Second Act Masterclass: 6 Key Takeaways From 100 Episodes

We’re hitting a major milestone – the 100th episode of the Second Act Stories podcast.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve met and profiled some amazing people. Many are pursuing not-for-profit work. Some have started a new business. And others have turned a hobby into a full-time pursuit. But pretty much across the board, all of them are a heck of a lot happier in their new roles.

Looking back at the 100 episodes, we’ve pulled together 6 key takeaways on second acts:

1. Find What Feeds You
2. For Inspiration, Look Back To Your Childhood
3. Expect Barriers – Lots of Them
4. Trauma Often Triggers A Second Act
5. There Are Leapers And There Are Planners
6. You’re Never Too Old To Make A Change

And to offer proof points for each takeaway, we’ve shared short interview segments with Chris Donovan, Nasim Alikhani, Cathy Heying, Anne Moss Rogers, Mary Robinson and Susan Goldfein.

Sit back and enjoy our Second Act Masterclass. And as a special bonus, we’ll also introduce you to Scott Merritt who will be joining the Second Act Stories podcast as a co-host later this year.

A Perfectly-Blended Second Act: Cop & Reporter Start A Winery

Today’s episode comes from Woodinville, Washington and our interview with Jerry Riener and Jennifer Sullivan. Jerry is a sergeant for the Woodinville Police Department. Jennifer is a journalist having worked for both the Seattle Times and KOMO-TV, the ABC news affiliate in Seattle region.

Like many couples, they found love, got married and started a family together. But unlike most couples they also started an amazing winery called Guardian Vineyards while holding down two very-demanding, full-time jobs. They started small — producing just 350 cases of wine in 2007. Fourteen years later, they are now producing 10,000 cases of high-quality, wine per year.

Jerry Riener and Jennifer Sullivan share a glass of Guardian Cellars wine.

Grab a glass of your favorite wine, sit back and enjoy Jerry and Jennifer’s second act story.


An Unusual Road To Celebrity Trainer

Robert Brace grew up in London — the eldest son of a single mother who emigrated from Ghana. His family expected him to pursue a traditional career — a lawyer, accountant or doctor. But at the age of 15, he fell in love with the world of dance earning scholarships to the London Contemporary Dance School, Alvin Alley American Dance Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. To support himself during his early years in New York City, he became a personal trainer on the side — earning $7 per workout.

After a decade in professional dance, he opted to become a full time minister with the Churches of Christ. But the transition proved difficult. And with a wife and a new-born child, he reluctantly went back to personal training — this time earning $18 per workout.

Success came when he finally opened his own personal training practice, Brace Life Studios. And his big break came when he teamed with comedian Mark Malkoff for a YouTube video focused on helping Mark get “six pack abs in 28 days.” That eventually transitioned into the Brace Life Studios “28 Day Challenge.”

Today Robert has a full roster of celebrity clients that pay up to $225/hour for a one-on-one session with him.



Nasim’s Second Act: This Overnight Success Took 7 Years

Nasim Alikhani is the owner and executive chef of Sofreh, an amazing Persian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant opened in 2018 to rave reviews from The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur and The Food Network. The restaurant is consistently booked weeks in advance.

Sofreh is Nasim’s first restaurant and she launched it at the age of 59 after nearly two decades as a stay-at-home mom. But it hasn’t been an easy road. It took Nasim and her husband Theodore seven years build the restaurant in a brownstone that they purchased and renovated.

Ballerina To Barrister: Melody’s Surprising Second Act

Melody Lynch fell in love with the ballet. She started dancing at 3 and made it in the professional ranks by the age of 15. She continued ballet studies at Butler University and after graduation landed a position with the North Carolina Dance Theatre where she worked for several years.

But her passion was for performance rather than teaching. And realizing that a dancer’s career span is limited, she made the leap to law school. She has been a practicing attorney for the past 14 years at the Lowndes law firm in Orlando, Florida.

She keeps her hands in the arts serving as chair of her local philharmonic orchestra and via her 7-year-old daughter’s love of dance.

Melody and Brendan Lynch with their 7-year-old daughter Katherine. She hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps and perform in “The Nutcracker” this year.

Next Move, Best Move…22 Minutes With Author Kimberly Cummings

We sit down for a face-to-face interview with Kimberly B. Cummings. Her first book, “Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into A Career You’ll Love,” debuts on June 9th 2021.

Kimberly Cummings is the proud author of “Next Move, Best Move.”

Kimberly is a career and leadership expert who heads up her own consulting practice called “Manifest Yourself.” We reviewed the book in advance of the interview and asked about a number of intriguing passages and chapters of “Next Move, Best Move.”


Striking The Right Note: Cindy Returns To Music

Cindy St. Clair made an unusual transition from the legal profession – working as a paralegal and then a legal administrator — to the world of academia.

As you’ll hear, she went back to school to get a bachelors, masters and doctorate in music in her 40s. And at the age of 50 she returned to teach as an adjunct professor of piano at her alma mater, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. In January 2021, she was named the Interim Chair of the Division of Music, supervising a group of 18 full-time professors and 100 students.


He Built A Global Company…Then He Rebuilt His Alma Mater

Pete DeBusk is a true entrepreneur. He started from humble beginnings growing up in coal mining towns in the Appalachian Mountains. In his “Act 1,” he founded DeRoyal Industries, a major manufacturer of medical products with 1,900 employees and facilities in a half-dozen countries around the world. Today, the company manufactures over 20,000 different products.

Back in 2000, Pete began to step-away from the business turning the day-to-day operations over to his son Brian. He admits it was a difficult transition for him. Coinciding with this corporate leadership change, Pete was asked to serve as Chairman of the Board of his alma mater, Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). And that’s when his second act began.

He’s been LMU’s Chairman for 21 years now and Pete has rebuilt the school using the same playbook that he used at DeRoyal Industries. According to Pete, “You find niches and you fill niches.” Under his leadership, LMU has added a medical school, law school,  veterinary school as well as dozens of new majors that have helped the University grow by 1,500%.

As Pete shares in this episode: “I’ve built DeRoyal for my own personal use. Of course, it was a business. LMU you’re doing it for somebody else. You’re doing it to help people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to get a better education to grow in professional fields. Because it’s hard to come out those Appalachians and get into graduate schools and get into stuff and a lot of people give up before they get started.”

Pain Turns To Purpose: A Suicide, A Mother’s Grief & A Second Act

Anne Moss Rogers was at the pinnacle of a 20-year professional career. She opened her own digital marketing agency in 2010. The business grew quickly and by 2015 she and her partner had 9 employees and a growing roster of clients.

While her professional life was going especially well, life at home had significant problems. Her son Charles – the younger of two boys – suffered from a combination of depression and drug addiction. The problems began early in high school and escalated. At considerable expense to Anne Moss and her husband Randy, they tried to help by placing him in a therapeutic boarding school followed by rehab. But on June 5, 2015 at the age of 20, Charles took his own life.

In the aftermath of her son’s passing, Anne Moss sold her agency and has became a staunch activist for suicide prevention. She launched “Emotionally Naked” – a blog about the experience. She speaks frequently before both high school and adult audiences. And she has written a powerful book called “Diary of a Broken Mind.

Anne Moss Rogers is a textbook example of what psychologists call “post traumatic growth.” When Charles committed suicide in 2015, she entered an unimaginable cauldron of pain and grief. And she came out the other side stronger and focused on making a difference in the world. And her work is saving lives.

We concluded our interview by asking her, “What would Charles think of what you’re doing now?” Anne Moss responded, “I think he would be proud to know that I’m following my heart.”

On the first anniversary of Charles death, Anne Moss Rogers recorded an emotional reading of the lyrics of “Forgive Me Momma,” one of many songs that were discovered in her son’s backpack after his passing. It’s about four minutes long and we hope you’ll give it a listen by clicking the link above.

Dave’s Gambit: A New Life Teaching Chess To Youth

Dave Lazarus worked for 35 years in information technology. But at 60 years old he found himself unemployed. And the prospects of landing a new job in IT weren’t terribly encouraging.

So on the advice of an old friend, he went back to an old passion: chess. And he started teaching chess to elementary students first in an after-school program and then as a private teacher.

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” led to an explosion in demand for online chess lessons. Today Dave teaches chess 7 days per week to a mix of students from grade 1 through 5. His online chess group,  “Dave’s Young Tigers,” has 180 members so far.