Principles

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[this is work in progress]

I stumble upon numerous pieces of wisdom or philosophy every now and then that I end up applying on my everyday life. With time, however, I tend to forget some of them and feel like I’m re-learning some lessons when I find them again. Hence, inspired by my friend Fahad, I decided to jot down all the rules, principals, and pieces of wisdom that I wish to follow here so I can revisit them every few weeks. I’ll jot them down scattered down here, and perhaps organize them with time. This is mainly for my own reference, but I figured it might be helpful for others as well.


On Knowledge

  • No matter how much you know, you know little.
  • Knowledge is a great thing, only if put in a phenomenal application. You’ll need to learn a lot however before you’re able to apply some of that knowledge.
  • You are incredibly lucky to be alive in this day & age. Access to information has NEVER been easier. Utilize it. Learn in every means you can and from every channel possible. Learn about what you’re interested in and what matters to you. Learn about what we learned from the past and what’s important for the future.
  • We tend to place things into boxes, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. We’re animals of pattern. Patterns and boxes help us understand things better by making them more predictable, and that’s how we can build on them. Every while though, these boxes become outdated, and you must be open enough to take things out of that box, figure them out, and put them in a new updated one.
  • Documentation of knowledge and wisdom has been extremely beneficial for the human race.

On Wisdom

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Maybe

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Maybe the secret to living a happy life is in not taking things too seriously. Maybe it’s also the secret to succeeding at whatever goal you desire, as it makes you less uptight and more likable. Maybe it’s ok to accept mediocrity every now and then, because life is like that. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and has mediocrity all over it. Maybe it’s ok to admit that life is shit sometimes and not live with so many made up rules that make you uptight and pretentious. Maybe start truly accepting that shit happens and that people’s well-being is more important than any other arguably meaningless goal. Technically, all human goals should contribute to elevating the state of humans, and if whatever goal you pursue is built on the acceptance of hurting someone’s well-being then that defies the whole purpose. Maybe being “type A” gets you somewhere fast, but also kills you -and your relationships with people- fast. Maybe.. Just maybe.

Funny enough I think this was triggered by this Cafe I’m sitting at in Amsterdam that had so many imperfections which somehow made it so fucking beautiful.

Old man on a ladder fixing a light in the middle of the Cafe at noon because it needed to be fixed for him to go home and see his family later. Waitress takes a long time to respond to you because she’s busy serving others. Chef leaves the kitchen every now and then to take a walk because he’s bored. Waiter grabs a fry and munches on it as he delivers the tray to the right table because he’s hungry. Why the fuck not.

Maybe.. Just maybe.

The Rawi Model for Getting Shit Done

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Over the past few years, I have tested many task management tools, read about plenty of methodologies, and experimented with different approaches and routines in the pursuit of productivity. Let’s just say that I didn’t stick to any one of them for a good reason: they didn’t work well. The main reasons for their failure, I believe, are the following:

  • Triggers: I tend to forget about my task management tool (where I wrote down what I need to do basically). My tasks need to be top of mind so I would actually do them.
  • Distractions: We get interrupted a dozen times a minute in this day and age, especially in a fast paced work environment. That does you no favor to focus on the task at hand to finish it with quality in a timely manner.
  • Prioritization: Which tasks are more important?
  • Rewards: There’s usually little motivation/incentive for me to get all the things on my list done

The reason why I’m calling this the Rawi model is because, well, it’s my last name. Deal with it.

So, here’s how it goes in a nutshell. I’ll explain the steps in the process, then I’ll dive deeper into each step.

  1. Write down the tasks
  2. Estimate the time that each task will take
  3. Assign the priority for each task
  4. Record the time you actually spend on each
  5. Update your list

Sounds simple enough, huh? Here’s what makes this different than everything you’ve been doing.

Step 1: Write

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Life is a Piano Piece

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The beauty in any piano piece mainly relies in 3 variables. It relies in having each note that plays to be slightly different from the one before it; not too similar, not too different (variance). It relies in having the piece shift between the fast and the slow pace to form the perceived harmony right in the middle (speed). It relies in having the pitch of these notes interchange between the happy and the sad (balance).

Without variance between people, life would be dull. We need people who are different from us just as much as we need people who are similar to us, and the best people for us are those in the middle; not too similar, not too different.

Without speed changes in life pace, life would be boring. We will have fast-paced days where we can barely catch up, and we will have days where we’re taking a step back, slowing down, reflecting and relaxing; both are necessary for each other.

Without balance between good and bad, life would be meaningless. We must have bad days to have good ones. If there was nothing wrong, then there’d be nothing right; both have to coexist.

How Do You Inspire Yourself?

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I got into a conversation with an intellectual person from my circle recently, and after discussing my answer to “What Inspires You?” she asked me the following question.

One more question if I may

How do you inspire yourself? It’s like we wait for inspiration to come through books or people or something like a muse but how do you find it now? How do you know what book to read or who to talk to? Knowing that you are stuck and you need to be inspired like you’ve been before that will lead the way, how do you inspire yourself?

First of all, I love the question, and I salute her for her curious mind that took her to the extent of thinking about it and asking it. Most knowledge -I believe- comes from great questions.

I have never thought about how to trigger or regenerate inspiration. It has always been a thing that happens if I’m lucky. But I do believe that everything can be analyzed to an extent, and you can manage to form an idea on how it works. My answer for now though will certainly be raw and incomplete. Here, I discuss 2 factors that I believe help me personally get inspired.Read More

What Inspires You?

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A friend has recently asked me: “What inspires you?”. I kept putting the question off. Frankly, I don’t have an answer. Here, I come to my keyboard, trying to find one.

I asked Google: what is inspiration? “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative” it said. What a beautiful definition. Keyword here is stimulation. What is stimulation, I asked. “The action of arousing interest, enthusiasm, or excitement in something”, Google answered. What a beautiful definition! So in essence, inspiration is the process that gets you to become mentally aroused and excited to take action.

When she asked me, I felt that I have mixed up the definition of inspiration and motivation, so what is motivation? Read More

The Subtle Art of Bootstrapping

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The process of bootstrapping is painful, yet beautiful. It teaches you so much about business that no other experience possibly could. The uncertainty of knowing whether or not you will survive another month and the anxiety caused by it is a tough master of discipline. I know this firsthand having run my first startup from a $1,000 loan I got from family to +$100,000 in revenue as a 19 year old.

Now that we have closed a funding round for Malaeb, some think that things have been very easy. “But you have a good runway!” or “Lucky you don’t have to think about money.”

The truth of those statements is debatable, but regardless of that, have things always been this way? The short answer is no.

We have survived way longer than we thought we ever will. There were moments where I personally had literally $0 in my bank account for days, and couldn’t do shit about it. There are moments where our company’s bank account also had $0 with payroll of 6 people coming in. This is the ugly truth that not many are willing to talk about. I’m writing this for the entrepreneur out there who thinks they’re in a bad position. Guess what? It’s part of the journey; it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

Here, I want to give the outside world a glimpse at what was happening in the 6 or so months where we were fundraising with the clock ticking.Read More

The Yoga Investor

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Once upon a time, a friend invited me to a yoga class. Two months later, our company received a wire transfer from an investor. Those 2 events are completely correlated.

As a tech startup CEO, a great chunk of my job is networking. Whether during events, in the elevator, while in a queue at Starbucks, or even in a yoga class. The doors this opens are countless and priceless.

As I try to maintain a somewhat human-like work-life balance, I decided to go to a yoga class a friend has invited me to. It was an interesting experience as I stretched and moved parts of my body I never felt before. As I left, I spoke to the instructor and told her I’d like to come again. She included me on the class confirmation email where I would reply to confirm my attendance.

One of the emails that were copied on the confirmation email was name[at]rocketmail.com and that caught my attention. First of all, it was a 4 letter name, and then it was bloody RocketMail email!

RocketMail was one of first major email companies established in 1997 and acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. After the acquisition, nobody was able register their email with RocketMail anymore. [Yahoo! opened that option in 2008 closed it again soon after]

Anyway, I had a feeling this guy was a techie. As I was leaving my 3rd class, I had a quick chat with him. Let’s call him Mike.Read More

Be Nice to Strangers in Tech Startups Events

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Lesson learnt. Thankfully, the easy way.

As I was leaving Bahrain Tech Week’s awesome event, I glimpsed a small group of the organizers on the side so I went to say hi. I thanked each one of them for what he/she was doing: “Thank you for the coverage!” “Thank you for MCing” “Thank you for the support!” until I reached the last person whom I didn’t know [and wasn’t an organizer], so I said jokingly “Thank you for existing!”. He chuckled and took it with good sports.

Two days later, I get a WhatsApp message from a number I don’t know saying “Hey”. I ignored it, until about half an hour later, I get 2 more messages saying “I have an issue to discuss with you” “Do you remember me?”

WhatsApp Convo

Well, shit. At this moment, I had 2 thoughts in my head:

  • I hope he wasn’t offended by thanking him to exist
  • Well, shit.

I thanked him for getting in touch and said I’m very curious to know what he found!Read More

You Are Not a Startup

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The term Startup has invaded our dictionaries heavily in the past 5 years. It’s been overused and abused. Here, I explain why most businesses are not a startup.

If you are a newly established design agency, you are not a startup.
If you have a small law firm, you’re not a startup.
Running a salon on the side? Nope. Not a startup.
Selling t-shirts online? Yep. Still not a startup.
Unique concept bakery? You guessed it. Not a startup.
Providing consultancy services? Not even close. Not a startup.
New restaurant around the corner? Don’t think so. Not a startup.
Got a hobby app with thousands of downloads? Sorry. Not a startup.

In most cases, you are not a startup. You might have been referred to as a Startup, but that doesn’t make you one.

Here’s what makes you a Startup:Read More