Hi everyone and welcome to Mojo Moments, I'm your host Thane Calder.
For the final episode of the first season of the Mojo Moments podcast, we wanted to look back on some of the best moments of the season. We discussed a range of topics with our guests, and feel the answers are major mojo boosters.
We start with an excerpt from the episode with Andy Nulman of Play the Future, where he discussed one of the greatest stunts he pulled off, and how his path has crossed with, yes, Donald Trump, on multiple occasions
So listen up.
You told me once a story, and I want people to hear this story of the time - I think it was with Airborne, okay, when you went to a conference... It was something about, you had to do some promo and self-promo thing and you only had a dollar or something.
Okay, wait, just a little context. So Airborne, give us just a little context on Airborne.
Airborne was - we were in the mobile media space, and we used to go to these conferences at STIA. Southern Telecommunications Industry of America, which was this massive conference in New Orleans, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York... And they would take over the Javits Center or the Moscone Center in San Francisco and there'd be thousands upon thousands of people, Verizon and Sprint and Samsung and Sony. It was the mobile industry and the teeny weeny part of the mobile industry at the time was mobile content.
So we have to go ahead and try and make a splash. And it was hard because we were like a teeny weeny company amongst all these other people. So what we did, was what other companies did, we gave up tee shirts, pens, bouncy balls, and we would spend a fortune on this stuff and it had zero impact. Zero. And I would be freaking out all the time and saying, "It's a waste, we're wasting money. No one gives a shit. You know who picks the stuff up the the scroungers who’ll go booth to booth to say, well, let me bring stuff for my kids. I'll get balls and tee shirts and pens and shit.”” And I said, "We can't do it." And it was costing us a fortune. There were $5 a unit, $6 a unit. I'm saying, "That's crazy, we're pissing away money."
I said, "I want to do something - let's find something we can do for a dollar. What can we do for a dollar?" And they brainstorm. They came up with ideas and nobody... We couldn't find anything for a dollar. So then for some - I don't know how it came about. We said, “Okay, we're going to change the word. Nevermind what can we do, what can we do for a dollar. What can we do to a dollar?” Bang! And that (snaps). Okay, let's get a dollar bill and here it is.
So what can we do to a dollar? We could print on it, we can do stuff. Anyway, the ironic thing about this, is how we introduced this, we said we need a product. And the product we were launching at the time was - this is so insane, Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon. It was a game that was played on your phone, this is pre-iPhone, this is a WAPP, you know, a wireless application protocol technology, and...
But super pixallized...
Yes, and we had actual Donald Trump audio recordings that would pop up in the game. And he would tell you stuff, and he would tell you, what a bad deal that was, or give you real estate tips. This is true. We dealt, we were dealing with Donald Trump.
So we said, what can we do for a dollar? So - these are real dollar bills - we took a thousand of these and we printed on them. It says, “There are only two ways to be Donald Trump. One, collect a few billion of these. Two, play Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon,” and then it gave, “visit Airborne at booth number six-three-eight or go to www.trumpmobile.com.”
So, these costs us a dollar. And we printed on them, we had a thousand of them. And I can tell you a ton of stories how we just left them on the ground. People didn't even think they were real. And it all came to a head where, we had about 750 of these left and I was speaking on a panel, with a guy named Trip Hawkins. And Trip Hawkins was the head of EA, Electronic Arts, and Trip Hawkins was like the superstar, everywhere he walked "Trip Hawkins, Trip Hawkins is here."
Yeah, it's EA man.
So, we were so like lucky to be on the panel with this guy we're a bunch of zero nobodies and then Trip Hawkins. So, well, we all had a chance – because we paid for the opportunity to be on this goddamn panel – to pitch our project.
So at one point in time, they said, you know, and we talked about, I was talking about Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon, and I said, we thought to ourselves, how are we going to launch it? And I said, “Let's do it the way that the the Donald would appreciate it.” And at that point in time, I stood up and had four people standing up in the room, each of us had about 150 of these dollars in our hand, and we threw it in the air. People didn't realize what was going on and they looked up, they had no idea, and now here they're - they're coming down like little snow fall...
Like confetti, yeah.
And then suddenly people realized, okay… "Holy shit! It's real money!" And that caused a pandemonium and people freaked out. They were fighting each other, jumping into this, flipping over tables and, it caused so much pandemonium. Trip Hawkins, I'll never forget, said into his microphone, "Oh my God, how do I follow this?" And you know, once we finally brought decorum into the room, you still, the room was buzzing and everyone was looking at the money they had, the money they could have had... And basically the panel session was destroyed. And because of that, I got kicked out. I got banned from the conference, for life, because of, for doing it. This was a preconference at STIA, thank God, because I was allowed into the big one, but I got banned from this conference for life.
But for years after, for years after, people came up to me and said, "Are you throwing dollar bills again? You throwing dollar bills? Are you throwing dollar bills again?" Because that had such an impact. And that, it taught me two things. Two lessons were, one, you have to take the shot. You have to take the shot, you know, versus the bouncy balls and the pens. You have to take the shot. And two, once you do something great, file it, put it away because everyone will say, "Let's do it again." No, you don't want to do it again. You want to find something brand new, better, crazier, wilder, more impact - versus, well, that was, that works. So let me go get and do it again and again and again, with diminishing returns until it becomes, you know, a bouncy ball and a pen.
I love that story. Do you think that Mr. Donald Trump remembers that?
You know what's so funny going through all my stuff, I found, it's amazing the connections we had over the years. This, there was an article in the Globe and Mail, when Airborne was one of the fast 50 companies of Deloitte. We were actually number one in Canada that year, and the headline was, “These guys have Donald Trump on the line.” That was the first, that was the Globe and Mail story I used to do a lot of speaking, and, at the time, the people I did the speaking for, they had all the speakers write an article and they published this magazine that they would give out at all these big speeches, with six or seven of us on the bill at one time. And I found this magazine with Hillary Swank on the cover, and I looked down the sides, of people who wrote articles, and it was me, and a couple other people, and Donald Trump. Donald J. Trump I may add. So I have to laugh. You know, there's nobody, I think I dislike more on earth at this stage of the game. And, it's so funny how our paths were crossed so often.
That was from our first episode with Andy Nulman and how he harnessed a brazen capitalist. Now we’ll shift gears to our last interview of the season with Julian Giacomelli, from RISE Kombucha. He’s deeply interested in how capitalism and sustainability can work together. Here’s his thoughts on that.
We've had these conversations, you know, around capitalism and sustainability. Like, where are we at? Like where's the mojo around this today in the business world? And what are you seeing out there? How do you feel things are going to come out of this COVID era are on that front?
It's a nuanced question. I think that we're living a lot of paradoxes.
We're living a lot of tension. And so we're simultaneously living in the era where the gods are billionaires and most of those folks that have become billionaires, aren't doing anything or very much proactively to help the problems we're having. And a lot of the time it's almost contributing to. So there's still a lot of extractive capitalism.
We're simultaneously seeing a ton of more mainstream initiatives and a lot more interest in particular in climate change. So the awarenesses are growing, I think, in the business world. We're seeing certainly broader adoption of, at the most base level for large companies is ESG. So it's so paying attention to ethics... I'm sorry, environmental, social, and governance. You know, we're seeing definitely an increase in things like the B Corp, which is an effort for a business to get certified and think about how it can be better holistically. Taking into account multi stakeholders. Is there a lot more going on on the ground yet?
No, I don't think so. I think that the COVID circumstances we're under is actually, from that perspective, a positive one in terms of, I do believe that consumers have naturally gone back to more local, or are somehow we're a little bit more connected to trying to support what's good from where they are.
I think we're going to be going through a series of continued shocks that are going to create more urgency for us to change the way we live and the way we do business. And it's helpful, but it's still, let's just say it's not enough. But I am happy to be seeing a greater instance of things going on.
And I think one of the most promising things is I spent a lot of time working with young entrepreneurs, especially in the social and environmentally impactful spaces. And that there does seem to be a growing resistance for young folks to work for the man and do things that they don't believe in. It's promising.
It doesn't mean, you know, there's not enough opportunities. So you've got all these young folks that want to do more purposeful things. And unfortunately there aren't the jobs or even the entrepreneurial opportunities, but I do believe that those are the right forces at work and that we have to go this route.
So I think it's going to get worse before it gets better, because I think there's a simultaneous rise of interest and say consciousness around how we consume and how we want to be in business and also a rise of the, sort of the 1% getting richer. And those folks that have figured stuff out, allowing them to do that, continue that accumulation at an increasing rate. So there's sort of the rise of the good and the bad at the same time.
Do you feel when you look back on your era with RISE Kombucha that you guys did it right? Or is there something, if you could go back, you would have maybe, done differently?
I think we did a lot of things right. More than anything, participating in growing a business. And, you know, especially with the Crudescence. If I count between Crudescence and RISE, the number of employees and staff and folks that we touched and worked with is in the several hundreds, like maybe 500 or plus. And each of those folks had a chance to work in a different mindset kind of business. I think the one thing that I wish we had done a little bit more of in RISE in particular, in the early days was to concretize and articulate better, actually the values that we wanted and what we wanted to see change in the world.
I think what happens is, you know, when you've been in entrepreneurial circles for a long time, as soon as this something starts to go well, the focus is on the scaling. And we all, we all aspire to have businesses that scale, and I'm not advocating at all that we should look for businesses that only stay small.
In fact, my current work these days is trying to find those teams that are scaling, but have some ability to scale. And in those early days, not year one, cause year one, two and three, you're just trying to figure out product market fit. What's the margin? Is there even a product for us? You're not worried about, "How do we come together? How do we organize? How can we have better values?"
I think some of that's innate. But it's in those years, sort of three, four, five, say, maybe a bit earlier in the fast scaling that it is really important to buckle down and ask, you know, the ownership and founding team, how we want to be and what are the values we really want to keep, because if you don't, as you scale, then that can get diluted and loss.
And I wouldn't say it was completely gone from RISE at all. RISE is an amazing place to work, but there was a bit of a period in the middle where there such a focus on just delivering the product. And then we were scaling the accounts and scaling the batch sizes. That a lot of the ways of coming together and some of the early values were inadvertently lost.
And if you don't intentionally hold that as a leader, then it won't hold itself. So I think that's probably the only area that I wish we had leaned in a little bit, but then we were in those days, we were just like, "Holy crap. We got to... How do we make more?" Like just, we couldn't make enough.
So easy to say hard to do. And I think the only way it could have happened was being better prepared. And again, hindsight is 2020, and you don't know what you don't know. So I think part of my interest now in mentoring and working with these younger founders is that - in the hopes that the ones that are lucky enough to be funding that need and market, and product or service, to try to help them earlier on think about, as we scale, how do we want to be coming together? What are the values we really want to live? And how does that show up in the business? Because it's the last frontier.
Now everyone's talking about impact models and margin, but no one talks about what's the organization structure and what's the mindset, and how do we build a culture that really... At the end of the day, once you figured out the product market fit, and you can do that, it's only about how you bring the people together. And it's only about the values that you can create. And if you can create a culture where people care more, that everyone understands why we're coming together and there's some kind of manifesto or purpose, then they will give more and naturally the product will keep getting better and you'll do well.
And there was a bit of that missing in the middle years of RISE.
It's really interesting you say that, because I've had many conversations with entrepreneurs around... like, scaling is a bitch. It's a royal bitch.
I mean, I know at CloudRaker, you know, we've done well, but the scaling part is a whole other kettle of fish, you know. When you look out in the world, have you seen businesses that have done that right? Or one that you would go, "That one I feel scaled right and had the true - you know, captured their values"?
A few. I mean, you know, they're often named, you know, I looked to Patagonia sometimes for good leadership and having really brought the values together. There's a fascinating book by Frédéric Laloux called Reinventing Organizations. And he's gone and found almost 15 organizations and many of them are unknown. So, you know, I can name some of the other classics, Western ones that are now attaching some of these values, but I don't believe that they grew, that way. Like Danone is doing an amazing job of becoming a B Corp and trying to reverse engineer, some of that stuff, but they got to scale through selling bad candies. So I don't that's...
Wait you mean the Danone yogurts?
Yes. So Patagonia is a good example. There are still few and far between, so this is why my thesis right now, is that we are going to find more of these organizations.
Etsy was a good example in many ways, the founder of Etsy and a lot of the way they were really motivated by both power of e-commerce, but also really uplifting individuals and not just commoditizing and selling.
What about Chobani?
Chobani is an example, I mean, he's a powerful force that the early years it was amazing, you know, but if you walked in today to the Chobani offices, I don't know, I'm literally, I'm not saying no, but I don't know that they've necessarily been able to - if you don't ground it in everything about the company, it just gets slowly diluted. It happened at the Body Shop. Joyce was an amazing founder. It happened at Ben and Jerry's. And the legacy of that would be that the company at that scale coming close to a billion dollars would have a place where people really love to work.
And we hear about Zappos. I don't know, these are all examples that I've heard about, but until I've visited and walk the floor and talked to employees, it's hard to know how much of it is like...
It's interesting in the advertising world as a, you know, a famous agency back in the day, Chiat/Day.
Yep. That was the place.
They're the ones behind all the Apple, famous Apple ads. And Jay Chiat once was quoted as saying, we want to see how big we can get before we get bad. And the day that happens, I'm out. And that's when he sold.
I think honestly, even, maybe in another example that I think did incredibly well for a long time is Lululemon.
And I say that because, you can tell more about how a company is doing when the staff gets excited talking to you about their work, then what the consumers say about the product. Because a lot of companies make products that are jewel worthy and that people love. And Lululemon had a culture of learning, had a culture where the store is engaged, their staff that were simply clerks selling clothes in a way that made them feel like they were doing more, engaged them in personal growth pursuits, gave back to the community.
So where would you say they are now? Have they recaptured their mojo? I mean, their stock has, but do you feel...
I don't know. Then, then there's always like the founder leaves through pseudo crises and.
The new folks come in and say "What? You're spending 20% a year on this. And we cut that." So I don't know. I know that it's still a good place to work from a creative perspective, but I'm not sure if they've been able to recapture that. It's also really hard. I mean, the first 10 years of a business are never like the next 20, cause you're still feel like you're part of that original arc.
You still feel like you can remember when there was only whatever a hundred stores or 50 stores or I'm not sure.
And you know, it needs to evolve. It can't stay the same. Like we could never go back to the time in RISE when we were in the 500 stores in Quebec. And there was like literally mob scene when we would launch a new, something new and we were local and all of a sudden it's very different than when we started selling in Vancouver.
And even in the beginning of the U.S., because you can never be that same local business. So you have to find a way to evolve and repurpose, almost. Around the same visions, but it's different when the scale is hyperlocal versus, you know, Pan-Canadian versus something else.
You can really see how important values are for businesses, especially as you scale.
Now when we spoke to Bernard Mariette from Lolë, that’s one thing we dug into. So how do you start something like the Lolë White Tours, scale those, all while keeping your values.
Well that's great. Let me jump into something here. The core of the show is we want to deep dive into whatever it is that makes things special and interesting and, and obviously we're talking to business pioneers. So, in your story and one of the things you've done that, really inspired me and I think a lot of people is your Lolë White Tours. Not everyone knows about them, but just give a little descriptor on that, and I'd like to dive into that a bit.
The Lolë White Tour is a concept of events around the world, which are exceptional for several reasons. The first one is people are coming for a yoga session in white and on yellow mats. It happens that they are Lolë, but they could be any other brand. They come to experience a kind of emotion and community, but also to experience yoga at a beginner level. So you see families coming, you see kids coming, you see men coming. And the emotion it creates to be together in an incredible place - I mean we've done Central Park, the Eiffel tower, the Grand Palais in Paris, the Parc Jean Drapeauin Montreal, the Vieux Port in Montreal. We've done, we've done it like in many, many places.
You did it even, in the Louvres, I think?
Yes, in museums, in the MoMA. And we have like a lineup of places which are just unbelievable in Asia.
And how many people are we talking here?
We're talking between 5,000 and 12,000.
I haven't been to one, but I've seen pictures of them...
Oh, they're just unbelievable.
First of all, they're incredible visually, just visually.
So I can't imagine being there live. Like, what's...
So, you know, like first of all, if people don't come in white and they come in black, well they come in black. And that was one of my concern. But you will be very surprised. I was very surprised, especially by French people, in France. Like we say, well it's a white yoga session and we want everybody to come in white, and you have to pay 35 euro for that, and you have to be there at seven o'clock on Sunday morning. So I was really concerned that we were going to get nobody and the few French we were going to get, were going to not dress in white. Well guess what happened? So we opened the entries, so instead of booking 5,000, we booked a little bit more than 10,000. And I thought even with that, I doubt we....
So you're like, people register, but they won't show up?
Yes. We call them no-shows.
At seven o'clock in the morning, on the Champs-Elysées, there was a lineup of people dressed in white, until half way to the Champs-Elysées, and when we filled by 5,000 people, the Grand Palais, there was the same amount waiting. And I had the duty to go and tell them, look, I'm sorry, it's full.
We can’t fit you in, yeah.
And remember it’s French people, so they have a kind of culture of being upset. So I walk all the way to the line, one by one, saying “I’m very sorry, it's full and we cannot accommodate you, we'll try to do another one.” And there's not one single person who got upset with me. Everybody said “Thank you for coming, to let us know,” and they left! It was unbelievable. But then the magic inside, was just like to the next level. Everybody cried. I cried. It was just magic.
And I'm just picturing like people seeing all these people going... you know, there's always strikes. Every time I go to Paris, there's a strike. But people are like, what strike is this? Everyone's in white. What is this one all about? And this was the first time you did it in Paris?
That was the first time, in Paris.
Why do you think people were gravitating towards this?
I don't think anymore. I'm sure about it. I can see that people get less and less together. You go to a restaurant and you look around you. I mean that's very interesting. And you see people eating together, but both on the telephone. So it's easier to connect, today... I have the impression it's easier to connect with somebody on your phone than with somebody physically.
But I think people are missing this, being together. People are missing a kind of communion, not religions or whatever, but being together, sharing what 99% of the people share, which is peace, harmony, beauty, music, all these things. When we created the white yoga tour, my idea was to put together everything I love.
And the team in Lolë who has executed that, and one of them is Nathalie Binda, and I've got to to say she surpassed the vision I had. But for example, the vision was about being together, young and old, women and men, people educated and people non-educated, rich, and not as rich, even poor. And the idea was to put together everybody, feeling good and to feel good you have to erase the distinction, what creates distinction. If you really look, it was like the cleanness of Californian new wave combined with some clean, I mean it wasn't looking like a military type of thing like...
Yeah, cause it's quite Cartesian, everyone's lined up.
Yeah! So when you mix both, I mean, you create this emotion and the music gets to the next level.
Oh yeah, cause that’s one of the key features which we didn't mention is there's always music...
At the center. I mean whether it’s...
In Paris it was the Opéra.
The Orchestre of the Opéra, because I told you I wanted to put everything I love. So it was about aesthetic, it was about peace, it was about sharing everybody inclusive, not exclusive. So the white yoga tour is really like one of the best things I've done in line with my values and my vision.
And did you see that coming? Is this something you'd been kind of percolating on for years or did it just come?
No, no it's very strange. I know where it's coming from because, I walk around all the time, I'd share with people like you, I share with thousands of people, truly share, not with an agenda, share, be interested by what they're doing. And something always ticked to you. If you’re truly open and you truly listen. And then you don't know why, but one day, boom, it's popping out. And so I love being with people sharing the same thing.
And, in Spain and France, we have something called "Les Fêtes de Bayonne", and the Pamplona party. And it's unbelievable. Everybody's in white with a little red scarf and you see kids, like three years old and 80 years old and they're all dressed in white. And they go out and they party. And of course at the end of the day, late at night, it degenerates into like to heavy party.
And potential red wine stains on...
Yeah, not as white. Exactly. But at the end of the day, it's a communion. And I'll tell you, they don't spend their time on telephone. They are together and they're having fun, and it's great, it's just great. So I always thought I like this kind of unity through one color. And I like this inclusivity from old too young, for everybody.
And one day I went to a yoga event on Times Square. And it was noisy, dirty. Everybody was wearing whatever they wanted. So there was no unity. When I joined, I didn't have a ponytail. I was not an expert in yoga, so everybody was looking at me, "Oh, this guy, he's…” And I could tell like it was exclusive. Oh, you had to do a handstand to be able to be coming to these things.
So I thought, well, that's not what I thought about yoga, I thought yoga was peace, serenity. And yhis is where I had the epiphany. Okay, I'm going to do one in Times Square with all the advertising screen in white and yellow. Speaking about peace. I'm going to stop the traffic in the middle and I'm going to do this event. So I tried it, of course it was just impossible.
Especially because all those screens they're like, no, no, no. Pay us.
That was the story.
Because, was the city on board to do it?
Yes. The city was on board and, I got some of the advertising saying, “Fantastic, we're going to do it,” but of course you always have the odd one saying "oh, I'm going to take advantage of it and I'm going to do my ad." So it was either, we do it perfect, either we don't. So, I decided that we were going to start in Montreal and again, the city was great. We did it at the Olympic stadium.
It was just magic. And then after Central Park accepted, the MoMA, all the museums in Spain, in France... This thing could have a life on its own.
It's so interesting because what you've done, there's so many layers of this, but you've, you brought, not in a narcissistic way, but a real personal passion and interest, something that's really meaningful to you, to a business… You know, when people think of business, they always think of like selling and transacting and where you essentially said - you felt comfortable blending those things.
It's more than comfortable. The reason why I started in Lolë team, is because I realized I could integrate my values, all my values into this brand. And it happens that my values were, in line with the culture of Montreal, in line with the current trends, which is about taking care of the planet, taking care of people around you, taking care of yourself, your health, but not only your physical health, your mental health. That's the luxury I decided I was going to live, is to live within my passion surrounded by people who were sharing the same passion. So there's nothing better.
I don't call it work. Honestly. I call it my life, and the people who were with me at Lolë, or the people that were with me at Quicksilver, they're my friends. They're truly my friends, and I still see them, I still share the same thing. I mean, when somebody in surfing is not doing well, I'm writing to him saying, what the hell is going on? That's the way I want to live. And then yes, I'm selling clothes because I also love clothes and kind of fashion, lifestyle. I believe that everybody is wearing clothes at the end of the day. And so we have to do something good for them. I mix everything.
So as you can see, Bernard is a really meditative guy, and he really thinks about those deeper issues of why he’s doing things a certain way and what they mean. But, what if you’re an Executive who is looking to do some more of that soul searching to connect or reconnect with your values? Well that’s why we chatted with Helen Antoniou.
So you work with - and I'm going to stereotype, cause I'm going to say cigar chomping executives - but very driven, I imagine, very, you know, success-oriented individuals.
Yep. And their teams.
And their teams. Okay. So what's your secret sauce, if you will, to keep their mojo or if they've lost it to get it back or...
My secret sauce? Well, usually, so I don't actually prescribe a secret sauce.
Cause we're trying to get the free version here.
Yeah, yeah. But I don’t - I wish there was one. Just give me a pill. I want a pill that I can lose weight, and then I can have the secret sauce to success.
So obviously it's a process. If someone has lost their mojo, it is through conversation. It's a process that you lead where you try to have them again, once again, step back from their current situation and, you start by trying to see or visualize, you know, “What's the kind of human being that I want to be?”
And not just, “What do I want to do?” It's not a CV thing. It's more a “How do I want to be, how do I want to be in this world? What contribution do I want to make?” And so it's hard to do. It's hard to sort of project your ideal self, but you know, it's to try to get out of your head and try to see something that inspires you... you that inspires you. A future you, a you that's functioning really well...
So once you have that, once you've worked on that, once you've sort of worked on what are the values that drive you... Because usually what happens is we work through a period of our life and we have a lot of success with it by doing, sometimes, by doing a lot of the shoulds. You know, I should do this and I should do that. And I should get this degree from this university and go and work at that place. And, you know, and it's like badges, we accumulate as opposed to...
I see it with the kids' school, like it's so ingrained...
It's crazy ingrained. And there's some external standard that you want to comply to, as opposed to defining your own, of what is something that you'd like to be, something that motivates yourself. So what is it that I aspire to do, aspire to be?
Once you have that, once you start working on that, and once you have a clear vision of that, then you start to say, “Okay, well, where am I now? How do I change the dial to get there?” So and you don't just base it on, “What are my weaknesses that I want to improve on?” Because it's not as motivating. But there's sometimes it's like, “What strengths do I have as well?” So you use a balance of both, the strengths that you want to capitalize on, and weaknesses that you want to gain greater awareness of.
And then also it's, once you've sort of identified these two aspects, in terms of things that you consider are your weaknesses, it's important sometimes to get feedback from others, you know, awareness, self-awareness is something that always, you know, helps us in developing us. You know, the way we perceive ourselves and the way others look at us. Two separate things. And we have biases and whatever.
So it's great to be able to gain greater awareness. You know, when you're triggered, when something goes wrong and you're triggered, and then you regret, “Oh my God, I shouldn't have been so angry or frustrated or whatever.”
Awareness is this ability to sort of like, take that second and pause to see, okay, “Wait a minute. This has happened. I know I'm going to react like this, so let's just calm down.” And I personally, being Greek, I have...
You have emotion?
The escalation from 0 to 10 goes really fast. So, I sort of, pfiou. Cause you always regret it. You often regret it, you know, and sort of says, you know, I wouldn't want that because then I have to say, “I'm sorry,” or that's not how I wanted to come out... So it's seeing how you act and being able to put a pause so that you can actually choose how you want to act and not just be triggered into a certain action.
And then, of course, it's, if you see yourself, if you have an idea of how you want to be, it's good to choose people around you that reinforce these qualities and these ways of being, and that echo that, that stimulate that, that facilitate that. Who you're with plays a big role, you know, your community, it's something that you can be a bit more intentional about.
I'm feeling there's a lot of secret sauce you just shared there.
It's easier to say than do, but hey!
When Helen was talking about being intentional about the company you keep, it made me think back to Mitch Joel and his little communities he’s been building on Facebook. Here’s our chat about his willingness to share his time and advice.
I want to jump on your generosity of giving time and advice to people. In a bit of research came up with, when you were 18, 19 and doing your own magazines at that point, Arena Rock and Enrage, were those the magazines?
Yeah. They were, that's some good research there.
So apparently you reached out to a bunch of magazine editors to get advice. Like you were hounding people. And some did take the time to go through that with you. And I'm just wondering, you know, do you feel that those people who did take the time with you, kind of you felt that that's your sort of your payback to give back to others in terms of advice and, and spending the time? Or was it already there?
Well, I mean, it's hard for something like that to be there. Cause you don't feel... Like who am I to give advice? Like what have I done? I'm basically like a total loser and then, yeah, I mean... It was very illuminating that, and again, I was working in a magazine store and I'd basically look through the mastheads for anybody who had a phone number. And I would just call a bunch of people and say, “Hey, could you spend time with me?” And one person in particular spent a lot of time with me. It was very, very generous and it really gave me a framework for what had to happen.
And, yeah, I do remember thinking I would love to be in a place to be that inspiring to anybody, like what a gift that is. And I don't think the person thought anything of it. Like, I really don't think, I think they were just like, this sounds like a kid who, whatever, I'll just tell him. And he'll probably won't do anything with this information.
And the answer is yes, definitely. In fact, one of the things that I've done while we've been here in confinement is I built - I like building private communities. And I do them primarily with private Facebook groups. And one that I built recently is for... I'll call them thought leaders, but people who do more than just talking and speaking, but genuinely put ideas out into the world. And somebody put a post to the question and they're like, "How do you handle the constant requests for someone who wants to pick your brain?"
And I was just watching the sort of answers come in. It's a small group, it's under a hundred people in there...
Well in my world that's a big group, but that's...
No, but I mean, in terms of like how big groups can be, it's pretty, it's being moderated. And my answer that I put in was I give them the time. Cause like you just never know. I mean, it depends how the ask is, and what they're asking, and how specific it is, and how much work they did. If they've just been carpet bombing anybody who they think has success, you can see it's like a form letter, I'm more hesitant or I'll make them jump through a couple more hoops to see if it's worth everybody's time.
But in general, I try my best to either make some time, point them in a direction if the question is very specific because they've created so much content, I can usually direct them somewhere. Like, “Hey, check this out. And if you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me.”
And it's led to some of, you know, the greatest... I mean, the story that I love to tell now is just, you know, I met a guy who was just out of university, had his law degree, was selling t-shirts online, really enjoyed my content, thought it helped him a lot with his online store... And it's Harley Finkelstein, who's the co-founder of Shopify now.
And it's amazing to watch people who... and really people say, like, you know, he'll say like, “You're a mentor,” it's like, we're friends. Like we became friends and we genuinely enjoy each other's company and spend time with each other. But when you see that happen at that scale, not that I had anything to do with it, but just watching somebody who you know, who was just at the beginning, become a company like that, it really shows you how it's super important to be there, to be present, cause you just don't know.
And if you collect conversations and if you pride yourself on your network, it's really important, and then the other lesson is people like, “Oh, you know, it's these young people who start out…” I mean, they're the future. So why not be a part of the future? So I'm always like, I want to meet as many young people as possible because I want to stay relevant. I want to know what's happening in culture. And if you can help with any information you have, what a gift, like what an amazing place to be in life, right?
So, if you haven't heard of Shopify, check it out, it's Canada’s most valuable company. Thank you, because...
It's about a hundred billion dollar public company.
A little tired of having banks, boring banks - no offense - at the top. But, totally out of curiosity, when Harley first reached out to you, what did he want to know? What advice was he seeking from you?
I think he just wanted to know specifically about digital and the space. It was so early, he felt that he saw it and I feel like it was less like older person giving advice, cause we're not - I mean, he's younger than I, but not that much younger.
I feel like if I think back on it, it was more, he needed validation. He needed to know that he was heading on the right path. He didn't want to feel like he was, you know, that he was in the wrong world. And I think just, you know, me being who I am and me being so bullish, and still am on the space, it gave him a level of comfort. Or when people were saying that, “Well, that's stupid. That won't work.” You’d call me and be like, “Hey, I was thinking this” and I'd be like, “I think that's great. You should totally go for that. Like, why wouldn't you not do that? Like, of course that's where the world is going.” Sometimes you just need that. You don't need a hand...
Yeah, you just need a pat on the back.
Or not even, as I say, sometimes you just need a nod. Someone nodding. Someone just going, “Yeah, I see what you're saying, and I” - or someone who just has the value, right? Like understands your values and what you're trying to do, or the values of the business. And you're just going, “I agree with that. I totally agree with that.”
Moving from a mojo guru in Mitch working behind the scenes, to Amy Black from Penguin Random House who’s there to make sure other peoples’ work becomes reality. Here’s how an editor deals with the diplomacy needed in giving feedback to an author.
So, so you're working with an author and I'm not saying it happened, but did sometimes they come and they bring it to you, you read it, and you're just like, this is really stinky or bad. And you've got to somehow give him feedback, like walk me through that.
Absolutely. Well, the skill of diplomacy is a really necessary one if you're an editor, but the whole relationship relies on honesty. And you have to be able to say to an author that this isn't fulfilling the promise that, you know, their original...
Those are the words you use? "This is not fulfilling the promise here." You're just like, "Ah, eh...." and then they read between the lines that you're not...
I think you would probably have a really involved conversation. I think you would probably use a lot of examples. I think you really wouldn't be doing anyone any favors by writing out a few curse lines on an email and pressing send.
So yeah, you might start with something about the original promise that you saw as perhaps being lost because of... and then I think it's, you know, opens up a conversation and probably a welcome one for an author, because often what that will reveal is what their intention is, even if it's not quite being conveyed and what they have so far written, understanding what their ambition and their original intention is, is so important.
And I think can be transformative for a manuscript once both the editor and the author kind of can see eye to eye on what it is they're trying to achieve there. So, I mean, there are plenty of examples of authors who have started again, or who have had a kind of revelation, whether or not it was influenced by their editor, about taking their manuscript in a totally different direction.
I don't think there would be an overwhelming number of authors who would say my final manuscript matches exactly with the plan I had at the outset. And that can often be amazing, you know, it's like, it can be even better than what was originally planned for.
But are you kind of, as an editor, kind of almost in the end, like even though we give the author the credit, the editor might be part of that creative process and actually bringing it to... Maybe we underestimate the role of editors in great books.
I mean, I think there's probably so many different examples, but every good editor knows the book belongs to the author, and that any editor who is kind of a frustrated writer him or herself, is probably not going to do a great job as an editor because they're going to be overly invested in how a plot or some characterization comes together.
So I think in an ideal world, and it's often often achieved, the editor and the author have some kind of alchemy, and it really does allow the author to create the best possible book. I mean, you know, there are as many different routes to that as you would find books. So I can't say there's a template for how that relationship works, it's different.
But authors and editors become very close and you're really vulnerable as a writer handing over a manuscript and you're really vulnerable as an author having your book published. Something that you've lived with for all these years on your own with a very small circle of trusted people that you've invited in, and then you release it for everybody's judgment.
So in a very small way, I can relate. Like, this podcast, by the way, is extremely embarrassing for me. So I've never listened to my own podcast because the idea of listening to it would just frightened my little boots off. So I just don't want to do that. And Gavin Drummond, a creative director. He was in the theater world and film world. And he said that it's actually quite common, a lot of actors and stuff, not pretending I'm even at that level, but they'd never see their own work or else they would never do another movie again or do whatever, so...
I mean, a lot of authors have a policy of not reading reviews of their work, for example. I mean, that's not uncommon.
Okay. Little anecdote. I actually have a real challenge around writing or, I always did. I had like this discomfort. And so when I was in university, I did a summer program. So I went to Harvard, they had a summer program is like writing about writing. I don't know. It was an immersion in like, writing. So you did nonfiction writing and you did fiction writing.
So in my fiction writing course, you'd write short stories, you'd write it and then come in. And, and the thing is, you give it the end of class and, you know, we're like 10 of us and then the person takes it away and reads it and then comes back, gives feedback in the next session.
And I remember I'd written this thing, which I kind of liked, you know, cause I'd stay up late at night in my little room, it was hot, summertime, it'd be drinking beers and writing. I felt that I was onto something, but I don't know if it was the beer or whatever, but I thought I was into, you know, I liked it. Anyway. So this guy read it. He's like, this is how he gave the feedback.
"I really couldn't stand the... I hated the character, I hated everything," but that's how you put it out there.
He's not an editor. He's not an editor-to-be.
You know what the teacher said? Now, this is my moment of glory.
Let's hear it.
The teacher who was a published dude. Not books, but short stories and like in the New Yorker or whatever. So some credentials. He's like, "Actually, I really liked it. And it's a good sign that you hated it."
Well it's a good point. All criticism is not created equal. So sometimes, you know, if you get panned by the right person, it's sort of an indirect compliment.
Yeah, there we go.
Now if we want to talk about indirect compliments, my conversation with Christiane Germain, definitely started out that way, before we talked more in depth about the core DNA of her hotels.
I'm going to share a little anecdote that I shared with Christiane the other day, cause on a personal front, she didn't realize this, but Le Germain has played a big role in my life. When I started CloudRaker 20 years ago, I didn't have an office, so I would go and use the hotel on Mansfield in Montreal, use the lobby to meet people, try and recruit clients, recruit people, and I just said "well, it's a nice central place to meet." And I would drink the free coffee, eat the apples, and did that for a little while.
So you played a big part in the starting and founding of CloudRaker, and there's another moment, by the way, is, three years after starting the business, went on a business trip to Toronto and stayed at Le Germain, and I'm not blowing any BS here. It was the first moment I felt that I was getting successful. Because I was staying at Le Germain and it was, uh, I felt good. And it was interesting, I shared the hotel room with my business partner, cause we were still keeping an eye on our costs.
That's great. But when you stayed in Toronto, you actually paid for your hotel room. You paid for the room, right? You didn't stay...
Absolutely. No, no, no, no, no. There was nothing... There's been nothing free since. And I think I've paid for that coffee and apples many times over because you're our go-to hotel. So don't worry.
It's a nice story. And you know what I'm, when you told me about it, you know, it's nice to know that you helped in a certain way, you know, you helped someone starting his own business, you know? So you actually were in a way, part of it. So that's great.
You should have asked for shares, you know, where's your, where's your dividend?
Probably, probably. I was too busy running my own business.
Absolutely. So look... You've been a, I forget the name of the French, but you've done the Dragon's Den thing. What’s it...
Dans L'Oeil du Dragon.
Yeah, Dans l'Oeil du Dragon. Do you think the advice you would give some of the startups, would you change whatever advice in thinking now?
It's the same?
Same. Nope. Not there. No, cause I mean, the companies, the entrepreneurs that actually come to Dragon's Den, or Dans l'oeil du dragon, they're starting. And I guess, before COVID, or after, the advices you would give to a small company that starts to me are the same, you know. If you really believe in what you, in the idea you have, and you think you can do it, then you have to have this kind of energy. This is still, I think it's still true, you know, and I think they're great, there're going to be some great opportunities for people who want to start businesses.
When I talk with my teams and talk about different things we should do, and... And I always go back to when we started. And I keep telling them, you know, I don't want to sound like an old... But you have- and I, and I remember when we opened the hotel in Montreal, the one, you actually, uh...
Stole your coffee from.
Used to start your business. And I remember what my thinking was when I started that hotel, and how I was working. And I communicate that to the team. Cause I'm telling them now, I'm telling them, you know, this is what I had in mind when we started this company.
Can you bring us into that a little? What was going on in your mind at that period?
I wanted to offer our guests a good quality product with no frills, but really be close to them and being attentionate to them and listening to what they wanted. So, and I want it to be, to give them a good- the value for me was very, very important, value for their money. And I think this is what we have to go back to.
Not that the value wasn't there, before COVID. It was there, but we have to work harder in getting them, a better value for their money cause people are, I think, people will be... I mean the frills, what we call the frills, like the concierge services and turn-down services and all that stuff won't be that important for a while.
It's going to be, we go back to the real thing and I don't think people will have the same kind of money. I don't think they will spend the same way. I think they will want to have a good human experience because they have been out of human touch. They have been out of- so they will be looking for human touches, and... And the real stuff, not the things, not the showing off stuff, the real, you know, the real attention. And I remember when we started, that's what I had in mind. And that's what I keep telling them, this is what we're going to have to do.
That's really interesting. So when you started the hotel in Quebec City. Did it have that or it was kind of what you learned through that? And then when you did your first expansion, you said, okay, this is important, this element...
I think it had that in a way, because we were doing it, right? It was our business and we were doing it, and it's when we came to Montreal that we had to start finding out what's our DNA? You know, what is it that is different than the other ones? And it became very clear to me that we had a good product. Quality. Lots of quality. I mean, we've always been about quality. But at the same time, it, for me, it was the real, good, human spirit was very, very important. And no, like no frills, no... The frills came afterwards, cause then people started asking for this…
For little extras...
... asking for that and the extra. And so in order to give the extras, you have to raise the prices a little bit, yaddada, and we did it, and it's fine! But I think we're going to go back to a little less, but, as I said, I think the human touch is going to be very important.
And there you have it!
I want thank all our guests for coming on the show, and sharing their insights on how to get and maintain your mojo.
You know, with everything that’s going right now mojo is more important than ever. Here at the podcast we definitely found these conversations around mojo useful, and if you feel like someone could use a little mojo, why not share this podcast.
I would to thank my crew: Xavier, Gisela, Mark, Gavin and the rest of the team at CloudRaker who keep the lights on while we have the time or our lives to chat with great people.
Taking us away for the final time of the season is Chris Velan.
Take care everybody, and we will see you again for season two of the Mojo Moments podcast.