SaulPaul is a musician with a message and he’s given speeches at venues from the Google corporate headquarters and the SuperBowl to universities and grade schools all over the country. He’s a rapper, singer, guitar player and story teller, and was named Austinite of the Year for 2017.
His life is a series of inventions with one massive rip cord moment. He went from having 4 felonies and sitting in prison to graduating from the University of Texas with a 4.0 and being a global ambassador for the city of Austin. We jump right into what inspires him and how he inspires others with his message that he was born on purpose with a purpose. Here’s my conversation with entrepreneur and story teller, Saul Paul:
Todd: Saul Paul, thank you for joining me today on Go Hunt Life.
SaulPaul: Thank you for having me, quite excited to be here.
Todd: Where are you at right now and what’s your view? What are you looking at?
SaulPaul: I am looking – I’m in Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world. I’m in my office. I’m looking out the window. It’s my favorite weather, it’s overcast
Todd: Your favorite weather is overcast?
SaulPaul: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m from Houston originally so maybe it has something to do with it raining all the time in H Town, but I love when it’s cloudy out
Todd: How old are you? Are you married and do you have kids?
SaulPaul: I am married, no kids as of yet, look forward to it. People usually ask, “Well, when?” I say, “Well, whenever my wife tells me I’ve got one on the way.” When people ask me what my age is, I tell them, “Visit my website, saulpaul.com,” because just like this interview, it’s funny, back in the day…I would always do interviews and people would be like, “Cool, so I know about Saul Paul exclusively.” And people that interviewed me were always like, “Saul, what’s your real name?”
I felt like it was this personal conversation and then the article comes out and it was like a different name on the front line. I’m like, “yeah, so that’s in all the previous articles, so if anybody wants to know my real name or my real age, you have to visit saulpaul.com and check out the previous article or interview”
Todd: Got it. What is your profession?
SaulPaul: I’m a musician with a message
Todd: Musician with a message
SaulPaul: Musician with a message, yeah. A decade ago, I used to be a motivational speaker who’d incorporate music and film into my presentations. Then some years ago, I just focused on the music part. It’s a little bit different, what I do. So being an entrepreneur, I realized that I get to create my job or at least create my title. So yeah, I’m a musician with a message.
Todd: Do you have a company?
SaulPaul: I do, Reroute Music Group. To get to the core of what I do, I’m a storyteller. I do it through various types of media. And our company also, I create music and then we create a world around the music through movies, mobile gaming apps, music festivals, books and other motivational, inspirational products
Todd: All of the people that I’ve interviewed so far for this podcast, I can go through and research them online or talk to people that they know and they can specifically point to an exact rip cord moment, whether it was selling all of their worldly possessions like their house and their cars and all their stuff and getting on a boat or getting on a RV or a van and travelling the country. Or they quit their job and that defining moment is them walking out of the office for the last time. That’s their rip cord moment. Can you point to one defining moment in your life that set you on the path that you’re on now?
SaulPaul: Yeah, I was sitting in a prison cell. I was sitting in a Texas State penitentiary for four felonies. I realized that I didn’t see my life playing out the way that it had. I knew that I had much potential; I thought I’d do something. I didn’t know what it was; it wouldn’t be sitting in prison. As I sat in prison, I realized that I was born on purpose with a purpose. Like that was the key moment and that came through, for me prison was kind of like a timeout. I grew up where I never got timeouts or grounded when I was in trouble, I just got whoopings. And so, as a young adult, I thought this was God’s way of saying, “Here’s a timeout. I need you to sit still for a moment and observe, recognize, realize what your choices have added up to.” So for me, that was that moment.
That’s when I realized I was born on purpose with a purpose and that’s when I got on that path and you know what, that’s when my vision became clear. I developed a vision which was, I wanted to change the world. So for me, that was that moment.
Todd: When you had that moment in prison, how long before you were actually released and what did you do while you were still in prison to get on this path?
SaulPaul: It was funny. I was in prison. I believe in miracles only because I have literally experienced them. I was in for the 4 felonies. I was 20 years old sitting in the state penitentiary and I got out in 2 years, here in Texas. People that are familiar with the penal system and what not, they say that was pretty amazing. They’re like, “Good behavior?” No, the first year I was still making dumb decisions and being hard headed, but it was about halfway through…and once I caught that epiphany, it was a year later that I was released miraculously.
I had 4 felonies, I had 10 years, I’m sitting in prison and I realized that I had squandered the grand opportunities that I’d had. Because it’s kind of like, let me back up for you and get to that point…
The reason why I ended up in prison was because, well when I was in prison I realized it wasn’t because my mom died. When I was 3, my mom died in a car accident. It wasn’t because my dad left, I’ve never met him. It wasn’t because I grew up in the ghetto. It wasn’t because I was black. It wasn’t because of the system. It wasn’t ‘the man’. People have heard of ‘the man’ before. “It was the man!” Like for me, it was just taking ownership and realizing, no, I’m here because I made bad choices. You make bad choices, you get bad results. So I realized if you make better choices you get better results.
So for me, it’s like Carrie Underwood song. I was like, “Jesus take the wheel. I’ve been coaching my own life, this isn’t working. I’m real with myself in prison, I don’t have any answers.” So it was halfway through and then there was like, “Cool, I’ll just quarterback. How about you do the play calling God?” and then He started calling plays that ultimately got me out of prison, got me accepted into the prestigious University of Texas, Austin. Ultimately, I graduated with a 4.0
Todd: So you went from 4 felonies to a 4.0? Okay. So, you get released from prison. What transpired to get you from walking out of that prison to graduating and walking across that stage at UT with a 4.0? What went on during that time?
SaulPaul: I developed a vision for my life. To be clear, I went to UT twice. It was interesting. The first time I got arrested I was 17 years old. Again, like I said, I grew up in the ghetto, alright? And people in my neighborhood did a bunch of bad stuff for money. One of those things was selling drugs. As a youngster, I realized why people sell drugs and it’s to make money. So it wasn’t really about selling drugs, it was about making money. So at 17, I was like, “Oh, I never really sold drugs. I just figured out how to make money.” But that’s a federal offense, right?
I was making counterfeit money so I get arrested, but I still graduated high school on probation. I go to college. I didn’t have any life skills. We’ll talk about later why I work with young people – because I realized as a young person, no one ever taught me life skills. I knew how to survive but I didn’t have life skills.
Anyway, I graduated high school. I get an academic scholarship. I go to the University of Texas, didn’t have life skills. Smoked a lot of weed, partied a lot, didn’t study – which didn’t make sense to me because I did so well without studying, I made it to college so why would I study now?
I flunked out and that’s when I went to prison. And then when I get out of prison, the difference was, this time I had a vision. Before I had no vision and it was kind of like, “wake up and let’s just see what the day has for us.”
The second time around, what kept me motivated and helped me to go from prison incarceration to college graduation was that I had this fire in my belly. I had this vision. I had a purpose. I had something to do. That’s what led me and that’s what drove me, my vision.
Todd: So when you walked across the stage at UT with your degree, was your purpose to get a job, be an entrepreneur or were you already working? Did you already have a company and you were you already an entrepreneur and you were a student simultaneously?
SaulPaul: Nope, no, no. It was funny, I did have a mentor. I didn’t know I had a mentor, but it was a gentleman that’s encouraging, an older gentleman that was working with ex-felons. It was part of a prison ministry, I believe. He kind of just adopted me as a mentee. You know we would just go out and have lunch?” but he was good. He was a positive voice in my life and I would share with him my vision like, “Yeah, I just want to change the world.” I was passionate. I was like, “I want people to experience this freedom, this passion that I have.”
I would tell him every week when we’d meet up, “Yeah, I want to change the world,” and he was like, “Cool, but you should get a job.” I was like, “I don’t need a job, I just want to change the world.” He was like, “Yeah, you could get a job and change the world on weekends.” I was like, “I want to change the world.” He was like, “Yeah, you could get a job and you could change the world when you get off work.” I was like, “I just want to change the world!” but then…I’m really spirited, it’s my gut, but in my spirit I really felt like God was like, “Yeah, get a job,” and I was like, “okay, I need to get a job.”
So that really wasn’t on my agenda, but I did and I miraculously got a corporate job working at ABC television station. So I worked with this ABC television station, it made everybody else say, “Ooh wow, that’s cool! You work at a TV station.” To me, it was just a job. I worked there for a year and it really solidified that I was an entrepreneur. I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was at that point, but I just knew that I wasn’t an employee. I knew that I had a vision and the goal wasn’t for me to play a part in helping to manifest someone else’s vision, but to manifest the vision that I had. So I worked there for a year then I resigned.
So I resigned and then I stepped out on faith, ignorance is bliss. I was so young at that point. It wasn’t about being young, it was about being ignorant. I was like, “yeah, I’ll put in my 2 week notice a month before I quit!” Or I get my resign date or what have you. Then I resigned a month later. I got my pay check and then I was like, “Cool, I’m going to go change the world.” I was broke a month later. That’s what led me to entrepreneurship. I was like, “Whoa, I’ve got to figure out how to make some money while I change the world.”
Todd: What was your vision? I have a vision – I want to go change the world. You’ve got somebody else you respect, a mentor, saying, “Yeah, do that on the weekends. You’ve got to pay the bills, you’ve got to get a job.” Then you got a job, you walk out, you get your final pay check and then you don’t have any more money coming in. How do you change the world and not have income?
SaulPaul: It doesn’t really take money to change the world. That’s the real point. That’s not the goal. I mentor dozens of people now and I’m like yeah, that’s not the goal. But for me, I think it really allowed me to see because I was changing the world and I didn’t have any money. Like I was touching people’s lives and I realized that’s what it was. I wouldn’t even call it “grass roots” but I recognized what really matters. I want to touch people’s lives. I was, “I want to change the world.” What I say now is, “We all live on the same planet, but we each live in our own world. Change the world you live in.” So I started touching people’s lives and I was doing it but then I realized I’ve always been a big thinker. That’s always been my natural nature.
Wow, this is working: I’m touching people’s lives, I want to touch more lives. I saw that if I had finances and resources, I could even scale and impact and touch even more lives. For me, it just started – I don’t know if this answers your specific question – I went to the local school. I had a friend – again, I’m from Houston but was living in Austin – I had a friend I met that was from Austin. He came from an at-risk community and he went to a school that was in it. He was like, “I can introduce you to somebody.” So for me, it started off going to that school and volunteering. Like, “Hey, I want to just come and impact these students.” And they opened the doors to me and that’s when it really clicked.
That was the first time that I had done that and it works! I came home, went to the school that afternoon and by the time I got home 2 hours later, I had an email from a student that was there that told me, “You changed my life,” and that was like, okay that was it.
Todd: That was it
SaulPaul: Okay, I’ve just got to figure it out
Todd: So when did music come into being a part of your message?
Saul: It was always a part of it. So when I realized, again, the way that I’m built and designed, I have to connect. My goal is always to go from A to Z the quickest. When I was young, I didn’t respect structure and rules. That’s why I went to prison. That’s why I made counterfeit money. When other people were selling drugs, I was like, “Wouldn’t it just be quicker to make money then we can buy whatever we want then instead of selling drugs to make money?”
SaulPaul: So that was my logic, right? That was my logic, I want to go from A to Z. And so, I’m always thinking, “What would create the best ROI?” It was so crazy; I just realized how the world works. I think a lot of people spend time complaining about the discrepancies in the world, the issues and the flaws and what not. You can talk about it or you can be about it. It’s crazy because I saw entertainers having way more influence. When I discovered speakers like John Maxwell, Les Brown – these were amazing people. I was like, “Wow, they’re giving insight to make your life better!”
I learned that when I was working in the corporate world. People in the corporate world complain like, “Oh no, we have a speaker today. I don’t want to hear a speaker! I don’t want some guy to talk,” blah blah blah. They were complaining, but for me, it quenched my thirst. When I was in certain communities, they hadn’t even heard of these people. They didn’t know this information existed. I was like wow. I want to bring this information to the average man, not just corporate America. So what I started to realize as I did that was wow, in entertainment they might be rather unqualified and have nothing significant to say, but has more influence than a person who could edify you and equip you to change your life.
So me being a speaker and a musician, it was like I think I would have a larger sphere of influence if I owned the artist aspect of what I do. The music was always there but it was like, “Okay cool, you now what? There’s a higher ceiling as an artist because I can have this platform and I can change the world,” which was my goal all the time.
Todd: A lot of the people that I talk to, I refer to as “life re-invention” where they are re-inventing their career path or life path. With you, it really sounds like life invention, like you are really creating your own path and career. Is there anyone or someone that you are modeling your life and your mission and your purpose after?
Saul: Very good question. This excites me because it’s so much easier to find a template that works and follow it. There are a lot of templates to follow, but it kind of sucks for me because what I’m trying to do doesn’t exist.
SaulPaul: Now, I mentor people and they just want to be different. They’re like, “What I do doesn’t exist!”… and it really does, but they just want to feel special. So they’re doing this new, unique thing, whatever. Me, I was wish there was a template. Because if there was, I would have just followed it. But by default, for me, it just kind of sucks. It’s a lot more work because what I’m trying to do doesn’t exist, a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
SaulPaul: So it definitely took me much longer. I can say that now but at that point I didn’t know I was spending time finding models and what not. So I ended up creating my own hybrid. So, there was nobody I could look to, but there was part John Maxwell, part Les Brown, part hip-hop moguls, part Bishop TDJ. It was like okay, I want a little bit of this, little bit of that, but now that I’m on the other side of it, I see the benefit of it. It’s really, really benefitted me because what I’ve done is create my own thing and it works and me and my team, we clearly understand how it works and now the sky is the limit
Todd: So explain your company, Reroute Music Group, what does your company do?
SaulPaul: I’m the company. It’s really just Saul Paul.
SaulPaul: That’s interesting. It’s just Saul Paul. So what I do, the best way to explain it is I create music. Like just last night I wrote a song, I was inspired being MLK Day and I wrote a song. An example would be like our most recent project…so what I do is I create a song and then we create a world around that song or not a song – I’ll create an album and then we create a world around that album. So my most recent project is called “Tower to Tower 2, Dream in 3D,” focus on the 3D part. So I created an album then I took one of the songs and wrote a book based on one of the songs in the album.
The book is called “Dream in 3D.” Then we created a mobile gaming app called “Saul Paul, Dream in 3D.” And that’s available on iTunes and Google Play. It has had much success. It has over 100,000 downloads right now and it’s great, but it’s an actual gaming app. It’s a mobile gaming app.
We’ve even created a music and arts festival where we bring these songs to life and you can sort of experience them. Next we’ll release a play later this year of the same name, “Dream in 3D.” We’ll tell stories of the songs and we’ll create a world around that. So simplified, I create music and we create a world around the music. That’s what our company does. Another way to say it is, Reroute Music Group is a multi-media production company and we create music, mobile gaming apps, movies, books and other motivational inspirational products.
Todd: You’ve got a lot of different revenue streams then. You’ve got the album, you do speaking engagements, you’ve got the mobile app, you’re doing a play. Like how many different revenue streams do you have or do you even consider them to be separate?
SaulPaul: We do, we have about 8 streams right now.
SaulPaul: Yeah, we have about 8 streams right now. From a business standpoint, it’s funny because we have to simplify it because again, in the beginning it was initially just myself then it was my business partner. It’s easier to explain, I don’t have to explain because everybody knows, it’s just us. But as we brought other people on then we had the clothing division, the book division, the mobile gaming app, the movie which in our actions as they grow along and become standalone companies. Right now they’re streams within the company. And we have team members there to oversee the projects that are related to those areas and what not.
Todd: We’ve only known each other for a couple of months, but one of the stories you told, I think, the first time I saw you speak was that you had a brand. You were performing, you walked out the door onto the street and somebody recognized you and you couldn’t pay your cell phone bill. Then you said, “Wait a minute, I need to create hype around my brand because I can’t even pay my cell phone bill!” How long ago was that?
SaulPaul: That was… I put out my first album in 2003 so that would be 2004.
SaulPaul: That was about 13 years ago because I had just put my album out and so it was amazing that people knew me. I was performing and I could go places and people would know me. So yeah, it’s funny describing our company because it’s still complicated. The simplest way to describe it is we monetize influence. That’s what we do as a business, minus all the other details, categories and strings and what not. What I realized is that as an artist, I had this influence. It was funny because it was a byproduct and it was very fitting because nothing has ever changed, all I really want to do is touch people’s lives. And so I did that when I made no money.
So, I can go do an event and be in front of 700 people and literally see the 75% of the 700 people were getting what I was saying right there in that moment. And later I’ll get an email message from the other ones that were there saying, “Hey. You touched my life.” And I was like, “This is all I want to do.” Again, I wasn’t making any money, but I was growing in influence, not just because I was changing people’s lives but because the default nature of an artist where you’re more popular than the most famous, like, an average artist in Austin is more popular than the most famous dentist. Yet the most famous dentist is making way more money than the average artist in Austin.
Todd: Okay, okay
SaulPaul: People would ask, “What do you want?” I was like, “Well cool, I have all this influence, but I’m a starving artist and that doesn’t make any sense to me,” I went to college, I got bills to pay. I’m worth something and it’s not just “hey, let’s just touch lives.” And I share this because I think as artists, we get caught in that trap and then the culture, it’s sad. I’ll get on my soap box…I love it because I’m traveling in so many different cultures, right. I’m a black male, that’s a culture. There’s so many issues there. There’s a lot going on there right, right? Like black males in society in America.
I’m an ex-felon, that’s a different culture. I’m a college graduate, that’s a different culture. I’m an artist, that’s a different culture. It’s funny because we can understand how black males are perceived in America, there’s an issue there. Or how ex-felons are perceived or how college graduates are perceived. But as an artist, I’m a part of this group as well and it’s funny because how artists are perceived and they are not perceived as the entrepreneurs that they are by default.
And then, it’s also interesting to see that when a person is part of the people group, whether you’re cognizant of it or not, it’s you’re operating within the confines of that culture. Like I grew up in the hood so I behaved a certain way. That’s what led me to prison and it wasn’t just me, it was like well, this is what we do. But what we do is dumb and that’s why I went to prison. That’s when I realized as an artist though; artists get all this love in this culture. Like in the world, artists are so cool but the truth is, as artists, what we do is dumb. Like people who have magical powers are awesome, but then you get like 10% of the pie and you know you’re the one that made it.
That just doesn’t make any sense whereas, as an entrepreneur, it’s totally the reverse. So if you see yourself as an artist, you can expect to get yourself 1/10, that’s just the way it is. As an entrepreneur, when you get 90%, that’s just the way it is. I was like, maybe you need to see yourself different. That’s one of the things that stood out for me. That’s what I’m passionate about. Initially, I impacted a lot of people so yeah, I reached students. I reach ex-felons. I reach black males. I reach artists. And now it’s funny because my current passion is artists because I see artists as an overlooked group that are living up to a low level that’s been set for us.
Todd: So you mentioned you get a really small piece of the pie. You released your first album in 2004, is that right?
Todd: And how many albums have you released since?
Todd: Okay. You’ve released albums through the iTunes movement of how little artist are making of their music and they have to tour to make money and sell merchandise to make money. How have you transitioned in that movement?
SaulPaul: Yeah! I’m so passionate about this stuff. Yeah, luckily I avoided that model in general because it didn’t make sense.
Todd: How do you avoid iTunes though?
SaulPaul: Well, all my music is available on iTunes, but when you sell, I don’t know, 100 singles a month or 100 albums a month, I was just… this is how I usually explain it… Initially when I dropped my first album in 2004, it was a very, very exciting thing to get on. Then in 2005, 2006 and 2007, it was challenging to get on iTunes in general. In the beginning we were boxed out, but people were still buying CD’s at that point. So when you sell a CD, let’s just say it’s 10 bucks right?
SaulPaul: So you put a lot of work in, you make an album, you sell a CD for 10 bucks. You want to make a 1000 bucks, you’ve got to sell 100 CD’s, okay? The first time somebody paid me to come perform, they gave me 1,000 bucks, right? I did a bunch of performances but I mean the first time I got paid to perform, right? So, all of sudden, I was like, “Wow, perform for an hour and make 1000 bucks, work hard for a couple of months and make 1000 bucks.”
SaulPaul: Why should I be slowly trying to sell CD’s? I should really try to figure how to sell live performances. So that’s how I avoided iTunes and then when you bring in iTunes, you’re not even getting 10 bucks.
SaulPaul: You’re getting $1 per song and if you sell the album, the album sells for 10 bucks but you only get 70% of that anyway. So you get 7 bucks. When people see your potential, you potentially could reach a billion people. Yeah man, I could potentially find a lotto ticket when I get gas as well, but what is the probability of that? Just because it can happen doesn’t mean it does. Even if I make that my goal, again the ROI – does that really pay off? And then when you start to look at ownership and longevity of your career, people start to ask me like, “So who are your musical inspirations?” and I believe being black, being a rapper, being an urban artist, they expect me to say some urban artists or something, it throws them for a loop when I say, “Willie Nelson.” “Willie Nelson?” Like yeah, because Willie Nelson’s like 80+ years old and he did a show this weekend. He’s on tour right now. But that’s longevity, how do you build a company so that you can be 80 years old and if you choose to, still get to do it?
SaulPaul: When you subscribe to the other model, I mean, you become an anomaly if your career lasts more than 5 or 10 years. You would be an anomaly, you would be very special because when the most popular band creates and they pop and they blow, then it’s like yeah, they were popping in 2007 and they’re not relevant anymore. There’s so many inherent things to it versus when you build a company. And like, what you mentioned, I get the re-invention. I look at a company like Facebook…they started off doing one thing and they still do that thing, but they keep coming up with new things and they still keep figuring out ways to make money and keep people engaged and keep people on the platform instead of being like a trendy tech company that’s like now old and outdated like Myspace.
Todd: What’s the largest audience you’ve ever performed in front of, like how many people?
SaulPaul: It will be this Saturday as I perform at the women’s march at the Texas state capital, they expect, it’s crazy, 30,000 people.
Todd: 30,000 people?
SaulPaul: That’s just this week. That’s coming up this weekend. That’s pretty crazy. They invited me. It’s still crazy. Again, I’m a male. That’s my gender and this is a women’s march, different gender. It’s crazy because I did TEDxWomen and I’m honored by it. I look at it because I get invited to all these non-traditional people groups that I’m on front of. “We have this women’s march and we want you there!” And I’m like “cool, I’ll do it!” I researched it more and I realized that this is a pretty huge deal. So that will be this weekend.
Todd: When did you learn to play the guitar? You’re a hip-hop artist that plays the acoustic guitar? That’s not common either.
SaulPaul: Exactly right, re-invention, like you say. I don’t like limits and I don’t like boxes and I saw there were all these inherent limits, like, “Oh yeah, you’re a rapper,” so you’re in this box or you’re in this and you’re in that box, especially being here the live music capital in Austin, Texas. So I picked up the guitar after I put out my first album in 2004 because it really was because when I would say I was a musician, people would be like, “Oh cool, what do you play?” and I’m like, “I’m a rapper,” and they’re like, “Oh…” That was kind of silly. That “oh”, like that’s not music or something? And so, it’s funny if I play an instrument would I be a better artist? I don’t believe so, but people were not respecting the craft of song writing and being an MC, so I picked up a guitar and self-taught. It was one of the hardest thing I ever learned to do, probably second to learning flash.
Todd: Yeah, back in the flash days.
SaulPaul: It was really hard. Like what, this is crazy! Web designing, you know, you spend 8 hours trying to change the font color.
SaulPaul: Are you doing HTML? I did it, I did it. I put it straight. But yeah, after I learned how to play the guitar, I just wanted to do it as a once off, but I fell in love with it. I was still a rapper and then when I would do the 2 together, I saw how people responded to it. I liked it because it allowed me to focus on what I cared about most, which was song writing anyway. It kind of removes all of the flash of a cool beat. You could put powerful music behind it, but I’m listening to the words. I’ve always been about the words. In about 2006 when I finally figured it out, and I haven’t put it down since.
Todd: It works. You alluded to this earlier. You’ve done a couple of TEDx talks. I’ve watched one, your TEDxYouth talk back in 2014 and you describe the order of operation. Describe what that means and how did you learn this?
SaulPaul: The order of operation? It was interesting because even as we have this conversation, I love being an entrepreneur because I get to avoid having to figure out how to fit in the box which is not my natural nature. And instead of people feeling like, I hate this phrase, and hate is a strong word, but “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Okay, maybe you’re just not as good as the people who are great at it. Deon Sanders was not a jack of all trades, master of none. Bo Jackson wasn’t. There are those that are just multi-talented, multi-gifted. So anyway, I just happened to fall into that box. I hate boxes, but I’m into the multi-gifted box. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.
Also, I know what I suck at. I want people to be clear, I’m not some megalomaniac or something. I know what I suck at. I’ll never play basketball for your celebrity pickup basketball game or anything because I suck.
SaulPaul: But what I’m good at is what I’m good at. So what I realized is the order of operations like in math – I came up with this because I try to think about universal things, right? I don’t want people to be limited, that’s why I picked up the guitar. I don’t want people to not receive my message because they don’t like hip hop, right? So if I play the guitar and I do the same songs, they’re like, “Oh my, that was phenomenal!” Same song, you have to figure out how to reach people.
We all had to take middle school and high school math. So I was like this is a good example that everybody can relate to. As we remember, like back in the days when they taught us, we had to what’s in the parenthesis first and then you have to do multiplication and division first before you do addition and subtraction – there’s an order of the operations. Even if you get all the calculations right but you do them out of order, you get the wrong answer. So I realized in life it’s kind of the same way because I don’t need people and then it also became because of the need.
Because people would speak to me and communicate and they would share, “Man, I’m passionate about this, I’m passionate about that. I’m good at this and I’m good at that. I don’t know what to do or when to do it.” It was more like, also I have observed in life and I have to use the example…Clifford Harris. You know Clifford Harris?
Todd: I do not
SaulPaul: Okay, do you know who the rapper TI is?
SaulPaul: Okay, cool. So TI is Clifford Harris.
SaulPaul: Check this out. This is a great example because it will make my point exactly. Clifford Harris was just featured in a movie that came out over the weekend with Jamie Fox. I believe it’s called “Sleepless.”
SaulPaul: Okay, so Clifford Harris is this big Hollywood actor, right? He’s made a bunch of movies. TI made a bunch of movies, but you know who TI is but you don’t know who Clifford Harris is, but they’re the same person
Todd: Oh, I know who Clifford Harris is! Okay, alright. It just clicked
SaulPaul: And the point being though, he was a rapper first but he was able to transition into movies
SaulPaul: But if he did movies first then he would just be another dude, you wouldn’t even know who he is. You didn’t even know who he was off the top of the head. The average person doesn’t. it was like myself, I realized that because I did this and I excelled it allowed me to get into this arena and because I had the goods, I could excel and then I was able to get into this arena. There’s an order to it versus I’m passionate about these 4 things, I’m going to do it all. Or I’m going to do this one first. There’s some strategy that goes into it. What’s the best order for me? So that’s where “order of operations” came from.
Todd: Okay. So you’re monetizing your influence. TI’s original brand was TI.
SaulPaul: Yep, Yes exactly.
Todd: So when do you reach the point that your personal brand needs to change the name of it? He changed his entire brand name to his name, Clifford Harris, when he went into the movies. Why do you think that was important for him to do that?
SaulPaul: Well, I will say this, I don’t believe… he didn’t change his brand to go into movies. Like, for example, do you know who – I ask these questions because they’re generic, I’m not trying to set you up. Do you know who Calvin Broadus is?
SaulPaul: That’s Snoop Dogg
SaulPaul: And my point is this, we know the rapper names and whatever but Calvin Broadus – Snoop never goes by Calvin Broadus. He never goes by Calvin Broadus but he’s in movies as well. I’ve never seen his show but apparently he has a show with…
Todd: Martha Stewart
SaulPaul: That’s ridiculous in a great way, like what?!
Todd: It’s hilarious. It’s entertaining, it’s awesome.
SaulPaul: Exactly and it’s like he didn’t change. Wow, Snoop is killing it. He doesn’t go by “Martha Stewart and Calvin Broadus.” No, it’s Martha and Snoop – that’s the name of the show. So like, TI changed his name. I just made the point that there’s just other sides to him. Could you repeat the question?
Todd: No, we’re down a rabbithole. I actually asked this question to a person that you and I both know, Paul O’ Brian, here in Austin. I asked him, “When does an entrepreneur focus on building their own personal brand and when do they focus on building their company or companies brands and how do you balance that?” You are building your, the Saul Paul brand, which is you. Do you have a vision of a company that maybe becomes bigger than you?
SaulPaul: I don’t and it’s because I have the company. It’s funny and this is based off my experience. That’s a great question. I can give my answer, but I think there’s different angles to it. You really have to know your business, your industry as well because I have 3 major brands, right? One of the brands is like Saul Paul and really what I promoted first with Reroute is Tower to Tower, which is a brand in itself which is how I went from the prison tower to the UT tower. From prison incarceration to college graduation and then Reroute Music Group. Then what I noticed about people is that as I would promote multiple brands, even when I would promote 2 let alone 3, when I would promote 2, I saw people get confused.
They get so crazy and I’m like wait, there’s 2 things there. It’s not that complicated, there’s 2 things. People would literally like get it crossed up. Like, “Saul Tower”. So it made me say, “I have to pull back. Which one will I grow first?” Also, I knew my industry well. Like Beyonce has a company. Her company, if I’m not mistaken, is called “Parkwood Entertainment.” Beyonce is like a global music superstar, one of the largest artists, if not the largest artist in mainstream music or whatever, right? But like most people don’t know her company is called Parkwood Entertainment.
SaulPaul: They just know Beyonce so I don’t even know if it would make sense for her to be like, “Let me grow my brand, let me grow my company brand,” or her husband Jay-Z. So there are nuances to it and you have to understand your industry just like – I think Mark Zuckerberg, he plays the back versus trying to be on the front…even though he’s the face of Facebook or the man behind it. He was like, “I’m going to grow my company versus growing my personal brand.”
2 good examples would be Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Two different takes to it, that’s part of it. You have to know who you are. It’s so funny, my manager, I’m proud of her. You were there, you can really appreciate this. You were there when Bianca, she gave her one11…remember?
Todd: Yeah, for sure
SaulPaul: It just came out, the first one, they’re slowly releasing each video. Hers was the first one from Austin. So they did the “Be somebody 1/11” they released it 15 hours ago and her video already has 42,000 views.
SaulPaul: This is crazy, like I just found out right before the phone call. I’m like, “What?!” This is all just Facebook only – 42,000 views, 150 shares and she doesn’t speak often. When you meet her, she’s very quiet spoken, likes to be in the background. But when she does whatever she does, she does it well. So she prepared, like when I introduced her, she prepared for it. She’s a great pitch person. And I’m like, there’s another culture that goes with this pitching thing, she would prosper in that area. But at the same time, if she tried to build a business around a public persona, she’s really more introvert than extrovert.
It wouldn’t suit her well. It wouldn’t make sense to go, “Yeah, I’m going to become like this outgoing…” That’s not really who she is. Instead, she is a thinker and a planner and a plotter and an administrator. She plays the back, but you kind of have to know. That’s why she doesn’t even have a Facebook page, that’s crazy! She doesn’t have a Facebook page, but yeah, she has this video on FaceBook that’s just going viral.
Todd: It’s blowing up, wow. Who are a couple of mentors that have helped you along the way that you can point to that have had the biggest impact on you personally?
SaulPaul: David Porter, he’s the Executive Director of A Glimmer of Hope, which is a non-profit here in Austin, Texas. He works closely with Philip Burber. You know, Philip Burber sold his company for half a billion dollars, $555 million dollars I believe it was and then they started a non-profit. Then they had David Porter manage it. He’s been quite an encourager. He’s been like the consistent one. There are many other people that have shared along the way and have been encouraging. My primary mentor, he’s mentored me for close to a decade.
SaulPaul: He’s been there from the beginning and he walked alongside me. So yeah, he would be the primary. There are always people that are helpful like Thad Rosenburg, who…that would my first job working in corporate America at the ABC affiliate, KVUE here in Austin. So there are more people that have played a key role. Gaileen Clark, the pastor at Great Mt. Zion Baptist Church, people who would see me. I guess I would make that point because when we say “mentor,” we think they are people who have been there from forever but they are people who have just from afar just used their sphere of influence to bump me along as I went. They saw my vision. They saw where I was going and they used their sphere of influence to open a door and create a new opportunity.
Todd: Who are you mentoring now and where do you see them headed?
SaulPaul: Too many to name, but Sugar Ray Dexton. I can see he is probably the longest running. He sticks around. Some people come and go. He’s a good guy, he stays close – Sugar Ray Dexton. He’s a motivational speaker and he’s started his own organization, Claim Your Destiny. It’s been amazing to see him grow. When I met him, I was going to a show on 6th Street. We knew each other years ago, maybe 20 years ago but I hadn’t seen him. I passed out a flyer when I was going to do a show on 6th Street six and a half years ago. He saw the flyer, I was a motivational speaker. He was a bouncer at a club. He was like, “I want to be a motivational speaker.” He followed up and now he’s a motivational speaker.
So it’s awesome and amazing to see people bring visions to fruition. That was my goal when I said, “Change the world”, I want to see others be able to bring their visions to fruition. Another dude that just popped in my head is Myles Washington. He’s based in Waco. When I met him, it’s funny because I guess he was stalking me on social media because I had another mentee that lived in Waco and I was in town to visit that guy. I posted on Facebook or something and this dude just came up to the Barnes and Noble because I was there.
He walked around until he found me and was like, “Hey, I appreciate what you do. I want to do the same.” He wanted to mix music and motivation, create a hybrid model and now he’s quite successful. He’s travelling the country. He’s impacting lives. His music is flourishing. He’s touring as well he’s speaking and he’s creating programs and curriculums for schools. So that would be the top 2 right there. There’s numerous others.
Todd: Okay. If you could go back in time and walk next to yourself the day that you walked off campus as a graduate, what advice would you give yourself?
SaulPaul: So interesting, I don’t know. By the time I was in college and I was graduating, I was focused. So it’s like, stick with it, but I don’t know. It’s funny; I have to go a little bit further back. Like maybe prison because by the time I graduated, that was… I was focused already, like I wasn’t going to college to check a box off because it was like, “Cool, this is step 1 of the 7-step plan of world domination.”
So that was like step 1, I was being committed. But if I came alongside myself in prison once I got that vision and I was still sitting in there locked up. I would tell myself to stay true and when you get out, it will be awesome and amazing because you have freedom. Nonetheless, there will be many times when you’ll be misunderstood. There will be many times when you’ll be alone. There’ll be many times when you’re facing insurmountable odds. There’ll be many times when you hit a wall, but keep going.
Todd: Alright, you’ve got to narrow this down to 3 people. If you could have dinner tonight with 3 people whose careers you greatly respect and who are truly living their personal and professional lives as one, who would you choose to have dinner with tonight?
SaulPaul: John Maxwell, Willie Nelson and… who would the last person be? John Maxwell, Willie Nelson… I don’t know, maybe Jay Z.
Todd: Jay Z, alright. Last question, alright? On December 23, 2008 at 5:45pm you sent out your first tweet. Do you remember what you said?
SaulPaul: Was it, did I say “What’s up world?”
SaulPaul: Oh okay, I would believe that. I remember where I was…
Todd: Where were you?
SaulPaul: I was in the studio with a friend of mine named TDG, who recently changed his artistic name to Tai Sweet and he’s always been the social media savvy one or the first adopter or the early adopter. I remember he was telling me about this thing called Twitter. He’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter,” and I was like, “I don’t know about that.” He was like, “MySpace is dead, you’ve got to get on Twitter.” He helped me set my account up. I remember that. What was the first tweet?
Todd: He gave you good advice. Your first tweet was, “Making music.”
SaulPaul: Aaaaaah! Wow! You put a smile on my face! I knew, I said we were in the studio. So there it was, making music.
Todd: Well, you can still send that on today and it would be just as applicable.
SaulPaul: Wow, that is so cool!
Todd: You can find Saul Paul at saulpaul.com, that’s s-a-u-l-p-a-u-l.com and also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, @SaulPaul. Saul Paul, you also alluded to an event coming up this Saturday, anything else you are promoting and you want people to check out?
SaulPaul: I’m excited to participate in Black Fret. I have a Black Fret show on Saturday evening, Saturday afternoon I will be at the women’s march at the Texas State Capital. I’ll open it up at 12 o’ clock. Come join the other 30,000 people that will be in attendance as we fight for women’s rights and stand for what’s right. But in the evening, I’ll be showcasing and headlining the Black Fret show. I’ll be the last act to go on at 10:30 and it’s at the Mohawk. I’m quite excited about that because Black Fret is an awesome organization. They’re creating opportunities for artists like myself.
So y’all keep it focused and if anybody wants to find out more beyond this moment, you can visit saulpaul.com, that’s s-a-u-l-p-a-u-l, saulpaul.com or any social media @-whatever social media platform-/saulpaul
Todd: Alright. Saul Paul, thank you for joining me today on Go Hunt Life!
SaulPaul: Thank you.