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“Those who manage to be where their feet are will grow, stretch and emerge stronger, smarter and more prepared as we find peace and gratitude in the pause.”

Read O’Neil’s Be Where Your Feet Are for seven principles to keep you present, grounded, and thriving.




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Our upcoming in person(!) events


Wednesday, July 14, 6pm at Fitler Club Ballroom
A discussion on new classroom models, featuring Carlos Moreno, executive director of Big Picture Learning, a student-centered learning model in 150 schools, including two in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Citizen’s Co-founder Larry Platt will moderate with Michael Forman, chairman/CEO of FS Investments and co-founder of the Fitler Club.

Register here


Tuesday, August 3, 7pm, at Fitler Club Ballroom
On June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, it marked the end point of a 25-year civil rights battle that began in Hawaii in 1990 and played out across the country—from churches to hedge funds to courtrooms.

Journalist and author Sasha Issenberg chronicles this journey in his new book, The Engagement, which U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calls “an engrossing account of social change, political will and human rights.” Issenberg will talk with Citizen Executive Editor Roxanne Patel Shepelavy about the path to success for gay marriage, what it says about our American project, and the lessons to be learned for our ongoing civil rights movements.



Thursday, September 30, 7pm, at Fitler Club Ballroom
How can art change the world? The Citizen joins Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Jane Golden to explore that question in the kick-off event for 2021’s Mural Arts Month, a followup to last year’s Ideas We Should Steal Festival conversation with Black Thought, Shephard Fairey and Hank Willis Thomas. Artist panelists TBD. The event will include the opportunity to paint a panel for an upcoming Citizen/Mural Arts Philadelphia mural.


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Watch: Book Club with (former) Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil

At a Citizen event a week before his resignation, O'Neil talked about going from "warrior to sage" in his work, his family and himself

Watch: Book Club with (former) Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil

At a Citizen event a week before his resignation, O'Neil talked about going from "warrior to sage" in his work, his family and himself

Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils CEO Scott O’Neil gives himself until noon the day after a loss to be miserable—and then he flips a switch.

At least, that’s what he did after the Sixers crushing playoff loss. “I’ve learned to handle losing differently,” he said in the opening remarks at last Tuesday’s Citizen hybrid event, an interview with Citizen co-founder Larry Platt held both online and in-person at Fitler Club, in partnership with Fitler and Comcast NBCUniversal. “You have to compartmentalize,” he says.

Flipping that switch—being able to go from CEO to father of three girls to husband—might be the ultimate skill the Newburgh, NY, native has learned over his 25-plus years in sports entertainment. O’Neil climbed the ranks, starting as an assistant who performed all the classic assistant roles—tutoring the boss’s wife on using her computer, securing autographs for the boss’s kids—and working his way up to President of NYC’s legendary Madison Square Garden.

But he lost it all—he was fired from his job; his father died; and he lost his best friend from Harvard Business School to suicide. It was while delivering that eulogy, staring out at his friend’s five kids, and in the months that followed, when O’Neil fell into a deep depression. Writing his new book, Be Where Your Feet Are, became part of his healing. You can buy the book here, through Harriet’s Bookshop, which was The Citizen’s official bookselling partner for the event.

Watch the full event here

Or, see below for some highlights of our conversation with O’Neil:

Family is everything to the Sixers CEO. It was while on a camping (ok, glamping) excursion with some fellow CEOs and their daughters when O’Neil was tasked with a poignant exercise: Pretend you’re about to have your last-ever talk with your daughter—what do you want her to know? The message he drove home to his middle child: Family above all else—always. Also: Everything will be fine.

Everything meaningful he ever learned in his life, he learned from failure. After experiencing grief and loss—of his job, his father, his dear friend—O’Neil recognized the importance of learning from his mistakes

“I don’t want to repeat the same mistake twice,” he said—in business, and in his personal life. “If you really take stock of what you know and what you’ve learned,” it’s the failure that teaches you the most, he said. His current professional joy? Seeing his team thrive and succeed.  “My joy is much less about the kill…and I’m much more interested in people I work with, and them succeeding,” he said.

Life is messy. Despite the veneer we all project on social media—and O’Neil loves pics of people’s vacations and kids’ graduations as much as the rest of us, make no mistake—we can’t assume anyone’s life is perfect. “I’m not ashamed of my struggles. I’m not ashamed of who I am.” And, he says, if you are feeling particularly full? Reach out to help someone else. In fact, he typically starts his professional speeches by imploring attendees to take 60 seconds to text their mother, telling them they love her. 

He loves a good acronym. Two that are guiding his life right now: API—assume positive intent—and WMI—what’s most important.

His role model is his younger brother, Michael. O’Neil has many professional role models—NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NHL commish Gary Bettman—but it’s Michael who he calls when he has a question about life or faith or business or family or fatherhood. Michael built a successful healthcare tech company while practically on his deathbed, getting chemo, and recently launched a charity—Gray Bridge—to help bridge racial divides.

He considers intellectual curiosity a key trait for success. And as he wrapped up the night, he left the crowd with these words of—sage-like—wisdom: 

“There’s no finish line—you have to keep learning.”

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