#2 A Heavy One | Alex Ikonn

June 30, 2020
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Alex Ikonn – co-founder of Luxy Hair and ‘The Five Minute Journal’ – joins Ronan to discuss his first trip on Ayahuasca. Alex recalls how his only trip was potent enough to open his eyes to the world around him. It fundamentally shifted how he viewed others, and how he understood himself. Upon reflection, Alex realized he’s too judgemental and makes assumptions about others without factoring in their life experience – or his own. For Alex, life is an emotional ride and the high’s and low’s make things exciting. Ultimately, everyone is on their own trip – and we have the power to influence how the journey feels. In this episode we discuss:

  • How to be open minded to challenge perceptions of yourself – and the world around you;
  • Using intention when taking a trip. Consider how your thoughts and decisions align with your values. Ground yourself and reflect on how your personal experience shapes you;
  • How to find gratitude in the everyday of life and bring meaning in your relationships. Life is an emotional experience: there is no good – and there is no bad.

Visit our website fieldtripping.fm for more information. If you like our show, please subscribe, tell us what you think and leave a review.

Transcripts

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Alex: [00:00:00] Life is an emotional experience and there is no good or bad, and it's a heavy one. [00:00:07][7.0]

Ronan: [00:00:12] This is Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronen Levie. [00:00:21][9.3]

Ronan: [00:00:24] Alex Ikonn is a serial entrepreneur specializing in scaling e-commerce businesses through social media. He and his partner Mimi started the global brand Luxy Hair and created life changing products like The Five Minute Journal that has helped countless readers around the world focus on positivity, become more mindful and design the lives they want. They're also active angel investors and help build brands on behalf of clients. I'm speaking with Alex today from his home in London, UK. [00:00:49][25.1]

Ronan: [00:00:56] Thank you, Alex, for joining me on Field Tripping. I wanted to start by actually saying I owe you a debt of gratitude. Through our initial meeting so many doors opened for me. I got into mastermind talks and that fundamentally altered the course of my life in so many ways. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be here doing this podcast if we didn't meet. So starting with a big debt of gratitude to you. [00:01:17][20.8]

Alex: [00:01:17] I really appreciate. I think anybody listening, just how important what you said and you're aware of is a lot of us are just fully unaware of how one little meeting or one little circumstance can change our whole life. And I'm sure it's still all up to you in regards to the actions you took. However, I'm also really grateful to meeting you and actually knew of you before we even met. So it's pretty incredible. [00:01:39][21.9]

Ronan: [00:01:40] Awesome. Now, let's talk psychedelics. One of the things you have mentioned is psychedelics is something that you have tried, but your wife Mimi hasn't. Can you elaborate on why you have tried psychedelics and why Mimi's resistant? [00:01:52][12.3]

Alex: [00:01:53] So with Mimi or any partner, people may have different personalities, different ideas. I'm by nature very open minded and experimental. However, I'm not the type to really get into hardcore drugs. And so UJ was our mutual friend. He just kind of opened my mind to it and he's like, hey, this is like this whole other thing ayahuasca let's give it a go do this trip it's life changing. You kind of like go to space and all sorts of other things that he described, I'm like, sounds interesting. Let's do it. While my wife, she's probably tried smoking weed once, got super paranoid. And the overall thread across a lot of these people, they don't want to lose control. And I think ultimately that is one of their biggest fears. Neuroses, speaking on Mimi on her behalf, I would say ultimately it's being afraid to lose control. For me, I'm fairly OK. I don't need to be in control all the time. Will it be even in a relationship or in business? I don't need to be the COO. I don't I don't need to be in charge. I'm OK to let go and go with the flow. [00:02:56][62.5]

Ronan: [00:02:57] Have you always been like that? Have you always been kind of go with the flow, don't need to be in control, or is this something that you've kind of evolved into? [00:03:03][5.9]

Alex: [00:03:04] I love adventure and I love exploring travel and trips. I have a lot of similarities to a certain degree and having new experiences. And that's why I love travel. I love having adventure. [00:03:14][10.5]

Ronan: [00:03:15] But Mimi is a little bit more of a person who needs to be under control. And it's funny because psychedelics are almost the exact opposite of needing to be a control. In fact, they force you to not be in control. And much of the work I've done with my coach and through self exploration is really the process of trying to give up control, because at the end of the day, we're not really in control of least that's my perspective. And the more we try to fight that belief and keep things under control, the more energy we spend on trying to do that. And it becomes a self-defeating cycle. So it's it's a really interesting kind of exploration about why that may be such a stumbling block for Mimi. But obviously, you can't really they speak for Mimi. So instead, let's talk about your experience on Ayahuasca. Has that been your only experience with psychedelics? [00:03:57][42.4]

Alex: [00:03:58] That's been my only experience and my belief that it's all right. [00:04:03][4.5]

Ronan: [00:04:03] We'll go there. But what did you do any research or did you just rely on UJ? And for everyone listening, UJ is a mutual friend like Alex mentioned and was instrumental and I think helping to create The Five Minute Journal. And certainly he was the one that opened my eyes to psychedelics as well. So if you hear us mentioning UJ, that's our mutual friend. [00:04:22][19.0]

Alex: [00:04:23] I'm laughing as I'm speaking about this. He's very different in the way he approaches life and he's not your normal type of guy. And so he's very exploritive , whether it be spirituality or other things. And Ayahuasca has become fairly popular in the last few years and has become, you know, even you see it mentioned in movies or TV and things like that. However, when we did, it was probably most likely 2011, 2012, it wasn't as popular. So he kind of just heard about it and he said, hey, I know a guy who does it. So it's not like we went to Peru or anything or had a journey. It was just some white dude in Wasaga Beach in the north of Toronto who would do the ceremony in his cabin house. So it was not this idyllic shamanic journey, but kind of full disclosure, I did not recommend in regards to going on such an important life journey in a haphazard way, as I have done and me all the research I pretty much just did was looking up on forums, there was a documentary on DMT and Ayahuasca that was put together and at that time, I think a really important thing to thread is Mimi was going through a fairly deep depression, something that she's open with, and she was really lost. And for me, I would say I was not as lost because what happened with us was which is another interesting thing is we're in our early 20s. We have an incredible relationship, and we just achieved something that people strive their whole life to achieve, which is lifestyle freedom. Basically, we started a business at that time and we became pretty much millionaires in a few years, 2010, when we started our business in the first year, we we made over a million sales. By year two, we're doing three plus million. So we're already profiting and million plus. So for young 20 year olds, we're doing really well. And the reason I talk about this is more about coming from nothing. I'm originally immigrant from Russia. I came to Canada when I was 19 years old, single mother, welfare, working factory jobs, nightshifts, like the true immigrant kind of story. I'm really grateful for my mom and of course, my father as well, who then later passed away, which was my first kind of brush with death. So with that, why it's important is because we thought money would solve a lot of problems. And what we quickly learned is once you have all the things that were sold to, which is financial freedom, we're in a great relationship. We love each other. We can travel and be anywhere in the world. And the main other clinching difference is that we have time. But with time, once you start having a lot of time in your life, you have an existential crisis to a certain degree. You start questioning what is my purpose? Why am I doing here? Because other time was kind of like busy in our things. And I think especially what we're going through right now in our whole world. We're currently speaking about this during the twenty twenty during the COVID pandemic. A lot of people are having these existential questions. And with us, that's what really got her to be in a deep kind of depression. And for me, I was that person said, you know, I'm going to do this ayahuasca thing to kind of figure this out and explore different realities. And for me, this is really important to explore psychology in nature. [00:07:39][195.8]

Ronan: [00:07:40] Can you tell us more about what you experienced while on Ayahuasca and circling back to the great pause that's happening right now as a result of the pandemic? Curious to know where your head is that how you feel like if you think this has been a positive experience for you, with no disrespect whatsoever to all the tragedy and trauma that people are experiencing, I think there's an incredible amount of growth that can come out of this time. And the freedom that it's really giving people, whether that freedom is desired or imposed is is a separate conversation, but it's giving people a lot of time anyway. Starting with your ayahuasca experience, I'd love to hear more about, like, what your actual experience was, what you saw, what you learned, what you took away from it. [00:08:19][39.8]

Alex: [00:08:20] I'll do my best to summarize it as much as possible. We go to this cabin about an hour and a half north of Toronto in Canada and have this journey. The thing that I always communicate to people whenever I speak about my experience is that the biggest lesson I've learned is everything you're about to hear me talk about and everything you'll read about any of this stuff understand that there is no need to even do that because you're going to have your own individual trip and your own individual journey and this is the great thing about psychedelics and my experience, and maybe I was very fortunate that me on my first trip, I got everything I needed for life to a certain degree. And that's why I'm like, I did it once and I'm good. However, it's not always like that. [00:09:04][43.9]

Ronan: [00:09:05] You're absolutely right. Everyone's experience is individual. But one of the things that I've come to learn through my meditation practice and working with my coach is that as much as it's individual and personal to you, I found personally and I've found a lot of people actually can take a lot of insight of some of the things that may have been going on in your life, may speak to what's going on in their lives right now. And that insight, that realization can actually trigger people to have really expansive ideas and things kind of landing in a different way. Sometimes you just have to hear the right thing at the right time, even if you've heard it a thousand times before. Just a slight nuance of words had from someone who's had an experience or who knows something can actually land with people. And that's why I'm so interested in hearing about everyone's experiences, because at the end of the day, I think I'll take something away from your experience and I hope everyone else does as well. So that's kind of why I'm curious. Even though it was your experience, I do think a lot of people may benefit from hearing about it. [00:09:58][53.6]

Alex: [00:09:59] For me, it was a before and after event. There's big, pivotal moments in your life where your life alters, your reality alters, we're living through one right now as a collective kind of connected to your question. There was life before covid and there's going to be life after this covid-19 event. And that's going to be a whole new reality. And same with me on my journey. It was exactly that. I came in one person, I came out the other, and I'm really grateful that I came out alive. So I took this, like I said, a fairly irresponsible way of doing this white guy and his girlfriend and it was four of our friends. So it's fairly intimate setting, which is great. I can never imagine doing it with like 30, 50 other people as some people do it then not really knowing what to expect. And, you know, they usually say, you know, what's your intention for this? And I'm like, whatever I need to experience, let me experience it, which I would recommend to other people. Be more thoughtful about your intentions. This one can be a little heavy. So I drank the concoction. Haven't really felt that anything at first. And then it starts kicking in. A whole new realities unfold in front of you. And what's the most fascinating thing about this thing is like ever since we're born, we live through this ego, meaning ego is, identity of self, and we're always looking through life, through our own eyes and experiencing life through our own eyes. The way you are experienced life or see me ever since I was born as Alex in my own body with my very fortunate and blessed to have a healthy body of my hands and arms, my eyes, my legs and experiences from that perspective. Of self, of ego, and that's how you you live on life and you get to have this experience and that's why we get so attached, then used to our self and ego and body. And we're afraid to lose that identity. And that's why, you know, war starts, why arguments start. I really believe the reason for that is, as we spoke about before, is that loss of control and that fear of losing yourself. And that's why even I've noticed in myself, for example, when I get angry, the only reason I get angry is because the reality does not fit in with my own sense of what reality is. So for the first time in my whole entire life, I dissolve. There's no more Alex. I'm no longer experiencing life from the perspective of self. To me, I am now going through that, I have that experience, new pathways will be created that will alter your reality and thinking. And so for me, it was just not experiencing life through my ego of Alex and actually then entering and seeing in reality from a different perspective of life is an emotional experience. And there is no good or bad. And it's a heavy one. Right. And you have to maybe pause it it is something I still live to this day. And it's a big lesson for me because a lot of us judge life as black and white. We see things from one perspective. This is the way it is. And this is where a lot of problems arise in our society is simply because we're just like this is how it is. However, in reality, there is so much greater and even greater perspectives and so many Gamma's of color and energy, all whatever that exists to create what we all experience in this humanity. Because if you think about how complex even your body is, but then even how complex even a piece of grass is, there's so much complexity into this reality that we experience. And going back to that statement that I made, that life is an emotional experience. There's no good or bad, me, myself included. I would often have a lot of judgments and I still do. Of course, I'm human. Right. And one of my biggest judgments would be towards homeless people, because me, myself, having come from nothing, pretty much I would come across a panhandler on the street. I would have a lot of judgment towards that person. And I'll say, buddy, like, why should I give you a handout and give you money when you might spend it on drugs or do other things and you have the power and responsibility to choose your own reality. You don't have to be on the street. So in my trip, I got to experience everything. I got to experience being homeless. I got to experience being crazy. I got to experience euphoria. I got to experience all sorts of emotions and feelings by actually being the feeling and emotion itself. And that's why I say life is an emotional experience. And going back to that lesson is that if we really look at ourselves and what life is, it is that emotional experience. We have those highs and lows and that's what makes life interesting and exciting. And with that, we also choose to a certain extent, we have that power, the journey that we experience in life, because life is the ultimate trip of all. And what I mean by that is when I got to experience, for example, being homeless, I got to learn that me judging or saying, hey, being homeless is bad or you being crazy is bad or you being this person is bad at me judging what is good or right. Kind of having that judgmental point of view. If somebody is choosing to say, live a life of victimhood or choose certain pathways in life and experience to a certain degree, what my understanding has been from that experience of ayahuasca is that, for example, somebody be on a journey of being homeless may actually be their journey that they're choosing. Maybe for the previous lifetimes they have actually lived incredible lives, but they're choosing in this lifetime to live a life of struggle and victimhood. And in a certain degree, it's not good or bad if we become aware of our reality and our place in it, we then can make those kind of choices into how we live our life, who surrounds our life and the reality we live in. Other thing to add on, I'm actually not the type who thinks like ayahuasca is like healing. It's a medicinal thing. I think it's poison. And what I mean by that is there are certain things in nature. It's a plant and the plant actually protects itself, gets you close to dying, but not like fully dying. So it's toxic and that's why your body wants to puke. And I actually didn't purge. I didn't puke. And coming back out of that kind of reality, I was really grateful to be back and to experience life and to live life again. I've always been a grateful person. However, after that experience, I mean, usually collectively, then created The Five Minute Journal. And we were actually working on the Five Minute Journal during that time as well. And you can see why a lot of great business people, even they have done psychedelic trips, because most importantly, I feel safe, like even right now during this whole covid crisis. Going back to your second question, I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid of death to a certain degree. Of course, I wouldn't want to die. I think life is beautiful. I think life life is incredible. However, connecting to, say, my wife and her fear with a lot of the anxieties that she may experience as well is because of that fear of death and the fear most importantly of the unknown, and ultimately, I was not in control in my experience and I got to have the experience, whatever the trip gave me, and it was painful, my experience was actually not pleasant. And ultimately, I got to feel the power. You know, we as humans sometimes experience awe and this feeling of awe is like this inner knowing of the truth. There is a common thread. There's a common truth that we may experience. I'm not a religious person, but for sure, in my experience, I felt there's a greater power that generates this reality and runs it. [00:18:11][492.8]

Ronan: [00:18:18] Alex's story about his first and only ayahuasca trip was fascinating. He was able to expand his perspective on life by seeing the world through the eyes of others. What I find interesting about his story is just how profoundly it opened his eyes to the world and really put a mirror on him to see the judgment that he cast towards other people was a commentary on the judgment he held towards himself. And through his trip, that eye opening experience helped him shift his perspective not only on the world around him, but on his own persona and personality. One of the things that most resonated with me was when Alex paraphrased the quote from Hamlet There is nothing good nor bad, but thinking makes it so. I think it reflected a lot on his evolution and how he changed his perspective to not carry judgment towards people, because in the end, we're all going through this life through an experience and it's all individual. And in my particular case, keeping the perspective that there's nothing good nor bad has made my life go more smoothly and has helped me develop empathy towards a lot of people and helping recognize that everyone has unique experiences and everyone has challenges and everyone has highs and lows. And at any given moment, we don't know what they're experiencing. So it's important to make sure that we take pause and reflect and make sure that we keep as much empathy as possible to everything that's going around in the world. So we know this was a life altering experience, but how did Alex readjust to normal life post trip? [00:19:51][93.8]

Alex: [00:19:53] Just to touch upon the perspective of a reality, like you said, it can be a very controversial topic. A lot of us have just been sleepwalking. People were just living through the motions without even understanding what they're doing in their life and their habits and everything. And I guess to go into that second part of your question, how is this current situation of the pandemic has shifted me? I'll be honest, not much. And what I would say too that is that it actually has just showed me that I've been on a good path and everything that I've done beforehand in regards to kind of challenging myself, growing, investing my own growth, shifting away from just purely focusing on making money, but more how can I deliver value more even? We've been very fortunate where we scaled up and sold our first business, but many people who knew us knew the businesses that that business was bigger than the current business, which I'm running. Intelligent Change, which produces the Five Minute Journal, and the productivity planner and things like that. And the other business was growing at a way faster pace than the Five Minutes Journal even. And that business was hair extensions. Right. But the reason I want to bring it up is that to the point of making that decision, of even not keeping that business going and trying to build a bigger business and make more money and actually make that decision to sell the business was in a way of like to me, want to live more with my purpose. We can shift our reality. And even, let's say our first business was meant more to create wealth and freedom for ourselves because that was our purpose. But once we've achieved that, we realized, hey, there's more to life, there's more that we can do to this. And even if, for example, I may not make as much, but I can still provide for myself and be more aligned with the work that I do and the relationships that I have in my life that is me way more impactful. I think it's a great time for a lot of us to reassess of the relationships in our lives. What would be your partner, also, even the friends in your life and also your work? I really believe we can shift reality and we can shift the future. Like I said, I come from a very humble background and my life, it wasn't going so well. Like I said, I was in a very rough point of my life where I could have ended up homeless. Exactly the people I judged and kind of looked down upon. And that's why I can see that we're all equal to a certain degree in your life can change just by meeting one person. It can change your life. And that's why I do my best to try put out as much value in this conversation, because this conversation may help somebody change their trajectory in their life and shift their life for the better. So with me, you know, just to kind of connect on that and to that point of creating your reality, the most important thing you can do in your life is to take responsibility for your life. [00:22:36][162.8]

Ronan: [00:22:37] What was the moment that you had that realization? I mean, I started articling I was just becoming a lawyer. I was like, I don't know. Twenty five years old. And I was miserable. I hated my job. I was working at a big law firm. I didn't know how to get out of the path that I was on. I was stuck and I had this moment of realization one day. It was right after New Year's, actually the day before I had to go back to work, which was you don't necessarily need to achieve your goals. You just have to feel like you're working towards them or you're making progress towards them, that that's where happiness can be found. And that really shifted that. And I remember that day and the next day was fundamentally different and my attitude shifted. Do you remember the day that you had this epiphany that you had just life is great. Just take responsibility for it. And it's funny that you touch on the word responsibility because many people understand the word responsibility as being an onus you know, you're responsible for that, you're responsible for walking the dog. You're responsible for cleaning up after yourself. But I take the word responsibility and break it apart into its root, which is the ability to respond. That is responsibility, which is to respond to your circumstances and decisions and adapt your life accordingly. And so it sounds like you had that realization at an incredibly young age, which is amazing. But was there a specific moment when that happened? [00:23:53][76.5]

Alex: [00:23:55] It's definitely an evolution. I remember two concrete moments when it happened. The first one happened as I quickly touched upon was when I was about thirteen, fourteen years old, going back home from junior high school and knowing the facts, as I said, that there's going to be no one there to greet me as most teenagers, no parents pick me up or to cook dinner for me. I'm going to go home by myself, an apartment building and cook myself, maybe some pasta. And it was actually a moment we're walking on this field and just feeling sorry for myself. And I think that's what happens to a lot of people. We just feel sorry for ourselves and we become victims. And I just had that realization that you have no one to blame. Like this is the biggest down low I had. No one cares. So that was the first one. But like I said, rock bottoms keep going. So if you don't learn your lesson and same thing with psychedelics and trips like you just keep hitting it. And in a few years later, like I said, about sixteen, seventeen, I remember. Another incident happened to me where I was playing basketball and I landed on one of my left hand and I broke my humerus, humerus is a big bone in your upper arm. But the unfortunate thing was that what happened, I pinched the nerve in my elbow and the doctor was diagnosed and he said he'll heal. But after a month when they took off the cast, my fingers were still not moving. And I said, Hey, Doctor, I don't think this is normal. Like, I haven't moved my finger in like a month. Things like, OK, don't worry, you'll go to a specialist and I go to a specialist. And the specialist has these, like Freddy Krueger, kind of like metal hands on the on the wall. And he's like, pick one of those. I'm like what do you mean pick one of those? He's like, well, most likely your hand is not going to move. I think it might be damaged nerves. So you need the support to hold up your fingers so you can at least get some kind of use out of them. And I was like, there was no freaking way. I'm 16, 17, I'm going to do this. And same thing. The lows kept coming, even though I refused to it. And one evening when I was drunk and high and not having my hand moving because basically I didn't move my hand for like six months at that point. And they were just saying that most likely it will be permanent nerve damage, which is fairly depressing, especially for somebody young and kind of being disabled at such a young age and same thing. And just going back to like I'm not going to give up. I believe I can turn this around. And I just kept going to physio and really working with the mind. And that's when I also discovered Tony Robbins. So love him or hate him. The way I look at people is that if there's one good thing you say, I'll take that. And to me, the biggest thing that he has kind of given me is just reminding me of the power of gratitude. And in that moment, I started practicing gratitude, every day. And then the breakthrough really came when I was in physio. I think after eight or nine months and I had little movement in my thumb, literally just shook a little bit, it was through months of visualizing and working on having my arm move and my fingers move the moment I got that little tingle and that movement in that brain to kind of physical connection, I was like, this is it. And as those kind of really a huge shift in my life and transition terms of belief of, of course, you know, the human body is an incredible thing. And but I think similar to my story, there's so many people who give up on life. But my message is you can create your own reality, start seeing the good in life. All I can say is the little thing you can do. You don't have to buy the Five Minute Journal, just next morning. When you wake up tomorrow, just think of one thing that you're grateful for, one thing that's going good for you. And if you make this a habit, your life will change. [00:27:37][222.6]

Ronan: [00:27:38] I think it's a great place to leave it. So thank you so much, Alex. Thank you for your time. And thanks, everybody, for listening. [00:27:43][4.8]

Alex: [00:27:43] My pleasure. And one thing I just want to say, if there's anything that stood out to you in this podcast, please take a screenshot and share it and tag me on Instagram @alexikonn. I'd really appreciate to see it and tag this podcast. And I'm sure you have show notes. So link that in the show notes. But I think they'll be really great to see just other people sharing this podcast and their insights that they've gained just by typing and tagging us. [00:28:05][22.0]

Ronan: [00:28:09] There are a few main takeaways that I'd like to mention after our conversation, be open minded and don't be afraid to question your own perceptions of reality. Psychedelics are all about letting go of control. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is simple. Do nothing and observe. Remind yourself of your intention when faced with a difficult circumstance in life. Think about what decision aligns best with your values. Be grateful for what you have. Find meaning in your relationships and your work. In the words of Alex Ikonn, life is an emotional experience. There is no good nor bad. [00:28:41][31.6]

Ronan: [00:28:49] Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious. Breathe properly. And remember, every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronan Levy, produced by Conrad Page. Sharon Bella is our researcher. Special thanks to Quill. And of course, many thanks to Alex Ikonn for joining me on this episode. Let's stay connected and keep this trip going. Subscribe to our new podcast. Tell us what you think about it and sign up for a newsletter at fieldtripping.fm. [00:28:49][0.0]

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About Ronan

An entrepreneur and a visionary, Ronan is one the founders of Field Trip – with a mission to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy. Concurrent with his work at Field Trip, he is a partner at Grassfed Ventures, a venture capital and advisory firm focused on the cannabis and biotech industries and is Chief Strategy Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading biotech company in the hemp and cannabis industries. Prior to his current roles, Ronan co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, after which he served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. A lawyer by training, Ronan started his career as a corporate lawyer at Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP and Legal Counsel at CTVglobemedia Inc. (now Bell Media Inc.) He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, both from the University of Toronto.