Dr Paul Wood, who went from serving time in a maximum security prison, to working with the likes of Google and the Hurricanes, drew 150 business people to a Rotorua event aimed at getting them to achieve bigger goals.
The speaker was brought to Rotorua for a one-off event hosted by four Bay companies – BDO Rotorua, Dubzz Digital Marketing, The Shine Collective and Craigs Investment Partners.
An expert in helping individuals and organisations turn adversity to their advantage, Wood’s draws on personal experience, having served almost 11 years for murder after fatally assaulting his then drug dealer.
BDO Rotorua partner Michelle Hill has been working to bring Wood to Rotorua since hearing him speak at a previous event.
“His talk inspired and challenged me, and now I’m doing some of the things I had put off. I’ve moved them from the background into the foreground.”
Wood challenged the audience to “break out of their own prison” with an inspirational, humorous and authentic talk aimed at helping prompt new goals and strategies for individuals, businesses and organisations for the year ahead and beyond.
Wood told the audience he didn’t want to portray himself as a victim of the justice system.
“It was about the poor choices I made,” he said. “But it was also making more positive choices that led me to break free from my downward destiny.”
Wood commenced university study while in Paremoremo Prison, becoming the first person in New Zealand history to progress through undergraduate and masters degrees while in prison. He was also the first person to begin a doctorate while still incarcerated.
He spoke about “five steps to freedom”, urging the audience to challenge negative self-beliefs and to have the courage to get out of their comfort zone and risk failure.
Adversity a catalyst
“Adversity is the catalyst of growth,” he said.
“People need to lean in to stress and pressure – to recognise it isn’t a threat to be avoided, but a challenge to be embraced.
“Feeling stress indicates you are doing something meaningful and important. But crucially, you have to be disciplined and deliberate about also ensuring you engage in activities that let you recover from stress and pressure, so it doesn’t become overwhelming and derail you.”
Shine Collective’s Jacky James said bringing Wood provided an opportunity for local businesses to hear from an inspirational speaker from outside Rotorua, with some fresh, challenging messages to consider as they embark on the New Year.
“The purpose was to provide a forum where they could step outside their comfort zone and think about what they want to achieve this year – and put the steps in place in order to achieve those,” she said.
“Small businesses in particular, especially located in regions outside Auckland, do not often have the opportunity to hear from speakers like Paul. We felt this was a real gap in Rotorua. We have received overwhelming feedback from attendees about how grateful they were to have the opportunity to attend, and about how they wouldn’t normally be able to participate in a session like this due to their own business constraints.”
Hill said collaborating with the other businesses to bring Wood to Rotorua made sense, as all four businesses worked in business advisory roles.
“A summer holiday break and New Year often brings new visions and aspirations – not just on the business front, but in a personal capacity as well. Sometimes we don’t quite know where to start when the end-goal seems too large – but I think Paul’s presentation will have inspired many of our colleagues, clients and contacts to make 2019 the year to make those changes and embrace every opportunity.”
Hill said the organisers had received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the event – and its motivational topic – and we would like to kick off each year by bringing a great speaker to Rotorua and making them accessible to local business people and individuals.”