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The Highlight Reel is Not The Journey: An Interview with Paul Coyne

The battle of straddling between self-awareness, self-love, and self-reproof is central to Coyne’s story and is a driving factor for his decorated list of accomplishments.

“They’re not a coin to flip or to toss. Find them in the wrong order, and you’ll find both you have lost.”

In 2008, the booming financial market was at its peak, and Paul Coyne had just landed a job at Goldman Sachs as a derivatives trader at 22 years old. “It was a big deal to move to New York,” Coyne recalls. His family had always lived in Massachusetts, so working on Wall Street felt fresh and exciting.

Paul Coyne, DNP, MBA, MS, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, has moved far beyond Wall Street and into nursing, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and thought leadership.

Going back to 2008, a month before starting his position, Coyne suffered a stroke in the left thalamus. He was familiar with health challenges, as he had been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as a child. In multiple instances, Coyne experienced injuries and complications due to his condition, leading to intermittent hospitalizations and recovery periods. 

A Nurse in the Making

How did Coyne go from having a stroke to working on Wall Street to becoming a nurse, entrepreneur, and healthcare executive?

Coyne still remembers the specific moment he landed in nursing. “There was a corporate physical at Goldman, and they had us dressed in scrubs. I walked by a mirror in scrubs as a patient, and I turned and saw myself. I just had this moment where I said, ‘Oh, that’s a nurse staring back at me.’ I enrolled in the prerequisites that night.” 

One might think Coyne’s journey to nursing is simple: He had a big-time city job and was humbled during stroke recovery, leading him to want to give back and help others. “That’s often the story that gets written,” Coyne shares candidly. It’s also often the story ascribed to many nurses, painted as empathetic heroes, angels, and martyrs rather than academic powerhouses with a passion for the science of nursing and healing.

The Highlight Reel

In reality, Coyne was crippled with self-doubt. “After three years of recovering, learning to talk and walk, I doubted if I was as smart as I was.” The irony of the human brain is not lost on him – as you get smarter, you have more capacity to reflect on whether or not you are smart, he observes.

The battle of straddling between self-awareness, self-love, and self-reproof is central to Coyne’s story and is a driving factor for his decorated list of accomplishments. 

Coyne’s resume is nothing less than astonishing, including:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Business Administration, Healthcare Management
  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Arts in American Studies
  • Entrepreneur inventor of AUGi, an AI healthcare data processing and integration device 
  • Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)
  • Professional singer
  • Professional speaker
  • Professional poet and writer

“Here I am, I’m 30, I have six degrees,” Coyne remarks, as though his accomplishments are a package meant for everyone else’s consumption and enjoyment. 

Defining Success

Coyne’s story is enjoyable and consumable, but the commodification of anyone’s journey for entertainment can be reductive.

“There are articles that say, ‘Here’s an academic feat: a stroke survivor achieves five degrees in four years.’ I gave talks about that. I’ve done it. Looking back, I don’t really think that’s what I did or why that deserves credit.” Coyne explains that his achievements were born out of difficult times, suffering from not feeling good enough and struggling with recovery. 

Coyne believes everyone is worthy of feeling the success and pride that he feels. “For a patient, it could mean they got out of bed today. Whatever you did, if you did it, that’s success. Not ‘five degrees in four years.’ I am proud of myself that I didn’t give up, but the degrees are just a byproduct of that.”

Not An Imposter

Even given the achievements, does Coyne ever struggle with imposter syndrome?

“I’ve always had a fear that if I accept that I am capable, that I will stop becoming that capable. Because that’s always been my will to persevere, try to prove wrong, and show what I got. Saying, ‘I am capable. I can do this.’ It’s a really hard thing to stop and admit.”

“At what point do you say ‘I’m good enough’, but not so much to a point that you stop trying?” Coyne muses. Some people err too far one way or the other. 

Coyne shares a poem he wrote for his upcoming poetry book.

Confidence and Competence 

They’re not a coin to flip or to toss

Find them in the wrong order, and you’ll find both you have lost

He summarizes, “How much competence do I have? I should be confident that I have that much competence. But I’m not going to doubt what I’m already confident about.” 

Your Highlights, Your Story

Coyne has the ability not only to use his challenges as brute force to push himself to achieve what is seemingly impossible but also to reflect on it all while doing so, as evidenced by his upcoming book of poems, The Wisdom I Can’t Teach, coming out later this year. 

No matter how much success you may achieve, it’s healthy to have an ounce of self-doubt, so long as it drives you to accomplish what you once thought was past your limit. So, if you’re a nurse, you can be a derivative trader at Goldman Sachs, a poetry writer, or a healthcare executive. Whatever you are, it’s okay to change your mind, challenge yourself, and do something out of the box. Because in doing that, you’ll push yourself.

And then maybe someday you’ll have your own highlight reel, too. But the bullet points on your resume might be different than what you see in hindsight – a series of small moments where you grew, what truly shaped your journey. 

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