The Robe

It’s good to know a couple of Trojans had my back while I was on the USC campus for the USC-Oregon showdown.

A little background first: Now when I crowd-surf or wave my “Read Harvard” sign on a street corner, I wear a black and cap gown. I think it’s more effective than just standing there naked in street clothes.

Well, this past weekend “in costume” I struck both the USC-Oregon game — which with 90,000-plus fans streaming into the Los Angeles Coliseum was crazy — and the Breeders’ Cup races in Arcadia, a slightly more subdued affair.

At the end of the day, it was one comment a woman made to me while we passed each other in a crosswalk on Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia that stuck with me. She said simply and with a straight and earnest face, “Congratulations on your graduation.”

The moment she said it, I realized that while I had taken my cap off and tucked my two signs under my arm, I was still wearing my graduation gown.

That immediately got me thinking.

I had worn a cap and gown only twice before until my current Harvard Reject book adventure and promotion tour, once when I graduated from high school and again after graduating from college.

Sure, I’ve been wearing my cap and gown as an advertising lark or branding gimmick, call it what you will, but perhaps there really was some real significance, if not symbolism, to be found in donning my black robe 35 years after my last official commencement into the real world.

After having written Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, hadn’t I truly graduated to a higher place? In many ways, the book is like my PhD dissertation and took just as long to research and write. I took the writing seriously because I vowed to follow whatever I wrote down.

Indeed, the process of writing and publishing – and the introspection and solitude required to create a book, or in my case of code of conduct — has taught me to say “yes” more often, to be less fearful, to ask more probing questions, to focus more sharply, to show more discipline, to take more risks, to aim higher, to plan more, to dream bigger, to live with more purpose and vision, to love and give more deeply, to accept change more willingly, to strive for greater improvement and innovation, and to work to be a better husband, father and leader.

Writing and trying to get my arms around the success and leadership principles in the book have truly changed me. When you think deeply and start heading upriver like Marlow in the Heart of Darkness, you begin to see what’s been holding you back – things like following mindless routine and bureaucracy and living comfortably with complacency.

You realize that all the hoop-jumping you’ve been doing all your life – getting better grades, rising in your corporation, adding another rank – has just made you more accepting of the status quo. By going along all these years, you tell yourself, you’ve managed to get along.
But what do you really have at the end of the day – at the end of your life? Is acceptance what you want? Or do you want to move the needle in a new direction – put that dent in the universe that so obsessed Steve Jobs?

Sure it’s fun to Tweet and Facebook and parrot bumper-sticker quotes all day, but is that as good as it gets – getting a hundred people to like your last post?

I submit there’s something more, and it can’t always be expressed in 140 or fewer characters. I want solitude and intimate conversation, and you only get that heading up river past all the distractions and noise that compete for your attention and taking on real projects that can’t be completed in a day or even a year.

That is the only way to turn a heart of darkness into an elevated spirit of enlightenment.

So, yes, I have graduated again. And it feels good. Thank you, lady in the crosswalk, for bringing it to my attention.

Start writing your own code, and, more important, follow what you write. Then share it with your true friends. Ask for more than a “like” or a “comment.” Get some real feedback. Engage in deep discussion over a glass of wine or two.

Look forward to slipping on your cap and gown again. It’s a robe worth wearing more than once or twice in a lifetime.

A Sign of the Times: Be More Like Mich (elangelo)

Mike Albo explains his vision of the world to author and Harvard Reject Peter Bennett.

“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.” — Mark Twain

With the election quickly approaching, voters are asking, “What is the vision of each candidate to move the country forward?”

Perhaps, because I put little faith or stock in politicians, I think you would be better served asking, “What vision do I have for myself?” Answer that question faithfully, and watch yourself and the country succeed.

Lately, as part of a multi-pronged strategy to market my book, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, one or two days a week, I’ll stand on some street corner or thoroughfare and wave my sign, “READ HARVARD REJECT.Com,” hoping to drive people to my website so they can learn more about the book.

A couple of weeks ago, with my sandwich board sign, I stood atop a rock wall waving the sign as drivers descended into the Rose Bowl to watch the UCLA game. It was a little eerie (spooky, it’s Halloween season) because the entire time I was facing the house in which my father died on Linda Vista Avenue. As I stood there, I wondered many times what my dad would be thinking if he saw me. I believed he would have given me two-thumbs up!

Then about a week ago, I was back in Pasadena waving my sign by an on-ramp at the confluence of Lake Avenue and the 210 freeway. Because of parking restrictions, I had to park a few blocks away. Well, I ended up parking in front of an old five-unit Craftsman-style apartment building that my parents once owned. I worked many a Saturday and Sunday there. I received my first bee sting there while chipping and sanding away old paint under the second-story eaves. I also remember helping my dad build a slightly crooked outside staircase.

I mention this only because that apartment represented income to my parents. Each tenant represented x-amount of dollars. Well, that dowdy Craftsman at the corner of Maple and Catalina in Pasadena that runs along the freeway is a much improved and respectable lady now. The staircase doesn’t look crooked anymore and a new clapboard facing dresses up the building handsomely. The trouble was at the time, we thought of the building as simply an old wreck that provided us income. It could have been the Taj Mahal, and we wouldn’t have cared. Our vision was limited. We were living in the now; heritage was a foreign word.

The new owners, however, had a different vision, a grander vision, a better vision. (In fairness to my parents and me, I don’t know what rents the new tenants are paying some 30 or 40 years later, but I’m glad the building has been restored to a measure of her original greatness even at the cost of higher rents.)

Shifting gears now, I also spent much of last week on the phone arranging speaking engagements in front of different business groups. At the end of each conversation, I’d make sure to point the person I was speaking with to my website,

Popcorn king and legend John Norman with the author. Norman was catching the red-eye later in the day for Detroit to root on his flailing Tigers, down 3-0 in the World Series.But from the start, although I went to great effort and expense to make the lead video on my website, I always suspected that that initial video was too serious. (If you’re getting in front of people for 10 or 15 minutes, they don’t want to see some dour sourpuss ranting on; they want entertainment with a little bit of information.) After getting some instructive feedback, spooned to me delicately, I resolved to make another video — a more fun video, less corporate, etc. But what would I replace it with? Redo’s always require more thinking and extra vision.

Well, I figured it had to include a dog. People like dogs, right? Colleen and I are surrounded by three Pomeranians every day. So, I wrote a 30 second-script, with the last frame being the dog, a Boxer named Tank that belongs to my middle son, Roger, walking in with a mortar board on its head, indicative of the dog being wiser and smarter after having read Life Lessons.

With the concept of the video in my mind, I began rummaging through my closet and pulled out a mortar board that you wear at graduation. It even had a maroon tassel, the Harvard colors. Then in another closet I found a black robe. After putting on the cap and gown, I put on my sandwich board, and after glancing in the mirror, I felt ready to graduate to a higher vision of marketing for the book.

With my new wardrobe, Colleen and I drove to Claremont, where the city was hosting a big outdoor fair on Saturday (by the way there were lots of La Verne people there (Roy and Cindi Prather, John and Sandy Norman, Mike Albo and his wife, etc.) In my cap and flowing black robe, I fit right in. It is a college town. It was Halloween. Colleen and I even had Princess, one of our three Poms, walking beside us. It was the perfect marketing storm!

I was getting a better response from people, simply because I now had a better vision of my product and message. I was fully owning my role. I had refined my vision. The cap and gown were the finishing pieces of my ensemble.

Why do some of us lack vision? Why had I been walking the streets partly disrobed – my costume and message not fully connecting with audiences? I had simply failed to think things completely through. I didn’t see far enough because I hadn’t been thinking and pushing my thinking far enough. I had curtailed my vision. I hadn’t taken all the blinders off.

Final case in point, and this is for you aspiring students. You have a job and you’ve been a loyal employee, but you have an important test you need to pass to advance your career. You need at least a week off from work to bone up for the test and do your best, but you ask your boss for only two or three days off.

That’s the wrong vision. If you have a good boss, he or she will give you the full week you need. And if you ask and don’t get the full week to realize your vision, it’s time to work somewhere else.

This vision thing is a big deal, and the sooner you learn to expand and embrace yours (instead of following somebody else’s vision for you), the more successful you’ll be. If only my father and I had seen the full potential of that old Craftsman we had been working on, maybe some of those drudgery-filled hours of chipping, painting and sanding wouldn’t have been so dreadful. If only I had seen that my sign-waving self had needed a better, more eye-catching costume to drive people to my site … If only the student had seen that his vision was as important as his employer’s and had boldly asked for those extra hours.

From today forward, no more “if only’s. See a grander vision for yourself. Don’t sell yourself or your vision short ever again.

See your Moses in the marble before you every strike the first blow. As Michelangelo told us, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim to high and miss it, but we aim too low and reach it.”

By Hook or Nook, There Are Now Multiple Ways to Access Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

Nookie in the morning, afternoon and evening …

That’s right. For e-Readers, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, Tear Down the Walls Holding Back Your Success, is now available for download on the Barnes and Noble Nook.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” author Peter Bennett said. “The sales of tablets, mini-iPads, Kindles and Nooks are just exploding. “I mean, you can carry an entire encyclopedia of knowledge in your breast pocket.”

“And indeed, Life Lessons is like an encyclopedia on success. Whether you’re seeking ways to summon more innovation, imagination or flexible-thinking for your next project or you simply want to bounce back from a bad experience, be it fear, failure, or rejection, you’ll find answers, solutions and new coping strategies by reading Life Lessons.”

Digital alternatives also afford the avid reader a more affordable reading experience.

“E-Books generally run a third of printed book costs, so if the electronic version is how you access your reading materials, you realize great savings. To me, there’s a place for both. If you run through airports racking up frequent-flyer miles, I prefer my tablet; if I’m at home sitting by the fireplace, I want my dog-eared book that I can mark up, page by page.

“In an age of increasing impermanence, there are things like books I still like to hold with my two hands. It’s a luxury I’m not ready to surrender.

“At the same time, I’m for anything that makes access easier and more affordable, and that’s exactly what these new electronic options do.”

Amazon Kindle Welcomes ‘Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject’ to Its Roster of Great Books

For all you E-readers out there, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject by Peter Bennett (published October 2012) is now available on the Amazon Kindle, the world’s best-selling E-reader.

“Although I prefer real books and dog-eared pages,” Bennett said, “I understand that about half of all books are now read on electronic devices. In an instant, people can be reading your book from Alaska to Afghanistan. Who doesn’t want to be part of that revolution?”

At its core, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject motivates and inspires readers how to tear down the walls holding back their success. From the first page to the last, it also encourages people to aim farther than their reach and to HIGHER themselves when the world isn’t hiring.

“A large section of the book homes in on how to expand your imagination, innovation and sense of wonder, so it’s very exciting to announce this new E-platform,” said Bennett, a Harvard Reject and Stanford graduate.

For more information about the book and its life-changing lessons, taught by everyone from Socrates to Shakespeare to The Simpsons (the author is merely your guide during this self-improvement journey) please visit

For a Big Leap in Sales, Croak Like a FROG

Frog talk will help you win friends and influence people.

To build your business, you need to not only meet people, but also connect with them.

To connect with people (unless you want to halve your audience), steer clear of controversial issues like politics and religion.

Why should you avoid two subjects that impassion and fascinate nearly everyone?

There’s an easy answer: Because few people can talk about such engrossing issues dispassionately. Look at the current Presidential election cycle. There’s a growing polarity between the two parties. There’s little “tween” left between the Blue party and the Red party

When discussing “their” candidate, the raving fan, with few exceptions, becomes the vein-popping raving lunatic.

If you do venture into these roiling religious or political waters, because you find the topics too irresistible, especially during election season, please remember and repeat the following 10 rules of civilized conversation after each breath:

1. Interact, don’t interrogate.

2. Compromise, don’t crusade.

3. Connect, don’t correct.

4. Motivate, don’t manipulate.

5. Complete, don’t compete.

6. Cooperate, don’t confront.

7. Mentor, don’t manage.

8. Serve, don’t sell.

9. Express sensitivity, not sentiment.

10. Aim to be the most interested person in the room, not the most interesting.

Again, our advice is to avoid at all cost all talk of politics and religion. Leave it to the TV talking heads and recall the good advice of Dale Carnegie, who said, “There’s only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument — and that is to avoid it.”

To that, I’ll simply add, “To get your point across, you can never be cross!”

Instead of talking about politics and religion, shift your conversation to FROGs, an acronym for Family, Recreation, Occupation and Goals.

Who doesn’t like talking about their family, their favorite hobby or what’s occupying their time.

You’ll find few people who don’t like frogs, but you’ll find many who hate your politics and religion.

If you want to build your business, be a FROG and leap away from the troubled waters of religious and political poison.

Book Signing Surrounded by Total Elegance

From left, brothers Roger and Brett Bennett handled bar duties.

Outdoor Elegance’s Doug Sanicola and Tom Kay hosted the kick-off book signing for La Verne Online publisher and Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject author Peter Bennett on Thursday, Oct. 18 inside their fabulous showroom.

A variety of salads and desserts graced the linen-covered tables as the conversation and wine flowed smoothly.

Ramona Middle School Counselor shared some love for the book.An eclectic group of guests, including actors, musicians, financial advisors, Realtors, public and elected officials, doctors, entrepreneurs and small business owners, gathered to hear Bennett share a little wisdom from his book, subtitled “Tear Down the Walls Holding Back Your Success.”

Bennett, who spent seven years writing the 431-page book, backs up every bit of advice he dispenses with excellent examples and amazing anecdotes gleaned from the pages of history to the present day.

“The aim of the book is to get people to dream bigger and to take action toward their dreams today,” Bennett said, in between signings.

“I also spend a lot of time in the book talking about the need to build relationships, and we saw evidence of that tonight. A lot of dear friends came out to show their support. They’re the strength I’ll draw on as I go forward throughout the nation championing the principles of this book.”Peter and Mike Noonan

“It’s a night I’ll never forget, especially having my family here to support my endeavor.

“And, again a shout-out to Doug and Tom for giving me this platform to launch my book. They have a unique vision. They go beyond elegance, which is why the outdoor design community has so passionately embraced them and their extraordinary service and products.”

“It was special night all the way around!”


Boyd, I’m just borrowing her for a minute!

THURSDAY, Oct. 18, 2012, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Joke No. 1: CUDDLES

I’m sorry if I appear a little somber on what should be a happy occasion.

Earlier today, I found my pet duck Cuddles absolutely motionless in my back yard, so I rushed him over to the vet.

After examining it with his stethoscope, the vet said, “I’m sorry, but Cuddles is dead.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” I asked. “Aren’t there more tests you can run? It might be in a coma or something.”

The vet left momentarily and returned with a Labrador retriever. The dog stood on its hind legs, put its front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. The lab then looked at the vet with sad eyes and shook its head.

The vet momentarily left the room and returned with a tabby cat. The cat sniffed the duck all over, then meowed softly, shaking its head.

No further evaluation needed, the vet told me I had a dead duck on my hands. Then he quietly entered a few notes on his iPad before handing me a bill for $300.

“Three-hundred dollars!” I protested. “Just to tell me my duck is dead!”

The vet shrugged. “I’m sorry. If you had taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab report and Cat scan, it came to $300.”

Joke No. 2: MANGY CAT

An art collector sees this mangy cat sipping milk from a priceless saucer out in front of a very exclusive antiques store.

The art collector immediately hatches a plan to dupe the shopkeeper out of the saucer. He enters the store and offers to buy the cat.

“It’s not for sale,” the shop owner says.

“How about $50?” the collector asks.

The owner nods and takes the money.

Then the collector says, “Would you mind tossing in the saucer for free? It’ll save me the hassle of going down the street to buy one, and besides, the cat’s used to it.”

The shopkeeper says, “Sorry, that’s my lucky saucer. I’ve already sold 68 cats this week!”


Enough with the animal jokes, I’m here to talk about something far less important.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject is a sweeping work. It’s about giving you the freedom to tear down the walls holding back your success. It’s about giving you the freedom to blast through every barrier keeping you from what you really want to do. It’s about getting you to aim higher than your current reach. It’s about getting you to HIGHER yourself when the world isn’t hiring.

The first chapter is called Wonder, which I do a lot of in the book. So let me ask you to wonder for just a moment.

All of you, I believe, we’re part of the last century. Well, let me ask you, what should the last century best be remembered for???? What label would you give it? How would you characterize it?


In the last century, we learned how to mass market everything, from toothpaste to toasters to TVs.


Once we were a world of separate villages, but World Wars I and II changed that forever. Now if a third world nation like Iran gets the bomb, it matters; it affects us here in La Verne.


In the 15th Century Gutenberg invented the printing press and printed the bible, but in the 20th century you could read the Bible on your smart phone.

Was it the GENOCIDAL Century?

Hitler’s holocaust, Stalin’s collectivization, Mao’s cultural revolution, Pol Pot’s killing fields, Pol Pot’s rampages … It was a pretty horrific century!


At the end of the 1900s, after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, America was left standing as the world’s undisputed champion.

The Century of Freedom

I would argue, foremost, that the 20th Century was the Century of Freedom. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, restraint died with her.
New discoveries, new opportunities, new freedoms seemed to explode.

• In 1900, the tape recorder was invented.
• In 1900, Freud published his famous book, The Interpretation of Dreams.
• In 1900, the Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT was invented, permitting the transition of power from an aristocracy to a meritocracy.
• In 1900, Max Planck discovered that atoms emit radiations of energy in bursts he called quanta.
• In 1900, the Brownie camera hit the market, democratizing picture-taking.

A few short years later Orville and Wilbur Wright discovered the freedom of flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In 1905, Einstein described how light behaves not only like a wave but also like a stream of particles, called quanta.

What other freedoms were we given in the 20th Century?

We were given the freedom from disease. Just think of it. Roughly 15 million people were killed in World War I. Yet, just after the war ended in 1918, a worldwide flu epidemic struck, killing 20 million people.

Yet, much of that fear was taken away after Alexander Fleming invented penicillin in 1929, saving millions and millions of lives.

In 1947, we were given the freedom of mass communication when William Shockley and his team of scientists invented the transistor. A transistor is able to regulate an electric current and translate it into on/off binary data.

Ten years later Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby learned how to etch millions of these transistors onto tiny silicon microchips.

In 1953, we were given the freedom to begin understanding how to duplicate life itself. Watson and Crick showed how four chemical bases could be paired to create a self-copying genetic code.

In 1989, we were given freedom from totalitarianism. Capitalism had defeated fascism, communism and a lot of other isms.


So my question to you is, you have all this freedom, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT?

Just looking around the room tonight, I can see how many have already responded:

Randi Marshall uses her freedom to own and operate a successful vintage citrus label business.

Brian Byers uses his freedom to be an actor.

Duncan McCloud uses his freedom to be a world class opera singer.

Kyle Champion uses his freedom to be a world class cellist.

Doug Sanicola uses his freedom to build and operate Outdoor Elegance, this wonderful facility you’re enjoying tonight.

Marty Rodriguez, Ann Krauter, and Colleen Bennett use their freedom to be the best Realtors in the valley.

Ken Robbins used his freedom to make himself partner at Crowell Weedon.

Tony Ponzo uses his freedom to dispense some of the best financial advice in the business, especially when it comes to options trading. He’s also just come out with a great new book, “Never Let Wall Street Steal Your Money Again.”

MARKETING TIPS – Ways to Brand Yourself

For me, I use my freedom to publish newspapers and books, hoping to inspire, motivate and bring people a little closer together.
But I’m continually reminded that you can never stop working and marketing and building your brand. You have to keep reaching out and keep striving to be a stand-out, especially in our increasingly commoditized world.

So, when you leave here tonight, I want you to start thinking of ways to brand yourself, the way other famous figures have.

For example:

• Lincoln had his stovepipe hat
• Winston Churchill his cigar.
• Charlie Chaplin his cane.
• Jackie Kennedy her pillbox hat
• Mr. Rogers his sweater.
• Mary Kay her pink Cadillac

Perhaps, there’s a special color, article of clothing or something else in your toolbox or wardrobe that can give you that special accent that will separate you from the crowd.

Try it on, wear it, parade it, make it part of who you are.

And should the “new memorable you” be a flop with friends and critics alike, you can always tell them you were simply getting an early start on your Halloween costume.

Remember you have the freedom to do anything. The last century proved it! So now go out and prove it to yourself.

Viewpoint from Wilshire and San Vicente: ‘If I’m Wrong, We Shall Soon Find Out … ‘

On the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica talking about Life Lessons.Waving my sign, “Read, Harvard” at yet another street corner, this one at Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards, I wondered whether this was the best use of my time to get the word out about my book.

When promoting books, I’m told, you have a short window of time (measured in weeks, not months), to make a splash so I’m not about to wait around for things to happen. I’ve got to make things happen. Says so right in my book, after all.

Earlier in the day with my sandwich-board sign, I walked west along Wilshire to the Third Street Promenade and then out to the end of the Santa Monica Pier (the start or end of historic Route 66 depending your point of view) before turning east along Montana Street to reach Brentwood Village. In all, it was about 12 miles.

Now back at Wilshire and San Vicente, I was greeting a crazy convergence of cars as their drivers whizzed by during the frantic evening commute. Through their tinted windows, I spied drivers smiling, snarling, smirking, texting and talking on their cell phones, which made me draw back from the curb a little. Some drivers even glanced at me and my sign. One celebrity-seeking tour bus driver, who was probably driving back from O.J. Simpson’s infamous Brentwood house, waved back.

Part of the time, I shared my corner with a down-and-outer who told me he landed there because he had been selling securities without a license. He assured me he still had all of his old clients; he only needed to renew his license to get back on his feet. After about 15 minutes of conversation (he was 51, grew up in Vegas and he admitted he shouldn’t have tried to beat the Fed), he took off and wished ME luck.

I was already a member of his itinerant fraternity, only I knew where I was going to shower, shave and lay my head down on a pillow later that night. It was a soul-searching moment (aren’t those the best?)

It was getting dark, but I resolved that I would jiggle my sign until 6:30 p.m. It was a good, but arbitrary, round number.

I had about 10 minutes to go on my self-imposed shift when a man, who looked exactly like Dr. Oz, came up to me and told me he had observed my sign-waving from the high-rise in the Wells Fargo Center where he has a dental practice. He asked about what was and then about my book. He said he was intrigued by someone who was promoting reading. Then he asked if he could interview me for his YouTube channel. He said he liked filming “different” kinds of people.

“Sure, let’s do it,” I said. Immediately, I launched into what the book was about as he kept nodding his head, which I took as approval.

After we finished, I asked him about his slight accent. He told me had grown up in Russia, adding that many people watched his YouTube channel there.

So, there you have it. Strangers, continents away, may now be viewing Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject on their computers and smart phones to learn about the book.

I had a smile on my face, knowing that General Grant was right.

Once when Grant was asked whether he had made the right decision about some costly purchases he had made, he replied, “No, I am not … anything is better than indecision,” he said. “We must decide. If I am wrong, we shall soon find out and can do the other thing. But not to decide wastes both time and money and may ruin everything.”

Right or wrong, I’ve decided to make my stand on street corners, hoping to make your acquaintance soon!


A SIGN OF THE TIMES: I am now part of the sign-waving fraternity that hawks pizzas, cheap air fares and spa specials. But waving a sign to get people to read? Now, that’s fresh!

Talking is cheap, writing is cheap. To be effective, you actually have to do what you say you’re going to do to gain any real traction and trust in this world.

And you really have to do what you say you’re going to do when you’re dispensing advice to others.

So, what’s the action-oriented advice, I give in Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject? What did I write?

“You don’t have to be great to start, but have to start to be great. So, get a foot in the door or a seat at the table, even if that entry point or landing place is sweeping floors or peeling potatoes in the basement of some burger joint.”

On my chapter on Persistence, I also quote Robert Louis Stevenson to further illustrate my belief.

“Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all life really means.”

So there I was yesterday, following the bold words I had written and had quoted to others, standing on the southeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Laguna Niguel, holding and wiggling a sign that said, “READ [in red] HARVARD REJECT.COM [in black].”

Why was I standing on that precise corner out of all the corners in Southern California? It was the concluding day of the Women’s Power Summit held at the swanky Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel. The roster of speakers represented the who’s who of women.

No, I wasn’t selected as one of the esteemed panelists waxing about women’s reproductive rights and foreign affairs right alongside Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton and other power players, but I was there all the same, standing at a nearby choke point on the off chance that a chauffeured power player en route to the airport after the conference might pass by and see the crazy, but well-dressed man, holding the eye-catching sign. Many Lincoln Town Cars passed by. I never saw the passengers behind the smoky-glass windows, but I was hopeful of making a connection.

During my hour of power on the corner, I learned many things. When someone is whizzing by on a bike or idling in a car at a turn signal and asks you, “Hey, what’s your book about?” there’s no time for elevator speeches. You have to be much faster than that.

“When the world isn’t hiring, you have to HIGHER yourself, and you spell that H-I-G-H-E-R,” I shouted.

“After I got laid off from corporate America, I set my sights on HIGHERING myself in every area, improving my attitude, decision-making, risk-taking, creativity and my sense of wonder. It’s a book that teaches you to aim higher than your reach and to smash the walls and barriers standing in the way of your success.”

One guy who had rolled down his window to hear my 10-second spiel, replied, “I’m looking it up when I get home.”

I saw other motorists scrambling to their smart phones and tablets to google Heaven help the joggers and baby-stroller pushers I actually cornered (I was on the corner, after all). Some got a full 30-second blast until the light mercifully changed to green.

What else did I learn in my first hour on the streets? I need better sunscreen. Colleen purchased some Nuetrogena sunblock with an SPF of 120. She must really think her aging blue-eyed baby is going to burn and wrinkle up like the prunes I eat for breakfast.

Some passers-by offered up some sign-waving tips for which I was thankful. I definitely have to up my game.

It’s all pretty crazy, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, I’m not standing on street corners to say, “Look at me (well, I literally am). I’m standing there to say, “Look at the book.” I think the book can help and change lives. That’s why I wrote the book. That’s why Colleen and I donated books to Claremont’s Prison Library Project on Wednesday and plan to leave books at prisons throughout California, to give inmates more access to hope and greater possibilities. I also wrote the book to serve as an inspirational guide for my three boys, Ryan, Roger and Brett.

That’s why I’ll be on the corner, as long as I can stand. It won’t be easy, but I’m prepared for the difficult road ahead, and even welcome it in some weird way. I’ve been unchained from my computer!

Architect Richard Neutra said, “I have never done anything in my life that did not seem to be impossible when I was in the beginning stage.”

And all of us are always at some beginning stage if we’re trying to keep up with our fast-paced lives.

That’s good advice and words of encouragement that I think I’ll pass along to another unsuspecting motorist!

“Hey, driver, can you spare a brother a moment?”


Barbara Heavin, treasurer and board member of the Claremont Forum’s Prison Library Project, holds a copy of the just-released Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject.

La Verne author Peter Bennett presented Barbara Heavin, treasurer of of the Claremont Forum’s Prison Library Project, several copies of his new book, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, which he believes can help prisoners tear down the walls that have held back their success.

“When I heard from Barbara and other volunteers at the Prison Library Project that the two most requested kinds of books in prison are dictionaries and self-improvement books, I knew I had to donate copies of Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject to this unbelievable outreach program,” Bennett said.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject,” he added, “introduces life-changing possibilities and perspectives that can help anyone find personal success, significance, and self-esteem, especially prisoners who have found themselves on the wrong side of the wall because of poor choices or unfortunate circumstances.”

Bennett noted somewhat ironically that prison often offers a quiet place for personal redemption and reflection, adding that St. Paul (c. AD 5 – c. AD 67) wrote half of the New Testament confined in prison cells not much bigger than a closet.

“There have been many, many other prisoners who have used reading and writing to change their lives,” Bennett said. “After Malcolm X, a former small-time hoodlum and burglar, turned to reading in prison he said, ‘… months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life.’”

Every year, the Prison Library Project tries to respond to prisoners’ reading requests by sending more than 11,000 packages of books, audio books and magazines to more than 600 state and federal prisons and detention centers throughout the United States.

“Our prison population needs these books more than any other group of people in the world,” Bennett said. “While the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses more than a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”

Why does Bennett think his book can help?

“Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.’ Well, Life Lessons has lots of ideas gleaned from the best minds in history, from Socrates to Shakespeare to The Simpsons.”

Bennett said that he and his wife Colleen want to present books to every prison in California as their small contribution toward helping prisoners reach and realize their full potential.

“The Prison Library Project opened our minds to a great cause and stretched our thinking,” Bennett added. “There’s no way we can turn back now.”

For more information about the Prison Library Project, please go to