After conquering several career paths, from being a pharmacist to an author and entrepreneur, Mustafa Ammar decided to create a business known as the Passion MBA, which is dedicated to help professionals suffering from burnout in their jobs rekindle their passion not only in their careers, but in their lives as a whole.
As someone who always followed his passions regardless of what anyone else might say, Mustafa wants to aid those who are going through the same hardships he faced – whether they are managers or executives or anything in between – by teaching them everything he has learned from experience.
What is the secret to success? How can you be resilient in such uncertain times as the ones we are living in? Find out as we interview the Passion MBA’s CEO below.
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Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Mustafa Ammar: Hello. This is me, Mustafa Ammar. I’ve lived several career lives in the past, and I would like to say that I enjoyed pursuing my passions and every single moment and corner of my life. I started my career as a pharmacist with a major in pharmaceutical science. Then, my next passion was to work in the UN, so I had to make a career pivot to be a diplomat. I worked in China and Africa and deeply enjoyed it. Then I moved to investment banking, working in the multinational Development Bank, which is very similar to the World Bank and is headquartered in China.
Recently, I became the CEO and founder of the Passion MBA, which is a coaching business helping and empowering people to rebuild their careers, their lives, their businesses, and their passions. I’m also the author of the upcoming book The Passion Project, which is based on a similar approach. Some of us build our life project on the wrong foundations, so we spend most of the time trying to fix the issues that arise from them. I want to empower people to build their life.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Mustafa Ammar: I mean, a big majority among ourselves is stuck doing something they don’t like. There’s a recent Gallup study that showed that out of 1 billion full-timers, almost 85% worldwide despise their jobs, and for several reasons.
My task here with the Passion MBA is to help all those professionals, from managers to C-suite executives, to rebuild their careers. I am somebody who managed to pursue different passions, so I’m trying to teach people to look at their careers as a hedge fund. You have this portfolio of investments: different skills and different careers so you can conquer and overcome your fears, go out of your comfort zone, do something else. I went from being a pharmacist to a diplomat, then to an investment banker, and then to an author and entrepreneur. As long as you want to do it, as long as you have the passion for it, you can get through any difficulty and hardship.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Mustafa Ammar: My story is full of hard times, that’s for sure. Pivoting and changing your career based on your passions is not easy. People always like to define themselves as specialists in one single area. They work their whole lives in one company or even one industry, and you cannot change them. So I was challenged by that; that’s how people were looking at me. When I wanted to move from Pharmacy to be a diplomat, almost everybody around me questioned my decision to the point where I even doubted my ability to do it. It’s a big contest where they take 20 or 30 people out of 2000. But I was sure I could do it because I have been through that process before.
Building everything on your passion and then marrying that with your values makes you clearly visualize what matters in your life, and it really makes you think. Giving up, for me, wasn’t even an option, so I never considered it. Even now, before building my own company and, you know, finishing this, I know that this is what I have to do.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Mustafa Ammar: I really like this question. The worst advice I’ve ever been told was, ‘only work on your strengths, don’t work on your weaknesses. That is the easiest way to get what you really want.’ But while following my passions, sometimes I discover that they’re part of one of my weaknesses, and that’s not bad. I learned through my different career pivots that if this is the case, it will really help you quickly to turn that weakness into one of your strengths. On the other hand, if your strength is not in your passions, you will greatly suffer and burn out quickly.
I’ll give you an example: I was always good at math – very, very good at math, even though I didn’t have a passion for it. It does help me achieve my goal, and that’s fine, but if it didn’t and I kept working on it just for the sake of it, that wouldn’t help me much. So I always advise everybody that you shouldn’t only work on your strengths, especially if your passion is not in them. Weakness plus passion make it a strength in an incredibly short time.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Mustafa Ammar: For me, I like to call resilience resilience. Imagine that you’re wearing glasses that show you what will come in the future. It’s not here yet. You are not there yet, but it’s happening, and it’s coming to you.
As I said earlier, you have your passions, you have your values in life, and then you have your vision. Those are the building of your resilience. And when you build all of those factors, those glasses will show that you will be successful, no matter. People might not be supportive, and you might have difficulties, and there might be downsides in the industry you’re working in, maybe because of the pandemic, and so building that resilience helps you visualize where you are heading, okay? Your future self, your future business, how it will be – that visualization is so powerful. Resilience is so, so, so important. I’m actually coaching people on how to build that mindset, on how to believe that you will get there.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Mustafa Ammar: That’s a very, very good question. I’m trying to imagine myself, my company, my staff, five years from now. I even coach my clients to do this. I’ve talked about the power of visualization to see your dream lifestyle and where you’re heading. In terms of my company, I see one of the biggest coaching businesses in the world, helping millions of people to change their lives, as many clients as possible, with a revenue of at least seven to eight figures.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Mustafa Ammar: First one is the open mindset. I think, without that open mindset, I wouldn’t be able to change my life or, you know, my career. I had to be open to learn new skills and grow my expertise.
The second thing is the growth mindset: you never stop growing and learning. If I just cared about status or power in a previous job or a previous career, I wouldn’t have done all of this.
The third is the most important point: resilience. It’s how you get through all the self-doubt and hardships, and along with an open mindset and the desire to grow, I was able to get to the other side, triumphant.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Mustafa Ammar: Yeah, I quite see them as identical, actually. I am building this company to have a culture that lifts others. I can be one of the guys that are working there and still enjoy it. So both the values of my company and my personal brand are passionate, visionary, and daring to change people’s lives.
I like to look at the long term and plan accordingly; I have this long-term plan for myself, even if I change, and I have this long-term plan for the company and with my managers, as well as my teammates. We take it step by step, but the vision is still there.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Mustafa Ammar: Part of my experience is in Academia. I have done my MBA on different leadership styles in different cultures and how that’s affecting productivity, performance, motivation, and several other factors in the employees, on a daily basis. I think ‘servant leadership’ is one of the most important management styles, and it actually wins every time.
Servant leadership is really helping the leader to come down to earth and deal with his people, with his managers, his employees from, you know, the highest level to the lowest level. In a similar way, servant leadership refers to somebody who works with his hands all the time. It’s somebody who has experiences in almost every single sector and department in your organization, so when your team needs some guidance, he can show them how to do things, and he always needs to listen back to them. I have seen some dominant leaders who are not able to listen, but I think listening to your teams and even encouraging them to speak out is so powerful, very powerful.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Mustafa Ammar: I cannot choose. But I would say that there are some people who are born with the talent for it. I am more inclined to focus on the second, that it’s something you can learn, because sometimes, being an entrepreneur can be a diversion in your life. And this is exactly what happened to me. In the beginning of my life, especially when I was working as a diplomat, I never thought to be an entrepreneur, and, you know, that was quite fair at that time. I was working for the government. There was a high-paying job, and I was enjoying it. But then circumstances change around you – your passions change, sometimes your values change, you want to have more freedom in terms of spending and allocating your time on whatever you want.
If You Want To Be Your Own Boss, fuel the passion to be an entrepreneur. 10 years ago or even longer than that, I thought it wouldn’t be possible for me to be an entrepreneur, but now I would say that it’s my destiny to be one, and part of that destiny is to be open to what would happen and always be able to adapt.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Mustafa Ammar: It’s a code that I lived by all my life, and actually, I am the author of that quote. I’m having it in my upcoming book, The Passion Project, which is, “Intelligence doesn’t bring genius. Curiosity and hard work are what bring genius.” Intelligence is always something good. But if I consider I’m only able to do something because I’m intelligent, that’s a fixed mindset, you know? And when I was a kid, I didn’t count much on my intelligence. I was counting much, much more on my hard work and my curiosity.
I used to have people around me say, “oh, we are intelligent, we don’t need to do much, we can study the same amount of whatever in 30 minutes or one hour,” and I knew I didn’t have a clue. I just had my curiosity and the ability to learn what I didn’t know through hard work. So I pushed myself to do that, all the time. Your curiosity will bring more questions that you’ll want to answer, and your hard work will help you break walls.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Mustafa for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Mustafa or his company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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