Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
My brother says no to me, before I even begin explaining what I want from him…
One of the most puzzling plagues of this region, is how often you hear the word "No". From your parents, from your friends, from corporations, from sponsors, and so on and so forth.
The 'No Plague' is a catchy one. It creates an intense domino effect that filters down through society starting from the dinosaurs: our dads.
Definition of dinosaurs: Old school men whose generation built the foundations of society. Their symptoms are outlined below:
- Have a routine they stick to
- Don’t try new foods
- Need to have their coffee at the same time every day – even using the same cup
- Generally scared of change, and enjoy a zone of security, safety, and consistency
- Like right answers, so don’t give them anything but that
- Believe in the conventional
- Believe in the saying "if it aint broke don’t fix it"
- Always tell us to follow the rules
When I was 14 years old I wanted to create a student magazine. My Middle School principal Mr. Robert said "No". I don’t remember the reason, I just remember the word.
When I went on to High School, I asked Mr. Baraka, our principal, if I could create a bake sale with all of the proceeds to go to war-torn Gaza. He said "No" as well. He said it was because I wasn’t part of the Student Congress and in any case, he’ll pass thanks.
When I wanted to learn more about fashion, I approached a friend’s mother who owned a string of high end boutiques and I asked her for some advice. She said "No" too. I think she was worried I might steal all her work secrets… at the mere age of 17.
When I wanted to go to art school, my dad said "No". He said I should study (and eventually work in) banking.
I remember all those moments so well. I remember the facial expressions of all of those "No" people. And yet, throughout it all, I also remember the woman who helped me battle that plague. It was my very own momma.
She said I could study what I like, and that she had my back. She said I could work in fashion, if that is what I wanted to do. She said if I really wanted to have that bake sale then we will figure out a way. She said that if I wanted to do anything, I could. She would fund it all. Emotionally and financially.
Plenty of people think Sketchbook was my first business venture. Nope. I failed about 30 times before that. I tried to sell vintage clothing, tried to be a fashion designer, a stylist, a photographer, a writer… Nothing really clicked until I became an editor.
Today, for every 20 "No's" that I get, I get one "Yes". As for myself, I try to say "Yes" every day. To an interview, to a project, to mentoring a student, to a trip… I battle the plague by saying it over and over again.
The moral of my story is that it is easier for people to say "No". It is also easy for them to list why you will fail, why things won’t work, why things don’t make sense. Or simply tell you how things are right now, not how they should be.
It is rare to find a mentor or a friend or a parent that says "Yes" and follows it with a list of why something could work, and supports it financially or emotionally.
Once we allow the 'No Plague' to exist by supporting it, we become part of the problem and we create a culture where before an idea even blooms to fruition, we kill it. Over time, people will eventually quit trying altogether, as it is so much easier to not try at all.
When was the last time you said "Yes" to something without second guessing? Or supported a friend by saying they can do something they wanted to do? Do you feel you are part of the problem? If so, do you want to try to reverse it? What will you do to battle the "No"?
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.