Juli Geske-Peer grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family with little emphasis on traditional signs of success like careers or a college education. As a result, she dealt with low self-esteem throughout her younger and formative years. However, she inched into adulthood slowly but surely while going through secretarial programs post-high school. Ms. Geske-Peer worked in administration and executive assistant-type work, and, while doing this, she said she “felt a sense of wanting more.” Using this desire for more from life to motivate her, she got a Bachelors’ Degree at age thirty. Later, she got her master’s in organizational leadership.
It was at this point where she found her true passion: leadership. “I love leading people,” she said, “and helping others to do that.” She also started working as a conflict mediator, also called a qualified neutral. Ms. Geske-Peer now works as a conflict mediator for the state of Minnesota, specifically for the Department of Human Rights. In 2014, Ms. Geske-Peer started her business, Peer Performance Solutions, a career and business services company that coaches people in career growth, leadership, and communications improvements, improving business intelligence, and enhancing business operations.
It was her experiences in conflict mediation and resolution and her business and expertise in leadership and coaching that she came up with the concept and the inspiration for her book, 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena. In her book, she uses her knowledge from years of struggling and “floundering,” as she called it, to explain ways to use the senses for success. The book takes strategies for success and puts them into the framework of the five senses that we all learn about in middle school. “I took the original five senses,” Ms. Geske-Peer said, “and shifting them into what I see as deeper and more meaningful five senses.” So, for example, instead of smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound, Ms. Geske-Peer changes them into different senses: observe, listen, feel, engage, and appreciate. The reasoning behind this is that Ms. Geske-Peer believes that the original five senses are passive. “We can hear sounds but not really attend to them,” she said. “We can see things but not really acknowledge them. So it’s a little bit passive, and I want people to be intentional with ourselves and with others.”
This is not her first-ever writing endeavor. She wrote poetry in her young adulthood and teenage years. After that, she dabbled in fiction writing. “I have a dozen works in progress in fiction,” Ms. Geske-Peer said. In recent years, she began thinking about the nonfiction genres, which led her to her current writing endeavors.
In addition to being a life-long writer, Ms. Geske-Peer is also a life-long reader. Ever since she could read, she’s read books consistently, much like myself. She’s gone through a lot of literary phases and lots of different favorite books in her life. She remembers a huge reading phase in her life vividly. “My mother used to get these Harlequin romances,” she explained, “and I would just read them because they were there and available.” She also read Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys as a child and a young teen. Then, moving into adulthood, her guilty pleasure reading of choice was suspense novels. “If I had the time, I could just sit there and read all day,” she said. Of course, she also reads a lot of nonfiction as well. She’ll even read more than one book at a time!
I asked Ms. Geske-Peer about her favorite moment in the writing process. She responded with the conception of the framework, the new five senses. “I woke up with it,” she said. “I’m very spiritual, and I felt like somehow I was given that idea. People may disagree with me, but that’s how I feel.” She’d dabbled in a variety of different outlines for her book that didn’t quite feel right, and then one morning, it just clicked for her. “I just knew that this was the right framework,” she said. “I felt like I could move forward.”
As for the final overarching message of Ms. Geske-Peer’s book, she wants readers to take several different messages from the book, all of equal importance. “I want them to believe that these five senses can be used with ourselves, not just with others. We can observe ourselves, we can engage with ourselves, and we can appreciate ourselves. We can listen to ourselves; literally, if you talk aloud to yourself as I do sometimes, we can get in touch with our feelings. That can look different for each person.” While listening to her talk, I began to understand these concepts on a deeper level. While these senses Ms. Geske-Peer has created can be used in a business sense, they can also be used with self and as an effective tool to connect with ourselves. “I also hope they see the ideas surrounding how to manage conflict with poise as real tactics that they can use to better their lives.” Conflict is something nobody loves to deal with. Still, it is a part of the human experience, and Ms. Geske-Peer’s book presents strategies for people to use to make conflict easier in all situations to solidify and strengthen relationships. She also demonstrates in her book the different downsides and things to avoid associated with each sense, so she hopes readers learn to avoid them.
Now for my favorite question to ask all the authors I get to talk to and my favorite part of every interview: what advice would you give to a young writer? Ms. Geske-Peer answered with, “I would say do the self-work. I often think, as writers, we get in our own way. Our confidence, our belief in ourselves, and our willingness to appear imperfect, I think that’s key. Focus on why you want to write this piece and what you want to contribute, whether that’s entertainment like through a fiction work or something else. Follow the inkling to write. Jump in, even when it feels messy and imperfect.” I love this advice because I totally relate to it. I get in the way of my own success and my own progress, sometimes by being lazy or sometimes because of fear. Ms. Geske-Peer’s advice makes me want to push through and just do it!
After my conversation with Ms. Geske-Peer, I feel inspired to push through my struggles and my imperfections to accomplish my dreams, and I hope all of you do, too.