Here We Start – Issue #26

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Our 26th Issue is a freshly short issue touching on issues essential to all of us, including courage, optimism, graduation, maternity leave, performance appraisals, and logic and Islam.

During our 2nd Anniversary, we played a short video that included some of our Sail team, talking about their experiences with the magazine, along with Sail’s vision and goals. You can now have a look at the video through this link.

May 2012 – 26th Issue:

  • Beyond Inspiration: AlAnoud AlMadhi shows that merely trying hard enough could truly be good enough.
  • Just Another Undergrad: Fatma Bujsaim facing the unknown of the future after graduating from university; what should one do with his/her fear?
  • Special Contribution: Aida AlBusaidy, writes a guest article about women’s struggles in the UAE when it comes to maternity leave.
  • The Mind’s Eye: Moadh Bukhash responds to the argument: ‘set your expectations low, so your pleasures are magnified’.
  • To The Point: Mohammed Kazim describes the “I know better” phenomenon in which believers think they have the cognitive capability to dispute Allah’s commands.
  • Too Blunt for Words: Fatma AlKhaja discusses performance appraisals and the forced distribution in organizations.

And of course don’t forget to enjoy our illustrations by Dubai Abulhoul & Fatma AlHashemi.

Enjoy the reads.

Warm Regards,
Iman Ben Chaibah
Editor in Chief

The Power of Trying, Lessons Learned from Terry Fox

AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud )

Column: Beyond Inspiration
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.

Latest posts by AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud ) (see all)

The first time I had read about Terry Fox was only a few months ago when I received an email with a request to participate in the Terry Fox marathon in Abu Dhabi. I learned that the event was first founded in 1981 in memory of a young man named Terrance Stanley “Terry” Fox. The marathon was organized to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Since the run was named after Terry, I assumed he was a scientist who had initiated a groundbreaking research about the disease and this was to celebrate his great achievement and continue on his legacy. However, my assumptions were proved invalid. Terry was a cancer patient himself. An athlete who had his leg amputated for that reason.

He had a great desire to find a solution for such disease and he strongly believed in the dream of reaching one. With nothing in hand, he only had to “try” to find something. With an amputated leg, he decided to embark a run to support cancer research. He didn’t come up with a solution. He didn’t find a cure for cancer. He just said “Dreams are made possible if you try”, and indeed he did.

Illustration by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

Terry’s story taught me two things. First, that merely trying to achieve a goal could be enough to a great extent. Secondly, a great goal does not need to be seen as one whole, but rather as broken-down parts of a goal. Another resounding lesson he was subtly giving was the fact that suffering is a main ingredient in achieving any dream.

Touching upon my first point, you’ve probably heard some people say “Don’t try, do!” But the fact of the matter is, your mindset should not be only concerned about solving the problem, but mostly focused on participating in coming up with a solution. It all starts with one step. It doesn’t matter what the sign at the end of the road says so long as you’ve started your engine to move towards that direction. The idea is to make a first step and make it well. Drive as if you’re doing so smoothly without bumps, without slowing down, and without being distracted, although the road would be the exact opposite. If you had a clear mind and a desire to start with trying, you’ll get there. People think trying is not enough, while in reality, trying could be all you need.

On the second note, Will Smith once said “You don’t set out and say ‘I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall. You say ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’” Having said that, it’s essential to know that an achievement is a bunch of trials and errors and that trying is actually “doing” but in a smaller form. The saying that “X can’t be done overnight” doesn’t really refer to the amount of time you’re required to have to get something done, but the fact that it cannot be done in one single step. It cannot be done at once. You cannot just “do”, you need to “try”. So long as your vision is at the back of your mind, you need not to worry about the errors you will make in the process of trying.

The secret of getting a great thing done is breaking it down into small tasks and then focusing on each equally. And the main rule for all of the above is to do each small task with passion, belief, and a genuine intention to add value.

After all, telling yourself you’ll “try” sounds less intimidating and more convincing to start a task than you’ll “do”.

Even if you think you couldn’t get there, if you believed in the cause, you’ll find a way.
Just try.

Facing Uncertainty After Graduation

Fatma Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim)

Senior Editor. Ex- Column: Just Another Undergrad

After graduating with a Bachelor degree in International Studies and a minor in converged media, Fatma still finds herself hungry for knowledge, which led to her enrolling in a postgraduate program. Her passion for both reading and writing has made her extend her stay in Sail eMagazine so that she can learn & develop her skills. When not buried in her books and novels, Fatma is found on tennis courts or in a classroom learning a new language.
She wrote her previous column: “Just another undergrad” hoping she can give what she didn’t have when she was a freshman: comfort and guidance, and also bring back memories to all those graduates out there. She wonders if things are going to be the same after graduation.

Latest posts by Fatma Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim) (see all)

Illustration by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

When it was time for us to graduate from high school, most of us knew (if not all) where we would be going afterwards. Some of us would travel abroad for university while others would remain in the country and start with their studies. Sometimes, the start of our university years is bumpy; we don’t exactly know what we want to do or how. But by the end of our education, we have a pretty clear idea of what it is we want to do and what we want to be “when we grow up.” Growing up here has nothing to do with age, its actually having your degree and starting your career.

Graduating from university is nothing like graduating from high school. As much as we plan for our future, this is the point where we face uncertainty. This uncertainty is not because we don’t know what we want, as a matter of fact, we do know what we want, the uncertainty is because we don’t know what will happen and sometimes even how it will happen.

As much as we tell ourselves that everything is in our hands and we can achieve everything we set our minds to, reality strikes us and we realize that it is not really in our hands and sometimes there’s nothing we can really do.

So we apply for jobs, some might even apply for graduate schools, and believe it or not, matters are not in our hands once we submit our papers. The waiting starts; waiting for either acceptance or rejection. This is the core uncertainty.

It becomes scary, not knowing what we’re going to do after the summer holidays. The years that passed we thought, “Oh the new semester would start,” but now, there is no semester and summer might not be our official holiday anymore; our whole system changes, our annual schedule of holidays and classes are no longer there.

We might adapt to these changes, we might even enjoy and love our new system more than the one before it. But things still remain uncertain. This phase we go through what can be very stressful; we mostly go through it in our last semester of our undergrad studies or at times a month or two before graduation.

So we’ve got two options at hand, either freak out for the next couple of months until a graduate school sends us a letter (with unknown content) or a job comes up. Or we can relax and enjoy our time until life unfolds the future. What would it be?

Being an Employee and a Mother: Maternity Leave and At-Work Child Care Centers

Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Developmental Editor.
Aida has more than a decade experience in the communications, and mastering ceremonies field, she worked in private and public sectors, and now heads the Stakeholder Communications in Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing in Dubai. Aida was a columnist in few of the local newspapers, a TV co-host of a community talk show, and cofounded with friends a community platform: “Promise Of A Generation”.
Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Latest posts by Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy) (see all)

We as women want it all and why shouldn’t we? We have been empowered and with all the right tools at hand and brain, our main goals are focused on “what can I do to make a difference to my world, my society, my people, and my country?”

As a recently married woman (7 months now), my husband and I had a million things to discuss, from finances, work-life balance, children and so on. For us, entering our 30s and choosing to get married meant the next logical step is to have children. Wanting to have kids is something, but to get to the emotional and physical state where you are sure bringing children to the world is something that you need to consider carefully as well as believe that your Maker will give you that opportunity. Not only as a woman you need to be prepared but you must ensure that your partner and yourself have the same goals and are willing to take on the responsibility and share it because raising a child takes two or in our case and entire village or family.

In the UAE, we are blessed to have a small Emirati population that the Government can help support when it comes to education, medical care and housing in addition to family support. What is even more helpful is the fact our families are within close proximity so the dependence on nannies and maids is optional (even though a lot of people use them as a substitute). I can never imagine what it is like for an expat to have to live so far away from their families, raising children, working and providing for their families.

My husband and I live within 10 minutes away from our parents so anything we need is easy to obtain which brings me to the subject of the maternity leave and policies in the UAE. Shaima Al Tamimi, a writer in Sail eMagazine covered the topic last year http://sailemagazine.com/?p=1080 and the subject has been raised so many times on numerous occasions by countless of women.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be in a workshop with many esteemed women in the community and one of the main issues that was again raised was maternity leave. My question to the UAE and the region is, for a nation that places so much emphasis on family, values and culture and raising children and increasing the population by bringing children into the world whilst at the same time places importance on women working and women empowerment; do we have the worst maternity leave than our “Western” counterparts?

We have competed with the West in fashion, shopping, infrastructure, financial institutions, etc. but our social problems seem to increase by the day starting with the main question for couples on … “should we have a child?” “Can I leave my job? (For a woman)” and most importantly “how do I leave my child after 45 days?” Let me back track, 45 days is the maximum amount of time that private companies give to their women to take off after having delivered their babies. It differs for Government entities and semi-Government ones and companies that are owned by British, French, Canadian, whatever other nationality have even longer maternity leaves.

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

According to rumors, the subject of maternity leave in the UAE has been raised and tabled for over 4 years. 4 years? Tabled? If the issue is your women are SO indispensable that you can only let them go for 2 months or less, then provide them with an option where they don’t feel a disconnect from their child once they are back. I have heard a couple of senior managers say “if a department can survive without an employee for 45 days, then it can survive without them for good.” So basically, you are saying, I am an asset until I decide to bring a child into the world and then I’m like a used tissue?

Fine. Let’s move on because entering this subject which has already been raised on a social, political and religious context across the country and nothing has or could have been done on it till date, obviously means the solution isn’t within the horizon.

I tried to think of options. If you (the Government or whatever body is responsible) are unable to increase the maternity leave or amend it or compete with countries that you compete with on a business, financial and infrastructure basis, why not create a new law that at least allows mothers to be closer to their children by facilitating nurseries or day care centers until the child is ready for kindergarten.

I started asking around and I found out that the RTA and the Ports in Dubai have day care centers. I don’t actually know people who work there but I was amazed that the RTA, an authority that has been around for less than a decade has progressed in providing a safe and healthy environment for the children of their employees. Who wouldn’t want to work there? Working doesn’t only fulfill monetary or career benefits, but appreciating you as a person is vital in getting the most out of your employees.

When I researched this even further, I found out a lot of companies are not willing to pay the cost of having a day care center because there is no benefit to them as an organization seeing their end goal is to be commercial. So most working women who earn a 2nd income for their homes to help support their husbands or actually are single moms are forced to leave their new born, missing their first words, and quality time so that their children can bond with nannies.

If we can pay for a nanny, we can pay for a service where there is a day care to ensure the safety and proximity of our children well within our reach. No amount of money can compensate for the quality time you have with your child.

For most women, family will always take priority. Problem is, most employers see that as a weakness when they forget themselves, they were brought into this world and raised by women.

The full article is blogged by Aida AlBusaidy on : http://aidaalb.posterous.com/

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Sources & Relevant reading sites:

Between Optimism & Pessimism

Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

A brand manager by day and a ‘wannabe’ philosopher by night, Moadh graduated from the American University in Dubai with a degree in Marketing. All about logical discourse and self improvement, his aim is to be a 21st century iconoclast. Though born and raised in Dubai, Moadh aims to develop and nurture global identities built around shared humanistic values. A writer of his own blog, which bears the column’s name, Moadh’s ultimate ambition is to be the spark of a positive change in any individuals who come across his words.
Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

Latest posts by Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash) (see all)

The style in which a life is led, and the attitude that is carried out while jumping through the hurdles that our experiences face us with are critical to the wellbeing that we boast and the pleasures -or pains- we go through. In essence, having either a positive or negative approach to each and every issue, no matter how minimal, can mold that issue in either being a lovely memory or the contrary. It is that basic core value that sets us on a path, a path that snowballs into an outcome. But what if we took a step back and re-aligned our initial reaction? Our initial impulse? What if we had the ability to turn a natural negative response to an issue into a positive one?

Certain individuals are quite baffling, they often turn to philosophical stances like “lower expectations, and enjoy the result more.” That seems, in essence, quite negative. While it might sound pragmatic – through observation, it seems to lead to sadness, or even anger, or at the very least to a sullen state of mind. One reason why that stance is adopted, I feel, is the lack of a reason; some sad, negative people are just that way because that’s the way they always were – this can possibly be because of an environmental factor in their childhood or their internal hormonal breakup or any other reason that leads to that mentality.

Another reason I feel is the existence of a previous problem; some people are that way because they were affected by something far back and have lacked the mental or emotional capacity to deal with it – the possible examples of such problems are quite endless: personal issues, death of a loved one, national/regional issues, and the list goes on.

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

The most interesting reason, in my humble opinion, is the intentional pessimism by some that view their negative, or as some would claim ‘lowered expectations’, tactic as a means to greater joy, that is, if a person has lower expectations for anything that comes by in his or her life, that whatever ‘good’ comes their way will be just that much more favorable. To this attitude, there are two replies:

  1. Isn’t this attitude just an indirect form of optimism? You are, in reality, hoping for something good to come your way and what you’re internally assuming is that once you get to the point where you will enjoy whatever pleasure does come your way, then you will get to enjoy it more. To me, that does not sound pessimistic – even if you claim to be one
  2. Perhaps a less convincing reply, but simply it aims to pose the question: would you rather spend the majority of your life in a negative tone and have a few largely happy moments or would you rather navigate through life enjoying more moments, even with a few disappointments?

In a purely mathematical view, we must ask ourselves what would be the percentage break up between those two polarized moments in terms of time spent adopting it. Are we walking around with no expectations 80% of the time and enjoying the other 20%? Or is it more balanced? How that break up of time allocated to either side greatly influences our overall attitude, how we interact with our surroundings and, of course, its retrospective effect on us.

Choose wisely.

3 Reasons Why One Should Prioritize Allah Over Logic

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed, an Emirati involved in healthcare business development, comes with a background in biomedical & clinical engineering, technology management, finance, and business setup related project management. Mohammed has a keen interest in relevant social, religious, economic, and cultural affairs.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.
Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Latest posts by Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim) (see all)

“Yeah but that doesn’t apply to today’s world ” a friend of mine commented in response to a statement I made about the prohibition of alcohol in Islam in a heated healthy discussion. Many of you may think this debate is healthy and others may think this friend crossed the line. In any case, this did not come to me as a surprise given that I have heard many such comments from fellow Muslims both religious and non-practicing.  I have been increasingly encountering what I call the “I know better” phenomenon in Muslims where people who believe in Allah and the religion argue the validity of Allah’s commands using reason or logic to defend their arguments.

What surprises me is that those who accept Islam also accept it as an entire way of life prescribed by the Creator to His creation. However, these same individuals try to rationalize certain elements in their beliefs that contradict Islam.

Leon Festinger, a famous American Social Psychologist, described this conflict in belief as a cognitive dissonance that requires conscious or subconscious rationalization in order to create a comfortable illusion.  This may just be exactly what is happening in the “I know better” phenomenon described above. Instead of spending time discussing what is causing this phenomenon, let’s take a closer look at why prioritizing Allah over Logic is necessary. I believe this can be shown through the following three simple points:

The limited nature of our knowledge is the main reason why using logic over Allah’s commands does not make sense. If logic is defined as valid reasoning based on the principles of what we know and if what we know  are solely observations or experiments that explain the environment and society around us, then our logic is significantly inferior to Allah’s command and does not give it the right to disagree with the Creator.

“… of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)”

The Holy Quran  (17:85)

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Second, Allah knows us better than we know ourselves since He has created us. This directly gives Him the priority over any logic that we can use against His commands when it comes to any issues concerning us. He understands our nature thoroughly. Therefore, He has sent forth guidance to us in accordance to our nature, so that we may follow and prosper or disobey and go astray.

“Should He not know,- He that created? and He is the One that understands the finest mysteries (and) is well-acquainted (with them)”

The Holy Quran (67:14)

Third, Allah has clearly mentioned to the believers that once He has made a decision and commanded the believers to do something, they do not have the liberty to discuss the command (The Holy Quran 33:36). Such is the position of the Almighty in His ultimate perfection not to force his creation out of power but rather to protect them from all harm and guide them to what’s best for them.

“If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay, We have sent them their admonition, but they turn away from their admonition.”

The Holy Quran (23:71)

Understanding that our knowledge is limited and only a fraction of the universe’s knowledge has been shared with us, that Allah has created us and therefore He knows us much better than we know ourselves, and that it is not in the benefit of the believer to dispute Allah’s decision, is comprehensive reasoning for why we need to prioritize Allah over our logic. As a result, understanding the above points also dispels any false notion of pride that may exist in any believer’s mind.

Let us not use our shortcomings as an excuse for rationalization or modification of Allah’s commands, Let us make Allah’s will our priority rather than our logic, and let’s be modest and submit to Allah as the testimony we have taken.

” O man, what has beguiled you concerning your Lord, the gracious, Who created you, fashioned you, proportioned you, and put you together in whatever form He pleased”

The Holy Quran (82 : 6-8)

Forced Distribution Appraisal: A System of Unfairness

Fatma AlKhaja (@fay_alkhaja)

Column: Observing the World, previous column: Too Blunt for Words
Fatma (Fay), Emirati girl, with an experience in Corporate Communications and CSR. She is passionate about anything that is traditional and Emirati. In her free time she loves to watch Japanese anime, read manga, and play videogames. Spas are not the only thing that relaxes her, but cooking as well.
Fay’s columns observe work-life experiences and balance. A lot of her articles are based on first-hand personal experiences and issues she has seen or been part of. She loves to observe her surroundings, and watch how people handle different situations they’ve been put in.Also, she is trying to balance the art of staying positive at work and helping her peers understand that not everything should be a problem. With her writings she hopes to make a difference and make people more observant of the little problems in life, or work that hasn’t escalated to a catastrophe. It’s the little things that matters.

Latest posts by Fatma AlKhaja (@fay_alkhaja) (see all)

Every time the performance appraisal period creeps upon us, I try to think of some way to not be involved in it. I’m sure a lot of you readers know that feeling. The feeling when something inevitable is about to happen and you have no control over. In the past as I was part of appraisals, as a team member or a boss, I was told that in certain organizations, a forced distribution needs to be done.  A forced distribution ‘is a performance intervention, which can be defined as an evaluation method of forced distribution, where managers are required to distribute ratings for those being evaluated, into a pre-specified performance distribution ranking (Cooper & Argyris, 1998)’

As a team member I had no choice. But as a boss, I was against the idea because I had good team members and why should one be sacrificed and treated unfairly because of a forced distribution? I was told that there’s nothing I can do about it. I was forced to give the four individuals that reported to me a distributed appraisal. 1 would get high, 2 averages, and 1 low. Now tell me something, how is this a fair appraisal?!

Illustration by SYAC

There are 8 methods of appraisals in HR Management, so why is it that forced distribution seems to be the one chosen all the time in most organizations?

First, such an appraisal method does not encourage teamwork, it defies it. My colleague had done appraisal rankings for her team and she noted that 2 individuals had given themselves the highest score. She had agreed that they both deserved it but due to forced ranking, she took one aside and tried to convince that person it has to be one person only. The magic words she used was, ‘let’s give her the appraisal for now, she’s never been promoted.’

The question that would enter my mind if I was that individual is, ‘why should I sacrifice my hard working years for another person? This is work; my career and my bonus will be affected.’

Additionally, forced ranking ‘tends to be popular with large corporations that have hundreds or thousands of employees and need to systematize their HR processes. If your workplace is one of these organizations—and if the company is in trouble and looking for solutions—forced ranking could be in your future,’ [CBS News].

Do you know what this means? It means that if an organization is looking to fire people, they have the solution to do so. They’ll just pick out the lowest ranking employees. This is a method that a lot of financial companies use, especially in the last few years during the financial crisis.

What if you had 20 employees and all 20 excellent individuals have amazing skills? Why sacrifice the career path of one because of a forced distribution and then when we question it, we are told that there is nothing we can do about it?

Let me add another concern. The forced distribution applies to the manager as well. Now tell me this, what manager will sacrifice his/her bonus and career for his/her team members. As much as I’d like to say that there are good people out there with caring hearts, I’ll also be blunt and say that some of them are simply selfish and don’t care as long as they get their careers boost.

Let’s be honest here, this is a negative way to judge colleagues and their performances. Organizations should find better ways to do handle such an appraisal format. If the forced distribution appraisal still stays as a tool then morale, performance, and productivity will be affected.