I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

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Dat Truong Interview: High Tech Exec to Best Pho and "Grandma's Secret"

Diana Landau | September 07, 2023

Dat Truong
This week Carl interviews Dat Truong, a former Silicon Valley Techie who left the big paychecks behind in search of something new, something fun, something more meaningful. Dat, who currently owns Lela's Bistro and Grandma's Secret in Portland, OR, started his career on Wall Street, working with the likes of Wall Street Systems, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and others. He then pivoted to Silicon Valley where he contributed to several software start-ups that were later acquired. Now at age 53, Dat says he's living life on his own terms and is loving his new endeavors as an entrepreneur and restaurateur.
 
When Dat was 5 years old, his family immigrated from Vietnam to New York, just days before the fall of Saigon in 1975. He says his father, who he aspires to be like, was the most selfless, hard-working person he has ever known, working as an engineer while Dat's mother managed the family. After college in New York, Dat lived in Manhattan and worked on Wall Street.
 
Dat felt like the black sheep in his family. He was always very social and outgoing, as opposed to his studious siblings. These qualities served him well in his high-tech career in management. "You have to learn to work with people; communicate tactfully, be a good listener and know your audience." In 1997, ready to escape the hectic lifestyle of NYC, a friend encouraged Dat to move cross-country to Silicon Valley to join an internet security start-up. 
 
After 20 years in Silicon Valley high tech, Dat moved to Portland to leave the hustle and bustle of the bay area, searching again for something new, something more meaningful, something that would fit with his healthy lifestyle. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do next. "It was a real struggle contemplating different directions I could take." In Portland, he found Lela's Bistro and loved their Grandma’s beef pho so much he ended up going there 4-5 times a week. "Their food is so clean, so deeply flavorful." 
 
After several weeks, Lela's owner asked Dat if he had a job, because he was there so much. After telling her he was contemplating a new career that aligns with his healthy lifestyle, she told him to buy Lela’s and they'd work for him! Never owning a restaurant before, Dat's "Aha" moment came when he decided to take his own advice and embrace his sense of curiosity, of which running a healthy restaurant was one of them. And the rest is history. "It was one of the best decisions of my life. We provide honest wholesome meals, made from scratch by Grandma Chef, to a lovely community.” 
 
Dat learned to hire genuine, kind -hearted people. "If you surround yourself with good people, a good team, good things will happen," he says. Grandma, (Co Ngan, who makes the amazing beef pho), told Dat she used to sneak out in her 20's to underground bars in Saigon to satisfy her curiosity and sense of adventure. Another "Aha" moment came for Dat. He wanted to celebrate Grandma’s younger years. He created this wonderful subterranean mid-century cocktail bar, reminiscent of a French Colonial bar in Saigon, with vintage glassware, black and white photos of a young Grandma, soft music and conviviality. At Grandma's Secret, a blue light shines when they're open but there's no sign, relying on bringing in patrons by word of mouth. It's no surprise that the bar has already been featured in Eater Portland.
 
Dat says two things have helped him in his new endeavors. "I've let go of my ego and I stopped caring how others judge me. Removing those two aspects of who I am has been liberating. I can just be myself!" We think that's great life advice too.
 
Dat Truong's (un)retirement advice:
  • Pursue your curiosity. What drives you inside? Stop saying "What if?" and try it!
  • Pursue aspects of your lifestyle that are important to you. I love healthy eating and meeting new people. Lela's and Grandma's Secret are part of that.
  • Surround yourself with good-hearted souls. This is important in work and in life.
  • Have genuine intentions. It's a reflection of you!
   
• More about Dat Truong
Lela's Bistro
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Not Die
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS
• I Used to be Somebody World Tour: First Stop -- Tuscany
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.

 

Tags:    Blog   Dat Truong   Interview   (Un)Retirement   I Used To Be Somebody   Pho   Business Owner   Bistro   Grandma's Secret   Carl Landau  

Steve Israel Interview: Eight Term US Congressman Now Cool Bookstore Owner

Diana Landau | August 09, 2023

Steve Israel
Carl has interviewed CEO’s, entrepreneurs, artists, and athletes, but this is his first interview with a U.S. Congressman. In this episode he talks with former U.S. Representative Steve Israel of New York. After leaving office in 2017, Steve has been a political commentator on CNN, MSNBC, HBO and more, is a frequent author for many media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post and The Atlantic. He is also Director of the nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. In addition, he has written two books, (Big Guns and The Global War on Morris.) Then in 2021, he became an entrepreneur and launched a new dream job—as the owner of an independent bookstore, Theodore’s Books, in Oyster Bay, NY. “Independent bookstores have always been my sanctuary. They make me feel good, safe and optimistic.”
 
Steve was born in Brooklyn and raised in Levittown on Long Island. He had the classic, middle-class family. “I took those valuable lessons with me to Congress,” Steve says. “It was tough to meet bills but there were plenty who struggled more than we did.” He started writing as a boy. (Does anyone else remember typing away on a Smith-Corona?) In high school, he worked for the student newspaper. “It put me on the path to being able to communicate.” He eventually became very interested in news and politics and knew even then that he wanted to work to make a difference in the world.
 
Carl asks Steve what it felt like to walk into Congress that first day in 2001. “It was the most extraordinary and surreal experience of my life. When I raised my right hand for the oath, I felt goosebumps—still do!” Steve ran for office 8 times and won 8 times. Carl asks him what most of our listeners would be surprised to know about Congress. “Congress is a far more civil and tranquil place than you see on television. There are people working together on both sides to create solutions. The news media is conflict entertainment, but there’s another story to be told.”  
 
The scoop: You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear Carl and Steve talk about Steve’s successor George Santos, the huge void of local, investigative journalism, voter complacency, plus big disaster relief antics from Florida Governor Ron De Santis.
 
Steve started thinking he was ready to move on from public service but got some good advice from a mentor to postpone his retirement for two years, in order to make sure he was making the right decision. "Best advice!" Steve says. When he did retire in 2017 at the age of 59, he began political and media consulting, teaching at Cornell University, wrote two books,  and more. "I think one mistake I made at first was to take on a bit too much." Since 2021, Steve is passionate about his bookstore. "It's hard, it's a challenge and I love it." In addition to running Theodore’s, Steve still does ALL the other things he does and is now working on his third book.
 
Steve Israel’s (Un)retirement Advice:
  • “The transition to (un)retirement wasn't easy, it took a little time to get used to it. Opening my own bookstore gave me a sense of empowerment in a different way than before. Try to take that risk, focus on the one thing that will be fulfilling.”
  • (On filling up the daily schedules) “I’ve had to struggle with the discipline of saying, "No.” I’m still working on it.”
  • “Accept the fact that we're not put on this earth to do one thing forever. Try something new and be courageous. You can do other things with your life—you can pursue different passions!”
 
• More about Steve Israel
• Sponsored by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS 
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Not Die
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.
 
Tags:    Blog   Interview   Steve Israel   Carl Landau   Pickleball   I Used To Be Somebody   (Un)Retirement   US Congressman   Bookstore Owner  

Doug Villhard Interview: Big Time Entrepreneur Pays It Forward

Diana Landau | March 14, 2023

Carl interviews Doug Villhard, a former software company president and co-founder, entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, author and now a professor teaching entrepreneurship at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Doug was only 49 when he and his partner sold their company for $30 million. He had started his side-hustle--teaching--years earlier and is very happy in his new career. He has 400 students each year, full of bright ideas and eager to learn how to create, launch and manage their own companies. "I teach them to continue to be curious and look for problems to solve in life and work. I encourage students to innovate and take risks." Doug is also the author of the recently published Company of Women, a fictional story based on the life of E.G. Lewis.
 
Doug grew up in a family of five in St. Peters, Mo. His mother was a teacher with very high academic standards and his father was an engineer. "I thought you were supposed to get straight A's and listen to your parents. I didn't know there was any other path!" Doug tells us. "I was a little Eddie Haskell-ish--good with adults and a little mischievous behind the scenes."

 

After college, in 1995 Doug landed a job with Disney Interactive in their online division. He says he loved that job and learned a lot. Years later, when he was married with a child on the way, took a job with the St. Louis Post Dispatch in St. Louis, working on their website. where he met Matt Coen, his future business partner. Doug ran various software companies and then Doug and Matt co-founded Second Street Media in 2007.
 
At Second Street, they focused on how to draw big audiences and then create layers of products and services around them. (Hint: Kids and pets are huge!) "Second Street is where I really learned to listen to the customer. It's the whole trick to being successful in business." (Full disclosure: Carl worked with Second Street for about a year and sold his company to them.) Carl talks about how much he admired the company culture at Second Street. Doug says, "I don't know how you can be successful without a great team behind you."

 

Jawdropper: When their kids were in school, the nearest Catholic high school was 45 minutes away. So with no blueprint (the last school was founded 80 years earlier) Doug and his wife Diane actually founded a Catholic high school in their area. "It was 1400 families--a whole community came together, " Doug adds.

 

Since Doug had already started teaching entrepreneurship at Washington University before the company was sold, he easily transitioned to his full-time second act "Teachers get summers and holidays and breaks, so for me there is still time to travel with my wife", (you'll have to listen to the podcast to hear about their unique travel strategy), Doug tells us. "And I just wrote a fictional book based on E.G. Lewis, the biggest magazine publisher in the world in 1904. He was a huge proponent of women's right to vote."
 
Doug Villhard's 7 Tips on Being a Successful Entrepreneur for Your Second Act:
  • All businesses solve a problem.
  • Keep listening to your customers.
  • You have to be selfless for it to work.
  • Ask yourself: Are the customers happy? Are your employees happy? Are your loved ones happy?
  • Getting involved with younger people is invigorating and broadens your perspective.
  • Never before has it been so easy to have a side-hustle. There are so many ways to put your toe in the water!
  • Don't sit around trying to make the Second Act perfect. It's impossible. Just run some experiments and try little things until you find what you want.
 

 

Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.

 

Tags:    blog   doug villhard interview   unretirement   (Un)Retirement   entrepreneur  

Ted Bahr Interview: Drone King turns into 60's Rock Art Gallery Owner

Diana Landau | February 08, 2023

Ted Bahr Interview Episode 66
Carl interviews successful entrepreneur Ted Bahr. This is an engaging interview about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and then starting a cool second act. Carl met Ted in San Francisco, in the heady 1980’s when the computer age was taking off and magazine publishing was at its zenith. In his career, he launched dozens of new magazines, online properties and events. In 2017 he sold his company, BZ Media, and now owns an art gallery—more about that later.
 
Ted grew up in Westchester County in New York. He said his family lived the typical suburban life. In his teens, he “….rebelled with enthusiasm!” he tells us. After college he worked for one of the biggest names in publishing, Ziff Davis in NYC. After selling advertising for Car and Driver magazine and then helping with launches of some high-tech magazines, he was transferred to San Francisco.
 
In his 40’s, Ted had a wife and three kids and was entrenched in a very prestigious position with Miller Freeman in the corporate publishing world. He says he felt like he was losing the ability to be an entrepreneur. “I wanted to be the guy at the top. You know, the guy with his own business.” Ted made the bold move to leave and start up his own company. “It’s the entrepreneur mindset. Intellectually you know you are taking risks but emotionally you are positive you can do it.” (Never mind the 18-hour days and the naysayers!)
 
Ted and his business partner Alan Zeichick grew BZ Media, a high-tech media company, to 28 employees. The company produced technical conferences and expositions in a variety of fast-growing markets. They published SDTimes, the leading magazine for software development managers and produced SPTechCon, AnDevCon, Big Data TechCon and many more. BZ Media also launched InterDrone, the largest conference and expo for the commercial drone industry in the world in 2015. In 2017, Ted sold all the properties.
 
Here’s another Ted twist: He had always had a keen interest in the music of the 1960’s since his time in San Francisco, where he saw Big Brother, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish and many others. And he avidly collected psychedelic rock posters from that period. At BZ Media, they had bought a big space and he had the idea to create a gallery to show his art/posters. The response was so enthusiastic that after he sold the company, he opened the Bahr Gallery in Oyster Bay, New York, selling high-end rock artwork and now has an online website as well. (Perfect for Baby Boomers who remember that time well and now have disposable income.) Ted enjoys connecting with lots of interesting people, hearing their stories and holds periodic exhibitions as well as lending his art to museums. Fun fact: Ted sold an Elton John art poster to Bernie Taupin! Ted is an inspiration—still following his passions with great success.
 
Ted Bahr’s (un)retirement tips:
  • “Create a F*@# it List, not a Bucket List. So many voices in our heads saying “You SHOULD do this. If you're not interested in doing whatever it is, don’t do it. That’s OK!
  • "Do what you love with people you love for as long as you can. Decide if you want to deal with employees. Decide if you want to work with people—retail or behind the scenes? Do you want to be on the clock or set your own hours?

 

 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.

 

 

 
Tags:    blog   ted bahr interview   unretirement   (Un)Retirement   art gallery   entrepreneur   rock  

Drew Evans Interview: Creates his own (Un)Retirement -- The Pickleball Librarian

Diana Landau | December 13, 2022

Carl interviews Andrew Evans, JD, MLS, MAT this week. Drew is a man of many talents and the secret's out--librarians are tons of fun! After getting a law degree, Drew was Head of Reference and Adjunct Professor for the Washburn University of Kansas Law Library for 16 years. He also happens to be a black belt in the martial arts and taught self-defense and martial arts at Washburn's Kinesiology department. Among his many other accolades, Drew served as Parliamentarian for the Kansas Library Association and has been the recipient of the prestigious Kansas Library Association Presidential Award.

 

But Drew didn't stop there. After pivoting from law librarianship, he started his own Martial Arts studio, plus he's a legal research/editor/ law book reviewer and wait for it...............The Pickleball Librarian, a popular video influencer of all things Pickleball. His videos and blog posts reach players all over the world. He says he started saving for retirement as a young person and now that has allowed him to pursue all his passions.
 
Drew's father was in the military and this family has lived all over the world. Drew lived in Malaysia, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey and Colorado--all before college in Kansas. (Fun Fact: At least 50% of our podcast guests either are from military families or who had fathers who moved the family often for work.) Drew credits that experience with always being able to welcome the newcomer in the room.
 
He says being a martial arts expert helps his pickleball game. (The inherent eye-hand coordination and keen ability to anticipate opponents' moves in martial arts are a definite advantage on the courts.) Always a teacher and wanting to help others, Drew continues to teach martial arts and now also teaches pickleball. He's also still very busy as the Pickleball Librarian. "I'm a little resistant, but I'm exploring new developments in tech and social media. You have to try new things!"
 
At 52, Drew has already had a few careers. He says he might someday want to have a sales career in pickleball at the national level, but he's having too much fun at the moment. "Enjoy (un)retirement and embrace it!"

 

Drew's (Un)retirement Tips:
  • "It's good to develop a routine and it's easy to get caught up in playing pickleball (or other pursuits) all the time. But make sure to always schedule a physical rest day each week."
  • "Don't get "stuck" when you try new things. If it isn't fun, go on to something else."
  • "You have to find mentors at every stage of life. We still have those opportunities now--be humble and willing to learn."
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.
 

 

Tags:    Drew Evans   librarian   pickleball   martial arts   (Un)Retirement   The Pickleball Librarian   Blogger  

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