Mike’s Mailbag: Meet Bernard & The Next “KHL”

Top O’ The Morning Compadre,

Feels good, it’s Friday isn’t it? Check mate!

September is one of my favorite months of the year for many reasons but front and center is that it is a month that allows you to recalibrate your daily routine (from fitness to waking up early to eating healthier to fewer wobbly pops) and reassess your personal and professional/career goals. Whether it’s going into grade 1, freshman year, or strolling into the office, I always look forward to this month as it brings with it renewed vitality and clarity on your life’s ambitions if you take the time to reflect, recharge and re-instill the self-discipline required. For me, the self-discipline piece is key. It often tends to sway during the summer months and while it’s not easy to break bad habits, it just has to be done.

I’m off to hideout at the lake this weekend to chisel away at some personal initiatives I’m working on with the intention of finishing off 2016 strong. I hope you’re able to carve out some time this weekend to hone in on what you’re aiming for. I’d like nothing more than to see at the finish line!

  • Most people, including myself, thought the KHL is the Russian hockey league that any NHL player who breaches their contract opts to play in instead… Turns out, there’s another KHL and it’s in Kenya. Yes, in the heart of downtown Nairobi
  • Meet Bernard the Roughneck. He’s become quite the legend since he showed up in opposition to the Kinder Morgan protest in British Columbia. He’s provided a voice for many in the oil & gas industry in Western Canada. I won’t comment on Rebel Media’s “sponsorship” of sorts because it is evidently very biased and going down that road opens up an argument that is a whole other can of fish. However, I truly think Bernard means well and provides a perspective seemingly often forgotten by many Canadians in opposition to an industry that contributes a great deal to the Canadian economy (as presented in Canadian Parliament yesterday).
  • Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland… Supposedly, the ultimate in East Coast Canadian luxury experiences. I have only ever heard of this gem in the press and elsewhere on the Internet. It looks absolutely amazing but I really don’t know much about it… That’s okay though as I have a great deal of work to do and money to save if I intend on staying there anytime soon (even if just for a night)! I’m curious though, has anyone stayed there or know much about this bucket list destination?
  • This is a pretty awesome looking all-in-one travel app from Google -> Google Trips Thanks to my pal in Toronto, Brett, for the heads up on this app!

Song of the Week: You’ve all heard Gravity by John Mayer but perhaps not this version…  And it is oh so smooth. Sit back and relax with Gravity, Live at the Nokia Theatre in 08′.

Quote of the Week: Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” – George Carlin

I guess I should mention I got my first ever hole in one last weekend!! Big shout-out to Sudsy, one of my playing partners and loyal Mailbag reader, for being such a beauty to golf with.

Have a Great Weekend,



Mike’s Mailbag: Back On The Horn!

Hi Friends,

It’s been a while, eh?

Truth is, I haven’t found the time to write for pleasure, in any shape or form. I have grappled with what to do with my Mailbag… Should I take it in a different direction and rebrand? Change up my distribution frequency? Kibosh it all together? All kinds of thoughts have come in one ear and out the other…

Then I thought, hold on two shakes of a lamb tail here, Michael… If you write your Mailbag for fun, not to mention there truly is no end goal or destination in mind for it, who really cares if you don’t publish one every single week? Or that it’s harder to find time to write being 100% dialed in to my new career path?

So here I am. Back on the horn. Hopefully with some interesting things to say…

I can’t guarantee that I will be able to write every week but I can guarantee you two things… When I do write, we’re going to have some fun with it. And secondly, I will likely challenge conventional wisdom more often than not which means sometimes (or maybe all the time) you won’t necessary agree with me. And that is A-okay! Call my BS if you think I’m blowing smoke. Seriously! There are few things I enjoy more than uncorking a bottle of red with a pal, diving a little deeper and exploring. Pints and coffee do the trick too.

God damn – feels good to be back in the saddle. Let’s do this.

  • Warren Buffett. The most logical investment mind the world has ever seen. It just so happens he’s shared his path to success in his own words. Side note: I am currently enrolled in the Dale Carnegie course. Three of eight sessions through the program and am really enjoying it. I don’t recommend it to business folk. I recommend it to EVERYONE. Mr. Carnegie’s curriculum transcends all industries and professions. It is about learning to communicate as human beings at the most fundamental level. Plain and simple.

Song of the Week: Like me, you’ve probably forgot how good this tune is. “I Wanna Make It Wit Chu” – Queens of the Stone Age. Live from the Desert Sessions in 2005. Your welcome🙂

Quote of the Week: “We do not rise to the level of our hopes. We fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus

Keep on fighting the good fight.


Mike’s Mailbag: Annnnd We’re Back!

Top O’ The Morning Mis Amigos,

I hope summer is treating all of you well.

It’s been a bit of a battle to check in with y’all as my life seems to be moving at a million miles as I’m sure many of yours are. But let’s kick it for ol’ times sake…

  • While one can spend hundreds of thousands on university degrees and professional designations, it is important to realize how many awesome and free resources there are online. I came across a series called “30 Days of Genius“, a project spearheaded by Chase Jarvis -> a successful entrepreneur, artist, photographer and director. Basically, he interviews 30 of the most innovative and creative entrepreneurial minds on the planet and films each one. Then one video is e-mailed to your inbox every morning for a month. We’re talking big names: Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Brene Brown, James Altucher, the list goes on. The series is kicked off with Mark Cuban. If you yourself are an entrepreneur, definitely tune into the last 15 minutes of the first episode. Pretty thought provoking and contrarian advice.
  • Have you heard of the marketing genius, Seth Godin (I mentioned him above)? How about his concept of the The Gulf of Disapproval? I don’t think there is a better analogy as it relates to driving change in your corporate office or bringing a start-up to market. If you’re struggling to enact change in whatever role or mission you find yourself working on, remember to count on the blue line instead!
  • Words of wisdom courtesy of the YouTube channel Be Inspired… My favorite line from the video goes something like this “every morning when you wake up, you have a choice. Hit the snooze button and keep dreaming. Or get up and start turning your dreams into reality“. I hope you got up at the crack of dawn this morning, are reading this now, and absolutely crushing this fine Wednesday! And if you’re not, remember, it’s Hump Day, so have a laugh and hit the reset button.

In closing, the world lost a good man far too soon at the end of July in Bob Scott – a dear friend of the Wilkes family and many other families in Calgary and Edmonton. To many he was known as Wadd or Fun Bobby. There are funny people and then there was Wadd. He could light up any room with his wit and zest for people. My fondest memory of Bob was at my Grandpa’s memorial golf tournament – The RT Open – a couple years ago. Bob started a tradition called “Baskets by Wadd” where he would handcraft a gift basket full of god knows what and then present it to one lucky participant. Wadd would get up in front of all the guys and go through every item and why he chose it… Two years ago, his gift basket revolved around this hilarious informercial of an auto shop in Los Angeles, Arlen’s Transmission. Don’t ask me how Wadd found this clip as inspiration for his gift basket but it’s a memory that always brings a smile (and maybe a happy tear) to my face. I can vividly remember the stomach ache and tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard at this one basket in particular. We’ll miss you Wadd.

Song of the Week: We’re dedicating it to our friend and loyal Mailbag reader, Bob Scott. “Fire and Rain” – James Taylor.

Quote of the Week: “If you admire somebody you should go ahead and tell em’. People never get the flowers while they can still smell them.” – Kanye West

Thanks For Reading,



Mike’s Mailbag: July 2016 Stampede Edition!

Howdy Partners,

It’s Stampede Week in Calgary – there aren’t 10 more fun days in the calendar – but they’re also 10 of the toughest in many ways. The western themed action and events are all very fun in nature but are also fairly aggressive in more ways than one from events lined up one on top of each other to beverage consumption to the dent it takes on your bank account and amount of sleep you get. I’m not complaining though! It’s one of the best opportunities to meet people, especially when you’re young and new-ish to a city. Before I get my boots and Wranglers back on, I thought I should get a Mailbag out! Here we go:

  • I made it a goal of mine to qualify for the Alberta Amateur this summer, in which I successfully did so a month ago at Silverwing Links in the Calgary Qualifier. Kind of surprised myself to be honest but it was nice to see my hard work pay off! The real tournament is a four-day, PGA style event next week hosted by the Innisfail Golf Club. If you’d like to stay abreast of all the action, 120 of the best amateur players in Alberta will be competing. The leaderboard and course/player statistics can be found here: 2016 Alberta Amateur Leaderboard.
  • This is a really powerful interview on Inside Quest with Gabby Reece (supermodel, volleyball legend, fitness mogul). I didn’t know too much about Gabby until I watched this. Definitely recommend this for everyone, girl/guy, young/old, athlete/non-athlete, you name it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3Sh5AbjD4c
  • This is a great perspective piece by one of my best friend’s, Chris. He’s no stranger to the Mailbag both as a contributor and reader. Short and to the point piece titled “Find What You Love and Let It Kill You.
  • This is a very genuine piece written by a very successful businesswoman, Jessica DiLullo Herrin, who did not start at the top titled “The Unicorn Train Is Not Hiring“…

“Don’t for a minute confuse passion with fantasy. Even in your dream job, at your dream company, doing something where the mission matters, you will do things you’d rather not. Not once, not twice, but all the time. Show up ready to work and ready to learn. Be open to the possibility that this role will be a career defining experience and ask yourself what you can do to make it so.” – Jessica DiLullo Herrin.

Quote of the Week:If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in your bedroom.”  – Dalai Lama

Song of the Week: Song of the summer thus far for me… “Lawn Chair Lazy” – James Barker Band.

If you’re looking for a good country mix, head over to my Spotify page and check out the “Pede’ 16” playlist. You’ll want to have a beer close by to crack🙂

Saddle Up,



My Pops and I at the Rodeo. If you’re a fan of my shirt, head over to https://www.vintageshirtco.com/ to support a good friend of mine’s, Matt Kielbasinski, side project. You’d think designing shirts would be his day job with how nice his first product on the market turned out!

Mike’s Mailbag: Week 25, 2016

Happy Saturday Amigos,

Special weekend delivery! I’m posted up in one of my favorite YYC coffee shops and vibin’ so we’re going to keep this train a’ rolling. If there’s one thing I’m learning about being young and in the Sales world, it is a lot of fun but with that fun comes high stakes conversations, a level of responsibility to your company to drive revenue, and “being on” at all times.

If I had to say what “season” my life is in, I’m definitely in full on career season. Sometimes it’s fitness, sometimes it’s finding emotional grounding, sometimes it’s a great relationship in your life. I’m embracing the season I find myself in as I’m growing leaps and bounds every day having to live the majority of my day outside of my comfort zone. There’s not a lot of black and white in terms of clarity and decisions I find myself having to make every day. I’m a firm believer that living in the grey is what pushes you to new levels in whatever profession you find yourself in. Dealing with complexity and performing with poise under pressure is what separates the great from the good. Whatever season you find yourself in, try to embrace it! If it doesn’t feel right, maybe it’s time to hit the reset button and find a new season to thrive in!

  • Picking up where we left off last week on the topic of “pursuing passion” in your professional life, I’d like to introduce you to Cal Newport. Cal is contrarian thinker when compared to the many thought leaders preaching for everyone to follow their passion when it comes to work or an entrepreneurial endeavor. He uses Steve Jobs as an example and makes a very interesting point. I’m going to let his thoughts marinate with you and check back in in a few weeks time as I have an editorial piece on this topic in the works…
  • Peter Tertzakian, largely the most respected energy mind in Canada, made a great speech at the 2016 Liberal Convention on the very polarizing topic of “energy”. This is a must watch and a video that I’d encourage all to share with family members, friends and colleagues.
  • Have you ever heard of failure resume? Probably not and you’re not alone… It was a new exercise to me until a few weeks ago when a close friend broached the subject. Often times, when looking at our personal growth and development, we tend to focus on the high times and glaze over the not-so-nice times. The times when life was just flat out hard. The bounces weren’t going our way and seemed like there were more tears than cheers. However, if you try this exercise and take an honest look back on your failures, you might start to see patterns appear. Were you the one driving change or was change just happening to you? Was your work ethic up to snuff or were you the victim of a decision completely out of your control? Ideally, you’ll realize that your failures weren’t so much failures as much as “successful disappointments” where you were reaching for the stars and came up just a bit short. The beauty of it all is that all those detours probably led to huge personal growth, a strengthened state of mind, new friendships, increased work ethic, and all in all, led you to where you are now.
  • It doesn’t matter if you like fishing or not, remember to keep your reel shiny, line tight and hooks sharp🙂
  • Brooke Henderson. Canada’s new shining star on the LPGA. The girl can play. In the words of Darren Dutchyschen “throwing darts and breaking hearts”. Check out these absolute lasers she was firing few weeks ago. Way to go Brooke!

This Mailbag is in memory of my best friend and cousin, Matty, who tragically passed away two years ago. We held our first annual memorial golf tournament in honor of Matty last weekend in Edmonton at the Sturgeon Valley Golf Club. Many people in attendance don’t subscribe to my Mailbag but I still want to thank the many individuals, families, and local businesses who came together to help organize and support the event. We raised almost $40,000 in Matty’s name for the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Many thanks and much love to all who came together for such a fantastic day.

Quote of the Week:  It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy. – George Horace Lorimer

Song of the Week: “Up and Up” – Coldplay. This one’s for you Matty.





Mike’s Mailbag: Week 24, 2016

In the words of The Rascals 1966 classic, “it’s a beautiful morning” folks. It really is.

Sometimes life moves at Mach 2 and your only option is to hold on tight and embrace the ride. Well, that has been my life the past three weeks and you know what, I’ve loved every minute of the roller coaster ride its been. I took some friendly ribbing from loyal Mailbag readers about missing a couple weeks in a row, and rightly so, but I promise I’ll make up for it this week!

  • Terri Trespicio… I came across her TED talk titled “Stop Searching For Your Passion a month ago and it really resonated with me. Like a lot. This is a must watch, especially for people early in their careers. Her train of thought went against the grain, which is a quality I admire in people. People who are passionate enough (very ironic I know) coupled with a spine made of steel to not cave into popular demand and the tendency to groupthink. “Passion is not a plan. It’s a feeling and feelings change. They do. You can be passionate about a person one day, at a job and then not passionate the next. We know this and yet we continue to use passion as the yardstick to judge everything by, instead of seeing passion for what it really is, the fire that ignites when you start rubbing sticks together… So don’t wait. Listen to my mother. Just start doing because to live a life full of meaning and value, you don’t follow your passion. Your passion follows you.” – Terri Trespicio
  • Speaking of connecting passion with purpose, let’s read about someone I’ve featured many a times in my Mailbag – Chris Ackroyd. This is an interview transcript titled “How I Scored My Job at the NHL… With No Home Ice Advantage that the Student Life Network conducted with Chris. He makes a lot of really solid points with this one being my favorite,  “You are in control of how many people you know. Most people who know a lot of people have spent time and energy creating relationships. I always say that the people who are likely to be in the right place at the right time are those that spend all their time in many places. More people = more opportunities.” – Chris Ackroyd
  • The picture above is myself with three friends – Dario, Michael, and Chris – a few weeks ago on the 2nd teebox at Cabot Cliffs in Inverness, Nova Scotia. The Cliffs course is truly a Canadian architectural gem and officially opened for play to the world on June 7th, 2016. When it was first designed, it was named the Best New Golf Course in The World by Golf Digest in 2015. This National Post article details the visionary mind behind the development, Mike Keiser, current projects on the go in North America… If only the CAD/USD would tilt more in our favor!!
  • Roger Federer. Love him or hate him, he was the best tennis player on the planet for many, many years. His sheer dominance was impressive and he made it look so easy and carried himself with such grace in the spotlight. He was a true champion in all respects. One of the reasons why I enjoying interviewing people for Coffeetalk segments is because I truly am fascinated by people who are elite at their craft. I love figuring out what sets leaders apart from others in their field, what are the nuances they pick up on that others don’t, what motivates them, the list goes on… That’s why I love Andy Roddick interviewing Roger Federer (two of the most successful tennis players in history but the level of respect on Roddick’s part for Federer is so evident). “I think it’s gotta be sort of that fire and ice. I’m more in the I love winning and the other guys are more in the I hate losing bit.” – Roger Federer

Song of the Week: “Glass House” – Kaleo. Pro tip: Mix this track into your Friday afternoon commute home and prepare to dial your weekend up to an 11…

Quote of the Week: “Your resume is your past. Your job is your present. Your network is your future.” – Terri Trespicio

Work Hard. Play Hard. And in that order🙂


Mike’s Mailbag -> Week 21, 2016

Good Morning Mailbag’ers,

Good golly miss molly, it feels good to be back. Refreshed and rejuvenated. Feels like the seasons are a’ changing so let’s consider this the 1st summer edition of 2016…

  • We’re coming out of the gates with a very heartfelt piece written by St. Louis Blues forward and Fort McMurray native, Scottie Upshall, via The Players Tribune. It really speaks to the sense of community and hometown pride that all Canadians feel, irrespective of where the dot they grew up in lies on the map.
  • I really liked this piece titled “Are you in survival mode?” as it almost speaks to a “fight or flight mode” many companies and employees find themselves in within the energy sector. There is no question that our sector is greatly influenced by global commodity indexes; however, what we do control is our attitude, entrepreneurial spirit, grit, perseverance and how to make lemonade when life gives you sour lemons. Businesses and families alike have to hunker down and exercise significant fiscal responsibility and discipline but it doesn’t mean we can’t look to find new avenues for growth and innovation. A biker in the Tour de France doesn’t say a hill is too steep nor does a world class chef say his cut of meat isn’t tender enough to grill. The biker shifts down a gear and pushes to reach a new peak power output and a great chef will find a way to tenderize the meat by choosing an alternative cooking method to grilling. Bad examples or not, we as an industry must look to thrive in all market environments, not just when a $ index has three digits in front of it.
  • Next up is Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address to the 2016 Class at the University of California Class titled “The Lessons That I Only Learned in Death” via MacLeans magazine. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and tragically lost her husband a little over a year ago while on vacation in Mexico. She shares the lessons learned from her struggles over the past year and they are very introspective and authentic insights that we can all learn from. Especially, if you’ve gone through something similar. Thanks for sending this one, Mom.
  • I’m really enjoying writing this Mailbag and I feel like we’re on a roll here so why stop now… Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite thought leaders in the game right now, he’s young, ambitious and not afraid to speak his mind and tell it like it is. This piece titled “The One Trick People Who Really Love Their Jobs Know, While Others Continue Grinding It Out in Obscurity” really resonated with me as I am turning the page into a new chapter of my career and professional development in general. I, like many other aspiring business professionals, spend a lot of time trying to objectively (not subjectively) understand our value proposition to employers and/or investors. This piece really spoke to me on the perspective and mindset required to be great at what you do, not just good or good enough to get by.
  • Speaking of hard work and the many late nights and early mornings it requires doing whatever it is you need to do to hone your craft, doing so requires your mind to razor sharp. Sometimes music is needed and other times silence. However, if you’re like me, you often need some sort of ambient noise in the background. Check out the website Calm which has all sorts of natural environments you can “immerse” yourself in while trying to focus.

Song of the Week:Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” – The Black Keys. The inspiration behind this song is to put something, some event, some notion, some internal belief, some roadblock behind you going into the summer of 2016. Just because things may have been hard once upon a time (career, romantic relationship, mental health struggles, family turmoil, whatever) doesn’t mean that previous time of your life should define you or consume your current self. Everyone is or has fought battles behind closed doors so don’t feel alone or beat yourself up over it. Just do your best to change things so they “ain’t like they used to be.”

Quote of the Week: “At one point in your life, you’ll have the thing you want or the reasons why you don’t.” – Andy Roddick

Keep Calm & Carry On,



Aloha Amigos,

I’m very excited to announce that going forward, you will be receiving a paper copy of Mike’s Mailbag via carrier pigeon every Friday morning, circa 1983.

Terrible jokes aside, going forward, if you’d still like to receive Mike’s Mailbag each week, you’ll have to hop over to www.mikesmailbag.org and type in your e-mail address into the “subscribe” box (upper right-hand corner or bottom of any page). By doing so, you will still receive a Friday morning e-mail each week! And it will just help to streamline a few processes on my end, which is key as my life is about to get a little busier…

Reason being, I am moving back to Calgary full-time on June 6th into a Sales/Business Development role with Ferus. I am very excited to transition into a new role, with a new team, and on the front lines of an industry that is so vital to Alberta’s livelihood. To all of you whom I’ve tried to keep in touch with while I’ve been “away”, I’m genuinely excited to rekindle conversation over an ice cold adult beverage, preferably on a patio. And to those who have made my 9-month journey across Alberta such a great experience, both personally and professionally, I say thank you and this is by no means a goodbye, just a see ya’ later.

I suppose I should pass along one article for you to read this week and in the spirit of major life transitions, here is a thought provoking read “The Career Advice I Wish I Had at 25” by Shane Rodgers. This is not a preachy article, just a genuine reflection of lessons learned over the course of a successful career by a fellow whom I know absolutely nothing about. Bullet #12 is sure a cool little anecdote from JFK!

I really hope all of you will take ten seconds out of your day today to hit subscribe on https://mikesmailbag.org as I genuinely look forward to you dropping by every Friday!

Song of the Week: “Wild Child” – Kenny Chesney.

Quote of the Week: “Oh the places you’ll go. There’s fun to be done. Points to be scored. Games to be won. On you will go will the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. Onward up a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems, whatever they are. Will you succeed? Yes you will, 98 and ¾ % guaranteed.” – Dr. Seuss

Your Friend,


Mike’s Mailbag: Week 19, 2016

Buenos Dias Amigos,

Do you feel that vitality in the air? Well that’s because this week’s Coffeetalk segment is radiating with positive vibes thanks to my two special guests, Dawn Burvill and Justina Waschuk, co-owners of YogaNation in Red Deer. YogaNation has become my home away from home while living in Central Alberta and I largely have these two ladies to thank for bringing a sense of community to my life. Whether you’re a dedicated yogi already or someone on the fence about giving yoga a shot, this segment is worth its weight in gold!

Check it out here: https://mikesmailbag.org/2016/05/12/coffeetalk-episode-5-with-dawn-burvill-justina-waschuk/

  • This Mailbag is all about the human body so let’s get started with none other than one of “the” faces of Silicon Valley – Tim Ferriss and his SxSW talk “Hacking The Human Body“. Some really interesting tips and pointers…
  • A friend of mine, Jared, introduced me to Mark Sisson and his “Primal Blueprint“, as he learned of this machine through a Tim Ferris podcast. Mark has a very interesting contrarian view of fitness in contrast to how popular media outlets have tried to educate society at large. His perspective is quite different but I’ve slowly tried to adopt some of his dietary principles into my life and so far, so good!
  • There’s really no way to describe this ESPN E-60 clip as anything other than “wow, what a beauty!”… The hockey tournament that is as much about having “beauty flow” as it is about winning on the scoreboard…

Quote of the Week: “The difference of a person’s fate is decided from what a person spends in his free time between 20:00 to 22:00 . Use these two hours to learn, think and participate in meaningful lectures or discussion. If you persist for several years, success will come knocking on your doors.” – Li Ka Shing

Song of the Week: In the yogi spirit, this is a 30-song playlist I’ve put together for what I would envision being a very “power flow” type class. The songs are in a specific order and meant to get one in the zone as your sweat glands start to flow like the Mississippi. Take a listen here via Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/mwilkesy/playlist/7B1BbOdrCZtusFextg1H9V

To end a great edition, I’d like to share a great story about what the Mailbag is all about as people ask me all the time why I write it… I could give you a shpeel about why I originally started writing a weekly note to a few close friends and it blossoming from there but I’ll save that and share why I’ve chosen to let it grow organically…

A few weeks ago in the last Coffeetalk segment, Rick included his junior high math and science teacher, Mr. Matthews, as one of his dinner guests if he could choose any 3 people in the world to have dinner with. Rick lost touch with Mr. Matthews years ago and even forgot his first name but said he reminisced upon his relationship back in the day with fond memories… Well, a good friend of mine in Toronto and loyal Mailbag reader, Chris, tracked down Mr. Matthews the old fashioned by skimming through a Maritimes edition of the Yellowpages and left a few voicemails for different “Mr. Matthews” to see if one of them was in fact “Mr. Matthews”. A few weeks later, Chris received a callback from one of them who is now well into his 80’s and lives in a seniors facility. Chris briefly spoke with “the Mr. Matthews” and followed up by sending him a print copy of the Mailbag that featured Rick along with both of their contact information so that Rick could try to arrange to take Mr. Matthews out for dinner in Halifax. If that isn’t a salt of the earth, people helping people story, I don’t know what is. Chris certainly didn’t have to pull out the Yellowpages and cold call a couple of numbers but he did so out of generosity and the good of his own heart. Perhaps, this story will inspire you to do a good deed for someone in your life, whether they’re a small or big part of your life.

People helping people… It really is a beautiful thing!

Carpe Diem,


Coffeetalk: Episode 5 With Dawn Burvill & Justina Waschuk

This week’s Coffeetalk episode features Dawn Burvill and Justina Waschuk, co-owners of YogaNation Red Deer, a place that has basically become a second home for me while living in central Alberta. Dawn and Justina do a great job of making everyone who walks through their door feel very welcome and at peace with who they are and where they’re at in life. They’ve also taught me that firsthand that yoga can be a far more intense, yet rejuvenating, fitness activity than any sort of weights or endurance training I’ve done in the past. If you don’t believe me, I double-dog dare you to try one of Dawn’s power flow classes. When I come out of these classes, I may as well have cannon-balled fully clothed into Sylvan. Oh and did I mention she plays Guns n’ Roses in her classes!?

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.28.07 PM

Mike: How did YogaNation come about? I think many would be surprised at the number of yoga studios in a city like Red Deer (I’ve got it pegged at 7 or 8)…

Justina: Well to be honest, YogaNation happened very randomly and unexpectedly! It was around the end of Spring 2014 one lovely afternoon I received a text from Dawn asking me if I could meet up with her in the next few days. I said sure, why? and all I got was ” you + me = our own studio”. At the time I was registered to go back to school for Fall 2014 to go into medicine. It took less than 24 hours to respond with a “yes”, I mean what’s the worst that would happen right? I’m young and school can always be a possibility later. We never looked back since. After that strong yes, we got down to business. We didn’t want to have the studio just anywhere. If the location wasn’t there for us then we were not going to go through with the studio. Sure enough after patiently waiting, we got into Clearview Market Square and we couldn’t be happier!

P.S. Mike, I think you got it pretty well pegged with how many studios there are. I can’t even keep track of how many there are now!

Dawn: YogaNation came about with a text message from me to Justina that said me+you= yoga studio (haha). We both had this vision to create a studio that was a little more edgy and fun but was built on a foundation of community and a place that people always feel supported and welcome. Our studio is located in a newer area in Red Deer with some pretty great businesses surrounding us!

Mike: You are both Baptiste yoga trained… What exactly does that mean?

Justine & Dawn: Whenever we say “Baptiste Trained” we mean that we are specifically trained in the style of Baptiste Power Yoga. Baptiste Yoga was founded in the 1940′s by Walt Baptiste and through his son Baron, it has evolved into a practice that holds true to the spirit of its creation while remaining accessible to anyone today. The physical aspects of Baptiste Yoga style are inspired by the Hatha Yoga teachings of Krishnamacharya and his students Iyengar and Desikachar, whom Baron Baptiste studied with personally from a young age.

The Baptiste Yoga practice and programs are designed to empower you with the focus, training and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice and active self inquiry are used as tools of transformation – encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, and create authenticity, confidence and new possibilities.

Baron Baptiste is like the Wayne Gretzky of modern yoga. His style of training is not a big here as it is in the U.S. His yoga is a more powerful vinyasa mixed with mindfulness and being of your own power on and off your mat. It is all about being up to something bigger in your life and living to that full potential. Giving it up to get empty and filling it back up with things that serve your life purpose.

Mike: What is the biggest benefit you both see in your lives from practicing yoga and leading others in their practice?

Justina: The biggest benefit for me that I have become more aware of my actions and how I live my life. I have built a better and strong relationship with myself, which in turn I can create better relationships with those around me. Throughout my life I would strive the be the best in all that I do, I was quite the perfectionist and would talk myself down if I ever “failed”  or felt that I was “not good enough” for whatever I was doing at the time. Yoga has taught me to be more self-loving, caring and being okay with everything not having to be done “perfectly”. It has brought me to accept things for what they are and are not. Its great! I have not only a better relationship with myself, but everyone around me. I am able to show up to life with more love, care, presence and kindness, which allows me to show up and express that to my students.

Dawn: The biggest benefit for me was definitely my perspective on life and not sweating the small stuff. I used to stay up until 1 am and never went to bed unless every couch cushion  was straight and every crumb was cleaned up in my house and now I’m like f*** it, I would rather spend time with my family and more important things in my life. With Baptise, I learned to give up that I need to be perfect and my new way of being is of ease and peace. Ease and peace is a lot easier to maintain! Leading others in practice is my way of sharing the tools I have learned in my training and sharing my passion for life. I love every single person who comes to the studio and welcome everyone by name and most times with a hug. And most times I remember their names. That sounded confusing. But always a hug.

Mike: Many people struggle finding purpose or meaning in their job or career. As yoga instructors, you have the ability to truly enact and witness change in people from changes in body composition, to increasing self-confidence, to reducing stress, to students finding inner peace with themselves. Do you ever sit back and reflect on this?

Justina: All the time… As a yoga instructor, we can be quite critical of ourselves. At the end of each class we have several thoughts that go through our heads. “oh that class sucked!” “that class wasn’t hard enough” “I couldn’t get my words at all during class” “I kept messing up” “did they even like the class?” etc etc. BUT on the other side we can leave class thinking “That class was freaking awesome”  “I loved my sequencing that class” “I felt like I really showed up for my students today”  “I feel energized” “I was able to be there for each student” “I am so blessed to be able to do what I do.” etc etc. In the end, we never do as bad as we think and I believe that every class we affect one or several students in some way. Whether it be physical, mental or emotional, every student has their own experience on their mats and its so uplifting to be able to help and hold space for people to feel good, confident, to connect with themselves and to just be with themselves -> mind, body and breath.

Dawn: It truly is an amazing thing to see someone walk into the studio who comes here for a physical workout and a few months later the shift occurs and it starts to manifest into this thing that starts to change every aspect of their life. But there has to be a willingness to dive into every facet of their yoga experience – some people get it and start to live from their truth and some people are like ” Can you kick my ass and can we do a lot of abs today?”. I don’t sit back and reflect on my participation in a way that I am the one responsible for transformations and all praise be to me. My teaching is part of the foundation for the student to built upon.  But I reflect on how we started out in the unknown and now we are building this community and they are sharing their practice with us and trusting us with their yoga. This creation gets bigger every time I turn around!

Mike: A lot of males struggle to get over “the stigma of yoga” in their heads, whatever that may be… Why is that? What can the yoga community do to welcome men into their studios?

Justina: Well, I am not a male, so I am not sure why male struggle with the “stigma of yoga”! I think a lot of it has to do with our “egos”.  Again-  our mind starts to take over and tries to talk us OUT of things. With Yoga, the thought of the practice can be quite intimidating: “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.”, “I’m not strong enough.”, “I don’t have time” “Yoga isn’t hard enough”, “Isn’t yoga just sitting and chanting?” “What if i can’t do it? or I do it wrong”. There are so many misconceptions of yoga. It has to look a certain way, be a certain way. Yoga is your OWN experience. All you need to do is show up on your mat and decide how you are going to approach your yoga practice. You don’t have to be flexible, strong or have to know every single posture in yoga. You COME to yoga to GET flexible, you COME to yoga to develop strength. You show up for YOU and no one else. Who cares what you look like? We are all in this TOGETHER and for different reasons,  so men – leave your ego at the door and just show up as you are. Enjoy what your body has to offer you!

Dawn: Ha ha yes we get that a lot! When we were trying to find a name for the studio, my husband said “do not name it anything girly that I would not want to go to”. The perception is that we sit in the studio, braid each others hair and hold hands and chant. Yoga is a tough physical practice and it puts you in touch with your body and breath and takes you out of your head. The gateway to yoga is the physical. There is no one to compete with and no one to keep up with. For male energy, which is yang, that is a hard concept to grasp. We have a lot of men in our studio which is more than I have ever seen, and we love it! We have built a nice bathroom with showers for our guys – some studios the mens room is the janitor closet. Times are changing with mens attitudes towards yoga and studios are adapting to that as more and more men find their way to their mats. And its also something perfect to do with the one you love!

Mike: One example of bucking the trend of male athletes practicing yoga are the classes you have led the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels in… What has their yoga experience been like? And in general for high performance male athletes who tend to not stray too far from the weight room…

Justina: It amazing to see how many sports are turning to yoga as a form of their training. Our Athletic classes have been quite interesting. Not only have we been working with the Red Deer Rebels, but many sport teams throughout the year. Another group we have had once a week for the last year is Notre Dame’s Hockey Academy. Most of the athlete at first were quite hesitant, BUT there are a few that were very interested in the yoga practice. They sounded like a bunch of very very old grandpas, moaning and groaning it was quite funny. I noticed though the more they came, the more they started to understand yoga and the benefits behind it. They became more focused, strong and flexible and started sound less like a group of old men. Ha! Over all though sports and yoga go hand in hand. Athletes need to understand the balance between building muscles strength at the gym or other trainings while keeping a healthy range of motion/flexibility of the muscles and joints. We like to say ” if it doesn’t move, it will break!”. Another benefit is stamina- learning your breath and keeping it alive with any activity they do. They become more aware of their body & breath, so they can continue to practice for years and years.

Dawn: More and more sports organizations are turning to yoga as a compliment to their existing training schedule. Yoga is fundamental for injury prevention as well as learning the tools of breath and focus in competition. I also feel that it also generates the vibe of togetherness in a group of people which in turn makes them exist together more cohesively. We enjoyed working with the Rebels – a really great group of young men. They enjoyed their yoga experience with us and wanted more and more but their playing schedule made it hard. We expect to see a lot of them in the summer! We have also worked with some local school hockey academies, different hockey camps and Hockey Alberta camps. The  benefits of yoga are endless and its amazing to see the progress with the players on and off the ice!

Mike: If you could go on a yoga retreat anywhere in the world, where would you go? Are there any notable yoga retreats in Canada that you can recommend?

Justina: There are too many places in this world I would love to go on a retreat. I love to to travel so anywhere would be great for me! Some places that I have thought about doing a teacher training or retreat would be: Bali, Costa Rica, Somewhere in South America or Greece. I love to be by the ocean.

Dawn: If I could go to any yoga retreat in the world, I would have to say Hawaii and it would have to be with Baron Baptiste. The weather is perfect there. I have been to teacher training in Arizona and Texas in the summer – puts a whole new spin on hot yoga!  I haven’t been to any retreats here in Canada because if I get the opportunity to go away,  it is always to train and bring new things back to the studio. Justina and I make our own “yoga retreats” where we go to Edmonton or Calgary for the weekend , hit up a lot of classes and different studios, and go for sushi and beer. Best retreats ever with one of my favorite people:) You should join us one time Mike. You never know where we will end up..

Mike: What is your favorite yoga quote or verbiage? I know you both have some good ones in your repertoire…

Justina: Hmm I have a few that I use throughout my classes. I like to use at the beginning of class  “there is no where you need to be, nothing you need to do except be here” to help the student bring themselves into their practice, the present moment, and not worry about things outside the studio. Another thing I like to say near the end is “Accept things for what they are and for what they aren’t” to encourage students to leave their practice for what it was in the past, move forward with the day and be a little bit more free from mental chatter. Lastly I always remind the students to “thank your body for what it does for you every single day, because we don’t thank ourselves enough.”

Dawn: My favourite quote that I use in every class is that ” this is yoga practice, not yoga perfect”. I love that saying because these yogis- including myself sometimes-  hit their mats and then they practice from their heads. From that place of the concern for looking good. From fear and doubt. They have this notion to master headstand or crow and then its like – now what? It’s always the need to get somewhere faster and right away. Just like life. The magic happens in the transitions and the build up in between.  My other favorite quote is “come as you are and not as you think you should be.” Those two go hand in hand like little bookends.

Mike: What are each of your favorite poses?

Justina: This is a hard one for me. I LOVE to do arm balances, Inversions, backbends and hip openers. They make me feel strong, empowered, and energized BUT if there is ONE pose that I must have for my practice is Utthita Trikonasa (Triangle Pose)! It opens my hips and pelvis in a magical way that my body just yes “Oh Ya!”. Its so freeing for my body. I can explore my Hips, Legs, Back Everything!!

Dawn: Mine would have to be full wheel. The exhilaration of it and the gritty determination you have to do to get yourself there. We often talk ourselves out of it, myself included, but I always talk myself back in. I feel in charge of my own power when I get up over and over again. Savasana is a very close second. You cannot beat those little cold towels of heaven.

Mike: You’re both classic rock junkies! What is the most memorable concert you have both been to? And #1 band you haven’t seen yet but plan on being front row for?

Justina: Mike! These questions are so hard!! I have been to SO many concerts I can’t keep track. There are three that stand out in my mind. One is the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl knows how to take control of the crowd and just ROCK it out (even with a broken leg on their last tour).  Another one is Aerosmith. Steven Tyler pointed me out in the crowd, took the fedora hat I was wearing wore it for the entire song and actually gave it back to me! I can’t recall going to a bad concert. Last one was  AC/DC… I mean.. they are legendary- I just wish we weren’t poured on for BOTH shows they played at in Edmonton.

The #1 band that I haven’t seen yet that I would LOVE to see would be Led Zeppelin, but they will probably never come around. Otherwise I think Rolling Stones would be AWESOME… I’ll be seeing them in October!

Dawn: I loved that you asked that question! Going back to our name  – if you listen to XM radio and go to channel 39 you get Hair Nation. And “ah ha” – YogaNation was born! We both love to rock out and that shows in some of the music we play in our classes and also our attitudes about life which I think sets our studio apart from others. Most memorable concert I have ever seen would have to be Motley Crue when they were here in Calgary and we hung out with Tommy Lee in his dressing room! He is a really good friend of my brother in laws. And my number one band is, absolutely without a doubt, Guns n Roses and I plan on being front row in August in Houston. Justina gets a front row seat every time she has to ride with me somewhere. She is a lucky yogi!

Mike: Last but not least Dawn, you emphasize for your students to “land on their mat” and “set an intention” for their practice, whether it be to really push one’s self to new heights and try a new pose or on the flip side, accept that you’ve had a tough week and simply try to garner strength and energy from others. Building on this Justina, you often say to your students “your practice is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t” which speaks to one’s self awareness and acceptance. Not every yoga teacher starts their yoga classes off this way. With this in mind, why do you both feel it so important for one to “land on their mat” and “set an intention” rather than just go into every class with the same mindset? Personally, I think this approach/perspective applies to so many things in life…

Justina & Dawn: We like to remind our students to “land on their mat and set an intention” to bring their focus into their mind and body to help them fully arrive into the studio room. I think in any situation it takes us a moment to actually be present in what we are doing. With saying this, we are encouraging the students to not only physically arrive on their mat, but to mentally arrive too. We live in a busy world/lifestyles that our mind needs a few moments to catch up with our bodies. Another reason to set an intention is to help us DURING the class to stay in the present moment. An intention can pertain to anything- physical, mental, emotional or even dedicating your energy of the class to someone in your life that needs a little extra boost too. “An Intention helps us pay attention” to what we are doing in class, in the words of my Yin Yoga Teacher, Bernie Clark.

Well there you have it folks, that’s another successful edition of Coffeetalk in the books! A big thanks to Dawn and Justina for their great insight into the yogi world and how we can all get involved. If you’d like to check out their studio in Red Deer, it is in the new Clearview Market Square (nicest commercial development in the city in my opinion) or check out their website here: http://www.yoganationreddeer.com/.