I would describe myself as a man with a lot of questions who endlessly will pursue their answers.
Someone who passionately consumes knowledge in all formats and is addicted to learning. I’m a “passionaholic” with a true enthusiasm for understanding more and more about the world around me and then teaching what I know – second only to my passion for asking questions and sparking curiosity in the minds of others.
So when faced with writing down this journey so that others can see the blueprints to what can create a strong Social Movement it definitely feels a little frivolous and challenging so allow me to tell with my story for some added context and with the wisdom that I picked up along the way.
This is a story I have never told in full before but do understand that it is all true and I kind of feel a bit exposed and vulnerable telling it all but that’s when the magic happens right?
The story to finding my higher purpose is not just contained in just one quick Eureka moment but in a serendipitous flow of life – of risk and of exploration – and of catalyst realizations that helped shape who I am today.
Ever since I was 10 years old my father told me a life changing quote that still carries with me until today.
Attitude is everything.
It seemed wise at the time despite its wisdom truly eluding me for a few more years.
In light of his perceived wisdom I took on my first business ideas inspired by my Father. The ideas spanned from a coin counting service for peoples change jars to a small eBay enterprise of selling box set DVD’s from Amazon to eBay buyers and some Pokemon pins from a local flea market. The money from these ventures funded my highest of purposes at the time: playing video games and despite my love for sports there is nothing in the world that allows you to immerse yourself into another life and outlook on reality quite like a video game.
My love for entrepreneurship and video games began to merge as I actually began creating a full on business in some of the video games that I would play and it is with this experience and knowledge that I finally knew what I wanted to do in University.
I wanted to be an Entrepreneur.
Now surprisingly my exposure to what it meant to be an entrepreneur actually came from my Mother. She had owned a string of children’s clothing stores when I was young and I use to always think it was cool that my mom was the boss. That we could do whatever we wanted in her store (within reason) and that she really did earn her own merits through her own efforts. Something I had always been drawn to.
As I got older she had chosen to shut down her store and go for more traditional type jobs which in my mind seemed to enslave her. Her passion for what we did for a living was replaced with her will to have a more stress free work style but I feel as if she sacrificed her dreams to be with the family more on weekends.
From her I learned another valuable lesson: I wanted to be free.
Be my own boss. Do my own thing. Make my own mistakes and explore my own path as oppose to building someone else’s dream so my choice as to what program I would attend in my “higher education” became even clearer.
Soon before attending school full time at McGill – a well respected Canadian College in the field of Entrepreneurship and Marketing and I began to have idea’s swirling in my mind as to what I would do with my life – what I wanted to learn from school and how I can apply it to make the world a better place.
I do find it important to mention that my entrepreneurial spirit is not one motivated by money but one that is motivated my an insatiable thirst for knowledge – a genuine curiosity for how the things work and what gets people ticking – and chiefly a large motivation to under WHY people do what they do.
Every Journey Begins With A Single Step
My journey into the world of Entrepreneurship began with me buying an indoor Skatepark called South Parc in 2007.
I had been a skateboarder in my teenage years and the truth was I was looking for a place to explore this idea I had. A place where people could gather in a more relaxed setting and discuss philosophy – ideas – have affordable drinks and delicious food and really become an oasis for the youth of the suburban Montreal South Shore that featured nothing more than McDonald’s as its crown jewel. I called it “ Lounge” and it was to be a franchise establishment that would compete the overpriced clubs and bars that really didn’t cater to the person who just wanted to “chill”.
South Parc proved to be the perfect training grounds for what would later become the inspiration for what I am still passionate about and operating today.
It was a huge undertaking for an 18 year old full time McGill student with a dream. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of assumed debt – my life savings from my Reno Depot job (a Canadian equivalent for Home Depot) – some loaned money from my supportive family with a fairly sizeable interest rate and a team of 4 people. I became a 50% owner of a business with some serious overhead.
This was no small Skatepark. 18,000+ sq ft of ramps and prime skateboarding real estate – a 7,000+ foot skateshop and snack counter and a real sizable business with a half million dollars in annual revenue and 20k+ a month in fixed overhead just including rent – utilities and insurances.
Did I mention I was taking 5 classes in University?
What I learned at South Parc – I applied at school – what I learnt at school – I applied at South Parc and before you know it 3 years later the business had reached all its goals. We had upgraded the park – paid off all the debts and loans – turned a failing business into a modestly successful venture – upgraded the shop to have the biggest collection of skateboards for sale in the world and I have to say I was (and still am) so proud.
That being said I still had this idea for the  Lounge though. I had spent not only 3 years working full time and doing homework and exams but I had also built the best business plan I have ever put together even still to this day.
I had boiled it all down to a 50 page document covering all topics you could think of and even 3 years of financials boiled down to the pennies and nickels (with 3 different revenue targets) – a full menu designed – graphic designers – website – marketing strategies – food suppliers – furniture – kitchen equipment – you name it I had put all the pieces together – I had even successfully pitched for a 250,000$ loan at the bank which seemed to be going through until a small life changing period of time came upon our world.
The Financial Crisis.
Getting a loan right after the Financial Crisis hit was like trying to gamble your way to riches and hit the jackpot at the Casino. I visited 8 banks – had researched and applied for countless grants – explored the options of venture capitalists and so called angels but there was no salvation to be had.
Loans were inexistent and I began to become really discouraged especially as I began to learn where money came from.
Has it ever dawned upon you that our money system is based purely on a system of debt?
There is more debt than there is money in this world creating an artificial scarcity in the money supply itself as if we are playing a giant game of musical chairs and ensuring people will lose and that the average folk will be enslaved to this inflation (devaluation really) and thus run on the hamster wheel.
That just isn’t right.
I could explain this forever but what I can tell you is that a documentary called Zeitgeist radically shifted my perspective and inspired one of my deepest rabbit holes of research in my life.
What I will say is that this knowledge hit me like a ton of bricks and made me angry at the world and the system. I spent months trying to learn about how I could create a new story that would allow this dream to still become a reality – and then I heard a story a very inspiring story. One you have surely heard before about a man who traded his way up from a paperclip to a home and I remembered something inherently life changing.
You see I didn’t want money – what I really wanted was what money could buy me.
The furniture – the kitchen equipment – the tools and tangible items were what I truly needed to make this dream a reality and this shift is something that I will never forget. I had spent so much effort chasing coin but the truth was there was an alternative path – in fact I can tell you that in all cases in this realm of existence in everything you think is black and white – there is tons of grey. There is always opportunity.
The harsh truth was that I was playing the old musical chairs game the whole time but the reality was to step out of the game implied no longer rely on this system but on myself.
So in this context I became an expert at Craigslist – finding failed businesses in a hard economic times was easy – especially restaurants and matching them with willing equipment buyers was doable.
What I decided is that I would create value out of nothing by linking the two parties together in the same way that any agent would as more often than not in business its not always about what you know but about who you know.
So I began to trade.
Buyer A meet Seller B – for making this deal happen – ya I’ll take the microwave. You would be surprised what you can score yourself as a middle man to other peoples needs as the idea of connecting the dots had never fully occurred to me until these desperate times.
Soon enough I had an entire kitchen coming my way and I even had containers filled with leather couches that I needed for the lounge and I had fully traded my way into having EVERY SINGLE PIECE of the puzzle that I needed except one…
This is when an unfortunate situation arose.
This entire 3 year period I had spent working – studying – trading – and although my partners and I were mainly on the same page as our lease came up and our option had a higher rent – we were unable to negotiate proper terms that would have myself and all my partners be happy and end up on the same page. We had hit a stalemate.
They wanted to expand the skate shop even more and potentially look at other locations in a more thriving commercial environment and I had done all the planning – architectural design work – and things for our current location.
Long story short after some very tough conversations and decisions I ended up selling my shares in South Parc for a fair chunk of change and as my last semester at McGill approached I decided to travel the world.
Why? Because I had lost my identity.
My identity as a student was rapidly fading – my entrepreneurial livelihood had now been sold off – my dream of  Lounge had been washed away and I was at my life’s biggest fork in the road. But everything seems more silly in retrospect really.
So I took to the road on the path less travelled.
A backpack – passport – no plans or itinerary – I hopped from city travelling alone for an entire summer. Australia – China – Spain – Portugal – all inspiring and beautiful places that helped me regain a sense of what I wanted to do and what was my next move.
What I had decided that I was going to reverse engineer the concepts behind the lounge but I still hadn’t figured out how.
Upon my last day of my school in my last exam – I had a “Eureka” moment.
Smack in the middle of a 3 hour long final exam I stopped and wrote a powerful poem that has served as my guide for my purpose ever since. I had finally written down my ever-elusive concept of why I was doing what I was doing into what has now become my personal manifesto and my life has never been the same since.
After this moment I decided to live a life of purpose &
to serve others through my passion and talents.
The first thing I decided was that I needed to write a 5 year plan THAT DAY of where I wanted to be within 5 years time – which is actually coming to its end now.
Now I would show you that list but its really personal and got a lot more than just my business goals on there but what I can tell you is that I FAR exceeded where I thought I would be in many respects and I very much took a step on ALL my items I had put down. It is truly incredible how intentions can manifest anything you want in your life.
The first step I told myself is that I needed to give what I was going to do a name and figure out exactly WHY I was going to do it.
So luckily I had bought myself a sizeable amount of psychedelic mushrooms – made my way to a beautiful park with one of my best buddies – turned on some binaural beats – climbed a massive tree a meditated.
Standing in the tree – Dec. 21st 2010 – High as you can possibly be –
I had a download from the universe that would forever change me.
I wish I could explain to you what this means – but the best I can say is this. (Hu)Man has always wondered Why we are here on this planet? What is the purpose of life and how did we fit into it. What I realized that night was an answer that can only be said without words – which of course I ended up terming “Simply Because”.
I knew I wanted to do something in Marketing but I had no idea what or how to do it? It’s not like school had prepared me for anything of the sort but my experience as an entrepreneur did tell me one thing.
I needed to create a story… Thus Why? Simply Because – or more commonly known by my future clients as W?SB! Media Inc. was born.
When I started what I knew was I was going to reverse engineer the community I wanted to see take hold at  Lounge and that the method to doing such was also going to stem from the concepts I had learned thanks to my time scouring craigslist…
So we launched our first FREE event. Donations were welcomed sure but we (as this idea quickly began attracting a team) put together a 300 person event known as Dreamcatcher on a rainy Monday night at arguably the nicest classic theatre in Montreal known as the Rialto all for under 200 bucks.
What did we do? How did we do it?
It’s simple we decided to live by a motto of not only learning something new everyday but also:
We decided to live by a motto of not only learn something new everyday but also:
So we did.
We found talent who wanted a big stage – a stage that wanted to attract clients on a dead night – and sponsors who wanted a wider audience and we had a show and gave the audience a free show – with cheap sponsored beer – and a way better Monday night than most. We had done such a good job pulling together 25+ acts that night to an unheard of event that in the lead up to the event the Montreal Gazette the most read english newspaper in our area had picked up the story. YouTube stars Epic Meal Time showed up and tweeted about it – and we had Buonanotte – a high end Montreal superclub that has been around for ages and always has Ferraris parked out front cater the event as a sponsor – a local beer company provide 500 free beers to the performers + the bar and even had a kitchenware brand Cuisinox sponsor our eating contest which we had challenged Epic Meal Time to. Actually the whole wrestling belt idea they had eventually used in their videos came from that night. Here is a sneak peak into that night and many more:
This began to reaffirm the superpowers I had fallen ass backwards into discovering.
Money was not what made world go round. Incentive is.
If I could line up the perfect system of incentives than anything is possible without having a big wallet.
There is one catch:
Your ideas have to be big – scary and crazy enough to really make people want to support it.
Nobody questioned JFK when talking about landing on the moon. In fact it is because of the almost absurdity of the idea that indeed makes chasing it so appealing.
Nobody goes out to of their way to pay attention to the mundane – we are in fact drawn to the extraordinary by nature as our curiosity as individuals is in fact what makes the human world go round.
So I decided to begin to step it up – Dreamcatcher was great but what else could we do to shatter this paradigm?
Soon we had set our sites on doing a massive flash mob with Just For Laughs – the world’s largest comedy festival and the biggest outdoor stage Montreal has every year.
Honestly how this all unfolded was unreal. We had met a hypnotist at our second staging of Dreamcatcher who said he would pay us to film him at Just For Laughs but also get us a spot if we gave him a discount. One thing lead to another an before we knew it we were going to be on the main stage right as work ended on a Thursday night at Just For Laughs. We had no idea how many people would show up and we had completely put ourselves on the line in the hopes that it would work out. We played the music from one of my favorite movies Requiem For A Dream and then “Follow the Leader” and it was a game changer for me and it began to shatter paradigms in my circles.
Looking back at it – the real paradigm that was shattering was my own.
I began to wonder what paradigms need shifting and thus began a spiral that has manifested itself into something beautiful in my life today. What could I use my superpowers to do and how could they now serve the world and not just my own interests?
So what I did is I wrote down what I now evolved into being an Impossible List – Shoutout to Joel Runyon from ImpossibleHQ.com for the name idea – not just a bucket list but a dream list that if someone saw they would think I’m crazy. Some of them are definitely less than “impossible” but they might have felt such to me at a time or been one of my limiting beliefs in any given moment. This now serves as a guide to my life in many regards and helps me structure the steps I need to take to get there.
One of the top underlying themes in making my lists was the concept of “Learn More – Do More” alongside the “Change the World for Better”.
If I learnt more and did more I would essentially be changing more and be better equipped to have a perpetually bigger and more positive impact.
Knowledge is the first step to changing the world. The second step is to act upon that knowledge once you have acquired it. Both of these seemed very true but little did I know how profoundly it would impact me going forward.
One of the best places to learn today is on the Internet.
I always say that the biggest tragedy of my life occurred one night when I was sitting in front of my computer with Google open and I had no idea what to type in?
To have the world at our fingertips and not know what to look for is a paradox of choice at it’s finest. The fact that we have more choice than ever before is actually what is leading to more confusion than anything else – science can prove it. Anyways that’s a story for another day but what I can tell you is that on
…that day I ended up finding this graphic and it sent me down a spiral.
I realized that there was much for me to learn and that I needed to begin now and so I ended up stumbling across a site called Infowars.com featuring Alex Jones.
I became addicted to documentaries – conspiracy theories and for a while shifted into being a “doomsdayer”.
There is only so much horrible news about the state of our world that you can begin to watch before shit starts hitting the fan. After I had learned about the falsehood of money – the serious reality of my own lifestyle began to weigh upon me as to the consequences it implied to nature were staggering. I felt so hopeless to doing anything and I kept learning more and more about the problems and felt there was so little being offered on the side of solutions more so than prepare for disaster that I felt there needed to be more. Alex Jones is an awesome human being – but at the end of the day he is yet another news network selling fear. Truth? Perhaps – I definitely think for the most part Alex is doing a good job – but he isn’t always right and you need to take what anybody tells you with a grain of salt.
I can sit here and tell you stat after stat like the ones found in the graphic but to be honest dwelling upon the knowledge problem is only the first step in creating change.
So I decided to act.
You see one of the most important things I learned from W?SB was that documentation was everything.
If I was documenting my story than it was the only way it would be available for it to actually live.
Nobody can read a book that doesn’t exist. I realized that the power of the media can be used for harm like the mainstream news loves to do but it can also be used to for change and so I took this as my new personal mission.
Learn videography – websites – graphic designs and lets look to be a part of the content producers initiating positive social change versus just the ones consuming it. Needless to say around the time I released the below video the Occupy Movement and the backlash to the financial fraud – oops sorry I mean “crisis” – began to take hold.
When Occupy Wall Street began I became a self appointed Journalist.
I went to occupy to start filming and begin my to develop my understanding and passion for Storytelling. I realized how stories and websites had changed me – from Zeitgeist – to Infowars – to documentaries in general my dream now became to tell the my own story of how I was taking part.
I faked being a pro journalist – literally by just saying I was and filming,
so that I could actually become one.
At Occupy Montreal – I ended up meeting Lawrence Miglialo – someone who I knew from High School vaguely as he was a year younger but we had never spoken. I began interviewing people including Lawrence as he worked at a bank and things began to shift. I also so happened to run into David Suzuki – a iconic Canadian activist who seemed to be all over TV as the scientist sounding the alarms to the environmental disasters we kept inflicting. He was a hero and I knew it and so I scored an interview with him after I somehow recognized him at Occupy Montreal.
Tens of thousands of views later and I knew I was unto something.
Within days Lawrence and I became closer and closer and having discussed going down to Occupy Wall Street – we had jumped in my car and decided it was happening.
What I learnt at Occupy Wall Street began a entire winter of documenting change. I went to Occupy Boston – Occupy Forth Lauderdale in Florida many more.
What I had felt however was that as beautiful as occupy was it was still a protest. Still another movement fuelled by negativity and despite all rage and the noise – there were very few real solutions being proposed. I mean yes saying no to austerity and “Jail the Bankers” are “solutions” but they are short term solutions to a very large and long term systematic problem.
All this to say the cause of ALL the problems in our world were still being faced by our importance and ideology of Money.
You know money is the worlds single largest belief system. It is bigger than all religions and more commonly accepted and overlooked than anything else in society. It just seemed like everyone was so damn blind to this and even if they weren’t it felt hopeless.
At the peak of my cynicism of the world
I found a ray of hope.
There is a saying:
I also became super well versed on a growing icon in the movement towards change who was actually running for President and making waves that were even making me feel “Hope” despite the Obama campaign selling it.
You see Ron Paul is the only politician in the history of politicians I have ever liked. Now I can add people like Bernie Sanders the independent from Vermont to that list and maybe 1 or 2 more. Ron Paul is the only person who had the guts to say that we should End the Fed – which basically promoted having competing currencies and abolishing the fractional reserve system that was crippling our world.
Ron Paul is a real life superhero to me and although I had seen others before – he amongst all of them got me the most inspired to know that even one man can be behind a revolution.
Lawrence and a group of us including Greg and Marty ended up setting up a road trip to go see Ron Paul at Cornell University. With a nice camera and a good story you can get exclusive access to anywhere and that allowed us to get on the ground floor and the post speech press room with Ron Paul and I couldn’t believe how inspired I was.
On the drive home from that speech after being stuck on the 401 behind a truck that had crashed and taken up the whole road – myself and Greg literally slept on the highway while clean up crews reopened the road. I had another Eureka moment.
I was going to start a Revolution.
The kind that Ron Paul had already started and I was going to be just another torch bearer. The kind of revolution that spoke about personal responsibility to the problems we face and focused upon actionable solutions versus just the protest.
Out of this notion came the idea the natural solution. What our world needed was long term thinking – real sustainability and we had the responsibility of voting with our attention – our time and our dollars each and every single day.
So I searched for land and thought about how earlier that year my father and I had scouted and found and bought land for a vineyard project he had in mind which also surrounded sustainability and some conversations I heard about how farmers could “dezone” land without actually dezoning it so they could live on it and how farm land was being protected against developers in what is clearly going to be a losing fight and thought that’s a pretty interesting loophole – what makes someone a farmer?
As I dove into this question the answers I learnt seem to all point to how being able to buy a large piece of land and begin promoting long term thinking and a more sustainable mindset and lifestyle became feasible. So I went to my local garden Centre – shoutout to our now sponsors Centre De Jardin Brossard – picked up some trees – planted them – dug a pond as a source for water and what was at the time known as Project A.S.C.K. (Action, Sustainability, Community, Knowledge) or “The Land” was born alongside Greg, Germ, Lawrence and Marty.
Towards the end the 2012 season it occurred to me that to make this happen wasn’t going to happen alone – that we were going to need a space where we could consistently meet up – almost like a community centre where we could congregate, learn play and act together and the idea of building a Sustainability Learning Centre was born. However we didn’t have to build a building to start a community we just needed to have a place we can meet up today.
I had simultaneously heard of this website HighExistence a few years back but met someone who wrote for them named Phil Drolet a few months prior and reached out to Jordan Lejuwaan the founder of the site. Although he ended up telling me he was really busy and to follow up in a few months – when I did things took off.
After 2 skype calls Jordan said he was going to move to Montreal and help us build this project alongside us and then it hit me that this was really going to happen and we needed to find a place for Jordan and us to live and work together.
Lawrence and I scoured the nearby homes for For Rent signs and ended up stumbling across a house that was for sale but that was completely empty.
The chances of this are staggeringly low as it was only a 3 minute drive away from the land – and on August 1st 2012 we moved into the first Valhalla Headquarters and have been building it ever since.
I would dive into more about Valhalla but the truth is you should just go check out our site and subscribe to our YouTube – we are constantly challenging ourselves to play a better game and learning new things and Valhalla really is like a sandbox for all of to go play in and explore new possibilities. We are all about solutions and about being open and loving to all people – ideas – living things and to just truly care about our environment and the long term effects we have on it.
“This is true because we must “be” before we can “do,” and we can “do” only to the extent which we “are,” and what we “are” depends upon what we “think.””
Today I am now committed to teaching the superpowers I picked up over the years and continue to pick up every day.
I truly believe our world needs more everyday superheroes if we are going to change it – and that change starts right here right now.