Rags To Riches: Rich Paul Shares Key Lessons From His 'Lucky Me' Memoir
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Rich Paul (@richpaul) is one of the most powerful sports agents in the world, representing A-list talent including LeBron James. But his path wasn’t easy. The founder and CEO of Klutch Sports Group is detailing his journey of trauma, hustling and resilience while growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in his memoir, Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds (Roc Lit 101).
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How did your tough childhood help prepare you for the no-nonsense business of basketball?
Shadowing my dad at his store and in the neighborhood was a master class for me in people management and conflict resolution. I saw countless examples of Dad dealing with the most dangerous and unpredictable people in a way that kept things running smoothly. Sometimes in my neighborhood you had to fight fire with fire, but not always. Survival required constant calibrating and balancing various and sometimes competing factors. Who is this person? What’s the foundation of our relationship? What are they capable of? How much is at stake? What point is this person at in his or her life? You had to consider all those variables, slow down and move with intent. I encounter so many situations in my business today where I use what I learned from watching my dad. It could be in a Hollywood boardroom, where I have to make it clear that I’m not intimidated by any of the power players around the table. The business world is full of dangerous people, not in terms of physical safety, but the kind of people who’ll take everything from you and then go home and sleep like a baby. Even if your mind is moving a million miles an hour trying to figure out the right play, you never blink.
PHOTO BY DARRELL ANN
Based on your book, you lived a large part of your life quite rigidly. Now that you’re older, do you allow yourself more time for enjoyment?
To this day, I still never sit in my success. You have to understand the whole arena around what you’re doing—both the pragmatic side and how it’s all being viewed. And with the way I operate my businesses, there just simply isn’t time to sit back and even introduce the possibility of getting complacent. It isn’t just about understanding EBITDA or balance sheets—it’s also about understanding the landscape of relationships and perception. If you only hustle on the numbers, you won’t get anywhere.
What are the three most impactful lessons you learned from your father?
Resilience, empathy and focus. Attention to detail. Those are characteristics I feel are deeply embedded in who I am today that I can draw a direct line back to my dad for.
Cover of Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds PHOTO COURTESY OF ROC LIT 101/PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
Your style plays a big part in the book. What is your philosophy as it relates to your relationship to fashion?
I said this in the book, but when you live in an environment that’s liable to spin out of control at any moment, a fresh pair of sneakers and a sharply pressed outfit will hold you down. When I was a kid, my fashion sensibilities became my star power. I wanted my clothes to align with my character, and my character aligned with my respect for others. I wasn’t going to wear a long white tee to my knees just because that became the dope boy uniform one year. When I encountered older people in the neighborhood, they might say, ‘You look nice today, Richard.’ That meant a lot, and communicating through style is still part of who I am today.
“TO THIS DAY, I STILL NEVER SIT IN MY SUCCESS. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE WHOLE ARENA AROUND WHAT YOU’RE DOING.” –RICH PAUL
What else is to come for you & your business ventures for the remainder of the year?
I’m excited to continue building Klutch Sports with all of my incredible colleagues there. We’re up over 75 employees and 200 clients across the NBA, NFLand WNBA now. As well as Klutch Athletics, an athlete-first performance sportswear brand in partnership with New Balance at the intersection of sport, culture and community that I’m really passionate about.