NYC Thrive: Exhale.

I hadn't realized I had booked myself a front row seat for the Thrive event. Not only was I front row, but I was nearly in the center.

"SWEET!" I thought, as I picked up my swag bag off of my seat. 

I quickly made the acquaintance of the two people I was seated between. One was an author and life coach, the other was the head of HR at a pharmaceutical company. I felt a little out of place and a bit embarrassed when they asked me what I do.

"I don't do anything right now," I said. "But I used to do digital marketing. I'm taking a break right now."

They, naturally, asked me what I was doing with my break. And I gave the brief overview...

"Amicably split with my husband last Fall. Decided to quit my awesome new job, in favor of finally traveling around the world. My goal was to hit the seven continents in seven months. I did it in less than four, but still have some trips to take. This Thrive experience is part of that."

They both stared at me.

"Good for you!" said the HR guy. "No one ever does that!"

"Ohmigod!" said the author/life-coach. "You have to write a book!"

I laughed uncomfortably. And was grateful when the lights went down and some Austrian music started playing. A few minutes later, a gorgeous musician took the stage...

Her name was Miri Ben-Ari. She was an insanely stunning and talented violinist. And I had a front-row seat to watch her left fingers pluck and press the strings, while her right arm danced the bow at different tempos across the base of the instrument. And she did it all looking stunning and smiling.

After a welcome from Mika and Arianna, they brought out this woman...

Her name is Maysoon Zaid.  She is a comedian and actress with cerebral palsy who quickly shared her life story with us, making us laugh the whole way through.

"I'm female. I'm Muslim. I'm handicapped. I'm from New Jersey. You don't get more repressed than that!" 

Her story had a "shut your mouth, you can do anything you really want" tone to it. And I loved every second of it.

After Maysoon was this guy...

 His name is Andy Puddicombe. He is the guy who voices Headspace, a subscription-based meditation app. He was previously a Buddhist monk and studied Circus Arts (I kid you not!).

Adam did some juggling for us - a demonstration of his area of study in the Circus Arts. But the juggling had a purpose...

"If you drop a ball, it doesn't matter," he said. "What meditation is really about is awareness and compassion."

"The idea (with meditation) isn't to clear the mind. It's to be at ease with it."

The next speaker to com take the stage was Adam Grant.

He is a professor at Wharton and has written a book called "Give and Take." The message he had for us, as we entered this conference, is that "giving means getting more."

He went on to talk about a study that was conducted about the three types of people in the world:

Takers: Those who kiss up, kick down, and are too agreeable.
Givers: Those who give, without expectation.
Matchers: Those who "zero out" the two. They balance giving and taking.

He said that in the study, which covered a sales organization, the people who were Givers were the highest and lowest performers. The reason for this dichotomy, he said, was due to the approach in the Givers. At the low-performance end, Givers felt some of the products they sold were inferior, and didn't want to sell their customers an inferior product. On the high-performance end, the Givers were focused so much on their customers - and still believed that there was viable solution for them - that the customers were completely loyal.

As Andy (the Headspace CEO) had said a few minutes earlier: "It's not the thing that matters. It's the relationship to the thing."

Meaning: Focus on giving off a compassionate and kind aura, and whatever the thing is that you're working with... It will be of value.

So far, three presenters and one performer in, I was wowed! And then the next one came on stage...

Dani Shapiro!

She's my hero! (It rhymes so naturally!) She's written a few books I've read over the years, as well a some memoirs. She was - like nearly all of the presenters at Thrive - filled with wonderful perspectives on life, including...

"The blank page is nothing till you start filling it with words," she said. "Be authentic and true."

She said that often we hold ourselves back (men and women), not revealing our "authentic" selves.

"It's a gift to each other reveal ourselves. Follow your own path, rather than the one that is standard."

(Too right, sista!)

The final presentation of the evening was a panel discussion. And this one could have been a little better.

(I know, that seems kind of mean of me.)

The reason I didn't care for this panel was that I felt like one of the guests on it (who shall remain nameless) monopolized a large part of the discussion. And it was difficult for the hosts to jump in and steer the conversation towards the other guests, because what the woman was saying was personal. But I would have liked to hear more from the other two about their experiences in connecting to themselves.

Overall, the kick-off evening was amazing. I wasn't actually expecting it to jump right in with insights and learnings. I initially planned to duck out for an 8:30pm Bikram class. But I found myself pulled in to the whole experience, and was leaving with everyone else well after 9pm... Buzzing with energy from that evening.