Seal the Deal


My daughter, Victoria, has been drawing and posting her work on Instagram since high school. She can be found at @imbrian_yoooooo, if you are interested in seeing her work. Being out there on-line and on social media platforms opens anyone up to potential conversations with people they have never met in person. That puts some murkiness onto the type of person you are engaging with and if they are who they claim to be. That’s where this story originates.

So my daughter is posting her art and people are commenting and complimenting her on her work. She started up conversations with a few folks, then was introduced, by them, to a few others and through all of this ended up striking up a friendship with a young lady her age, becoming quite chummy with her over a few month’s time.

The young lady’s name is Maddie and she lives in New Jersey and goes to school in Philadelphia. I didn’t think much about it until Victoria, over summer break, mentions she wants to visit Maddie for her birthday. That made me pause as 1) we have never met Maddie, and 2) Victoria met her on line and not in person. Patricia and I had a conversation and we agreed we didn’t think it was a good idea for Victoria to travel to New Jersey to visit a person she never met in person. We had a discussion with Victoria and she was not pleased with our reluctance, but respected our wishes. We also offered up that Maddie could visit us at the lake. The concept was appreciated, but not acted upon. The summer came to an end, Victoria went back to school and the idea of her visiting someone she met on-line was in the rear view mirror, or so I thought.

During Thanksgiving break, Victoria informed Patricia that she and Maddie were getting closer, in fact, becoming an item. Victoria had informed us she was bisexual when she was in high school, so that aspect wasn’t surprising, even though she only had boyfriends up until this point. However, the on-line aspect still didn’t sit well with us. I know we live in an on-line world, but the concept of meeting someone on line was still murky to me and Patricia. It was concerning.

I realize that meeting someone in person could and does go wrong, but it just felt like the stakes were much higher here for something going the wrong way. So, as a preemptive measure, we offered to fly Maddie up over the Christmas break in order to have, as we would say in sports, a home field advantage. Patricia and I believed it cut the risk dramatically by taking this approach. Victoria was excited and happy with the offer. For some reason, it didn’t work for Maddie. This made me even more suspicious. I began wondering if it was a catfishing scheme and contemplated on all the negative possibilities. Even my son, who is typically telling us we overthink things, started to have some doubts. 

Victoria was unhappy about Maddie not coming, but also was put out that we didn’t fully believe Maddie was “real”. She was right, we didn’t. In fact, I started thinking Maddie could have been a front for a human trafficking ring. One thing was for sure, we didn’t want to take the chance of Victoria traveling alone to New Jersey. Of course, at the time of this all happening there were reports of the FBI cracking down on human trafficking operations, and I could have sworn they said it was in New Jersey. Let’s just say my mind went to very dark places.

Trying to be proactive, we came up with another solution. I told Victoria that I would fly to Philadelphia with her over the Christmas break and we could meet Maddie and her mom for lunch. Victoria liked the idea and Maddie and her mom accepted. I was a bit relieved and started to think my mind was running away with me, until I was flipping through channels one night and stopped at the movie, Taken. If Liam Neeson cannot protect his daughter how will I be able to? The scenarios started spinning in my head…

After a meeting one day, I told my partner, Nick Mammola, about my predicament. As a father he was sympathetic and as a partner he wanted me to have peace of mind. So he reached out to a colleague, Lou Bivona, who established the Bivona Child Advocacy Center and is versed in abductions. Lou and I had a call and I told him what’s going on with Victoria and not only did he think I wasn’t crazy, he applauded me on the diligence and all of the steps Patricia and I had taken to that point. He did say it was probably legit and would be fine, but agreed with the steps we had taken. He said to call him at any time and wanted to know how things went after the lunch.

I felt better after the call, but another notion popped into my over-active mind. When talking to Lou about abductions, he mentioned the first thing they do is smash cell phones so that the abductee cannot be tracked. So, I decided it would be a smart idea to go to Best Buy and purchase one of those worldwide GPS trackers. I figured Victoria could put that in her pocket as a precautionary measure. Hey, Lou Bivona didn’t think I was nuts and it was something Liam Neeson would have probably done. 

I am feeling pretty good about the steps we have taken and the trip is approaching. I booked lunch at Davio’s in Philly, as I am familiar with the location, and am happy we have come up with a comfortable solution for all parties. Until I started thinking again… “Wait, I’m not trained or tough like Liam Neeson.” “If this a human trafficking ring there will be these big goons that will push me aside like a potato chip in the wind.” “I am ill prepared.” “Damn it!” 

As you can see, I was engulfed with this whole thought that there was going to be an abduction. Speaking with Lou helped, but also made me think I could be right about the catfishing scheme. It probably would have been better if he said I was overreacting and a crazy, over-protective dad. But he did not.

I can’t cancel the lunch date, because that would be devastating to Victoria, but I needed to take further precautions. A thought comes to me. My friend, Phil Taub, founded and runs an event, Swim With a Mission, that benefits veteran organizations. At his events there are dozens of Navy Seals. “Maybe Phil knows a Navy Seal in Philadelphia that could watch over us.” I call Phil and tell him my quandary. He thinks I’m most likely overreacting, but there’s enough craziness in the world to have him agree to make a few calls. In less than an hour, he calls me back and he has a Navy Seal available the date of the lunch to watch over us. He puts me in contact with the Navy Seal in Philly, Darren.

I call Darren, tell him the story and ask if I am overreacting. He says I’m not, people look for private security all the time and we go through all the details including his fee. All very satisfying to me. I don’t tell Victoria right off the bat, but I plan on telling her because we have a very honest relationship and I did not want to betray that trust. 

The day of the lunch date comes, we fly into Philadelphia early and head to the lobby of the Sofitel Hotel, which is across the street from Davio’s. We sit in the lobby and I say to Victoria I need to tell her something. I said, “Sweetie, you know how all of this has been concerning to me. Well, I hope I am wrong and everything goes right, but just in case I have a guy coming to watch over us for the day.” She chuckles and says, “Which side is he on?” Now I laugh because I know what she means. “He’s a Navy Seal.” She shakes her head at me and states if that makes me feel better she has no problem with it. 

Navy Seal Darren shows up and we chat. He begins to tell Victoria the seriousness of human trafficking and abductions and things to do in certain situations. We go to Davio’s and Darren sits at a table where he can watch everything that goes on and keep a close eye on Victoria.

Well, I am happy to say all my concerns did not come into play and Maddie and her mom were as sweet as can be. Maddie’s mom said she, too, was concerned about Maddie traveling to New Hampshire. I am also happy to say that Maddie and Victoria are still together. Maddie is a lovely young lady and has traveled and spent time at the lake. Victoria has since traveled to Philly. So as they say, all’s well that ends well. Of course, now my son, Antonio, wants me to hire a Navy Seal to watch over him… Victoria, Maddie (who now knows about Navy Seal Darren) and basically everyone continue to have a big laugh at me and all the steps I took. I laugh as well, but only because everything went the right way for us. It doesn’t always go the right way. Abduction and human trafficking is a huge issue in the U.S. and around the world. So don’t think it can’t happen to you and be diligent with your kids and loved ones.

I called Lou Bivona after the lunch to thank him and fill him in on the day. He was happy for us and said, “You did the right thing.” I am happy for Victoria and Maddie and I appreciate them for putting up with me and my measures. That being said, I would do it all over again.

If you would like to donate to donate to the Bivona Child Advocacy Center you can do it at:

If you would like to donate to Swim With a Mission you can do so at:

My kids and Uber

Snap Map and the kids locations

The kids are off to college; Victoria in Savannah and Antonio in Boston. They are both in cities (albeit different types), but because there is plenty of action in both, Patricia and I do not want to take the risk of them taking public transportation or walking home late at night, so we had them set up Uber accounts with credit cards that we pay for. We are happy to do so and just expect the kids to not take advantage of our pocketbook. My eldest is a bit frugal and occasionally uses the option. My youngest, on the other hand, is a man about town and has been talked to a few times to reel it in. This story is about him and Uber.

I am friends with my kids on Snapchat and they are very comfortable allowing Patricia and I to locate them for piece of mind. I understand some parents disagree with being able to locate their college-aged kids. That’s fine. I completely disagree and get comfort knowing they are at their dorms late night on the weekends, although my son and his friends have been known to take a jaunt into Boston late night for social activities. I like to keep tabs on this behavior as well.

One Saturday night this fall I had fallen asleep on the couch about 9pm watching TV and woke up around 11:30pm, a little stiff from sleeping on the couch. As I was stretching and headed to bed, I figured I would check on my kiddos to make sure they were safe in their dorms. Victoria was in a familiar place on my screen, in the comfort of her dorm, but as I located Antonio I noticed he was in the North End of Boston. No concern there, except just before I clicked off, his icon moved. I figured he was on his way back to the dorm, but I just wanted to make sure so I watched for a minute. Unexpectedly, he was going in the opposite direction of his dorm. I continued to watch; the icon was driving toward Everett, MA. I’m thinking, “Why the hell is he going to Everett?” Now, I’m wide awake and curious. “Maybe he is dropping off someone he met?” The icon stayed dormant for about five minutes and then it was back on the move. I texted him, “Why did you go to Everett?” No answer, which is unlike him, but I figured he probably was chatting with a bud and not looking at his phone.

He was now headed in the direction of his dorm, but it wasn’t that simple. Because over the next hour I watched him drive all over the city and land just off the VFW Parkway and not at his dorm. I called and texted, but no reply. Needless to say, I was freaking out. Then it dawned on me, I am friends with his pals on Snapchat and I can see their locations too. So I look and two of his friends are in the North End. I actually feel a little relieved, because I now believe I pieced things together. I Snap one of his buds and told him I was trying to get ahold of Antonio, and did he know where he was. Immediately his bud answered me and said, “Antonio is with me, he is fine, he left his phone at the dorm.” Now I know this is untrue to some extent, because I can see the phone just off the VFW Parkway. So I said, “Can you please give Antonio your phone to call me.”

My phone rang shortly thereafter and Antonio was on the line. He proceeded to tell me he left his phone at the dorm by mistake. I told him, “No, you didn’t.” He was confused. I then said to him, “You didn’t leave your phone in the dorm, you dropped it in the Uber, I have been watching it drive around the city for the past hour and a half.” He apologized and then proceeded to tell me how liberating it was not to have his phone with him and that he was enjoying the moment. I was just happy he was safe, as a million scenarios ran through my head during his phone’s Uber journey. 

The next day the Uber driver took the phone to his dorm for a reasonable fee and we added a couple of rules to “when you go off campus”. We have had a few laughs about the experience and some friends say it serves me right for following him on a location app. I was an 18 year old boy once and I have to tell you, I still want to know where he is at this age. I told the kids over break that I will pay for their phones for the rest of their lives if they let me locate them from time to time. They laughed and said, “Sure dad, we would tell you anyway.” You may agree or disagree, but no matter their age, I will always worry about them. Besides, I enjoy following them on their adventures.

Emails to the Kids

Victoria’s eight grade send off

Over the course of parenting, in addition to conversations, lectures and verbal direction, I have also reinforced philosophies on life to my kids in emails, texts and even Snapchat. Everyone communicates in different ways, and if you are going to get their attention, you have to communicate with them where they are most comfortable. So, many conversations with my kids, as well as advice, have occurred on Snapchat. 

Snapchat and texting are great forms for the kids to receive certain aspects of advice and direction, but some long form advice is better suited for conversations and emails. Sometimes, when it’s really important, a combination of multiple mediums is appropriate. Below are a couple of emails I sent to the kids after long conversations about life, at dinner or on trips together. These emails are similar, but because my kids are very different (as most are), there are certain nuances in what I say and how I deliver the message. I believe it is important to utilize many different forms, as well as repetition, to instill vision and a personal compass direction to the kids.

I share these because I believe it is important to be multifaceted when communicating with your kids. I also believe the advice is on point and helpful to most kids, not just Victoria and Antonio. I hope you find the advice and styles helpful. Victoria’s email was sent after we dropped her off at SCAD for the first time.


I am writing this on our return trip from Savannah. It has occurred to me that a young woman with your talent and ability, who is embarking on this incredible journey, should also be self-aware of details about yourself and others and begin thinking about capturing and recording the amazing things happening in your life. You have a very bright future ahead of you and the creativity you possess is not only a gift, it is a craft that you have worked very hard at since you were in middle school. The hours you put into creating and drawing may be a labor of love for you, but it would be a shame to not have a couple of places where your ideas, creativity and work are stored and protected. This is why I write today and why I will continue to advise both in conversation and in notes to you.

A person with your amazing talent and unlimited potential needs to think forward and reflect back on learning experiences and moments in life that helped shape who you are and what you philosophically believe in. Because of this, I believe you should consider taking action in a few areas to position yourself for winning at whatever you do and achieving the success you desire. Here are a few items you should consider embarking on in the near future:

1) Keep a journal. Keep track of (a) moments of truth, (b) learning experiences, (c) stories that are both entertaining and educational, (d) things you find motivational and inspirational. Also jot down (i) great ideas, (ii) creative concepts, (iii) OC’s, (iv) storylines, (v) what made you come up with the idea/creative and (vi) notions that pop into your head.

2) Save your drawings, all of them (even ones you hate). All of your artwork is special in one way or another and you never know when or how you can build from past efforts. Also, save all stories and writings. You should use flash drives and back up storage as well as portfolio storage for hard copies. But now is the time to save everything you do and organize it in a manner so you can recall or find easily.

3) Lastly (for now), create a folder on your computer and back it up on a flash drive to collect important documents (like this one). As necessary, subdivide folders within the main folder, to keep things organized in a manner for recall and revisiting. I recommend keeping all of your creative direction, outlines, important emails and other items you believe have significance (photos as well). 

I am very proud of you and applaud your talent and hard work to date. You are an extremely talented young lady and you have it in you to take that talent any place you desire. Please remember, in everything you do, always shoot for spectacular.

I love you and am here to support you and help you in all ways. And enjoy every moment at SCAD!!!



This next email was sent to Antonio after a trip to DC that inspired him and triggered some deep conversations about politics and history. Emails to Antonio are always more detailed as he responds better to long form advice. Victoria is a creative soul and responds better to short bursts of advice and quite frankly the above email still may have had too much information for her in one shot. Rest assured, it was repeated in other ways at other times. 


I am writing this on our return trip from Washington, DC. It has occurred to me that a young man with your brilliance, charm, work ethic and appetite for success should also be aware of details about yourself and others beyond the normal course of a 15-year-old boy. I know I say it often and I know you do not lack in confidence, but you are an exceptional young man destined to do great things and contribute in a large way to society and the world. I realize that is a lot to put on you at this young age and you need to know I will be proud of you whatever course you take, but I can already see in you a thought-leader and a people-leader and I want you to make the most of those characteristics if you so choose. Whether you are an entrepreneur, corporate executive, lawyer, judge, senator or president, no matter what you do your success will come through thoughtful planning and strategy as well as hard work and precision execution. This is why I write today and why I will continue to advise both in conversation and in notes to you.

A man of status, which I believe you most definitely will be (regardless of your course), needs to think forward and reflect back on learning experiences and moments in life that help shape who you are and what you philosophically believe in. Because of this, I believe you should consider taking action in a few areas to position yourself for winning at whatever you do to achieve the success you desire. Here are a few items you should consider embarking on in the near future:

1) Keep a journal. Keep track of (a) moments of truth, (b) learning experiences, (c) stories that are both entertaining and educational, (d) things you find motivational and inspirational. Also jot down things from the places you work that you believe are (i) great ideas, (ii) bad ideas, (iii) solid methods of operation, (iv) deficient aspects observed and (v) what you would do to improve to these things.

2) I know you are not fond of reading, but there is much to learn and you are far too young to abandon the concept. Knowledge is power and the more you know and absorb, the more effective you will be. So try to open your mind to reading and research. Audio books and magazines are a fine substitute for the written word if that suits you better, if you can retain what is spoken. You may want to think about historic figures you admire or are intrigued by and read their biographies. Once you begin to enjoy reading more I would recommend reading the biographies of people you may not particularly admire or are not interested in. You will be amazed at what you will learn from other points of view, not only good traits, but bad ones you will want to avoid. As you digest these materials, think about who you are and who you want to be. You are in control of that and the decisions that come with your route, but why not learn from the successes and failures of others. Be open minded in this and all areas. An open mind does not mean lack of direction, just a willingness to improve on it. I think you should also include The Art of War to your reading list at some point.

3) Begin to make lists, set goals and write things down to provide a map and direction to your course. No matter how sharp your brain is, having things in writing will make you more effective and put you in a better position to win. I cannot stress enough how important this habit will be for you and how much precise organization will propel you in all you set out to accomplish.

4) Lastly (for now), create a folder on your computer and back it up on a flash drive to collect important documents (like this one). As necessary, subdivide folders within the main folder, to keep things organized in a manner for recall and revisiting. I recommend keeping all of your speeches, important emails and other items you believe have significance (photos as well). 

I am very proud of you and applaud your talent and hard work to date. Your latest report card for the spring term with a GPA of 4.125 was not only deserved but, more importantly, earned. You reap the rewards of your hard work and you see the difference between great work and spectacular work. Always shoot for spectacular. Keep your sharp wit and sense of humor tuned up and ready to fire.

I love you and am here to support you and help you in all ways. Have fun and kick some butt at Tentacle this summer!!!



I believe that these emails support conversations and other manners of communicating with the kids. Emails are definitely not the preferred method by either kid, but sometimes certain things need to be in writing and able to be saved for future reference. I hope the kids refer back from time to time, but as they will tell you I am so repetitive in my lectures that it’s hard for things not to stick. I don’t apologize for repeating myself; I believe that repetition and multiple vehicles work. I think I will Snap them a reminder now.

It’s Not the End of the World

Fun times at the Lake for V & A

“Mr. Imbriano, I regret to inform you that we can not admit Antonio.” That’s all I heard. No pleasantries, no details, no rationale, just that Antonio was REJECTED. I was devastated. It was the worst day of my life. Antonio rejected? What were we going to do? How would we be able to carry on? Antonio was not accepted into PRE-SCHOOL!

Yes I know, it’s sounds ridiculous, but we were devastated at the time. I was clearly more of a basket case than Patricia (and when you read on you will see how off the charts ridiculous it truly was). We did the research and found what we believed to be the perfect school for the kids to attend for their early education, The Pike School in Andover, MA. So when we got the word about Antonio, we were distraught and disappointed, way beyond where we should have been. Questioning our parenting and lack of preparing our little man was the theme of the next few months. I look back now at my 36 year old self and I say, “What the heck was wrong with you.” It was not the end of the world, it was PRE-SCHOOL.

We get all wound up at every milestone, every step, as if they are “the end all, be all”, when in fact, typically, it is only one option of many, one of hundreds of options. But as parents it’s all about providing the best for our kids. Finding the best schools, teams, tutors, trainers, programs, and the list goes on. The quest is for the perfect route for our children in order for them to be successful and happy. The fact of the matter is that there is no perfect route; there is only their route. Creating this perfect scenario in our heads for our children just leads to disappointment and rejection for both the kids and parents.

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that we should just throw up our hands and let our kids drift in the wind. Absolutely not! They have to work hard and we have to put them in a position to win, but there are many avenues they can take to achieve success, not just one. We can’t get fixated on the perfect. I say this from experience, it doesn’t help matters; it puts undue stress on the kids, parents and everyone in their orbit. I hope others can learn from my mistake, that it is not the end of the world.

Here’s how the call actually went: “Hi Mr. Imbriano, you have great kids and Victoria is ready for Pike, but Antonio may not be quite ready. Would you be willing to enroll Victoria for this upcoming school year and we can take a look at Antonio for next year?” Really not even close to the end of the world. Antonio was three when he was tested and he couldn’t cut with scissors or skip. Seriously. That was the reason he was not admitted. If I was rational at the time, I would have been, “Of course he can’t cut with scissors, he’s three and we have never given him scissors. Additionally, I don’t know if I want my son to skip…”

I’m happy to say Antonio can now skip while holding scissors. Ok, I’m being silly. It ended up that the following year Antonio was admitted to The Pike School and he flourished. In fact, I think the school was a perfect fit for him and a less perfect fit for Victoria. So who really knows where a kid is going to soar, except the kid. Keep putting them in a position to win and let them do all the soaring themselves. You had your chance, now it’s their turn (I say as I am researching colleges). It’s all going be fine, not getting into a particular school is not the end of the world.

Grandparents Play an Extremely Important Role

Sarah, Tony and Viola ~ The Gold Standard

I think of my grandparents often. That should be no surprise, if you are familiar with me even just a little bit. The thing that stands out for me is how selfless they were for their children and grandchildren. I realize there are many wonderful grandparents making children happy each and every day, but my grandparents had a profound effect on me. They brought the notion of giving of themselves to a whole new level. They epitomized Shel Silverstein’s amazing children’s book, The Giving Tree. The more of themselves they gave to us, the happier they were.

My grandparents worked harder than most and saved their money, but not to buy themselves a “McMansion” or the hottest new car being displayed on the showroom floor. They didn’t have fancy, oversized watches or silly “bling”. Possessions in these categories meant very little to them. They were more concerned with things in the home to make it more welcoming, rather than flashier. A great set of new wooden spoons for her to cook with was a treat for my grandmother.

There are many parents and grandparents who hover over their children and grandchildren each day believing they are providing the proper message to the kids (while still missing the point) as they pick them up from school in their Range Rovers and Louboutin shoes. By no means am I judging; I drive a convertible Mercedes and check the time on my Girard Perregaux watch, which cost more than my grandparents paid for their East Boston house, which was a huge financial risk for them to purchase. The issue is not the fact that we have more than they did; it’s making sure that we don’t substitute giving high-priced items to our kids in place of truly giving of ourselves, which is what they need much more than any possession.

I have been guilty in the past of not properly explaining to my kids that many of the advantages they have are not common, and they should also not be valued above what truly matters. When my daughter was in second grade, we received a call from her very concerned teacher about a “fabricated” story she told the class during an activity called “news time” when the kids talked about something that happened in their lives. It was my daughter’s turn, and she told a whopper. The teacher phoned to say my daughter had told a tall tale when she should have been talking about a real life story. Of course, we too became concerned, and asked her what our daughter had said.

The teacher started to recant the story, “Victoria said you went to the Celtics game on Friday night, and that she and her brother were on the court ‘high-fiving’ the players. Then, they went up to the seats and watched the game, and at the end of half time they were able to go into the Celtics’ locker room and she was able to take a player’s jersey from his locker.” The teacher went on to retell the whole story, concluding by stating, “And to make matters worse, she told all the kids that after the game she got to shoot baskets on the parquet… Mr. Imbriano, news time is not about fictitious stories, so you can understand my concern.”

I was rendered speechless for an extended length of time.  On the other end of the phone I heard, “Mr. Imbriano?” I said to my daughter’s teacher, “I’m sorry; it’s not Victoria’s fault, it’s mine.” The teacher was a little confused, and then I hit her with it, “Everything she told you and the kids is 100% true; all those events happened Friday night.” The teacher felt awful for having scolded my daughter for fabricating the story, and I got slapped with a dose of reality as well:  I wasn’t doing a proper job of explaining what is out of the norm and helping to keep her feet on the ground. My grandparents would have definitely provided clarity with anything I received that was “over the top” and how to put it in perspective.

It’s not a bad thing to have wonderful opportunities or cool things to play with. As parents and grandparents, we have to make sure kids understand the distinction between what really matters and what is simply window dressing. We have to make sure our giving is more about the kids and less about the gift. I remember hearing the head of the kids’ High School, Dr. Mary Halpin Carter, speak about the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. She included the following quote by developmental psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner:

“In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last and always.”

As soon as I heard that quote, I instantly understood that was exactly what my grandparents had consistently done for me. It wasn’t about their needs or possessions. It wasn’t about the gifts they gave me. It was always about being irrationally in love with me and doing everything they could to give of themselves to me. Let’s continue to give more to our kids than our parents and grandparents could provide to us, but let’s emulate my grandparents in making sure we are giving more of ourselves than anything else.

Be Present ~

Inclusion is Rewarding

Six and Antonio Skiing at Loon Mountain

Patricia and I travel with the kids all the time. We started when Victoria was six months old and could fly. So, heading to New York City for a “theatre weekend” has occurred multiple times over the years. Patricia and I are big proponents of balance and having the kids experience a wide range of areas, not just their preferred interests. The funny thing is that I believe the kids love going to the theatre just as much as going to a ball game or skiing or any other activity we do together. I believe that the key is “doing it together”. They enjoy being included and being out with us and our friends.

We planned a particular theatre trip while we were skiing one weekend, before the kids were in high school. My buddy Steve, who we call Snax, owns a ski house at Loon Mountain and we were up there quite often during ski season when the kids were younger. Après skiing one day we were chatting about having a theatre weekend in NYC, because Snax and his fiancé Erin, Patricia and I have gone to a bunch of shows together in Boston. We thought it would be fun to include the kids on the trip. Now, I am assuming the thought of an 11 and 13 year-old joining in on a theatre weekend would not be top of the list for a dude and his fiancé (I realize it’s a very inside joke, but as an aside, Erin is not really Steve’s fiancé, I just know it will make him crazy for me to put it in writing, and that’s part of the fun. I appreciate you bearing with me. Now back to the story). However Snax and Erin loved the idea of bringing the kids along.

Let’s face it, some kids are just nightmares to travel with or to go out to dinner with. They either were not trained properly or have not done it enough to act appropriately. We are extremely fortunate because both of our kids behave better than some adults. In fact, at times I think Snax would prefer to hang out with my son rather than me. I believe that both my daughter and son behave appropriately because ever since I can remember, we have included them in on the fun and the conversation. This weekend was no exception. We had a great time, like we were six adults enjoying travel together as opposed to having a couple of kids in tow.

The kids can order dinner better than most adults. They know what they want, they are prepared when asked, and they are able to request their meal to be prepared to their liking, mostly because it’s not their first rodeo. At the theatre, they enjoy the show, laugh appropriately, and do not act like fidgety kids. I’m sure you have definitely encountered the fidgety type. We were on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday and there were two girls who were about my son’s age swinging their feet and slamming them against the seat. We felt every kick and reverberation; absolutely annoying and uncalled for. To make matters worse, the mother was standing right in front of them watching, and I assume because they were not up in her grill, she let them torture us. Then the mother revealed to me what I knew to be true by witnessing the actions of her kids: she was rude and ill equipped to understand that her own actions and behavior shouldn’t negatively affect others. This woman gave her kids nuts, dropped shells all over the boat, and proceeded to shake and wipe off her peanut-shelled hands in midair, causing all the debris to cover Patricia, never acknowledging or apologizing.

I firmly believe that when you see kids behaving poorly, you can just look at their parents to find the answer why it is the case. As we were docking on Liberty Island to experience the symbol of freedom, I realized that people not only take the freedom we have for granted, they also do not realize that the privilege bestowed upon them comes with responsibility and respect for others. I am obviously biased, because they are my kids, but the reason they are welcomed by adults to join in on the excursions is that they understand the respect and responsibility that comes with the privilege. My son took it to the next level, when he pulled me aside noting how the woman and her spawn were out of line.

The reason I like my kids coming along is not just because I love them, it’s also because they behave appropriately in the situation. Sure, they are kids and love to be kids, and when their knucklehead buddies are around they fit right in and do what kids do. However, when they are with our friends and other adults, they also do what’s appropriate to the situation. It’s this way because we have included them in activities like dinner, theatre, and conversations from the beginning of their development. In general, when you include people from the beginning, things always seem to go smoother. When you throw folks into situations that they are not prepared for, things tend to go awry.

When you prepare your kids for what is ahead of them and include them, they will most always rise to the occasion. When you take the stand that they’re on a “need to know basis” you may claim to be surprised by their awful attitude, but you set both them and yourself up for failure. Inclusion in grown up activities, cause kids to grow up right.

Be Present ~

Don’t Pretend ~ It Doesn’t Change Anything

My Grandparents ~ Viola is on the right.

There are times when I meet people who I absolutely know are incredibly miserable, yet choose to live the life they lead because of perception and what is expected of them by others. There is probably a hint of this influence in many folks, but there is a subset of people who live in agony, portraying the image of who they think they should be. Life is way too short to pretend. More importantly, pretending doesn’t change anything of substance in your life.

When I was a kid, I lived in East Boston. Around the corner from my house was my Grandmother Viola’s house. I say house, but they were three decker tenements with an apartment on each floor. My grandmother lived on the third floor, and her brother Mario lived on the first floor. My Great Uncle Mario looked like Dean Martin. He was so well dressed all the time, looking sharp as can be. He had crazy swagger and I don’t know of anyone who didn’t like him; he was a very likeable fella. Mario loved having fun and enjoyed living life to the fullest.

Uncle Mario wasn’t a rich guy, in fact, I can’t say for sure if he ever had a real job. I’m sure he must have done something, but work and career wasn’t something that I would say he was noted for. I remember one time I saw him walking across the street and I overheard two guys on the corner talking about him say, “He doesn’t have a pot to piss in.” These two guys had just been chatting with him all pal-like, and there they were bad-mouthing him. I remember being upset about this, so much so that I walked up to my grandmother’s apartment to tell her what they said.

My grandmother knew something was wrong because I was visibly upset. I told her the story, and we walked to the front window and peeled back the curtains to see who the guys were. She gave a little chuckle and said, “Those two jamokes are the most miserable guys around. They like pointing fingers to distract others from their own shortcomings.” She then proceeded to explain that although Mario didn’t have much in possessions, he was the happiest guy she knew because he didn’t care about what others thought of him and just lived his life the way he wanted to. She said to me, “Louis, Uncle Mario’s way of living may not be for others, but it suits him just fine. Make sure you always live your life and don’t pretend to lead the life you think others would approve of. If you do that, you will always be happy.”

So many people are caught up in the size of the house they think they should have, the title that is on their business card, and the number of toys they possess. If you are doing all of this for you and only you, bravo! However, if you are building the McMansion and living for the perception of you, I believe you are missing the point. Live life for you. My Uncle Mario had more swagger than any millionaire at the time. He had that air of confidence because he was happy with himself. He dressed impeccably, not for others, but for himself. He never let others’ perceptions of him affect the very essence of who he truly was; because of this, he was a very happy man.

Work hard, strive to achieve all that you can, but do so for you, and not because you want to keep up with the Joneses. Be brutally honest with yourself and know what makes you happy. Then aim for that, not the coveted prizes that shine for others.

Be Present ~

Be a Lion, Go Do

My grandparents were a huge impact on my life and parenting style

My friend, Nick Di Mauro, and I were having a conversation last week at one of our favorite restaurants, Angelo’s in Stoneham. The discussion prompted this post. We were talking about our families and upbringing, and he told me a story about his father, a very wise and “old school” gentleman. Nick said that every morning, his father would say to him, “Are you going to be a lion today or a gazelle?” I know that what I write will not do the daily question justice, but in a snapshot, his father was motivating him to take charge of his life and go out and get things done. Nick stated, “I know you get what my dad was saying because of that ‘Go Do’ mantra you are always putting out there on social media.”

The fact of the matter is that I had a very wise and motivating gentleman in my life as well. I lived in a triple-decker in East Boston with my mom and sister on the third floor, and my grandparents lived on the first floor. Now, I have been very fortunate to have many, very smart people to guide me over the years, but there were things that my grandfather said that just stuck; things that changed my perspective forever.

One day, we were chatting and watching college football in his den. The conversation that day was about work. I may have been about sixteen and was working at Liberty Market, a grocery store in East Boston. I had jumped in the night before by helping out the manager, bailing him out when he could’ve really used the extra effort. I was telling my grandfather the story, and he turned to me and said, “You need to bottle that experience and use it as motivation in the future.”

I asked him what he meant, because it seemed he was getting at more than the obvious. My grandfather went on, “I realize this may seem harsh, but today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat. People have short-term memories and judge others on what they have done for them recently, and quite often forget all the great things that a person has done for them over the long haul. So don’t rest on your laurels, and do great things always. Not for them, for you.”

I smiled and shook my head, but was thinking that he was being a bit dramatic, probably for effect. There’s no way you need to do great things always to be considered a key member of the team.

I was proven wrong a few weeks later when the guy I had bailed out gave me crap for not being able to fill in when he needed me the next time. It wasn’t a big deal, but I could tell that the dude was not treating me the same way until I volunteered to help him out once again. Even though I went above and beyond quite often, the one time I couldn’t help out, I became the one at fault. My grandfather may have been onto something. But the key was when he said, “Not for them, for you.”

My grandfather understood I could only control what I did, and not the actions or thoughts of others. I definitely didn’t want to be at the mercy of a moody manager, so I started treating work more proactively. Every day I went in, I thought to myself, “If I don’t do something great today, I am going to get fired.” Now I was the one being dramatic, but it was motivating.  Throughout my radio and television career, I had that thought every day. And when I was with the Patriots, on the drive I pondered, “What am I going to do today that is great, so I do not get fired?” I was constantly pushing myself to do impactful things to help the organization, because if I did, I would have a job the next day. There was no coasting; every day I had to “Go Do”.

Nick’s dad knew what my grandfather knew: you are either the lion or the gazelle. Gazelles coast through life. Lions, well, they go do. If you are not getting where you want to be, ask yourself, “Are you being a lion?”

Be a lion ~ go do!

Be Present ~

What were MY Parents Thinking

ummm, the 70’s and dancing with my mom

With a little push from my parents, I ended up leaving the comfort of my hometown and went to Boston College High School.  It was not easy leaving the familiarity of the neighborhood, but I feel leaving your comfort zone opens you up to great experiences that help a person form a larger variety and range of relationships.

To get to BC High, I had to use public transportation. I took the MBTA (train) from East Boston to Dorchester.  First, I took the blue line (subway) to the green line to the red line. Finally, I’d walk from the station, over the highway overpass, and by the bank on this long (and often cold and windy) trek to school.  But, it was well worth it, because I learned a whole lot more than just what was written on the blackboard. I learned about relationships.

I’ll tell you a funny story. I’m from an Italian neighborhood, and went to Catholic schools all my life. First, I attended East Boston Central Catholic, then BC High, and finally Boston College.  When I was going to East Boston Central Catholic, everybody in my neighborhood dressed “to the 9’s” for the first day of school – suits and ties – the whole gig. It was really old school. Once I got into BC High, my mother immediately started saving money so she could “do it up big” for my first day in high school. We didn’t have much money, so she really did a great job saving enough to buy me a brand new suit. She chose a brown Pierre Cardin 3-piece suit. I was a little dude styling at 13 years old.

So, it’s my first day of high school and my parents are all excited. The whole family piles into the car and drives me to BC High. By the way, it was the only day they ever drove me to school during the entire four years I attended. We arrive at the campus, and my dad pulls over to drop me off. As I’m getting out of the car, I look over at my mother and father to say good-bye, and instantly notice the expression of horror on their faces. I see the look of, “Oh my God, what have we done?”  I’m thinking, “how cool it is that they are so concerned about their only son, leaving his hometown and taking the road less traveled?” I’m feeling good and pretty cool with the whole concept…and besides, I’m styling in my new three-piece, Pierre Cardin suit.

I turn around, and realize the true reason for that look on their faces. The suit is tragic; every other kid at the school is wearing hospital pants and polo shirts. Very casual.  BC High had no dress code. My mom calls me back, takes off my jacket and begins taking off my tie. Now, it was the ‘70s, so when my mother rips off the tie, my collar goes, “boing” and springs wide open. It’s a big John Travolta-style collar. So now, we’ve gone from bad to worse, because I went from wearing a three-piece suit to just a vest and a big old collar. They actually thought they were doing me a favor.

I walk into the main building where the teachers direct us into an auditorium. The entire freshman class is wearing casual clothes. And then there is me, in my suit clothes. We’re all sitting at attention, and the principal, a Jesuit, says, “Look to the left and look to the right of you – one of the boys sitting next to you will not be here by the end of your senior year.” Those Jesuits like to put a little fear into you – like I needed any more, as I already stood out like a sore thumb, and was preparing for the inevitable ridicule.

We proceed to our home rooms, go through introductions, and I’m already getting chummy with the guys in my class.

I get home and my mom and dad ask, “How was the first day?”

I said, “Those guys are unbelievable!” They then asked if anyone had said anything about the suit. I said, “Not one guy mentioned the suit. It’s a pretty awesome place!” My parents were relieved.

Well, for the next three months, the entire school called me, “Pierre” – Pierre Cardin, after the guy who made the suit.

You’d think that would have been an awful experience, but the fact that everyone knew me right off the bat helped break the ice and eased the conversations. The reality was that most of the guys were just as scared as I was; the levity and humor of the situation put the guys at ease, so many migrated to me for early conversation.

Some of my strongest relationships were forged in those early days at BC High. I guess if you can make it through an embarrassing experience like that at the age of 13, not much else should faze you the rest of the way. The outcome gave me the confidence to never hesitate in forging a new relationship, even under the toughest of circumstances.

Be Present ~

You’re Graduating ~ Don’t Focus on a Job to Make You Happy

Victoria’s High School Graduation, Antonio being the little brother.

Many students are in the midst of graduation and embarking on their next phase of life. Unfortunately, I doubt the majority are fully prepared for what is about to hit them smack dab in the middle of their lives. I think the biggest problem is that they have been sold a bill of goods by their parents and teachers; I am curious to how that will affect our young, eager minds darting out into the world. Most students are told to “do what they love” and that they should find a career in an area that they are passionate about and will enjoy doing for the rest of their lives.

My question aimed toward that advice is: why? Why do you have to prepare now for the rest of your life? Why do you have to get in an area you love? Why is so much emphasis placed on a specific career path? I believe students are being misled. The preparation and advice is mediocre at best. The advice that should be doled out is that every student should acquire the skill set necessary to excel in business and to manage/interact with people. More than anything else they can learn, everyone needs to understand how to effectively communicate with others and how to build solid relationships. Interaction in the workplace, both internally and externally, is under-examined and under-emphasized in many college settings.

In college, the focus is about specialization – Accounting, Marketing, Law or Medical – which, sure, are all very important courses of study if you plan to head in one of those directions. But even in those areas, communication and basic business skills are not only needed, but are a must. Yes, there are classes that cover these areas, but I wonder if they are adequately emphasized. Your parents may want to see you become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant and be sure that you love whatever you select. I know they are trying to be helpful, but how can you possibly know you actually love doing it until you are years into the field?

This is why I view early specialization as a huge mistake. When you are just entering your twenties, it is ludicrous to strive to select one area to pursue for your career path. The advice that should be given is that in the working world, no matter what you do, there are certain skill sets you need to possess. These tools will help you no matter what field you enter, and will propel you to success regardless of specialization.

Undergraduates should focus on subjects like: Cash Flow, Relationship Building, Effective Communication, Negotiating Skills, Interpersonal Psychology, Contracts, Budget Preparation, Strategic Planning, Writing, and Project Management, just to name a few. Knowing the principles in these topics will help you in any business you choose. Targeting skill sets for a specific area you think you will love or be happy doing is extremely premature for undergrads. You need to understand solid business and people skills. Then, go get a job and put them into practice before running off to grad school.

The other challenging question is: why do you need to work in an field you love? Why should your passion be your work? If you truly love an area, why ruin it by turning it into work. I was a huge sports fan as a kid, and have put twenty plus years of my life into the sports industry. I am not as much a sports fan as I used to be. Sure, I still enjoy it, but when I go to a game, I look at it different from how I would as a pure fan. I am now critiquing everything surrounding the game. That may not happen to everyone, but if you work hard at your job and strive to be the best, your industry will always lose some of its luster. That’s why I advise caution when choosing a career because you are a fan or extremely passionate about the area. There is a reason they call it work.

You need to find work you enjoy, but you also need to make sure work doesn’t destroy what you enjoy. Things appear glamorous from the outside looking in, but once you are in, they are never as wonderful as they seemed, if, in fact, you are truly working at it and not just coasting in “just happy to be here” mode. There are many folks who fall into the “just happy to be here” category who are not really making an impact in or contributions to their industry. They are typically the ones who love their job, but hate their compensation. There’s a reason why they are bitching about the money they make; they realize that the only way to truly earn more is to actually work, and probably do not want to make that leap.

So, forget about specialization, forget about turning your passion into a job, and focus on some basic business and interpersonal skills that afford you the opportunity to make a great living so you can enjoy all the things you are passionate about on a regular basis. Happiness is the key, and turning your happiness into a job will just dilute your joy of life. Why would you want to do that?

With that said, don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Go do what you feel is right for you, make your own mistakes, learn from them, and congrats on the next phase of your life. Exciting times are ahead. Oh, one last thing, read Winning the Customer.

Be Present ~