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. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Failed...Now what?

I find great passion in horse riding, It is probably one of the very few animals that I find fascinating. Horses built a true connection with men throughout the history. But that is not the point of the post, although I could go on and on about how much I love horses.

Failure is the point. We all have failed at something whether you want to admit it or not. As long as we breath we will make mistakes, or others make mistakes and we have to pay the price and taste failure. Who to blame is not exactly important. But I have a story I want to share because I feel people can learn from stories even when they are not exactly related to the actual situation.

I was enjoying a nice horse ride in the forest with my instructor. It was a sunny April day, rode my favorite horse to go on the weekly "balade" to enjoy the beautiful weather. That particular horse was very stubborn and had a lot of character, probably the reason why I keep choosing to ride him. Most days he behaved well with me. Horses can be pretty sneaky and pull up their "crazy horse" card with certain people when they choose to. The ride was going really well, when my horse saw a few dogs barking at us, he got agitated and managed to make me fall from his back. It was the first time I had fallen from a horse, and besides from the embarrassment, it was painful. The horse got so scared from our reaction to his behavior, that he hid behind a tree waiting. My reaction was very simple: I am not riding that horse again and was convinced to stay in the middle of the forest rather than ride that horse back. My instructor came to me and "ordered" me to ride back right away. I refused, he insisted....I was right back on the horse. I was very angry at the instructor for making me ride the horse while being terrified and in pain. He then explained to me, that he saved me from fearing horses in the future. He said most people who fall from horses are afraid to ride them again and probably would just quit horse riding..Now I do not know how valid is his statement, but It definitely helped me. Because not only I rode back the horse but we went back closer to the dogs who scared the horse and followed the instructor's words on how to calm my horse down and manage his fear. I did.

Things you do after you fail are what matter. Are you going to immediately try again? or just let the fear from failing haunt you? Just when you know you failed and owned it, do not let the fear get to your heart and stop you from trying all over again. Now you may want to try something different, like riding a different horse, but never give up on your passion. Every time you fail you learn something in the process. While you may try one more time to only find yourself failing again, you will without doubt learn something each time you fail...until you actually succeed. I have never fallen from a horse since then, but I am certainly not afraid from it happening again.

Failed?.... Try it all over again immediately.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

It is Ok to Make a Fool out of Yourself

I got a connection request on LinkedIn that brought back a memory so significant in my life, yet almost forgotten until I opened LinkedIn on my browser this morning. A connection request from a friend who facilitated my first introduction to the entrepreneurial spirit.

We were high school students, about fifteen years old when he got this "crazy" idea of building a resort on the beach of Casablanca. He believed so much in it, it was all he talked about. He was not afraid to share his dream with me. I listened and shared some immature thoughts. But he took it a bit further by making his own feasibility study, added his entrepreneurial optimism and enthusiasm to the mix to turn it into a project worth $150 Billion Dirhams, at least on paper.

One afternoon, while wandering around the break court, he came to me and said: "Sara, I want you to come with me, I will be on national TV". I was happy for him, but also flattered he asked me to give him company. The TV show was called "Challenger". It was a business plan contest hosted on the national Moroccan TV. Contestants applied from different cities and different fields. He was the youngest applicant and probably the least experienced. But as a fifteen years old, my thoughts were very typical :

" OMG, I am going to be on national television!".

Once we get to the studio, my friend enters the recording room and was bombarded with questions. Most of which were to embarrass him. After all, he was asking for an investment of $150 Billion Dirhams to build a resort. At that point, I started regretting going along. I did not want to be associated with a "crazy dude", who will be aired on TV for people to get a laugh from. It was pretty embarrassing. But he did not seem to care,  he answered the judges' ironic questions with confidence and professionalism. His first words to me after the interview were : "They don't get it, I will make it happen without them". All I was thinking about is the need to get out of there as quickly as possible. I immediately stopped believing in my friend and his "crazy" thoughts and lost hope he will ever make it. It was not until later, that I realized this friend has taught me a great lesson about entrepreneurship. He taught me that It is OK to make a fool of yourself, as long as you believe in yourself and in the greatness of your dream.

He did not let the TV hosts' silly comments, the investors' ironic questions, and the million of viewers' laughs discourage him from pursuing his dream. He had fallen but quickly and surely stood up even stronger. I was surprised to see him come back to me with a new idea a month later. This time, it was much more realistic. To my biggest surprise, in four months he started a summer camp company where he toured the country, animating shows and hosting beach parties. He followed his passion and made a business out of it.

Eight years later, I learned he is CEO of a business expo company organizing trade shows nationally and internationally. He certainly learned a lot from his experience with Challenger but I learned more seeing his persistence and indifference to people's devastating negative comments about his ability to make it as an entrepreneur. He proved everyone wrong, including myself.

Never be afraid of  making a fool out of yourself because you dream bigger than everyone around you. And it never hurts to believe in the beauty of your dreams, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. Today, I certainly believe in his ability to build and run a resort in Casablanca.

Music Background: