[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Hello beautiful readers,

Of the many things I am blessed to be apart of, I am the head of operations and marketing at Ummahhub, a platform of entrepreneurs and changemakers within the Muslim community, that recently went live about 2 months ago. My passion as always been developing the entrepreneurial, innovation and creative capacities of people from underdeveloped, marginalized and underserved backgrounds.

Trying to become an entrepreneur, or building a business, making an impact, developing successful habits isn’t easy. When you face struggles and obstacles due to societal infrastructure or structural racism or roadblocks that prevent you from resources because of who you are, then success isn’t an ‘roadmap’ as constantly overstated by personal development gurus. When individuals benefit from privledges within society and then fail to acknowledge that things were ‘easier’ for them due to the societal structures that were put in place to make them succeed and others fail, then what happens is a lot of people trek down the same path thinking that there is a formula for success, when there isn’t.

It isn’t just about hardwork, it isn’t just about ‘networking’, it isn’t just about ‘getting off your ass’ – you need to have insane work ethic and put much more pressure on yourself to succeed because the stakes are higher for you. As a colored person, your risks are higer because you may not come from a community that will support you and don’t have much of a cushion for fall back, getting an investment is much harder, not having access to knowledge or mentors etc. This isn’t victimhood. It took me a long time to realize there are clear, structural and social infrastructure put in place to make it harder for colored people, and blacks to succeed. I was one of those people who thought that things were equal playing field for everyone. Not anymore.

What does this mean?

It means that a special effort needs to be put into particular communities on an awareness level, to help give them access to the knowledge that there are many others ways to live – you don’t have to just survive. That it is possible to put your talents to use, to put your gifts and skills to use to create a brighter future for yourself and those around you.

Life doesn’t have to be dictated to you.

So as a part of Ummahhub, this is my mission. I wrote the following piece and it was co-edited and produced by Obaid Ahmad and Sonia Riahi, the two other members of Ummahhub and featured on the Productive Muslim. I hope it is beneficial.

Feel free to let me know what you think and how I can help you further.

with love,


[Being Your Own Boss – Part 1] How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset


This is Part 1 of UmmahHub’s series on Being Your Own Boss that reveals the 10 keys to help you become a successful entrepreneur and be the best you can be in business and in life, In sha Allah.

To be an entrepreneur and be involved in business consists of exerting significant effort and hard work, which is highly encouraged in Islam; as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“No doubt, it is better for a person to take a rope and proceed in the morning to the mountains and cut the wood and then sell it, and eat from this income and give alms from it than to ask others for something.” [Bukhari]

Many of the early followers of our faith, including our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), were merchants and traders. In fact, much of how Islam spread from West Africa to China was through traders. As the country with the highest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is said to have embraced Islam by witnessing the the strong ethics and beautiful character of Muslim businessmen and entrepreneurs they came across, which speaks to the immense power of business that is driven by faith-based values.

Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful methods to create long-lasting change in our communities that is currently being neglected. This is due to the lack of proper entrepreneurial education to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs within our community. There simply is not enough awareness about what entrepreneurship is, how we can develop more entrepreneurs, and how we can start and run successful companies that can create a long-lasting impact.

Who is an Entrepreneur?

There are many definitions for the word ‘entrepreneur’, but the most common definition is that an entrepreneur is someone who identifies problems and then turns them into opportunities.

“Entrepreneurship,” says Bob Reiss, the author of ‘Low- Risk, High-Reward: Starting and Growing your Business With Minimal Risk‘, “is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

Being an entrepreneur is not necessarily just about launching and running a business, it is about developing the entrepreneurial mindset, which is useful to anyone who is part of an organization. It is the mindset of looking at problems as opportunities and creating more with less. This mindset encourages risk-taking, creativity, innovation, and unconventional thinking.

This is the mindset that we Muslims need to develop in order to properly create healthy communities that can deal with the myriad of socio-economic issues we face.

Revive Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The industrial revolution forced a mass migration of people from rural areas to urban cities. Prior to that, most people in North America were entrepreneurs who owned small businesses and bartered to get what they needed. Now, as technology and global competition changes the employment landscape, traditional employment that was reminiscent of the industrial revolution is being challenged. Individuals are now being forced to become knowledge workers, who essentially rely on selling their skills to make a living. We were all entrepreneurs long before the industrial revolution changed that. We need to return back to our entrepreneurial roots, not just socially but religiously as well. Interestingly enough, history has come full circle and we will all need to become entrepreneurs to survive in the future.

What makes entrepreneurs unique is their resourcefulness. In other words, they are able to do more with less. Whatever the problem, they will find a way to make it happen even if they do not have all the tools.

The key to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is recognizing the qualities you have, then building and improving upon those you do not yet have. To get started, we have mapped out key ways to develop your mindset as a Muslim entrepreneur.:

1. Have Tawakkul and Be Grateful

Part of being a Muslim is understanding that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the ultimate disposer of our affairs. He is Al-Awwal (the Beginning) wal-Akhir (The End). Everything begins with Him and everything ends with Him. Consequently, He is the source of everything and the Provider of all.

Contemporary business practices today cite scientific studies showing that an attitude of gratitude brings more into your life. It means the more you are grateful, the more you will receive. Believing that there is a limited amount of resources for everyone to access is a flawed mindset for any entrepreneur. You must operate from a place of abundance and believe resources are unlimited.

As Muslims, we do not need modern scientific studies to show us that being grateful and having faith in a higher being who is the Source of all is enough reason to never worry.

In the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]

Know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given you all the resources that you need in your life to create a successful business and create some impact in the world. Once you realize that you were given quite a lot, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has guaranteed to give you more.

2. Work Hard and Think Long-Term

That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen – Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.” [Qur’an: Chapter 53, Verses 38-41]

A crucial step to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is having the ability to think long-term. Long-term thinking allows a person to develop discipline to work at a problem while having a future vision in mind. This helps prevent the need to fulfill short-term gratification.

In Surat al-Israa, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah]. To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verses 18-20]

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says:

Whoever desires the reward of this world – then with Allah is the reward of this world and the Hereafter. And ever is Allah Hearing and Seeing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verses 134]

A key part of having a long-term vision is having the understanding of what guides your decision-making. What vision do you have for yourself, your life and your business? What impact do you ultimately want to make? This will be your reason, the one that will get you through the main obstacles you will inevitably face. As Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has said, if you work, you will receive the fruits of your striving.

3. Have Grit

University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth’s research has shown that people with “grit”, the trait of exceptional persistence and devotion, consistently perform better than those with higher IQ.

If there is one guarantee in entrepreneurship, it is that it is a roller coaster ride. There is no linear path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It essentially consists of making numerous tiny decisions everyday on multiple things: teams, administration strategy, marketing, etc. It takes a certain type of mindset to withstand this kind of pressure. The key here is persistence.

Persistence is the ability to look past obstacles and keep moving. When speaking to many successful entrepreneurs, they will cite the ability to not give up as being a crucial reason for success. Sadly, many people do not succeed because they gave up right before they were about to find success. The key to persistence is to keep trying until you get to your end goal.

“Keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve but be flexible on how you solve it”, says Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstoc


4. Focus on Creating Value

Another key to becoming a successful entrepreneur is by creating value. The amount of success you have is proportional to how much value you bring to others. Entrepreneurs focus on creating sustainable solutions by solving problems faced by people.

Before starting your business, it is essential to ask yourself: “Who am I helping and how can I make that solution better than what exists currently in the marketplace?” This is the primary mentality to have when looking to become an entrepreneur and the basis of great business models. Contemporary entrepreneurship encourages one to find a solution for a problem within the marketplace that customers are not happy with, then create a product to help them, while constantly revising and improving that product based on their feedback.

Entrepreneurial Education: The Way Forward

Growing and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs is crucial for our long-term communal prosperity. In order to solve the myriad of social problems that we face, we need to support those who are solving these problems. That is why entrepreneurial education can become a crucial asset for our community.

The first step in doing so is to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.
 On a community level, helping more people develop an entrepreneurial mindset means we help unleash the creative potential and innovative thinking of many individuals in our community. These new ideas can help spark new businesses, organizations and projects that will benefit our community for years to come. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset gives individuals the inspiration to dream, to be innovative and to take risks.

With this spirit, we have to encourage the next generation to become the change-makers and entrepreneurs they have the potential to be!

Next time we will show you how to get inspired and develop business ideas. If you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs, or thinking of becoming one yourself, let us know in the comments section below!

The Day I Decided to Stop Chasing Money as an Entrepreneur

The more I work as an entrepreneur, the more I start to undo some of the deep systematic conditioning on how my life is to turn out. Everyday I try to strip myself of my former shell by trying to get closer to who I really ought to be.

At times, I believe I am a capitalist. Sometimes, I behave like one as well. Putting profit at the centre of what I do is dangerous but until now it’s what I’ve done. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I read a book named ‘F*** You, Money’ by Dan Lok” that I realized my priorites were messed up.

In the book, Dan Lok, a successful business man, asks what is your ‘F*** yu amount? What is the amount of money you need for you to do whatever you want and for it to be enough? Or as Kanye West would say: “Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?”

This brings up a few questions:

1. What is enough?
2. Why is it enough?

Nonetheless, my amount only came out to being only in the 5 digits. When all my needs, and then some were met, I didn’t actually need a lot.

Most of us think we need a million or 10 million but when you do all the math, I probably wouldn’t need more than $200,000 for lifestyle expenses per year at best(edit: this is within a North American context and taking into consideration the nomadic lifestyle I choose to live).

Which brings me to the question of why having more money than you need is seen to be an indicator of success?

The only answer I’ve been able to come to is that, subconsciously, I subscribed to materialism as a religion – a focal point that was able to help quantify my success, in some capacity. And this isn’t for just entrepreneurs, people who work jobs subscribe to materialism, as a form of religion. The connection between success being tied to materialism is a very 19th century idea and one I’ve realized is completely wrong and an unnatural way to quantify success.

This was a big eye-opener for me. But I said to myself, ‘well then what am I working towards?’ If I really don’t need x amount of money, then how do I quantify the trajectory with which I can consider my business successful?

I originially found the answer in the social entreprenruship movement. This movement, spearheaded by Bill Drayton, looked at the bottom line of business to also include social, economic and environmental welfare of the communities within which the business was functioning. In other words, profit isn’t the only way to measure how successful a business is. You must also look at how you are contributing to social welfare and environmental impact.

But my real answer came when I set some time out to focus on my spiritual development this year. It helped me reorganize my priorities – from a traditional Islamic perspective, it was knowledge of oneself and the world that made one successful.

Let me reiterate that for a minute. I’ve only come to realized that the spiritual path I follow(Islam) encourages and prioritizes knowledge acquisition first before anything else. Those who seek knowledge are held to a higher position than those who do anything else.

Islam has, for me, provided a clearer path and more natural path for me and my businesses to take. This alternate way of looking at reality doesn’t say: if you make a lot of money, you’re a better person for it but that if you seek knowledge in the pursuit of bettering yourself and the world around you, whatever you do is more elevated and revered.

How is this different and why is it relevant?

This philosophy of focusing on knowledge acquisition for the betterment of the self is, in our world, a radical notion. It requires you to operate your business from a place of humility and to recognize that character, an upright moral conduct and to continuous work on yourself is what makes an entrepreneur successful. That you must essentially start with yourself. Traditional business focuses on profit, which for obvious reasons, can be a very dangerous way to quantify success. The social entreprise movement focuses on solving social problems is essential to a good business but it completely overlooks the individual. That it takes upright people to create socially conscious businesses. Or else, what you end up with are two equally harmful situations:

1. People using social causes as a profit-making tool
2. People who are well-intentioned but haven’t done the necessary internal introspection and may do more harm than good.

A civilization that holds profit at its foundation is one that will collapse. The education system, for example, is very much based on a profit-based system. An education system based on the pursue of knowledge wouldn’t be forcing people to go to school to get jobs but to go to school to discover one’s self and to pursue one’s life purpose.

Massive reality shift, huh?

I’ve started to realized and trek upon my journey as an entrepreneur and forgo the idea of money being my indicator of success but impact and my level of spiritual and personal development. Now, I don’t hold that being any reason why I would consider anyone to be a successful business person – I’ve realized there is much more to that.

At the core of my businesses is one thing – impact. How do I make the world better for others? This is what I aim to pursue.

Or as an inspiration person I know says:

“What am I going to GIVE to Create and EARN this income.”

Now, sustainability is definately a core of it. I believe the reason why many social entreprises suffer is because they don’t know how to balance social impact and sustainability. Making money is essential to me. It’s something I need to plan, but it’s not ‘why’ I do what I do.

This may be my first real lesson of 2015.

To share two powerful quotes from the Islamic tradition regarding this ethos:

“This world is a like a shadow. Run after it and you will never be able to catch it. Turn your back against it and it has no choice but to follow you.” -Ibn Al Qayyim

“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah(God, Elaha, Elohim) will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man.
The superiority of the learned man over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes a big fortune.” – Prophet Muhammad

Life and Startups Lessons from 2014

I’m sitting here blasting Kendrik Lamar blogging like it’s 2009 reflecting as 2014 draws to a close. I’m reflecting on 2014 and what it meant for me. It was my first year stepping into entrepreneurship – not easy at all. It was a year of growth, battling against my demons, and breaking through, in more ways than one.

These are a mix of both startup business lessons and life lessons I hope you can take with you

1. Parental Breakthrough: This was the first year my parents understood and accepted(not sure they had a choice) in my path. Being raised by immigrants, much of the challenges I faced was not pursuing a conventional career or path and then having to justify that. This is nearly impossible considering the world I grew up in was massively different than the world they grew up in. I wrote a proven solution to ending this multigenerational conflict and how to get them to accept you. It will take some time and effort but the book, “The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Difficult Immigrant Parents: How To End Conflict with Difficuly Immigrant Parents Forever” is guaranteed to give you a foolproof formula you can refer to again and again to help you deal with your own personal situation.

2. Business launched: I launched a digital marketing and design agency earlier in the year, which taught me about how to find clients, how to charge what I was worth, how to properly market, and how to build a personal brand amongst many things. The love of my life has always been education and publishing but I realized earlier on in the year that magazine business was a tough business to be in – you need cash flow to survive and a tremendous amount of hustle. But hustle doesn’t happen without clarity – I had no long-term vision for Disrupt Magazine until now – with the launch of my upcoming company with my co-founder, Think Disrupt, a new media publishing and education company serving the create maladjustment of the non-conforming minority is launching on January 1st 2015.

My biggest business lesson: Focus on helping people where they need it. I never got into a conversation on business to turn the person into a client but to build a long-term relationship with them and see how my work could help them. If it couldn’t, I didn’t sell it to them. I just found someone who could. This is the fool-proof method of how to run a business. Never focus on the money. Focus on the individual and how you can help them reach their goals.

2. Understanding money: This year, I learned how to actually make money, what it means based on your mindset – you can choose to adopt a poor mindset or a mindset of abundance – and how you understand money effects the way you operate business and life. I really believe that most of what you get in life is because of what you think about and how you think about it.

3. Business is about showing up and following through.  Seriously. Just try and go at it everyday and work on something until you complete it.

BIG lesson: It’s okay at any point in your life to say: “This is not working for me” and stop engaging with places, people and ideas that no longer serve you or you no longer care about.

4. Don’t compromise – This year I learned to just do what I felt was right and make a solid decision about it. If you want to be something, just be it, now. If you want to move, just do it. If you want to start something, honest to God, do yourself a favour and just do it. Remember – this is who you are. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. You are fully responsible for you and when you die, you have to answer for yourself. No one else can live your life for you.

5. Don’t care what anyone thinks – At some point, you need to really just stop giving a shit. Honestly, I cared for too long. Why? Because the people around me were not like me. I felt like I had to justify myself. ‘Oh, your an entrepreneur? Really?’  I still get people not really understanding or believing in what I actually do. No one really understand. But you know what, like I care. I’m so over it.

6. People will fail you. Here’s the thing: this is the real world. In school, you are used to being trained to have a structured life where things are going to be done the way they, the system, told you. In real life, very few people do what they say they are going to do. Unless you employ them, it’s hard to get anything done.

I found the secret to getting over this problem: Be kind but not nice. Being kind is central to being a good business person, but you can not be nice. Being nice gets nothing get done.

7. Decide: As soon as you decided on a course of action, you will immediately see elements in your life shift to support your decision. IMMEDIATELY. As soon as you want something and decide you will do something about it, it’s as if things in your life start popping up to start supporting it. Seriously, and you know what, God knows when you are frontin’ – you can’t be insincere or half-into it. It has to be a real, deep desire to change a portion of your life.

8. Learn to charge what you are worth – This is something difficult for people to do. I learned that if you have something worth knowing, there was a cost to acquire that knowledge – time, money, resources – and you should be compensated for that knowledge. Furthermore, just imagine how much time and money you save someone and how they will recoup that money long-term. When you begin charging, what generally happens is that people negotiate and give you a counter offer. This is what happened to me at the beginning and something I never anticipated. Unless you are experienced, your first instinct is to accept what is offered to you. But as you keep going, you will start to realized how beneficial your ideas, work and energy can be to helping other people accomplish their goals. It will pay off in the long term in dividends for them, if that you have to offer is truly valueable and you will stop giving yourself the short end of the stick.

9. You can’t do anything alone. You need to build your dream team. There is a myth and legend around the solo entrepreneur acheiving great things. It’s not that you can’t but that you waste valuable time doing something others can do better. The key to being able to accomplish a lot in life is to identify your strength and work on them. Outsource your weaknesses.

10. Your dreams are valid. The hardest thing when starting is believing in yourself. I will venture to guess this is what most people struggle with. It’s not simply about self-doubt but external recognition that what you do is real. When you start a business, it’s simply a company on a piece of paper. It’s hard to prove it’s real – you almost feel like you have to fake owning a business or fake believing you are an entreprneurs. I’m here to tell you two things: first, your dreams are valid. Whatever it is that you want to do and who you want to be is totally real and acceptable because your hearts wants it. It’s a desire to create and grow yourself into your best self. Any desire to improve one’self and contribute to others is worth while. But the other aspect is, fake it until you make it. You have to act like what you have already exists.

11. To be effective, plan your year in advance. Would you ever go into battle without a battle plan? No. So why with life? It may seem a bit of a stretch to some people, but you need to have a plan as to where you wish to be or else you will never be there. It takes 1-2 years, I find, to undo social conditioning that wants you to abdicate control of your time to others. As soon as you start to feel more comfortable learning how to manage your time, the easier it will be to start mapping visions for where you want to be months ahead.

12. Business teaches you how to solve problems. As Dame dash says, if you don’t have problems, you don’t have a business. It can sometimes feel like you are putting out millions of fires a day, in fact, it may seem like that this is all you do. But what I’ve found is that I’ve been able to incredibly enhance my ability to solve problems at lightening speed. You end up having to. It’s almost as if you simply operate according to Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong, will do wrong. So prepare.

13. You are the sum of those around you. Look at how much you make in a year. Then calculate the average income of the 5 people you spend the most time with. It may seem crazy but most likely that amount is close to your annual income. Even more than that, I’ve realized this year that the people you hang with is exactly who you are! It sounds painful but it’s true. The food you eat is who you are. The character of those around you is the character you have. It may seem painfully simple but to become who you want to be, you have to be around those who are living how you like or are representative of the person you wish to be. This is something that will be a huge focus for 2015 inshaa allah.

Going into January 2015, it will be a year of massive growth, of product launches, of extensive travel and meeting awesome people.

My phrases word for 2015: focus, no fear and absolute discipline!

What have you learned this year?

What do you hope 2015 will look for you?

Comment below and let me know!


Nigerian Billionaire Tony Elumelu Commits $100 Million To Create 10,000 African Entrepreneurs In 10 Years

It’s stories like this that inspire me. It’s philanthropic and visionary works such as the work being done by Tony Elumelu that will create real, sustainable change in Africa. Read below.

“Nigerian billionaire investor and philanthropist Tony Elumelu has committed $100 million to create 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa over the next 10 years. tony-o-elumelu-mfr

Elumelu made the commitment on Monday during a press conference in Lagos to announce the launch of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).

TEEP, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

The programme will identify and help grow 10,000 start-ups and young businesses from across Africa over the next 10 years. These businesses will in turn create 1,000,000 new jobs and contribute $10 billion in annual revenues to Africa’s economy. The 10,000 start-ups selected from a pool of applicants across Africa will participate in a comprehensive programme which will include a customized 12-week business skills training course, mentoring, an entrepreneurship ‘boot camp’ and seed capital funding among other things. Interested entrepreneurs will be able to submit their applications to join the programme as from January 2015 through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s website.

“The opportunity and challenge in Africa is scale – in our people, our resources and our horizons. In my business and philanthropic journeys, I have always sought ways to help inspire a generation across our continent. This programme brings together my own entrepreneurial experience and my fundamental belief that entrepreneurs – women and men across Africa – will lead Africa’s development and transform our futures,” Tony Elumelu, founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, said in a press statement.”

Read more at Forbes

Photo credit: Matthias G. Ziegler / Shutterstoc

When Should You Change – The Essay That Changed My Life

In this age, everyone is an author and the amount of content that is being produced daily(in the billions) is enough to overwhelm anyone to want to shut off their news sources and be more selective in what ideas they consume. There is so much noise  that it is incredibly humbling and rare to come across writing that completely changes the trajectory of your life.

Exofiles is one of those places where I go to get deeply, well-thought out pieces. It’s a series of essays curated by Exosphere on education reform, entrepreneurship, civil society, self-reliance, anti-fragility, and technological humanism. Exosphere, run by Skinner Layne and his awesome team, is a learning and problem solving community based out of Chile. They run an 8-week program for people who are committed to setting their life into a new course.

This piece, When should you change by Carlos Miceli, without an ounce of exagerration, changed my life. It made me make a real decisions -a decision that I would not and could not turn back from. I want to share it with you as well. I need you – no, I urge you- to read it and read it and then read it again. This essay will stay with me for the rest of my life as a reminder.

I’ve printed it here for you conveience. Please follow Exofiles  and support their work.

When Should You Change?
A Matter of Place, Urgency and Gravity.

by Carlos Miceli

When was the last time you changed? Do you remember the details of why and how you did it?

This is not a question about habits. I’m not talking about reading a new book, starting a new diet, or quitting alcohol.

I’m talking about transformation. Pure, unmitigated growth. A process so intense that you can’t recognize your past self afterwards, and you’re grateful for having become better. You feel more complete, closer to the“You” you want to be. Do you remember the last time you changed?

I help people remember what change feels like.

I detect those that need to change, and I build a mental “bridge” from where they are to where they can find the people, ideas, and opportunities to transform into better versions of themselves.

I do it because I truly believe that, if people can cross the gap in front of them, they can grow into more meaningful lives. However, I’m also aware that doubts, fears, and anxieties are what gaps are made of. That’s why bridges are important: so it’s safe to cross.

Since we started Exosphere, I have talked to over 350 people to see if they are the kind of people that need to change, and see if we’re the problem-solving community that can help them. This article is my attempt to share what I’ve learned about why and when some people choose change and why some avoid it. Hopefully it can help you figure out if it’s your time to change.

I’ve talked to people from all ages, professions, cultures, from 45-year old American electricians to 23-year old Indian engineers, and I see three things come up again and again…

Place, urgency, and gravity.

Place — Where are you?

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” — Reid Hoffman

Take a moment and look around you. Look at your home, the place where you work, that place you go to unwind on the weekends. Look at your family, your friends, your colleagues. Look at your city, its culture, its economy.

Do you have interests and activities that you feel you can’t share with anyone around you? Do you feel understood or do you “filter” yourself and your inclinations to avoid rejection? Does each day energize you, or is each day driven by obligation more than motivation?

One of the hardest things to accept for those that need to change is that the problem may be their environment and not themselves. It’s hard to look at people or places we love and realize “we may have to part ways if I want to become a better person.”

In these situations, it’s easy to feel weak. If everyone and everything around you is out of sync with the parts of you that are trying to break free, it’s tempting to blame yourself and believe you’re unreasonable, or irresponsible, or whatever. Most people do whatever it takes to rationalize misaligned relationships and environments so long as they don’t have to face the fear of leaving their cocoon.

To make things even worse, most people expect their environment to adapt to themselves. They get angry or disappointed at those around them. Sometimes openly, sometimes they keep their frustrations inside. This leads them to depression, stress, apathy, and other miserable feelings because they feel powerless.

You can’t change how everyone else around you thinks and feels. If you’re getting too big for the box you’re in, you can’t break the box. You can only lead by example and move to a bigger box. If you are in a place that’s not conducive to your curiosity and your aspirations, it’s time to change.

It’s not your fault that your environment is holding you back. But it is your responsibility if you do nothing about it.

Urgency — How fast do you want to go?

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” ― M. Scott Peck

Roughly, the world is divided in two groups of people.

The first group is the static majority. These are people that like the status quo of their lives. There’s no strategy behind what they eat, how they sleep, what they work on, or how they learn.

They don’t seek change because there’s no purpose. No purpose, no urgency. They live as if they are going to live again.

The second group is the dynamic minority. These people live with purpose (which is sometimes just to discover their purpose). There’s strategy behind their actions because they want everything they do to boost them toward their destination.

They see adaptation and improvements as the steps toward their goals. When something doesn’t work, they change it in order to achieve more, faster, because they know the clock is ticking.

When I was younger, people close to me would call me impatient, restless and inconsistent. I used to listen, but now I know they were wrong. For the urgent learner, consistency is not about following through with a plan, but about adapting to new input. Those with slow iteration cycles can’t keep up with the dynamic minority’s learning pace.

If you feel that the pace at which you want to grow is too intense for those around you, it’s usually time to change. Time to find people that can keep up with you, or better yet, challenge you to move even faster.

Gravity — What pulls you?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” — E. E. Cummings

In every interview I run for Exosphere, I only have one goal: know if I’m talking with someone that gravitates toward growth or toward safety. I need to know if they worry about what they will leave behind, or if they crave the opportunities ahead.

I learned that when they talk about spending money as a loss, they see scarcity before abundance. When they talk about a job they can’t quit because of X or Y, they lack creativity and see problems before opportunities. When they ask about credentials, they worry about what others think.

I need to know this because enthusiasm doesn’t matter. I’ve seen many people acknowledge problems with their environment, and in a hurry to improve their lives, but because they fear the pain of growth, they stay where they are, doing things they always do. It’s all talk and no committment.

Some people are just not programmed to embrace the uncertainty of change. These people only change when it happens to them, not because they want it. We are selective in our boot camps because we know that most people can’t stand the fear of growth.

I’ve also learned that you can’t stop someone that feels the pull toward growth. You can’t stop someone that is drawn to novelty, like meeting new people, learning new skills, seeing new places. You talk about uncertainty and they respond with excitement. You talk about problems and they show discipline. You expose fears and they find the courage.

The good news is that being ready to change does not require Ulyssean courage. I’ve seen that you only need a momentary spark to get started. A transformation is not an overnight process, but a gradual series of steps after saying “time to change.”

I can’t really diagnose what pulls you. This one is on you. What I know for sure is that if that spark of courage is alive within you, then you will be happy to change.

And after you become a better person, you’ll understand the power of Nelson Mandela’s words:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Black Canvas: Why Black Entrepreneurs Must Win

When starting fresh, they say you are starting with a blank canvas.

A blank canvas being white.

White being fresh, new, clean.

Having a blank slate means being that you are redeemed, forgiven, starting a new.

But I think a more appropriate term is black canvas. For the colored entrepreneur, it is starting with a pre-determined set
of obstacles that you have to work with.

There is a whole lot of things you must deal with before you start climbing the ladder.

You’re starting with a colored face, an ethnic name, a politicized headscarf, the mental damage of colonalism, the social oppression that exists against your kind, the burden of social and economic pressures faced by your community. You’re faced with crime, violence, social problems, lack of tools, lack of social capital etc.

This is not victimhood. This is a reality. It’s my reality.

This is where I came from.

No colored entrepreneur starts with a blank slate. We start with a black canvas.

Being where I am from, no white person from a place of privledge, particularly white entrepenuers can even slightly understand what this process has been like.

There is no homogenous ‘entrepreneurial’ experience. The processes I go through are distinctly different than what most startups go through.

It’s not about the businesses I’m building but about the problems I am trying to solve and how I am able to solve them.

I follow a ton of personal development and business blogs. Many of them are wonderful and useful.

Very few of them realize the path to success is not a fluid one whereby adhering to success principles will lead you to where you need to be…all the time.

Success for colored people is not the same for white people. We, de facto, become pioneers and as such must trailblaze to create the conditions for others to have the same chance as we did.

We must work 10x harder.

There is no infrastructure to streamline success. It’s a painful process of laying brick-by-brick to build up our communities again.

It’s not a simple: “Follow these success principles and BOOM, you’ll be successful.”

We have communities we need to help. It’s not about inspiring millions, it’s about arduosly building back our communities and getting them on track.

The responsibilities laid on people who have suffered systemtically is a lot larger than those who suffer individual tragedies.

In other words, our success is communal. Our failure is communal.

Every day is a fight. Not just for myself but for many others.

Being a black entrepreneur feels like you are showing up to battle everyday alone.

I started this blog to change this reality  for those around me-to say that regardless of what we face  as a colored person experiencing the world, you really can’t stop, you can’t complain, you can’t make excuses.

You just can’t give up. You have to win.

We must win.

As an entrepreneur, so much of the lessons I learn, I try my best to catalog on this  blog. I try my best to bring more people on this journey because we dont realize how badly this type of thinking is needed. We don’t realized that taking control of how your life starts with the mind. Changing your mind is how you change your life and then go on to chang the world.

Similarly, the committment to change a nation starts in our minds. To say:

‘Look, we’re underperforming, we can be better, we’re too powerful to be playing small with ourselves. We’ve got too much of an illustrious history to think struggle and suffering was ever our natural state.”

This is my committment to you. This is my committment to the world.

Please comment & tell me how I can help transform this space into a place that can serve you to become your greatest self and how we can work together to help each other on this journey.


How to live like you have a million dollars

I love conducting social experiments. I’m not the best at documenting my findings empirically, but anecdotally.  And I do believe they are both equally valid ways of documenting evidence.

I want to ask you a question: If somebody were to give you a million dollars, what would you do?

When this question is asked, it isn’t so much the dollar amount that people care about, it’s what you can do with this dollar amount.

People may answer like this:

“to help poor people”
“to travel”
“to live the life of my dreams”
“invest it into myself, my education or a business idea”

These are typically normal responses. And I’m betting 9-10, you will get one least 1 of these answers.

So, here’s my next question: Why do you need a million dollars to do any of this?

“What do you mean? Because I’m not rich enough right now and don’t have the income”.

No, actually, the reason is because you aren’t creative enough. You assume that X amount of money will give you X, Y, and Z without realizing you can have X, Y and Z without that amount.

My point is, everyone should just stop running after a lucrative amount of money that is needed to do “insert bucket list here”.

You have everything you need to do in your disposal right now.

In fact, the way to make the money come quicker is to LIVE as if you have a million dollars before you actually do.

“To help poor people”, you say?

  • Go volunteer at a food bank, help out at a homeless shelter, work with a local NGO on community development issues

“To travel”

  • Go teach English abroad(a great way to TRAVEL and work) with low cost start up
  • Take regular trips outside of your city and discover something new

“To live the life of my dreams”

  • What do you want to do so badly that you need to put it off? DO IT NOW.

I’m giving you permission if you won’t give yourself permission. I promise you that there is SOMETHING that you can do right now to get it started.

“Invest it into myself, my education or a business idea”

  • Why must you wait to invest in yourself or a business idea? A investment is as simple as listening to a free business, wealth, or personal development audio book on you tube. You don’t need money to do that!

Every day you should ask yourself: “If I had 1 million or 1 billion dollars in the bank, what would I be doing RIGHT NOW?”

This is what you need to be doing.

This is your life purpose.

So how do you start living as if you have a million dollars:

Act as if you do right now.

Live on Amazon: The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Difficult Immigrant Parents: How to End Conflict with Difficult Immigrant Parents and Cultures Forever



Hello my beautiful readers, guess what?

My ebook is available on Amazon. Click the link to PURCHASE.

And if you do purchase, I would appreciate you leaving a review and recommending it to other potential readers. This will help me determine if I should create a longer, more in-depth book and find more ways to help expand on this crucial topic.

with love,


How To Set Goals To Create The Life You Want

It’s the last quarter of 2014 and we all have goals we are trying to accomplish before the years end.

Whether you want to hit your financial projects, launch a project or travel somewhere, it all starts with one thing: setting a goal.


I’ve had a few people message me asking me how do they set goals to create the life they want and I want to give you the exact formula.

I have had so much experience learning different ways to set goals. There is much research and science behind goal setting but instead of giving you an information overload, I want to just give you practical advice on what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

These lessons I am about to share have changed my life indelibly and I want them to change yours as well, insha’Allah.

I have to say upfront, there will be points in your life that you won’t be able to accomplish a goal. That doesn’t mean that the goal is impossible, it simply means you don’t have the right tools to execute the goal correctly. It may be that you don’t have enough understanding, a clear objective or even the resources you need to get to where you want to be.

But if you set correct goals: specific, measureable, and timed goals, nothing will be impossible.

Let’s dissect the various features of a goal:

Step 1: Clarity

You need to know exactly what it is that you want. Many people don’t accomplish what they want in life -not due to luck or misfortune but because they don’t plan for it. If you want to create a life that you want, you need to become deliberate about it. Everything must be planned.

You need to be so clear as to the end outcome that your vision will pull you, rather you needing to push yourself. One issue people ask me about is time management. “How can I better motivate myself to accomplish my goals?” I tell people that they are asking the wrong question. If you know what you want and are absolutely clear about where you are going, you don’t need to force yourself to carve out time. Your goals will be pushing you instead you of pushing yourself to accomplish the goals.

What does a unclear goal vs a clear goal looks like?

Unclear goal: I want to be a blogger.
Clear Goal: I will sit down at 10am every day and write 1000 words that I will easily publish on my blog for my readers.

Unclear goal: I want to make a lot of money.
Clear goal:  I will easily make $150,000 by December 31st 2015.

Unclear goal: I want to travel.
Clear goal: I will easily book a flight to Greece on Wednesday Oct 29th through my airline of choice and will have a receipt confirmation in hand.

Do you see the difference? It’s about being clear.

Get in the habit of defining what you want in detail.

In addition, being clear about your goals means that you focus on the process, not the event.

The process is what you have to do to get there. The event is the end outcome.

Committ to the process, not the event.

Becoming clear about this alone is enough to prevent you from quitting and indeed, it is the reason why people quit. I believe many of us look to the ‘end’ and that can only temporarily motivate you. The sooner  you understand getting to the ‘end’ is going to be a process of hard work and a slow process, the better.

Step 2: What do you want to do?

In our lives, many of us are searching for our purpose. What am I here to do? What is the ultimate purpose in my life? Being a colored person and a Muslim, there are not only multiple ways to answer this question but multiple factors that become apart of the equation. In other words, it’s not an easy task to answer this question. You are not going to figure it out in one go. In fact, I would dissuade you from trying to even answer such a question.

You will start getting confused if you ask yourself big questions like this. Focus on asking yourself questions about things you can immediately implement. What can do you do now? What experiences would you like to have now? What places would you like to go? What topics would you like to learn more about? And most importantly:

What do you want to contribute to the world before you pass away?

Finding your purpose means experimenting chronically, all the time and never getting stuck in a routine. But the topic of finding your purpose is another blog post that I will tackle in a later insha’Allah.

Start by answering these questions. The key is that you actually have to answer them. These were the questions that started to help me on my path to lifestyle design and they will help you too.

Side Note: Tyrese Gibson once said something that changed my life. He said: “Take control of your life and how you experience things emotionally”. Most of what happens in your life may not be under your direct control. To create the life that you want, you need to look at the different aspects of your life: relationships, health, finance and specific experiences in your life: the daily conversations you have, the way you wake up in the morning, the people you constantly interact with and you need to control how you experience these in your life.

Key: Don’t hold yourself back. Just keep writing when answering these questions:

1. What does your dream life look like? 
a. What does your ideal financial situation look like(remember, don’t say things like I want to be make millions of dollars. Be specific)
b. What does your ideal health/body state look like?
c. What kinds of people do you have around you?
d. Where are you living? Talk about the how your rooms look like? How do the streets look like? Who are your neighbours? How is your home designed?
e. What is your dream profession? What do you see yourself doing full-time? What do you wish to be doing? A full time writer? A full-time entrepreneur? Do you want to own a company? Is your dream job being a travel writer?

2. What is your dream day look like?
a. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, how do you experience the world?
b. How do you want to wake up? What do you do immediately after you wake up. Do you have a ritual? Is it a health ritual? An incantation ritual? A prayer? You need to control how you wake up to the world and how you are effected by it in the morning.
c. What kind of food do you wish to be eating(the kind of food you eat has an enormous affect on your mood and your productivity). Read ‘6 Daily Success Habits that ensure Growth, Happiness and Success‘ by Ryan Moran.
d. How do you plan out your day? Write down what activities your ideal life would consist of. Make sure to note that everything you are doing is feeding into the larger goal of what you wish to contribute in life.

It’s called lifestyle design for a reason, you are the one shaping how you interact with the world and only interact with the world the way you want to.

If your life isn’t the way you want it to be, it’s because you are allowing those things into your life. You are where you are in life because you choosing to keep yourself there.

Action Step: Once you write this down, for a solid week just keep reading this to yourself over and over again.

Step 3: What do you need?

To start creating goals you will need the following:

  • A Journal: Most studies on the habits of successful people will almost always note that they journal. Journaling is not just a way to get your ideas out, but helps you map your life. When you physically write down your goals, it is as if you are manifesting them into the world in physical form. Another key observation is that I feel that when you journal, you are actually accelerating your life. You are able to keep track of your thoughts, learn and implement them at a faster pace than if you don’t write anything down.
  • A Calendar: OH DEAR LORD, why didn’t I start scheudaling earlier. My pro tip: Scheduale everything. Scheduale your damn life. Use your calendar religously. Plan out your days. I would start by simply plotting important dates to get some momentum and just keep adding. You can’t accomplish your goals by keeping everything in your head.
  • An Education: To set proper goals, you need to keep your own self-development at the forefront. Committing to a life of self-development will allow you constantly set better goals. The only way to refine your decision making skills is to continue to refine yourself. I would recommend starting with Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar.

Step 4: Start with Why?

What is driving you to accomplish your goals? When you write down what you ultimately want to contribute, start with why.

Is it for your family? Is your freedom? Is it hating where you are currently at in your life? Is it the powerful vision that drives you?

Believe me, there are days where you will not be able to get out of bed or even go to sleep out of the sheer amount of work you will need to do. If you do not have a strong enough reason to wake up in the morning, creating the life you want will be difficult. This is hard. Not impossible. But it’s hard.

So write down in 3-4 lines, WHY the goals you set are so important to you.

Step 5: Working backwards

Now that you have a clear vision of where you want to be, the key to accomplishing your goals is working backwards.

Per year, write down the following:

1. What goals you want to accomplish for that year. Don’t overwhelm yourself but I would pick 5-10 goals that you feel you wish to acheive for that year. Imagine the year is closing to an end, what would you have wished you accomplished.

i.e. I will start my own non-profit organization dedicated to helping empower women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

2. Analyse how each goal will be bringing you closer to your ‘Master Vision’ for your life.

ie. My goal of starting a non-profit organization will contribute to my passion of supporting the economic development of women and will lead me to more opportunities with which I can help more women create successful businsses.

3. Figure out what you need to do every day to get closer to your goal. If it doesn’t bring you closer to your goal, don’t do it.

Month 1: Registered my organization formally and wrote up a clear planning document outlining the vision of my org.
Month 2: I spent every day looking for appropriate team members and board members.
Month 3: I put together, designed and launched a website. I worked everyday to create hype of the launch and get it into the hands of many people etc.

Step 6: Setting a Timeline

Time is a valueable asset that you need to account for. You need to understand how to create a time-frame to appropriately calculate how long it will take you to accomplish your dreams. You don’t have forever to become who you want to be. You need to figure out where you want to be, by when and then work backwards to get there.

For 10 years goals, think about what you wish to be within that period of time. Who do you wish to be?

For 5 year goal, think about where you wish to be within that time period?

For your 1 year goal, think about what does your life look like?

For today, ask yourself: What do I need to to today to get to my 1 year goal?

What I normally then do is break down my goals for the year into month goals and write down what I want that month.

Working backwards is another way of saying, set short term goals. Those short term goals will help you figure out what you need to do next.

Alternative Method 1:  ‘Dream Line’ concept by Tim Ferris, author of the 4 hour work week

If my method doesn’t work for you, then use this. Personally, this hasn’t worked for me but don’t listen to me unless you’ve tried it for yourself.

His premise is:

Step 1: Every 6 months and every 12 months determine what you want to have(material items), what you want to be(example: fluent in Chinese) and what you want to be doing(example: backpacking through Europe).

i.e. I want a Range Rover

Step 2: Figure out your TMI(Target Monthly Income). What do you need to be making to make that happen(hint: a lot cheaper than you think). Then divide that amount by 30 and that is your TDI(Target Daily Income).

Step 3: Write down the answers to the following for each part of Step 1:

Steps to take today: Make a list of dealerships in your city and give them a call to book an appointment
Steps to take tomorrow: Go and test drive the car you want
Steps to take the day after: Determine how much you will need to pay off the car, exactly how long it will take you and where you will get the funds from and budget accordingly.

Alternative Method #2: RPM(Rapid Planning Method)

In summary, Tony Robbins, a prolifiic peak performance coach developed a Life Planner to take any idea you have and make it real. It will help you with creating extraordinary results.

“When somebody has attained an extraordinary life, they have found a way to maximize their resources; their time, their physical energy, their health, the people they know, and the concepts they’ve learned. They’ve learned to not only maximize what’s available to them, but they’ve also learned to maximize their level of enjoyment.” -TR

Step 1: Go through this workbook. Read about what RPM is all about print this out or open up a word document and get started with going through this booklet.

Step 2: Once you go through it, you will have a clear understanding(or at least start to) have a clear idea for the results you want and a massive action plan to get there. With Tony Robbins, it’s all about taking massive action towards your goals. If it doesn’t scare you, it’s not important enough of a goal.

I can probably take you through other goal setting methods such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done which is much more complex and sophisticated. They are all incredible and amazing but these are what I’ve tried. My 6 Step Method works best for me and is an amalgation of different methods I’ve tried over the years. Please don’t settle on what I’ve done until you’ve figured out what works best for you.

Comment below if you have any questions or concerns or need me to help you clarify your goals and give you any advice you need. If this has benefited you, is there someone else you feel it can help too? Send it over to them!

I really want to see people taking ownership over their lives and making big impact with their life and vision. But it can’t happen until you have goals to get to that vision. So get started!

with love,