ITT 028: Fighting Soldier Suicide with Timothy Lawson

December 7, 2014

From Podcast to Movement

Today’s episode of In The Trenches features Timothy Lawson of Veteran’s Empire and the founder of 1, 2 Many: Veteran Suicide - which is a podcast series telling the stories of veteran suicide. Tim’s story of starting work with Veteran’s Empire is an encouraging tale that shows us success is a matter of breaking out of the mold, taking bold action, and ultimately doing the work. Lawson, a prior service Marine, is completing his Broadcast Journalism degree at American University, while working with Veteran’s Empire and 1, 2 Many Veteran Suicide. In today's episode, you’ll learn about:

  • The impact starting a podcast has had on Tim's life
  • How Tim crowdfunded his podcast (and why it matters)
  • The work of Veteran’s Empire and 1,2 Many to help vets reintegrate back into civilian life

You'll also hear Tim speaks passionately about the work of 1, 2 Many Veteran Suicide and hopes the message he is spreading will put an end to veteran suicide. If it resonates with you, please share this podcast and help spread the word.

Life as a Veteran

Timothy Lawson served five years in the USMC, including a short stint in the Moscow US Embassy. Currently completing a Broadcast Journalism degree at American University as a full-time student, Tim hosts the Veteran’s Empire podcast and is creating the 1, 2 Many Soldier Suicide project, as well. Tim says he got started in Veteran’s Empire by volunteering to help with their social media. “I was getting out of the Marine Corp, had a blog called A Couple Good Ideas, focused on healthy aspects of relationship.” Later, he offered to help Veteran’s Empire with their social media, “I just thought that Veteran’s Empire needed a podcast.” Starting the podcast without permission (the result of Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week) “instead of asking them if I could do the podcast, I just started doing one and I jut put their name on it.” The organization gave no resistance, “they thought it was a great idea and thy pretty much told me to run with it, keep everything in line with the mission of Veteran’s Empire.” Tim says he launched that podcast about the same time as when Cliff Ravenscraft arrived on the scene. The show organically grew in influence and in guest credibility. “It went from talking to my friends on the show to reaching out and getting guests that had a name,” he says. Tim found Veteran’s Empire after a fellow Marine sent him the logo. As soon as he got the logo he knew it would be huge.

“So I asked to get involved. Somehow I actually started running their Twitter. That’s how I actually got involved with Veteran Empire to begin with,” telling them, “you need a social media presence, no one’s running your Twitter, let me run that.”

Becoming a Podcaster

Tim says he’s launched a total of five podcasts, with four currently being updated. With the Veteran’s Empire podcast, Tim says he was completing a podcast when he came to the realization that

“this is what I should be doing… I continue to pursue it more than anything else in my life.”

Since that time, Tim has created Romantic Comedy - a weekly podcast, which gave birth to the Capital Experience, which gave birth to the 1, 2 Many Veteran Suicide project. About three weeks into his work with Veteran’s Empire Tim started podcasting. The first rendition of the podcast was, in Tim’s word, “success-esque” - inspired by the Tim Ferris book Four Hour Work Week. Saying he realized the value of Veteran’s Empire “if we promoted veterans and what they were doing.”

“Back then,” he continues, “there was no other podcast that was focusing and promoting veterans specifically in their post-military career.”

After creating the podcast, before even having been approved by Veteran’s Empire,

"I kept going with it, and as soon as the guys at Veteran Empire realized how much more attention they brand was getting through the podcast, I quickly became … officially a member of Veteran Empire."

Tom says the story is a great lesson for entrepreneurs. “Be proactive about that kind of stuff,” Tom says. Tim says he started interviewing friends who were doing cool stuff, “I didn’t have to go very far to get a guest.” Then people started recommending guests to him before he reached out to Marine Aaron Chaffs of Love and the Wild.

“I thought it would be fun to talk to a reality TV star, and he responded back to me, which I didn’t expect at first. That interview was the first bridge that I had ever been connected between my world and the entertainment world."

Tim  didn’t realize that people were so easily approachable. Later, Tim landed Marine veteran Shannon Ihrke, who’s now the Loop Rock Girl in Chicago and has been in and on the cover of Maxim Magazine.

"When I got her on the show and the guys (at Veteran Empire) realized that one, I was able to reach people that were in a sense inspiring in the veteran community, and two, the people I was getting in touch with were either successful or on their way to becoming successful, that affiliation had a lot of power."

Shannon’s return to the show after her success was when he says he realized the real value in building a strong network. Another celebrity who has demonstrated the respect others have for Veteran Empire is UFC fighter Tim Kennedy.

"He does plenty of interviews, but it still looks good for us for him to come interview with us…. when I ask an author or model, or something like that, while they’re still an amateur, and they move on to become a professional, they’re going to speak really well on us, and it’s going to look good for use to have that affiliation,” Tim says.

1, 2 MANY PROJECT

Tim says he started the 1, 2 Many project while waling around the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

“I started thinking — for some reason, veteran suicide was on my mind — just the stats and how the media was covering the 22 a day, 1 an hour… .it was right around the tim when the first leg of the V.A. scandal really hit mass media and that was a big thing.”

Saying the VA crisis started to bug him, Tim says he became concerned that “no one was talking about practical solutions to this. It was like we were overcomplicating the whole thing.” Saying he decided to create a podcast “because i’m not going to go run a 5K and think it’s going to save someone’s life,” Tim describes what he thought 1, 2 Many would be like. Using Kickstarter to help fund the original project, intended to conduct interviews during college Summer Break, Tim used the Kickstarter campaign to get the word out about his project and then used the funds to support himself during the summer while he traveled all summer to conduct the interviews.

“The project was happening, whether Kickstarter got funded or not. It was just the matter of the level in which is was going to happen."

Since started the project, Tim says several changes have been made from the original program to what it is today. 1, 2 Many launched in June 2014, with his own story of personal battled with suicidal behavior.

“Every Monday since,” Tim says, “a new story has come out, whether it’s been a veteran who experienced suicidal behavior and how they got out of it where they sit down now, or it’s been a friend of a family member who lost a veteran to suicide.”

Tim says his Kickstarter campaign attracted the attention of the American Legion Auxiliary.

“They heard that I was doing this project and they had a conference coming up in three weeks, and wanted me to find someone in the D.C. area who had lost a veteran who’d be willing to come up and speak.”

Lawson explained to the program official that three weeks was not enough time to arrange such appearances, and that most who had recently gone through such loss or struggle probably wasn't ready to go public. So, he tells them, “how about you just have me come up and talk, I’ve talked to a bunch of veterans, and I’m doing this project.” With the validation of his Kickstarter campaign, Tim was invited to the conference, “and I’ve raised thousands of dollars behind this project and there’s obviously an audience ready for this.”

Results of the 1, 2 Many Podcast

Tim explains that the evaluation of his podcast, 1, 2 Many, is one of the objective evaluations of his business.

“From what I’ve learned, simple things save lives. And, when I tell you these three things, you’re going to wonder why we’re not doing more of this. This is stuff, these three things that I preach to my live audiences and through the podcast, that I believe that we could use to really save, not only the veterans, but the people around us, from depression and suicide.”

Stating he learned these three things and their effectiveness as he’s had some more experience with military personnel who have struggled, Tim says one of the three things is empathy. “Most people actually just want you to understand that they're sad, and they want to make sure that it’s ok for them to be sad.” He says it’s ok for vets to be sad if transitions back to civilian life have been difficult, “and, even though your friends around you look like they’ve been successful coming out of the military, there’s a chance they’re experiencing the same thing, so you should not feel like you’re isolated in this frustration.” Empathy is something which should be shared with others even before there’s any sign of suicide, says Lawson. Second, Lawson says he has learned, as a result of his 1, 2 Many podcast, is renewed purpose. This is very important, according to Lawson, because when soldiers separate from the military, it’s hard to find a position that will make them feel as important and depended upon as when they were in uniform.

“When I was an E-2 or E-3,” he says, “I had more responsibility than I did in any of my jobs when I first got out of the military.” He says that lack of a sense of responsibility, or feeling that someone is depending on you is detrimental to a soldier’s psyche.

The third thing Tim Lawson says he’s learned through talking to soldiers, their families and experts about soldier suicide is that soldiers need mentorship, “on both sides,” he says. The advice is something any business coach or business person will tell you - it’s good to have a mentor, and it’s good to be a mentor. “so why aren’t we suggesting people who are getting out of the military find a mentor?” he asks.

Advice for Struggling Soldiers

Tim says it’s important for a soldier to focus on those things that make them feel good. Relying on advice from James Altucher, Tim says “if you don’t feel good, think about what makes you feel good. If it’s laughter, maybe watch some stand-up comedy.” Tim says depressed soldiers need to find ways to get away from just focusing on the negative aspects of life. “If you realize this is the way you’re doing down, it’s not easy to tell someone what’s going on in your life, it really isn’t,” he says, “I would never discount that… but there are things that you can do to let people know that you need a little bit of help, or you need some more involvement that could really benefit you.” One of the ways you can find happiness is through a hobby. Tim refers to Ralph Randolph from the Discovery TV show, “Devil’s Riot’. “He was on a panel we did in Nashville, and he talked briefly on motorcycle clubs, and how a lot of veterans join motorcycle clubs because they’re given a role inside that club.” He says even if that role is Treasurer and they have to balance a checkbook once a week, the soldier knows they have a task to accomplish and that the other guys in the club are spending on them to do it. Lawson says it puts them back in a unit. “We don’t have to wait for signs of suicide to intervene, we can provide empathy, sense of purpose and mentoring long before we see depression.”

Advice for Friends and Family of Struggling Soldiers

For those who love the soldier that’s struggling, Tim offers some advice as well. “If you know that a veteran… anybody… comes out, and they’re processing out of the military, talk to them. “Ask them what their kids like to do in their spare time. Show interest in their life outside of military. If there’s one thing people who are suffering mentally and emotionally dont’ want, is for that to be the focus of attention.” “If I came to you and said, ‘hey, I’m going through some emotional things and I’m starting to contemplate some scary stuff,’ I don’t want the next five times of you and I interacting, for that to be the first thing that you bring up. That’s just going to drive me nuts.” He says the lines of communication will collapse and drive their self-esteem even lower because of how they think you perceive them. He suggests that you ask all sorts of different questions, in order to get them talking and thinking about something else. He reminds those loved ones, “you don’t have to be a superhero or a therapist. Or be able to admit that you need help. There’s a lot of proactive ways to be doing this, and they’re things I believe we should be doing long before we see emotional and mental stress.”

The Future of 1,2 Many Podcast

Tim says he will continue to tell powerful stories of soldiers struggling with suicidal tendencies. “Mondays are the stories. Wednesdays, I share a short essay I’ve written on my thoughts on suicide, whether they’re in my personal life or the observations that I’ve made through the conversations and interviews that I’ve had. Then on Fridays, I will start doing a short, five or ten minute Q & A podcast.” That podcast will feature questions from Twitter, Facebook from when he speaks publicly and other avenues. “I plan on incorporating a non-profit called 1, 2 Many branded the same way, sort of, this umbrella over several different causes, and I’d like to have some sort of programming. I would like to have some sort of programming that not only addresses veteran suicide, but also campus rape, maybe human trafficking. I feel like I can get enough interviewees on that. It’s actually something else I’ve been interested doing programming on, things where I feel like America just sucks at having a conversation on.” “There aren’t any real actions for people to take to be a part of the solution to any of these problems,” Tim says, “so I would really like to see 1, 2 Many start doing both recorded and live programming that changes the conversation in all those arenas.”

Connect With Timothy Lawson

Tim invites you to listen to his podcast at on iTunes. To reach Tim directly, visit his website: one2manyproject.com

Share This Podcast

Three things you can do to help a struggling soldier coming back home @TimLawson21 http://bit.ly/1ywCdWp OneTooMany podcast host @TimLawson21 is passionate about stopping soldier suicide http://bit.ly/1ywCdWp There’a a lot of complications with saying I’m thinking about harming myself @TimLawson21 http://bit.ly/1ywCdWp Empathy, Purpose, and Mentorship: 3 Things @TimLawson21 says every returning soldier needs. http://bit.ly/1ywCdWp The impact USMC Sgt @ShannonIhrke and @TimLawson had on Veteran's Empire http://bit.ly/1ywCdWp


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