RINGKNOCKER
VIRTUAL MEETUPS

Zoom calls every Thursday night at 8pm Eastern Time.
Find an opportunity, or make one.

Time, tide, and formation wait for no man.

Our professional network was forged in fire and steel... we share an uncommon bond... promises made and kept in the face of mortal peril... duty... honor... service....

These things are easy to SAY. So every Thursday night, RINGKNOCKERs spend 90 minutes exchanging SAYING for DOING. We reconnect with old shipmates. We forge new cameraderies. We offer intelligence, mentorship, and opportunities. We accept the same.

Sign up for as many meetups as you like! A shipmate is always welcome, and opportunity does tend to knock loudest when one is on hand to open the door. Registrations are limited, so sign up in advance if you can.

See you this Thursday night!

REGISTER NOW

COMING UP ON 2020-10-29: LUIS MARTINEZ

Luis Martinez (USNA '01) is an aviator with over 400 combat flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing electronic support to ground combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many military officers turn their people-wrangling experience into civilian careers in project management, but Luis managed an inside job: he is a Marine Corps Reserve officer and a senior project manager for the Marine Corps.

But that's just his day job. After hours, Luis applies his leadership skills to the kind of problem he would never have faced in the skies over Iraq: presiding over several thousand unruly Naval Academy alumni, crossing many dozens of class years, in one of the most densely populated Alumni Association Chapters in the country. Luis is President of the Greater Washington DC Chapter of USNAAA.

Not every RINGKNOCKER went to the Naval Academy, and relatively few of us live in DC. But ALL of us went to college, and hear regularly from our own alumni associations. This week, beyond sharing a little gossip about our DC-area Navy classmates, Luis will address a broader question: in a world of professional distractions and global pandemics, why should YOU engage with YOUR alumni association?

You have more to offer than you know, and more to gain than you may realize.

Connect with your brothers and sisters in arms, and start sharing opportunities today!

REGISTER NOW

AT PREVIOUS MEETUPS...

2020-10-22

One of the neat things about being a veteran in 2020: people LIKE us now! Wasn't always the case, as any Vietnam-era vet will affirm.

But to do business with veterans, it isn't enough to LIKE them... you have to be able to FIND them! This is the fundamental problem that Bob Louthan (VMI '82) solved with his VeteranCrowd Network.

There is one more question worth asking, though: assuming you can find veteran-led businesses, can you make a solid business case for preferentially doing business with them? Better yet, a case that goes beyond a sense of gratitude and civic duty? Is there anything about veteran-led businesses that makes doing business with them BETTER than the alternatives?

As it turns out: PLENTY! Watch and learn...

2020-10-15

Last week RINGKNOCKER Founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) dropped all other projects to become RINGKNOCKER's first full time employee! Here Jason takes the speaker's chair to walk the RINGKNOCKERs through the brand new RINGKNOCKER Sponsorship Program.

RINGKNOCKER's mission is to create a high-trust community of warriors who support one another with encouragement, mentorship, and opportunities, specially selected to be a great fit for one another.

That mission is ALREADY accomplished, EVERY week. As a new Sponsor, all you have to do is plug in! See our Sponsor FAQ for more details.

2020-10-08

Bill Watkins (USMA '77) is the CEO Whisperer.

Bill's business is the mentorship of business leaders. Bill mentors dozens of firms large and small from his ranch in Wyoming... most of them led by former military officers, and most of those service academy alumni. So Bill has a unique perspective, uniquely relevant to this community. He already knows many of us individually... but he also knows us intimately as a category, and is highly practiced both in keeping us out of hot water and in fishing us out when we fall in.

If you are contemplating something audacious in your life—like starting a business, leaving active duty, or finding opportunities for service and growth in the midst of a global disaster—this was not a RINGKNOCKER Meetup to miss.

But good news: we have Bill's whole presentation on video. See for yourself!

2020-10-01

Many thanks to Guy Snodgrass (USNA '98) for coming to talk to us about his new book!

The book is TOPGUN's Top 10: Leadership Lessons From The Cockpit. If you've read any of Guy's other work, you will have VERY high expectations! As last week's discussion demonstrated, Guy has got a lot to say on the topic of leadership and is adept at saying it.

2020-09-24

OPERATION IVY BELLS was one of the most audacious covert operations of the Cold War era. Robert Williscroft was for many years the Officer-In-Charge leading one of these dive teams to the ocean bottom and back.

Robert's second novel to capture the drama of IVY BELLS, Operation Ice Breaker, was released just last week. At the Meetup, Robert shared the real-life story behind the novels, along with lessons learned from a life of adventure.

Here's one of them, taken from an exchange with Tom "BANSHEE" Trimble (USNA '00), our favorite RINGKNOCKER warrior-philosopher.

2020-09-17

Erin Stone (USNA '88) is Program Director for Council & Chapter Affairs at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the largest organization in the country advocating before Congress on issues of interest to military veterans and families.

In this clip, Erin introduces MOAA to the RINGKNOCKERs—many of whom are already members—and takes us on a tour of the very broad array of MOAA programs and services.

2020-09-10

Matt Murphy (USNA '95) was sitting in a meeting at the Pentagon when Flight 77 impacted the building on the morning of September 11, 2001. His experiences that day changed the course of his life and his career, a statement that is true for almost everybody who has worn the uniform.

Today Matt shared his personal story of 9/11, as well as some deeper thoughts about what the events of that day can teach us all.

2020-09-03

Jeff Bacon is the creator of BROADSIDE, the comic strip that captured every aspect of the Navy experience in the Navy Times for over three decades.

Jeff managed to maintain his anonymity the entire time, as he rose to the rank of Captain and ultimately became Deputy Oceanographer of the Navy. He compares the experience to that of a mouse underfoot among dinosaurs.

Here Jeff shares the story of how it all started.

2020-08-13

Michael Rea (USNA '02) is a public health expert who advises universities on how to handle the upcoming school year, the first of the COVID era.

School starts in just a couple of weeks, and Michael has some thoughts and some pointers for the parents of college-age kids in the RINGKNOCKER audience.

2020-08-06

Doug Nordman (USNA '82) has a model of financial independence that is accessible to literally everyone, and he's been teaching it to active-duty and transitioning veterans for decades.

Here Doug packs a master class on FI into a short presentation and a rich exchange of Q&A. If you're on the more interesting side of 30, you'll recognize some of your own decisions in this dialogue!

2020-08-06

John Cordle (USNA '84) has written the book on the transition to civilian life... literally. And just for good measure, he did so in collaboration with Jeff Bacon, the truth-telling genius behind the BROADSIDE comics.

This is the one book literally EVERY squid will read, eventually!

2020-07-30

Randy Wimmer (USNA '91) has built and sold two companies that won and serviced contracts for the federal goverment.

Here Randy presents the arguments in favor of government contracting as a business model, and introduces his Government Contracting Academy, which is an incredible deal for anybody interested in getting into the business!

2020-07-23

Dennis Volpe (USNA '96) and David Rudko (USNA '92) offer a presentation on the related topics of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the DISC model of human behavior. They are joined in the conversation by RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) and Bill Watkins (USMA '77), CEO Whisperer and founder of 10x accelerator The Lions Pride.

This is a profound discussion about assessments and metrics that can offer critical insights to those who lead organizations, or participate in them. Well worth the time to watch from end to end. Take notes!

2020-07-23

Ed Henkler (USNA '78) had his first significant experience with blindness when his aging mother lost her sight to macular degeneration. He drew inspiration from what she was able to accomplish while blind, and has since devoted his efforts to assisting the blind in a variety of ways, with a particular focus on blind veterans.

Here Ed shares some of that inspiration, and asks the RINGKNOCKERs to help him forge new connections with firms who see business value in employing the disabled.

2020-07-16

In January 2014, Navy Surface Warfare Officer Jesse Iwuji (USNA 2010)—still on active duty—grabbed his vision board, erased every other goal on it, and wrote "I will become a professional race car driver."

Now, in late 2020, Jesse is an established NASCAR Truck Series racer with a respectable record. His sponsors, business engine, and marketing machine have carried him within spitting distance of the NASCAR Cup Series, the top racing forum in America. Jesse is one of only two African Americans and the ONLY military veteran to race at this level, and he makes it sound easy: all you need is a powerful vision and the will to grind it out.

This may be the single most inspiring video in the RINGKNOCKER archive. If you aren't standing on your chair by the end of it, watch it again until you are.

2020-07-16

A few weeks ago we held a RINGKNOCKER Bull Session on the topic of Fragility, Robustness, and Anti-Fragility, concepts popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in books including Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan.

The approach boils down to a risk-based framework for decision-making. The goal is ANTI-FRAGILITY: being in a position where you can PROFIT from unexpected disasters, without having to know precisely what the disaster will be.

This week, RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) shared a story that illustrates this framework in action... and saved him from taking the RINGKNOCKER Meetups on the road for a few weeks as an international refugee!

2020-07-09

Jim Gray (USNA '88) is President & COO of iArchimedes, an engineering services firm that serves maritime and intelligence community customers. iArchimedes specializes in developing components and systems that operate on or near the seafloor. In a related line of business, called ocean Survey as a Service (oSaaS), the company delivers hydrographic and oceanographic information to customers.

Jim had a challenging task last week: his topic was Seabed Warfare, and it turned out that most the really interesting parts are classified. So Jim threaded the needle by focusing his presentation at the policy level, discussing how big-ticket commercial policy works in the South China Sea and explaining how firms like his own can plug into the resulting opportunities. And we still got to talk a bit about the gear!

2020-07-09

Bill Watkins (USMA '77) runs The Lions Pride, a 10x accelerator focused on veteran founder-CEOs.

Right now Bill's cohorts are applying Google's OKR system to set Objectives & Key Results for this year's third quarter. Click here to learn more!

2020-07-02

Janie Mines (USNA '80) was the first African-American woman to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. She's had some practice handling gratuitous criticism.

Here Janie describes a difficult conversation that began with racism learned at a mother's knee and ended in friendship. More importantly, she explains WHY such conversations are important: because grace, like hatred, is contagious.

2020-07-02

Ed Manns (USNA '80) informs Jeff Colvin (USNA '00) that he has a brother from another mother in the Class of 1980, who apparently inherited all the athlete genes in the family.

Jeff Colvin (USNA '80) is therefore invited to come hit a bulkhead some Thursday night so his classmates (and his little brother Jeff) can see his face!

2020-06-25

This week we dispensed with our usual guest speaker and instead held our very first Franchisor Shark Tank! Three RINGKNOCKER franchisors got up in front of a panel of four and shared their pitch to prospective franchisees, then fielded a bunch of questions from the panel and from the audience at large.

Those of you who have been around a while will have heard this song before, but you won't disagree... it was gratifying to learn that, at the highest level, running a successful franchising operation is at least as much about leadership as it is about tattoos, or fences, or... well, leadership training. Since leadership is what we military officers do best, it's great to learn that once again it is the skill that matters most.

So thanks a bunch to our franchisors who stuck their necks out, and also to the members of our panel and all the other folks who came together to pull this event off. We'll definitely do it again!

2020-06-25

RINGKNOCKER is growing up! As of the end of September, Founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) will be setting aside other projects to focus full-time on serving the RINGKNOCKERs and extending the group's service offering and reach.

Somebody has to pay the bills, so we are proud to announce⁠—still in stealth mode, but we're all friends here⁠—the RINGKNOCKER Sponsorship Program!

2020-06-18

Last week's speaker was J. Kevin White (USNA '92), who told us the remarkable story of Global Vision 2020, a non-profit that has used a device of his own invention to deliver over 50,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses in the developing world, at a cost of well under $5 per pair.

Kevin seeks to parlay this success into a for-profit enterprise with the capacity to disrupt the corrective-vision industry and, through its non-profit partnerships, positively transform the lives of potentially hundreds of millions of people.

Doing good work isn't always about the money. But the money is ALL about doing good work... if it makes a lot more money. This looks like a slam dunk, and we can't wait to see where Kevin takes it!

2020-06-18

Here's an update from long-time RINGKNOCKER supporter Bill Watkins.

Bill runs The Lions Pride, a 10x accelerator for founder-CEOs, most of whom are former military officers. Bill's getting his cohorts ready for Q3, and he shared some inside-baseball tips with the RINGKNOCKERs!

2020-06-11

Last week's speaker was Heidi Lenzini (USNA '95), who currently directs outreach for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center’s "A Head for the Future" initiative, which focuses on preventing, recognizing, and recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Modern warfare subjects the human frame to inconceivable traumas. Medical science has dramatically increased the survivability of such events... but there are more hidden injuries. TBI is one of these: it can paralyze a limb or a personality, and learning to live with it is wickedly complicated by its effect on the very organ that does the learning.

Many of our shipmates and friends have been afflicted with TBI, and last week Heidi helped the RINGKNOCKERs understand both the nature of that affliction and what we can do to help.

2020-06-11

Randall Wimmer (USNA '91) makes an incredibly compelling case for federal government contracting as a business model, particularly for beginning entrepreneurs with time and energy to burn but little in the way of startup capital.

If you fall into that category, watch this one twice!

2020-06-04

Last week's speaker was Dr. Bob Adams (USNA '73), who walked us through a very interesting status update on the COVID situation from a medical perspective.

Few of us are doctors, but you can't spend much time as an officer in ANY service without developing something of a nose for BS. And much of what Bob had to say lined up with what many RINGKNOCKER noses have been shouting: that the reportage around COVID just doesn't seem to line up well with our experience on the ground.

2020-06-04

You'll all remember Peter Joukov (USNA '05), who owns a chain of tattoo boutiques called inq Tattoos.

Well, the flagship store in Old Town Alexandria is once again open for business!

2020-05-28

As a military officer, you wear your resume on your chest. Everybody begins a relationship with you under the assumption that you know how to do whatever your warfare pin says you know how to do. As a civilian entrepreneur, you have to prove your worth every day, at least until your reputation precedes you.

Laura Hatcher (USNA '92) talks about what a shock this can be to a newly transitioned officer.

2020-05-28

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) reflects on the choices people make.

How did you spend YOUR coronavirus pandemic?

2020-05-21

Kim Mitchell (USNA '96) tells the story of her first American Airlines Honor Flight, to accompany a group of Vietnam veterans from Oshkosh, WI, to Washington, DC. Kim's mission was to see these men welcomed home from the Vietnam War in a manner far different than they experienced so many years ago. She draws a larger conclusion from this experience: service to our nation is to be honored, whenever and wherever it is given, and whomever is in charge at the moment.

Kim is herself an orphan of that most unpopular war, rescued as an infant from the killing fields of Vietnam through selfless acts of love committed by many people, culminating with the US Air Force tech sergeant who adopted her as his own and brought her home to his family in America.

2020-05-21

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) shares his journey from a military where women were nearly invisible to one where men and women work and fight side by side.

A ship is a tiny island of humanity, a thousand miles at sea. How strange when you look around one day and realize that half of the humanity part is just missing. If we're all in this together... we should ALL be in it.

As a group, it feels like RINGKNOCKER has turned a corner. Maybe the whole crew hasn't reported in yet, but with the arrival of our sisters-in-arms, all the watch stations are covered, and we're ready to go to sea.

2020-05-14

By day, Stuart Grazier (USNA '02) is XO of Navy Operational Support Center, Denver. Enterprising officer that he is, though, Stuart also has a shore-duty side hustle: he's a very successful real estate investor.

Stuart shared a critical insight he has developed over a decade and a half exercising virtually every strategy a small investor can deploy into the real estate market. It is the insight that drives Storehouse 3:10 Ventures, the turnkey investment firm he built with his USNA roommate, and it is the insight they teach other real estate investors at frequent (now virtual) conferences like Veterans REI Live, coming up this month on 29 & 30 May.

The insight is simply this: real estate investing is a team sport! People don't invest in real estate. People invest in PEOPLE. Get the people right, and you can get the investment right. Get the people wrong, and you'll learn the hard way that nothing else matters.

2020-05-14

On the opposite side of every need is an opportunity, and on the opposite side of every opportunity is a need.

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) explains that the weekly RINGKNOCKER Meetup is where they link up.

2020-05-07

Spend a year working hand-in-glove with one of the most dynamic, quotable personalities in modern American military history. When the dust settles, what's your big takeaway? Turns out there were three.

Guy Snodgrass (USNA '98) discusses the three key lessons he learned working as Director of Communications and Chief Speechwriter Marine Corps General and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

2020-05-07

In the last 10 weeks, the Coronavirus epidemic has killed as many Americans as the last ten years of the Viet Nam war. If there had been a limited nuclear exchange, things wouldn't look all that different.

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) points out that RINGKNOCKERs have an advantage in this crisis that few others share: we've stood the watch. Our relationships begin and end with trust.

We will help one another through this thing... if only we can figure out how.

2020-04-30

While we may have regained our post-COVID sea legs and are getting after it, we are surrounded by employees, customers, and prospective employers who are still mentally and emotionally sheltered in place. How do we break through that and get those people moving in directions that matter to us?

Chris Akins (USNA '95) has an answer that could be summed up in a single word: LEADERSHIP.

2020-04-30

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) describes the construction boom on the island of Bali, where COVID has decimated tourism and virtually wiped out the local economy.

If people who have so little can reach into the bottoms of their pockets and express this kind of optimistic grit… what's OUR excuse?

2020-04-23

Executive talent magnet Marty McMahon (USNA '92) says if a role doesn't NEED to be in Silicon Valley, the Silicon Valley tech giants increasingly don't WANT it there. This goes beyond COVID: moving people from Kansas City to San Francisco or Seattle or Austin often just doesn't make economic sense.

"If you have the talent, these employers are more and more going to come find you where you are."

2020-04-23

RINGKNOCKER founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) observes that we all question our assumptions: it's key to how we found success in the first place.

But the assumptions we miss become the stories we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves, and they can blind us to opportunities around us that everybody else can see.

"Change THOSE deeply embedded stories, and you'll change your life."

2020-04-16

Bill Watkins (USMA '77) has a message for all of us: this thing will end.

Now is the time to prepare for that inevitability, so that while your competitors are still foundering, your business is accelerating and leaving them in the dust.

But remember... when it does end⁠—and it will end, no doubt of that⁠—no one will forget how you acted. NO ONE.

2020-04-16

Founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) shares the story of a Polish barber who turned the COVID crisis into an opportunity and a new business.

One might expect barbering to be a fragile profession in a world of social distancing. Here's an anti-fragile barber: while his industry gasps, he figures out how to serve his customers anyway and makes a killing.

There's a lesson in there for all of us.

2020-04-09

Mak Kelly (USNA '10) puts on his recruiter hat and talks about the importance of making human connections. Your next job is not likely to happen because you sent a resume, shipmates! It will happen because you know somebody on the inside. Who knows, maybe you connected with him here!

"When you're seeking employment, you're in a sales position: you're selling yourself! The best salesmen talk to everybody, and they make sure everybody know who they are, what their competencies are, and what they're looking for."

2020-04-09

Founder Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) on being a RINGKNOCKER.

"If you've spent a hundred nights manning the bridge watch a thousand miles at sea... or babysitting a radio in an exposed Fire Direction Center... or leading a pack of keyed-up knuckle-draggers out on a combat patrol... then your measure has already been taken. So no matter what you've done since then, or not done, the ice between us has already been broken. You belong."

2020-04-02

An extraordinary statement from Darrin Briggs (USNA '03) on the strength of the military network across ALL services, and the incredible leverage that can happen when we have the courage to ask our shipmates for help.

"This network is amazing.... If you're looking for help in the transition, leverage it. Don't be shy, don't be embarrassed. You're not weak because you're asking for help; in fact, the opposite is true."

2020-04-02

Reuben Brigety II (USNA '95) was US Ambassador to the African Union during the 2014 Ebola crisis, and is currently Dean of the School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.

"There is an opportunity for all of us who have been trained to lead from a very young age, and have had the exceptional experience of leading in very difficult circumstances, to help our communities deal with this threat."

2020-03-26

Jason Williscroft (USNA '95) founded Ringknocker to provide mentorship and support to young military officers transitioning into civilian life. The Coronavirus pandemic arrived... and now we are all out of our depth. We all need mentorship now.

"We who have the capacity to create opportunities in a time like this have an obligation to do so... because nobody else is going to do it except us."