My Video Interview with Paul Streitz, the Blue-Collar Buddha


I had the pleasure of working with entrepreneur Paul Streitz on his new book, Blue-Collar Buddha. I hope you enjoy our three-part video interview.

You can read a sample chapter from Blue-Collar Buddha at the end of this blog post.

Click here to order your copy of Blue-Collar Buddha.

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As founder and CEO of Advanced Lighting Systems, Inc., a manufacturer of LED and fiber optics used in entertainment and architectural lighting, Paul Streitz established himself as an industry visionary and the go-to-source for high-tech, high-touch creative lighting solutions for everything from the Grammy awards to Broadway shows to major concert tours. Advanced Lighting also provided the technical know-how and lighting products to illuminate the original Declaration of Independence and all its supporting documents at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

In 2004, Paul created and contributed the technology and know-how for Target Corporation to wrap an entire square block of Times Square—23,000 square feet of billboard space on the Port Authority building—in vinyl billboards for its Fourth of July summer campaign. It was the first time that fiber optic lighting (that could easily be put up and removed) had been applied to standard billboard material without having to change the facade or altar the billboard structure. This breakthrough, which created a new market in the industry, allowed billboards to be lit up and animated from the billboard material itself while consuming 75 percent less energy than alternative methods of lighting.

After selling his company in 2007, Paul reinvented himself as a consultant to business owners and high-level executives, and as an author and motivational speaker. His book, Blue-Collar Buddha: Life-Changing Lessons Learned on the Journey from Flight Attendant to Cancer Survivor to Entrepreneurial Millionaire, is rapidly gaining him a following in both the business world and the self-help community.

In Blue-Collar Buddha’s twenty-nine uplifting, heart-centered stories of personal and professional enlightenment, Paul details his improbable rise from working-class roots to founder of an internationally respected lighting company. With refreshing candor, caring, and insight, Paul shares the hard-earned wisdom he gained from overcoming debilitating childhood insecurities, shocking betrayals at work and at home, and two life-changing bouts with cancer. Ultimately, with integrity, ingenuity, and indomitable will, Paul created a rich, fulfilling life and a business worth millions.

Paul is now a partner in Mad Cowboy Productions LLC, a Minneapolis-based movie production company. He is also a partner in PixZel Effects LLC, a Minneapolis-based LED lighting company.

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Click here to visit Paul’s blog.

Click here to visit the Blue-Collar Buddha website.

Click here to follow Paul on Twitter.

Click here to find Paul on Facebook.

Here is a four-minute television interview Paul did on February 15, 2012 on WGN’s Middway News in Chicago.

Here is Paul’s interview with author and marketing guru Arielle Ford on Meet the Experts, which will air on FOX.

Here is a blog post Paul wrote about all the great feedback he’s been getting about Blue-Collar Buddha:


I think other authors would agree with me on this: You never know how good a book is until you start getting objective feedback from people you don’t know. I had distributed a few early copies of my book, Blue-Collar Buddha, to some newspapers and business partners but wasn’t expecting any personal replies. So imagine my surprise when the book reviewer for a Minnesota newspaper paused while she was interviewing me and said, “I have to tell you something. We get so many self-published books from authors that we leave them in an open area so people can grab one when they go to lunch. When your book came in, the joke around the office was, ‘How bad is this one going to be?’ Well, a girl took it over the noon hour, came back, handed it to me and said, ‘This book is for you, but I just took it to lunch and read three chapters. This has got to be the best self-published book I’ve ever read and it’s probably one of the best books you’re ever going to review.’” Wow. It’s hard to express how good that made me feel. I know it’s only a small-town newspaper but that was pretty inspiring!

A week or two earlier, I had been talking to a guy who was writing some promo copy for the book. He told me, “Paul, I never read any of the books I write copy for. There’s just too many of them and I don’t have the time. I just take the bullet points from the promotional copy I’m sent and go from there. But your book looked interesting so I picked it up and I couldn’t stop reading it. I haven’t experienced the things you have but I could relate to all of it because of the way you wrote about them. It really inspired me to think about my life in a different way—to stop feeling like a victim and look at everything as a lesson to be learned. Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s really important for people to read this.”

I would have been thrilled with just those two responses, but my friend and editor, Phil, just told me that he lent the book to a friend of his. He just expected her to read a couple of the stories but she told him the next day: “I loved the book! I couldn’t put it down last night. It’s very compelling and Paul’s attitude is really inspiring.” The next day, she told Phil that she had stayed up until two in the morning reading another forty pages. When she finally finished it on the third day, she sent him an e-mail that said, “Your book certainly is a masterpiece. It’s extremely well-written and a delight to read.”

Hearing those comments was so humbling. I had hoped that the book would be well-received but I was so close to it that I had no idea what kind of reaction it would get when we sent it out into the world. Now I’m more excited than ever because I’m even more confident that the stories are going to help people and make them think about how they can improve their own lives.


In the spring of 1998, Advanced Lighting received an order for a $40,000 fiber optic curtain for the Washington D.C. opening of the musical Ragtime. I enjoyed working on high-profile jobs like this, but when we received the technical blueprints I saw nothing but red flags.

Typically, a 30’ x 60’ stage-show curtain is embedded with thousands of points of light. It’s a complex job because the placement of each light has to be precise. The lights on the Ragtime curtain needed to form a variety of star constellations as well as spell out the name of the show. While this particular curtain called for 30 percent less lights than normal, the show’s lighting designer was asking for glass fibers, which were roughly five times heavier than the industry-standard plastic. We had experimented with glass fibers in the past but determined that they were just too heavy for detailed work. Plastic is not only lighter, it’s more durable and flexible, which is especially important if you want to fold up a curtain and take it on tour.

I immediately called Rose Brand and told Tony, my contact there, that the curtain they ordered was a disaster waiting to happen. I explained that the glass and adhesives would be so heavy that the curtain would almost certainly rip. Tony relayed my message to the show’s lighting designer, Jules Fisher, who replied, “No, no, no, it’s got to be glass fiber.” Obviously, someone had convinced him that glass fiber was superior to plastic, which, in favorable circumstances, is true. Glass fiber is awesome if you’re talking about a 30’ x 40’ curtain with a couple of thousand fibers. But when you add twenty feet of curtain and many more thousands of fibers, you’re asking for trouble.

I told Tony that we couldn’t make the curtain because our reputation was on the line; I didn’t want our name associated with what could potentially be a nightmare scenario. But word came back to me that Jules was insisting on his original specs. If it had been any other designer and any other distributor, I wouldn’t have budged. But Jules was a repeat customer and the number-one guy in the industry; at the time, he had won seven Tony awards for lighting design, more than anyone else in history. Just as importantly, Rose Brand was the premier player in Broadway theatrical curtains and one of our biggest and best customers. If I walked away from this job, I’d be walking away from a steady diet of big-ticket jobs from two of my best customers. I finally told Tony, “Okay, look, we’ll build the curtain but we’re not accepting any liability for it. If Jules is willing to sign off on that, we’re fine.” Tony said, “Sure, that’s no problem. Everything’s understood.”

Now came the hard part. Plastic fiber came in spools of ten thousand feet; you just spool off what you need and you’re good to go. Glass fiber, on the other hand, is made to order. It took me a week to figure out the placement of every last point on the curtain and calculate all the necessary lengths and angles. I figured we’d have plenty of time to assemble the curtain but I started sweating a bit more every day our glass-fiber order was delayed from the manufacturer. We finally got the glass on a Monday—two weeks late!—and the curtain had to be delivered and in place on the East coast by that Friday for their first dress rehearsal. If that wasn’t intense enough, not only did we have to affix fifteen thousand fibers, we had to give the adhesive twenty-four hours to dry. My crew, God bless ’em, worked two straight sixteen-hour days, kicked ass, and got that bad boy done. It was such an important job that we folded it up and I flew to D.C. with it.

When I got to the theater, everyone raved about how fantastic the curtain looked. Relieved, I plopped down next to Jules Fisher to watch the stagehands install the curtain and hoist it up to the ceiling, where it would be lowered for several scenes during the show. The crew pulled the curtain up and dropped it back down to test it. As soon as it hit the floor, it jerked once . . . and ripped apart.

Everyone froze. When my heart started beating again, my mind began racing with three thoughts. First, I thought I should run up on stage for appearances’ sake and assess the damage even though I knew the curtain was toast. Second, I was hoping Jules wouldn’t slug me. Third, I had an overwhelming urge to jump up and bolt out the door. It took a few seconds to realize that all eyes were on me, waiting for me to take action. So I sprang up, ran onstage, and went through the motions of checking out the curtain. I already knew the curtain wasn’t salvageable but running my hands over it and pretending to look for a solution gave me a few minutes to compose myself. When Jules finally broke the silence by saying, “Can you fix it?” I felt like a doctor answering a terminally ill patient. “There’s nothing we can do,” I said gravely. “We’d have to start all over and do it with plastic; glass just weighs too much.” I paused for dramatic effect—after all, I was onstage—and added, “That was my fear.” Fortunately, Jules remained relatively calm. He said, “Well, we need to get a curtain made and we need it here by the end of next week.” I nodded and said, “Let me get on the phone with Rose Brand.”

As I was dialing Rose Brand’s number, the enormity of what had just happened hit me full force and I fought off a wave of panic. All sorts of crazy thoughts started roaring through my head. This was a $40,000 job that had turned to ashes, and for all I knew, my company could turn to ashes too. Not only was this a significant amount of money, it could also bring our reputation crashing down. Plus, making a replacement curtain was no slam dunk. I wasn’t completely sure that we had enough plastic fiber in inventory or that we weren’t already booked solid with other rush jobs.

When Tony answered the phone, I said, “We’ve got a problem.” Tony and I had a longstanding, friendly relationship and I knew I could speak candidly with him. I told him the curtain had shredded, which was exactly what I had warned could happen. To my surprise, Tony just said, “Well, you took the job.” I said, “Wait a minute, we talked about this. I said we’d only do the job if we wouldn’t be held liable if it didn’t work.” I hadn’t insisted on getting our agreement in writing because, given the solid business relationships I had with Tony and Jules, I expected them to honor their word should anything happen. But as we continued talking, and Tony continued hemming and hawing, I saw that Tony was caught in the crossfire. Jules Fisher did a significant amount of business with Rose Brand and Tony didn’t feel he was in a position to make any demands of Jules. That meant Rose Brand would be on the hook for the full forty grand, and Tony was understandably uncomfortable about telling his bosses that he had agreed to a deal that had blown up in his face. Clearly, that wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t stop it from becoming my problem.

Frustrated and upset, I hung up. I was right, and Tony knew it, but that didn’t mean I’d ever see a penny in payment. Given that my motto is, “There’s always a way to work things out,” I sat down and began brainstorming. Yes, I was out $40,000, but my real costs in parts and labor was closer to $25,000. I added up all the jobs we’d done with Jules Fisher and Rose Brand and came up with a figure north of $2 million. This was our first major foul-up with any client, so from a percentage standpoint we were still ahead of the game. We were also in a good cash position at the time. So even though it stung big time to take a hit like this, I figured the best strategy was to eat the loss, swallow it along with my pride, and make the best of what I had to work with.

As I did the math on the specs for a new curtain, a plan started taking shape in my mind. First, I asked Rose Brand to donate the fabric and sewing for the new curtain and pick up the overnight freight charges, which saved a few thousand bucks. Next, I asked my employees to help out with another rush job and to put in overtime hours at their regular hourly rate. Given that plastic fiber was less expensive than glass and I could re-use the fourteen illuminators (which lit up the fiber) from the original curtain, Operation Ragtime Rescue kicked into high gear. Three days later, Jules had his curtain in time for the grand opening that night and I looked like a hero.

With the concessions from Rose Brand and my crew, the replacement curtain had cost only another ten grand, bringing my total cost for both curtains to $35,000. I got paid $40,000 so I didn’t end up losing a nickel. More importantly, I not only salvaged my relationships with Jules and Tony, they were stronger than ever because I saved the day without making them look bad. In fact, the president of Rose Brand called me to thank me for making them look great in a bad situation, which was a very gentlemanly thing to do. And I think Jules did even more business with me because he appreciated that I took the high road and acted honorably. And the more business we did with Jules, including producing curtains for four of his Tony Award-winning shows, the more business we got from other Broadway designers. After all, everyone wants to follow the leader.

Looking back, I think I would have done the same thing even if I had had our agreement in writing. Being less concerned with being right than with doing the right thing is just smart business. Sure, I could have sued a multimillion-dollar theatrical company and a nationally respected Tony Award winner, but even if I had won I would have lost. My legal costs would have eaten up my profits and then some and I never would have gotten another job from either of them again. On top of all that, a big chunk of my mental focus and energy would’ve been poured into a soul-sucking black hole of negativity for God knows how long. Instead, I invested another ten grand and got the forty grand that was due me. All things considered, that was quite the bargain.


• Paul graduated from Brooklyn Center High School in 1982.
• He served in the U.S. Army between 1981 and 1986, first as a Heavy-Wheel Vehicle Repair Specialist, and then as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist.
• He survived two bouts with testicular cancer in 1989 and 1990.
• In the fall of 1986, Paul was hired by American Airlines as a flight attendant. In May 1997, he took early retirement, which included benefits and lifetime flying privileges.
• In the spring of 1988, while on a flight layover in Reno, Nevada, Paul noticed some men installing a fiber optic starfield ceiling in a casino restaurant. He struck up a conversation and ended up joining the company for nearly three years. A stint with a different light company followed for another 18 months. In both cases, he was cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars by the respective owners.
• Paul joined Advanced Lighting Systems, a manufacturer of LED and fiber optics used in entertainment and architectural lighting, in 1994. The company had been started by his brother, Jerry, the year before. Paul bought out his brother in 1997.

Click here to see all the video and audio interviews I’ve conducted.


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier

To order your copy of Through God’s Eyes, go to OR order from Amazon at OR for an inscribed copy, click here to e-mail Phil for information.

Click here for more information about Through God’s Eyes.
Click here to ask Phil to add you to his e-mail list for updates on his blog and books.

Through God’s Eyes won first place in the “Spirituality and Inspirational” category at the San Diego Book Awards on June 22, 2013.

Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.

Want to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 40-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders

Just click on the link below to download your free PDF sampler!


Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents on Amazon.

Order it at

In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?

Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.

Schedule a Mastery Mentoring phone session with Phil to learn how to apply principles of spiritual living more effortlessly and effectively. Priced affordably! Click here to e-mail Phil for details.

SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent people he interviewed, including Joan Borysenko, Deepak Chopra, geneticist Dr. Francis Collins, acclaimed sportswriter Frank Deford, Dr. Larry Dossey, Wayne Dyer, Dan Millman, Caroline Myss, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Bernie Siegel, James Van Praagh, singer Billy Vera, Doreen Virtue, Neale Donald Walsch, and bassist Victor Wooten.

Here is a three-minute video that introduces you to Phil and his book. Click here to order Sixty Seconds. Click here to ask Phil to add you to his e-mail list for updates on his blog and books.

Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories. Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers. Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.

Sixty Seconds was one of three finalists in the General Interest/How-To category at the 12th annual Visionary Awards presented by COVR (Coalition of Visionary Resources) in Denver on June 27, 2009.

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2 Responses to “My Video Interview with Paul Streitz, the Blue-Collar Buddha”

  1. Rachel Says:

    WHAT!? I cannot believe I didn’t know about this book. Sharing it with my Facebook friends immediately. And why does Paul seem so familiar?

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Awesome, Rachel! Thanks! You didn’t know about it because it was just published.

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