The Possibilities Project – The Promise And What Could Have Been

 

Intro
 
It seems like it’s becoming a sort of a theme in my life of late, but it all started for me with a book. I didn’t know what to expect from this little book and I never expected to like reading it as much as I did.
 
The unplanned introduction to this promising work came about completely by chance. 
 
Back in February 2020, I had made an online order from my favorite Japanese bookstore in Dubai. It was my first time ordering real printed books on the internet. That was something completely out of the question for as long as I can remember.
 
I’m a bookstore kind of person. I’ve always considered it to be the greatest of joys to go to a bookstore and enjoy the scent of freshly printed books. And somehow, I’ve always managed to come back home with more than what I had an allowance for in my budget. It doesn’t bother me much because I’ve always considered books to be an investment and not an expense. 
 
So the decision was for the best-selling book “Becoming Supernatural” by the author Dr. Joe Dispenza who has made quite a distinctive mark on the self-improvement scene. Dispenza’s work seems to explore the connection between the mind and the body, as well as the connections between science and spirituality.
 
An older version of me would have dismissed this connection as pseudoscience nonsense, except that it resonates with my personal ordeal with back pain that has significantly improved after years of suffering after reading the magnificent book ‘Healing Back Pain‘ by Dr. Sarno.
 
Next day delivery always impresses me, but on that day I was double impressed when a second book fell into my lap with the title “The Possibilities Project: A young person’s guide to career success.”
 
A few days later, I had just finished the audiobook version of “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, that’s when I picked up the Possibilities Project book. It was a quick read and I must have gone through the whole thing start-to-finish in two days.
 
Once I was done with it, I felt compelled to reach out to the people in charge of the work Dawn Metcalfe and Sarah Bahar on Twitter to thank them and praise the project. It didn’t take long before I landed on the Possibilities Project homepage and Instagram account. 
 
The book is available as a free download eBook on the website and my copy was one of a 10,000-copy limited print edition published only in the UAE. (Unfortunately, I lost that book along with a treasure trove of other valuable books while moving to a new apartment building in late October) 
 
I loved the idea behind launching the Possibilities project through a book. It is well known in the publishing industry that a book is the new business card, the best proof of work, and the best brochure for consulting or coaching services.
 
It is the ultimate way to expose your brand and bolster your personal reputation, and that of your business.
 
Not only does it show people that you know what you are doing and that you’ve done it before, but it also shows people a living demonstration of what it would be like to work with you and what you would be like teaching them.
 
The Possibilities Project book is only a small part of a much bigger conversation about education in the 21st century. For the book to be able to serve its purpose, the message must be genuine, and I believe it is.
 
 
Many Lessons To Learn
 
The general message of the book is that of hope and high potential. I loved many of the chapters that included very endearing personal stories of struggle and triumph, even though I was slightly disappointed by the modular structure of the book, with each chapter completely independent from the others without a common thread or continuity. 
 
There are many good book recommendations by the authors of the Possibilities Project. One of the most superior quotes which casts the biggest shadow over the entire work is crystallized in these words by Dawn Metcalfe:
 
“If you want to change, there are more resources than ever before which are freely available. this book is just one of them. But it doesn’t matter how much something costs if you don’t take advantage of it. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, attend training sessions, and learn from those you look up to. Apply what you’ve learned to your life.”
 
I’ve heard the same principle mentioned by the founder of AngelList Naval Ravikant: “The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.”
 
While reading the Possibilities Project, I couldn’t help but think of two brilliant books that should be on the project’s reading list: “When to Jump” by Mike Lewis and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport.
 
There are recurring themes running through the fabric of the entire book. People who reached a certain level of success have many values and personal traits in common and the contributors in this project do deliver top-notch advice to the prospective audience of this book. 
 
It Doesn’t Matter Where You Are
 
You can certainly get several subtle and not so subtle hints of this principle within the pages of the book. The contributors of this book come from all sorts of backgrounds and environments and they each managed to find their own way no matter what.
 
It’s worth knowing that you can make your mark in the world no matter your background or your environment. People were born rich and poor and everywhere in the middle and managed to seek and find success and achievement no matter what. 
 
There are no guarantees in life. Being born into privilege doesn’t immunize you from the caprices of fortune and the downturns of luck. It is true that some people win the genetic lottery and find themselves born into the right circumstances, in the right family, the right country, the right economical means, etc. But that doesn’t mean that all of them can or do take advantage of their luck. 
 
Some are not so lucky and find a way to turn everything to their advantage and pull themselves up from the depths of despair with unrelenting optimism. With that said, being born into bitter need doesn’t guarantee you will grow a strong personal drive, solid work ethics, or a straight moral compass. 
 
It’s all about the way you see your situation and how you manipulate your perspective to interpret everything to suit your purposes. 
 


 
 
Enter Dawn Metcalfe
 
Front and center on the website you’re greeted with a short interview with the positively charming Dawn Metcalfe who successfully delivers a comprehensive presentation of the premise behind the whole project.
 
It’s quite interesting the amount of impressive information available online about Dawn Metcalfe. Suffice to say that she speaks seven languages and has lived and worked in eight countries which speaks volumes about the richness and refinement of her character. 
 
Her career seems to revolve around education and communication. She’s an executive coach, public speaker, business culture advisor, and she’s the author of two books, “Managing The Matrix,” and “The HardTalk Handbook.” Her books dissect the necessary skills to navigate a complex corporate work environment and how to communicate effectively in the workplace.
 
Dawn is also the founder and managing director of “PDSi” a licensed education, coaching, and training organization based in Dubai, UAE.
 
Once you’ve added the title “entrepreneur” to her professional repertoire, you’re tempted to wonder where does she find the time, really!
 
But that’s exactly the thing about successful and accomplished people, they do manage to prioritize the things that are most important in their lives, and that’s exactly what you need to do to get things done right.
 
Straight away, Dawn Metcalfe reflects such unique leadership qualities. She presents herself as the face of the Possibilities Project and one of its two seriously distinguished ship captains.
 
You can hardly miss her knack for choosing the right type of exceptional people to work with, like her co-author Sarah Bahar whose superior networking skills are evident by the impressive roster of local business people, entrepreneurs, government officials, cultural icons, and education figures collaborating in this project. 
 
 
 

The Project
 
The ultimate goal of the Possibilities Project is to build an ecosystem committed to shaping the future workforce in the UAE. The whole premise behind the possibilities project seems brilliant and I believe it would find fertile grounds in a fast-growing country like the UAE.
 
Dawn did say that the project mirrors the efforts of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. This utterance automatically made me think that this is a project worthy of being sponsored by the UAE government, or a high-profile royal figure. 
 
As outlined by Dawn during the interview, the plan is to create an online community platform with huge amounts of resources in English and in Arabic. This community would provide an environment where young people can enjoy themselves, make friends with like-minded peers, improve their soft and social skills, supercharge their self-esteem, and build merit-based confidence. 
 
They get into the program to gain essential skill sets and attributes for work and life such as emotional resilience, creative problem-solving, collaboration, effective communication, the cultivation of self-motivation, enhancing resumes, and working on university and job applications.
 
The tasks and undertakings they will tackle will be rewarded by a points system and ranked on a leader-board. In this progressive, gamified approach, something like setting up a LinkedIn profile, or completing a volunteer work placement assignment, would add up to points that determine the participant’s score; that adds an exciting competitive edge. 
 
But that’s not everything, these very points gathered by the participating youths will be redeemable for work opportunities with partner organizations. Then they get the chance to be picked up by an elite list of employers who would benefit directly from the work-ready skills those Possibilities candidates can bring to their business.  
 
The Possibilities Project is an ambitious endeavor aimed at providing an effective linkage between real organizations thirsty for capable candidates and a hiring pool ripe with UAE youths armed with modern skills.
 
It fills a real gap that the students find to exist between academic life and real-life when they tip their toes in the job market, which is a niche space that has been outright neglected in the modern education system.
 


 
 
 
The Passion
 
In a Radio interview, Dawn and Sarah talked about the skills they think necessary for young candidates in a professional organization and dubbed them “survival skills” rather than mere soft skills because basic functional competency gets you through the door, but it’s not all that you need to know to succeed. 
 
There’s an advantage to achieving fluency in the language of soft skills because it doesn’t stop being important after you get a shoe in the door at your first job. Sure, it could give you a strong head-start, but the ramifications of possessing these powerful skills extend beyond those early years well into well-developed careers.
 
Many highly efficient and competent people don’t get to where they deserve because they were always focused only on doing their job right and they’ve always felt completely lost in office politics.
 
Soft skills are the hardest to teach nowadays, especially in younger generations who aren’t getting together and interacting in real life anymore, even before we all had to wear masks and be mindful of social distancing precautions. 
 
There are important chapters on how to build a respectable professional image online in the world of social media and how hiring new employees can depend heavily on the type of personality you present online.
 
The Possibilities Project’s aim is to give young people the tools to develop the ability to think for themselves and make their own informed decisions while being driven to choose their own destination in life.
 
The Vision
 
Dawn Metcalfe had no illusions about the enormity of the Possibilities Project. Some of the planned ideas she talked about in February, after the book launch, entailed Arabic-language translation of the book in tandem with building an online platform and a mobile app. I think that there was supposed to be some fund-raising efforts to pursue as well. 
 
It doesn’t take much to understand how the project was severely affected by the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. I can only assume that the whole thing was indefinitely postponed.
 
I have to say, though, that some of the plans can be adapted to the current situation and, given new incentives, the project might actually take off and gather a lot of steam since virtual platforms are gaining plenty of momentum right now.
 
Hope will always remain that with leaders like Dawn and Sarah in the world, such great ideas will keep popping up to make a difference in people’s lives. 


 
 
Sarah Bahar, Co-Author, and Networking Dynamo
 
Sarah Bahar is a key figure at PDSi and the co-author of the Possibilities Project. She took a major role in orchestrating this entire project through some highly efficient PR and networking. The chapters in the book pool together a large and diverse body of expertise in many different career paths. There are unmistakable connections between many of the guest authors and I can barely imagine the effort she had to go through to reach out to 20 local figures and to get all those extremely busy people to take time out of their schedules to be part of the project. 
 
Books of this type provide a rich resource for people searching for heroes to emulate and success stories to use as a guiding map towards designing a life of achievement and progress.
 
Throughout the book, there are twenty successive introductions to the kind of local and international role models that a young college freshman can look up to. Many stories are autobiographies with touching personal life lessons that do indeed distill a great many nuggets of hard-earned wisdom.
 
It’s heartwarming really to learn the fact that these terrific contributors volunteered their efforts to this project which speaks volumes of the quality of their characters as they metaphorically pass on the baton to the next generation of would-be professionals and entrepreneurs with genuine care and humility.   
 
Sarah Bahar is such an inspiring figure and her own chapter is heavy with many useful networking tips from someone at the top of their game.
 
Networking is a cornerstone skill that does not only serve one’s efforts to expand, level up, and create more opportunities, but it also helps when the tides turn and there’s a dire need for other people’s help.
 
“The only thing that is certain in life is uncertainty. You never really know what’s around the corner waiting for you, and the harsh reality is that sometimes you have a long fall from the top to the bottom […] if you need help during these times […] do you think that you’re likely to get it from people who remember you as being arrogant and self-serving? or will people be more likely to rally around you and support you because they remember the times when you did the same for them?”
 
Networking is a valuable skill because it’s a value multiplier, providing access to more value, actively making a person indispensable in their circle of influence. It also goes by the name ‘Referent Power’ as one of the 7 types of power.
 
In her short Master Class in networking, Sarah skips across the lines dropping little gems on how effective networking really happens at the nexus of the real world and the online social media sphere through platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
 
As a case in point, Sarah shares a personal story about how she first met with Dawn Metcalfe and how the relationship evolved into a friendship and work partnership. 
 
Some of the mechanics of networking that Sarah wrote about remind me of the “Favor Bank” mentioned in the novel “The Zahir” by Paulo Coelho.
 
It’s all about being generous with your knowledge and your help and your support and making sure you nurture your network and keep it alive by doing favors to people when asked and to ask people for favors to encourage them to ask you for favors in return.
 
It resonates with another piece of solid advice by the prolific author and investor James Altucher who likes to point out that one major secret to his success is due to him being able to connect people together. When someone comes up to him regarding a certain job and he knows the right person to do it, even if it were a competitor of his, he would make the referral and even the introduction. It was one of the major ways that he established himself as a great source of connections and gained the trust and reputation for being a valuable super-connector.
 
Another valuable tip, he wrote about how to maintain a conversation when stuck at a party with complete strangers one is meeting for the first time. It’s a time-proven trick to steer the conversation to where people get the chance to speak about themselves, their own lives, and their accomplishments. Funny enough, most people find that the most interesting topic for conversation is the very same person they regularly stare at in the mirror every morning. 
 
Create Opportunities and Add Value – The Tiffany Delport way
 
Dr. Tiffany Claire Delport, yet another distinguished contributor to the Possibilities Project, is the Director of Marine Environmental Operations – Emirates Marine Environmental Group. Her chapter makes a perfect tie-in for the subject of networking.
 
Dr. Tiffany Claire Delport is all about Volunteering. Her chapter promotes volunteering as the fast bullet to gaining real-life experience, finding interesting internships, exploring career paths, finding networking opportunities, and combing through potential life and career mentors,
 
She sees networking as a healthy byproduct which compounds the effectiveness of volunteer work. Such solid advice makes the case for how volunteer work and internships could open doors for many opportunities. It would serve a double purpose of expanding the individual’s personal network of connection as well as provide helpful clues as to the kind of work that properly aligns with a person’s natural strengths. 
 
Volunteering is a wonderful introduction to the concept of building your abilities to create value for others which the surest way to expand your network of connections.
 
Volunteering is simply a way to “help” or “add value to” other people without expecting payback, That doesn’t mean that you don’t get reimbursed in other intangible ways. The return on investment of time and effort volunteered pays lucrative high dividends of appreciation, goodwill, sterling reputation, and providing proof of competence and usefulness.
 
And it simply makes sense that you can add the most value when you are doing work that you enjoy and that flows in tune with your natural abilities and the things you enjoy.
 
It’s the things that you can do for long periods of time without noticing time passing that you enjoy the most. It’s called being in a state of flow (check out the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly).
 
It does really matter that you play to your strengths and try to capitalize on them mainly because your progress will become much faster if you find yourself enjoying the process. The compounding interest of the knowledge you acquire faster than anyone else will play a major role in boosting your career and affording you the chances to get better and bigger opportunities. Such efforts have a way of placing a person in the right spotlight when the time comes to hire new people in the organization. 
 
One of the best, and most traditional, ways to guarantee a key position in a new organization is to join at the bottom rung of the ladder. You will probably change roles many times until you find your niche and by the time the whole operation reaches maturity, your valuable experience with the company will be highly appreciated and it’s exactly how new start-ups in Silicone Valley hire new brilliant talent.
 
People are willing to trade-in very low or no pay contribution in a promising start-up in return for an opportunity for growth, not to mention stock options and later recognition when the projects pick up steam.
 
In a way, it is an investment of time and effort in return for knowledge, experience, on-the-job training, and ultimately self-discovery. You get to understand what you’re capable of. Even if the whole thing goes bust, the experience and connections you are bound to make during your time with that organization will most definitely bear fruit in other endeavors. 
 
Getting these first experiences in the real world gives you an opportunity to know yourself better and to test yourself to truly understand what you’re made of.
 

 
 
Norah Al Kaabi
 
From the first pages of the book, you are greeted by what is possibly the perfect book foreword by Her Excellency Norah Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth in the UAE. A prominent leading political and cultural figure in the UAE and you can just check her Wikipedia and Linkedin pages to be duly impressed, but that doesn’t tell you the whole story. Norah Al Kaabi is a role model, a civil servant, an attentive cultural patron, a management powerhouse, and a successful political figure. I actually prefer her Instagram page which tells quite a story about her mission in life as a leader and a thinker.
 
Having Her Excellency the minister of culture write the first chapter and basically adopt the title of the chapter as the whole project title was a brilliant strategic home-run on multiple fronts. It’s not entirely clear if the book was named after her chapter, or she just learned the title and let her creative flow take hold of her pen to write one of the best chapters ever in this book. From a sheer marketing standpoint, it provides the book with a certain standard to live up to, and the rest of the book doesn’t disappoint. I have made many notes and highlights on the pages where she provided a short memoir riddled with valuable life lessons. I dare say that this chapter is the main reason I stayed with the book, to begin with. 
 
Throughout a deeply moving essay, Nourah Al-Kaabi poured her heart out in a beautiful flow of personal experiences wrapped in humility and candor. It simply paints a shining picture of what a seriously driven Emirati woman can accomplish in the UAE in the 21st century.
 
The Minister chose “Possibilities Begin at Home” as the title of her essay and it is clear that she chose to focus on the potential of each and every single person growing up and how they could take advantage of their environment and make a path for themselves.
 
All through the essay, she outlines some powerful tips as to what it really took to create the person that she has become:
 
  • Never take the opportunities, privileges, and advantages afforded to you (or lack thereof) for granted.
  • Parents can greatly influence the path of their children by being leading examples and by providing solid advice.
  • It pays great dividends if from a young age one learns responsibility, self-reliance, and to own up the consequences of their own decisions.
“My Parents opted to give my siblings and me the liberty to make our own decisions and take responsibility for our actions.”
 
  • Have pride in your identity and respect your own cultural heritage and simultaneously develop tolerance and respect for the differences of other cultures.
“But my most significant takeaway from that year in the USA was an essential lesson I continue to practice today: respect for the other. In so doing, I had to take pride in my own roots. After all, how can I respect you if I don’t respect myself? Sheikh Zayed once said: ‘Without tolerance, no rapport can be maintained between friends and brothers. Tolerance is a virtue.’ He was right. Still is.”
 
  • Personal drive is a key component of success.
  • Always aim for a chance towards progress and advancement even if it means changing jobs or careers.
  • Use the challenges you find along the way as opportunities for growth and knowledge.
  • Play to your strengths and capitalize on your strong characteristics to find your niche in the world.
  • Gathering a good team is a major ingredient in the success of every organization. Each member has their own strengths that complement the team.
  • Know that opportunity is being in the right place at the right time.
The road to Mastery always and ever begins with self-knowledge. It’s in fact a long arduous journey along a bumpy road. Norah Al-Kaabi takes us along her own in this lively essay and it leaves us full of admiration and hope.

 
 
Amna Al Haddad’s Secret Success Ingredient: To Show Up for Yourself
 
What makes this book a great introductory self-improvement book is the wonderful discussions about fear and failure and how to deal with them in the context of building a successful life from different perspectives.
 
You will learn that all of these high and mighty beacons of accomplishment, at some point or another, were challenged to learn how to manage their emotions, deal with their fears and push through failure with the conviction that they could learn from their mistakes and upgrade their skills.
 
One of the most impressive and noteworthy contributors to this book is Olympic Athlete Amna Al Haddad.
 
On her personal website, Amna describes herself as a free-spirited person and after reading her piece you can’t have any doubts that she is a free-spirited free-thinking person with strong leadership qualities.
 
A true child of the age of social media, she is active on multiple platforms and I strongly advise you to follow her on her Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn pages.
 
Amna made a name for herself through competing in the Olympic games as the first Emirati woman weightlifter. A master of many talents and a holder of multiple prestigious awards she is a keynote speaks, a published author, a youth mentor, and professional coach, and a mental health advocate.
 
Although Amna is officially a published author on the merits of being part of this magnificent project, you can tell right away that she obviously has an entire book in her.
 
I would strongly suggest to Amna to check out Scribe Media’s guided author program or find a ghostwriter to help her with the project at the very least because she has a powerful story to tell and this short essay is only an appetizer.
 
It’s even more important now since she’s actively seeking public speaking engagements and it would seriously support her coaching and speaking career.
 
Her chapter, which is brilliantly titled “Break The Mold and Go for Gold,” is one of the most captivating personal stories in this book and one of the most empowering to young Emirati women.
 
The journey of achievement and success of Amna Al Haddad is remarkable and draws you into her own challenges and personal struggles and the nerve-racking ‘fork in the road’ moments, that could make or break a person’s dream, that she had to face.
 
Her vulnerability is touching and you feel a closeness to her true story that she chose to share with the readers who might be in the same situation facing the same frightening choices. 
 
Amna’s story gives you a very clear perspective on one of the best and fastest ways to build courage through sports. It’s starkly clear that being an athlete chiseled a gladiatorial spirit inside of her.
 
I feel the urge to shed a light on four of her most notable quotes in the book:
 
The first Quote is about Courage:
 
“This is how our journey begins. With a thought. Then a Step. and sometimes each chapter has its own ending. Then we move on to the next thing. It is okay to change direction when a path or a goal no longer serves you or your growth. Sometimes our goals are just a vehicle to get us through from point A to point B whether mentally, emotionally or spiritually. And sometimes we go through an experience because its impact is not just for us, but one that can serve humanity at large. It takes bravery to pursue an unprecedented path and it takes courage to know when it’s time to change direction or stop.”
 
The second quote is about Mindset:
 
“The journey to the Olympics was more mental than physical and more spiritual than social. But having the intention of bettering my existence led to creating a positive impact. It was never about being Arab, Muslim, or being an Emirati, it was about healing myself and when we heal ourselves, we help the world heal and expand its own perception and narrow view. It leaves a ripple effect. That was the bottom line: Better yourself, better the world. It was a journey of healing for me and a journey of empowerment for others.”
 
The third quote is about cultivating Self-Worth:
 
“So when you want to go out there and pursue any goal or any dream, know that you need to do it for you and your own growth. That will lead you to feel the true meaning of success. It is not about medals, titles, labels or positions you reach, it is about finding peace within you, knowing you did what you could to make yourself proud. Know who you are without those labels and titles. Create your own gold medal. Ultimately, we are the ones who attach meaning and importance to the goals we set. Tell yourself you are worthy and good enough with or without a gold medal around your neck, metaphorically speaking.”
 
The fourth and final quote is about Showing Up for Oneself:
 
“Never stop showing up for yourself. Everything else in life is fleeting. Be there for you.”
 
Very well said indeed.


 
 
Anna Roberts – The Little Engine That Could
 
It can’t be stressed enough that believing in yourself is a prerequisite to success. The majority of the authors really hammer in the necessity of showing up for yourself every single day. Much of what we end up doing in life depends solely on our opinion of ourselves and our perception of what we are capable of and what we can achieve if we just gave ourselves the chance. If we believe and focus and do the necessary hard work, there’s no telling how high we can reach.
 
I found Anna Robert‘s chapter to be quite interesting and positively one of the best chapters in the entire book with very simple and easily digestible character-building principles. Roberts is a Speaker and Social Media consultant and the co-founder of Achievher.  
 
Through her words, she emphasizes the importance of self-reliance, self-motivation, optimism and she also shares a simple formula for success.
 
Confidence= self-efficacy (the belief that you can reach your goals)+optimism.
 
“We can positively build our self-confidence by focusing on our strengths and engaging in activities we enjoy. Taking a moment to recognize and be grateful for what we have and living our lives with more purpose and seeing how we can positively impact other people’s lives.”
 
I was tickled with joy when I read the simple but straight to the point fable of the little engine that could.
 
“There’s a perfect example in the 1940’s childhood story of ‘The Little Engine that Could’ by Watty Piper. Growing from a whisper to a roar of ‘I think I can, I think I can. I think I can’ it’s easy to visualize the growing confidence of that little train climbing a mountain through self-efficacy and optimism.”
 
Anna is also obsessed with the topic of mastery much like most of the people in this book and she makes a good attempt at defining it as “The ability to work hard at achieving goals which are actually achievable, through persistence.” 
 
Roberts explains to us how crucial it is to develop the skill of self-motivation through positive self-talk:
 
“In the case of the little engine, it was not only ‘I can’ but ‘I will’ that got the engine to the top of the mountain through positive self-talk allowing it to remain energized and focused on the goal”
 
I absolutely loved reading this chapter and it’s one of my most favorite in the entire work.
 

 
 
Aby Sam Thomas – Marching To The Beat of Your Own Drum
 
Aby Sam Thomas tells an autobiographical life story with a focus on career advice. He sees his essay can serve as a guide not as a step-by-step recipe to be followed to the letter.
 
Aby is the Editor-in-Chief at Entrepreneur Magazine Middle East and his story is absolutely fascinating.
 
It’s the part within us that drives us to figure out our own identity that eventually defines what decisions we make and what paths we take.
 
The key to writing your own ticket in this world is to take hold of the reins of your decisions and make your own mistakes and stumble along a route of your choosing.
 
“I decided that it’d be better for me to have tried and failed, rather than not trying at all. Plus, there was the inherent satisfaction in the fact that I was calling the shots now. I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life, and if I did stumble and fall doing that, I was okay with that. It was definitely better than being stuck in a life that was, in a way, imposed on me.”
 
Aby’s story sounds like a lost chapter from one of the most amazing books I’ve read about career advice “When to Jump” by Mike Lewis. He did take a chance on himself and gambled on following the thing that makes him feel the best about himself. 
 
His captivating story is about how he followed the advice of his parents about the important choices in his life up until the point when he felt like he needed to break free from the spell and blaze his own way. It’s a story more common than you might care to admit in this world where most of us are reaching for any sliver of help and guidance, and who is always ready to offer it more than our parents.
 
It is a crucial part of our instinctive behavior as humans to pass along our accumulated knowledge to our offspring to spare them the pains of starting from the bottom of the pile; to try to give them a head-start in life. But ultimately, the true role of parents in this day and age is to gift their children the skills of self-reliance and the ability to make their own decisions rather than to make them on their behalf.  
 
It’s not a secret that you can never excel at anything you don’t love. This is exactly why successful people keep saying we need to find what that thing is.
 
It might not come intuitively, though. You’ll have to stumble and fall, hit and miss, double-back from many dead-ends and wrong turns before you find it, but when you finally get to that one path where you know you can give it your everything, things get very interesting really fast.
 
It all boils down to that elusive thing they call self-motivation. and self-motivation is really the only way you can move along undeterred by misfortune. 
 
“But here’s the thing: when you’re running after a goal that you have set for yourself, you somehow naturally find the will to navigate all of the barriers that come along the way. In fact, I found out that I didn’t really mind any of the hurdles that were in my path and that was because it was quite simply, my path. When you decide to be the architect of your own life, you decide how your world looks like, and while this is easier said than done, my experiences have taught me that doing so is certainly worth the effort. At the end of the day, remember, that the only person who should be dictating how your life should be lived is you. And that’s something I tool a whole to learn. here’s hoping you don’t take as long.”
 
 
Isobel Abulhul OBE – Character Building
 
 
I was really surprised and quite impressed to find an OBE “Officer of the British Empire” title amongst those distinguished collaborators in this project.
 
I became an instant fan of Isobel simply after reading the title of her essay “Lifelong Learning.”
 
A well-read individual who puts the proper emphasis on character building and to apply oneself to the process of accumulating skill and knowledge.
 
I was really impressed by her analogy of making bread:
 
“Let me use the example of making bread by hand. It takes lots of practice and a hands-on feel for the dough, the ingredients, and all the other factors that can affect a loaf of bread. The more you do it, the better your bread will be.”
 
Isobel Abulhul is a true advocate of training your powers of resilience and perseverance. This gem of a quote alone is worth reading this book:
 
“If you are the kind of person who, when things go wrong or don’t work out, gives up, you need to change that reaction. It is not helpful. Understand that everyone fails, and gets things wrong. You may not hear about them, but hey happen.”
 
Another powerful quote about playing to your strengths:
 
“It is also worth investing time in what you are naturally good at and enjoy. You have a better chance of success and happiness.”
 
Isobel Abulhol has her very own formula to nurture a creative mindset. Simply put, it’s the artistic adaptation of proven solutions that have worked on the same problem you are trying to solve but at some other place far away in the world to that specific similar local problem, you’re trying to figure out.
 
“This is why carrying out meticulous research, studying global success examples, and learning from trailblazers is essential. What works in NY or London or Paris or Mumbai may work here in the UAE, or it may not. Do you need to adapt the model to suit? It may be that you have a great idea and an opportunity comes along, so you decide to go for it, however, despite your best efforts, your idea is not successful. Please use this as a fantastic opportunity to study why it didn’t work in the way you anticipated. Your idea is probably still brilliant and with the right building blocks in place, could work. You should never give up at the first hurdle. Think about scientists who spend years trying to find answers. They do not give up.”
 
Isobel Abulhul also brings up a treasure trove about what it really means to be an entrepreneur: 
 
“I think being an Entrepreneur requires you to be a lifelong learner and never more so than in today’s rapidly changing world. As well as self-confidence, you need to have a passion for what you do. That passion will lift you up during the darkest moments will fire you to keep going, and will fuel you to tackle the challenges on the rocky road ahead. To quote William Shakespeare’s King Lear ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’ I can only share my experience of more than 50 years; dedication and hard work pays off in the end, plus bringing you enormous rewards., and I don’t mean money.”
 
Insights on Entrepreneurship
 
The subject of entrepreneurship has been broached in a significant 35% of the material of the book. There are awesome business figures who write about the challenges of entrepreneurship as well as discuss the type of character traits a young person should develop if they were to pursue a career in business or start their own company. 
 
Entrepreneurship sure is such a huge buzz word nowadays and it captures the imagination of young students all over the world.
 
The internet along with the smartphone demolished all previous gate-keepers to long-established businesses and removed multiple layers of middle-men in all aspects of life.
 
That low barrier access to starting a business makes it sound easier than it really is, or rather effortless. Young men and women must pause and think about all the serious work ethics and necessary self-discipline that was involved in the life journey of such tall success figures and top business icons in the world and what it takes to mold oneself into such a personality.
 
There are the daily habits and routines they need to perform every single day.
 
The mental models and decision-making heuristics they employ to make confident fast decisions.
 
The highly creative nature of their problem-solving skills and how they can develop a type of resourcefulness that can adapt to any circumstances.
 
The calculated risks they must take.
 
The persistence of self-belief and the constancy of purpose they have to maintain.
 
The crushing forces of external and internal doubt they have to manage and negotiate with constantly.
 
The near paralyzing fear and uncertainty about the future they have to consider and factor in every long-term decision.
 
The roll-with-the-punches (growth) mindset which keeps them learning from their failures and using said failures as a stepping stone towards future successes.
 
Mastering these abilities guarantees the focus and attention of the world because people who reach such heights of achievement almost seem like they almost have done so effortlessly with superhuman powers.
 
Truth is, such powers are attainable to anyone no matter their profession or their career path as long as they can figure out the winning formula which was most likely handed down by someone who “made it.” It’s like what Jim Rohn always said: “Success leaves clues.”
 

 
 
Mashal Waqar – Introverts Find Success
 
One of the chapters I truly enjoyed was Mashal Waqar‘s on entrepreneurship.
 
Right after being impressed by her bio and list of accomplishments, I misread the first lines as: “I am Mashal. I am an entrepreneur. I am the Tempest.” LOL, she actually wrote “I run the Tempest”, but that’s what I saw at the first instant, and I don’t think that by the end of this chapter, I was left with any other impression than Mashal is a Tempest in and of herself.
 
I definitely identified with her message the most as a fellow introvert, with the obvious calm and poise she projects onto the world contrasted by an inner storm of ideas, thoughts, and aspirations. 
 
Mashal Waqar makes it clear that if it is ‘success’ that you seek you can find it in spite of being an introvert, or maybe because of it. She speaks about courage and what it took to face her own limitations and find her way through.
 
She obviously makes a point of sharing personal experience about the sort of advice you might get from people around you. Especially the kind of people who think that they know you and what will work best for you.
 
Nobody sees life through your eyes unless they walk a mile in your shoes. All that anyone can offer really are some helpful insights, but what really matters to a person is their own reasoning. 
 
“So what did I do? I didn’t cave in. I decided to listen to my gut feeling and instead work on what felt natural to me.”
 
To the reader, she offers her hard-earned life experience and she provides timeless and universal wisdom she acquired first-hand.
 
She writes about how it pays to play to your strengths, how to set personal and professional boundaries, how to develop a personal sense of identity, to be the eternal student in life who’s always learning.
 
She emphasizes the benefits of sharing knowledge with other people and adding value to the lives of others.
 
She also clearly places a high premium on trying to be a better listener.
 
I end my notes about Mashal Waqar with one of the most refreshing quotes I found in her essay about confidence:
 
“In an age where everyone is trying to prove something or to influence others. I think it’s refreshing to be comfortable in your own skin. confidence isn’t just about what you say, it’s also about what you don’t say.”


 
 
Lucy Chow – Age is not a limitation
 
Lucy Chow gives a Masterclass in entrepreneurship in her article. Her message seems to be aimed at an audience of college freshmen, and it seems to be one of self-empowerment to women in particular.
 
Chow highlights the most important character traits, transferable skills, and the necessary mindset to become an entrepreneur:
 
“Learning what it takes to become an Entrepreneur will give you lessons and tools to thrive in the world even if you never actually start a business.”
 
The part where she talks about success in entrepreneurship has no upper or lower age limits strikes a chord with absolutely everyone who’s ever had doubts about the right time to become an entrepreneur.
 
She gets into plenty of details and real-life examples of the young and the not so young entrepreneurs who managed to get started in creating their own business. 
 
One of her enlightening stories holds a great quote from Hami Faqihinezad, founder of “Dubaisneaks,” an entrepreneur who did not find ultimate success in his debut entrepreneurial endeavors:
 
“I am prepared to fail. I have already failed. Failure is the mother to all success. If not experienced, one does not realize the value of winning. Starting my business has already put me 5 years ahead in knowledge and experience compared to the avg student my age. I have learned a lot about personal finance and business which many may not learn till their mid-20s.”
 
Lucy offers support to one point I differ with, which is to get what is called “Entrepreneurial Training.” I respectfully disagree that you can teach a course about entrepreneurship to a high school kid (or anyone really) and expect them to use it as a stepping stone towards an entrepreneurial career.
 
The only thing you can really call entrepreneurial training is On the Job Training, or trial by fire, learning by doing.
 
In my humble opinion, the only way you can get entrepreneurial training would be through an apprenticeship with an entrepreneurial mentor.
 
The classic example of such training is when self-made businesspeople groom their children to carry on after them and keep the business going. They learn at the feet of a master and get their hands dirty while gradually getting more and more leeway into the business.
 
One amazing book that explains how this can be done masterfully is the brilliant book “Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son.”
 
The bottom line is that experience is, always and ever, the best teacher. 


 
 
My Thoughts On The Possibilities Project
 
Should the gears start moving again, it’s definitely going to be a lot of work to see such a project through its grand potential. The noble aim of creating an engine for change, progress, adaptability, creativity, and inner strength in young minds is attainable if it was kept under the proper focus and took its true place as a priority.
 
Conclusion:
 
True happiness comes from your sense of agency and purpose.
 
It’s knowing your decisions are your own, having faith in your creativity and resourcefulness while accepting the hard fact that life will always throw you big surprises that would trump any well-laid plan.
 
No matter how many variables you account for, and you must always be ready to adapt, roll with the punches, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and pick up the pace and keep on moving forward.
 
That’s what any of us can really do.
 
The only way to gain this wisdom is to walk that path and make your own way in this world.
 
 

***

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