Centers of Influence
Posted 3/11/20

So many people come in and out of our lives.

Family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances alike, its truly countless.  I am not sure we even realize the number of individuals that we come in contact with and how we can positively or negatively affect them on every conceivable level.

Every now and again, I’ll be out with my wife, Lisa, or my children and someone will come up to me and recant how we once met, if even briefly, and it’s always a great moment.  I’m flattered to know that there was a memory hiding in a small conversation and I find that I am blessed to have touched someone in such a way that they want to stop and remind me of the encounter.   

We inevitably end up chatting for a few moments, further strengthening the relationship.  It’s about the most human thing one can do for another person. To remind people that they are priceless is a powerful thing and something we don’t do enough of.    Kindness, at times, has faded.

However, when you realize that life is full of these great experiences, that is when it gets truly interesting.  We all march on through our daily lives and, more specifically, our careers and we tend to talk about people who have molded us in to “who we are.”  Without those people believing in us, trusting us, allowing us to succeed as well as fail, we wouldn’t grow and learn in safe quarters to become the professionals that we are today.

I wanted to write about great influencers, although, I want to place a caveat on the short list you are about to get familiar with.  This group won't include spouses, parents, siblings, or bosses who have been beacons in our life.  Their influence is too easy to reflect on.

These exceptional women and men  have a special place in my heart and I can write volumes on where I might be had they not been a part of  my life.

Today’s challenge will be focused on those people who randomly crossed my path and forever changed me based on their support, connection, advice and simple friendship that – to this very day – is strengthened every time we talk.  Each has touched me in a different way and adjusted my journey for the better. 

Here goes…

My Brother from Another Mothe

Like so many great stories, this one starts at a wedding.  

It was in the early 2000’s… I simply can’t recall the date, but I was at a friend’s wedding in downtown Philadelphia and was having a blast.  I was sitting with my wife getting ready to enjoy the meal when the groom’s brother-in-law stood up to give a toast.  The moment I heard him speak, I knew we were going to be great friends.  Charismatic, creative, funny, brilliant and familiar is the best way I can explain Andy Hurwitz

Andy is my “coolest” friend.  He reminds me of the kid in high school that everyone gravitated towards who was friends with each and every person at the school.  Ferris Beuller comes to mind, only a cooler, Jewish version of Ferris with an incredible career, family, attitude and mindset.

He is an entrepreneurial genius, entertainment lawyer, music industry veteran and all-around epic father.

Andy and I hit it off immediately as he is a pathological Eagles fan (who has also pledged allegiance to the Faithful flag since my sojourn out west.)  He is as Philly as they come and that means that he values family, loyalty and passion.  He’s real.  He has stood by me and supported my journey and I have reciprocated.  I see him as a significant influence on my creativity and idea conception. When I have reached the end of my rope and needed some optimistic influence I simply sit back and text him… he responds in a flash with wit and heart.

Shining Moment: In late 2008, Andy, upon getting off a phone call with me said, “Dude, there’s a new thing out there and it’s going to be the next big thing.  Check it out… it’s called Twitter.  It’s going to be massive.”

Here We Go Rats

Sometimes you are put in the same room with someone simply because God wants you to meet them.  Your similarities are so parallel, that meeting them is destiny. That was the case in June of 2010 when I sat in a room and talked to Stu Stram about a project I would be working on in concert with he and a charity he was connected to.

Yes, the name is all too recognizable.  Stu is the rockstar son of Hall of Fame head coach, Hank Stram (who uttered the phrase 'Here We Go Rats!') His father guided the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in the 1969 season ending the AFL and forcing the NFL to concede that teams like the Broncos, Oilers, Jets (Titans), Chargers, Raiders, Patriots, Bills and yes, Chiefs, needed their rightful place in the League.  Stu is a chip off the old block.  Kind, astute, inquisitive, hilarious and talented across so many levels. A businessman, guitarist, philanthropist and, of course, amazing dad and husband, Stu is someone I have never and will never lose touch with.  Like the other people on this list, Stu and I may not see each other for 6 months and the moment we both are together, it’s as if we were with each other only days ago.  

He has taught me to believe in myself and my vision.  He took me under his wing when I arrived in Kansas City in 2010 and we have remained close ever since.  He invited me in to his family and has embraced my crew as if it were his.  

Shining Moment: Stu is best known for jumping on stage with legendary singer / songwriter Kenny Loggins and cranking out “Danny’s Song” in front of the crowd. Oh…and he crushed it.

She’s a Force to be Reckoned With

The next person on my list is difficult to explain because she rivals my sister as arguably the most intelligent human that I know.  Insightful, powerful, funny, brilliant and thoughtful … she is a Philly girl.  Let me introduce Jenn Stredler.

I met Jenn when I was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and she was a part of their Youth Partnership.  Her job was to change the world and she hasn’t stopped doing it from the day she was able to walk and talk, of that I am certain. 

An incredible big sister, world-class daughter and an even better philanthropist, she currently works at Salesforce in New York as the Vice President, Workforce Development at For nearly 2 decades Jenn has remained one of my closest friends and confidants. 

Her business acumen and insight have always helped me to see clearly when my vision was cloudy and sitting and enjoying a meal with her (which never is shorter than an hour and a half as we always have too much to catch up on) is a quarterly treat.   She speaks her mind and when she does, people listen and learn.

I love watching her climb the ladder and her successes are shared when we connect.  

Shining Moment: Jenn wrote an essay spotlighting a leader she admired.  That essay was to lock in her acceptance to grad school at Yale University where she received her MBA.  Can you guess who the essay was about?  If you said me, you were right!  Still waiting for that royalty check, Jenn…

Is There Anyone Tougher than a Sicilian from Detroit?

If you have followed me then you know all there is to know about Matt Yandura.  He is a true American hero.  Not because he is a COL in the United States Army and has honorably served for 2 decades and counting. No. That certainly helps, but he is my hero because from the day we met  nearly a decade ago (chronicled HERE) he has been the lighthouse that I point my bow towards.  His family, headlined by his amazing wife Mary, has become my family and there are no secrets between us.  He knows me inside and out and what’s more amazing, he is the person on this list that I have known for the shortest amount of time.

It’s hard to sum up Matt, in short, though, he is what people want to be when they grow up.

Spiritual, kind, unjudging, sidesplittingly funny and unafraid to just be himself, he is Captain America.  Oh, by the way, he’s the guy you want next to you in a street fight as well.

Shining Moment: Sitting out back, of my house in the South Bay, glass of whiskey in hand, telling stories of his adventure and combat.  Glued to his every word, I can barely speak … the guy tells film-worthy stories.

Just Listen to the Voice.

OK, I am bucking my own rules and regulations on this one a bit and can spotlight any one of a half dozen people who have intercepted me along my career.  But this one is a little different because I wasn’t recruited by this person… nor did I inherit him, hire him or even oversee him.  But he became one of the most influential brothers a man can have.

In 2010 I met Mitch Holthus, the voice of the Kansas City Chiefs for 20+ years.  The connection was instantaneous and the respect between us was completely reciprocated as well as limitless.  Moving from one of the nation’s largest markets to a much smaller footprint meant adjustments.  Adjustments for not only me but my family as well.  Frankly some of these changes I was not ready for nor had I even anticipated.   As a father and husband, the weight of the world was on my shoulders as I had caused the challenges my family and I had to face. 

I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve but I believe I am emotionally rock-solid.  Sometimes though,  life can throw haymakers that even the toughest of us can’t duck or withstand.  Mitch was there to put his arms around me and tear that weight off of me.  He fought by me and sometimes, for me.  I owe a piece of my sanity and a great deal of growth to him.  He is one of the finest listeners I have ever met and his ability to know exactly what to say and when to say it is the reason he is the Voice.

Shining Moment: New Orleans, 2012.  Amidst a 2-14 season (the hardest I have ever endured in my 26 years, by the way) there was a moment.  That moment was telling Mitch (the day before we won our only road game that year) that he had also won his very first Emmy for the outstanding work he had done alongside our crew.  That was the greatest award I have ever been a part of because it meant the world to a guy who meant the world to me.

If you have gotten this far, I am grateful and now I have an assignment for you: Reach out to those who truly guided you and tell them what they mean.  

Express to them why you are appreciative and what is was that they did to push you over the goal line, throw you a rope or simply offer you a shoulder when you needed one most.