104. Exploring What Is Open To You with Paul Stretton-Stephens

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Paul is a Future Mindset Coach, Teacher, Futurist, Author, and Speaker who brings perspective, wisdom, foresight, and insight to the difference-makers in the world.

His express wish in serving others is that the more people experience joy, fulfilment, and peace of mind in their lives by living their dreams, the better they will impact their families, professional life, communities, and the world.

In this interview Paul shares his inspiring story of resilience, motivation, and the importance living true to your values. He talks frankly about how he overcame the obstacles in his life and how he arrived at where he is in life today.

Apart from having been medically retired twice, Paul is:

  • A husband, a parent, and a grandparent
  • A proud military veteran
  • A former Physical Education Instructor
  • A former Educational Leader
  • Currently registered blind
  • Still serving others, only in a different way these days

When Paul isn’t coaching or writing you’ll find him walking on the beach, eating out, enjoying Jazz, or going to the theatre with his wife.

Key Points from the Episode with Paul Stretton-Stephens:
  • Paul Stratton-Stephens is a future-focused person, serving as a future mindset coach and futurist, as well as an author and speaker
  • A “Futurist” is someone who considers the question of what the future looks like for us as human beings – what skills will we need, what will life look like, etc?
  • As we live longer and you have a 60-year career, you may have multiple career stories versus today where we tend to have one or maybe two.
  • Paul’s story started with his childhood, where he had been to twelve different schools
  • This was a function of his father being in the British military, and after his parents divorced, he changed schools again.
  • This taught him the need for communication skills as you’re always the new kid and need to start over.
  • It also means you need to learn flexibility as you’re constantly finding yourself ahead of behind the students you’ve just joined, and you need to flex to catch up.
  • It was strange and tough, but the skills served him well
  • Kids in the area he ended up in, Nottingham, were destined to work in a cigarette factory or in the nearby mines.
  • He watched his father go into a factory job after his military service ended, and it didn’t serve him well, so Paul knew he needed to do something different.
  • He chose to join the Marines, and along the way, he met military police, and found their work incredibly interesting, and he ended up joining the Royal Military Police
  • He was posted all over the world – Germany, Canada, Norway
  • He became a PE instructor in his unit, and as he was leaving the military, he found a civilian job teaching PE in a school.
  • As a coach, he learned that you’re not just there for the technical skills, but helping motivate the individuals who have lots of other things on their minds taking them away from the sport
  • He did that for 10 years, loved the work, and was incredibly fit and healthy.
  • One day, he got home, sat down, and tried to get up, and couldn’t. His lower left leg wouldn’t work.
  • He ended up having back surgery that night, at 32 years old, due to a disc in his lower spine blowing out.
  • His recovery took 6 months before he could return to work given the physical nature of his job.
  • One day 3 years later, he was walking in the hallways of the school and hit a wet spot, and hit his back, blowing the disc out again.
  • Because of the scar tissue in his spine from the first surgery, he had to go to a neurosurgeon for the operation.
  • When he woke up, he had no feeling in his left leg, forcing him to retire from his job.
  • A disability advisor talked to him about accepting things, while Paul had already enrolled in getting his business degree to reeducate himself and move himself forward.
  • Why sit there in misery and rest on your laurels. That’s not Paul’s approach – he wants to keep growing and build opportunities.
  • The purpose he set for himself helped him out of his adversity.
  • In the absence of purpose and the absence of action means we just wallow. We can’t afford to do that as we only have one life.
  • Paul was told by his doctor that he had to accept being in crutches for the rest of his life, and he just did not accept that.
  • Instead, he started to think about what was open to him rather than what he can’t do.
  • As he started explofing what was open to him, he found marketing.
  • He lacked the math skills needed, so he took classes in math to build his skills.
  • He broke out of his comfort zone and asked for him, and built up in the areas he needed to so he could move ahead.
  • He took a weakness he had, put in extra work on it, and got a 100% on his final exam, and remembers that feeling of making a weakness into a strength.
  • Celebrating these wins, no matter their size, adds up to really build us up.
  • He had found a solution for his back pain, which was debilitating. He got an electrical device inserted into his back that he could deliver an electric charge to the injury site that short-circuits the transmission of the pain.
  • The process of getting approval to have it implanted took 6 months, which was very hard since he knew a solution was out there, had severe pain every day, and yet couldn’t do anything about it.
  • He started to walk, bit by bit going farther on each walk, targeting lamp posts out ahead. He started by getting to one, then went on to the second, etc.
  • Building our ability bit by bit, marking the lamp posts out ahead of us, we start to add up to the success we seek.
  • He ended up having an opportunity to substitute teach a business class in high school, stumbling on a very interesting new career that he pursued when a full-time role opened up.
  • Through that experience, he kept getting more opportunity, and ended up becoming the head of a school.
  • During this time, an optometrist found a cataract developing, with various specialists all thinking it was something different while the condition kept progressing.
  • The concern was that it would spread and wouldn’t be able to be stopped.
  • He also had an opportunity to move to Spain and be the head of school there, which he took despite the risk to his vision.
  • There was no time scale for his vision, so he and his family decided not to stop their life for the unknown.
  • His family loved the experience, learned Spanish, traveled all over Continental Europe, and took everything in.
  • In 2015, he woke up one morning and realized his other eye was impacted, too, and had trouble seeing out of either eye, and was forced to stop working by his doctor in Spain.
  • In another “why me” moment, Paul asked instead, “What can I do now?” As he was not content to be medically retired again and for good.
  • He had been writing a bit, and did it with a microphone instead of typing.
  • He wasn’t sure if what he was creating was any good, and found a service to help him with edits and guidance (asking for help, again).
  • He kept writing more, with short stories, then three books tied to his military experience as crime and military stories.
  • He enjoyed the writing, but missed the human interaction that he so enjoyed throughout his career.
  • Some friends wanted help from him as a coach, and so he ended up going into that career as a way to continue the human interaction aspect of his career while still writing (though now doing non-fiction).
  • As a child, he had been bullied when he was new at a school. In that moment, he decided this would never happen again, and enrolled in a Martial Arts class.
  • That was when the switch was turned on inside of him that has stayed switched on through his life.
  • For Paul, he feels that if something knocks you down, you just get up, and you carry on. There is no other choice.
  • He knows some people don’t have this attitude, but he’s found that they have it within them, but it isn’t switched on yet.
  • You may need help switching it on, which may be someone outside your friends and family.
  • It’s the difference between the “Why Me” and “Move Forward” moments. The more we Move Forward, the easier it becomes to do that next time.


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