It’s a balmy evening in Barbados and I’m sitting face to face with Paul Carrick Brunson. Endorsed by Oprah, adored by tens of thousands of social media fans and now, by a group of Barbadian women who have just heard him speak on life, love and success.
Paul, a mentor, entrepreneur and TV host, known for his matchmaking skills, is here as the keynote speaker at an inspirational event, Live Again: The Barbados Experience. The universe conspired for me to interview him for this post and I am beyond grateful! You’ll see why as you read on.
Paul started his career as an investment banker, then managed money for a wealthy family who became billionaires. After that, he went to business school to hone his skills. “Then I left it all and became a matchmaker – of all things,” he says.
He worked with that family by day but by night, devoted his time to a non-profit organization he founded. He was working with underserved minority kids, and realized none of them came from households with two parents. “Here we were, focused on math and science but fundamentally, in the household, there were much larger issues. That’s why I decided to become a matchmaker,” Paul says.
From investment banking to matchmaking. How?!
Everyone told me it was the worst thing in the world to do. But one thing I have realized is that when you begin to pivot in your career, whether or not it is the right move, it will always be validated quickly. And I think it is typically validated by what people are either willing to pay, or opportunities that you get as a result of the pivot. So in my situation, I started matchmaking and within seven months of doing that, literally, Oprah Winfrey contacts me.
So then I went off and I did two TV shows with Oprah. One of them was a complete flop but it’s all good. And then from there, I had a number of deals with different networks but eventually, I got the deal that I currently have now at ABC, where I just shot a show that’s coming next year during primetime.
What else were you up to during that time?
I built a matchmaking agency with my wife; it was the largest in the United States. We sold the agency about four months ago, so I am now unemployed. [Laughter] But I am also at a point where I gathered this really cool career experience and my objective now is to share it. And I really want to leave life empty.
You’ve said that your goal is to help people live their best lives. What does that really look like?
By the way, no one has ever asked me this question before. Living your best life is truly subjective. It’s about looking at your entire life and asking yourself, “What does my optimal self look, feel, sound, smell like?” “Do I actually feel like I can achieve that?” If you feel like you can, that means that you are actually living your best life.
Many of us have limited our dreams, hopes, aspirations. How do you condition your mind to dream bigger, to reach higher?
You need to surround yourself with people and content that exemplify thinking higher, thinking bigger. Think about the people you spend most of your time with. It could be the person you share a cube with at work. Ask yourself, “Are these people inspiring? Are they living gargantuan lives?” Then it’s also about the content. Content really shapes our beliefs. I stopped watching reality TV and I stopped reading gossip blogs, which some of my friends run. Once I started removing that kind of content from my life, my life changed. Managing the content, managing the people, that helps you manage your beliefs.
What about people who are living their best lives but they’ve got no one to share their success with? What’s the connection between success and romantic love?
I don’t believe that we were put on this Earth to live it alone but I also don’t believe that everyone was meant to be married. Those two things are hard for a lot of people to reconcile when I say them. We have to be OK and understand that no one is responsible for our happiness, with the exception of ourselves. Do I find tremendous value in romantic love? Yes! But I also know people who are not in romantic love and they are living what I would consider to be truly fulfilled, successful lives.
Now that is a game-changing response. Because, for a lot of people, the picture of success is having someone to share it with. Being alone is scary. People are afraid of dying alone.
Wow, Paul. So, someone’s reading this and thinking: I need to surround myself with the right people, be careful with the content I consume and realize that I am responsible for my own happiness. Now that I know this, what do I do next?
First, you have to do some type of assessment and analysis. And that’s hard to do. I actually rounded up my friends and family, and I had them tell me about all the things they thought I did well and all the things that I didn’t do well, and what their perception was of me. Then ask yourself, “Is this something that I’m proud of? Does this speak to who I want to be?”
The second step is identifying where you are going. Who do you really want to be? What do you aspire to be?
Then the last step is asking, “What is the strategy for moving from where I am today to where I would like to go?”
And strategy is simply goals and a plan. There are more specific, intricate steps but that’s the high-level version.
The self-assessment part sounds pretty scary. It could be daunting and difficult, no?
There’s a book I would recommend in this process. It’s called, Reinventing You by Dorie Clark, the seminole expert on personal branding. In the book, she talks about different ways you can use to assess yourself. The point is that, if you are not in a position to be critiqued, then you are not in a position to grow.
Paul is the author of It’s Complicated: But It Doesn’t Have to Be, which was recently optioned by Sony Pictures. He has been featured in major media outlets, including CNN, Good Morning America, OWN and the Washington Post. An American with roots in Jamaica, Paul lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Jill and sons, Kingston and Liam. Follow Paul on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.