A Dream Deferred: Publishing A First Novel At 47


Dann McDorman always dreamed of writing and publishing a novel. After graduating from Columbia University, he spent a decade pursuing that dream with little impact. “Not only was I never published, I never heard back from a single publisher. I had zero success.”

As he hit his 30s, he found his way to a career in broadcast journalism initially working for Fox News but then climbing the ladder as a producer at MSNBC. Starting a family, his dream of being an author was put on the backburner. Today, Dann is the Executive Producer of “The Beat With Ari Melber” that airs weeknights from 6:00-7:00 pm.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic and without a daily commute to the MSNBC Studios, Dann had some extra time on his hands. He started thinking about writing again. With his wife’s encouragement, he wrote a full length mystery novel called West Heart Kill. And at the age of 47, his book was published by Knopf Publishing.

Dann McDorman’s first book, West Heart Kill, was published in October, 2023. A  second book is in the works.

Dann’s advice to aspiring authors and second act pursuers: “Don’t give up…Stick with it and don’t think it’s too late to be successful.” 

 

PYTHON HUNTRESS! Amy Siewe Left Real Estate to Hunt Pythons in the Everglades


Amy Siewe is the quintessential embodiment of how passion drives a second act.

She left a safe and lucrative career as a real estate broker to hunt pythons in the Everglades.

She proudly shares that she’s 5’ 4”, 120 lbs., and captures pythons as big as 180 lbs. by physically jumping on them and wrestling them into submission.

This is what pure passion looks like.

In this fascinating episode, Amy shares what motivated her to leave a relatively safe career selling real estate to become The Python Huntress.

In this wild ride, she shares how she became so interested in snakes, unbelievable accounts of actual hunts, how she built a business out of hunting pythons, why her role is necessary, and which of her two careers is more stressful.

Follow Amy Siewe, The Python Huntress, on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

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A Stray Bullet Killed Her 8-Year-Old Son…In Grief, She Formed Strong Azz Mothers

 

Tiffani Evans’ life changed completely on August 24, 2021. That’s when her 8-year-old son PJ was killed in gang-related, gun violence in the Washington, DC region.

Emerging from the dark days that followed his death, she helped form the “Strong Azz Mothers,” a group of area women who lost children to gun violence. The organization focuses community attention on the problem but also serves as a strong support group. According to Evans, “It’s a sorority that we never asked to be in. But we’re in it so we try to support each other. Nobody understands this like we understand it.”

Tiffani Evans and the Strong Azz Mothers in “Turning Pain Into Purpose: Say My Son’s Name.”

With the help of the DC Theatre Lab, the group performed a play titled “Turning Pain Into Purpose: Say My Son’s Name” to a packed auditorium. The Strong Azz Mothers were profiled in an amazing article by Washington Post Reporter Jasmine Hilton (which is how we first heard of the story).

Tiffani has most recently taken on a new role working in the Prince George’s County School System as a “violence interruptor.” Her message to students, “Don’t let a five second emotion change your life forever. There are a lot of people serving life in prison right now for a mistake that they wish they could change.” 

The Case of Rachel Humphrey: Trial Attorney Turned Women’s Leadership Champion


Rachel Humphrey was a trial attorney who was certain she would spend her entire career in front of judges and juries and eventually retire in a courtroom. After relocating from Virginia to Atlanta with her husband, she took a job at a firm where she represented clients in the hospitality industry, and that sparked a passion she didn’t know she had. The hospitality industry was interesting to her, and she thought that becoming involved with the associations that help the industry might be a great next step, but she had no real business experience at all.

Prompted by the unexpected departure of the nanny who took care of her children, Rachel decided to leave her job to be there for her young family. This also allowed her to do some serious soul searching and figure out what would come next.

A serendipitous conversation with Cati Stone, then the executive director of Komen Atlanta, opened Rachel’s eyes in ways she never could have imagined. As fate would have it, and what Rachel didn’t know, was that Cati happened to be a former trial attorney who moved into a role as an association executive. The advice Rachel got from Cati showed her that there was a viable – and possible – path to follow her passion.

Rachel networked her way into an executive role with AAHOA, the largest hotel owners association in the country, eventually ascending to the role of Interim CEO. After realizing a need for more diversity in the hospitality, she later founded the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance.

In this episode, Rachel shares her path from fighting legal battles to advocating for women, and all the trials that went along with her journey.

If you like this episode, you may also enjoy these episodes featuring former attorneys with incredible second act careers:

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Retired Banker Helps Others Avoid “Retirement Shock”


Mike Drak worked as a banker in Toronto for his entire professional career. When he was laid off at the age of 59, he  received a sizeable severance from his employer. Telling his spouse “Contessa, we hit the lottery,” he was initially ecstatic to be retired.

But he quickly faced “Retirement Shock,” a term that he coined to describe how tremendously unhappy he was in the year that followed. He missed helping people and the structure/routine of working at the bank. And he felt a loss of purpose. “Before my purpose was to go to work, get paid and then use the money to support my family. And that was taken away from me.”

Mike’s research suggests up to one-third of all retirees suffer from “retirement shock.” He decided to educate others on the non-financial challenges of retirement by writing three books: Victory Lap Retirement, Retirement Heaven or Hell and Longevity Lifestyle by Design. The final book can also be downloaded for free from Mike’s website at www.longevitylifestylebydesign.com.

Two years ago, Mike took the unusual step of entering his first Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run) at the age of 68. He plans on returning to Cozumel, Mexico for his 2nd Ironman in the year ahead.

Mike Drak exits the water following the first leg, a 2.4 mile swim, of an Ironman Triathlon in Cozumel, Mexico.

 

Stuckey’s Gamble: Stephanie Stuckey Cashes in Her Future to Revive Her Family’s Iconic Roadside Brand


Stuckey’s is a legendary and iconic thread in the fabric of Americana. Founded in Eastman, Georgia in 1937 by WS “Sylvester” Stuckey, Sr., Stuckey’s grew into a roadside empire by the 1970s, with 368 stores in more than 30 states. Part of the charm that made Stuckey’s so iconic were its ubiquitous billboards, more than 4,000 of them, which were dotted along U.S. highways. Stuckey’s was an inextricable part of what became known as “The Great American Road Trip.”

Fast forward to 2019, Stuckey’s was on life support. The brand had gone through hard times, and its former stand-alone locations, still identifiable by their teal blue roofs, were now relics of a bygone era. Some were abandoned and boarded-up; others became home to less-than-savory businesses. By this time the brand had changed hands multiple times and become an unprofitable line item on a bigger company’s balance sheet. But Stuckey’s was about to experience a surprising rebirth.

In 2019, former Georgia legislator Stephanie Stuckey, a practicing attorney at the time, received a fateful phone call. Stuckey’s, the brand started by her grandfather all those years ago, was up for sale. With no experience in running a business, 53-year-old Stephanie defied the odds (and the advice of virtually everyone she spoke to), cashed in her entire life’s savings, and traded her future to buy back and revive the business bearing her family’s name.

Since then, Stephanie has become a legend in the business community. A perfect storm of scrappiness, shrewd business sense and passion, she’s now a bone fide rock star with all the street cred to stage a successful turnaround. And she has the receipts to prove it. Under Stephanie’s leadership, Stuckey’s and its flagship pecan log rolls are back in black.

In this episode, Stephanie discusses growing up with an iconic last name, her career as a legislator and attorney, her decision to lay it all on the line to buy back her family’s business, how she’s rebuilt the brand, and what’s next for Stuckey’s.

Stephanie chronicles her life on the road at her Instagram account, @stuckeystop. Her new book, “UnStuck: Rebirth of an American Icon,” is available at Amazon or wherever you buy books.

If you like this episode, please check out some of our past episodes featuring female entrepreneurs:

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Best of 2023 Audience Pick: Brian “Q” Quinn’s Impractical Career Shift: Fireman to Funny Man


Surprise, Second Act Stories fans! We have one more “Best of 2023” episode to share with you. It’s the episode you picked as your favorite of the year: our interview with Brian “Q” Quinn, who’s best known as one of the four stars of the smash hit TV show “Impractical Jokers.”

Currently in its 10th season on truTV, Q and lifelong friends Sal Vulcano and James “Murr” Murray (a fourth friend and member of the show, Joe Gatto, departed from the show last year) “compete to embarrass each other,” with hilarious results. It’s wildly popular because it doesn’t force you to think, and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

At the age of 36, Q was working as an FDNY fireman in Staten Island, New York, but then something incredible happened: Impractical Jokers was born and it took off like a rocket. It quickly became truTV’s highest-rated show, and it’s one of the most successful comedies on cable TV. After using all his available leave time from the fire department, Q was faced with a dilemma: stay with the FDNY, work his 20 years and retire with a pension, or leave his career behind to continue with the show?

In this episode, Brian Quinn talks about his career as a fireman, the tough decisions he faced when Impractical Jokers became successful, and some of the hilarious experiences he’s had as a star of the show.

Featured image credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery

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For more about Impractical Jokers, visit them at www.trutv.com/shows/impractical-jokers

Fireman Brian Quinn in front of an FDNY truck. Photo credit: Brian Quinn
Brian “Q” Quinn with Post Malone on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn, Bret Michaels and Sal Vulcano on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Casey Jost on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn, John Mayer, Sal Vulcano and James “Murr” Murray on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn and podcast host Scott Merritt at Q’s office in Manhattan.

Best of 2023: Sweeter Days Ahead: How Baking Transformed Janie Deegan’s Life


Second Act Stories annual “Best of” episodes give us an opportunity to re-share remarkable stories, and welcome new listeners by giving them a good taste of what we do here: profile people who have made major life and career changes to pursue a more rewarding life in a second act career. We’re selecting two “Best of 2023” episodes to share with you. Andy Levine selected his favorite interview conducted by co-host Scott Merritt in the past year,  and Scott is reciprocating this week. Scott’s pick for 2023 is “Sweeter Days Ahead: How Baking Transformed Janie Deegan’s Life.”

In 2009, Janie Deegan returned home from college with a serious alcohol and drug problem. Eventually, she found herself homeless and living on the streets of New York City.

Fast forward to today…she is the owner of “Janie’s Life Changing Baked Goods,” a thriving business with three, NYC bakeries and booming e-commerce division. At the center of her success is the “pie crust cookie” — essentially a baby pie that comes in five, different flavors. Her company and her cookies have been featured on Good Morning America, The TODAY Show, CNN and The New York Times.

The company is dedicated to helping other young women through mentorship and second chance employment. As Janie shares in the podcast, “The person you show up for at the interview is the person we’re looking at. We’re not doing background checks…we have formerly incarcerated employees, homeless staff and those with addiction problems. It’s been really beautiful to see how people blossom when they are given a chance.” 

Janie and the team at “Janie’s Life Changing Baked Goods.”

Interested in trying Janie’s pie crust cookies? They come in apple, pecan, triple berry, chocolate and cherry and can be ordered from www.JanieBakes.com.

Like her second act story, Janie’s “pie crust cookies” are truly amazing.

Best of 2023: The Unlikely Launch of a 54-Year-Old, YouTube Star


Second Act Stories annual, “best of” episode gives us an opportunity to re-share a remarkable story, and welcome new listeners by giving them a good taste of what we do here: profile people who have made major life and career changes to pursue a more rewarding life in a second act career.

We’re selecting two “Best of 2023” episodes to share with you. Andy Levine gets to select his favorite interview conducted by co-host Scott Merritt in the past year. And Scott gets to reciprocate next week.

Andy’s selection for 2023 is “Everything Rick Beato: The Unlikely Launch of a 54-Year-Old YouTube Star.” Rick Beato is one of the most successful YouTube stars in the world. His channel, Everything Music, has 3.5 million subscribers and is approaching 600 million views. Among the different types of videos Rick posts are his Top 20 CountdownsWhat Makes This Song Great?, and his Rants on all things music. Rick also has an incredible series of long-form, sit-down interviews with some of the most acclaimed music artists in the world, including Peter FramptonStingDerek Trucks, and Brian May.

But Rick didn’t find success on YouTube until he was in his mid-50s, following the viral success of a video he posted of his 8-year-old son Dylan demonstrating his perfect pitch. In fact, he didn’t even launch his channel until he was 54.

Prior to his YouTube success, Rick taught music at the college level, he held private lessons (by his estimation, he taught more than 12,000 lessons), he was a music producer and engineer. In this episode, Rick shares his journey from childhood, when he first played the cello, to the classrooms of upstate New York, to his experience working in the music industry, to the incredible success he enjoys today as one of the world’s most well-respected experts on “Everything Music.”

Rick Beato and Scott Merritt at Black Dog Sound Studios in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Act II: Dynamic CEO Pens New Role As Playwright


Donald Loftus had a difficult upbringing in Cleveland, Ohio. His father left him and his two sisters at a young age. His mother worked at Sears and struggled to make ends meet. From grades 1-8, he was a C student.

But in 9th grade, his world changed when a class trip brought him to New York City. His class saw four Broadway plays that weekend and it completely changed his life.

He graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in theatre and business. Following a first job at The May Department Store Company, he rose up the ranks of the luxury beauty industry eventually serving as the US President/CEO of P&G Prestige, Cosmopolitan Cosmetics, Sanofi Beauté and Gianni Versace Profumi.

But the theatre was now in his blood and he wrote plays every morning from 4 to 7 am before heading off to a demanding job in the c-suite. After retiring from Corporate America in 2018, he has pursued playwrighting on a full time basis. More than 200 productions of his work – a mix of full-length plays, one-act plays and musicals – have been seen by audiences around the world.

Visit his website, www.DonaldLoftus.com, for more on his amazing work.