Category Archives: Personality

3 Success Habits I Learned In 3 Days From 3 Powerful Women

3 Success Habits I Learned In 3 Days From 3 Powerful Women

Recently, I had the best week ever. Within three days, I met three of the most successful women I had ever had the pleasure of shaking hands with. Each, known for success in different industries, each armed with different talents, and each of a different generation. However, despite their many differences, there were common themes I observed from my interactions with them that will forever change how I approach business and life.

 

First, I met Susan Taylor at a Caribbean awards dinner. Susan is considered to be one of the most powerful women in the history of publishing. She was the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine for nearly two decades.

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The next day, I had the pleasure of interviewing Taraji P. Henson for Black Enterprise’s Our World at the American Black Film Festival. With her starring role on Fox’s Empire, Taraji is one of the most in demand actresses today.

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Within 24-hours after meeting Taraji, I met Miko Branch at an event I co-founded called Weekend StartUp School. Miko is the co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, a natural hair products empire. Miko is also recognized for being a pioneer in the natural hair movement.

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Now, after speaking with each of these ladies, on three different days, in three different scenarios, three traits immediately stood out and are clearly reasons for their extraordinary career success.

 

1. Stay Hungry

They all alluded to currently feeling as if they have “only scratched the surface of what can be achieved” (as was said by Miko). Most illustrative of this point is Susan Talyor, who at 69-years of age has already accomplished several lifetimes of achievement yet told me “I’m just getting started in my career and my work.” I could see in her eyes how focused she was on doing more. In my interview with Taraji, she mentioned “I can’t slowdown because I’m not anywhere near where I should be,” suggesting that despite the fact she’s the most seen actress on TV in her role as Cookie on Empire, she aspires for much more. These women personify my favorite Steve Jobs quote: “stay hungry…”

 

2. Demand Your Worth

To be successful in any area of your life, you not only have to know your worth, you must have the courage to never accept less. Take Miko for instance, she grew her company alongside her sister Titi to become a multi-million-dollar global enterprise without a penny of investment. Not because they didn’t get investor offers, they actually got many. Including outright acquisition attempts, but the sisters never gave up a percentage of ownership (not even in times of dire need for cash) because no one could match what they believed the company was worth. Taraji said “for the last 15 years, you haven’t seen me in as many roles as other actresses because I refused to take parts that paid below my rate.” Susan stated “knowing your worth is what allows you to draw the line and give yourself to you first.” These ladies have keen self-awareness to know their value and they also possess an unwavering strength to turn away from anything or anyone who can’t see that value, as well.

 

3. Know Your Accessibility is Currency

I have the opportunity to be in a lot of VIP sections, namely because I host a syndicated TV show and popular bi-weekly video chat. So my invites normally come with a “Paul, be sure to mention this on your show :-).” Whenever I’m in one of these “elite spaces” I become the ultimate people watcher. I’ve always been curious about the characteristics of the most successful and popular, so I turn into a kid at the window of a candy store in any VIP room. For those of you who haven’t been up close to A-List entertainers, business moguls, or star athletes, it’s a lot of what you probably can imagine. A bunch of folks walking around with their nose up, avoiding eye-contact, and keeping their distance from the non-VIPs at all costs. That is of course, not if you’re Susan Taylor, Taraji P. Henson, or Miko Branch. I watched how all three ladies not only welcomed each and every person who came their way, handing out hugs and kisses, but each also remained focused on the person directly before them, giving the appearance of truly caring about each conversation they had. Taraji exemplified this perfectly, literally showing me her recently purchased iWatch within 2 minutes of us meeting. I’ve witnessed only a select number of other successful people do this and my belief is that real connections with your audience/fan base/following is what distinguishes those who achieve long-term success and lasting legacy with those who disappear after their 15 minutes of fame or who have tarnished reputations long after their death. No doubt the reputation of these ladies is strong and will be intact forever because they understand and embrace that their accessibility is also currency.

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10 Things I Learned From a Legendary Director on How To Control a Room

10 Things I Learned From a Legendary Director on How To Control a Room

The moments before an interview, I have only one hope: that the person I’m interviewing won’t be an ass. Seriously, that’s it. I have the privilege of sitting down one-on-one mostly with people I’ve admired from afar – business leaders, artists, and change agents. But in a selfish move, to guard my memory of their work, I literally pray nothing will happen that will ruin my appreciation of them or their work.

 

So, when I sat down yesterday with legendary director Spike Lee for a one-on-one interview, I had the same hope. My memory of Spike goes back to his first feature length film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ and the one thing I’ve never seen him do over the years is stand down from an issue. With a personality like his, an interview can become complicated because it takes cooperation to make for a good question and answer session. There needs to be willingness from both the interviewer and the interviewee to give and take. A good interview is like watching a couple flawlessly tango.

 

With my single hope, I was focused on doing everything within my control to make my interview with Spike Lee good. As I awaited for him on the set, alongside a group of about a dozen people, I began to think about all the things I had learned over the years in order to direct the interview along the questions and themes I had researched about him. Someone then entered the room and said “Spike just arrived downstairs, he’ll be up in 3 minutes!” As the 3-minute countdown began in my head, I wasn’t nervous, I was in the zone. An edge of super confidence even came over me. I began to think, forget about this simply being good, I would show Spike Lee what a GREAT interview really was. Well, I was ROYALLY mistaken! Little did I know, in 3 minutes, I would get a master class from Spike Lee.

 

Now, less than a full day after the interview, I remain in awe of what I witnessed Spike do, effortlessly. The techniques he used should be studied and considered if you are seeking to quickly place yourself in a position of power in a room of strangers or in an interview.

 

Here are the 10 things I learned from the legendary director Spike Lee on how to control a room (and an interview).

 

1. Have a Powerful Preceding Reputation

This is much easier said than done, but it made an impact in the room so I have to mention it. Everyone knows who Spike Lee is and most would agree his brand conjures up thoughts of: intelligence, creativeness, and defiance against the status quo. These descriptors were already on our minds before he entered the room and so, it played a part in his perception once we saw him. Remember that your reputation always precedes you. Control your brand, before you even think about controlling the room.

 

2. Walk in the Room Boldly

The moment Spike entered the room, he didn’t stop walking until he landed at his interview chair. He moved with a sense of urgency. I’ve watched countless other power players do the same. Not hesitating when you break the room’s threshold gives the appearance of a true sense of purpose. When you enter a room, go to where you want to be and don’t let anything or anyone interfere with you. Spike sure didn’t.

 

3. Make Eye Contact With Everyone

As Spike walked to his chair, he appeared to be surveying the room. I didn’t quite understand it until I saw him sit down. He was actually making eye contact with everyone, individually. There were only about a dozen of us in the room and Spike connected with each person. Most people in the room simply got a quick glance and slight smile, and while appearing minor, these two actions were significant. One of the most important nonverbal signals people use to size you up and figure out your intent is your facial expression. A slight smile and eye contact suggests you’re approachable, but not overly eager.

 

4. Make it Clear You’re On a Tight Timetable

When Spike finished his room survey and sat down, he blurted out in a fun yet serious tone “Okay my people, let’s go, I have to be at ‘The Daily Show’ soon.” In just a few words, he put everyone on notice that we had a strict deadline. Psychologically, creating a sense of urgency is a master move of a power player. Urgency causes people to act quickly because you stop thinking about the unnecessary and only concentrate on the critical. So all those extra camera shots and scenes we wanted to get with Spike got thrown out the window, he gave us a new mission, just focus on the main interview. It was at this exact moment that I believe Spike “took control” of the room. He emerged as our leader (after only being in the room for a few minutes and uttering only a handful of words).

 

5. Reference Other Important Projects You’re Involved With

If you notice in the prior point, Spike mentioned “The Daily Show.” Was this by accident? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Strategically dropping a name is much different from bragging, with the latter being about your ego and the former being about the ego of those in the room with you. It’s critical to talk yourself up. Who else is going to do it? Especially when you’re working on important projects. It’s how you manage your brand and in cases like “controlling a room,” it works wonders. There we were, the Our World Black Enterprise staff (an amazing TV team that puts on a quality show but we have no where near the budget, audience, or brand of The Daily Show…at least, not yet :-)). So when Spike dropped such a high level brand, he added a sense of competitiveness to our urgency. This again was a great move. To be honest, it made me feel like I had to step up my game. I also felt humbled. Knowing my team and I were in the same media lineup of The Daily Show.

 

6. Be The First To Break The Ice

With Spike seated, it was my turn to take my place in the seat across from him. Once within eyesight, I gave him a smile, held out my hand and said “It’s an honor to meet you Mr. Lee.” I like to build a rapport with my interviewees before the start of the interview, so I was ready to launch into a pre-scripted ice breaker. I had prepared in my mind to ask Spike about the children’s book he and his wife wrote. Especially, since my family owns a copy of the book and I had recently read it to my little boys. But before I could get out my words, with laser quickness, Spike asked me “so, where did you go to school?” I responded, “Old Dominion for undergrad & Georgetown for grad.” He then immediately asked, which team I preferred. I answered “Georgetown.” As I finished pronouncing the “town” in Georgetown, he started with his next question about my thoughts on the basketball coach. Long story short, this dude completely flipped the script on me!!! He was leading our pre-interview session. Guiding it where he wanted, at his own pace. Spike broke the ice first. “Breaking the ice” is basically the initial dialogue you have with someone, just the first 1 or 2 exchanges. From what I’ve witnessed, whoever controls those first few exchanges, typically maintains control of the conversation going forward. In this case, Spike beat me to it. So after meeting him just seconds prior, before the camera even began to roll, the legendary director was already controlling the interview.

 

7. Use “Power” Body Language Moves

Once the official on air interview began (Spike yelled “Action”, by the way), I noticed something Spike was doing that I first mistook for coyness and later realized it was another masterful control move. We were both seated in swivel chairs and with the ease of a foot push, the chair would swivel from side to side. While I asked him questions, he sat in a squared off position with me – belly to belly. However, once my question was asked and we began to exchange on the topic, his foot would swivel his chair ever slightly away from me. From being someone who has studied body language for nearly a decade, I’m aware that the movement of someone’s belly button away from you suggests a disinterest but masterful Spike completely remixed this rule. He would focus on me, then move away, then focus on me again, then move away. It was very effective in making me feel as if at certain points I was losing his attention and therefore had to change the flow or subject in order to gain his attention back. He was making me work and controlling the topics of our conversation, by the slight push of his foot.

 

Another body language rule he used quite effectively was pointing his finger. However, instead of what you would typically think, that someone pointing a finger at you is offensive, Spike instead would point his finger upward. I’ve actually not seen that move since I was a little boy and my mother was telling me “no.” By the simple point of his finger as I was talking, it politely signaled for me to pause. It was ridiculously effective and didn’t feel as if he was being rude, at all. To experiment, I used the upward finger pointing move in 3 conversations since the interview and it’s like a magic wand. Whoever you’re talking to just automatically stops talking 🙂 (I suggest using this sparingly).

 

8. Use the Power Pause

Google any video interview of Spike and you’ll see he does something with his delivery that few people do, especially on a televised interview. He pauses, at will. On TV, at live events, on podcasts, any situation with time limitations, people normally don’t slow down, they actually speed up their cadence. Not only that, from advice I’ve received from some of the best TV producers in the business, the key with interviews is to talk succinctly and drop quick (verbal) bombs – this reasoning comes from the fact TV is sound bite driven so if you say something quick and clever, chances are it’ll make additional clips of the show (like a commercial tease). No person I’ve ever interviewed has defied this law, except Spike Lee. The funny thing is that a “power pause” is a technique many interviewers not interviewees use (I first learned about the power pause from watching Barbara Walters. She is notorious for asking a question, getting an answer, and not responding to the answer and like magic, the interviewee sensing the silence, delves deeper in their answer and gives up something they hadn’t shared before). So with the power pause at his disposal, Spike had another tool to control the conversation.

 

9. Don’t Use Fillers…Ever.

Spike delivered a filler free interview. The bottom line is that the use of “umm,” “yeah,” “like,” etc., destroys the appearance of confidence in your subject matter as well as yourself.

 

10. Make No Apologies

Name drop coming in 3, 2, 1…I remember Oprah telling me that every person she ever interviewed asked her the same question afterwards, “How did I do?” Over the past 2 years, having interviewed about 60 very prominent artists, business leaders, and change agents, that same question came up, as well. Inevitably, at some point after the interview, the interviewee would lean in close to me, nearly whispering and ask, “Paul, how did I do?” Yesterday, the streak ended. When our interview wrapped, Spike wished my Georgetown basketball team well, thanked me for the interview, and that was that. He gave not even the slight appearance of concern for my impression of the quality of his interview. I respect that. It’s like Kobe Bryant walking off the court and asking someone “was my game okay?” Power players don’t need a confirmation – they know if they crushed it or got crushed. Now, is feedback important? Of course it is. But if your primary goal is to control the room, what’s the need for feedback when you already know you’re a legend.

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Do You Suffer From “Type Hype?”: How To (Really) Find Your Match

Do You Suffer From “Type Hype?”: How To (Really) Find Your Match

Remember the popular, satirical YouTube video called “(Authentic) Black Marriage Negotiations”? Well, if not, to refresh your memory: the wildly popular video featured a computer generated image of a Black woman listing all the things she wanted in a man.


The clip was loathed by the many, but there were some who liked the video. It gained my attention because it tapped into what has been a big issue in my work.

People are often unable to tell values from wants.  Often, these people suffer from “Type Hype.” But, what’s the fix?

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12 Reasons Why Women Find Idris Elba So Irresistible (And What Men Can Learn)

12 Reasons Why Women Find Idris Elba So Irresistible (And What Men Can Learn)

Okay, I have a confession: I’m fascinated by how fascinated women are with Idris Elba. You first met Elba in 2002 when he stepped onto the blocks of Baltimore in his breakout role as Stringer Bell on HBO’s critically acclaimed show The Wire, and since then, he has become widely known as “one of the sexiest men on the planet.”

I would even go as far to say Idris has dethroned Denzel, in your hearts, claiming his title as the new King of Irresistible.

But with millions of men on the planet, how is it that one man has so many women so captivated? Better yet, why is it? Is it because he has a smooth British accent, or as my cousin would say, that “smooth dark chocolate skin?” His stare, maybe?

I’m here to tell you, you love Elba for all those reasons, and some. I’ve spent time studying him in the hopes of helping women to better identify the exact characteristics that compel them to fall for a man. I also did it for the fellas, so we can fully understand the specific attributes that equal “sexy” to a woman. The bottom line is, there are several scientific reasons why women find men irresistible and Idris possess all of them. Here’s the breakdown.

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(30 Steps to a Better You): Step #8: Do You Know Your Personality Type?

(30 Steps to a Better You): Step #8: Do You Know Your Personality Type?

“Personality has power to uplift, power to depress, power to curse, and power to bless.” ~Paul Harris 

What’s your type?

And I’m not asking what type you’d prefer to date. Let’s talk personality.

This next step in our “30 Steps to a Better You” series was covered extensively in my book, “It’s Complicated.” Knowing your personality type (and how that fits with the personality types of others) is an integral part of better understanding ourselves and improving our relationships.

Essentially, there are four basic personality types – Promoter, Supporter, Controller, and Analyzer. While there may be some overlap (you could be a promoter type with some controller tendencies) most of us tend to fall into one of those four distinct categories.

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How To Build or Rebuild Trust (in 14 Steps)

How To Build or Rebuild Trust (in 14 Steps)

Trust can take a lifetime to build and only a second to lose. We’ve seen these words play out in the lives of countless public figures, among our friends & family, and in our own personal life.

As a part of my coaching & matchmaking intake process, I conduct a “360 analysis” which includes interviews with my clients’ past spouses, dates, and friends. In nearly 100% of the cases, “loss of trust” was reported as an ingredient in the demise of a past relationship. I often say that all relationships (personal, professional, and romantic) begin and end with trust.

So with trust being such an integral part of our relationships, knowing how to manage it is imperative. In today’s post I focus on how to build trust or what to do when trust is lost AND you want to regain it. Here are 14 ways to build or rebuild trust:

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