Follow Your Passion
Mr. Naja Faysal was invited to speak in a conference organized by the Cultural Department in Baakline Municipality to inspire young individuals and giving them life lessons that can help them in the future endeavors and guide them in their chosen careers. His speech / presentation goes is hereby displayed:
First of all I’d like to thank Mrs. Amal Takieddine for the opportunity to talk to you today about this very interesting topic.
- What do you wanna do with your life?
- What is your purpose?
- Do you have a plan?
- Do you want to pass through life being just a number or you want to leave a legacy?
- What do you want people to say about you when you die?
Complicated ha? Well, asking these questions is the beginning of a wonderful journey of finding one amazing treasure: Yourself.
I hope that my story inspires you somehow to do that.
I grew up in Baakline and as I became a teenager, I quickly got frustrated from the restricted life we live in here in the Shouf district. I didn’t like for example why we don’t have cinemas, nightlife, entertainment centers, indoor sports venues..etc. But “frustration although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success” it gave me the fuel I needed to leave my comfort zone, leave my home, explore, and seek fulfilment.
As soon as I graduated high school I insisted to leave the shouf area but my parents thought NDU Deir El Qamar is close to home and safe, So I enrolled there but soon after I broke the chains and moved to the Zouk Mosbeh campus.
At university, like most students, I didn’t know what I want. Since I liked filming, I registered into Radio/Tv major, then changed to Graphic Design, then to Advertising and Marketing, and maybe “لو ما العيب والحيا”, I would have changed again, maybe to architecture or law. I had this curiosity to discover, which I later realized is one of the most important element in your journey to discovering your passion. Einstein said: “I have no special talents, I’m just passionately curious”
I think you can never know what you want to do or what major to choose unless you have a taste of what is it like. So I encourage you to take courses or work in different fields before settling for a major or a career.. Don’t listen to society. Mute all voices around you and ask yourself what is interesting to me? Think of your childhood, what did you like to play? Don’t let people tell you this major or profession has lots of job offering and that major doesn’t, reality is every major can lead you to success if you love it, “Do what you love, love what you do” that’s the spirit.
My First Job
I liked my major during university, it was easy, I didn’t study much which gave me more time to play basketball, the sports i always loved…but I used to pay attention during classes, and one thing I took out of my major that has an amazing value, was to think differently, not to do what everybody is doing. Advertising is all about creativity, and a creative idea means an original idea that stands out the clutter and creates emotion..
So when I graduated and was seeking a job, I thought to myself, my major is all about selling, and I needed to get a job, so I basically need to “sell” myself to employers.. Everybody back then used to send their CVs as a word document attached to an email, but not me.. My roommate was studying computer science, so I paid him 200$ from my savings to create me a personal website. It was a very static website where I displayed my university projects, and some part time jobs I took.. So here I am with a CV in a form of a website, but a cool one, a DIFFERENT one.. So I started sending emails, saying that I want a job and you may click on this link to know more about me. The response employers had to my job application was phenomenal. It didn’t take long, I was hired in one of the most prestigious AD agencies in the world Leo Burnett. You see how little creative out of the box ideas can dramatically impact our lives.
Leo Burnett has been a dream company for most business and design students, It’s a multinational company, pays decent salaries and one of the most awarded in the world. and the fact that I got the job because I thought and acted differently is a great lesson to all of you.. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I chose the one less travelled by.. And that made all the difference”
Although I later discovered that the advertising industry was not what I want to do in the rest of my life, it helped me understand one very important lesson, here it is:
Because I was part of an ad agency, I was in a culture where if you don’t produce creative and original ideas, you are out of business.. Cliche ideas are never tolerated. So you have this constant drive to push your brain to produce ideas.. And you realize that ideas have value.. But what’s more valuable is executing those ideas.. Many people with brilliant ideas are still waiting for the right time.. However, “The only right time is now.” Start doing what you love immediately don’t wait to finish university, or until you write the business plan or to get funding.. Start small steps towards your dream.. And you will get there sooner than you think.
When I discovered that my purpose wasn’t in the advertising business, I didn’t regret my seven years I spent there… On the contrary. I use the experience I had everyday. Thus, my message to you is to try to find the half full of the cup in every situation you are in, don’t waste time on blaming your luck, your parents, or the government..etc, see what you can learn from your situation and say as Bruce Lee says “To hell to circumstances, I create opportunities”.
Benefits of Reading
Another factor that shaped a lot of who I am today, is the habit of reading. I made a habit to read one hour in the morning before I go to work, because bedtime didn’t work for me. I was lucky to pick beautiful books that gave me lots of inspiration and encouraged me to sacrifice my lifestyle in dubai and start boldwin school here in baakline.
I remember once I was reading a book for stephen covey and in the book the author invites us to write “a personal mission statement” and stick it on the wall so that everyday we see it when we wake up and when we go to sleep. and at that time I wrote this:
“My mission is to change the world through education and technology.”
Technology is transforming everything we know about business.. Advertising expenditure was switching from traditional media to digital media, and I envisioned that technology will transform the education sector and give kids empowerment we have never witnessed. Eight years down the line, and my mission stands firm. Boldwin School’s mission today is:
“Lead and inspire change in education to shape empowered leaders of the future.”
Here I can’t stress more on the importance to Write down your ideas, make to-do-lists, make a poster of your mission or dream and stick it on your bedroom wall..
Another book that helped me a lot in finding my purpose was Good to Great for Jim Collins, part of this book talks about the three circles, and the intersection of these three circles is what you are destined to do in life. The exercise goes like this:
- you write down what you love doing/learning/knowing about, your hobbies..etc then
- you list down what you and your friends and family think you are good at, then
- you list down what you believe can make you a living or drives your economic engine..
The intersection of those three lists is what he calls “the hedgehog”.. Is the one thing you should focus all your energy on.
Founding and running Boldwin School
Throughout my experience in the GCC, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on how to use ideas to produce value, in 2012, I took the decision to come back and start boldwin school, after all, my personal mission statement was always on my wall to remind me that I MUST DO IT.
This is my year four in Lebanon starting and running boldwin school, and believe me it’s far from heaven.. It is true that starting your own business is exciting and fulfilling, but it’s also the most stressful and suffocating experience of my life. Pitfalls are plenty, challenges are numerous.. I sacrificed a lot of my lifestyle luxuries I used to have in dubai. But what keeps me going is one thing: Passion.
Throughout my career, I did plenty of mistakes and failed in many projects, trusted wrong people, underestimated circumstances, took wrong decisions… but all of the above made me who I am today and made Boldwin School one of the pioneering educational institutions in Lebanon. It was the first school to integrate tablets in education, grew from 50 students to 200 in 3 years, the only school in shouf area that has foreign staff and teachers, and presents a safe and healthy environment for kids to prosper.. This brings me to another key message of my speech which is: If you are not prepared to fail or do mistakes you will never come up with anything original or off value. “The real failure is when you stop trying.”
Finally, life is like running a marathon, which I am preparing to do this November, sometimes it feels great, but sometimes especially in the last kilometers, you reach a point where you can’t take it anymore, you can barely breathe, your body hurts, your muscles suffering, and you tell yourself: “why don’t I stop and take a rest”, but then your passion comes to play, It’s an internal voice calling you from the inside to keep fighting, keep pushing, and never quit. Thank you.