TEDxCairo - Hisham El-Gamal - The Magic Of Chasing Dreams

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 17.11.2011

It's a great day, isn't it?
I was thinking maybe I should leave...
I've heard lots of inspiring talks already I don't think I have something better to say but I will try.
One of the characteristics that distinguish us, humans, from the rest of creatures
is our ability to imagine and dream of things we love and aspire for.
We shape our dreams just as we would want them to be.
But that's not just what's impressive. What is truly impressive is our ability to transform these dreams into reality.
Thousands of years ago, when a lion got hungry it would chase and hunt down a deer.
Back then, when man got hungry, he pretty much did the same thing...he also hunted down his food.
Now, years later, when a lion would get hungry, it still does the same thing: hunt down a deer.
But when man gets hungry...he orders home delivery!
You would never come across a lion that dreams of a food delivery idea,
so that it doesn't have to hunt down a deer everytime it gets hungry!
And you would never come across a deer that dreams of a small business project,
so that if it gets killed by the hungry lion its fawns would not have a hard time finding their way around life alone!
Only we know how to do this, only we know how to dream.
Throughout my life so far, I've taken up 3 jobs - I was an engineer for 8 years,
then made a career shift and worked in sales for about 8 more years.
But for the last 10 years, my primary work was into inspiring people to dream.
And then helping them make their dreams come true.
Many people wonder what brings me all the way from engineering to making dreams come true.
Like everything else, it began with a dream.
When I was a young boy, my dream was to sing.
There you go, you are laughing at me already! Almost as if they know how good a singer I am...
Anyway, I was always somehow an introverted child; not someone who speaks his mind so easily.
Whenever I used to watch a singer perform, I would be amazed
at how he is standing in front of his audience, so confidently,
and singing with a deep and resounding voice and singing heartfelt lyrics
that make girls get emotional and shed their tears.
Back then of course I also knew how to do that quite well, but the only girl I ever managed to make cry was my little sister.
So the first opportunity that presented itself for me to makethat dream of mine come true Was back in school in 3rd grade.
Ms. Rita, our music teacher, had made us learn a song off by heart
and we were going to perform that song, and I was ecstatic that day!
I was standing among my friends, dressed in my ironed shorts and bow tie,
All set to dazzle the world with my singing and get a round of applause from the girls.
Ms. Rita arranged us in a chorus line and went to her piano to start playing.
And we began singing, 5 seconds later,
Ms. Rita stopped playing, got up and walked towards us,
and pointed at me and said, "Do not sing" And she went back to her piano and continued playing!
I went back home that day and I found my dad reading the newspaper,
I wanted to tell him about what happened at school that day, But he was occupied with the newspaper.
So I sat beside him and I got bored so I started singing.
Yet again...5 seconds later, dad brought down his newspaper, and looked at me and said, "Do not sing" and then he continued reading the paper.
And ever since then, this has become the spontaneous and expected reaction whenever anyone hears me sing.
Only once did this reaction change - I was with a strict religiousfriend of mine, and I wanted to tease him, so I started singing.
5 seconds later, my friend turned to me with a wide unexpected grin on his face,
and he said sarcastically "You are living proof that music should in fact be forbidden."
My first childhood dream did not of course come true, but the idea itself of dreaming continued to fascinate me until it became a major part of my work and life.
And this is what I want to talk about today - the notion of the dream.
Many people dismiss dreaming as a romantic and naive notion,
an entertaining idea, but it gets you nowhere.
I, personally, disagree with this perspective.
In my work I meet so many people who have stopped dreaming altogether.
And because they have stopped dreaming, their lives have become dull and routine.
So what I want to talk about today are some things I've come to learn about dreams and their importance
So that I might be able to persuade some of our audience today to dream once again and to pursue these dreams.
People are like icebergs, only its tip is apparent, but the bigger part of it is underneath the surface.
We are pretty much that way, only little of us is apparent but most of our identity and personality are hidden,
and not just hidden to other people, but to ourselves as well.
That hidden part of ourselves is what we refer to as our subconscious.
Our subconscious is a mine of our intricate secrets and inner workings that drive us through life without our conscious awareness.
This subconscious is all about out principles, fears, desires, and priorities.
The dream drives us away from the tip of the iceberg which is our daily life, its routine, and its troubles and attempts to liberate us into the deep expanses of our subconscious.
It gives us a key to the magical world underneath,
and when we begin to explore the inner workings of our subconscious and our true hidden desires, we can actually attempt to work on them and make them come true.
I have a friend who was a top-level manager in a reputed company.
And in spite of the financial stability and comfort that he enjoyed, he was not satisfied at all with his job.
And on one day, I decided to have a talk with him and play a small game I like to play with people.
I described to him a hypothetical situation and asked him to consider it. Imagine that from tomorrow morning you won't be getting paid for your job,
you would still somehow live in financial comfort, but you won't be getting paid for your job, and in return you are allowed to pick any job you want to do, what would it be?
My friend took his time to think about it, then told me that he would be a hunter in the Amazon forests!
I asked him to give me reasons why he would choose such a peculiar job! He said that firstly it will be truly adventurous, not one day is like any other.
Secondly, he would be living in the forests, away from the city chaos, noise, pollution, and traffic.
Thirdly, he was tired of constraints and restrictions, he wants to be liberated, and to enjoy the luxury of hunting only when he feels like it.
He does not want to be driven by deadlines, targets, and planning meetings!
Of course, we realize being a hunter in the Amazon forests is a bit too unreal, and there isn't much of a market gap for Amazon hunters!
But essentially the dream of hunting is not what matters, but the reasons he elaborated are what matter.
If he manages to take them into account and incorporate them into a new lifestyle he would become truly happy once again.
Years later, my friend quit his job and started a diving center in Hurghada.
And now he wakes up every morning without a clue as to how his day will go, every day is a new day, not one day is like the other.
He lives among the nature he loves, and away from the city hubbub,
and is not enslaved by meetings or deadlines - just the way he dreamt it to be.
I've learnt something really important from my friend and his dream.
A dream may appear in its exterior to be a very romantic, naive and unrealistic notion - like the Amazon hunting.
But a dream, in its core, helps point out a way for us.
If we interpret it correctly, and we try to follow that way, we find ourselves heading closer to what matters to us more, and to what would satisfy us more.
When I used to work in sales, the company I worked in would hold an annual meeting in which they would reward the salesmen who made the most sales over the past year,
and in one of these years, I dreamt I wanted to be one of these peopleAnd there was a contract that I wanted to get signed, and if I had sealed this deal, it would have been a major success in my field.
I never worked as hard and diligently as I worked during this year, I worked like a passionate madman,
I woke up everyday knowing exactly what I needed to do, and I would do it.
Whenever I would feel drained or frustrated, I would vividly see the VicePresident of Sales calling my name in the annual meeting to receive my award,
and I would forget all my frustrations and get motivated again.
And this is another point I want to raise; life is a tough ride.
We all persevere and struggle to pave our way through life, but we just do it in different ways.
Some people persevere not knowing for sure why are they doing that, without wanting it or enjoying it, they do it just because everyone else around them is.
These people wake up every morning and look in the mirror and feel frustrated that they have to go down to work and do the same thing they did yesterday,
and the ultimate frustration is knowing that they will be doing tomorrow exactly what they will be doing today.
Other people struggle and work hard, but dream while they are at it. When you dream, you know why you are struggling,
and you begin to enjoy the effort and ride you take to make your dream come true.
You get exhausted too, and you are completely drained after a long hard day, but you can take it in stride,
because you know that all the effort will get you to your dream at some point. The work becomes dream-oriented.
Some people run around and work hard without value or meaning, and that undermines all the work and effort, and deems them useless.
Without meaning and value, life would become dull and depressing, and so do all your pursuits of success.
A dream helps define these 2 things: meaning and value. When I dream, my aspirations become more than just financial comfort or salary or a job, my aspirations take a more meaningful form.
My dream is a personal vow that my effort will make the worlda better place, and my life a happier one.
Anyway, during that year in sales, I managed to successfully seal the deal and get that contract signed, and it was a significant success in the region.
I went to the sales annual meeting, proud and confident of myself, certain that the award is mine.
I thought I should wear my school shorts and bow tie in memory of my old dream, but I wisely decided against it, it wouldn't be taken too well in the workplace!
And as the Vice President was announcing the award winner, and I was all set to get up and receive my award, I heard him call out for another name.
This is how I probably looked after that meeting.
It destroyed me. I spent a long time recovering from the shock, and wondering what happened and why.
And until today I still have no answers, and I don't know why I never got that award.
Then a friend of mine raised the question, "You spent a whole year of your life pursuing that award, and you never got it. What did you get out of all this?!"
By the time I finally managed to answer this question, I had become a new person altogether.
During that year, I was living with all my heart and soul. I was learning something new every day, I was discovering and knowing more about myself day after day.
My self-esteem and confidence in my abilities were developing everyday. In short, I was truly living that year.
And this is the other thing I've learnt about the dream. The dream is important, but what's far more important is the journey you make to reach your dream.
The moment you enjoy when your dream comes true is but a short moment, it can last for an hour, for a day, or for a month.
But the journey you make to get there, this is your lifetime, this is your longer moment. This should be your ultimate reward, even if your dream eventually does not come true.
On the 25th of January, 2011, I was home with some friends, we were just chilling out, eating and drinking and enjoying, and without a care in the world.
By the end of the day, I had gotten my harshest slap in the face.
I was like everyone who went down to protest that day in Egypt, I believed that we all deserved better.
And I had a dream to see Egypt once again like the Egypt we read about in history books.
But it was a passive dream, I was not doing or saying anything about it.
On the 28th of January, I was at crossroads in my life and I had a destiny shaping decision to make.
I have been preaching people for the past 10 years to dream and to pursue their dreams, and to make them believe it can happen.
I would tell them that every dream comes with a price tag, and that you need to pay the price for your dream to come true.
If I hadn't gone down to protest on the 28th I would never be able to stand up and face these people again. So I decided I will do it.
And when I was leaving to go down to the streets, I heard a voice questioning me, "Why are you doing down? What are you doing? Protests? Demonstrations?..."
"...Violence?! You got involved in only 2 skirmishes in your whole life, and you got beat up in both!..."
"...And you have knee roughness anyway, it will take a few strikes from the security forces and you would be down!..."
"...And by the way you are 51 years old! And this is a young revolution by the youth,..."
"...so even if the revolution works out, you will be classified as over-age and you would never make it to the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution!"
And needless to say, I never made it to the Coalition of course!
This voice was pulling me back, asking me to stay back at home, and not go after trouble.
I know that voice quite well, it's not the first time to hear it.I hear it all the time,
everytime I want to take charge and do something in my life worth doing. It is a frustrating and demotivating voice.
Ms. Rita had shot me down with a mercy bullet and killed me immediately, but this voice, if I let it, kills me softly and slowly.
It is the voice of Fear.
On the 28th of January, I came to terms with my Fear and admitted to myself that my Fear was stronger than my Will.
And since I wasn't able to overcome it, I decided to confront it and talk with my Fear.
I said to Fear, "If I do not go down to the streets and protest today, I will be ashamed of myself, I will not be able to face myself or the people..."
"...How will I make a living anymore out of dreams? I will become jobless...and dreamless, you would rob my dream away,..."
Fear replied back, "Now you want to go down and protest for freedom without me! You think you would have managed to get anywhere in life without me by your side,..."
"...I have always had your back, and kept you out of so many troubles and hassles."
That sounded very reasonable indeed, Fear definitely saved me from a lot of trouble before.
What can I do about it? My Dream and Will won't have me stay at home, but Fear is waiting for me at the door and won't let me go down. There must be a compromise of some sort.
On the 28th, I agreed with Fear that we go down to the street together. But we agreed that he comes by my side and not ahead of me.
And that Fear takes care of me and rationalizes my actions only, but not to hold me back.
And we went down to the Egyptian street to protest, and it was a truly unforgettable and rich experience, for me and my children alike.
I learnt that day that every big Dream comes along with a big Fear.
And that we will not always be able to put down Fear, but we can negotiate with Fear to stand by our side instead of ahead of us.
I also learnt that courage is not doing something without Fear, that is recklessness. Courage is doing something inspite of your Fear.
And finally I learnt that if you want to dream you have to become friends with Fear, because Fear will always be around.
Dreaming is a blessing from God, it is the beginning of everything nice and different, it is the key to the magical inner workings of our subconscious.
It defines meaning for our life and its pursuits, and faithful hope that the world will become a better place because of our efforts.
And so long as we are pursuing our dreams, we are truly living. Whenever you confront your Fear and challenge it, you get more motivated to dream even bigger.
The young boy in ironed school shorts and bow tie wanted to sing, he dreamt to stand in front of people and sing impressive lyrics.
To be able to stand without fear and in confidence and say a few words that might touch people and their lives.
It seems it has come true, he stands now to say words that might touch people's lives; there is just no music playing in the background though.