“When it comes to leading, we need to first ask ourselves what it is that we follow.”

Aaron Bayer

  • His Mom and step-dad were both lounge singers.
  • They were very transient in the early days.
  • They were homeless and lived in garages at times.
  • Aunt was a heroin addict.
  • Aunt’s boyfriend died of an overdose.
  • Pinnacle moment for him at age 16 when his brother died.

Overcoming Hardship & Mentors

  • When speaking of Mr. Smith, Aaron’s 8th-grade social studies teacher, Aaron said, “He saw something in him, that I didn’t see in myself, and I don’t know that anybody did. He told me, ‘I don’t know if you really learn like other kids, but I’ve heard you talk to other kids and these groups, and though you don’t feel like you are connecting you just have a real way with words. and you just feel very comfortable speaking.’
  • Mr. Smith was an advocate for me that entire year.
  • “Growing up the two things that did not have any value to Aaron: police officers, and educators. They were the rule enforcers.
  • Another influential person in Aaron Bayer’s Life was Mr. Miller, his driver’s ed teacher, who told Aaron, “You better realize that the world already has a pegged as a statistic. You come from a divorced family, and there is alcoholism. there is drug abuse. You are transient. you are eating at missions. The world knows exactly where you are headed, and the world knows exactly what you are going to become. So, you can kind of fall into the gravity that is that statistic, they have you pegged and you do likewise, and you go out and do likewise.”
  • “You haven’t fallen into the gravity of this societal standard that has normed you to be nothing more than a broken kid, from a broken home, with broken dreams, without the skills to put them all back together.
  • Probably the most influential mentor and the closest thing to a father figure that Aaron had in his life was a young police officer, Gary Johnson, that used to patrol the area that Aaron grew up in. Officer Johnson would have genuine conversations with them, and then miraculously ended up being the school resource officer at the high school that Aaron ended up going to.
  • Office Johnson gave Aaron the opportunity to trust.



  • “When it comes to leading, we need to first ask ourselves what it is that we follow.”
  • Your lived experiences are what drives you and motivates you.
  • “There have been times for me that I look back on my life and the last 42 years and I feel that I have struggled more in the first 20 years than most have after 84 years.
  • “I have nothing to lose, I believe that I have seen the worst that life has to offer. I believe that I have lived in the shadows and the darkness of society.”
  • “I’m not pursuing greatness for the sake of being great, but I am pursuing that passion in me, and I’m going to live the life that I believe that I am supposed to live through that lens through that experience, and hope that one day the world will paint me as great.
  • “I don’t know if some of the great leaders that we’ve had in the last two generations, the night before they had that moment in time that we all remember, I don’t know that the night before they went to bed and said tomorrow I’m going to be great. I don’t know that happened. I think moreover, these women, these men that have done and committed that we would say were amazing leaders, didn’t believe themselves to be. They were simply doing what it was they believed was right and just and true that they had a passion for. We were the ones that then in turn said, ‘wow they are great.’ “
  • “P.S. tomorrow I will be great.
  • “We attach leadership with success.”
  • At the funeral of an 8th grader that committed suicide, Aaron Bayer said, “If we gave this young person the type of support that we are giving them now; if we gave them that same support in life, we may not be in this moment. I implore you to smile at people, use people’s names, and know one thing about them.
  • “If we could really change the world one conversation at a time, what would that look like?
  • Success is finding happiness wherever you choose to find it.

Three things you should do every day:

  1. Smile at people
  2. Use People’s names.
  3. Know one thing about them.
“I have had a chance to learn early that this thing, this pursuit is not about trying to find a way to hold my torch as high as possible, but to figure out how to carry as many torches as I can for others.”

Book Recommendations

  1. Rules of the Red Rubber Ball – Kevin Carroll
  2. David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
  3. Start With Why – Simon Sinek

The following is the poem that Aaron Bayer wrote for his 13-year-old daughter.

“Success” By Aaron Bayer

But at 6 I’m inquisitive, hesitantly daring, quick to smile, would gladly walk to chase the beauty of nature found in a mile, easily get lost in 100 to catch it, doesn’t slow me, mile by mile, it grows me like magic.

And 10 is the beginning not the end, a colorful array, make believe, let’s pretend, imagine daddy, what if I…, ran super fast, invisible, was never last, invincible, my kingdom vast, what if I….

Could be a kid, longer than you did, chasing the wind, never would my imagination be thinned, unbound as the world spins, no expectation, bathed in adoration, silence shattered by my childish chatter… let’s begin.

How is it then that I weigh far less than the world that weighs on me, 13 is more than I bargained for, take your legacy from my bag, remove your labels, let go the tags, It’s too heavy this load I bare, yours and mine, it’s not fair!!

I’m not your perfect fix, I’ll never survive this fabricated context, thin is the air I breath, in an attempt to be the heir you seek. This life is enough, my highs and lows, I deflect what you project, every selfish blow…

Loose the grip, it’s too tight, my reflection’s become a black and white, what’s this disease, family legacy, vibrant colors, I no longer see, your recruiting for a life of futility, stop defining success for me……

Daddy what if I…. had no facade, was pursuing my passion, perfectly flawed, growing up quite unintentionally, dressing for success unconventionally, purple hair, a pink bow tie, tennis shoes, tie die, would you love me more or less, if my life didn’t exemplify your definition of success, reflect your idea of a perfect mess…

Aaron C. Bayer
Oregon Trail School District

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