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Ex-Dragon breathing different kind of fire now

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IN his new memoir, W. Brett Wilson, Calgary-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and former star of CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den, gives a refreshingly honest perspective of his accomplished life.

The perceptive and generous 55-year-old divorced father of three and prostate cancer survivor comes across as a straight shooter who loves to inspire others with his words of wisdom based on a life meaningfully lived with lessons for anyone willing learn.

Born in North Battleford, Sask., Wilson rose through the ranks to become one of investment bankers. Now a reformed workaholic after a stint in rehab, Wilson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 at age 43. This diagnosis forced him to rethink his priorities.

Wilson writes that longer-term business success should focus on "making every deal a fair deal."

He also admits that he had "hunger and passion for material wealth and business success," which relentlessly drove him to "chase deals seven days a week, every hour of the day and night."

This adversely impacted his family life and his health, which ultimately led him to change his own personal definition of success following his life-threatening illness and the break-up of his marriage.

Wilson also credits his past mistakes for helping him to make money on subsequent deals.

Redefining Success is filled with memorable insights from himself and others, such as Dale Carnegie, who famously remarked: "Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, and most fools do. But it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving."

Wilson also admits that joining the Young Presidents’ Organization was one of the best decisions he’s ever made. He also believes that his creative philanthropy, and enriching the lives of others, are two of the best ways to find lasting significance in life.

To that end, Wilson has donated and raised many millions of dollars for worthwhile causes. He says he plans to take the Warren Buffett approach and leave much of his estate to charity rather than to his own children.

Buffet’s memoir celebrates core business values such as fairness, keeping promises, integrity, respecting the dignity of others and never giving up.

Until he left Dragons’ Den last year, Wilson was the program’s lead dealmaker. He says he is proud that he’s made twice as many deals as any other Dragon.

He is definitely not the first Dragon to venture into the printed word, though. Kevin O’Leary, Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson have also ventured into the authors’ den with their own tomes.

Wilson is a strong believer in the value of mentoring others, and many Dragons’ Den entrepreneurs in whom he has invested describe him as a first-rate mentor and business partner who has been instrumental in assisting them to attain new levels of success.

Wilson "invests in people rather than projects," he writes. "I’m looking for people who know their stuff, who are 100 per cent trustworthy and willing to work hard.

"Students of all ages," opines Wilson, "should study and learn three core life subjects: marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy."

His philanthropic efforts are vast, and he even writes about raising funds to help Manitobans harmed by the 1997 flood.


Brenlee Carrington, a Winnipeg lawyer and mediator, is the Law Society of Manitoba’s equity ombudswoman.

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