Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Succesful Entrepreneur Encourages Arabs & Americans To Get Along In New Book
Young Arab-American Author Is Bridging Cultural Gaps In A Post-9/11 World
Ryan El-Hosseiny, an Arab-American entrepreneur, is seeking to bridge cultural gaps between Muslims, Christians, and Jews and between different ethnicities and nationalities. With a nickname of “Egypt,” he knows something about confronting prejudice and discrimination.
Born in New Jersey, he moved around a number of times during his childhood, including stints in Oregon, Saudi Arabia, and Florida. His exposure to different cultural communities helped him to adapt to others and to find the good in people.
His new book, True and Rich, explores how he came to not only discover his own faith but how we can co-exist with others who are different from us.
An ancestor, a knight, migrated to Egypt five generations ago from Saudi Arabia. The family was known as fierce warriors. Ryan chose to call himself “Egypt.”
Ryan talks about life as a young male Arab-American in a post-September 11 America, shedding insights on how, despite people’s beliefs, we can all get along to love one another or at least live peacefully side by side.
What really convinced him of believing in a world filled with peace and unity? A recent visit to Dubai, UAE.
“As a young Arab-American wrapped up in my crazy life in the US, I did not connect with my culture one bit,” writes Ryan. But when he went to Egypt and then to Dubai for two weeks this past fall, his eyes opened up.
“In this trip to the Middle East,” he writes, “I felt that for the first time in my life I really connected with my roots. I felt at home, at peace, and closer to my Lord.” He has moved closer to his faith.
He couldn’t believe how Dubai offered a diverse population, religious and secular together, where the latest fashions were worn side by side with people in traditional religious garb, where the world’s biggest buildings stood, and where peace and serenity filled the air. “To see Muslim couples just being Muslims and enjoying their time with everybody else when they weren’t looked at as weird or as terrorists was so novel, so refreshing,” says Ryan.
Ryan’s business dealings include working with companies in the Middle East and he is increasingly linking them with American business ventures. He’d love to bring a piece of Dubai back to America.
“In the US,” writes Ryan, “there is a real culture of the individual. But in Dubai there was a real awareness that we all co-exist on this planet and that we need to respect those around us in all that we do. I was really moved by the experience.”
Ryan is in the process of developing a world cultural center in Miami, looking to bridge the gap between all types of people. The man who calls himself “Egypt” says: “Keeping God in mind and praying will work miracles for you.”
Ryan, who is a client of Media Connect, the PR firm that I work for, has a very insightful Q & A below.. I hope you enjoy it:
1. Where does the title, True and Rich, come from? It comes from me always being real with myself and others. That isn’t always easy to do, and being yourself in this world is a big accomplishment. Rich comes from how I have always viewed myself. I always knew I was special, always believed I was going to be rich because I was rich inside. I encourage others to be true and rich
2. How should you define successful? Success is when you can be at peace with yourself and you are doing what you love to do in life. Many people equate success with money but what needs to come first is for each of us to dig deep within ourselves to see what each of us wants to do with our lives – and then to have the courage, conviction, and discipline to go out there and make it happen.
3. What are the four strongest skills or characteristics an entrepreneur must have in order to be successful? Faith, separating himself from people that are not moving forward, living an around-the-clock work-ethic, and being a visionary.
4. Why did you drop out of high school? Any regrets about graduating via cheating on a home school project? I never liked what was taught in school, I wanted to learn about making more money. I dropped out so I could work and get a car. No regrets, I gave people opportunities to make money and get better at school at the same time.
5. As a young Arab-American male in a post-9/11 world, how have you been able to navigate your way through a business world that holds certain prejudices and preconceived notions? I ignore what I see in the media. I focus on being the best example for Arab-Americans. Being young and Arab doesn’t make it any easier and I know many have not done business with me because of my religion and ethnicity, but I believe God has something better for me in store.
6. What role has faith played in your life? When I look back, every time I moved to a new and/or higher level in life, faith played a bigger role. We all have heard the saying "More money, more problems." They are only problems if your faith is not strong. Faith has taught me to look at these so called "problems" as "challenges." Having faith, which I engage in daily, gives me the strength to keep moving forward and to not view these challenges as problems. I believe I must keep increasing my level of faith every day because for every new level in life, there is a new devil. Faith is the reason why I'm where I'm at today.
7. What did you discover on your recent journey to Dubai? I discovered the real me. I feel as Dubai was the outlet I needed to let Ryan come out to be himself. Seeing a Muslim country that represents the Arab people the way the UAE does something I have always dreamed of. In the most humbling way I say this: If Dubai were a person it would be me, because it’s where America meets New Arabia. Islam is all around you and all walks of people and business are there. Dubai is very advanced. To me it’s #1 in the world. It has great leadership and is a proud place.
8. How can society bridge a cultural gap? Society needs to be more open to other people’s cultures and understand that all cultures have their own ways of living and doing business. The first step in bridging cultural gaps, in my opinion, is to avoid generalizations about a culture. When people don't understand a culture, they take one or two examples of people and generalize it across the board that all people from that specific culture are like them. The second step is to just respect that culture. When you respect their ways, you will find yourself a little curious as to why people from that culture do what they do. The third step is to learn as much as you can about cultures around you. America is muli-cultural, and if we can get everyone to know about different cultures, we will be better in interacting socially and in conducting business. We are all beautiful people.
9. When younger, you were almost killed by a street rival and then you wanted him dead. Looking back now, can you believe how at risk you were and how far you’ve come since then? I am amazed at how I went through all of that and how I came out of that state of mind to the state of mind I am now in today. Sometimes, we just need to outlast our youth.
10. You used to sell drugs, hang with the wrong crowd, and party all night. What made you see the light you needed to change this? Going to jail opened my eyes to the lifestyle I was living. I knew I had to change and use my gift to better my family and myself.
11. Who are your role models? Four men: 50 Cent, Jay Z, Mark Cuban, and H.H Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid. I related to 50 in 2003-2005, because he’s been through a lot, shot nine times, had all record labels against him, became one of the most successful artists and a great entrepreneur. To this day I feel he is one of the most misunderstood rappers. Jay Z came from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to being worth close to $600 million today. He is a true gentleman, He has changed a lot, like me, but his core has not. He’s always been a man of his word, works hard, and employs unprecedented business moves, His portfolio in business is diversified and he is down to earth as a person. He does so much for society. Mark Cuban hustled whatever he could hustle since he was a kid and became a billionaire. The vision he has in business is amazing. He has a family and loves sports. He is a great example of how a couple billion dollars doesn’t change REAL people. Lastly, H.H Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid, who shows leadership, vision and excellence, is an example of Arab excellence. From Emirates Airlines to the Palm Jumeriah to the Burj Khalifa, he has built a great city. He is always striving for excellence in everything he does. When business experts came to consult with him about The Palm, they told him it would be a very bad idea and he should not construct it. H.H did not listen to them and believed in his vision. He pumped tons of sand and rock from the Persian Gulf to construct the amazing man-made island called The Palm in Dubai.
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