Be humble. No matter how good you are, there will be a point of failure. Where you don’t meet your own expectations. You may enjoy your success, but not everyone necessarily wants to hear about it as it may point out shortcomings other individuals possess they may not wanna hear about. People wanna be around people like themselves. They like the status quo. If the status quo was trifled with, it rocks the boat when you may not necessarily be looking to rock the boat.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Peter Lucchese. Peter is the founder of Sam’s Social, a social network designed to enable new interaction based on how you interact with others in real life. Peter is a CPA with a background in development and financial consulting. His consulting career brought him to many new places where he had to develop new relationships and he didn’t always find tools to be successful. Peter reached a point where he was able to lead an initiative to bring a vision to life. Peter still consults for Fortune 500 clients occasionally and also helps bring his initiatives and those of others to life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I like to think of what I am, what I can do, and how I will be remembered at the end of the day. I am a lot of things. I can do a lot of things. But does the normal path relating to those things leave the legacy that I’d like to have when everything is said and done? And the answer for me is probably not.
I am a CPA with a background in development. I’ve always liked to challenge myself, solve difficult problems and be in multiple aspects of things where I learn & develop skills. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in consulting and traveling to new locations where I didn’t necessarily know anyone. I wanted to make new friends outside of work, however, I never found a medium that provided me what I was looking for.
I walked through the different options available to users and the market failed. I met others along the way that also showed disapproval for the various options that were tried. The setup was incomplete. There was always something missing because nothing was proactive to make the situation successful. It didn’t just affect singles though. When life changes, what do you do? What sets you up for adjustment?
The question I ask myself is what should a social network do? The answer to me is it should enable us to grow. It should set up for success and not leave you short… because that’s when a failure occurs. It should be a utopia of social networking concepts to let me do whatever I need to do to make new friends. It should enable me to interact as I do in real life and be seen as I am in real life. This didn’t exist and I reached a point where it was possible to bring Sam’s Social to life.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
It’s because our social environment has gone awry. You need to look at it this from two perspectives — the way we interact in real life and the way we interact and the tools available to us online. We’ve managed to put these into such perplexing positions that it has created significant problems in our culture.
We’ve made it okay to go out with other people and spend significant periods of time engulfed in our phone! You can look around a given establishment and see multiple tables immersed in their phones as opposed to enjoying the company right in front of them. There is nothing healthy about that. It sends a bad message to the other individuals you are with. It sends a bad message to observers seeing you. And at some level, you know you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
But we’ve made it okay. We’ve established sayings like “Haters gonna hate” — and made them OK. And my response to that is — that hater doesn’t like what you’re doing because it’s putting them down in some way. This, of course, doesn’t apply to everything relating to the saying but it applies to a vast majority.
We also live in an ever changing, busy world where we don’t necessarily replace the friends that we lose… And we lose a lot of friends! We move. Marry. Have kids. Divorce. Change. These life events happen while we’re so busy and we don’t necessarily realize that our lives are different even though we didn’t do anything! My best friends now married. He doesn’t want to go to singles events. I need to find someone to replace him, but that’s not called out to me. We don’t recognize it and life goes on, but it’s not the same and it’s something less than it was before and we haven’t done anything about it.
You then come over to our knight in shining armor — the Internet… Our information source! The place where we should be able to solve these problems. We come to our biggest candidate for social interaction… Facebook. It does exactly what its owners wanted to do: keep you online and engaged. And that’s great for them, except it’s leaving many individual short.
When I look at a Facebook profile, I see awesome pictures and people that have a great life! I do not see a person saying, yeah, I could use an extra friend. You can find the connections of my friends as potential new friends, except that doesn’t necessarily do me a whole lot of good. If I wanted to be friends with them, I probably would be, but I’m not really set up to be friends in any manner. The more likely scenario is that I’m an acquaintance of theirs and that’s about it. Combine all this with the cloud floating above Facebook and this leaves a gloomy picture.
You can go through the list of logical choices for making real friends and combating mental health conditions and social disorders and you will continue to be left short. Society hasn’t ordained a true service for making friends online. So given the way we act in real life and our current online solutions, we still have a ways to go towards correcting this issue. I do think a significant majority of the 44,000,000 could be helped if they were set up correctly based on societal embraced solutions.
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
The goal of Sam’s Social is to enable people to make new relationships in ways they previously couldn’t. In my other lives, I was a kid’s tennis instructor in high school and college and have spent a lot of time in consulting, working in difficult environments with complex problems. Not all kids wanna learn tennis! You need to make it interesting for them and do something unexpected. The same can be said for adults. When a difficult problem arises, some shy away from it and say, “yes it’s there, but we don’t know what to do with it,” and walk away from it. I’ve been one to tackle these problems head-on and say, “let’s solve this problem and have fun doing it,” and that’s what happens!
I’ve used these ideologies in addition to a few others. I think the United States is one of the most social places on earth and I think people take pride in that! I’ve also incorporated tools that are not just for people with social issues. There is a reverse-engineered aspect to benefit mental wellness through the crew profile that Sam’s Social offers. It’s designed to show off your friendship and how great your friends are. It allows you to meet groups of friends as a group of friends. In doing so, even people with a lot of friends will be looked at favorably if they still say, “yes, I want to make new friends.”
Inherently, this will give people that may have issues a chance to see that it’s OK to need more friends! As popularity increases, this mentality will work its way into different areas of our life, such as with families, the elderly, and couples, and have a positive effect there as well. I’m very excited to see how this dynamic works as our service continues to grow. We’ve also established a blog on our site to help with social issues. How to handle situations.
I think the big thing Sam does though is it actually tries to help people. We identified 6 areas that are vital to new interaction:: Personality, interests, opinions, scheduling, trust, and interacting as you need to. If information is missing in any of these areas, failure occurs. “I wish I knew…” or “I wish I could…” Sam’s Social provides tools in each of these six areas to eliminate the “what if.” We all meet people differently and have things that are important to us. We try not to leave people short and try to amend our service when possible.
So there’s a multitude of methodologies used. I want to make it fun and confront. I want to be different and take pride in it. I want to say there’s a solution when there may not be have been a solution before. I want to be associated with generating new relationships, however, you want to interact, and for it to be cool!
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
I believe the first time I had the idea for Sam was in 2007. The idea was to enable the new interaction for yourself in a social capacity, in a dating capacity, or to be part of a crew (a group of friends) and show off your friendship. Say — my friends and I are cool and fun — Want to join us? The idea slowly morphed to also include couples and families as that is a different type of interaction! Each profile type would be separate and distinct from the other as if I’m a guy looking for a friend, I don’t need to see his dating profile. Keep each profile in its own swim lane and ask the questions needed to enable new interaction. We’re all social. So you create a social profile and from there create profiles specific to how you want to interact.
I was working in consulting and was never able to bring this product to fruition, but I also thought in the back of my mind that someone else would come up with a similar concept and have great success with it. After all, this checks the boxes of a successful company: it has a simple concept, it has mass appeal, and it has good intentions and benefits the greater good.
Of course, this never quite occurred. As I traveled more and over the years and interacting with people, the need presented itself more and more. The combination of doing something “cool” but also something that could truly help people and be rewarding became difficult to pass up. Products are there to fit a need. Most products can’t necessarily say they help people. This can and it’s fun… another claim most products can’t make. Several years ago, I was able to start this project as it was a good time to bring Sam to life.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of all aspects and all types of mental illness. This is for individuals much more knowledgeable than me to speak to. What I can speak to are the conditions that exist in the environment that causes less severe mental illness. I’ve described some of this previously, but as someone who’s proactively trying to address the issue (and knowing that I’m not the only one trying to address it), there’s a decent amount that could be done.
As the purveyor of an app/web site, it is more difficult than it should be to attain the initial traction. The app stores are filled with social networking apps that have bad review after bad review and it will frustrate the user to a point where it is not worthwhile to search anymore.
Initial placement within the search engine is also difficult. The next Facebook may be out there but you may never find it because it can’t get displayed in the search results. It wasn’t always like this. There’s no human evaluation of the search terms and what should or should not be included in them. So the first step would be to support the little guy that’s trying to make things better.
Being an accountant, accountants make assertions on the statements they present to applicable audiences. I’m sure search engines have similar principles they abide by, but they need to revisit their principles when a failure occurs at such a high rate. It’s a very difficult job to do, but I think it needs to be done better. So much is left up to algorithms that there are points were a sanity check as needed.
I think much of this falls to the services that help the individual and the individuals themselves. A sanity check of ourselves and the ones around us is needed whenever it can be given to keep us on the right path. It doesn’t always occur to the individual that there may be an issue, but the acknowledgment of something may correct the path. After all, the most important part of problem-solving is the ability to identify the problem.
What are the 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Keep your mind and body active with non-linear activity and take care of myself. I’m a big believer in competition. Once you stop competing, what are you doing? You were tested for the first x years of your life. There is a growth that comes with that mental stimulation and I believe it carries through to the rest of our life. I play basketball and some computer games fairly competitively and I think I’m better off for it. I do creative projects around the house. I’ve built furniture, made improvements that others might get a contractor to do. I’ve created art. Create something that you like. Have fun! Let go! You can learn anything on the Internet. Use it.
- Have fun when I need to have fun. It’s too important for your mental well being. You spend so much time with your guard up so high that you need to take some time and let it down. I’m able to go out and have fun alone if needed from my travels, but not all people can or do. It’s another reason why we came up with Sam. People need to have this fun outlet, otherwise, that energy can become negative which causes more harm than good. Having fun when you need to have fun means to establish a minimal, non-evasive thing to do that makes you happy. If others don’t like it, provided it’s not illegal, it’s their fault!
- Always try to do your best, be diligent, but be able to put the bag of bricks down. As corporate America continues its “do more with less” mentality, people can be asked to do a lot of things. I’m no different. I’ve gone above and beyond. I’ve always taken pride in it. It’s what I like to do but sometimes what to ask can be a little too much. This is when you have to reflect on your overall situation and figure out what everything really is. You may feel pigeonholed to be in that situation. That there is nothing else to do than bend over backward. That may not actually be the case. The grass may be greener on the other side but there may be pain involved. It may also not be greener. That’s for each individual to decide.
- Walk away when it’s time. Don’t fall into a state where you’re being constantly pushed around to the point where you’re doing things you don’t want to do & the other people know this. There are bad individuals out there. They enjoy your hardships. One assignment, at a happy hour, a lady that I was supposed to be working with the team up to me for the first time and said you’re going to hate me. She preceded to say this several more times despite my attempts to alleviate the situation. But she followed through. In a world where I can ascertain just about anything given a system and an environment, they were able to derail a solution. There’s not always logic to the way everyone acts. It’s very difficult to make certain people do things. You need to learn what it’s time to walk away and make the situation better for yourself. This same can be set in your personal life. People may find something they don’t like about you and that sticks. You may be different. Better. Worse. Or they change. And the direction of your relationship changes. That’s not on you. Do your best to make the relationship work and if it doesn’t, move on and be the bigger person.
- Reach for that level that’s beyond your reach, but attainable. There are sayings like — you never truly lose until you stop trying. I don’t necessarily agree with this. I prefer the saying — fight the fights worth fighting. If you’re trying to make 2+2=5, it’s never going to happen. If you need to know how to do x, and you currently don’t, that doesn’t mean all is lost. For some, it means going out and finding someone who can do x… And potentially spend a bunch of money. For others, it means bearing down and bettering yourself to complete your goal. This happens countless times in the consulting and computer programming worlds. There will always be a new problem and new software. Solving these new problems provides mental vitality and increases your ability to overcome.
- Be humble. No matter how good you are, there will be a point of failure. Where you don’t meet your own expectations. You may enjoy your success, but not everyone necessarily wants to hear about it as it may point out shortcomings other individuals possess they may not wanna hear about. People wanna be around people like themselves. They like the status quo. If the status quo was trifled with, it rocks the boat when you may not necessarily be looking to rock the boat.
- The last one I would say is to keep the journal. I know this is a seventh, maybe I can’t count or I’m not sure if there’s a difference between six and seven but I think it’s important. It’s extremely important to keep track of what’s going on in your little head. Whether it’s good or bad, important or unimportant. It helps you identify and deal with situations and ultimately grow from them better than any other measure I know of. Whether it’s stupid or mean or brilliant, write it down and see what you wrote down. Analyze it. See if you can do something with. Microsoft word isn’t just there to write formal documents. If you don’t like to type, your speech recognition software. It works pretty well these days and does the same thing.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
I like to keep up with technology trends that better individuals and cause individuals pain. I do think we have social problems in this country that go unaddressed very easily. Society doesn’t always embrace solutions presented to it and it’s important to identify the solutions it did embrace and what caused the embracement. These trends are important to the mental health field has successful trends need to be identified and communicated.