No man is an island: If you want to grow into a mature confident man, you need good male role models and mentors around you. Ideally you'd come across these mentors naturally in your father, uncles, extended family and community where you grew up. But if the men around you weren't fantastic role models or lacked something that you needed... then you need to look further afield.

Paul Blackburn from Beyond Success

Paul Blackburn from Beyond Success

One such mentor for me has been Paul Blackburn, also known as Coach Curly, from Australian personal development company Beyond Success. I first met Paul at a 3-day Think And Grow Rich conference in Sydney, Australia. Plenty of speakers spoke that weekend about all aspects of wealth creation, but Paul's message about connecting with my heart resonated most with me.

The first thing that was obvious about Paul was that he's an extremely entertaining speaker. His stories are funny and engaging, and I could really relate to where he was coming from. He also seemed very real; he didn't seem to be hiding behind the façade that a lot of speakers use to protect themselves on stage. Either he'd honed his craft to the hilt, or the guy really was just being real up there.

I already knew how to make money as a Computer Engineer, so although I was at a wealth creation conference I was looking for something deeper than just another way to make money. I wanted something I could feel passionate about doing. Something that would set me free from the boundaries and constraints that I had imposed on myself both before and since becoming an Engineer. I'd learned these constraints from the people around me either directly or indirectly, but it wasn't clear to me how I should go about unlearning them.

Paul is a mindset specialist, so this is his bread and butter. The message I got was that in order to unlearn painful limiting beliefs and behaviours I needed to go to the emotion behind them. I had already studied a lot of personal development over the years, and it's now clear to me that this is the key ingredient behind everything that actually works: dealing with your feelings. Without this, it's all just hot air.

I can't remember which story Paul told that day; having heard him speak so often since, it's hard to remember each specific time. But I do remember what happened at the end of his talk: he got everyone in the audience to pair up and do an exercise where we looked into another person's eyes for a couple of minutes and repeatedly answered the question: “What is love?” A simple exercise at bypassing the analytical mind and getting access to our subconscious. It was a very emotional experience for me, as it was for my partner and for almost everyone else in the room. Some people were so confronted that they couldn't do it, but I found this the most moving part of the whole conference.

This experience showed me that Paul had the main thing that I had missed from my father and the other men around me when I was growing up: the ability to deal with feelings. He knew how to handle the painful emotions that stood between me and what I wanted in life, and he could also teach it in ways that I found engaging. I ended up signing up for his Life Coach Training Course, a major component of which was a series of emotional healing bootcamps for dealing with the inevitable emotional baggage that I was still carrying out of childhood.

My prior career as an Engineer involved hanging around with a lot of analytically intelligent people, many of whole had a relatively low emotional intelligence. Now I had the opportunity to level the playing field and re-engage the emotional/creative side of my brain while hanging around with people like Paul who were open to the idea that we're all emotional beings at our core. I also got the opportunity to deal with some painful experiences that went way back to my early childhood and no doubt contributed to my decision to become an Engineer in the first place.

I've heard Paul Blackburn speak many time since that first conference, and relish the wisdom that he has to offer. Often I'll learn something from him that seems noteworthy at the time, but only realise just how important it is later down the track. I've lost track of the number of times I've thought “Oh, so that's what Paul was talking about!” when some life experience has thrown me a curve ball and something Paul said to me ages ago suddenly made sense and became incredibly helpful.

I've often heard Paul remark that his wife Mary Blackburn is “the brains behind the outfit”, so it would be unfair not to make mention of her contribution to his work; it's really their work. I've often seen Mary behind the scenes or down the back taking care of things so that Paul could be free to spread their message of emotional mastery to the masses. Mary also wrote most (if not all) of the material in the Beyond Success Life Coaching system which is based on the same principle of dealing with the emotions lurking in our subconscious mind. It's also through Paul that I was able to connect with some of my other emotional intelligence coaches, like Nicholas de Castella.

Another thing I like about learning from Paul is that he's a successful business man in his own right. He's learned from his past mistakes so that I don't have to repeat them, and can offer a genuine perspective on what it takes to become successful since he's been there himself. There are plenty of entertaining speakers out there, but Paul also has the emotional mastery skills, the business experience and a down-to-earth attitude to be able to teach his craft profitably. As one of his master life coaches said to me, “We get to save the world and earn money at the same time!”

Paul runs a number of seminars and workshops, including his flagship Resolving The Mindset Riddle (previously known as The Mental Toolbox), which teaches how to deal with emotions that create subconscious blockages; and Resolving The Money Riddle which teaches how to create a positive mindset around money. Both of these are back by books of the same title, which I've also found really helpful for reminding myself of ideas Paul has taught me. The books are like having Paul in paper format; but for me there's nothing like the real thing.

I recently had the opportunity to get some coaching from Paul as part of his Coach Curly video coaching series, featuring real people being coached with real issues. He's generally too busy to offer individual coaching nowadays as he prefers to either train coaches or work with groups. This was such a golden opportunity that I drove for three hours from Sydney to Canberra just for one 30 minute coaching session with Paul.

Here's the session with Paul coaching me about How To Stop Anxiety moving forward:

And here's the follow-up dealing with How To Overcome Procrastination:

Wow, it's kinda painful watching these again! I'm still really moved, and get something new every time I watch these coaching sessions: “I matter... What I want to do counts... I backed myself.”

I've found working with Paul tremendously helpful, and would recommend him to anyone who's feeling stuck and wants to get out of their own way by dealing with the emotions that are keeping you feeling stuck. The best way I know to get access to Paul in person these days is by attending a Resolving The Mindset Riddle workshop.

Graham Stoney

Graham Stoney

I struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. I created The Confident Man Program to help other men live the life of their dreams. I also offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype so if you related to this article contact me about coaching.


Mike Huiwitz · June 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hello there Graham! Just a quick shout from me so you know I've been browsing the internet and came across your website - I believe from a comment you made on Jeff Faldalen's site. Interesting point about staring into someone's eye's and repeating what is love. I'm not sure I could do that with a stranger - especially if it was a man. Interesting! Anyhow, I like what you're doing here!

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · June 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks Mike. Staring into someone's eyes brings our fear of being seen to the surface, so we can process it. There's a similar process in the Tantra world called eye-gazing, which has a similar effect. Once the initial discomfort passes, it reduces anxiety remarkable quickly. Cheers, Graham

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