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

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Stephanie Stuckey Interview: Rebuilding Stuckey's a part of Americana

Diana Landau | June 11, 2024

Stephanie Stuckey InterviewCarl interviews the unstoppable Stephanie Stuckey, the CEO of Stuckey's. The brand is known by generations as a highway oasis serving up pecan log rolls and kitschy souvenirs. Many Boomers fondly remember family road trips throughout the U.S. when stopping at Stuckey's was a tradition. Reviving her family's company is just the latest in a long list of Stephanie's accomplishments. She's been a Public Defender, a Georgia State Representative, a Director of Sustainability and Resilience for the City of Atlanta and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia School of Law. Stephanie's story has recently been featured in The New York Times, the TODAY Show and the Washington Post.
Stephanie was born in Easton, Georgia and was surrounded by family. "It was a fun childhood!" Her father was a U.S. Congressman, so the family split their time each year between Washington D.C. and Easton. Going back and forth between two very different homes, Stephanie says, "You grow up very resilient and you have to learn those social skills to survive."
After college and law school, Stephanie spent over 14 years as a Public Defender. She then served for 7 years as an elected Representative for the Georgia State Legislature. in 2012 she left politics and became the Executive Director of GreenLaw, an environmentally focused law resource center in Atlanta. (Another one of her passions.)
Stephanie's grandfather sold Stuckey's way back in 1964 for $16 million (the equivalent price in today's value would be $158 million). She purchased back her family's company in 2019 with no prior entrepreneurial experience. "I didn't even know how to read a balance sheet!" she tells us. Stephanie learned what she had to do--and that didn't include upgrading the actual physical stores, which were on the decline. Only a dozen out of 300+ stores were left. Instead, she realized people still wanted to be able to buy their pecan snacks and candies. Undaunted, she found two partners, (one a pecan farmer and one a marketing exec) and the brand now has an online store, a distribution center and just two years later, the company's sales have gone from $2 million to $14 million.
In addition to running the company and raising a family, Stephanie just wrote her memoir, UnStuck: Rebirth of an American Icon this year. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys traveling by car to explore the backroads of America and pulling over at every boiled peanut stand. She says she follows her grandfather's and father's advice: Work hard, be fair and have fun!"
Stephanie's advice on starting a second (or third) act:
  • "You are not alone! I think a lot of times it's very lonely, I know it is, it can be isolating when you're trying to put something out there."
  • "Go out there and find your community so you can support each other. Just reach out!"
  • "Embrace your weaknesses as opportunities to learn and celebrate your strengths!"
• More about Stephanie Stuckey
• More about Stuckey's
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Note Die
• (Un)Retirement Travel with the Pro Allan Wright, Zephyr Adventures
• I Used to be Somebody World Tours -- Tuscany, Portugal, Pickleball Adventure


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   Stephanie Stuckey   Unretirement   Carl Landau   I Used To Be Somebody   Podcast   Americana  

Adam Bryant Interview: NYT "Corner Office" Columnist moves to his own C-Suite

Diana Landau | February 13, 2024

Adam Bryant InterviewCarl interviews Adam Bryant this week. Adam is an award-winning (Including editing a Pulitzer story) journalist and had a weekly feature in the New York Times called Corner Office, where he interviewed business leaders across the globe. He was also Director of NYT Live, a global conference enterprise. He's had many different roles at the Times, including deputy editor in the Science department, deputy national editor and business editor at Newsweek Magazine. Adam says his 55th birthday gave him pause. "I thought if I wanted to do something else, I better get going." So he turned his side job into a new day job, writing books and coaching C-level execs.
Adam grew up in Montreal and Westchester, NY. He had a middle-class suburban childhood and his father was a journalist. (So of course, at first, Adam didn't want to pursue that course.) Adam was busy as a teen playing lots of sports and always having a part-time jobs. In college he worked as a reporter for small newspapers. He started working for the New York Times and his career took off in the 1990's. He had the Corner Office column for years and never missed a week.
After 30 years as a journalist, he realized he was going to leave the NYT at some point and there would be an "emotional blast zone" (as he calls it) of adjustment and the question was when. "I had to do some internal work to figure out what I wanted to do next." He recommends everyone who is contemplating making a leap to do just that. "Once you get out of the job/industry you're in, widen your lens. There's a big wide world out there. Time to experiment."
Over the course of 500+ interviews, Adam saw patterns and themes emerge in the business world and he started writing books about it. When he and his wife moved to New Orleans to be closer to their grown daughters and families, he says his wife gave him the third floor as his "office." You'll have to listen in to hear about the coolest office ever, which includes table tennis, foosball, and more.
Adam is now the Senior Managing Director at the ExCo Group, a company that mentors senior leaders to accelerate business impact. He is the author of four books, including his most recent ones, "The Leap to Leader" and "The CEO Test."
Adam's tips on making the leap to something new:
  • OBOB: Optimal Band of Busyness
People should be aware of their optimal OBOB. How busy were you then and what level do you want now? For example, you can't assume if you're a CEO that all of a sudden you're going to be content playing golf twice a week.
  • Common Pattern -- Want, Should, Need
We spend a great deal of our lives focusing on "should" and "need." At this stage of life, pause before you do something you "should." Stare down that difficult question of "What do I really want to do?" Give yourself some time.Newsletter!


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   Unretirement   Pickleball   Interview   Adam Bryant   NYT Columnist   C-Suite  

My 6 Best (Un)Retirement Decisions

Carl Landau | February 10, 2024
Carl DiaryI'm currently starting my 4th year of what we call (Un)Retirement. And maybe I've learned a thing or two I can share to help you...
Actually do it and retire! I thought about it many times. Exactly when should I cut the cord and stop working the crazy hours and dealing with the pressure of running my own business for 40+ years? The best advice I give people about (Un)Retirement is do it sooner rather than later. I wish I had sold/quit 5 years earlier. The last couple of work years were a drag on my mind, body and spirit. And I didn't realize it until I stopped.
Hire a pro to create a financial plan. The reason I felt comfortable in stopping the job/career is that I had been working with a great financial planner for several years in anticipation of the change. That person is Ian Castille at Capital Advantage and I consider him a good friend at this point.
I talk to so many people that have/had successful careers and have created wealth that they manage themselves. Or at least they try. This is crazy. What do you truly know about the financial market? I'd rather pay someone that studies the market all day to make my decisions. I sleep so much better at night because of this.
Avoid the temptation to go back! You are an expert with experience and it's so tempting to go back. I was in the live event biz for the past 20 years. I know that business back and forth and have seen so many opportunities to return. But, every time I return to my senses (also with the wise counsel of my wife Diana who had to put up with my totally-consumed-working-self for many years). Now I focus on where I'm going!
Do something new. Use the skills you already have, except in a new way. After working for decades, we all have developed incredible insights into organization, management, writing or whatever. Just use that toolbox in some new and cool endeavor.
Hire someone to do the shit you don't like to do or aren't good at. When I first was launching our podcast and newsletter I was going to hire an assistant. But my friend Bekah said I should consider hiring a virtual assistant company. I did that 3+ years ago. I hired a company Monkey Creative. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. No employees for me to worry about and I only pay for what I need done. I get to do the writing and they handle the graphics, e-marketing and all the other stuff I don't want to do/not good at.
Just start and see what happens. I didn't have a plan beyond starting the I Used to be Somebody podcast and newsletter. Then I took a leap of faith. Perhaps it would lead to something else? It lead to me interviewing 80 incredible people that I would never have met in a million years. Many I now consider my friends. The podcast and some pickleball talk led to Diana and I co-authoring (with our instructor and friends Mo and Reine) the Amazon best-seller, Pickleball for dummies. Most recently, my new path has led to leading vacation tours around the world for our podcast audience. You never know...


Tags:    the carl diary   unretirement   pickleball   Best decisions   second act   pickleball book   I Used To Be Somebody   Podcast  

Patty Forehand Interview: Elementary School Teacher Becomes Stand-Up Comedian

Diana Landau | January 09, 2024

Patty Forehand Episode 77Carl interviews the inimitable Patty Forehand, who was an elementary school teacher for 32 years before making the transition to a successful, hilarious stand-up comedian. She traded her class of students for the comedy club audience has never looked back. This (un)retired grandmother has no apologies for her raw, unfiltered comedy and she shares with our audience just how she made the transition to a completely different career.

Patty grew up near Macon Georgia with her three much older sisters. "My sisters say I was spoiled and I was." Her father suffered from ailments and multiple surgeries and her mother battled illness. "I learned humor was a salve to make people feel better."

In middle school, Patty says she was a wild child. It wasn't until she started high school and found her people--the drama kids. "Being in drama class felt therapeutic, to be somebody else on stage, or making people laugh," she says. An average student at best, her father bribed her to go to college by buying her a car. "He said Chevette but I thought he said Corvette!"

After a false start in nursing, Patty found she excelled at teaching. "I love the way kids think!" As a struggling student herself, she had empathy for kids who have challenges at home and school. She spent 32 years as a teacher and loved it. "It was very fulfilling. But you can't do it forever." Carl points out that teaching is very much in front of an audience and so is stand-up. They agree both are tough audiences! With six months to go before she retired from teaching, Patty went to an open mike with friends, on a whim. Patty performed a five minute routine and she found her new calling.

She started taking classes and doing more open mics. "I had a lot of encouragement early on. I fell in love with stand-up," she adds. Her big “Aha!" moment came when she was referred to a reporter for the Washington Post who was interviewing people over 50 who were doing something different. Tune in to hear how she had a chance to work with Michelle Pfeiffer once and find out about her weirdest gig ever. Now Patty performs regularly all over the country and has had stints in radio, podcasts, TV and more. She's having a blast!

Patty Forehand's (un)retirement tips:
  • Pushing beyond your comfort zone: "I think that's where you grow, especially after 50. We want to work that brain! Do things you don't think you're good at--you might surprise yourself."
  • Switching it up: "You end up in a routine and it's good to challenge that. For example, my husband did all the cooking. So now I have learned to cook a few things and he had to let go of it. It has freed him up to pursue other things he enjoys."
  • Trying something new: "Take it out of your brain! Stop just thinking about it. You actually have to take a physical step toward your dream."


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   patty forehand   unretirement   nursing   teaching   stand-up   comfort zone  

Dewey Forward Interview: Night Club Owner Pivots to Popcorn Shop

Diana Landau | December 04, 2023

Dewey ForwardCarl interviews music promoter/serial entrepreneur Dewey Forward this week. Just some of Dewey's accomplishments include organizing and promoting over 4,000 concerts, opening Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder in Cleveland Flats and also developing the Sohio/BP RiverFest, (which was Ohio's largest festival in history with over 1,000,000 attendees). He has produced concerts for Spyro Gyra, Pearl Jam, Etta James, Wynton Marsalis, REM, Donovan, Bon Jovi, Bo Diddley and countless others. Dewey is also now the proud owner of an iconic popcorn shop in picturesque Chagrin Falls, OH.
Like Carl, Dewey grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. "It was a 'Leave it to Beaver' childhood, " he says. Enterprising even at the age of 9, Dewey started a "canteen" in his basement, selling refreshments and a place to hang out to the neighborhood kids. He also says he was a troublemaker in school and was on a first name-basis with the Principal.
After trying out three colleges, Dewey settled on Hartford where he says he didn't learn much in class but learned a lot about producing successful events. "I learned how to organize and promote concerts and events and how to create a crowd." He founded SAW--a student organization against the Vietnam War, organizing bus trips to Washington D.C. to protest.
Fun Fact: Dewey Forward is a "Jr.", his last name of English descent. "No one forgets my name!"
Carl notes that being a concert and event producer is a high-stress, high-risk career. "Yes, my parents were aghast but I didn't listen to them." In 1977 Dewey opened Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder, two successful ventures in the up-and-coming Cleveland Flats neighborhood. His mother gave him the money to start both businesses. "I paid her back and I'll forever be grateful." By the time Dewey moved on, the area had grown from 5 restaurants and bars to 53. "When I look back on it, it was a blast but also so stressful."
Dewey retired for the first(!) time at age 50. Not one to sit still, he started a new business every five years. Now at 74, he's learning not to add more stress into his life. He does a lot of physical activity, including bike riding. "It clears my head and is good for my heart!" He and his girlfriend love to travel and he's building a second home on Lake Erie. His five words for the (un)retirement good life: "Keep moving and no stress!"
Dewey Forward's (un)retirement tips:
  • "Get rid of that negative voice in your head that tells you that you can't do things. We are a very capable generation!"
  • "Don't be too old to retire. What I mean is, do not keep working until your body is too old to do anything else."
  • "I'm not a planner. I just say, 'That looks fun!' and then I put blinders on and go for it!"Dewey Forward Interview


• More about: Dewey Forward and Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
• Sponsored by: Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by: How to Retire and Not Die
• 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   I Used To Be Somebody   Unretirement   Interview   Dewey Forward   Carl Landau   Night Club   Popcorn Shop   Pickleball Media  


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