Name: Paul Anthony Claxton
Title: AI Venture Capitalist, Serial Entrepreneur, Former U.S. Marine
Organisation: Q1 Velocity Venture Capital
Paul Anthony Claxton - www.paulclaxton.io - is a Managing General Partner at Q1 Velocity Venture Capital – www.q1velocity.com - , an early-stage AI investor that focuses on impact-driven companies that improve people's welfare, economy, and environment. With almost 10 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur and an emerging fund manager, he has co-founded and led several ventures in the fields of innovation, market development, talent recruitment, and technology acceleration, working with global and diverse partners across various industries and sectors.
As a Head of Silicon Valley Syndicate Club - Los Angeles Chapter at Network VC, he also facilitates co-investment opportunities for private investors to join deals with well-known VCs, such as Softbank, Samsung Ventures, BlackRock, Andreessen Horowitz, and Founders Fund.
Paul is passionate about solving unmet needs with emerging technologies, creating technology success stories, and advancing global society forward for the greater good. I am a public speaker, an author, a San Diego Business Journal 40 under 40 honoree, and a U.S. Marine veteran with 10 years on active duty and four combat tours.
Upon leaving the Marine Corps, Paul spent almost 7 years in corporate where he held roles in marketing, enterprise level project management oversight, and as a Technology Manager for a Southern California division of a 6 billion dollar Fortune 500 company. As of the last 7 years, Paul has been bootstrapping companies and venture capital firms from zero to revenue within matters of weeks. Paul is currently pursuing his MBA of Finance at Harvard University and he holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Law and Psychology from Park University and a Military Leadership and Strategy certificate from Marine Corps University.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Paul's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a financial executive in the technology sector, I embarked on a remarkable journey, spearheading a 50-million-dollar banking trade investment project with a modest 6.5 million dollar budget. It was a profound test of leadership, filled with inspiring lessons in resilience and determination.
The challenges I encountered were formidable – navigating the complexities of diverse cultures among our stakeholders, tackling regulatory banking hurdles across multiple time zones with up to a 15-hour difference. This meant countless late-night and early morning calls, often after full workdays.
One of my most significant challenges was enlightening our managers and stakeholders about subjects outside their expertise. Explaining setbacks that were beyond my control to individuals with minimal knowledge of the intricate workings of the project demanded unwavering patience and clarity. Even the most brilliant minds in our team couldn't always keep pace with the dynamic landscape of banking and shifting regulations.
Throughout this arduous journey, I juggled other responsibilities, managing my AI venture capital investment firm and offering my guidance to other companies as an investor relations executive. Innovation and resourcefulness became my allies when plans went awry. I encountered my share of challenging and unscrupulous individuals, but I chose to rise above these difficulties.
While facing numerous frustrations, my role as a leader demanded that I manage emotions and embrace different perspectives. I strived to understand the limitations and capabilities of both myself and others, making fair and decisive choices that would rally everyone toward our common goal.
The road was tough, but our unwavering commitment paid off. The project ultimately emerged as a resounding success, a testament to the power of leadership, resilience, and unwavering teamwork.
Leadership is an ongoing, individual voyage of self-enhancement and self-reflection; it remains independent of external factors. By first addressing and improving oneself, you will ascend to the loftiest echelons of leadership.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Embracing the Journey to Courageous and Conscious Leadership
Everyone is a leader; either a good one or a bad one. I will begin this to say, I have always been a leader, but not necessarily a good one; I’ve made my mistakes and had my shortcomings. Becoming the good leader that I am today has been due to my ability to take failures and learn from them, all the while slowly moving forward and molding myself into a quality leader . In the grand tapestry of life, we all have the potential to be leaders, albeit in varying shades of good and bad. The evolution of leadership, it became clear to me, hinges on a profound consciousness that transcends mere effectiveness. It's the fusion of efficacy and ethics that defines a good leader.
At the age of 18, I embarked on a profound journey towards authentic leadership when I enlisted in the Marine Corps. It was in the Marine Corps that I found a new family and a fatherly influence, as I delved into a world of military doctrine, customs, and courtesies. Joining this close-knit family was a transformative experience that broadened my perspective of the world.
In this dynamic environment, I not only embraced new cultures and landscapes but also discovered the true essence of leadership. It was a revelation that responsibility extends not only to our own actions but also to the well-being and actions of those around us. The essence of leadership, I soon realized, lay in embracing responsibility for both our own actions and those of the people around us. My time in the Marine Corps was more than a service; it was a metamorphosis into a leader, one who shoulders the burden of responsibility with courage and conviction.
Leadership, as I learned, is a multifaceted jewel. It encompasses the minutiae of how one wears a uniform, punctuality, articulate communication, and the very manner in which one carries themselves. It's about the confluence of myriad attributes, such as proficiency, self-awareness, and an unwavering commitment to improvement. Beyond these, it's the embodiment of qualities like enthusiasm, initiative, integrity, loyalty, and dependability, even when they're uncomfortable or unenticing.
Noteworthy is the omission of any reference to my combat experiences, achievements, or project management in this narrative. These accomplishments may indicate effectiveness, but true leadership goes beyond mere success. It's about the day I embarked on my journey as a budding leader, the moment I stepped into Marine Boot Camp.
Leadership is a demanding endeavor, one that compels us to continually delve into our inner selves, seeking self-improvement and self-reflection. It's a path that calls for humility, unselfishness, and adaptability in a world that incessantly tests our capacity for selflessness in the face of change and adversity. These are the ethics founded on unwavering principles.
In the world of leadership, there are countless theories and a wealth of knowledge. Yet, the true challenge lies in the translation of theory into action. Even those in the highest echelons of politics and industry grapple with this daily.
The age-old question lingers: "Are leaders born or made?" I affirm that leaders are indeed born, but good leaders are meticulously molded.
I, therefore, dub myself an 'emerging leader.' I embrace the title of a 'good leader' not as a static identity, but as a commitment to an unending pursuit of self-improvement and the nurturing of growth in others. It's a testament to the enduring journey toward courageous leadership, where our light shines brightest when we lead by example and inspire others to do the same
Without fail, people will follow leaders, whether they are good or bad, often doing so blindly and without full understanding. Hence, society perpetually contends with the challenge of combating poor leadership. This underscores the crucial significance of having effective leadership.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My daily routine is a testament to the power of structure and balance in fostering a successful and fulfilling life. As the sun begins to grace the sky, I awaken, deliberately choosing not to be entangled with the digital world at this early hour. In my home base time zone, my day typically commences around 7am or 7:30am.
With a spirit of intention, I begin by making a comforting cup of coffee and savoring a banana. This ritual grounds me as I embark on the journey of my day. Before I dive into the world outside, I ensure that my sanctuary is in perfect order. A neatly arranged house, bathed in the warm glow of morning light, sets the stage for the day's success. I never want to wake in darkness, for I believe that light infuses us with hope and positivity.
When the weather smiles, I may choose to venture out to a bustling coffee shop, where the vibrant atmosphere becomes the backdrop to my early endeavors.
My executive day takes flight as I engage with my digital world. I tackle a multitude of tasks, from managing a myriad of email addresses to staying informed through perusing news feeds. All the while, I take moments to connect with my partner, Kellie, and savor the simple pleasures of my coffee and banana.
From this point onward, it's a relentless journey through meetings and intense work, the kind that involves contracts, investment agreements, financial models, and proposals. "In the realm of productivity, you'll often find me at my desk, orchestrating the symphony of my workdays. To the backdrop of pulsating hardcore rap or the gentle melodies of soft rock, my choice is a reflection of the ever-changing rhythms of my mood. When it's time to stoke the fires of motivation, the beats of hardcore rap infuse my spirit with fiery determination. Conversely, when serenity is the order of the day, the soothing strains of soft rock weave tranquility into the very fabric of my work. It's a musical dance that not only keeps me in sync with my tasks but also ignites the creative flames within my soul. A brief pause for a light lunch around noon offers a chance to recharge.
Around 5pm, I transition to the gym, where my body and mind undergo a rigorous military-style training regimen and extensive runs. The pursuit of physical strength and mental clarity is an essential part of my day.
Evening, with its gentle allure, is my time to shine. As a night owl, I relish the quiet hours. After the gym, I might dine at home or venture to a bar lounge, where I delve into lighter work. This is the space for reading educational materials, exploring business insights, and handling administrative tasks, each stroke adding to the canvas of my day.
As the clock approaches midnight or 1am, I retreat to a world of entertainment, often with a thrilling horror movie. This is my sanctuary, a place where I reflect on the day's triumphs and set the stage for tomorrow's adventures. The night holds its own magic, a symphony of serenity and potential, as I embrace the journey of life, one day at a time.
In the ever-flowing river of time, I find unwavering continuity in my journey. Days melt into weeks and months with seamless grace, all thanks to the steadfast companionship of meticulous note-taking and an unwavering commitment to my 'to-do' lists.
I am an unyielding advocate for execution, approaching my 'to-do' lists with a sense of purpose and unwavering determination. My philosophy is simple: if a task can be accomplished promptly and requires only a single effort, I take it on without hesitation. With each tick of the clock, I free myself from the burden of the immediate, forging a path of efficiency and unrelenting progress.
I NEVER MISS A BEAT!
“When you wake up in the morning looking for the light, the light will come. “ – Oprah Winfrey
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A recent leadership lesson that has illuminated my path is the profound importance of understanding people's unique abilities and limitations. Just as some individuals reside on the 5th floor of life, while others inhabit the 50th floor, we all have our distinct places and levels where we operate or aspire to operate. Just as different vehicles are designed for various purposes, some meant to haul cargo and others built for blazing speed, people too possess their specific strengths and limitations.
When it comes to managing projects and leading teams, it's vital to acknowledge that we can't expect individuals to give what they're inherently incapable of providing. By embracing this mindset in our leadership, we unlock the potential for greater effectiveness and success. It's a realization that empowers us to become not just leaders, but exceptional leaders who can draw out the best in others, even during challenging times, cultivating new leaders within specific realms of expertise and knowledge.
People can be your greatest asset or your greatest liability, it is up to every leader to manage people so that they are an asset, not a liability. Individuals can either be a leader's most valuable resource or their most significant hindrance. The responsibility of a leader lies in effectively orchestrating their team to be an asset rather than a liability.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One book that has profoundly impacted my leadership journey is 'The Law of Propulsion' by Jeremiah Hughes. This book is a beacon of light that guides one towards a profound recentering of their belief system. Whenever I've encountered daunting obstacles in life, I've come to realize that it's not the obstacle itself but the lens through which I view it, the vantage point, or my belief system that truly matters. What appears to be an impenetrable wall is, in reality, just a section of the whole. A wall is not an infinite expanse; it's merely a finite segment. Its height and depth have limits, and if you ascend high enough, there's no more wall. If you journey far enough to the left or right, the wall ceases to exist. In essence, a wall is not an unyielding barrier; it's a defined portion of a larger whole.
This book, 'The Law of Propulsion,' serves as a powerful catalyst for shattering limiting beliefs, paving the way for a transformative shift in thought patterns. It urges us to align ourselves with our true essence, core values, and mission. It empowers us to chart a course towards realizing our deepest aspirations.
The impact of this book has been immeasurable. With a concise 128 pages, it has become my trusty reference guide, a tool always at my fingertips. Time and again, I revisit its pages to keep my mind open and unburdened in my leadership journey. 'The Law of Propulsion' is rich with stories and analogies that shed light on the subtle ways in which humans unknowingly impose limitations on themselves. The concepts presented are timeless, offering an endless well of wisdom that adapts to new challenges and imparts fresh lessons and insights.
This book is a timeless reservoir of perspectives, an enduring source of infinite wisdom that can be tailored to address a multitude of scenarios. Its enduring impact on my leadership journey is immeasurable, a testament to the boundless wisdom it imparts.
In my view, every leader ought to possess a guiding manual, a singular book they repeatedly turn to throughout their leadership journey. This practice serves to anchor and fortify a leader at their very essence.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
When it comes to advice for a young leader, I would emphasize that guidance is often a matter of personal experience and perspective, making it highly subjective. Some advice is pure trash, while other advice is like an invaluable treasure. You decide what to throw away as trash and what to keep as an heirloom. Less advice can sometimes be the most valuable advice. So, in contradiction, why are you here, reading my words today? The truth you seek resides within you already. Trust in your inner wisdom and the unique journey that lies ahead."
Those lacking knowledge must exercise caution in their discernment of information, for at times, the counsel itself may be unenlightened, perpetuating further ignorance and imprudent blindness.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
One of the most profoundly meaningful experiences I've had as a leader is witnessing the remarkable transformation of the individuals, I had the privilege to guide. Watching them evolve and thrive through their dedication to following my lead has been a source of immense fulfillment.
What makes this experience even more heartwarming is that, even during moments when they perceived my leadership as demanding or too tough, they eventually realized the substantial gains they achieved. Many of them returned, expressing deep gratitude for the positive impact my leadership had on their lives.
In the end, these private moments of appreciation and personal growth are all the internal validation I need.
The enduring impression of positivity we imprint upon others stands as the crowning achievement of exceptional leadership.