MYM Episode 43 CHRIS KOLENDA copy

#43: Being Present When Focusing on Your Priorities with Chris Kolenda

An internationally recognized warrior and diplomat, retired US Army Colonel, Chris Kolenda has fought in combat and negotiated peace talks with the Taliban.

Today, Chris owns and operates his own consulting firm focusing on leadership and organizational management. He also gives back to veterans and their families through his Saber Six Foundation in honor of his unit’s six paratroopers who lost their lives in action in Afghanistan.


A lifelong Cavalry Trooper, retired US army Colonel, Chris Kolenda graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1987 and went on to serve in various assignments, including commanding 800 paratroopers in Eastern Afghanistan.

He served as a senior advisor to three of the 4-star generals in Afghanistan and two Secretaries of Defense before transitioning out of service in 2011 to become the Secretary of Defense representative in the peace talks with the Taliban. Chris then returned to Afghanistan as a civilian to support General Dunford as his Senior Advisor.

In 2014 Chris resigned from his government position and began to pursue his business and consulting interest in leadership and organizational management. 

Chris continues to operate his successful consulting firm, Strategic Leaders Academy, and shares how his 1700-mile bicycle ride to honor his unit’s six paratroopers who lost their lives in Afghanistan led to the founding of the Saber Six Foundation. The honor ride and the foundation are focused on honoring the dead and raising funds for the living.

Episode Highlights

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00:01:09– 00:10:39: Retired US Army Colonel, Chris Kolenda shares his military career as a warrior and a diplomat before transitioning out of service to become the Secretary of Defense representative in the peace talks with the Taliban.

00:10:40 – 00:15:19  Chris discusses why he chose to start his own business rather than join a company as an employee after leaving the government and how the sense of purpose one gets from serving in the military is not the same as serving a for-profit company.

00:15:20 – 00:23:29 Chris shares how he prepared for transition and the lack thereof and why he decided to start his own consulting firm in 2014 rather than work for an existing firm.

00:23:30 – 00:33:09. Chris shares his life after the military and how working for himself allows him to do things like his 1700-mile bicycle ride to visit the graves of the six soldiers from his unit that died in 2007 while serving in Afghanistan.  He also discusses the challenges veterans face after leaving the military and why balance is giving time to each priority in your life and being fully present when you do so.

Your Move

Show Resources:

There is a complete shift in culture when you transition from the military to the corporate world. The focus is no longer on readiness nor even on not losing money —it’s always about making money. It makes sense and, in most ways, is obvious. It’s the reason companies are in business—to make money. But the cultural shift is enormous. Reading this book, you’ll come to see why.

Connect with Gene on LinkedIn for more useful tips and proven strategies to maximize your post-military career success.

Connect with Chris Kolenda on LinkedIn.

“Our mission is to help successful people gain new heights by being the best versions of themselves and helping others contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success” Learn about the Strategic Leaders Academy here.

Learn about the Saber Six Foundation and donate here.

Pre-order your copy of Million Dollar Influence: How to Drive Powerful Decisions through Language, Leverage, and Leadership at

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Gene Moran

Gene spent nearly 25 years in uniform, serving in six ships and more than ten duty stations, and visiting over 50 countries serving as a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer and retiring as a Captain. In corporate, he led legislative affairs for a large international defense company from the Washington, DC office. In doing so, Gene gained a detailed understanding of the defense industrial base and supply chains of myriad platforms, systems and capabilities. Then in 2013, he took the leap to start his own business, Capitol Integration. Since then Gene has helped scores of companies improve their federal positions.

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