How Peter B. Williams Thrives with Many Careers

by | Jun 28, 2021

Meet Peter B. Williams. He’s a remarkable multi-careerist who balances professions in different fields. He has a day job in the financial industry and has also become an outstanding content producer. He writes books. He makes podcasts. What’s more, he serves on non-profit boards and has turned personal tragedy into something that provides meaning and insight for others. We met at a book event in New York, and I’m so glad that we did. I’ve taken his reading list (below) to heart, and I’m enjoying the books that he suggested.

Peter’s careers & professional projects:

  • Finance professional – works for a global firm based in Hong Kong (Citi Treasury, head of Business Treasury, focused on the Institutional Client Group, across Asia)
  • Board member – of Music For Life International, a non-profit based in New York (creates concerts at Carnegie Hall to support global humanitarian causes, including United Nations and their efforts to end violence against women and girls, Doctors Without Borders, and various global refugee crisis). Also on the board of Resolve Foundation, a non-profit based in Hong Kong (provides a high quality leadership Fellowship to minority groups including refugees, asylum seekers, domestic workers with the aim of making Hong Kong more tolerant and inclusive — past themes include racial equality and inclusion, ending gender-based violence, disABILITIES and empowerment).
  • Author – Productive Accidents a book about how innovation happens, and how to turn your life into an adventure.
  • Podcast host – including a series on gratitude, and a new experiment that provides Virtual Book Tours (four authors per episode from a wide range of themes and genres)
  • Speaker – particularly on how innovation happens, and how to turn your life into an adventure

On his motivations to have many careers

I’ve been working in finance since graduating from university in Australia in 1992. After more study, switching firms, and getting married we worked for a year in London. We returned to Sydney expecting our first child. Soon after I switched firms again and in 2001 relocated to Singapore, where we stayed for nine years, completed more study, and had three more children. We moved to Hong Kong in 2010, and that’s where I started playing with the idea of “productive accidents,” or the way serendipity can be predictable and repeatable, under the right conditions.

Advice for aspiring multi-careerists

Be curious and maintain a wide range of interests. Be willing to try new things, be playful and experimental. Put yourself at risk of a productive accident.

Overcoming obstacles

  • We suffered a tragedy when my wife’s youngest sister went missing in 2002. This was not long after we had moved to Singapore so we felt helpless being away from Australia. Even now we’re yet to get closure — the mystery is still unsolved.
  • In 2014, I compiled and self-published a book of my sister-in-law’s work, Missing Niamh: Lessons from Loss
  • The connections made during this publishing project have had several unexpected benefits
  • In 2015, Music for Life International hosted a concert at Carnegie Hall in support of the United Nations and their efforts to end violence against women and girls. My wife and I attended the concert with, our two eldest daughters, and my parents-in-law.
  • In 2019, Resolve Foundation created a fellowship focused on ending gender-based violence.

How many careers are mutually beneficial

  • Multiple interests and a portfolio of personal projects are the source of renewable energy. I’m more creative and productive when I’m energised.
  • Plus my network has reached a tipping point where I can meet absolutely anyone and be in a position to either help them directly, or introduce them to relevant connections.
  • The skills I’ve learned as a writer, speaker, podcast host, website creator, mentor and entrepreneur provide a consistent and predictable portfolio of possibilities.

On managing personal time

  • Living in Asia, we’re fortunate have a live-in domestic worker from the Philippines for the past sixteen years. Ivy is our family chief operating officer who makes it possible for my wife and I to have four children and both work full-time.
  • Plus I’m still actively riding my BMX, skateboard, Vespa, and play regular tennis and golf.

What he wishes he had learned earlier

  • Just keep creating and experimenting continuously. Every time you learn a new skill you create a new portfolio of possibilities. Eventually the goal is for the dots to connect, so that what you do for fun and what you do for work converge — they become indistinguishable

Recommended Reads

  • My most recommended books include Craig Wortmann’s What’s Your Story, Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup, Greg Larkin’s This Might Get Me Fired, Bob Burg’s The Go-Giver, Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want, Diana Wu-David’s Future Proof, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem, Hector Garcia’s Ichigo Ichie, Chris Palmore’s Dear Gratitude, and the latest is Authentic the autobiography of Paul Van Doren, the founder of Vans.
  • One of the goals of self-publishing and self-distributing my second book, Productive Accidents — a playbook for personal & professional adventure is to convert the content into ten different formats (digital, physical, audio etc). This has evolved into a GratitudeSpace x Productive Accidents podcast collaboration with Chris Palmore.
  • The latest iteration of this is to create a Virtual Book Tour series of podcasts. The first two episodes can be found here and here. Each episode will feature four authors and a brief introduction to each of their books.

Overcoming stigma of multiple careers

  • Several years ago, I remember being told not to talk about interests outside my day job because it will seem like I have too much time on my hands and make me a target for redundancy. But not today — I’m connected to local, regional, and global CEOs on LinkedIn and that’s where I share my complete range of activities

On sublimating ego

  • I try to bring my entire set of interests to work, by volunteering to run various projects, volunteer to be on committees for diversity groups, invite speakers from my network, and promote creativity and lifelong learning.

On what he cares about

  • The causes I care about include equality, education, empowerment, entrepreneurship, and the environment.

A Day in the Life

  • 6am – Wake up, check my calendar, prepare to take our dog for a hike
  • 7am – Meet a recurring group of colleagues and friends to walk to The Peak in Hong Kong
  • 9am – Return home ready for a daily Zoom call with regional colleagues
  • 10.30am – Speak to my team, one in Hong Kong and another in Singapore
  • 11am – Emails / virtual meetings / reading
  • 12.00pm – Meet visitors (if any) for lunch
  • 1.30pm – Join at least two calls in the afternoon
  • 4pm – Check in with my team, prepare any communication to update regional or global colleagues
  • 6pm – Light dinner with family
  • 7pm-9pm – Tennis training with team
  • 10pm – Reading / sleep

Where to find Peter

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Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

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