Has it really been 100 episodes already? In this episode I take a look back at the first 100 episodes and talk about where the podcast will be heading in the future.
Links & Resources
- Be a guest on the podcast (or suggest someone who would make a good guest)
- Use the Ask A Question button on the right to ask a question to be answered in a future episode.
Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in. Today I have a special episode, for me anyway. This episode is episode 100. I started this podcast in June of 2019, and I’ve released at least one new episode every week since. I thought that 100 episodes was a pretty significant milestone, so I wanted to take some time in this episode to take a little look back at where the podcast has been and where I see it going in the future.
If you are a new listener of the podcast, maybe it makes sense for me to talk a little about why this podcast exists at all.
First, I guess I’ll introduce myself to new listeners, or reintroduce myself to anyone who already knows me or has been listening to the podcast for a while. I was an infantryman in the Connecticut Army National Guard for about six years. I enlisted in 2005 and got out in 2011. During that time I was called to active duty for a deployment to Afghanistan between November 2009 through August 2010. My deployment was supposed to last through November, but I was sent home early after my brother, SGT Steven DeLuzio, was killed in action. The day he was killed was probably the worst day of my life. Since returning home I struggled with PTSD, depression, drinking too much and sleeping too little. I had anger issues, and I just wasn’t myself anymore. I found that I had forgotten how to be the person I once was. I later learned that my struggle wasn’t all that uncommon.
I started this podcast after hearing about all the problems veterans were having after getting out of the military. I’ve personally known several veterans who I served with who either took their own lives, or struggled with addiction, homelessness, or a number of other issues and I thought something needed to be done. We give the VA a lot of crap, but they do their best with the resources they have available. And honestly, you can’t even blame the VA if a vet never reaches out to begin with. Regardless, I thought that there had to be a better way to reach out to veterans across the country to give them hope and let them know that they’re not alone dealing with whatever they’re going through. I thought that if there was a way to offer hope to these veterans without making them schedule an appointment they might not be ready for, it could help them either find their own path through whatever they’re dealing with or, get them ready to pick up the phone and make an appointment. I also wanted to let other veterans know that someone is always there for them, and that there are options that don’t involve permanent solutions to temporary problems.
Anyway, that’s where this podcast started. I remember recording the first couple episodes and I had no clue what I was doing. At one point I think I joked with my wife that I had a face for radio and a voice for print. Eventually, I sort of figured it all out along the way. I was so embarrassed that I sounded awful in the beginning that besides my wife, I don’t think anyone else even knew I was doing a podcast for the first few weeks. I figured I probably sounded like a schmuck so if no one heard it I was OK with that. It wasn’t until I recorded the first 5 or 6, maybe more, episodes that I started getting a little more comfortable with it and I started posting them to social media, and telling family and friends about it. By the way, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, this is definitely not the best way to do it. You’re starting at a significant disadvantage if you don’t get a bunch of people listening to your first few episodes. The way the algorithms work with Apple Podcasts, and other podcasting services, new podcasts with a bunch of listeners will get promoted to other listeners, whereas new podcasts with no listeners or very few listeners won’t get promoted. Anyway, I digress there. Just make sure you tell everyone you know about the podcast before you release the first episode.
A little while after that I started inviting guests onto the show. Most of the first few guests were people I knew already, which made it pretty easy to get them on the show. It was relatively easy for me because I already knew their story, and it was easy to approach them with a request to be interviewed. I found that it’s easier to ask someone to be on a new podcast that only a few people will listen to if you know them already. Maybe they had pity on me, or were just being supportive, but without them I probably wouldn’t still be doing the podcast. They lent me their voices and their stories, and it helped me refine how I do the interviews that I do.
I liked talking to guests for a few reasons. One is because, well let’s face it, I’m lazy, and coming up with new topics to talk about on my own each week is tiring. The other, more practical, reason is that each guest offers a different perspective. No two veterans are going to go through exactly the same set of circumstances or face the same challenges. Even vets with similar backgrounds who figured out a solution to their problems don’t always do it in the same way. So if I have a bunch of people from different backgrounds with different stories to tell, it will hopefully cover a much wider range of topics and resonate with a larger number of people.
So far I’ve interviewed 85 guests on this podcast including a few episodes that haven’t been released yet. I’ve talked to veterans from every branch of the military with the exception of the Space Force, so if you’re in the Space Force and listening to this, I want your branch represented on the podcast! Anyway, the veterans I’ve talked to struggled with homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, and more. Those veterans have shared a variety of coping strategies they’ve found to work for them. Not all of the coping strategies are things you’ll find at the VA either. Some are, but not all of them. I like highlighting a variety of options because sometimes you might not realize that there are alternative ways to handle the situation you’re in until someone tells you about them.
Some of my guests use physical activity like running races, climbing mountains, or endurance events. Others use the arts or music to express themselves, while others have poured themselves into serving veterans. Others have shared their stories as a way of showing others that they’re not alone through their books, podcasts, and public speaking events. Some of the guests share their own backgrounds that saw them struggle to adjust back to civilian life, cope with trauma, and overcome their worst days. These inspirational stories are there to show the listeners that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve survived 100% of your bad days, and you can keep going.
I’ve also spoken to both civilians and veterans who offer services to veterans. There are alternative therapies like equine and other animal assisted therapies. There have been a number of folks who have talked about post military career and educational resources. A few have offered advice for families and relationships. I’ve talked to people from veteran organizations like the VFW, American Legion, and Fisher House who shared the resources that they have available. There are others I’ve talked to as well, but all of them bring their own unique spin on how to help veterans, so even if you’ve tried everything you can think of, maybe one of these guests has something to offer that you haven’t thought of yet. Maybe it’s just the thing you need to get over that hurdle.
One thing that all my guests have in common is that they all want to help people. Before I start recording with my guests I always tell them that the episode can be edited. I do this because if I were to ask a question that was too personal, or about a sensitive topic, I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. I know, we’re all supposed to be tough veterans with a thick skin, but let’s face it, sometimes I’m asking a guest to talk to me, and in many cases I’m a complete stranger to them. Then I’m asking them to have the conversation recorded for other complete strangers to listen to. In some of those cases, I’m asking them to talk about the worst day or time period in their lives. So it wouldn’t be fair for me to record the interview and release it as-is if there was anything even remotely uncomfortable that we talked about. With that said though, in nearly every single interview I’ve done, the guests tell me that as long as what we’re talking about will help someone, they’ll talk about anything. They’re pretty much an open book.
Because of that, they make my editing job pretty easy. Usually what you hear on this podcast is the raw, unedited episode. I really only have to edit out parts if there is an unexpected noise like if someone sneezes or their dog starts barking. That’s just to make it more enjoyable for you to listen to. I rarely cut out any content from the episodes that I record. Although, for any future guests, just know that editing is always an option.
So, I guess that’s the long way of me saying that my guests have been amazing. They make my job much easier, so if you’ve been a guest on the show, I want to thank you for sharing your story with me and the audience.
If you haven’t been a guest and you have a story to tell that you think might help out other veterans, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with me and we’ll make it happen. To get in touch with me, go to the podcast website, driveonpodcast.com, and click the Be A Guest link at the top, which will open a form for you to fill out to contact me. Assuming you have something to say that the audience will be interested in we’ll get it scheduled.
If you don’t want to be on the show, but you have a question you’d like answered on the podcast, you can use the Ask A Question feature on the right side of the site. Click that and it’ll let you record a 90 second clip of audio with whatever question you’d like to have answered. If you’d rather not record your question, you can email it to me too and I’ll read it on a future episode for you.
I’d like to get some feedback from listeners so that I know what types of things you want to hear. A few weeks ago I did an episode that was entirely dedicated to VA disability benefits. I think I just scratched the surface on the topic with that episode, but the idea for it came from the large number of questions I see people asking in various veteran groups I’m in regarding VA disability benefits. I’m not an expert by any means, but I can do research and try to make sense of things for you. So if you have a question, I’d be happy to either research the answer if I don’t have it myself, or get a guest on the show who is an expert to talk about it. Ultimately, this podcast is for you to benefit from. I don’t want to go book a bunch of guests to talk about things that my listeners, that you, don’t really care about. So, send me some feedback and let me know what you’d like to hear. If you like the topics I’ve covered so far and want to hear more like that, let me know. If you want to hear about some different topics, let me know that too. I’m open to most topics. The only two things I don’t want to get into on the podcast are politics - I tell my guests all the time to leave politics out of it because this podcast exists to help veterans. Period. I don’t care if you’re a democrat or a republican, or somewhere in between. I want to help you because you’re a veteran and I don’t want you to get turned off of the podcast because I had some guest that was either too liberal or too conservative for you. I’ve had a candidate for Congress approach me to be on the podcast. They happened to be a former Navy Seal, so there was a military angle there, but the gist of why they wanted to be on the podcast and what they wanted to share was to promote their political campaign. That was a no-go for me, so I declined the interview. But, I’m not blind. I know we all have our thoughts and opinions on various political matters, and honestly I think it’s great that we do. This podcast just isn’t the place for it.
The other topic I don’t care to discuss is anything that suggests someone does something that is illegal. I’ve had people ask to come on the show to talk about some drug they discovered while traveling to South America or someplace. While it might be perfectly legal wherever they were, it isn’t here in the US, so I don’t want to cover it on the podcast. Now, some of you might be a little put off by that because you may have experimented with things that may not be totally legal here, and you might have had great results. In your mind, why wouldn’t I be willing to cover those things if you’ve had such great success?
First, I don’t want to suggest to anyone that they do something that could cause them to go to jail. Even with all the disclaimers in the world on the episode, people will listen to what they want to hear. I know we’re talking about adults who should be able to make their own decisions, but there are pros and cons to everything and it’s not likely that I’ll be able to get guests on to cover a well balanced view of the positives and the negatives of these things. So if all someone hears is the positives, of course they’re going to be more willing to try it. I don’t want someone going to jail because of something they heard on this podcast. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep advocating for these things, I’m just saying that this isn’t the platform for them.
Secondly, I’m not a doctor. Even if my guest is a doctor, they can’t possibly tell you that taking a certain drug, whether it’s legal or not, is going to be good for you specifically. There are so many things to consider like interactions with other drugs and allergies, that trying some of these treatments without being under the care of a doctor who is familiar with your medical background just isn’t responsible.
For those reasons, I don’t want to cover topics that include illegal activities, drugs, and things of that nature. That’s not to say I won’t talk to someone who has done something illegal in the past which is part of their story. For example, if a guest talked about driving drunk and getting into an accident. Obviously, that’s illegal, but they weren’t suggesting that anyone else goes out and does it themselves. That might be part of their “rock-bottom” story, and was relevant within that context, but they’re not saying “hey go get drunk and drive around until you crash so you can hurry up and get to your rock bottom too.” Those are two different things.
So, the two things that you won’t find on this podcast are politics and suggesting that someone should do anything that is illegal. If you have a story that doesn’t include either of those, then I’d be happy to consider having you on the podcast to share it.
Since the beginning of this podcast I haven’t made a single dollar off of it. You’ll notice by listening to the episodes that there aren’t any sponsors who are paying me to plug their products or services. Guests don’t have to pay me in order to be on the podcast. I don’t have a Patreon, or Kickstarter, or Go Fund Me or whatever to raise money for the podcast. It does cost me money to run it. The website I use has annual costs for hosting and the domain name. I paid a graphic designer to help with some design work. The microphone and headphones I use all cost something back when I first started. And I have ongoing hosting costs for the audio that you listen to every week as well as the transcription service. All of this has come out of my pocket since day one, and I haven’t earned anything from it.
With all of that said, last week I filed the paperwork to form an LLC that the podcast will operate under. It’ll probably take a month or so before all of it is official and approved or whatever, but the wheels are in motion there. I’m formalizing it so that I can start to earn some money to offset some of the costs associated with running the podcast. I have a few ways that I’m planning on doing that.
First, I've been creating a lot of artwork, mostly paintings that I’d like to sell. Many but not all of them are military themed so I think some of you might be interested in them. The military themed paintings would go great next to a shadow box or some other military themed display in your house or office. The non-military themed artwork would be great anywhere.
I’m also considering designing some hats, t-shirts, stickers, and those sorts of things too. I don’t plan to become another veteran owned t-shirt company - I might as well start selling coffee too while I’m at it if I go that route. But I think a few good designs could help offset some of the costs associated with running the podcast if any of you are interested in helping support it.
I’m also considering opening up to having sponsors for the podcast. I’m not totally sold on this idea yet, so I’m thinking it over. The last thing I want to do is end up having an episode that is not easy to listen to because of the sponsor spots that pop up throughout the episode. So I’m thinking of the best way to handle that without ruining the quality of the episodes. If you know of any other podcasts that do this well, let me know so I can try to replicate it. If I can’t find a good way to do it, I’m fine with never having a sponsor. We’ll see.
Ultimately, I think that the podcast will benefit and grow by adding income streams to it. It will allow me to invest in better quality audio equipment, reach guests that are relevant to the topics you want to hear, and even spend a little money to advertise the podcast so that it can reach even more listeners.
So, that’s what’s new with the podcast. I’m imagining that I’ll probably start plugging some of these new income streams on social media in the next few weeks, so if you aren’t following the podcast on social media already and want to help support it, go give it a follow. It’s at DriveOnPodcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I think that’s all of them. Yea, that’s it. Once when I have more to share I’ll probably do it there first. Maybe I’ll do another episode with some info about it later on, but again, I don’t want to take away from the usefulness of the podcast by promoting things like that, so I probably won’t do that. Actually, I don’t think I’ll do another one of these milestone episodes anytime soon either. 100 seemed significant to me so I wanted to do this one. Maybe I’ll do another when I hit the 500th episode, if I make it that long. At one episode a week, that’ll be almost 10 years from the start, or at this point, a little over seven years from now. Who knows if I’ll still be doing it by then. I hope I am, but you never know.
I do know that I’ll be more likely to keep this podcast going if I start treating it more seriously. Generating income is a good first step, so if you like the podcast and want to help support it, start following it on social media, email, and everywhere else. You’ll start to see some new ways to support the podcast there once they become available.
Thanks for sticking with me through these first 100 episodes. I’m looking forward to what the next 100 will bring. Thanks for listening.