When I used to work at MuchMusic, we were a tight little team. Most of us were fresh out of school - naive, passionate and driven. We spent hours creating leading edge television which resonated with a whole generation of music lovers. Some of us left early on, others jumped midstream and there are still a couple who are still there.
It's always fun for me to reconnect with old "Much" friends and see what path they've taken. Serendipity put me in the same room with one such old buddy when American Express invited me to the meet Evan Malach, winner of the travel category for the Room For Thought program.
My old colleague Les Stroud, also known as Survivorman, was invited to mentor Evan as he brainstormed his winning travel concept into reality.
When Les spotted me across the room, he raced over to give me a huge hug. We haven't seen each other for literally decades. Les was a floor director at Much while I was on air. Amazing how both of us have taken such different paths that lead us to this event.
The irony of us sitting together brought together by a brand whose tag like is Realize Your Potential wasn't lost on us. Les remembered how our boss, Moses Znaimer, gave everyone who worked for him an open field to do whatever we wanted. It was up to each individual as to how much of the opportunity you took advantage of.
We chatted about the fact that we're both opportunists in the best sense of the word. Les shared how he quit Much, went to work as a gas station attendant and pondered what he wanted to do in life. His love was adventure, so he took the inititiative to take every kind of outdoor wilderness course - kayaking, dog sledding, outdoor survivor, etc!
After watching an episode of the very first season of Survivor, he was inspired to cold call Discovery Channel and offer them a low budget documentary he would shoot himself (thanks to his former days at Much) capturing a year living in the wild with his wife. They bought it and he had a new career.
Les Stroud is a self made success story. He leads with is heart and works incredibly hard to have the amazing life he's enjoying with his teenage kids. He's been working hard on making sure his kids don't become the "entitled ones". He reminds them to be grateful for all they have and reinforces the importance of hard work and perseverance.
That's some of the advice Les shared with Evan Malach, a 24-year-old idealist who dreamed up the winning travel concept for the Room For Thought program.
Second Chance Travel was inspired by an incident where Evan was skiing in Blackcomb and went out of the designated area. He lost his way and was forced to spend the night freezing in the mountains, hoping to survive ordeal alive! It was the survival tips he remembered from the Survivorman TV series that allowed him to survive.
While waiting to be rescued, Evan pondered a quote texted to him just that afternoon.
"What we have done for ourselves alone lies with us. What we have done for other and the world remains and is immortal' - Albert Pike
It was then Evan dreamed of creating a program in which survivors volunteer to work with those struggling with their own quests for survival. And to bring it full circle, his mentor was Les Stroud. Evan calls it all coming together kismet.
Talking to Evan, you can feel his enthusiasm and youthful exuberance. Les helped him temper his naiveté and is helping take his project from idea to reality. His advice: hard work, align yourself with like-minded organizations, and trust your heart to lead you to the right place.
Hats off to American Express for bringing all of us dreamers and entrepreneurs together. I walked away inspired.
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