Author Interview — Peter J. Liang, Founder of Leadership4Kids and Creator of “I AM A LEADER” Journals
This article first appeared in Absolute Author Publishing House Author Interview, July 20th. Thank you Dr. Caudle for a great interview!!
Tell our readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc.
I was born in a very small town in the Northeastern part of China in 1977. In the early 1990s, my family immigrated from China to upstate New York. My Dad was a researcher at the Northeastern Science Foundation in Troy, NY — he was a renowned geology professor — so there were always lots of books (and rocks) around the house, and that definitely had some influence on me. I grew up loving to read and write every day.
I studied Computer Science and Philosophy in college and then earned a MBA from Columbia Business School in New York City. After a couple of years working on Wall Street as an investment manager, I realized my heart was just not in there. So I launched an e-learning company in the early days of social network. It didn’t work out, but I learned a ton from being in the trenches as an entrepreneur. Then I worked as a management consultant for a while, where I advised clients on business and product strategy and ended up joining one of my clients, a global information services company, as a business and marketing executive.
In terms of family, I met my wife, Judy, in college back in 1997 and we got married in 2005. We have two children, Benjamin (10-year-old) and Audrey (7 years old) and we live a pretty simple and blessed life on Long Island, right outside of New York City.
What inspired you to create this journal?
A few years ago, as our children Benjamin and Audrey were getting older, my wife and I began exploring various after-school programs. There were certainly many options available for academics, sports, arts, or music, but we couldn’t find anything focused on leadership skills such as focus, confidence, mindfulness, and grit.
By that time, given my own experience with personal growth development, I understood how important these skills are. That’s when I heard the knocking from the inside, and I realize I need to do something about this.
So I founded Leadership4Kids and began a series of youth leadership workshops in my local community. The Leadership4Kids (L4K) program is an exciting, fun, action-packed program designed to help children gain specific skills so they can use in schools and other situations demanding leadership of self and others. These Leadership4Kids programs have become hugely popular and proliferated through word of mouths.
Read Peter’s mission here: My Mission to Change a Million Children’s Lives Through Leadership4Kids
As part of my Leadership4Kids program, I ask each child to keep a journal where I give them daily prompts related to different aspects of leadership skills. The goal is to help them develop self-awareness and a habit of gratitude and appreciation.
The “I AM A LEADER” journal came straight out of these “daily assignments” from this program. I used to print these out from my little printer and bind the pages myself. Then I had too many parents asking and it was too much for my little printer to handle, so I went to Staples’ print center and gave out copies to parents who wanted them.
After seeing countless examples of how a simple daily journal can help kids gain skills such as self-awareness, confidence and grit, and many parents coming up to me specifically thanking me for this daily journal practice, I know it’s time to get it published so more kids around the world can benefit from it.
Where did you get the inspiration for your cover?
The cover reflects my own eclectic style, and each element is uniquely meaningful to me. First, I love books, so of course, it has to be there, front and center. I also believe that learning, whether it’s about leadership or anything else, is always a journey and what better way to represent journey than a sailboat.
A big part of my philosophy when it comes to leadership is that “leadership intelligence is anchored in the body.” It’s less about ideas in the head. That’s why you see the anchor, and the sun represents “shinning,” which is part of the “centering exercise” I teach in the class.
As if that’s not enough, the compass reminds us that we all have to follow our inner compass and find our true north. The essence of leadership is and always will be about being true to ourselves.
What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to create this journal?
Writer Steven Pressfield says it the best — we all have capital-R Resistance to our life’s work, in the form of procrastination, distraction, and self-medication. So that pretty much sums up my struggle as well.
The idea of the “leadership journal for kids” has been in my head for years and of course, eventually, I just got tired of telling myself “I will get it done someday.” I just got tired to the point, I remember coming back from a business trip, and somehow I got a shot of energy and inspiration and couldn’t really think about anything else.
So I just tapped into that energy, whatever that was, I definitely tapped into it. So I just worked on this project day and night for about two weeks straight, sleeping maybe an hour or two and didn’t stop until it’s done. Now I think of it, any time I created something reasonably meaningful, I go through a similar process.
Tell our readers about your journal.
As a parent, the fact that you are looking to develop leadership skills for your kids shows that you’re already doing an amazing job. “I AM A LEADER: a 90-Day Leadership Journal for Kids” is simply a tool to help you. This daily journal is a fun way to teach kids leadership skills such as confidence, gratitude, and grit that will help them grow and live a more fulfilled life.
Every day, the journal starts with a simple “centering” exercise, gratitude, and a few thoughtful writing prompts that focus on different aspects of leadership over a 12 week period. These topics include Gratitude, Self-Awareness, Courage, Power of Intention, Growth Mindset, Communications, Collaboration, Persistence, Goal Setting, Grit, Take Action, and Make a Difference in the World.
The truth is, if you look at leadership related material out there, the model of leadership has been made for men by men. It has a lot of military and industrial age roots. It’s not appropriate for kids, and it’s not appropriate for this day and age either. As parents, we definitely need something that works for kids and also, a model that works for the global and connected world we live in today.
That’s why I put together this leadership journal for kids. So any kid, anywhere in the world, can use it and benefit from it.
Who is your target audience, and why?
It’s for any parents who want to help their children develop leadership skills such as self-awareness, gratitude, confidence, and grit. In general, this journal is a great gift for kids 8–12- year-olds and many parents tell me it’s perfect for back-to-school and a unique birthday gift idea as well.
This journal is just the start. Longer term, my mission is to change a million lives through the Leadership4Kids platform, and it will be done in a number of ways, including:
- Leadership4Kids weekly classes and workshops in local communities
- I AM A LEADER — A 90-Day Leadership Journal for Kids
- I AM A LEADER — 5-Minute Leadership Stories for Kids
- I AM A LEADER — board game
- Leadership4Kids online courses on specific topics
- Leadership4Kids books and video courses
- Leadership4Kids Podcast
- Leadership4Kids Alexa App
This is a lot of work, I know. But this is meaningful work to me. I truly believe that children are gifts from God and nothing makes me happier to work with kids and seeing them grow, develop, and fulfill their full potential.
I always look at myself, not as a teacher, but an advocate for kids. As such, my role is not to give kids more “information” but to help them preserve their original wisdom and I do that through various games, exercises, and embodied practices.