From the original #UnimaticFam
Everything important in an Italian family happens around the table, and for us that couldn't have been more true. Our Unimatic inspired us to linger a little longer together, because it kept the coffee piping hot and it was always "just one more cup" from being empty. So, we'd stay. Dad would tell stories and I'd listen, over coffee.
Unimatic #1 lives at my Mom’s house. She (the pot) was present for all of our stories, lessons, brainstorming sessions, etc. growing up. I often say that I wish our Unimatic had a rewind and play button, because she could have captured some of those moments of magic, wisdom, humanity, love, and learning to keep forever. My Dad did a myriad of things over the course of his life. He was a crazy entrepreneur who created every kind of company from physical spaces like a restaurant and Athletic Club (sort of like the old time Soho House of Bay Ridge Brooklyn), to physical products like cookware, perfume and cosmetics, to B2B agencies in the talent and advertising industry. And he was also seemingly prone to new and crazy experiences because of his love of learning. For example, he played the harmonica on stage at Carnegie Hall when he was still a teen, was a dance instructor for everything from belly dancing to ball room dancing, and served our country as an Intelligence Officer in the US Army. His stories were utterly fascinating, but there was a topic of story that I liked hearing best. It was one of the things that I constantly asked about and wanted to learn every nuance of.
Of all Dad's stories, I had one favorite
One of Dad's mentors was Normal Vincent Peale, the guy who wrote the book on "The Power of Positive Thinking" - which essentially became Positive Psychology when we created technology that was capable of putting fMRIs on our brains and observing what happens to us based on our thoughts. He was a minister, a mentor, a friend and someone that my Dad respected deeply. My Dad would teach someone of NVP's principles to his salesmen in United Cookware, but even more than that, he lived them. He was so committed to the potential of the human spirit and our capacity for resilience that he started being the person to call when things went wrong.
My favorite story was when he'd tell me about what it was like to "teach positive thinking to NYC cops." I spent most of my life not even really understanding what that meant (think: a version of Tony Robbins in the 1960s). When members of the NYPD would retire from the force and give back their badge and gun, they'd go through an identity crisis. They felt rudderless, without purpose, and like they lost the defining force in their lives. Some would even be on suicide watch. That's when my Dad would get the call to come help them rediscover themselves. Sometimes that literally started with talking them off the ledge, sometimes it meant they'd come to his office and not leave for hours. Whatever the situation, it was completely dependent on the person and the way that my Dad was able to receive them and let them find their own way back to center.
Loving New York: A family legacy
Beyond hearing about the intricacies of the human mind and heart, I remember being able to feel his pride in being able to contribute to our great city and the men and women who serve it. These stories are a big part of realizing my fascination with people, leadership, communication and psychology. It would always be so clear that although there was a bigger, overarching problem, each individual manifestation of that problem was different depending on the person. He never assumed, questioned everything and remained steadfast in that the work he did with them wasn't cookie cutter and it wasn't any reflection of him. He was just a mirror, reflecting back to them what was possible for them and reminding them of their sovereignty and agency in taking actions rooted in their values. He'd reconnect them to their values when their judgement got clouded or their egos got in the way. He saved lives, one at a time.
My NYC legacy
When I created Brave Conversations Over Coffee®, its intention was to be the catalyst for these sorts of conversations. The ones that bring you back to center. The ones that collect people who are different from one another around a table and give them the tools to see past the differences and into each other's humanness.
Now, as we address racism and a way of thinking that dehumanizes people as a defense mechanism, I get to be part of the path forward, the transformation, the recreation of what it means for this new generation of men and women who feel called to protect and serve this city. When I cold emailed the Commissioner, I didn't even expect a response. I simply needed to take the action and put it into the world that I wanted to be part of our city and country and world's path toward unity. I know that it won't happen overnight, but we have a BIG plan and will begin chipping away at this month.
THE BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE
Although I wish that we could have celebrated and commemorated Dad's 10 year anniversary on September 30th in a physical way with the people and places that bring warmth and comfort, I feel strongly that there isn't ANY other way to celebrate that would mean more to him than this. And what's crazier is that, if you've seen my TEDx talks, you know that his mission was to make me so unyieldingly confident that "what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve" that I could truly own my path, my purpose and my life. Well, somehow in the past 10 years, even when not physically present, he succeeded instilling that for me. So, here's to unshakable confidence, taking inspired action and never ceasing to take a stand to contribute to the way forward.
Dear Dad, I've known that you're proud of me, but as we cross the ten year milestone, I can say that I've never been more proud of me, too. Love, e