Sunday, December 11, 2016

Healthy Gravitations

We don't choose family but we choose friends, a commonly believed theory that justified our friendship and companionship selectivity in life. We all develop inner circles throughout the years. Those circles gradually and organically shrink over time as our personalities, likes, and wants develop. In fact, with time and specifically after our mid twenties, we attract a certain type of friends who would quasi-perfectly fit into our own unique life shaped mold. We no longer solely choose friends but also gravitate towards friendships that reflect who we are as individuals and what we represent.

Sometimes, I look around and realize the many ghosted friends and acquaintances. The people who are no longer as a big part of my life as they used to be. I immediately feel a sense of culpability. Is there anything I could have done to stay in touch?...perhaps I should have made time for that lunch or coffee invitation or make additional efforts to enjoy their companionship. But the reality is that as much as I turned away from certain friendships, they also naturally turned away from me. My energy is no longer focused on making as many cool friends as I can, but rather on defining a circle of close friends who are walking my path. They might be ahead or behind me but they saw or eventually will see the world as I see it today. More than that, the time It took me to assess people diminished considerably. We all have people skills, which are constantly evolving mainly thanks to our deceptions. We can better see those traits that can make a person worth the time and effort to be a lifelong friend.

Most importantly, a healthy friendship gravitation happens towards friends who have your best interest in mind, and give back. Giving back, to me, is the most important trait of a true friend. Giving back with a listening ear, a helping hand, or simply by being kind and treating your friends with respect. It solidifies any relationship, not just friendships.

Now, listening and exposing yourself to people with different views, wants, different levels of ambitions is nurturing in many ways and healthy as well. But that is certainly not a friendship we would naturally be attracted to. Life has enough challenges and opportunities to seize, spending time fitting in or pivoting from your maturely developed way of life will be a waste of energy and might create unnecessary additional stress.

To all the healthy, fulfilling, honest, and meaningful friendships out there!

A New Paradigm for Global Education in Morocco

Written exclusively for: Morocco World News  by Sara Amiri 

Education in Morocco is often described with a sense of disappointment and anger. It is believed to be the most important factor in the development of the country. After all, it is making sure that generations of bright, efficient, and civilized individuals continue to drive the country forward economically, politically and socially.
This importance of education is being used as a political tool to attract and engage voters, alluding people to truly believe that a better education system is the sole responsibility of the government.
The reality is that despite the relatively mediocre education system that many of us are enraged about, many students have managed to have a beneficial educational experience in the tiniest of villages, unidentifiable to the average Moroccan. This successful experience is, without a doubt, attributed to the ambitious and intelligent nature of the student, but also attributed to their educators, specifically, the educators who inspire and believe in the student’s abilities to succeed and see beyond the limited and not-so-engaging education system.
A great educator inspires students and motivates them. A great institution leader creates that perfect learning environment and engages in the short and long term education of the students. In Morocco, there are many examples within this new generation of hard-working, open-minded, and committed university and school leaders who are ensuring that students see and utilize a variety of learning and personal development opportunities.
Professor Yassine Zarhloule, Director at EST Oujda is a great example representing this group of optimistic leaders within Morocco’s educational institutions. In a short period of time, he was able to apply international standards in his institution. Inspiring students as a professor, he now continues inspiring both students and professors as a school director. His positive attitude and optimism can be seen during the very first few seconds of interacting with him.
When students come to him seeking help he welcomes them with a listening ear and a warm smile. He goes above and beyond his daily dictated responsibilities as a school director, by continually looking for ways to improve his school’s teaching methods and by bringing new opportunities to students and professors at EST Oujda (ESTO). His open door policy and closeness to his students allows him to directly and positively impact them on a daily basis.
“I never went to his office and he turned me down. He always motivates us and provides us a space to work on our creative projects,” says ESTO student Mohammed Ayyadi when asked about Yassine Zarhloule “Moreover, he gives us feedback on our projects and provides mentorship so we can improve our work.” Watine Latnine, also an ESTO student adds: “His passion and dedication to his job has given us a great role model to follow”.
Yassine’s closeness to his students can be seen in his frequent interactions with students seeking advice, help, or simply a listening ear. These student testimonials show how much Yassine’s work is appreciated within ESTO and that more examples like him are needed in Morocco’s educational institutions where students are in a desperate need of mentors and role models.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Holy Idea!

I am an avid dreamer by nature and ideas are constantly evolving in my mind. Some of them are genius, others are rather embarrassing or idiotic. I am the kind of person who lets her thoughts foster into perfectly achievable ideas and can spend hours entertaining a business opportunity or a grandiose social project, all while comfortably visualizing the resulting success and fame.

I came up with the perfect solution for engaging unexperienced entrepreneurs with the soon to retire small business owners, creating a sustainable model that will give young entrepreneurs the experience needed and give the small business owners the peace of mind of knowing that their business will be in good and "trained" hands. I designed an app helping drivers avoid moose and deer collisions by creating a geo-enabled notifications platform. I conceptualized a senior citizens home for people with alzheimer.

These would have been great success or even failure stories if the ideas were actually executed. The truth is, all these concepts were ideas that never left the ideation stage. These AMAZING ideas...Alright! GOOD ideas, are swinging at a stage where most ideas end up. Many people would wake up every morning with 10 ideas. These ideas can be as simple as a tool to help improve one's organization or starting a diary. Any idea can change something/someone if not the world, but only and only if it is paired with a successful execution and a tiny bit of luck or what some might call "External Factors". The point is until an idea is launched, it is worth absolutely zero, nada, nothing! To put it in terms that everyone would understand...The real value of an idea is $0. The concept of a Million Dollar Idea is completely inaccurate and delusive. Many aspiring entrepreneurs get too overprotective of their ideas and fail to see the value of a successful execution, and that can be translated in their communication to the investors or future partners. The failure to acknowledge the absolute necessity of a great team or individual ready to take the idea out of the ideation stage and launch, and the external factors that will drive the idea to success is what kills every great idea.  There is a reason most VCs would refuse to sign an NDA, simply because they know the value of an idea. They know that coming up with the idea is a trivial part of the process of creating change and impact. Taking action towards an effective execution is the most important factor leading to results. 

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 percent of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.
-Steve Jobs

If you are the creative type and have a million ideas that never saw the light of day, share them because their value won't multiply over time and certainly not while deeply buried in your head. If you have the energy to execute but lack creativity, there are a million online resources giving ideas for free or use the many idea generation methods. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Visualize, Write, and Conquer!

It is December already and we are all beginning to harvest what we have worked for this year, some with disappointment and others with joy and a sensation of accomplishment. I am a big believer in writing down resolutions and goals. I keep a journal, in a hopefully safe place, where I keep track of my life’s ongoing road trip with its curves, detours, and inevitable bumps.

Writing down goals tells the world that you have a plan. And, yes! It listens. We are all going on that road trip whether we want to or not. We might cross paths several times, but for the most part we are on our own. Having a plan (goals) helps the world conspire in your favor. Since, I started writing down my goals, I accomplished all of them…Okay, except for two*.   That is to say that, when you picture a goal while writing it down, you want it more and get a greater motivation to work harder for it. It is similar to the old way of memorizing things by writing it down many times.

The world can be manipulated in ways that it can be aligned with your goals, if and only if you really want it. Spoken words are visualized with more difficulty than written words. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Legal Connections

Connections have always had such a pejorative meaning in my mind, growing up in Morocco and seeing how unfairly connections are utilized everyday. I have seen people skip day-long lines at public service institutions, get admitted to prestigious schools without screening, secure jobs they did not deserve, and even escape from jail time thanks to "connections".

In addition to bribery, illegal use of connections is very common in many developing countries. But when I came to the United States, my perception on connections has gradually changed. I discovered a legal way of exploring connections. I, for long, believed that smart and  motivated people will eventually make it without connections and solely based on merit. However, it is not always the case. It is about who you know and what you do with it. It is perfectly legal when the opportunity to make these connections, usually in less corrupt countries, is accessible to all. 

The key is networking and meeting people who see your intelligence and motivation. I was always encouraged by my mentors and professors to get out and meet new people, and to never be afraid of asking for contact information, of following up, and building my professional network. Legal Connections can be crucial in getting that dream job or getting admitted to that prestigious university on your list. In fact, it is  very common for employers and universities to ask for personal references because you are expected to have made enough connections who can speak in your favor. It is your responsibility but also the responsibility of your connection to assess the extent in which you get helped in getting ahead. But something I learned for sure is that networking and building up your professional network is a skill that can be learned by all and does not necessarily translate to breaking the generally accepted code of ethics or the law. 

Are connections still illegally or unethically used? absolutely. However, as long as you believe that you are using a connection obtained based on your networking efforts and hard work, it is not wrong to explore that in your favor.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happiness Found & Lost in The Strangest Thing

Happiness is bizarre and often times misleading. Rather the quest for happiness is. We all try to find that one object, one activity, one person, one path, or one career which eventually will make us reach that comfort and happiness we have long been pursuing. It is being able to live the moment fully and losing yourself in the sensation of pure contentment and in the state of celebrating life. I hold on to material objects I have never used thinking the day will come where I could use them and that will make me happy. That out of fashion dress, the pen drained of ink, the empty bottle of perfume, a picture, a book....things I think I should hold on to because, hey what if the day I really need it to make my day I would not have it?

In the quietness of a long night studying and reaching deep into my dispersed thoughts, I found myself staring at a board I have almost forgotten existed. The board of ambition, I call it. I immediately brought back my lost thoughts to that moment of contemplation, browsing through the words and numbers on the board. I felt a brief moment of joy and a feeling of satisfaction...Happiness. Staring at numbers, words, pictures, all signifying an objective I wanted to reach. I did accomplish most of my goals. I really did. Everything stopped, I felt great comfort in staring at the board and realizing the beauty of accomplishment. As if everything else I accomplished in between did not matter. All what mattered are the goals posted on that board, because I wrote them up and can now visualize a to-do list full of check marks. I then felt a sense of sadness because now I have to find the next objectives to reach.

As if I am always trying to find that next big thing to do or to own to be happy. I just cannot seem to live a moment in its full sequence of little meaningless events and enjoy it. There always has to be The big thing, that next goal. Got me thinking into whether ambition creates or kills spontaneous long-term happiness and comfort.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Managers Traits

After spending some time observing each of the successful managers I met, and reading case studies, I wanted to try and capture those common traits that made their management style a success. I was trying as much as possible to absorb those qualities to hopefully one day become a successful manager. And here they are:
  1. Have Passion for what you do. Really? What else could keep a person motivated at all times and lead a team of motivated individuals? Passion is seen in someone's tone, eye contact, and persistence. 
  2.  Acknowledge the possibility of failure. BUT...of course there is a but, you can't just expect to fail without having a plan B. Most managers I worked with seemed to know they can fail but always had a plan B, C, and even D. They rarely share them. 
  3. Keep calm. You might be just like me and can't contain your over-excitement or disappointment. But great managers control perfectly their positive and negative emotions. Being calm not only helps make rational decisions but it also helps keep your team calm.
  4. Motivate your team to solve a problem before asking for help. I had a manager who had a sign on his door saying "Do not come to me with a problem without a solution" It definitely made me think twice before knocking on his door and ask for his help. 
  5. Do not over promise but show optimism. This is probably the hardest thing to do. Successful managers know how to communicate their confidence on the ability to complete a project or reach a goal without promising overly optimistic results. 
  6. Be consistent in the message(s) you communicate and communicate it often. Nothing is more harmful to a team than a manager changing goals and showing inconsistency in communication. You want your team to move in one direction towards the one goal or set of goals. Communicate that goal clearly and frequently. You are repeating yourself for a good reason. 
  7. Delegate. One of the types of personalities in the workplace are leaders and executors. When a manager's personality falls within a mix of the two types, it becomes hard to delegate. But to be a successful manager you need to learn how to delegate, not only tasks but also the decision-making power. 
  8. Get to know your team on a personal level. You cannot be surrounded by loyal team members, if you do not show that you care about them as individuals with lives outside of their cubicles. 
  9. High level of integrity. Managers have to lead by example and if you want your team to work with great ethics, you need to have that trait yourself. 
  10. Mentor, don't just manage. Do I need to expand on this one? 
There are more traits unique to each manager, but these are the ones I found common among most if not all successful managers I know.