In this edition, we’re launching a new Origin Insights feature called Inside Origin. Every month, we’re going to introduce you to a member of our team. Why? Because to us, Origin is much more than an agency; it’s a community of humans (and a handful of dogs) who come together every day to support one another in doing what we do best. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to know us a little better, and also to give the amazing people who work here a small fraction of the recognition they deserve.
This month, we bring you Quinn Lanzon, a senior writer, absolutely ripping mountain biker, and perhaps the most Canadian guy we know.
Origin: First off, why do people seem to think you’re the most Canadian guy they know?
Quinn Lanzon: I’m not really sure. I sort of think it’s because I wear a lot of flannel.
Origin: Yeah. You really do.
QL: What can I say? It’s comfortable.
Origin: Tell me a little bit about your path to Origin.
QL: About three years ago, I got a Facebook message from a friend who knew you were hiring for a writer, and said ‘you really have to see these guys, they’re awesome. This is where you should be working.’ And he was right, so I got the job and bought him a bottle of scotch.
Origin: That sounds very flattering, so please say more: What made him right?
QL: I’d worked in an agency environment before, but Origin couldn’t have been more different, in all the good ways. The culture is really based on trust and confidence, and that comes through right away. It’s like once they make the decision to bring you on board, they’ve made the decision to put their faith in you. And that's so motivating and inspiring. It’s like ‘I’m responsible for this, and they have confidence in me, and so I know I can do great work.’
Origin: Let’s back up a little: How did you come to creative work?
QL: I was always really into mountain biking, and all through school (editor’s note: Quinn has three degrees, one in business, one in history and economics, and a master’s in Canadian history), I’d also been a trailbuilder. And I wrote a lot during school; one of my professors believed that historians have a responsibility to be good storytellers, so there was a lot of emphasis on writing. In 2011, I applied for a job to write a buyer’s guide for vitalmtb.com, and was hired to describe every single component of a bicycle in layman’s terms. It was the first time I got paid to write. Actually it was the first time I realized it was even possible for me to make money writing. Not too long after, a friend offered me my first agency job, and that was that.
Origin: Mountain biking is a huge part of your life, isn’t it?
QL: Oh yeah. I raced downhill for almost 15 years, and I was a trailbuilder for a decade. And for a long time, I organized mountain bike events in Quebec, New Brunswick, and BC. I’m also on the board of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, where I’m the Director of Special Events. I just love riding bikes, and I love the cycling community.
Origin: Tell me about The Ride of Your Life.
QL: I was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, but we moved when I was really young, and I hadn’t been back since I was an infant. I had this idea of returning to my birthplace by bike [ed note: There may have been beers involved], which meant riding 2500km in 11 days. This May, me and 9 of my friends [including Quinn’s co-workers David Kenworthy, Matt Tirrell, and filmmaker Graeme Meiklejohn] headed out. The craziest thing is that only one of us even owned a road bike prior to the trip. The hardest day was 280km, about 200 of which was in the rain, on gravel. Just brutal. But we made it, and we managed to raise nearly $10,000 to build a new bike park in Yellowknife.
Origin: What’s your favorite thing to do with words?
Origin: Give me some good writing advice.
QL: The best writing advice I’ve ever had is that you can’t write about things you don’t know. So pretty much no matter who the client is, I’m starting on Wikipedia, learning about their history, their location, their operations, their product, and then finding every relevant thing I can to dig deeper. I have to feel confident that I really know the place and the people. Another piece of good advice is to never forget that there’s an actual living, breathing human reading this stuff. Despite all the data and distance, there’s a real person with real feelings on the other end.
Origin: At Origin, you have a reputation for being an avid reader.
QL: I read a lot. I always have at least two books going at a time. I don’t consume media the way most people do; the only TV I watch is the downhill mountain biking World Cup, and if I watch a movie, it’s usually in the theater and almost always Star Wars. I also have a print subscription to the Economist. I guess I’m probably the only guy in the office who has one of those.
Origin: I guess you’re probably right.
QL: I think it’s valuable to get outside the culture you’re immersed in. One of the thinkers I read a lot is Nassim Nicholas Taleb; he’s a trader/mathematician/philosopher, and one of his beliefs is that if you’re thinking about what everyone else is thinking about, reading the same research and following the same trends, you’re just part of the mess. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to step outside of your industry and even media in general to see what’s really going on.
Origin: If you could work on any brand, what would it be and why?
QL: Canadian Tire. I really like brands that don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t preachy in any way. It’s such an iconically Canadian brand and I feel like a lot of my values are iconically Canadian. Plus, I grew up in a place (ed note: Aylmer, QC) where Canadian Tire was the coolest store in town. And in terms of the outdoor industry, I’d love to do more work with bike brands.