Arts (CCAP) and transitioned to being a culinary instructor. He trained a wide range of schools including the French Culinary Institute (New York City), Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales and the New York Restaurant School and helped prepare New York City high school students for culinary careers. He retired in 2012.

But you’ll find him cooking every Tuesday at the St. Marks Center for Community Renewal in Keansburg, New Jersey. At this area “soup kitchen,” Warren and his team are producing upscale meals for 60+ hungry, “down on their luck” individuals each week.

Warren will turn 74 years old next month. And he hopes to keep cooking at St. Mark’s soup kitchen “forever.”

Earlier this year the St. Mark’s Center for Community Renewal embarked on a $50,000 campaign to renovate the kitchen. You can donate to the program by sending your check to Deacon Rose Broderick, St. Mark’s Center for Community Renewal, 247 Carr Avenue, Keansburg, NJ 07734.

This week’s post has the added benefit of an accompanying video for the podcast by award-winning filmmaker Paul Kaplan.  

Finding New Life As A Hospice Chaplain


Today’s episode focuses on someone I’ve known for a long time. Don Hessemer and I were part of a Saturday morning running group when I lived in Central New Jersey. He had a 38-year career as an environmental consultant in New York and New Jersey. But in 2018, Don decided it was time for a change.

So at the age of 61, a time when many people are counting the days to retirement, Don decided to switch careers and become a hospice chaplain. Everyday he works with patients and their families as they approach the end of life. 

When I read Don’s announcement about this new position on Facebook, I remember thinking to myself, “What an awful and difficult job.” But Don doesn’t think of it awful or difficult. And in some ways, he doesn’t even think of it as a job. It took him nearly 40 years but he feels that he has found his true calling.

Don’s path to his work as a hospice chaplain began shortly after his ordination as a deacon in the Catholic Church. “One of the priests in our parish would frequent the Center for Hope Hospice in Scotch Plains right here in town. And he would say mass maybe once a month. And he kind of introduced me to the whole hospice world. I mean, I really knew nothing about hospice. Hospice was a place where people went to die.”

Today, Don works 40 hours a week helping patients and families negotiate difficult, “end of life” challenges.

Don’s role as a deacon allowed him to officiate at his daughter Brittany’s wedding. He walked her down the aisle in a three-piece suit, made a “superman change” into his vestments in the sacristy and then conducted the ceremony.

The Making Of A Modern Elder: Chip Conley Joins The Millennials At Airbnb


In the hospitality industry, Chip Conley is a legend. Back in 1987, he created Joie de Vivre, that grew to 52 hotels in California and set off a boutique hotel craze. But after 24 years of managing the company, he decided to retire and pursue other ventures. Writing. Speaking. He was on the board of the Burning Man Festival. He created a new website called Fest 300 which celebrated the best festivals in the world. He kept busy.

But then out of the blue, he was contacted by Brian Chesky, a 31-year-old CEO of a start-up company with a new concept called home-sharing.  The company was called Airbnb. And Brian said, “Come work with us and help me democratize hospitality.”

Chip said “yes.” So over the past six years, his second act has been a fascinating ride at Airbnb. And it led to Chip’s latest book titled “Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.”

So what exactly is a modern elder? According to Chip it is someone who can “marry an air of gravitas with a spirit of humility.” In a business setting, that means serving as a sage counselor and learning like a wet-behind-the-ears intern at the same time.

In today’s episode, we’ll also meet Sarah Goodnow Berry, Airbnb’s Global Director of Brand. She is one of the millennials running Airbnb and one of Chip’s mentees. Below is a photo Sarah took of Chip delivering his “farewell address” to the entire Airbnb staff in 2016 and the emotional post which she uploaded to instagram.

Click here for more information on the Modern Elder Academy. And click here to purchase “Wisdom At Work: The Making Of A Modern Elder.”

Special thanks to Marci Alboher of Encore.org for connecting me with Chip Conley. It’s good to have friends in high places.

Facing The Music: A DJ Side Hustle Turns Into A Full-Time Gig


After a twenty-year career in hospitality sales and management at Marriott, Amani Roberts decided to turn his weekend passion as a disc jockey playing music at clubs and special events into a full-time career.

Today, he has made it as a sought-after DJ, teacher of aspiring DJs, writer and podcast creator.   

A combination of dedication and education fueled his success over the past sevens years. He reports that he is working harder than ever but he’s happier than ever too.

Amani and I met in a study room at the public library in Manhattan Beach, California.

Tell learn more about Amani Roberts, check out his website which includes The Amani Experience podcast.

Special thanks to Alex Petrarca, Booking Agent at Interview Connections, for suggesting Amani as a profile for Second Act Stories.

Can A City Have A Second Act? Welcome to Irving, Texas


We’re going to mix things up a bit with today’s episode. Instead of focusing on an individual’s story, we’re going to ask the question, “Can a city have a second act?” And that brought me to Irving, Texas – a city of about 240,000 people.

Irving has a lot going for it. It is in the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. It is contiguous to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the 4th busiest airport in the United States. And it has Las Colinas, an innovative business park that is home to seven Fortune 500 company headquarters including Exxon-Mobil, McKesson, and Kimberly-Clark.  

And for nearly 40 years, the city was also the home of the world-famous Dallas Cowboys football team, one of the most successful sports operations in history.

But in 2004, the city faced a traumatic event. The Dallas Cowboys announced they would be leaving Irving, opting to build a new $1.15 billion stadium in Arlington – about 25 minutes away. In 2008, the Cowboys played their last game in Irving’s Texas Stadium. And on April 11, 2010, the stadium was reduced to a pile of rubble in a controlled implosion that took less than a minute.

The City of Irving’s Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys played for 37 years, was demolished in a controlled implosion on April 11, 2010.

I traveled to Irving to explore how the city responded to the Cowboys departure and adapted to keep the community moving forward.  

A Neighbor’s Dying Wish Launches A Second Act


This episode takes us to Richmond, Virginia for an interview with Lynne Tickle. Lynne spent most of her adult life in the banking industry working up to a position as a senior vice president. But in December of 2015, she learned that her neighbor was dying. And that friend shared a final wish.

Please help take care of my husband Larry after I’m gone.”

That request turned out to be a considerable challenge. The Great Recession of 2008/2009 had crippled her neighbor’s finances. So Lynne helped Larry restructure the debt on his house, obtain financing for badly-needed home repairs, find a real estate agent to help sell his home, sell antiques online, manage yard sales and document gifts to charity. In the end, she helped Larry sell his 3,500 square foot house and downsize to a 1,200 square foot home that was more financially viable.

“To say she was a great help was a total understatement,” according to Larry Kachelries. “Lynne basically took over every aspect of what I needed physically, financially and emotionally to turn the whole situation around.”

In the process, Lynne discovered a new passion: helping people like Larry get their lives together. Armed with this new experience, Lynne left the banking industry and launched a new company called Concierge on Call. The company focuses on helping individuals downsize and get back on their feet.

Special thanks to Ray McAllister and the team at Boomer magazine for connecting me to Lynne Tickle. Here’s a link to Ray’s earlier article about Lynne.