Paulie Rojas is the CEO of Don Quixote Enterprises and a professional Public Speaking Coach. She uses her background in public speaking, performing, and coaching to advise CEOs and high-level executives in the US and abroad. She works extensively with leaders in advertising, digital, real estate, tech, and more as well as the Manhattan and Brooklyn chapters of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
Paulie holds an advanced degree in Theatre Performance from the Tom Todoroff Conservatory and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California, where she was awarded the top graduating Senior. She has appeared on network television and received numerous accolades for starring roles in award winning films.
- Incorporate preparedness into your training for maximum success.
- Everyone has a possibility of redemption and purpose.
- Always aim to give, even when there’s nothing left.
BRYAN WISH: What is your One Away moment that you want to share with us today?
PAULIE ROJAS: It’s so funny that we both know David Schnurman because he is part of that One Away. He was a turning point for me with One Away. I’m an actress and a public speaking coach. For me, they’re the same. It’s about being in service to the listener, about being a master at storytelling, about being persuasive and getting things done and having actions happen and making an impact. This started with Craigslist actually. I put myself on Craigslist because I didn’t want to be the typical statistic, “Oh, so you’re an actress. What restaurant do you work on?” That whole line. I put myself on Craigslist to be a coach. The first person was a wonderful person named Joe Apfelbaum, who was part of this network called Entrepreneurs’ Organization. That was a miracle. He hired me, but he really became my mentor, and I had no business savvy.
I’m this theater kid. He helped me to hone in on what a business was and that business can be an art. I was very much one of those, “I’m a theater. A purist. I can’t do commercials.” Capitalism is a wonderful thing. He took me under his wing. When I first started, I was taking any client at all. Everybody and anybody for whatever they would pay because I thought that was the way to do it because I very much had that scarcity mentality. It wasn’t until I got really clear with who I wanted to help and serve that David Schnurman showed up. David was my trusting point that it was working out. I got really clear that I wanted to work with people that I was aligned with. You talked about this in your last email about is an 85% fit good enough? The answer is it’s good enough but is that what you want? When it could be 100 or 95. It could be something that feels like an A versus a B.
I got very clear the kind of people I wanted to work with. People that have a mission with their company that I align with on values. David Schnurman showed up, and I loved him from the start. I loved him as a person. I loved him as an entrepreneur. I loved him as his passion for helping people for being creative and developing the fast-forward mindset and who he is as a family man and as a CEO. I was blown away by it was even better than what I expected. That was such a pivotal point for me. From then on, I knew it was possible, and I think that’s part of the battle – knowing that it’s possible to get what you want. That was pretty big for me.
BRYAN WISH: I got chills thinking of it. For all the things you said about David are a lot of the things that I would very much agree with you about. You had to put yourself out there, and Craigslist is what you knew to do at the time. I met Joe once. Very nice guy. He put you in touch with David. It kept getting better because you were willing to do the work, show up, and put yourself out there. You have to give yourself some credit. It didn’t just happen naturally. You really went out of your way to make it happen too.
PAULIE ROJAS: Thank you for saying that. My work was to be prepared. Show up and give value. I had wonderful people like Joe who opened the door for me. It was my commitment to serving and being the best I could be and deliver as a public speaking coach that got the final deal happen. It’s a wonderful dance of like opportunity and preparation, as the saying goes.
BRYAN WISH: When you met David, where were you on your journey? What were some things you learned from David? How did it evolve and change the way you went about your career?
PAULIE ROJAS: I was already the most successful I had been financially. A really spectacular female entrepreneur had employed me to help coach her employees. I feel I went to college when I worked for her because she taught me so much and Joe did. When I’d go to talk to prospective clients, I’d sweat. I couldn’t sleep, so I would prepare so much to impress them. That’s what I needed at the time. Then when I met David, he was so fun. I felt fun. I did my preparation, but I had this a-ha moment that the right client fits. There’s no effort to it. It feels really good on both sides.
That was a big turning point for me again because I thought, “I am prepared. That’s part of my training as an actress. We have to learn Shakespeare plays and understand them and be able to deliver and express them. I can do the public speaking stuff.” I learned so much to trust myself and trust that I show up exactly how I need to show up with the right clients. If I had other prospective clients and it didn’t work out, it was okay. It didn’t feel fun right away. There was no spark. It’s so much for me on an intuitive thing. It’s very much a feeling thing because that is such a guide for me that everything else will work out. I know my work, but there has to be a mutual good feeling between my clients and me.
BRYAN WISH: David has a wealth of experience. He taught me so much. You were able to work with him, and he could show you what a model client would look like, what to expect, of how to value yourself. Probably gave you lots of ideas on how to make your product or service better. It’s so natural for him. It’s neat you were able to meet someone like that of that caliber early into helping other people now with speaking.
PAULIE ROJAS: It was really fun. He didn’t always come prepared. It was okay. I could be a taskmaster but to allow room for something else to emerge. David has gotten so good at working the room. Playing the audience that he’s with. Whether he’s with high schoolers that want to learn to be entrepreneurs or already established founders. He’s so good, which makes a talk so exquisite because you feel like that person is really making it up and they’re in the moment too.
BRYAN WISH: He cares, and he has a lot of emotional intelligence.
PAULIE ROJAS: Yes, and he’s willing to make mistakes which is the best part.
BRYAN WISH: Fearless focus.
PAULIE ROJAS: Fearless focus, exactly. He knows where he wants to go and he allows room for things to just fall apart and then rebuilds himself.
BRYAN WISH: From working with David, did it teach you anything else about yourself beyond the clients? What happened after David?
PAULIE ROJAS: One of the things that I love most is that everyone has a story. I’ve gotten introduced to clients that say, “I’m not that interesting.” Some people battled cancer and survived and built their industry. Some immigrants didn’t speak English and now have the number one product in the market. Some people feel their story isn’t interesting enough, but everyone has a significant story and it’s always really rewarding for both the client and myself to find that story, to mine it, and to bring it out because it’s the conflict that is universal.
Someone will be listening to it and say, “Oh, I didn’t think I could do it, but he did it. That means I have the possibility that I can do it too.” I love that part. I also realized that if I do my job, if I do the best I can and serve my clients, the clients will come and find me. That’s been a really positive thing versus putting myself on Craigslist. Now that I think about and I could have met a serial killer. Who knows. There’s crazy things out there. The only people that I’m lucky enough to work with are people that have these wonderful missions and have proven themselves as entrepreneurs, and they’re not sociopaths. I love that I don’t have to go out and seek them out because they come to me because it’s the work that speaks for itself.
BRYAN WISH: You’re such an authentic light. I love how you process things with intuition and letting feeling come. You know when it fits. You trust it and you lean into it. That’s such an important, hard skill to master. Where are you on your path today? What are you excited about with what you’re doing?
PAULIE ROJAS: I feel we are all one. I get tingly thinking about it. To amplify a voice is so important, especially nowadays. To amplify voices that haven’t been heard or didn’t think they deserved to be heard; whatever it is. To be a part of that journey; to amplify the voice of – I have a client that was a former gang member. Mother was shot and killed. Friend shot and killed. Because of someone from Entrepreneurs’ Organization helping him out. There’s this socially conscious entrepreneurship where now he’s building his own business. He’s employing only gang members, the formerly incarcerated.
For me, that’s really important because I don’t believe in ever throwing out anybody. Everyone has a possibility of redemption and purpose. That is a big thing for me: to count everyone’s story because the impact ripples. You don’t know who is going to listen to that story. You don’t know who’s kid is going to listen to it and give them hope or a better future. I get very stars and stripes, but it’s because I have actually seen it happen from dark places to very light places. Really extraordinary, inspiring places. It’s my favorite kind of thing.
BRYAN WISH: I’m thinking about the person you’re describing and how EO is allowing him to go build his business. You want to really bring forth these voices and people. It sounds like if they’re heard or amplified because of your work with them, they can make a difference on the people they’re serving or the people they’re in front of. It seems very mission driven. When I started this business, I always thought that if we were able to work with the right people with the right message, we’re a vehicle to drive their voice. We actually have a lot of power in change that we create and the behavior change around it. The audience in the communities are impacted because of it. It seems the way you’ve thought about this is very similar.
PAULIE ROJAS: I always think of it like I’m not doing much. I’m just pointing people and guiding people in the right direction. They’re already the whole package. I used this analogy with David too, but you know the David that Michelangelo sculpted? Michelangelo saw the big piece of marble but he saw the David already in it. He just had to chip away at the marble.
BRYAN WISH: You’re building David’s.
PAULIE ROJAS: Yeah, but they’re already there. The marble is already this beautiful, untouched, raw piece of the earth. I just chip away a little bit, and they are the work of art. They are the masterpiece already. Truly, everyone is already a masterpiece. You find the people that help you chip away to become that masterpiece.
BRYAN WISH: I love your purpose. I love the reason behind it. What does the journey look like today for you?
PAULIE ROJAS: Two things. One is you are part of that newer vision. You came into my life to show me, I feel like, the possibilities for what can be. Two, I used to be the, “In five years, I want this, this, this, this.” Now I’m so much happier than I could say, “This is how I want to feel in five years,” and I’m so open to what journey will be. I used to be, “I only want 10 clients and they pay this much, and I get this amount of vacation.” Now it’s I’ve surpassed that mentality. I’m always guided to what’s the most fun, exciting, and most impactful for myself and my clients. In five years, I don’t know. I know that I want to feel very happy, abundant, and fulfilled.
I want to have helped amplify those masterpieces. Two, you. It was so great to meet you because you introduced me to my ideal clients. With Brandon, with Shawn – they’re very successful. They’re successful first companies and now they’re transitioning into their second chapter. They’re very clear. Brandon Green’s mission that you can have it all. He said that my jaw dropped because it’s such a core value that anyone can have it all no matter where you come from. With Shawn, to help people be the Peloton of the healthcare industry. That’s so meaningful to me. What I want with helping people be better presenters and amplifying what their mission is, you showed me how possible that was. It was such perfect timing when we were introduced.
BRYAN WISH: I had no idea.
PAULIE ROJAS: You’re the proof of it. It’s really wonderful.
BRYAN WISH: You’ve been a huge light to people I’ve met. They clearly have been very appreciative. I’d love to dive into pre-acting career and pre-what you’re doing today. I love how you live in the present and you let things come, but you have an idea of where you want to go. Tell me about the Paulie growing up.
PAULIE ROJAS: I am a middle child. A Scorpio. I was a very sensitive child. I come from a family of academics. Very left brain and I was always very right brained. It was the best thing because it forced me to develop my left brain to be able to be part of the Rojas clan. They loved me, but I’m sure they struggled with my sensitivity. My grandfather was a movie star in Mexico, which is where I’m from. I was always gravitated to what he was doing. I always had a love for stories, just anybody’s stories. Feelings and stories, all the gooey stuff. My sister, who went to Stanford, and is part of the whole Silicon Valley bubble, I started to coach her because she was so scared.
I’m just this little theater kid. I always wanted to make an impact. That was always clear from day one. My dad’s motto is, “You give even when there’s nothing to give.” That’s a little hardcore because you’ve got to give to yourself first. I see what he was going for. He was right in many ways. To give and to be a value to people, these are huge. The family culture was to help others that needed help. I have storytelling, the creative side, the humanitarian side very much engrained in me. I started helping my sister and her cohorts also needed. Slowly, little by little, I’d be helping her. Her being very smarter than me was like, “Why don’t you do this? I know you love acting, but why don’t you branch out and maybe earn a penny for helping people like me.” I was like, “I can’t possibly do that.” That’s where Craigslist happened. I still am acting because it feeds me. It feeds my soul.
Everything I do with acting, I bring to my clients. It sounds really scary like I’m going to make them roll on the floor and walk like chickens, but that’s never happened. It’s the presentation. It’s the how do you own a room? How do you bring charisma? How can you be charming as disarming and funny as money? All of that stuff has fed everything that I do. Pre-public speaking Paulie was a disaster, but I love her. She was a mess, and now she’s figuring it out.
I’m very lucky with my family because they didn’t understand it and didn’t want it for me, they never got in my way. They said, “Get an education. Be the best you can be. Learn. Never stop learning.” And they were very supportive.
BRYAN WISH: Where does your family live now?
PAULIE ROJAS: My nuclear family is in the United States. My cousins, uncles, all that, they’re in Mexico. Then half-siblings are in Germany, but that’s a different story. We’re kind of all over the place.
BRYAN WISH: This has been so great, so special. I’m excited for you. I’m sure this hasn’t been easy. What have been some of the hardest moments where you looked at yourself and questioned, “Am I good enough to keep going? Should I keep going?”
PAULIE ROJAS: That’s always present. Even today, with our podcast, I’m like, “What if I have nothing to say?” The neurosis. I’ve gotten better and more effective at choosing the thoughts that I want to be true. Choosing the story that I want to be true. Being a very sensitive person, it’s so easy for me to get really sad. My go-to feeling can be sadness and self-doubt. It’s really being conscious to just be more focused on what I want to be true. I want to be true because I’m a valuable human being, that I do give value, and that anything is possible. What ends up happening all the time is that’s what shows up.
Especially at the beginning, being riddled with self-doubt. “I’m just an actress.” That mentality is still there, but it’s choosing no. I’m a worthy human being that has so much to give. I also believe you can’t give away what you don’t already have. Wayne Dyer talks about – I forget who said it originally. Forgive me. If I don’t back myself up, then I can’t authentically back up anybody else. That was a really big learning lesson for me. I’ve got to believe in myself. Otherwise, believing someone else, there’s no such thing. That was huge for me.
BRYAN WISH: You keep coming back to this interview to sensitivity. Almost saying it in a way where you think you’re too sensitive. You’ve probably come to the reckoning of this. Your sensitivity is what gives you the ability.
PAULIE ROJAS: That’s your superpower.
BRYAN WISH: It obviously can be a weakness at times because every strength has a weak side. It’s such a gift of caring. You’re probably very observant and you care about people’s feelings. I think that’s a beautiful human characteristic. To close out, I’m going to do some rapid fire questions. Best Shakespeare line.
PAULIE ROJAS: “Nothing is ever right or wrong, but thinking makes it so.”
BRYAN WISH: Best spot in Brooklyn on a Saturday afternoon.
PAULIE ROJAS: Prospect Park. I’m such a lover of Prospect Park. Actually, My Fire Escape.
BRYAN WISH: The one thing you’re most scared of inside of you that you haven’t done.
PAULIE ROJAS: I feel I’ve done a lot of things. This is super vulnerable. Telling my boyfriend when I’m scared is something I could break down crying. It’s so silly. Telling him I’m scared.
BRYAN WISH: Legacy on the world.
PAULIE ROJAS: That when people mention my name, they believe in the power of possibility, that they can have everything.
BRYAN WISH: Best book you’ve read in the last year.
PAULIE ROJAS: I’m ashamed to say it. I’ve never read this before, and I’m reading it now. It’s Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I know about it. Everyone knows about it, but I’ve never actually sat down to read it. I’m currently reading it.
BRYAN WISH: Lululemon or Athletica?
PAULIE ROJAS: I’ve never owned either. Lululemon has a cool alliteration.
BRYAN WISH: If you could perform in one Broadway play, what would it be?
PAULIE ROJAS: It’d be The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. It’s a Russian play and it’s so beautiful and tragic and funny.
BRYAN WISH: This is so special. I appreciate you just going with the flow at the end.
PAULIE ROJAS: This was really fun.
BRYAN WISH: I’m so inspired by your story. Thank you for being an amazing person in my life the last year. I’m excited for many more memories.
PAULIE ROJAS: Thank you for being in my life, Bryan.
BRYAN WISH: Where can people find you?
PAULIE ROJAS: You can go to my website. www.thepublicspeakingpro.com Or you can just find me on LinkedIn, Paulie Rojas, or you can see my Instagram.