Episode 172 – Unstoppable Journalist and Leader with Alex Achten

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The title above does not do justice to today’s guest, Alex Achten. Alex is from Kansas City where he grew up. After college he spent time in Texas where he worked as a news reporter for several years. We talk quite a bit about news reporting and what makes a good reporter.
As Alex explains, he finally felt that the stress of the reporting job caused him to want to go more into the communications and public relations aspects of media and media relations. His parents had moved to San Diego several years ago and so Alex decided to moved to San Diego as well. He joined the staff of the national nonprofit agency, Identity Theft Resource Center, where he directs media relations.
Alex tells us some about identity theft although he says he is not an expert. Even so, he has some excellent ideas about identity protection he passes along.
I asked him about his college minor in Leadership Studies and a certificate he recently earned in “Coaching as a Leadership Tool.” As you will hear, he is quite passionate about this topic and offers some great ideas about good leaders and quality leadership.
In all, no doubt that Alex is quite an unstoppable person. I am sure you will see why by the end of our conversation.
About the Guest:
Alex Achten is the Director of Communications & Media Relations for the Identity Theft Resource Center. Alex oversees the Communications Department of the ITRC and all of the company’s Communications initiatives. He specializes in public relations and media relations. At the ITRC, Alex has helped secure media coverage with programs like CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNBC’s American Greed, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Red Table Talk, and many others.
Previously, Alex was a TV Reporter at KAUZ-TV News Channel 6 in Wichita Falls, Texas. While at News Channel 6, Alex covered the political beat and interviewed Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, U.S. Congressman Pat Fallon, former U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, and many others. He also worked the city beat and covered breaking news ranging from plane crashes and fires to shootings and stabbings.
Alex is a graduate of Kansas State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science with a Major in Broadcast Journalism and a Minor in Leadership Studies. While at K-State, Alex was involved with Channel 8 News, The Collegian, and The Wildcat 91.9. Alex won First Place in the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Student Awards for Complete Sports Feature and Sportscast, as well as Honorable Mention for Entertainment Programming and DJ Personality. His radio show was also a finalist in the South Central Competition for Audio Talent.
Alex recently completed and received a certificate for his participation in Fieldstone Leadership Network’s Course titled “Coaching as a Leadership Tool.” His passion for leadership dates back to his involvement in Student Leadership Institute in high school. He has taken part in numerous leadership projects, most notably a service project that consisted of gathering and manipulating data to figure out better and more efficient ways of advertising for the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kansas. Alex was born and raised in Kansas City and is a huge Chiefs and Royals fan! There is a good chance you will find him in San Diego wearing either blue, red, or purple!
Ways to connect with Alex:
Alex Achten LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-achten-27a9002b/
Alex Achten Twitter: @Alex_ITRC https://twitter.com/Alex_ITRC
Alex Achten Facebook: @Alex-Achten-Identity-Theft-Resource-Center https://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Achten-Identity-Theft-Resource-Center
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
accessiBe Links
https://www.linkedin.com/company/accessibe/mycompany/ https://www.facebook.com/accessibe/
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Transcription Notes
 Michael Hingson ** 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i  capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson ** 01:21
Well, hi, yep, it is Mike Hingson Once again, and welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. Today, we get to chat with Alex Achten and Alex and I have had some wonderful discussions ahead of this podcast and just to help you out and get you hungry. Since he spent a lot of his life in Kansas, we talk about ribs and shrimp. And we’re now both very hungry, but we are going to resist on the podcast we’re going to just chat and not eat in front of all of you. And we we do have the willpower at least for one episode to resist. Alex, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Alex Achten ** 02:02
Thank you I’m so so happy to be here and appreciate the the invite to be on. And I have to say saying no to ribs as someone from Kansas City that that’s just wrong. Like I you know, I should not be saying no to ribs or rib talk or anything barbecue related or shrimp related. But here I am saying let’s talk about something more important. So people listening to this against that. You might say Alex, what are you doing? Why are you giving up an opportunity to talk about ribs? But But hey, you know, you mentioned it we talked a lot about in our political.
Michael Hingson ** 02:38
I want to say that we’re going to talk about something more important what we’re going to talk about something else. But we could always talk about ribs, you know that’s
Alex Achten ** 02:44
true. Ribs is an evergreen topic. You can talk about a whenever, wherever,
Michael Hingson ** 02:48
right? And eat them wherever and whenever you can just to say,
Alex Achten ** 02:54
just don’t wear a white shirt. Like I’m like, I’m
Michael Hingson ** 02:56
right now. Right? Yeah, we’re at least wear a bib. Yes, I’ve
Alex Achten ** 03:00
been at the minimum. Yeah, federal. Well, I
Michael Hingson ** 03:03
really am glad you’re here. We had a fun time when we chatted last time. So why don’t we start by maybe you telling me a little bit about you growing up and a younger Alex and all that kind of stuff?
Alex Achten ** 03:15
Yeah, absolutely. So I started I suppose I told you. I grew up in Kansas City. That’s where I was born and raised. That’s where my roots are. That is, that’s where a lot of my family is. And and it’s still home. You know, it is absolutely still home at my core. But yeah, that’s where it that’s where I grew up. I went to Kansas State University. So I am a Wildcat. Through and Through. I graduated there in 2015. I got a Bachelors of Science and I majored in broadcast journalism, and I minored in Leadership Studies and and from there, I went and pursued a TV career. And I went down to Texas, and was a TV reporter and multimedia journalist for about three to three and a half years down at KU Zee TV NewsChannel, six, and had a really good time there did a lot of a lot of interesting, interesting things that you wouldn’t get to do it. Many other jobs, covered tons of different stories there. But even after three, three and a half years, I made the decision that I wanted to get into communications and public relations and also wanted to have the opportunity to get closer to home. And as I told you, in the past, my parents actually moved to San Diego in 2011, which is when I went to Kansas State so they had been there for a while I come out here and I knew I loved it. And I knew that ultimately, you know with my brother in Los Angeles as well, you know, it gave me an opportunity to get closer to home. So I went ahead and moved out here and I was able to land a job with the identity that The Resource Center where I’m at now and I’ve been here for four years working in communications and public relations. I’m our Director of Communications and Media Relations at the identity theft Resource Center now, and it’s just really worked out. It’s been a it’s been a great, a great experience and opportunity for me. So that is kind of be in a nutshell on my background. But again, my roots, my roots are in Kansas. That’s there’s no doubt about that. But, but you know, you can’t be living in America’s Finest City there.
Michael Hingson ** 05:33
Well, having lived in Vista for six years, I can very well appreciate what you’re saying. And we love the San Diego area. I still think it’s the best weather in the country.
Alex Achten ** 05:44
I will not debate you on that. I will not debate you on I was telling I literally like the 10 day forecast for the next 10 days it is sunny and either 7374 75 or 76. That 10 day so yeah, doesn’t get much better than that. It does it.
Michael Hingson ** 06:00
Next Friday, I fly to the National Federation of the Blind Convention, which this year is in Houston. Oh, one that’s gonna weather Yeah, well be nice and toasty. That’ll be nice and toasty there. You’re wearing your clothes. Yeah, there is something to be said for air conditioning.
Alex Achten ** 06:22
But I’ve been down there to the
Michael Hingson ** 06:24
humidity in Houston is no fun either. been there before. That’s okay. I can cope. Well. So when you were a news broadcaster, that must have been pretty interesting. Did you find it interesting and fun. And you must have introduced interviewed lots of people like the governor of Texas and people like that. Did you get a chance to talk to people like that?
Alex Achten ** 06:46
Absolutely. I did. I did interview the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, three or four different times, in my stint there at Channel six. And I actually worked the political beat. So I interviewed a lot of political figures in the state of Texas. So I interviewed Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. I also interviewed Beto O’Rourke a handful of times when I was there, and then pat Fallon, who is in the he is in the US House. Now. I interviewed him a handful of times, former congressman Mac Thornberry was was one of them. So a lot of a lot of political figures. I interviewed in my time there and I also had the, the city beat so that actual Wichita Falls that he beat. So I’ve covered all the the government related things going on in the city of Wichita Falls. And, you know, really what was kind of the, the wildcard was was really the breaking news that you’ve covered. I think, you know, I think every reporter will tell you that’s one of the probably one of the most exciting parts of the job is the breaking news that you cover. And unfortunately, you know, not not all breaking news is good news. But as a reporter, you know, that’s that’s, that’s what you go to school for, you know, you go to school for opportunities to be able to tell the public, you know, do your service tell the public what is going on and, and while it is something that you know, a lot of it is stuff you never want to see happen. You want to do to the best your ability, and it is a thrill to be in a situation now it can be a moment, don’t get me wrong, it is emotionally draining. It is physically draining, mentally draining, it is draining in every sense of that word, but but your passion, your passion is what drives drives you and I tell everybody you know what my passion and my core is journalist I’m a I’m a I’m a journalist, at my core, even though I work in public relations, and Media Relations and Communications now and I love it. At my core, I’m a journalist and I am telling story. So in Wichita Falls, you know, I was able to, to cover so many stories that impacted my life in so many different ways and stories they’ll carry with me forever. And I met people that I will remember and carry with me forever. You know, you talk with so many people every single day. When you when you’re doing so many different stories and you hear so many stories from so many different people. It is just a very rewarding job and it can be very exhausting job. So it was it was something that again, I covered everything from you know, amazing story. I covered one guy who had like, multiple heart surgeries, didn’t know if he was going to live and then he ended up a few months later being able to come out and ride in the Hunterdon hell bike race, which is a really really popular bike race Wichita County. I got to interview him. That was a great story. I got to do stories like that I got to ride To be 25 Bomber for one particular story, which was something that was actually really near and dear to my heart because my grandma was actually a Rosie the Riveter. So that was really, really cool opportunity for me. But on the flip side of that, you know, I covered a handful of stories and breaking news that didn’t end well, that things that you won’t forget. And, you know, those are the things that stick with you. But you know, I know, as a reporter, something that I was passionate about was telling these people, some of these people that may have been gone too soon telling their story, and telling their story in a way that that really highlighted them and showed them in the best light possible, so people could really get to know who they were in some of the tragic events that happen. And so that was something I took very seriously. And those are some of the things that I’ll definitely remember. So, again, I could go on for days, about everything I got in that, in that in that role. But ultimately, what it just came down to was, it was a position where sustainability, you know, I just didn’t think it was something that I could sustain long term going through that, again, that that mental, emotional, psychological, physical strain, needed some better work, some better work life balance, that was something that was really important. And then look, you know, I’m honest with people about it, you know, TV reporters, it’s not the biggest salary in the world. It’s not a and, you know, you also got to worry about you being able to support yourself financially. So you know, that’s another piece of it, too. And again, not that you don’t make a livable wage. But that, you know, I know a ton of people who have made the jump to communications PR for that reason, as well. So, but don’t get it all.
Michael Hingson ** 11:47
As a speaker. I know that when I go somewhere to speak, from the time the airplane lands until I take off, I have to be on. Oh, yeah. And so I appreciate what you’re saying about the whole emotional aspect of it, then sometimes you go on well, I went, I’ve gone to places where it was very interesting. And certainly the the tenor and tone of people and some of their views. Were not the views that I had. But I can’t ever let that get in the way. And I’m there to do something. And I’m there to inspire. And I learn as much as I can about how to inspire every audience when I go. So it is different for different kinds of audiences. And for you, it must have been a challenge. I mean, going from beta O’Rourke to Greg Abbott, talk about two different ends of the spectrum. And that kind of thing has to be a real challenge for you, as a reporter, and if you are working to represent the story and talk to the people, then you have to do it without getting emotionally involved in and letting your biases and show on show and that has to be emotionally draining
Alex Achten ** 13:01
it 100% It absolutely is emotionally draining. I don’t think people understand, understand how many aspects of that job, are emotionally draining. And, you know, not just that, but there’s, you know, there’s a lot of people out there that, that don’t love what you do, and that, that you have to deal with when you’re on the public as well. And unfortunately, I have stories about things that have happened to me, just trying to do stories and cover stories. And unfortunately, too many reporters do have stories like that. And it just kind of comes with the territory. But you’re right, getting back to what you were saying, working that political beat in particular. When you’re covering, you know, politicians from these, you know, complete opposite sides of the spectrum. You do, you have to let your biases, you have to leave your rises at the door, and you have to come in and you have to do your job, which is strictly to report, report what this person is saying, and then report what the other person is saying. And then you let the viewer come to the conclusion of whatever conclusion they’re going to come to but your job is to report the facts. Your job is not to apply any, you know, any sort of speculation or any sort of any sort of leanings one way or the other. There’s just something that you can’t do. And I think I always told people that I thought the ultimate compliment was not when a when a when a politician told me that I did a good story. It was when they told me that I did a fair story, that that was what I really took as the ultimate cost. Because if I did a fair story, it meant they respected what I did, but you know, understood that, you know, I was tough, you know, and but I was but I wasn’t disrespectful. You know, I did, I did my job. And so that was really kind of what I strive for in that in that position. So that was one piece that was really important. And then as you mentioned when you’re getting a lot of these other stories that are emotional like Again, you know, I, you know, one story, did a touched on a girl who unfortunately was murdered walking home from school and her friend was with her and shot as well. And that was a story that really captivated kind of the way it happened really captivated the entire community. And it was really hard to leave your emotions out, you know, at the door on this particular piece, he was only 14 years old. It was a really sad backstory to it. And I was reported it was live on the scene, I was the reporter that was at her memorial, and I was the reporter that was speaking with her family, and that was just super emotionally draining. And there’s multiple times stories like this, where you’re trying to talk about someone’s life. And you’re also trying to report about the breaking news that might be happening, and maybe also about that trial, you know, I was part of the trial coverage do? How do you leave your emotions out of that when there’s so much heavy emotion in it. But you have to find a way to leave it at the door. And that is really difficult to do, and it takes a toll on you. But you have to do it to be able to do the job to the best of your ability
Michael Hingson ** 16:07
I listened to from a standpoint of collecting old radio shows some interesting news reports through the years, I think the probably one of the most dramatic ones is when the Hindenburg exploded, and there was one reporter on the scene everybody else had left because it was late coming in. And he was there reported the whole thing herb Morrison did and did an incredible job. Although his emotions came through some there was no way not to. But yeah, but the point is that he was able to report the whole thing. And even through the emotion, he reported everything. I’ve heard reports, because I was alive then about JFK getting shot. And I heard the Columbia challenger or the Columbia space shuttle thing. And, you know, other things. What amazes me today is how many people when we see some reporters reporting on stories, and clearly being very bias and not just reporting, which we see a lot, and to all too many people won’t hold them accountable and say that’s not your job, your job is to report the news. And it’s really scary. And so unfortunate that we see all too often today where people don’t leave their biases at the door. And they portray things as facts that aren’t. And that’s too that’s too bad too, because that gives the whole industry a very bad name.
Alex Achten ** 17:43
Exactly. You nailed it right there. At the end, it gives the industry a bad name. And it really damages the credibility of good reporters and a majority. And we say this best so many different fields of work, but you know, there’s always a few bad apples that seemed it can ruin it for everybody. And in the news, everybody sees what to do. So if those few bad apples are going to be directly seen what what they’re doing, and I used to tell some of the new reporters that came in, that I would train, you know, don’t you know, don’t take, you can’t take some of this, you know, stuff that you’re going to hear some stuff you’re going to encounter, you can’t take it too hard. You can’t take it too personal. Yeah. And you can’t you have to let it go if you have a bad day, because the reality of the fact, you know, the reality is, when you have a bad day, unfortunately, everybody’s gonna see it, because you’re on TV every day. And, you know, people aren’t gonna see my bad days. Now, you know, when I’m when I’m working at the CRC, but they did when I was on TV, and there was no way to get around that and it’s in the public eye. But you have to find a way to let that go. Getting to these kind of these bad apples that really kind of paint media in a bad light. It’s the same thing, you know, they’re being seen. And then, you know, people think, well, that’s what all journalists and all media are like, and I think that’s what’s most disappointing to me is that there are so many good journalists out there, and they get overshadowed by some bad apples that ruin it. And I’m very clear with people that, you know, those that are inserting their opinions into things. That’s not news. I mean, that that is entertainment programs and entertainment. Right? That is entertainment, that is not news. Entertainment, but no, I agree. And I’ve had people come up to me and say, you know, well, you know, I don’t watch the news because of this person. And I think that’s not like I don’t even consider that a news program, whatever. They whatever. They came to me, and I’ll tell them, you know, some of some of the some of the places that I think do have good news, but again, I you know, I got to know a ton of reporters when I worked in the industry. I know a ton now for my current role and working in media relations. And again, there’s just so many good reporters out there. Air. And you know, I will say that the line, it’s thinner now than it’s been in a long time with within certain opinion in the news. And that is kind of a, you know, scary thing a little bit. But, you know, when you, you know, they teach you these things in school, how to handle these situations, and there’s a lot of really good reporters who do good work. And it’s hard work work that requires tons of research and education, and being able to be impartial and ask good questions. And not even just that, you have to, after you ask the question, do you have to tell the story and you have to be a good storyteller. There’s so many pieces of that. And there’s so many good reporters that doing that, and getting messages out that needed need to get out there. But unfortunately, not enough people. Read the news, watch the news, hear the news, because they just associate some of those bad apples in the opinion with it. So it’s disappointing to hear kind of that misconception. And again, I, as a former reporter, I will obviously stand up for many reporters, and believing that it is it is still a good industry. But I will admit at the same time that there are some some some bad apples out there. But I definitely encourage people to if you hear opinion, you see opinion, there is a differentiator between what I would consider news and entertainment program. Yeah,
Michael Hingson ** 21:22
yeah. Well, for me, I was so impressed, watching a lot of the news once I got home on September 11, having gotten on at the tower and all that, but people like Aaron Brown on CNN, who all day stayed and covered it. Of course, they were across the river. I think he was in New Jersey, I believe, but he, he did the reporting for hours and hours. And I finally got to meet him. And just anyone who could do that, and Peter Jennings did the same thing on ABC, and just being able to do that. And I think with Peter Jennings Finally, there was some emotion, but but still ropey, how can there not be on the next Monday? Dan, rather, was interviewed on Letterman, and and he broke up on the Letterman Show. And yeah, how could you not and why shouldn’t you? Yeah, because you’re doing Yeah, they’re human, they should you be able to react?
Alex Achten ** 22:26
Exactly. I, you know, I, I, I haven’t met a reporter that hasn’t had a broker who has not had a breakdown, I’ll be honest and honest, I, every single reporter that I’ve worked with had a breakdown at one point or another, I’ve had breakdowns before as a reporter. It’s going to happen, it comes with the territory. And when you’re covering something like, like, September 11, I can’t even imagine how difficult that had to be. And again, you’re only human, you only can take so much. And, and that that is just a incredibly tough job to do. But I’m glad that you mentioned that is because that’s that’s a great example, and a perfect example. But you know, I think that you mentioned in there human. I mean, I think that that is kind of when I would remind people of you know, these reports are human. And, you know, they they’re out here trying to do the best job that they can. Yeah, sure, there are again, there are some bad apples out there. And they’re gonna, you know, you know, you need to be able to decipher news from non news. That’s deaf, right thing. But But I again, I think that there’s just a lot of lack of respect for for some media out there. And I don’t think people understand how hard they work and what they go through. And so, you know, hopefully, that’s something that, you know, I’ve been an advocate, again, that a lot for a long time, I’ll continue to advocate for that. Because it’s like I said, I’m a journalist at my core. Those are my people always advocate for them. But, but just again, you know, you’re human, you will and go through so much. And I can’t even imagine what it was like this 911 coverage, but I will say I have watched, I have gone back again, news junkie, I’ve just pronounced surprised anybody. I’ve gone back and watched to the coverage, one of the coverage from September 11. And it was, it was some very, very good coverage that day.
Michael Hingson ** 24:14
There was some some really good coverage that day. And it was very amazing that people held it together as much as they did. And it’s a testimony to them and to their character that they did and they didn’t go off and try to go off on deal with diatribes and lecturing people and so on but reported the business which is what they should have done.
Alex Achten ** 24:34
Exactly. And I’ll say just one thing with that, too, that’s so hard because you don’t know they didn’t know initially what was going on? No, and you have to have essentially wall to wall coverage of what’s going on and you have to fill that time was something so you have to fill it and it’s hard not to go to those places on well, they could have been this or it could have been that right it’s that is that is so hard when you don’t have a script, there’s there’s not a playbook for that. There’s not there’s not a playbook for that. That is so hard. You’re going wall to wall all day long covering this event where you’re learning what’s going on. But you don’t fully know, I mean that there’s no job more difficult.
Michael Hingson ** 25:13
And one of the things that I realized pretty early on, and I’m not sure it was said, as much as it should have been, is that this was not an attack by Islam, this was attacked by a fringe group that wanted to have their way. But that’s not the representation of the Muslim church. Yeah. And and I think that not nearly enough people understood that. And again, it’s all too often that we, as the public haven’t learned to step back and truly analyze, we listen, and we hear somebody, Oh, I agree with that. And then we just go on, and we don’t analyze for ourselves. And we really need to do that. I’m not a great fan of Fox, but I watch Fox to hear what they say, as long as I can, can take it, and then I will go back and listen to other news, but I do like to watch a variety of different kinds of newscasts. And I could also go off and say things like, watching the BBC, or news from Europe and so on is really fascinating, because the way they report a lot of stuff is totally different, compelling way we do it here. And there’s a lot of value in what they do.
Alex Achten ** 26:29
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Did you write I would encourage someone go go watch a BBC broadcast and see what the way that it did. It is much different than the way than the way and that’s not a bad thing. No, no, not a bad thing at all. And, but But I will say, you know, you’re right. I think that it is important for people to again, be able to watch different different news outlets and be able to get news from different places. And because, you know, again, I just think it’s good to be hearing what everybody’s saying and thinking and then I think if you can come to more of an educated opinion, on whatever it is that that that’s going on. But if you’re only watching the news that plays into the narrative that you want to believe I mean, how much are you really, you know, learning or to the flip side of that, if you’re only watching news that goes against what you believe in, they’re there to just, you know, mock what they’re saying, again, I’ll say the same thing. What are you what are you really gaining from that? I my default is always tell people that I go back to you know, I like to watch. You know, I like to watch a galley i I’m, I worked at CBS affiliate, I think CBS news is, is pretty good. I work with the investigate TV team, for television a lot. I actually used to be in a great, great TV employee. But I think investigate TV has an has an incredible team of people there. And I think that NBC is not not MSNBC, just NBC MVCs investigative team is tremendous. I think that there’s some tremendous reporters on their investigative team. So again, I think it’s about you know, figuring out being able to sift out you know, who’s, you know, who’s going to really tell this, you know, who tells stories from an impartial standpoint,
Michael Hingson ** 28:28
given my age. I’m a relative late comer to 60 minutes. I love watching 60 minutes, but I had a radio program on our college radio station K UCI at 9.9 on your dial on every Sunday night, I played old radio shows for three hours. And I learned along the way when somebody called from the Orange County Jail in California, that half the people in the jail wanted to listen to our show on Sunday nights and roughly half of the people wanted to listen and watch 60 minutes. And ultimately we beat out Wallace so I’m really glad that we’d be Wow, look at that. And you know, of course what I say to everybody is that Wallace was really just kind of a guy with criminal tendencies if you listen to him when he did old radio shows. What did he announce the Green Hornet What’s that all about? Crime and Sky King you know, what’s that all about crime? So we know what we don’t what kind of mic well, it says I never got to meet him and say that a person who would have been great to do
Alex Achten ** 29:29
Mike Well, that is true. But it was it
Michael Hingson ** 29:33
was really funny that we we we beat out 60 minutes and so they wanted more entertainment the news that’s okay.
Alex Achten ** 29:40
Hey, you know what? There’s so many there’s so many things that are coming into my mind right now but it’s it’s what was it I you know, if it bleeds it leads like that was one that I remember being like a really popular saying yeah, and then there I there was another one that rhymed at sales, and I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting what it was but but You’re right. I mean, you know a lot of these news producers, I mean, they’re stalking their shows know what what people are gonna be most interested in here and are seeing at the beginning of a show.
Michael Hingson ** 30:09
My favorite, my favorite 60 minutes is still the one where Morley Safer interviewed Miss Piggy. And she had him on the ropes. It was so funny. I’d love to get a copy of that. She kept calling him Morty and all sorts of stuff that is still my favorite 60 minutes episode.
Alex Achten ** 30:29
Well, I’ll say this. I do like some good news mixed in with that. Yeah. I hear people talk about you know, I hate how much bad news is the beginning. And I get it why people say that. I also understand why is it the beginning of shows and why it’s so prevalent, but I think it is important to sprinkle some things in. And yeah, I watched CBS Sunday Morning, every morning because I love their feature stories. And I at the station that I worked at, we had a good news segment at the end of every show. So I’m sure it’s something that we that we’d like to mix in, I think it’s important to be able to get that in. So again, you know, you have to hear the people and there’s a lot of people want some more good
Michael Hingson ** 31:05
news. Yeah. And sometimes I don’t think we get as much of it as we could, and probably should. There’s so much bad stuff. And that’s what seems to get a lot of the headlines, I understand it. But and the other part of it is there always seems to be something that is dramatic enough that we do have to get those headlines. So you know, that’s the other part about it. We there’s there’s hardly a slow news day anymore. No, no. Which is, which is too bad. Well, you know, but we cope. So how did you then I understand why you decided that you wanted to leave actually doing real reporting? How did you end up at the identity theft Resource Center?
Alex Achten ** 31:47
Yeah, well, you know, getting back to, you know, you count what I said a little bit earlier in the podcast, you know, it was kind of a situation where, you know, okay, and do you want to sign on it, you know, sign a contract with your, you know, with your current employer and, you know, stay longer? Do you want to look to go to a new station and a bigger market? You know, what do you want to do, and I was kind of at the crossroads, they were, you know, it was time to make a decision one way or the other. And I’ve been mulling it over for a while, you know, again, I was like, This is not something that’s not sustainable. It’s really a stressful job. I love what I’m doing. But it’s super stressful. And, you know, again, I wanted a little bit of more financial stability, my life, I wanted a little more work life balance, and I wanted to be ultimately be, you know, a little bit closer to family. That was something that would that I wanted as well. So I moved to San Diego, and said, You know what, I’m going to go after this communications thing and see what happens. So I came out to San Diego, I got involved in prsa, which is the Public Relations Society of America, the San Diego chapter in particular, and took part in a mentorship program actually, there. And that was an amazing experience, I was able to work with somebody who at the time was with VA II, out here in San Diego. And they helped me with with a ton, you know, with prep on the industry, interview PrEP. PrEP on the resume, refining the resume. And they really helped me with a lot of that. And I’ll say this is a very common jump. And I don’t know how many of you will know this very common jump for people and news to jump to communications and PR, I would say, I mean, I don’t know if 50% of the people who work in PR are former news people but it, it feels like it well, I’m meeting with them all the time. And it feels like half the time they’re like, Yeah, I used to be a reporter as well or used to work in the news as well. And I have a ton of friends that have made the jump since me even from news to PR. So it’s a really, really common jump. There’s a lot of parallels there. But I ended up you know, the mentorship program was great, it helped me learn a lot. And then I landed a position with the identity theft Resource Center is a communication specialist with a focus on PR. And after about a year, a little over a year, year and a half, I got a promotion to earn an own media specialist. So it was more really focused on media relations. In particular, which is more what I wanted to do. And then from there, I got a promotion to head of earned and owned media relations, which really kind of allowed me to kind of begin to run the show on that side of things. And then the way things ended up shaking out I got another promotion to Director of Communications and Media Relations. So now I’m running an overseeing the communications team for the identity theft Resource Center. And it is a position that that I Love, you know, I love the company, I love the people that I work with. And I love that, you know, I have an executive that we have an executive team there that is so supportive of me and supportive of the work that I do, and they give me the freedom to go out and, and do what I think needs to be done to put the ITRC in the best light publicly, to get us media coverage, to execute successful communications campaigns. And it is something that I really do enjoy, we got a great team. I’m in a managerial role now, which is something that that I said I would never do. I was like, I’ll never I’m never I’m never gonna be be a manager, I’m never going to manage people. That’s not something I’m going to do. Here I am 31. And now I’m a director, so, so much for that. But, but that’s what I said, But you know, I really do enjoy it. I better work life balance. Closer my parents, I get to see them more often. And I’ve built a community of friends out here that that I really enjoy. And, again, you can’t beat San Diego, but but I really I really do. I really do love it. And I think what is something that has really helped me is being a former reporter. Being able to speak with people who work in the media, I feel like it’s so much easier for me to speak with them. And so yours didn’t say easier. But it’s so easy for me to speak with them. Because I feel like I know how to talk to them. How would I know? How to myself back when I was sitting at my news desk? What would I tell? What would I tell Alex like, that’s what I think when I’m when I’m writing a press release, or I’m right, you know, I’m I’m personally pitching somebody, or if I’m about to send out a media alert, you know what, what I want to hear and then I think of it just about how people will have it I want people to communicate with me, so much of it is about building relationships. And I put a ton of stock and building relationships with with these people in the media, and it goes beyond just hey, I’ve got a story for you, or, Hey, I’ll scratch your back here, if you scratch our back there, you know, it goes further than that. It’s about you know, taking genuine interest in these people. Because again, you know, these amateurs, good journalists, I mean, they’re good people, and being able to build those relationships with them. And getting to know them is something that I think is really important. And when I was a reporter, it was the same, you know, I kind of had the same approach, I wanted to get to know the PR people that I was working with, and I took a lot of stock and building those relationships. So I that’s something that’s really important to me, kind of with where I’m at right now with the with the communications team, at the ITRC is our executive team knows that media relations and public relations is really kind of my my bread and butter. So they let me really stay in the weeds and kind of do all of that. But, but I delegate for the most part, a good chunk of the the other stuff that we do marketing stuff, project management stuff, I’ll delegate that to other to other people on the team. But, but I really do stay in the weeds with the media relations stuff, because I love it, I mean that I really am passionate about that. And I love to see the ITRC highlighted on these programs. And and now that I’ve worked in a space for four years, I didn’t I am really passionate about helping these victims because I see the the way that these victims of identity crimes are impacted. And I always I you know, one of the things I wanted to do, and I moved into communications, I wanted to take take a role, where I felt like I would make a difference. You know, I didn’t want to take a role to take a role, you know, I wanted to take a role or I could make a difference. And I feel like you know, being able to get media coverage of the ITRC and our services and our reports and our data and all this stuff in return helps get more, you know, help to these victims who need it again, whether or not that means it leads to more government assistance, government programs, whether it means that they find the ITRC and we’re able to help them whatever it might be they know that’s something that I’m that I’m definitely passionate about. So it has been it has been a great four years working with the communications team at the ICRC
Michael Hingson ** 39:23
well tell me a little bit more about what the ITRC is what it does and and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, the
Alex Achten ** 39:29
I didn’t have resource center there. It’s a national nonprofit. And it really is and I won’t sit here and you know, read off I’m not gonna I won’t go into Mr. PR and read off the mission statement and do all that. I’ll say the thought of that. But I but I will say it’s a national nonprofit that works in the in the identity crime space. The only national nonprofit that has free remediation services for for victims of victims can call us or live chat with us for free and we can help I help them with their identity crime case. Or we can help. Even if you’re not a, you know, a victim of identity theft, you know, you can always message us if you have a question or you know, something that’s preventative, you can message us about anything. And we are advisors will, will work with people on whatever the issue is toll free. And it’s not like you just call one time or message one time, and then we’re like, well, there’s a fee, the second or third time No, it’s, you know, you can, however, many times you need to reach out to us however long you need to talk to us, we’ll do it, we’ll do it. And that is something that we do. And we also work with, we also work a lot in the research side of things, we do a lot of research. When it comes to identity crimes, right now we’re doing a lot of research in the identity crime landscape, in particular in the black communities, and how they’re impacted by any crime. So that’s something that we’re working on right now. We track data breaches, and we report our findings and our trends and what they mean and, and we do things to try to see, you know, try to get additional support for victims. So you know, we’ll work we’ll work with the, with other organizations, and you know, the government, we have a lot of federal federal grants, and we’ll we’ll work to try to get more resources for victims add that as part of it as well. And then, you know, we obviously provide education, we’ll provide education to businesses, and things of that nature. So there’s a lot of different things that we do. But ultimately, you know, the goal is to, is to help reduce identity crime, and, and really to be able to educate people on what’s going on in cybersecurity,
Michael Hingson ** 41:36
privacy. So somebody, so somebody calls and says, you know, my identity has been stolen, I’ve had 10,000 or $50,000, in lost credit card charges, and so on. How do you guys help? What is it that the senator does?
Alex Achten ** 41:51
Yeah, so the senator, what we do is we ultimately can help somebody create a resolution plan with, okay, you know, here’s what you need to do next. In regards to steps, who, here’s who you need to call, here’s what you need to tell them. Here’s what you need to get from them. And then here’s the steps that you need to take to protect yourself. So we’re not there actually doing all of these things for the victims, but we are there to help provide them a resolution plan. And to really guide them through this process that is so tricky, and so difficult, especially people are so vulnerable at those moments. And it’s hard. I mean, look, I mean, I mean, a lot of us are the victims of identity crimes, and we know how it can play on your emotions. And you may not be thinking in your proper state of mind at that time, you know, well, we can we can help you in that moment. Walk you walk you through that process, and make sure that you’re able to take the appropriate steps to keep yourself as as safe as possible. So that’s really, really our role in that. And again, you know, we’re there to always provide support.
Michael Hingson ** 42:58
One of the things that we did I have a niece who had she and her family had their identity stolen, gosh, it’s gotta be close to 10 years now. And one of the things that we did was we signed up with LifeLock obviously gives some protection and so on. But that’s a different kind of an entity that does sort of different things than what you do, right.
Alex Achten ** 43:24
Yeah, yeah, exactly. You’re You’re right that there, that’s more identity theft, protection. Talking about that, and look, you know, I Norton, Norton LifeLock is one of our is one of our supporters. So we work with them on certain things, but But you’re right, that that is that is more service based. And we, you know, we’re really, we’re really not service based, you know, we’re just some things in the works that that will roll out at a later time, but, but we’re really not.
Michael Hingson ** 43:54
You help people and you help give people perspective and you help give guidance in some way.
Alex Achten ** 43:59
Exactly. We’re there to provide guidance for people that help help victims and, and be able to help businesses and and again, get and do the research and figure out what’s going on what are the trends and that really could help guide us and what needs to be done next in the space to to help reduce the number of data breaches or identity crimes or whatever it may be. And so again, there’s so many layers to what we do, but at the core, again, it comes back to the victims and being able to help those help those victims and provide them the best resources that we can.
Michael Hingson ** 44:38
And really, again, help them get back to having some perspective because you are in a very traumatized situation when you discover something like this has happened. And sample. Generally, it’s like being a reporter. They don’t know how to step back like most reporters can do and you’re probably in theory, a little bit better position. Shouldn’t if identity were to be stolen from you, because you can learn to step back, but I’ll bet even then you are going to have to deal with it with the emotions. And so it’s a challenge for you to.
Alex Achten ** 45:09
I’m glad you brought that up. Because recently that did happen to be where I was targeted, I won’t get into the details of it, but I was targeted with with a particular scam, and even knowing exactly what scam there, I could I could have told you the name of the scam, I could have told you what exactly their tactics were, I could have told you everything. But when you hear it, it’s still scary. And it still can, you know, make you paranoid, and you can freeze and you know, I froze for a brief, you know, brief minute in that situation. And again, that’s with a background is being a reporter and working in this space and all these different things and knowing what scams are talking about and knowing that they’re they’re literally following a playbook knowing all this, it’s still hard for me to pull myself back. So I can’t even imagine someone who may not have that type of knowledge. And you know, it can there’s so many identity criminals out there. And it’s really, it can just be really difficult. And I think the emotional impacts is again, you know, people talk about identity crimes and financial losses. And yeah, you know, financial losses are really, really sad seeing some of them. But I think one of the things that people don’t talk about enough as the the emotional impacts of those crying, we ever we do a report that’s strictly on that, because it’s such a such an important piece. But, um, but it’s just, you know, that’s something that I don’t think people think about is just that, you know, yeah, physical physical abuse, you can see, right, you can you can see the marks from the emotional abuse, you can’t, you can’t see it. And so, you know, it’s harder sometimes to to get people to take it seriously, they can’t actually see the, you know, the physical marks of what you’ve gone through, you know, because it’s something that’s emotional.
Michael Hingson ** 47:05
One of the challenges that happened with my niece was, for a while even law enforcement was not convinced that she wasn’t doing this to herself, or perpetrating and in some way, and she said, look, here’s all the evidence, and it was still hard for people to accept that this really occurred, which is so unfortunate
Alex Achten ** 47:29
why and unfortunately, it’s not surprising. Yeah, I’ve heard that story so many times, too. And the crazy thing is, I’ve had, again, working in media relations. I’ve had reporters who I’ll work with who work, maybe a cybersecurity beat, or a consumer reporter beat reach out to me and say, Oh, my gosh, I’m a victim. Can I talk with one of your advisors like that? Or, you know, this horrible thing is happening to me, I need your help. That is absolutely, I’ve had a handful reach out like that. It is just so hard to to escape it. I really, really is. And I tell people I said I think this just made me a little more of a cynic now because I feel like I’m questioning everything. My mom will it’s funny. I’ll use this example. She so I’m still on my parents family plan for our phone because we’re all on the family plan together. But my brother and I, we have to pay right? You know, so yeah, Your Honor family pay up you have to pay. So we Venmo my mom every month she’ll sit she’ll send us like the transaction saying this is how much you owe. And you know, we’ll we’ll pay through Venmo I am such a cynic. Now that I text my mom every time even though I know it’s coming. And it says it says the amount it says it’s from her it says what it’s for, but I’ll still text her and say did you just spend money for this this much money for the phone bill? Then yeah, she’ll say yep. And I’ll be I’ll go, Okay, I’ll pay it now. I mean, that is like, that is where my brain is, because of where I work, but, but they’re just they’re just, you know, there’s so many, again, identity criminals out there and, and you have to you have to keep an eye on them. But the good news is, the good news is there are things you can do to protect yourself. And that’s the great thing. And, you know, again, we’re about education. So you know, we’ll try to educate people the best we can, so they can be as safe as possible. So hopefully they don’t fall victim.
Michael Hingson ** 49:17
Yeah, and it is it is so easy. I’ve seen some really good email scams that I almost fell for until I really looked carefully at where the mail came from and all the stuff in the header. I went Wait a minute and chose correctly I know not to do anything with it, but you’ve got to watch 24 hours a day. Because it is so scary that they’re they’re getting so clever about what they do much less all the robo calls on the scams that come from that
Alex Achten ** 49:53
100% and and you know, again, this gets back to BBA probably being a little bit of a cynic, but this is this is it definitely something that we put in all of our content. We always tell people, if you get a message or someone you’re not expecting, don’t respond to it, you know, reach out directly to the person they claimed to be, or the sword, you know, the company they claimed to be from and say, did you send this? And if they did, then you’re going to respond? And if they didn’t, you know, that it’s a scam? And, and again, it’s crazy that it’s like, oh, I have to I really have to, like, go to the source every time I receive a message where Yep, for somebody I didn’t, didn’t expect. And I’m gonna say, Yeah, I mean, that that would be my that would be what I would encourage you to do.
Michael Hingson ** 50:32
I do it from people where I’m expecting a message. And this is this comes through. And I haven’t had a problem that is I haven’t, like you with Venmo haven’t had one where it wasn’t true. But I still check. Because I’ve seen some really good texts, too. I got a message about a month ago, from Walmart. And it said that there was a charge for $124 or $184, or something like that. And I forget what it wanted me to do to verify it or whatever. But Amelia, I’m going, Wait a minute. First of all, I didn’t spend any money at Walmart. Yeah, of course, the scammer wouldn’t know that. But you know, I wasn’t even going to respond to the message because of that kind of thing. I didn’t expect it. It couldn’t have possibly been true. But unfortunately, things happen. I’ve done credit card charges somewhere, like buying gas. And a day or so later, suddenly, the bank calls and said, we’ve got these other charges that we don’t know about how in the heck, they got the credit card. Info. I mean, this is a long time ago. So I don’t think that they even had the ways of sticking the credit card tracker inside of the reader. But nevertheless, somehow people got charged information and used it. And you got to watch everything that goes on. You’ve got to monitor it all.
Alex Achten ** 52:01
Yeah, it’s a scary world. It’s a scary world. And unfortunately, people are going to continue to try to find ways to to get Yeah,
Michael Hingson ** 52:08
yeah, it is. It is really too bad. Well, what are some things that you would advise people to do to protect themselves?
Alex Achten ** 52:19
I, you know, yeah.
Michael Hingson ** 52:21
Obviously, one is, is what we just talked about, what kinds of things would you advise people?
Alex Achten ** 52:27
Yeah, you know, I’ll go back to our default messaging that we have at the ITRC, which really is gets back to kind of what we would call I know, we, you know, preventative tips, some of you could call it cyber hygiene. But really, it gets back down to not over sharing information. I think that’s yeah, that’s one we always talk about, you know, not over sharing personal information, using unique passwords on all your accounts. So essentially, using a different password on every account, in particular passphrase is that’s actually something that’s more effective passphrase is that we say, are usually at least 12 characters long. So some sort of saying that you’ll remember. So that way, if somebody may get into one account, they won’t get into all your accounts. So that’s, that’s one of the common ones we give. And then we always encourage people to use multi factor authentication with an app if possible, because text messages can get spoofed. But But user acquisition is an added layer of security that people have to go through to get into an account. So if you have that, that’s just going to, you know, make it make your accounts that much safer. So those are some of the basics. And we always tell people freeze their credit, if you there’s no reason for your, you know, if you don’t have, you know, a loan out or anything like that, you know, we always tell people that or I shouldn’t say tell we don’t tell people anything, we encourage people to freeze your credit, if it’s something that they may not need at that time, because, again, you know, a criminal can’t access credit that’s frozen. So that what does that mean, exactly? Here? You know, I have to be 100% honest, it’s hard for me to get into the specifics, because I tell people all the time, I’m not going to act like I’m an expert in identity theft.
Michael Hingson ** 54:10
But if you talk about freezing freezing credit, what does that mean?
Alex Achten ** 54:14
Yeah, so freezing credit, essentially, that means that you can’t have your credit taken by somebody else. I mean, that that you can do there’s you can get your credit frozen by the credit reporting agencies. And essentially, they can’t, uh, you know, they can’t happen to that they can’t get that credit and use it against you and commit identity crimes. That is because that’s again, you can there’s credit monitoring, right that we were you can monitor your credit, but it’s just, you know, it’s something that we always tell people it’s not necessarily as effective because you can monitor it but once something happens to us, something happened to it. If your credit if your credit is frozen, you know, nothing. Again, nothing can happen to it because it is frozen, and then you can unfreeze it. We especially tell people who have who have children to freeze their credit, reduces child identity theft, because a child’s not going to be using their credit, no, that’s not you, they don’t, they’re not going to have their child’s not going to go get an apartment tomorrow, you know, go buy a car and get a loan. That’s not something that’s going to happen. So that’s something that we encourage, too. But, but yeah, so that’s just a good universal tip. But again, you just take those tips, typically, it it does indeed, help bring someone
Michael Hingson ** 55:25
at risk. If someone freezes their credit, does that mean then that nothing can be charged, or you have to verify it before a charge can be made?
Alex Achten ** 55:33
Well, essentially, freezing the credit. So do that you can’t do again, like if you’ve got a loan out or something like that, that’s not something that you can that you can do, I that more really applies to and again, I won’t get too too much in the weeds, you don’t want to act like I’m the expert on it. But, um, but that is something that it can’t be you, right? You can’t like if your credit is frozen, you can’t necessarily use that if you need to use it for something you will have to go thaw that credit or unfreeze it. And then you can use that credit again, if you want again, you go in, I’m ready to go buy a car, you know, how to get a loan? Well, you can unfreeze that credit, and then you can use it for for that purpose.
Michael Hingson ** 56:13
Freeze credit again, so that nothing else can be done.
Alex Achten ** 56:16
Exactly that you can think of when you’re when you’re not using it again. So that is it. And I think there’s a misconception people think if I freeze it, I can’t unfreeze it when you can’t, I
Michael Hingson ** 56:23
am That was why I was asking. Well, you minored in Leadership Studies and you just got a certificate. Tell us about that?
Alex Achten ** 56:32
Yes, I did. So I am a Leadership Studies minor. And you know, my passion for leadership studies, actually, I think came in high school, where I was involved in the Student Leadership Institute at Kansas Christian, where I, where I graduated high school. And I actually got a scholarship to leadership, the School of Leadership Studies at Kent State. And so, you know, I was I can’t, you know, this is this is interesting. And let me let me, you know, obviously, what this is about, and I got into it, and, you know, I was captivated. I was captivated immediately, in my introduction class. And, and we learned about so many different things. So many different leadership styles, you know, culture and context, adaptive leadership, a bunch of different types of leadership practices that can be implemented. And by the way, people, people think about leadership, and they think, oh, you know, that just means you’re a good leader here. You’re a good leader there. But there are so many, I mean, there’s so much, there’s so much leaders that people don’t understand. But it really hooked me and, and I learned a ton about being a good leader, being an effective leader. And our, our mission statement, which is something that I really believed was becoming, I’m gonna blank on it now that I’m on the spot, but it was becoming more it was becoming. I see I rattle off time all i rattle it off all the time. And now I’m on here, and I’m freezing when I’m trying to think of it, but the crux of it is to become knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive leaders for a diverse and changing world. knowledgeable and knowledgeable, ethical, knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive. I’m missing one, I’m missing one or two. But everywhere people get the point of that. So the cool, knowledgeable, ethical, caring, caring giver, yes. And in inclusive. Yeah, exactly. Because you haven’t. And I think it is something that is really, really true. Because, you know, the world is constantly changing. And to be a good leader, you have to be able to evolve and adapt with what is changing in the world. And so it’s something that has been really helpful to me, I’ve been able to apply it to my jobs, I was able to, again, apply a lot of that a lot of those things as a reporter. And then in the role now I’m able to apply it as a manager as a director as a leader. And you mentioned that I just got done. Taking a about a four month course, that on coaching, coaching as a leadership tool, and it was through the fieldstone fields Student Leadership Network, in San Diego, through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. And it was really, really a beneficial course and it really kind of reinforced kind of reinforced a lot of the things that I really tried to implement, which is the first thing you have to do as a leader is you have to look at yourself and who like who are you what are your values, what do you stand for, and we talk about being like the self aware leader, you know, you have to be a self aware of the type of leader that you are. Once you’re aware of that then you can dive into you know, the other aspects of being able to be a good coach. And, you know, we talk about one thing we talked about a lot was was, was these different models that you can use, and one is the is the GROW Model, which can apply to many different leadership, leadership situations where you’re able to kind of objectively look at these situations and say, you know, what’s the goal, you know, what are some realistic opportunities here. And, you know, what’s next, and when, and, and it’s really, really an impactful model, that that you can apply. So I, that was a very, very helpful course and being able to look at that, you know, being able to be a good leader includes so many things, and you have to be authentic, you have to be empathetic, you have to be able to practice a bunch of different things, a couple things that we talked about in this course, was the ability of being silent, and being able to, you know, be comfortable with silence, and it’s not again, it’s something that sounds really silly, but it’s, it’s so important. And, and so this is all stuff that again, I’m really passionate about, I think it’s something that that makes, you know, good leaders are just so important, I think in the world. And I, I’m fortunate that I’ve got a good supporting system, or a good support system, I should say, in regards to my personal development, outside of me, outside of the ITRC, inside the ITRC. And again, I think it makes it, I think it makes me better at my job, being able to be a good leader, and it’s something that you can apply in all aspects of your life. So it was a really impactful, impactful course. And you know, I just look forward to being able to continue to apply the things that I learned towards the job that I have now towards the relationships that I may have in my life with my family, or my friends, or maybe my next job with the you know, if that ends up coming down the road, I mean, whatever it might be. So just incredibly beneficial. And I’m definitely passionate about,
Michael Hingson ** 1:02:11
Well, the thing that you said that really strikes a chord with me is the whole concept of being silent. Too often people think, well, if I’m a good leader, I gotta be telling everybody what to do, I’ve got to be the guy in charge. And I suppose, have submitted for years, that the best leaders are the ones who, among other things, know when to let other people’s talents take the lead. And they need to be silent and learn to observe. And all too often we just don’t, we don’t observe, we don’t really learn about the people who we’re supposed to be leading. And when we really do that, it’s it’s amazing what we learn, then it’s amazing what we can then put into practice, it also comes down to us having the confidence to do that rather than the arrogance just to, to preach and boss around.
Alex Achten ** 1:03:07
You’re right. And, you know, being silent. First off, it’s uncomfortable, I highly admitted it is an uncomfortable thing, being silent, and you know, not just talking to talk or filling time to fill time. Like that’s not something you you should necessarily do. And again, as a reporter, this was a very important strategy and tactic because you would get some of your best sound after a long pause. Because the person is thinking about what they want to say. And they’re pulling from some emotion and their response. And the last thing you want to do is cut that off. Yep, and not get that sound. So you let that sound. So it may be awkward, but you let it sit, because you’re usually going to get your best sound bite after that. So that was like, that was the first thing. But the same thing applies to leading a team and leading people. If you have to give, you have to allow people the chance to, to think and the chance to brainstorm and give them the space that they need to do that. And if you’re cutting them off, then that can that can restrict that they may come up with their best idea coming off of that silent pause. And that is something that’s really, really important. And you mentioned, there’s really kind of this authoritative structure kind of the leadership where or kind of like a dictatorship where you know, I’m going to tell you what to do, and you’re going to do this and you’re going to do it that and do it this way and do it that way. But you know, kind of using the coaching, the coaching model, you know, that has a lot a lot more of it is around being able to allow them to come up with the answers and how you how do you best allow other people to come up with those answers on their own? which is just going to make them more confident in themselves, and is going to make them feel more valued. And that’s something that is really, really important. And they’re gonna grow, it’s better for their growth and in return, that’s gonna be better for the organization’s growth, you know, as well or better for the organization in that case. So that is something that I think is really, really important. Being able to be silent, allow them the chance to the chance to think had the chance to have that space, and being able to be a coach and kind of, you know, not, you know, telling them what to do, but rather allowing them to come up with the responses on their own. Because I think that that is just a more effective style. That’s just personally what I what I think and, and then you know, the final thing is, we have crazy, crazy schedules. You know, I was telling you, before I came on here, I barely a chance to barely had a chance to eat. Because it’s been a crazy day for me, I had about 10 minutes to eat a sandwich right before I jumped on with you. Because I’ve been in meetings and trying to get stuff done under deadlines all day. But you have to be able to have that time for yourself to be silent and to be able to process and I know one thing that I’ve tried to do, and I’m, I’ll be honest, I probably could do a better job at it. But I try to leave a little bit of time on my calendar each day to kind of decompress and kind of have a little bit of a reflection or silence for myself. You’re in this crazy time. And it’s so important to be able to have that time to yourself to just kind of decompress and go through that process. And so that’s something that I try to do. And when I do it, I typically think that that makes me I think that that usually makes me put me in a better mental headspace. And I’m just, you know, when I jumped back into things, I think I’m better. You know, I do a better job, because I’m in that better headspace?
Michael Hingson ** 1:07:05
Well, there’s always or should always be time for introspection, and thinking about the day thinking about things and just allowing yourself to decompress and relax. And we don’t do nearly as much of that as we should. And the other thing about silence when you’re talking about being awkward. Yeah, you might find it awkward if you tend to like to talk and so on. But I would also say that for a lot of people you’re talking with, if you ask a question, or you say something, and you want them to respond, the last thing you should do is interrupt the pause. Because the more you talk, the less they’re going to, and the less they’re going to think and you can you need to as a good coach, get people to think for themselves. I remember somebody telling me a story once and it’s sort of related. It was he’s a sales guy. And John went into a customer’s place. It was a contractor, a government contractor in Washington, DC. And he went in and the guy wanted to hear about his product and all that. And at the end, John said, okay, and I’d now like you to to place your order. And then he shut up. And they sat there for 10 minutes. And finally, the guy said, well, don’t you have anything else to say? And John said, I asked you for the order, it’s your turn. And that’s exactly right. We, we try to fill in silences and the thought the value is, and by the way, he got the order because of that in part, but the value of recognizing silence and letting the other person deal with things. And yes, sometimes even stew, but at the same time, they have to take up their part of whatever is going on. So being silent is extremely important and good leaders know how to use that. Not in a bad way, but certainly to improve situations.
Alex Achten ** 1:09:04
In that that is exactly what it is. It improves situations. And and yeah, it not used in a bad way at all. It is used in a beneficial way. And I almost think constructive way. But I don’t think that’s even accurate, I would say using it in a beneficial way. Right. And it’s such a powerful tool. And it’s again, it’s It’s awkward to be able to fill time to fill time, but that’s just that’s just not, you know, not something that’s a good idea, you know, and again, time and place. I mean, I think that’s an important thing, time in place dictates a lot of it right? You know, so there might there’s a time and a place where absolutely no, maybe you should speak up. And that’s definitely true. But if the time and place permits, I mean I think that’s something important but I thought you what you brought up about, you know, people might be less likely to speak up. That is something that we actually talked about in in that horse was how kind of the production of others can just kind of shrink, if, especially if you’re like in a meeting setting. And you know, people are just talking to talk and fill time, they’re gonna get unplugged in those meetings, and people are gonna be less likely to speak up, and you might be missing out on an idea or some good thing, because they’re just not going to speak up because everyone’s just fill in time to build time. You know? So how can you involve everybody? How can you can you do that. And again, silence is a good tool for that as well.
Michael Hingson ** 1:10:33
One of the things that I’ve learned about meetings is that it’s really important to run meetings in a in an intelligent way. And one of the things that I’ve learned that somebody once said it who is a blind guy who ran an organization, he said, we have a rule, no Braille, no meeting. And the rule really is documentation is provided to everybody in advance, you can always use the excuse, we got to wait till the last possible second to get all the data. But then if you bring the documentation to a meeting in handed out, people are going to be spending their time reading, rather than using the meeting as a productive way to discuss and deal with it. So we should not have meetings where we just pass things out at the meeting, and we wait till the last second to produce them. That’s laziness, we, we don’t need to do that, even if it’s only a couple hours before, produce the documentation and get it out. And for some of us, we really need that because we’re not going to read the documentation during the meetings every anyway. But it’s a valuable tool that everybody should use. Because if we could truly use the meetings to be productive, and not have to assimilate the documentation there, but get it in advance, then we can really talk intelligently and work toward productivity. Yeah,
Alex Achten ** 1:11:47
that is true. And it makes me actually think back to this. This was a work related, but it was, so I’m in a, again, I mentioned I’m involved in some other things outside of work. And one of them is a is a group where we we meet weekly, and we do studies together. And and we’re a growth group. And so we watched this last Wednesday. We’re going through a series right now where there are handouts and there’s videos and then you know, we’ll we’ll go over some things, we’ll discuss them and they came out the handouts at the at the beginning. I think the video we watched this, this last week was like 22 minutes long. And while I was going I was guilty, I was flipping through flipping through the whole thing. I was okay, what are the keys right here? You know, you know, what are the key talking points in this video? And I’m looking okay, yeah, there’s this key point. Okay. Yeah. So wonder, I wonder what he’s gonna mention, like this part here. Yeah. And you’re doing some of that rather than actually watching the video. And so it kind of defeats the purpose a little bit. And it’s the exact same thing when you’re talking about the meetings. You know, if you hand out an agenda, or data that you’re going to go over or whatever it might be, then that’s something that could potentially happen now. ICRC they does and at the ITRC, we are, we are a national, so we don’t have an office anymore. We’ve got staff national all over the country. We’re based in San Diego, but we’re national, most of my team is on the east coast. And so we are always meeting over zoom, and we’re working from home. So we don’t have papers that we’re handing out things like that. So it was a little less applicable to us. But you know, when we were in the office, that was the thing now at the bigger struggle is, is to not multitask in a meeting where it’s like, oh, yeah, we’re meeting Well, let me open up a document. I can do this on the side, you know, okay, yeah, Lt. I’ve done it. I’m gonna be honest, I am guilty of it. But you’re so many distractions, you’re right, and handing the handing those out and being able to be effective run effective meetings, that is something that, that there’s been a lot, honestly a lot of talk about that. How, you know, how do you how do you run an effective meeting? And what are the ramifications of a bad meeting? Because there’s a lot of data out there’s a lot of that to the hour that people there, there’s, you know, that can actually decrease some some performance. And I hate that I’m saying is that a statistic as a former reporter, and I don’t have a statistic to quote right now. So I may I know, I’m saying this, and I know, I’ve seen data on it before that it can make you have a negative impact on employees if they may have a bad meeting. And that could lead to less production throughout the day. I mean, so I mean, that that is a thing and how can you how can you, be efficient with your meetings, be productive with your meetings, and meet all of that and so being able to do that something is really important.
Michael Hingson ** 1:14:42
All right, coming from the background of having been reported needing to be objective and all that let’s get to the real meat of the subject at his word, as it were, who has the best ribs in Kansas City. Now, I gotta be objective about this.
Alex Achten ** 1:14:54
Yeah, the best ribs on Kansas City. Eat Yeah, no, no, that’s a great question. Um, you ribs. This is This is tough because this there’s a lot of layers to this question I have to say ribs themselves. I would give it to gates probably. But favorite barbecue restaurant in Kansas City. I would go q 39. I am a Q 39 Sucker. I love it. I have to got it. Well, it’s I’m not gonna say it’s new or gonna miss ballet, what? 1015 years now but but it hasn’t been around as long as Kansas City Joe’s which used to be Oklahoma Joe’s, which is also one of my favorites was probably my favorite before Q 39 came, but there’s some new places and I haven’t tried a couple of in fact, I’m going back a city here in a couple of weeks. So I’m going to have to see if I can try and couple others where there’s a place called Meet Mitch. That’s really popular right now. There’s another place it’s called char bar. Close.
Michael Hingson ** 1:16:02
I told you I was prejudiced. Arthur Bryant’s. But you know, yes. And
Alex Achten ** 1:16:05
Arthur. Exactly. Arthur Bryant’s is right up there as well. Is Arthur Bryant’s is great. Jack stack is great. Let’s see you obviously Mr. Gates. And as you q 39. mentioned, Oklahoma Joe’s. Well, I say Oklahoma, Kansas City Joe’s now but I’ll always say I apologize. But and I know I know. I’m leaving a toll on apps
Michael Hingson ** 1:16:27
as well. Just remember if you get to New York or to Vegas, go to virtuals.
Alex Achten ** 1:16:31
I know I well. Virgil is on my list and I told you this before the podcast and I’m a foodie. I am a foodie. You know, I’m out I’m going to try the best. The best food that I could find and Virgil’s on my list. I still feel like I’m in Vegas halls every year for something work related or more or more something for something I don’t know. But I feel like they’re almost every year. And then I got a cousin who lives up in New York and so you know, I’ve been out there a couple times so I may have to if I ever gotten visited again check checkout Virgil’s but but yeah, and I’ll say this though.
Michael Hingson ** 1:17:06
Yeah, well you have to let us know you’ll have to let me know when you when you try them and I’ll and let me know what you discover when you go to Kansas City and if you’ve changed your views at all or even if you haven’t let me know what what what what comes out of your visit there in a few weeks.
Alex Achten ** 1:17:21
I’ll have to I’ll have to report back and you know, I’ve tried to find good barbecue and San Diego and it just doesn’t exist I found some okay barbecue Yeah. But I have not found anything that even even even comes close oh sure to being in the same ballpark. Yeah and I you know I There’s candy BBQ which is in downtown San Diego, which is actually we’re seeing for Top Gun was filmed and so the owners are from Topeka and you know it’s okay but again, it’s just a it’s not Kansas the level in my opinion, no shot to the people down there at Kenzie barbecue. I love it. There’s a barbecue restaurant in San Diego called Kansas City Bar on the other
Michael Hingson ** 1:18:05
hand, by can compare Kansas City seafood with San Diego seafood
Alex Achten ** 1:18:09
exact so it’s fair. It’s fair and seafood is true. I would go even further with the Mexican the Mexican food and San Diego’s Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, it is. It is just like knock your socks off. So now when I go to Kansas City, I mean, I can’t I can’t eat Mexican. I know. I can’t. I mean, I look I mean, there’s there’s Mexican restaurants that I like and in Kansas City, but I’m really curious, not the same? No. And I’m curious now what I would think if I went back and ate one of them compared to what I thought growing up, because I’m sure now I would be like, I liked that place. Like, what are you thinking, Alex, and it’s because I’m down here eaten just some of the best Mexican that you can get. So it’s a little give and take. But I was I told you I lived in Texas for three and a half years. And they’re very proud of their barbecue in Texas. And I did not think it was on the same level as Kansas City. I really didn’t they they do meet well. And I admit that I’ve not been to all parts of Texas. But I will take I will take Kansas City Barbecue any day of the week.
Michael Hingson ** 1:19:13
It’s different. Well, I want to thank you for being with us. And we do want to hear back about all the barbecue adventures and other things like that. And you’re always welcome to come back here. So we definitely need to do this again. And I hope that you enjoyed listening and that you will let us know what you think please give us a five star rating wherever you are. And wherever you’re listening. We appreciate five star ratings. But we also appreciate your comments and your reviews. So please do that. If you’d like to reach out to me directly. You can do that. But first, any way that people can reach out to you Alex or you know if they want to have
so there are a couple ways that people can reach out to me. The best ways are typically on social media. I have a Twitter. It’s actually my work Twitter in particular which is Alex underscore ITRC. And people can, you know, they can tweet me they can send me direct message there, people can always email me as well, at my work email, which is A A C H T E N at ID theft center.org. Or they can always be my personal email which is Alex a l e x dot a c h t e n 26@gmail.com. That’s another way to get in contact with me. And then I’m on LinkedIn. I’m I got I’m, I have a professional Facebook page, Alex, I ended up Resource Center people can always follow that or send me a message they’re always willing to to chat with people. And so yeah, I have a handful of ways that people can get in contact with me.
Michael Hingson ** 1:20:45
Cool. Well, if you’d like to reach out to us, you can email me at Michaelhi@accessibe.com. That’s M I C H A E L H I at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael hingson.com/podcast. Michael Hingson is m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. We really appreciate hearing from you. If you can think of anyone who you think we ought to have as a guest. We’d love that. Now we’re gonna say anybody who wants to get somebody to talk about Texas barbecue or North Carolina barbecue, or even St. Louis, I suppose we could let them I know.
Alex Achten ** 1:21:23
Yeah, I grew up close to St. Louis. Hey, we have your wars real. We have to keep our
Michael Hingson ** 1:21:28
minds open. But we really would love to hear from you. And if you have any ideas of guests, please let us know Alex, you as well. Anybody that you can think of we’d love to have them. Come on. But one more time. I really want to thank you for being with us and giving us all your time today.
Alex Achten ** 1:21:43
Yes, thank you so much for having me on. I really, really do appreciate it. It’s been great. And hopefully, the listeners were able to take something from this podcast, whether or not it be some leadership tactics that they may be able to implement. Maybe it’s a little bit of identity crime prevention, maybe it’s a little bit of a different view on how they watch the news, whatever it might be. I hope so there’s a little there’s something that somebody what are the best ribs to eat whatever it is, hopefully there’s a takeaway that they taken out for the podcast but again, I really appreciate you having me on it was it was a lot of fun.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:22:20
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.

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