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John Brink Beats the Odds

No matter what life brings, attitude, passion and work ethic will always lead to success


BCBusiness Brink Group

Credit: Brink Group

When life throws a curveball (or several) it can be easy to give up, give in, get stuck. Unless you are John A. Brink—lumber baron, philanthropist, speaker and author—and, like him, you have a bottomless well of natural optimism at the ready.

“I am a perpetual optimist, even in the most difficult of circumstances,” he says. “Every day, I look forward to what challenges may come, and I am excited for every single day.”

Brink immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1965 with $25.47 in his pocket and a deep connection with the country, born the moment Canadian soldiers liberated his village during the Second World War.

brink-3Brink GroupFrom nearly starving to death as a new Canadian, to being excluded from the lumber market when he blew the whistle on fraudulent practices, to rebuilding his entire livelihood three times, if there is anything Brink knows, it is resilience.  

That is the undertone of his first book, an autobiography published in 2021, called, Against All Odds. It details his life’s work, successes and challenges and how he persevered with his mantra for success.

“It all starts with a positive attitude,” he says. “Avoid the negative, and see the glass as half full. Next, you must find your passion. Find something you like to do and focus your effort there. The last thing is worth ethic. Whether your goals are entrepreneurial or personal, attitude + passion + work ethic equal success.”

At 58, Brink was in a bookstore, and he picked up a copy of Driven to Distraction, Edward Hallowell’s ground-breaking book on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After reading just a few pages, Brink felt a metaphorical door open.

“I bought the book, and I wrote in the inside cover: ‘Now I finally know who I am’,” he says. “I wrote it in Dutch because there was still a great deal of stigma attached to ADHD.”

brink-2Brink GroupBrink took some time to understand how ADHD served him over the years, how to adapt to the parts of it that held him back, and how this manifested in his life combined with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from The War.

With his trademark optimism, Brink turned the tables on his diagnosis. “I knew how to turn what was perceived a liability into an asset,” he says. “Now I know ADHD is actually my superpower.”

In case it isn’t yet clear, Brink isn’t one to do a thing in a small way, so he took his experience with ADHD and wrote a book—tentatively titled ADHD: Unlocked—that profiles more than 15 people who live with the affliction, their journeys and their stories. It goes on sale July 8.

“The new book intertwines my story with those of others who learned of their diagnoses at various times in their lives,” he says. “It also looks at how they have embraced the benefits and worked to manage the disadvantages. As I have always done in my writing, it lays out the good, the bad and the ugly for all to see.”

brink-4Brink GroupThis year, Brink will be 82. His nine companies, which are thriving in lumber, logistics and warehousing, and real estate, are expected to double over the next five years. As covid restrictions ease, he is heading back to the gym to resume his body-building routine with an eye on a provincial title and then competing at the Canadian Nationals and the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio.

Brink says he would be lying if he said he hasn’t hovered near rock-bottom in the dark times. But he’s chosen not to live there.

“Sometimes we see difficulty as failure,” Brink says. “But to become successful, you have to have the right perspective, and if you fall, you dust yourself off and start over. Then, failure becomes experience and that is critically valuable. Looking forward at where you need to go next gives you the confidence to start again. That is why you never, ever, ever give up.”

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Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Brink Group