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Living His Purpose

Paul Bryant

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We've all had those moments in our lives where we've wondered how we've gotten here and where were going next. Are we living our lives with a purpose? What is the mark that we will leave behind? Paul Bryant ponders these questions and more in his recent book "The Purpose Living Leader."



Bryant, a poor kid from North Omaha with a troubled childhood made it to top Fortune 500 companies in his career. Or as he says, "from the backstreets to the boardrooms." So how did he do it? It was probably a combination of fear, faith, and endurance. "The race is never over if you stay in it," says Bryant. If you look at his resumé, he's won the race a few times. He was able to rise from his troubled youth, get a football scholarship, and continue onto a path to success. 

But it wasn't that easy, he was injured in college. His hopes of becoming a professional football player were smashed, and he began to sell drugs. Then one night, he faced a situation where he could have been killed or been put away in prison. He looked at himself and realized he wasn't the person he wanted to be. He calls this a "pinch-me" moment. This was one of the times in his life where he felt himself floating outside of his body and looking at himself.

Bryant had another "pinch-me" five years ago. He was working at Wells Fargo Bank, and the Wesley House came to ask for more funding. The Wesley House was on the verge of shutting down due to mismanagement of money. After thinking it over, Bryant took the job of the Executive Director of the Wesley House. At that time the Wesley house had lost their funding from United Way, and was $40 thousand dollars in the red. Bryant had faced many challenges in the corporate world working at Gallup, First National Bank, Wells Fargo, and even in Washington DC for the anti-drug task force. However, the challenge of taking over the Wesley House and bringing it back from the edge has been one of the toughest ones yet. 

Bryant says success is not measured by the amount of money you make. Society tells us that as long as we are making a lot of money at what we do, then we are successful. Bryant believes this isn't true. The lives of many celebrities and athletes are spiraling out of control because their sole purpose is to make money. They achieve success, and it's like biting into a hollow chocolate Easter Bunny. The secret to changing the world we live in isn't just speaking at Career Day, but truly making a personal commitment to help change the world we live in. In college, Bryant wanted to get a job as a Vice President and make 100K; he did both and still wasn't happy. True happiness only comes when you are helping someone else.

"The race is never over if you stay in it."

-Paul Bryant

Bryant feels blessed to be able to help bring up a new generation of leaders. At the Wesley House, Bryant is able to touch the lives of 100 children every day. The Wesley Houses motto is "Smart People Win," and the current mission is to develop the next generation of leaders. 

Other programs aim at only helping troubled youth; this program grooms the best of the best. But don't forget that most of the children that go to the Wesley House are coming from North Omaha with troubled backgrounds. Their world is full of chaos.  Each summer, Bryant tells them that when he was thirteen he saw his father get shot by his mother's boyfriend in his living room. He wants them to know that hes had his share of pain in his life. He tells them that he wishes that he could wave a magic wand and take away all of their challenges, but he can't. He tells them that only they have the ability to change the legacy for everyone in their family. 

Bryant says that our culture is Anti-Intelligence. It isn't cool to be smart. Everyone wanted to be Fonzie, not Potzie. He wants to change that mindset. The kids at the Wesley House are passionate about learning, and he teaches them that it's really the smart guy that comes out on top.

Does he have any regrets about leaving Corporate America for the Non-Profit job? No. He was recently offered another job in a Fortune 500 Company, and he turned it down. "I've already done that," he says. His life is full of meaning and he has an admirable legacy to leave for his children and grandchildren. It has, however, been hard at times on his family. There isn't extra money for vacations. He hasn't taken his wife to a nice restaurant in a long time. He's given up many financial perks with his job at the Wesley House, but he's happy there doing meaningful work. And of course, there is still always more money needed at the Wesley House to keep the programs running.

In November, Bryant's book "The Purpose Living Leader" came out. The book is a series of vignettes that chronicle Bryant's personal life and his thoughts on life. The book has chapters of what Oprah would call "aha" moments. Interestingly, Bryant got his idea to write this book after going on a cruise with Oprah and friends that celebrated Maya Angelou's 75th Birthday. Bryant read some of Angelou's work and realized that many of her books were about her own life. He decided that if she could do then he'd give it a try.

"The Purpose Living Leader" has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. At 51, Bryant is honored to be introduced as an author, but even more amazed to be nominated for the Pulitzer. He let all of the skeletons out of the closet in this book, and felt emotionally freed by it. Bryant's book also ponders deeply on how leaders are made and how we can fulfill our life's purpose.

What's your legacy? When you look back on your life, what will your children, and your children's children say about you? Are you working to change your family's legacy? Or, are you perpetuating the same old same old generation after generation? Let's all make sure that we are impacting other peoples lives, and living our lives with purpose.

-end- metroMAGAZINE


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