It’s Friday night (7th Feb 2014) and guess what I’m at my computer again. I’ve got an admission to make. I’m a workaholic. Yes. It sucks. Not that Ferrari driving, spending 4 hours a week on the computer internet millionaire. But a happy chap on his computer working at 9.36 pm on a Friday night.
But I’ll tell you why I’m a workaholic. And if you want to be successful in almost anything you probably will need to be a learnaholic and a workaholic. Many internet educators will tell you that you can make passive income working a few hours a week but the truth is it takes much more to master almost any skill. There isn’t really true passive income and if Mark Z quit improving facebook in 2005, it would have been long dead and you would never have seen this post on facebook.
Firstly, why I work my behind off: Pure and simple: I LOVE what I do.
To me this doesn’t feel like work. For me sitting around a table and making small talk to pass time feels like work. The cricket? Politics? The Super Bowl? The weather? Well guess what – yes its nice to talk about but I really don’t have an impact and you and I discussing it for hours isn’t going to change the outcome.
Working on an idea though. That brings me pleasure. It could be your business, non-profit or whatever you want to get done. Or it could be mine (in which case I’m even more interested). Small talk though. It’s good for so many minutes and then it starts to feel like work.
I used to get embarrassed “what are your hobbies” – well I tried the guitar, golf and a bunch of other things but those I think I was doing to fit in to society and to put something cool on my social resume. For me being in front of a computer and writing is my hobby. And sometimes a random rant on facebook is good enough vehicle to let out. I can not tell you how many of these rants I have saved on my Evernote which I started out as blog posts but I always thought them not good enough for blogposts and so I am now trying this thing where I rant out to my facebook status (feels more informal) and some thoughts eventually I will turn into proper blogposts.
I work my behind off as I can see how the world is able to change. And able to change faster than at any stage in history. How the internet will bring a massive change and improve millions of lives (it already has improved millions but is only just beginning to impact the emerging world too!).
A few hours ago I had a brainstorm. So I shot off an email to the head of British Council in Pakistan:
hope you are well. We would love to work with British Council but am not sure you have budget etc to be able to support activities. Here is a simple idea would like to pursue:
We we take 12 young beggars on the streets of Islamabad. We will figure out what their current income is. Over next 3 to 6 months I will coach them to earn at least 25 % more than they do begging through the use of the internet. We will make a documentary on this. Providing the project is successful we will scale the curriculum to others across Pakistan.
I know within 6 months period I can teach someone english as well as the computer skills to have them earn through the web (e.g. freelancing, creating websites etc).
Could this be something we can work with British Council? I know you are into 21st Century schools and one of the objectives should be to help kids earn for themselves and get them into self-learning.
If you think this is something we can get budget for than I can do a formal proposal and we can at least start one project together that will have a high impact.
And within a few hours she had written back:
Interesting!Could you send us a proposal with budgets?
Can we engage through an NGO to increase numbers?
Copying our head of schools Nasir and relevant manager in Islamabad
And now I’m sitting to write that proposal. Whether it gets accepted or not is another story but I love working with intrapreneurs within large organizations that are at least willing to listen to ideas (pre-warning make sure the intrapreneur you are working with are decision makers with budgets otherwise you will end up wasting a lot of time writing pretty proposals that go nowhere).
In the last few months we have been busy registering an NGO (www.Webducate.org) as learned that to have an impact in the East you need to be an NGO rather a profit making organization (Will continue to run Webpreneur Academy as a profit making entity but Webducate enables us to serve people we are also passionate about serving and who can’t even afford a computer or afford to give us a single rupee).
I had started out Webpreneur to help people but I soon realized that the people that I was the most passionate about helping could never afford to pay me until a few years down the line when they start earning an income so hence we also started Webducate as we saw an opportunity to serve them through a different business model (getting money from donors to finance their education).
When you come from a developing country like Pakistan, in most cases if you are lucky enough you can ignore poverty. You can turn your face away from a beggar that asks you for a few rupees. But really it hits you. It hits you to think that when I was 12 years old I got my meals cooked for me and played soccer with my friends after school. I complained about the homework but really the homework and all the focus from parents and teachers was on making me a better person. Not on me going out and earning for them.
I see beggars on the streets and I see them as young entrepreneurs (http://amiranzur.com/seeing-the-beggars-as-entrepreneurs). I see how hard they work and all the sales techniques they need. But I asked a 13 year old who was washing cars for cash(can’t be sure of his age as neither was he) what do you want to do when you grow up? A doctor he says. Don’t you want to be cleaning cars when you are older, I ask? He says “no, that is not a life for an adult”. But he has no real plan on how he can accomplish his dreams of becoming a doctor. But all I can think is if this kid was given a computer. Shown some basics. And taught how to teach himself he could one day become a doctor.
A 2 minute research got me this course from Brown University “So You Want to Be a Doctor? Online Course (BI903): http://brown.edu/ce/pre-college/media/index.php?id=28 And of course there is KhanAcademy.org, Coursera.org, Udemy, lynda.com, Webpreneur Academy, YouTube (pls read why I think it should be unblocked: http://amiranzur.com/an-open-letter-to-unblock-youtube-in-pakistan).
So sometimes I get made fun of. Why doesn’t he come out and party. Why doesn’t he come sit around and talk about the weather, the cricket, watch television, or a bunch of other things. Well I don’t cause I’m blessed to be working with a bunch of people that are on a similar mission. And that for us work doesn’t feel like work.
That perhaps we aren’t workaholics. But lifeoholics. That I’m also blessed to have gone through stages of my life where I couldn’t wait until the clock was at 5 pm on a Friday so that I could leave the office and let life begin.
And I used to think its unfair. Why do I come from a broke country with poverty around which I would just like to ignore and spend my time surfing or snowboarding and enjoying the perks of the high life of the West. But then as I grew up I am thankful. It means there is more work for me to do. That it keeps people like me busy.
I lectured at a University today and got asked “is entrepreneurship all about making money.”. Truth is few long term successful entrepreneurs are there just for the money. I really don’t think Steve Jobs went out and thought selling one more iPad will increase $100 to Apple’s EBITDA and help increase our P/E ratios (geeky financial terms). Or that Bill Gates thought let me sell another copy of Windows so that that number in my bank database can increase by 100.
These people also had a mission. So does Mark Z or Richard Branson or even Jimmy Wales (wikipedia). These guys (apologies as I will try and come up with more webpreneurette examples as I research them) saw that a technology or a service could improve people’s lives and they wanted to work the hours so they could get their mission out to the world.
For me why I blog now and if you would like to work with me (NGO, Government or private) is to keep an open communication. I can not tell you how frustrated I got working with governments that have more resource than I ever thought possible that prevent the level of education improving at the speed that it is possible to improve due to their silo, opaque 1920s methods of working.
How many hours I get sent from meeting to meeting writing proposals that few are likely to read. That I have seen in the past year of working with governments where physical files move through departments and people write hand-written notes on them to make decisions. That time is wasted writing proposals that spend months collecting dust as the decision maker is on holiday or doesn’t have time to see you. Or hasn’t been appointed at the job.
The internet economy will be about open communications and speed. Where proposals submitted to organizations will be let out to the world. The old economy was about decision makers making decisions behind closed doors. About communications being formal (i.e. how long should I think before pressing the submit button on this status update). Worked in any major corporation and you will see how many approvals even a small email has to go through.
One organization I worked with gave me a 27 page contract and all I was interested in was my day rate, number of days and what I had to deliver (less than 7 lines which were hidden in the 27 pages).
We play the games to keep ourselves busy. Like this game that American lawyers have set about on websites: “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions”.
Those things that you always click on websites even though you never do read the terms and conditions (facebook’s terms are over 4,500 words you agreed but you probably never have read them:https://www.facebook.com/terms.php). But we play the games to keep our lawyers happy.
Work in the internet economy where speed is of the essence and you see that you can get things done faster.
I am convinced that Pakistan (and indeed most emerging countries) have the budgets already to make all the reforms happen. And they can happen within 24 months. But we need quick moving people. I blogged this out as I was a little frustrated dealing with organizations that keep asking me for proposals and paper work to not have anything come back in action.
So I’ll spend this weekend writing a proposal and perhaps for my own sanity I wrote this out to remind myself of why I’m a workaholic. As one of my favorite authors, Seth Godin writes:
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
So you might think why doesn’t he just go out and do the work instead of writing these long-articles on facebook. Well you are right – let me get back to work – just took a little detour to let you know and to remind myself of why I’m a workaholic.
And one more thing about being a workaholic. You actually buy a lot more freedom of time. Time when everyone else is working and you are simply chilling. Because you can. But all those chilling times means that for a few weekends you do need to put in the time.
And I’m a workaholic as I think I have been given the opportunity to spend a weekend or two writing proposals and convincing people to let me have a few of their resources to help me finally do something about goals that I’ve had for as long as I can remember of seeing kids begging on the streets.
That finally there is this amazing thing called the internet that means that kids across the world can compete with each other based on their ability to work hard rather than what connections their parents give them. Yes, workaholic kids will more likely to be more successful than the chillaholic kids.
Enjoy the weekend – and let me get back to work!
P.s do you think it can be done? A beggar on the streets that has never touched a computer and doesn’t speak a word of english to give him/her the skills within 6 months to earn at least $200 per month. Truth is I don’t know either but I know if given the resources (computer, time etc) I am willing to bet we can do it (watch the movie Trading Places with Eddie Murphy for all you 80s movies fans). I am confident that we can take someone who has never been to school and within 12 months help them make more than an average college graduate from any Pakistani university and give them better longer term career options too.
P.p.s. You might like the reality show from the NUST internship: http://amiranzur.com/the-webpreneur-internship-reality-show and the educational improvement in KPK: http://amiranzur.com/educate-kpk-documentary
P.p.p.s The pic is from this mornings lecture to the students of College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, NUST – thanks for coming out and listening to the lecture and thanks Ali Mubin and the IEEE team for setting this up!) — with Afeef Ahmed and Abdullah Janjua at College of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering, NUST.