I was named Huffington Posts' Greatest Person of the Day on November 25, 2010 for my work with FeedingNYC, an organization I started after 9/11 to deliver Thanksgiving dinners to families in need around NYC. Receiving this recognition made me think about how many ordinary people are doing some extraordinary things to help people and make real change in the world. Sometimes we know them, but in other cases, these remarkable people go unnamed. Even in cases where we are familiar with these people, because they are public figures, we don't always know the great things they're doing behind the scenes.
In writing this blog, I was asked to send in my biography. Usually when we look at someone's bio, we see a list, maybe a few paragraphs, about very discrete moments. For example, if you look at my bio, you see my education, information on my company, some of the awards I have been given, and a description of my philanthropic work. Although these may be factual points, the more interesting things happened in my life between those headlines. What I'd like to do with this blog is focus on people who are doing extraordinary things to help others. I want to document the meaningful connections that changed them, the failures they experienced, the lessons from those failures, and the extraordinary impact that they are having in the world today.
In my personal journey, I have met some really amazing people who made an impact on my life. Sometimes these people are famous or notable, but often these people are ordinary, much like you and me. For instance, my high school tennis coach taught me so much about life when one day I was losing against the best player in the league and he walked out on the court between sets and said to me "don't hit with a hitter." I ended up winning that match because of his advice and it was one of the greatest and most educational moments in my life. Even today, I carry that piece of advice with me everyday.
As for my life, I had a very ordinary existence growing up in a middle class family from Long Island. I wasn't a very good student in high school and nobody would have expected me to do much from the lens of my beginnings. After graduating Loyola University in Maryland, I started my first company. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and it only seemed natural to be an entrepreneur. Plus, it was 1990, and we were in the middle of a recession. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how we evaluate failure, the company went out of business and, at the age of 27, I lost everything. For the next two years, I slept on a couch in my office and tried to reassemble the pieces of my life. I met a psychologist named Dr. Frank, who literally changed my life. For two years he worked with me, and taught me that failure was something I could learn from. He helped me transform my perceptions about life, and he is one of those ordinary people who had an extraordinary impact on my life and on the lives of many others. Today, the company that I founded from that couch, LivePerson, has over six hundred employees and we have been public on NASDAQ since 2000. I am still the CEO after sixteen years and continue on my journey to fulfilling my purpose in life. There have been many ups and downs over the years and I will weave them in and out of my interviews.
I can honestly say that one of my proudest moments was right after 9/11, when I realized there was a real need in the city to feed families. I got a group of people from my company together and we took turkey dinners to families in need in Harlem. In the last 11 years, we've fed over forty thousand families and in 2010 we fed every family in the shelters of NYC. That was the year I received the Great Person Of the Day from Huffington Post.
Through all of these experiences, I've met many amazing people who are selfless, visionary, inspirational and driven. I want to write about their stories and find out about their Dr. Frank, high school tennis coach, days on the couch, and how they help others.
I want to thank the Huffington Post for giving me the space on their website to pursue this project and for trying to bring another insight to news.