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How TEDx Helped Phil Cohen Reach Thousands, Including The Wall Street Journal

Before giving his TEDx talk, Phil Cohen worked as the Vice Present of sales. Essentially, he helped individuals learn to sell software. He didn’t realize his journey to sharing his story with others worldwide would start with a devastating conversation. He shares his immediate feelings in his own words:

“After first learning that my 14-year-old son and his close friend were last seen leaving the Jupiter Inlet on a 19-foot fishing boat and that the Coast Guard was actively searching for them, my first experience…was fear and a crippling sense of helplessness.”

The national news and social media followed the story—one of the most extensive searches of the Coast Guard to date. But unfortunately, the seven excruciating days ended in tragedy. Both boys were never found.

Feeling helpless, worthless, and ashamed, Phil Cohen went to Google to try and find an answer to his question on how to grieve such a massive loss. But unfortunately, Phil Cohen’s journey to acceptance was not linear, as his Google search implied it should be.

When he Googled how to grieve, Phil Cohen found a 5-stage model. However, this process was established in the 1960s and created for terminally ill cancer patients. Unfortunately, it wasn’t created for those grieving the loss of a family member.

“There is no one-size-fits-all model for grief. Grief doesn’t always start at denial or end at acceptance.”

Thus began Phil Cohen’s journey of grief and reaching others with his discovery process.

Phil Cohen’s Challenge To Acceptance

Brief but disastrous storms are common in southern Florida. So when Phil Cohen couldn’t reach his son, he reached out to the Coast Guard. Seven excruciating days later, the Coast Guard admiral spoke with Phil Cohen: The search for his young son and son’s friend was over.

Precisely what happened at sea that day remains unclear, but July 24, 2015, is forever marked in Phil’s mind as the day he lost his only child.

“Just on the other side of acceptance, I found subtle optimism. Just a small sign that let me know I might recover from this.”

Phil’s grief did not follow a linear path. Instead, he found himself finding his path for grief.

The Moment That Changed Everything

Phil Cohen and son Perry

Phil Cohen and son Perry

One of those moments came sitting with a close friend and talking about grief. Phil shared his story, and his friend’s response struck home: “You should give a TEDx Talk about that.”

But Phil had so many thoughts in his mind he wasn’t sure how to articulate them into tangible steps. People knew his story—the search for his son had been all over the news—but when people asked how he was making it through, he didn’t know what to say.

His friend’s comment and desire to answer people’s questions intelligently helped him articulate his framework for grief. Phil Cohen calls it the Grief Continuum, and it follows the following three steps:

  • Recognize
  • Repair
  • React
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Thought-Leader offers a practical, 7-step framework that walks clients through details and helps them narrow their talk down to a singular idea. Added to the practical side, Phil knew he’d have a community of like-minded people to join him and give feedback on his talk before TEDx ever chose him to step on the stage.

Watch Phil Cohen’s TEDx Talk!

On why he joined with Thought-Leader, Phil says the following: “Kind of the A to Z approach from taking this crazy idea that you have in your head that you’re not sure you can make into a talk to getting it down to a single idea, to practicing it, to getting accepted, and then to delivering it—the whole process was there for me.”

Phil Cohen saw the empathy yet drive that permeated the Thought-Leader team and knew this was an opportunity he had to take—he went for it.

Thought-Leader Helps Phil Cohen Take His Journey To The Big Stage

With one chance on stage, Phil wanted to make it count. So rather than spread his time among an assortment of ideas, Thought-Leader helped Phil articulate the one message he needed to share.

With a team behind him and peers helping him along the way, in December 2021, Phil Cohen booked and gave his TEDx Talk.

Phil Cohen Transforming Grief
Phil Cohen Transforming Grief

In January 2022, Phil Cohen’s talk was published online, and the response he received was phenomenal:

  • Reporters from The Wall Street Journal reached out to him
  • He wrote an article for Authority Magazine
  • The American Bar Association asked him to write an article about finding and maintaining wellness amid a crisis

Since giving his TEDx Talk, Phil Cohen has spoken in other capacities, both on stage and one-on-one. According to Phil, “Since giving the talk, I’ve had reporters from The Wall Street Journal reach out to me and say we saw your talk and we’d like you to be a contributor to one of our articles… These are all opportunities I would’ve never gotten had I not given that talk.”

“Since giving the talk, I’ve had reporters from The Wall Street Journal reach out to me…”

In addition to the tangible opportunities speaking on TEDx has given him, Phil says, “The TEDx Talk gives me credibility. It gives me authority. I felt like I was in a group of people, and we were all writing different versions of the same book. Everybody there is a very mission-driven messenger. They all have something in their heart that they want to share.”

“Everybody is there for the same reason….to help you share [your idea] in an authentic way.”

How Working With TEDx And Thought-Leader Empowered A Parent To Reach Thousands

“I didn’t go up there with a business in mind. I wasn’t trying to sell anything; I didn’t have a book that I was trying to point people to or a program. I just really wanted to help other people.”

But after giving his TEDx talk, Phil Cohen realized it was something he could build a career out of. So rather than start a business and give a talk to build his platform, Phil Cohen took a bold step that enabled him to build a business.

“Giving this TEDx Talk launched a whole new career for me and sent me in a completely different direction.”

Seven years passed between Phil Cohen’s conversation with the Coast Guard admiral to giving his TEDx Talk on his process from despair to purpose.

“It’s definitely been an experience worth doing. I wouldn’t take it back.”

He now works with men to help them take what they’ve learned and share it with the world. Phil Cohen also guides them through building a business from what they’ve gone through.

“If I didn’t do that TEDx Talk, I’d likely still be in corporate America as a VP of sales for a technology company with this overwhelming feeling in the back of my mind that I’m meant for something bigger.”


Sarah Rexford
Content Writer

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