Saturday, 20 March 2021

Book Review: To God through money, by Mohamed Geraldez

I completed reading this book today, within a week of purchasing it. It's been a long time since I've read a book this fast, given my time constraints, so that alone should say something! 

Sharing my review on Goodreads and keeping the reflection notes from each chapter in this post for reference.

I was also smiling as I read Mohamed's views on value systems, knowing one's self, self-reflections and goals of living debt-free. These anecdotes tie in quite nicely with my RAGE framework I've been developing for the last 6 years now.

Goodreads Review

The title "To God through money" is what immediately caught my attention as I browsed niche book collection at my local coffee shop. That, and the author's name "Mohamed Geraldez". Who is this guy? How come I've never heard of him before? Is this yet another one of those self-made autobiography books I doubt?? Intrigued, I bought the book with mild curiosity. 

It turns out the purchase was a good call! 

I'm so glad to have learnt about Mohamed Geraldez. It's a book of hope, admiration, motivation and respect. It is also humbling. Why? Mohamed is an American, who found Islam (almost by accident?) and became a seeker of Truth that took him to far places on Earth, the deserts in North Africa, no less! For me, as someone born into Islam "it's what my forefathers always did", I am always humbled by stories from new Muslims. 

Whilst Mohamed writes his memoirs as an aid for his progeny and generations to come, being the first Muslim - this book should be read by anyone, religious and non-religious alike. Get a glimpse of Islam and how it attracted someone from the outside. Muslims can get a taste for balancing business and life. 

Learn about business and entrepreneurship. Reflection points are shared to trigger "discover yourself" moments. 

Mohamed Geraldez - thank you for courageously putting yourself out there by sharing your story! Well written and suitable for anyone looking to improve their life, seeking answers or anyone looking for inspiration from diverse perspectives. Highly recommended.

Useful Self Reflection Points for Life/Story Mapping

  • According to your parents, what was a particular characteristic you had as a child?
  • What did you accomplish as a kid that made you proud of yourself?
  • Did your parents' love story have an effect on your upbringing?
  • What trait from your childhood has stayed with you until now?
  • Do you think your early years had a massive effect on your current relationship with money?
  • What events from your youth indicated the type of person you would become?
  • Who were the major figures in your child rearing?
  • Did you grow up in an environment where you felt like you belonged, or did you feel like an outsider?
  • Has any death in your life affected you so much that you made a permanent change?
  • What are some of the biggest adjustments your parents had to make because of your birth? If they did not have to, why not?
  • Were you a bully or were you bullied as a child? If either, does this still bother you?
  • Is there something you regretfully did during your youth that you are embarrassed to think about now?
  • Were you exposed to an assortment of cultures growing up?
  • Did you yearn to belong to a group or were you content with those around you?
  • Did you grow up in a religious home?
  • How would you describe yourself in regard to religion? Atheist? Spiritual? Literal? Other?
  • What period in your life did you start questioning long-standing beliefs? How do you resolve them?
  • Are you still close to your best friend from childhood / high school?
  • Is there one person in your life who totally altered your life's trajectory?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your parents?
  • What is one thing you have done in your entire life that you wish you could take back? How have you dealt with it?
  • Are there people other than family members who helped raise you? If possible, give them a call to say, 'Thank You.'
  • Have you ever failed in starting a company? What were the lessons you learned?
  • Have you ever met a person or people that truly amazed you? What was it about them?
  • Have you ever conquered a great fear? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
  • Have you ever been culture-shocked? Where did this occur and why?
  • What has been the most transformative phase in your life?
  • Have you ever had a 'happiest day in my life'? If so, what caused it?
  • Have you ever had someone like 'Brother, Sisyer, Father, etc. I never had'? What made that person special to you?
  • What is one thing or event that if you did it, your life would be complete? What is preventing you?
  • Do you work well under stressful conditions? What helps you?
  • What are the different periods in your life that you learned a lot about yourself and the world?
  • Is there a dream or something of significance that you passed on in life because of barriers or difficulties?
  • Have you ever worked so hard at a job that you became sick? What kept you going?
  • What was one of the lowest points in your life? How were you able to bounce back?
  • What was the most fulfilling job you have ever had? What did you learn from the experience?
  • Have you ever been laid off or fired from your job? How did you deal with it?
  • What is the most expensive mistake you have made in your life?
  • Have you ever taken a risk, and it paid off? When did it not work out?
  • Has there ever been an instance where you went against your gut and regretted it? What about a time that you went with it and worked out?
  • Have you ever had mentors in your life? What did they assist you with?
  • Why is your best friend, your best friend?
  • Do you have any personal finance rules you live by? What are they?
  • From the list of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, which one(s) resonates with you the most? Why?
  • What are your "happy moments" in life?
  • Have you ever given any though about your legacy? If so, what you you want it to say about you?
  • What is your Happy Money monthly amount?
  • Has there ever been a time when you refused someone's advice, but later acted upon it? What changed your mind?
  • What helps you in making important decisions?
  • What habits or practices do you have for continuous self-improvement?
  • What events or decisions were not in your favour, but with time, you were actually glad they were not? Why?
  • When you think about the fisherman and the banker story, what things come to your mind about your own life?
  • What blameworthy personality traits do you have that you would like to rid yourself of?
  • Is there a particular friendship you no longer have, but wish it would return? What is holding you back?
  • What is your love language? If you are still blessed with one or both of them, what are your parents' love languages?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
  • Have you ever felt that pursuing success in this world meant jeopardising your success in the next world? If so, why?
  • Was it ever in your spiritual practice to think about your death? If not, do you think you will now incorporate it?
  • What spiritual program do you have in place to reconnect with your Lord and regain perspective in life?
  • What charity is dear to your heart? When was the last time you donated to it?
  • Are you debt-free? If not, is it your top financial goal?

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Some simple but powerful, useful reminders

A LinkedIn connection shared this post that resonated with me on so many levels, I just had to capture these for posterity on my blog. A picture is worth a thousand words, I could write so much about each one!

Monday, 18 January 2021

2020 review, major decisions & re-invention

Around this time last year in January 2020, I shared (in this post) how I tracked against my personal & professional aspirations of the previous year 2019, accounted for my time spent and narrowed down the major questions (and hence decisions) that remained open. 

This was all before Covid-19 happened, but despite that disruption, I remained committed to holding myself accountable for realising my aspirations. I track these aspirations through a framework I created roughly five years ago, aimed at lifestyle design, something that is always a work-in-progress and is never complete. This framework is called my RAGE (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations) model. It has seen multiple iterations and has remained my guiding compass, even as I enter 2021 - the year of massive change for both myself as well as my family.

Looking back to 2020, it started with these open questions:
  1. How do I get my work hours of the previous three years under control? What am I willing to walk away from?
  2. Where next do I take my career? Do I remain with Pay TV moving further up to Group CIO/CTO or should I do something else altogether at the risk of going down a couple steps in the ladder?
  3. How serious am I about working with, or starting my own NGO/NPO non-profit?
  4. What am I going to do with my growing list of product / business start-up ideas?
  5. Should I leave South Africa and return back to the UK; or should I relocate to another country whilst still working in Pay TV?
We all know how 2020 turned out - but - despite that black swan - I nevertheless wanted to be antifragile and took bold action to not play it safe! Instead I dove head first into uncertainty, however, I did lay out a detailed plan. Those questions I needed to answer were Type 1 decisions (according Jeff Bezos' types of decisions), which called for careful deliberation & planning. So, using my RAGE model as my guide again, along with inspiration from a few folks (authors, friends, mentors, coaches & critics), I was able to address those questions by taking the following BIG decisions:
  1. I quit my job, my own sabbatical with no return policy - thus creating space for me to rest, recuperate & reflect. This wasn't an easy decision to make, as I was walking away from some rather good monetary incentives due to cash out in early 2021, and as a result of Covid-19, the prudent thing to do would've been to stick it out until the world recovered. Yet, I left anyway, putting into perspective What am I willing to walk away from?
    • This was only possible because 5 years ago, when I started my RAGE model, one of the aspirations for my persona as an individual was "To be debt-free on the road to financial independence". Since I was debt free, and maybe 30% on the road to financial independence, I had enough saved up to afford a break for at least a year.
    • Life is short, we've lost loved ones unexpectedly in 2020. I have tweaked my life model somewhat to weigh more strongly toward living a life of meaning, purpose & enjoying the present more.
  2. I decided to leave TV behind - switch domains - do something else preferably in cloud services. I will use my sabbatical time to ramp-up and then land a new job. This too wasn't quite that easy:
    • I'd reached a peak in my career with a highly respected company in the industry, although I knew I had gaps to close to move to the next level. It took a long time to mentally let go, but I found my flame again that helped me remember my past as inspiration to change my future.
    • I even considered going to medical school - but that didn't make much sense financially in terms of my family responsibilities and commitments.
    • Being the practical guy, I ended up cutting my sabbatical short because I landed a job much sooner than I anticipated - and as a result - ended up making not only a new job decision, but also a relocation to a new city decision too!
  3. Not serious about starting my own NGO - I spent a good few days unpacking this topic. I even went through a "finding purpose" retrospective and mind-mapped the options. Lo and behold, there appeared a golden thread throughout my life on working with blind and partially-sighted people. So I planned to use my sabbatical to explore that option...but that was short-lived. So decision: NO, not financially feasible for me. Instead I'll join accessibility-related community meetups at work, continue to donate money to causes and look to committing some of my time as a volunteer (which has been difficult, since it doesn't appear anywhere in my Persona priorities).
  4. Not serious about being an entrepreneur because I don't have the time nor the resources to focus on it properly. I will rather focus my energy into innovating at work. I will still build and maintain my ideas repository because I'm an ideas guy - but if the timekeeping from the last five years has shown me anything - it's not that important to me - a wantrepreneur! I will still look at angel investing opportunities though. Thus "Being an Entrepreneur / Run my own product start-up" has been deprecated as a persona. It's actually such a relief to just let that go and leave it all behind! Shedding unrealistic aspirations reduces stress and anxiety, reinforcing a sense of perspective. A cup can only hold that much water before overflowing, the same with life!
  5. Decided to remain in South Africa but instead try a new city, Cape Town. I was lucky to meet a career aspiration and a lifestyle aspiration (to live in a coastal city & enjoy nature) at the same time, but I'm still a little far off from having my own beachfront holiday homes so a 20 minute drive to the seaside is a good start though!!
Now, as I begin my 2021 journey, having addressed those serious questions, some of which were the cause of much stress and anxiety at the workplace, home & personal well-being fronts - 2021 will simply be about appreciating new experiences cross-cutting both work and life, aiming for harmony, acceptance, learning and growth (spiritual, personal & professional).  My personas remain largely the same priorities, their aspirations and specific goals will be adjusted for the next set milestones. I have hit reset so the process of reinvention will take time, I'm not going to rush things by being overly aggressive in setting unrealistic goals!

I have indeed made Type 1 (one-way-door) decisions, making it very difficult to go back now. I have rekindled my flame and now it's up to me (as it has always been) to make my life more interesting and meaningful!

2021 is about re-invention
I believe it can be done!!

As usual, I share my RAGE metrics with you - see below for my 2020 time-keeping performance...
Hint: Click on the images to view them properly.

If you'd like to chat about my RAGE model, tools and other frameworks I use to help manage my personal & professional life, please feel free to reach out! I believe as human beings we are all striving to make sense of our life/work/world, regardless of our culture, belief systems, etc. I believe I have found a method that could be useful...and I'm happy to jump on a video call with you for free life/work coaching! It has helped a few people already, so maybe that says something??