Reflections of a 21 year old Muslim Egyptian Immigrant Entrepreneur: 21 failures, 21 successes, 21 goals

Mahmoud Khedr

I’m an immigrant, a minority, college student, and entrepreneur who just turned 21. In this post, I want to share 21 failures, 21 successes, and 21 goals with you.

Before I begin, I’d like to give a little backstory on me. I was born in Egypt in March of 1996, and lived most of my early years in different countries; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, before coming to the United States in 2008. I was the kid that bought stuff from Dollar Tree in Long Island, and sold it to my peers in Brentwood Middle School (was known as the “Candy dealer”). In my high school years, I worked as a bus boy, delivery boy, dishwasher, and cashier, all while being involved and invested in making the school better. I went to one of NYC’s “inner city” high schools, but made the best out of my time and took advantage of every opportunity presented. I’m currently a college student who identifies as an entrepreneur, a hustler and a marketer.

I’ve failed more times than I can count, disappointed more people than I could imagine, and have been in some really difficult situations. Those hard times made me who I am.

One of the main reasons I’m sharing some of these failures and successes is with the hope to inspire someone who’s going through it. If you take a look at any of my social media platforms, you’ll see lots of positivity. You might see a meme here and there, or a repost about something that’s personally important, or a life update about a meaningful achievement. I purposely put out all of this in the hopes of inspiring and motivating others. I know a lot of us are the same; we only post about the great things happening in our lives. It’s great.

But I want to take a moment to talk to you about some of it that isn’t so great.

This past year, I’ve took more L’s (losses) than the number of times I wrote “L”, cried countless times, felt lonely, depressed, and defeated many more.

Here’s a list of 21 things that brought me down in the past year, alone:

I’ve received about 16 rejections from internships/programs
I applied to 14 colleges as a transfer student, and got rejected to ALL of them
I had a negative bank account the entire summer because I sacrificed the corporate for the startup life
I’ve failed at many goals and hopes that I set, and did so in a pretty consistent manner:
Lose weight? (Nope, gained an extra 40 pounds – neglecting my body and the food I consumed)
Read 40 books? (Nope, only read 1-5 over the past year)
Cut out some negative energy? (Nope, kept people around way longer than I wanted to)
End procrastination? (The ultimate fail. Late assignments, late nights, missed ones, too many excuses and BS)
Increase punctuality? (Missed tens of meetings, rescheduled a bunch, showed up late to others)
Learn many new skills? (Never “found the time” to do so – even though I did learn a few new things)
I’ve pulled tens and tens of all nighters that have had a serious toll on me
Disregarded, dismissed, or overlooked a team member’s opinion (not great leadership qualities)
Gave up my values and beliefs to please others
Got thrown out of a project I was extremely passionate about
I’ve missed deadlines to some really important applications and programs
Lost meaningful friendships and connections
The number of people I have let down and disappointed is unimaginable
I’ve “crashed and burned” way too many times
Made excuses and reasons to why I am the way I am
Set plenty of high expectations and failed to meet many of them
Excessively lied to myself about my achievements and accomplishments
The list goes on and on. And this is the past year alone. I’ll highlight more of these failures in a different post and go more in depth into some of them. I’ll also talk about how I coped with most. For now, here’s my 3-step process with how to move on:

Accept the failure, and allow yourself to be sad. If you never allow yourself to feel sadness and failure, you’ll never appreciate happiness and success. Take some personal time to reflect on it and see why things happened the way they did.

2. Talk about it.
Hit up your best friend, your parents, siblings, your mentors or close relatives. Don’t keep it to yourself. Go out and talk to people about it. If you have no one that is close to you, talk about it on your social media, and find someone who’ll grab a coffee with you. We ALL go through it. P.S. I will be happy to spare time to talk with you about it as well!

3. Fail forward.
Now that you have accepted the failure, and talked about it with others, you need to move on. Dwelling and reflecting on it for too long won’t get you anywhere. It will only make things worse. Fail forward–learn from your failure and take it with you. Be proud of it because it will teach you something new or improve you in one way or another.
Now, even though I’ve faced all of these different challenges and failures (and even some that are too personal to share, and others that I’ve forgotten) there has been a lot of good. I’m extremely grateful for all of the good things that happened in the past year.

21 great things that happened since I turned 20:
1.I had been 6 months into my internship @Echoing Green (a phenomonal organization)
2.Received an offer for a Summer Internship at Bloomberg as a Freshman (more on why I turned it down later)
3.Build the Entrepreneurship Club @ CCNY from 3 members to 25+ core team, 500+ CCNY reach
4.Spent the entire summer fully committing my time, energy, and money to a startup; helping lead it’s marketing and user acquisition efforts
5.Attended Harvard’s Arab Weekend Conference
6.First time speaking in front of 300+ professionals @ Virtual Enterprise International’s Annual Gala
7.First concert – Drake & Future Summer 16’
8.Shot my first short film
9.And my first prank video
10.Hosted a TEDxCUNY @ CCNY with the awesome team @ the Entrepreneurship Club – 100+ attendees (Super success) Check out talks here
11.Had a great lunch with Prince Abdullah Bin Faisal, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States where we discussed international policy and bringing entrepreneurship and innovation to the middle east
12.Met one of my biggest role models – Gary Vaynerchuk
13.Started my sophomore year at the City College of New York 🙂
14.Did an amazing internship at the Mayor’s Office of Tech + Innovation (Fall, 2016)
15.Started building – Vendr/Runr, a food tech startup changing the way consumers choose, buy, and eat their food (Currently incubating & competing in the Zahn Innovation Center’s 2017 cohort + tech competition)
16.Named a Stanford University Innovation Fellow – CCNY Article, FB post
17.First time taking a flight inside the U.S. alone – Traveled to Facebook’s Office in Austin, TX
18.Hosted one of the most admirable and awesome people I have had the pleasure to know: a mentor and leader in every way @ CCNY: Karim Abouelnaga (Live video here)
19.Honored as a Student Leader at NAAP’s Annual Banquet
20.Made a TON of new friends, colleagues, and connections (super grateful)
21.Realized my self-worth (one of the most important things ever)

Sitting down and writing some of my most meaningful accomplishments actually makes me realize how grateful, humbled, and thankful I am…for everyone and everything that has happened thus far. Despite all of the hardships I’ve faced, reflecting on the good side has definitely made me appreciate the journey more than anything. I want to note that a lot of these opportunities and experiences were not handed to me–I went out of my way to find them, I created some of them, or took them without asking. That’s the mindset you must have to succeed. #21Savage

To wrap this up, I want to share some of my goals for the next year with you. I hope in doing so I will be able to hold myself accountable more, and be able to document some of my future struggles in the future.

21 goals that I want to accomplish in the next year:
1.Spend more time knowing my religion (Islam) and understanding everything it entails
2.Lose about 40-50 pounds – hit the gym 1-3 times a week (to start)
3.Spend more time with family and loved ones
4.Become much better at managing, saving and investing money (really need help here)
5.Build and grow my startup – have real impact in the food tech industry and empower my team and 6.myself to be the best we can be
7.Have a bigger influence and reach to aspiring entrepreneurs, hustlers, and doers who are looking for guidance
8.Build my personal brand, launching my website and speaking in-front of bigger audiences
9.Spread a lot more positivity and love in the world
10.Read more often – about 1 book every 1-2 weeks
11.Nurture more friendships – spend more time with the people that matter (depth vs. width)
12.Never change, for anyone’s sake – always uphold my values and beliefs
13.Explore new hobbies – try something new, at least once a month
14.Learn Arabic more fluently – my language, which I am not very good at speaking
15.Travel more often – explore more parts of the city, the country, and the world
16.Be more open and vulnerable
17.Make a more structured and disciplined life – give up on bad habits and truly be consistent with setting and achieving goals
18.Have a 24 hours turn-around on all emails 🙂
19.Be less judgmental and more understanding + empathetic of others
20.Set real expectations – manage those expectations, and ALWAYS under-promise, over-deliver
21.Start writing and recording music – a mixtape of 5-7 songs by the end of 2017 (a little bit odd? Always been a dream though 🙂 )

Take better care of my soul, mind, body – filter negativity, prioritize better, and become a mean, lean, startup machine 🙂
Feel free to provide your expertise, tips, guidelines, links, videos, etc. to help me achieve some of those goals. Or even hitting me up to ask about how certain ones are going. Or share some yours and the troubles you’ve had. That’s what I want in the next year. I’ll be working on breaking it down over the next few months–bigger vision, smaller goals.

I am human, just like you are. I’ve had my hardships and wins along the road. When I look back at what kept me driven and motivated, it would have to be my purpose. I truly believe in the theory that, if you don’t have a “why” to what you do everyday, you’ll get lost and confused. There’s a popular saying that goes, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I think that is so true. If you don’t have values and beliefs–you won’t be able to wake up and grind every day.

Hold your “why” high and proud everyday. Good luck on your journey. Let’s keep the convo going? Tell me about some of your failures, successes, and goals! #212121

(The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the or TMA Worldwide)

About the Author
Mahmoud Khedr is an Egyptian immigrant & entrepreneur living in NYC. He is passionate about education, technology, and helping empower small businesses. He cares about diversity + inclusion in biz + tech, among many other things. His ultimate goal is to do epic work! :). He is currently interning at and founder of Runr Technologies, a Logistics and Supply Chain startup.

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