Personal and career coach and author Pete Smith will offer wisdom for meaningful lives in Residency Conference keynote

The news may make the world, and anyone in it, feel off-kilter.Coronavirus deaths have climbed, the U.S. economy has reeled, streets have crammed with racial justice protesters. Amid the seeming chaos, though, lies a chance to show trademark Norwich grit, professional development coach Pete Smith said. Freshly minted College of Graduate and Continuing Studies graduates can write a new story — seizing chances, finding focus and living meaningfully.

Smith, founder and CEO of Hempstead, North Carolina-based, Smith Impact and author of “Dare to Matter: Choosing an Unstuck and Unapologetic Life of Significance” will deliver the keynote address during the Residency Conference, running June 22 through June 26. His talk, at 7 p.m. June 24, is also part of the Todd Lecture Series.

Smith has shared his wisdom globally. He spoke in 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in 2016 at the All-Ireland Business Summit in Dublin, the 2018 Sacramento Human Resources Association’s conference in Sacramento, California, and this year’s California Purchasers Health Care Coalition conference in San Diego.

“If nobody is following you, you’re not leading. You’re taking a walk.”Pete Smith, author, “Dare to Matter: Choosing an Unstuck and Unapologetic Life of Significance

“Dare to Matter,” released in January 2017, drew several amazon.com endorsements from fellow authors and motivators. Joe Moravsky, a contestant on several seasons of the NBC athletic competition show “American Ninja Warrior,” for example, said Smith’s message that people are destined to live significant lives is resounding and universal. Michael Port, who wrote “Steal the Show,” a motivational book that made The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best-seller lists, said Smith’s book opens minds to possibilities.

“‘Dare to Matter’ captures the essence of what it means to live not only with passion but with purpose,” Port wrote. “If you're ready to think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world, this book can help get you started on your journey toward significance.”

residency 2020 1 min
Students from Norwich’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies celebrate their degrees. Career coach Pete Smith said people can carry the graduation momentum into a successful life if they’re clear about who they are and pursue goals that match their values. (Photo by Norwich University Photography.)

On Goodreads.com, reviewer Dawn Glinski said the book inspired her to rethink her life.

“A down-to-earth, realistic approach to viewing your life as an outsider,” she wrote. “This book was just the kick in the pants I needed to start living my life with some purpose. True purpose. This was a fantastic read that put things in perspective and set me straight.”

In a GoToMeeting interview this month, Smith said daring to matter starts with acknowledging fear and working through it. Although fear is good when it keeps us from acting recklessly, he said, it’s bad when it keeps us from chasing goals, like postgraduation jobs.

Smith said overcoming this apprehension starts with focusing on not the far-flung future but the now. It’s impossible to know when a coronavirus-resolving vaccine might come and allow full economic revival, he said, so it’s better to focus on tasks yielding immediate, incremental progress, such as writing résumés and cover letters, connecting with social contacts and rehearsing for interviews.

“If you take baby steps toward conquering these fears, you’ll realize you’re OK,” Smith said. “You keep taking baby steps and you realize you’re still OK. This allows us to build confidence.”

Letting go, stepping forward

Confidence building also comes with letting go of needing to impress people from long ago.

“You might ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I do this?’ It was because I was afraid of what this person might think,” Smith said. “But it may turn out that person doesn’t think much about me at all, or even know I exist. It’s really not that important what that person thinks.”

We dare to matter when we embrace what, and who matter to us, Smith said. Pursuing jobs or relationships that don’t match our inner compass leaves us feeling lost, he said; we need to be clear about who we are and aren’t.

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Career and personal success coach Pete Smith said he thinks the coronavirus aftermath will bring unexpected opportunities to students, like these from a previous Residency Conference. (Photo by Norwich University Photography.)

Sometimes, Smith said, moments of clarity refine and define perspectives. Smith said his moment came when he had a stroke at age 35.

“I couldn’t move and I remember thinking, ‘This is it. I have 60 seconds to live,’” he said. “When you think you have 60 seconds to live, you’re not thinking about that email you didn’t get back to, you’re thinking about what really matters. I thought, ‘Am I really doing what I want to do? Am I doing what matters?’”

If managing the present requires focusing on the now, Smith said leading others requires focusing on others. Purported leaders can gauge their success by seeing how people function with and without them (good leaders enable people to succeed in both cases), or just by using a rearview mirror.

“If nobody is following you, you’re not leading,” he said. “You’re taking a walk.”

Like College of Graduate and Continuing Studies Dean William Clements, Smith said he thinks the coronavirus aftermath will bring unexpected opportunities. Seizing them, he said, will require rolling with uncertainty and accepting surprises. Who, he said, would have guessed that Zoom Video Communications’ stock price would more than triple this year?

“Where you end up might not look like what you think it will look like now,” Smith said. “But, say to yourself, ‘I can do this, I can adapt,’ and go from there.”

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Norwich University Perspectives Project: COVID-19

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