People with purpose: Peter Sanderson
8 min read
25 Feb 2021
8 min read
25 Feb 2021
When Peter Sanderson gets a birthday card from his niece and nephew, it reads "To nice Uncle Pete." This might have something to do with Pete doing something silly, such as dancing, but no one can claim these kids are wrong: Peter Sanderson has plenty of room in his heart for others.
Peter Sanderson is known as a family man and a supporter in his local community. With his active lifestyle, Peter has enough energy for "getting things done," but still had time to become slightly addicted to TV series during the pandemic.
Peter is the second storyteller in our new People with Purpose series, in which the people of Wärtsilä share about the major turning points in their lives in their own words, telling us what brings purpose to their days and where they find the energy to get out of bed every morning.
Let’s now give the stage to Pete himself.
The most important thing in life
It’s a lucky coincidence that I happened to be in the college library at the right time to meet my future wife 19 years ago. Now, we’ve been married for 12 years and have two boys who are nine and two years old.
All my life, I have lived in Hampshire, England, and our closest ones live nearby: my mum, my dad, my sister’s family as well as my wife’s sister and their parents, who are like second parents to me. In normal times, we spend all our weekends together, so the pandemic restrictions – not visiting other households – have felt tough. We’ve had to keep in touch through video calls, which usually end up with me amusing the kids (and myself, of course) with a quiz or disco.
About seven years ago, our family had to make an important decision when my employer offered me an opportunity in New Zealand. I was tempted to move, but we chose to stay in England so our son could stay close to his grandparents. Now, when comparing the Covid statistics of these two countries, I nearly regret that decision. But all the kidding aside, there is nothing that could make me happier than the closeness we have in our family now.
Instead of living abroad, I see our family owning a summer place one day. Thanks to my dad’s profession, I spent holidays abroad since I was young. My family also loves trips to the beach and summer activities. During the pandemic, we tried a caravan holiday, and the kids had even more fun than in our regular trips!
Why a healthy lifestyle matters
Becoming a parent has been the biggest turning point in my life. Since then, the continuous worry determines what you do in your life. I want to provide the best for my family and set a good example, hoping that one day, my sons are successful grown-ups with the same morals when it comes to family, health, and career.
Another major event in my life was the day when my grandmother died. I was 24 and had become her closest relative. That day, she called me to say she wasn’t feeling well. I went over, and right after opening the door, she fell on the floor. I called the ambulance and tried to resuscitate her. Unfortunately, she died in my arms, a heart-breaking moment.
At the end of the day, I’m glad she reached me and that I was able to bring her comfort as she passed. It was like she was waiting for me to come before letting go. After a while, I started to get over the experience, the same way I always survive: I learnt from it and began to make things better. I started thinking about how I can prevent this from happening again. As a result, I’m promoting healthy eating and drinking habits – now I’m into Slimming World recipes – and I’m constantly updating my first aid skills.
When it comes to living healthy, football brings me feel-good moments. Besides playing for a local veteran football team, I coach my son’s team. This volunteer coaching has given me a lot, and I’m constantly learning to become better at it. In particular, I’ve learnt how difficult it is to coach your own son. You tend to be stricter with your own kids, as you think they could try harder. I’ve needed to grow as a father to understand that my son is not the way I was as a child; he is a different person. So, I’m focused on treating him like everyone else both in trainings and on our way back home.
Lockdown as an opportunity to do good
I feel frustrated without my freedom, so my wife’s patience is a great balance for me since I am a bit hyper (her words, not mine). However, I have a job, I have a house, and food on the table, I have a healthy family – what else do you really need? Covid has made me realise what truly matters in my life. Unfortunately, many people are a lot worse off. That’s why I wanted to start taking care of my community; with my can-do attitude, I knew I’d get things done.
When the pandemic was at its worst, I helped set up a local group to deliver food, prescriptions, and essential items to vulnerable people who were not allowed out of their homes. This opened my eyes to how many people were struggling. One of the people to whom I delivered food was a 90-year-old cancer patient. One day, I was describing his situation to my wife, and my oldest son overheard the conversation. He then made a crossword and donated his own board game, insisting that I could cheer up the old man with them. Being part of the support group was very rewarding to me, and it felt good that my son also saw the value of it.
When the lockdown ended, I needed to figure out new ways to help. As exercising is an essential part of my life, I built my new project around that. The idea was to run a full marathon up and down our 700-meter street. It became my fastest marathon so far, and I raised over GBP1,500 for our local youth football team.
Next, with a friend, I took up the challenge to run 5km a day for a month, and I raised over GBP1,500 towards a local food bank, which supported over 50 unprivileged families in my local community. The families got food parcels with turkeys and presents so they could have a happy Christmas in spite of the situation. Some people even joined the challenge. The most rewarding part was seeing my wife and son take up running. Running together with them is like a dream come true to me.
Besides running, I’ve been hosting online skill sessions foryouth football teams. Recently, I made these videos publicly available with the hope that I can help young people stay active during the tough times.
Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve also learnt some Do-It-Yourself skills. I used to be helpless with DIY; my grandfather’s carpenter skills weren't passed on to me since he was too impatient to teach us. Therefore, in the past, I'd rather let someone else do the job if I’m not able to finish it. But during the lockdown, I’ve needed to put up a shed relying simply on the manuals.
Still, the most important thing during lockdown is that I've spent more time with my wife and children, getting to know each other for the better. It hasn’t always been easy; we’ve been homeschooling and potty training while working remotely. However, we are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend this much time together. You wouldn’t choose to live in pandemic times, but I have tried to make it the best life I can, both for my family and for the local community.
DIY education has taken me a long way
Twenty years ago, employers seemed to prefer work experience over education. So, I chose to start my career straight after college with an ambition to do better than if I had gone to university. With today’s opportunities, I probably wouldn’t suggest a similar path to others. However, my parents have always encouraged me to make my own choices, and I will do the same with my kids.
While still in college, I started my career as a party host for a children’s play area, and I could still see myself as a PE teacher. Luckily, coaching has given me the opportunity to do what I love; provide opportunities and learning to others.
That is what I want to do at Wärtsilä too: help my team to grow and be successful. I’ve been working in my current role as Sales Support Manager for two years, and I’m proud to say how hard our team worked in 2020. We beat the previous year's results despite the pandemic.
All in all, I believe there are a lot of similarities when leading a team at work and in football. For example, in every football match, my team follows the TELL-rule; T – Try your best, E – Enjoy yourself; L – Listen to others, L – Learn something new from mistakes and other people. These principles enrich our work life, too.
During my nearly 20 years in the marine industry, I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot and I sometimes miss seeing new sites, cultures and other people’s way of living. But I also know it’s a lonely life at the hotel after the workday. My favourite work trip was a two-week journey on the U.S. west coast, where a colleague and I worked together to train our distributors. I liked how social the locals were, always asking us out after the workday.
My entire career, I’ve been training other people, making sure everyone understands the benefits of change. I enjoy how my work allows me to learn, come up with new ideas, and build trust with my trainees. It's always been clear in my mind why I go to work and what in my work makes me proud. While working in McMurdo, it was selling life-saving products. Now with Wärtsilä, we can contribute to decarbonisation.
All in all, the best life advice I could give to anyone is: just live, don’t sit around and think about it too much! If you do, then you miss the whole point of living. Perhaps, most of us find our meaning of life just doing stuff; you create it as you go. I think one’s calling is unique – so, let it be whatever you want it to be!