My 2016: The year of willpower

As 2016 is coming to an end with all its ups and downs, it made me reflect on what really happened in my life during that year and what’s coming for the years ahead.

I don’t look at life in years, I look at it in milestones. I have an idea of where I want to go next but I don’t put specific time frames tied to years or my age. After all, goals are dependent on many factors, some we can control, others we can’t, and that’s why I believe one shouldn’t tie goals to a calendar. Calendars can act as a guidance, but not as milestones.

If I had to pick one theme for my 2016 with all that happened, I would call it the year of willpower.

I once heard Ahmed Al Shugairi talking about the book “The willpower instinct” and how it changed his life to become a better person. He quit smoking completely after more than 10 years. I had the book on my list for long but finally managed to listen to it few months ago while I was in the middle of many willpower challenges.

My biggest willpower challenge was a compulsive behavior I don’t like talking about that took me long to overcome. It wasn’t easy but I finally managed to overcome it.

My second biggest willpower challenge this year was information control. Deleting my Facebook account was a huge challenge with lots of deactivation and reactivation. Deleting Snapchat, Twitter, and Nuzzel from my phone came only recently. It wasn’t easy. Every time I deleted one of the apps I cheated by logging to the mobile web version. I can’t even say now that I completely got rid of them as sometimes I itch to download twitter or nuzzel out of my fear of missing out.

My third challenge was to write consistently. I wrote more than 50 blog posts this year, and I hope to get better and write more.

My biggest learnings going through this

  • Willpower is one of the most mentally consuming tasks, that’s why our brains always give it up to reallocate this mental power for other tasks.
  • Things take time. This reaffirmed my point of view of not tying milestones to calendars.
  • One shouldn’t beat themselves up or restart every time they fail in the willpower challenge. If you cheated once don’t wait till next day to start over, just move on.
  • Environment, environment, and environment. Big part of willpower failures come from not changing our environment. Sometimes changing the environment isn’t possible, however being aware of its influence on a behavior is crucial to resist its triggers.

I can’t say I mastered willpower, no one can. I still have many willpower challenges on my list like eating healthy, reading books daily, allocating time to learn about new stuff, not to fear trying something instead of just getting the theoretical knowledge about it, and many more. Let’s see what 2017 will bring.

Happy new year!

Man’s Search for Meaning

Yesterday I finished the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I heard of the book first time from a tweet by Keith Rabois.

It is the story of a psychiatrist who survived four Nazi concentration camps during world war II. Perfect time to read while just arriving to Germany!

The book is not the typical WWII horror story type of book. It rather focuses on the psychological aspect of being a prisoner in one of those camps, and the difference between those survived and those gave up to let themselves die.

Then the author talks about a new approach to psychiatry which he calls “Logotherapy”. Logos is a greek word which denotes “meaning”. Here is an excerpt from the book

Logotherapy, or, as it has been called by some authors, “The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle (or, as we could also term it, the will to pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysis is centered, as well as in contrast to the will to power on which Adlerian psychology, using the term “striving for superiority,” is focused.


Logotherapy regards its assignment as that of assisting the patient to find meaning in his life. Inasmuch as logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of his existence, it is an analytical process. To this extent, logotherapy resembles psychoanalysis. However, in logotherapy’s attempt to make something conscious again it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts within the individual’s unconscious but also cares for existential realities, such as the potential meaning of his existence to be fulfilled as well as his will to meaning.

Any analysis, however, even when it refrains from including the noölogical dimension in its therapeutic process, tries to make the patient aware of what he actually longs for in the depth of his being. Logotherapy deviates from psychoanalysis insofar as it considers man a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts, or in merely reconciling the conflicting claims of id, ego and superego, or in the mere adaptation and adjustment to society and environment.

I have few highlights from the book, but here is one that I really liked.

Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, before her death professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, contended, in her article on logotherapy, that “our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.”

Although the book was first published in 1946, this is so true to our current world!

How do you know?

When I was at, John Elabd was one of the best product owners. He used to challenge every assumption and take the leap to test ideas that were never tested in the company before.

One of the things I learned from John when someone gets too biased toward their argument on whether something is good or bad for customers, he would reply with a simple, yet powerful question

How do you know?

Every time he asked me this question I had to go back and think. Many times in product organizations people fear testing new ideas because of internal resistance, or fear of messing things up.

The culture at is to be fearless, they have no problem someone screws things up and cost the company thousands or maybe millions of Euros, because they know at this cost people move fast, then you find the breakthroughs that cover up for all the mess.

So far it is working. That’s how I know.

Why I see Brexit as a good thing for Tech?

Since the Brexit, I heard countless arguments about British startups moving to Berlin. I tend to think most of these arguments as clickbaits for the tech media to feed on, now with TechCrunch Disrupt London, these arguments resurfaced. Here is my opinion about why Brexit doesn’t matter for tech or even contrary to popular sentiment, it could be a good thing:

  • It is not that simple. You can’t easily move a startup from a country to another because of something that didn’t happen. Up until now, the only direct result of Brexit is the devaluation of the pound which is not an enough motive for a startup to leave UK and come to Berlin. Not to mention the Euro itself is losing its value because of strong dollar and the other Euro zone problems.
  • Tech in principle is global. Being in UK doesn’t have a big difference from being in Berlin. Unless you are doing something very specific to the German or British market, you don’t have to be there.
  • Europe was fragmented, and will stay fragmented post Brexit. Each country has its own language, culture, and laws. Being in or out of EU doesn’t matter for the most part because the fragmentation is still there.
  • British entrepreneurs still have access to EU. They can still move any way they want and open offices anywhere.
  • The fact that UK speaks English gives it a huge advantage over Germany. Immigrant entrepreneurs can’t easily start a company in a country where they don’t speak the language, and have fears of falling victims to legalities they can’t even read.
  • The big players doubled down on UK. Amazon is expanding and hiring like crazy. Facebook is adding 500 new tech jobs in London office. Google is opening its biggest space in Europe and adding thousands of jobs in London.
  • Tech is the last industry affected by regulation, until UK finds out what Brexit means they will have a very long list of problems to solve before coming to what Brexit means for tech. Until then, everything stays the same.
  • In fact, Brexit could be great for the tech scene in UK. Being out of EU will allow the UK to move fast and away from stupid European laws that are preventing many startups from being started here. Less decoupling means more agility, and more competition between EU states and non-EU states, which makes things better for everyone.