S4-EP8: Tom Peters on [B]OLDLY Turning 80: His Childhood, His Passion, His Outrage, His Mission

Jan 14, 2022


Debbie talks to legendary business author and speaker Tom Peters about his childhood, his passion and outrage, what matters most to him, and his relationship to work on the eve of turning 80.

Said Tom on Twitter: “Debbie got the hat trick. She got stuff out of my mouth that I have never revealed before. And she wouldn’t let me waffle. She was a real pain in the ass that way, and I loved every minute of it.”



Debbie talks to legendary business author and speaker Tom Peters.  And if you’re wondering why she’s interviewing a business management guru, it’s because Tom exemplifies the new name of the podcast: [B]OLDER. I.e. getting bolder as you grow older. 

Tom is the co-author of In Search of Excellence, published 40 years ago and considered one of the most influential business books ever written. 

The book makes the argument that excellent companies treat their employees with respect. They put people first.

Tom is known for being brash, fanatical, even outrageous (a combination of Billy Graham and Sid Vicious as one commentator put it) and he’s been haranguing audiences and readers around the world for decades with his philosophy of people first.   

Haranguing, because many companies are still not doing it. Although the pandemic may have changed that a bit.

In 2017 he received the Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award. He also coined the term Personal Branding.

And he’s not stopping as he turns 80.

In this conversation, he reflects on why women should be leading; passion and outrage and why they are the most important quality in a good speaker; his love for research and data and the concept of compassionomics. 

He also gets personal, opening up about his childhood and his mother’s influence and reiterating why he is not done yet.

He’s as fanatical as ever (especially on the topic of women getting things done) and you’ll hear Debbie occasionally interrupting or trying to interrupt him in this conversation. Not something Debbie normally does but Tom’s Director of Programs, Shelley Dolley, encouraged her to do so.

Debbie met Tom almost 15 years ago when he interviewed her for his Cool Friends series, shortly after her book (The Corporate Blogging Book) came out.

Coincidentally, he is married to a high school classmate of Debbie’s, designer Susan Sargent.

His newest book, Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism, is more relevant than ever with its emphasis on creating a humane workplace. It’s his eighteenth book and it may be his last, he tells Debbie. 

Much of his written and speech material is available—free to download—at tompeters.com and excellencenow.com.

Enjoy this spirited and wide-ranging conversation with a legendary thinker. 

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Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."