Young Change Makers: Why and How Author Peter Ruppert Is Helping To Change Our World
An Interview With Penny Bauder
Everything starts with vision. If we don’t dare to dream big and think of the “possibilities in the impossible” then our lives tend to drift from day to day, week to week and year to year. Vision is how we get our mind to help us focus on an exciting future. When I watched Joel Barker’s “The Power of Vision” 30 years ago, it changed my life.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter G. Ruppert.
Peter G. Ruppert is a veteran in the education industry and author of 2021’s “Limitless: Nine Steps to Launch Your One Extraordinary Life,” an inspiring and useful book about achieving success based on Pete’s study of successful people and his personal experiences. Over the past 20 years, he has opened over 120 schools and acquired more than 25 others. His experience in education spans president and CEO roles of organizations in the private school, charter school, and early education industries. Currently, Pete is the founder and CEO of Fusion Education Group, the leading provider of one-to-one education for middle and high school students throughout the U.S. Today, there are more than 75 campuses in operation around the nation as well as Fusion Global Academy, an international, 1:1 virtual school that launched in 2020.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
When I was in my 20s, I read Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power and was first exposed to the concept of personal development and the science of achievement. It led me to become even more proactive about taking active control of my future. Later, I watched a film by Joel Barker called, “The Power of Vision.” That film was hugely impactful on me and immediately changed how I thought about my own future and the future of the companies I have run. It led me to set much bigger and much more specific goals than I had previously.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I was graduating from business school, I had a consulting job lined up, but I was more excited to become an entrepreneur. I was young, aggressive and naïve! I was reading magazines like Inc. and Entrepreneur looking for business ideas. During that time, I decided I wanted to start a company as a “side gig” that placed small soda vending machines into local companies that were too small to support the big Pepsi or Coke machines. I found a friend and we both invested to buy and place these machines into local companies. However, we both had regular jobs, too. So, we quickly realized we couldn’t service the machines with inventory nor collect the change since these offices were mostly only open during normal hours when we were working our regular jobs. We soon realized it was hard to make money selling 50 cent sodas in small businesses with correspondingly small demand. This “venture” lasted just a few months, and we lost our investment. Our first entrepreneurial effort in the “real world” failed miserably and quickly. However, it provided valuable lessons for us!
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
In today’s society, I see too many people, especially 18-to 40-year-olds, who are relatively passive bystanders in their own futures. We seem to want to blame other organizations, or government or other people for our struggles and lack of success. Young people today give up on their dreams too quickly. My hope is that my new book, Limitless: Nine Steps To Launch Your One Extraordinary Life, will help people realize that we are never too old to achieve our dreams and to live an extraordinary life. Limitless is filled with additional resources and provides a workbook set up so the reader can proactively take control of their future.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
The most interesting story of the book might be the frequent stories I share about my own journey. I’ve tried to make it real and relatable for the reader so they understand that successful people often have many failures along the way. As a society, we tend to put successful people on a pedestal, telling ourselves that successful people had all the luck, skills, and connections from the beginning. My story exemplifies the same struggles and failures along the way of so many other success stories.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
Five years ago, at our annual leadership summit, I was interviewed by a colleague in a “fireside chat with our CEO” format. During the interview, I shared my story of struggling when I was younger, how I studied other successful people and saw these common themes that so many exemplified. I used those themes to create a one-page summary of what I called, “The Traits of a Champion.” I then used that as a guide and inspiration for me for the next several years. I even laminated it and put it on my kids’ bathroom mirror at our house (hoping it would sink in with them as well). I shared the list at this “fireside chat” and it was then that several people came up to me and said, “This is a great list of wisdom, you need to turn this into a book.” That’s what opened my mind up to the idea initially.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’ve had a number of individuals reach out to me and tell me how they were in a “life rut” and needed the book to help them pull out of it. Almost universally, readers have told me it helped them rethink their futures and get started toward being more proactive. Some younger readers have said that they had big dreams but no map, and Limitless was the map they needed to strategically go after their dreams and goals.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- We spend almost zero time in education helping people understand the power of mindset, of visioning, of goal setting and getting started. This is a huge need.
- In America, we too often look down on failure, and social media creates this mirage that everyone’s lives are perfect. Struggle and failure is part of anyone’s journey if they are stretching themselves to achieve a dream or big goal. We should celebrate that much more than we do.
- In today’s polarized culture and political world, we seem to forget that America, despite our challenges, is still the greatest country in the world and the land of opportunity. It is why there is such a wave of immigrants, legally and illegally, doing whatever they can to get into this country. We should be reminding all citizens of this constantly. Only in the United States can people change their life circumstances through education, hard work, and passion.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as the ability of one person to inspire a group of people in such a way that they believe in and commit to achieving some goal or purpose that they wouldn’t necessarily commit to or believe in by themselves. It is the ability to influence others, individually and collectively, that they are capable of more than they think.
My study of successful people was heavily focused on leaders who made huge impacts in various organizations, schools, military, and corporate environments. Almost always, the leaders were big visionaries who created a compelling picture of what is possible — a future state, far beyond the norm. The leader’s belief was so convincing that others believed the goal was achievable through passion and commitment.
I took these lessons and tried to adopt them in all I did as a leader. As the head of a startup, I crafted a vision statement with my team that we would someday become national leaders in individualized education and have more than 100 schools. While we only had one school at the time, it became a rallying cry of sorts for us for the next dozen years. Even today, we are only at 80 schools but I’m convinced that we will achieve the vision before too long. We talked about it all the time, we were passionate about it, and we used it as a recruiting and retention tool to get people excited to join us or to stay with us on this challenging, often frustrating journey. We were fortunate to create a culture of believers who have made amazing things happen.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- We all have a negative voice and a positive voice in our head and success comes from ensuring the positive voice wins out more often.When I was younger, I used to think I was the only one who had negative thoughts about myself and my abilities. My self doubt prevented me from trying new things many times.
- Failure is actually good, and it’s the best way to learn. If we’re not failing, it only means we are not pushing ourselves to grow/improve/branch out enough. We can always avoid failure if we avoid risks, but that leads to a life of regrets and “what might have beens” when we get older. I have watched a lot of older friends who didn’t really enjoy their jobs, but were afraid to do anything about it. They just kept living unhappily and watched their dreams die over time.
- Everything starts with vision. If we don’t dare to dream big and think of the “possibilities in the impossible” then our lives tend to drift from day to day, week to week and year to year. Vision is how we get our mind to help us focus on an exciting future. When I watched Joel Barker’s “The Power of Vision” 30 years ago, it changed my life.
- Write goals down. I didn’t write goals down until I was in my late 20s. I heard people suggest this time and time again, but never really acted on it until then. Since writing my goals down, almost everything I set as a goal has happened or come close to happening. The subconscious mind somehow takes hold of goals that are written down and reviewed frequently and has magical influence on our behavior to help us achieve success. There is significant research on this power.
- Find mentors who believe in you and want to support you on your journey. Finding success is not easy. Trying to achieve success by ourselves is even harder. The most successful people surround themselves with mentors, coaches or champions who are there to help them along the way. When I was in my 20s I thought I had all the answers and didn’t need the help of others … until I ran into failure a few times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I first came across Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote in my 20s and it immediately grabbed me. It was so inspirational and such a positive message about life, about trying new things or starting new ventures or taking a chance. It left a strong message about failure that we don’t hear much about. In fact, this quote was a key part of what led me to create a chapter in my book Limitless, called “Fail Often.” It also is printed boldly on the first page of my book. Here is the quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?
From a business perspective, I would love to meet with Howard Schultz from Starbucks who re-invented an entire industry. I would also enjoy spending time with Jeff Bezos. What an amazing story of scaling a startup to worldwide dominance in a relatively short period of time. Finally, if I were to meet a coach, I would love to spend time with Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s longtime basketball coach and leader extraordinaire.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Feel free to learn more about my company or my book at the following websites below:
Limitless: Nine Steps to Launch Your One Extraordinary Life
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!