Jeff has had several changes in his life – lawyer to politician to writer to CEO of a non-profit. We talk about how to handle those changes and why he chose to make writer one of those life changes.
Jeff: Are you working on your author career but struggling to get that first book published? Does the goal of being an author seem too lofty? Or thoughts of having multiple books and making a full-time living are as fantastical as living in Cinderella’s Castle? Welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths, a podcast where aspiring authors can be heard.
Join Steven Schneider as he finds and talks to authors you may not know, but authors that have gotten their foot on the author career path, hear what they’ve done to get there and where they want to go. Now settle back. It’s time for a bit of inspiration and advice. Come listen to today’s discovered wordsmith.
Stephen: So welcome back part two of our podcast with Jeff. Uh, we’re, we were talking about his book Boy Lessons. Uh, this time we’re gonna talk a little bit more for the writers in the audience. So, Jeff, this book that you wrote, uh, you are not a full-time author and you’re don’t really have plans to be a full-time author.
So what did you learn while writing this book?
Jeff: I learned that it’s hard to write a book , and, you know, and, and again, I, most, most people I know would say that they have a book in them and they’re going to write it someday or they wanna write it. And, uh, boy you really do have to, um, You gotta put your mind to it and stick to it.
It took me a while to write this book because I didn’t just say, okay, in the next two months I’m gonna get this thing done. Um, I, I did it in kind of fits and starts over the course of about a year. Um, and that was easy because of the type of book it is. It’s, it’s a lot of little short lessons. . Um, I imagine it would be even harder if I were, were writing a, a fiction book with long chapters.
Um, I, I think you probably have to be more dedicated than I was to book, but, but the one thing that I did learn is that I, I have great appreciation for people who actually start and then finish a book because my guess is there’s a lot of
Stephen: started books out there. Yeah. Yeah. You hear a lot of people going, well, yeah, I, that’s easy to do.
I could do that. Uh, and I do like, You did it, like you said, in fits and starts, um, because it’s not always, you can still write a book. It’s not always something you have to like, dedicate hours every single day to
Jeff: Right. And I, you know, I was in a position, um, where I was working, um, full-time and looking for something new, so I.
That wouldn’t have been possible for me to, to say, you know, four hours every day for a few months I’m gonna write. Um, it just wouldn’t have been the time in the day. So, um, this worked out really well for me in my situation. Um, and I, you know, I know for, again, for people who, whose style or, um, what works for them when it comes to writing is they need to devote large chunks of time or, or disappear and go somewhere else for a while.
Uh, that would’ve been really, really hard for me with my lifestyle.
Stephen: Right. So, uh, when you were writing, uh, what software and services did you
Jeff: use? I, all I used was, um, um, Google Docs. I put it all on Google Docs and, and, um, And it was just there out on the cloud, so it was always there waiting for me.
Stephen: Did you ever, uh, like use your phone while you were standing in line somewhere?
Jeff: You know, I didn’t. That’s a, well, that’s not true. When I would have an idea, cuz this is, you know, 55 lessons and so when I, when I would have an idea about, um, a story to add that I’d forgotten about or a new lesson that just popped into my head, then yeah, I would, I would usually. If I didn’t have paper and pen handy, I would, um, um, I would usually put it in the, the, the audio notes of my iPhone.
Um, and if I were in a place where that would be too awkward, then I would just send myself an email.
Stephen: Oh, yeah. I, I know a lot of people that do that too. Write a little heck, I’ve done that. Right. Write an email or even now I’ll send a text message to myself, . Yeah,
Jeff: right, right. I think I did that a couple times too cuz it’s even easier.
Um, and I did find when I was driving, you know, pre pandemic when I was driving every day somewhere multiple times, um, That it, you know, that, that usually is my thinking time in the car, my thinking and praying time. Um, so I’m usually talking to myself or talking to God and, and I frequently thought of, uh, came up with ideas or stories and, um, so then I would use, I would usually just put them in a, a audio recording.
Stephen: Oh, so you kind of did a little of everything, but you didn’t use the, uh, audio to like record whole sections and chapters. It was just little snippets. Yep. Yeah.
Jeff: Right. And it was usually just an idea, oh, do you remember this story? Um, or here’s a lesson. Um, otherwise it was all writing and, and my style, my writing st um, not style.
My writing, uh, the way I do it is, I don’t just sit down and start typing. I have to hand write an outline, um, or I just, it, it just doesn’t work for me. So most of my work was in hand handwriting outlines, and then once that was on paper, it was easy for me to type out what I needed. .
Stephen: Okay. Which, uh, I know I hear a lot of people with, uh, uh, new authors especially.
They seem to think like, oh, I have to do it this way. I have to do what this person did. But you kind of did a little audio, a little, uh, hand, a little typing. Uh, you didn’t get extravagant software and you still got your book out and market and, you know, available.
Jeff: Yes. Yeah, no, it worked. And, and if somebody would’ve told me I needed to do it in a, a, a drastically different way, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it done.
I mean, it, it is whatever. For me, it was, this is what works for me. Um, if I need to write something at work or in politics, that’s how I would do it, and that’s how I’m effective. So that’s just what I did, and it worked.
Stephen: Right. Cool. And, and what are you doing to market the.
Jeff: Um, well, nothing now. Um, because once I, once I started in this new position, Um, that just, it’s just there now.
Um, but when I started, I, I, you know, put a little bit of money into Facebook. Um, the person who was helping me, um, with Amazon, I, I, um, you know, gave her a little bit of money to use for Amazon ads. I be honest with you, I didn’t take it. Nearly serious enough to know if it worked or not. I have no idea whether I sold more books because of either of those, and the amount of money I put into them was, you know, a few hundred bucks.
So nothing terribly significant. Um, and then, you know, I have a, a, I have a pretty wide network of my own having run statewide twice in Minnesota. So at least a, a certain segment of the population heard from me, you know, through social media. Um, I got like 30,000 followers and, and, um, a, a very long email list that went out over time.
Um, and that was, that was really the extent of the marketing. Okay.
Stephen: And you, you’ve mentioned a little bit, you, you did some marketing and you’ve started a new job, and that’s our big discussion, one to talk about is the transition from, uh, other jobs into, um, Writing a book and the choices to, to want to write a book.
So, uh, I guess let’s start with a, maybe a little bit more of, um, your, your story with that. What, what you were thinking when you wanted to talk about this. Um.
Jeff: Yeah. So I mean, for me, I, I made a, a major life transition. Um, the, you know, the biggest professional transition that I’ve ever made in my life, really.
Um, I had spent 20 years in law and politics and government, um, and, uh, wa you know, during my time in politics and government, I was always doing that and something on the business or legal side at the same time. And, um, you know, just decided. Two years ago after that, that final statewide loss that uh, it was time to just do something different.
It was the right time for me to move on from politics cuz politics has changed a lot in the last few years. And, um, and, um, it just decided I’m, I’m gonna go this direction, which for me was, um, a, a nonprofit that served vulnerable people. And, um, it was not easy, uh, because. You know, politics is because politics has become so polarizing, even though my history in politics has not been, it just, people shy away from that, and particularly the nonprofit world, uh, with the Republican politician.
Um, that was, that was pretty difficult for a lot of the organizations that I talked to. Um, and I had, you know, several. Promising opportunities that seemed interesting, that just didn’t pan out because I either wasn’t right for them or, or they weren’t right for me. And, um, pretty much at the last minute this opportunity came around and I’m so thankful that the earlier ones didn’t work.
Cuz this is a, this is the best spot I can imagine being. So that is, I mean, I’ve, I’ve made a, a, a huge transition in my life and, and this book happened at the same time. It, um, you know, I decided to write the book when I decided to, to move on from politics and do something different, and it’s all come at once really.
Stephen: And I think for a lot of people, uh, doing anything, and I, our world is not what it was in the fifties. People don’t get a job and keep it for their whole lives, their whole career. They, they get different ones, but I also think people get afraid to do that switch and to go from being a lawyer to. Writing a book and, uh, running a nonprofit to a lot of people, they would probably have palpitations and possibly heart attacks,
So, because it’s scary to ’em, um, what, what, I guess didn’t make it as scary for you.
Jeff: Um, you know, that’s a great question. Um, it might be my personality more than anything else. And I have a, I have a quote up on my wall from Helen Keller that says, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. And that’s just how, how I.
That’s how I have approached, um, particularly my professional life. Um, you know, sticking your neck out there to run for statewide office is, is scary and you, you know, you open yourself up to any secret you have in your life cuz they’ll find it if it’s out there. Um, and, uh, and, and, Unfortunately, you open your family up to criticism, although that didn’t really happen with mine.
Um, so maybe it wasn’t all that scary for me because that’s just kind of what I’ve done. I’ve, I’ve jumped from a, you know, a job as a, as a lawyer in a law firm to a job in a big corporation to starting my own little business that I did on the side when I got into politics. Um, and that maybe that was a bigger leap than the one I’m taking now, actually.
Um, but. Yeah, I, it probably wasn’t as scary for me because I’m just kind of used to doing things and I get restless after a while. .
Stephen: Okay. And, and with the, the book topic, um, it didn’t have really anything to do with your work life, uh, where your, you know, most of your adult experience has been. Uh, again, I think a lot of people would’ve shied away from writing something like that.
Do you think you found it harder to write a book that was different from what your life kind. You know, was it revolved around or was it, you know, fairly easy?
Jeff: No, it was, it was really easy. And, and first of all, I’ve had several people who know me say to me, you know, I was a little shocked. There was nothing political whatsoever in your book
And I did that on purpose cuz it should apply to everybody. Um, but I mean, honestly for me, , I’ve, you know, I’ve been passionate about government, politics, and law has been a big part of my life, but raising my kids, I mean, you can understand this is really the most important thing you do, or it’s the most important thing I did.
And so this was, this topic was probably closer to me than whatever I was doing professionally. So it was easy. .
Stephen: And you also said it was a, you took a while to write it, but the co, the whole pandemic and everything kind of spurred a bit. And in transition between different jobs, do you think if you had stayed a lawyer that you would’ve written this book?
I don’t know.
Jeff: Um, I don’t know if I would have, I mean this, this all came about because, you know, I made a decision with my wife one day that, okay, we’re done with this part of my life. I wanna do something completely different. And since I was doing that anyway, it seemed like the right time to. You know, to, to write a book because I knew I wouldn’t do it if once I started something new, at least not for a long time.
So I think, I think the answer is I probably wouldn’t have done it if I had decided, well, I’m gonna, I’m gonna continue with my little law business and, and run for reelection as county commissioner, which I probably would’ve won. Um, , you know, that was comfortable and I probably wouldn’t have done it. So, I’m, I, you know, I’m glad I made this change cuz I’m not sure the book would’ve come out of me otherwise.
Stephen: So with our whole topic, uh, the transition, the change, uh, it really helped you to become an author and get that book out and pushed you a bit.
Jeff: Yeah, it, it absolutely did. Um, Yeah, it did. And, you know, I was, I was still working, but because of the pandemic, there probably was a little more time on my hands. I, you know, I wasn’t going to things in the evening like, like you were pre pandemic, and especially in those early months when no one was doing anything.
Um, so there was more time, and you can only clean so many closets in the house, right? So it, uh, it, it, that probably lent itself a little bit to getting it done.
Stephen: Okay, so this new venture you’re on, tell us a little bit more about that.
Jeff: Yeah, well thank you for asking about that. It’s a, it’s an organization called Candu Canines.
It’s based in Minnesota, suburban Minneapolis. And, um, it’s just a wonderful organization. We, um, we provide, Assistance dogs, trained assistance dogs that are specifically trained for one person, um, who either has mobility issues or hearing loss or type one diabetes where the dog can actually sense from.
Smell that you’re about to have an attack, um, that your, your blood sugar’s about to drop so they can alert you to it beforehand. Um, childhood autism and seizures, and we’re actually working with scientists at the University of Minnesota to see if we can train a dog to actually. Pre-alert a seizure before it happens.
If there’s a, if there’s a specific scent that comes from someone’s breath before they have the seizure, um, which would be revolutionary and be really cool. And, um, this organization’s been around for 31 years, has provided hundreds, close to a thousand dogs. All, every one of them, free of charge. Um, probably costs around 25 to $30,000 per dog to, to train it specifically for that person.
And, uh, we have had many, many generous people allow us over the years to continue to do this without charging anybody. Um, and, uh, it’s just a, it’s an amazing organization and I’m really excited to be part of it and, and help it grow and serve more people.
Stephen: That I, I love that. My, my wife, her second son, uh, is autistic and she probably would’ve loved to have a dog when he was growing up.
Jeff: Yeah. And, and, and the, you know, the thing about these, that, that is our longest waiting list because it’s hard to find the right dog for that. I mean, they have to have a very specific personality. Um, they have to be big and strong because, you know, one of the things they do is they’re always tethered to the child.
So they, the, the kid can’t bolt, um, . But the other thing that we’ve learned, a and scientists have learned since we’ve started doing this, um, is that these dogs, um, create a bridge to, to people. For these kids who otherwise are either are disinterested or. Terribly uncomfortable interacting with people in, in ways that we’re used to.
And for whatever reason, the dogs help them do that, partially because everybody wants to come and see their dog. And before most people would probably avoid them because they may be acting up in public or they’re uncomfortable. Um, so it really, it, it, it not only physically helps the child and, and especially the parent from, you know, by keeping them safe from running out into the street.
But it helps them, um, mentally and psychologically just become more integrated into society, which is, it’s just watching these, watching these kids and seeing the stories is so cool. I mean, it’s just amazing.
Stephen: Uh, I can think of one instance. Where that would’ve been so helpful. Uh, my wife told me they were at an amusement park once, and this is the only time that, uh, her son got away.
Uh, she lost track of him for just a little bit and it was a very autistic thing. He was super interested in the Batman ride and he loved Batman. He wanted to go on the Batman ride, but it was very, very long line and they had other things they wanted to do, so they would go circle back to it. , but for the autistic brain, no, I wanna ride, you know, I wanna go.
And he did. He just went. Uh, so I think, you know, having that dog would have not only put her a little more calm and at ease, but known that sh he was probably safe and they’d find him,
Jeff: right? Yeah. And, and, and I mean, it, ideally the dog would’ve stopped him from doing it because stronger than the kid. Um, you know, if you have a, if you have.
You a 14, 15 year old that weighs 160 or 70 pounds. That might be different. But most of our autistic gens are quite a bit
Stephen: younger. Right. And at the time he was very gangly, is what I understand. . Um, so I, I mean, I’m just thinking, uh, from the writer aspect. You wrote this book, boy, lessons, uh, changed your whole life to do it.
Now you’re doing this thing I. I don’t think I could think of a life transition much different than politic politics and lawyer to nonprofit, uh, dog trainer, essentially . But, uh, I can see that there could be some lessons in this, uh, to learn that I could see a second book from you based around this nonprofit and the lessons learned from people with disabilities and the dogs that you’re training.
Jeff: Yeah. No, absolutely. I, I hadn’t thought about it either. You know, there could be a, there could be a book about major life transitions and there could be a book similar to this one about, you know, what I’ve learned from the dogs or what I’ve learned from our clients. Yeah. You know, after a while, after being here for a few years.
Stephen: Right. And, and so you’ve written the one book, so, Just the prospect of writing a book about dealing with life changes and major transitions in life, or a book about, uh, people with disabilities and trainer dogs. Does that like scare you? Do you back away from it and say, I don’t know if I could do that?
Jeff: No, not at all.
I, I mean, I couldn’t do it now because I don’t know enough. . Um, and to, to make it worthwhile and interesting. I think it would, it’d probably take a few years, um, for me to, to be in a place with respect to the, you know, the, the dog and, and how they interact with people with disabilities. Um, No, I actually, I, you know, that would be kind of fun.
It would strike me as the sort of thing that I would do at my next major life change, which probably will be retirement for me in 10 years. And, uh, that might be the right time to do it. Um, maybe that’s a new goal
Stephen: I should have. Uh, that would be, you know, that’d be a great book. I think. I’d love to see some that my wife would probably love to work with you.
Uh, she loves animals like that really. Yeah,
Jeff: that would be kind of fun and it would be unique. There’s probably not a book out there quite like that.
Stephen: Right? Yeah. And, and the fact that you’ve, I, I was leading the question a bit, but, uh, the fact that you’ve had a book written, uh, you know, in between, uh, several different changes in life and during a pandemic, you wrote a book.
So the idea of writing a second. Is not as scary and you know, you can do it.
Jeff: I think that’s right. I think once, um, absolutely. I mean, if I had started a book and just never gotten it done, um, then the thought of starting over again on something else would be pretty daunting. But knowing, um, knowing that I can do it, and again, this is a, a relatively short.
Um, but it’s still, you know, it’s many, many hours of work and, and once I put my mind to it, I got it done. I think that does make it less, um, less scary to think about doing it again someday. .
Stephen: Yeah. Uh, that’s great. Um, if we’re ever your way, I’m sure my wife would love to stop and see, uh, what you guys do.
Jeff: Yeah, we would love that. We’ve got a, we’ve got four acres in suburban twin cities and a, and a huge facility and you know, a lot of dogs, so
Stephen: we would love that. Now she’s talked about wanting to have a farm or something along those lines, and my. One daughter, she, uh, has been interested in service animals.
So I mean that, you know, that might be something our family might get into. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be our life transition that I could write about . You never
Jeff: know. Yeah. If you were ever in the Twin Cities, we would love to. To have you and give you a tour and, and let you meet some of the dogs,
Stephen: that’d be great.
So before we get going here, Jeff, uh, do you have any other advice for new authors? Anything else to put out there for them? You know, the,
Jeff: the only thing other than, you know, put your mind to it and, and be realistic about the timeline. The only other thing is to make sure you’re writing about something that excites you and interests you.
And maybe that, maybe that’s obvious to people, but, um, you know, I, I. Gave a lot of thought about when I decided I wanna write something. I gave a lot of thought about what it should be about and, um, I’m, I’m glad I chose what I chose because it’s, it’s something that is I, I’m extremely passionate about and care about a lot, probably more than anything else in life.
And it made it much easier and much more fun to
Stephen: write the book. Great. All right. Well, I appreciate you taking some time today, Jeff. Uh, and the book sounds great. I’m glad to go check it out. Uh, even though, uh, between us we’ve raised five kids already. We still have one middle schooler left. Uh, and we always tell him we feel bad because we’ve learned everything from the other kids
Jeff: That’s kinda how it works.
Stephen: So yeah, he, he can’t get away with much of anything.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s really not fair. Poor a
Stephen: kid. Yeah. No. But uh, he also has a lot of older siblings that help take care of ’em and uh, he gets some experiences that they didn’t have because of that. Yeah, no, that’s
Jeff: true. That’s great.
So you’re going through the whole, what, what do I do next phase for him then?
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. Once again, and w luckily though, me and my wife can tag team home pretty well. Yeah. Uh, so I mean, it’s been different this year because he’s doing homeschooling and he is definitely, uh, one that needs to be hands-on and needs to do those types of things.
So it’s. Homeschooling is a bit difficult for him, but I’ll give him credit. He has really been working hard and trying to do the best he can. So, uh, you know that I, I’m sure there’s gonna be some books coming out about lessons learned during the pandemic and. You know, more, more books for homeschooling and how to do it, because I see it happening more actually.
Jeff: I do too. Uh, a lot of people have have chosen to do it and for some people it worked really well. Others it was disaster. But, um, for those that it worked well, they’re probably lots of great lessons to be learned.
Stephen: Yeah, I time of much change. That’s right, . All right. Well Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time today and talking to us about your book, uh, and I wish you the best of luck on it.
Jeff: Thank you, Steven. I appreciate it.
Stephen: And even more so, I wish you luck with your, um, canines, uh, that they do well, because that’s a very great endeavor that you’ve got going. Yeah.
Jeff: Thank you. I’m, I’m excited to be here.
Stephen: Great. Thanks, Jeff. All right. Thank you.
Jeff: Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths.
Come back next week and listen to another author discuss the road they’ve traveled, and maybe sometime in the near future it might be you.