In 1974, at the age of 18, I left to join the military hoping to escape a strict home environment, little did I know what I was getting into, and also giving up on my dream of getting an MBA from a US university.
Left the Army after 7 years, an incredibly wonderful experience.
Much of what has made me go through life’s ups and downs is because of this amazing institution, especially the selfless lifelong friendships and comraderie!
For the next 7 years became the proverbial salesperson, walking the streets, knocking doors, selling advertising space, occasionally going hungry, living in rural communities, selling fertilizer and setting up my first entrepreneurial venture. An ad agency!
In 1990, 16 years from the date I joined the military, by now with my dear and very brave wife, Sheena, without whom I wouldn’t have achieved anything & our first child, Sara Haider Mehdi, in tow, finally got my long elusive and precious MBA from Boston University while working 3 part time jobs a full course load.
Graduated with a 3.42 GPA and the family grew with the addition of our second son, Syed Shayaan e Mohammad Mehdi.
Wanted to be an entrepreneur, but ended up again in Corporate life and being part of two major business launches. A Mobile Telcom and Pakistan’s first locally manufactured Toyota Corolla.
The family now complete with our youngest son, Syed Shaan e Ali Mehdi!
Left 4 years later & spent the next 9 in heavenly entreprenurial bliss as a Corporate Trainer, Management Consultant. Also launched a self funded interest free micro credit project to test Dr. Mohammed Younas’s model. Wildly successful. All 22 of my funded partners quadrupled their incomes.
But my most exciting venture was a technology start up to launch a Google type search engine. This was an amazingly exhilarating roller coaster ride resulting in my first bankruptcy, falling just as we ran out of time and money and on the wrong side of the Internet bubble and 9/11.
Had by now relocated outside Pakistan.
Still remember the day our search engine folded after 3 years of immense hard work and very little sleep, and initially laughingly, which didn’t last long, with my wife we counted our entire net worth of a few hundred dirhams plus 27 dirhams in the jar on top of our fridge. No money to pay rent, bills, children’s school fees etc. Cards maxed out.
It was financially & emotionally devastating! But perhaps my most wonderful life changing learning and experience.
While more were to come. I dont think people are ever the same again after they’ve been completely down and out in financial terms.
But three things helped. My Faith in Allah, the unflinching support from my wife, who stood by me like the Rock of Gibralter, uncomplaining to weather the storm and my dear mother who….!
I vowed never to start another business or work in Corporate life so became an academic, kind courtesy a friend, and started teaching at a university, becoming their Chair of Business and Head of their Technology Park, and also attempted a PhD.
But found academia incredibly slow, boring and stuffy filled with inflated egos, though extremely comfortable and financially lucrarive and so found myself lured back into the corporate world with a leading bank, for another 3 years, kind courtesy another dear friend. This helped me to finally dig myself out of our financial hole.
The entrepreneurial bug still biting, I restarted entrepreneurship in 2008.
Wonderful bliss for another 7 years as a Management Consultant, helping financial institutions transform their sales cultures and also developing a proprietary sales process technology platform which I still own and now updating to current needs.
Sara our eldest by now married and we welcomed our dear son in law, Faraaz into our family! An absolute gem, Masha Allah.
Soon after, Alhamdulillah, we welcomed Myesha, our granddaughter and first grandchild.
During this time attempted, in collaboration with a couple of other gents, to develop and launch an online free education project for Pakistan by developing over a 1000 videos in 5 languages English, Urdu, Balochi, Pushto, Sindhi for grades 1 to 5 in 6 subjects. English, Urdu, Science, Maths, General Studies, Information Technology.
The world famous Khan Academy very generously, gave us their entire volume of online courses for free, kind courtesy Dr. Atta ur Rehman, who was our Patron and Bilal Musharraf, then with the Khan Academy.
The objective was to develop a complete online, lesson by lesson, program of teaching videos for classes 1 to 12 based on Pakistan’s primary and secondary school curriculum!
Invested my entire life’s savings on the project but sadly my personal circumstances and conflicting objectives with those I was working with didn’t allow us to pursue this further.
I still think Pakistan’s education future lies in providing quality access to public schools by streaming lessons to their classrooms taught by best teachers of the subject, synchronously or asynchronously.
So finally 6 years ago relocated to a new country.
Restarting my consulting practice or getting a job in a new country was and is tough. Its all about networks! Very quickly ran out of whatever little funds I’d left.
So by now had become a fully certified “serial bankruptreprenuer!”
So rather than dwell on my own foolhardiness became an Uber driver because didn’t want just any job.
While it was tough driving 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes even 17 or 18 at a stretch, in freezing temperatures, many times right through the night, I just loved the ego flattening, life changing experience at Uber and the amazing conversations with my riders.
I frequently found muself becoming the “Uber Shrink” as my riders poured out their hearts and problems. Quite a few having a good sob as well. I did over 6000 rides and became a “rider preferred Uber driver”, which 2% of Uber drivers got. A cherished achievement!
Then rejoined corporate life in one of Canada’s largest telcom company!
Hated it & thankfully in less than 2 years was fired alongwith our entire department! The company called it “rightsizing”
By now we’d been blessed with of our second grandchild, Meekal! Alhamdulillah!
Past 5 years dabbled in media as a TV anchor, in Pakistani politics with the current leadership, geo political blogging and the occasional newspaper OPED!
An amazing experience, which I enjoyed while it lasted, but also got hammered from all sides of the political spectrum including my former employers the Army!
Many thinking I’m an agent or mole of some foreign government!
As our younger son says, Papa there are at least four people fighting amongst each other to take you down. PMLN, PPP, The Army and now even your love, the PTI. But the bug remains and I still dip in occasionally!
A friend calls me “an equal opportunity offender”.
A year ago, I restarted, hopefully my final and successful entrepreneurial journey. Alhamdulillah!
And of course there are challenges of learning new ropes, new business models, new technologies, understanding new people who have different professional values than one’s own!
But these are just old dog challenges! And hopefully one will overcome them!
My 7 learnings!
1. Never Give In!
2. Keep learning!
3. Do what you love!
4. Make friends & nurture relationships, especially with your spouse and children! My wife, Sheena and children, Sara, Shayaan and Shaan, have been absolutely amazing in helping us navigate through our challenges!
5. But don’t depend or expect help from anybody. If someone does, consider it a bonus. You’re pretty much on your own! In my case. I had the wonderful good fortune of one friend who reached out.
6. Establish regular routines and habits!
7. Most importantly, keep your intentions pure, hold fast to your Faith, in yourself and your Creator! and take Action!
Insha Allah, this too shall pass as we all transition!
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