Thursday, November 8, 2012

As the lights went out

As the power goes out and you are sitting all alone in the dark, your heart halts while you stare into the abyss.  It’s all been said before. We are afraid of the dark because we don’t know what to expect and thus cannot gauge our reactions.  It is often used as a metaphor to dealing with change. We’ll always reach for the light switch while entering a dark room because we don’t like to face the unknown. Yet, as your eyes adjust to the darkness and you start to make out the image of furniture, you feel a bit courageous and decide to venture from your firmly established position in search of a flashlight or candle. Nevertheless, you embark on your journey with caution, slowly extending each leg forward in a steady stride in an effort to avoid walking into a wall and reaching out with your hands to guide you along the darkness.

As you are sitting, again by yourself, in the romantic glow of pseudo-light, you’re very alert to every sound and movement. You occasionally call out “Who’s there?”, although you are all alone.  Time creeps by, as you constantly check your watch only to discover that minutes, nay seconds, have passed.  You loudly sigh as you confusingly try to think of things to do on your own in the dark. 

Finally, you surrender to the black solitude as you lay on the floor gazing out of the window at the shining stars, mesmerized by the tranquility and quietness. As you lose all hope of the power returning and blow out the candle to fall asleep, all the lights in your home ignite. You jump up with much vitality, simultaneously reaching for the TV remote control and your smart phone with both hands. You return to your plugged life, offsetting any recognition of the fear that loomed upon you as the lights went out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's in a name?

What' in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Why do we assign names to babies? If their only purpose is to identify individuals, then why not go by a unique codes, such as a social security number? Why do parents , and their proxies, spend frivolous days after days after days obsessing about a name by which they will call their unborn child? What is so important about a name ?  Will calling a boy Atress dispel him with courage and bravado? Will calling a girl Amira make her royal, regal, or graceful ? As apparent from my later example, a name will neither give to nor take from a human's characteristics, value, or wealth. So, why the obsession with names ? I purpose calling newborns  Baby-Badawey-One or Baby-Badawey-Two. By the time they turn sixteen and they need to get some form of ID, they can select their own names, something that will reflect who they are or who they want to be. At least then, there will be something about a name.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How much would you pay for "Hope in a Jar"

Last weekend, during a trip to NYC, I popped into Macy's to see if they have stocked winter gloves. As I had entered through 8th Avenue, I had to walk across most of the store's lower level in order to get to Women's Accessories. I must admit that I am always overwhelmed and intimidated by Macy's flagship store in NYC. The first time I went there was during the holiday season. It was so crowded, that a bit of claustrophobia kicked in while on the escalator. This time around, although less crowded, it was crowded nonetheless. Anyway, I maneuvered my way across the people infested corridors until I reached the accessories section, only to discover that there were no winter gloves on display. Disappointed with the 30 minutes it took me to walk across the store, I headed towards the 8th Avenue exist. On my way back, I came across Philosophy's display in the cosmetics department. Feeling a bit down with melancholy, I opted for a little retail therapy. I bought some facial cream called "Hope in a Jar".

I always get very sad while in NYC. For some odd reason, I don't know why, I get home sick and start thinking about my family back home in Egypt. Needless to say, the train ride from NYC is a very sombre one. It doesn't help when the weather is cold, dark, and gloomy (which is to say, most year round in New York). My train ride this weekend was no different. I dwelled on my loneliness and all the things I was missing. I was even humming Ricky Martin and Christina Arguilera "No Body Wants to be Lonely". Then I got to thinking about my purchase. In an attempt of momentary happiness, I bought "Hope in a Jar". The real reasons I bought "Hope in a Jar" is to combat wrinkles, yet I couldn't help but think of the irony of this emotional purchase. I was at Macy's largest shop, smack in the middle of their cosmetics department with a cornucopia of global brands, surrounded by retinol this and retinol that, organic natural ingredients, semi-professional cleansing and restoring products, yet I went for "Hope in a Jar"!

Now, I am not dissing the product, it was one of Oprah's favorite things (and thus why I am aware of its existence). However, what struck me as ironic is, at a time when I was feeling despair and at my most worst, I bought "HOPE !!!! in a Jar". Grant you this is facial cream, and the hope it is peddling is the return of youth. Nevertheless, wouldn't it be great if you could buy a little bit of hope when your life seems hopeless, a little bit of faith when you feel that you are losing your way, or a little bit of encouragement when you just can't go on. Wouldn't those be the greatest products of all time. Who among us wouldn't pay good money for a little bit of hope, faith, love, self-esteem, and courage.

The mere thought of the possibility to buy the emotional support I needed that day lightened my mood. I realized that such emotions can be found - for free - in the simplest of things. I realized that hope is all around for those who seek it. It's in a friend's hug. It's in the single ray of sunshine that escapes through the clouds. It's in a little white jar of cream that puts a smile on my face whenever I use it because it reminds me of the time I wished I could buy HOPE in a jar.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I choose to be Muhajaba (wear a veil)

As a child, I never thought much about hejab. My mother started wearing it in her 40s. All the elderly woman in the family and my aunts were already muhajabat. My older cousins started wearing a veil after graduating from college and getting engaged. I guess, I thought that it is something muslim women do when they get older - we cover our arms, legs and head. I never asked nor wondered why. For me, it was enough to know that it is part of our religion. I never had the need to inquire beyond that. Then, when I was 13 , during the summer between 6th and 7th grade, my best friend called me one day. She was in an absolute frenzy. Her father demanded that she starts wearing a veil, and she was calling to complain about how unfair he was being. This went on all summer. Her father insisting that she either wears a veil or stay home, then she'd call me to complain about the whole situation. Finally, towards the end of summer, she gave in and agreed to become muhajaba. To celebrate this momentous occasion (and most probably sweeten the situation) my friend's mother took her shopping for  an entire new wardrobe and scarves.  This was the first time that I realized that wearing a veil is something muslim women do once they come of age.

Upon realizing this, my natural reaction was to declare that I too shall start wearing a veil. However, my mother tenaciously refused. She assumed that I was either jealous of my friends new clothes, and thus wanted to wear hejab in hopes that I will get a new wardrobe, or my friend convinced me to wear a veil, so she wouldn't be the only one covered up in class. Neither reason was correct. To me, wearing a veil is part of who I am as a muslim women, just like praying and fasting. Yet, my mother was adamant. She told me that I was too immature to make such a decision at 13. She believed that when I go to high school or college, I'd be tempted to wear the latest designs and long to go to the hairdresser and show off my locks! She believed that I would come to regret wearing a veil, and opt to take it off. Something she would never allow. Little did she know that I would (and will) never fall prey to fashion, vanity, or peer pressure, Little did she know that when I got older she'd have as much control over me as she does of the weather. Nevertheless, she won this round. My friend wasn't the only one wearing a veil in class. Several other girls started wearing hijab that year. I remember them being excited about it. None of them thought twice about the vanity of showing off skin or hair. A few years went by and I approached my mother about wearing a veil. She still stood by her belief that I was too immature to make such a decision at such a young age. Obviously, my mother didn't know me that well.

On April 4th 1994, I was a senior in high school. It was a Saturday and I was getting ready to go to a biology tutor lesson. For some odd reason, I don't know why, I woke up that day, went to mother and said that I will start wearing a veil. She just looked up from her morning cup of coffee, shrugged her shoulders and said "Okay". Again, it is not in my nature to ponder on the reasons why these events have occurred in such a way. I choose to believe that it was meant to happen on this date and therefore it did. So, after years of trying to convince my mother that , yes, I am mature enough to decide to wear hijab, it finally happened without much fanfare. I just put on a cotton sweater over my t-shirt and borrowed a scarf from either my mom or sister, I can't remember from whom exactly. That was all I needed to do to become muhajaba. Back then, I was a bit of a tom-boy (to be honest, I still am). My wardrobe consisted of jeans and t-shirts. All I had to do was buy a couple of sweaters to cover up my arms and borrow a scarf from my mother's or sister's collection to cover my head.

It's been 18 years since I first wore hijab. I have never come to regret my decision. On the  contrary, the older I get , the more empowered I feel as a muhajaba. Growing up, I didn't give it much thought, but in college I realized that the veil provide much more than physical cover up. One can't deny that we live in a visual society. As a veiled woman, I know that I capture the attention of others with what I have to say, rather than how I look. As a feminist, I find this the most empowering thing of all. Veiled woman are evaluated on merits of their work and their value to the organization - void of va-va-voom hair, cleavage, and gams. Knowing that this little piece of cloth has helped me excel throughout my career, makes me walk a little bit taller - parading the fact that I AM A PROUD VEILED MUSLIM WOMAN - and I like it !

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lessons Learned ?

We all knew that it will be an up-hill battle, a learning opportunity. We have all experience and witnessed learning curves before. We usually bear the consequences of the mistakes  made along the road to enlightenment and we often get to enjoy the fruits of the experience. However, when an entire nation is leaning how to engage into politics and survive within a democratic environment, the stakes are much higher. Again, we are all learning and we have no one to show us the way. Unfortunately it will be our children who will bear the results of our forte into democracy. 

Before I venture further I would like to iterate my position. I have never supported this so called revolution. I believe that the events were instigated to simply ouster the old regime and introduce anarchy. The true objective was to replace Aldo be Shahin, to have a specific party/individual in power. Yet the aim of this post is not to explain my point of view on the revolution. I simply wished to reiterate what I have been saying all long, as I did not want to be accused of flip-flopping. Whether I supported the revolution or not is besides the point. At the end we are all Egyptians, we should work together for the betterment of the country and of society. This is why I choose to participate - as much as I can - in this political awakening. I must admit that now, 18 months after all hell broke loose, I am able to have a more objective point of view. Maybe because I no longer leave in Egypt - so my livelihood is not contingent on what happens within the country, or simply because I have come to terms with the death of My Egypt. We all have to acknowledge that the Egypt we know, The Egypt we grew up with is long gone and it is not coming back. We must move forward, towards the future. Although the journey ahead is full of turmoil and it'll change course as much as the stairs at Hogwarts, we must preserve and keep course. 

In my attempt to move ahead, I will summarize the lessons learned (or are they?) during the past year and half. This is from my perspective, similarly I encourage everyone to do the same. Together - as one nation - we must learn to face our failures before we celebrate our victories. Most importantly, WE must LEARN from our mistakes.
  1. Lets take a moment to get our heads out of our assess and confess that we know shit about shit ! I apologize for the profanity, but I think it is called for. Enough is enough. If we want to be vocal about politics, economics, religion, history . . etc, we have to first possess some knowledge (any knowledge) about these topics. If not, then at least lets agree that we are operating on an uneducated bunch or point of view, and not facts.
  2. Every right comes with responsibilities. If we want democracy (as our basic right) then we have the responsibility to participate in the democratic process. If we want changes, then we have the responsibility to start with our selves. If we choose to passively stand on the sidelines, then we forfeit the right to complain, comment, or protest.
  3. Fel Et-had Kowa is not just a mantra or slogan, it has to become a way of life. In order to unit segregated entities we need clear objectives and goals. If we examine the 25 Jan Revolution, the only thing uniting the people in Tahrir square at the time was the objective of getting rid of Mubarak. Unfortunately, if this was a true revolution, getting rid of Mubarak should have been a mean and not a cause. Once that ultimate objective was met, the people in the square started to move into different groups, disagreeing on almost everything. Some pseudo-leaders emerged, such as Hamdeen El Sahaby. Yet they were not able to rally enough support to guarantee a spot in the 2nd round of presidential elections. I personally believe that if Abu El Fotouh, El Sabahy, El Aow, and Khaled Aly formed a united coalition, they would have created a powerful unit strong enough to overtake the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2nd round. ma3lesh 7'era fe 3'erha, hopefully the lesson is learned (or not?) and we can rectify this mistake in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
  4. Furthermore, objectives don't only unit people but they also provide a cause, a purpose, a reason to be patient and withstand the hardship and keep the course. Objectives renew people's hope when all seems gone. Enough with empty slogans, kefaya she3arat. It is easy to point fingers at the old regime and governments, blaming them for everything. We should demand from the newly elected President, who is backed by a political party, and people's assembly,to set forth concise road-maps, objectives, and measures for achieving their promises. It will be our responsibility to hold them accountable for these results.
  5. Last but not least, we must acknowledge that this is only the beginning and it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

I do not envy the future elected president of Egypt. He will face many challenges, the hardest of which will be reigning in and managing the expectations of the Egyptian people. It will be a thankless job, dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't. There will always be those who oppose some of his actions, or all of his actions. There will always be those who call him a traitor, felol or puppet to foreign powers. Only someone with a strong convection will be able to  withstand the abuse of our divided nation. Only someone who seeks no glory - for there will be none - can persevere against the tireless forces betting on the country's demise. No, I do not envy this person one bit, nor do I have any advice for him.

There are many issues that need to be addressed and changed in Egypt. I believe that there are two very important and fundamental sectors that have been neglected for the past decade, or five, namely the education and health services. No more needs to be said. I doubt there is any Egyptian who would argue against the dire state of these two sectors. Most presidential candidates have been addressing these issues in their campaigns,  yet, based on what I have heard so far, I feel that what is being promoted is no more than void slogans; been said before but never done.  I am yet to hear a single program that promises progress in either aspect. I believe that education and health services are major pillars in building Egypt 2.0. These services directly impact the caliber of Egyptians who will continue to sustain the country's future development.

I first heard of the term "Human Capital" while studying the Balanced Scorecard management concept. I instantly fell in love with the expression. Ever since my first days of college, I detested labeling employees as "resources". Resources are tangible objects. They are scarce. They depreciate upon usage. Employees , on the other hand, are not materials that can be stored up for a rainy day.The more an employee is utilized, the more valuable he/she become to the organization and the entire national workforce. Employees (Citizens) do not represent bodies (i.e. headcount), they are the accumulated knowledge and competencies that make companies (countries) great. To that extent, they are as important , if not more so, as funding and capital. When money dries up, new investors can easily be found, the same cannot be said about qualified staff. Similarly, the prosperity of nations is contingent on the availability of a resilient economy and strong security, both needed to support great citizens. Without the people, money and power can only take a country so far, case in point are the Arabic Gulf countries.This is why I believe the future president and his government should focus their efforts on education and health services. We need citizens who are physically able to withstand hard labor and mentally competent to carryout smart labor.

I call upon all Egyptian experts, where ever you are, to come up with development programs. I call upon the presidential candidates to embrace these programs and vow to implement them, no matter the cost. I call upon the Egyptian people to be patient. Eradicating corruption and cleansing these two sectors from ailments will take time. We will not see improvements for years to come, but we must adhere to the plan, we have to get the ball running.

The first thing that might come to mind is how can we get immediate results. I do not believe in quick fixes. Shortcuts and Fahlawa is a big part of our problems. However, I believe that in order to achieve sustained progress we must start with younger generations. Educate mothers on the importance of proper nutrition, hygiene, and exercise to the well being of their children. Focusing our attention on curricula and extracurricular activities. These are all important steps towards advancing the quality of the Egyptian workforce, but what are we going to do for the next 20 - 25 years until the new batches of super students are ready. Furthermore, how are we going to guarantee quality education for the next generations when those supervising, administering, and facilitating the learning process do not meet the minimum requirements needed to influence future professionals. These are imperative issues which need to be resolved. I image that all presidential candidates will discuss these topics accordingly, and purpose development programs to enhance educations, while propagating their ideologies and political agenda. Again, I do not envy the next president one bit.

So, until we discover the magic formula to churning out top notch doctors, engineers, lawyer . . . etc., how can the country move forward with the sub par skills and qualifications of current and future crops of workers. Again, there is no silver bullet that will make all our problems magically disappear. Yet, I believe there is a simple solution to most issues. In my opinion, the new government should prompt the study of "Life Skills" across all faculties at university level. These are competencies and skills we all use everyday, such as communication, negotiation, project & time management, accounting, statistics and  decision making , to name a few. These topics might be addressed in business school syllabi, however they are looked upon as course fillers. Anyone exposed to a corporate environment, knows that these soft skills are imperative to the success of any employee. Empowering all graduates with these skills and knowledge will allow them to move across professions. It will prepared them with enough qualifications to work in various industries, regardless of their academic background. I actually advocate starting such studies at a high school level, thus ensuring that fresh graduates being induced into the employment market are equipped with diversified skills enabling them to perform a magnitude of tasks across disciplines.

This is not a silver bullet, it is just the beginning of a long tiresome journey. Most of us will not make it to the finish line, but those who do will be strong enough to keep on going to Infinity and Beyond !

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I was reading an article about the 30 things a woman should know by the time she is 30. Although the list was put together by an American journalists, I felt that it could be generalized across various cultures. Let's face it, women are women regardless of their geographical location, whether be it New York or Cairo. We all face similar challenges and obstacles along the way.  As I am reflecting on the life long lessons I have learned, the only thing that kept popping in my head was coming to terms with the notion that "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder". I am amazed at how long it took me to come to this realization, despite the fact that it ties into one of my dominating views - Everything in Life is relative. I call it my theory of relativity. 

It took me a while to realize that Beauty, much like everything else, is a matter of opinion. In essence we are who we are. No amount of waxing, plucking, coiffing, or polishing is going to change that. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to present ourselves in a nice package. Just like marketing a product, the outer package must appeal to the target audience. This brings us to the notion of "the eye of the beholder". I can hear the collective gasp of feminist at the objectification of women in comparing them to commercial products. But let's be honest, who among us hasn't dressed for the occasion. While getting ready to attend a wedding, we painstakingly  select our outfit and head gear/ hair style to upstage other female attendances and maybe attract the attention of suitable mates (or their mothers;) ). Needless to say, we have all done this at one point or another. In order to be perceived as beautiful, we have to appeal to the notion of beauty as defined by those to whom we want to be perceived. Even the definition of beautiful in its self is relative and the criteria of such definitions vary as much. I would like to point out that I am talking about external appearance. Internal beauty can't be altered, that's just hypocrisy. However, the external packaging of our souls change from season to season.

The bottom line is, dress to impress, that is if you want to leave an impression. Yet if you have the strength to forgo social vanity, for rest assured that you are beautiful in the eyes of those whose opinions matter the most.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

El beda walla el Farkha: The relationship between a country's president and its constitution

Much debate has been going on over the chronological order of electing a president and establishing a constitution. This is a chicken-and-egg argument where the mass opinion is divided into two groups. There are those who advocate the establishment of the constitution first and foremost. They believe that without a new and improved constitution, any ruling body will be a different version of the old establishment. On the other hand we have those who lobby for electing the president first. They believe that a leader - chosen by the people - is imperative in uniting the diverse local forces to work together on founding the new-era constitution. Again, this is a chick-and-egg debate, which should precede the other is an endless discussion. Partaking in such a discussion will get us no where, except maybe realizing why the chicken crossed the road - to get out of the discussion !

As a long-time pragmatic, I couldn't help but wonder why should there be a correlation between the president and the constitution, more precisely between electing a president and establishing a constitution. By definition, a constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed (copied from Wikipedia). Most probably the constitution specifies the qualifications of presidential candidates and the process by which they are nominated and elected. So I understand that there is an inherit relationship. However, we need to formulate,  agree upon, and publish the constitution before it can be enforced. Now, this argument might appear to advocate that the constitution should be established before electing a president, again chicken-and-egg. Nevertheless, until these governing principles are in place, what is going to happen to the country? Can Egypt just stay on the sidelines of world politics and economy, declining to participate until  clear rules of engagement are defined? I do not think this is possible. It's not like this is a video game where we can press the reset button and just start over. We have to remain an active player to ensure border security and economic stability, even more so as we rely heavily on imports for our day-to-day needs. So the option of putting the country on hold until the constitution is established does not seem to be plausible. So what is the alternative? Those of the "constitution first" mindset have suggested appointing a ruling party/group consisting of prominent politicians representing most of the country's different political temperaments. Yet, why would this group of people lawfully rule the country without an integrated constitution in place, while an elected individual can not? Isn't this the main reason they argue that the constitution must come first. Some people say that having a group of people ruling the country is better, as group members will keep each other honest. Maybe, or maybe not.

The truth of the matter is, no one can predict the outcome of this political experiment. Who among us has participated in or even witness the founding of a constitution ! We are all learning how to live with and partake in the political process. Unfortunately the price of this learning curve is the mistakes that will be made in the pursuit of democracy. Moreover, the next president will have a unique role unlike any other ruler from the past or the future. While heads of states have the responsibility of overseeing governments' efforts in maintaining a firm position within the worldwide arena as they secure the well being of their citizens, our next president will have the burden of shepherding Egypt into the Future. This will be a thankless job, an impossible task of uniting a fragmented society in order to work together tirelessly on an endeavor from which they will not have an immediate gain. This person will not form the new constitution, his role will be to foster an environment where different - and often opposing - points of views can come together for a greater good, albeit while maintaining Egypt's position in the worldwide arena as he secures the well being of the Egyptian people. So whether the constitution should comes first or the presidential elections is a mute discussion. At the end heya kolaha weg-het nazar (a matter of opinion).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Average Joes: Life at the top of the normal distribution curve!

As children, we are constantly told that each and every one of us is special in our own way. As individuals, we each possess a certain set of skills, talent if you may, that makes us shine apart from the rest. Parents sign their kids up for different activities such as sports, arts, and/or music extracurricular hobbies; jamming their child’s already busy  schedule with diverse exposure to various disciplines in hope that they’ve spawned the next Yo-Yo Ma or Abu Triekka. The truth of the matter is that the majority of people are born without any distinguishable talents what so ever. The majority of people live their lives firmly positioned at the top of the normal distribution curve, never achieving outlier status.  They can do most things well, yet they are not great at particularly anything.

There’s nothing wrong with being average, again most people are. So why is there a continual effort to ingrain children with a sense that they are (or must be) extraordinary. When has ordinary become such a bad thing? Why can’t we teach them to embrace who they are. Teach them to identify their strengths, ordinary as they may be, and to make those strengths work for them. I understand that it is “a dog eats dog” world, and we must teach our children how to survive in such an environment. However, emphasizing that they have to be exceptional can be detrimental to their self-esteem, more so for the emerging average Joes. Ordinary kids spend their childhoods and exert much effort in trying to prove to themselves that they are great at something - anything, trying to live up to the enormous expectation put upon them by their parents and by society. When they can’t find their talent, they start to prey on other kids who are actually special, and thus a bully is born. On the other hand, they can just dwell in their own self-pity and sorrow, essentially bulling themselves. How can we expect them to show tolerance to others when we didn’t teach them to accept who they are?

To all the average Joes out there, we are the worker bees and yes it sucks! We’ll probably never get to shine in the spotlight. We won’t leave lasting legacies. But, without us outliers would not exists, for there will be no movie stars without movie goers. We are the axis from which outliers deviate to show their extraordinary attributes. We might not make the world spin, but we keep it in its orbit. Embrace your old average self and know that it is us who make geniuses genius.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Dichotomy of Mediocre Performance

For years now I have been noticing a general decline in work (performance) done by Egyptian employees. Grant you that my observations are based on my personal interactions and stories relayed to me by friends and acquaintances.   Upon further reflection, I started to realize that this phenomenon has spread to all aspects of our lives.

Without proper investigation and root-cause analysis, it will be impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons behind this issue.  
 However, I believe that the “Me Too” effect (more precisely “Eshma3na Ana”) has a lot to do with it. The perpetuation of mediocrity throughout our lives has led quite many Egyptians to wonder why should they give a damn when everyone else doesn’t give a hoot. Why should they care about doing a good job, when all around them people are getting away with doing lousy work? Of course these people justify mediocre performance by saying (and in due time believing) that the smart thing to do would be to exert the most minimum amount of effort while maintain a mediocre enough quality of work as not to get any salary deductions. This must be smart. This is street smart “Fahlawa”! Only an idiot would do more effort than necessary, when they can do less and get paid the same.

This has been going on for years, but when it first started, I imagine it wasn’t as wide spread as it is now. In the beginning people were just a few minutes late coming into work. Why should they be on time? Most companies have a 10 – 15 minutes grace period for attendance – just in case employees run into some traffic or any other issues that would delay them. In fact it’s not only justifiable to be late, it would actually be wasteful  to arrive on time and not use those 10 minutes allowance ;) look at Mohamed, for example, every day he comes in at 9:15, yet nothing is deducted from his salary. Then why should May be on time? Besides, we really can’t control traffic. There is nothing we can do to guarantee that we arrive every morning at exactly 9:00 am. What happens when we come in at 8:55? The company doesn’t pay us for those extra 5 minutes. It’s just plain stupid to not take advantage of those late minutes.  What harm would come from being a couple of minutes late each day?  Of course if organizations accept and expect their employees to be late coming into work, then “logically” the same concept applies to deadline and delivery dates. Duh! Companies simply cannot expect their employees to hand in their work and meet deadlines on time. Come on, we all know that management always factors in delays. We don’t control the universe. Stuff happens! Look at Tawfik, he’s always late for meetings. Why should I be on time? Besides I’ll only be a few minutes late. I’ll just be getting a cup of coffee.

Throughout those years, employee’s performance decline started to slowly but steadily creep into the Egyptian work place. With every few late minutes, or missing pounds, employees justified poor performance with “everyone’s doing it“ and “who is it harming?” notions. Now imagine an entire generation that was exposed to these levels of mediocrity throughout their lives. Teachers at schools skipping lessons because there won’t be included in the final exam or these lessons are for gifted students. Who needs math anyway? Bus drivers who run through red lights and cut other vehicle off the road because everyone else is doing it and the people who abide by traffic laws and fasten their seat belts are actually bad drivers. At home, they hear their dad brag about making a huge commission because he overpriced an offer and the customer was too stupid to notice the high margin. By the time these kids become a part of the workforce, they don’t even need to justify mediocre performance to themselves. For this generation, doing the bare minimum is normal. To them, it is the right way of doing things.

Unfortunately the current and future batch of Egyptian college graduates is a result of our mediocre performance lifestyle. It is going to take a tremendous amount of effort and perseverance to shift their paradigm of “Acceptable Performance”. This is one task where good enough will not be good enough.