Martial arts, cannabis and entrepreneurship make for curious bedfellows unless you're Canadian entrepreneur Michael Yorke.
When Michael Yorke was twenty, he developed a limp, pain in his left knee and a skin condition. After he was diagnosed with the genetic disease psoriatic arthritis, Yorke was prescribed opioids alongside strong synthetic opioids like Oxycontin and was bedridden for six months.
Unable to sleep, struggling from stomach pains and worried about the addictive nature of Oxycontin, Yorke stopped taking his prescribed medications.
"I actually went through withdrawal. I threw up for about three or four days. I felt sick," he says.
Months after his diagnosis, Yorke began smoking cannabis and marijuana, which was more socially acceptable in Canada. Today, he credits both with relieving his psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
"[It helps with].. being able to get up and walk and not have pain all throughout my body, being able to sit for longer periods of time when I have issues with my back. I find [cannabis] light years better than anything else," he says.
Yorke, who worked as a day trader and in the mining industry, eventually turned his experiences with cannabis into Crop Infrastructure Corp in 2011.
This Vancouver-based company focuses on investments and infrastructure in the cannabis crop production sector. It also operates six production facilities in Washington, California, Nevada and Oklahoma.
Although cannabis sparked his business idea, Yorke cites martial arts as teaching him how to run Crop Infrastructure Corp. Yorke, 37, is an instructor in Capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, and has practiced for over twenty years.
"Martial arts, it's a challenge with yourself. You [are] always having to fight yourself to go to class, to push yourself in class, to go a little bit harder," he says. "My discipline, my persistence, my drive and sort of the formation of my character all comes from [Capoeira]."
When Yorke began practicing this sport, he studied advanced athletes performing backflips. To learn this skill, he began breaking down this complex movement into a series of smaller milestones.
"I looked at [the backflip] and was like. ‘What do I have to learn to be able to do that?’," he says. "I need to get stronger. I need to get more flexible. I need to learn these types of movement patterns, and then I need to put those together."
Yorke recommends a similar approach in business. Aspiring leaders should break down complex business projects like raising capital or establishing a premises, into smaller milestones too.
"It's just about believing in yourself, creating a plan, following that plan. But also being able to pivot and move quickly if an input changes," he says.
Successful martial artists often perform from a place of balance rather than drawing on intense emotion. This calm mindset is useful for reaching important business decisions.
"React from a neutral position and get all the facts straight," Yorke says. "It's not about functioning from a place of emotion."
A CEO serves as the link between the public and his or her business. This role puts Yorke in an interesting position because he's well-known in the Capoeira community as an instructor.
"I had some hesitation moving forward with Crop Infrastructure Corp. at the beginning, being the CEO. There's a lot of different cultures, a lot of stigma. And I was fearful of it," he says.
"I do believe in [cannabis] because of what I've personally seen. I honestly feel sad that there are people that have that mentality where they're told that something is bad. So they just blindly believe it without doing any kind of research."
Today, Yorke balances instructing Capoeira students with raising capital and running his business.
"Martial arts is my passion. It's kind of the way the times are now. You need two careers," he says.