Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Amazing Al Smith

The Amazing Al Smith

“It’s amazing. With the blink of an eye you finally see the light.


Legendary Kentuckian Al Smith came to visit me last week.

For a guy who is supposedly retired, Al stays awfully busy.

After retiring in November from a 33 year run as host of Comment on Kentucky, Al spent the winter in Florida. He is working on his autobiography and promoting causes he believes in.

Al is Chairman of the Advisory Board for Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Is it an outstanding program, based at the University of Kentucky, and Al’s been beating the bushes to help the program get money and recognition.

During a long dinner, Al mentioned that every minute of his upcoming week was completely booked. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner. He is going almost 24 hours a day.

I wanted to tell him how busy I’ve been but my 81 year old mentor didn’t want to hear it.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is celebrating its 25 anniversary by creating the Al Smith Fund for Education. Al is helping to kick that off.

Al goes through life at warp speed but it wasn’t always that way.

He fought a severe battle with alcohol in the early part of his life. He lost numerous jobs in New Orleans and wound up in Russellville, Ky. There he stopped drinking, bought the paper he was writing for, bought some other papers and ascended into greatness.

Al didn’t subscribe to the “dog eats dog” business model. He made to the top by constantly helping others. His demons were replaced by angels.

People battle different demons. I’ve never been big on drinking but I fight compulsive eating. I started a weight loss group in Richmond, and we have had tremendous success.

A group can help an individual see the light.

The theme of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life is that one person can have an impact on those around them.

Everyone needs positive affirmation but those who battle addictions need it the worst. They need to know that they add value to the world.

There is nothing worse than seeing a friend or loved one in the grips of a demon like drugs or alcohol. They feel helpless, and you feel helpless. You want them to “snap out of it.”

Recovery is a process that people have to do for themselves. Something has to guide them to the light.

I turn to Al when I need sage advice. As a man who has seen life’s ups and downs, he has a perspective that commands my respect.

He has not walked my walk, but he certainly knows the neighborhood.

In one of my first conversations with Al, I asked him how he stopped drinking. It was a personal question but I suspected Al wanted to talk about it.

He did. His openness and honesty keeps the demons away. His spirit of candor and compassion is the personality that captivated television audiences for 33 years.

Al has had tremendous success in journalism and business, but what makes him happiest is pushing other people along.

People constantly tell me how Al played a pivotal role in their lives. I hear from the rich and powerful and those who aren’t. He has touched so many people in the journalism business that I stopped counting.

Al is like Clarence the Angel in It’s a Wonderful Life. Clarence got his wings by helping George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart’s character) recognize his worth.

Al helps people discover talents that they didn’t know they had.

Bailey had done much for his community, but he needed Clarence to point that out to him.

People battling demons need a Clarence in their lives. It might come from a group or another person. I’ve seen people inspired by public figures.

Al makes an impact in a public and private manner. His energy is fed by the knowledge that he is making a big difference.

It’s amazing.

Don McNay is the Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky. You can write to him at or read his award winning syndicated column at McNay is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers & What to Do When You Win The Lottery.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Books on the Nightstand, music on the CD

I wrote a column about John Eckberg's book The Success Effect

John asked a number of business trailblazers what books they had on their nightstand and what CD's they had in their CD changer.

I have not purchased a CD in a long time but always stay close to my IPOD and found that every music video imaginable is on You Tube.

My music list is

1. Dirt Off Your Shoulder- Jay-Z (Check out the Obama video spoof that goes with it.)

2 . Kids in America-Kim Wilde (an early MTV classic.)

3. Little Liar-Joan Jett (I'm big on Joan Jett. She might be on the list every week.)

4. The Weather is Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful-Jimmy Buffett (The song currently on my MySpace page.)

5. How Much Tequila Did I Drink Last Night- Steve Goodman.

Tequila came to mind when my friend and Chicago native Larry Niemi was elected to the Board of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association. Goodman was an incredible songwriter (and high school classmate of Hillary Clinton) who died of cancer at a young age. One of his last songs was a Dying Cub Fan's Last Request.

Books on my nightstand (the last five books I have read)

1. Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio

2. Beyond Greed and Fear: Understanding Behavioral Finance and the Psychology of Investing

3. Eddie and the Cruisers by P.F. Kluge

4. Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling by Martha Frankel

5. Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform since Sputnik by Chester (Checker) Finn Jr.

Unlike Donald Trump, I have read every word of every book and with Eddie and the Cruisers, I own the movie too.

Facebook & Other Social Networking Sites

Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites.

. I always prided myself on staying at the cutting edge of technology but social networking snuck up on me. Not anymore.

I’m on Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin and Twitter. It is where the world is going and not for teenagers anymore. The majority of my contacts are baby boomers.

I prefer Facebook to anything else.

At first, I limited my activity to posting my finished column but then started mentioning what I am working on

People started sending me ideas and reference material. I received a lot of ideas for a recent column from my Facebook community and their input made it stronger.

It is like having a water cooler with 556 participants.

I’ve reconnected lost friends from every period of my life and communicate with people who I wouldn’t get to know otherwise.

As I started writing this, a friend posted on Facebook that her cat had run away.

Retrieving wayward cats is an area of expertise.

I sent her some tips of what to do and an hour later she wrote and told me she had her cat back.

Although I have known this friend for over a decade, I would not have known about her cat. Since my expertise in cat fetching is not widely advertised, she would not have contacted me without Facebook.

My philosophy on internet friends is similar to the non internet world. Openness is a big part of who I am. Thus, I take almost all comers.

That explains why Newt Gingrich is on my Facebook list.

I’m on Ernie Fletcher’s too. Since I am on Newt and Ernie’s lists, they obviously take all comers too.

I’ve been on four different plane flights (between Atlanta and Washington) with Newt and he has never spoken to me. Now that we are Facebook friends, maybe he will next time.

I exclude porn sites, links that look commercial or those that want me to endorse a candidate. I welcome candidates and campaign sites (and get a lot of information from them) as long as linking is not assumed as a candidate endorsement.

Where to find me:




“Marathon Matt” Harville wins the first EKU Triathlon

By Don McNay

"Marathon" Matt Harville CSSC, won the first- ever Eastern Kentucky University Triathlon on April 11.

Matt is a senior settlement consultant with McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky. .

At age 29, the Frankfort, Kentucky, native who now resides in Richmond, is making a name for himself nationally on the Ironman, Triathlon, and Marathon circuits.

Matt has also been a success in the world of structured settlements.

Harville, a Certified Structured Settlement Consultant, has been named to the Million Dollar Round Table in each of the past three years and also named to Top of the Million Dollar Round Table.

Top of the Table is the highest honor in the financial services industry. It is open to a select few.

People who compete in Ironman Triathlon's are also a rare breed. In order to finish and Ironman competition, you have to swim 2.4 miles, run 26.2 miles and bike 112 miles.

All in the same day.

"Matt is a man with incredible focus," said Clay Bigler, President of McNay Settlement Group. "He doesn't watch mindless television, surf the internet or eat unhealthy foods. He is driven to achieve inconceivable goals and has high standards."

Matt's intense discipline is hidden underneath a level headed, cool, and likeable personality. Think of a young Barack Obama. People love Matt the moment that they meet him.

Harville has carved out a unique niche as an expert in workers compensation structured settlements and also in medical savings accounts. He is considered a leading authority in each field.

He served two years as President of the Madison County Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. (NAIFA).

The vision to bring Matt to McNay Settlement Group came from his father, Jim Harville.

Jim is a retired big wig in the Kentucky Department of Transportation and an avid supporter of Eastern Kentucky University. He met Don McNay in the 1990's and decided that McNay Settlement Group would be a good career for his son.

Note that Matt was in high school at the time. Jim had the vision to see that Matt would fit well into the structured settlement business.

Matt came to McNay as a college intern in 2000 and outside a brief stint at the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, he has been there ever since.

Harville was a high school track star in Frankfort. He planned to run in college but focused on work and academics. His spirited nature again stirred and he began competing in races as he trained for his first Ironman competition in 2006.

A typical day for Matt starts with a few hours of early morning training, an intense schedule at the office and more training that night.

Endurance. training is a Harville family affair. His wife Lyndsey finished third in the women's division of the same Eastern Kentucky University race. Both of them have competed in Ironman competitions.

No word on when their 2 year old daughter Lillian plans to start.

Matthew Harville, CSSC

AKA "Marathon Matt"

29 years old. Born and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Currently resides in Richmond, Kentucky.

Married Lyndsey Johnson Harville, 27, another Frankfort native, in 2004. One daughter (Lillian) age 2

Senior Settlement Consultant at McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky.

Began his career at McNay in 2000 and has served as workers compensation coordinator, marketing associate, intern and settlement consultant.

Graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2002

Received the Certified Structured Settlement Consultant (CSSC) designation from Norte Dame University in 2006.

Named to the Million Dollar Round Table 3 times and to the Top of the Million Dollar Round Table in 2006.

Former President of the Madison County Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors

Accomplishments in endurance training and competition include:

Completed Ironman Florida, Timberman Half Ironman, Derby Marathon, Derby Mini Marathon. Placed 1st two years in a row at the North Lexington YMCA Splash N Dash. Placed first at the EKU Triathlon. Second place overall for the Headfirst Performance Triathlon Series in 2007. Second place in age group Buffalo Trails Maysville, Ky. First place age group Black Cat Chase Frankfort, KY. Several age group wins in Headfirst Performance Triathlons over the past 3 years. Several age group wins and places in 5k's.