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 is the repsonse of others. But 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 your 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!
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 board above my desk to motivate me. Thirty-four of them! A good rejection letter tells you what you need to work on. 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 somehwat like that. They log a process of learning and then a sharing of the journey. 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 know whether they need to be worked on or just accepted. I think 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 making your contribution, and to critique yourself on that.
Regarding clothes and fashion, what’s your style?
Slowly evolving!! Ruth and I have been married for 17 years and I am gradually letting Ruth add to and subtract from my wardrobe. To be honest I like what Ruth does for me as my personal fashion consultant. I think she is sharpening me up!
Also I love the bald plus beard look for a guy with as little 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! 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. 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 represents and the energy she fires up in others.
I admire the way Tina has carried herself in sickness and in health. Her courage in sharing her years of grief and ill health is 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.” She is. She’s a classy lady!
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 champion of new talent. He was a real musician and artist who brought together so many facets of his musical heritage. In that way he made himself into a gateway to so many genres and artists and yet was so very much himself. And I love how he defentded 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. It wasn’t extreme but I was the whipping boy for the little band of racists, and was constantly made aware of my skin-colour and my side-parted Afro. But there were three people who made it acceptable to be non-white in Britain at that time. Trevor McDonald, a Jamaican, who read the news on ITV, Johnny Mathis who was big in the UK charts at that time, but most of all it was Michael Jackson because he was so obviously at the zenith in terms of world talent. Those three, for me and my peers, made it acceptable to be black or brown. So they felt like really important allies and comrades.
It was as if MJ had kept me company through my middle and high school years and so when he died I really felt saddened by his passing. It was tragic too. 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 the one friend who phoned me up on the day of Michael’s death to ask if I was OK. Again I was surprised that his death brought up those issues of isolation through race. My Maltese friend was the one who knew that his passing would be relevant to me. So I really appreciated that.
What does the next chapter hold for Paul Wallis?
Excitement. New collaborations and new books. New platforms and new locations. I don’t want to give away too much! Also, the opportunity to be more intentional about more things in life. This for me is a period of work and being happily busy. My family are enjoying the ride with me and I love that about my current pattern of work. Researching, writing, broadcasting and coaching. I think that’s going to my groove for some time to come.