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!?

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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/.

 

Coffeetalk: Episode 4 with Dr. Rick Nason

Dr. Nason and I first met when myself and two other Dal classmates walked into his office five odd years ago to pitch him on the prospects of us starting the Dalhousie Investment Society (DALIS) and him championing our cause at the Faculty level. I won’t use exact words but he basically go told us to fly a kite. Somewhat deterred by his blunt nature yet keen to push on for some reason, we came back the following week with a modified pitch. These steps repeated themselves over and over for a period of time until he finally realized that we weren’t some flash in the pan leadership team and were actually committed to getting a student-run hedge fund off the ground. Little did we know, he was testing us the whole time. Fast forward a few years and hundreds of hours grinding out late night sessions in the Bloomberg lab and here we are… Trying to solve the world’s problems in Coffeetalk with my now friend, Rick.  Let’s do this!

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Mike: To say you are a highly educated man is an understatement, evident of the two Masters degrees and two PHD’s you have earned. How did you break onto Wall Street and was that always your goal?­

Rick: First off I do have two master’s degrees, but only one PhD. I did most of the course work and the comprehensive exams for a PhD at Pitt but never started a thesis for my PhD in physics.

Ever since I was in Junior High I wanted to be a physicist. My goal was never to break into Wall Street until I got to Business School, and even then I was undecided between marketing and finance. The reason I started business school in the first place is that I by chance saw a magazine cover story in the library that stated that Wall Street wanted physicists. I looked at the article and talked to a few people and realized I had a better chance of being somewhat more successful in business than in physics. The jobs in physics at that time (and to some extent today) where few and far between unless you wanted to build bombs – which I did not want to do. My break occurred when I was able to convince a Senior Manager that my unique background in physics, academic finance, sales and as a tennis club pro was a unique but valuable combination of skills to have.

Mike: What is the role of a university business school… To educate or to prepare for the real world?

Rick: We do not have time or space for my full answer on this question. I believe the role of a University is to give students the skills and tools for life-long learning. If one is truly educated and given the skills and the inspiration to learn then they will also be prepared for the real world. Unfortunately – in my opinion – the current focus in education is on knowing things, and not about learning. Knowing things in my mind is a commodity. It is about how things are connected and more importantly about how things might be connected that counts. In the real world, and in real world business, things are messy and uncertain. Business schools however take the easier route of assuming out the messiness in order to provide nice clean answers. The answer to most real world business problems is “maybe”. For every business problem that has an answer, that answer will be useless at the next instance of creative destruction. By failing to recognize and deal with these realities, business schools are falling short of both educating and preparing students for the real world.

Mike: What subject matter(s) or skill-set do you think will be most in demand in 25 years’ time?

Rick: I think that (a) empathy, (b) accountability, and (c) the ability to connect the dots will be the most valuable business skills in 25 years’ time. The current fashion is to talk about data analysis and STEM skills. I believe these are simply table stakes. Computers and robots will make STEM knowledge somewhat quaint. However the person who has empathy, and in particular sociological empathy, which I define as understanding what drives a group of people rather than individuals or a collection of individuals, is the person who will be able to name their job and their price. This is why I have made a commitment to myself to read each of Shakespeare’s plays over the next year (albeit in a Modern English translation).

Mike: You are a subject matter expert on risk and complexity in the financial world. Seemingly, our banking system is becoming ever more complex by the day, perhaps too complex in the eyes of some. Should the everyday consumer be worried?

Rick: I think it is very important to understand the different between complicated things and complex things in the sense that a scientist classifies them (which is what my upcoming book is about). Complicated things are processes or systems that are governed by rules or laws, like the laws of physics, or the regulations of a system. Complex things are those that evolve naturally (emerge is the technical term) and do not have leaders or laws to guide them – things like videos that go viral or fashions that become the temporary rage, or even the financial markets. What worries me is that governments and regulators, in an attempt to be seen as doing something of purpose, are creating a lot of complicated laws to manage something that is complex. In my opinion it is the exact wrong way to deal with the issues of financial stability and economic progress.

Mike: What is the biggest mistake you see university students make when trying to land their first big job, whether an internship or full-time gig upon graduating?

Rick: The biggest mistake I see university students make is not taking the time to try and understand who they are, what they really like, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and not asking themselves tough questions about what they are and are not willing to do to succeed (I am talking about work ethic, not moral ethic). I see too many students who are trying to live up to someone else’s ideal and not their own ideals. The only thing worse than not living up to your own ideals is not having any ideals, (or equivalently not making an effort to find out what your ideals are). The second biggest mistake – which may be related – is not having faith in their own ability. Increasingly I see more and more students who would rather settle for mediocre than risk an attempt at going for what they really want and perhaps coming up short.

Mike: What are 3 of your favorite books? Can be on any topic…

Rick: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. This was given to me by a professor in college and I go back to it every now and then when I need to get a simple slap in the face of perspective.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman and Robert Leighton. Scientific writing simply does not get any better than this. It makes you realize how small and inadequate your brain is compared to a renowned physicist like Feynman.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Not a great book in terms of writing, but a powerful theme and message. More people need to be asking “Who is John Galt?”

The Message by Eugene Peterson. A translation of the Bible that brings it to life no matter what your views on any given religion are.

(I was never that good at conventional math so I may have miscounted.)

Mike: What is one misconception and one truth of Wall Street (or perhaps Wall Street as we knew it) that you can confirm having lived and breathed that life for many years?

Rick: My experience is that “Wall Street People” are not greedy as most people think but instead they are extremely competitive. If the scorecard was kept in pebbles then “Wall Street People” would be lusting after pebbles and not money.

Mike: You have a free summer day in Halifax… What does Rick Nason do?

Rick: Rick Nason gets up and goes to the Ardmore for breakfast. I then go sit down at the lake that my house is situated on and feed the ducks for the afternoon while reading a book and enjoying a nice beverage, and a great Dominican product. Then in conjunction with my wife, we will host a barbeque and then relax around the fire-pit with friends and enjoy more fine beverages and fine Dominican products.

Mike: Pick 3 people alive on the planet to have dinner with. Who are they and why?

Rick: Mr. Mathews my Junior High Science and Math teacher. I have been truly blessed by having many great teachers and professors in my past (Dr. White, Dr. Shaw, Dr. Cohen, Dr. Dulin, Dr. Harkleroad, Dr. Sharp, Mr. Snodgrass, Sister Forsythe) but Mr. Mathews was the one who started my love of science and of asking questions and one cannot overestimate the positive influence he has had on my life. Unfortunately I lost contact (I do not even know his first name). Perhaps someone will read this and send me his contact info. I would gladly buy the dinner.

George W. Bush. Not necessarily because I was a fan, but he was the President during two big events in my life – 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008. I believe that if I took an oath of secrecy that he would tell me – without any spin – what was really going on behind the scenes and what he really thought. I believe he would relish the opportunity to give his view since everyone else and their dog has written about these events. I believe that too much of what we read in the media is dumbed down to such a level as to be useless or trumped up (no pun intended) for marketing purposes as to make the message beside the point.

My wife. Because I still love her after 30 plus years and she is one of the few people on this planet who will put up with me.

Well there you have it folks… That’s 10 top notch questions with one of the best minds in the biz! If you interested in learning more about Rick’s views on the world, you can check out his TED talk here titled “Physics Meets Wall Street – Complexity in Business“. Tis’ always a pleasure, Rick.

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Coffeetalk: Episode 3 With Chris Snoyer

Chris and I met on the flag football field at Dalhousie. Fast forward 6 years and ~300 pints later, here he is on Coffeetalk…

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Mike: You recently left your corporate job in downtown Toronto to become an entrepreneur. Tell us a little more about your new ventures…

Chris: Well, what was once a few ventures (including planting some seeds for a beer company) has become singular. All of my time is now being poured into a training app for the retail and restaurant space.  It’s called Spiffy, and it allows staff to complete basic mandatory training from anywhere, as well as optional training from vendors. For example, Sport Chek needs to teach Bob how to fit you for some ski’s, but Salomon wants to influence the sale of their products by ensuring Bob knows that their product is best for your epic cat-skiing trips.

With training content, a quiz, and payment all being delivered within the app, there is no need to bring the team in for a demo. Spiffy will reduce labor costs by allowing staff to train at home, and they’ll be much happier to complete it from their couch. A lot of this training today is completed in store, where corporate is trusting managers to convey the right message, and trusting their employees to pay attention, which why we’ve all had some lacklustre experiences in chain stores and restaurants.

We’ve just sent in some applications to US-based accelerators, and sent our pitch deck to our first potential investor. I’m really enjoying the hustle. I have to figure I’m doing something right if I’m excited to get out of bed every day, right?

Mike: What is another cool start-up that you’ve heard of or know that many will soon find out about?

Chris: For a laugh, check out Bernie.ai. It’s artificial intelligence for dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. The idea is that it will learn “your type” and swipe on your behalf. I don’t think it’s live yet, but it should be worth a laugh when it is!

For something more real, check out Kash. They’re taking on big credit card companies with a direct debit solution for retail (kind of like scanning your Starbucks app at the register). It’s a tall task, but it will save a lot of businesses a lot of money if they’re successful.

Mike: You are very much a people person that thrives in social situations. What approach do you take when fostering new relationships?

Chris: Well, first off, thanks man! I just try to never have a veil on. What you see is what you get. I apply the term “a rising tide lifts all boats” to my social interactions.  I love to meet interesting people, and love leaving the table knowing that I’ve helped them get closer to a goal – big or small – and perhaps they’ve done the same for me. There are always opportunities to help each other grow and prosper.

Mike: What is/are the biggest fault/s that many make (usually unconsciously) when building relationships, or networking as many term it?

Chris: Being selfish. Or worse, not doing it at all. Some people don’t commit any time or effort to building relationships. It’s often too late that people realize the value of relationships, so I’d suggest people get started (Hint: Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi)

Mike: Biggest piece of advice for university students on how to maximize their experience?

Chris: Advice… Differentiate yourself. Do you know how many Bachelor of Commerce or Arts grads there are in the world? A degree is never going to get you a job on its lonesome. Getting a degree is a check mark. In my mind, the two most important things to do is get involved extracurricular activities (like JDC and other case competitions) and start building your network. Doing one will help with the other, and they’ll both set you apart from the horde of graduates.

Mike: Who are your role models or thought leaders in life/business world that you follow?

Chris: I’m a big fan of Keith Ferrazzi (I know you’re in the same boat). I think the business world would be a better place if more people got past the small talk to learn what’s really important to another. I never miss an opportunity to drop a Wedding Crasher quote, so here goes: “people helping people, it’s powerful stuff”. I also think the whole Paypal Mafia is amazing. Guys like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk are awe inspiring. They have completely different thought processes than most of us, and that’s what it takes to have a real impact. Check out Zero to One by Thiel for a short, but thought provoking business read.

Mike: What are the 3 most interesting/entertaining Twitter or Instagram accounts you follow?

Chris: Hoodclips is probably the funniest, but lets not go there…

Mike: Favorite place to meet a few friend for a pint in Toronto?

Chris: Tried and true pub: PJ O’Briens.

Beer and fun: Pacific Junction Hotel. Good vibe, ping pong, and Deer Hunter. Winning combo.

A new find for me that has great cocktails is Rush Lane. I like a bartender who can hold a conversation and mix a mean drink. You’ll find that there.

Mike: Favorite coffee shop to post up at?

Chris: Best coffee in the city is Fahrenheit at Jarvis and Lombard. Best Barista is Mari Palhares at Portland Variety. She’s amazing – tell her I said hi if you stop by!

Mike: Pick 3 people alive on the planet to have dinner with. Who are they and why?

Chris: Man, this is hard. I’d probably put:

Peter Thiel – I like to spend time with uber smart people who can explain things in ways that I can understand. That’s why I hang out with you, Wilkesy 😉

Mark Cuban because I like a man who speaks his mind, knows what he wants, and makes things happen!

And Dr.Dre.

If you think Chris sounds like a decent guy or want to call him out on his BS over a pint at PJ O’Brien’s, surely he won’t turn down your offer. Drop him a line at chris.snoyer@gmail.com.

 

Coffeetalk: Episode 2 with David Darst

David and I met during my university years at Dalhousie and it was a fairly unlikely match, a university kid living in Halifax and one of the most respected minds on Wall Street but our friendship just clicked. We have managed to stay friends and have ambitions to one day embark on an adventure together in the Canadian Arctic! To this day, David is the most fascinating and captivating human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing. His mind truly operates on another level and I couldn’t be more excited to share his knowledge and wisdom with Mailbag readers this week. A little background about David…

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David M. Darst, CFA, served for 17 years as a Managing Director and Chief Investment Strategist of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, with responsibility for Asset Allocation and Investment Strategy; was the founding President of the Morgan Stanley Investment Group; and was the founding Chairman of the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Asset Allocation Committee. Since 2014, he serves as Senior Advisor to and a member of the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Global Investment Committee. He joined Morgan Stanley in 1996 from Goldman Sachs, where he held Senior Management posts within the Equities Division and earlier, for six years as Resident Manager of their Private Bank in Zurich.

David appears as a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, FOX, PBS, and other television channels, and has contributed numerous articles to Barron’s, Euromoney, The Money Manager, Forbes.com, The Yale Economic Review, and other publications. He was awarded a BA degree in Economics from Yale University, and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. David has lectured extensively at Wharton, Columbia, INSEAD, and New York University business schools, and for nine years, David served as a visiting faculty member at Yale College, Yale School of Management, and Harvard Business School. In November 2011, David was inducted by Quinnipiac University into their Business Leaders Hall of Fame. David is a CFA Charterholder and a mem- ber of the New York Society of Security Analysts and the CFA Institute.

 

1. Where were you born?

In Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, United States of America.

2. What does the name “David” mean?

“David” comes from the Hebrew name דָּוִד (Dawid), which is derived from Hebrew דוד (dwd) meaning “beloved”. David was the second and greatest of the kings of Israel, ruling in the 10th century BC. Several stories about him are told in the Old Testament, including his defeat of Goliath, a giant Philistine. According to the New Testament, Jesus was descended from him. The name David has been used in Britain since the Middle Ages and has been especially popular in Wales, where it is used in honour of the 5th-century patron saint of Wales (also called Dewi), as well as in Scotland, where it was borne by two kings.

3. What does my name mean?

“Michael” comes from the Hebrew name מִיכָאֵל (Mikha’el) meaning “like unto God.” Michael is one of the seven archangels in Hebrew tradition and the only one identified as an archangel in the Bible. In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, he is portrayed as the leader of heaven’s armies, and thus is considered the patron saint of soldiers. The popularity of Saint Michael led to the name being used by nine Byzantine emperors, including Michael VIII Palaeologus who restored the empire in the 13th century.”Michael” has been widely used in Western Europe since the Middle Ages, and in England since the 12th century.

4. How many stamps do you have on your passport?

From 114 countries, and I love each and every one of them! Sometimes on airplanes, I find myself occasionally flipping through the passport pages and being instantly transported to Australia, to Tibet, to Morocco, to Greenland, to San Marino…

5. You are as gifted of a wordsmith as I know. How many languages can you converse in?

What is your favorite? People all over the world appreciate it when you take the time and effort to acquire some words, phrases, perhaps some slang, and sentences in their native tongue. Early and extended exposure to Latin (and some Greek) ignited my interest in languages, and in addition to French, German, and Swiss German, I’ve at times been able to get by in Italian and Spanish. On extended business trips with fluently-speaking colleagues, I’ve been able to have some fun in Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. There’s nothing like hearing beautiful French, and a language that totally enchants me (especially in song) is Brazilian Portuguese (“Você sabe do que eu estou falando” = “You know what I’m talking about” in Portuguese!)

6. Is it a lifelong goal of yours to travel to every single country on planet earth?

One of my lifelong goals is to circumnavigate our beloved Planet Earth in space.

7. Where are your three favorite restaurants on planet earth?

I totally LOVE every single restaurant in which I have had the pleasure of eating!  It’s so difficult to pick three, and as I contemplate this question right now, NUMEROUS epic, unforgettable dishes, wines, and meals come to mind, such as an amazing flan cake creation covered in marshmallow icing and slathered all over with this thick, viscous, runny caramelized sugar sauce that was served up in the airport cafe in Porto Alegre, Brazil, by what had to be the sister of Giselle Bundchen —  I find myself daydreaming about it from time to time!  I would send or treat a family member or dear friend to Pré Catelan in Paris, the Kronenhalle in Zürich, and the Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, California!

8. What is the most fascinating place you’ve traveled to on planet earth that few know exist?

Just as with the restaurant question, this question instantly brings to mind all manner of places, from Andorra to Angkor Wat…People are certainly aware of the existence of Antarctica, and at the same time, it is difficult to adequately convey  — until you are there in person  — the purity, the immaculacy, the refinement, the ineffable sublety, the finely nuanced shades, colors, and hues of that extraordinarily beautiful landscape, which, the minute I first laid eyes on it, somehow also reminded me of traveling in the Rub’ al Khali (= in Arabic, “The Empty Quarter”), the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The terrain is covered with reddish-orange colored (due to the presence of feldspar) sand dunes reaching heights of 820 feet (250 meters).

9. Who are the 3 most influential people in the United States of America?

In addition to the President, the Federal Reserve Chair, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Majority Leader of the Senate, I might suggest: (i) the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBErCOM) and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (NSA/CSS); (ii) the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council, and the President of the United States on military matters. The composition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is defined by statute and consists of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS), and the Military Service Chiefs from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau; (iii) the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue magazine; and if I’m allowed a fourth, either Taylor Swift or Mark Zuckerberg.

10. What is one thing about Canada that few Canadians would actually know?

Begun construction in 1992, the Trans Canada Trail is the world’s longest network of recreational trails. When fully connected, the Trail will stretch 24,000 kilometers (15,000 mi) from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. Just over 18,000 kilometers (11,000 mi) of the trail have been completed as of February 2016 and are usable, making the entire project approximately 80% complete. Two hundred and forty gaps totaling 6,200 kilometers (3,900 mi) must be bridged in order to achieve a fully connected trail. The Trans Canada Trail has given itself until its 25th anniversary and Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 to reach this objective. The network of the Trans Canada Trail is made up of more than 400 community trails. Each trail section is developed, owned, and managed locally by trail groups, conservation authorities, and by municipal, provincial, and federal governments.  Considerable sections of the Trail are repurposed defunct rail lines donated to provincial governments by CP and CN Rail rebuilt as walking trails and “rail banked” as recreational trails, allowing conversion back to rail should future need arise. Thousands of Canadians, community partner organizations, corporations, local businesses, and all levels of government are involved in developing and maintaining these trails. The Trans Canada Trail does not own or operate any trail. As an ensemble, the Trans Canada Trail might be one of the largest volunteer projects ever undertaken in Canada. The main section runs along the southern areas of Canada connecting most of Canada’s major cities and most populous areas. While it is possible that quite a few Canadians know about route of the long northern arm which runs through Alberta to Edmonton and then up through northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory into the Northern Territories, where I have photographed its terminus in Tuktoyaktuk (formerly known as Port Brabant and renamed in 1950, the first place in Canada to revert to its traditional name), population 854 inhabitants and coordinates  69°26′ 34″ N, 133°1′ 52″W, my guess is that not that many people know the previous name of ‘Tuk.’

To learn more about David, here is an article I wrote in 2014 about my first experience meeting him during his Halifax visit, in which he did a full-day workshop with the Dalhousie Investment Society and evening lecture to the Rowe School of Business.

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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.

Coffee Talk

What is Coffee Talk?

Coffee Talk is a bi-weekly subsection of Mike’s Mailbag where I plan on interviewing a friend, colleague, family member, industry leader, heck maybe even a total stranger, because they have something interesting to say or a compelling story to tell.

The interviews will take place in many forms depending on what works best for the interviewee. This is a brand new feature of the Mailbag and its aim is to shed light on things deserving of being shared at dinner tables from coast to coast.

Stay tuned…