What does “success” mean to you?
Doing what you love and doing it well. Sometimes, though not always, the evidence that you’re doing it well will be in the repsonse of others. But, whatever the response, I think you need to feel within yourself that you’re bringing your best to the table.
What does “happiness” mean to you?
Enjoying who you are and what you have. I think it’s a blend of enjoyment, contentment and appetite.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t worry. Worry won’t make any difference to anything – other than robbing you of energy and sleep! Actually, I think I heard that advice back in the day and understood it. I just haven’t been very good at applying it. I’m still working on it!!
Another thing – make the most of your grandparents if and/or while you have them. The gift of ancestry beyond – and including – your parents is an amazing gift.
Your first breakout book – a bestseller in its day – was Rough Ways in Prayer. What did you learn about yourself through that project?
That I am persistent. I kept all my rejection letters and pinned them on the cork board above my desk to motivate me. Thirty-four of them! A good rejection letter tells you what you need to work on, and three of those rejection letters were good ones! So they were a bit of free tuition really. With Rough Ways… I wrote the book that I wished someone had given me five years before. All my books are a bit like that. They log my learning journey and then my sharing of the journey. And that would be true of my Eden books today.
What is your answer to self-doubt?
I think self-doubt is its own answer. You have to be your own harshest critic. But then you also have to defend yourself! As you get older I think it becomes easier to accept what your weaker points are and have a sense of whether they need to be worked on or just accepted. I think as you get older it becomes easier to accept what your contribution is and is not. In the end you can’t beat yourself up for not being all things to all people. But you want to be sure that you are doing your thing and making your contribution, and be willing to critique yourself on that.
Regarding clothes and fashion, what’s your style?
Slowly evolving!! Ruth and I have been married for 18 years this year and I am gradually letting Ruth add to and subtract from my wardrobe. To be honest Ruth is a great fashion consultant. I think she is sharpening me up!
Also, I like the bald plus beard look for a guy with as little top hair as me. I feel very comfortable with that fashion choice. Making that switch from combover to bald plus beard was kind of a rite of passage. Clothes-wise, I feel good when I am in a tailored suit that doesn’t look like a work suit, or when I am in my skinny chinos, collared shirt, my RM Williams boots and my Akubra hat. So I guess that’s Aussie hipster-pastoralist!! Or for an occasion I love an excuse to wear one of my more formal Dashiki outfits – so that’s my Ghanain power coming through! Where I live now it’s singlet and square-cut shorts on the beach, Daniel Craig or Tenoch Huerta-style! So, I guess it depends on the day!
Tell us something people wouldn’t know about you from a quick Google Search.
Ooh that’s hard. Because there is so much even on my own website, let alone other people’s. OK two things:
Some people would know this because there is a section devoted to this on my website, but I am a huge Tina Turner fan. I love the way Tina continued to adapt and build her career in a way that meant she was relevant from the 1950’s until today. I admire the longevity of her career – on stage from 1957 to 2010 when she was 70 years old. I love the team that she represented and the energy she always fired up in others.
I admire the way Tina carried herself in sickness and in health. Her courage in sharing her years of grief and ill health in her closing years was inspring too. I love watching her creation of energy and good vibes at times when she must have been tired and exhausted. The reinvention of her looks. And the freedom to choose who she wanted to be. Her determination to succeed, to become a rock star, to become glamorous and “classy.” And she really was. Tina was truly a classy lady! Brava! Vale Tina! You are missed.
Second thing, I have good legs. People generlly don’t know this because I am generally filmed waist-up! But there you are. Now you know!
What do you hope to spark in your readers and your audiences more than anything?
Curiosity. The freedom to ask questions. The appetite to explore what’s possible.
How do you know when you’re ready to bring out a new book?
It’s almost like a bodily feeling. It’s like a head of steam. You get to a point where you feel like a jet aircraft just being held back by its brakes as the jets rev up for take-off. You can feel that humming and shaking. And you know that once you release the brakes it’s going to be three months of head down, zoned out, blinkered at the desk! So you get to a moment where you can’t hold back that part of the process any longer.
Is there a public figure whose death has affected you?
Prince. I was really suprised by how the new of his passing hit me. I was in the car when I heard the news on the radio and I had to pull over just to absorb the news. Prince was a rebel and a real champion of new talent. He was a true musician and artist and he brought together so many facets of his musical heritage. In that way he made himself into a gateway to so many historic genres and artists and yet at the same time was emphatically himself. I really admire that. And I love how he defended and paraded his uniqueness. There is something inspiring about watching a person do what they were born to do. And that was Prince all over!
Also Michael Jackson. When I was in high school I was the only non-white kid in a school of 1100 boys, if you can just picture that. I didn’t face extreme xenophobia but there were places in my home town where my brother and I would be stoned if we ventured there and at my school I was the whipping boy for the school’s little band of racists. So I was constantly made aware of my different skin-colour and my side-parted Afro. But four people came to my rescue, four people who made it acceptable to be non-white in Britain at that time. Among younger kids there was Floella Banjamin who presented on the BBC’s Play School. Trevor McDonald, a Jamaican, who read the grown-up news on ITV, and Johnny Mathis who was big in the UK charts at that time. But most of all it was Michael Jackson. Michael more than anyone because he was so obviously at the zenith in terms of world talent. More than anyone, Michael made it acceptable to be black or brown. So he felt like a really important comrade.
So when Michael died I really felt saddened by his passing. It was tragic. Somehow it seemed inevitable he would die young because of how he had been living his life, and how the media had been harrying him. I remember being deeply touched by a younger friend who phoned me up on the day of Michael’s passing to ask if I was OK. Again I was surprised that his death brought up those issues of isolation through race. My young friend was Maltese-Australian. He was the one who knew that MJ’s passing would matter to me. So I really appreciated that.
What does the next chapter hold for Paul Wallis?
Excitement. New collaborations, new books and audiobooks. New platforms and new locations. I don’t want to give away too much though! Also, the opportunity to be more intentional about more things in life. So for instance we have moved to Queensland for our health and sanity and are really enjoying the rural, beachy environment. I find that healing. At the same time, this for me is a fairly intense period of work. I am happily busy. My family is enjoying the ride with me and I love that about my current pattern of work. Researching, writing, broadcasting, coaching and chilling on th beach. I think that’s going to my groove for some time to come.