One Continuing Step for Mankind

When I was a kid, I was part of the Star Trek generation. Well, actually the generation that saw “Star Trek, The Original Series”, really take off in its first set of reruns in the early 1970’s. I remember thinking, in the early 1970’s just how far away the year 2000 was and thinking “Wow, I’ll be 36 years old in 2000. That’s old. And we’ll have starships like the Enterprise then”.

enterpriseIt was September 17, 1976 when OV-101, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was rolled out by NASA. How cool was it that the first test shuttle off the line was named after the Enterprise? Pretty cool for me. This Enterprise never went into space. She was only used for the original glide testing. She was a pioneer, nonetheless.

My love for science fiction never waned over the years. I like it all. All of the Start Treks, Star Wars, Stargates, Battlestar Galacticas, and Firefly. The idea of traveling the galaxy is so appealing that I can’t help but getting sucked into it.

It’s 2014 and NASA’s Space Shuttle program has been mothballed, retired, whatever you want to call it. I was wounded when it happened and we didn’t have a replacement. But one thing that is happening that is interesting and exciting is that guys like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are using their billions to continue to push space exploration. I read this article by Richard Branson today and it excited me all over again. If it can be done, these guys will do it. If I had to do it all over again, I’d work hard to get a job with Virgin Galactic or SpaceX so that I could be a part of this amazing space adventure.

I have to admit, I am a little concerned about the commercialization of space travel. I am afraid that the first viable space travel for the common folk will be a doubledecker tour bus that shoots out around the moon and back. “Coming up on the left is the Sea of Tranquility and ahead we’ll see the construction beginning on the new George Jetson Space Burger  Fly-In Restaurant, which will be run by McDonald’s”. There are a lot of examples of big business ruining cool things.

bransonmuskRegardless of how it turns out, and I imagine it’ll be after I have moved on to a different and more final frontier, the idea of space travel will continue to enthrall and inspire the young and old. The idea that billionaires are using their billions to foster a spirit of exploration is one of the most inspiring things to me. Elon Musk inspires me daily with the projects he takes on. Each cooler than the next, and each seeking to make the world a better and more sustainable place. I like to think that when I make my billions, this is how I will choose to spend them too.

In the article, Richard Branson says “This inquisitiveness is a healthy thing, and leads to new innovations. Only through exploration of the unknown can we continue to grow and evolve.”

I hope that generations in the future, when space travel is viable, whoever is in charge of naming starships remembers to name one the USS Elon Musk and another the USS Richard Branson to acknowledge their contributions to space travel. They are true pioneers that keep reaching for things that are well beyond their grasp. Go big or stay home, right? That is incredibly inspiring to me. I wonder what their parents did to encourage them. Find your inspiration, and inspire others, particularly your kids.

A Different Kind Of Christmas

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the old song says. It is funny, but when you are out shopping, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. “So, don’t wait until the 23rd,” I can hear you saying. I didn’t. I went out on the 22nd this year. I am not sure why, I just noticed A LOT of really stressed out people. There was one woman in Penney’s who looked like she hadn’t slept in a month, on the verge of tears, loudly telling someone on the the other end of the phone, “I just hate Christmas”.

I’m often that guy. The consumerism of the season completely overwhelms me, and I forget that there is a lot of happiness and joy to be found in the magic of Christmas. My own son is nearing his 22nd birthday. There isn’t excitement about presents and waking up early and putting out cookies and carrots for our midnight visitors. I do, however, have lots of little nieces and nephews that I can live the joy through, if I look.

As I type, I am watching a news TV show that just announced that Kohl’s had been over for over 100 straight hours. There was all sorts of hullabaloo when the Galleria Mall in Buffalo announced it would be open on Thanksgiving Day, and it leaked that the mall would fine stores that did not open that day. It’s easy to get lost in the bad parts of Christmas, and it’s often difficult to find the joy through all of the noise.

Christmas 2104 3

Presents for the family we adopted.

This year, we tried something different and it helped revive the season for me. There is a strong belief in our family that we are very fortunate in life. We survived some really bad things in life, and even in the past 5-6 years when the economy left some casualties in the form of people losing jobs or being economically ruined, we were spared all of that.

Each year, my wife Linda volunteers through her company at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, a local mission that serves the abject poor and the homeless. Each year our family also participates in a gift exchange. We are a large and close family, so it would be impossible to buy for everyone. A gift exchange makes sense.

After her volunteer experience this year, Linda came home and suggested that maybe, for this year, instead of buying gifts for each other, we all take the money we would normally spend on each other and adopt a family in need this year. So, we did. We adopted a family of seven, and spent all of the money we would have spent on gifts for each other on presents for them. They provided a list of things they wanted and the list was filled with things like bedding and socks. I was touched by the self-awareness and humility in that. The shoppers in our group, of course, bought all of those things, but also found some room in the budget for some toys for the kids.

Christmas caroling at a nursing home.

Christmas caroling at a nursing home.

Another Christmas tradition for us, it’s been probably 10-15 years, is that we rent a limo bus, and we go Christmas Caroling. We start the evening by going to nursing homes where our family members are now living and it brings such enormous joy to the residents of the facilities. There have been people we’ve visited over the years who could not remember the names of their loved ones, or who don’t talk much at all, but who could remember the words of the carols and sing along. There has not been a year, in all of them, that I have not gotten choked up at the reaction of people to such a little thing on our part. All of the musicians in the family bring their instruments and play along. It’s awesome.

Life is full of people worse off than we are. This experiment we tried this year was filled with a double positive. It gave joy to someone, who without us, might not have had a Merry Christmas. For us it added joy, knowing that we made the world a little bit better place. We have everything we need. We have roofs over our heads, cars in our driveways, and food on our tables. We’ve got a family that is filled with love and generosity, and I know that I am proud to be a part of it.

One of the reasons that our family is in a spirit of giving is that the older generations TAUGHT us to give of ourselves. They taught us that the world doesn’t center around us. They taught us that we should be grateful for what we have, because things could always be way worse than they are. We’ve lived through some of those worse times. You have to teach younger generations the importance of generosity and community service. I truly believe it is so important to give of yourself to lead a happy life. I think it is so important, I included an entire chapter on it in my book.

Tonight, we’ll gather as a family, we’ll pray, and we’ll break bread. And that is all of the gift I need for the season. The gift of family and of love. I hope it is the same for you.

What tradition could you add to make generosity and service a part of your family holiday traditions?

When Inspiration Hits, Take Advantage

bloomsburyshelfIt was a good week for the “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” book. We picked up three retail locations, and our first book signing. You can get your copy at Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe and Books in Lancaster, NY in the east. On the west coast you can get copies at both the Ballard and Greenwood locations of Sip-N-Ship in Seattle, Washington. I am talking to two other bookstores in the Buffalo area and hope to have some more retail locations soon.

I’ll also be signing copies at Bloomsbury Lane at 1. W. Main Street in Lancaster on “Small Business Saturday”, November 29, from 11 am- 1 pm. 

I’m not sure why, perhaps it is because I often think about the things I am thankful for during this time of year, but this week I was thinking about what it was that inspired me to write “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. The truth is, it was kind of the perfect storm of events that inspired me.

It was February of 2012. I had just read two different books that really inspired me. Carrie Wilkerson’s “The Barefoot Executive” and Brendon Burchard’s “The Millionaire Messenger”. Reading those two was absolutely the tipping point for me.
Here’s a picture of my two copies. burchardwilkersonbooksYou can see they are dog earred and filled with Post-it tags. I still look back to both of them for inspiration or for ideas for lessons for my students. Generally, books that I love are very well used. I get my money’s worth.

I read Brendon’s book first and I found the most important inspiration right on page one. (That, by the way, is awesome. There is no better hook than having a huge pearl right up front.) Brendon says “You are here to make a difference in this world, and the best way to do that is to use your knowledge and expertise (on any topic, in any industry) to help others succeed.”

That quote sums up my entire career. I am a teacher, at a Catholic high school. I certainly didn’t do it for the money. I do it everyday, because I think that sharing with my students the lessons that I learned is a good way to pay forward my gratitude for all of the successes I have had in life. I like to help people find the things they need to succeed. No matter where my career takes me from here, I know that I will always be teaching in some capacity. Brendon nailed it….”use your knowledge and expertise to help others succeed.” I thought to myself, “I can do that”.

Carrie Wilkerson’s book inspired me through her style. Her easy does it, laid back approach to writing was exactly what I needed. I absolutely knew that I couldn’t write in the stodgy, expert style that so many books are written in. It was intimidating. Carrie, however, wrote in a style that screamed “I work from home in my bare feet”. As a life long Jimmy Buffett fan, I really appreciate…nay….yearn for the barefoot lifestyle. I definitely thought I might have a chance at writing in the easy does it, laid back style that Carrie writes in. I think I did OK in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many other nuggets of wisdom in this book. The worth goes well beyond her writing style. Very worth the read if you want to be your own boss.

Both books taught me the importance of good titles. That is for certain. I bought Brendon’s on the recommendation of a good friend. I bought Carrie’s because I looked at the title and said, “Oh yeah. That’s the life I want.”

I’m a fan of mentoring and having mentors. I consider both Carrie Wilkerson and Brendon Burchard to be mentors even though I’ve never met either of them. Mentoring doesn’t have to be face to face. You can be mentored through a book or social media or a video series.

The third inspiration came in the form of a leadership conference for school that, at the beginning, was the worst professional development I had ever attended. I was anywhere but mentally present at that conference. It was mostly for elementary school teachers. After lunch, however, they took the handful of high school teachers and put us in a room with some college professors who asked “What do you want to learn today?” I said, “What are our kids lacking when they get to you?” Without a moment of hesitation they said “writing, skills, time management, independence, and critical thinking skills”. I remember walking out of that session and thinking “I wonder what else these kids need to be successful in life”.

So, in February of 2012, looking only to cross “write a book” off of my bucket list, I outlined “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. Now it is on the shelves in several book stores and available through Amazon. I’ll consider that a success. I’ve always got my eyes open for things that inspire me. Books, movies, walks in the park, people I meet. Inspiration comes in strange places and often when you least expect it. Make sure that you keep your eyes and your heart open to whatever inspiration may come knocking.

What unexpected thing inspired you to do something you are proud of? Share some inspiration below.

 


Some of the links in the above article are affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase the book or product through these links. I, however, would never recommend a book or product I haven’t read or used, or don’t think you will find value in.

 

 

Explore. You May Find Your Passion, Your Business Partner, Your Soulmate

It’s October. Things are changing. Shorter days, cooler temperatures, lots more rain. Sweater weather and soups. It ranks among my favorite times of year. We just celebrated Columbus Day. Before you post in the comments. I know Columbus wasn’t a great guy, but I wonder where I would be these days were it not for his spirit of exploration in 1492. So, if you don’t like him, don’t celebrate the man, celebrate the idea that we make progress when we step outside of our comfort zone and we find new things. When we explore, we discover..

10 Things BooksIt’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me. My book “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” was released in early October. Since then, I’ve learned just how sexy being a self-published author is. My living room is full of boxes of books and folders and envelopes. It’s like a mini Amazon warehouse right here in my living room. OK, a really mini…maybe even micro Amazon.

The truth is, I never expected to be shipping books out of my living room and dining room. I just wrote it to cross “Write a Book” off of my bucket list, and now I have unlocked a whole new passion and direction for my life. “10 Things” will not be my last book, I can assure you of that. I’ve been sleepless and unsettled in the weeks leading up to the release of the book. What if no one bought it? What if they did buy it, and they hated it? Well, people have bought it, and every single day I am getting positive feedback. Sometimes, from people I don’t even know. I’ve been interviewed on an internationally acclaimed podcast, and some other venues that I’ll share soon. None of that would have happened if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and explore something new.

Just this week, I finished working on my 7th TEDx conference in Buffalo. It’s come to be one of my favorite things I do with my spare time. It’s a cool way to meet and hang out with really smart, really dedicated people. Because of this involvement, I’ve found some really cool people, who I now call friends. I am talking about A-level thinkers and doers. These are the game changers in the city of Buffalo and WNY, and I am now connected to them. I can reach out and talk to them. I can pick their brains and study their results. I can interview them and share their coolness with my audience. I can learn from them and share their passion for our hometown. I can collaborate with them. Most importantly, I can be inspired by them.

TEDx 2104 Organizers

Photo by Tricia Marcolini Smith, TEDxBuffalo

How did I get involved? My friend, Matt “the Soup Guy” Carlucci, another explorer, and founder of the Buffalo Soup-Fest, called me and said “Hey, have you ever heard of the TED Talks?” I said no. He said “Dude, you’d love these.There is going to be a conference in Buffalo” He sent me some links and I was hooked. He invited me to join him at a meeting of the organizers. I met him at the first meeting, and he never showed up to another meeting, but I stayed on. That was in 2011.

Matt Cutts, famous Google guy, did his TED Talk on trying something new for 30 days. It’s only 3 minutes long. Have a look.

My point here is that two of my favorite things I’ve ever done, I did because I was able to step out of my comfort zone and do a little exploring. It’s never too late to start exploring. For goodness sake, if you are a parent, instill this quality in your kids. Encourage them to explore and try new things. Reassure them, as they head off to college, that it is OK to not have your whole life figured out at 18 years old. Encourage them to take interesting classes. Encourage them to join new clubs. Who knows, they may find a new passion, or their future business partner, or their future soul mate. People seldom find any of those three things sitting on the couch.

Get out there and explore. You never know what you may find.

What one thing do you want to try for 30 days? Leave a comment below.

Do great things,

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First Retail Location and Last Chance

unpacking the bookEver since I opened the box with the first two (proof) copies of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”, it has been kind of a blur. I had to read the book for what seems like the millionth time, and correct what seems like the millionth mistake. I had to write press releases and sales packages and blog posts. I had to contact book stores and other retail locations. I had to create a mailing list, and I had to figure out almost all of this stuff on my own, or with the help of one of my author friends who figured it out on their own.

In the last few days, it’s all become real. I approved the final proof, and the book will be available on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 online.

I’ve also made a deal with my first retail location. The book will be available soon at Bloomsbury Lane Toy and Book Shoppe in Lancaster, NY. Stay tuned for details on when they have stock, and on other locations throughout Western New York where you can get your copy. It is certainly exciting.

On Tuesday morning the book will be available on the internet, and I am going to email to members of my email list a promotional code that is available for only five days. That code will allow members of my list to buy the book at a very steep discount in those initial days that the book is for sale. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of that because the book will never be offered at that price again. That is one of the benefits of the publish on demand model, I didn’t have to order boxes of books that I will then have to unload at rock bottom prices at a later date. If you haven’t joined the mailing list, here is the link to the webpage about the book where you can join the mailing list, and also read the first three chapters of the book, absolutely FREE. I was so excited about the book being ready that I just couldn’t wait to share it.

Read the first three chapters and subscribe to Pete’s mailing list.

One of the other benefits of being on my mailing list is that you’ll get other things for free, and you’ll get to preview other great content I put together about making great changes in your life, or being a better parent, or personal leadership. Here’s a video that I shared with my mailing list first.

As always, thanks for following along. It’s been a lot of fun talking to people about the book and I certainly could not have accomplished it without the love and support of my family and friends.

Remember, the only thing holding you back is you.

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Achieving success always requires taking action. What’s one small action you can take today to get you moving towards something you want to achieve?