Welcome to Second Act Stories, a podcast focused on life and career change. In each episode, we bring you the story of a courageous individual who has made a decisive career pivot and is pursuing a more rewarding life in a second act.
The stories are in their own words and the words of friends and family that helped them find a new path. Each episode examines the “before” and “after” phases of a life or career relaunch and offers lessons learned.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s Coda: A Doobie Brother Focuses on Counter Terrorism
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is a rock and roll legend. He was the founding lead guitarist in Steely Dan, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doobie Brothers. As a hired gun, he’s played with a who’s who of music royalty, including Linda Ronstadt, Donna Summer, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon… the list goes on and on.
From the time he was a child, the mechanically inclined Baxter loved taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together. He became an expert guitar repair technician and built custom guitars. He traded a custom white Fender Stratocaster he built in the 1960s to Jimi James, who would later re-emerge as the legendary Jimi Hendrix.
In the 1980s, Skunk parlayed his more-than-casual interest in all things technical into a career as a missile defense consultant. After writing a paper that was quickly classified, he received the necessary clearances and now regularly consults with the U.S. government, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs on topics including counterterrorism and wargaming.
Skunk just released a new solo album, his first, called Speed of Heat.
Please enjoy our exciting deep dive into the second act of one of rock’s greatest guitarists.
Photo credit for main image: Joel Manduke
Ready For A Career Transition? 26 Minutes With Coach John Tarnoff
John Tarnoff is a non-traditional, career transition coach. A veteran of Hollywood, John was fired 7 times over the course of his lengthy career in entertainment.
At age 50, he decided to go back to school and earned a master's degree in spiritual psychology. Pivoting to a focus on people and career counseling, he eventually wrote "Boomer Reinvention: How To Create Your Dream Career Over 50." He is frequently interviewed by top tier media (CBS This Morning, Forbes, CNBC, Market Watch and Next Avenue to name a few) on the topic of career transition.
Click here for more information on John Tarnoff's unusual coaching practice.
A Second Act Creates the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
Steve Lewis is objectively one of the most creative people on the planet. So much so that pure creativity is what motivates him; money just isn’t part of the equation. That doesn’t mean he isn’t successful. He is. Very. But his success is a byproduct of executing his incredible creative vision.
Steve originally wanted to be a professional musician – a goal he achieved by the age of 14 – but a botched hand surgery set him down a different path. After college, he followed his passion for comic books, pop culture and community and opened Uberbot, a unique, high-end art gallery and comic book store. That’s where he originally shared the cookies that would become the foundation of Gideon’s Bakehouse.
Gideon’s Bakehouse is a fully immersive “tattered Victorian” experience – an entire world with stories, characters and histories – that just happens to sell the world’s best cookies, according to Insider.com, The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated and a host of other media.
Steve Lewis calls baking a hobby, but his title – Sublime Prince of the Esoteric Order of Cookie – and his accolades say otherwise. This is an inspiring story that chronicles an immensely creative person and his journey to also become one of the world’s most renowned bakers.
You can find Gideon’s Bakehouse at www.gideonsbakehouse.com, but they don’t ship their products. To try them, you have to visit one of the two Gideon’s Bakehouse locations, at Orlando’s East End Market or Disney Springs.
Goodbye Hedge Fund...Hello Sourdough Bread
Adam Simon was a partner in Echo Street Capital Management, a successful hedge fund in New York City. While he enjoyed the challenge of the work and it's financial rewards, the demanding 80+ hour per week schedule was wreaking havoc on his personal life. So in 2017,he quit and focused his attention on reconnecting with his family.
As the Covid-19 crisis began, Adam, his wife and their two children headed to a safer location in the suburbs. "We were going a bit stir crazy" and they opted to launch an informal neighborhood project called "Pandemic Breads." They baked bread and other sweets in their kitchen and sold the goods door-to-door. He loved everything about baking and became especially enamored with the challenge of making sourdough bread.
After working as an intern in two commercial bakeries in New York City, Adam launched "Sourdough Gambit" named after his love of chess and the popular Netfix series "The Queens Gambit." He started small, baking two days per week in a shared commercial kitchen and selling his products via home delivery in Manhattan. Since launching in February, 2022, the new venture has gone exceptionally well winning rave reviews from customers.
Click here to learn more about Sourdough Gambit.
Heavy Metal Lawyer: Black Sabbath Bassist Dave “The Beast” Spitz, Esq.
Referring to someone as a rock star usually means they’re excellent at what they do. Dave “The Beast” Spitz is a rock star lawyer in south Florida. Sure, he’s a really good lawyer, but he’s also an actual rock star. Prior to going to law school in 1996, Dave played bass for the legendary band that invented heavy metal: Black Sabbath.
His journey through the music industry also included playing with other well-known bands including Great White, Impellitteri, White Lion and Americade. He even appeared in a movie with Tom Hanks.
Despite all the trappings of rock stardom – recording with music legends, playing in front of sellout crowds around the world, and experiencing musical success at the highest levels – The Beast needed something more out of his career, so he actually declined an opportunity with a band that’s sold millions of albums so he could become a lawyer.
This extended Second Act Stories interview includes plenty stories about The Beast’s music career and his decision to launch his law career, and it paints a vivid picture of the motivation that drives such a surprising life-changing decision.
Check out the official Black Sabbath Dave “The Beast” Spitz page here.
Life After The NFL: Arrelious Benn's Java Journey
Arrelious Benn was a star football player at Dunbar Senior High School (Washington, DC) and the University of Illinois. He entered the NFL draft after his junior year in college and was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His NFL career with Tampa Bay, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars spanned seven years, twice the league average. But it is also included two ACL tears, a fractured lumbar and a shattered collarbone.
After his final season with the Jaguars, he and his family put down roots and decided to open Social House Coffee in the Avondale section of Jacksonville. Replacing a former gun store, his neighborhood shop is all about great coffee and building community.
As Benn shares in the podcast, "Football consumed my life for so many years. But I know I only have one body. And I want to see my kids grow up and there are other things I want to do. It's a breath of fresh air to do something new and be creative."
Benn is now working in what he calls "my first real job." He spends his days taking customers orders, serving coffee/pastries and managing a staff of six. And he couldn't be happier.
Fantastic pod about life change! Love it!
Andy is a good interviewer
This is a good podcast and such a creative concept. Andy always asks questions I would ask and the stories are engaging. I highly recommend it.
Just happened on the Patricia Heaton interview. It was so good. This will be one of my go to Podcasts!