All posts by Paul C. Brunson

About Paul C. Brunson
Mentor, Entrepreneur, & Television Host. My goal is to help you live your best life. I’m the world’s most influential matchmaker, founded and exited three businesses, host two television shows, spent nearly a decade working directly for a billionaire, and share my experiences by mentoring through Knowledge Share

How to Master Willpower & Self-Control

How to Master Willpower & Self-Control

Master Class Body

Out of all the skills in life, I believe willpower and self-control are the most important. Without these two, any other skill becomes nearly impossible to master.

Three of the best researchers on this subject are Daniel Kahneman, who wrote Thinking Fast and Slow, Charles Duhigg who wrote The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, and Roy F. Baumeister who wrote Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Each of these books provides useful insights into the nature of willpower and self-control, how and where it originates, and ways we can strengthen our ability to exert these invaluable skills.

Here are the 6 most important lessons I discovered reading them:

Lesson 1: Self-control requires attention and effort.

There are two major areas of your brain. Here is how they work. Imagine you’re just about to leave the office on a Friday before a 4-day vacation. Your boss sends you an email asking for your help on a last-minute project that will require you to work through the evening and most of the weekend. One part of your brain, called System 1, is the part telling you to reply to the boss’s email with a letter of resignation. But it’s the other part, referred to as System 2, that reminds you of your bills, the baby on the way, and the fact that this project could place you in great favor with your employer.

System 1 is the part of the brain that works automatically to create intuitions, feelings, impressions, and inclinations. System 1 acts independently of our conscious choice; it is beyond our control. Luckily, System 2, responsible for rational and analytical thinking and judgment, can save us. When put into action, it can rein in the excesses and errors of System 1. System 1 is thinking “fast”, while System 2 is thinking “slow”. System 1 is an automatic system, whereas System 2 is an effortful one (Kahneman, 29).

System 1 can only be considered reliable in remarkably stable and predictable situations and environments. But that’s the problem, nearly everything in life today, especially in business and the workplace is unpredictable. This is reason System 2 and the self-control it makes possible is so critical. Remember that without an active System 2, your success is entirely a matter of chance or luck.

Acting on your rational thoughts opposed to simply your intuition means you’re using System 2 and that skill alone will boost every area of your professional life, from small, everyday matters to monumental decisions.

Lesson 2: Managing self-control requires an understanding of how habits are formed.

Have you seen any of the Febreze “nose blind” commercials? It was this “nose blindness” that caused a crisis within a Proctor & Gamble marketing team. They eventually discovered that many of the people who most needed Febreze (such as a woman with nine cats who is given as an example in Duhigg’s book) could no longer smell the unpleasant odors that constantly surrounded them. As a result, they changed the craving that would trigger the habit of using Febreze from wanting to cover up specific bad smells to simply wanting to finish off a newly made bed or recently cleaned room with a generally fresh scent. The team changed the product’s tagline from “’Get bad smells out of fabrics’” to “Clean life’s smells”. The cue became something like cleaning a room or making a bed, and spraying Febreze became the routine. The reward was an especially fresh smelling space (Duhigg, 54). This change in tactic transformed Febreze from a failing product into an incredibly successful item.

The Febreze story shows us that understanding habits and how they are established and engrained can be used to change our own habits (and consequently our lives). We can eliminate engrained habits by understanding habits and their components.

A habit has three fundamental parts: a cue, routine, and reward. If you have a habit you want to eliminate, figure out what reward you are seeking and find another, non-destructive routine that will give it to you. This will allow you to form a new good habit to replace the old one. This is critical. Long-term success is much more likely with this approach than with a simple attempt at elimination of the entire bad habit only.

An example of this method in practice is that Duhigg gives of breaking his habit of eating a large cookie in his workplace cafeteria every afternoon. He figured out that what he was really craving and therefore the reward, was the social interaction with the cafeteria staff that buying and eating a cookie afforded him. As a result, he changed his routine to simply chatting with a co-worker or having a tea in the cafeteria and chatting with staff and co-workers there. After a while, he forgot all about his cookie habit.

If you can diagnose the habit, you can control your behavior.

Lesson 3: Self-control without self-awareness and ego are useless.

“Willpower without self-awareness is as useless as a cannon commanded by a blind man” (Baumeister, 114). Without self-awareness, we don’t know what it is that we need our willpower to achieve. And self-awareness is essential to good self-regulation (112).

In combination with self-awareness, having an ego is key, believe it or not. A “good” ego means it’s not depleted. Baumeister acknowledges past studies showing that low and unstable levels of glucose make it harder for willpower to function, as there is less of a store of mental energy. The depletion of this energy is called “ego-depletion”. When you suffer ego-depletion, you have “diminished capacity to regulate [your] thoughts, feelings, and actions” (28). Other factors that can cause ego-depletion include fatigue (from using willpower or making decisions very recently), as well as general stress.

The reason ego-depletion can have such a negative effect is because it “results in slower brain activity” (29). If you have been in high stress meetings all morning, you might have difficulty performing well while making a sales call soon after. How can we overcome the effects of ego-depletion? The answer is by a) strengthening our willpower “muscle” (which we’ll talk about in detail in lesson 6) and b) by simply planning the specific times of the day you’ll make your most important decisions.

The best example of this is Steve Jobs, who was notorious for wearing a daily uniform of blue 501 Levis jeans, a black mock turtle neck, and gray New Balance 991 sneakers. Why did he wear a uniform? Because he didn’t want to deplete his mental energy in the morning on deciding what to wear, something he considered to be a trivial decision. Instead, he saved up his mental energy for more pressing decisions once he got to work.

Lesson 4: It’s essential to continually increase attention and effort.

Imagine you need to make a high-stakes decision like whether to stay or leave your job, both options having serious implications. While contemplating, you have difficulty focusing and turning on the System 2 part of your brain, remember this is that part that helps you rationally think about a situation. Instead, because you’re not focusing, System 1, the part that thinks fast, and merely creates impressions, chooses to generate an array of illusions and fallacies of thinking that are easy to fall prey to. Without focus, your decision is less likely to be the best one.

Concentration and focus are essential to engage System 2 and overcome the impulses that System 1 creates (Kahneman, 26), consciously improving your critical thinking skills and cultivating an active and engaged mind. You might find that calling in your System 2 more frequently and consistently depletes your mental energy at first (ego-depletion), but as you become more practiced you will find “its demand for energy diminished” (35).

Kahneman points out that “the way to block errors that originate in System 1 is simple in principle: recognize the signs that you are in a cognitive minefield, slow down, and ask for reinforcement from System 2” (447). I apply this rule by talking to myself whenever I’m in a situation when I’m not logically thinking out a problem. I say “Come on Paul, if you were to take your feelings out of the equation, what would you decide.” Just that little bit of conscious thinking could mean all the difference in the world.

Also, Kahneman and Baumeister both point out that keeping your glucose levels stable will also help keep your System 2 alert and agile. Studies have shown that people who have recently eaten and are not feeling hungry are more likely to make rational decisions. Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to make do with just a coffee for lunch when you’re swamped with work.

Lesson 5: Good keystone habits are critical in mastering self-control.

I grew up with a father who was a retired army soldier. That meant I had to make my bed every morning, no questions asked. I never could understand why it was so important. I was just going to mess it up at night anyway. What was the point? Well, it turns out that there was a point, one that extends beyond just having a neat bed.

Making your bed is just one example of what Duhigg calls a good “keystone habit”. Having such a habit can have a positive effect on your self-discipline in many other areas of your life. Just as good keystone habits can improve general self-control, it has also been found that bad keystone habits have corresponding effects across the board. The good news here is that you can use your knowledge of keystone habits to improve your willpower. People often have one bad keystone habit that if they extinguish, will make it much easier to eradicate other negative habits. One example of a common negative keystone habit is smoking.

Duhigg concedes that distinguishing keystone habits can be difficult. Here’s a helpful hint you can use: keystone habits tend to provide “’small wins’” (109). This means they create structures that support other habits. Negative keystone habits tend to support bad habits and routines, while positive ones tend to support good ones.

Maybe you have the bad keystone habit of checking your email too many times during the work day. Perhaps this habit leads to clicking on links and checking your social media accounts, making you less productive. To extinguish this habit, carefully think about what cravings and cues are driving your habit, and look for an alternative routine.

For example, if you check email when you feel anxious about work, change your routine to meditating for five minutes instead.

Lesson 6: Self-control is like a muscle and must be constantly trained or tricked.

Willpower and self-control are like muscle: becoming progressively stronger through continued use. This simile helped guide my thinking and comprehension throughout the three books. The authors show that you cannot truly have any control over how your life unfolds without having a strong willpower and self-control “muscle”.

An important part of training that muscle is understanding the power of routine. Negative habits “are strengthened by routine” (252). To help yourself become more self-disciplined, create positive, productive routines that benefit your life. Always keep your surroundings organized and tidy. This might seem like a superficial consideration, but Baumeister argues that factors such as the orderliness of our environment can also help train our willpower muscle. Many businesspeople seriously underestimate how much their messy offices might be affecting their productivity. Set aside a bit of time from your day to keep your workplace organized.

There are also tricks that you can play on yourself to make using willpower easier, especially at the beginning. Baumeister explains, “emotional control typically relies on various subtle tricks, such as changing how one thinks about the problem at hand, or distracting oneself” (130). A powerful trick is to tell yourself “later” rather than “never” when you want to give into some sort of temptation that you want to avoid (an example would be a delicious slice of cake when you’re trying to lose weight). It has been found that it’s much easier for people to exert self-control if they think they’ll be rewarded with what they really want later. Have some healthy snacks so that by the time “later” comes, you won’t want the cake as much as you do now.

“Bright lines” will also help to boost your self-control. These are clear boundaries and rules that you set for yourself (185). Bright lines are rules that you simply never break. Having this sense of boundary and limitation will make it easier for you to create positive habits even when you are experiencing ego-depletion. An example of a bright line might be the rule of never responding to a negative business email without thinking through all the implications of your response (writing them down, if you think that will help).

Baumeister also points out how believing in a higher power or at least an entity or cause greater than oneself has been shown to help people improve their willpower and self-discipline. You don’t need to be or become religious to do this. Simply dedicating yourself to a cause can do the trick. For instance, the environmental movement’s “exhortations to reduce consumption and waste are teaching children some of the same self-control lessons offered in religious sermons and Victorian primers” (183). It is also critical to try to have a long-term focus rather than one that is only focused on the here and now (165). Spend more time considering the long-term goals of your business, as well as the strategies you will use to achieve them

So there you have it, the 6 lessons I discovered by reading these 3 amazing books to help you master will-power and self-control. Be sure to watch the lecture to better understand how to apply these lessons to your life.




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Finding A Great Mentor Is Hard. Here’s How I Found Mine.

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Having lunch with my mentor Ed Neff.

There has been no greater impact on my professional, personal, and romantic life than having mentors. That’s right, I have someone’s guidance in every aspect of my life so, yes, I even have a love mentor! The benefit of mentorship hasn’t only been through my role as mentee, I’ve also realized the power of being a mentor, starting in college with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and continuing through today where I still mentor several people.


While mentorship has a certain meaning to many, it’s not neatly defined, causing confusion about exactly “what is a mentoring relationship?” The largest misconception I’ve noticed is the thought you can’t be mentored unless you have an official relationship with someone who confirms they’re your mentor. This is an old and limiting belief. I spent the early part of my business career being mentored by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Susan Taylor, & Reginald Lewis. None of them knew it, though. I believe simply listening to someone’s speeches, reading articles and blog posts they’ve written, or exchanging thoughts with them via social media, can all be considered “being mentored.” At the end of the day, I define mentorship as a personal development in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person guides a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.


That being said, you won’t get an argument from me about whether formal mentorship is more effective. It’s MUCH more effective! [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]A relationship with established roles and defined expectations always gets optimal results.[/inlinetweet] So how do you structure a formal mentoring relationship, especially with someone who is highly sought after? Well, the first thing to know is while it may seem against conventional thought, whatever you do, please, please, please do not ask someone to be your mentor. Seems strange, right? You would think in order for someone to be a mentor, you would need to ask them.


The problem is when we ask we’re typically asking strangers, people we have only met recently, or those we don’t yet have strong bonds with. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, sums it up best in her book Lean In:


“If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious.  The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”


So the real question is not so much “how to ask someone to be a mentor” but rather, “how to build a rapport with someone you would like to become your mentor?” Here are the 5 steps I used (as well as steps that were used on me) to seal the deal on my most rewarding mentoring relationships.


1. Become Mentee Material

Are you somebody you yourself would like to mentor? Are you open, flexible, resilient, and respectful? Are you eager to learn, and committed to modifying how you’re interacting in the world so you can have even more success, reward and happiness?

If the answer is “no” don’t move to step 2 until you nail this one first. It took several failed mentoring relationships for me to appreciate the importance of becoming mentee material. Be someone who is already actively building his/her life, and is demonstrating that every day.


2. Make Sure The Person Shares Your Values

Don’t simply see their awards and accolades and because you aspire for those same things believe he or she is the right person to guide you. It’s critical that you know your potential mentor has the same values you do. Values are essentially your guidebook to life. If your mentor has different values, it means they play by a different set of rules from you. Some of which you may consider immoral or unethical.


Most people searching for a mentor don’t focus on values because they either don’t know their own (and so don’t have anything to match against) or don’t want to expend the effort to assess someone else’s values. Determining someone’s values requires dedication. You have to watch actions play out over time. While values are key, I don’t believe any other similarities are critical – so your mentor doesn’t need to be the same ethnicity, religion, gender, or nationality. My greatest mentors (like Ed Neff pictured above) have all been different from me in many aspects, but we always had the same values in common. Shared values are the single most important matchmaking category for success (and that’s in all relationships – business, platonic, and romantic).


3. Advocate For Their Work!

Tweet their posts, comment in a positive way on their blogs, share their updates, start a discussion on LinkedIn about a post they’ve made, promote and attend a live talk they’re giving, and the list goes on.  In short, offer your unique voice, perspectives, experiences and resources to further the action and conversation that these influencers have sparked.  Understand that you are able to be of service to them, and go out and do it. In particular, show up in their comments – this is where many people with large followings go to for their “oxygen.” Continue to show up, give insight, and provide value, consistently. It’s important to note this step isn’t simply about advocating their work for a few weeks and thinking you’ll be noticed immediately. It takes time and keep in mind, you may never be recognized for being their advocate. It took me 4 years of consistently promoting and attending his independent film events before finally connecting with someone who later became my mentor, Ed Neff. What got me through those many years of advocating with no reciprocation was shifting my mindset to giving with no expectation.


4. Elevate Your Value To Them Over Time

Go beyond the comments and offer ideas, refer new clients or business to them. What finally placed me in a position of strength with Ed was when I introduced him to a potential acquirer of one of his businesses. This increased value will move you from someone your possible mentor sees as merely a member of their audience to a member of their network. It’s this critical step I see so many not do and it’s the one strategic move that will most differentiate you from mentee potential to mentee personified.


5. Don’t Ask For Mentorship, Make A Statement

Going back to the Sanberg quote above, you’ll know your relationship is in the right place for formal mentorship when you don’t have to “ask” but simply say – “you’re my mentor.” I recall when I made this same statement to Ed, we were having dinner and towards the end I simply said “thanks for being such a great mentor.” That was 7 years of stellar guidance ago.


Finding a great (formal) mentor can seem daunting, but start where you are. Begin through the inspiring people you’re already interacting and working with now. Mentors need to be people to whom you have demonstrated your potential – who know how you think, act, communicate and contribute. And they have to like, trust and believe in you already (why else would they help you?).  They also need to believe with absolute certainty that you’ll put to great use all their input and feedback.


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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.



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.


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.


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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The Most Simple Body Language Rule That Will Change Your Life Forever

The Most Simple Body Language Rule That Will Change Your Life Forever

4 years ago, I read about a very simple body language rule in Janine Driver’s book You Say More Than You Think and immediately thought I had acquired a special super power. To test it, I jumped in my car and drove to the nearest supermarket. BOOM! I felt like I was the master of body language!! Everything she outlined I saw play out before my eyes. Little did I know, I had just developed a skill that I would go on to teach hundreds of clients, many of whom would later tell me the quick tip changed their lives.


The origin of the Belly Button Rule dates back to the 1930s and since then, numerous scientists and body language experts have honed the theory. Most notably, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor Emeritus of Psychology and UCLA has said “the belly button rule is the most important indicator of reading a person’s intention.”


Let me break down the rule plainly:

The belly button rule (also known as BBR) means the direction of our navel reflects our true interest.




So now that you know the definition, let me give you a quick test. Look at the photo below and;

  1. Identify the person who has the least interest in their conversation?
  2. Identify the most popular person?

Group of businesspeople communicating

The answers are at the bottom of the page.


Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a BBR master!! Now that you know what the rule means AND how to spot it, here’s how to apply your new skill in popular situations:


At Work/Meeting

Say you’re sitting at a conference table with a small group of co-workers. Once the meeting gets started, check out where their belly buttons face during most of the meeting. If you have that one co-worker who appears to be engaged in the meeting but has a navel pointed at the door, they’re most likely not interested in the conversation.


Another great use of BBR at work is to see at what point the people you’re meeting with shift the direction of their belly button. Let’s say at one point in the meeting you voice your opinion about a new sales goal and a person who had previously been focusing on you (with their navel) suddenly points their belly button in a different direction. This shift could indicate a hidden emotion, a difference in opinion or a lack of interest. All great clues to note and use to your advantage.


On a Date

You’re seated across from a man you’re meeting for coffee for the first time. He’s saying all the right things, looks like the perfect gentleman (you could definitely sop him up with a biscuit), and he even keeps good eye contact with you. However, during parts of the date, his navel shifts away from your direction. This is not cause for a red alert but it is very telling. It shows that he may be uncomfortable and want out of that particular topic of conversation. Of course, when you see a prolonged navel pointing away from you, it means your date has mentally checked out the conversation and wants to go.


Meeting a Group Socially

Knowing BBR is very powerful if you’re approaching a group or a couple already engaged in conversation. Let’s say you’re going to join the group of people talking in the photo above we used for the quiz. If you’re interested in identifying and talking with the most popular person in the group, by simply adding up who has the most navels pointed at her/him, you’ll have a good indication. Or, let’s say you’re running on CP time, you’ve arrived to the cocktail party late, and you want to quickly get in the mix (and not stand by yourself). Therefore, you’ll want to find the easiest person to chat up and that person is most likely going to be the person with their navel pointed away from the person they’re talking with – this person is looking for an out and you could be their rescue.


Lastly, remember that BBR is not simply about having more awareness. I want you to use it to also create more influence in the conversations you have. For example, BBR is a skill President Bill Clinton has down to a science and he uses it to create stronger connections. Check out any video of him engaging a crowd and you’ll see exactly what I mean. When he walks up to someone, he points his… (insert jokes here if you must) navel directly at the person he’s talking or shaking hands with. So simple yet so effective! When these same people are later surveyed or asked about President Clinton, they mostly state how they felt like he gave them his undivided attention and really connected with them. What Clinton did is something the most adept politicians and public figures learn and it’s something I encourage you to learn, as well. The next time you engage with someone (and this is especially true for my fellow introverts because we’re often thought to be aloof), make sure to keep your navel focused on the person at all times. They will feel your focus and better receive the message you’re attempting to communicate.


That’s it.


Get out there and get your BBR on!


Answers from Photo Quiz Above:

  1. Identify the person who has the least interest in their conversation? Not interested in his conversation is the gentleman in the brown jacket (second from the right). This is clear because his belly button is not only pointed away from the person he’s in conversation with, it’s also directed away from anyone in the group. His interest is to get away from the person he’s with as fast as possible.
  2. Identify the most popular person? The person with the most interest is the young lady in the white shirt on the left side talking with the two gentleman. This is clear because both men have pointed their navels towards her direction (opposed to at each other or away from their conversation).


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10 Most Outrageous Myths About Men We All Believe

10 Most Outrageous Myths About Men We All Believe

Before clients of my agency begin the matchmaking phase, we first put them through several weeks of intensive coaching. Our focus during this pre-match time is to share effective dating strategies, review recent research, and most importantly, dispel myths! Over the years, I’ve heard just about everything, and I mean everythang! The following are the top 10 myths our female clients believed to be truths.


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10 Public Speaking Pro Tips I Learned Presenting to Everyone from Prisoners to CEOs

I’ve been speaking publicly since I was a little boy. You name it, I’ve done it. I’ve MC’d weddings, spoken at funerals, had paid speaking gigs before audiences of 10,000 executives, talked to crowds overseas with very low English comprehension, presented before a class of toddlers, held it down at a retirement home and I’ve even given a 3-hour presentation in front of prisoners.

In the last 5 years , I’ve started collecting audience feedback. One question I ask is whether or not the audience member would recommend a friend to hear me speak. With thousands of responses collected, I’m proud to say I’m at a 98% recommendation rate. I’m self-aware enough to know that while there are many areas in life I lack ability in, public speaking is not one of them.

However, I don’t believe I was born with a special gift to speak before crowds. This skill was developed by over 20-years of hard fought lessons. In order to prevent you from going through those same hurdles, I’ve outlined my top 10 list of effective public speaking tips. My hope is that these lessons help you down the road to ultimately become the best public speaker you can be.

Public Speaking


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9 Biggest Problems With Dating Today & How To Solve Them

I’ve been a professional matchmaker for six years and in just that time I’ve seen a significant shift in how people date around the world. In most countries, every category related to dating, from public opinion about it, to average length of time couples see each other, to satisfaction, have plummeted. We’re living in a time I label as “alarming” and fully expect if there is not an immediate shift in how we date, our communities will fall apart. After all, marriage is the cornerstone of society and dating is the cornerstone of marriage.  

Below, are the 9 biggest problems with dating today and my thoughts on how to solve them.


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8 Quick Ways To Detect A Non-Committal Man or Woman

When genuinely searching for a committed partner (leading to marriage), there is nothing worse than wasting your time with someone who is simply looking for quick sex, casual dating, or just a long-term hang out buddy. By my estimate, 80% or more of daters are not looking for anything serious and although I’m an advocate for “date practicing”, I’m not a proponent of giving your time or resources to a dead end partner.

If you find yourself debating whether the person you’re “dating” is non-committal, here are 8 quick ways to determine if he/she has long-term intentions:


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The 10 Books That Changed My Life

In a recent post I wrote about how I significantly reduced how much TV I consume and dramatically increased my reading. A key reason for doing this is because upon reflecting on “activities” that have led to substantial changes in my life, I can’t count one TV show as the catalyst.

I can, however, point to several books. Here are 10 books that have had a profound influence on my life…

10 Books that changed my life

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