Tom’s Archive at the Drucker Institute

With a collection of over 40 years worth of books, presentations, and articles, Tom has been nothing if not prolific. He wants to make sure his ideas are accessible even after his retirement. That is why he has donated his life’s work to the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, the home of Peter Drucker’s own extensive archives.

Tom says, “I am infinitely proud to be part of the Drucker family and hope my contributed papers will be of value to management thinkers and others in the years to come.”

As an advocate for affordable and accessible education, Tom has always posted his presentations online, free for download. He has partnered with libraries to ensure anyone can read his books. Tom records short, insightful videos to be easily screened on YouTube. In this next step he not only ensures his legacy of People First, he also models to other thought leaders the importance of collaboration and preservation.

“I saw a great opportunity to make the Drucker Institute the epicenter of management thinking and debate, allowing scholars, students, and leaders in the private, public, and social sectors to explore and learn from a near-century of writings on the topics of management, business, leadership, and humanism.”

Read Claremont’s full announcement!

My Retirement

Dear friends,

In mid-1978, I was summoned to New York City to meet with the Managing Director of McKinsey & Co. When I did so, I was given an assignment. McKinsey developed genius strategies. But the clients by and large couldn’t implement them. What was going on? Answering that question, or trying to, has been my preoccupation ever since (45 years).

After some initial interviews and a bit of press coverage, a book contract landed unbidden in my home mailbox in San Francisco. Then, after 1,000 twists, and 1,000 turns, and back steps as well, the book appeared. Title: In Search of Excellence.

I traveled the world talking about my findings—2,500 speeches, 2,500,000 frequent-flier miles, 63 countries, and a life that bordered on pure exhaustion pretty much all the time. And then there were more books. 20 by last count, and a couple of dozen ebooks as well.

Skip forward to November 7, 2022. My birthday. More specifically, my 80th birthday. That’s old, bro! Well, the reason for this short message is to say that, after all those miles and all those books, and the realization that 80 is a very large number, I am announcing de facto—and de jure, frankly—my retirement. I have given about as much as I can give. And now, I am going to take it easy. (Uh, maybe work on a memoir, but what the hell.)

I want to thank each and every one of you for listening and reading. I hope that some of what I have said or written, called by one wildly successful entrepreneur “a blinding flash of the obvious,” has been of use. The times seem to be getting ever crazier, and I will follow from the sidelines. Thank you again for your attention, and I wish you well.


Authors Q&A

Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence is out and we are so excited to share it with you. Curious what the authors, Tom Peters and Nancye Green, were thinking when they wrote/designed it? They answered a few questions for just that reason:

Do you believe Extreme Humanism is relevant for every field?
Passionately. As designers, for example, we are taught to care about people and what matters to them when we are trying to solve a design problem. Are our products useful? Our instructions helpful? Do they satisfy a real need? Do they delight? In short, respect each person’s needs and differences. At the core, that is “humanism.”

Why did you create Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence?
I’ve been talking and writing about Extreme Humanism, Excellence, and Business Excellence for a long time now. But this book is “not my show.” This book spotlights the voices of others—from every discipline or industry or even pulpit—who have inspired me, and who I hope will inspire you too. And by “inspire” I mean…inspire you to act and act now.

How did you get involved in this book?
I’m a designer who founded a movement called un/teaching, which is meant to bring thought leaders together to contribute to a more humane and just world, to learn compassion, and unlearn old patterns. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence was a natural fit for my passions.

How does the message differ from Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism?
The message—at its core—is the same. Put people first! Be a stellar community member. Create the best, not the cheapest. What I’ve changed is the message delivery. Instead of reading my arguments (900 pages in Liberation Management), Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence is designed for the reader to pick up, to read a quote or two or three, and to begin to digest it and test its relevance.

How does art overlap with business?
Design can build value, shape markets, as well as educate, engage, and inspire. As a designer I use a process fueled by empathy and compassion, aimed at serving people and society. I believe it takes all of us using our unique talents and insights to build a more humane world, where business has a critical role in serving the greater good.

How do the arguments here hold up as the nature of work changes radically, as AI challenges the legitimacy of almost all of our jobs?
“Hold up”? Put simply, these messages are far more important than before. As tech shortcuts arrive by the nanosecond, how do we keep our humanity—and even broaden it? I think the approaches to Extreme Humanism described here help us create exquisite products, motivate one and all to constantly grow, and make us all utterly determined to “make the world a little bit better.” It is the only path for us and our communities that matters.

Find out more about the Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence and un/teaching.

Available 11/1/2022

Excellence 2022. Tom’s book #20. Available 11/1/2022.

Here’s journalist Lisa McLeod enjoying her early copy.

Burned Out on Your Personal Brand

Tom was recently interviewed by Emma Goldberg for her New York Times article on personal branding. Read the full article below:

Younger workers embraced the idea of a personal brand as a way to get ahead, and carve out some power and security in their careers. But posting through it has its drawbacks.

By Emma Goldberg
Oct. 20, 2022

Kahlil Greene’s father works as an accountant and his mother does something involving “administration,” though he doesn’t know the details. His parents rarely spoke about the goings-on of the office when he was growing up. His mother sat in a cubicle farm — he remembers this from “take your child to work day” — and then she or his father picked him up from the Boys & Girls Club and they talked about other topics, like “Judge Judy” or Serena Williams. Their work never bled into their personal lives.

That made it tricky for Mr. Greene, 22, to explain to his family why he had turned down a job offer from McKinsey to build his online brand as “the Gen Z historian.” He has drawn over 500,000 followers on TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram to his posts about history and politics; his money comes from brand deals and public speaking. To Mr. Greene, it seems natural for his source of income to be something all consuming, something he thinks about while falling asleep and talks about nonstop with friends.

“There’s no clear delineation between my work life and my personal life,” he said. “Sometimes it can be exhausting.”

Mr. Greene, in other words, finds his job and self inextricable. Like many other millennial and Gen Z workers, he is his brand. This can feel freeing. It can also feel grueling.

In interviews with more than a dozen people who have built lucrative personal brands, they shared that nothing made the benefits and drawbacks of it clear like the pandemic did.

Since 2020, many workers have had the chance to redefine their expectations of employers. More than 40 million Americans quit their jobs last year; most hopped or swapped roles, seeking higher pay. Remote work helped some to prioritize their needs outside the office, while a tight labor market allowed many to assert bolder workplace demands. For many people, leverage meant the ability to create emotional distance from their employers, to draw stricter lines between who they are and what they do.

That also meant a new set of challenges for those who work for themselves: It’s tough to find boundaries when employed by “Me Inc.”

For the millions of people who monetize their online presence in some form, the downsides of this type of work are becoming more clear, especially in a moment when so many are rethinking their careers. Building a personal brand blurs the divide between an identity and a job. It puts pressure on families. It demands that every intimate experience is mined for professional content.

“It’s very hard to disconnect when you are building something that is personal and also a necessary component of your economic life,” said Katie Sullivan, associate professor of communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “It’s ‘I will co-opt my own self in service of this labor.’”

Jesse Israel, for example, an entrepreneur in Los Angeles, has a mindfulness brand. Mr. Israel, 37, ran a record label for years, which took off with MGMT, before the stress drove him toward meditation. He realized he had a knack for leading guided sessions and he began to cultivate a public profile, drawing thousands of people to community meet-ups that he called the Big Quiet. His soothing, emotive persona landed him on tour with Oprah. Then personal life interrupted his personal brand: During the pandemic, Mr. Israel began to suffer from debilitating depression.

“I’m sitting at the dining room table with my mom, crying,” he recalled, describing a period of loneliness, illness and career instability. “I’m like, ‘Mom, people think of me as a mindfulness expert and I feel like I’ve lost my mind.”

Mr. Israel, whose mental health has now recovered, experienced a challenge unique to the upside-down working world of the 21st century: His work relied on his personality. When his sense of self lurched, his work went with it.

Unlike other professional phenomena, personal branding announced its formation loudly and clearly (on brand). Tom Peters, a management writer, popularized the term in a 1997 Fast Company article, later linking the idea of brand building to the all-American entrepreneurial spirit of Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“We are C.E.O.s of our own companies: Me Inc.,” Mr. Peters wrote 25 years ago. “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Mr. Peters, in a recent interview, said he had realized that with organizational bureaucracies disappearing, workers could no longer trust the prospect of a steady career ascension. “Slowly climbing the ladder by sucking up and then sucking up some more wasn’t going to work,” he said. “You were as good as your ability to get your boss to think you were the second coming.”

For decades, heightening business competition had prompted corporate brands to distinguish themselves by selling not just a product or aesthetic but a story. Apple’s “1984” television advertisement, inspired by George Orwell’s book, was about the freeing futuristic powers of a Mac computer; Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign positioned the beverage as community glue. Mr. Peters remembered that his own 1997 article was published in Fast Company with a chic advertisement for Procter & Gamble soap.

Then, as brands that sold warm and fuzzy stories went through rounds of layoffs, and shareholder-focused policies erased worker trust in their employers, belief in the power of branding began to shift from the company to the employee. Management gospel, like Mr. Peters’s, urged workers to cement their professional reputations by developing their own brands.

Dan Lair, an associate dean at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, studies the troubles of personal branding. His interest in the subject came from his experience being laid off. Mr. Lair, at age 25, got a job in corporate marketing. It wasn’t the most thrilling work in the world, but it was a way to make rent in Missoula where, he noted, “you can’t eat the scenery.” Mr. Lair was hired in the summer of 1999. By the winter of 2000, after the company’s acquisition by an East Coast-based firm, he was fired.

“I felt dumb,” he recalled. “This was a company that very much branded itself as a family. It was built around two dynamic founders. A couple months before we’d had this big retreat at a summer camp that I had been to as a kid. There was this sense of shock that this could actually happen.”

But he was equally disillusioned by the notion that workers should have to steel themselves for economic uncertainty by building personal brands that would make them indispensable. It felt to him like what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called an individualized solution to a social problem. And Mr. Lair did what many people do when they end up citing sociology to explain phenomena in their daily lives: He went to graduate school, and studied personal branding.

For some entrepreneurs, brand building at first is more dopamine than drudgery; there’s a thrill in the full exposure it demands.
Alexa Heller, a millennial who built a yoga teacher brand, used to feel it was important to be fully candid with her Instagram followers. She posted about making efforts to stay celibate, taking months off from sex and dating. She posted about insecurities bred by her acne. She attracted thousands of followers on Instagram, which she also used to boost her yoga classes, by treating her followers like close friends.

She felt the angst of compressing every strand of her personality, from the professional to the highly personal, into a single persona. Friends sometimes questioned whether various members of her online audience — relatives, business associates, potential suitors — might judge her ultra openness. “One of my girlfriends was like, ‘Well, if a guy reads your profile he’s going to be freaked out,’” she recalled.

When she switched career paths in 2020, from yoga to real estate, seeking more financial security, she realized that there was a different kind of rush in maintaining boundaries. She hid some of her old posts. She started to share online only about work. She still wrote down reflections on anxieties and ambitions — but now in her diary.

When everything is content

Modern interpretations of the “brand called you” present a trade-off of sorts. Workers are no longer reliant on the fecklessness of an employer that could at any moment pivot, downsize or cut wages. There are heaps of corporate data pointing to those possibilities: Over roughly the last four decades, typical hourly worker pay rose 17.5 percent while productivity rose by nearly 62 percent and C.E.O. compensation by 1,460 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But with personal branding, the line between who people are and what they do disappears. Everything is content; every like, follow and comment is a professional boost.

“It sort of shifted the responsibility for those kinds of disruptions from particular companies to the person themselves,” Mr. Lair said. “It’s sort of, ‘Now you are the one who’s supposed to solve this problem.’”

And many of the workers whose careers were shaped by the rise of personal branding are feeling its growing pains.
Kanchan Koya, 43, has seen the pressures that her brand breeds for her family, for example. Ms. Koya’s brand, Chief Spice Mama, which has over 230,000 Instagram followers, offers nutritional tips that draw from her history of gastrointestinal illness. She knows that her followers engage excitedly with her more intimate captions, so she mines some of her own experiences for content.

But recently she has begun to bristle at the responses that evokes. She received direct messages asking her why she is taking photos of her baby daughter instead of focusing on mothering. Her husband has asked her not to include him on her Instagram; he’s part of her personal life, but doesn’t want to be part of the public brand.

“I’ll be super honest right now, where I’m at with social media — if my business wasn’t intertwined with my social media presence, I would be on it 90 percent less,” Ms. Koya said. “I just don’t feel like it’s natural for us as humans to have so many people in our business.”

Plenty feel that public exposure isn’t worth the toll. Sadhbh O’Sullivan, 29, a British-Irish journalist, stopped using her Twitter. The chance to boost her writings didn’t justify the revulsion of selling her personal life, Carrie Bradshaw style, and she’s made peace with the twinge of envy she feels for friends trumpeting their talents to land flashy new jobs.

Sarai Atchison, 25, built a comedy social media brand during the pandemic after finding herself addicted to watching YouTube personalities like the movie commentator “Dylan Is in Trouble.” But in March she decided to take a job doing promotions for the Colorado Rockies. She found an unexpected relief in work that doesn’t draw on the emotional ups and downs of her own life, from heartbreak to social anxiety. The coming-of-age aches stay in her journal, without prompting worries that discretion is undermining her ambitions.

“Putting yourself out there is cool, and at the same time, in the back of your head you don’t know how somebody is going to take your brand,” Ms. Atchison said. “It’s hard not to take it personally because it’s you.”

And some are tempering their exposure by sharing with social media followers more thoughtfully. Maybe not every breakup and depressive episode warrants public translation. Mr. Israel, for example, has embraced an approach that his mentor called “sharing from the scar, not the wound.” When Mr. Israel’s feelings are raw, he waits before conveying them to his audience of tens of thousands.

“When work was directly tied to my identity and sense of self-worth, I would ride these crazy waves,” Mr. Israel said. “I started to realize how important it was to build my sense of self, my self-worth and an identity around things that made me special as Jesse and not my work.”

Even Mr. Peters, the original brand evangelist, is dismayed by the extremes to which people have taken his message. “Use social media,” he said. “But you have to have something to talk about.”

He recognizes that his own brand is outdated — or as he put it: “I’m talking as an incredibly old fart.”

Managing Anxiety and Stress

Stay balanced in the face of stress and anxiety with our collection of tools and advice.

Original article.

Kirkus Review

We’re excited to share Kirkus’s review of Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence:


By Tom Peters and Nancye Green
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2022

A guide offers a collection of business insights in an attractively designed package.

Business guru Peters’ book combines his thoughts—and the words of many others he quotes throughout the volume—with the design work of Nancye Green to create a motivational objet d’art that is both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. The volume, which is a small square rather than the standard rectangular shape found on most bookshelves, consists of 13 thematic sections. With headings including “Execution: The ‘Last 95 Percent,’ ” “Long-Term Investors Prosper,” “Sustainability: The Right Things to Do. The Profitable Thing to Do,” and “Leadership: You Must Care,” the work addresses familiar topics in business literature, and does so concisely, with just a handful of words on each page. From the start, Peters urges readers to think about business as having a social and community purpose as much as a financial role to fulfill (“Business as a community and as a contributor to communities has an obligation to create products and services which inspire—and which aim to make the world a bit better”). The book backs a holistic approach to business, with liberal arts graduates in key roles, leaders who advocate for their staffs, and a focus on long-term results over short-term financials. Most of the Peters-written content, he explains in the introduction, is “extracted” from his work Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism (2021). His new volume also includes many quotations from journalists, business executives, and thought leaders—including Larry Bossidy (former CEO of Honeywell International), Anita Roddick (founder of the British version of the Body Shop), entrepreneur Richard Branson, and author Marcus Buckingham—which Peters expands on.

The book’s design is inviting and engaging, even though the color palette is limited to grayscale, with the typography enhancing and reinforcing the work’s messages. The generous font size makes for easy reading, as does the inclusion of a significant amount of white space on most of the pages. This is not an information-heavy tome but a convenient and attractive gift book for those who are already familiar with Peters’ writings and want a beautiful object for display or an easy-to-grab collection of pithy and often insightful quotes. A few, like “WTTMS(ASTMSUTF)W: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff (And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest) Wins” and “Fail. Forward. Fast.” (both attributed to “High-tech executive, Philadelphia, at one of Peters’ speeches”), seem more like filler than valuable material. Some pages are more interactive, presenting readers with a series of questions, but most simply offer a short excerpt from another work; citations are given for all quotes. The thematic sections provide the book’s structure, and although they are generally discrete, they do build on one another. Readers who are in search of concrete and actionable lessons in leadership and management should turn to Peters’ more traditional books or those by other business thought leaders for deeper explorations of how to develop the skills and implement the ideas discussed in this volume. But for Peters fans who are already acquainted with his work and appreciate easy access to a selection of conceptual points in a well-designed package, the work is a present that will be appreciated.

A gift book approach to leadership lessons that delivers highlights elegantly.

Coming November 1st

Tom’s new book, Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence, will be published November 1st! Tom partnered with iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this leadership guidebook. They packed the strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that will urge you to recognize what truly matters at work.

We look for people that are warm and caring and actually altruistic. We look for people who have a fun-loving attitude.”

Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus, Southwest Airlines

Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone around you is what distinguishes a superior leader.”

Cindy Miller, with Edie Seashore, in Sally Helgesen’s “Masters of the Breakthrough Moment,” strategy + business

Better before cheaper. Revenue before cost. There are no other rules.”

Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

These are just a couple of quotes from the guidebook. Over the decades, Tom has gathered these gems of wisdom from those down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. The insights you’ll find in Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence will move you to action, to vigorously and passionately support our communities, provide products and services that stun your clientele with their excellence and verve, and serve our ailing planet. It’s not just the best path forward, it’s the path that can engender purpose and pride in all of us who perform the work.

Nancye designed the book for you, the reader, keeping in mind the most accessible and captivating way to absorb the wisdom. This book is meant to be picked up when you’re in need of inspiration. It provides you a framework for how to think about the way you act, the way you live, the way you govern your relationships with others.

We are all in need of some inspiration from time to time. Take this guidebook with you wherever you need to be reminded of excellence.

Pre-Order Now

How Personal Branding Can Heal Humanity

Tom’s iconic article “The Brand Called YOU” appeared in Fast Company 25 years ago. William Arruda, founder of Reach Personal Branding, said of the article, “After reading it, I put down the magazine and decided to walk away from my marketing position at IBM so that I could dedicate my career to personal branding.”

Today William Arruda published his interview with Tom in Forbes. It covers the anniversary of “The Brand Called YOU” and Tom’s latest book Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism (as well as a sneak preview of Tom’s next project). Here are some of our favorite quotes from Tom:

[Personal branding] is about doing incredibly good work, making friends, and being noticed for the good work.”

I’ve only been talking about one thing for 40 years, and that is “People First.” A people-first strategy works as much now as it did in the past. AI is not going to take over every job in the next 20 years.”

Extreme humanism says, “If we take care of people, if we educate people, if we produce products that are not aimed at making the climate warm up, we can live that way, we can be proud that way.”

Read the full interview for more.

Brand You – 25th Anniversary

This August marked the 25 year anniversary of Tom’s Fast Company cover story “The Brand Called You.” This article was a landmark, the start of the personal branding movement.

To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. . . . Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors—or your colleagues.  .  .  . When you’re promoting brand You, everything you do—and everything you choose not to do—communicates the value and character of the brand. . . . If you want people to see you as a powerful brand, act like a credible leader.  .  .  . As long as you’re learning, growing, building relationships, and delivering great results, it’s good for you and it’s great for the company.” Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You,” Fast Company, August 1997

What Tom was noticing in 1997 was that the world of work was changing rapidly with the influence of the nascent Internet. He recognized that careers would no longer resemble that of his father, who worked for a Baltimore energy company for the entirety of his work life. It was time to focus not on excellence that would move you up vertically within a single organization, but to instead grow your network and build horizontal excellence. It was time to focus on the kind of excellence that your peers would recognize and desire for the short-term, gig work that is common today.

Many have misunderstood Tom’s Brand Called You message. Many have assumed that it’s all about superficial appearance, how the world sees you, and that it has resulted in the current phenomenon of social media influencers. For Tom, it’s always been about how you can bring value through your work to those around you, and to become a trusted part of making excellent products and services. Obviously this is a message that is just as valuable today as it was in 1997.

The good news—and it is largely good news—is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.” Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You,” Fast Company, August 1997

The Future of Leadership

“It was pure, raw, unmitigated fun.” This is how Tom described his recent conversation with Tanveer Naseer and Jim Kouzes.

Tanveer interviewed Tom and Jim, who have known and respected one another since working together at Tom’s consulting company in the ’80s and ’90s. Jim became a thought leader and educator, coauthoring The Leadership Challenge. Tanveer guides them through a discussion of the challenges leaders are facing today, including whether leaders should embrace hybrid work opportunities and the importance of extreme empathy.

This fun conversation even dips into the future of work and we hope you’ll laugh as much as Tom, Jim, and Tanveer did.

Listen Now!