Forget Leadership Training! This is how to hit the ground running as a manager. Every sentence provides realistic, practical, and applicable advice for today.

—Ivan Dunmire, EVP, Director of Human Resources, MPG

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Acorn and the Oaks – a True Story

Spoke with my Dad on the phone this morning.  You know, the guy I accompanied to the hospital a couple of months ago when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  I previously wrote about him here.

Let’s just say he’s doing ok.  It’s amazing what some time in the sun and the right medications will do for a guy.  Our call went like this:

Me:        Dad, you sound terrific.  How are you settling into your new Florida oasis?

Dad:       I’m doing great.  I’ve been playing tennis every day.  I swear I’m playing the best tennis of my life!

Me:        Really? The best tennis of your life? Dad, you’re 69 years old!  You don’t have a speck of cartilage in your knees…and there’s that Parkinson’s thing.  Dude, you should be featured in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dad:       Oh, reminds me. I’ve scheduled my first of two knee operations.  Looks like I can do the first one in July, rehab in 8 weeks, then have the next surgery in November, rehab again, and be ready for the spring tennis league in 2012. Because my birthday is in March, I’m told I can play in both the Over 65s and Over 70s leagues.  If the surgeries and the rehab go well, I might make a run at a national ranking.

Me:        Um, sounds great, Dad.  Good to hear you’re going quietly into your twilight years.  I gotta go and take a nap…unless you’re willing to part with some of those Parkinson’s drugs you’re taking.  They seem to be doing miraculous things.

I decided to call my 66-year-old mother, thinking she would find my account of this discussion entertaining, which she did.  I then asked how she was doing.

Mom:    Oh, I couldn’t be better, Sean, thanks for asking.  I’m scheduled to wrap up my doctoral paper this month, and then I should get it reviewed, approved and defended this fall.

Me:        Holy shit…and then you’ll be, like, Dr. Mary Ann O’Neil!

Mom:    Yup!…Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you…I’ve just launched my own new blog –   SUCCESSTROGEN…in ALL CAPS! ( It’s a blog for women who want more out of life.  I’ve seen what you’ve done with your own blog thing, and thought it would be cool to start my own.  Because, after all, I have different thoughts about life and work and management than you do.

Me: Hmmph.  That’s something, Mom.  I like that…SUCCESSTROGEN in ALL CAPS…Creative and cool.  Way better than Bare Knuckle People Management. (sigh) I have to go.

Mom:    Why? Where are you off to?

Me:        Drugstore…I need some Geritol…or some 5-Hour Energy…or some Parkinson’s medications.

Mom:    Ok, Hon, I love you!

Instead of heading straight to the drugstore, I took a roundabout way to clear my head while I walked.

I periodically get asked what the hell I’m doing with my life, my countless graduate degrees, my career.  Objectively speaking, my career movements have been curious at best and reckless at worst.  I have had stints as:

  • a social worker,
  • a child and family therapist,
  • a real estate lawyer,
  • a management consultant, and, presently,
  • an author/blogger.

I do, after all, have a wife, 4 kids who presumably expect me to pay their college tuition, and a whopping mortgage that I took on during an economy that screamed: YOU’LL KEEP EARNING MORE!

But I continue to draw inspiration from my aging parents and their undying commitment to personal improvement and reinvention.  They’re freaking OLD, and yet they’ve still got plans to make themselves and their lives better.

When I started to view my own life decisions in the context of Mom and Dad, I could see myself as an acorn who hasn’t fallen all that far from the two oak trees that created me.  So instead of reckless, I could view my decisions in light of perpetual self-improvement and reinvention.

That lifted my spirits and my energy level.

I blew past the drugstore and returned to my office.  I don’t need that 5-Hour Energy or the Parkinson’s meds today.  Nope, today it’s time for more reinvention.  I’ve just started to flesh out the format for my new weekly radio show, Bare Knuckle Business Hour (oh yes…stay tuned…it’s coming!).

About Sean O’Neil

Sean O’Neil is a workplace and team dynamics expert. He is also Principal and CEO of Bare Knuckle People Management (, a sales and management training firm with clients that include the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, News Corporation, First Data, ADP, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Oakland Raiders. Sean and John Kulisek co-authored Bare Knuckle People Management: Creating Success with the Team You Have – Winners, Losers, Misfits and All, which was published in May 2011. Sean has contributed to or been featured in, among others, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Selling Power Magazine,, HR Morning Magazine, Leadership Excellence Magazine, Training Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Sports Business Journal, and Incentive Magazine. Sean appears regularly on radio and television programs, including Fox Business Network and Imus in the Morning, mostly about workplace communications and management issues. He can also frequently be seen pacing the sidelines of a youth team he’s coaching.


(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)


  1. by Gigi on

    MAO shared this with me … you, apparently, have inherited her skill with words and talent for writing … great job … I am going to bookmark this site and when I get a minute, I am going to relax and enjoy it … your parents truly are unique folk … I know that you and the rest of the O’Neil gang must have benefitted in ways that you are not even aware of yet.. best of luck in the discovery!


    • by Sean O'Neil on

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Gigi! I call on lessons learned inside the O’Neil home every damn day! 🙂

      It’s nice when I get a reminder of the value they bring me even in my adulthood.


Leave a Comment

* Required