Latest Project Launch: “In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty” by Mark Gonzales

Think Disrupt, though a company, is my canvas, something blank to be my stress reliever in the world, an outlet that I could express myself in a way I couldn’t anywhere else. The small magazine evolved into a new media company for social change, a business close to my heart and one whose sole purpose it is to serve the creative maladjustment of the non-conforming minority.

I have the pleasure of announcing a collaboration between Mark Gonzales and Think DisruptMelissa Athina and I  -to release acclaimed poet Mark Gonzales’ first book.Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 2.13.12 PM (1)

It’s been a one year collaboration in the making and Think Disrupt’s first major project of 2015.

What’s the book about:

In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty”, is a meticulously crafted series of ideas in tweet sized digestible prose. It serves as a personal guide to social change makers in the 21st century navigating complex social systems by highlighting advanced approaches to healing and global wellness.

It’s a personal guide for social good, healing wounds, navigating your identity, your narrative and changing the world – all written in prose format.

This is a book that was a labour of love, and would love if you share, buy and spread the love to all those who you know.

Available here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1zFMoIJ

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Imam Ghazali on Time Management

Like many entrepreneurs, creatives and doers, I struggle with time management. There is always so much to do and my biggest hurdle has been creating a system around what I do and delegating it to the proper resources, so that I can fully maximize my time.

I recently installed Rescue Time and starting tracking my time on an hour-by-hour basis. This shocked me back into reality. The software shows you exactly how you spend each hour you are online. And for us digital nomads, it’s quite daunting to come to terms with the way you use your time in such an ‘in-your-face’ way.

On a deeper level, many of us spent almost 15 years in the education system where motivation is essentially coming from an external source. You aren’t taught how to shape your life and control your time, someone else does it for you. So when you graduate and venture on your own for a bit after having gone through the system, you end up lost.

I definately did.

I haven’t full recovered, which is why I need these tools to keep me in check.

All of a sudden I had “all this time” and no idea how to use it, mold it or shape it to have work it for me. And if you are reading this, you’ve probably been in the same boat.

People email me and call me asking questions like: “How do I get more motivated?”

Because they’re not use to having trained that internal motivator within them, it’s easy to lose momentum and need constant reinforcement.

What I’ve learned is that the moment you start taking life and time more seriously is when you figure how exactly what your lifes work is.

In others, when you discover your purpose, time starts working for you instead of against you.

It’s easier to do things, make progress and not slack off.

People procrastinate mostly because they hate what they are doing and would rather do something else.

When what you do engages you, the question of time management stops being a question of management and rather a question of balance.

apple-coffee-computer-45 (1)But on a more philsophical level, the question of time is an interesting one.

What is time? Why does it exist?

The question of how do we measure time can be answered by asking the question: how do you measure your life?

In the world we live in, we normally organize our time according to the question of capital.

Your world will start to change when you measure your time against something other than money such as your legacy, your own self-mastery, helping others etc

I came to this paradigm shift within my own spiritual practices. Islam provides an alternative reality regarding the question of life, value and specifically time looks at putting knowledge acquisition and continual personal development at the core.

One of the scholars I look to was Imam Ghazali. He is one of Islams most foremost scholars and philsophers. His writings on the topic of time management are worth looking at. His is core message is accountability.

One should be sure that every moment should be accounted for.

His suggestion? Create a routine. That’s how you get baraka “blessing” or productivity.

For contemporary productivity or personal development research, these finding are in line with the main thoughts of the day. Many peak performance gurus will talk about creating a morning routine, the importance of meditation, starting your day early, and accounting for your time at the end of each day as key components of having a successful life. These ideas were espoused in Islamic thought centuries ago but it has taken Muslims quite some time to start realizing this and contributing to the field of personal development.

Here are some time management tips from Imam Ghazali:

  1. Time should not be without structure.
  2. Order your day and night.
  3. Organize routine of worship(5 daily prayers) and assign activity to each period.
  4. Start your day at dawn and as soon as you wake and remember God(or meditate)
  5. Until sunrise, you should occupy your time with 4 types of rememberence
    a.Supplication
    b. Recitation
    c. Glorification
    d Reflection – Plan you day with the long-term
  6. By day, use your time to do the following:
    a. Seeking useful knowledge. Best use of time and highest form of worship. useful knowledge helps increase God-consciousness.
    b. If you are unable to, rememberance and worship. Do good acts. Bring happines to other people and make it easier for righteous to do good work like visiting sick, helping others etc
    c. Spending your time and earning a living. Beware of world greed because it ruins faith and inner spiritual contentment.
  7. Before you go to bed, take an account for what you did during the day. Actions are according to the last of them. Don’t spend your time in entertainment but reviewing what you’ve learned during the day.

Note on the last point: Before you go to bed, don’t use your phone. The blue screen of your phone or computer reduces the level of melatonin in your body, which is a chemical that helps you sleep. A modern tip for us night owls.

Lessons in Time Management as an entrepreneurs:
I’ve learned a few things:

1) It’s easy to accomplish a lot but still be too hard on yourself. Celebrate after every accomplishment.

2) Sometimes you don’t need to work hard to accomplish a lot.

3) Identify things that will make you slack off and then eliminate it immediately.

4) Energy comes from people, so don’t spend too much time alone.

5) It’s an ongoing process to tract my time day-by-day but the more you are aware of how you spend your time, the less lightly you are to be reckless with it.

6) Create an incantation list of what you want to accomplish. Repeat it every morning for 10 minutes. It will help rejuvenitate you. Instant energy hack.

7) Create a vision board. Open up a pinterest and start mapping out how you want your life to look like. It’ll give you energy and make you less likely to slack off. 85% of my vision board came true for last year.

8) Don’t open your email or social media first thing in the morning. Your productivity will drain if you do that. 

9) Even if you can’t measure your time, try to fill in crack of time(like cooking, commuting etc) with education audio books and lectures. This makes my day feel way better and more productive.

10) Balance how much you work and your learn. It’s a constant re-shuffling of priorities and hard to maintain. 

Realize that no one knows anything anymore than you do for your own situation. I’ve had to stop looking to others to guide my journey as a digital nomad and figure how what was best for me.
All these are simply suggestions I hope you will use to better your life.
with love,
Hodan

The Real, Raw and Ugly on How I Got Started: My Entrepreneurial Story

I set up this blog because there are few people of color sharing their journey. I’m here to share my experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made. I also want to inspire more people to take risks and do what they love. Most entrepreneurs I meet don’t look like me. Very few come from the same background and have gone through similar obstacles. I was encouraged by Kevin Dewalt, startup investor and advisor, to be open, raw and real. So I am. I wanted to thank my mentors Obaid Ahmad and Manu Sharma for being one of the most impactful mentors I’ve had since starting my journey.

I’m a black Muslim woman who fought tooth and nail to be who I am and to make the world adapt to me instead of adapting the world.

This is my story of how I become an entrepreneur, am blessed to be doing what I love everyday and hope to inspire you to do the same because it is possible.

I grew up in the projects. Drug dealers, gangs, violence, and crime- I saw it all.

My parents were immigrants from a civil war in Mogadhishu, Somalia, who came to Canada in the early 90’s. The public housing projects are where most immigrants settled while trying to figure out to survive in a new country. Like many young Somali woman, I was raised by a single mother. The all-too-pervasive but rarely spoken about topic in the Somali community is how many families broke down due to the transition from living Somalia to living in the “West”. Somali women were, and still are, the backbone of the community. They have single-handledly kept our communities alive in the diaspora and they are what prevented us from breaking down the way our country broke down. There is not enough thanks we can give to Somali mothers for what they did. None.

Like some who com from the hood, my mother provided for me so that I never ‘needed’ everything. I was so painfully oblivious to my social class until I went to university.

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Old Mogadhishu

The world of entrepreneurship was hidden from me until I was 22. I found it kinda by fate. I don’t believe in accidents. I was rummaging through books at my library when I found a book called: “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs To Know” by David Bournstein.

It was like I went to heaven.

Why hadn’t anyone told me this was real? Like, I could do this as a real ‘thing’.

But you know why no one told me? Because nobody else around me knew either. This is a stark example of how privledge – access to knowledge and social capital – can help you, if you have it and harm you, if you don’t.

The traditional education system isn’t set up to produce entrepreneurs, but employees(nothing wrong with that) but, there shouldn’t be an assumption that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution is what is appropriate for most people. I wouldn’t assume that most people should be entrepreneurs, so why would anyone assume that everyone is made to work for a company? No one has a right to make that decision for anyone.

Coming from a Somali background, we are naturally entrepreneurial people. Being a digital nomadic entrepreneur means that I’ve only taken from the ways of my ancestors but this knowledge too was hidden from me most of my life. I was never encouraged to ask, know or seek. For Somalis(and most people) business means owning a small entreprise that provides income. Most people don’t think about starting a company to solve a ‘problem’ but that’s a powerful piece of knowledge kept hidden from most.

And it’s not only that we don’t know but we don’t know how. Building companies to solve problems falls into this category. Also, community mentors and figures are virtually non-existent.

There were no ‘black entrepreneurs’ where I came from. None.

One observation of Somali people a friend once noted is that, we do things when there is proof of success. What does that mean? If your friends daughter becomes a nurse and is successful, then that’s what you want for your daughters and encourage them into. There is no concept of “hey honey, follow your dreams or do what you love.”

From my parents perspective, that was horseshit and understandably so. How does doing what you love pay the bills? Very few people learn how to do what they are good at and find ways to produce income from that. Again, another practical piece of knowledge that people don’t learn. But it IS possible and that is what I want to emphasize.

Due to social cohesiveness, there is not much room for innovation in our communities, especially in our thinking, because there is no perceived need for it, at least from our parents generation.

Why innovate if you can keep doing the same thing over and over again and not rock the boat? Go to school and become a doctor. It’s worked for generations, why change anything? A bit of a tangent, but this is why much of the Muslim world is stuck in the middle of chaos: no one wants to move outside the familar.

So, by coming to this country, my parents sought stability where I was seeking something that allowed me to exercise my creative and intellectual pursuits, which was a privilege but something no one seemed to understand.

To think about solving a problem means that you are free from that problem. 

And this is where my story really begins.

Because I had a whole set of other problems waiting for me.

—-

I was a rebellious kid. I was curious about life. Like, insanely curious. Growing up, I remember reading encyclopedias and atlases on my spare time. I just wanted to know everything about everything.

Then high-school happened.  This is where my formation into a societal slave happened. I don’t think that my curiousity was taken away from me, it was put on halt.

I was a perfect student. Straight A’s, no absences, never got in trouble. But my curiosity, even as a child, always got me into trouble from time to time. It was something I could never ever shake. I had to try things. That perfectionism  of being the best “student” came only because I had no other reality. This is, what I was told, is all there was to do – you go to school and climb the ladder. I was told to be ‘serious’ and ‘normal’ now because all of a sudden I was forced to make a decision about what I wanted to do for life at 18 years old.

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I was suppose to become a doctor but I ended up having a breakdown in my last year and last semester in highschool. I just knew in my gut there was more to life that what I was being told.

In a bold move, I drop all my chemistry, biology, physics and calculus courses – and took a creative writing course instead. That essentially sealed my fate.

But the pushback I got from that was worse than anything I faced. It was like being thrown out into the wilderness because no one understood you or cared.

This one decision started a series of decisions to helped me become the entrepreneur I am today. Looking back, it’s the small decisions in moments of pressure that seems to have the biggest affect on your life. Sometimes you have to do what you feel compelled to do in the moment.

At 17, when I started university, I started to committ myself to personal development, regardless of where I wanted to be. I just knew who I wanted to be. There was an invisible hand guiding me that kept pushing.

I kept experimenting while doing this ‘university’ thing.

I could never hold down a job for more than 6 months and was never fond of rules — a special kind of stubbornness that can only be found in entrepreneurs. Most employers were never receptive to my ‘suggestions’ on how to do things better and more efficiently. And really, that’s all I was really trying to do – solve problems and improve things.

I was looked at as being abnormal. Like “Why aren’t you able to do this? Why can’t you just do what you’re told? Why can’t you stop questioning things?”

No one ever said, hey maybe you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you have a different DNA, maybe you are good at something else. No. Society’s default MO is: “If you suck at what we tell you to do, then you suck at life.” 

And that is precisely what most people struggle with. Instead of looking for societal acceptance, they should really just should stop giving a shit and look only to their own happiness because society was constructed to make you feel like shit about who you are.

But I was expected to just do as I was told and stand in line. Bad idea for someone like me. That’s like putting up a ‘do not enter’ sign. It just begs me to want to try to see what’s behind there.

In university, I spent a lot of time skipping classes to reading books on psychology, business, marketing, self-help, spirituality and work on my businesses.

The average student studies about 24 hours a week. I was putting in 40 hours a week studying – just nothing to do with my classes.

So why did I go to university? Simple answer: I had no choice. I didn’t have the privilege to choose. This was the only path -I was told – to social mobility. If you come from the hood, you don’t get to choose. It’s a key to open a door to social mobility that if you are not white, you don’t get a choice to say no to.

How else do you elevate yourself when your community doesn’t have resources to push you up?

The myth of the entrepreneur who skips college to start a business only happens to white entrepeneurs for a reason. The system is built to help people like them to succeed. IF they fall, they can go live with their parents, who are most likely university graduates themselves and have done significantly well in the social ladder or fall back on their own education. Most immigrant parents are relying on their kids to support them after they get old. If we  fall back, there is rarely a financial or social fall back that makes it easier for us and certaintly not one if we did not go to college.

If a white entrepreneur turns down 3 billion dollars(like the Snapchat founder), it’s because they can but it will make the news. If a black entrepreneur were to turn down 3 billion dollars, we’d be having another conversation entirely about the socio-economic realities of the community.

Simply put, it would never happen. This example clearly shows that the  amount of socio-economic realities at play given the same situation for two entrepreneurs would play out differently due to their backgrounds.

Another reason: something called “pattern-matching”. Investors tend to continue investing in what has worked in the past. Most VC are white entrepreneurs who fund other white entrepreneurs. If past predicts the future, who will they keep funding in the future?

Proof?

“The odds are stacked against entrepreneurs who happen not to be white males: women-led social enterprise startups are 40 percent less likely to be funded than their male-led counterparts, even though they generate 15 percent greater revenues, according to an Emory University study. And minority-led companies are 35 percent less likely to receive venture capital financing than non-minority-led companies, it continues.

“Investors tend to go with what they know and look in familiar circles for investment opportunities,” SVN executive director Deb Nelson told VentureBeat. “Women and people of color often get missed.”

So, in 2012, I wanted nothing but to leave university. It was period in my life that almost mimiked my last year of highschool. I was breaking again but so much so that at 21, I ended up packing my bags, saying ‘screw it’ and left to live overseas on my own as a nomad for a bit.

I set out to Egypt about 1 year after the revolution, and that completely changed the course of my life. I arrived in 2012 after I picked up The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with full intentions of going to Istanbul. I ended up there, like Santiago, in a divine foreshadowing worthy of an ancient folklore. I spent a few months living between Alexandria and Cairo.
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I left to soul search, to figure out what I wanted and found myself in a very beautiful but difficult country that awoke my entrepreneurial spirit. There is something that happens when you travel. You get complete silence within your soul. It’s that silence that allows your heart to tell you what you truly feel. Until then, and like most grads, you are not thinking about what you want but what others want for you. Their voices drown out your voice.

I lived with the locals in both Alexandria and Cairo, so I was much more in touch with their lives. I spent a lot of time reflecting in a city that has had more famous, well-known people grace it’s shores than other city I’ve been to. A city that had essentially forgot it’s own greatness. I realized after seeing so much poverty and destruction that committing my life to entrepreneurship and economic development of lesser developed countries was to be my calling in life. Having never experienced seeing poverty to that degree, I wished nothing more than to help empower people, help them awake their inner calling and become self-sufficient so as to empower themselves and get them out of poverty.

For the first week I was there, I cried everyday. I lived in the “hood” in Alexandria in my first month but used to work in the richest area. Everyday on my commute to work, I saw both sides of Egypt – the rich and the poor. I saw men set up shop to sell food or newspapers at 7am in the blistering heat and would still be sitting there when I was done work.

I wasn’t afraid of going to the ‘rougher’ areas since I had come from the same type of ‘rougher’ areas myself. After a while, you get desensited to violence, gangs and crime. I met people all types of amazing people – the vast majority of whom were poor. I actually had a better and more fun time with the poor than rich. A lot of the rich I met were assholes who wanted to be Western and couldn’t understand why people like me(who were Western) would want to live and play where I did.

I met people who put in 12 hour days to only get paid $50/month. Few things can humble you like that.

When I came back from Egypt, I just knew: I was a true entrepreneur through and through. The moment I realized that, there was no going back.

I had to do this. All in. 

I was as young as I would ever be in that moment. I had a conventional career  I could have taken but I turned it down. How would I live my life as authentically as possible if I didn’t at least take a shot at this?

From there, I was the only entrepreneur I knew.  Got rejected from every incubator, acccelerator, seed funding and innovation program I applied to.

I sold my boxing gloves, my old college textbooks and my smartphone for my intial round of seedfunding, also known as bootstrapping. I couldn’t afford office space, so I worked off my bed while working 12 hours shifts at my family businesses growing my own business at the same time.

I started about 4 businesses before I left. They all failed.

Actually, they didn’t. It was all experimentation. I didn’t even know I was starting a business. And I had no desire to stop.

When I came back to Ottawa, I started another 2 businesses that failed.

This is the point where I almost gave up. I decided to do what I alot of people do and get a job. Most people have this breaking point but I realized that with every major breaking point, to survive, you need to push through.

I came across 21 Golden Rules of Entrepreneurship by Jason Nazar as a last ditch attempt to convince myself that I could do this.

And for people like me, you either do it or you don’t. My decisions weren’t just for me, but would determine the course of the next generation of my family.

Why? When I graduated, it was 2012. 4 years after a recession that shook the world. You know what the statistics were for the average student?

71% College graduates in the class of 2012 who had student loan debt
$29,400 Average student debt per borrower
6% annual increase in student debt at graduation from 2008-2012
41% college graduates who say their job dont require a college degree

(Source: The Institute for Collegee Access & Success, Gallup)

This meant that world had effectively changed, there were new rules to be played by and if you didn’t adapt, you were done for in the future.

And I hope by me talking about this, people realize that this is a path you can take and you should take for the sake of your future.

Did my parents com half way across the world thinking that the global landscape would change things? That global competition and technology would change things? That jobs would be outsourced? That traditional careers would slowly become a thing of the past?

No. They didn’t.

And this society, my upbringing, the people around me were running in circles than taking the time to sit back and think: “Is this even working for me? Is all this even worth it? Why are we putting ourselves in debt? Why are we chasing something that is running from us? Is getting money all there is to life?

Is surviving all there is to life?

By the 7th business, my persistance and faith paid off. I took off once I committed myself entirely  to learn and build- it was a small magazine for social changemakers called Disrupt , that relaunched as a digital media company Think Disrupt, that grew to have a loyal following.

My 8th business, a boutique digital marketing firm went full time after 3 months once I started committing myself to the practice of business, having faith and trying to improve 1% everyday. Alhamduillah. We’ve worked from inter-governmental organizations like the United Nations to non-profits organizations to small business entrepreneurs around the world helping them with their digital strategy, marketing and business development.

Finally, things started to come together. Alhamdulilah.

In total, I’ve started a business in:
– real estate investment consulting
– personal development seminars
– magazine publishing
– online and offline marketing consulting
– buying and selling used books
– spoken word workshops

That’s an exhausting list to think about but a lot of experience to boot. The hustle never stopped.

All this inevitabilty led me to own a successful business at 24, today, that allow me the freedom and flexibility to work on projects I’m passionate about. Alhamdulilah.

What kept pushing me?

It’s a special kind of crazy, the type of persistence that would make anyone quit. I was a lone soldier and absolutely bent on making the world adapt to who I was before I would ever let it change me.

Every person has an intimate understanding of their own potential; the problem is most of us had that potential deliberately taken from us so that society can mold us into what it deems ‘acceptable’. The only way to get that deep understanding of who you are is to deliberately focus on self-development and gaining a deep introspective understanding of who you are.

Experiment.

Fail.

Fail some more.

I’m blessed to have struggled to do this and I hope to be a trailblazer for other young people trying to follow the path of running their own business and creating positive social impact.

No matter how much society tried to mold me, I was that round peg that just would not fit in the square hole.

And if you are still reading this, you most probably are too.

So far, it has been a 7-year journey of self-transformation and commitment to self-actualization and a radical commitment to life design.

I started this blog 2 years ago to catalogue my experiences, thoughts and insights in my journey as an entrepreneur. I know there are millions of young people of color like me who want to create significant impact. Many of us have been held back due to societal, cultural or religious customs telling us who we should be.

I hope this blog gives you permission to the strong, powerful, empowered entrepreneur and social changemaker you know you were meant to be.

Sometimes, we all just need a little encouragement.

From one entrepreneur to another(or even if you are aspiring), you can do this.

In my experience forming, working and building start-ups of my own and others, I’ve realized 9 times out of 10 success is really about faith and persistence. Just stick with your idea or dream long enough, pivot when necessary but don’t ever give up. Reiterate, relaunch however many times you have to. You’ll get there. It’s not a question of if, but when.

I’ve been forced to build my own doors because many doors were closed to me. My journey in forging my own path has really been about helping others realize enormous potential within themselves and how they can better change the world by taking control of their own lives and building the solutions to the problems they see around them everyday.

But most importantly, we don’t need to look to others to do anything for us, we already have everything we need to transform our lives within ourselves, carve our paths and change the world.

Have the courage to try and just go for it.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur and business media has created a legend around the entrepreneur. For many reasons, this has helped – increasing the amount of people who choose this career and lifestyle is a great thing for our economies and society. The downside is that the narrative it espouses tells a tale of a successful solo entrepreneur facing all odds and coming out victorious with no less than billion dollar evaluation at the end. It paints the prototypical entrepreneur, often white, as a mythical figure of sorts.

This narrative is dangerous. I bet a lot of people give up because the emphasis is always put on the event – “the end result” – rather than the process of getting there.

I was always told this path would be hard but honestly, if I were to look back 3 years ago and be told what I would have to go through, I have doubts about whether I would have done it. It’s not what you think it is. It’s highs, lows and everything in between. I really believe that entrepreneurs are a type of people -with very specific DNA.

Like Steve Jobs said, unless you love it, there is no reason to be doing. It’s sheer insanity. You have to have the passion to put yourself through it.

I came across a short answer on Quora that sums this up and I liked it enough that I wanted to share it on my blog:

“Because all decisions are yours and THERE IS NO ONE TO PASS THINGS OFF TO AT THE END OF THE DAY – the day doesn’t end.  You have some amount of flexibility in WHICH hours you work, sometimes, but zero flexibility in getting sh!t done.

If you are not a person who gets sh!t done, you will fail.  Any opportunities (re: “luck”) will be worthless – because they are only opportunities.  You still need to ACT on them, and figure out how to maximize them correctly.  You have manage relationships, build your product, figure out your finances, keep your cash, figure out your competition (it’s not always obvious), build, manage and grow your client base, and figure out where the hell it’s all going – while maintaining your own health (physical, psychological and emotional).  Simultaneously.  And optimistically.  While a world of people are telling you you’re basically nuts.

You think that’s not a crapload of hard work?  This is why the e-myth is a myth.  There’s a lot of whitewashing (I have no idea why) on the struggles of entrepreneurship.  It is a hard, crazy mess – you do it because you have love, true passion, and vision for something that must arise on the other side.  That “luck” is friggin’ sheer force of will – you don’t see all the nos that happened before that amazing yes.

Robert Croak, creator of Silly Bandz, said it took him 15 years to become an overnight success.  THAT’s what starting a business is.”

Reflections: What Would Henry David Thoreau say about Social Media?

I’ve been having an increased issue with social media -not that it isn’t useful but the fundamental problem it comes with regards to questions of living.

I sometimes ask myself, what is my life? What is life and am I consciously
living it?

Am I being deliberate by how I interact with the very elements that make me
a human or am I creating an illusion for myself and calling it a life?

Life these days seems to be a performance. To sell yourself, to producticize
yourself as a human, you need to perform. You need to do things that seems so
uncharacterically unnatural to be accepted.

I believe Jason Silva got it wrong about instagram. This generation experiences memories as anticipated memories, as Dr. Daniel Kahnman says.  It is in reality a curation of your life moments – fleeting. You don’t have the agency to decide how to architect how you experience things, as Silva espouses, without giving up something. In that process you lose the lived reality for that ‘anticipated’ future. We don’t become artists, or authors for our lives by being given this agency – we are deliberately living in an altered reality that panders to our ego, it panders to how we wish things were, not how things are. The blessing in memory is to re-live, to re-tell and reflect over your experiences as you experienced them authentically. Capturing everything and exposing everything is, in my opinion, an unfit way to live your life. It’s a supreme act of the ego, the base self. The act of documenting is largely an introspective process and I really believe it needs to be differentiated from what we call ‘documenting’ on social media, which is more aptly described as overexposure. I can see it as nothing but the
objectification of ourselves in utmost desperation to live what we deem ‘reality’ and impose our own agency to decide how we get to experience that reality for anything more that what it already was in that moment.

What troubles me deeply about social media is that it is like living your life
through a mirror – always aware and hyper-conscious about how you are percieved.

You forget the human being that is living it. You become numb to anything
but yourself. It’s the worst kind of inward looking – nothing introspective
about it. It’s hard to engage with deep questions of life these days and I feel
that most people are living with the perception of their own mastery rather than
living it.

Unconsciously, I’ve adopted a minimalist life and a lifestyle designer attitude to
how I shape my life to combat these feelings but I cant help but feel there are more questions to be asked and more answers to learn from.

I don’t want to live my life through a screen, as though it was a play I’ve
written about myself that I am performing for the world day in and day out. I
want to simply life – deeply and meaningfully without any need to prove it to
anyone and to have an impact, without seeking anything back.

It’s 330 am – a time where these questions come up and would have thought that Andy Warhol would have been the best person to ask these question to. But no, now Henry David Thoreau speaks to me so well. If there were any writer that I feel would navigate this lived reality so well, it would be him.

His answer: It’s a life of the unmarked self that, in this day and age, is most powerful. What can be more powerful than to not be known. To committ yourself to something more than oneself and not chase after anything fleeting. It’s recognizing that, in your committed to life and your mastery, is in some strange way the reason people remain immortal. Trying to capture everything, paradoxically, only keeps you that much farther in arms reach away from the immortality you seek.

With on foot in the matrix and one foot out, I will continue to navigate this world, where the greatest challenge seems to be understanding the reality of it all.

The following words could have been written by him in this act day and age. I find solace in them.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and
not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live
what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation,
unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow
of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not
life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and
reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the
whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if
it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of
it in my next excursion.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”

[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Hello beautiful readers,

Of the many things I am blessed to be apart of, I am the head of operations and marketing at Ummahhub, a platform of entrepreneurs and changemakers within the Muslim community, that recently went live about 2 months ago. My passion as always been developing the entrepreneurial, innovation and creative capacities of people from underdeveloped, marginalized and underserved backgrounds.

Trying to become an entrepreneur, or building a business, making an impact, developing successful habits isn’t easy. When you face struggles and obstacles due to societal infrastructure or structural racism or roadblocks that prevent you from resources because of who you are, then success isn’t an ‘roadmap’ as constantly overstated by personal development gurus. When individuals benefit from privledges within society and then fail to acknowledge that things were ‘easier’ for them due to the societal structures that were put in place to make them succeed and others fail, then what happens is a lot of people trek down the same path thinking that there is a formula for success, when there isn’t.

It isn’t just about hardwork, it isn’t just about ‘networking’, it isn’t just about ‘getting off your ass’ – you need to have insane work ethic and put much more pressure on yourself to succeed because the stakes are higher for you. As a colored person, your risks are higer because you may not come from a community that will support you and don’t have much of a cushion for fall back, getting an investment is much harder, not having access to knowledge or mentors etc. This isn’t victimhood. It took me a long time to realize there are clear, structural and social infrastructure put in place to make it harder for colored people, and blacks to succeed. I was one of those people who thought that things were equal playing field for everyone. Not anymore.

What does this mean?

It means that a special effort needs to be put into particular communities on an awareness level, to help give them access to the knowledge that there are many others ways to live – you don’t have to just survive. That it is possible to put your talents to use, to put your gifts and skills to use to create a brighter future for yourself and those around you.

Life doesn’t have to be dictated to you.

So as a part of Ummahhub, this is my mission. I wrote the following piece and it was co-edited and produced by Obaid Ahmad and Sonia Riahi, the two other members of Ummahhub and featured on the Productive Muslim. I hope it is beneficial.

Feel free to let me know what you think and how I can help you further.

with love,

Hodan

[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

ProductiveMuslim-Being-Your-Own-Boss-Part1-How-to-Develop-an-Entrepreneurial-Mindset-600

This is Part 1 of UmmahHub’s series on Being Your Own Boss that reveals the 10 keys to help you become a successful entrepreneur and be the best you can be in business and in life, In sha Allah.

To be an entrepreneur and be involved in business consists of exerting significant effort and hard work, which is highly encouraged in Islam; as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“No doubt, it is better for a person to take a rope and proceed in the morning to the mountains and cut the wood and then sell it, and eat from this income and give alms from it than to ask others for something.” [Bukhari]

Many of the early followers of our faith, including our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), were merchants and traders. In fact, much of how Islam spread from West Africa to China was through traders. As the country with the highest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is said to have embraced Islam by witnessing the the strong ethics and beautiful character of Muslim businessmen and entrepreneurs they came across, which speaks to the immense power of business that is driven by faith-based values.

Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful methods to create long-lasting change in our communities that is currently being neglected. This is due to the lack of proper entrepreneurial education to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs within our community. There simply is not enough awareness about what entrepreneurship is, how we can develop more entrepreneurs, and how we can start and run successful companies that can create a long-lasting impact.

Who is an Entrepreneur?

There are many definitions for the word ‘entrepreneur’, but the most common definition is that an entrepreneur is someone who identifies problems and then turns them into opportunities.

“Entrepreneurship,” says Bob Reiss, the author of ‘Low- Risk, High-Reward: Starting and Growing your Business With Minimal Risk‘, “is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

Being an entrepreneur is not necessarily just about launching and running a business, it is about developing the entrepreneurial mindset, which is useful to anyone who is part of an organization. It is the mindset of looking at problems as opportunities and creating more with less. This mindset encourages risk-taking, creativity, innovation, and unconventional thinking.

This is the mindset that we Muslims need to develop in order to properly create healthy communities that can deal with the myriad of socio-economic issues we face.

Revive Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The industrial revolution forced a mass migration of people from rural areas to urban cities. Prior to that, most people in North America were entrepreneurs who owned small businesses and bartered to get what they needed. Now, as technology and global competition changes the employment landscape, traditional employment that was reminiscent of the industrial revolution is being challenged. Individuals are now being forced to become knowledge workers, who essentially rely on selling their skills to make a living. We were all entrepreneurs long before the industrial revolution changed that. We need to return back to our entrepreneurial roots, not just socially but religiously as well. Interestingly enough, history has come full circle and we will all need to become entrepreneurs to survive in the future.

What makes entrepreneurs unique is their resourcefulness. In other words, they are able to do more with less. Whatever the problem, they will find a way to make it happen even if they do not have all the tools.

The key to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is recognizing the qualities you have, then building and improving upon those you do not yet have. To get started, we have mapped out key ways to develop your mindset as a Muslim entrepreneur.:

1. Have Tawakkul and Be Grateful

Part of being a Muslim is understanding that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the ultimate disposer of our affairs. He is Al-Awwal (the Beginning) wal-Akhir (The End). Everything begins with Him and everything ends with Him. Consequently, He is the source of everything and the Provider of all.

Contemporary business practices today cite scientific studies showing that an attitude of gratitude brings more into your life. It means the more you are grateful, the more you will receive. Believing that there is a limited amount of resources for everyone to access is a flawed mindset for any entrepreneur. You must operate from a place of abundance and believe resources are unlimited.



As Muslims, we do not need modern scientific studies to show us that being grateful and having faith in a higher being who is the Source of all is enough reason to never worry.

In the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]

Know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given you all the resources that you need in your life to create a successful business and create some impact in the world. Once you realize that you were given quite a lot, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has guaranteed to give you more.

2. Work Hard and Think Long-Term

That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen – Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.” [Qur’an: Chapter 53, Verses 38-41]

A crucial step to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is having the ability to think long-term. Long-term thinking allows a person to develop discipline to work at a problem while having a future vision in mind. This helps prevent the need to fulfill short-term gratification.

In Surat al-Israa, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah]. To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verses 18-20]

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says:

Whoever desires the reward of this world – then with Allah is the reward of this world and the Hereafter. And ever is Allah Hearing and Seeing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verses 134]

A key part of having a long-term vision is having the understanding of what guides your decision-making. What vision do you have for yourself, your life and your business? What impact do you ultimately want to make? This will be your reason, the one that will get you through the main obstacles you will inevitably face. As Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has said, if you work, you will receive the fruits of your striving.

3. Have Grit

University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth’s research has shown that people with “grit”, the trait of exceptional persistence and devotion, consistently perform better than those with higher IQ.

If there is one guarantee in entrepreneurship, it is that it is a roller coaster ride. There is no linear path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It essentially consists of making numerous tiny decisions everyday on multiple things: teams, administration strategy, marketing, etc. It takes a certain type of mindset to withstand this kind of pressure. The key here is persistence.

Persistence is the ability to look past obstacles and keep moving. When speaking to many successful entrepreneurs, they will cite the ability to not give up as being a crucial reason for success. Sadly, many people do not succeed because they gave up right before they were about to find success. The key to persistence is to keep trying until you get to your end goal.



“Keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve but be flexible on how you solve it”, says Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstoc



.

4. Focus on Creating Value



Another key to becoming a successful entrepreneur is by creating value. The amount of success you have is proportional to how much value you bring to others. Entrepreneurs focus on creating sustainable solutions by solving problems faced by people.

Before starting your business, it is essential to ask yourself: “Who am I helping and how can I make that solution better than what exists currently in the marketplace?” This is the primary mentality to have when looking to become an entrepreneur and the basis of great business models. Contemporary entrepreneurship encourages one to find a solution for a problem within the marketplace that customers are not happy with, then create a product to help them, while constantly revising and improving that product based on their feedback.

Entrepreneurial Education: The Way Forward

Growing and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs is crucial for our long-term communal prosperity. In order to solve the myriad of social problems that we face, we need to support those who are solving these problems. That is why entrepreneurial education can become a crucial asset for our community.

The first step in doing so is to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.
 On a community level, helping more people develop an entrepreneurial mindset means we help unleash the creative potential and innovative thinking of many individuals in our community. These new ideas can help spark new businesses, organizations and projects that will benefit our community for years to come. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset gives individuals the inspiration to dream, to be innovative and to take risks.

With this spirit, we have to encourage the next generation to become the change-makers and entrepreneurs they have the potential to be!

Next time we will show you how to get inspired and develop business ideas. If you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs, or thinking of becoming one yourself, let us know in the comments section below!

The Day I Decided to Stop Chasing Money as an Entrepreneur

The more I work as an entrepreneur, the more I start to undo some of the deep systematic conditioning on how my life is to turn out. Everyday I try to strip myself of my former shell by trying to get closer to who I really ought to be.

At times, I believe I am a capitalist. Sometimes, I behave like one as well. Putting profit at the centre of what I do is dangerous but until now it’s what I’ve done. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I read a book named ‘F*** You, Money’ by Dan Lok” that I realized my priorites were messed up.

In the book, Dan Lok, a successful business man, asks what is your ‘F*** yu amount? What is the amount of money you need for you to do whatever you want and for it to be enough? Or as Kanye West would say: “Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?”

This brings up a few questions:

1. What is enough?
2. Why is it enough?

Nonetheless, my amount only came out to being only in the 5 digits. When all my needs, and then some were met, I didn’t actually need a lot.

Most of us think we need a million or 10 million but when you do all the math, I probably wouldn’t need more than $200,000 for lifestyle expenses per year at best(edit: this is within a North American context and taking into consideration the nomadic lifestyle I choose to live).

Which brings me to the question of why having more money than you need is seen to be an indicator of success?

The only answer I’ve been able to come to is that, subconsciously, I subscribed to materialism as a religion – a focal point that was able to help quantify my success, in some capacity. And this isn’t for just entrepreneurs, people who work jobs subscribe to materialism, as a form of religion. The connection between success being tied to materialism is a very 19th century idea and one I’ve realized is completely wrong and an unnatural way to quantify success.

This was a big eye-opener for me. But I said to myself, ‘well then what am I working towards?’ If I really don’t need x amount of money, then how do I quantify the trajectory with which I can consider my business successful?

I originially found the answer in the social entreprenruship movement. This movement, spearheaded by Bill Drayton, looked at the bottom line of business to also include social, economic and environmental welfare of the communities within which the business was functioning. In other words, profit isn’t the only way to measure how successful a business is. You must also look at how you are contributing to social welfare and environmental impact.

But my real answer came when I set some time out to focus on my spiritual development this year. It helped me reorganize my priorities – from a traditional Islamic perspective, it was knowledge of oneself and the world that made one successful.

Let me reiterate that for a minute. I’ve only come to realized that the spiritual path I follow(Islam) encourages and prioritizes knowledge acquisition first before anything else. Those who seek knowledge are held to a higher position than those who do anything else.

Islam has, for me, provided a clearer path and more natural path for me and my businesses to take. This alternate way of looking at reality doesn’t say: if you make a lot of money, you’re a better person for it but that if you seek knowledge in the pursuit of bettering yourself and the world around you, whatever you do is more elevated and revered.

How is this different and why is it relevant?

This philosophy of focusing on knowledge acquisition for the betterment of the self is, in our world, a radical notion. It requires you to operate your business from a place of humility and to recognize that character, an upright moral conduct and to continuous work on yourself is what makes an entrepreneur successful. That you must essentially start with yourself. Traditional business focuses on profit, which for obvious reasons, can be a very dangerous way to quantify success. The social entreprise movement focuses on solving social problems is essential to a good business but it completely overlooks the individual. That it takes upright people to create socially conscious businesses. Or else, what you end up with are two equally harmful situations:

1. People using social causes as a profit-making tool
2. People who are well-intentioned but haven’t done the necessary internal introspection and may do more harm than good.

A civilization that holds profit at its foundation is one that will collapse. The education system, for example, is very much based on a profit-based system. An education system based on the pursue of knowledge wouldn’t be forcing people to go to school to get jobs but to go to school to discover one’s self and to pursue one’s life purpose.

Massive reality shift, huh?

I’ve started to realized and trek upon my journey as an entrepreneur and forgo the idea of money being my indicator of success but impact and my level of spiritual and personal development. Now, I don’t hold that being any reason why I would consider anyone to be a successful business person – I’ve realized there is much more to that.

At the core of my businesses is one thing – impact. How do I make the world better for others? This is what I aim to pursue.

Or as an inspiration person I know says:

“What am I going to GIVE to Create and EARN this income.”

Now, sustainability is definately a core of it. I believe the reason why many social entreprises suffer is because they don’t know how to balance social impact and sustainability. Making money is essential to me. It’s something I need to plan, but it’s not ‘why’ I do what I do.

This may be my first real lesson of 2015.

To share two powerful quotes from the Islamic tradition regarding this ethos:

“This world is a like a shadow. Run after it and you will never be able to catch it. Turn your back against it and it has no choice but to follow you.” -Ibn Al Qayyim

“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah(God, Elaha, Elohim) will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man.
The superiority of the learned man over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes a big fortune.” – Prophet Muhammad

Life and Startups Lessons from 2014

I’m sitting here blasting Kendrik Lamar blogging like it’s 2009 reflecting as 2014 draws to a close. I’m reflecting on 2014 and what it meant for me. It was my first year stepping into entrepreneurship – not easy at all. It was a year of growth, battling against my demons, and breaking through, in more ways than one.

These are a mix of both startup business lessons and life lessons I hope you can take with you

1. Parental Breakthrough: This was the first year my parents understood and accepted(not sure they had a choice) in my path. Being raised by immigrants, much of the challenges I faced was not pursuing a conventional career or path and then having to justify that. This is nearly impossible considering the world I grew up in was massively different than the world they grew up in. I wrote a proven solution to ending this multigenerational conflict and how to get them to accept you. It will take some time and effort but the book, “The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Difficult Immigrant Parents: How To End Conflict with Difficuly Immigrant Parents Forever” is guaranteed to give you a foolproof formula you can refer to again and again to help you deal with your own personal situation.

2. Business launched: I launched a digital marketing and design agency earlier in the year, which taught me about how to find clients, how to charge what I was worth, how to properly market, and how to build a personal brand amongst many things. The love of my life has always been education and publishing but I realized earlier on in the year that magazine business was a tough business to be in – you need cash flow to survive and a tremendous amount of hustle. But hustle doesn’t happen without clarity – I had no long-term vision for Disrupt Magazine until now – with the launch of my upcoming company with my co-founder, Think Disrupt, a new media publishing and education company serving the create maladjustment of the non-conforming minority is launching on January 1st 2015.

My biggest business lesson: Focus on helping people where they need it. I never got into a conversation on business to turn the person into a client but to build a long-term relationship with them and see how my work could help them. If it couldn’t, I didn’t sell it to them. I just found someone who could. This is the fool-proof method of how to run a business. Never focus on the money. Focus on the individual and how you can help them reach their goals.

2. Understanding money: This year, I learned how to actually make money, what it means based on your mindset – you can choose to adopt a poor mindset or a mindset of abundance – and how you understand money effects the way you operate business and life. I really believe that most of what you get in life is because of what you think about and how you think about it.

3. Business is about showing up and following through.  Seriously. Just try and go at it everyday and work on something until you complete it.

BIG lesson: It’s okay at any point in your life to say: “This is not working for me” and stop engaging with places, people and ideas that no longer serve you or you no longer care about.

4. Don’t compromise – This year I learned to just do what I felt was right and make a solid decision about it. If you want to be something, just be it, now. If you want to move, just do it. If you want to start something, honest to God, do yourself a favour and just do it. Remember – this is who you are. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. You are fully responsible for you and when you die, you have to answer for yourself. No one else can live your life for you.

5. Don’t care what anyone thinks - At some point, you need to really just stop giving a shit. Honestly, I cared for too long. Why? Because the people around me were not like me. I felt like I had to justify myself. ‘Oh, your an entrepreneur? Really?’  I still get people not really understanding or believing in what I actually do. No one really understand. But you know what, like I care. I’m so over it.

6. People will fail you. Here’s the thing: this is the real world. In school, you are used to being trained to have a structured life where things are going to be done the way they, the system, told you. In real life, very few people do what they say they are going to do. Unless you employ them, it’s hard to get anything done.

I found the secret to getting over this problem: Be kind but not nice. Being kind is central to being a good business person, but you can not be nice. Being nice gets nothing get done.

7. Decide: As soon as you decided on a course of action, you will immediately see elements in your life shift to support your decision. IMMEDIATELY. As soon as you want something and decide you will do something about it, it’s as if things in your life start popping up to start supporting it. Seriously, and you know what, God knows when you are frontin’ – you can’t be insincere or half-into it. It has to be a real, deep desire to change a portion of your life.

8. Learn to charge what you are worth - This is something difficult for people to do. I learned that if you have something worth knowing, there was a cost to acquire that knowledge – time, money, resources – and you should be compensated for that knowledge. Furthermore, just imagine how much time and money you save someone and how they will recoup that money long-term. When you begin charging, what generally happens is that people negotiate and give you a counter offer. This is what happened to me at the beginning and something I never anticipated. Unless you are experienced, your first instinct is to accept what is offered to you. But as you keep going, you will start to realized how beneficial your ideas, work and energy can be to helping other people accomplish their goals. It will pay off in the long term in dividends for them, if that you have to offer is truly valueable and you will stop giving yourself the short end of the stick.

9. You can’t do anything alone. You need to build your dream team. There is a myth and legend around the solo entrepreneur acheiving great things. It’s not that you can’t but that you waste valuable time doing something others can do better. The key to being able to accomplish a lot in life is to identify your strength and work on them. Outsource your weaknesses.

10. Your dreams are valid. The hardest thing when starting is believing in yourself. I will venture to guess this is what most people struggle with. It’s not simply about self-doubt but external recognition that what you do is real. When you start a business, it’s simply a company on a piece of paper. It’s hard to prove it’s real – you almost feel like you have to fake owning a business or fake believing you are an entreprneurs. I’m here to tell you two things: first, your dreams are valid. Whatever it is that you want to do and who you want to be is totally real and acceptable because your hearts wants it. It’s a desire to create and grow yourself into your best self. Any desire to improve one’self and contribute to others is worth while. But the other aspect is, fake it until you make it. You have to act like what you have already exists.

11. To be effective, plan your year in advance. Would you ever go into battle without a battle plan? No. So why with life? It may seem a bit of a stretch to some people, but you need to have a plan as to where you wish to be or else you will never be there. It takes 1-2 years, I find, to undo social conditioning that wants you to abdicate control of your time to others. As soon as you start to feel more comfortable learning how to manage your time, the easier it will be to start mapping visions for where you want to be months ahead.

12. Business teaches you how to solve problems. As Dame dash says, if you don’t have problems, you don’t have a business. It can sometimes feel like you are putting out millions of fires a day, in fact, it may seem like that this is all you do. But what I’ve found is that I’ve been able to incredibly enhance my ability to solve problems at lightening speed. You end up having to. It’s almost as if you simply operate according to Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong, will do wrong. So prepare.

13. You are the sum of those around you. Look at how much you make in a year. Then calculate the average income of the 5 people you spend the most time with. It may seem crazy but most likely that amount is close to your annual income. Even more than that, I’ve realized this year that the people you hang with is exactly who you are! It sounds painful but it’s true. The food you eat is who you are. The character of those around you is the character you have. It may seem painfully simple but to become who you want to be, you have to be around those who are living how you like or are representative of the person you wish to be. This is something that will be a huge focus for 2015 inshaa allah.

Going into January 2015, it will be a year of massive growth, of product launches, of extensive travel and meeting awesome people.

My phrases word for 2015: focus, no fear and absolute discipline!

What have you learned this year?

What do you hope 2015 will look for you?

Comment below and let me know!

 

Nigerian Billionaire Tony Elumelu Commits $100 Million To Create 10,000 African Entrepreneurs In 10 Years

It’s stories like this that inspire me. It’s philanthropic and visionary works such as the work being done by Tony Elumelu that will create real, sustainable change in Africa. Read below.

“Nigerian billionaire investor and philanthropist Tony Elumelu has committed $100 million to create 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa over the next 10 years. tony-o-elumelu-mfr

Elumelu made the commitment on Monday during a press conference in Lagos to announce the launch of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).

TEEP, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

The programme will identify and help grow 10,000 start-ups and young businesses from across Africa over the next 10 years. These businesses will in turn create 1,000,000 new jobs and contribute $10 billion in annual revenues to Africa’s economy. The 10,000 start-ups selected from a pool of applicants across Africa will participate in a comprehensive programme which will include a customized 12-week business skills training course, mentoring, an entrepreneurship ‘boot camp’ and seed capital funding among other things. Interested entrepreneurs will be able to submit their applications to join the programme as from January 2015 through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s website.

“The opportunity and challenge in Africa is scale – in our people, our resources and our horizons. In my business and philanthropic journeys, I have always sought ways to help inspire a generation across our continent. This programme brings together my own entrepreneurial experience and my fundamental belief that entrepreneurs – women and men across Africa – will lead Africa’s development and transform our futures,” Tony Elumelu, founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, said in a press statement.”

Read more at Forbes

Photo credit: Matthias G. Ziegler / Shutterstoc

When Should You Change – The Essay That Changed My Life

In this age, everyone is an author and the amount of content that is being produced daily(in the billions) is enough to overwhelm anyone to want to shut off their news sources and be more selective in what ideas they consume. There is so much noise  that it is incredibly humbling and rare to come across writing that completely changes the trajectory of your life.

Exofiles is one of those places where I go to get deeply, well-thought out pieces. It’s a series of essays curated by Exosphere on education reform, entrepreneurship, civil society, self-reliance, anti-fragility, and technological humanism. Exosphere, run by Skinner Layne and his awesome team, is a learning and problem solving community based out of Chile. They run an 8-week program for people who are committed to setting their life into a new course.

This piece, When should you change by Carlos Miceli, without an ounce of exagerration, changed my life. It made me make a real decisions -a decision that I would not and could not turn back from. I want to share it with you as well. I need you – no, I urge you- to read it and read it and then read it again. This essay will stay with me for the rest of my life as a reminder.

I’ve printed it here for you conveience. Please follow Exofiles  and support their work.

When Should You Change?
A Matter of Place, Urgency and Gravity.

by Carlos Miceli

When was the last time you changed? Do you remember the details of why and how you did it?

This is not a question about habits. I’m not talking about reading a new book, starting a new diet, or quitting alcohol.

I’m talking about transformation. Pure, unmitigated growth. A process so intense that you can’t recognize your past self afterwards, and you’re grateful for having become better. You feel more complete, closer to the“You” you want to be. Do you remember the last time you changed?

I help people remember what change feels like.

I detect those that need to change, and I build a mental “bridge” from where they are to where they can find the people, ideas, and opportunities to transform into better versions of themselves.

I do it because I truly believe that, if people can cross the gap in front of them, they can grow into more meaningful lives. However, I’m also aware that doubts, fears, and anxieties are what gaps are made of. That’s why bridges are important: so it’s safe to cross.

Since we started Exosphere, I have talked to over 350 people to see if they are the kind of people that need to change, and see if we’re the problem-solving community that can help them. This article is my attempt to share what I’ve learned about why and when some people choose change and why some avoid it. Hopefully it can help you figure out if it’s your time to change.

I’ve talked to people from all ages, professions, cultures, from 45-year old American electricians to 23-year old Indian engineers, and I see three things come up again and again…

Place, urgency, and gravity.

Place — Where are you?

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” — Reid Hoffman

Take a moment and look around you. Look at your home, the place where you work, that place you go to unwind on the weekends. Look at your family, your friends, your colleagues. Look at your city, its culture, its economy.

Do you have interests and activities that you feel you can’t share with anyone around you? Do you feel understood or do you “filter” yourself and your inclinations to avoid rejection? Does each day energize you, or is each day driven by obligation more than motivation?

One of the hardest things to accept for those that need to change is that the problem may be their environment and not themselves. It’s hard to look at people or places we love and realize “we may have to part ways if I want to become a better person.”

In these situations, it’s easy to feel weak. If everyone and everything around you is out of sync with the parts of you that are trying to break free, it’s tempting to blame yourself and believe you’re unreasonable, or irresponsible, or whatever. Most people do whatever it takes to rationalize misaligned relationships and environments so long as they don’t have to face the fear of leaving their cocoon.

To make things even worse, most people expect their environment to adapt to themselves. They get angry or disappointed at those around them. Sometimes openly, sometimes they keep their frustrations inside. This leads them to depression, stress, apathy, and other miserable feelings because they feel powerless.

You can’t change how everyone else around you thinks and feels. If you’re getting too big for the box you’re in, you can’t break the box. You can only lead by example and move to a bigger box. If you are in a place that’s not conducive to your curiosity and your aspirations, it’s time to change.

It’s not your fault that your environment is holding you back. But it is your responsibility if you do nothing about it.

Urgency — How fast do you want to go?

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” ― M. Scott Peck

Roughly, the world is divided in two groups of people.

The first group is the static majority. These are people that like the status quo of their lives. There’s no strategy behind what they eat, how they sleep, what they work on, or how they learn.

They don’t seek change because there’s no purpose. No purpose, no urgency. They live as if they are going to live again.

The second group is the dynamic minority. These people live with purpose (which is sometimes just to discover their purpose). There’s strategy behind their actions because they want everything they do to boost them toward their destination.

They see adaptation and improvements as the steps toward their goals. When something doesn’t work, they change it in order to achieve more, faster, because they know the clock is ticking.

When I was younger, people close to me would call me impatient, restless and inconsistent. I used to listen, but now I know they were wrong. For the urgent learner, consistency is not about following through with a plan, but about adapting to new input. Those with slow iteration cycles can’t keep up with the dynamic minority’s learning pace.

If you feel that the pace at which you want to grow is too intense for those around you, it’s usually time to change. Time to find people that can keep up with you, or better yet, challenge you to move even faster.

Gravity — What pulls you?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” — E. E. Cummings

In every interview I run for Exosphere, I only have one goal: know if I’m talking with someone that gravitates toward growth or toward safety. I need to know if they worry about what they will leave behind, or if they crave the opportunities ahead.

I learned that when they talk about spending money as a loss, they see scarcity before abundance. When they talk about a job they can’t quit because of X or Y, they lack creativity and see problems before opportunities. When they ask about credentials, they worry about what others think.

I need to know this because enthusiasm doesn’t matter. I’ve seen many people acknowledge problems with their environment, and in a hurry to improve their lives, but because they fear the pain of growth, they stay where they are, doing things they always do. It’s all talk and no committment.

Some people are just not programmed to embrace the uncertainty of change. These people only change when it happens to them, not because they want it. We are selective in our boot camps because we know that most people can’t stand the fear of growth.

I’ve also learned that you can’t stop someone that feels the pull toward growth. You can’t stop someone that is drawn to novelty, like meeting new people, learning new skills, seeing new places. You talk about uncertainty and they respond with excitement. You talk about problems and they show discipline. You expose fears and they find the courage.

The good news is that being ready to change does not require Ulyssean courage. I’ve seen that you only need a momentary spark to get started. A transformation is not an overnight process, but a gradual series of steps after saying “time to change.”

I can’t really diagnose what pulls you. This one is on you. What I know for sure is that if that spark of courage is alive within you, then you will be happy to change.

And after you become a better person, you’ll understand the power of Nelson Mandela’s words:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”