Thank You For Your Honesty

On December 26th, 2008, on my dad’s birthday, I did something that was a result of exactly the opposite of everything I believed in. I grew up being taught, in school and at home, that honesty is a virtue. It is a moral code everyone should live by and follow. It is the essence of everything beautiful in life. Just like the innocence of children.

Growing up being honest was not easy, of course, with many of whom I have come in contact with being anything but honest. I persevered and decided to do what I believed was right.

That was until I entered a serious relationship (as serious as a guy in his early 20s could have), when confusion set in and became delusional and thought that maybe a bit of dishonesty might work. It was a sweet relationship that blossomed in spring and withered in winter. It was a perfect cycle with the seasons, really. The rosy infatuation in spring, the carefree summer love, the reflections of autumn and the bitterness of winter, which ended on that December on my dad’s birthday.

Because I was dishonest, not only with her, but with myself, mostly.

I made the conscious decision to return back to what I believed in.

Yes, I do my best to be brutally honest. I do not have to spill my guts out to everyone, but I am honest with myself, or, rather, always putting effort into being honest with myself. I am diplomatic if I have to relay a dislike on a subject matter (if people are involved that is), but I am not an ass kisser, I don’t suck up, I don’t pretend. If I am very nice to you it is because I like you.

Someone I am close friends with asked me to be very honest about certain issues. Fine, very good. When I was honest, I got thanked for being so yet at the same time I was condemned for having been. It was like being told “I want you to be honest but please don’t be honest with me”. I then tried to be “smart” on what to be honest about (which is dishonesty, disguised), and that did not work out either.

Another example: I read somewhere that honesty at work is one of the best virtues employers seek out these days. My experiences so far, bar a few, indicate that they’d like to hear what you memorized off of websites and assure them they were right in their judgement by having you on board. I have had some good experiences where I got thanked for being honest, regardless of the outcome.

It felt odd being thanked for being honesty. In fact, it worried me that I should be thanked for being honest. Was I doing you a favour by being honest? Have I gone out of my way? Or has honesty become so extraordinarily odd that I have to be handed out certificates of appreciation sometime soon?

The past two months have been filled with these instances in almost every aspect of my life. I do not work in PR and so I lack the tongue to twist and turn things around to say in an elaborate “positive” thesis what could be said in a single, straight, and clear sentence.

Alright here is the deal. Personally, I would rather enjoy a clear conscience than build up stacks of bullshit with every person I encounter. I’ve been doing it for a while now and, though it does upset me and some others at some instances, I know I am doing the right thing and I can sleep with a peaceful mind. It is my right to be selfish on this basic matter.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely – Proverbs 10:9

من يسلك بالاستقامة يسلك بالأمان – الأمثال ١٠:٩

And if you don’t like it, honestly, and with all due respect, go and make room in my life for someone who does. That’s my diplomatic way for “fuck off”.

Money Doesn’t Buy [Much] Happiness

If you’ve been reading my blog since day 1, you came along stretches of time when I was completely and utterly depressed. I blogged a lot about it, most of which I switched to private, eventually, and others gave different categories that I cannot find now.

The latter part of my previous job had me work in a basement under dreadful conditions. It is there where I believe I contacted whatever it is causing me the eyelash infection as well when I have experienced the very lows of what it means to have everything you can buy and not much else.

I used the money to get a car and slowly over the years make my dream apartment. From living in a studio with very basic furniture to a nice big place my friends would often think is for a married couple (I give credit to my sis for her amazing taste in decoration). I bought everything I would want, had the most exquisite dinners, and lived the “Dubai” that is promoted on TV (well I didn’t have a massage yet, so be kind and give me a voucher!).

However my life was miserable. I had very little friends – most of which left to work or live abroad. The ones who remained have their own lifestyles and social bubbles I cannot always accommodate (and, of course, as it is, people don’t adapt to you but expect you to adapt to them). I didn’t particularly like the type of work I was doing and started enrolling in artistic courses to make myself feel better.

Then I distinctly remember one day, me sitting down there and thinking:

“I wish in a couple of years time I am done with this… that I live life as I want to live it… even if it means living on the edge, financially, and barely making ends meet. I want to experience the thrill of that little pay-check that would make me afford something. I want to do all the things I wanted and freelance and be busy all day but LOVE being busy. I want to be in the creative world, live simply, humbly, remove all these materialistic things that don’t make any sense. I want to feel true happiness. I want to smile from the inside, for once.”

Soon after that I was made redundant, went through another wave of depression. I joined twitter. I have made and met so many amazing friends and amazing people. I am juggling jobs and just barely making ends meet. My monetary resources dropped two digits and I will probably have to break my promise to myself and ask my parents for help (I made a promise never to take money from my parents again).

It is very stressful, especially seeing my other friends rising in their companies, going on with their lives. That’s fine. It is my choice. I wanted to be like this. And here I am. Do I regret it? No. Would I go back? Never. Can this be better? It sure is… I am still exploring. An extra income wouldn’t hurt of course. Though I may be living part of my dream I also must consider the reality of things.

I have never, ever, felt so incredibly happy – even when I am very upset, or stressed, and when I feel there are challenges and obstacles… I feel the drive to overcome them. Because I know this is what I asked for and that it makes me happy.

I am 26, still young. I don’t have a career. I probably can’t afford getting married any time soon (sorry mom), heck I don’t know if I can afford next month.

But I am not defining myself by title, money, company position, marital status, car, income, or the probability that I have denial.

I’m Kinan. Period.

How to Celebrate Entrepreneurs

By not inviting bloggers. Well, most bloggers.

Any person who marginally knows me will attest to the fact that I am allergic to the over abuse of the words “entrepreneur” (which took me a while to learn to pronounce) and social media adjective.

In any case, a few days ago I received an invitation to attend a press conference for an upcoming event that carries the heavy title of “Celebration of Entrepreneurship“. I first cringed at the title, fearing that this would be, a few years from now, an international public holiday. However, I put my reservations aside, wore a white shirt (a rare occasion), put on as professional an attitude I could muster, and attended the event, as a blogger, and here are my two cents on the matter: It took them 40 goddamn minutes to serve me orange juice (which I had to ask for, after declining their fine selection of wine and beer).

Yup. This is what happens when you invite a blogger with multiple personality disorders.

On a more serious note, the event, as I understood, was very informal so my judgement on lack of structure would not add to the matter. Though it bothered me that I entered the hall and found myself comfortable without being asked for an identification or proof that I am allowed to be there to begin with.

Let me get some PR out of the way:

The event was hosted by Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Abraaj Capital, and Fadi Ghandour, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aramex. The panel of entrepreneurs included:

  • Ahmed Bin Shabib, Founder, Shelter
  • Rashed Bin Shabib, Founder, Brownbook
  • Peyman Parham Al Awadhi, Co-founder, Wild Peeta
  • Mohammad Parham Al Awadhi, Co-founder, Wild Peeta
  • Sulaf Al-Zubi, CEO (UAE), INJAZ al-Arab
  • Anas Bukhash, Managing Director, Ahdaaf
  • Amel B.Makkawi, Owner and Director, Art Sawa

The talks from the panel did not go beyond a nutshell version of the story of how each business made it from zero to hero. There were some laughs and giggles at mishaps and when it became apparent that all of them struggled with The System at one point or another. One of the key issues that was brought up every now and then is the gap between The System (laws, government, etc) and small/medium businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. What hit a cord with me was the mention of the lack a “Freelance Residency Visa” that would allow you to pursue your dreams without having your ass owned by the sponsoring company.

I heard that such a visa did exist, in the older days, issued in the emirate of Ras al Khaima, when I was made redundant and was looking at every option to remain in the country for more than 30 days (seriously? 30?). If anyone can confirm it please let me know!

One of the burning questions of every wannabe entrepreneur is “how to do it”, though I am sure the book stores are now full of entrepreneurship material written by experts (because hey, an expert is one who knows more than you right? WRONG!). As Arif and Fadi pointed out several times in the event, education is paramount as people are not born entrepreneurs, but are made. I slightly disagree as you need to be born with the drive, ambition, and leadership (or you grow it during the years), but yes, sometimes you need a push in the right direction and education to know what to do with what you have. According to them, the money is flowing freely in this region and funding has to be put in the right places to address issues that entrepreneurs face. I believe another step would be to invest in the right ideas, otherwise every entrepreneur on twitter (which I think is a good 80% of users) would suck the money out of this region dry.

Anyway, I think I’ve written more than my due as a blogger who writes prose, humour, and uses a lot of Photoshop. The event is in a month so I am sure there will be lots of typical press coverage around it.

Now to end this post in the Jar of Juice way, I present you with a couple of quotes from the conference (and no, I won’t attribute them to anyone):

“I made the decision two years ago to stop going to conferences talking about entrepreneurship” [pause] “Except this one… because it is different.”

And my all-time favourite:

“Private equity is everything that is not public equity.”

An added extra (you can find the text  it came from here):

It means you don’t need antihistamines to work

Everything About this Picture is Wrong

One of my favourite iTunes applications for the iPad is The Guardian Eyewitness, a photography portal that brings in usually great photos almost every day from the news. Along with The Frame and The Big Picture, I get my daily dose of superb street photography and photojournalism.

A few days ago, the photo below landed on my iPad. According to the website:

An Israeli motorist runs down a masked Palestinian youth who was among a group of boys throwing stones at Israeli cars in the mostly Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

This isn’t the first time I am subjected to such an image, and I have seen much worse on The Frame and The Big Picture.

You can’t stop and think that everything about this photo is wrong.