Sometimes a show is more than a show.
Sometimes a show is a connection to
a, person that somehow has something
going on in their world that radiates
positivity, energy, success, but success
in a different way than is normal.
And today we get to do that.
This conversation with
Louis Gagnon is just magic.
And I am so grateful for the
chance that I had to talk to him
and that you're gonna have today
to experience that conversation.
Louis is has been a rockstar
for much of his life, has.
Led monster.com audible, a whole
bunch of other really cool companies
as chief marketing Officer, chief
Product Officer has built some
really amazing things in his life.
And today you get to hear his
story and you get to learn about
not just his story, but the wisdom
that comes out of his story.
And I am so grateful that you get
this chance to do that with me today.
So buckle up.
This is a good one.
Louis Gagnon welcome to the
Advisory Board Insider podcast.
I am really glad you're here.
Thank you, Tom.
I'm really glad to be here too.
So where are you located
in the world right now.
I am about 10 miles from Manhattan
in a beautiful town on the
Jersey side called Montclair
And what was your morning
drink of choice this morning?
Or what's your typical
morning drink of choice?
Water with lemon.
Water with lemon.
And is that is there a
health reason for that?
Is there a, what, what's the reason behind
lemon part is supposed to be cleansing and
so, I have a, a very kind of regimented
routine in the morning, and I start
with that cleansing so that my stomach
is ready for the breakfast that I will
have after my regiment, if you like.
and so in your morning regimen, which is
really sounds really very well defined,
what else happens in your morning, like
as you get up on an average, normal day?
What's your morning regimen look
So, I try to sleep well, which
is lo at least eight hours.
Then I have a tall glass of water.
I do some yoga, exercise, stretching
just to activate my spine just so
that all of my nervous terminations
are kind of ready to fire up.
Then I go play pickleball.
I play like most of us.
I don't know if you're in that
bandwagon yet, but there's a lot
of Americans playing pickleball,
And so I play couple hours and I
come back and then I do breathing
exercises, and then I do meditation.
And then I have quick breakfast and I'm
ready to have the most beautiful day.
Well that's really cool.
So thank you for sharing that.
'cause it gives me a sense, a
little bit more of who you are.
But I want you to rewind and I get the
sense that you and I are roughly the
same age because I did some digging
and I don't know you other than this
conversation the first time we've talked.
So, I went and did some digging
and I, I get the sense that in 19
83, 19 84, you were in Quebec City.
So give me a sense, at that age,
what are you dreaming about?
What are you thinking about?
What's this future look like that's
unfolding in front of you as you enter
the, the, the last years of high school?
Hockey as any good Quebecer is
front and center in my life.
I'm playing it and I am thinking
at that time, well, you know,
I'm a good player, maybe.
Maybe I could like go to
college and play hockey.
Maybe I could even get drafted.
That was the dream.
And besides there was obviously
Very, very generally defined as I
won, understand the world and I want
to be able to impact it in some ways.
Very broad at that stage.
So I read somewhere 'cause I went digging
even deeper than your LinkedIn profile.
I read somewhere or I heard somewhere
that you worked as a part-time
orderly at a psychiatric hospital.
Tell me about that.
There was a huge institution about
five minutes from my parents' place.
And I had an aunt who had been a
patient in there since the age of three.
She was blind, got a surgery, and
they touched a nerve to her brain.
And she stayed at the
mental age of three or four.
And so I got exposed to.
The institution you know,
like the Cuckoo's Nest that
the famous movie showed us.
I saw that very early and was
fascinated by the whole scene
and how one ended up there.
And so when I was 18, the first thing
I wanted was to be part of this.
And I don't know if you
remember, 1884 1984 Quebec City
was welcoming the tall boats.
And this was supposed to be a huge event.
And so they recruited 10 students to work
in a department that would be dedicated
to welcoming The people would come to the
event and kind of, lose their balance.
Which is something that happens
in any big international events.
So I started doing that that summer and
stayed in the institution for four or
five years throughout my undergrad and
did absolutely everything that one can do.
And orderly to this date remains
one of the most beautiful,
satisfying job I have ever had.
So why is that?
What causes it to be beautiful?
Instant gratification in helping,
making a difference in someone's day.
I really cared about the
40 people in my department.
So I was never in the nurse
post talking to the staff.
I was on the floor rocking with the
patients and hearing their stories and
trying to give them something, trying to
just listen to their stories of the day.
I had some, so many amazing
stories I heard over the years.
One patient was constantly scheming of
going out of the hospital and evading
the hospital, and I aced her planning
exercise for at least two years every day.
And every day I would just listen
and not deny her the dream of
coming out, but just lay along.
And so that is the sort of
satisfaction one gets when one sees
that one is being listened and being
happy to just being listened to.
And so it's just like giving joy
and, and happiness as much as you
can on a daily basis is pretty rare.
and yet there's something to me that's
intriguing about your spirit because your
aunt, you said was in there, but there's
something because so many people see the
other and feel a level of disconnect.
And they, they kind of avoid
that otherness of someone who has
mental or emotional challenges.
We kind of avoid them.
tend, you tended to run into
them like you, you tended to.
So what, what was inside of you that
was causing that desire to connect
with those very special people?
Like what, what was different there
for you than the average 18 year
old who's, you know, playing hockey
Yeah, look, I don't want to make
a generalization about others.
As much as I will say what I felt I don't
feel qualified to make that judgment,
but I felt that I was no different.
I felt that I was one with them.
I felt that whatever had
happened to them that led them
here could have happened to me.
'cause I had an aunt, wasn't there?
I, I mean, it was very clear.
The deduction, the implication of that
to me was, look how lucky you are, man.
And yet, so you're, doing this and then
you're going through your undergrad, and
your undergrad appears to be in business
international affairs, and then you
do a master's of science in marketing.
So there seems to be a big disc.
Well, I mean, it's all connected
in your, your world, but from me
sitting from the outside, here's
somebody who's, who's involved as an
orderly in a psychiatric hospital.
And yet on the, it's sort of your,
focus is marketing and business
and international affairs, which
is such a unique combination.
I'm, I'm deeply intrigued what the
decision process was to go that direction.
Yeah, it's fascinating
how we get to things.
I wanted to be a philosopher
and my dad told me, look buddy.
Try and find something that's gonna
bring some food on your table, because
I'm done by the time you're 18.
And so, I considered the following.
I said, well, if I cannot understand
the nature of the world, maybe
I can understand how it works
and maybe I can actually
be an actor in it.
And that's the business path.
So from orderly to business
school is that, and then as an
orderly, 1988 is the time of the
We're taking those people in the
institution, putting them out in
the streets and different resources.
There's a big corpus of knowledge and
studies that's happening at that time.
18 PhDs at my hospital alone.
Trying to structure that thing.
And as an orderly, I'm talking
to patients and I ask them,
why are you gonna come out?
And they say, I'm gonna have more
cigarettes, more sex, and more freedom.
I was like, okay, so that,
is that what they told you?
Said, no, they're not telling me much.
Then I go in the community and I ask
my neighbors, would you, would you mind
if we had like a bunch of people from
there in here and absolutely no way ever.
And then I talk to the, the employees
and realize that they had no clue either.
So I went to the president of the hospital
and I said, sir, you have a major problem.
Nobody wants this thing to
happen and you need to understand
the motivations a little more.
And I had marketing one 1 0 1
under my belt and he said, look,
kid, what do you want to do?
And I said, I want to do focus group
and I want to do surveys and I really
want understand what's happening
and make some recommendations.
And he said, yes, only if you
can work with the 18 PhDs I have.
I said, sure, let me
take their permission.
I work with them.
They all said yes, except one at the
end of my study, which is amazing.
The president was asking for $70 million
of extra resources to do interventions
in the community to sell this thing.
This is the beginning of social marketing
to sell this thing to the world.
And that that PhD who said No, called me
to tell me about the beta error that I had
carried throughout my experimental device.
I had no idea what he was talking about.
And that day I said to
myself, never again.
I'm going to go get a.
The tools and the technical knowledge
so that I have the technical
means to do what I want to do.
And that was my master's in science.
So you've got a business degree, you've
got an international affairs degree, and
then a Master's of science and marketing.
And then you go overseas,
like you head overseas.
So I read, you started in
where did you start Rwanda?
I think you started.
So, you know, in life it's
interesting how people identify what
you want and who you are early on.
And they send opportunities to you.
And if you are well
intended, it's gonna come.
And so I, I wanted to do the international
thing and I had a track record.
I've been selected to write a book
in Taiwan and to go work in New York
at my grad school and coming out,
same teacher given me some of those
opportunities, says, you know, I
heard of a, an organization called
Population Services International.
They're doing social marketing, which
you did at the psychiatric hospital,
but they're doing it for the AIDS
pandemic and they're doing it globally.
And the AIDS pandemic is
the issue of the time.
And I'm like, okay, I'm interviewing
with the McKinsey at the time, and I'm
like, am am I gonna be a, a junior there?
Or am I gonna go there, do things.
And I decided that I would go do things.
So I took a job in with $40,000 of
traveler's checks in my money belt to
go launch a program that was unfunded,
that I needed to steal a contract from
another organization to get funded.
long story short, two years
later, we saved 15,000 lives.
Had a huge impact.
I became sort of a well-known
quantity in the development world,
apply those business technique
techniques to a social cause.
And so I went to London and got
hired to do the same thing, but
this time with European dollars
as opposed to American dollars.
And I did that in another eight countries.
In total, we basically were
commercializing condoms, communications,
distribution, brand local brand,
local, relevance education and all
of this using modern techniques.
But we would sell the condoms
at a very, very low price and
get the UN and the big funding
institutions to subsidize the price.
And so I became an expert at that.
And that was the first
chapters from Rwanda to Europe.
And then in Europe I'm
analyzing everything that's
happening in social marketing.
I have a keen analytical eye and
I realized that it's not working.
Even if we are the best means
to propagate AIDS prevention
we're a drop in the bucket, like.
There is no mass diffusion.
It saturates after so many years
because we don't have what's called
in marketing the word of mouth effect.
Usually if I see you and I like you and I
like your glasses, I'm going to say Next
time I look for glasses, hey to those
glasses, I'm going to do the same thing.
If I don't do that, normally you
may even talk to me and say, Louis,
did you see my glass look and da?
So that's word of mouth
There's none of this.
I don't see you wearing it, then
you're not gonna talk to me.
So marketing is very good at getting the
innovators, but then the early majority
is not picking up because the innovators
are not doing the word of mouth job.
So I invented the technology that
could track and pay for the economic
effect of simple word of mouth.
I went to India then and implemented the
pilot project funded by the international
aid community had a huge success.
And that led me to do the same
thing on the internet when the
internet started to pick up.
And then I became an intranet entrepreneur
back to Montreal, trying to do word
of mouth marketing on the web for
telcos and credit card companies.
And so that's the U Y O U G E company, I'm
you make it huge.
Was the, tagline.
And I did not know as a good French
Canadian that you make it huge,
that huge Y O U G E would not be
decoded by the English mind as
huge, huge would be decoded as uge.
So I had a problem with bad,
Be before we go into where you
went, 'cause there there's a
couple of things that stand out.
I, I kinda looked at the timing on
your time in Rwanda, and I know that
that's during the genocide, isn't it?
And so tell me a little bit about
your, your trying to deal with
and push, it sounds like the AIDS
epidemic, but at the same time you're
face-to-face with a genocide epidemic.
I mean, not even epidemic,
just horrific something.
Tell me a little bit about
your experience with that.
I could tell you about that
experience for a long time, and there
could be a lot of tears involved.
This was the trauma of my life.
It was seriously traumatized
out of this experience.
So on the one hand I had to deal with
my own staff dying from aids, right?
37% of the population was h i v positive.
There was no cocktails at the time.
You just like you died.
death was very, very prevalent around me.
And then there was a civil war
leading to the genocide where
there was no state of law.
There was Shootings and all sorts of
very, very, very cruel things happening.
Leading to a million people
being killed within three months.
We were evacuated before the whole
thing unfolded at the beginning of it.
But I have seen things that
I, I, I wish I had never seen.
And I have felt things
I wish I had never felt.
I knew General who was fellow Canadian
leading the un troops efforts there.
And I, what I've gone through is like
a, a very, very, very small, tiny
proportion of, of what he's gone through.
So I don't wanna make my thing as
big as that, but it was enough for
me to certainly carry a serious
scar for the rest of my life.
Well, thank you for sharing that.
'cause I, I, I don't wanna probe on
it, but I realized as I, I reviewed
that there was this, this connection
point there that seems really profound.
So, I, I read somewhere that you say
learning cycles always start with ease
and then challenges come soon after.
So, you've built this company, now
you're back in Montreal and you're
building this technology company
at the start of the internet.
Give me a sense of the ease and then the
challenges that hit with that business.
I raised $500,000 from friends and
family and we launch and we have like
a, a big tech deal with C G I and.
A big accounting deal with K P M G
that, you know, stamps our rewards.
And it's a big operation.
We're building it for a global impact.
And six months in we got an offer from
a telco to be bought at $80 million.
So six months later, 80 million.
I don't even what to say to that.
'cause I, I wanna dig in on that
one because, 'cause there's some
really cool stuff that happens in
six months to go from half a million
in funding to 6 billion Did you say?
no, 80,000,006 months.
Six, six months.
This was a time where people dreamt big.
Like the, the thing was exploding.
Like everything was possible and we were
part of that, everything's possible thing.
And we, we had a fundamental insight.
We were expert in word of mouth.
We were expert in sharing and sharing.
Had never been made so easy.
We could now track it
with electronic means.
We could track transactions by
electronic means, so we could
be very sophisticated in how you
enable and reward word of mouth.
So that excited, that big company.
And then the.com crash arrived.
And so I got my term sheet a
week before the crash and it got
canceled a week after the crash.
So the 80 million never came to fruition.
Oh, that was a beautiful
setup because wow.
So did the whole, what?
Like what was the, I guess what's
the challenge that became the lesson?
Or what did you learn in that hole?
in that time, it's the importance
of the external environment.
I totally put my eggs in that basket.
There was a deal that was
happening and I never had a plan B.
so, uh, we did not fund
beyond the 500,000.
And when the Dell fell through, I, found
myself in a position where I had to
tell the staff, what do you want to do?
We fire half of you, or We
got our salaries by half.
they all chose the latter,
which made me feel very good.
And we went on for six months, half
paid until we could fund again.
And and then other cycles of.
It's easy and it, and it's not
really happening the way you want.
Four or five of them followed.
And the company never did
what I wanted it to do.
You know, I came from a, a, an
idealistic kind of perspective,
trying to change the world.
that to me was a way to
redistribute money to people from
the marketing industrial complex.
That was my goal.
And I had an idea that credit card
companies were my ideal partners.
And I signed two of them.
And credit cards at the time were.
Very complex machines with high turnover
and very conservative in so many ways.
And I by the time the lawyers and the
teams implemented my technology, it
took a year and a half, two years.
And by that time it had been so
diluted that it was not going
to do what it was meant to do.
And that is when I decided, okay, I
maybe need to look for something else.
And so monster.com shows up.
So from what I read, 2004 to 2010, you
go on this big adventure with Monster.
Starts with the Canadian operations.
At the time, it's $10 million.
I take product and marketing.
I work extremely well with the GM
and the sales guy, and we build.
Amazing results up to 65 million
within a couple of years.
And all of that because we decided to
become data driven and to, to build
viral applications that were data driven.
I became marketer of the Year and Canada
and top c m o in the North America a lot
because of applications that we developed
as part of that, I won't get into the
details, but we had something called Rate
Your Boss, where there was nine statements
about your boss and you would basically
rate your boss and we could tell you if
your boss was better than the average for
your job category in your region, and we
could allow you to recognize your boss.
And on the other side, we
would contact the boss and I.
Recognize them in the newspaper,
locally, radio, when we would
give them uh, job posting things.
And it was like an integrated marketing
effort that was very, very data driven.
So that really took me like casted me
as a hypo and within the organization
and I became head of global product
in the years that ensued and really
got to grow a couple billion dollars
worth of business within years.
And this was quite the right.
So, let's jump back there and it's maybe
2000 and you're, you ended that run in
2010, but what were the big mo monster
lessons you got from that six year period?
What were the things that have
never left you that just were
so integral to the learning?
So I will start with.
The same lesson I got at Huge, which
is watch out for the environment man.
Because when 2008 happened, we
lost half of our revenue overnight.
So 800 million just disappeared.
cause that in the Christ, the middle
of the crisis, nobody wants to hire.
And so, did not see that one coming.
Other than that you know, I've learned
that growing organically is certainly
less messy than growing by acquisition.
I had to carry the can of cleaning
up 35 acquisitions globally.
55 countries and build one
platform to unify everything.
We did that in nine months.
It was a big project called Redux.
And so I've seen how growth by
acquisition could be costly.
There is a huge cost to it.
And so sometimes, you know, you focus on
the revenue side, but you don't know what
costs is waiting for you to, to, to come.
And so that's another big lesson.
And then lessons about leadership.
Monster had leadership Changes to do
with options scandal and Wall Street and,
and the whole internet culture became
enmeshed with the Wall Street culture.
And that has created a bunch of issues.
And I got to see how you go from
being an internet culture to being
a Wall Street culture, the pros and
cons of each and that sort of thing.
So from there you go to Yodel, which
is a high performing marketing company.
I mean Right.
It's like a agency.
It's like a internet marketing agency.
But their goal is to they're a tech
firm first and foremost, and they
are doing ss e m and ss e o and
automation of everything, marketing
for the small business to get them
out of the Yellow Page business.
So we're in 2008.
The market has crashed and
the SMBs is the future.
And so I convinced myself that I should be
helping the SMBs at that ti at that time.
And Yodel had an amazing
team, an amazing product.
And I joined themas against C P M
O product and marketing and we had
another amazing ride from 40 million
to 200 within three, four years.
And this time it was just such a pleasure
given the quality of people I've never
seen such a high performing team.
It was just a pleasure to,
to do this with those people.
Now I seem to recall that you got
awards for that timeframe too.
Like there was some awards that
came, just the, the sheer incredible
growth that happened at Yodel.
Uh, We got, you know, On the list of Inc
500 every year, and we were the best in
every, the best startup in New York and
the best of this, the best of that I wa I
was honored by Google as a Google partner.
We developed a technology that
was outperforming Google's own
algorithm at delivering r o i for
the S m b on the ss e m front.
We were building intelligence on
top of Google to make sure that the
dentists had more clicks and more
calls than using AdWords on its own.
And so we, we, we got recognized
for that and had a, amazing time.
And then, you know, let's not actually
diminish the companies you're going.
Now you go to Audible.
Which to me, as I look at it and I
go back in my own history and watch
my Audible, I feel like I got crazy
about Audible when you were there.
So thank you.
'cause I am a massive Audible fan.
So some amazing thing happened.
You get hired by Amazon well, no, audible
was was not Amazon at the time, or were
it was Amazon.
It was okay.
The c e o calls me, well, got
recruited and the c e o says look,
the company has not been growing
to a pace that satisfies Jeff.
Jeff loves the audiobook category.
He's a very literary person.
McKinzie was a, a writer.
So there was like a, a very serious love
of Audible within the Amazon empire.
So I'm being asked to take growth from
a profile of 15 to 20%, to 40 to 50.
And if I do that, I would be king.
And so I said, sure, let's go.
At that time, I feel like, you know,
there's no, no challenge I cannot take.
And then I realized how lucky I've been
because mobile was exploding at that time.
And so be integrating ourself into the
Amazon system and riding the mobile wave
allowed us to grow 50 to 60% per year the
following years, and then diversifying
the brand from being an audiobook
company to being more of a media company.
We were teaching English
to kids in uh, in Japan.
We were launching an enterprise
product for salespeople to
train themself in their cars.
We had a bunch of very, very
exciting projects on the docket.
So in that timeframe where the world
is essentially your oyster, like
you're, you're a rockstar, right?
I mean, in if, if you are running
audible and you're growing at
50%, you've become a rockstar.
So are you aware at that point
in your own life of any cracks in
the system, of your own system?
Or is it just such an amazing ride
that you can just ride this wave?
you're king of the world, you're
really making things happen.
But is there any.
Like, is there any sense in you
that I'm doing really well here,
but over here I'm crumbling.
Is there any of that, 'cause you, you
spoke about, you know, Rwanda and the, and
the deep scar tissue of that, and you've,
you've had these moments where it was
all working, the whole thing falls apart.
Is there anything going on at
that timeframe of interest?
a great question Tom.
Very, very great question.
Yes, there was.
So one day I'm coming out of a, a building
and someone reporting five levels below
me comes and says, can I talk to you?
I've never done what I'm gonna do.
Please don't judge me if I'm wrong,
but something I gotta tell you.
I said, come on, tell me.
And he says um, I'm a devotee of an
Indian yogi and he's go coming to the
Blue Ridge Mountain in North Carolina
and I'm here to tell you to come and
you should come with your daughter.
I'm like, what?
Like, yoga me?
My daughter, that's weird.
'cause my daughter was
struggling at that time.
She was 10 and she had mental,
mental health issues with depression.
I was like, This is too weird.
I'm gonna go
and, and so I show up with my
daughter and I'm in the middle of
a big hall and hundreds of people
meditating, and I sit on a cushion and
I imitate what the master was doing.
And I realize in that moment what the
crack was for me and the crack was
that I never felt that it was enough.
I might have been the king of the world,
but I felt like the servant and I felt
like I was never going to be enough.
And Jeff was so much smarter
and this was so much richer.
And, and I was in that sphere
where people were amazing.
I, I got to, interact with.
The richest king of my time.
And so I definitely had experiences
of people bigger than me and
it got me to realize that I
wasn't to a, an infinite chase
in that moment might button that
cushion in me, not outside of me.
I realize that I am just
perfect the way that I am.
mm Oh, powerful.
And so that, sense in you, that allows
you to then get okay with the fact
that wherever you are is where you are.
Well, how does that then translate
back into the world of high
pressure, high stakes success at
all costs, whatever that looks like.
'cause I, I've never been in the
shoes you were wearing, but my gosh,
I can only, I imagine the sheer
volume of pressure that's on you
every day to perform to quarterly
earnings reports, whatever those are.
Those just, they, they'll come at
yes they do.
And so before that moment, they put
me in a fight, flight State eight.
Before that moment, I would just like go
and crunch the number and get the team to
do even more in order to do this and that.
And, and I was super stressed
and I was shorter temper.
I definitely was not Relaxed, and I
was not as good a father and as good
a friend, and as good a husband.
As a result,
realizing that I was not, that, I had
never been, that this was just like being
lent to me for, for a it was having
some good material impact, but it was
not me and it wasn't gonna define me.
Allow me to start investing in me
not just what I was asked.
And I realized that by having
that centeredness, I was
a more effective leader.
I was an even more impactful, things
were happening without me asking for it.
My intuition, my creativity, my
collaboration, my attractiveness
as a human was just multiplied.
And so huge lesson.
Up until then in my life, I had
invested everything in external
knowledge thinking if I understand
the world, I'll be better for it.
And at that moment, I start
investing in my inner knowledge,
realizing that, whoa, wait a minute.
There is R O i in that knowledge
too, but that R O I is a multiple
of any other trivia that I can
find on the external world.
Understanding who I'm
understanding, what is happiness?
What's an emotion?
What's the brain?
What's the nervous system?
How is this all connected?
Why do I feel, what is reality?
All of these things, major, major,
major transformation for me.
And so I became much
more effective with that.
So it sounds to me interesting that
it took you a lot of years to get your
philosophy degree, because all those,
all those statements you just made
are like your degree in philosophy.
I love it.
Like this, this full circle
comes back and now you're, the
stuff you're studying is really.
But it's internal.
It's not just, intellectual.
It's not just an intellectual exercise.
And you're actually living out your
philosophy and you're learning it
and experiencing it and bringing it
back into the world that you inhabit.
that, I, I, that's fascinating to me.
So then, then from there you do an amazing
run at Audible and then you are known
by T P G, which is a big like a private
equity firm that buys companies, right.
And you get brought into, I think it
was ride.com or something like that,
and you gotta fix that thing up.
So, uh, ride is a carpooling
technology co-founder of Uber.
Bono, Ashton, Kushner and t
p g invested a serious amount
of money to make that happen.
They were on the uber high, they
wanted to do that piece of it.
It had not been working.
It was a turnaround situation.
And so, it was hard not easy at all.
And I was able to turn it around,
sell it and it never really was
going to do what they thought
or what I thought it should do.
And we sold it and then
I became a T P G advisor.
What happens usually is they give you
another opportunity in the portfolio, and
then I realized that I'm an entrepreneur.
Everything that comes to me is like, ah.
Restaurant software automation.
It's not sexy.
You know, I, I had a very intense human
rich, and, and all the businesses they
were invested in felt too standard for me.
And so I decided that I would just get
out of T P G and do something else.
And I said to myself, I'm 50, I
just experienced something amazing.
Why don't I build something to help people
have the same benefit I've had in life?
So I, that's the day I make that decision.
I get a call from a billionaire in
Australia who invested in a neuroscience
company and it was going nowhere.
Public company, but it
was gonna be a restart.
And the neuroscience part of it I fell in
love with because it would, I would use
that as my entry point into the practices
and into the conversations about you and
some sort of measurement of before or
after, so that you could really understand
you self-awareness and, and, and practice.
So that was the genesis of Total
Brain, another five years chapter.
Trying to get people help
themself with objective data
And Covid hits
and covid hits.
and covid not just hits
the world, it hits you.
So tell me about your experience of c.
I was floored for 15
days in December, 2020.
My wife was into it.
She's a nurse uh, in charge
of 11 emergency rooms.
So our lives was very
affected by the whole thing.
So I get really sick go through
it, and then we go our yearly
annual holiday to Maui and we're in
February and I'm in the plane and
I'm feeling legs pain in my legs.
I'm like, is it pickle ball?
I light pulled another fricking muscle.
I do that all the time.
And so I get to Maui and I go for runs.
And a week later, I am at the hospital
with multiple pulmonary uh, embolisms
both lungs and I had 50% chance of dying.
They misdiagnosed me as still having
covid, which meant I would go die
alone, which had another set of
of problems for me.
And so long story short is I, I decided
to fight it back and live, and, and I did.
And four months later I got
that again same scenario,
even higher chance of dying.
And they realized at that point I had
gotten triggered by Covid for a, a,
immune system disorder that made my
blood clot in in a irregular manner.
And so I needed to now treat that
just by being in blood thinner.
But you can imagine that my year 2021
was a very deep, yeah, very deep.
A rough year.
but, but something I, it, it
facing your imminent death.
You're, you're very mortality.
Um, You are in this
space of being a, a, a, I
I'm hitting the wall, and
and I have to understand why.
And I have someone who I really love
and respect who tells me, Louis, there's
always a spiritual reason for everything.
body, your soul, and your mind is one,
it's integrated, and so your soul knows
something about what's happening to you.
That you need to know.
Go ask your soul what,
what's wrong with you?
Why are you there?
Why have you allowed this to be so?
I take that advice and I
meditate a lot on that.
And in my meditation, beautiful
loop back, I realized that in
Rwanda I had felt abandoned.
Abandoned by God, abandoned by the world.
And in that moment, make
the generalization that if
I don't do it, nobody will.
So I'm gonna save that person.
Because if I don't do it, there's no God.
Like forget it.
For the rest of my life, I took
everything on my shoulders.
And I kept that mentality that, well,
if you don't do it, I'm gonna do it.
I, I'll carry the load.
You wanna save that company?
I'll take it.
Because I believe in it.
And so, what my body was telling me at
that time was, no, you are not the doer.
You are not that all powerful entity.
There is a God and it's not you.
And so you gotta chill, man.
it's like the, the um, manifestation of
this physical is a direct result of you
So then it means what are
you gonna do about it?
Then the only rational path I
have is I need to let go and
I need to do something else.
I need to rest.
I I, I had like 30 years of
go, go, go, go, go, go, go.
And my body was saying, take some time.
And, and what I realized in the process
was because, you know, people like us
were like very purpose driven, or what's
my purpose and what am I gonna do next?
And, and my conclusion was there
was just one thing to do, which
is be joyful, find freaking joy.
And when you have that, you
can think about something.
So, so you rest, you go into rest mode.
you e exit uh, you exit the
world of, of Total Brain,
headquarter in San Francisco?
That, that to me Living York and running
that you're, you're, oh, wow, wow, wow.
So the, these, this, this
story to me is profound.
And I, and I'd like to, I'd like to take
a detour, actually the whole purpose of
the show, which is advisory boards, and
then come back if you're okay with that.
Are, are you okay with tying?
'cause I, we could talk for four
hours and I'd be happy, but the
same time, I wanna take a advisory
boards based on all this history, and
then come back into what the came.
Um, So through all starting right
back with your international work
um, through um, your startup, through
Monster, all of these what and how
did you personally engage advisory
boards in that world that you were a
You know, I'm going to tell you
something that'll make you smile.
As a good old North American, I had no
idea what an advisory board was for me.
They were pretty pictures to put on
my PowerPoint to impress my investors.
Of course I would ask for advice
and use them at the beginning,
you know, once a month.
And until you feel like they've given you
everything, they're gonna give you the
five people they knew that could help you.
They've given to you already, and now
you gave them, you know, 0.2% of the
company and you, you go on to managing
the company and the board and your
staff and the suppliers and there's no
time to manage the, the advisor for me.
So I completely misunderstood what
was the power of an advisory board
and how an advisory board can be
focused on one issue and then rotate.
And how that issue should be managed
and how performance of advisor could
be managed and how this whole thing
is organic and should be constantly
aligned and realigned with the C E O.
The c e o, who this time
around is gonna have a friend.
as a C E O, your board's not your friend,
they're your investors most of the time.
And when you see problems, when
you, you know, we all see problems.
Sometimes we don't have the solution yet.
To have a space where I can find a
solution before I talk to my board
about the problem is super precious.
And so the, what I realized was I
did not know how to leverage it.
And now I know that there is
a role called advisory board
chair that can do this for me.
With someone like me who's been
places, who's gone through the pain,
who's gone through the loneliness
of being a C E O, who can understand
what I'm going through and align the
best minds for my particular issue.
And that's beautiful.
So it's, it's that, that, model that, that
uh, I never And so it sounds like you were
uh, despite being in this big, really um,
intense um, front of the, the line kind
of a, a action that was transpiring and
all of the companies you were in uh, that
was just, it was more just like the people
on the website that were advisors who
I leveraged them for their network.
I leveraged them for their expertise
sometimes, but there was no renewal.
This was a, a one-shot deal and I had
no idea that it could be different.
So if you, because I know you have
and to sit on advisory boards.
What, what's the unique um, because
we've heard your story now, and to me the
story is un, un, unbelievably cool, but
I bring that experience,
I bring the, going to
the edge, I bring the
never knowing what I'm doing and
the process that comes with that,
which is the process that CEOs need
to come to go through all the time.
You never know what you're doing really.
So you need to learn quickly to
know how to learn, to know where to
look, to know where to disappear,
the right uh, data points and let
go of, the noise is super important.
So I bring that and I bring the
experience of actually doing the startup
phase, the growth phase, and the big
company phase on four continents.
I've seen it.
And so, I'm not saying that this is the
be all, end all, but it's definitely
something fairly unique that, you know,
if someone is interested in having a
serious growth, I know how to do it.
You, you had the uh, the opportunity
recently to explore the whole
advisory board center model.
Um, That that is something that for
us in North America is somewhat new.
I mean, I, I experienced it too,
and that's how you and I connected.
I love the idea of
creating an entity that is
on the governance of the company
where there is governance rules that
make it a quasi governance tool.
You are not there to comply with
the rules, generally speaking, and
you're not there to make decisions.
But if you're gonna solve issues,
let's agree on what those issues are.
Let's define who does what.
Let's have a charter.
Let's structure our approach the same way
that we would do with investors, right?
And let's be accountable.
And that's beautiful.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So if you could go back and
give your younger self advice,
say as you started Monster.
At Monster, or you were, you
had and you got sort of global,
that global position or at.
I would say get yourself a chair.
And your chair is going to
become your best friend.
So like him upfront, because you're
gonna spend a lot of time with him.
So find that precious resource
that is complimentary to you.
You know, in business you always have
like, The founder, business tech.
And so whoever you are, find the other
side and find someone who is resourceful
enough to go outside of himself, to bring
the right people uh, that is connected,
that has experience and, and just Trust
the process because you will not have
the time to manage it properly unless
you have a chair, is my experience.
And so finding that chair would be
the best advice I would give myself.
So let's uh, bring the uh, bring
the uh, bring the thing back around.
So there's the whole, the, the advisory
board experience, but uh, you take a rest
from total brain and the rest leads you
into some type regenerative concept that.
So part of my rest was to write a book.
You know, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm
not really gonna hit the couch.
And so I'm writing a, a
book on existentialism.
I am answering five existential questions.
The philosopher is back trying to
synthesize everything I've, I've known
and learned over 56 of it, 57 years.
And part of that was to really
understand the state of the world.
And I'd never really taken the time
to understand the whole climate
thing and the whole extinction
thing and Anthropocene thing.
And, and as I'm getting deep in
there, I realize, okay, do we,
there is not a lot of runway.
We have a system that doesn't work.
That has subsystems that don't work.
And clearly we are hitting the wall
in so many ways and you need to have
a, serious devotion of your time
to try and help because you cannot
just read and, and play pickle ball.
And so, I decided that I would do stuff
that would help companies that are
regenerative defined by companies, which
global impact is that they give more to
life than they take very broadly defined.
But net, net, are you making a
positive difference for this planet
or are you taking from this planet?
And if you are taking from this
planet, I don't want to talk to you.
I wanna talk to those guys who
are giving to the planet, and I
want to be their best friends.
I want to help them and I wanna resource
them, and I wanna do everything I can
to regenerate while it's still time.
And so the regenerative group, which is
what your current organization is called,
or company um, is really doing that.
the vision is to help people
who give more than they take.
And so are you finding
any lanes with that?
Let's call them lanes.
Uh, I, I read on that website there's,
there's a whole concept called addressing
failed beliefs and projects addressing.
I live in Montclair.
The schools are hundreds,
a hundred years old.
They're all falling apart.
And for the last 10 years, the Board of
Eds cannot get budgets to renovate the
schools because the mayor has been elected
on the promise of not raising taxes.
We are already one of the most
taxed entity in the country.
As a result, the schools are
falling apart, literally.
And so that's a system that is
failing our kids and our future.
So we found a way to get the Board
of Education into at the referendum
business where we would directly
ask the population for money.
Uh, Got that accepted, and then I led the
referendum with friends and colleagues
uh, strategically as a marketer.
And we got 94% of people voting yes
to borrowing an extra $200 million.
To fix the schools over seven years, and
that happened in a month and a half time.
So huge impact.
Huge, a very little amount of time.
And local, then.
So, uh, in all of this um, your uh,
what's, what's the, the bright and shining
um, direction or vision that you're taking
this, are you seeing other opportunities
So, I've had eight of them in
the last year and a half, and
that has kept me very, very busy.
The latest one is a full-time thing
for me for the last three months, and
it's gonna end at the end of September.
We're organizing a world culture festival
as the wa the National Mall in Washington
where we're gonna have 17,000 artists,
500 state leaders, both sides of the
island, the Congress and right now we have
given something like 375,000 free passes.
So we're gonna reach probably
half a million by September.
And the idea is to celebrate our
differences and to celebrate unity
and to do it right here, right
now, and this time in history.
That is a belief initiative for me.
What is a belief?
The systems we have come
from what we believe in.
If I believe that I'm separated from
you, if I believe that I'm here to
take, I'm here to enrich myself for
my family and, you know, let's, let's
build a legacy and so on and so forth.
We're gonna have a very
different world than if I believe
that you and I are the same.
We are one.
And so, the separation belief has built
the kind of capitalism that we have.
And I just wanna make sure that we
don't forget that in the end we are one.
And that belief that we have,
that we're separated is not true.
Half of us are suffering.
90, 99% of us are suffering greatly
from the enrichment of a few.
And so this is one of the things
that I decided to give my time to.
But moving forward after that, I'm gonna,
I'm looking for more commercial uh,
driven these things all came on my lap.
And so I, I did that, but now I'm
looking for to get back in the
swing of business a little more
and try to add economic values.
And, and that's what I'm
gonna start doing in October.
delighted that, that we've had
the chance to um, to story and
hear this, this um, massively.
you so much.
And I invite anyone who wants to
do the same, to contact me through
regenerative that group because that,
that is a, the group part is more
important than the regenerative part.
It happens through us.
It happens together, right?
It happens, yeah.
It's, it's people
together working together.
I, I, I deeply appreciate it and I
feel like I, I don't want to go to
this, but this is how we end the show.
some random questions.
You don't know these questions,
but they're just gonna hit you.
So first is, are you iPhone or
That's a tough one.
would you have up first?
where's your heart?
Canada or the Okay, good.
I am too.
So, what more than any other in your life?
If you could say
I will say s.
what would that know it's a,
it's an impossible question.
He's an entrepreneur.
uh, immediate family define
what you actually do?
What do they
Who are you?
Um, What was the first question you asked?
Chat g p t.
Love it, love it, love it.
Um, What, what is the
favorite um, small purchase?
Like a web app or a phone
app or something like that,
I have a scanning app on my
phone that is extraordinary.
Scanning app has really
hit the so many times.
Because it does the recognition of the
size of the page, it's super effective.
It's like my Google map of
It's very cheap and it's been
super helpful this morning.
Again, that's why I'm saying it.
I keep using it.
Louis, a, a pure joy.
Thank you for the uh, radiant uh,
spirit and um, mark you're making and
thank you that uh, you see something
Thank you so, so much.
I'm grateful for you giving me
the opportunity to share my story.