Mike’s Mailbag: Week 4, 2016

Top O’ The Mornin’ Muchachos,

What a week it has been…

There seemingly could not be any more tossed in the Canadian political and economic blender. Mayors sticking their nose in federal politics and lobbing verbal grenades across the country. Trudeau and Notley continue to take heat for their every move. The Alberta Royalty Review will be unveiled later this afternoon. Edmonton passed a landmark bylaw this week that will allow Uber to legally operate. I could go on and on (side note to Suits fans: Season 5 got back in business this week). Point is, there is a LOT going on right now. Take a second to decompress this weekend, find yourself a comfy chair and let your mind wander with these five thought provoking pieces…

  • David and Goliath. The seemingly insurmountable fight between two men of vastly different statures, yet the underdog comes out on top. Best selling author, Malcolm Gladwell, dives deep into the tale of David & Goliath and breaks down some of the common misconceptions of advantages and disadvantages. This is a great 6-minute interview with Malcolm that really starts to get good around the 3:00 mark. He even touches on the notion of “helicopter parenting” which has been focus point in past 2015 Mailbags…
  • I love this concept of an “interesting people fund“. It’s something I’ve toyed with in the past and set aside a couple bucks for a coffee fund. However, I think Ben Casnocha is onto something here making it a formal part of his life. What might that look like in your life in terms of how you budget or incorporate relationship building activities?
  • Goal setting – A topic that often is touched upon by many in January only for it to derail in February because “life” gets in the way. What I’m learning is to forget the resolutions. If you want to enact true change in your life, you need to create tangible, measurable goals that can translate into new and improved lifestyle changes. I’ve made a conscious effort in 2016 to do this, as well as sharing my goals with a few close friends whom I trust greatly. The biggest positive change I’m finding thus far is a result of what I call “Ryan’s Principle’s of Sustainability”. Ryan is my mentor and someone I lean on when setting my navigational beacon. When we were working on adding measure-ability to my goals, he said “Mike, if what you’re putting on paper isn’t something you can be doing in week 51 of 2016 just as you’re trying to do now in Week 3, it is not a sustainable.” Many people confuse sustainability with dumbing down your goals or aspirations, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sustainability is about not setting yourself up for failure and ensuring there is alignment between what your true aspirations are and connecting that with what you’ve committed yourself to achieving on paper. Put the resolutions behind you and create sustainable goals that you can grow into and subsequently become part of your routine with a healthy dose of stick-to-it-ive-ness.
  • It is seemingly a topic that is touched upon a fair bit in Canada: the prototypical “crazy” hockey parent. While the case of Patrick O’Sullivan is far and beyond what anyone would consider a “crazy” hockey parent, the point is that as human beings, we must look out and care for our teammates if we think they might be in danger. Too often, we turn a blind eye to things we don’t want to know the truth behind or because we’re scared of the consequences of intervention. As a young hockey player, all those blind eyes turned from fellow teammates and parents led to a perpetual nightmare for Patrick away from the rink.

Song of The Week: “Kiss The Sky” – The Knocks ft. Wyclef Jean. Regardless of the week you’ve had, this is a feel good tune to help you unwind this weekend!

Quote of The Week: “Adversity is a gift. It is a chance to become stronger.” – Chandra Crawford (Canadian Olympian & 06′ Gold Medallist)

Keep on Keepin’ On,



Mike’s Mailbag: Week 3, 2016

Rise & Shine My Fellow Amigos,

I learned a lot this week but 3 things in particular. The power of social media, the power of planting ideas, and most importantly, I learned that there are many other passionate Albertans out there, who like myself, are not looking to cry foul and engage in deliberately divisive courses of action.

Think back to when we were all just little toddlers… What did we do when we didn’t get what we want? We threw a temper tantrum and as a result, our parents ignored us until we settled down and spoke with reason and rationale (or as much as you could as a toddler). Fast forward the clock to now and it still seems as though there are many folks out there who think that rah-rah petitions and public threats/calls for political figures to step down will go somewhere. Guess what, they won’t.

If we’re going to claw ourselves out of these tough times we find ourselves in, it’s because we show a willingness to come to the table with reason, rationale and a level head. Don’t mistake that for not having passion and vigor. I get it, these are serious issues affecting the livelihoods of many, including myself. But let’s put our energy to good use. Find synergies among our ideas that will help them grow and flourish, no different than how my article last week seemingly found its way onto so many computer screens of people that I don’t even know. That’s the true power of social media and planting productive ideas!

Week 3, 2016. Let’s spin it:

  • I think I’ve said my shpeel for the week that was but this is a good follow-up piece by Bruce Anderson, as featured in The Globe & Mail. “Somewhere along the way, we confused the idea of being passionate about our ideas with being obnoxious to people outside our party.” Amen Bruce.
  • Thankfully, I don’t ever need to worry about being scouted to become a runway model but this is a damn good TED talk by professional model – Cameron Russell – on the fallacies behind what so many perceive as a life of glamour and fulfillment. I think there are a few themes and subtleties within this TED talk that can be blown up into bigger issues and expanded on but I’ll save my two cents on this for another week…
  • “If asked “what do dogs do?”, the response wouldn’t be “serve as pets to humans”. You’d talk about all the shit that dogs do to make themselves happy and live a wicked dog life. Why is it then that we have chosen to define ourselves by the revenue-generating tasks we perform and not by, you know, what we actually do?” – Chris Ackroyd. Every time Chris’ pen hits paper, he’s taking it yard like Big Papi! This article is no exception.


Quote of the Week: “Most people don’t want to be part of the process, they just want to be part of the outcome. But the process is where you figure out who’s worth being part of the outcome” – Alex Morton

Song of the Week: The floodgates are open in Alberta so I think it’s only fitting we get the Led out… “When The Levee Breaks



Mike’s Mailbag: Week 2, 2016

Buenos Dias Amigos,

Pretty amped to fire up the first actual Mailbag of 2016 this morning! Piter’ pater, let’s get at’ er!

  • In my first editorial piece of the year, I take a crack breaking down a few misconceptions and lessons we can learn from the current situation we find ourselves in as Albertans. The piece is titled “A Call To Albertans: Where To From Here?” and can be found on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear your feedback/thoughts/ideas as this is an issue that hits close to home for many Mailbag readers…
  • Short and sweet. Thought provoking. A powerful metaphor. What’s not to like about this piece titled “Lead From Behind“?
  • If you’re Canadian and appreciate a good laugh, you’ve likely come across the YouTube clips about the smalltown of Letterkenny, Ontario and their “problems“. Well, turns out so many people laughed that they’re making an entire show about them. Who’d a thunk it?
  • Coffeetalk: Episode #1 with Cam McDonald. Dalhousie graduate 14′. Serial entrepreneur. Co-Founder of Sage Mixology. Cam is making waves in the alcoholic beverage industry and you might just want to give one his products a shot next time you’re at the liquor store looking for some libations! Check out the conversation we had while Cam was in Alberta promoting his newly launched product, Dusty Boots Hard Root Beer.

Song of the Week: Kick back with this groovy gem “Howling at Nothing” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.

Quote of the Week: The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.” – Guy Kawasaki



Coffeetalk: Episode 1 with Cam McDonald

I recently sat down with an old university friend and roommate of mine at Dalhousie for breakfast in Calgary while we were both on our way through town.

Cam McDonald. Dalhousie graduate 14′. Serial entrepreneur. Co-Founder of Sage Mixology.

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Here’s what he had to say…

Tell us a little about each of the 3 products you currently have on the shelves in Canada? What demographic do each of the products appeal to?

Sage Mixology: First launched in August of 2014 in Ontario (LCBO). Sage is a ‘bottle within a bottle’ where one compartment has vodka and the other compartment has juice. The goal is to give consumers the taste of an upscale cocktail bar made beverage with the convenience of picking up our bottle at a local liquor store. Sage’s primary demographic are female’s between 19-40.

Crazy Beard Apple and Ginger: Crazy Beard Apple launched in the LCBO in February 2015 and Ginger in October 2015. Crazy Beard is an irreverent brand that seeks to excite consumers. The taste profile for both products is designed to be drinkable and not too sweet. Our Apple beer has the initial taste of a cider with a smooth aftertaste. The Ginger profile combines a natural ginger flavor similar to Ginger Ale with an easy malt base for drink-ability. Crazy Beard is an easy drinking beverage and has a wide target demographic.

Dusty Boots Hard Root Beer: Dusty Boots just launched in Alberta in December 2015. Dusty Boots is a throwback beverage with traditional Root Beer flavors and spice but with a 5.9% twist of alcohol.

You’ve been an entrepreneurial guy since I met you in business school at Dal. What was it about the alcoholic beverage industry that drew you to start launching products within it?

It was one of the few industries that I felt I understood given I was a loyal consumer in university! Bobby, one of my two business partners in Sage, had a novel concept (the Sage bottle within a bottle), and I thought it would be fun to try to innovate in the alcoholic beverage space. We quickly learned that our experience being a consumer within the industry did not necessarily translate into production or operational “know-how”. Nevertheless, we committed to our vision and have learned a great deal about all aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry. It was far more complex than we had originally thought. Nevertheless, it’s been a fun ride!

What is it about Alberta that you and your partners felt it was a prime place to launch your Dusty Boots Root Beer?

Alberta consumers drink the most beer per capita in Canada so that intrigued us from the outset. We also wanted to learn more about how private markets operated where the sales and distribution are fragmented relative to markets like Ontario (LCBO) and Nova Scotia (NSLC), where the buying, selling and warehousing is done by the government. We also thought the Dusty Boots name and brand proposition would be a hit with Alberta consumers. Since launching in December, we have been incredibly excited by the early uptake and reviews. We are pumped to continue to invest in the Alberta marketplace with all of our brands!

Since the introduction of the NDP government in Alberta, have they made any tax or regulatory changes as it relates to the alcoholic beverage market? How have the changes affected the launch of your Dusty Boots brand in Alberta?

Unfortunately yes. The NDP Government raised excise taxes twice last year, once in April and again in October. Raising taxes twice in six months is unprecedented. The second increase was difficult because it dramatically increased taxes for brewers outside of Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan. It cost us nearly half of our anticipated gross margin. What’s unfortunate is that it directly affects how many people we can hire in the Alberta marketplace. That being said, we are still very excited about the Alberta market and plan to keep pushing our products in Alberta. However, some other Ontario brewers are pulling out of Alberta all together, as the protectionist tax hike doesn’t allow many to compete fairly in the province.

You appeared on Dragons Den in 2015 and made a successful pitch to all 5 dragons; however, you ended up turning down all of their offers. Was that a difficult decision? What did you take away from the experience?

Dragons Den was a very cool experience for us. We ended up striking a deal with a Halifax based group of investors, as that deal made more sense to us than the deal we were offered on the show. That being said, we were fortunate to have Arlene Dickenson wanting to invest and she treated us very well after the show.

The experience was a little nerve wracking. I think we were well prepared and knew what we wanted to convey to the Dragons. However, for the first few seconds with the bright lights and cameras going, not to mention standing in front of five very highly established businessmen/women, it was definitely a little intimidating! Nevertheless, after a minute or so, we were able to settle down and have a conversation with the Dragons and it felt more normal. Overall the experience was great and we were fortunate to take part in it.

Watch their pitch here: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/sage-mixology

What is the best and worst part of being a serial entrepreneur?

The best part is being able to see the results of our hard work. The feeling when you first walk into a store and see a consumer buy a product that we have worked on for years is amazing.

The hardest part is when things go wrong, which happens quite often as a start-up. Considering a start-up venture becomes such a large and emotional part of any entrepreneur’s life, we really wear the downs. It affects sleep and happiness, even when we are not working. That being said, I have worked on getting better at compartmentalizing and realizing that it’s a long journey and you need to learn from the downs and getting upset won’t help solve the problem at hand.

Who are some of the most influential people in your life, as it relates to your business ventures?

Tom Hickey: Tom is the Chairman of our board. Tom has built many successful businesses so I have been able to learn just by being around him and seeing his approach to meetings and relationships.

David Cynamon: I learned from David more so when I started my first business when I was in high school. David, like Tom, is also a serial entrepreneur and previously owned the Toronto Argos. The biggest lesson David taught me was happiness = reality / expectations. At the time I didn’t fully grasp how important it was to manage expectations but I certainly know the importance now.

#1 book to read for entrepreneurs?

I will give you two. The first book is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Eric has mentored many of today’s most successful technology companies. The Lean Startup changed my thinking of business, as it made me think of business as a continuous process where you are constantly testing ideas and trying to evolve as an organization. Furthermore, the book helped me focus on making data driven decisions as opposed to being anecdotal. The Lean Startup is probably a little more relevant for technology entrepreneurs but I believe the learning can span across all industries.

Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks. This book taught me about how important a vision is and the significance of bringing the right people on board to achieve that vision. Before I read it, I underestimated the importance of Human Resources in an organization. Starbucks was ahead of its time by offering employee stock options and health care in the US. Financial analysts were critical about the costs associated with this at the time. Who’s laughing now?

Last question – If you could have dinner with any 3 people currently living on the planet, who would they be and why?

Tom Brady: I am a big New England Patriots fan and naturally a big Brady fan as a result. I think Tom Brady’s relentless pursuit of perfection is admirable. He was the 199th pick in the draft because many scouts didn’t think he had the physical tools to play at the NFL level. He took that as a challenge and that led an unparalleled work ethic and drive to not only make it, but dominate at the NFL level.

Mark Cuban: Mark Cuban interests me not only because he has been a successful serial entrepreneur but also the owner of the very successful Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise. I enjoy reading his blog and surely the guy has to have some pretty cool stories!

Elon Musk: In my opinion, Elon is the most fascinating businessman of our generation. To simultaneously build electrics cars, send rockets to space and have a successful solar power company… I would be interested to understand where he gets his audacity and the method to his madness.

That’s all for this episode of Coffeetalk! Next time you’re heading out to a liquor store for some libations, keep your eyes peeled for Cam’s products on the shelves. Surely, it can’t hurt to help out a good Canadian kid trying to break into a market dominated by global corporations 🙂

You can pick up Dusty Boots in Alberta at any of the following retailers: Co-op, Wine and Beyond, Solo Liquor, The Liquor Barn, Liquor Depot and Sobey’s.

Sage products are available for purchase in Ontario and Nova Scotia while Crazy Beard is available in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

2015 Year in Review: Top 10 Mailbag Articles

1. Don’t Care About People, Care For People – Chris Ackroyd
2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** – Mark Manson (reader discretion advised – not for the faint of heart)
3. Is Helicopter Parenting Ruining Our Children – Emma Brown
4. Life Lessons From a Navy Seal – William H. McRaven (access article through Google)
5. Advice To A Young Man Hoping To Go Somewhere – Ryan Holiday
6. Brad Wall on Canadian Energy Landscape – Max Fawcett
7. Don’t Feed The Bears – Jim Clifton
8. Don’t Waste Your Time Being “Busy” – Morgan Spurlock
9. How To Set Yourself Apart From Generation-Y – Chad Howse
10. The Secrets of a Master Networker – Tahl Raz

* Wildcard Pick: Unravelling Truth: Part 1 – Chloe Leonard

2015 Year in Review: Top 10 “Thought Provoking” Pieces

1. Wanderers – The Most Amazing 3 Minute Clip You’ll Ever Watch
2. Stuart Scott – Gone But Never Forgotten
3. Oprah’s Perspective on Tackling Life
4. The Chinese Farmer
5. 100% Accountability. 0% Excuses.
6.  A Sign That Every Interesting Cafe Should Have…
7. Selfie Sticks: What Is Wrong With People?
8. Matthew McConaghey Speech: Keep Chasin’
9. Harvard MBA Commencement Speech: The Next Obama?
10. Strong Is What You Have When You’ve Used Up All Your Weak

*Wilcard Selection: [Excerpt I wrote in Week 50] With 2015 nearing a close and 2016 right around the corner, I’d like to take a second to explore the notion of introducing a certain element of inconvenience into our lives. You might say “whoa, hold on, why would I want to do that” but hear me out…

You see, the more cushy and comfortable we make things for ourselves, the easier it is to take the easy road and retreat back to bad habits and tendencies. Conversely, the more we push ourselves outside of our bubbles of comfort, the more zest and energy we will derive from life as a result of keeping things fresh. To some, it might be taking the stairs up to the office every morning instead of the elevator to get the juices flowing. To others, a 6am spin class on Monday mornings to start their week or 50 pushups before bed every night. Perhaps it’s as simple as saying hello to five strangers a day to see if the conversation goes anywhere.

Inconvenience isn’t easy but can be worth it when in the right dosage and tackled head on. As one of my mentors always tells me, “Mike – Intention does not equal performance. Structure is key to get results.

With that in mind, what elements of inconvenience do you mix into your life or aspire to in 2016?

2015 Year in Review: Top 10 Inspiring Video Clips

1. The World’s First Bilateral Hand Transplant
2. Tom Brokaw Explains Canada To Americans
3. Stephen Brunt Closing Olympic Video Essay
4. Angel Collinson: The Greatest Lines Ever Skied in Alaska?
5. 1000 Musicians Play Foo-Fighters “Learn To Fly”
6. The Craftsmanship of Hand Made Scandanavian Knives
7. The Most Inspired Haka Ever?
8. Migrations: Combining Nature & Big Mountain Skiing
9. God Made a Farmer
10. Make Hockey Happen

2015 Year in Review: Top 10 Mailbag Quotes

I’m a big quote guy, no two ways about it. And the more you look at your favorite quotes on a daily basis, the more you’ll find yourself personifying them in your actions.

Regarding #1, I think it is an extremely powerful construct of words. We’re all going to lose the people close to us in life at some point; however, how many of your close family and friends know how much they mean to you while they’re still alive and kicking? If someone means a lot to you, tell them! Never under-estimate the power of vulnerability, especially when it comes to building trust in a relationship. With that in mind, here are the Top 10 Mailbag Quotes from 2015:

1. “If you admire somebody you should go ahead and tell ‘em. People never get the flowers while they can still smell ’em.” – Kanye West

2. “Aim for respect, not affection. Keep your hearts of gold, just make sure your spines are made of steel.” – Maureen Sabia

3. “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right. Your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention” – Conan O’Brian

4. “They’re collecting ‘likes’ as opposed to engaging. It’s not a numbers game. But that attitude isn’t inherent to online relationships. To some extent, people have used the Internet as an excuse to be transactional and hide from real relationships. People have blamed technology and said it’s made us less relational and more transactional. But [if that’s the case], that’s your own damn fault. It’s up to us how intimate, candid, and vulnerable we want to be in this medium.” – Keith Ferazzi

5. “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Bob Schiller

6. “We tend to steer our lives in the direction of the lessons we need to learn.” – Don Campbell

7. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

8. “The more vulnerable I am, the less vulnerable I am” – Mike Cullen (colleague of mine at Ferus)

9. “Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.” – Napoleon Hill

10. “In your life there will always be those who judge you. There will be those who judge you who don’t have a clue who you are, or what you are really about. There will be those who judge you who aren’t living to their fullest potential themselves. And there will even be those who judge you that know you best just because they may envy your drive, or the road that you are on towards success and happiness in your life. In the end, most people will judge you, so instead of worrying about what people think, do whatever may make you the happiest in life.” – Anonymous

* Wilcard: I was given this card on my birthday a few years a few years that went like this on the front… I have kept it close ever since.


2015 Year in Review: Top 10 Mailbag Songs

  1. First” – Cold War Kids
  2. Make Me Wanna” – Thomas Rhett
  3. No Diggity (live)” – Chet Faker
  4. Can’t You See” – Marshall Tucker Band
  5. Cause I’m a Man” – Tame Impala
  6. Baby Be My Love Song” – Easton Corbin
  7. Somewhere In The Country” – Tebey
  8. River” – Leon Bridges
  9. Into The Wild” – Wrabel
  10. Wiser Time” – The Black Crowes

Find this playlist and others on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/mwilkesy/playlist/4eBqYIXngOiG1vKR23uM3s