Is success overrated? : Interview with Paulus Winarto

Enjoy this interview as Paulus shared story of his life from a humble background to significance.

Image of Success

Is success overrated?

Do you crave for success too much?

Should you be focusing your life to be significant instead?

That’s the questions that I asked myself after my interview with Paulus Winarto.

Paulus Winarto is the national record holder according to MURI (Indonesian Record Holder Museum) as the first person to hold a seminar and launching a book in the air. He is well-known as a motivational teacher, trainer, seminar leader, extraordinary lecturer of Parahyangan Bandung University, leadership lecturer at Sespim Polri. He has authored a number of motivational books. His books are also the national best seller in personal development category. Titles he has authored include First Step to be An Entrepreneur, Reach Your Maximum Potential, The Power of Hope, Melejit di Usia Muda (Accelerating at a Young Age) and Starting Your Leadership Journey.

I am thrilled and honored to be able to interview him as I consider him a valuable mentor.

Due to his busy schedule, the interview was conducted via email. However, he was still very generous with his stories and his thoughts.

I have conducted the interview in Indonesian, although, for your benefit, I have taken the liberty of translating it for you. I will be more than happy to post the transcript of the interview in Indonesian if there are demands for it.

I hope you enjoyed the interview as much I do conducting it.

The Interview

Dear Paulus,

Thank you very much for your kind generosity to share your time and your insights for this interview.

ST: You are given the nickname “Complex Human” as you were considered a multi-talented fellow. From your own perspective, what do you consider yourself? Are you an author? A speaker? A coach? Why?
PW: Hermawan Kartajaya was the fellow who gave me that nickname. According to him, I was the first, if not the only person that he knew who falls under all four quadrants of the “Communication Styles, A Key to Adaptive Selling” assessment. The assessment allows you to have a better understanding of your communication or behavior style. Normally a participant of the assessment would either have a Directive, Emotive, Reflective, or Supportive style. When I took the assessment with him, however, I was able to adapt my communication style to fit any one of those four styles. Perhaps, my background of five years in journalism helped me to be really flexible laughs.

When I began writing my first book, I have no plans to be speaker. I was only four months into my first business in mobile phone industry when I received prompting (through prayer) to write a book about entrepreneurship. Thus, “First Step To Be An Entrepreneur” was published in 2002. My first intention was only to share my knowledge and experience because I believe that entrepreneurship is one of the best solution to reduce unemployment in Indonesia. I wanted to share my experience when I started my first business.

I didn’t expect the book to be a best-seller and it went into reprinting within the span of 20 days. From that point on, I began receiving requests to speak everywhere. That was the first time I became a public speaker.

I have since written about 19 books, each of which have gone on to become best sellers. I guess you could call me an author who stumbled into a public-speaking career.

ST: After you graduated as a Chemical Engineer from the University of Parahyangan, when did you begin studying leadership? Could you please share whether there is a specific life-event which triggered you to concentrate into something that was almost totally unrelated to what you studied as an undergraduate?
PW: I was actively involved in several organisations as a high school student and began studying leadership in-depth since year 2002. I love reading and I am basically a self-development and motivational book junkie.

A certain Professor Rhenald Kasali spoke on TV about how effective John Maxwell’s books on leadership are. As you can probably guess, I began hunting all his books. I even established contact with his company in the United States through email due to my great interest in his teachings.

Those email exchange would eventually lead me to join EQUIP, a non-profit organisation John Maxwell founded with a mission to train leaders. In 2003, I was certified as a trainer for EQUIP. I soon discovered my passion in training because I see the great benefit it brings to the life of others.

Along with other trainers, I joined the certification program by EQUIP so I can teach 72 leadership modules. Each module require about 90 minutes so you can imagine the amount of time we needed to study and be certified. It was a long and difficult process which I was only able to complete in 2014.

During those years of training and learning, I also began giving leadership lectures as well as mentor at SESPIM POLRI, a school to equip and train Indonesian police officers in leadership.

ST: Please share with us the story of how you began writing and publishing books?
PW: As I mentioned earlier, I wrote my first book four months into my entrepreneurship. I wrote the book with the intention of knowledge-sharing, to fight the unemployment problems that was quite prevalent in Indonesia.

ST: How important is writing for a leader?
PW: I believe that writing could be a more effective tool to share our thoughts and knowledge. Our writings in any form, could help inspire and influence people who we never knew and those we may never meet in person. Our writings and our books can also be important legacy for future generations.

ST: What is your greatest challenge as an author?
PW: My first book was rejected 6 (six) times by publishers before it was finally published and became the best seller.

ST: Some of my blog readers regard themselves as “just average” and assumed that they may never amount to any kind of success. In your life, have you ever thought of yourself like that? And how did you rise up from such a mindset?
PW: I did not dream big. I learn to always be grateful with what I have. So, I wasn’t too concerned about achieving success, especially when it is only tied to materialistic gains.

I personally believe in a lifestyle of having enough and able to give, and that is for me, being successful. I also believe that when you are being yourself and doing your best to stay so, that is also success.

I loved what John Maxwell said, “

I came from a very impoverished background. I had a dysfunctional family and even living through the day was a big challenge. I worked very hard to be able to feed myself and pay for my own university tuition. As an undergraduate, I took on any jobs I could get my hands on to. I was a private tutor, freelanced for odd jobs, textbook salesman, until I was hired as a journalist.

When I got married in 2002, I could only afford to rent a small room for my wife and myself to live in. Both of us dreamed for a better lifestyle and kept working to achieve the dream. Because of that dream, we continued to grow ourselves. Our personal growth has allowed us to live a life of positive impact towards our family and towards others.

ST: Your life motto is: “Your life will always be significant as long as you continue to build an intimate relationship with your God, continually and intentionally grow yourself and getting support from the right people.”
I think you are living a life of significance through your books and your trainings. I believe you have applied your motto thoroughly in your life. Who are the people who has been most supportive to you?
PW: Thank you for the kind compliment. There are too many to name one by one.

My greatest support is my ex-girlfriend, who is now my wife 😃 She was, and is always there with me even during the most difficult times.

Then, there are two of my godfathers. One of them paid for my tuition fee since I was young until I finished high school. The other one invested a lot of his time teaching me life lessons and also invested money to help me in starting my business.

I have spiritual mentors who believed in me and were very instrumental to my growth. I have plenty of true friends.

John Maxwell is one of the greatest source of my inspirations.

Hermawan (who we mentioned earlier in this interview), was also very helpful when I started out as an author.

I am grateful for every single one of them and I consider them God’s gift in my life.

ST: Who are your mentors and how did you find them and how did you maintain your relationship with them?
PW: I have many mentors! I look for mentors in business, leadership, spiritual life, married life, creativity, and many other aspects. Usually they are my friends who have been more successful than I am. I met some of them when I was still a journalist, around year 1999. Others I met when I attended conferences, either business conferences or church conferences.

ST: We are coming round to my last question. Is there anything that you wish to share with the readers that I haven’t asked you yet?
PW: Like my motto says, “

.” Life is a journey. Make it meaningful one regardless of where you are in life, and it will never be wasted.

ST: Thank you so much for your time and for generously sharing your inspirations.
PW: You are welcome, I am looking forward to your book and the published interview. God bless you and thank you for the interview.


My greatest take-away from my interview with Paulus was his greatest passion for helping others and making life better for others.

Too often, entrepreneurs and leaders were only concerned about achieving personal success, which is often equated with material gains, or reaching a certain position.

Paulus Winarto maintained his humility and showed that by keeping your focus on adding value and making life better, success is a given.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the interview. If you would like to learn more about Paulus, I have provided some links below.




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