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Failure is success

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FAIL? How does it feel to fail.. Many of you will agree with this: it doesn’t feel good; failure makes us feel miserable. I personally have failed several times throughout my life and I might fail again but guess what, I no longer apprehend it, I no longer take it personal, I no longer care.  I have learned Failure is Success.

Today, I would like to explore failure or fear of failure; it’s root causes and few simple steps to embrace it.

How Ominous Is Failure?

According to Wikipedia, failure is a state or condition of not meeting a desirable outcome, and can be viewed as the opposite of success. With no initial attempts at learning, we would not have built computers or light bulbs (thank you Thomas Edison for failing 5000 times). Successful people like Edison are great teachers, they knew that FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning.

1/Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs are also exceptional examples. What do they have in common? they all have been dismissed form their team and companies they worked for or have started. They have learned from their failures and ultimately succeeded.

2/Our Relationship With Failure: Failure makes us feel miserable (what did I do, why did I do this, I should not have done that, this is not for me, I am not good enough, I am not skilled enough, what other people are going to think of me now, I am a total loser and the list goes on).  Unfortunately, this is a vivid caricature of the way we tend to talk to ourselves. The reality is we feel miserable when we fail, we feel angry, we feel ashamed; we shall not state it out loud or be reminded of it. As individuals, we relate quite badly to failure; we perceive it as negative, as a omnious thing. The fear of failure restrict us from moving out of the comfort zone and living a richer life.

 

The Why & Wherefore?

1/Brain Constitution: Our brain structure is preventing us from achieving our full potential due to the way it works; this is our reptilian brain, our lizard brain, our primitive brain that often times takes command. It’s in charge of flight or fight, anger and survival. The primitive brain only wants to eat, be safe and mainly cares what everyone else thinks because status in the tribe is essential to its survival. The lizard brain can shut off the mid-brain and the neo-cortex. For example: studies have shown that fear of public speaking is classified as the number one number one fear of all and it even tops fear of death. I heard a story of this gorilla based in Rotterdam zoo that threatens people because they staring at him and as human we tend to do the same thing in a more reasonable way. This zoo came up with special eyeglasses to prevent the gorilla from attacking visitors. We dislike situations where we are exposed because the primitive brain kicks as it cares what everyone else thinks around us.

2/Education Conditioning: Family, Education & Society culture (e.g. school system) punishes failure harshly. This inhibits the creative process, and risk taking. It causes us not to communicate important failures with others and prevent collective learning. It also shut off creativity as Sir Robinson uncovers it in his TED talk here.

 

Seduce The Monkey

1/Acknowledge the primitive brain is in charge of a big chunk of our everyday actions

2/Be attentive to the present moment as 70% of our thoughts are negative and redundant according to psychologists

3/Practice, practice and practice; sorry if I disappoint here but there is no magic; we won’t get it right the first time but with iterations, we will learn and ultimately succeed.

In sum, by learning to be good at losing, we master the art of winning. I would like to leave with these few lines written by Hafez, a grand Persian poet who has lived in the 14th century:

 

As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of flowers, seek teachings everywhere.
Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze, seek seclusion to digest all that you have gathered. Like a mad one beyond all limits, go where you please and live like a lion, completely free of all fear.

 

 

 

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failure
http://adland.tv/ooh/bokito-glasses-all-zoo-visitors-guerilla-netherlands

 

 

Mentoring is a shortcut to a wonderful life

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How many people would like to live the good life: health, wealth, happiness and most importantly love?

I have recently watched a Tedx talk uncovering the good life. During the talk, the speaker touched on something interesting that resonated with me called: “the law of 33%” .

What’s the law of 33%?

We should spend 33% of our lives with people that are lower than us whom we could lend a hand by sharing our knowledge, our experiences and wisdom. This is considered a win-win as this endeavor makes us feel good about ourselves and expand our leadership skills. Then, comes the 2nd 33% of lives, which should be spent with people that are at the same level; these people become our friends, coworkers and peers. The last 33% is where most of us tend to forget about: reaching out for mentors that are maybe 10 or 20 years ahead of us, wiser and more knowledgeable than we are.  At first, these people will and can make us feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this is quintessential to achieving the good life because when we try new approaches, we get to stretch our comfort zone and grow as individuals. Mentoring is a definitely a shortcut to a wonderful life [1].

Having taking the pulse within my 3 clicks circle, I can attest that looking for mentors doesn’t come naturally and is indeed an overlooked matter: Some people said: “they feel shy to ask more knowledgeable and skilled people to be their mentors”. Others added: “they are okay and/or quite busy and do not see the mentoring value for the time being”. I guess the latter might be stuck in their old habits and could not see beyond their nose.. If we closely look at successful people around the world from Einstein, Gandhi to Jobs, we would notice they all have one thing in common: they had mentors and coaches during the course of their lives whom helped them become better individuals. As an example: Steve Jobs had several business mentors among whom two names were mentioned few times in his autobiography, Ed Catmull (co-Founder of Pixar Studios) and Larry Ellison (Founder of Oracle). These two mentors had a tremendous impact on Jobs professional life as they contributed in helping him becoming a great and trustworthy leader. Jobs had also a Zen Buddhists monk as a spiritual teacher: Kobun Otogawa whom advised him more on his personal and spiritual quest.

MENTORS

Based on my personal experience and what exists in literature, when you are looking for mentors to enhance a specific aspect of your life, you should take in consideration these 3 key attributes:

Available: Look for someone who can set aside some time every week (e.g. 1 hour) to support you is crucial to your success: For an example, I currently coach a young lady that I meet every Monday around lunchtime to assist her with her communication and leadership skills.

Knowledgeable: Find someone with experience; find someone who walks the talk. The best way is by looking for accomplishments and recognition in whatever field you are interested in.

Respectful: Seek someone who respect your individuality and do not impose his or her thoughts blindly. Usually, respectful mentors provide you with food for thought and only intervene when you need help navigating.

MENTEES

On the other hand, there are 3 key attributes that mentors aim for when it comes to looking/accepting new mentees:

Eager to learn: The desire to broaden one’s knowledge and develop new skills is a prerequisite in the mentee’s success.

Open to new ideas: There is no rule of thumb here; not all ideas work. They are various parameters involved when it comes to trying and integrating new ideas (personality, context, etc.). Being open sets the tone for trials, adjustments and ultimately success.

Grateful: Look for mentees that appreciate your time and advice. Look for someone that is grateful for all efforts mentors are putting to assist him/her building up these new muscles.

IN SUM

The mentorship is a win/win relationship as every party learn along the way and/or feel good about themselves and even broaden their leadership skills. Some mentorships turn out to be short term, others are punctual depending on the skills required for the time being. Only a bunch of people have mentors throughout their lifetime. I consider these people brilliant since they understand that mentoring is a shortcut to a wonderful life.

Good luck everyone with your mentors quest!

~ Amine Smaoui 

References:

[1] Tedx Talk

Strength is in the struggle

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to overcome struggle? Some might say despair.. Others would say a paradigm shift.. Maybe a combination of patience and resilience.. There are attributes we human beings can develop and build in the face of struggle and I will share with you three stories showcasing it.

On this memorable day of August 14th, 2015, Mohamed Qahtani became the latest Toastmasters International champion with his winning title: “the power of words”. His journey was long (6 years of contests), his journey was hectic (full of failures and struggle), his journey was rewarding (he got the first place). The new world champion works as a security engineer in Saudi Arabia. He was born mute and uttered his first word at the age of 6. After giving birth, his mother got a virus and had to stay in the hospital a long period of time, so his grand mother raised him. Growing up as a kid, he was teased for having a severe stuttering speech impediment. This did not prevent him from mastering speaking and joining Toastmasters. Throughout his toastmasters’ journey, he has been competing in contests for 6 years. Sometimes he‘d fail at the area level; sometimes he‘d fail at the division level and other times he’d fail at the district level. Did this stop him? No. Even this year, he did not make first place in district #78 and because his compatriot could not make it; he got his ticket to Vegas. His journey and winning speech are an inspiration. When Mohamed received the first place trophy, the first thing that came out of his mouth: “If I can do it, you can do it”. How empowering these words are? “If Mohamed Qathani can do it, we can all do it”. Strength is in the struggle [1].

Now let’s look at the great stand-up comedian and actor Robin Williams who had his shares of struggles throughout his lifetime. It began with a heavy addiction to cocaine in 1970 and early 1980’s which converted into alcohol. Against all odds, Robin Williams managed to do great things in the 1990s and early 2000s. He could have committed suicide much earlier. He struggled for 25 years afterwards…along the way, winning a Golden Globe awards for Mrs Doubtfire in 1994 and an Oscar for Good Will Hunting in 1997.  In the late years prior to his death, Robin was diagnosed with severe depression, an early stage Parkinson disease and dementia that led him to give up in the face of struggle [2]. Struggle can be shattering sometimes. Nevertheless, a lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.

In one of the scenes from TV show Lost; where a bunch of people was stranded on an island together: Charlie was going through a detox from his drug addiction and Lock knew of his dilemma as he was holding a stash of his drugs. In a moment of compassion, Lock showed Charlie a moth in its cocoon beginning to break free. He explained that he could easily set the moth free by aiding it in breaking through the cocoon. Yet, in doing so he wouldn’t be helping the moth at all, for it would be too weak to survive. The experience of struggling to break free of its encasement was exactly what the moth required in order to become strong enough to survive in its environment [3].

If there is one thing you have to take home with you today: all human species face struggle; just keep in mind that the struggle you feel today will offer the strength you need tomorrow. Strength is in the struggle!

~ Amine Smaoui  

References:

[1] Prnewswire.com [2] Wikipedia.org [3] Aspiremag.net 

Yoga is for everyone

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Life is series of ups and downs. I am not telling you anything new here – We all go through hard times at some points in our lives: Is there anyone excited about the idea of going into a tough time tomorrow? I assume no one is equipped to cope with this: Are we ready to face the death of someone we love, are we ready to deal with a sudden relationship break-up? Are we ready to face a job or a financial loss? The answer is NO.

Ladies & Gents, I have acquired a new string on my bow that helped me to go through bad times and it can be beneficial to everyone despite life situations, physical condition, body shape and flexibility. This new string is called YOGA.

In 2008

I came cross yoga for the first time on a ride share form Toronto to Montreal. I stroke up a conversation with the girl sitting next to me and we shared our travel experiences; she has spent a year traveling throughout India and has told me about various life experiences, lovely encounters, locals hospitality and most importantly; how she discovered yoga and the positive impact it had on her life downturns. I initially had the perception that yoga was for Hindi people, part of their religion. Since I am an open and curious person, I initially bought a mat and a yoga DVD and began practicing it on weekends; and then at some points joined a yoga studio. In the beginning, I was feeling my body: Oh I have a lower back now, legs, and hips. I realized I barely could stand on one foot (where was my stability?). First, it triggered a body awareness combined with some physical pain. However, something happened after 8-10 weeks, I started noticing slight changes such as feeling various physical benefits as if I had a message: I’d feel relaxed, all the daily tensions would have dissipated after the practice; I have acquired serenity as the postures calmed down the parasympathetic system: the nervous central system.

Late 2011

I met my life partner and she happened to be a yoga instructor so I could not ask for more. Slowly, I discovered a more profound physical practice. First, she helped me rebuild my anchoring (from the feet up). I slowly augmented the number of practices to twice a week and then my practice took a spiritual shift: practicing yoga as a genuine discipline 4-5 times a week to invigorate my body and generate more energy to take care of daily duties and chores. Around the same time, my boss confessed to me: “Amine! I am very glad to have you part of my team because you bring such calmness in the team and myself”. In introspection, I realized such calmness came from my yoga discipline and science is catching up today with all it’s benefits on the brain and the body (just google yoga benefits and you will see thousands of studies out there).

Mid 2013

I was let go at my job and was devastated at first. Fortunately, my yoga practice was there to lend me a hand transcending this situation to get back on my feet (if I did not have this genuine discipline, I might have gone down the drain). Yoga contributed to establish an unshakable foundation; the more I attend to my practice, the less the mind gets busy. In addition to this, yoga postures have promoted efficient functioning of my internal organs. For example, when I do passive torsions, it creates more space around the organs, which invigorates the entire region. Beyond the physical practice yoga has become a spiritual practice as it helps me go through my days; bad time & good time.

In sum, yoga brings equanimity in our lives. Yoga helps us take care of ourselves so we can take care of loved ones and duties. Yoga is a genuine discipline despite our body shape, flexibility, culture and/or religion. Most importantly, it doesn’t take much. We can all start today! Yoga is for everyone.

Can we become a creature of habits

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Yes. No. Maybe? Here is my two cents about adopting new habits.

 

In November 2013, I decided to pay a visit a hypnotherapist for the first time. Let’s call her Tangerine to remain anonymous. Tangerine started asking me questions about the objective behind my visit:

Tangerine: So Amine, can you tell me about your goal today?

Me: I want to get rid of fear of public speaking.

Tangerine: Oh yes! I recall being there few years ago.. Why do you want to do that?

Me: Well, I am currently going through a professional transition and would like to conduct workshops about my new interests, mindfulness and design thinking.

Tangerine: Why do you want to do that?

Me: I believe I can contribute to my community through sharing some of my passions and knowledge.

Tangerine: Great! What is preventing you from doing that today.

Me: It’s the fear of public speaking. I feel very uncomfortable speaking before an audience.

Tangerine: Okay! Why do you really want to do that?

Me: Well, I want to expand my comfort zone. I want to hone my communication skills. I want to achieve my full potential as an individual.

Tangerine: That’s very good! Why do you want to achieve your full potential? What would you reap from that?

Me: hum?! This is a good question. My goal is to embrace change, ambiguity by connecting to a purpose higher than myself while having a positive impact on society at large. Ultimately, I‘d like to make the world a better place than I find it.

Tangerine: This is very interesting! It’s possible to help you that if you are open to work together.

Me: Sure! That’s why I am here today. Would it be possible to a do an unconscious treatment with the pendulum to remove that fear from the back of my mind? (I was thinking one treatment and I am back on track; that was my basic understanding of hypnotherapy as far as I heard of people’s stories removing fear of rats, spiders, etc.)

Tangerine: It is doable but not recommended.

Me: What do you mean?

Tangerine: In some instances, this method was used to help people quit smoking but it came up with drawbacks as they developed other addictions such as addiction to sugar. So I ‘d rather do the sessions with you while you are conscious.

Me: Okay and how long will it take to get there?

Tangerine: It depends on how open and fast you can go; I believe we can make great progress within 10 sessions.

Me: mmm this is not going to happen this way (in my mind).. I’d rather go with a drastic method: killing the beast in one shot, easy and sharp.

Tangerine: Amine! You seem to be someone very cooperative and I think I can take you there in a short amount of time.

 

At that point, I realized I needed to leverage this current session to get as much info as possible to heal myself on my own. I started asking questions to learn more about fear of public speaking root causes and Tangerine explained the primitive brain function (fight or flight response) along with the synapse connection, which quite intrigued me. We basically, as human beings, can create new paths/channels in our brain to allow information to flow (like water) . We can associate a meaningless action with a goal that is close to your heart. When such phenomena (synapses connection) occurs, we move out of our comfort zone and try new life experiences that might sound uncomfortable at first but we embrace them and adopt them as new habits. This deep insight was an eye opener for me as it encouraged me speaking before an audience through connecting this action to my ultimate goal. I became determined to take random actions everyday, one little step at a time, to get me closer to my goal. Joining toastmaster turned out to be a quintessential tool in my journey. I never had to visit any hypnotherapist since. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to Tangerine for the precious insights she shared with me.

 

To go back to the question I asked in the intro: Yes, I truly believe we can become a creature of habits as long as we connect a new habits to an objective that is dear to our hearts. We create a new synapse pathway in our brain where information flows freely with no obstacles and every small action becomes meaningful. It’s just of matter to commit ourselves to learn, trip over, fail, try again and ultimately succeed. Today, I can attest that resilience, practice and patience have positively contributed to my public speaking and leadership skills and I believe with further learning and integration, I can reach higher grounds.