The Holy Month of Ramadan started last Monday and for the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world it is the month of fasting and prayer. For those that don't know what Ramadan is, its a time each year when all Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and they must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and drinking alcohol. Its a month of spiritual reflection, a time to look upon ones own activities and question them and reconnect with your faith and cleanse your soul. I'm not Muslim but as I've lived in the UAE all my life, its very much part of my yearly calendar and I find the month very important to my own character and soul.
So I wanted to share with you why Ramadan is a great month for Entrepreneurs even if you are not Muslim and how you can make effective use of the time.
Time to reflect and renew our energy levels
So each year when Ramadan comes round I see it as a time to reflect on my own life and take a moment to reassess my own energy levels. I have fasted in the past to embrace the Holy month but most of the time I see the month as a time to detox my health, rebuild my exercise regime and meditate some more. Feeling physically better does wonders for my own mindset so when Ramadan comes around I do indulge all of these activities and I really recommend the same for you.
So how can Ramadan help Entrepreneurs - well really for similar reasons. Take the time to reflect on your business, get clear about what is working and what isn't, detox your own business by cleaning your office space, your computer laptop (I know I always have tonnes of files sitting on my desktop screen that really need to be properly filed), reorganise your leads, your budget, get clear on your business's future needs. In Ramadan its a time for Muslims to reconnect with their faith and their core values. You can do the same aswell. Get clear about your core business values again. Sometimes during the year I know these values can get blurry particularly if you are super busy and starting to spread thin. Ramadan is also great time to learn, articulate and understand a lot of the key knowledge you have learnt over the passed few months and get that material ready to use in your business, with colleagues, co-workers or even family.
So just taking the month to detox your business, reset your business intentions and knowing your path will really revive your energy levels and get you ready to take on the world again.
Opportunity to slow the pace down.
How many of you are doing long days? Possible more than you've ever done when you compare it to your previous career you may have had. A lot of the long hours is because we love what we do and time has little meaning when you get to spend the day doing what you love. However, there are times when we need to slow down or even take a break. Its not healthy to be constantly in active mode. We do get tired and grubby when all our engines have been depleted, well I know I do anyway.
So with Ramadan, lies the opportunity to slow the pace down. Take your foot off the gas and don't rush. Yes we need to get a lot done with leads to funnel and sales to close but with an opportunity to reflect and reassess your energy levels why not take the time to slow things down a bit. Slowing things down destresses us too. Feeling more relaxed and less stressed does wonders for our productivity and helping us get clear about what we want to achieve. Ramadan is also about reconnecting with your family and friends so use the time to reconnect with family and friends and people you've been wanting to connect with for a while but haven't. I did this recently. I set up a meeting with an old colleague in Dubai who I hadn't seen in 18 months and it was awesome. We shared, chatted and brainstormed and more than likely will do some collaborations soon too. Awesome!
Opportunity to look at working 'on' the business
How many of you work 'in' your business as opposed to work 'on' your business? Its interesting to get clear on this as it can help you map where you are going and how your business is going to get you there. My husband suffers a bit from this issue. He's a strategy and detail man but sometimes he can gets so caught up in the detail that I need to tell him to come to the surface again because we need to work on the strategy. He recognises his blindness quickly and realigns himself with our strategy objectives. Its all very easily done and can sneak up on you subconsciously. I think a lot of us do it so Ramadan is an awesome time to reconnect with your 'Why' of the business. Your 'values' of the business. Where you are now and where you are going. We can plan as best we can but we all know that a lot of the time its guess work but knowing your why, your values or your potential direction is more about being clear and having clarity so use the holy month of Ramadan to take a step back from your business and look at the bigger picture. You never know what you could be missing. Detail can be organised later by your team or by yourself but in complete awareness that you are in 'the detail'
Fasting is possible and so others things are possible.
The BIG objective of Ramadan is fasting. Its the 5th pillar of Islam and one of the toughest to do. This particular holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in the middle East are looking at Fasting for over 15 hours and this is tough particularly when its 45 degrees outside and thirst really is the big factor with those heat levels. I watched video on Facebook yesterday where Muslims in Finland are fasting over 20 hours a day! Watch it becuase its just amazing. The fasting is to help you understand what its like not to have food or water and that there are people of this world that don't know where there next meal is coming from.
So fasting is done and is possible I think if you can discipline yourself to follow your faith and push your way through the hunger and deprivation then I say, 'think of what you can do when you have been nourished!?' I have learnt that a lot of what we do is often down to our mindset and if we all had the strength of mindset to be disciplined, have some self awareness of our thoughts then we can see ourselves through our goals or objectives successfully.
So there you have it. My four reasons of why Ramadan is an awesome time for Entrepreneurs and how you can embrace the month even if you are not Muslim. How else have you embraced the tradition of Ramadan? Would you fast from dawn till dusk? Do let me know as I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Have an awesome day.
On the 18th April 2016 I put up an episode called 'My 3 take aways on reslience from my interviews with Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East. As you can see from the image below, these are the results of that download and as I write this blog we are over 2200 downloads!! Clearly this is something that listeners are resonating with. Maybe its the current economic climate or change is heavily in the air this month but this episode has become my top episode and each day there are still downloads being counted. So I thought, so why not do another podcast on another 4. I did have many 'take aways' but I only covered the top 3 - so here are 4 more.
I kind of feel guilty about not putting this up there in my top 3 so when I decided to write another resilience post I thought, 'gratitude' is important to have. When things are tough, I do have a tendency to wallow a bit and hang in that space wondering why is this all happening. Which as we all know, achieves very little! You are literally circling in the same space and going no where. So I've recently turned to gratitude as a way to move my mindset from 'ugh' to 'hoorray'. Its hard, I must say but writing down what we are grateful for really does move the mind and helps you get back on the positive side. It doesn't happen instantly so I totally understand why people give up practising gratitude as the results are a few weeks away but it can help. All my guests I have interviewed were always in a place of gratitude. They were thankful for the podcast coverage, thankful for helping them clarify their own journey through my questions and thankful for being part of a unique opportunity. My podcast is unique in the region and I'm delighted I was able to share their story. When someone says 'thank you' it really does feel really good and I really do think that if we sit back and be thankful for what we have, what we have done and for the people around us, it really helps our resilience. I'm learning to practice more gratitude simply by being aware of my negative thoughts and when I hear them in my head, I whip up something I am grateful for. Try it!! I've read countless articles that say write down 5 things you are grateful for each day. Try it!
Books, Individuals & Goals!
One of the topics I'm always asking my guests is where do you go when you are feeling down, what keeps them motivated and I have seen a pattern through all these women. They all seems to have 3 key places they head too or focus on when things are not going right and that is 'Books, Individuals and Goals'. I discovered that when things were tough, these ladies went back to the drawing board and reconnected with their goals. They would then then talk to friends, family, mentors or coaches. Those individuals that 'got' them and understood what they were all about and why this journey was so important to them. Then they would widen their learning by reading books. Reading up on the areas they needed to work on and broaden. Areas that they immediately could fix with a particular problem they had so they could move forward. When I summed this up in my head, I was thinking, that is pretty simple and why didn't I think of that!!! I guess its because I'm thinking its more complicated than that!! So reconnect with you goals, speak to someone and read a book. It doesn't have to be in that order. Just what you instinctively go to first. Now for me, my instinct is to read. I try and solve the problem myself. I guess its an independence things! But for you, that could be talking to individuals or just going back to the drawing board and taking a look at your goals. Oh and FYI, if reading isn't your thing, how about a TEDx episode or a podcast. We all learn in different ways, so use the best method that works for you. :) All these ladies I have interviewed, you could also listen too as a tool to connect with and understand yourself too.
Don't Be Shy, Talk & Share!
These ladies have all learnt how to Talk and Share. They don't bottle up there concerns. If they have problems or goals that are not being met they talk, they share. They reach out to people and ask for help. All of these ladies have gotten passed the negatives of entrepreneurship, ljke chaos, confusion & their vulnerabilities and began to talk and share about there shortcomings or their weaknesses and to make change so they can move forward. Talking about your vulnerabilities or mess ups can be difficult for most but these ladies have learnt to be self aware and know how being shy just doesn't cut it any more if they want to succeed. They need to be heard, they need to share and they need to find the people that will help them. But what does talking and sharing do? Well it helps you clarify your thoughts and thinking, it helps sort through your feelings and makes things less scary, it can give the issue some prospective. Another opinion can help turn the issue around and make it seem less intimidating. These ladies have learnt how to talk and share and this has only made them stronger and more resilient. The more they talk the more confidence they have developed in themselves and their ideas. So next time you are stuck on something, reach out and talk. Help yourself get clear on an idea, or a problem so you can move forward and achieve your goals. Sharing is caring right???
They are always at the beginning!!
I always ask my guests where they think they are on their own learning curve journey. I ask them to imagine a curve line with peaks and trough and ask them where they sit on that curve and they always said we are at the beginning of an upward curve. I always try to say, 'I guessI you are at the top of your curve based on our conversation given how much they have done and achieve' but no..... they always say they are at the beginning. Everything they do, they are at the beginning of. Its fascinating to think that all these women are at the beginning, but I totally get it. It's their mindset. It's their emotional setting. Its their positive and happiness card they are sharing. At this point on the curve, you are raring to go and you are in a positive growth space. I guess its positive psychology to get through the tough times ahead. With that mindset they can face challenges and obstacles, they can be in control of what is to come and then make the choices that suit them and where they are going. None of these ladies EVER said they were coming down a learning curve or were sitting in a trough of a learning curve. Its just so negative and if you are there, then everything is affected. You can't make good decisions, you can't be productive and you land up hanging out at your own pity party!! Who wants to be invited to that??? No one! Overall it is hard to be strong if you are sick and tired so I guess the lesson on resilience here is always have the mindset of being on the upward swing of the learning curve. If you are there, you are ready for the peak and be ready for the slow slide down the curve.
Resilience truly is the must have strength for entrepreneurs.
Through both my blog posts on this subject I can say that resilience can be found in many places you just need to be self aware, observe and keep moving forward. There will always be set backs, you just need to have your 'resilience list' of tasks you can do when it all goes wrong and you are not sure where to turn. All the women entrepreneurs I have interviewed have instinctively been resilient, even if they know it or not. I've learnt a lot from all of them. A sort of unexpected learning because when I started this journey to explore the women entrepreneurs of the Middle East, my intent was to discover what they did and how they did it not how they were being resilient but deep down I guess that was something I was needing too and is the beating heart of all their stories.
In closing, all these women have put their passion to work, their perseverance in gear and focused on the success and long term goals of their businesses. Some days are harder than others but they push, drive and trail blaze through the entrepreneurial journey and learning curve they have taken on. These women are amazing and I admire their efforts, action and their personalities. Thank you for sharing your journeys Ladies.
I invite you to consider where you get your resilience from and if you have a story to share, then please do connect. The more I talk about this subject the more I'm intrigued by it. The Power of the human spirit to carry on in adversity is amazing!
Failure and mistakes are not a bad thing!! That is the resounding message I'm getting from the ladies I have interviewed. They wouldn't be doing what they were doing if they listened to the negative self talk or were self conscious about what they said or did. When they fail or make a mistake, they just stand up, dust themselves off and travel on to the next 'to do' item from their business plan.
I think that is very powerful feedback and one that I'm slowly coming to terms with myself. At school you are taught to not make mistakes but when you fail your exams or tests, we are taught mistakes and failing are reflections of you not paying attention or studying hard enough. Think of the times you got a big fat red 'F' - on your paper. Its totally demoralising - What do we do with that feedback? We start the negative self talk....'we are not good enough, we are useless, I'll never go to University, my parents will be so disappointed' and there begins the cycle of negativity. From a young age we start this negative self chatter and so we hide away from new things, new ideas because we clearly failed at something similar! I remember my dad saying he was awful at maths. But was he awful or did he have a bad teacher or the class was too big or he was too shy to speak up?? Who knows. But those circumstances meant him blaming himself for not being good at maths. OK. So we do need to be accountable but 50 years ago there wasn't learning support. You were just expected to get on with it but it still leaves you stained with negative messages ringing in our ears. I heard Robert Kiyosaki say recently, 'rubbishing failure and mistakes in school is so anti learning'. And I couldn't agree more.
I've been plagued by my own failure and mistake demons. You know the things you have said or done in the office and you think the whole office is still talking about it months later..... when they are not!!! Or my own negative self talk that I'm not good enough or feeling nervous or inadequate because of my fears of failure or mistakes. Its seriously painful and so overwhelming. It can suck you in and hold you tight for minutes, hours or even days. I'm sure you can all feel your own negative feelings when you think about your mistakes and failings.
But come on... lets changed that tune!! Science and cognitive psychology has shown us that what we say to ourselves impacts our emotions. To 'get' this yourself, the best time to understand this is the morning, when you wake up. If you start thinking negatively in the morning your tummy might start to get butterflies or you feel your stress levels rising and your just irritated ....and you have just woken up. I've been that person and I hate getting butterflies in the morning!! I hate that wobblying feeling in my tummy that just hangs there. In my head I'm stressing about the day ahead, meetings, projects, deadlines...and I've only been awake 30 minutes!!!! So instead now I get up in the morning and I exercise - and watch a ted talk - that works for me. It totally raises my energy levels, changes my mindset to a 'can do' attitude and gets rid of those butterflies. I've become more aware of my thoughts and work heavily on being resilient constantly. So how did I get there? Well this is where I tell you what I learnt from the many interviews I've done with Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and how I think you can accomplish whatever you want if you put your mind in the right frame and use your failures to your advantage.
Head to your Treasure Box of Passion & Strengths.
Through all my interviews with my women entrepreneurs in the Middle East, I've learnt that they have recognised their strengths and their weaknesses. They have sat down and really clarified their values, their vision, who they are and what strengths they have that they can use. Their primary strengths is the passion they have for a subject, industry or idea. They've taken that passionate energy and just ran with it. When they hit a hurdle they return to their treasure box of strengths, take up more of their passion and reasons for the businesses. Knowing the why to their quest and multiplying that by their strengths, they rekindle that fire and push forward. Mistakes and failing for them is learning. They place it where it should be *in the learning section* and carry on. They will turn to this process over and over again. I know I have. Creating a podcast around women entrepreneurs in the middle east is new, different and very niche. I'm passionate about these conversations I have and want to share how the women of the Middle East are trail blazing and bringing economic growth to their countries but also 'Making a Difference with Lots of Valuable Experiences (MAD LOVE)*. I use my strengths of relationship building, listening and constructing comfortable conversations to really help me connect with these ladies and help share their story. Remember to tap back into your passion and strengths - I'm sure you will give your confidence a nice needed boost.
Collaborate and Partner Up
I always ask my ladies in the interview how important has collaboration and partnerships been to the success of their business and 99% of the time, they respond with a YES! Every business can't grow in isolation just like people can't grow in isolation. You would never learn anything. So when things aren't great and you've hit a wall think about how you could reach out to a complimenting business or a mentor group or even your mum and dad just to help get you some perspective. In that perspective lies your resilience. When you reach out, get clear about what it is that you need to move forward, how you would like them to help you and how you can help them. Give yourself workable and flexible targets and just ask. Use your strengths and your values to work out a new plan. See if your values and their values align and start a new collaboration or partnership. It doesn't have to be monetary it can be as simple as a barter deal or cross promoting one another. These actions will have you heading down your success route once again. We've all scene that image of success as a windy road and it totally is. So don't hit that wall and feel failure looming, see it as an opportunity to learn, talk to people and take action. Be resilient.
They keep growing their knowledge bank and learning
I interviewed May Khizam yesterday and she said a really cool then.... she said, ' Entrepreneurship looks so glossy on the outside but its not' and she is so so right. *here come some negative self talk* - its a life of hardship, its brings difficulties, chaos, questioning yourself and your business, money worries and fear. There I have said it! Now lets move on! To be an entrepreneur you need to be resilient. Be able to turn all those fears into actionable positives but we need to put ourselves in mindset of wanting to be a learning person. Tricia Evans and Cherine Kurdi both called themselves 'Learning Junkies' and I loved that. They make time to learn, they make time to read and listen to what the latest developments are in their industries aswell as complimenting industries. They've also become really good listeners. Listening for the message that will help them marry that information with their business so they can move forward. They are open to ideas and all this new information empowers them and improves their confidence. So when they do have a set back, they can fall back on their knowledge bank, their goals and recognise their achievements and push forward. They are resilient.
Through out all my interviews I think the key to all of these ladies efforts has been resilience. There are peaks and troughs in their journeys which create challenges and excitement. I think the trick is to recognise when things are going great and make sure you recognise those moments and be thankful for them. Show some gratitude. When things are not going great, turn to your resilience. Even create a resilience list so you have a go to list of activities you can turn too when your brain is not engaging and you are feeling demoralised. The online dictionary I used to define the word failure has two definitions, a) 'lack of success' or b) 'the neglect or omission of expected or required action'. hmm.... it should say 'failure is a blip in your learning and you haven't looked at your resilience yet. Go to resilience'.
*I credit that brilliant Acronym MAD LOVE to my awesome friend and awesome author Jules Miles Lewis. She's written a book on Moving Mountains. All About helping you move forward, discovering your inner mountain and finding your path foward emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically... in business and in life
ABout the blog
Share interviews with Arab and Expat women entrepreneurs, sharing their entrepreneurial journey with their top business advise. We blog about knowledge, articles, FAQ on social media and share tools and resources to help us get going in our niche.