Peter Thomas Launches New Book

“One thing you should know about this guy, he could sell anything to anybody. He could sell the Blue Bridge back to the British Navy.”

That was the introduction by Brian Smith, former mayor of Oak Bay, ex-B.C. attorney general and ex-Conservative MP, before entrepreneur Peter Thomas got up to speak about his book, Be Great.

Smith’s comment about Thomas’ persuasiveness dates back to the 1970s, when Thomas lived in Victoria, and was developing a project called Uplands Estates in Oak Bay.

Bayview developer Ken Mariash, an old friend from Alberta, hosted the local book launch and recalled his early days in Calgary when he looked up to a group of “twenties and fearless” entrepreneurs that included Thomas.


“You are responsible for all my insanity,” Mariash joked.

Thomas is best-known for building the Century 21 real estate franchise in Canada back in the 1980s, once the country’s biggest real estate firm. He went on to build and sell commercial development projects, and now lives in Switzerland.

Thomas has the life experience for a book like this. He was a high school dropout who joined the Canadian Army in his teens for a seven-year stint, then sold mutual funds and went on to thrive in the world of real estate and development. He went broke in the 1980s, and came back from that crisis. Thomas is frank about personal troubles and writes about the suicide of his son, Todd, in 2000.

For fans of self-improvement books, Be Great samples many of the best. Thomas’ own advice is fleshed out by words from Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa, and tried and true old timers like Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie, pioneers of the genre. (Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich! published in 1937, the year before Thomas was born, is the granddaddy of the many personal success books out there, and it’s still in print.)

That’s not all. Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham, Georgia O’Keeffe, Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson and jockey Eddie Arcaro are included for various life lessons. Even one of George Carlin’s funny rants of observational humour (no, not The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television) is quoted.

Be Great currently tops’s list of bestselling business books in Canada.

It’s a quick read of 211 pages, full of quotes and anecdotes and upbeat suggestions for achieving what you want out of life. There are stories and parables backing up Thomas’ think-positive philosophy.

He is determined and focused, and has built a fortune by his rules, whose foundations are values, focus, visualization, inspiration and reflection.

He is just “sharing some tips about what successful people do,” Thomas told the book launch reception. First and most important, says Thomas, is know how to focus on the job at hand. Don’t let the urgent interrupt what’s important.

In the book, he quotes a German proverb: “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Align your values with your activities, Thomas says in the book. Is how you spend your days consistent with your values? Track your goals, write them down, check your progress. Thomas says even now he doesn’t go to sleep until he’s written down his half-dozen MITs, or most important things to do next day.

“There’s genius in every one of you. It’s the recognition of the genius in you that determines how successful you’re going to be. It’s your responsibility to work at uncovering that genius.”