It’s interesting that everybody I think has these stories of these elementary or high school teachers, where it was either a book they passed, or just a little side comment. And it was a lesson that I took with me for the rest of my life when people ask me to meet up for coffee, or to pick my brain, or they want to work with us, or they want a mentorship, I’m always very cognizant of the words that I choose because you don’t know what’s going to stick on someone.
Welcome to the Mojo Moments podcast. Here’s a little bonus piece that we have in my conversation with Mitch Joel. We actually did a deep dive around getting advice and giving advice, something that he takes dear to heart, has been doing it throughout his life. So here it is! Take a listen.
You did drop out of university, right? You mentioned this earlier. So, you're at Concordia and then you quit. Like, what was that?
You did drop out of university, right? You mentioned this earlier. So, you're at Concordia and then you quit. Like, what was that?
It's the life, like…
It’s like that or university, right?
Yeah. I mean, people who see the movie Almost Famous are like, that movie was about you. I'm like different era, but very, very similar. Very, very similar. And I decided to start publishing my own magazines, because again, I thought back even at that age, like I want to be able to control my destiny here and see if I can do this.
So I was publishing, you know, one or two magazines. I wound up publishing, you know, three or four before I closed that business down. And, I just sort of was like struggling. I mean, I had taken on college university and philosophy and writing and stuff, and I was just struggling along. And I had a conversation, I was living at home at the time and I just was talking to my parents who were quite traditional in the, like, you will get a degree and go on to have a job, like a good human being. And, you know, my mother, I think it was my mother, basically said, “Look, these magazines seem to be sort of the thing you want to do. It seems to be working like there was a business there, you know, why don't you focus on that? Cause you can always go back to university, but you may not be able to have a successful business if you try and do everything.”
And it was... I knew that. I mean, I knew that that was the answer, but it was very refreshing to sort of have your parents basically give you permission to a certain degree, even though I didn't need it, I could have raged against the machine. It was very helpful because there was that support and infrastructure underneath it. And it also was a bit of a breath of fresh air to really make a run at the business, knowing I could always go back to school. I'm young. It's so true. Like it was quite an awakening.
And I think I even carried that lesson on it to everything, right? It's like, I'm always like, look, worst comes to worse, I could always, you know, be a writer or go back to agency or do this, or be a strategist, like I've always got things in the back of my brain that I can do. I don't want it to do, but I can if I needed to make a buck.
And so it was a very pivotal moment for me and I never went back. And I did approach it, like - I mean, there's still this tweet that goes around and I didn't say it. I mean, I said it, but I don't know if I was quoting someone else or I made it up somewhere. But my whole philosophy is that I didn't want to let school get in the way of my education.
Like, I think people do that. They think like education is school. And it's not. Education is everything. I mean, you choose tonight, if you're going to go and watch Space Force on Netflix or pick up a book, you choose whether or not you're going to expose yourself to interesting newsletters and people and articles, or if you're going to scroll endlessly on your Instagram feed or TikTok, like you decide.
You make the choice.
Yeah. And, again, when I read that book by Tom Peters, which was called The Project 50, that Andy Nulman gave me, my reaction was this can, this is entertainment. Like I think most people don't get that. They think that learning is not entertainment, you know? So like when I watch masterclass, which I love the masterclasses and I'm watching David Sedaris spend 16 hours talk about writing, I'm not like, "Oh, this is like a hard learning course." I'm like, "this is more entertaining to me than watching a standup special on Netflix," which...
Or being in that arena, listening to some thrash metal.
Yeah. Well, look, I mean, that's another thing where I do think that art is a huge part of culture and culture is a huge part of what makes people interesting. And, my greatest heartbreak, one of the greatest heartbreaks, I mean, it's definitely hard to sit here today because I'm sitting here in the middle of this pandemic with everything that I do, which is primarily speaking, having been ripped away from me in like a week, like my entire year and revenue gone, that's hard.
But equally hard was that I don't remember when, but it was early. It was probably March or April when they announced the jazz festival here in Montreal, it was off. Like that was, like really traumatic for me because that to me is a week of learning. I'm like, going from different venues and seeing different people and sometimes even conducting interviews, cause I have another podcast where I interview bass players.
And so when people say that like a, you know, like you're metal head, you're punk, I'm like, I'm all those things. I love art. I love culture. I love music. And to me it is a - I learn so much. I know it sounds crazy, but when I go to concerts, I learn so much about how I feel about art, what it means to me, but then also the mechanics, like watching the production, because I spent a lot of time on stage seeing how people move, what they say to the crowd, what gets the crowd interested?
And I've been lucky to go on the road with, with several bands that have become famous, that are friends of mine, to see nights where they're amazing. The audience is amazing. I've seen nights where I thought the gig was great. You walk backstage and they want to kill each other cause they thought it was so bad. Like there's so much education that we can take, in those things. And I guess it's perspective over the years and, and, and music is another one of the huge sources of mojo for me.
It's interesting how, you're not sure if it's your quote that you had tweeted around, you know, don't let school get in the way of your education. Last year at my daughter's school, I was invited in, they were doing like a career day for the senior class that are about to graduate. And I was on a business panel. So they had someone from like a big corporation and, and someone who was a lawyer. And then I was the token sort of entrepreneur...
Yeah. The creative guy. The weirdo.
And there was, one of the young girls in the class or - woman, young woman said, you know, "Look, I'm curious, you know, what should I study in university if I want to become an entrepreneur?" I sort of paused. I could see the career teacher there kind of looking at me. And I had this moment of like, feeling back in school and I was like, I got to tell her the truth. And I was like, “Maybe you don't go to university and just start a business.”
Yeah. My reaction is maybe everything. Like, study everything.
And I was just like, I could see the teacher's eyes, like, "Why did I invite this guy?"
You know, in my second book, Ctrl Alt Delete, I talk about it in like a very pragmatic way, which is we think it's like, we're going to go to high school. We're going to choose a path. Well, I tell the story about like how friend of mine was sort of good in math and the guidance counselor was like, “You should try engineering” and like, took that in CEGEP, and then went on to university and then got a job. And does, and does quite well. But like, it's like, “Wow, this whole person's life is predicated on this weird meeting with a guidance counselor with they're like, you're pretty good at math and sciences, you should be an engineer.” And like 30 years later, they're still doing it. I'm like, “Wow. That's like, you know, it's like the marriage didn't last, but that did.” Like, it's mind blowing to me.
And that's linear, right, it goes like bottom left top, right? Like you're on this sort of like trajectory because this is what these infrastructures and systems do. But when we think about the people we like and respect the most as leaders, as thinkers, as speakers, as writers, usually their careers are very squiggly, you know, sort of goes up and then down.
And they tried this, that didn't work, but that piece led to this. And I was able to self reflect on that and realize that I actually do like people whose careers are very squiggly. And what that means is not that they've tried a bunch of different stuff. It's that some stuff didn't work, and they went over there, and then they moved here and did that, like... I I'm always just like, that's what makes stories good. Like, which biographies do you like to read? “Oh, I went to high school. They told me what to do. I did that. Then I was quite successful with it”. It's like, yeah, you know, it's a bit of a snooze fest. So, what that means ultimately is adventure, right? Like we like adventure, like people who like adventure are going to have very interesting careers, if you apply the fact that you like adventure to your career.
Do you know, my grade 11 career counselor told me?
It's so ironic. So I went in, I didn't know what I was going to do. And, but my dad had given me this book, Ogilvy on Advertising.
I've heard of it.
Yeah, it’s probably one of the most famous ad books ever...
Yeah, it's like the Bible...
Probably like your Tom Peters book. It was the first book I just was like, just going through, like, this is not, this is not reading. This is entertainment. So I went in and I kind of shyly pulled out this book saying. I didn't know what the industry was. I just read this book and was inspired. I said, I think I want to go into advertising. So he looked at my grades, said “You're horrible in English. You don't know how to write. I don't see you in that.” So, I was like, okay, I'm going to do exactly the opposite of what this guy is telling me… but much later on.
But the power of these guys, or, you know, these people have, you know... But in a way it didn't work in his case, but I was like, “Who is he to make that decision”, you know?
But again, it's interesting. Cause here we are, you know, with a lot of distance learning or no school, depending on what system you're in and you sort of start seeing the value of teachers more, especially when you have younger kids.
But my story was, it was probably, you know, grade 11, which is when you graduate high school here in Quebec. And, my art teacher, who to this day remains one of the, you know, if I could make a candle with her picture on it and give her sainthood, I probably would, would light that candle often... Because I, our art, like our school was, was, it was like a private Jewish school. And there was like art and drama. What there was, was considered like, éOh, that's where you have extra recess.é Like there was no music program... And again, it was very academically driven. And I remember sitting in art class, which I loved, and I loved everything related to art.
And she said to me, one day, you know, you should do something creative with work. And I swear - my answer back to her was like, "What? What are you talking about? What does that even mean?" Like, I didn't even know that was a thing. I thought that art was just sort of the thing you did to not have to work. Like that was not work.
And, it led to a conversation that was probably more powerful than any conversation I had, even though my guidance counselors and stuff were quite empathetic to me. And so again, that shows you that the other side of the story is true. It's like, “Oh yeah. Like you can, you can make a living as a writer or creator.”
Like I just didn't - all joking aside. Grade 11. I had no clue. I thought that that was the stuff you did for fun. Yeah, like it just wasn't work. So it is interesting that everybody, I think, has these stories of these elementary or high school teachers, where it was either a book they passed or just a little side comment.
And it was a lesson that I took with me for the rest of my life. When people asked me to meet up for coffee, to pick my brain, or if they want to work with us or they want a mentorship. I'm always very cognizant of the words that I choose, because you don't know what's going to stick on someone.
Yeah, you don't want to be like that guidance counselor I had, that...
No. No, you do not. But again, like one could make the argument Thane, like, that's what you needed.
There's the old joke is like, Chris Rock tells a story about, you know, like his joke about Facebook is like, “You know how this happened, right? It's like Mark Zuckerberg was like the biggest loser in the world. And somebody basically like - he came up with the name for Facebook because someone took a book and smashed him with it in the face.” You know, it's like, “we wouldn't have Facebook if he wasn't bullied" type of thing, you know? So I think that everybody has their own...
Well that was awesome. Thank you Mitch for taking the time to share those insights. If you loved this bonus episode, check out the full conversation I had with Mitch. We have an interesting article, from five years ago, a conversation between Mitch Joel and Sylvain Carl, check it out on our website.
And playing us out is Chris Velan and his awesome tunes.
Take care, be safe.