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Tomorrow morning (Wednesday, March 26th), Paul will reach his life’s apotheosis when he appears on City TV (Toronto)’s Breakfast Television alongside Kevin Frankish (who has a great start-up story of his own). The interview will go on air sometime between 7 and 8am and will no doubt feature a suspender-off.

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We’ve always tried to make Kickstart’s underlying philosophy one of helping others. The book tries to use the words of successful Canadians in order to point the way for those young adults whose real lives are just beginning. We include ourselves, for obvious reasons, in this latter category. We’ve learned an awful lot from those who were generous enough to donate their time. Whether it’s about being a ballerina, an entrepreneur or a librarian, we feel that others can learn a lot too.

But maybe there’s something for which we can actually help…

Publishing. This has been a question many young people have on their minds these days – especially those looking to try their hand at writing. Do we have any advice? Well, perhaps. We’re just starting out on this adventure known as publishing a book: hell, we haven’t even had our launch yet. But, with the help of our great publisher Dundurn, we’ve learned a thing or two about getting our book into stores.

First of all, money talks. Every time you see a cookbook at the front of a bookstore, or wonder why your favourite novel has its own little shelf under the Fiction category, there’s a reason. At the large retail chains this usually has to do with how much push a book is getting from its publisher. It’s not the staff being creative with a store’s presentation (which is what we’d always thought). Every placement is the result of a specific agreement, usually made at the top of the chain of command.

We’ve already tried to seek out our book in the great Indigos of Toronto. One particular store was hording it in the backroom, which is understandable: it usually takes a few weeks for a bookstore to process a delivery of books from a distributor. We had to push for them to agree to bring the book to the shelves a little early. Thank you, Indigo.

In fact, in this country, a lot relies on that particular chain. Say what you will about the disappearance of small mom and pop operations, if you get your book into Indigo/Chapters, you’re set. Especially if Heather Reisman likes your style. The jury is currently out on what she thinks of ours… but we know that Ms. Reisman is on the same page as us: she believes in respectful entrepreneurship (see her fantastic Entrepreneur Series with Peter Munk and Jim Pattison, two of our own favourite interviewees), as do we; and she supports great Canadian writing (especially prominent in her Heather’s Picks section). We’re not sure if we fit into this last category, but we’re big fans of those who do. We hope that a relationship with Indigo/Chapters develops. Because, for first time authors, so much relies upon it.


A (somewhat) helpful vid on publishing…

We went to a good school, the type of place that encourages its students to be well-rounded, globally-aware, and socially responsible. We were lucky. The instruction in everything from the sciences to computers and history and languages was pretty high. The one thing that they never seemed to talk much about, though, was what we were going to do when we left.

They hinted at it. Teachers would say things like ‘one day you should make a real effort to give back to your community’ and ‘to those much is given, much is expected.’ We absorbed messages like that the way teenagers respond to pretty much everything the world directs their way – with a disdainful shrug of the shoulders. What-ever. That was our failing, because the message was a good one.

What the school didn’t do, though, was get us thinking about precisely what we wanted to do in the future. They let us know what types of careers existed, but the goal was always university or college. The aim was to get into one, hopefully one with a name that made other people’s parents jealous. To what aim beyond acceptance itself, we were largely unsure. Life seemed very far away at that point.

In many ways, keeping life far away from young people is a good thing: it ensures that they develop their interests in a safe vacuum. But, at the same time, it prevents young people from being forced to ask larger questions. The end result of that is the long line of BA and BScs emerging from our university system wholly unsure of what to do next. Like us, they have gone through the post-secondary education process without a handle what awaited them.

As more people go into university programs to get bachelors degrees, those same degrees lose their value. BAs line up to take Masters degrees or specialized college programs just so they can get jobs. No one regrets their BA in philosophy (just ask Kickstart participants Margot Franssen and David Pecault, who actually got a Phd in the Philosophy of Music) or their BSc in Math, but why do we feel the academic realm needs to remain wholly uncorrupted by the practical concerns that life demands?

Really, this conversation should be occurring in high schools. Teenagers (ever existential anyway as a result of all the insane hormones pulsing through them) should be forced to take a real look at how people piece together their own personal definitions of success and work towards life goals. They should be presented with inspiring stories from both their local, national, and international communities – the kinds of stories that make them think about the types of people they want to be, and precisely what is involved in achieving their goals.

Obviously, this isn’t easy. Not every class can have Peter Munk or Roberta Bondar or Deepa Mehta or Bruce Poon-Tip come into their classrooms. But students should be encouraged to look around for the stories closest to them, the stories that speak to them.

That’s why we want to push forward the Kickstart project. We want teachers to encourage their students to collect stories from those in their neighbourhoods – to find out how you do it and what’s involved.

Careers courses need to invest questions of the future with personal meaning. If they don’t, they’ll end up being just another class to sleep through.

There’s an inspired man in Ireland named Anthony Thuillier. He is studying barristry at Kings Inns in Dublin, is a quadrilinguist and spent two years teaching in the mountainous climes of Bergamo, Italy.

Perhaps it is fair to say that Anthony is a pan-Europeanist: one of those young cosmopolitain creatures who embraces all the ideals of an open, tolerant and cooperative Europe. But he is also Irish, clearly.

Here are the first lines of an email he sent his college friend Alex a few days ago:

“ireland is on the periphery of europe and britain, even america.
it is a besider-outsider.
canada is also a besider-outside: beside the States but very much
separate identity-wise.”
He then goes on to outline the need for some cross-cultural discussion founded on this fact. The besider-outsiders of the world shall unite. We have a lot to share from this proposal. And a lot to gain.
A take on “Falling Slowly” from the film Once
Anthony, who is spending time in the event planning field, has recorded a couple of hilarious songs, both available from youtube. The first is a take on the Oscar-winning Glen Hansard tune from the sleeper hit Once. This thing is especially funny if you a) have seen the movie, b) have spent large amounts of time in Ireland c) really get Irish politics. Seen over 14,000 times in a couple of weeks, this is it above.
Not to worry, we hope to use the Kickstart project to build these bridges. Watch this space for more ideas and proposals stemming from Anthony’s entreaty.

The Kickstart Project was never just about writing a book. While it’s lovely to hold the finished product (which we received from the printers just the other day!) in our hot, little hands, it was never about just this (though the thrill is an appreciated balm in this frigidest of frigid winters).

No, Kickstart was always about trying to inspire people. We know that everyone always says that (it makes for great marketing gaga), but we mean it. We not only want people to walk away from our book inspired to go out and kickstart something of their own; we also want them to go out and interview people in their own communities.

We’re hoping to eventually make our website – kickstartcanada.com – a huge repository of kickstart stories. So, with only a few weeks before the book hits stores, we thought we’d officially invite you (whoever you are) to contribute to The Kickstart Project.

Why settle for the people we picked to interview? Our choices reflect who we are, who we could find, and who responded to our entreaties. Kickstart is just the beginning. We’re still out, setting up interviews and compiling them, so why not join us? Go out into your community, find someone who’s made a serious mark on the world, and ask them how they got started.

Did they always dream of doing what they are doing? Or did they fall ass backwards into it? Did they bum around Europe and write poems about flowers before starting their own company at 28? Did they do corporate litigation before ditching the tie and taking up the cause of debt relief or community renewal? Did they once want to be a tuba player in the Regina Philharmonic, or a roadie on the Anne Murray tour?

Go out, ask, and then send us the stories you collect. We’ll post them for all to read. If you don’t want to write, send video.

Teachers, why not get your classes to participate? Add Kickstart to you Careers course curriculum and then send your students off to collect stories.

And if you have a story of your own, we’d like to hear that too! Why wait for some smelly teenager to come and ask you questions? Scrawl us something. We’d love to hear it.

For more info regarding The Kickstart Project, check out the Resources page on our website.