When Quitting Is Good

Photo taken   on top of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka,   after I quit climbing up the last 200 steps of the 5'500 steps; having been pushed almost half of it lol

Photo taken on top of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, after I quit climbing up the last 200 steps of the 5'500 steps; having been pushed almost half of it lol

I have been having a lot of time lately to think about my life and where I want to go with it. I haven't figured it out yet, and I'd unlikely be able to do it by the end of this post. I've always had this philosophy, though it may not be to the liking of many, that I'd do what I can with what I already have, rather than seek to have what I may not... OK, that may have sounded too philosophical hehe... In simpler terms, I'd just make the best of comes my way instead of going out of my way to get what I believe is best for me. It may not be the best motto in life, but I've done well with it so far, I believe.

Surely there were times when I felt that that motto doesn't serve me well... In the times where I was actually tempted to want things, and felt driven enough to pursue them. Yet, in none of those times was I successful, which caused me to further believe in the validity of my motto! 

Those things were on my mind again lately... Things I would want... Things I had previously pursued but not achieved. And in the midst of my thoughts, I came across the below post by a friend on Facebook.

First it had me thinking: Is it that I didn't want it bad enough? Did I not work hard enough for it? Do I not deserve it? Am I not good enough for it?... You know... All the typical self-doubt thoughts that drag its holder to a dark deep hole of self-loathing! 

However, on the other side, are we not to believe that what is meant to be will happen? Of course it doesn't mean that we just lazily wait for things to fall in our lap, but perhaps to exercise diligence in our pursuits, hope and pray for the best while having faith that we will get what is written for us... As for what's not written for us, well, there's nothing we can do about that, except hope some more that there is something better in store for us instead! (And most people like to ignore the fact that perhaps there's nothing better for them, but let's not get into that dark deep hole now :P)

With those thoughts, I was prompted to leave my comment above, with the following questions:

"How long and hard must you go after something before realizing that maybe you're just being stubborn instead of persistent, and that perhaps it's time you focus your energy and time on something else that may be good for you too, even if you had failed to see it from start!"

I ask that question in all seriousness... How long and hard are we supposed to pursue something before we realize that it is better to quit? A month? A year? 5 years? Perhaps the time period is more relevant to the goal itself; like if your goal is to be a talented musician, that would come with hours of practice (about 10'000 hours according to the rule uncovered in Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Outliers", which I highly recommend you read!), but isn't it possible that talent and creativity are not an outcome of practice, that even with such practice, someone can still lack the "it" factor that'd make them successful or exceptional? But I digress...

In the same theme of thoughts, and by coincidence, I came across another comment I made five years ago on a blog post titled "How To Quit Being A Quitter":

Sometimes people keep pushing themselves to do something so they don’t end up being quitters, and in the end, that makes them hate what they are doing. If you need to actually push yourself hard to do something and finish it, then you probably shouldn't be doing it! No one ever quits on something he/she loves and enjoys doing.

At the end, I am not saying that we should all quit our pursuits as soon as we feel frustrated or we run into an obstacle... This is hardly a conclusion, but rather the opening of a discussion... And I really hope that one of you readers is an experienced psychologist and can advise me on the matter: Am I wise or am I a lazy quitter? lol

Arab Tech Women Entrepreneurs

On September 23rd, I spoke at The Arab Women In Leadership & Business Summit in Dubai on technology-based entrepreneurship. I felt quite honoured to share the stage with amazing leading women who are ministers, founders, CEOs, chairmen (chairwomen?!), and managers of international and major brands, while I was there representing only myself as The Manalyst... That made me realise even more the importance and power of technology-based entrepreneurship. When I launched my website and online brand, The Manalyst, in 2009, it was not for the objective of having my own business, but merely to make use of the free time and internet I had in learning and sharing about the latest trends in my industry, while overcoming the limitations of being a professional in a male-dominated world (whether for being in Saudi Arabia, or generally in the business world)... I never thought that first step would lead me to be one of the influential bloggers and social media professionals in the region, covering and speaking at various related events such as this one I'm writing about, being interviewed by the media, and most importantly, having helped various brands and people with using social media to achieve their goals. 

In the 2-day event, I sat among the audience, of mostly women, listening to their stories, questions, concerns, and most of all... complaints. Some were legitimate complaints of social, cultural and work-discrimination struggles that might take long to change, yet many have overcame them; and some I found to be invalid, like the lack of role models in our Arab community... And that is what I aimed to prove wrong through my presentation, and this post.

First of all, one prevailing statistic in the Arab region is that almost over half of university attendees and graduates are female, yet that only translates to being less than a quarter of the workforce... So the problem isn't that Arab women lack the formal education or skills and capabilities to join or excel in the workforce. They're actually more likely to start their own business than to get a job, and even more women intend to do the same, yet that still doesn't transform into action.

There probably haven't been any formal studies or research of why there aren't more women in business, whether as employees or entrepreneurs, but common beliefs is that it is for one of the following reasons:

Cultural Pressures and Stereotypes, and Overcoming Women Unemployment Issues by Working from Home, with Flexible Hours

Even at this modern day and age, the role of women in the Arab world is still quite traditional... In most typical Arab families, a girl's priority is to get married and have kids. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are also often not allowed to work for cultural/social reasons or due to gender segregation laws. So while the majority of adult females attend university, graduate or even get to work, they do so as long as they are single. And those who have ambitions to pursue higher education and a business career face pressures from their families, or community, to focus on getting a husband instead, and if they're already married, then they should focus on their family and household instead. And in the business community, they're mostly viewed a "flight risk", as in, if hired, they might suddenly quit once married or with child, which makes them a bad investment. An example of a woman who faced and defied such pressures and stereotypes is Yasmine Al Mehairy.

Yasmine co-founded the Arabic parenting website Supermama with Zeinab Samir in 2011. She faced many negative cultural stereotypes as a single 30 year old woman entrepreneur but was positive about the startup ecosystem in Egypt being more supportive than it is in the West, and she was able to secure funding as bias towards male founders was not yet apparent in the Arab world as it is in the West. (Source: Middle East Monitor)

These cultural and employment issues that Arab women face is what drives some into tech entrepreneurship as they get the ability to work from home, or wherever they need to be, and with flexible hours thus having the ability to tend to their other affairs (whether they're students, wives and/or moms) at their own comfort. This is what drove Tasneem Salim, programmer and gamer, to co-find GCON -the world’s biggest and Saudi’s first girls-only yearly gaming convention and community in Riyadh-, encouraging girls to pursue careers in game development, and break the stereotypes that gaming is a boys-only industry. In Saudi, where gender segregation poses a challenge in the workforce, that consists only 20% of women, she believes that gaming can a powerful option for those who prefer flexible hours and working from home. (Source: Wamda)

Two other ladies who also found that drive to start their own tech business are Duna AlSiyari and Hussa AlShamran; two college students who kickstarted the eCommerce site Qurtsyah in 2012 as the first in Saudi to sell stationary online, enjoying the flexibility it gives them to work while also continuing their education. They are determined to grow their business to the GCC, and continue to apply their college learnings to practical business experience and starting their own line of Arabic-style stationary. (Source: AlEqtisadiah)

Funding and Financing, and How It is Countered by Low Costs/Barriers to Entry 

During the event, some women were repeatedly mentioned in the discussion as role models for women entrepreneurs, such as Sheikha Moza, Queen Rania, and other prominent names... While their work is to be appreciated and admired, not all women in the Arab region have the same access to family money, status and connections to support their business initiatives. The average Arab woman has to strive to attain funds and finance her business. Either there aren't enough sources for funds in the Arab world with high competition, or there is lack of awareness in how or where to attain funds. In most cases, women who want to start their own business are either discouraged by lack of funds or they resort to financing their business with their own personal money which often slows their progress. 

That is what Hanan Khader, a programmer and mommy of 3, had to do when she launched Aqar-estate.com in 2008, a real estate digital platform for the MENA, which was a challenge in a male-dominated industry that she had to finance herself until she secured seed investment from Oasis500. 2 years ago, she also started HelloWorldKids, teaching programming to kids and inspiring them to be tech entrepreneurs.

With the low cost and barriers to entry of tech-based industry, in case of most businesses, many women have taken up to the internet to start their own small businesses, starting from scratch depending on whatever knowledge or skills they have, and financing their business further with the earnings, until they're able to make some steady income from it... Which is the case with Farihan Amin, owner of Simplecious, an instagram-based home baking business. 

The Need for Women-Focused Support Network, and What YOU Can Do to Help!

It is safe to say that women can never be equal to men, we may want equal rights but at the end of the day, we will always be different, especially in the Arab/Muslim world because we believe in our role as housewives and mothers, even if we weren't all born to have that typical life or if we wanted to be businesswomen on top of being wives/mothers. So the aim is to have a business ecosystem that understands the characteristics, requirements and challenges of Arab women entrepreneurs and support them through their journey & in their lifestyle. That's not saying that Arab women can't already compete, succeed and flourish in the current ecosystem among men! May Attari, a Palestinian student, has certainly accomplished that, along with her peers, through her university's leadership program "Qiyadat", by co-founding Fadfid, an online psychotherapy platform that connects patients seeking expert psychological advice to specialists across the Arab world.

Think of how many more innovative startups we'd have, in addition to the economic benefits, if more women are supported and encouraged to become entrepreneurs! You can start encouraging them from a young age, by raising girls to overcome negative stereotypes and explore their interests in a gender-neutral environment, and learn tech skills from resources like: ScratchHacketyKhan AcademyCode.orgTahrir AcademyThe Little Engineer

Female students can also be encouraged to aspire for an education & career in tech by nurturing and developing their innate skills, and using educational technology to teach and inspire them, from resources like: Khan AcademyCode AcademyTechGirlsEdSurge.

And as entrepreneurs and business owners, share your experience and knowledge with them, support their entrepreneurial activities and intentions, and welcome opportunities to mentor and guide women with entrepreneurial activities/intentions, through platforms such as Wamda Mix n’ mentorArabnetWamda 4 Women; and various Linkedin Groups.

And lastly, as part of the community, support them, enable them, encourage them, share their stories, give them feedback…You can start by sharing this post or its presentation below, in hope that the women I mentioned here can serve as inspiration and role models for others out there who are just waiting for the right motivation to rise and flourish!

Why Women are Better Than Men

Men, before you start sending me hate comments, the title is just an exaggeration of some aspects in which women are better than men, rather than anfactual generalizing statement that all women are better than all men :P Now that we cleared that out, you can put your chauvinistic pride aside and read on! (Relax, I'm just teasing you lol)

As I was trying to sleep, I decided to listen to something useful, and the podcast below by Freakonomics, titled “Women are not men” (DUH!), caught my attention... The episode covers research resultsnof studies done on the differences between men and women from an economic and social stance, and it got me thinking...

To summarize what particularly caught my attention in the podcast, and on what my title is based:

Women can be more competitive than man, but aren't!

image credit:  ollyy  via  iStock

image credit: ollyy via iStock

But that’s only because they are brought up in cultures with male-dominance, such as liberal Western societies as well as African tribes where women have absolutely no rights (and where a woman is worth 10 cows!). However, in cultures where women are treated as dominants and have superior rights, they tend to be more competitive than men, even at a higher percentage than men in male-dominant cultures.

So the conclusion is: Competitiveness isn’t particularly a matter of (male) nature, but rather an effect of nurture.

The question is: Do we really want women to be more competitive? Wouldn’t competitiveness trigger aggression?

Women arennot so happy in this modern world

Credit: Loyall Sewall/www.jupiterimages.com

Credit: Loyall Sewall/www.jupiterimages.com

Although women, in most liberal societies, are now having more choices in life and more rights, and enjoying more benefits from the improvement of their academic, social, professional and economic status, they are less happy than they were before the liberalist/feminist revolution in the 1970s. Logically, women should be happier as they havenachieved a higher/freer status than they had in the past, but they are not, andnno one knows why. Some researchers speculate that it is perhaps they are stillnmaking less money than men, even at the same jobs, because they don’t negotiatenfor better salaries, and as previously stated, they don’t compete as much.

So the conclusion is: Women were happier in simpler times, with fewer choices and less confrontation.

The question is: Would more money make women happier? Is it not believed that money doesn't buy happiness, yet rich people tend to be happier than poor people?

Women are catching up to men, except in crime

In so many aspects, women are finally enjoying the same life as men, and having similar rights, yet they are far from committing as many criminal offences as men. In the US, 75% to 80% of criminalnoffences are committed by men, and only two criminal offences have more femalenoffenders than male offenders… Can you guess which two?! Well, prostitution (go figure!), and runaways (juveniles reported as having run away from home). There is still no explanation as to why women are committing less crimes than men… Or is it perhaps because they are too smart to get caught :P.

So the conclusion is: Even though women are becoming more like men, in the way they live their lives, they are still far less likely to commit crimes.

The question is: What is it that drive men to commit crimes, and that women seem to be immune to?

Before you answer any/all of the questions above, let me leave you with some other research results that were shared in the podcast:

  • Men are less likely to do favors for others.
  • Men are less likely to wash their hands.
  • Men are less likely to answer a question with “I don’t know” when they really don’t know the answer.

So, is it just me, or do women seem to be better than men?! And guys, do me a favor and go wash your hands, and then answer my questions only if you know :P

If you liked reading this post, then please subscribe, share and comment below! I would appreciate this turning into a conversation outside of my head lol

5 reasons yoga is good for you... Lenovo Yoga!

YogaBed.jpg

Starting your day in a healthy active way is a must to ensure the rest of the day goes well… Perhaps you wake up early work out take a warm shower and have a nice breakfast before you head out to work. Ideally that’s how most of us want to start the day but chances are like many of us you start your day with your phone or on your laptop! 

As a social media professional, I start my day and spend most of it using my laptop, and in the brief moments I have to step away from it, I stay connected using my smartphone. Needless to say, the devices we use are an integral part of our day, and can help “make it or break it”… Well maybe not as dramatic as that, but I can’t imagine anyone having a good mood using a laptop that is slow, and keeps freezing and crashing! I know that too well from my previous experience with the Macbook White, even after upgrading its RAM from 2GB to 4GB, it was slower than Saudi customs officers. (Sorry, I had to sneak in this joke :Phaha)

But fortunately, about 2 months ago, and after the news about the rise of Lenovo, I switched to Lenovo Yoga 13.

After a couple of years of using a Mac, it was a bit uneasy migrating back to a Windows device, especially since the Windows 8 was quite different than the earlier Windows OSs. However, after a little of getting used to it, the experience was quite pleasing… Without getting too technical, since you can find tons of technical and specs reviews through google, here’s why Lenovo Yoga is great for me and would be good for you too:

1. Light weight, heavy multitasking:

I travel around often, so I need something easy and light to carry with me that won’t take much space in my luggage or add too much weight. Smartphones and tablets might be a substitute but they can never fulfill all my requirements: multitasking between internet browsing, working with documents, while also watching a movie/TV series (sometimes all together!). At 1.5 Kg, a 13” screen, and Intel® Core™ i5, Lenovo Yoga 13 fits the job perfectly!
 

lenovoyogamultitasking.jpg

2. Long battery life:

Stressing on the importance of a light-weight heavy-multitasking device, a long battery life goes hand in hand, if you don’t want to have to carry the charger with you, and desperately seek and get stuck near power outlets. Lenovo Yoga 13’s battery will last up to 8 hours, so it is quite efficient when I’m out and about for the day. I know that it at least lasts for the train trip between Dammam and Riyadh, which is over 5 hours. Yes, that train is even slower than Saudi customs!
 

#NowWatching a new comedy series with Robin Williams running an #advertising agency, The #CrazyOnes. Love it! #funny

Posted by Manal Assaad on Friday, 22 November 2013

3. Multitouch Screen:

Touchscreens have become the norm, rather than the trend. I sure dreaded when smartphones quit tactile keyboards and turned all touchscreens; typing is one of my main activities and it’s just not as easy on touchscreens. But then you get used to touchscreens, and depend on them on your smartphone, and your tablet, so it only makes sense that your desktop PC or laptop joins the club! Using the touchscreen on the Lenovo Yoga makes multitasking easier as it gives you faster control over the task at hand, since you can just reach for what you need.

4. Different Modes of Use:

Lenovo Yoga is called so because of its flexibility, and the different modes (positions) it can assume. I use these modes depending on my need, flipping from full mode (typical laptop with keyboard) for heavy tasks to tablet mode for light tasks. It certainly helps to have one device fit for both roles, so I don’t need to also carry my tablet if I just wanted something sleek in my hands to browse through.

Having a lasertag wedding rehearsal dinner is an awesome idea! #himym

A photo posted by Manal Assaad منال أسعد (@themanalyst) on

 

5. Windows 8 OS:

Although many may point out the flaws of Windows 8, I haven't experienced any of them yet, fortunately. The OS is fast, and even with my HD almost full, tasks have been running smoothly, with no major crashes as I recall. Another notable feature is the InstantResume; I'd be watching something, pause it, put the laptop to sleep, and when I awaken it, it takes barely 10 seconds, and I can resume watching directly like the system was never interrupted! To someone with my impatience, seconds make a world of difference :P

So this has been my personal experience with the Lenovo Yoga so far! If you have any specific questions, post them in comments below. And subscribe to the blog to follow my updates about it or any other cool gadget I get ;)

Highlights of Arabnet Riyadh 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet Riyadh conference and it was a great experience as I anticipated, as I have attended almost all of of Arabnet's conferences so far, and have written about them in my blog, and it was always worth it!

If you have attended the conference, you would've benefited from the great connections you make during as well as the useful content and knowledge you learn. If you didn't attend, then you would have probably benefited from the live coverage via Twitter through the hashtag #عرب_نت. If you also didn't catch up with the live coverage, then you can at least get to know what went down in the conference by reading my article on Wamda: 

Women's entrepreneurship and social media: the two hottest trends at Arabnet Riyadh

Did you attend Arabnet Riyadh? What did you think of it? What other conferences have you attended and liked? Leave your opinion and recommendations below, and please share this post for your peers to pitch in as well.

Thank you for reading and subscribe to stay updated!