Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 124 - Paul Marobella - SUCCESS COMES IN MANY FORMS

The most successful people that I know whether they’re pro athletes or former pro athletes or have made career transitions to other professions or CEOs of large organizations; one thing you learn from them is that they are very coachable no matter what level they’re at.

PAUL: [00:00:00] The most successful people that I know whether they’re pro athletes or former pro athletes or have made career transitions to other professions or CEOs of large organizations; one thing you learn from them is that they are very coachable no matter what level they’re at. And as someone that’s run large organizations, I have friends that run even larger organizations, publicly traded companies, they have a mastermind group around them that helps them get to the next level.

And that could be an executive coach, it could be multiple executive coaches, it could be trainers, nutritionists. They have this army of folks around them, because first of all, they can afford it in many ways. But when I see that mentorship happening and I try to do it for people in my life that are on their way up, it really makes all the difference. And I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without a laundry list of folks that believed in me.

[Intro Music]

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JESSE: [00:01:51] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today has a laundry list of things we could talk about that he does, is doing, has done, is going to be doing, but we’ll try to truncate it a little bit. Currently, he’s the CEO of Republic Brands. He spent the majority of his career advertising for major brands, things you’ve probably seen on TV, and we’re going to ask him about that here in a minute. The previous 10 years of his career, he was a Chairman and CEO for North America for Havas, which is a large advertising agency where he led 2,500 people at that particular company.

As he’s described to me, I would consider his philosophy of leadership based on the things he’s learned in baseball, hockey, his team ethics in terms of bringing that to his leadership of these companies. He is a member of the new reformed [inaudible 00:02:39] diversity and inclusion council for the NHL. He’s working to increase diversity in hockey, which is if you know anything about trying to incorporate people for sports, let alone getting to communities that don’t normally play particular sports, it is not an easy task. So, he’s got his work ahead of him, but it is definitely going to be worth it. He’s also the chairman for a, I think nonprofit, he’ll correct me here in a second, [crosstalk] the Inner City Education Program. Welcome to the show, Paul Marobella.

PAUL: [00:03:08] Jesse, it’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

JESSE: [00:03:11] Yeah. Thanks for joining me. If you guys are watching the YouTube version, you can see Paul’s really cool home office versus my home office which is kind of blank and echoey and taking everything out of the second floor of the house.

PAUL: [00:03:26] Took me all of COVID to perfect this background.

JESSE: [00:03:30] It’s got really dramatic lighting. So, if you’re on the audio only version, you can go over to YouTube and check out the YouTube version, S-O-L-P-R-I and see. He’s got a black hoodie on, he’s got the black background, real dramatic lighting, all his hockey stuff going on. [crosstalk]

PAUL: [00:03:48] It’s all about effect.

JESSE: [00:03:49] You got it going on. You took the CEO edge and really dressed it up.

PAUL: [00:03:58] Yeah, thank you.

JESSE: [00:04:01] So, the one thing I’ve got to ask you, you mentioned and I guess, excuse me for doxxing you but you said something about being 50-ish, I guess I’ll say. Are you thinking about retiring? I mean, you’ve done a lot of things. Isn’t it time to just say, hey, I’m just going to play hockey and hang out at home and drink coffee and give it up? I mean, you stay really, really busy.

PAUL: [00:04:25] I love that question. I probably will never retire. It’s like they say, sharks when they stop swimming, they die. So, I have a feeling that if I don’t keep moving and keep my brain going, I love to build things. I love to fix things I love to transform, whether it’s companies or nonprofits or teams. So, I still have a lot of energy. I don’t feel 51. I feel 31. So, I think I’m going to ride that as long as I can. And it’s interesting, before COVID I flew maybe 250 to 300,000 miles a year. I didn’t see my wife, I wasn’t in the house that often. And then when COVID hit about two weeks in, my wife said, “Can you go back on the road? I’m not used to having you in the house.” So, now that I’m back in the office and have been for almost a year, that’s been good for our relationship and good for the family dynamic.

JESSE: [00:05:24] Yeah. Well, I know that’s been tough for a lot of people, and even my wife and I, who we’ve worked at home together, even prior to being married. And so for the majority of our kind of relationship, five years today, actually [inaudible 00:05:42] So, not terribly long, but getting along there. Anyway, so we are already used to spending time with each other, sharing an office, all those kinds of things, except when I need to be kicked out for her meetings and stuff.

But then with the lockdown and stuff, it was just like, even us who were used to that situation, it was just like, increased pressure of we’re not going anywhere. We’re not doing anything. And I know that was like — I felt like if for us, it was stressful for people like you who are obviously on the road a ton, it had to have been such a big dynamic change, just trying to deal with work changes and life changes and the dynamic of the house and all that stuff.

PAUL: [00:06:30] Yeah, as routines change, I’m a creature of habit like a lot of athletes, a superstitious creature of habit, like to do things exactly the same way every day. And so that was probably the biggest impact for me is that it affected my routines, both from my work routine, my exercise routines, and then my team sport routines. For like everybody, they were out the window. And that was probably the hardest adjustment for me, and had to find new ways to exercise, couldn’t skate, had to use inline skates and skate outside. So, there were a variety of different adjustments.

So, there’s a lot of positives I think that came from it for me. For example, I was never a morning workout person. And about halfway through COVID, when the CrossFit gym opened back up I started going at 06:30. I started pulling myself out of bed at 05:00, by 05:30, which was not ever my routine in my life, and now it’s stuck. So, I think there’s certainly if you take a crisis, and those opportunity turn into positive as well.

JESSE: [00:07:31] So, talking about not being a morning exercise person, I always wonder about this, because I just did a running video on this, about why to become a morning runner, because some people have difficulty with it, right? And my opinion, for what that’s worth, is largely to do it because of decision fatigue, just the later and later it goes on in the day, it becomes harder and harder to make good choices for yourself. So, especially for somebody like you who’s clearly got a lot of obligations to take care of, I would think you probably have a stronger, I don’t know, call it decision muscle, for lack of a better term than many people. So, were you like, finishing work up and then hitting the ice after that? Was that the routine? Was it just a way to blow off stress or how did you fit that in?

PAUL: [00:08:24] Yeah. Well, there was no ice during the — [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:08:26] No. I mean, prior to.

PAUL: [00:08:28] Oh, generally. Oh. Well, listen, for guys my age ice is after 10 o’clock at night. So, there’s no — There’s very little morning ice for — There are a couple states here in Chicago that are in the morning. But typically, for me, it’s at anywhere from 09:00 to 11:00 at night. And like I told my team, if it’s after 10 o’clock, you’re probably not going to see me because it makes the next morning that much more difficult. But again, I really felt the impact of not being around the team, not being in the locker room, not having that camaraderie which as a — I was never a pro athlete, but as a college athlete and even a high school athlete, those relationships are so important to the rest of your life, and I needed to have that back.

So, that’s been — And CrossFit’s like that too. I know CrossFitters love to talk about CrossFit. It’s kind of the knock on it. But it’s a lot — it’s a team dynamic. You’re not just going to the gym and working out by yourself. It’s very much a family dynamic, which is one of the reasons why I love it.

JESSE: [00:09:35] Well, that’s definitely the kind of cliche about CrossFit is that you’ll know somebody that’s CrossFit because they’re going to tell you. But you know, I think you — and I’m sure I’ve made those jokes too, just because it’s not my particular band, at least not at this point in my life. But I mean, I think you’d give it a fair shake. Like, you give it some merit to think about, in that I definitely miss my guys from college, from being a collegiate athlete. There’s something about having your team. Like, there is — It’s just not really in many places as somebody outside of the school system, somebody who is not a professional athlete, outside of that system.

And if you’ve never, I would think, especially for people who haven’t really been a part of a strong, tight-knit team before, that environment’s got to be like what is this? I’ve never — just like discovering this holy grail of social connection, which is something which, obviously, we’ve all missed a ton over the last 18 months or 12 months or however, things have opened up. So, maybe if you, the listener, need something to do, check out a CrossFit gym. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you and happy to have you there.

PAUL: [00:11:01] You also brought up decision fatigue. So, to me, that’s a close — that’s 1A , 1A is the team aspect, 1B is you just walk into the gym and it’s programmed for you, right. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to, you know, there’s technology to help me track my personal records, to help me track my weight. That’s, for me anyway, I don’t know about others. But for me, I don’t want to have to think about what my workout is going to be that morning. I want to walk into the gym, have it programmed. You know, if there’s a lot of running, dread it and get through it. And then track performance and track my results, still very data driven, which I appreciate.

JESSE: [00:11:42] Yeah. Well, it’s like if people ask me, I’m perfectly capable of run coaching, because I’ve such a deep background in that, which is why I do the running show. But I still have a coach. Even though I’ve moved away from triathlon, I still have a coach. And he says he tries not to over coach me. So, sometimes he won’t give me as much direction as he might somebody else. But it’s for the same reason because I’ve got enough decisions to make as it is. He just says, this is what we’re doing today and I say, okay. I mean, I can make a check and go, eh, I feel this way, or I don’t feel that way and we’ll have a conversation. But otherwise, there’s something nice about, you just show up and then coach says jump and you say how high? Or actually, coach would say jump this high, there’s no question about how high.

So, yeah, there’s something about that, that I think people don’t take enough stock of. Like, there’s the idea about, maybe this is a North American thing. So, I’d love your opinion as another North American citizen, we’re very individualistic, right? Like, I’ll do it myself. It’s just like if it can’t get done, right, I’ll do it myself. I can’t trust anybody else. But I think we miss out on when you can rely on somebody else, that takes so much burden off your plate. You can just like, take care of a workout, which isn’t — it’s a very small thing. But not having to deal with that one thing makes so many other things easier because that’s one thing off your plate.

PAUL: [00:13:21] Well, one thing I’ll say about that is the most successful people that I know whether they’re pro athletes or former pro athletes or have made career transitions to other professions or CEOs of large organizations; one thing you learn from them is that they are very coachable no matter what level they’re at. And as someone that’s run large organizations, I have friends that run even larger organizations, publicly traded companies, they have a mastermind group around them that helps them get to the next level. And that could be an executive coach, it could be multiple executive coaches, it could be trainers, nutritionists. They have this army of folks around them, because first of all, they can afford it in many ways.

But when I see that mentorship happening and I try to do it for people in my life that are on their way up, it really makes all the difference. And I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without a laundry list of folks that believed in me, whether that was sports, or whether that was business or even dealing with relationships or your nutrition or whatever it might be. It really takes all of that to kind of get to peak performance, whether that’s in business or sports. So, it’s interesting that you bring that up kind of individualistic, versus you know. Even Jordan had his coaches off the court, right, through Tim Grover coached him off the court not far from my house here in Chicago, actually. And you read his books about that and you see that even Jordan needed it.

JESSE: [00:15:00] Is it Relentless, is that that book?

PAUL: [00:15:04] It’s Relentless. Yeah, it’s Relentless.

JESSE: [00:15:05] Yeah, I was like it would be sitting back there. If the bookshelves were still there today it would be sitting back there. It is now in a box at the moment, but it’ll be back maybe here in a few weeks. I was like I’m pretty sure I’ve read that book. I feel like speaking of Jordan, gosh, I can’t remember. I know there’s a number of biographies of Jordan. I read this one and I feel like what I took away from it is like, people get this and he deserves I think the flak about being really cocky.

But I think at least he talked about it in the book, how accurate it is, I guess I can’t really say but I’ll take it as it is. That despite being this cocky SOB on the court, he was still trying to learn from everybody. He was still like, how do I — because he wanted to be even better. So, it’s like this persona of like, I’m the best, you can’t get one on me. But also, underneath that, being humble enough to say, no, I can still get better. What can I learn from you? What are you doing? How can I, you know. I think we miss that sometimes, like you get, especially in kind of our Instagram, social media reality, where you have big personalities, and kind of like this self-flagellation or whatever, missed that. Try to be humble and learn from other people and know that you need a team to help you.

PAUL: [00:16:38] Well, I learned something from my grandfather a long time ago. He didn’t go to college, and he had a very successful career. And he said to me, why go to college? I can learn everything from books, and I can keep learning, right? And that was a long time ago, of course, but that always stuck with me. I read over 100 books a year. And you asked me earlier, why wouldn’t I just retire at 51. And the real answer is because I think I have so much still to learn. I mean, I’ve even thought about going back to school to get my PhD still. And talk to my wife, is that weird going back to school in your 50s? But it’s really just about learning and having her call me doctor, which would be kind of cool.

But I changed industries recently, right? So, you talk about [inaudible 00:17:24] and humility. You know, I spent over 25 years in advertising and running agencies, and it becomes pretty automatic at that point, right? Like, you sort of know what is going to happen next, you can kind of predict the structure, and almost put yourself on automatic pilot to some degree. When I changed industries, I’m exhausted at the end of the day, because I’m in school every day. I’m learning about things that pricing models, distribution models, manufacturing, how things are made. Those are things that I haven’t thought about in 25 years. And that part of my brain is being activated and it’s exhausting, but it’s exciting at the same time.

JESSE: [00:18:08] Yeah. Did you change because you wanted that?

PAUL: [00:18:13] Yes, yes, I did. Because I felt that — I love the agency business and the consulting side of consulting with the biggest brands in the world. I love that. Primarily because you could go from talking to Nike in the morning to Anheuser Busch in the afternoon to something else later in the day. So, you’re switching industries and you’re switching brands almost every single day, that was exciting. But I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could not be the coach anymore and be the player, right, on the brand side. And I started my career on the brand side, but most of my career has been on the agency side. And it’s been awesome.

I mean, iconic brands, global company. Leadership and business management skills are transferable, obviously, still bring that same mentality of team sport. The owner of our business, it’s a privately held company owned by one gentleman, and he also owns a pro hockey team, which is cool. So, I get to have hockey conversations every day, which has been a nice byproduct of it, even though I’m not on that side of the business. So, that’s why I changed. I wanted to change it up, I wanted to try something different, and really start building and creating on the brand side. And that’s what I’m doing.

JESSE: [00:19:39] Well, I would think and clearly you would know more than me, so I’m just talking out of my ass a little bit here. But I would think given, you know, if you’re familiar with the advertising side, and how to set up campaigns for any brand, that you would be obviously a strong candidate to take an individual brand and make its message consistent and make sure it’s reaching its audience and connecting with them and doing all of the things right in the correct direction. Versus somebody like me who’s like, trying to learn it from the ground up with no background. So, is that — [crosstalk]

PAUL: [00:20:19] That’s the idea. That’s the idea. And the difference is when you’re on the consulting side, for the most part, you only see maybe a third of the iceberg, right? And you can consult on where the brand should live, and how would you go to market and what the messaging should be, what the tone should be. When you’re on the brand side you see it all, which means that you see what goes into manufacturing. When you do a campaign and promotion, how does that impact inventory? If you do a promotion, how does that — So, you start, you live below the waterline on the client side, which is different.

And then another big learning for me, and if anybody listening from the agency side, is that when you’re on the consulting side, you think your client’s thinking about you all day. And it’s just like this weird, you’re like why aren’t they calling you back? Why aren’t they — Because they think about 20% of the time, because they’re thinking about all this other stuff that has nothing to do with marketing or branding. And that’s been a really interesting eye opener for me.

JESSE: [00:21:23] Yeah. Like you said okay, we only have X inventory. So, in your case, I’m sure you know how to lead, obviously, huge campaigns. But it’s like, oh, if your supplier can only get you so many products, well, then there’s no point in doing this giant campaign. We have no product to sell. So, you have to do all that.

PAUL: [00:21:45] That’s right. That’s exactly it. And obviously, showing return on investment, and especially in a privately held company that it hasn’t necessarily spent on brand marketing the way that we are now and into the future to really build our portfolio. I love acquisitions and M&A, something I’ve done my entire career focused on M&A, and we’re active in that, which has been great. It’s been a good part of it for me. But it’s really, again, I look at everything as a team sport.

And there’s going to be days when you win, and there’s going to be days when you lose, there’s going to be people who aren’t feeling up to it on certain days, or the sports analogies, maybe they’re hurt. And how do you keep them motivated, especially people who have been in the organization for a long time. And they’re may be a little bit afraid of the change and the transformation that’s happening. How do you keep them motivated while recruiting new talent to the organization?

JESSE: [00:22:48] Yeah. From a small team perspective, I think about the things I have to juggle and then I go, does it get easier as you scale or does it just get more complicated? My inclination is, it just becomes more and more convoluted. I feel like you probably move slower and slower, as you get bigger because you have more moving parts. Does that seem accurate?

PAUL: [00:23:16] Yeah. Well, I think if you — there’s two things, right? You have to surround yourself with amazing people. And again, it sounds cliche, but if you have a staff of folks that are playing their positions the right way and are doing it at a world class level, being the president or CEO is a lot easier, right? You’re focused on the playbook for how we’re going to grow, how are we going to be more profitable, and the team really executes the game plan.

Where it can get unhealthy is when you’re not on the business, but when you too in the business, as the leader of the organization, something’s broken. If you’re worried about things that people that aren’t playing their position the right way, you have to figure that out. Because the business needs you thinking about tomorrow, not necessarily today.

JESSE: [00:24:06] Yeah. I think as a — I know many, and I definitely get in that trap at times just being how small we are. But I know there are — I have other kind of — I’m in the e-commerce space, so e-commerce brands that get trapped in that as well because they start like I did with a one man show, and then they don’t know where to start bringing people on or how to hand things off. And they go, well, only I can do this. And it’s like, no, you could find somebody else to help you. Like earlier like with a trainer. I guarantee you there’s somebody who knows more about this than you. And if they don’t currently, you can probably train them and find somebody to teach them to know more than you do.

PAUL: [00:24:49] Well, you want them to see things that you can’t see. Right? And it’s hard. You can’t look in the mirror all the time. So, you want them to see things you can’t see. And then the better asked the best trainers, coaches, consultants are also training coaching and consulting other people or other teams or other companies, and they’re bringing the learning of what they’ve experienced to you as well. And none of us are perfect, none of us are perfect 10s at anything we do, even Jordan. And look at Patrick Mahomes now, sorry, [inaudible 00:25:23]

JESSE: [00:25:23] No, you’re fine.

PAUL: [00:25:24] — right? Like, he needs people to point out to him on video what’s happening, you know, you’re dropping your elbow, you’re leaving the pocket too soon, right. So, he can work on those things in practice so they become automatic when he goes to a game. That’s why our teams when we pitch, practice to me was so important because you want it to be automatic, you want it to be in your limbic brain. You don’t necessarily want you to be winging it when the lights come on. And we know from sports that that’s why we do things repetitively to get that muscle memory.

JESSE: [00:26:01] Yeah. Well, I mean, that muscle memory is definitely important. I think about my kind of martial arts background, it’s like, if you’re in the middle of a sparring match, you don’t want to be thinking about like, oh, I need to, like in your brain, oh, I need to block, you just block. It just happens. It’s not, oh, maybe this and then that [inaudible 00:26:18] No. It’s a reaction. And yeah, you absolutely need somebody. I remember, specifically, as I progressed on in my martial arts career, I was one of the better students in the class, partially because I was older and people drop out, and there’s less and less of the older people. So, not necessarily just like, I’m amazing, kind of thing, but partly a war of attrition.

And the instructor, I spar with her sometimes and she would show me things that I was doing, like tells basically that I didn’t realize I was doing. I would do this or this before I did certain things. And without somebody to instruct me on those things to help me kind of work those out, then it’s like you’re telegraphing what you’re doing, but you don’t realize it. It just, again, goes back to you need a team, like you need people to help you out. You need all that stuff.

PAUL: [00:27:16] You got to put your ego aside. Humility, for me — Listen, I think a lot of us were like this in your 20s and maybe 30s, humility was fleeting, right? Especially in the industry that I was in, it’s hard to show weakness. You kind of have to move your way through the ranks. I would say for me, personally, humility didn’t come until later, right. And my wife’s been amazing at that with me. And she certainly points it out when I’m being too ego driven. And even even to this day, right, and life kind of has a way of doing that to you right? You’ve been married five years, I’ve been married 18 years — [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:28:00] No, I’ve been with her five years. [crosstalk] I’ve only been married for six months.

PAUL: [00:28:06] Okay. I didn’t get that. Okay, six months. You have a long way to go. But I’ve been married for 18 years. So, it’s good to have that partner in your life that can point those things out to you. And life has its experiences, right? You start to have children, you experience some setbacks in your life. And the cliche goes, it’s not how hard you fall down. It’s how fast you get back up, right? We’ve all had them.

Even though, to your point, on the outside you keep up appearances, you keep moving forward. Everybody has those setbacks. Everybody, including the top, top athletes in the world, and that’s what I think has built humility in me. And certainly, the last two years for me has been probably the 24 months of just building even more resiliency. So, to your question about why don’t you stop now, it’s because I think I have more gas in the tank now than maybe I did even 10 years ago. And I would say the last 18 months provided that fuel for me.

JESSE: [00:29:08] I’d like to get your opinion or personal bend on this or how you deal with this, I guess, as you brought up setbacks, frustrations, that kind of stuff. And obviously you’re used to running big companies or much bigger than I’ve ever been a part of. I know when I have issues, I definitely have, like a moment, maybe even a day, where I’m just dropping F bombs, I’m really frustrated and I’m just like, why is this happening? Like, this shouldn’t be happening. And then I begin even amidst that, I begin working feverishly to correct whatever it is. Like we’ve had supply chain issues this year like many people have had, so I’m trying to work on that.

And I know it bothers my wife that I get so upset because she’s like, you’re going to fix it. Why are you getting so upset? At least for me, I don’t know whether it’s healthy or not. I’m not sure I’m outside my own ego enough to judge that. But I know internally, within that frustration, I almost use it as fuel of like it gives me an adrenaline boost, hitting the nitrous a little bit, to just dig in and get it done. Have you gone through that? Do you still go through that? How do you deal with that situation? Are you a Zen master now where you’re like, oh, it’s just another shitstorm and it’s going to pass?

PAUL: [00:30:45] Yeah. I’m better at it, certainly, than I used to be. I think there’s a couple things. One is, is that I always say to myself, I can only control what I can control. So, let’s fix what we can control. And that’s always the message to my team and to myself, right. Like, something went wrong, something happened. To your point about supply chain, right, so we’re dealing with that too in our business, the logistics, the cost of containers, just the uncertainty in our supply chain, that affects our inventory.

But we can only control the things that we can control. I’m a fiery guy. And I’m probably maybe less fiery now than I was 10-15 years ago. And that comes from our competitive nature, right, that comes from wanting to win all the time and being competitive. So, there’s a shadow side to being that competitive. As my wife would say, you’re one of the most competitive people I know, but there’s a shadow side to that.

And the other way that I do it, to your point about Zen master is, is I always just say to the team, when I was in advertising, I would say guys, it’s only advertising. Right? We’re not curing cancer, we’re not trying to find the vaccine for COVID. Like, we’re just trying to get this commercial on TV. And everyone’s shoulders would typically, yeah, you’re right. Let’s get this worked out. And I use that a lot. Like, guys we’re only — it’s not that — and I’m saying it as much for myself as I am for them in many ways. Where I tend to get a little fiery now is when people don’t pay attention, right? When they’re not playing their position in a way I know that they’re capable of playing it, or the organization isn’t performing to the level that I know it can, right. Because they’re being sloppy or things that are within our control we’re not controlling.

But when you’re in front of your group, you’re the captain of the ship. You have to be able to keep it under control, and they’re watching your every move, every facial expression. And when I’m in front of my team, I make sure that I keep myself together and let them know it’s going to be okay. When I’m behind closed doors, I might have a different posture for a second, and I might try to meditate or I might try go have a workout or whatever it might be and just kind of work it off. Or call some friends in my mastermind group. I have a lot of people in my circle of influence that are very successful former pro athletes, CEOs, and I call them for a 15 minute check in and say, hey, here’s what’s happening, and that usually resets me.

JESSE: [00:33:34] Yeah, yeah. I don’t like to hard transition, but I’m going to do it here because I want to talk about the sport and we’re running out of time. So, I want to talk a little bit about what you’re working on with [inaudible 00:33:48] inclusion council to try and get diversity in hockey and why you’re doing it, what you’re doing, all kinds of stuff. Can give us, I guess, the elevator pitch and lead us in?

PAUL: [00:33:58] Yeah. So, I’m coming at that passion admission of mine from a lot of different angles, and I’ll sort of tell you how I got there. So, over 20 years ago, I met a guy named Anson Carter, who’s like a brother to me now. He’s one of my closest friends. Anson Carter played for the Boston Bruins, and that’s when I met him. I’m from Boston originally. We became friends through a connection. And Anson was one of, certainly one of the top five black NHL players in history. And now he’s an analyst on TNT now that hockey has moved to TNT.

So, just in being his friend and learning about what he dealt with coming through the ranks in Canada and playing at Michigan State and playing in Russia and playing in the NHL and just hearing how hard it was for him to play in a white dominated sport, it just gave me the passion and the mission to take a game that I’m passionate about and try to solve for I would call it a social issue in a sport that I think can teach kids lessons and life management beyond the sport. And most sports can do that, but hockey especially.

And so I found ways to get involved early on. Inner City Education Program here in Chicago was my first foray into it. And we provide educational scholarships for inner city kids to go to private schools, and help them get into hockey programs and learn the game, and then support them all the way through. Chicago Blackhawks charity is supported by them. We have 30 kids on the scholarship at the moment. And then I was asked to be an advisor to the Blackhawks Foundation, which is a kind of a wider remit where they support organizations in Chicago that are both educational oriented and sports oriented.

And then as part of that and my relationship with Anson, I was asked to be on the Fan Inclusion Council for the National Hockey League. And it’s again, no surprise that hockey’s a male and white dominated sport, especially at the pro level. And when you’re sitting in an arena, it’s majority white. And that needs to change. It’s a beautiful sport, it’s an amazing game, and we need to open up the aperture to have more folks in the stands and playing the game that don’t look like me. And so the NHL has been doing an amazing job of organizing thought leaders and thought partners from all different walks of life. And led by Kim Davis and Gary Bettman, and Heidi Browning and John [inaudible 00:36:41] who are the leaders of my community, and working closely with Anson.

They’ve just committed $5 million dollars, which is a start to develop programs here in the US to raise the diversity of that. So, there’s more of that to me, but I found that as a great way, beyond just donating money, to take two things that I’m passionate about and bring it together and start to see a societal impact on the game that I love.

JESSE: [00:37:11] So, obviously, you mentioned getting scholarships for minority athletes to go to private schools and play in the game. Is that the only way you ended up reaching people? So, I guess boots on the ground level, what does the initiative look like? And I say that because, so if you go back, I had to look up this episode number, Episode 105, when I was talking to Toyin Augustus, who’s a former professional hurdler from, I think, which African country, I can’t remember right now.

I talked to her a lot about just the idea about people like you and I, white guys, not being aware of the systems in place that make it harder for black and minority athletes, or people I guess, to become a part of different sports to participate in any kind of things around the community. But just like, we didn’t grow up in those systems. So, it’s hard, I think, sometimes for people like us to wrap our heads around what minorities deal with. [crosstalk] So, when I think about how do you solve that, I’m like, I don’t even know where to start. So, I’m just curious how that all comes together, boots on the ground level?

PAUL: [00:38:42] Yeah. I mean, listen, you have to be in the community. And the founder of the Inner City Education Program, founded the program, because he was coaching on a flooded park of ice on the west side of Chicago in Garfield Park, which is just a few miles from where I live. It’s one of the worst neighborhoods in the country, especially over the last year or so. And he was, white guy like me out in the community coaching, learning and meeting these kids and seeing their eyes light up when they put a crossover together or the puck hits their stick.

And they had the idea to create this program 13 years ago, and you still need to have boots on the ground in these communities, right. So, a lot of those kids now have come through our program, we have some sitting on our board that go back to these communities. And as Anson would say, these kids need people that look like them playing the game. And that’s see it and be it, and that that is really what our focus is.

So, I’ll tell you a quick story. And to your point about not having that lens on because you don’t grow up in that community, you have to remove the obstacles, especially in a game like hockey. And one kid said to me one day, I said, well, how are you going to get to the rink? And he’s like, well, I can’t take the bus. And I said, why can’t you take the bus? And he said because if I walk to the bus stop with my stick in my hockey bag, somebody’s going to steal it. And no matter what’s in the bag, stinky hockey gear, no matter what it is, he’s like, I won’t even make it to the bus, you know? And it’s those kinds of stories that help you find ways to remove those obstacles.

So, we had coaches go pick up the kids, bring them to the rink. It’s like finding the ways to, whether it’s financial, whether it’s family support system, transportation, whatever it might be, is that we’ve really perfected ways to remove the obstacles from the process.

JESSE: [00:40:43] And I mean, that’s such a good example of like, something that it doesn’t even, I think, for many of us, especially white men in the country, to continue to pick on us in our place of privilege. But just like that situation, I don’t even — it’s not even a consideration for me, right? Like, I can’t go to the bus because somebody is going to steal my stuff.

PAUL: [00:41:07] No, you can’t think of — It doesn’t cross your mind. I’ll tell you another quick story, which you can’t believe it, is I have two teenage daughters and I’m also on the boards of some other non-sports related inner city programs. Like, Off the Street Club and some others just here in Chicago. And a young girl had asked my daughter where do you sleep in your house? Like, where is your bed? And she’s like, well, I have my room and my bed’s in my room.

She’s like, well, I can’t put my bed under my window because maybe a bullet might come through my window. And you can’t even process what the children are dealing with just a couple miles from my home here. And it just gives you like, the energy, for me anyway, to want to make more of a difference in helping these, because they’re children. They didn’t choose this, right? And you want to, for me, it’s using sports and education to find a way out of that situation. And it doesn’t always happen but it’s certainly two paths that can help these kids.

JESSE: [00:42:16] Yeah. Paul, I’m sure we can keep going for a while here, but starting to wind down on time. So, I’ll ask you the same question I asked everybody this season. I have like a season-long question I asked every single guest. And this season’s question is how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

PAUL: [00:42:40] One way is I draw on past success to fill the tank to go forward, right. So, I’ve had a couple failures over the past couple — the past year or so that were pretty big for me. One was a role that I really wanted. I won’t say what it was, but it was a high profile role, got down to the finals and didn’t get it. And that was a setback for me emotionally. But you draw on any success that you’ve had in the past, no matter how small or large for me, to help me gain the confidence to know that I can do whatever it takes to go forward. Right? At this point in my life I have had some successes and I have had some failures. But drawing on those, on what it felt like to win, what those successes felt like and modeling that for moving forward has really been my formula.

JESSE: [00:43:33] That’s a good answer. I don’t know that anybody has given quite that answer yet. It’s probably the reason I ask everybody because I always get something a little bit different. You think as you go 30-some-odd episodes into the season you’d get the same thing. But it always surprises me how there’s always something a little bit different. And that’s why I love asking that question.

PAUL: [00:43:52] Yeah, it’s a great question.

JESSE: [00:43:55] Paul, where can people maybe find you or find the brands or the nonprofits you’re working on, all that kind of stuff, whatever you want to plug, where can people engage with the things that you’re doing?

PAUL: [00:44:05] Yeah. So, my social handle is always at Marobella on all the channels. You can find Inner City Education at And you can find my company at and that’s pretty much it.

JESSE: [00:44:21] Awesome. Thanks for joining me today, Paul.

PAUL: [00:44:23] Yeah, Jesse. Thank you so much.

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