Solutions Leisure CEO Paul Evans on his book and his future

The Lock Stock & Barrel owner talks about When I Woke Up

Solutions Leisure CEO Paul Evans on his book and his future
Solutions Leisure CEO Paul Evans on his book and his future Image #2
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“I was a horrible, self-centred, self-indulgent, battered individual.”

Paul Evans is under no illusions about the choices that, at his lowest point, led him to spend weeks in a coma, his family gathered around his bedside, preparing for the worst.

And that’s only part of what makes his first book, When I Woke Up, such a compelling read.

At 45 years old, the UAE-based CEO of Solutions Leisure, which owns and operates brands including Lock, Stock & Barrel (coming soon to Abu Dhabi), Asia Asia and STK, may seem young to release an autobiography. But as the pages chart a childhood suicide attempt, two stints behind bars (on two separate continents) and weeks on the run from the Egyptian authorities, Evans doesn’t come up short on content.

“I didn’t want it to be egotistical. I didn’t want it to be a success book. I didn’t want it to be the story of the CEO of Solutions Leisure, and all that Solutions Leisure has achieved,” he says. “Initially, it was just a case of wanting to try and get it all out. The amount of negative moments that I’ve been through in my life, that I’d managed to lock away and put somewhere in my subconscious, were not serving me well.”

After working with his life coach, Carolyn Coe, the pair decided to write the book together as part of Evans’ healing process.

“And I started to think, if I can share the lessons I’ve learned with people who are going through what I went through, it gives some purpose to all of that pain. That’s when I really started to get into it.”

On the surface, the book is the story of a young man whose ambition and yearning for success got the better of him. To the point where it very nearly cost him his life.

But, unsurprisingly, Evans takes a more philosophical view.

“I think it’s the story of what is possible when you don’t quit.

“We live in a world today where instant success is expected. Instant likes. Instant gratification. Dive on Love Island and get a million followers.

“People sit there and look at that, and think, ‘I want that success, I want that watch, I want that car’...

“And I hope that When I Woke Up gives people a slightly different message: easy come, easy go.”

And while he has hopes for the book’s evolution – a miniseries is currently being pitched to a number of streaming platforms – Evans its adamant that fame and glory are not the endgame.

“I want to help people,” he says – and it’s a recurring theme throughout our interview. “I’d rather do some sort of male mental health group, where I can give guys a platform, somewhere they can walk in and say ‘it’s not easy’,” he continues. “In today’s world of social media and Instagram, you’re a nanosecond away from looking at the highlight of somebody else’s world. It’s a very dangerous place to be. You’ve got to be a very strong individual for that not to affect you.”

For now, there are no plans for a second book, but nor is it being ruled out.

“Some people want to know why I have the right, as the CEO of Solutions Leisure, to talk about the journey. Is he successful? But then what is success?”

It’s a good question, and one Evans – despite monumental business plans for 2020 – has an atypically intangible answer to. “Success for me, today, is absolute inner peace.” And does he have it? “I think 80 or 90 percent of the time. I miss my children [who live in the UK] uncontrollably sometimes.”

It’s clear from the book that success, by any measure, has not come easy.

“It’s an absolute warning that we are one decision – yes or no – away from completely changing our life.

“Even post-coma, I still did some silly stuff.

“But I am now a good human being. I don’t walk on anybody anymore. I don’t drive bulldozers through people’s venues anymore. If I can’t achieve what we want to achieve the right way, I will find another way of doing it.

“And that’s why it’s okay for people to read who I was – because of who I am.”
When I Woke Up is on sale now at amazon.ae.

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Friends, colleagues and cultural luminaries pay tribute to the founder of Time Out, who died on July 17 2020

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