Chris Hoffmann joins the show and shares with us the story of his background, his upbringing, and ultimately his journey of self-discovery. In a raw and authentic interview, Chris shares about the challenges in his early childhood, obstacles he overcame while in the service, and the ways he has addressed challenges in his life. Chris is also the founder, CEO, and host of The Ambitious VET Podcast – be sure to follow and subscribe to his show!

Shout out to episode sponsor, Veteran Executives Network (https://veteranexecutivesnetwork.com)

Aaron  00:10
So we’re going to dive right into it this week. I am incredibly excited to welcome a good friend of mine, Chris Hoffmann. Chris, and I’m going to plug his show before he even gets a chance to be on the screen. Solid dude. I really, really, really appreciate him. But he runs another show that I would love for you to go follow, like subscribe, comment, share, all of that, The Ambitious VET Podcast. So the work he’s doing there is incredible. I encourage you to check that out. He is also the founder and CEO of The Ambitious VET Network, currently listed as VET Training & Coaching, but he’s going through an entire transformation there and doing some really, really exciting stuff. So with all of that out of the way, Chris, I just want to welcome to the show, man. Thank you so much for being here.

Chris  01:29
Aaron, brother, it’s an absolute honor, and for all of your listeners live and also listening to this, go check out Episode 85, Aaron Spatz kills it. The episode is called Executive Communication, learning executive communication. So go check that out. Aaron, it’s an absolute honor to be on your show, brother.

Aaron  01:50
Those are really well played chess moves, by the way. I was not expecting that. So well done, well done. But no, man, I’m pumped. I’m pumped that you’re here. I love the veterans community. And again, I appreciate you, brother, but there’s just been so much in terms of traction that I’m sure you’ve seen from your end as well, but it’s a strong, strong, strong community when we all decide to band together, work together rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and do a thousand different things. And so it’s been quite the journey. But on that, so you’re in the in the semi awkward, very rare instance of being on the other side of the table. So walk me through the youngest version of Chris. What were you like as a kid? What inspired you to join the military? Give me a sense of your military entry journey.

Chris  02:40
Yeah. I was the fundamental misguided child as Uncle Sam talked about in Marine Corps, right? I was the guy that joined because I was a misguided child. I’ve shared on other podcasts. It’s a very raw story, man. I was a guy that lost his father. Well, didn’t lose his father. His father left him at one year old. And from that day forward, I had to figure out how to grow up very quickly, right? I had multiple men in my life and I was just trying to find masculinity, man. Fast forward up until I was like 18, 19 years old. I was at a pivoting point in my life where I was an alcoholic. I was protecting my mom and my brothers in an abusive household and I had to make a decision, right?

Do I want to go and expand my horizons and taking a risk and jumping into the military, which is a clear way out, or do I just stay, continue to be the protector? And I was like, well, you know what, my decision-making process behind that was just like, you know what? I’ve got to go expand my horizons or I’m just going to be depressed for the rest of my life to be completely honest. So I ended up joining the United States Marine Corps – believe it or not – as an ASVAB waiver, got in as a Motor T operator and just never looked back. So that was kind of the process. And what had me joined the United States Marine Corps was seeing the commercials of the guy climbing up the mountain. You know what I mean? Remember those commercials?

Aaron  04:13
Slaying dragons, man. Slaying lava monsters.

Chris  04:16
I was just like, hey, man, I’m a fighter. I mean, I’ve gotten through some stuff in my life. I don’t know if I can cuss on this show.

Aaron  04:24
That’s fine.

Chris  04:24
But I was just like, you know what? I’ve gotten through some stuff in my life, man. The Marines are fighters. They got high standards and I want to figure out not only how to figure out how to be a man, better leader, but how do I get out and make things happen on a broader scale, really create a sense of purpose,

Aaron  04:41
Man. Wow. Your story, dude. I’m just like, man, that hits me right in the chest. I know you’re not looking for it. I’m not trying to be ultra-sensitive on this stuff, but what a challenge though in terms of growing up without your father there and then having to figure that out and all of the drama, all the challenges, all of the things associated with that as you’re growing up. We could probably spend like three hours just dissecting all of that stuff. But with your decision to join, was that supported by your mother at the time? Was that something that you’re just like, you know what, I gotta do this. I’m sick of where I am? I’m trying to understand where you were mentally at that moment.

Chris  05:32
Yeah. It was kind of just like, hey, if I don’t wind up changing something, I’m going to end up in prison or probably dead somewhere, right? I’m from St. Louis, Missouri originally, and you can find trouble pretty easily there, right? But though this is a joke. I’ll share a quick story here on how my family culture is. I have a younger brother who’s in the United States Army. He just reenlisted without telling us and then he sent us pictures. And I was just laughing. I was like, “That is the Hoffmann way.” Like I joined and signed inside the United States Marine Corps and then went back and told my mom. And she was just like, “What? What’s going on? What? We need you here.” And I was like, “Well, I’ll always be there, but you want me to be in a progressive mindset, not being stuck in my past.” And that’s when things changed for me.

Aaron  06:25
Wow. Well, I mean, it’s incredible. So many of these stories of people coming from a really, really difficult circumstance in their personal lives and their childhood and growing up and then making that – I have mad respect for you, mad respect for anybody who’s been in that situation where – whether you appreciated it at the time, you’re under very unique, very extreme circumstances. Now, to you, that may have been “semi-normal” because that’s all you knew, right? But the decisions you were making though are incredibly consequential for you in a very positive way. And so it’s fascinating to see that decision-making process go down and how you decided to go through with that. And I mean, you’ve found a way in, man, and like you said, you never looked back. And so, I mean, kudos to you. And then after you’re in and kind of getting your feet under and all that, what was the dynamic like between you in the home front?

Chris  07:27
As far as being in the Marine Corps and building that relationship with my family, believe it or not, it was slightly difficult because they were used to me being there helping support in everyday life. And I started my first business when I was 14 years old, mowing lawns for $20. I know it’s a generic kind of cliché story, but that’s really what happened over here. And from going to them knowing me as the provider, the father figure, the protector of our everyday life to  “Hey, he’s stationed in Okinawa, Japan now”, “Oh, he’s deployed to Afghanistan”, the communication was less frequent. How do you support your family when you are slightly disconnected? And it was really finding out ways to support emotionally, mentally, financially, and stuff like that from afar.

Aaron  08:16
Wow. Well, I appreciate you sharing that. Thank you for sharing that story, that insight. I mean, I really do treasure that. So thanks for sharing that. So while you’re in, you’d gone the Motor T route. Give us a sense of a little bit more of what you did in your time in and then a little bit behind your exit decision-making process.

Chris  08:39
Yeah. Thanks for that. So, yeah, I started as a Motor T operator, Fort Leonard wood, Missouri. Funny thing is I got ninja punched the first year I was inside the United States Marine Corps. So I did what a lot of Marines do if they’re in a MOS school and their home state. On a weekend, I took liberty off St. Louis, Missouri, took two Marine Corps buddies with me and wound up getting a DUI while I was at Downtown St. Louis. And I came back, voluntarily told my command when I was two weeks away from graduating Motor T MOS school and they wind up completely maxing me out, EPD, restriction and re-class to a combat cook. So I learned from that is just, you know what, you can never predict what’s going to happen in your life, but you’ve got to maximize the opportunities that come in front of you. I could have completely been kicked out of the Marine Corps at that time. And they still gave me a second chance.

So when I went out to Fort Lee, Virginia in a new MOS school and an MOS that I never even thought. Most Marines don’t join to be a combat cook. We joined to be tough. Every Marine’s a rifleman and stuff like that. So I was like, all right, well, let’s figure out how that actually maximize this opportunity. So went and did a combat cook MOS school, wound up getting the first duty station in Okinawa, Japan, which I was up in camp Futenma there. And I just continued to master the craft that was in front of me. And I think that’s such a powerful thing if you’re a veteran aspiring business owner or just an established better business owner, wherever you’re at, is always look at the craft that needs to get mastered right in front of you versus trying to be 10 steps ahead of you.

And that’s what I did. Wind up winning Chef of the Quarter in Okinawa, Japan. Never thought I’d ever be a cook or a chef. And then straight after my year in Okinawa, Japan, I came out and jumped right into an MWSS-373 Airwing unit and we immediately deployed to Afghanistan for — I think it was close to seven months. And the cool thing is the Marine Corps, just the slogan of ‘Every Marine’s rifleman’ came true. I was always a moto guy. I was always looking to get promoted and figure out how to get that next level, right? And they actually allowed me to be part of one of the MP quick reaction forces in Afghanistan, brother.

And during that seven months, I actually had a lot of time to kind of reflect, figure out what my true values were, what made me happy, what drove my everyday life. And on that deployment, man, I decided the Marine Corps wasn’t for me, right? I was like, I value family. I want to be closer to my family, around my family, more consistent. And that’s what I tell any ambitious vets that come through our ecosystem is always problem solve, decision make, do strategic planning around what you value. If you do that, you’ll always be happy. And yeah, man, in 2012, I decided to get out and it was strictly value-based. I value being around family. I wanted a long term strong relationship with a woman and I just didn’t see that as possible being in the United States Marine.

Aaron  11:53
Yeah. That’s very, very well said. I can relate to a large bit of that. But going back just a minute because the one thing that you shared in terms of doing what is in front of you and mastering that, I think, is so important. And it goes back to – I think it’s a phrase I learned while I was in, which was brilliance in the basics, right? Or you can use the Michael Jordan analogy of fundamentals, right? And so focusing on the task at hand, doing it incredibly well, doing it better than everybody else. And if we can get the little things, the little building blocks of things right and we can do those consistently again and again and again, then it makes room for the other opportunities that show up. And so I think it was a great point. I wanted to go back and circle back to that.

And then as it relates to the decision to getting out, mad respect for that because my own decision-making process on that very topic was very, very similar in terms of wanting to be there, right? You have a family, you kind of know what the career progression is going to look like, what the opportunities are. I absolutely loved the military. I loved my time as a US Marine, but I knew going forward, the best decision for me, the best decision for my family, was to punch out. So that’s pretty neat. Tell me a little bit about your exit. Where did you end up landing first? What was that whole thing like for you?

Chris  13:21
Yeah. I mean, the funny thing is I did TAPs and TAMS but I actually leverage external resources as well. I actually attended the workshop at the unemployment line in San Diego and I wind up, hey, I kept it very simple. I’m a Midwestern guy. I was like, all right. I’m being discharged, honorably discharged in San Diego. Why not try to figure it out here? Later down the road, I realized that it’s very challenging to build a life in San Diego, California, but yeah, I mean, I attended an unemployment workshop and the thing that landed my first career out of the uniform was this one key thing that I think is an underutilized practice that a lot of people don’t actually continue to practice. Because we’re all digital now, right? That’s why we’re doing this digital, and it’s a personal touch.

And one thing that the person that was leading the workshop was with is after every interview that you do, and this could be even if you’re leading a business and you’re looking to hire – either onboard interns or your initial launch team or your marketing team, whatever it is, figure out if they can build a personal relationship. And the tool that they gave me is a handwritten thank-you note. And once I wrote that, I got my first job at one of the largest commercial gyms in the United States. And I was like, all right, this is a lesson learned. Always find a way to connect with someone personally first and then talk business later.

Aaron  14:53
Absolutely. No, you’re building that bridge. You’re building that bridge of being relatable. You’re helping kind of set the tone, set the groundwork and they can evaluate you. Building those relationships is the most informal way to interview for any position and you build those relationships. And what I have found, what I’ve seen is if they don’t have an opening in their own organization, they’re more than happy to call their buddy across town and be like, “Hey, I just talked to Chris, solid guy. I don’t have room in my org right now for whatever reason” or he decides he wants to hold on to you. And he’s like, “You know what, I’m going to make a position for you. We’re going to figure this out. Ready, set, go.” And so that’s pretty fantastic. What were some of the big things that you learned looking back on it, that first role that you took on in terms of your development post-military and how that all translated for you?

Chris  15:43
That’s a really good question. So I went and get laid off within 12 months of being inside of that career. It was mostly not being a cultural fit, which a lot of veterans that get out and are very ambitious are kind of like that. Because we’re out executing our peers, right? But what I learned during that 12 months is sometimes slowing down is better than speeding up. What does that look like practically? Well, it looks like getting good at office politics. Like really slowing down, figuring out what other people’s challenges are around you. Just like we were in uniform, right? Figuring out what other people’s challenges are, what they’re dealing with everyday life, what they’re trying to do in their career, what’s the next steps and really doing that small talk that a lot of us military guys aren’t naturally good at. Doing that, slowing down and then finding out ways. You said at the beginning of the show, playing chess. You’ve got to learn to be strategic inside of your roles and slow down versus just always think that producing high numbers is what’s gonna keep you inside of your role, if that makes sense.

Aaron  16:52
Sure. It makes total sense. The image that came to mind, and I’m not at all projecting this on you. I’ve read this somewhere semi-recently. It was probably a Harvard Business Review article or something, one of the major publications, but talking about the difference between the guy who’s just an absolute jerk and is crushing it in terms of his abilities within the organization versus the rest of the team, maybe they’re not performing quite as well. And so there’s this whole fear that employers have of like, “Man, if I let this guy go, he’s like my all-star, he’s a guy who’s just smoking our quotas or hitting all the numbers that he needs to hit. I can’t get rid of him, but he’s killing the team morale.” And I the thesis of the article was like, doesn’t matter,  you gotta protect your culture, the company culture.

And so it’s fascinating because, and that’s an extreme example, right? But then there’s also the other companies where it’s so oversimplified. It’s like oil and water. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the culture. There’s nothing wrong with you individually as a person. You’re a fantastic individual. And just for whatever reason, there wasn’t a lot of chemistry there in terms of how an individual may fit in with a company or the company, how it lines up with a person. And I’ve always been intrigued by that, actually. Why do you think that is? In terms of culture, do you think it’s like the values of the business or the values of the individual? Or how does that all play out?

Chris  18:26
Yeah. I think that’s a great question. I mean, from just looking back now being nine years out and consulting some Fortune 5,000 companies on how to properly onboard ambitious vets that are very mission-driven. I mean, the stats are real, man, out there. 65% of the 230,000 veterans that are transitioning out every year are leaving within 24 months due to just under deployment or not feeling challenged enough. So how do you fix that? Well, you’ve got to set the expectations from day one. What is the role going to be? What’s the daily problem-solving, decision-making, just conflict management, how to manage that from the values of the company? I think a lot of companies have identity crisis whenever they have veterans coming in that are just so mission-driven, so results-driven, getting the mission done. Because we’re all that hurry up and wait, get the shit done, come back and then we’ll wait and drink a beer, play some Call of Duty, right?

Aaron  19:24
No, I haven’t played Call of Duty forever. I need to dust that sucker off. I’ll probably like three games behind it at this point. No, that’s cool. That’s cool. Yeah. Bridging this culture, it’s fascinating thing to study the whole cultural divide and protecting company culture, promoting company culture. It’s something that everybody talks about, but it definitely is a very nuanced thing. And just what I’ve said, this is just my opinion here, but what I’ve seen is it starts at the top, right? It has to start at the top. Otherwise the whole initiative in and of itself is just completely scuttled before it starts. But then it’s a continuous reinforcement and going back to those values of the company. And so whatever those values happen to be, making sure that everyone that you bring on board aligns with that culture, with that climate, and then you’re able to kind of move forward from there. So take me through then… so you were laid off from that role, so how did you bounce back from that? What were your next steps? What were you thinking there during all that time?

Chris  20:34
Well, yeah, that was close to 2014, which was a tough year for me. I have a couple of articles that I’ve written on LinkedIn for your listeners to go check out around just the journey of being an ambitious vet. Some of it gets out with a big vision but just lacks the human capital to actually achieve those visions sooner rather than later, right? And during 2014, I had to kind of set my pride aside and start going within and start finding mentors, start investing into books, personal and professional development, figure out, okay, obviously I’m not connecting with people on an emotional level. Civilians are a little bit more emotional, right? So how do I get more emotional? How do I get more self-aware? And stuff like that.

So I started just spending a lot of my money into education, building my human capital. So I used my GI Bill, went in to study psychology. You’re right. Most people say you study psychology to fix yourself or fix your family. I did it to do it all. So I studied psychology. I started like an independent personal training company which was just weekend bootcamp, stuff like that, and just kind of delve into personal development as well. So taking some transformative work in Landmark Worldwide, which is one of the most transformative programs that I’ve ever taken in my life. I still volunteer. And I just started going within, man, to kind of like started figuring out, okay, what is my purpose? Who am I? And I just went down that road versus just trying to go right into the corporate world and navigate through it.

Aaron  22:17
100%. And I think your story resonates with a ton of people. I mean, I think there are thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of people every year that are going through that exact same struggle. I went through that struggle of like, okay, what, what the heck am I doing? And I equate it – not everybody agrees with this visual here, but for me, it kind of works, right? So for me, the military had always been a lifelong dream of mine. And so when I got in and then realized a few years after I had gotten in that I’m like, you know, I don’t want to really do this anymore. I’ve enjoyed it. I loved it. I still stay connected to it, but I’m going to move on. You almost feel like the person that was wanting to play pro football their entire life, and that’s all they did, all they studied for, all that they really wanted to do. They got it, they played four seasons in the NFL, three seasons in the NFL, and then they punch out. They got their whole life ahead of them. It’s like, well, now what? What the heck do I do now?

And so that whole personal development journey is so, so key. And I cannot imagine how much you learned about yourself, about some of the things that you endured early on in your life, but then also your family dynamics, and then kind of getting your head around where you wanted to go. What did that feel like for you as you were making these discoveries, as you’re studying this stuff?

Chris  23:45
Well, just completely freeing, right? I got out and I was always looking for the secret formula to feel successful. And it’s just funny, right? We’re always looking external but who is inside, right?

Aaron  23:58
Yeah. I’ve been looking for it.

Chris  24:01
Yeah. I was one of those guys, man, that was just like, everyone else has the secret formula and I got to find it. And there was always something that I felt like something was wrong with me and I just had to go and figure out like, okay, how powerful I am, what is my value proposition and stuff like that, and go out and start building confidence through creating solid results. And in 2017, I finally started figuring stuff out after having five different careers in five different industries. I sold anywhere from telecommunication services door-to-door to Kirby vacuums door-to-door to even having some one-off entrepreneurial experiences. But one thing I learned about sales, it’s the number one skill that will teach you emotional intelligence, social intelligence on how to really connect to people, persuade them and influence them very quickly.

And then in 2017, I actually climbed up my first corporate ladder and became a sales trainer for two marketing software companies within the real estate world for a Canadian company, Constellation Software, which is number two on the Canadian stock exchange. So I got into that role and that’s kind of where I kind of came up with the idea for the ambitious vet, intellectual property and taking off with that.

Aaron  25:24
That’s perfect. That’s perfect. Like you say, it gave you the bandwidth and a little bit of the headspace to kind of like, okay, I’ve got my bare essentials met, I’ve got the roof over my head and groceries on the table. Now I can kind of reevaluate, reassess – I’m going to make up a word here, but I can strategize in terms of where I want to go and what I want to do. And what a powerful moment that was for you. Because it’s like this analogy I like to use. So many times in life, we’re so obsessed with going forward and we’ll use the American football visual. It’s like, man, it’s a game of inches. We’ve got four downs. We’re going to keep going, man. We’ve got to keep going. Snap the ball, we got to move the ball down field.

And so many times what we’re experiencing actually is more like international football soccer and sometimes you got to go backwards to go forward. Sometimes you got to pass the ball back from the wing back to the midfield or back to the keeper even. So he can launch it down the other side of the field and set up the next play and set up the next attack, right? So, so often I think there’s like this Americanized visual, this vision of where we are supposed to go. And it’s really cool just hearing your story of just understanding, okay, I’m going through this personal development journey, I’m figuring this stuff out. I’m learning a whole bunch of stuff about me that I’d never even known or I know it’s there, I just didn’t know how to say it. And then you’re kind of starting to articulate for yourself where is it you want to go and where you want to head. So I think it’s phenomenal.

So what I want to do is a perfect break. But as soon as we come back from break, I want to jump into then the genesis of The Ambitious VET Podcast and all the business associated with that in terms of your vision, how you executed it, how it got started. Take us through those early days. So we’ll cover that here in just a second.

So incredibly grateful for our amazing sponsors for this program, for the show. And so I just wanna give a quick shout out to Veteran Executives Network. You can go to veteranexecutivesnetwork.com​. Try to say that five times fast. But it is a collection of military veteran business leaders, business owners. I’m proud to be a member. I’m also part of the leadership team of this network. And so what it is designed to do is something that we alluded to earlier in the show, which is veterans helping each other, veterans doing business with one another. And so there are so many opportunities out there. Whether you’re a public sector company seeking government contracts, whether you’re on the private side, or you maybe do a little bit of everything, maybe you’re a non-profit even, there’s a lot of opportunities out there. And it’s so, so easy. I say that, making it sound so simple. But it’s so easy if we were just to connect with one another and understand that there is a tremendous amount of value and opportunity sitting right in our own network.

Anyway, if we were to work together, how much better off would we all be? And so I would encourage you to check it out. It is a website that is complete. The membership process is actually getting ironed out as we speak. it’s a fantastic, fantastic experience. So go to veteranexecutivesnetwork.com.

And let’s jump right back into Chris. And one, again, I’m going to shamelessly plug Chris and The Ambitious VET Podcast. So you’ll hear a lot more about it here in this next segment, but I’d encourage you to jump over to Apple or Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts, make sure you subscribe and check out what Chris is doing. So, Chris, take me through a little bit of that story. So you’re working in this job, giving yourself a bit of headspace, able to kind of figure out what you’re doing. So walk me through your next move. How did it get started? What’s the story? What’s the story behind the story?

Chris  29:02
I love that. I love that. I love how you put it. Like just creating enough headspace to get creative, right? And I say it a lot. As ambitious vets, you’ve got to find stability to create that margin for creativity, right? And that job really created stability, career stability, financial stability, for me to start getting creative and figure out what are you truly passionate about. And in 2017, started that sales trainer job. It gave me time to just kind of think, right? Used that 6 to 10, 11:00 PM at some nights, to kind of just think through, damn, it took me five years to figure shit out, right? Who else is dealing with that stuff? I mean, and I went to dark places over those five years, right? And I was just like, man. And then I started just doing a lot of market research, man, just started unpiling, doing data, spending a lot of late nights, weekends, interviewing people on Zoom and anywhere from business leaders that have gotten out or Marines that have built multimillion dollar companies all the way to guys that are still in the uniform, worried about getting out.

And there was a trend across the entire thing, Aaron. And what it was is that immediate transitional tools, they have a shelf life. Resume writing, job fairs, interview prep, all these things, the TAPS and TAMS talk about will get you stability, but they will not create life satisfaction, just fulfillment and having you feel successful, right? And that’s why you’re starting to see all these other post 9/11 veteran service organizations kind of bring that new self-awareness, chase your purpose type thing because it is starting to become a trend. Conscious capitalism, emotional intelligence, all that came. So once I saw that key problem in the marketplace, I was like, all right, well, let’s see if there’s other veterans that want to kind of start a community to start talking about this stuff, right? Kind of proof of concept type thing.

So what I did, man, is I started a Facebook group. Free Facebook group. Anybody can join. You get connections, you get connections, kind of like Oprah. And then it was one of three veterans support groups back in 2016. It was originally called Veteran Empowerment & Transition. And then it’s kind of just morphed to different names as we’ve gotten more tailored towards our avatar. But yeah, man, it vastly grew to 600 members. And what we found was that really was a key problem in the marketplace. And from there, that’s when the podcast started back in, I think, late 2018, early 2018. And I started interviewing guys like yourself, Aaron, that are validating the idea of like, okay, stability is only the first benchmark out of the uniform. From there, you’ve got to figure out how to be an executive, and you nailed that down on Episode 85. I got in front of me so I don’t forget. So from there, man, we were just building an audience, right? I had to create the proof of concept, build the audience, get the messaging right. And from there, that’s when we started doing some other cool stuff, but I’ll throw it back over to you.

Aaron  32:14
Yeah. No, that’s awesome. The way you articulate that was really great because there is a lot of attention paid to the tactical level execution of your transition. And a lot of us got that well. I would like to think I did that exceptionally well, to be complete – not like I’m going to sit here and brag or anything, but the whole interview process, I think we all are so excited about it. We get so focused. And I think a lot of us are really, really good at it. I think a ton of young military guys getting out are very, very, very good at the interview process. Especially when you start comparing those that hadn’t served previously against those who have. And so you kind of go through some of these courses or you’re using these recruiting firms and they will help you articulate things.

I mean, I remember before some of my interviews when I was getting out. No joke, I had a list of like 53 questions or something stupid like that. I mean, it was insane. And I had them all written like handwritten and I gave them to my wife. My wife was sitting on the couch and I’m standing up in front of her and I’m like, “Okay. Any question is fair game. We’re going to go until I basically tap out.” But then you start to memorize your responses. You start to understand the whole STAR method of answering a question. Situation, task, actions, results. So you go through this whole process.

The point I’m making here is we get really, really good at that tactical level execution of I gotta get the job. That’s what the mission is right now. I want to get advanced to the next round of job interviews. And then I got a whole another follow-up sequence I need to do there. Handwritten notes? Yes. That’s brilliant. But then taking a step back beyond that, right? And I think that’s what you’re so getting at here is, okay, great. You got the job, buddy. Great work. You outhustled, you outprepped, you rehearsed, you did all the things you’re supposed to be doing. That’s all of the things that we know to do as military guys. But what now, right? And I think that’s the question so many of us ask is, well, what’s next? It reminds me of there was this time where I’d woke up one day and I’m like, man, I’ve got a wife. I think we had 1.5 kids at that time, got the house, got the cars, got a decent paycheck, right? And I’m like, what’s next? What the heck am I doing?

Chris  34:38
Yeah. You got it.

Aaron  34:38
And I think this is a dilemma that so many of us have faced at some point or another. Or to be honest, I think it’s something we may face multiple times, right? You may set out on a goal and you realize, man, maybe that’s not what I actually wanted. And now you got to retool and go somewhere else. So anyway, I’ve been blabbing on a lot longer than I intended there on that point. But what’s some of your feedback on that? What do you think in terms of the journey? You joked earlier about the secret formula. So I will throw it back at you though. I’ll say, you know, what have you found to be the basic ingredients for somebody in terms of defining success?

Chris  35:22
That’s a great question. Well, I’ve interviewed 125 guys just like yourself. We’re about to launch a qualitative research study which 300 ambitious vets within our database participate in four countries and 31 states. So we’re really taking this thing globally to English-speaking countries like UK, Australia and Canada. And really, what we’ve been able to find is that it’s a global problem and the armed forces in the other English-speaking countries, they’re years behind the resources and the tools and stuff like that that we can provide. But I don’t know if you serve with Brits, but they know how to execute and they’re intense and they’re passionate. So if we could bring the Brits to connect with even veterans within the United States, I mean, things would just move a hell of a lot quicker, I think, in some points.

But no, I mean, the thing is the feedback on that is, yeah, I mean, we’ve got to figure out what that desire gap is. And one thing that I started to start developing as far as content – I was a content guy originally, wasn’t even a business guy. I built this thing with no business model in mind. Anybody that’s watching this that has followed me for years knows that I built it with no real product. It was just from a passion project from a sales trainer. And one thing I started doing was creating tools, frameworks, stuff like that, to inspire independent thinking within the veteran community. Because I have it that like a lot of the institutionalized way of thinking that the Marine Corps, Army Navy, whatever you served in, you’re waiting to be told what to do.

But what if a military guy that went through the trenches – both good and bad out of uniform – could provide roadmaps and frameworks geared towards veteran development and performance? And that’s what we started creating. And that’s when things are really taking off for us is figuring out how do we translate jargon from the military into framework, stuff like that, that accelerate not only emotional intelligence but self-awareness and execution out in the new battlefield, which is the corporate world business world, whatever it is. How do we inspire diversified thinking? And once you can do that, you can just plug in the determination, the discipline of all that of all your veteran listeners that are listening. And then just continued to grow from there, which I can throw this back over to you and see if you want to unpackage any of that.

Aaron  38:00
Yeah. Well, one of the things that I’ve enjoyed about your show is you’ve in essence have trademarked the golden grenade concept, which is a great visual of taking golden nuggets and putting a slight military twist on it but being practical at the same time and using those as ways for folks to take those key takeaways from every single show. And that’s honestly a very, very similar, I think, in the alignment of both of our programs is that the hope is I don’t care what industry you’re in so much. You could be interviewing a construction executive and maybe you work in fashion, right? But maybe there’s something that that guy or that lady says in their interview that like, you know what, man, that hits me right between the eyes and I can overlay that on my own life exactly where I am right now.

And so one, I just want to say thank you, man. Thank you for the work that you’re doing and for advancing the ball down the field, so to speak, but for continuing to go out there and represent our community. Because I think it’s an awesome thing that you’re doing. But as we kind of start to understand more about the show and about the things that you’ve done, what have been some things that you maybe didn’t expect to learn in the process that you were like –

Chris  39:20
Go there. Let’s go there, man.

Aaron  39:22
Okay. All right. Do it, go.

Chris  39:24
Yeah, I mean, there’s been a lot of failures, man. I was kinda like the grunt style story where I had to really learn the basics of business, and business has never come natural to me. I was a sales guy. I knew how to train people. I knew how to sell stuff, but I didn’t know how to be an entrepreneur. So I had to kind of start figuring out what was missing, and what was missing was a clear business model, right? How do we make money with this? Versus just going and doing a Facebook Live every single week or interviewing someone live inside the Facebook group or on the podcast. How do you turn this thing into a profitable business, right? And sometimes, to your point from the very beginning of this, it’s slowing down to be less emotional about your business and more strategic, right? At the very beginning of it, brother, I gotta be honest with you, I was so emotional, passionate and angry. And anytime you build something from something like that, yeah, you might get a lot of Midwestern’s yeah! You know what I mean? I’m a Midwestern.

Aaron  40:38
Get them, get them!

Chris  40:39
But also to build a business model that is scalable, growable and where investors get more excited about is a different story. So I had to go back and learn that. So the lesson behind that is don’t be emotional when you’re starting a business. Be logical, right? I was angry about the non-profits making a lot of money within the veteran community through the volume of veterans that were going through their programs versus the results that they were getting. And I was like doing a war cry every single day inside the Facebook group. We know that this is what’s going on. And I just never took the time to really slow down and be like, all right, well, I can do these passionate rants, do these amazing white boarding training sessions, but how do I slow down enough to kind of get them into a place where I can fuel and provide for my family on a consistent basis around this whole movement that we’re creating? Because everyone’s passionate about it. But how do I slow down build a business model that’s growable, scalable and investible?

Aaron  41:39
Yeah. No, that’s good. I mean, and you may have a very different perspective for me on this. And if so, that is it. In fact, it may even make for even more entertaining conversation, but what I’ve told people because I’ve had a few people reach out to me over the last year, a year and a half or so, about podcasting. And I tell them like, look, if you’re in it to make money right away, you’re in the wrong place. You’ve got to build a baseline. You’ve got to have some stick-to-itiveness when it comes to it. I mean, like this show specifically is a great example of that. The entire first year, we did nothing related – I mean, to be honest, Chris, I didn’t even think about sponsorships.

When I look at other shows and I mean, yours is one of them, I’d be like, oh, my gosh, they’ve got their crap together, man. They’re got all these sponsors. They’re doing some amazing stuff. He’s probably got like 10 billion listeners a week per episode, and you start to compare, right? And I think it’s a very, very dangerous slippery slope to go down. And it’s important to fight your fight and to focus on your own race. And this is a whole another philosophical topic we could go off on forever, but the whole comparison game is so, so deadly and so dangerous. And it’s important that we encourage each other, we inspire each other, we support each other, and we focus on doing our own thing in the sense of what are you here to do? What are you trying to accomplish? And it should not be to be better than the next guy. It should be to do the very best with the gifts that God’s given me and to steward those well and to do what I’m here to do, right?

But the podcasting itself, I think, is kind of hilarious. Because for me, the business side of things has come – like I’ve gotten more business until recently. There’s some stuff going on right now. But until recently, it was just driving enough brand awareness at the top end of it to then get some consulting work. And so for you as you went through that and you started to shift – and I don’t know how early into it you were before you started to monetize and create a business out of it. Because you’re going full-blown legit. Let’s make this a legit business. What was that like?

Chris  44:04
Yeah. I mean, well, it’s good to have a good wife next to you, right?

Aaron  44:09
Darn right.

Chris  44:09
And it was my wife that finally gave me a realization of like, hey, you’re more loyal to your audience than they are to you. And I was like, whoa. And brother, I had to go grab some whiskey and a cigar and sit out back for a little bit and just reflect. You know what I mean? I was just like, is this really true? And at that point, we tried to launch three innovative, forward thinking personal, professional development programs, where we had, I think, a total of three programs. We had maybe 15 people convert. And we spent probably thousands of dollars on that program, which everyone that graduated from it – I’ve seen it – from beginning to end saw extraordinary results in their business lives and careers.

But man, you just have to come to that realization of like, hey, is this creating the desired result that you want inside the business? And once I saw that we were forcing something down veterans’ throats, that they were just probably in their mind, “Oh, this is another one of those”, I had to kind of start slowing down and doing more research and development. So we shifted our entire focus on what do ambitious vets want and spent six months to eight months doing that while generating revenue through affiliate partnerships, sponsorships on the podcast and then consulting work, right? Always get creative with your thought leadership. If you’ve been able to create an audience around a subject matter, that means that you have a group passionate about what you’re doing. You can go and really provide other frameworks, roadmaps or whatever it is your product is to major B2B company. So maybe just sit back, get creative and adaptive. Whenever you’re forcing all your dollars or something towards one end result, that’s not what you’re chasing down. Does that make sense?

Aaron  46:05
Yeah. No, that’s solid. That’s solid, man. And it’s important for people to realize you’ve got to take the time to really sit down and reflect, and in a lot of cases, recalibrate, retool, and just change your approach. And there’s been so many times in life, in my own or those that are close to me, where you see people will go off and they’ll go set their mind to something and maybe they’ll achieve it. Maybe they won’t. But what’s amazing about that though is okay, but now you know, it’s easier to get you redirected than it is to kick your butt and get you rolling. And so as long as you’re continuing to redefine, recalibrate and just tighten up your vision in the things that you want to achieve, it’s going to work out.

And I think there’s this belief that you just have to have, you know, it’s going to work, it’s going to happen. Maybe I can’t articulate it exactly how that’s going to happen right this second, but here’s my initial thoughts. So before we close out, though, I’d love to love to turn it back over to you, Chris. You’ve done a ton of shows at this point. I’m not at all asking you to summarize your entire program in three points. But I would ask you, though, what have been some of the most consistent things that you’ve seen that help unlock the maximum availability inside of somebody in order for them to achieve their goals?

Chris  47:46
Know your values, right? It’s a consistent thing. If you want to really ignite that internal passion and feel like you’re finding a career or a business that lights you up, find out your values, right? Ask yourself that three-layer deep why question. Back when I was a sales trainer, whenever I had these new millennials graduating college going in and teaching them how to do inside sales in the real estate world, I would just ask them the three-layer why question. That will expose your values, right? Why do I want to do this? Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Get to the core thing that ignites you and nothing will really get in your way.

And if you want access to a personalized, customized value assessment, I have resources for that. It’s regular $40. I’d be able to just hook anybody that wants one. It’s called the VAL assessment (Value Arrangement List) from Dr. Golden. Me and him are pretty close and very tight. But it really has proven that veterans are not better off in trade jobs like the Duke University study talked about. We are meant to do more, right? And you just got to figure out what ignites you. And that’s my take on it.

Aaron  48:59
No, that’s fantastic. So I’ve already plugged your show, but how can people get in touch with you? Is there a preferred medium that you’d like for people to reach out to you?

Chris  49:19
I’m like you, man. Podcast is kind of the top of the funnel. If you’re subscribed to the podcast, we got a lot of call to actions in there to kind of get more plugged into the ecosystem. So just go subscribe to The Ambitious VET Podcast, get the weekly golden grenades. They’re going to keep you unstuck in your life, career, and business.

Aaron  49:27
Beautiful, beautiful. Well, it’s right there on the screen, Ambitious VET Podcast. Go follow all Chris is doing across every single channel and every single available platform. You will be glad that you did. And Chris, I just want to thank you, brother. This has been a blast. I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you. It’s great to see you again, my friend.

Chris  49:45
Aaron, it’s been an absolute blast, brother. And last thing is hoorah!

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