Ryan Foland speaks with Paul Epstein, keynote speaker, leadership coach, author, and podcast host.
In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Paul talk about the 3 P’s that one should focus on whilst preparing to get on stage; purpose, pivot and practice.
One of the key messages in this interview is that during the pandemic speakers should revisit their purpose, to potentially pivot or not so that then they can use this time to practice.
Tune in for an interview full of ideas and advice on how to pivot with a purpose.
Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.
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Here is your host, Ryan Foland.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone and welcome to another episode of the World of Speakers podcast.
Today we have a friend of mine who is a speaker, he is an author, he’s a professional sports enthusiast and I bet you he can throw a football way better than I can.
Paul, welcome to the show. Paul Epstein, everyone. Cheers.
Paul Epstein: Fired up and yes, game on buddy, let’s see who’s got the better arm after the show.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, well, I used to practice a lot when I was maybe a lot younger, that was before I made my move to what I thought was professional hockey at the time.
But is it correct to assume that football is your favorite sport?
Paul Epstein: 100%.
And even though I did 15 years in the professional sports industry, from day one that was the dream, but I cut my teeth in the NBA for about 7, 8 years and then eventually NFL league office came calling, got to be a part of the Super Bowl when it was out in New York, and then the 9ers were the grand finale for a handful of years and open up Levi’s stadium.
But yeah, it was a kid in a candy store moment.
Ryan Foland: Awesome, awesome.
Well, I am excited to get my listeners to learn more about you, and instead of reading your long, extensive bio showing how amazing you are, we’re going to do little storytelling.
Imagine that it is half time in some super-ish game and we’re in line for, I don’t know, hot dogs and beer and we strike a small conversation.
It starts with something like this, “Oh, man, this one time — “ I’m like, “Who is this guy talking to me?”
But it’s you and you’re telling me a story from your life.
And this story represents at least a semblance, if not just who you are in the world.
What is the story off the shelf that you would tell me in line as we’re waiting for our beer and nachos?
Paul Epstein: Well, for one I’d want to order way more than that and ask if we’re going to be double fisting but I’ll dive into storytime nonetheless.
And so my story, so it’s interesting if you want to say what lane do I speak and I speak in the leadership lane.
So then I unpacked it and I asked myself, “Why is leadership such a space of passion?”
And it does go back to a story that I tie back to my dad.
I know we’re going to get real deep, real soon, real quick but here we go.
So I lost my dad when I was 19 and by trait, he was an educator at continuation high school.
So for those that aren’t familiar, underprivileged communities, most of these kids have been given up on, a lot of them end up as they say a statistic on the street.
And after he taught in traditional schools and then he made his way to continuation, that’s what lit him up, that’s what made them feel alive.
When I lost him, I was a freshman in college, I still remember a specific moment in a barbershop a few years later.
It was blocks away from the street that he taught in.
In comes a 7 foot tall, bulging man, tattoos on every square inch of his body including his face, somebody that if you saw in a dark alley, you would run the other way.
Me and dude, we lock eyes and he’s coming right at me and I see his hand go up and I’m thinking,
“Holy s**t, what did I do to deserve this?”
And I brace for impact.
A few moments later, nothing came.
I open my eyes expecting to see a fist and I see a finger and he’s pointing right at me and he said, “Are you Mr. Epstein’s son?”
I said, “Yeah.”
“Because I just wanted to come over and say thank you”.
“Thank me for what?”
He goes, “Your dad was the first person that ever believed in me. I’ve had a job for two consecutive months now and that may not sound like much to you but it means the world to me.”
And this was the part that got me, Ryan, he said, “Your dad gave me a reason to think that tomorrow was worth it.”
Ryan Foland: Wow.
Paul Epstein: When I heard that, I always knew what my dad did.
But that moment taught me why he did it. It was all about impact, it was all about helping people, changing lives, maybe even saving a life, based on the circumstances of the students that he taught.
And so in lasting memory of him, I promised myself, I said, “That’s the type of impact that I want to have on people.”
He happened to do it in a classroom, I did it in a boardroom, but the impact was still the same.
If I could have one-tenth of the impact that my dad had, then it’ll be a great life.
That’s why I got into leadership.
Ryan Foland: Well, from what I know you’ve got at least that one-tenth if not much more.
And the time that I’ve spent with you, and in all transparency, we had a chance to work together over 10 weeks in our own self-created mastermind group.
And what’s funny is that even knowing you in that process, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that specific story.
It just goes back to how I think you can spend a lot of face time with people, you can get to know them, you can get to know their work, but when you have the courage to open up and go deep quickly and sort of open up to some of these things, it really helps create more context for all the things that you’re doing.
I appreciate you sharing that.
Paul Epstein: 100%.
Ryan Foland: Now, I’m assuming that your dad also believed in you, correct?
Paul Epstein: I think that’s a fair assessment, yes.
Ryan Foland: Now, do you think at the time you didn’t realize — or did you realize, right?
Because sometimes our family is so supportive that we don’t really know.
Was that something you were aware of at the time or was it more of at that moment when you met that other gentleman or something else?
Paul Epstein: Yeah, so to answer your question, I always had a great relationship.
I know there’s a lot of folks when they think of family and it’s not always peaches and cream and rosy.
And in my case a very traditional family and one of respect and love and admiration.
So when you say did my dad believe in me, 100%, did he encourage me, 100%, did I consider him a role model even when he was alive, for sure.
But I think a) I lost him when I was 19 so what’s our maturation level at 19, and for most of us, it ain’t that high.
For me, I’m a college kid at SE and I remember picking up that phone call when I got the news about him.
But at the end of the day, I’m a 19-year-old and as an only child that made my mom and I extremely close because, you know, she goes from parent to partner in an instant right, like it’s just you grow up.
And it’s kind of, okay school of hard knocks, we see what’s in the news, no brother, this is reality.
I always knew that he believed in me, but it was years after and really from a place of heartache and from missing him and just wanting to feel his spirit again, that’s why this story was so meaningful because I just thought he was a teacher.
I knew he taught in a rougher neighborhood, I went to all the graduations so I got a sense of it.
But again, I’m a kid, or I’m a teenager, I’m on the side of the stage hearing what this guy told me about, “My dad gave you a reason to think that tomorrow was worth it?”
That shocked me.
How can some people not think that tomorrow is worth it, but that’s reality.
But if that’s not how you feel, that’s what shook me as I kind of wanted to become more mission-driven after that to say,
“Life’s way bigger than what you do, you’ve got to impact lives, you’ve got to impact people.”
So that’s why I just felt like I was ready to hear it at a more mature stage.
Ryan Foland: Yes, no, that’s awesome. Kudos to your mom and to you.
I think that understanding more about the message that you’re sharing, which is a bit unique, it’s not your normal sort of leadership just sort of leadership-leadership, but in particular, this idea of playing offense.
I’m curious, was your dad an offensive dude?
Was this something that also came from that?
Paul Epstein: In reality, while I think the impact he created was one I would align with my professional brand of playing offense in my book, of playing offense in speaking topic and all of that good stuff, no, you know what, I think he was more reserved.
When I think of playing offense I think of all gas no brakes, I think of playing to win versus playing not to lose, all these other dynamics of playing from your toes, not your heels, just to provide some of the imagery.
I think that’s the impact that he created, but he did it in a very reserved fashion.
He was very much a person of action versus a person of speaking.
I did not get the gift of gab from him, he was a man of few words.
But needless to say, yeah, I think the inspiration he provided was one like playing offense but I don’t know if he would have been the poster child in terms of the all gas no brakes brand that we’re building.
Ryan Foland: Okay, awesome.
Let’s talk about your from the toes not the heels for momentum, your offense ability to drive the leadership lane.
But in particular, context to your talks.
Because we’re in this post-COVID world, things are a bit different than 2019, but how have you adapted an offense for this new online world?
How from a speaking perspective, from digital keynotes, or in preparing for the publishing of your book as being a cornerstone of what you’re saying, what does offense look like right now when it comes to your speaking, the craft, the art of it?
Paul Epstein: Yes, so if we get more tactical into the craft of speaking, like most folks and just by way of context.
So I was in the sports business until the end of 2017. 2018 to 2019 I’m under the umbrella of leadership, consultancy.
And then essentially about a year ago, I bet on myself, put my chips in the middle of the table, started my own company, January 2020, Purpose Labs, let’s go.
2 and a half months later I did not know that the world was going to stop spinning, but who knew.
And so here we are, mid-March 2020, what this did, and I’m sure a lot of folks listening in probably can empathize with this because we were all facing it, it really leveled the playing field regardless of how many stages you got on, what I realized is,
“Well, shoot 2 and a half months into starting my own thing”,
yeah I’m pretty bullish and confident on how many keynote stages I could get on and a lot of them I’m finding on my own, I’m not always going through the traditional bureau channels, etc.
But my ecosystem was pretty thin, in the sense of that I was a speaker, I had a training and a coaching, and a consulting background, but no book, no podcast, my impact was limited to the folks that I’m touching directly in a face to face way versus a lot of online solutions, or virtual solutions.
Those were the realities that I had to face.
And so when we talk our pivots, when we talk reinvention, sometimes you do it on your own and you have the lightbulb.
Other times the world tells you via some environmental or marketplace change, “Hey brother, it’s time to wake up, it’s time to reinvent,” and that’s in essence what the pandemic did.
So for me, I dedicated 2020 to be an infrastructure building year and that’s where things such as the book and a podcast and e-learning, which I did not have in my arsenal, I said, “Let me prioritize that”, so that come 2021 and beyond now I’ve got a fully baked ecosystem, now the brand and the authority and all of these other things, that for a speaker gets you on more stages, drives fee, all the other stuff that we know is proud and true.
I essentially was just building the offstage business so that I could get on more stages and I found it to be a perfect opportunity.
I know there are a lot of folks listening in that are already authors, some that are probably in the process, others of which look forward to that day, but I’ll tell you if you’re getting on a plane every other day I don’t know how the heck I would have done it or how long it would have taken.
But to be able to go heads down for 2.5 months and crank out 50,000 words — I mean, if I could ever describe a product of the quarantine that would be it.
But here’s the beauty — it’s all a part of the story.
What we do in 2020 when we reflect back, we’ll ask ourselves like playing offense, I always say play offense with purpose.
Because when your WHY is strong enough, you’ll figure out the how.
My argument is, right now the world needs more grit, it needs more resilience, we need to be more adaptable and agile, we need to show up with more courage as people, as leaders.
How can we do that if we don’t believe in the game that we’re playing?
So purpose is belief in the game that you’re playing and now you can show up so that essentially when I say play offense, guess what the world does — it plays defense.
And so something, some obstacles, some hurdle is going to get in the way of what I want to accomplish or achieve, or the impact I want to create.
If I don’t believe in why I took that first step the defense is going to push back and I lose.
But if I believe in it, I’m not even driving for an end zone because as you know the goalpost keeps moving further and further away, right?
You get the raise, you get the engagement, and then it’s like I want 2X, I want 4X, you never stop.
You never technically get there and that’s kind of how playing offense has molded my practice this year, is I’ve become much more journey-driven than destination-driven.
And yes, I have metrics, I have goals, I have KPIs like I’m sure everybody else out there, but I’m just trying to take this process to be all about purpose, that’s the fuel and then I can show up with more grit and resilience and then eventually all of those other outcomes will take care of themselves.
But you’ve heard this Ryan, and then I’ll kick it back to you — there are 2 types of coaches, there’s a type of coach that says “Win at all costs,” and there’s a type of coach that says, “The score will take care of itself.”
I very much used to subscribe to the former and now I’m all in on the latter.
Ryan Foland: Okay, that’s awesome, that’s a lot to dissect.
One thing I want to touch on is purpose.
The second thing I want to talk about is your pivot.
And the third thing to round out the P is the practice.
Typically we discuss how you approach building your keynote and how you give your keynote, and how you adapt to a particular stage that you might not have done before.
But I want to go before all of that because I think we all are in this opportunity of a time to revisit our purpose, to potentially pivot or not so that then we can use this time to practice.
And so I want to understand a bit more of your playbook when it comes to those 3 things because I believe those will translate to value for the listeners if they maybe feel like their purpose has been shaken if they are still not sure which way to pivot or if they just have pivoted in 360 back to where they were.
And then how one would go about practicing even if the stages aren’t there or what you envision for 2021 and beyond to physically be here.
So for the purpose, your company was Purpose Labs and I think as a speaker, sometimes we get lost in being a speaker and forget or get further away from what the purpose is.
How did you either discover your purpose or how do you help people discover their purpose, specifically with the speaker lens — somebody wants to put themself out in front of people and say,
“These are my thoughts, this is my lane, here’s what my story sounds like, this is why it might be of value to you.”
Paul Epstein: Yeah, so going back to how I found my purpose, and then I’ll talk more about how I pay it forward and essentially have made it my life calling and mission to go ahead and do that for others.
Back when I was at the 49ers, I’m in an executive leadership role and we do an offsite leadership retreat, we spent 2 full days to find our WHY.
And think of the WHY as the North Star which is great, and it’s very inspirational, but I didn’t know what to do with it on Monday morning.
It wasn’t as tangible or concrete or actionable, it was kind of the inspirational boost, but now what?
And so the “now what” for me became my core values, also something that I discovered in the same offsite retreat.
And values, the way I like to simplify it is your purpose is your WHY your values are your who.
And your who is your identity.
Now, how you make that actionable, your values are how you show up, and how you show up are your decisions, your behaviors, and your actions.
So all that the outer world sees is how you show up, they don’t know who you are at your core, whether you’re a speaker on stage or somebody you meet on the street.
So unless you have consistency and alignment and congruence with your outer layers, which is how you show up, and your inner layers which is who you are, then you’re going to show up as different people at different moments and that’s where the old saying of,
“Oh, what side of the bed did you get out of,” and that’s where it comes from.
And so that’s kind of what I discovered for me in terms of my purpose, my WHY, my values.
Now the way that I’ve paid it forward is I really thought about how I would take an organization to become more purpose-centered.
In other words your mission, vision, and values, they became words on a wall for a lot of companies that just lost their North Star and that has a trickle-down effect on the people, our employees, our team members.
And when you want to talk what’s the problem I solve, I essentially create a working world with more meaning and impact.
Those are the problems I solve.
I think we have a drastic number of people that don’t know why they get out of bed and then they don’t know why they do what they do, whether they’re in business or speaking, or fill in the blank.
And then that has a domino effect, where now if I don’t believe in what I do, I’m not inspired, I don’t have energy each day, I don’t have fulfillment on the back end of the day and so why am I here, what’s my purpose?
Without that bigger picture, that’s really the mission that I was on to solve.
And so from my consultancy, the reason I called it Purpose Labs is a laboratory feel, it kept me learning, it kept me growing, it kept me working with clients to understand how do you form an organizational purpose?
Should each team within the organization have its own purpose?
Does each person on the team have their own purpose?
And in an ideal world what I found is a utopia is when all 3 layers connect — the individual, the team, the organization.
And so when I speak about playing offense that’s the mindset, that’s the methodology, that’s the 5-pillar system.
But in reality, if it’s not founded on top of purpose then you don’t even know why you’re playing the game.
And so that’s kind of getting it back to speakers, and then we’ll move on into the pivot.
I would ask why do you speak?
I know in my past, perhaps before I was a keynoter, when I was just a business exec in the sports industry, it was largely about me.
Because when I had those moments where I’ll give a quick example, I’m at the Sacramento Kings, the Maloof Brothers who owned the team a lot of us know they used to own on the Palms Casino and they’re super famous, and the collagen commercials, the whole thing — they walked into the locker room when I was speaking to a bunch of clients and I almost lost my lunch.
And I thought to myself, “Why the hell did that just happen? I know I’m a good speaker, why did I just almost lose my lunch?”
It was because I wasn’t prepared and it’s because I thought my natural gifts and talents were enough.
And I wasn’t speaking for the audience, I wasn’t speaking to serve, I was speaking partially from ego.
And so when something unexpected happened, I got a little starstruck and that’s where the butterflies came in.
But I think there’s a bigger picture message there, is when you speak for yourself there’s no purpose in that; when you speak for the audience now there’s the service, the contribution, the impact, the legacy, all those things.
I think in 2020 and beyond you’ve got to ask yourself why you speak and if you don’t have that solid foundation of purpose, then, unfortunately, it’s just going to be a paycheck.
Ryan Foland: Okay so one thing that as a speaker we have to have is our own lane and you’re in the leadership lane that distinguishes you from other topics.
It’s not innovation, it’s leadership, it’s not this, it’s leadership.
So does the purpose lane, does that sit above that?
Because we’re always asked as speakers, “What topic do you speak on? I’m in the leadership lane.”
We don’t always get the question, “So what’s your purpose?”
How do you communicate your purpose as a speaker in a way that doesn’t sound too woohoo or can translate in some way?
Because what it sounds like it is, you have a topic, but that doesn’t necessarily say that’s your purpose.
Because within the leadership topic you can have 101 different purposes behind that.
So how does a speaker on one end is discovering their purpose right, and the examples like, “Oh, it’s for the audience, or, “It’s for the kids”, or it’s for something like that; but how does one articulate that?
Are you telling event planners, “Look, my topic is leadership and the reason I’m here is because, — “
How do you as a speaker communicate that?
Paul Epstein: Well, my answer and this is a little bit of a cheat sheet, but I do feel like I have a cheat sheet because finding my WHY changed my life.
So it’s part of getting to know Paul and we all know people by people, so when I’m selling myself out to meeting planners, event planners, bureaus, etc, they’re going to learn about my transformational experience at the 49ers about finding my WHY, becoming purpose-driven, and how that’s impacted my life ever since.
So that’s kind of the easy button, if you will.
I think maybe the more impactful way to share right now would be, well what if I don’t know my WHY, and then how do I position myself around purpose.
And that’s where I do, I’m a firm believer you need to go through a formal exercise to find it.
I don’t think this is just like an organic take one step at a time and one day you say, “Eureka, I found my purpose,” or, “I now know my calling.”
I am a firm, firm believer for having been through it and now coached it and paid it forward that there is a formal process to know your WHY and to understand your values, and then that’s how you brand yourself and position yourself around those things.
So that would really be it.
But when you say there’s a leadership lane, I would say I’m in the purpose-driven leadership lane.
Because of my differentiator, there’s a million leadership speakers, how many believe that purpose is the secret sauce to business?
And I would argue that’s a small fraction, which is fine, and that means there’s less traffic on the road.
And so then my argument always comes back to who are you trying to create value for?
If it’s solely external shareholders, cool, but you’re putting your customers over your employees and now you’re just going to, it’s like the age-old Simon Sinek line of, “The people that helped you drive profit don’t hang around to even see those profits and now you’ve got to find new people to achieve new profits.”
What if people believed in the place and believed that they were a part of something bigger than themselves and now they’re authentically dedicated to the work?
And so my piece around this is if you want a more engaged workforce, which we’ve all seen the stats, I mean this is nothing groundbreaking, 7 out of 10 people don’t want to be where they are, every time they go to work, that’s a problem.
So what do you do?
You’re like, “Oh you study the 30 percent and you look for the common themes,” and one of those common themes in the great places to work is there is a bigger purpose at an organizational and an individual level and so that’s where I show a lot of the research, and the data, and the stats, and the empirical evidence to support what can be a little bit more inspirational and woo-woo and rah-rah, I get it.
So I just support it with the more data side that way it’s got a balanced approach.
Ryan Foland: Okay so there’s a particular process or different processes to go through to find that purpose.
But you’re pointing to a story in your life or a time in your life that through that discovery process, you pointed back to instead it was that one time with the 49ers that’s where it really clicked.
So is it correct to assume that somewhere in your story, your purpose lives and the process to find the purpose can help you identify or uncover that story, or that moment, or that realization?
Paul Epstein: Yes. And I’ll be quick with this one.
The main anchor of the process to find your purpose is called a lifeline.
Think of it as a line that goes from birth to present day, horizontally through a piece of paper, above it are the peaks, below it are the valleys.
And it’s the look in the rearview mirror of life that allows you to then understand what the common themes are from everything you’ve experienced and those themes are the anchors of your WHY statement and your core value.
So that’s how that all plays together.
Ryan Foland: So what I’m hearing is that everything that will determine what your purpose is, is somewhere in the timeline of what has happened, so it’s not a matter of people or speakers not having a purpose, it’s that they haven’t looked backwards and identified themes and traits that is their purpose?
So everyone has a purpose it might just not be something that we’ve discovered, essentially.
Paul Epstein: Yes, your purpose exists in your rearview mirror, so that process tells you, and the greatest peaks, the moments, the memories, the experiences, the events, what were the emotions and the feelings in those stories?
And then at the same time, whether it’s again, losing a parent, whether it’s something unfortunate on the medical side, whether there’s some tragedy or crisis, the facts are the facts, what are the emotions and the feelings, what’s to come back, what’s the transformation?
And through having a partner in this experience they then say here are the themes that we heard, you told us 5 stories, some of them were blissful, some of them were tragic, but in actuality, there was a consistent theme — you are all about, like here’s one of mine.
One of mine is authenticity.
Guess what lights me up — when people are authentic, companies are authentic.
Guess what my pet peeve, my trigger, what pisses me off — fake people, superficial people, fake organizations that put bullshit up on the wall and then don’t show up with those actions and behaviors.
You could see how something good and something bad can have the same theme.
Ryan Foland: Gotcha.
So your purpose is, and you said one of my purposes, so we can have multiple purposes?
Paul Epstein: Actually, no, glad your brain is here.
Do I have a work WHY, do I have a personal WHY, no.
You have one WHY.
If you’re living multiple WHYs then you’re lying to yourself in one place or the other.
So it doesn’t mean you don’t show up in different ways and wear different hats and different environments, it just means there’s only one North Star and you’re either being shooed away or you’re not.
And frankly a lot of people that fall disengaged at work it’s because they have to change who they authentically are too much.
And they’re just like, “This is all bullshit, I don’t believe in this place, I don’t vibe with my boss, or the culture”, or whatever it is because there’s just too much tension when you get that far away from your WHY.
Ryan Foland: And you’re essentially supporting an offensive role when it comes to determining your own purpose, and sharing your own purpose, and incorporating that, so it’s more of the offense is just an active role in this?
Paul Epstein: Yeah, I think about it as if I had the mission statement or the problem I solve, I would say that I help leaders and teams discover their purpose and act on it.
That’s the playing offense, it’s not just about finding it or discovering the purpose, now you got to do something about it.
Otherwise, it’s words on the wall. Congrats, your sugar high.
Ryan Foland: And the idea of figuring that out, do you think that people are more likely or less likely to have the pivoting experience as a result?
Again, just trying to look at this from the purpose and then to the pivot, so you knew your purpose, and is that why you were more effective at pivoting?
Paul Epstein: Yes, so my quick example to be concrete about this, my core values are belief, growth, authenticity, impact, and courage.
So if we were in a training workshop I would say your values should be your filter for how you make decisions in life.
And then on the back end of decisions, those are your actions and behaviors so let’s connect values and decisions.
One specific way and this goes into my pivot, impact is one of my core values, and again I share my dad’s story and that’s the origin story of it if you will.
So I told my dad story as a part of my WHY discovery process, bang, my partner says,
“Dude, I’m hearing a lot of impact, I think that’s one of your themes.”
That turned out to be one of my core values.
Now when March 2020 hits and all the stages are taken away, I then ask myself, ‘how can I maximize impact?’
And I don’t just mean it as a buzzword in business, I meant it physically, how do I impact lives?
I cannot go in person and do that anymore, and I don’t know how stoked I am about just cranking out virtual keynotes all year. So what is the way?
And one of the ways that I thought about is I was very top end corporate serving and giving. I’m serving this kind of cream of the corporate.
One of the challenges that I had is I realized I want to become more scalable, not just for business impact, but for people impact.
So I started to slant and say, “What’s the intersection of leadership and personal development?”
And can I stay in that lane to help the world and to help people through this very trying time and very challenging year?
But that’s all predicated on the core value of impact.
I’m not asking myself how can I create more impact in the world, I’m solely going to chase virtual keynotes all year because that’s what pays the bills and then I had to step back and say,
“All right, well you’ve got to pay the bills, but do I go all-in on that? Or do I take a more balanced approach to stay purpose-centered,” and that’s how my core values were put into action.
Ryan Foland: So the purpose helped to guide the pivot or at least trust in the pivot because I think we all pivoted but I think a lot of us pivoted without the context of the purpose in the pivot.
So talk to me about practice. Is the practice what teases out whether or not the pivot is correct, that lines up with the purpose?
And is this year been really practicing based on the new pivot which is in line with your purpose?
Paul Epstein: Yes, so the practicing, in just like everybody else listening in, that’s the core fundamental piece of the craft.
And naturally, being a sports background guy I am a massive, massive believer in practice makes permanent.
And so I have a lot of us here know Josh Linkner, and he had a great way of positioning it when it was more about, thinking about it as if you’re a rock band and if 2021 is when the grand tour starts.
Well, you’re going to spend all the 2020 offstage getting the reps in and practicing.
And so again, going back to the fundamental decisions of writing a book, launching a podcast, all of that tie back to scalability and impact, but then I thought about how do you get the reps in?
But more importantly, how do you believe in the reps?
And that belief is purpose.
Purpose and belief are tied, they are connected and when you have a purpose you’re never going to stop.
Because I like to think about it as there are countless days in 2020 where you know you should practice but metaphorically, if every day’s a treadmill, ah screw it, a little Netflix, a little this, little that, like, “I’m going to get off the treadmill, it’s only one day, it’s only one week,” right?
We’ve all been through that if we’re being authentic and human and just real.
And so if that’s the case, purpose always kept me on the treadmill because I’m just thinking,
“How can I get off, this is a calling, this is a mission, this is not a craft.”
I practice a craft, how do you practice a calling or practice a mission?
Practice just becomes one of those fundamental things like breathing versus something that tangibly I have to practice if I want to play better in a game, that was me pre-purpose.
Now I practice with spirit, I practice with intent, I practice with purpose.
And so I really do think that there is a through-line here, you’ve gotta believe in staying on the treadmill otherwise it’s too easy to get off.
Ryan Foland: What is it that keeps you on the treadmill as opposed to what the treadmill analogy is, is it that we’re all doing these things daily and it’s just easy to sort of step off?
That’s what we’re talking about, right?
Paul Epstein: When adversity hits you’re going to get off.
If you don’t believe in being on the treadmill, like here’s a good piece, this all ties back.
So many of us may know the thought leader Ed Mylett, I’ll give him all the credit for this story.
He talked about how he had a health scare in his earlier days but he’s already doing really well financially, as a thought leader, as a speaker, etc.
But the doctor essentially told him after he saw the internal scans in the X-rays he said, “Oh my, really somebody with your physique, your build, that’s you on the inside?”
And at the time, he had one kid, his wife was pregnant with their second, he had a son and then a daughter.
He essentially said, “Do you want to be going to your son’s games once he grows up?”
And the one that really got him was, “Do you want to be the one to walk your daughter down the aisle?”
Dude, you want to talk about purpose?
And so going back to if it’s all about just taking care of yourself, you’re going to get out the treadmill, it’s too easy.
2020 is hard, get the bag of Cheetos, get the Netflix like we’re all good, like stages will come back eventually, I don’t know when, but eventually, it’ll feel like 2019 and before again.
Ryan Foland: So your treadmill has been writing, your treadmill has been creating structures and infrastructure on courses.
Your treadmill has been creating a concept for a podcast and preparing to launch it, correct?
Paul Epstein: 100%, yeah.
Because that’s what’s necessary to create the impact.
Ryan Foland: So how did you decide as a speaker in your purpose-driven pivoted while you were practicing towards that North Star — how did you decide that those were sort of those 3 pillars and how is that going to take you onward and upward to scale the impact in 2021 and beyond?
Why did you choose those 3 and how did those all tie into building your business, as a speaker, as an author, all of that combined?
Paul Epstein: So before this everything had solely a business endgame in mind and now when I really started to, I call a pandemic proof a lot of the infrastructure. I ask myself what are those qualities that people in the world are going to need, not only in 2020 but well beyond?
And so I took a very personal approach, I started to put myself out there and do more of whether you want to call it service work, or essentially giving myself into groups, associations, organizations, and even individuals for coaching. I kind of took on the impact over economics model in 2020.
And I used it not solely as a gift, I also used it as a learning platform.
Because prior to this, again, you just chased the stages, you chase the business outcomes, but for me, I didn’t quite know. I know what problems I solve conceptually, but I couldn’t quite attach it at an individual level.
And so I invested 2020 into getting to know people at the most granular scale and asking what problems are you facing now, what problems do you anticipate you’ll be facing in the future.
So essentially, I did a ton of qualitative research, I’m talking hundreds of people no exaggeration in this calendar year.
And then the same process as the purpose discovery, I started to look for common themes and the themes that I heard, the pain that I heard was all around,
“I don’t even know why I do what I do. I don’t know why I get out of bed,” like purpose used to have a business hook for me and now it’s just like,
“Dude it’s gut-wrenching to me how many people don’t feel meaning every time they get out of bed.”
And that’s something.
Ryan Foland: And when your meaning was going into work in a world that you understood and knew, that’s one thing, but when everyone’s chopped off at the knees and stages are gone for us, but jobs are gone for others, and living at home under sort of stressful situations and the Zoom fatigue and all this.
So you went out there to find out what people’s problems that they were experiencing and you found how your purpose with your new pivot would be a way for you to help them in what they need.
So a reverse engineering of still thematically what works for you but really listening first and then delivering, and delivering in a book, in a podcast, and in an e-learning or a course format?
Paul Epstein: Yeah, 100%.
Yeah, I basically ask myself outside of serving business leaders, how can I take a more holistic approach and if that means that I need to create certain verticals, like here’s a specific example, my podcast is at the intersection of leadership and personal development, versus I genuinely feel that my keynote it certainly is a heavy business land.
And so rather than I know some of us have received the advice always just stay in the same lane, the same lane, build a consistent brand.
But in my opinion, that just felt flawed in some ways for this year because I just became much more, I kind of salted the Earth if you will, and frankly, I feel more alive for being able to help a more versatile group of people.
And so are we going out to speak at schools even if the money may not be the same, but we find fulfillment in doing it?
Some people would say yes and some people would say no, other people would say it depends.
And so this was really just a gut check of letting your purpose and your mission drive the way you structure your business model and even if, oh god forbid we make 700 thousand instead of a million, or whatever other numbers in the future we envisioned for ourselves, I would argue is that delta of 300 thousand worth sacrificing an ounce of your purpose or your mission or your cause or your calling?
And I’m not criticizing folks that would say, “F it, I’m going to go for the million,” I would just say I’ve experienced this priceless thing called feeling alive after I found my WHY and when I realized that most people in this world don’t feel alive, how could I walk away from that?
And my business model is now prepared in 2021 and beyond to make more people feel alive versus it wasn’t set up that way before.
Ryan Foland: And for those speakers who throughout this year maybe have felt like they’ve lost a sense of their purpose or they’ve pivot in a direction that hasn’t led to where they wanted to go as the reflecting on the year, and maybe they’ve been practicing but they’ve been practicing the wrong thing, how do you encourage them going into 2021?
And where do they focus their energies?
Do you suggest to just stop pivoting, stop practicing, focus on your purpose first?
What does 2020 look like for a speaker who truly is kind of lost still?
Paul Epstein: To answer your question we’d almost have to decipher, do you know your purpose or not.
And I’m going to make the assumption of yes or at least you have a feel of what, and again, rather than the purpose, it sounds like a North Star which it is, I would say do you feel alive?
Like what type of work makes you feel alive?
Did writing a book make you feel alive?
Does doing your podcast make you feel alive?
Does solely keynoting make you feel alive?
Do you like training and rolling your sleeves up a little bit more?
Do you want to consult and be in an organization for 6 months, 12 months at a time and that’s when you feel alive because the sustainment wins?
Ask yourself what makes you feel alive.
I’m going to assume by the rest of my response that now you’ve identified what element of the ecosystem or elements of the ecosystem of your thought leadership make you feel alive, and then go all-in on those things, especially in the interim as the world is slowly going to reopen.
If you can get great and build your brand and go deeper in the space that you feel the most alive, that to me would seem like the solution, even if it means short term pain. And by short term pain there are trade-offs, just like anybody that goes out on their own as an entrepreneur, you can think of financial trade-offs, you can think of family trade-offs, you can think of a lot of trade-offs.
So again, if you’re going to sacrifice arguably two of the most important things in the world, which is,
“I got to be able to pay the bills, I want my family to be happy, and I want to be present.”
Well if those are the tradeoffs, why would you trade that off for something that doesn’t make you feel alive?
If you know that there’s something that you could do that does make you feel alive and so that’s kind of the way I would simplistically look at that fork in the road and just chase that feeling.
Ryan Foland: I like that connection back to feeling alive.
And I think as speakers, we feel alive when we’re on stage, but then when the stage is gone it creates complications.
So the things that I’m hearing is identify the elements that still get you excited about what you’re doing, using those as the leading or the playbook essentially for what you’re going to invest in practicing.
And in your case it was a book, it’s a podcast, it’s a course.
For somebody else that might be something else.
But what I’m hearing is that if there’s no purpose then what’s the purpose?
So it’s a good reminder, I challenge people all the time, what problem do you solve and other people challenge others in different core ways, but I’m challenging everyone who’s listening; what is your purpose?
And it’s such a fundamental question that you might think that you have but it’s hard to articulate.
So I think Paul, you’ve laid out some pretty clear steps and examples of the importance, as that Guiding Light, that North Star, that playbook, to determine the rest of your actions.
Paul Epstein: Yeah, and I’ll close with one of the stories it’s impacted me the most in 2020.
I spent 15 years working in professional sports.
Everybody listening to this knows whether you’re a sports fan or not, 2020 has been a brutal financial year for that industry, most of my old friends, many of them unfortunately are not wearing the same hat that they wore in 2019, and it’s just as a person, my heart goes out to everybody, for them, their families.
And what I chose to do was give back, not from a place of economic, not from a place of planting business development seeds, I was just like,
“Dude, I’m just going to show up for you, I’m just going to show up for your team,” and how can I create even if it has to be a virtual experience.
And there was one, it was a Major League Baseball club, and this was back in the spring so the pandemic at the time was still pretty fresh.
We had a 60-minute webinar with this team of about 30, 40 folks all about purpose, all about tying yourself your WHY during these challenging times.
And he’s shot me an email after that said,
“Paul, I want to thank you so much for spending the hour with my team because I was in my living room, my 2 sons who are teenagers, 16 and 18 they were able to kind of hover over my shoulders so they heard you and now they want to talk more about their purpose.”
And I was like holy shit, the 16 and 18-year-old would have never have seen me if it wasn’t for the circumstances of being in a Zoom in a virtual meet.
That’s just one example of dozens that I could point back to and lo and behold, by showing up in a service-oriented way.
And so my message to other speakers is, “Find the groups that make you feel alive.”
For me, it’s professional sports organizations because those are my friends and I want to take care of them in really challenging times.
That was my lens and I served and now I’m getting stories like that and guess what — that club has said,
“Hey brother, when we’re able to get you back in here, you know you’re damn well going to be in here and we’re going to do a big old thing and it’s going to be a splash.”
And I’m confident that a part of that was because of the impact that we created for two teenagers that would have never known who Paul Epstein was and more important than Paul Epstein, they would have never known what this thing called purpose is if it wasn’t on that given day.
Ryan Foland: And I know that you have a bun in the oven and there will be a smaller Epstein that’s out there in the world so I couldn’t help but think that somehow, someway in the future one of these two teenagers will find your child at a certain point and be like,
“Hey are you Mr. Epstein’s son or daughter?”
And when they say yes, I have a feeling that those teenager is going to say,
“Your dad was on a webinar and I heard him and he made me realize that tomorrow is going to be a better day.”
So how’s that for full circle right there?
Paul Epstein: I love it.
And one of the most fulfilling things was the finishing touches of the book, which is writing the acknowledgment that goes right there, one of the first pages.
And after, of course, my wife, my mom, all the important folks in my life to write to my future leader PJ, like to know the little PJ’s going to open up the book and maybe he won’t understand it for a decade but that’s all good.
So yeah, I mean, again, purpose, I did it for PJ.
Ryan Foland: Yep, I love it. Awesome.
Well hey, the purpose of this show is to help people get more insights into how to build their speaking business and I tell people a lot of times you might be doing the right things in the wrong order and if you haven’t put your purpose at the beginning of that order, if you haven’t flushed it out here is all the more reason to use this time during the pandemic to focus on that.
Now, Paul, I’d love to invite you to be on SpeakerHub, they’re the awesome sponsor of this podcast, it’s essentially a marketplace for speakers where you can find different events and be found, and so we’ll make sure to get you hooked up with that.
And for people who are interested in your book, they want to check out your podcast, and they want a piece of your digital learning, where do they go, and how do they find you?
Paul Epstein: A lot of this in the book, “The power of playing offense” you can find everything, power of playing offense.com and for more on my thought leadership, PaulEpsteinspeaks.com and that has everything there from purpose labs to playing offense.
And just again, a lot of the more mission-centered work that’s been done in 2020 and beyond.
So we’ll stay connected on all social platforms and keep rolling.
Ryan Foland: Rock n’ roll. Not keep rolling, keep pushing forward.
What’s a better analogy for the offense?
First and ten do it again, fight.
Paul Epstein: Keep leveling up all grass no breaks let’s go, come on.
Ryan Foland: Yes, no breaks.
All right, well I feel like this is a good locker room talk.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t checked out Paul and you need to get on your toes and get off of your heels he’s somebody who can help you do that by simply helping you find more purpose.
So don’t forget as a speaker it’s not about you, it’s not about the audience, it’s about the impact that you make, the combination of your efforts on the world.
My name is Ryan, this is Paul, and we are going to get on the front of our toes and go sprint, go do something.
Paul Epstein: Go, go, go.
Ryan Foland: All right, thanks, Paul. That was fun.
Paul Epstein: Thanks for having me on.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voices, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate the coronavirus crisis.
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This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.