I’m coming to US and Ayeee…gonna do a Borat!
Kidding. But I’m heading out tomorrow so I thought I’d leave you with something i’ve been thinking about lately.
My brother and I have a pretty strange upbringing. We grew up in different countries and each speak at least two languages. Many of you will not know this–but in addition to speaking English and Arabic, I spoke French and Japanese for three years in school.
I even took a Maori class, the language of the natives of New Zealand. I can’t fairly claim I can SPEAK maori because I had a really easy going teacher. So we often played around in class and brought cheat notes into exams.
I remember we had to learn the names of the 7 canoes that brought the first Maori to New Zealand and memorise where they landed. Since I have terrible memory, I photocopied the map really small and used it in the exam. Naughty me!
This isn’t how I usually conducted myself in school. But I didn’t think it was so important to learn another language back then.
Anyway, like I said, I had an interesting upbringing and a coloured life.
I boarded a plane at the age of 6 months when I first left Kansas and went to join my mother in Amman. My father who was studying in the states became a translator for the US embassy in Saudi Arabia had us join him just two years later in Taif.
Soon after, we migrated to New Zealand.
Discovering New Zealand was an experience in itself. Dad had seen ads on television for Anchor milk and learned that there was this tiny country in the pacific which was nuclear free. That got his attention and he decided that we’ll visit and see if we like living there.
I didn’t speak any English and learned it in school that year.
One time in school, the teacher asked me to draw a “piktcha” (picture with a New Zealand accent) and for the life of me I didn’t know what it meant. I tried to ask my father but the pronounciation made it impossible for him to figure out what I was asking about. He suggested it was, perhaps, a pitcher…a kind of container. But that wasn’t it, was it?
We traveled a little more back and forth. Between Saudia and New Zealand while we went through migration procedures. During the Gulf war, my father was jailed and we were deported because of a disgruntled student at my father’s university.
My family returned on a more permenant basis to New Zealand and they continued studies for their Masters and PhD degrees.
During that time, we were poor. No shit.
When father completed his doctorate he took a post at the international university in Malaysia and he took my younger sister and me with him for a year. I continued school by correspondence with one of the oldest schools in New Zealand.
My mother remained with the rest of my siblings to finish her PhD defence in Auckland.
The next year, we finally had a decent lifestyle. Both my parents worked at high paying university jobs in Oman. I had my own bedroom and a real bed instead of a matress on the floor. For the first time, we had proper living room furniture and started going on twice-yearly holidays.
I continued an extramural university program at Massey University in Mathematics. And when I turned 19, I returned to New Zealand on my own to finish a second degree in Computer Science.
My masters was completed at the University of Auckland. Each year, while on summer holidays, I’d travel to Thailand and Dubai. My parents lived in neighbouring countries and we’d travel every weekend to see my father in Dubai. When I returned to New Zealand, my pasport would be so stamped with entry and exit visas that the profiler would pick me out at passport control and I’d get searched thoroughly at customs.
It became a fact of life for me.
When I graduated from my Masters, I went on road trips often and worked in a tiny city in the south island of New Zealand on US government contracts.
During that time, I traveled to Australia and Switzerland for academic and commercial conferences.
After that, I moved to Sydney for a PhD where I had many good and bad adventures.
Early this year, I moved to Amman, Jordan permenantly. Here, the concept of working from home is peculiar.
Last weekend my brother and I were out with some friends of his. And we noticed that despite us not being great speakers of Arabic, people gravitate to us.
My brother, was surprised at how easily we attract people. Especially that he seems to get along with some of the strangest characters. He has friends who are from nomadic tribes that he spends hours a day with. And, on the other hand, he has western-educated, half-cast english-speaking friends at university.
When we meet people, they look up to us without any solid reason why.
The reason is obvious, though, isn’t it?
We are well-traveled, educated people with life experience. In every conversation we have, we tell stories and have new information to share that no one ever knew. There’s never a conversation we can’t participate in.
All of my family are avid readers of books.
We read in every topic you can imagine. Reading is vital because it allows you to have experience through others. Particularly if you have no interesting life-experiences of your own.
Last weekend, we met with some new friends at the American Embassy where I’d gone to add visa pages to my stamped-out US passport. Our conversation turned to the economy and real estate investment in the states.
Now, since I don’t live in the US, I should have no idea about the economy or any clue about real estate investment. But I still managed to engage in a long discussion on the topic.
All because we read and associate with others who relate their diverse experiences.
This in turn allows us to contribute new value in every conversation. And this is what attracts others to us.Â
Otherwise, we’d be rather dull people. We don’t party. We don’t drink. We don’t go to clubs. And I can’t tell a joke without forgetting the punch-line.
Yet, we have something of value to share in each new meeting.
Having an attractive personality for selling is all about exactly this. Adding value to the lives of others. It could be as simple as making others laugh. Or as complex as a stimulating conversation about politics and investment.
You too have your own stories and experiences to share. And even if you live a rather colourless life in some small town you’ve never left, then open your mind and fill it with reading.