I have flaws. I have lots of them.
The first time we met, we hugged as if we’d been friends for years. It was at EdCamp Upstate New York in 2015. Before that day, Peter and I had only connected through email. Most of our emails had to do with pieces that I wrote for his blog Finding Common Ground that he publishes for Education Week.
Peter gave me the opportunity to publish pieces for his blog on numerous occasions. In fact, looking back now I can’t help but think that he was the one that gave me the boost I needed to take writing seriously. Well, not too seriously. But you know what I mean. It all began one day in 2015, when I decided to email him out of the blue to ask if he was looking for guest bloggers. I remember how excited I was when he emailed me back. And I remember how honored I was the first time I published a piece on his blog.
I would send Peter a piece and he would respond with suggestions and ways in which I could possibly make it better. Not in a red-ink sort of way. It was more like we were having a conversation and he was simply saying, here’s something to think about. I was getting free advice from someone who had been publishing for years. More importantly, I was getting advice from someone who cared.
Peter and I have stayed in touch through Voxer, and lucky for me he tolerates my stream of consciousness thinking that usually goes round and round and often ends up nowhere. Squirrel! I do know that he listens my voxes because he always has something humorous to say about my lack of clarity or time spent talking about absolutely nothing. But the fact that he listens matters. It matters a lot!
So, when I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to have a podcast on Bam Radio Network, having Peter as one of my first guests was a no-brainer. Despite his hectic travel schedule, which takes him all round the world, we were able to quickly find a time to record an episode. And while Peter’s transparency and willingness to be vulnerable were wonderful, it was the logistics surrounding the interview that we still talk about to this day.
The interview, conducted via Skype, began with me locking myself in an isolated upstairs bedroom, away from any distractions. Well, within the first few minutes of connecting it was apparent that my cellular signal was too weak to continue in my preferred location. I began walking around my house trying to find just the right spot. All the while trying not to disturb my wife and kids who were each engaged in some sort of activity. But I was unsuccessful. Not one single nook could be found that was conducive for recording.
So, I decided I had no other option than to walk outside and try to find some place where this was going to work. The only problem now was that I was no longer in control of the environment. After a minute or two of searching I found just the right spot. Sitting on top of a rectangular green electrical box. The kind that you try to avoid touching at all costs because you’re not quite sure what it really does or more importantly, what it could potentially do.
Since it didn’t shock within the first few minutes I decided that it was safe to continue. At this point we were finally able to begin the interview. The patience shown by Peter throughout this entire ordeal was wonderful. Truth be told, I think he was getting a kick out of the whole thing. I did have to stop several times because of geese calling overhead and the loud engine of what sounded like a monster truck. We were able to conduct the entire interview while I was in my front yard trying to navigate electricity, pick-up trucks and migrating geese. How the interview turned out as well as it did is due to the editing skills of the team at Bam Radio.
I think I can speak for the three of us (Peter, Errol and myself) when I say that we had so much fun recording the interview that we really weren’t too concerned about how the interviewed turned out.
But we got lucky. Or did we? Sometimes serendipity has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. And that is exactly what happened in this interview. Peter and I were having so much fun laughing about my unique recording environment that by the time we had to get serious, we had a flow state going that allowed for a very comfortable and open back and forth.
Peter is a prolific author who has published several books. His blog Finding Common Ground het hundreds of thousands of views. And Peter graduated from high school ranked 262 out of 266. One of these things is not like the other. Or…
I mention Peter’s high school ranking because Peter mentioned it. I mention it because I think it is important for others to know. Most importantly, I mention it because Peter is no longer ashamed to share this. But Peter admits, he wasn’t always so willing to share his struggles. In the interview, Peter discusses how he was insecure because he had failed so often when he was younger.
It took years for Peter to get over feeling insecure about his mistakes, and even to this day Peter still has days when he feels as if he is not good enough or he hasn’t’ spoken well enough. But with the help of a supportive college coach and unexpected responses to a blog piece titled The Benefits of Failure, Peter said that:
“It made me realize that there really is a benefit of failure. Not only what you learn from the process if you’re open to it. But also, how sharing that story can be really helpful to other people.”
Peter was also very aware of the fact that it is much easier for someone like himself, with experience and degrees under his belt, to come out and openly share his mistakes. He realizes that mistakes can be much more difficult to deal with for kids. Therefore, he believes it is our responsibility to share with them what failure and what learning from failure look like. Peter stressed that if we can do this they will be better off because they won’t feel so alone.
I could not agree more with Peter on this. It is my belief that the sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect. And if I could play some small role in helping others make this mindset shift, well then that would be a good start.
Having the opportunity to speak and learn from someone as reflective and as honest as Peter was time well spent. Yes, his blogs and books have been read by hundreds of thousands of people. But that’s not why I invited him to be a guest on My Bad. I wanted Peter to come on because he is good and he leads, writes and speaks from the heart.
While I don’t know when I will see Peter again, I can’t help but think about our most recent connection. Peter had been hired for a one-day consulting gig in a town about twenty minutes from my home. We planned to meet for dinner at Panera. He informed me that he had to moderate a chat at 8 PM but that left us plenty of time to catch up and connect. I had an interview scheduled for 6:15 PM, but I knew that if I left once the interview was done I could be there by about 7 PM.
What made this meeting even more exciting was the fact that my wife and kids were able to come too. Since Peter was a guest, in my “neck of the woods” I was going to make it a point to pay for his dinner. I thought I had it all planned. But at the last second Peter snuck up like a ninja and swiped his credit card. I’ll be ready next time.
I should have seen it coming. From featuring countless guest bloggers on Finding Common Ground to helping others publish books through his Connected Educators Series, Peter is always thinking of others before himself. And in his quest to champion for others I believe he himself has become one.
* This is the 6th in a series of 10 pieces I'll be publishing weekly in which I highlight a past My Bad guest(s). I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please pass them on.
Here is the link to the Peter's episode: