Steve Tasker Self-Leadership Experience Camp for High School Students

Ask any leadership expert and they will tell you that leaders aren’t born, they are made. This summer I have the great opportunity to work with some of Western New York’s best and brightest leaders as the head leadership coach at the Steve Tasker Self-Leadership Experience, at Canisius College from August 4th – 6th. There are still spots available, so register today. Also, there are FULL SCHOLARSHIPS available as well.

The camp will be a high energy, three day camp filled with leadership coaches from all different walks of life. The coaches include:

Steve Tasker – Best known for his time as a member of the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl teams and currently as a NFL broadcaster, Steve will share stories of the skills and habits that he used to build two extremely successful careers.

Adam Page – Born with Spina Bifida, and unwilling to let that be an obstacle in his life, Adam has won two gold medals as a member of the USA Paralympic Sled Hockey team. He has also set several national records including most points in a game and most points in a tournament. Adam will share his story and the skills and self-discipline he used to achieve great things.

Brynne Harrison – A researcher and lecturer at the University at Buffalo, Brynne is an expert in the field of communications. She will share her knowledge of public speaking and conflict resolution, two essential success skills in today’s competitive market.

Ajitpaul Mangat – A PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo, Ajitpaul has also worked as a graduate assistant at SUNY-Buffalo’s Center for Excellence in Writing. He will be sharing the importance of writing skills and coaching campers in a short daily exercise designed to improve written communication skills.

Tamara McMillan –  An award winning professor, TEDx speaker, and blogger, and the Chief Empowerment Officer at McMillan Empowerment Enterprise, a company energized by creating and supporting platforms of empowerment. Tamara will be coaching on goal setting and making a daily commitment to those goals.

Mike Seege and Elizabeth Carey – Mike and Elizabeth are partners in the Team Building Team, and will focus on skills essential to being a good team member. No leader can lead effectively without being apart of the team. Mike and Elizabeth will focus on the skills needed to be a part of a team.

Zandra Cunningham – is a 15 year old entrepreneur from Buffalo, NY. When not creating products to make you look, feel, and smell good, she is busy with her studies. Zandra will share the story of how she created a successful business at age 14 and how she manages to fit it all into her busy day.

Danielle Delmonte – Danielle is the owner and founder of PrepStart Consulting LLC, an independent college admissions and career development consulting practice based in Buffalo, NY. With a unique background in public relations, marketing and college counseling, Danielle provides a wide range of innovative college admissions and professional development services to high school and college students. Danielle will be discussing personal branding, personal PR and how students don’t use social media in a way that will help them achieve their goals.


The camp will feature a mix of instructional sections and hands-on activities to teach the following skills:

Making good choices, getting along with others, being a good team member, managing your time, speaking out effectively, making good decisions, self-confidence. writing effectively, making good 1st impressions, how not to ruin yourself on social media, increasing your self-awareness, forming good habits, setting goals, and many more.

Every camper will also receive a copy of my book “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”which is all about success skills for school, work, and life.

The camp runs from August 4 – 6, 2015 , so time is running out. Register today.

Know Thyself and Then Leverage Your Strengths

Recently, I stumbled upon an article that turned a lot of what I have believed, and taught for years, on its head. For years, as a teacher and even as a parent, I have believed that if I (or my students, or my son) wasn’t good at something, then it was just a matter of working harder at it. More practice, more reading, more homework, and I’ll/you’ll get better at it.

KidsHaveStressTooPicThe article, on the other hand, pointed out that we’re not all perfect, we’re not all good at everything, and no matter how hard we try, we often aren’t going to get over our plateaus. No matter how much golfing I do, I am never going to be Tiger Woods. No matter how much singing I do, I am never going to win The Voice. It just isn’t going to happen. Conversely, I’ll bet Tiger Woods or Adam Levine can’t do what I do well.

The trouble is that our educational system is a one size fits all approach to education. (This is not a post about education reform) In my state, every kid has to take the same math, science, social studies and English and foreign language courses. I was an artist, an actor, and a writer. Me and math and physics didn’t get a long. I worked harder, didn’t improve my grades significantly, felt crappy about myself, and it took away from the time I spent doing the things I was good at, and quite frankly, enjoyed more.

Nowadays, the push towards competing on a world stage with other countries in the math and science disciplines would have left me behind. Add to it the constant battle over school budgets that often result in a cut to electives, clubs and other extracurricular activities, and a guy like me would have been a mess. Luckily, my mom saw and artsy side to me and my parents were very supportive of my artsy endeavors.

In recent years, I’ve found myself floundering around a bit too. I read…..a lot. Internet articles, self help books, fiction, plays. It doesn’t matter. If it has words, I read it. So, over the past 3-4 years I’ve read a few books that have helped me to realize more about who I am. It’s much easier to connect the dots looking backwards. So, I wanted to share with you some revelations I’ve made on my journey to make a happier life by playing to my strengths.

What I Already Knew About Myself

I don’t have many regrets in life. I’ve done a lot of cool things, with a lot of cool people. I have a family that I love and a career that has been enormously fulfilling. In a strange way, the career has really filled one of my basic needs that I’ll get to in a minute.

Here’s one of my few regrets. I am artistic. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s when I was in high school, NY State required that each kid had a major. It required taking 3 or 4 full credits in that area. I was an art major. I took a lot of 2-D art classes. I wasn’t a ceramics/sculpture guy, but I could draw and paint well. So, I did what any smart guy would do. I went to college for pre-med. Two and a half years in with terrible grades and having a miserable time of it, I changed my major to Theater, specifically Scenic Design, and the world changed for me. I was playing to my artistic side, and away from the academic side that I was weak at. I never really took any art classes after high school and that is one of my regrets.

Getting To Know Me

Back to a few of the books I read and what I learned.

A few years ago I read a book called “The One Minute Millionaire” by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen. There were a lot of good takeaways in the book, but for me there was an “aha moment” when the authors discussed four different types of people in their chapter on Teams. They likened the different type of people to animals – Hares, Owls, Turtles, and Squirrels.

TippingPointOneMinuteMillionaireI knew immediately that I was a Hare. Peter Hare. Ha. Hansen and Allen describe Hares as Idea people who love to come up with the great ideas, but often get bored once the idea is thought through. They are creative and others often complain that they lack follow through. I’m that guy. I have hundreds of ideas roaming around in my head at any given time. I have notebooks full of them. I am writing ideas down while I am sitting in meetings (a task I am not very good at…the sitting in meetings, not the writing down ideas). I talk about new ideas all the time, and only a very few of them make it to execution stage, and some of them only get partially executed. Lots of them get revisited an shared and then shelved again.

The second book that really struck me in my journey for self awareness was “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is about social epidemics, why they start and catch on, and why they don’t. Social epidemics are products that catch on or videos that go viral or new politicians that win by landslides. Did you know that there were two riders yelling “the British are coming” on that night? Yeah, me neither, because only one was successful.

Gladwell contends that there are three different types of people who are necessary to make a social epidemic happen. Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Immediately, through his description of the three, I knew I was a connector. I have a broad based network that spans a lot of different groups of people. I have an entire group of friends from high school that I never knew from being in school together. They are some of my dearest friends and they had all graduated before I even moved to the town I went to high school in.

I moved in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and it was 1979. There was no email, Facebook or Twitter. Slowly, I drifted from all of those elementary school and junior high school friends. As soon as the technology emerged to reconnect (social media), I did. I engage in activities that put me in different groups of people. And I am not at all adverse to connecting the different groups. As a matter of fact, I thrive on that.

That is what I meant earlier about my career choice fulfilling one of my basic needs. I get to meet about 100 new kids a year, every year for the past 20 years, and after they graduate, I stay in touch with many. Whenever I can help them connect with someone that might be able to get them a job or help them in something else they are working on, I am happy to do that.

I’ve also read and taken the online test in the “StrengthsFinder 2.0″ book by Tom Rath. It was very helpful in finding out more about my strength set. The 19 page report that was generated also had some excellent action items to help me more fully take advantage of my strengths.

Leveraging That Information

Knowing who I am: I’m artsy, I’m creative, I get a million ideas, and I thrive on connecting people has allowed me to focus more of my energy on the things I am good at and less on the things I struggle with. One of the things about being a connector is that I always have someone in my networks who are good at the things I am bad at, and I am good at things that others are bad at. Knowing that has freed me from spending too much time working on things I will never be able to develop.

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6 Ways to Adjust Your Parenting Habits to Generate Kid Success

It’s the end of the first semester, or halfway through the year if your kids are younger. It’s the perfect time to make adjustments to your routines and habits to help improve academic performance as your kids finish the school year.

I firmly believe that habits are the key to any real success. People underestimate their ability to form their own habits and create a life that supports their success formula and the goals they set for themselves. Parents underestimate how much their own habits influence the success of their kids. I feel so strongly, I’ve written about it several times. Here and here are two of the best pieces I’ve written. Here is a list of six habits that you can create for yourself that will rub off on your children. If you include your kids, they will develop the same habits along with you.

1. Be interested – I come from less busy times. We actually ate dinner together several nights a week in my house as I was growing up. There is no doubt that dinner time is a great time to have conversations about your day. Sometimes it is really hard to get your kids to engage, particularly if they are high school age. It’s worth the investment. Genuine interest in the academic activities your kids are involved with will pay off in a variety of ways. If you want to build a relationship that shows your kids that you are interested in what they are doing, this is a time that requires you to be non-judgmental. I don’t know what clued my parents into my creative side, but my parents paid for me to take summer classes at the Studio Arena Theatre School, to take private art lessons with a local painter, and to take guitar lessons. In the mid-1970’s, the chances of making a living at any of those things were very low. They never worried about that, and that nurturing allowed for me to grow those interests (and all three of them are still a part of my life today.) Those activities, while they may not provide a path to a steady and lucrative career, they do help kids grow as creativity has nice benefits and it is still a place for kids to learn passion, discipline, and to take pride in their work.

So, even if the busy family life gets in the way of a family dinner, there are plenty of times daily to take interest in what your kids are doing, what they are studying, what their best friends are up to. There is the car rides between soccer practice and music lessons. There is always a few minutes before bed time, or over a bowl of Cheerios in the morning. If those times are difficult, make a date to go out to dinner, to take a walk, to have an ice cream cone, whatever. Being non-judgmentally interested in your kids’ lives creates a connection point that will help drive success, as our kids love to impress us with new information learned or by sharing their accomplishments.

2. Be positive – Study after study after study proves the value of positive thinking. It was Henry Ford who said “If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”. This is one of the greatest habits you can give your kids is the power of positive thinking. Positive thinkers can see themselves being successful and can use that power to drive themselves to success. Train your kids to default to the positive first. Exercise gratitude for the things that you have and look on the bright side when things go wrong. My grandmother and my mother both used to say “if you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say anything at all.” Great advice.

My favorite TED Talk is by Shawn Achor and he gives some great tips at the end about how to achieve a positive lifestyle.

3. Work together – One of the best things that you can do to help your child be successful is to lead by example. Throughout the child rearing years, you can be certain that your kids want to listen to you exactly never. I know how frustrating it is. I not only have my own son, but, as a teacher, I have lots of other people’s kids who don’t want to listen to me. Here is a simple tip. If you want your kids to sit down and work, sit down and work with them, starting when they are younger. So many jobs require us to take work home. Sit down at the same time as your kids and do your work. If you don’t have a job where you take work home, sit down and pay the bills or balance the checkbook (do people still have checkbooks?) Read the newspaper, read a book, write thank you notes. If you are sitting there doing the same things that they are learning in school; reading, writing, math, they will see the value from the person they learn the most from. This is a great habit to start when your kids are young. Keep it up, however, when they get older. Leading by example is the best way to drive lessons home.

4. Set rules – There are so many distractions in the course of our days. Some are self-induced and some just pop up. While you can never eliminate them all, you can certainly create a set of rules that limits the ones that you can control. Probably the biggest distraction of modern times is technology. Set rules around technology use when it is study time. Phones should be silenced and in another room. Internet access should be limited to what is needed for what the academic tasks are. There shouldn’t be TV or music going on. Music is probably OK, so long as it doesn’t have lyrics. Instrumental stuff has less of a tendency to split the processing power of our brain. Your rules can include breaks for technology, but really only if it is a long study session. When you are interrupted by social media or texting, it takes approximately 23 minutes for your brain to get back in the groove. Isn’t it better to just finish the project and then check your social media? Make the rule that study time is a no tech time.

dadkidhighfive5. Set goals – If you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to get there. Teaching your kids to set goals to work towards is an essential habit. Successful people set goals. They can be goals for the day, for the week, for the marking period, or for the school year. They can be goals related to the teams they play on or related to their music lessons. The best way to teach your kids to set goals is to set goals as a family, AND to include the kids in your goal setting. For the family goals, the kids are a part of the family (which is also an important attitude to promote, if you want them to remain engaged as you get older) so, they should have a say in the family goals. It is essential to set or review goals at the beginning of the school year, at the semester break, at the beginning of the summer (learning activities shouldn’t stop just because school is out of session) and at the beginning of big projects like sports seasons, rehearsals starting for a play or even at the onset of a big project like a research paper or presentation. Goals are the key to keeping things moving in a positive direction and not ending up having to cram at the end.

6. Reward yourselves – I know I respond to rewards. I set up a goal to work towards and a prize to earn when I get there. You can do the same thing with your kids. Finish writing the first draft of the paper and we’ll go get ice cream. Or we’ll all go see a movie after we finish working in the yard. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but it could be dinner at a favorite restaurant for acing a hard test or getting a good grade on a big project. I never wanted to try and buy my son’s accomplishments. I wanted him to take pride in his work for the sake of taking pride. (I wasn’t always successful in this idea.) I did, however, want to motivate him to get to the end of a project, and I did want to celebrate his achievements. Some ideas worked better than others. Some didn’t work at all. Rewards, however, can work on goals of any scale.

Whether you want to believe it or not, you are one of the largest indicators of your children’s success. Even if it seems like they are not listening, your actions will teach them the skills they need to be successful. Habits and skills are both learned behaviors, not genetically endowed. Every parent can teach them, every kid can learn them.

When I wrote “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” I focused on essential life skills that parents and teachers could instill in our kids. Although the title refers to high school, there is no reason you cannot begin to teach your kids these skills at an early age.

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The Business of Parenting

I’m not exactly sure what brought me to this conclusion. I have been thinking a lot about entrepreneurism lately, as my son gets closer to graduating from college and has dreams of starting his own business. (I am chalking that up as a parenting success, by the way.) So, in the strange place that is my mind, I realized that starting your own business and parenting have A LOT in common.

1. No instruction manual – Seriously, there are a lot of good books out there on both subjects, parenting and running a business, but there is absolutely no step by step instruction poster (I like those better than the books) on how to parent a child, particularly your first child, or how to run a start-up. Why is that? Well, every single time is different. Different children need different things. Mine were both happy kids that slept through the night relatively soon. Other friends and family have babies that are colicky or have other problems that keep them up all night. Each and every business start-up is different too. Different people, different product or industry, different business climate, different regulations. So, authors can give you some suggestions, but not a definitive “how-to”. A pity, that is.

workingtogether2. Teamwork – As the the head of a business, one of the things you want to do is create a culture of teamwork. “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” and all that. Parenting a family is exactly the same. Only through teamwork between the parents will you create successful kids, and if you do it right, you create great teamwork in your family, everyone working towards shared goals and reaping shared rewards. There are only the three of us, but we make a pretty good team, whether it is getting ready for a family party or working on our events planning and management business. We generally work well together, and are loyal to each other.

3. 24/7 attention – If you would have told me that I would always have my kids on my mind before I had them, I am not sure I would have believed you. Raising a kid is all consuming. When they are young you worry about thumps in the night coming from their bedroom. When they are older you worry about whether they will get home safely, graduate from college, get a job, find someone to love, and a whole host of other things. A business is the same. You are the one at whose feet it all rests. Find the customers, do the work, send out the invoices. If you have a staff, you worry about making the money to keep them employed and the lights on.

4. Negotiation – Holy crap, is parenting a negotiation. I swore before I had kids I would never say the words “because I said so”….um…yeah…not so much. Rebecca probably hadn’t even been talking for a year before I had to pull that one out of the bag. Every single thing is a negotiation. This is a true teachable moment. I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4th habit in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Think Win/win. Teach your kids that from early on, it’ll be a benefit for the whole of their lives. Negotiation is everything. Whether you are parent or business owner, everything starts with negotiation. Incidentally, if you haven’t read “7 Habits”, it isn’t just about being successful in business. It is the greatest self improvement book of all times, I think.

5. It gets easier – I think both parenting and running a business get easier with experience. As we learn from our mistakes and try new things. I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent. There are lots of things I would like a do-over on. I am not the perfect business owner. Every single day I find something else I need to learn. But as I have done things, I learn, and I become more confident in my decisions, both in parenting and as a small business owner. You want evidence of things getting easier? Ask the baby of the family and the oldest  about their experiences. Start with curfew. That’ll generally havea some spirited reactions.

6. You raise your kids to take over for you – My wife and I worked very hard to raise a child who is compassionate, and committed, and community minded. Someone who is a go-to person and who will carry forward some beautiful family traditions. It was important to me that my son be a person who understands the importance of doing his part to make the world a better place. I think I have succeeded in that. In your business, if you are doing it right, you nurture your staff to build the trust that allows them to take things off your plate. I don’t want to be working as hard when I am older as I am not. I want to build a nice business that will allow.

7. Finances – Anyone who is starting a family or is starting a business knows that financially speaking, both are freaking scary. There is never a good time for either. There is never enough money for either. Both take a leap of faith in yourself that you can make it work. My first foray into business ended horribly. It left me uncertain and in debt. It took me a long time before I was confident enough to do it again. My first foray in kids was equally as scary, equally as expensive, and in both cases, we made it work. In addition to having the start-up you need, teaching your kids and your employees about the finances of it all is an excellent way to help make sure your family and your business run well.

Pete-and-Adam-golf8. Rewards – In both cases, raising successful kids and running a successful business, there are really few things as rewarding. Sitting in the audience at your child’s 6th grade band concert or landing that big contract in your business can be equally as exhilarating. If you want your kids to be active in your life after they move out, lead by example and take care of your parents as well as being active in their lives while they are growing up.

When I wrote the first draft of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” I was thinking it was a book for kids. I realized pretty quickly that kids are the least likely demographic to buy a self-improvement book, and I actually thought about scrapping the project. It was later I realized that all of these ideas were ideas that parents could and should instill in their kids from an early age. Teaching your kids these skills will pay rewards for both you and them, for the rest of your lives.

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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.