Tea with a Titan: Conversations Steeped in Greatness |Achievement | Olympics | Olympians| Success | Athletes | Entrepreneurs | Actors | Authors | Philanthropy | Business | Artists

Tea with a Titan is a weekly podcast during which seasoned interview-buff Mary-Jo Dionne speaks with those people who have one thing in common. The quest for authentic greatness. Be it entrepreneur, athlete, entertainer, artist, philanthropist, thought-leader, or difference maker, if the target is greatness -- even in the face of hurdles -- Mary-Jo will be having tea with them.
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Tea with a Titan: Conversations Steeped in Greatness |Achievement | Olympics | Olympians| Success | Athletes | Entrepreneurs | Actors | Authors | Philanthropy | Business | Artists



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Now displaying: March, 2017
Mar 28, 2017
What we cover: "Have the courage to have the courage." -- Melissa Haynes
Melissa Haynes knew from the age of six exactly who she was. She was a writer and an adventurer. She cut out the pages of the National Geographic and carried them around with her in a little basket. She wrote stories about elephants and lions. However, at a very young age, after a humiliating experience of sharing her young ambitions and feeling belittled, she put the dream aside – buried it deep where it would, essentially, fester for decades to come. She embarked on a corporate journey, and ultimately was a key player in the planning of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and when that all wrapped, she took a good look in the mirror and asked herself some really tough questions. In particular: Where had the dream gone? Offered another gig as a corporate big shot, one most of society would drool for, she instead boarded a plane and committed to many weeks living alone in a tent on a Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa. Where, alone in the quiet she was able to dig deep and confront the resistance – the ghosts -- that had plagued her for so many years. When she came face to face with a cheetah, she knew she was not only living her childhood dreams but she was slaying the fear she had let stop her for so much of her life. Her book, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles – the African slang for having the courage to have the courage – is what came out of that rebirth. It’s a celebration of the understanding that so many of the answers to life’s questions exist in nature – but we’re too busy to notice.

Melissa is a wonderfully insightful, joyful and just all round warm person. Because she’s meticulous, she followed up with me as soon as we wrapped our chat, because she wanted to clarify what the five animals are in a Big Five reserve. They are lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, and leopard. (Not unicorn or mermaid, as I had suspected.) You can drop that wee bit of 411 at parties and sound extra smart – and be sure to thank Melissa when you do.

This is one of my favourite talks ever. By the time we finished, I wanted to kidnap her and have her as my new best friend. Although, holding someone captive typically backfires when it comes to accumulating new friends. We talk a lot about this idea of ghosts – preconceived ideas, usually false, that ultimately haunt us, until we do what it takes to slay them once and for all. And she most assuredly has. This is a woman who, when in a starting contest with a cheetah, made a decision in that moment to be fearless – and I think it’s time we all do a little bit more of that. Cheetah or no cheetah.

How you can learn more:

Mar 21, 2017
What we cover: To say that guest titan Shaun Frankson and his business partner David Katz are thought-leaders would likely be one of the bigger understatements of our time. With the launch of their company The Plastic Bank in 2013, they have essentially turned plastic into funds and in doing so – by monetizing a resource that was once only considered garbage to millions of people living in impoverished conditions – they are not only preventing plastic from building up in our oceans, but are creating a global opportunity for collectors to earn an income and alter the trajectory of their lives. 

Their goal is to reach and impact 1 billion people – people they call recycling entrepreneurs – positively. They have launched The Plastic Bank in countries like Haiti, for example, where 75% of the population has no power, where 12,000,000 people live in dire poverty. They are helping these people take back control over their own destinies. And it’s working. 

In simple terms, how The Plastic Bank works is like this: a collector, or a recycling entrepreneur, collects the plastic from off the ground and in the waterways and brings it in to one of The Plastic Bank’s recycling centres. From there, the collector is given access to things like cash, or cooking oil, or the ability to charge their phone – which may seem insignificant to those of us who have a charger, but we have power to do that, right? (In Haiti, when you’re making $2 a day in some cases, and spending upwards of 30- to 60-cents just to charge your phone, you’re spending 30% of your income on this pricy task. So The Plastic Bank is changing that.) But they haven’t stopped there. They are in the process of digitizing a currency, so that collectors won’t have to put themselves in the dangerous position of carrying cash, which can be risky. The Plastic Bank is enabling collectors to house their families, feed and clothe families, and even pay for tuitions – they are changing lives and they are changing the world.

I saw Shaun speak at a recent TED event here in Vancouver, and I knew I had to reach out to him. He is one of the neatest guys I’ve had the good fortune of connecting with. This is a guy who is fully sleeved, the most impressive tattoo artwork I’ve ever seen up-close. But it’s not like bad guy tattoo-ness; instead he’s plastered in his positive life affirming philosophies. Create, inspire, strategize. And in case he deviates, he’s got the 7 habits of highly effective people tattooed on his arms to serve as his guideposts.

One of the things Shaun said in his TED that really struck me was that caring for our planet and caring for the people on it is not a hippie thing, it’s not a millennial thing, it’s a human thing. Yes, being a responsible consumer is a human thing. 

And how do we do that? 

Well, for starters, Shaun made a really cool distinction for me when I asked him why plastic is ‘bad”? It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that our habits around it are bad. Yes, we need to recycle, but we also need to reach out to the brands we love and ask them -- demand of them, really -- to use #SocialPlastic, which is ultimately what The Plastic Bank’s team makes with the plastic that’s being kept out of water ways when it is amassed by collectors. 

Go ahead: Hop on Social Media and directly address the companies and brands we most use and say: "Hey @place brand here, here’s hoping you’re considering the use of #SocialPlastic."

Shaun will inspire you to think big -- really big -- there's just no way around that simple fact.


Mar 14, 2017

What we cover: “If we all create a daily habit of giving? Holy Hell, we’ll change the world.” – Jacqueline Way

On her son, Nick’s 3rd birthday, Jacqueline Way decided to consciously turn her back on the idea of wrapping up a bunch of “stuff” and adding to piles of toys, and instead came up with an idea for she and he to embark on a one-year challenge: Every day, for 365 days, they would commit to one simple act of giving. Long story short, she blogged about the experience, about watching her son develop and hone his innate desire to do for others – an innateness that too many of us, both adults and kids alike don’t tend to tune into nearly often enough today. And what started as a beautiful journey between mother and son has snowballed into the beginnings of a global movement. The 365give program and what it stands for has been adopted by both individuals and schools around the world; it’s not uncommon for Jacqueline, based in Vancouver, to get emails from as far away as countries in Africa, Europe, and beyond – from people who have been touched by 365give, as either an inspired giver or a grateful receiver.

I recently had the extreme good fortune of listening to Jacqueline speak at a recent TED event, and I knew when I heard her that hers is a voice the world needs to hear more of right now. Right now, at a time of great division politically in so many parts of this planet – we need to set politics aside and just be nice to each other.

One give. One person. One day at a time.

As Jacqueline says: Hey, it’s so easy, even a 3-year-old can do it.


Mar 7, 2017


What we cover: “No matter what happens, I have me.” – Jody Vance

I have loved Jody Vance for the better part of a decade. She was instrumental in introducing me to my first regular role in an on-air segment with a Vancouver radio station, the ShoreFM where she was host of The Jody Vance Show.

From there, she would go on to become the 5-year co-host of this city’s morning show, Breakfast Television, where she had me on as a guest in the realm of animal welfare, at least half a dozen times. And when my mom, Sheila, donated a kidney to my husband’s mom, Jane – yes, you heard that right – it was Jody who interviewed Sheila on-air.

But her career certainly goes back a heck of a lot further than just the years since I’ve known her.

She is as accomplished as they get in this country’s media world. In fact, for many years -- and in many ways this continues today -- her name was synonymous with our national obsession: Hockey. Yes, Jody Vance was the first woman in Canadian history to host her own sports show in primetime.

What I love most about Jody and her story though isn’t her success -- while that’s of course admirable -- it’s her hustle. If she wants something, she goes for it. She aims high. She embraces change. She gets prepared, and when opportunity presents itself – she strikes. So you don’t have to be a sports-fan or a broadcast buff to love Jody and this chat; the themes are universal. (Best of all, she metaphorically “leaps” knowing unshakably that the figurative net will appear, because -- as she tells it -- she knows she is her own net.)

She’s had a fascinating career. She tells some heart-warming stories about the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Dan Aykroyd, Eric McCormack, and her #1 guy, Gord Downie. All in, this is a conversation that’s full of insights and inspiration, and it’s uplifting and fun.