Success Always Within Reach, Says Visiting Author

Published on November 19, 2010

Thomas Shares Five Foundations That Can Guide One to An Extraordinary Life

The most successful leaders, both in business and in life, have a strong understanding of values, focus, visualization, inspiration and reflection, Peter Thomas says.

Century 21 Real Estate Canada founder and leadership development author Peter Thomas gave students from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business insight into the five traits of successful leaders during a series of classroom talks in November.

The presentations were part of a three-day stop at UH Bauer for Thomas, who is traveling cross-country on his Be Great America book tour in support of his latest tome, “Be Great: The Five Foundations of an Extraordinary Life.” The visit was organized by the college’s Leadership Consortium Advisory Board.

Thomas also toured the campus and held a book signing in Melcher Hall, with proceeds going to scholarships for UH Bauer students. He visited a LifePilot workshop held on campus on Nov. 12, discussing with students the program he developed as an extension of his philosophy of five foundations for success.

“Success has nothing to do with money,” he said, speaking to an entrepreneurship class in Cullen Performance Hall. “To me, success is very personal. It’s your choice. If you say you’re going to do something, and then you do it — to me, that’s success.”

Rather than being consumed by the fear of failure, he added, students should use the “no’s” they get as motivation to continue trying.

“Failure is when you quit trying,” he said. “Don’t be upset when they slam down the phone or say no. You get better at something when you keep doing it. Sometimes, a ‘no’ means you’re getting closer to a ‘yes.’”

After building his career and fortune in the real estate industry in the 1970s, Thomas faced one of his most challenging hurdles when his business partner declared bankruptcy.

“I had a net worth of $150 million, and the next day, it was minus $70 million,” he said. “The world was crumbling around me.”

Thomas capped off his day of speaking to UH Bauer classes with a book signing, autographing copies of “Be Great: The Five Foundations of an Extraordinary Life,” for students, with proceeds from book sales going to UH Bauer scholarships.

At his lowest, Thomas took a trip to a seminar held by the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and found clarity. During a workshop held by Red Scott, then chairman and CEO of Activia Group, Thomas was challenged to first write down a list of his values, followed by a list of all his activities in the past 30 days, and to align every action with a value.

“That was a wakeup call,” he said. “I found nothing there. Everything I did related to one thing — career.”

Over the next few months, Thomas sold his business and moved his family across the country. “The funny thing is, I became even more successful,” he said. “But I had more balance in my life.”

After finding his own strategy for success, Thomas began to share his tips with others and develop the five foundations, which includes the first step of identifying and writing down values, as Scott challenged him to do decades ago.

“You might think you know what your values are, but until you write them down on a piece of paper, you don’t really know,” Thomas said.

The next step, he said, is to develop the ability to focus. “If you can focus on your target with laser-like intensity, that separates you from the pack, 99 to 1. With all the noise out there today, it’s become very difficult to focus on the task at hand, but you’ve got to make a list of ‘MITs,’ or most important things.”

The challenge is not to work harder, Thomas added, but to work smarter. “What seems to separate the successful people from those who aren’t successful is their ability to choose what they do each day, each hour,” he said. “You’ll never get through the entire pile, so go through and pick out six ‘MITs,’ and if all you ever do today is those six things, it’s a good day.”

Thomas also spoke to students about the importance of visualization, or beginning with the end in mind. “When you decide you want something, see the picture in your mind,” he said. “If you want to run a marathon, visualize yourself crossing the finish line, and really see everything, from what shoes you’re wearing to the expression on the crowd’s face.”

Also important, he added, is to find inspiration and to learn from those who are already successful in your desired field. “You never stop learning,” Thomas said. “Keep yourself healthy, alert and open to new ideas, and you create this power within yourself to keep going.”

His final tip was to reflect on previous successes as motivation for future achievement. “In the depth of your depression, when things are really bad, think about the good times. Remember those stories, collect them, write them down, because you’ll need them,” Thomas said.

His own most motivating memory? Standing on the Queen Mary, as a 7-year-old, with his mother as they emigrated from England to Canada.

“I remember standing on that boat, looking at the water, like a highway behind us. I’ve got my hand in my mom’s hand, and I thought ‘I’ve got the whole world.’ I felt so strong, and if I need to get motivated, I think back to that second.”

By Jessica Navarro