Luc Maurice in 10 questions. (Well, maybe a few more)
For this blog post, I was allowed to steal the stage from Mr. Maurice so that I could obtain a little “inside info”. There’s a lot more to this man than being the founder of Le Groupe Maurice, and I thought we’d all enjoy learning what makes him tick. I met him virtually, as he was isolated at his chalet dealing with a bout of Covid. (Yes, even top guns like him aren’t immune to the wrath of Omicron!). But true to his good nature, he graciously swept his symptoms aside for my queries and questions. So, let's start the year in a light-hearted way, with 10 Questions for Luc Maurice!
Mr. Maurice, you’re at your famous chalet, the one we so often hear about. Why is it so special to you?
Well, I’ve just renovated it. More like demolished it, actually. It was the chalet that I’d built myself when I was 17. My father was a small general contractor and I learned a great deal helping out on his construction sites. I loved working with him. We got along really well. You know, at my core, I quite enjoy working with my hands, despite my fondness for engaging with intellectuals.
While building my chalet, I was studying at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean. On weekends, my friends and classmates would come and help me out. It gave them a little getaway out of town and gave me some extra arms to build the frame!
One big advantage of going to military college was that you’re paid to study. That’s what enabled me to afford the construction costs of the chalet. I've never been materialistic or much of a big spender. In fact, I've never bought a house in my life. The only building that truly belongs to me is my chalet.
I finished building the chalet by the time I was 21, and never renovated it much since. But then COVID came, and as I was planning to spend a lot of time at the chalet (as my downtown Montreal apartment was essentially closed), I set out to give my then unemployed entrepreneur friends some exterior renovation work. I wanted my chalet to have a natural look, with stones, logs and plenty of windows. The idea was to feel as though you were in the woods, while being inside. So, I have a view of the lake and the mountains. There’s also a large fireplace. (I burned 32 cords of wood just last year). It’s not a castle. But it’s my home. You could say it reflects me.
So this is your haven of peace and tranquillity. This is where you manage to decompress from work, if I understand correctly?
Absolutely. I often say that if I hadn't had this place, I would be a completely different person.
Really! How so?
I’m super intense in pretty much everything I do. It's hereditary. My father and grandfather were the same. My father died at the age of 48 from coronary heart disease, which unfortunately was not detected in time. People smoked, worked very hard and didn't pay enough attention to themselves. It was the reality in those days.
So, at age 39, I decided to stop working and take better care of myself. This "pause" lasted 17 months. I had saved some money, as I had few possessions, and my cottage was paid for. So, I left my job at Canadian National and began building a log camp in the Far North, while working as a snowmobile guide for tourists. It allowed me to put things into perspective. Within 6 months, my blood pressure (then a little too high) went down below normal. It was then that I understood the importance of lifestyle on our health, and that I had to take care of myself.
Since that time, and also due to my genes, I try to eat well and stay active – especially over the past two years. Being planted in front of a screen all day isn’t exactly healthy, so I make sure to spend two hours each day in the mountains.
Two hours in the forest! What do you do there?
You'll laugh, but I talk to my tree “friends”. I made myself a small park with a cross-country ski trail. It's sort of my little corner of paradise where I feel good. It's like my private pilgrimage path.
But I’m not so different from others. In our current environment, many people are learning to appreciate nature again; to realize the major influence it exerts on our well-being and the way it can reset the pace in our lives. People have found a kind of balance, and that's good.
What’s your favourite pastime when at your chalet?
Well, I love winter. When it snows, I feel like I'm 5 years old again. On stormy days, I'm almost in a trance. It amazes me, the snow. It's pure, calm, gentle... and it offers so many possibilities. I have vacationed far more in the Northwest Territories, Northern Abitibi, Yukon and Alaska than in the South. The period when I take the most time for myself, is in winter. I also enjoy travelling by snowmobile. There’s no place that isn’t accessible to me!
My favourite pastime, is thus to bring friends during the winter to unknown lakes – a different one each time – and to build a small campfire there. I always carry a chainsaw with me and some kindling. In 5 minutes, it's done. We enjoy a nice snack around the campfire and make our way back quietly. Everyone LOVES it. It literally fills me with happiness.
To love, is to know. And if you don't know nature, if you don't spend enough time with her, if you don't marry her, how can you ever love her? For me, it's so important...
Do you have a secret you’d like to share with us?
As much as I am very active (and hyperactive), I greatly value my morning reading. What interests me most is history, anthropology and geography. I quite like science as well.
I need to read – a lot. You have to be curious. Growing and learning. Loving and being loved. Being useful and helpful. Those are my 3 mottos in life. But you can't have all that if you're not curious. I often say that an old person is only old when they’re no longer curious, regardless of their state of health. If we still have interest and are sensitive toward others, we remain young for a very long time.
But… it’s no secret that Mr. Maurice loves to read!
It's true! (laughs). Well, perhaps it makes up for the fact that I don't have a good ear. For me, music is discordant. I never quite catch the lyrics, unless they're really obvious. So, I don't listen to much music. I prefer news radio programs more. And since I live alone, it works out. Music just doesn't speak to me. Some lyrics will move me, but generally not the melodies themselves.
I'm also colour blind, which is why you’ll often see me in sweaters that don't match my pants at all! Oh, and also, I don't cook. For me, cooking is an extreme sport.
Ha ! Says the man who goes on snowmobile excursions into the Far North!
The truth is, I’ll find a way to either burn myself or burn something down when cooking! I wanted to buy a gas stove for the cottage during the renovations, and all my friends strictly forbade me from doing so. I’m simply too dangerous! They forced me to buy a convection cooktop where the heat stops as soon as you remove the pot.
And now it’s time for some rapid-fire questions. If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
I would be the main character from the movie Avatar. This movie amazed me. Who wouldn’t want to be handsome, tall and strong while saving the world and protecting an entire people; not to mention, having a wonderful spouse and living in a dazzling natural world. Everything in this film borders on the perfection of human aspirations. For me, I would choose that person.
What is your greatest strength?
In a word, determination.
What is your biggest weakness?
Being too impatient at times.
And your greatest passion?
To make a meaningful difference in society.
You most certainly have a favourite book. Which is it?
I have two: "The Economic History of the Jewish People", by Jacques Attali, and "The State of the World" series, which I read religiously every year.
You said you love trees. Which is your favourite species?
The birch, although it’s a fragile tree. I like it because it is white and reminds me of snow. It also stands apart from all the other trees.
And your favourite human?
Once again, I have two. They are Claude Castonguay, one of the great builders of Quebec, and Claude Montmarquette, the former President and CEO of CIRANO, who unfortunately just passed away. Their involvement in the community, even at an advanced age, has been impressive. They never criticized; instead, they offered solutions. Criticism repulses me. Bring me solutions and I'll listen. These men, therefore, had my complete admiration and respect.
What can I wish for you this year, Mr. Maurice?
I mainly want to be healthy. I’m fundamentally happy and consider myself to be a very lucky man. Of course, we can always improve certain things… but I feel good, "On my game" as they say. I want to continue to influence, advise and help others. And have some fun along the way, of course!
I plan on being somewhat less involved in the company on a daily basis, but will continue to be of value for years to come, sharing my knowledge and my experience with others. Because in the end, the greatest wealth in the world, are PEOPLE.
Well, I think I can say on behalf of many, that we most certainly want to benefit from your wisdom. You are an interesting and passionate individual. So much so, that I want to sit down again for another series of questions. What do you say?
Absolutely, Catherine. Until next time then!
Thank you, Mr Maurice. Enjoy the rest of the day at your chalet, or out in the mountains. And say hello to the trees for us!
Catherine Darlington, Chief Copywriter for Le Groupe Maurice