New Memoir ‘Notes for the Children’ Provides a Lifetime’s Worth of Guidance

The winter of 2023-24 saw the publication of two new books featuring the stories of two very different business leaders. One is about a household name who leveraged his immense wealth to become one of the most polarizing figures of the 2020s.

The other concerns a humble, self-reflective, and self-made entrepreneur who is content to stay out of the limelight while constantly striving to be a better leader, father, and human being.

The first instance refers to the new biography of Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson, which chronicles the volatile leader with “Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings, an exceedingly high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama, an epic sense of mission, and a maniacal intensity that was callous and at times destructive.”

The second book, Notes for the Children, by Patrick Priestner, serves as an instruction manual – not just for business, but for all the challenges and triumphs in day-to-day life. Ostensibly written as a gift to Priestner’s five children and four grandchildren, it serves as a guide that can be shared and enjoyed by anyone seeking an antidote to the cut-throat tactics and ruthlessness which are so often lauded in business books.

Priestner, a Canadian entrepreneur, founded and developed one of the most successful automotive businesses in Canada. The book chronicles his life as a son, a brother, a car salesman, an award-winning automotive entrepreneur—and his most rewarding roles, as husband and father.

Priestner writes of his humble beginnings, growing up with an alcoholic father who died at a young age, and a mother who battled alcohol and pill addictions.

Through his engaging and inspiring storytelling, Priestner takes readers from the streets of his childhood neighborhoods to the bustling car dealership where he made his first sale. He reveals the challenges and joys of his relationships with family members and loved ones, and how music and Buddhist philosophy helped him cope with the struggles that life threw his way with compassion and forgiveness.

Priestner artfully conveys his passion for teamwork, family, philanthropy (all proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Well-Being Canada, one of Priestner’s many philanthropic initiatives) and above all else, self-improvement.

The genesis for much of the text in the book came from the volume of meeting notes Priestner took and stored in assorted boxes dating back to the beginning of his five decades in the business world. As he puts it in the book, “That’s forty-eight years of contemplating and sharing my thoughts on attitude, resilience, anger, forgiveness, fear, gratitude, anxiety and every other emotion that comes our way in the sales world, and I suspect in everyone’s world.”

Those notes helped inform both the writing of the book, but also the making of the man. On its face, Notes for the Children is a poignant memoir that shares Priestner’s journey of navigating life’s challenges with mindfulness and self-compassion. What makes Priestner’s writing so compelling is how relatable he is. This is not always the case when poring through the thoughts of a high-wealth individual who founded and grew a massive business empire.

His core business teachings are rooted in his philosophy that “even though we live and work in competitive environments, we are not trying to be better than anyone else; we just try to be better than our old selves.”

That philosophy is an example of Priestner’s authenticity and optimism, but he makes it clear that his “glass half-full” attitude comes not from blind luck or naivety, but from a place of knowing that one must choose to be optimistic and work hard on a near daily basis to maintain that perspective. “I still need to give myself little attitude checks. If I forget, even for a day or two, this attitude veers a little over the wrong side and it takes some self-awareness to check in and improve my thoughts, feelings and actions,” he writes.

This small example of accountability to oneself is perhaps the secret to Priestner’s success in business and in life. The chain reaction of accountability starts with monitoring and self-correcting his own thoughts and actions and then applying this same philosophy to marshalling his businesses and personal relationships.

Notes for the Children is a unique memoir that weaves together stories of personal triumph, love, loss, and lessons learned. It is a testament to the power of making small changes in life in order to heal, inspire, and connect.

Priestner’s words provide a soothing salve to those who have been told for so long that one must be ruthless in order to succeed in business. The book also shares a lifetime’s worth of teachable moments that can be applied equally to the challenges of business and life.

Notes for the Children is available at Amazon, Indigo and Apple Books.