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Griffin Kapelus on the Transforming Power of Helping Others

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Griffin Kapelus is a student at the University of Vermont who spends his free time helping the homeless and combatting food insecurity in Burlington, Vermont. He learned from his parents the importance of making a difference and helping others and being on the front lines to combat income inequality and economic justice.

At Hunter College, Griffin Kapelus began taking part-time classes after a short break following high school. An introductory writing class led Kapelus chose to write a paper on gentrification and displacement in Harlem, and helped inspire his commitment to social justice.

COVID-19 was such a destructive force in so many lives and he sought out ways to give back. He began helping out at West Side Campaign Against Hunger, a food pantry in New York City. As a volunteer, his role was at first limited to helping with moving boxes and packing bags. However, as his time there continued and he took on additional hours, the role grew. He interacted with people who had been food insecure for many years and others who began coming to the food bank due to the economic collapse brought about by the pandemic.

When he started at University of Vermont began volunteering at an organization called Feeding Chittenden, which is focused on tackling food insecurity in Chittenden County, where Burlington is located.

Kapelus observed that Feeding Chittenden was an interesting contrast to his volunteer work in New York. However, the most meaningful part of his summer was the job he took at a homeless shelter in Burlington. It was his first time as a paid employee doing social work, and he had far more responsibility than he ever could in a volunteer capacity. The ability to interact in a more significant way with the homeless population in the Burlington was personally transformative.

In fall of 2021, Griffin Kapelus taking classes in person at the University of Vermont, and his most important job will be that of a college student.

We recently had the opportunity to connect with Griffin Kapelus and learn a little more about ways he has helped others and made a difference.


Can you tell us about a time you had a positive impact on the life of another student?

While I had the pleasure of helping several new students as a peer mentor at school, I am particularly proud of the difference I made with one. For his privacy, I will use the pseudonym, Alex.


Alex and I had our first meeting on the first Friday of the semester. It was always meant to be short: I spent five to ten minutes explaining my role as a peer mentor, telling him what he could expect from our meetings, and providing some useful resources offered by Students Accessibility Services that could help his transition in the first few weeks of school. At the end of our meeting, I cheerfully asked if he had any questions. After taking a long and thoughtful pause, he stated that he did not. This silence was at odds with my other mentee introductions, where I’d had a multitude of questions thrown my way.


While it was different, his choice not to speak up did not massively surprise me. Despite his happy-go-lucky demeanor, Alex seemed reserved and unsure of himself. He appeared to be unsettled in this new environment, very much feeling the waves of a big transition. In those first two weeks of meetings, I simply could not get anything more than one sentence answers from him.


Out of pure luck, that changed in the third week. As Alex approached the bench where we decided we’d meet that day, he was in the midst of removing his headphones. Simply out of curiosity, I asked him what he was listening to. I frankly don’t remember which song he mentioned, but it sparked further questions from me, and for the first time longer answers from him. As it turned out, Alex was rather obsessed with music. I knew that he played a few instruments, but in this conversation, he enthusiastically talked about his musical family and his involvement in a high school band. We learned about a shared love of classic rock, and he gave me some artists to look at in the world of R&B, a genre in which he was well-versed.


This conversation opened the doors for a bond between us. Alex finally seemed to grasp that I was a trustworthy ally who was there for his benefit, and he started bringing up all the questions and concerns that I can only assume he’d been holding in up to that point. For the following month, if not more, Alex came in ready to talk about any issue that was present at the time of our meeting.
I knew my peer mentor role was limited. I was not a member of the campus administration, and I was definitely not a therapist. However, I occupied a unique little niche between fellow student and an advisor of sorts that proved to be useful for Alex. It allowed him to be completely open with me as a fellow student, but still gave me room to offer solutions.


My primary role was to act as an encyclopedia of the campus, directing Alex to the right places for help, and introducing him to resources on campus that he didn’t know existed. For example, when Alex was struggling with writing at the college level, I helped him find weekly tutoring in the writing center. When Alex mentioned loathing his living situation, I helped him connect to a counselor at Student Accessibility Services who could help him look for an opening in a different dorm.


It was not all about simple solutions, though. In one meeting, Alex mentioned that he was struggling to meet people and felt isolated. There was no one-and-done solution, but I tried to provide some perspective. I made a point to note that it was my first year on campus too and acknowledged that meeting new friends is not always a rapid process. I threw the kitchen sink of suggestions at him, saying he could join clubs, hang out in common spaces instead of his room, join an intramural sports team, or sign up for any variety of off-campus activities sponsored by various student groups. Without directly saying it, I stressed the need for Alex to put himself out there a bit more. This was clearly a difficult step for him, and he was hesitant to embrace that idea. To Alex’s credit, though, he eventually took on just about every suggestion I made despite those actions being outside of his comfort zone.


That month of working to build his college life was not necessarily easy for Alex, as he was constantly putting new pieces into place. His constant push toward academic comfort and social fulfillment was stressful, but he persisted. Despite the struggles and fatigue, Alex kept following the advice of his support system, myself included. At many points, there were no solutions, and I just had to be there to hear him out as a fellow stressed-out student.


Eventually, Alex began to see the fruits of his labor. On a cold November day, I sat down for our weekly meeting and waited for Alex to show up. As he walked into the common space where I was waiting, I distinctly remember noticing a newfound confidence in the way he carried himself. As if out of nowhere, Alex seemed entirely at home on campus. He was enjoying and thriving in his classes, had found a dorm where he felt comfortable and connected to his roommate, was actively engaged in his passion for music, and continued to explore newfound hobbies. Towards the end of the semester, the questions had stopped flowing once again, but this time it was because he was thriving on his own. 30-minute talks had become 5-minute updates.


I would never take credit for this massive change I saw in Alex in such a short time. There were other far more influential pieces of his support system that allowed him to thrive, and the confidence Alex found on campus was entirely due to his own hard work.


I do, however, take immense pride in being even a small part of Alex’s successful transition into college life.

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Combat Veterans

Life and Leadership Lessons Learned in the Military

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Among my favorite people I love to interact with are fellow veterans. When I was 22 I embarked on the greatest journey (so far) of my life. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was immediately assigned to be a Radar Technician. After tech school, I was sent to my first duty station Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. I was assigned to an Air Control Squadron (ACS) specializing in being self-sufficient and capable of going to the middle of nowhere and building everything needed to provide a sky picture of 240 nautical miles to identify friend or foe aircraft. This squadron deploys every year, and that is why I was sent to Syria as my first deployment where I completed my on-the-job training while being responsible for Preventive Maintenance Inspections (PMIs) and keeping the radar running as much as possible. 

Experiences like that puts things in perspective. I learned how to be ready for anything that came my way, how to work as a team with a lot on the line, how to be a leader, and how to “embrace the suck”. 

Why do I hold those who served our nation in such high esteem? 

The answer is simple: Military service builds character and character is the primary requisite for leadership. On a personal level, I know that my determination to grow my public relations firm into a national, highly respected seven-figure business stems directly from the resilience I developed while joining the Air Force active duty without being completely bilingual (my english was not the best), two deployments where I got delayed on both of them for a total of 15 months overseas, and while dealing being a leader of projects on multiple occasions.

A fundamental lesson of serving in any of the military’s six branches (I’m including the latest addition, the U.S. Space Force), is learning to rely upon others and being accountable to everyone in your squadron. That means those above you issuing orders, and those in the trenches (or cockpit) beside you. The maxim that “we’re all in this together” has never rung more true to you than when you’re enlisted. 

Another axiom which is equally valid is “business is war”. It may seem harsh or a bit theatrical, but it is fundamentally true. Those working alongside you and on the same team are engaged in combat with your competitors, and the objective is not a desolate hill or far-off village – it’s winning the patronage of a prospect and their loyalty as a customer. 

A long time ago someone once said that soldiers fight for their country but die for their fellow soldiers. In other words, while a cause will lead a soldier to the battlefield, it takes camaraderie and a great leader to inspire that warrior to throw him or herself into harm’s way and take the hill.

The difference between wanting to win and winning is Leadership. This is the lesson everyone who serves should learn. Most do and those who don’t have missed out on the greatest educational and personal improvement course of a lifetime. My great friend and business associate Michael Jackson (which goes by Mike Jackson) took his service in the Green Berets as exactly this type of priceless learning experience. In this account, he describes his own journey from boot camp greenhorn to seasoned operations professional, first in the Army and now into a successful business career as a Veteran. Today, Mike Jackson is the author of several popular business books and a consultant with the Department of Defense where he is an advisor for Special Operations training in the medical field. Incidentally, he’s also the Director and VP of Sales of the Strategic Advisor Board, the groundbreaking business incubator for the nation’s most driven and innovative entrepreneurs.

Mike Jackson on How the Military Helped Him Become a Leader and a CEO

Michael Jackson, CEO of SF Business Consulting
Director & VP of Sales of the Strategic Advisor Board

Lots of people talk about leadership. Business coaches, ‘success consultants’, politicians, talk show hosts – just about everyone with a book to sell, course to promote, or an opinion are happy to talk your ear off on the topic. That’s all fine and well, but as one of the people I admire most, Jason Miller, CEO the Strategic Advisor Board, will tell you “talk is cheap, results matter”.

When I’m invited to address a business group, make a keynote speech, or lead a seminar, I cut right to the chase when it comes to my views on leadership. Unlike many innate talents or abilities honed by experience, leadership is a learnable skill but it’s worthless unless you give it the benefit of character. 

Let me explain.

When I enlisted in the Army I was young and probably a little arrogant. Youth often imbues us with a strident confidence which can be useful as you embark on life’s many adventures. Unfortunately, this obstacle is usually tinged with misplaced self-importance. Upon arriving at Boot Camp, I quickly discovered your Commanding Officer and fellow enlistees will happily disabuse you of such misplaced beliefs forcefully and ruthlessly.  

As I learned the ropes during my military career, I saw over and over the importance of leadership. In all sorts of situations, both in boot camp and during operations, the power of sure-handed, quietly confident leadership made its presence known.

It’s not something you can see exactly or even put your finger on as you watch those around you do their duty, selflessly and with quiet determination. Leadership does not strut about proclaiming itself. When you’re in the presence of it, Leadership is invisible. It envelops you like a mist on a morning meadow or a gentle breeze on a battlefield at dusk. It’s something you just become aware of like knowing there’s air in your lungs when you breathe. As I grew into the mindset of being a soldier, not simply a recruit wearing the uniform, my senses became heightened in my interactions with my fellow enlistees, my brothers in arms. Detecting leadership was one of the learned abilities which came with the territory.

As the days passed I realized when I was in the presence of true leadership; it made its presence known in subtle, almost indefinable ways. I could feel it emanating from the people around me. It may be pitch dark and not a word is spoken, but those with you are unified by a common mission, a shared purpose. To act as a team, work in unison, often without anything more than an exchange of glances, the silent motion of a gloved hand, you are connected at a base level no one else in the world could possibly understand. Leaders and those under command become one, united by Trust and Belief. Trust in each other and belief in their leader.

I started out in the Infantry and ended up in Special Operations. Back in the day it was called the Light Infantry. Historically, Light Infantry is a designation applied around the world to foot soldiers. This typically refers to troops with lighter armaments, making them able to move quickly and gain a strategic advantage from their mobility. 

In war movies and actual battles, the infantry includes scouts and actual infantrymen. These are the soldiers who forge ahead of the masses of men behind them to gather intelligence about the location of the enemy and even cause disruption to supply lines and challenge the scouts sent out by the opposition. In the U.S. the first light infantry was decreed by General George Washington in 1780 when he sent out orders to deploy a corps of light infantry under the command of General Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

In my experience in the light infantry in the modern U.S. Army, we moved without the benefit of vehicles and set out on foot, carrying our weaponry, ammunition, water, batteries, other gear and supplies, accounting for roughly 70 pounds of personal cargo. When combined with the average weight of personal protective equipment of 27 pounds, ground combat troops are burdened by 90 to 140 pounds or more as they walk mile upon mile. 

Taking these experiences in consideration, I think you will understand when I say that all of what I learned in my adult life was at least based on my time in the military. Most, if not all, of those lessons were learned due to my favorite technique: blunt force learning, also known as the school of hard knocks. Some of those were figurative, and some were literally hard knocks. Those hard lessons kept me alive in Somalia, 1992 – 1993, all the way to my last combat deployment in Iraq in 2010. 

After I was injured for the second time overseas, I realized that I would no longer be able to continue fighting for our country. I had to transition to teaching Special Operations medicine to the next generation of warriors. Due to the recuperation time necessitated by my injuries, I was forced to consider my future. Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life after the military. I figured out early on in my career that I was really good at being a soldier and not much else. 

A few years later, I was talking to a very good friend of mine, Jason Miller, about that problem. About 14 years prior to that conversation, Jason and I were assigned to the 1st Squad, Reconnaissance (Scout) Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Both of us were sniper-qualified and had a lot in common, so we got along well. He worked for me for several years, doing everything from training missions in the deserts of California and the swamps of Louisiana to fighting wildfires in Montana. While fighting wildfires, Jason and I actually lived in a two-man tent for three months. 

Fast forward to the conversation in question. Both of us were coming to the end of our careers, and I had a future which stretched out without direction. Jason was always smarter than me  and he had planned better for his upcoming exodus from service. He was already a successful businessman and owned several businesses. He explained to me the correlation between being a successful leader in the military to being a successful leader in business. Initially, I was not sold on the idea. While he was convincing me, he said, “The only difference is that no one is shooting at you. If you can lead men in combat, you can lead men in business.” I realized that I might actually be capable of becoming a successful businessman myself. Years after that conversation, I am the CEO of my own business and now I work for Jason. 

Some of the leadership lessons I learned while in the military seem very simple but will serve you well in your own chosen career path:

If your people are carrying something, you should be as well. Do not have your people doing something that they have not seen you do or do with them. This will build trust and a cohesive team.

Sometimes seconds equal minutes, and minutes equal tears. Time truly is money. In the military, sometimes money equals blood, sweat, or tears. Sometimes speed is security.

Likewise, ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal tears. Weight in the Infantry is absolute. If you distribute the weight across your entire team, then everyone is carrying something, and the load seems a little lighter, whether it is or not. If everyone is suffering together, you are strengthening your team.

People use the word “no” because they either do not know the answer or that they are unwilling to do something. There are a very few questions where no is the appropriate answer. Most of the time, it just takes someone to do some critical thinking to solve the problem. Trust your team, and they will solve those problems.

The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters, so don’t use them.

If you mess something up, own it. Mess-ups do not get better with time. 

These lessons may not seem like they have a direct connection with business, but they definitely do. I would like to think that I was a good leader and taught Jason a lot back in those days. However, he has taught me so much more while I have been working for him. 

Michael Jackson, Director & VP of Sales of the Strategic Advisor Board

I trust you have found Michael’s experiences and his recounting of how he grew from a naive recruit to a capable soldier and then to an entrepreneur as inspirational as I do. As I’ve gotten to know Michael and his tireless work on behalf of clients of the Strategic Advisor Board, I’ve seen him in action leading others and advising organizations large and small on revenue cycle management, systems analysis and design, staff training and development, and, of course, leadership. It really is true that great leadership inspires others to do extraordinary things. Michael provides evidence of that with every client engagement. 

Also Read: What does it take to crush it as a CEO?

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Tolga Akcay-The Redefining Entrepreneur of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a profound shift in the way we live, work, and interact with one another. It is a new chapter in human history, made possible by extraordinary technological advances comparable to those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to physical, digital, and biological barriers. It was attempted by artificial intelligence, 3D printing, quantum computing, and other technologies. It is the driving force behind a slew of goods and services that are rapidly becoming indispensable in today’s world.

Entrepreneurship plays a critical and vital role in the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) economic dispensation, which is marked by increased digitisation and interconnection of products, value chains, and business models. One such entrepreneur is Tolga Akcay is an entrepreneur with a wealth of experience. Not only is he an excellent business consultant, an expert in digitization, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence (AI), but he is also a published author, with another series of books set to be released soon after the four he has already published.

He has put his knowledge to paper with the successful books THE BLOCKCHAIN COMPASS – WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF BLOCKCHAIN and THE AI COMPASS – WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. THE FATE OF GLOBALIZATION – IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER (about the consequences of the Ukraine War, Industry 4.0) by the author is already generating a lot of interest.

Mr. Akcay specializes in developing custom solutions that help businesses succeed; he believes that sharing your knowledge with others enriches us all, so that is exactly what he does. Akcay has established an international network of over 200 companies and freelance experts involved in analysis, programming, enforcement, and marketing. From this network, tailor-made teams are formed to get everyone to their targets and goals more efficiently. This network is still expanding and will do so in the coming years.

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Shotarry | EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW on How It All Began

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Shotarry (Shota) was born on July 15,1988 in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is currently a photographer and videographer based in Los Angeles. Shota is trained in fine arts with a focus in drawing and painting. After he graduated with honors from the Rustaveli University of Theater and Film, he kick started his career in fashion photography. Hewon The Photo Awards of the tourism department contest. Shota initially worked for Georgian fashion magazines and created video publications for local designer collections. After a successful career launch, he moved to Los Angeles to enhance his skillset and branch out. Shota has had the opportunity to work with influential famous models, actors, brands and stylists i.e Pharrell Williams,Sharon Stone, Busy Philipps, Hilary Duff, Kim Petras, among others

Redx: If you only had one lens, what would it be and why?
Shota: It would be a toss-up between a 24-70 1.8 or a 50mm 1.4 lens. I use these two lenses for 95% of my work.
I think I would lean towards the 50mm because of the diversity. You could create portraits with the lens and more environmental landscapes.

RedX: What drew you to your style of photography?
Shota: Truman Capote has been a huge inspiration and influence on my work.
His composition and timeless lighting are close to perfection. The simplicity of the work is also a huge draw for me.

RedX: What’s the best piece of photography advice you’ve been given?
Shota: Make pictures, the rest will work itself out.

RedX: What’s one thing an aspiring photographer should focus on if they want to make photography a career?
Shota: Put commerce on the same plane as art. In other words, make the business aspect of photography equally as important as the art aspect.

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