When I Woke Up
Paul Evans is a passionate, ambitious go-getter, who has built a $100 million business. In 2001 he made the bold decision to move to Egypt to form Solutions Leisure Group. Together Evans and business partner Freek Teusnik re-invented Egypt’s nightlife scene developing Hurghada Marina Boulevard to become the number one most visited destination in the Red Sea. Evans relocated Solutions Leisure to UAE in 2011 following the Egyptian revolution. While successful today, he started as a dyslectic school dropout who was thrown in a Cairo jail and survived a 77-day coma. The book When I Woke Up tells his story. See wheniwokeup.com
TLC: What inspired you to write When I Woke Up, and what message do you want to share with your readers?
Paul Evans: My story is not just rags to riches it is to hell and back and involves a near death experience. Angels lifted me from the edge of death and despair. In writing the book, I wanted to thank those angels who helped me, and in this case, they are my family and friends and the people who saved my life and helped me find a reason and a justification for why it all happened. I want this book to be my testimony – for my almost unbelievable story to be there for my children to read.
When I Woke Up is my warts and all story which I hope will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next! Right from the get-go, I had a hell of a roller coaster life. I was profoundly dyslexic as a kid to the extent that teachers and other kids at school treated me like I was stupid. I had such troubles with writing I was endlessly harassed and humiliated by both teachers and pupils who would poke fun at me or beat me up. So, I had to learn to stand up for myself and fight back. I became a successful athlete and built up a hugely successful business selling designer gear on the black market at the weekends. I proved I had substantial physical strength and stamina but also an excellent brain for business. Naturally, that did not endear me to my teachers and schoolmates; now they were out to get back at me for my success – they hated that the kid they humiliated was now doing well, wearing designer gear and doing sports lessons with key athlete Daley Thomson. Life in many ways got even harder and on top of all that I was thrown into jail in the UK for a fight that went wrong.
A local thug went for me in a road rage attack, and I fought back so fiercely that he was severely injured and imprisoned for GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm). Once out of prison I built up a successful business again – I went to Egypt and set up a chain of restaurants and bars. I was successful, but I was a party animal. I did not realize how far gone I was until I had a physical collapse and went into total organ failure then coma for 77 days. I was a living skeleton and nearly died. Bizarrely during the coma, I experienced a parallel life in Singapore. I remember it distinctly even now; it is like watching a film. The details were precise and minute facts of what happened when I was in the coma, and medical staff verified them.
But that’s not the end of the story! When I recovered, I went back to work and suddenly got thrown into jail in Egypt. It was a trumped-up fraud charge by a corrupt official trying to embezzle money from me. Egyptian prisons are the worst on the planet. I shared a tiny cell with a bunch of psychos who attempted to rape me. I had to fight my way out and narrowly escaped with my life.
With the Arab spring in full swing, I escaped to Dubai with my wife and kids and started my life all over again. I had to start from scratch, but after the coma and near-death experience I came back a different person. I focused on my business. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold. When you’ve stared death in the face and lost everything you hold dear, it is as if you are reborn.
Life is good now, and the demons are far behind. Today, I understand I am here to make life better for people wherever I can. These are my values now – and I get such pleasure from sharing this with whoever I meet – what more could anyone want?
TLC: You describe struggling with dyslexia, which is a lifelong condition. How has that affected you throughout the various stages of your life?
Paul: It is a huge challenge dealing with dyslexia, and when you read the book, you will see how it caused me real anguish and hard times with bullying and being treated as stupid when I was a kid. Ironically, I was eventually found to have a genius level IQ after an intelligence assessment. I learned to focus on the positive side of the condition; what it brings me not what it takes away. Nobody in the business team around me today gives a damn whether or not I can spell ‘Library.’
TLC: Can you describe where your mind was at when you were in a coma? Did you experience a sense of time or reality?
Paul: The interesting thing about the coma experience and that parallel life I was locked into during the coma was just how real everything seemed to me. Not for one instant did I think I was dreaming. In that world of the coma I was getting up every day, going to work and living my life like anyone else on this planet, I was as driven, determined and ambitious in my coma as I have ever been. One fascinating aspect of the experience was that time in that condition seemed to pass at around a 4:1 ratio of our real-time, whereby in my coma I would live a day as I usually would but in reality, time was only passing at a quarter of that speed.
TLC: When you woke up, you describe being transformed not just mentally, but also physically. What was going through your mind when you woke up fragile and attached to machines?
Paul: The transformation wasn’t instant. It took at least a week for me to realize I was sick and that the life I had lived in my coma wasn’t real. Then it was a gradual process as I physically began to recover. I mentally woke up to the changes and differences I wanted to make and the realization of how close I had come to death. I had been given a second chance at life, and I wanted to make sure that I made the most of every moment. And even 15 years on, I still give thanks every morning that I am still here, living my life to the fullest and get to help as many people as I can who join me along the journey.
TLC: Life was different when you woke up from your coma. What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned when you woke up from your near-death experience?
Paul: There isn’t just one lesson. I made many changes and completely expanded my outlook on life. I now have an endless appreciation for my family and friends, for the excellent opportunities that I have and just how much of a gift life is. I now want to spend the rest of my life exploring how I can really make the most of those opportunities and maximize the benefits to those around me too.
TLC: You describe your experience in a coma as a strange existence where you were in limbo between life and death. Has your near-death experience made you more spiritual in any way?
Paul: There is something! There was undoubtedly a higher power at play when my mind went to another worldly dimension while my body was in repair. I believe that what I experienced was not entirely of the human hand and, although I would say I have not become religious, I genuinely think that something or someone decided that I should have a second chance. It is my responsibility to justify that decision to give me this second chance by really making the most of the time I have left on this earth.
TLC: It seems like you’ve turned your life around several times already. What gives you the motivation to keep pushing through when life presents obstacles?
Paul: I recognize that every set back is an opportunity to swing forward to an even more elevated position. I have reached a point in my life where I don’t see anything as unachievable – the sky is the limit! I just love challenges that engage my brain with their complexity. One thing I would like to add is that visualization is really important – first I picture the outcome I want and then I focus on enjoying the process of solving the problem or challenge that has presented itself – so I can get to where I want to be. Success comes by having systems, not just goals!
Find out more about Paul Evans at https://www.wheniwokeup.com. When I Woke Up: The True Story of Paul Evans. Today, the Evans’ group owns and operates over 34 venues internationally, seven brands, and nine sites. They welcome over 140,000 visitors monthly at Q43, Lock, Stock & Barrel Barsha Heights, Lock, Stock & Barrel JBR, Karma Kafe, Asia Asia, STKJBR, STK Downtown, and Inner-City Zoo.