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5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an author: “ You can do it — but only of you choose to believe you can.” with J. Paul Nadeau and Chaya Weiner

I overcame my non-commitment by reminding myself that I had something to say and that I was not a quitter. If you take anything away from this answer, take this: you can do it — but only of you choose to believe you can. Fake being a best-selling author until you become a best-selling author. As part […]


I overcame my non-commitment by reminding myself that I had something to say and that I was not a quitter. If you take anything away from this answer, take this: you can do it — but only of you choose to believe you can. Fake being a best-selling author until you become a best-selling author.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing J. Paul Nadeau, author of “Take Control of Your Life,” published by HarperCollins Canada. Paul is a retired hostage negotiator, international peace keeper and major crimes detective. He is now an international keynote speaker, film and television actor and screen writer. Paul has two more books waiting to be published.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Thank you for featuring me. I certainly can share a story of how I got here! I suppose my story might sound a little different than most, but as I often say, “Everyone has a story.”

I was a police officer for 31 ½ years and retired to pursue a career in acting. At the time I was married, and my wife was in full support of my career change. A few months following my retirement, she announced that she wanted a divorce and suddenly the acting career I had been pursuing had to be set aside while I looked for employment that would provide me a steady income and enough money to pay the lawyers.

I found a temporary government job, but once the contract was done, I found myself unemployed again and looking for more work. Quite a few people had been telling me over the years that I should write a book because of my interesting background and my stories. I hadn’t paid much attention to that because I had no aspirations whatsoever to write a book. While looking for employment the second time around, three people I had just met in the space of one week told me the same: that I should write a book.

I felt that was the universe’s way of telling me that I should write a book and I had time on my hands in between job hunts. I went to Chapters/Indigo and picked up a book on how to write a book. I only read the first 40 pages and started writing. I should’ve read the entire book before I started.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

That’s a tough one. I’ve had some pretty unusual and remarkable things happen to me during the course of my career, but the one that stands out is how my life was saved by a terrorist in the Middle East while I was on a peacekeeping mission in Jordan.

The United Nations in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police International Peacekeeping Branch recruited me in 2004 to deploy to Jordan during the Iraqi war to serve as a peacekeeper at the Jordanian International Police Training Center. My job was to train Iraqi policemen to defend their country and a number of terrorists had infiltrated the Academy under the disguise of being policeman. Their job was to kill international instructors as well as many of the cadets who had shunned terrorism and efforts were being made to identify them. It was a slow process because of many complications at the time and a few weeks later, after I had been transferred to the advocacy and counseling division, my work partner and I were attacked in the desert by a number of terrorists began to beat us to death. Miraculously, that attack was stopped by one of the terrorists who had recognized me as his teacher a few weeks earlier and chose to spare my life as well as my partners because of the way that I had treated him, with dignity and respect.

I’d say that was one of my most interesting stories.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Wow, I can’t think of a ‘funny mistake,’ but I sure can think of a lesson I discovered earlier on in my career that has helped me achieve the success I have. That lesson is simply this: we are all more similar than we are different, and the moment we begin to treat each other that way is the moment our chances of success change for the best. What I mean by that is that when we treat everyone the way that we want to be treated ourselves, that’s when we’re likely to get the best results. We usually get in return what we give. That lesson has served me well and continues to serve me well.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’ve worked on many interesting and exciting projects, including my international peacekeeping tour of duty in the Middle East. I’ve also worked on many homicides, sex crimes and elite units including counterterrorism. Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump for stumbling into some of the most exciting jobs.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? Can you share a story or example?

The one habit that I believe contributed the most to my becoming a great writer was believing in myself. No matter how frustrated I became during the process of writing, I always believed that I would not only finish, but that I would finish well. When the going got tough, I kept at it and I wasn’t afraid to try new things or to ask people who knew more about writing than I did for answers. I researched what made a story interesting to the reader. Sure, I could tell a great story, but could I write one? I answered that question with a resounding yes. I learned as I went on.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

My book has several true stories in it, very much like the one I told you about — the one about my life being saved by a terrorist in the Middle East. Each of my books’ chapters begins with an interesting Hollywood-style story. Besides the one I told you, there’s one that comes to mind.

A former patrol Sergeant of mine, who was a golden glove boxer and a man with a short wick had me join him one late night/early morning on patrol. It was the late 1970s and police work was handled a little bit different back then. He told me he needed a witness. He drove us both to an outlaw motorcycle gangs’ clubhouse. These bikers were hard-core, nasty, loud and didn’t care much about the police. Their clubhouse happened to be in a residential area in our city and our police department had received several complaints from the neighbors about noise and partying at all hours of the night. The gangs’ president was a tough nut himself. He hadn’t become president because he was a wimp. We drove into the neighborhood, past dozens of motorcycles, bikers and their women and stopped right in front of the clubhouse. My Sergeant got out of the vehicle and had me follow him to the front door where he challenged the president to a fistfight. The prize? The keys to the city. Really. He told the president that if the president won, the police wouldn’t bother them. He also told him that if he lost, they were to get the hell out of town. I know, I know! This sounds like a movie, right? But it’s a true story.

I wish I could tell you that the fight was worth buying tickets to, but I can’t. It was over in a flash. My Sergeant won by knockout in just a few short seconds and the bikers were true to their word. They picked up, left town and we didn’t hear from them for about two years. When they did finally move back into town, they bought a clubhouse outside of a residential area.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

My book is about overcoming self-sabotage. It’s about mastering the hostage within, and the most empowering lesson I want my readers to take away after finishing my book is that they are the ones who choose their own destinies. They get to choose what they tell themselves and what they believe. No one else has the power to control you, to make you feel inferior or to prevent you from succeeding — but you. What I want my readers to discover is that they have the power and control over their internal monologues and beliefs, and that they have the power to change their negative monologues into positive ones. I want us all to realize that we are limitless and that we are stronger than we believe we are.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

The biggest challenge I faced on my journey to becoming a best-selling author was patience and perseverance. I wasn’t a committed writer at first. I hadn’t planned on writing a book originally, so when I did start, I’d write for an hour or two one day, take a day off, write a couple more hours a couple of days later, take a week off, and so forth. When my book got bigger, I’d have to re-read what I’d written every time before I could move on and it became ridiculously time consuming and counter-productive. I finally realized I had to commit to writing and ‘fake it’ as though I was a committed author. And then it happened: I became a committed author.

I overcame my non-commitment by reminding myself that I had something to say and that I was not a quitter. If you take anything away from this answer, take this: you can do it — but only of you choose to believe you can. Fake being a best-selling author until you become a best-selling author.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I’m a fan of self-help easy to read books. I’d love to say that I’m an avid reader, but the truth is, I’m not. Give me a good motivational self-help book like the one I’ve written and I’m happy.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

My book, as you already know, is about dealing with self-sabotage and the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough, not worthy enough, not good-looking enough and thousands of other B.S. messages we or others tell ourselves.

One of the greatest gifts an author can get is feed-back from his or her readers, and I’ve received plenty so far. So many people suffering from anxiety, depression, lack of confidence and a number of other human conditions have emailed or reached out to me to tell me how my book has changed their lives. Some have described it as the most inspirational book they’ve ever read, while others have written to tell me that they’ve chosen to become survivors. It’s incredibly amazing. My book is helping people overcome depression and more. I hope it continues to impact even more.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

Do it. Don’t just say you want to, just do it. A lot of people come to me with these ideas of becoming great authors, telling me they have a great book inside of them. When I ask how far into their writing they are, they say they haven’t started. My question to them after that is ‘Why?’ Most of the time, they can’t answer.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Believe you are an author and behave as one. I didn’t think I was one at first, until I began behaving like one. I faked it until I made it so. Do that. Don’t be an un-believer. If you’re going to believe in anyone, make it you first.

2) Commit to your writing. Don’t be half-assed at whatever you do, no matter what it is. If you’re going to do something, do it, and do it well. My non-commitment at first was exhaustive, unfulfilling and counter-productive. The moment I decided to commit to my writing was the moment I became an author.

3) Write at least one significant sentence a day. You’re going to write some good stuff every day, sure, but be certain to write at least one great sentence or idea that day. Don’t stop until you’ve written it. In my case, it was that one line someone could later use as an inspirational quote they took from my book. Do that, every time you write.

4) Be authentic. Write about what you know. Say something no one else has ever said or write a story like no one else has ever written. This is your book — your unique gift to others, so make it real, inspirational and different. Be you in what you say or tell a story that grips your audience like no others. 
 
 I wrote about self-sabotage, something I’d witnessed so many people do in the face of adversity. I wrote about how many people chose to overcome self-sabotage and doubt, no matter what they’d gone through. I wrote about how I got over it at an early age myself, despite being severely abused by my alcoholic father. I wrote about what I knew.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, a second opinion or someone to edit your material. Unless you’re a truly accomplished writer, you might benefit from someone else’s opinion or expertise. I have a tendency to repeat myself — something I come by quite honestly, having taught classes here in Canada and abroad. An editor helped me put it all together nicely.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, I’d ask everyone to begin treating others the way they’d like to be treated themselves. No longer would we be prejudiced, understanding that we are all of the same race — the human race. We’d ask ourselves how what we were saying or doing to others would impact us if someone did it to us. We’d no longer cheat, gossip or criticize because we wouldn’t want that done to us. I’d start a movement that would embrace diversity and not fear it. I’d ask my followers to pay it forward and exercise random acts of kindness. Yeah, I’d start a movement where we all treated others with dignity and respect.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @jpaulnadeau

Instigram: @jpaulnadeau

Website: www.hostagetomyself.com

Facebook: Paul Nadeau

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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