Peter Metsopoulos is a model leader, educator and human. His profession, successes, vision and words will inspire you to examine your path and work toward a life of impact. We had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Peter for this week's Sprouting Forward, gaining incredible wisdom for our next steps in life and work.
Enjoy your bi-weekly dose of inspiration below, and be sure to check out Peter's spotlight feature in this month's issue of En Root!
This month's theme is all about achieving your version of success. Tell us about how you define success, and how you stay committed to carving your own path forward.
My version of success is first and foremost being able to provide the basics for my three children; as long as that's achieved, which is a privilege that I have, then everything else is about making the world a better, more equitable, place. That's a big umbrella of course, and that's by choice - whatever we are involved in, there's a way to make it work in a way that will improve the world, even if only a little bit. So I can be an educator and strive to make each student feel seen, to make each voice heard and amplified--especially if that voice has been historically structurally muffled. I can look at my own practice, my own curriculum; like the layers of an onion, there's always another step toward the heart of things, and where I am now as an educator is a space closer to direct action.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to supporting the growth of others. What do you think we as individuals can do to pave the way for others to grow into their fullest, most fulfilled selves?
I think the keys are encouraging others to listen to themselves and believe in their own accomplishments. I don't believe that you can always just "do what you love" as your main job, but we should encourage each other to always be doing something that makes one feel good - makes one feel one is making a difference toward the kind of world one wants. And you should certainly always keep what you love in your life. If writing or drawing or dancing fills someone up, then we should encourage them to dedicate some part of each day to it - could be 15 minutes - but to hold onto it. The second piece would be encourage them to believe in and celebrate their own accomplishments - each of us tends to downplay what we have done: "well, if I can do it, it must not be that hard" - but that means we've discounted both the time we've put in and any natural talent or inspiration we brought to it. And both the dedication to put in time and the talent / inspiration we have are the most valuable things we bring to the table! So we should always be pointing out those elements, those skills, those steps toward success.
Tell us about your most significant professional moment to date.
As an English teacher by trade for the past 18 years, I have wanted students (and colleagues) to see the nuance and power in words - and I want them to strive to use that linguistic power to go out and change the world. Over a decade ago, I became the co-founder of the Lillie May Carroll Jackson School, a public charter middle school for girls in Baltimore City, and that is one of the efforts of which I am most proud--that is direct action; the school affects the lives of over 300 girls each year.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
Once Lillie May was open, I resolved to bring direct action to the private schools in my own fashion; it took some time, but the first result has been the Leadership & Entrepreneurship Institute at Roland Park Country School. My guiding star, my sense of success there, is having built a foundational sense that every student should know the best action comes out of Ethics, Purpose, and understanding of Power Structures, and of how to be a Changemaker. Having created those modules for our 9th graders is my best success because it will change their perspectives in the longer run toward thoughtful and lasting change. All of which comes back to my own children - I am a better father for having found my way to this kind of success, and I look forward to seeing what they make of their own unfolding lives.
What is a step that each of us can take today to map out our futures?
Think about something you wish you'd done 10 years ago. Now think about looking back on this time in 10 years. What will you wish you'd done? Alternatively, what's one element of what you want in 10 years? (Where do you want to live? What do you want your days to look like? What sort of colleagues do you want to have?) Then think about what it would look like to be 5 years down the road - halfway toward that goal--where would you be? What would you be doing? NOW - what's one thing you could do to be a step closer?
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Breathe a bit easier; be in the moment more often. You cannot change the future or the past - only the present moment, and in order to do that well, you have to be fully in it. This is also the advice I give to myself everyday, even now.
What is your favorite quote or song lyric?
Oh, I have a million of them--usually the one I heard most recently while I was really listening and thinking. For today and this topic, let's let this one be front and center: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver.
Based on your experience to date, what are the top three career competencies that you believe are essential in 2021/2?
The ability to communicate clearly and persuasively. The ability to listen to others' lived experiences, esp. when they are different from yours. The ability to resist the pull toward going back to the status quo.
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2021/2?
I am moving on from my position as the founding Director for the Leadership & Entrepreneurship Institute, now that the doors are open and the foundation is laid. I am ready for the next adventure, the next challenge, and trying to find just the right one for the skills and experience that I bring to the table--something that will allow me to learn and build and collaborate in ways that leave me happily exhausted at the end of the day.
Peter Metsopoulos is the Founding Director of the Leadership& Entrepreneurship Institute at Roland Park Country School and a co-founder of the Lillie May Carroll Jackson School. His professional life is centered around envisioning how the organizational and strategic pieces of programs fit together so that the world can be a better, more equitable, and more understandable place.