Cancer Warrior Mojo |  Charles de Brabant, Executive Director, Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill University cover image
Thane Calder invites Charles de Brabant of McGill University to the podcast to talk about how he kept his mojo through his three cancer battles.
Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Welcome to season two of mojo moment. I'm your host Thane Calder. We started this podcast to talk to smart folks about the ins and outs of what gets them and keeps them motivated. We launched this podcast during the COVID pandemic at the beginning of one of the most massive economic shutdowns since almost ever.

The dark side of this period is the unknown. The insecurity, triggers on so many levels from financial to health. And just overall well-being the bright side is I believe the insecurity, you know, it's forced us to take stock on life and focus on what really matters. It's in times like these where mojo matters most.

We invited my friend, Charles  De Brabant, who spent almost 20 years in China and Southeast Asia building the future of luxury retail with big names like L'Oreal , Burburry, Michael Kors, Kate spade, etc. Now he's back in Montreal. As the executive director of McGill university's new kick-ass Benson in school of retail management, which full disclosure CloudRaker is one of the founding partners, but still it's kick ass.

And Charles is credible when it comes to university, he heralds from some of the best schools, bachelor of economics from McGill, masters of literature from Oxford, MBA from Stanford. So, if you want to talk about the future retail luxury, the influence of China on the economy. If you want the Cartesian view, the intellectual view, if you want to know things about things, you call Charles.

But we're not going to talk about that today. Nope. We're going to talk about mojo. Charles has had to dig deep for mojo he's battled cancer, not once, not twice, but three times. And he's learned a lot about overcoming odds and challenges. I think right now, our generation is feeling the angst.

What a marathon of challenges and continuous sensibility means. And that's why we're talking to Charles today. Okay.

Hey, Charles. Thanks for coming on mojo Moments. 

So, you know, what's interesting is in my intro, I talk about your pedigree and everything you've done. You know, you have a wicked intellect, you have an incredible career path, a lot of interesting things you've done, when I bring up opinions with you, I always pause and make sure it's well thought through because I just don't want to get it wrong because I respect your intellect, but you know what? We're not going to dive into that stuff today. Cause we're going to talk about mojo and it's going to get personal man. This whole conversation we're going to have is like colored by your battles, your war as you call it you're warrior or cancer warrior, but a lot of interesting insights you've had through that. And, you know, we've had conversations or even around the term courage and maybe we'll just dive right into that because, you know, you've had to go through three battles with cancer. And the other day when we're chatting and I was convincing you to jump on this, we talked about it, your understanding or your, your renewed understanding of it, of what courage means.

I'd like to just get right into that. Out the Gates.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Well, thanks for asking the question, but I think one of the things that I did in order to better understand what I was going through, and it sort of came intuitively was to write a journal and to share that journal. So I'd never written a journal before and then sharing it to be honest some people in my immediate surroundings were not particularly keen on me sharing it, thinking that it was very personal, but writing about it made me understand, sharing it made me see the glass half full instead of glass half empty all the time, because it was really not the most pleasant of circumstances and part of the feedback I got through sharing this was, Oh, you're so courageous. And you know, a lot of things that people told me resonated with me, but that always irked me. And very recently, during the COVID period, I wrote an article on leadership in the COVID era. And one dimension I talked about was courage and empathy.

And as I was writing it, it sort of dawned on me that I realized that I wasn't necessarily courageous, but I was certainly less afraid. And that I feel a lot more comfortable with. And maybe somebody might say that the definition of courage is to be less afraid. But that to me is something that after, you know, three, four years of listening to people tell me that resonates a lot better for me.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

I really don't. I really don't know I had 11 and I added a 12th, which was really at the time.

So I had a moment where I added a 12th, which was really, you know, and very appropriate for this COVID moment when people are at home and hopefully make choices that will make you live the life you want to live. And I was fortunate enough to be able to do that by coming back to Montreal in very strange ways.

And, and. Maybe this is a 13th lesson, but it has less to do with cancer, but you know, luck by design. I ended up, you know, doing a draft of a letter to Henry Mintzberg at McGill in October of 2016, then went through this massive treatment and then finally send it to him in January or February of 2017. And I didn't know him, but he had influenced my life quite significantly as a professor and as a management guru and he responded three weeks later.

And we had a Skype conversation. He said, if you come to Montreal, come and see me. And I went to see him and I ended up seeing the Dean afterwards and she said, we have nothing for you. And six weeks later, she said, well, we're getting gifts of $25 million from Aldo. Bensadoun's family, would you like to, a foundation?

Would you like to come and co-create and co-develop the school? Yeah.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Yeah. Well, I think it's sort of more the general patent and going out there and, you know, going out with a hundred thousand men. And, you know, we, we, we win the day, but 80,000 men die in the process. That's courage, um, and leading the way. So, yeah, I don't see myself being that at all.

And I think one of the things with when you go through something like I've been through is you just cope and, and one doesn't quite know how you're going to cope. So I have a lot of difficulty sort of saying. Yes. Maybe I was courageous, but it was more of coping than anything else. It was my way of coping with it.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

And you mentioned, you know, uh, in your journals, I, and I was part of the lucky circle I'm receiving your journal and it was interesting, your mix of just true genuine like sharing what's going on in your mind, sharing some tidbits of your life. But do you feel the fact that you were sharing it gave you the half glass full versus empty? Did it make you have to find that side because you were sharing it?

 

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Partly because, you know, if I tell you that life sucks, once you might read it, if I tell you life sucks twice, you might read it, but you know, the third time you're going to be like, okay, I love Charles, but, uh, I like him, you know, I mean, you know, light life is difficult enough. I don't need to have somebody tell me again. So part of it that, but I think one of the things that's so bizarre about those periods, you know, and it goes back to what is happiness is that, you know, you live these incredibly special moments of where the glass is more than half full. When I was finishing 10 weeks of chemo hell in quite a long pour during my second bout of cancer.

And it was going to end on the 31st of December. So it was close to Christmas. We celebrated Christmas with the family being there, our son flying in from Portland, Oregon, you know, you celebrate Christmas for all the right reasons. You don't celebrate Christmas for all the wrong reasons. And even though I was feeling.

You know, I'd lost probably 10 kilos. I was feeling awful. I was extremely thankful for that moment with my family, because it, yeah, it brought everything back to what was essential and what was important in life and that you don't necessarily get in normal life. So that's where the glass at that point becomes even more half full, even though you are feeling.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

I remember one of the journals. I got, I think it was, it was in the winter. And I think you talked about, it was a winter day and you were describing just the crispy coldness and I think you went for a walk or maybe in a cross country ski, despite your, I mean, you're, you were fragile, I mean, you were in treatment and, and just, you could picture the true honest sense of enthusiasm and appreciation. Genuine gratefulness of what was going on in that moment.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

You know, I'm, I'm a downhill skier and cross country skiing has never been my thing. But what I have learnt is this notion of agility and change and ability to do what you can. So I was a little bit afraid of going downhill skiing at that point.

This was back in, I think, early 2019. And I asked my nurse, I said, could I go do cross country skiing? And she said, yeah, why not? You know, and you get a high that you don't get any, you don't get in normal life. So, you know, it's sort of even better than the glass half full it's sort of like those, you know, you're like, wow, I can do this.

You know, whereas most other times it would be just, okay, I haven't cross-country skied before, but I wouldn't get the same excitement nor the thrill of just feeling like, Oh, I just did this.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

So you're saying you're a big downhill skier. You've mentioned your dad was some insanely courageous, downhill skier. At one point, you said even when he was in his eighties, he was hitting, some of them were gnarly runs of, of Stowe.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Yeah. I'd say, yeah. I mean, he always, he's 81 right now and he still does it. So, uh, yeah, up until two, three years ago, he easily did 10 runs in a row. And the toughest runs if, if they were doable.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

So let's talk about dad and mojo, like. Is that good mojo or is that stressful mojo? Like I got to live up to that.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I have an extraordinary father, I would say. And I don't say that just in the positive sense of extraordinary. I think there's, there's, there's nothing on the bell curve that is in the middle as far as my father is concerned, you know, he's a crazy entrepreneur that started as a lawyer, did well as a lawyer and then did well as a real estate developer, but lost it all. And then ended up writing a book on memory, doing film biographies, starting an internet company in the recruitment world, um, speaks 10 languages at one point and had a library of about 5,000 books.

So yeah, nothing's been ordinary with, uh, with him. I think a lot of people are intimidated by him and over time, I think we've built, I have a pretty easy relationship with him. I mean, partly because I've done some of the things that. He would want a son to do or a daughter to do and things that he wasn't even able to do.

I mean, I think he would have loved to have gone to Cambridge or Oxford, which was, you know, I got the opportunity to go to Oxford. So those kinds of things. So I think even though he intimidates me in certain ways, because he still memorizes poetry every day. Uh, so he's still spurts out all these verses and you're like, you know, in, in French, English, Italian, German, and you're sort of sitting there going, Oh my God.

Okay. And I still haven't had my morning coffee, is just a little bit.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Well, I'm glad there are so many kids. It's like when I meet with you, I'm like, yeah, I gotta be a little more on top of my game. This is good. So you have someone in your life that does that to you? Yes, definitely. Definitely. Say I want to dip back into, so you wrote a great article that follows life lessons of a cancer warrior.

Yeah, quick question. Was that the title that inspired by, you know, Jordan Peterson's 12 rules of for life or...

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

No, it ended up, I think originally I ended up at 11 or 10 and then somewhere along the line, I ended up with a 12th. So there was no, I mean, obviously when I got to 12, you sort of feel like that's a good number.

And actually when I wrote the first one, which was back in 2017, and then I came and revisited again, I was wondering whether I would add lessons. And actually I didn't add any lessons. I just live those lessons in a different way.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Yeah. It's interesting. Cause in the article you talk about how you felt that then and how you felt that now type of thing, and what's evolved or so let me ask you this then.

So in this Covid period and all this world we're living and you know, out of the 12, we won't go through the mall right now, but what lesson or lessons do you feel right now are probably the most pertinent or applicable?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Probably the first lesson. I mean, I think the first lesson and I put in those 12 lessons is find your own coping mechanisms.

I think this is just as true in this period as it is when you're battling cancer is. You know, everybody seems to have a recipe that they want to sell you. And strangely, sometimes want to impose on. Right now in the US, in Vermont. And, you know, Americans are always, glass has to be not half-full. It has to be overflowingly full, you know, so you've got to look at this in the most positive way possible, you know, and battle cancer.

And if you don't have that positivity, it's not going to work for you. I think really it's finding what allows you to cope and leading towards two things that I wrote in a leadership article, which is mental and physical wellbeing, find some kind of mental wellbeing and some kind of physical wellbeing.

And I think we're all different as far as that's concerned.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Guess that's why there's been such a run on things. Like I heard a radio guy, the editor, I say, remember the era of COVID when we're baking bread, you know, there's that early stage where everyone is running out like baking bread or, but everyone's finding their things.

I guess people are doing that coping. In their own way.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think the other, the other thing that I would say is, and this also goes back to this leadership article, but is that, you know, I went back from changing it from a survivor to a warrior. My title, I realized that, you know, you can say after having cancer three times in five years, that you are a survivor, well, I'm at least a temporary survivor, but I'm not a long-term survivor.

Maybe in five years, if I'm in remission, I could say that I'm a survivor right now. I'm a warrior. And I think there's this notion of resilience. And this notion that as I think governor Cuomo quoting Churchill said, this is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning is the way that he says it.

And I think that that's important because I think a lot of people felt through COVID okay. I've gotten through the first month now let's get back to normal. I've gotten through the second month, you know, now we're in fall and everything should be back to normal. And I think one of the things you learn when you go through what I went through is especially the last time around, because my first time was 10 weeks of hell.

The second time around, it was one full year of treatment and more, and then recovery. So you learn that it's not going to get better tomorrow. It's going to take some time. And how do you cope with that over time? And, and this is where I think the warrior analogy is probably better.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Like we have these mixed signals, we have like, Oh, well the vaccine in October, and then the, uh, the world health organization saying, uh, maybe next summer, uh, you know, all these different notions of managing expectations of time.

And, you know, a dear friend of mine who unfortunately didn't survive his battle with cancer often told me, you know, I got to just live. Now, I know it's a bit, the cliche, you know, living in the present, but he really lived by that mantra of, I dunno, like you can't really manage the future, he would say. And you know, I don't know what your thoughts on that, is that important to mojo?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think, I think I have a little bit of contradictory thought with that, I think that's what's so weird. One year after. You know, having a STEM cell transplant, which is not a neutral thing to have, even in cancer treatments, right. You're put in quarantine in a quarantine environment and stuff like that.

Um, and your, your body's pretty much depleted in terms of energy, close to zero in order to rebuild you again. Is how quickly normal life comes back. So to a certain extent, I'm a lot more agile, a lot more flexible and enjoying things and less regimented than I would have been. And I think we were discussing that a little bit before, you know, if I can't run or play tennis, I'll walk or I'll bike, or cross country ski instead of downhill skiing or, you know, I I'm, I'm a lot more open to that. And I think, I, I don't know if I live for the moment, but one thing I have done and that came after the second bout of cancer, was fundamentally changed my life, right.

I mean, coming after 35 years of being abroad, coming back home, To Montreal was way better than I expected. I sort of, you know, being in Asia for 15 years, especially China was like being a Coke addict. Um, so the first few years of being a Coke addict are probably pretty great, but then it becomes, you know, meeting that coolest person going to the coolest party for the, for the 900 times sort of doesn't have the same impact anymore.

And so it made me, you know, figure out what's important. And, you know, I'm a lot happier walking to work, taking my bike, to work, cooking my own meals. When I come home and I have no inkling to go back to Shanghai and live a high life. Even if you told me I can go and live back in the same way that I did when, when there was the best of times.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Actually, while we are on China. Just for a second. We are going to dive into China for a second. Last year, uh, I went to Shanghai. Actually on a trip, a discovery trip with my business partner to dive into the secrets of China and retail. And, you know, everyone was saying, man, they're they're they're way ahead of us. And then to be honest, over there, I, I, I confirm.

Light years ahead of us in so many ways of what we call the Western world. The one thing, by the way, that's equal to us, at least that I discovered in Shanghai is that they have shitty sidewalks also. They're as bad at least as Montreal. I actually tripped and broke my right foot. On that front they're nowhere further ahead. But anyway, I digress. Here's my question.

I was impressed, truly. There's something I felt missing in Shanghai. And, you know, I wasn't there that long, so maybe I just missed it, but I felt there and I can't talk about China, but at least Shanghai, I didn't feel there was mojo. Did I miss something like I just felt...

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

There's a book written by a Montreal or, and I forget his name on Shanghai of the 1920s, 1930s and he basically shortens it to about five years. Those were the five great years that made Shanghai so special in the 1930s. And. I think we lived in that period between 2004 and 2014 when we were there. I think when Xi Jinping came into power, it became a very different time. I'm not saying that Xi Jinping was good or bad because I probably think he's probably right for the moment. For China right now. But you know, I remember whether you were 15 or 80 when you were coming to Shanghai, people partied until like four o'clock in the morning. You know what I mean? You know, you sort of like, well, what's in the water that makes people, you know, just want to go out and think that everything is possible.

And, and, and I think that that period had the mojo, as you rightly point out, and by 2014 it was already waning. And I think now. Goes back a little bit to this cocaine analogy, you know, when you're on a treadmill and all you're doing is putting it higher and higher and faster and faster. And you, you know, you're on your 35th marathon, unless you love to do that all the time.

It becomes tiring. And I think for the Chinese, it's, it's tough. I mean, even at that point, they were saying that there were the most stressed managers in the world. And the other thing you've got to ask yourself is as we move forward, now that they can buy everything that they want to buy, at least a certain. Let's say upper class, but that ends up being quite a significant number of people. You know, what do you aspire towards? And this is where I start to think that Canada, New Zealand, Scandinavian countries are, are more what they are going to aspire towards. And what we can aspire as being a true sort of luxury in life.

And that you can have in the city of 25, 30 million people in one of the most polluted countries in the world, you know, you try and get out of Shanghai and for five hours you drive through industrial zones. Right. You know, you don't find the countryside. I mean, we did, but you have to really know where you're looking to find it. Right.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Just driving to the airport. There was like, As far as I could see from the highway, cranes building, apartment buildings, like it felt like a Mississauga times a hundred. It's a, a, the notion of getting out of the city. I, you were mentioning, um, marathons earlier, when I broke my foot, the doctor who treated me was one of the volunteer doctors for the marathon. And he told me one of the things that's crazy about Shanghai marathon is, you know, you're seeing people partying from the ages of 10 to 90, he goes: for the marathon, everyone of all ages, just show up. They sign up, not for the half, not for the 10 K for the full marathon. And they're 80 years old, seven years old, and have done no training. And there they go. They just show up and they're doing a marathon because when you move to Shanghai, you can do anything in life. And he goes, so I ended up dealing with a lot of heart attacks.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I didn't know because I did, I did a half marathon back in 2009, I think. And no people, people weren't. Just going out and doing it. I don't think, I don't remember that being the case, but.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

But post 2014.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Maybe you're right.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Hey, so let's take a sec. I want to tuck into Bensen school of retail management, you're executive director there, and we're living in the middle of a big impact for any school.

Universities in particular are all virtual, right. Or at least for now. And not only that you're part of a school that is focused on probably the industries that are the hardest hit or close to during the COVID era, retail, super influx. So, how do you manage this period? And how do you motivate students now about their career choice in retail?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I mean one of the things is pre COVID. Retail was in a huge transformation. It's still remember coming back in 2017 to North America and you know, you're coming from the land of consumption and retail and malls and we're living in Malaysia or China or whatever, you know, and shopping is the preferred hobby for both men and women in that part of the world.

And I come back and everybody's like, retail is dead long live Amazon. So I dig into the numbers and sort of see that retail is actually not dead. If you take it as an omni-channel thing, it's growing, it's growing at twice, the pace of the economy everywhere in the world, by the way, it'd be pre COVID, but that it's in a profound transformation.

And one of the things I was looking at is in fast companies, top 50 most innovative companies in the world. You see that in the last three or four years, retail and retail related companies. So I would put a Shopify in there. I put a Walmart in there, I'd put a Patagonia, I'd put a, an Amazon and Alibaba.

Represented, you know, 25, 30% of the top 20 companies. So you're like, well, if you'd done that 10 years ago, retail probably would have had zero. So suddenly retail has become one of the most innovative industries, probably one of the top three most innovative industries. If you take it from a totally macro perspective, you know, you include the Alibabas the 10 cents of the world or the Amazons.

Now that was pre COVID and it was going into two different extremes, one and efficiency, convenience, and extreme, with the Alibabas, the Amazons, the Walmarts of the world. And then an experience extreme where it was maybe the Lu lemons, the Starbucks, the apples, some DtoC players like Warby Parker and COVID hit and actually COVID is surprising in terms of what it's doing to retail. It's annihilating, certain players, but other players are coming out of this totally strengthen or potentially strengthened. Right. You know, Amazon, Jeff Bezos will be the first $200 billion billionaire. Right. So you've got Amazon on the one end, but you know, I was discussing with somebody this morning, Claude Sirois, ex head of Ivanhoé cambridge retailer talking about Lululemon or experience retail.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

They're thriving.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

They're perfectly positioned to do well when it continues. And they made a very bold move by buying mirror, which I think was a great move towards an omni-channel digital, whatever wave. So I think there's some super, super exciting things happening in retail.

And let's not. Forget Shopify, you know, or Lightspeed, both Canadian superstars in the tech world. Right? I mean, Shopify is reach over a hundred billion in valuation and Lightspeed, you know, from an a $1 billion IPO. I don't think many companies that I appealed at 1 billion in the last. 36 months. I've done as well as the Lightspeed's done.

So I think there's a lot of exciting opportunities. So it's really coming back to this notion of looking at the glass half full there's a lot of things that you can look as half empty. Well, there really is a lot of exciting things in half full and not just the Amazon or Walmart. You know, I was looking at BRP results, all about the recreational products.

You know, the whole stay vacation trend is made...

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Ya, people throwing their money into that.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Yeah. Or renovation. Right. I mean, I don't know if you've looked at the results of Lowe's or home Depot, but they are like, plus 20% in sales.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

So, I mean, in a way the school's positioning, actually it being more of a fully integrated program that includes all the dimensions from supply chain to design to a full thought. This is like the perfect time to be in retail. If you want to learn about playing in the future.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think so. And I think there's some pretty exciting opportunities out there. And, you know, before retail didn't necessarily attract high paying and talented, let's say university graduates or postgraduates and, and now more and more they need them. And then I also, you know, retail is life and I think governments are suddenly figuring it out. You know, it's a little bit like Americans are finally figuring out that you need government agencies. You know, you can't just, you need them to survive. Right. And I would say, now governments are realizing that actually, Oh, you get rid of retail. Oh, your social fabric disappears. You know, there's this whole human dimension that I find is magical. And I think that'll come back. You know, your local retail is critical. And in there I would put FMB, I would put anything that's consumer facing and touching people's hearts. I mean, you know, this is uncertain times.

So if you can go to your local store that you love, your local bakery, your local pub or whatever it is, and feel like somebody recognizes you and values you and touches your heart. It's important these days.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

I went to a restaurant yesterday for the first time, since February, like in a restaurant, it was quite amazing. I didn't know how to eat in a restaurant anymore. I spilled food on my shirt, but that that's a whole other issue. I actually wore a dress shirt and I'd be wearing black t-shirts. So maybe I've been spilling the whole time, but I haven't noticed when I'm at home, but yesterday I was like, Holy cow, I'm a slob.

Anyway, that's. That's a whole other issue. So this is the point in the podcast where we jump into what was called the rabbit hole. He used to be our rapid fire, but then we realized these rapid fire questions led to sometimes lengthy conversations. So now we just call it the rabbit holes. We've got five here.

Maybe there'll be more, maybe be less, but there's five questions that we book in our conversation with. So, which is the first one back to your life lessons. You had 12. What if you were to add a 13? Do you know what that would be?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I really don't. I really don't know I had 11 and I added a 12th, which was really at the time.

So I had a moment where I added a 12th, which was really, you know, and very appropriate for this COVID moment when people are at home and hopefully make choices that will make you live the life you want to live. And I was fortunate enough to be able to do that by coming back to Montreal in very strange ways.

And, and. Maybe this is a 13th lesson, but it has less to do with cancer, but you know, luck by design. I ended up, you know, doing a draft of a letter to Henry Mintzberg at McGill in October of 2016, then went through this massive treatment and then finally send it to him in January or February of 2017. And I didn't know him, but he had influenced my life quite significantly as a professor and as a management guru and he responded three weeks later.

And we had a Skype conversation. He said, if you come to Montreal, come and see me. And I went to see him and I ended up seeing the Dean afterwards and she said, we have nothing for you. And six weeks later, she said, well, we're getting gifts of $25 million from Aldo. Bensadoun's family, would you like to, a foundation?

Would you like to come and co-create and co-develop the school? Yeah.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

So we got a 13th here. Luck by design. We did it.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

We did it, we did it.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

And lucky 13. It works kind of you're like, ah man, now I got to write 13th. So actually my next question then, so while we're roofing on this is I have this obsession with the number 11.

So when I looked at your 12 lists, I went straight to number 11, which is my favorite number. And I really like it, which is. Have a doable dream and live it. So what's your new doable dream?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

So that 11th  lesson. When I did it was to go back and visit all the places that were dear to me to meet the people that were dear to me.

Because as people say at the end of their lives, the relationships are whether they're the most important, but my relationships are linked to the fact that I've moved around quite a bit. And it was then what I also added was to live the rituals that you, that are linked to those places and those people.

And I missed out on a couple of places that I was hoping to go back to last year, but my doctor basically said it wasn't the right time, which was London and Oxford, which were very important to me, and Tuscany, which was a place we used to go to on vacation. And then. And so I would say I would love to do that. Cause I haven't done that.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

And now it seems like a dream because it's seems harder to do at least now.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

So yeah, it seems a little bit harder to do right now, but yeah, I think that, that would be plans.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

That one really spoke to me. So, you know, and I didn't give you this backstory, but other people have heard this on previous podcasts, but you know, the, the birth of this podcast with my mates, CloudRaker was in 2019 after 19 years of founding CloudRaker and running things and having mainly ups and a few downs. And, but in 2019, I was just kind of in a, uh, trying to figure out what's, you know, what's next. And, and it was sort of like, so I started talking to people that inspire me, are doing different things.

And I realized, you know, the importance of mojo. And regaining that mojo for yourself and for your family and for your friends and for your colleagues. And, you know, that was the birth of doing those mojo podcast was like, I got a lot of mojo talking to different people. So I was like, this is a great excuse to have these conversations with interesting people.

But when I read your, have a doable dream and live it, it was like, I think that's, what's important is like you hit little plateaus and you got to re-imagine what's your next dream. And start going towards that. So really spoke to me, I think, for mojo that having that, that dream out there and the doable, and I'm glad you added the doable, cause you can have silly dreams.

Like I would love to be a great singer or musician. It's just not a doable dream and it's okay. You know, I'll make I'll cultivate friends that are musicians.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think, I mean, I think part of it is also just the fact that, you know, when you're going through something like what I went through. You need some kind of light at the end of the tunnel and actually in this COVID period is, you know, once we get out of this, I think we all sort of need something or moments throughout this whole.

You know, we seem to have gone into a covert rabbit hole and we all thought it was going to end a lot quicker than it did then. And now we don't know when it's going to end. So I think, you know, having these moments of doable things, doable dreams, you know, and maybe one of our dreams right now is what we're, you know, this house that I'm sitting in, you know, trying to structure it in into, I've never had a country house.

I didn't really think about it as a doable dream. It sort of came by accident. So I don't think I did it purposely in the thinking about it, but making this a reality and making this part of our lives and I think is, yeah, that's another doable dream. Uh, for us at least.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Question in a lot of your journal, you talk about. Cause we, yeah, we're, we're Canadian. We're from Montreal. We got talking about hockey for a second. And I know, I know in, in your journals you would, you'd actually get a lot of mojo. Like you would talk about the Canadians, have a good game. Did the Habs have mojo?

Sorry, we gotta tuck into this. Do they have mojo? Did you follow this recent little playoff run?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think that that team has, in my view, a lot of mojo. Uh, I don't understand Marc Bergevin decisions as a managing director. I think he is bipolar because he seems to, you know, he seems to have been able to get Nick Suzuki or Gallagher or Tatar or Shea Weber.

But at the same time trading deadline, he trades everybody away that can give the team some kind of solidity and gets nobody in return, which is like, what are you doing? So I give that team a lot of credit for it. Didn't have a lot of padding, extra padding to do well. And to be honest, I thought they didn't deserve to lose that last game.

I mean, if they had lost to the Fliers in the seventh game, fine, but they didn't deserve to lose the six game.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

 So we know you are a loyal true fan. So hopefully if someone from the Canadians, listen to this, send Charles some free tickets. When we open up the Bell center again.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Just let me ask you that question, because did you feel like they had mojo?

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

It's really interesting. Cause I actually, I have two answers there. One is I found the format in COVID, you know, the lack of fans. I did find it a lot flatter, like not having fans really changed the mojo of the game, but when I watched the team, like you. I was like, they have it. There's the elements of that, the unknown part of a team, which makes a team win. There wasn't an individual. There is a collectivity there that I think just the little tweaks here and there. I think they can do.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Yeah, but this is where I hold Marc Bergevin totally responsible, because I think that he, when it seems to get to that moment where you get to the next point, It peels something away that just puts it back a little bit.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

And look, I, and I'm no, like I watched my anti-Sham, uh, you know, after the games and all that stuff. I, so I'm no expert on this, but I'd say I have a feeling he's showing a little more humility right now. And I don't know, I'm going to give him the credit, uh, the benefit of the doubt. Right now that it's going to fall into place.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I mean, because he's got these young players that are amazing, right?

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

I feel there's a bit more humility on his side. Maybe it's because his hair was longer. He didn't look as slick. I don't know. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Last question. And this is the one I've been asking everyone because my son is now 16 years old. So it's my way of cheating. Getting advice from smart people.

What would be the advice you give your 16 year old self?

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I had to have a difficult conversation with my daughter when I was going through cancer in 2016. And she would have been 16, I guess. So the moment demanded that because she was in her last year of high school, captain of the soccer team doing the IB program and seeing her dad.

Like she never seen me before. Cause I'd probably never miss a day of work until that period. And I was always fit and, you know, she would see me in terrible circumstances and live with me during at least one of the terms under those circumstances. So one thing I said is that this is the most important year of your life.

Being the last year of high school. So I don't know if that fits in 16, 17, right. But you know, you want to make sure that you live that year, the way that you want to live it and that you can be proud of because it can open so many doors for you and it can close so many doors for you. And it's difficult to reopen some of them, if you, if you mess up and I can understand that what's happening to me may make you mess up.

But if you want me to make me proud, Live it the way that you would want to live it. I want you to, you know, continue to be the captain of your soccer team. I want you to do as well as you can in your IB. I want you to enjoy your boyfriend. And, and I think for me, With her, or, you know, she's going to now graduate Summa, cum laude, and whatever, from business school.

And now as the captain of a rugby team that she brought to nationals of the US and stuff like that. And there's, you know, there's this opportunity to go work for the Goldman Sachs of the worlds or whatever. I still think at that point, the person that I most admired in her life was her soccer coach.

And she was an English teacher. She just seemed so happy. And I was like, you know, I don't care whether you become. Actually, I probably would be a lot happier if you did that than if you became a Goldman Sachs banker and, and pursuing what, what makes you happy. It's not going to be happy every day, obviously, but I think pursuing what makes you happy.

You know, both my kids have been involved in sports and if they go into sports management, Or whatever it is, or some sports field. I think this COVID crisis had brought back who's important. Right? I mean, I can definitely tell you that, you know, three or four nurses were, you know, when everybody talks about nurses being so important for COVID patients, I can attest to that as a cancer patient.

Those are the people that were the most important people for me. And I think something that I like about Montreal, at least in the friends that I have, and even in the friends that I had in Paris, I had friends that made it, didn't make it, didn't make it in, in, in..

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

In the financial terms

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

In the terms we would think. And I kind of love, you know, I've got one person in mind and he probably is the least successful from a financial standpoint of all the friends that I have. But he's the guy that I most admire.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

You were saying earlier. You know, when we were talking about your dad, you know, one of the things that checkbox probably made him proud is going off to like an Oxford and, but your essentially your advice to your daughter, to your 16 year old self is like, You know, whether you become a school teacher, or a coach or a follow your heart, or do what you really want to do is, it's interesting cause my son right now, there's this whole university path and we're looking at if he did go to the States, some of the big name schools. Do you think it matters? Do you think those, you know, you've done them? You've been to Stanford. You've been to Oxford.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

I think they matter, if they matter for the right reasons. You know, if you asked me what was my best educational experience and probably the toughest by far in a way was my Oxford days. And I went to Stanford afterwards to do my MBA, but Oxford was so special. The the, the, the college system, the tutorial system, the way of life, I was studying history. Just letting that seep into you was so important to me.

I, I don't mention those, those places that often to people when I talk about it, but they were important. They were so important to me. You know, I think I did it for the right reasons. Now it obviously looks a lot better. But I think for instance, my son ended up at university of Oregon because he wanted, it's a feeder school to Nike.

And I think that that was not the best choice. My daughter's at Babson, which does a small liberal arts college focused on business and outside Boston. And that's perfect for her. You know, I would have loved her to be at Mcgill but I think she would have been very unhappy because she wouldn't have gotten into the faculty of management.

So she would have been in liberal arts and she was like, well, what do I do in liberal arts? I don't know what to do. I mean, the thing that I think is really important there is finishing high school is. It's such an important thing to do, you finish it, well so that you keep doors open. I mean, I think for people that are 16, 17, 18, it's I have a nephew who got into Marianapolis and then the day he was supposed to go to Minneapolis said to his father, I'm not going.

And you know, he's 23 now going nowhere. And I'm just sitting there going, Oh my God, you just don't want to close those doors. I mean, it's not that he can't bounce back and have a good life afterwards, but it's made so much more difficult. I don't know if that answers your question.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Well, that's why we call it the rabbit hole. We don't know where we're going to end up. Hey, look, that's it, man. We've done a really interesting journey here, all around the world and all through a whole bunch of stuff. So thanks a lot. Thanks for sharing your mojo moments.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Thank you to Thane for asking me all those questions. Thank you for all of you for listening and taping this.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

And I'm happy that we found a 13th lesson.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

It doesn't quite fit into the cancer thing, but it is. It's a great life lesson.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

That's awesome, dude. Thank you.

Charles de Brabant
Charles de Brabant

Thank you to all of you.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Thank you. Take care. Bye. So speaking of gratitude, I'm thankful to be back into season two, thankful to my mates, Mark, Xavier and Gisella for keeping this all on track.

And thankful to Chris Velan, he's playing our tunes and thank you to whoever listens to this and is sharing it to their friends. And obviously a big thank you to Charles for being our guest. Take care. And thank you.

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Musician Mojo | Singer-Songwriter Chris Velan

It’s all about mojo for troubadour Chris Velan, who went from chasing six figures with his law degree to making a living with his six-string.
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