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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_eUnxDE8YY 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Letting Go

As I am contemplating the candle's flame burning, I started seeing this flame that is fighting so hard to not let go of its fire. After all there is a disturbing breeze infiltrating through my window. But soon it was not about the candle or the flame's battle anymore, it was about the concept of the fear from letting go the things we have, the things we possess. Why is it so hard to move on and just let go? We hold on to the little or big things although they might hurt us, just like the candle is holding on to the fire that is burning it.

I wrote previously about quitting, and I can't help but find the two topics related...At least in my mind. Moving on without closure resembles quitting an ambition, a dream, a challenge without having hit the dead end wall several times. After all I am perfectly content with holding on to a dream that my mind knew was harmful and irrational, but my heart refuses to listen...Or so I thought. And so, as with every decision I took, I decided to find reason and look for counter arguments to my premature conclusions. Why is it so difficult to move on and leave behind things or people we felt emotionally attached to? and what is the rational behind fearing the unknown emptiness "letting go" will engender?

1. Fearing "letting go" is simply fearing the unknown. We become comfortably accustomed to an emotion, a routine or ritual, a face...If we were to know exactly how things will turn out when we move on, our fear will dramatically be reduced, if not disappear.
2. Letting go means we are perfectly convinced there is better. After all we are all on the quest for the best. Knowing for a fact that moving on will only create better experience opportunities, stability and peace of mind; can only make us want to accelerate the "letting go" process. Ironically the many times we let go of uncomfortable situations, life gets better. But yet we thought our world has come to an end when we took that step. Some people will just tell you: "Everything happens for a reason" and they mean that it is for the best. I specifically got this conclusion from "The Alchemist". I can't remember the last time I was eager to finish a book in one read.
3. Ignorance is also a factor, as harsh as this may sound. We are ignorant about our own good. How many times we looked back in time and thought "what was I thinking?". We all have chosen to walk eye blinded at some point or the other, only to open our eyes to a wake up call from our mind to our heart. It is the call of reason and enlightening.
4. Failing to acknowledge our other options makes us prisoners in our self-made cage. We are so worried about keeping what we think we have, that we completely fail to explore the outside world.

I am sure some will relate to this struggle, but some will just have the same confused face reading through the post. But it is time for me to take away the flame's fire...obviously the candle is not letting go.

Music Background: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmjEewiUciw

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Relying on Luck?..Well Don't

Moroccan Lucky Khmissa

As I am sitting here thinking about how lucky I have been with many of the opportunities that were presented to me during my journey in the United States. I began to think a little more deeply about the concept of luck or fortuna. Is luck inherited?...perhaps inherited as we would inherit dark or blond hair? Is it a coincidence... randomly distributed among individuals? Is a power out there deciding whom to bless with it? Can we create luck?

I once had a brief conversation with my French teacher in Morocco about luck. The conversation lasted no more than 5 minutes, but every single word of it remained engraved in my memory forever. As many Moroccan students in their senior high school year, I was preparing for my Baccalaureat exam. Studying countless hours for that decisive two-days exam, which will determine my future, make my parents proud, and open doors for a higher education at a prestigious university...Le Bac! While trying hard to absorb content from 9 different ten month long classes, I decided I needed to complain a little, after all it may release some of my stress. I entered the teacher's conference room and told my teacher that studying for the baccalaureate exam was pointless, because in the end it is luck that matters. If I am lucky I will pass. Many bright students didn't pass because they were unlucky, or so I thought. He listened to me for a couple of seconds and said: " If I am testing you on one chapter of your book, and you read half of the chapter and came to the exam, what are your chances of getting a 20/20?". Without thinking much I answered: "50%". He then continued: "Let's look at a different scenario, if you actually read carefully the entire chapter, what would be your chances then?". Again, without much thinking, I answered: "100%". He then says: " See how you were able to increase your chances by 50%? What makes you think you can't do the same for the Baccalaureate exam?". The moral of the story was that we are able to increase chances by working harder. You cannot leave chances decide for you. His words were of great motivation, since I was able to not only pass the exam, but get an honorable grade. I didn't let chance play with me, I played with it and maximized it.

Now, can we create luck? Of course we can. Another great phrase I like to quote here is " Get Up, Get Out, and Get Something" by Jerome Love. Jerome is one inspiring entrepreneur I met at one of the C.E.O National Conferences in Dallas. Reading his book was only to confirm what I learned over time on catching those opportunities that fly by and need little or great effort to be seen and embraced.

Just when you think you are unlucky, do yourself a favour and get out of your comfort zone to meet new people, experience new things, and learn. There are endless opportunities but not enough people with the talent to create luck out of them. Stay alert, work hard, and strive to increase your luck or simply your probablity of succeeding! And Just when you feel you are lucky, take some time to celebrate because you most likely worked very hard for it.