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Creativity: That Elusive Element

By: Kathy Shalhoub


Have you ever wondered if you’re creative or not? Do you have that spark in you? Take my creativity test and you’ll know for sure.

Answer the following questions with Yes or No.

  1. Are you human?
  2. Do you have a brain?
  3. Do you live around people?

If you answered yes to all the questions above then, congratulations, you are creative!

See I don’t believe that anyone is born with that something special and elusive we all call creativity. I used to think so but not anymore. I used to think that either you had it or you didn’t. And if you had it, well lucky you, because it sure wasn’t lucky me.

Until one day an artist friend (who I thought was incredibly creative!) took a look at things I was writing, things I was cooking, things I was thinking about and went: Wow! You’re so creative.

I said: what me?! Don’t be silly!

Then when it kept happening I thought, Oh my God, I’m creative!!! When did this happen?

So I realized that if even I had some shards of creativity inside me, it must exist in everyone! Science has finally caught up with me and proven it.

In the book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer tells us that science has now pinpointed creativity to a tiny fold of tissue in the brain called the anterior superior temporal gyrus that becomes very active just seconds before an epiphany.

So what brings about these moments of ‘epiphany’ that we call creativity? Apparently, something as simple as a casual conversation can lead you to unexpected ideas, and something as outrageous as criticism that challenges your thoughts or ideas can force you to seek alternate paths, and therefore make you more creative.

Have you ever noticed that ‘creative’ people are often disorganized, do a million things at once and yes, procrastinate endlessly? Well it seems that interruptions are not that terrible after all (see my previous post on Procrastination) and being excellent at focusing is not that useful when you’re being creative. A British scientist has shown that it is those very interruptions that give our mind the mental pause it needs to notice a stray thought or random insight and bring it to your attention.

If you want to try being more creative, consider sitting outside by the ocean or painting your room blue since a study shows that this color helps stimulate our imagination. Talk to people, tell them about your ideas, have them challenge you. Try doing things differently, get out of your comfort zone, eat a banana upside down or walk through the city if you normally drive. Welcome interruptions, take breaks from your focus group, turn your brainstorming session into a critique session, don’t give up hope when you get stuck. Just take a break and give your anterior superior temporal gyrus the chance to work on things for you!

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Are you a PP?

By: Kathy Shalhoub


What is the major thing that holds so many freelancers back from running full speed ahead? Is it lack of skill, talent, ideas and opportunity? Maybe a little, but I think that the greatest barrier of all is being a Procrastination Professional. Somehow you keep wishing you had a job to work on, you hope a project will come through, you network, you market and sell yourselves, and suddenly, finally, when you have a job, you just can’t seem to get around to doing it!

Procrastination is the leash around our necks, choking us and holding us back from being as productive as we would like to be. Do you find yourself sitting down to write, illustrate, edit, make something or research something and all of a sudden there are so many MORE important things you should be doing, like checking email and Facebook, cleaning the scum off the bathtub, taking the laundry for dry cleaning or cutting the cat’s claws? Do you feel that you have to get into the right mood, you need to make that cup of coffee or tea, that snack or that desert so that you have energy, you need to get into your comfy chair or your special spot , you must have the lighting and mood just right for your genius to flow?

Well here’s some interesting news for you. According to Rachel Ballon, a well-known therapist and author, the leading reasons for procrastination are psychological and unconscious. You want to sit down and get stuff done, you really do! But at the same exact time, you just don’t. Go figure!

It seems that this split in what we really want to be doing and not doing it is usually caused by some fear deep down inside that we aren’t quite aware of.  The two main fears most people struggle with are fear of rejection and fear of failure. If you never submit any work, you never risk either. Problem solved. J In the short term!

In the long term though, if you plan to be taken seriously as a freelancer, procrastination ultimately not only prevents you from completing your project, but it stops you from ever reaching your goals. If that was the worst of it, big deal but there’s more. Procrastination affects your self-image negatively. When you don’t complete your project you feel guilty, and ashamed, and the more you feel like that the more you procrastinate so then you feel even more guilt and shame. It just keeps getting worse and worse until it damages your self-esteem and your self-worth so much that you simply talk yourself out of the idea that you could or should ever have thought about freelancing in the first place. And you’re worse off than when you started.

Another leading reason for procrastination is making your work the absolute last thing ‘to do’ on your list. Everything must be clean, cooked, returned, prepared etc… before you can sit down and focus on your work, and by the time all the other stuff is done, damn!, the day is over and you have no time left!

If you find that you are a Procrastination Professional, take some time to explore your self, your fears and your unconscious. What is holding you back and why? Were you discouraged by friends or family? Do you think what you’re doing is not important or silly? Do you worry you’ll be bad at it? Figuring out the reason gets you half way to the solution. And learning how to overcome procrastination and create in the middle of life’s to-do list ultimately will be what sets you apart from people who have always dreamt about freelancing but have never gotten around to doing it.

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Freelancing Success: Have you got it?

By: Kathy Shalhoub


In celebration of Beta being launched, I want to talk about freelancers today (and next week too!). It seems that finally, the day has come where we are valued as important members of society. So much so that in addition to the launch of, the Dubai government now issues a permit specifically for freelancers allowing them to operate as a sole professional and to conduct business in their own name as opposed to a brand. Yay for us!

So now that we can legally operate in the UAE without being dependent on a company, spouse or sponsor, what do we need to be freelancers and how do we assure success?

What do you need to be a Freelancer?

In brief, to be a freelancer you need to have credibility and that consists of two things:

  1. Expertise in a very specific area

    An expert is someone who has made more mistakes than other people, has learned from those mistakes, has found a solution that works and is able to replicate that solution.

    It’s not as hard as it sounds. For example, I know a freelance translator whose niche was technical translation for the pharmaceutical industry. She had brushed up on the lingo, learned the jargon in Arabic, and was able to translate French and English into excellent technical Arabic. As a result, she’s in high demand and charges 150 AED per page while others are only able to charge 75 AED or less.

    Why such a huge difference in fees for the same freelancing field? Why are clients willing to pay some freelancers so much more money than others? Because price is a function of perceived value!

    Once you have expertise, maintain it! Keep reading, learning, participating in programs and workshops, and practicing. Develop yourself as much as you can.

  2. People skills

    Ok, you have the expertise, now what? If a potential client contacts you through nabbesh for your services, what do you do? I say get their attention and earn their trust fast!

    In the first minutes of a meeting, you need to get your message across quickly and concisely, show them that you understand their problems and earn enough trust for them to see you as the solution. That will get you the job.

    Keeping the job though depends on managing the relationship. Does your client want a friendly rapport with you or are they looking for a quick efficient non-chatty business transaction? Having the ability to read your client, understanding the type of person they are and the quality of interaction they’re looking for will keep you the job and get you referrals.

    In freelancing more than anywhere, the ability to relate to people, understand what they need and successfully deliver exactly what they’re asking for is how you become successful.

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Luck, Chance and All of That.

By: Kathy Shalhoub


Don’t you hate those people who are so lucky they always get what they want? That job, a good deal on a car, the perfect spouse… they seem to have something that we mere mortals always come close to but somehow always miss.

Meanwhile, you’re the poor bugger who always picks the line that moves the slowest, gets overlooked for that promotion and finds a splash of ketchup on your shirt just as you’re headed in for an interview. You tell yourself you’re just not one of those lucky people.

Well, I think that’s bullshnozzle. I once heard that ‘Luck’ is simply a combination of preparedness and opportunity. I tend to agree.

Before you start arguing, let me make a little clarification. There’s luck, as defined above, and there’s chance. Chance is the probability of an event happening to you at any given time. So the chances of you getting a 6 when you throw a die (if you actually throw it!), is 1 in 6 and has nothing to do with luck. Absolutely nothing.

Luck on the other hand is you making a few really nice hand made samples of jewelry at home as well as an extensive design portfolio, whether you plan to sell them or not, and enthusiastically telling and showing everyone you know all about it. So when Joe let’s say, tells you his wife loves handmade jewelry (opportunity), you are happy to inform Joe that his wife is in ‘luck’ because you happen to have a very nice collection waiting for her at home (preparedness).

So now you’re selling your amazing jewelry to Joe’s wife, who needs no encouragement to tell all of her friends and her friend’s friends and you suddenly have a booming business doing something you love, you lucky bastard.

Your friend on the other hand, who also makes hand made jewelry, has been waiting for clients to place an order because she makes her jewelry on demand. But she’s shy to talk about her work and expects her website to bring her business. So even though she’s the better designer of the two of you, you’re the ‘lucky’ one and she thinks that she just has no luck.

So that lucky person who has it all, the deal, the car, the spouse, may have a certain amount of chance playing in their favor, as all of us do, but she may also be creating opportunities for herself, or be prepared to take opportunities that come her way.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” –Mahatma Ghandi


Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

I’m sorry to say this but…

By: Kathy Shalhoub


‘I’m sorry to say this but…’ Have you ever started a sentence with the following words?

‘You may not believe me but I really feel that…’

‘Please don’t take this the wrong way but I think that…’

‘I don’t mean to be an ass but…’

Someone I was speaking to the other day started by apologizing for something they believed in and it got me wondering. Why do we do that? Why are so many of us so worried about how people will view our beliefs, our opinions, our thoughts and our feelings?

When somebody says to me: ‘You may not believe me but I like capers.’ I find myself telling them: ‘Yes, I believe you. Believe me I believe you!’ It’s almost as if they’re not sure of their own beliefs and are looking for someone to validate them. Why wouldn’t I believe you?

The other thing I get to thinking when someone says for example: ‘I’m sorry to say this but your pie doesn’t taste very good.’, is: What are they sorry about? Why are they being apologetic? It’s almost as if they had something to do with making my pie taste like cardboard. Wouldn’t stating an opinion simply be so much better? ‘I don’t think this pie tastes very good.’ That’s it.

Now I ask you, why the apology? Why the qualifier before stating something you think, feel or believe? All it does is weaken what you’re saying. It’s undermining your credibility and your authority before you’ve even made a statement. When you start a sentence with a negative, you’re conditioning your listeners to look for negatives!

In a business context, this is so much more relevant. Try it. Say these two sentences out loud and tell me which one rings true to your ears:

‘You may not believe me but I interviewed 40 candidates.’

‘I interviewed 40 candidates.’

‘I don’t mean to be an ass, but this graph is completely out of scale.’

‘This graphic is out of scale, do you think you can fix it?’

I assure you your boss won’t believe you if you start by telling him not to! I assure you your colleague will think you’re an ass if you start by telling her you don’t want to be one.

Be assertive. Don’t condition people’s thoughts for them! Be firm and confident, say exactly what you mean and don’t defend yourself if no one has challenged you yet!

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Image by: farconville

The Speed Bumps Of Life

By: Kathy Shalhoub


Driving my daughter home from school a few days ago I slowed almost to a stop on a particularly large speed bump near our house. A woman in a large SUV behind me got very impatient with me and instead of slowing down, she swerved dramatically around me, jammed the accelerator and flew over the bump, leaving me and a cloud of dust hovering in the space behind her.

The incident got me thinking that many of us deal with the speed bumps we encounter in our lives in very much the same way. We are impatient with ourselves, we are impatient with others, and we just want to keep moving.

It seems that we all forget that speed bumps are there for the specific purpose of slowing us down in the first place! And we’re being slowed down for very good reasons: there’s a school close by, we’re nearing an intersection, the road is changing or there are children at play.

Why is that so different from the speed bumps we encounter in our everyday lives? Aren’t illness, death, changing jobs or countries, marriage or divorce, childbirth, and difficult choices like staying home with the kids or going back to work, freelancing or setting up a business, etc… all part of the speed-bump mélange?

I personally spent 12 years of my life hurtling towards an objective that I thought was going to be the culmination of all my dreams. When I got to it, I realized that my priorities, my desires and my values had changed completely in those years and I had never bothered to slow down and check on them. My objective turned out to be a dead end that I might have foreseen had I slowed down a little on the way!

I’ve heard that if you do the same thing all the time, you get the same results. So when we’re going through life full speed ahead and we come across a speed bump, doesn’t it make sense to slow down a little, look around and ask ourselves some pertinent questions like, ‘where am I? Where am I going? Is that still where I want to go and is this the best way to get there?’, instead of simply jamming our foot down on the gas and speeding ahead?

Sometimes the full-speed-ahead solution turns out just fine but sometimes, we’re just ignoring the whole point of the speed bump, which is to just slow down, look around and think for a few seconds…


Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

How do you make a lizard so adorable? Ask Catherine!

By: Loulou Khazen Baz

Meet Catherine Sunga! A working mother, a legal PA and above all things an artist!

It is a strange yet interesting combination… Catherine is an artist at heart and she discovered her passion for art in her twenties while she was growing up in the Philippines.

In her hometown, Art was considered an elite’s choice of education and Catherine was by no means part of the elite. That fact however did not let her shy away and feel inferior to her classmates. Instead, Catherine let her talent show through her work and managed to pull through her education and pursue her dream to become an artist.

When growth opportunities for Catherine were on the decline, and like many of her compatriots, Catherine seeked refuge in the Gulf where she embarked on her journey to become a legal PA.

Years later, life was smiling back at Catherine! A young mum with two children and a lot of ambition to pursue once more her dream to become an artist. Her breakthrough came when she was contacted by a UK/Dubai based publishing compnay whichwas developing a children’s book… Among many illustration artists, Catherine’s work was chosen and she managed to have her work published which was one of her proudest moments and her cue to never give up on her passion.

When asked about her feeling while she is panting, Catherine said that she completely zones out and finds her peace as if she is whisked into her own almost “Alice in wonderland” type world!

Catherine does not want to be defined as a person by her professional work as she has a lot more to offer and when asked about her future goals and aspirations, Catherine is adamant to pursue her art and have her own studio, she also hopes to exhibit her art at a prestigious gallery one day!

Catherine’s struggles have not dampened her kind heart and big smile! Her motto is: “people have a good side to them, if you’re nice to them, they’re going to have to reciprocate”.

Apart from caring for her children and pursuing her art, Catherine loves to collect little toys and she admitted with a cheeky smile that she has a love for stuffed toys which every once in a while have to fight over with her children. Each one of us have their vices right?

If money was no obstacle, Catherine’s wish would be to teach art: “Art should be for the masses, social class should not determine who gets into art. I would like to be able to give back to my community by teaching the less fortunate children how to draw and paint because talent is a gift from God and everyone should be able to get the chance to utilize it.”

To all our nabbesh readers, we hope Catherine’s story has inspired you to never give up on your dreams even when life makes you change course. There are always opportunities for each one of us around the corner if we keep an open heart and mind.

To view Catherine’s work, you can check out her book on Amazon “Izzy’s Tail” by Suzanne Kalloghlian.

You want your child to eat broccoli? Then read this.

By: Nadine Sayegh

Greetings from the nabbesh team!

Today’s post is about a wonderful lady with a passion for children, education and cooking!. It’s so heart-warming (not to mention rare…) we had to share it with everyone! Thoraya Nasser Charwani was born and raised in the far away land of Belgium and has 4 sisters and a brother. So she is no stranger to a full and lively household! She went to an international school and pursued higher education in London with a degree in Childcare and Education.

A calm, easy going and caring person are the minimum requirements to understand children and Thoraya has surpassed them, to say the least. Patience, sensitivity and creativity are just a few traits that help her understand the (not so mild) mannerisms of tiny humans. She takes a great pleasure in her occupation and feels like her highest self when she is surrounded by her loved ones and educating and entertaining children.

Before I continue readers, you must prepare yourself. Without realizing it, you may say ‘awwww’ more than once. (This is NOT gender specific)

Thoraya has had several years of teaching experience but what is truly notable is that she created a preschool curriculum for a school in southern Bombay, India. With help of an assistant she took on this challenging task and worked without rest until she completed it. As Thoraya lives in Belgium and Dutch is not her native tongue, teaching there has not been an option yet. She hopes to learn Dutch in order to begin working within the Belgian school systems. Also, she hopes to be able to implement a more child-oriented program into Dutch schools, which revolves around the child’s wants and needs.

When we discussed her own children she said, “My patience plays a big role in being an active mother. I am able to understand and tend to all of my child’s needs and interests. I am very involved in her health and put a lot of effort into making sure she has a very balanced and fun diet. I enjoy cooking healthy and tasty dishes as well as serving them in a creative and attractive way.” (We wish our mom’s could make broccoli fun..)

Also, the entrepreneurial fire shines brightly in Thoraya, she hopes that one day she can open her own business that caters to the needs of children and to the needs of their parents as well. When asked if she could do something for free for the rest of her life she replied, “If I were to do something for free for the rest of my life, I would have my own children’s public library in Lebanon where parents can bring their children to read books and do group reading activities. Or I would have my own café in Lebanon, which would be aimed at children and their parents, offering food and cooking classes.” In addition she says, “10 years from now my aim is to have enough money to build a public park in Lebanon for everyone to enjoy.”

So we move on to a lighter and more nabbesh note, Thoraya’s skills are but are not limited too: Writing Poetry, writing stories, cooking, baking, reading and making posters for children. *Deep breath*, that is quite the list. She expects that nabbesh will introduce people with similar skills and interests to one another! We certainly hope so.

Childcare is very important, especially in today’s society. Today, many parents are finding difficulty balancing their work lives with their family lives. We hope that Thoraya has inspired you to at least make food time with your kids more enjoyable.  So bring out your pots and pans and enjoy cooking!

That’s all we have time for today folks, tune in next time to try on someone else’s shoes!

Blogger’s Bio: Nadine Sayegh is completing a BA in Communication Arts. She is currently in her last semester at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. An avid user of social media; She is a freelance blogger, copywriter and editor.  Contact details:

In the shoes of…

By: Loulou Khazen Baz

As an entrepreneur, an Arab woman and the founder of nabbesh, I have the pleasure to kick off the “in the shoes of” series of blog posts, which will feature some up-and-coming, talented and inspiring people in the MENA region.

Did you ever wonder what it would feel like to be in the shoes of an entrepreneur? A talented artist? A nurse?

Every day, hundreds of millions of experiences are gained and internalized or shared with a few people. Wouldn’t it be great if we can learn from these experiences? Well this is why we would like to feature “in the shoes of” inspirational people.

From my humble experience as an aspiring entrepreneur for the past year, life couldn’t be more interesting and full of surprises. A typical day can start in complete peace and quiet then go through complete turmoil. Of course, there are the boring uneventful days too, but they are numbered.

If you’re an adventurer, then entrepreneurship is going to quench your thirst; it’s the path to fulfillment, self-discovery and testing your own limits.

As the founder of nabbesh, a venture which is currently taking shape and will be ready for launch very soon, I take pride in every little accomplishment my team and I have done and on a daily basis, we are all pushing our limits to produce a unique product that embodies our values & beliefs.

I’m not going to preach about how organized and perfect we are… If you thought so then you can stop reading 🙂 I’m going to give you a snapshot of reality, the confusion that you face on a daily basis and the rollercoaster ride you take to build a “hopefully” sustainable and successful business.

So here’s a snapshot of my day.

The day started with a meeting with my partners in crime. We had a long session of status updates, social media monitoring and then Hassan the lead creative tried to teach me a magic trick.

Hassan’s Magic Trick

We try to mix a bit of fun in every day… Note, to be an entrepreneur you have to wear 10 different hats on a daily basis. In one day you can be your company’s lawyer, designer or coffee maker; diversity at it’s best!

Around 2pm I was off to a meeting with a Lebanese tech entrepreneur who has successfully started and sold several companies in the USA and he is currently a venture partner in a US based Venture Capital firm. It was a great learning experience which gave me great insight into the mind of a VC. For over an hour, I was challenged, questioned and sometimes got a tap on the back 🙂 I can’t stress enough how important it is for an entrepreneur to identify and meet with key people who can add value.

It was almost 4pm and I went back to the office where we worked on the storyboard for the video we are producing for nabbesh. A nice brainstorming session with our animator where ideas were flying at a crazy pace 🙂 Let’s see the results.

At 6pm, I’m writing this blog post, which I hope was informative to you… It’s a snapshot of my day.

Later on this evening, I will be catching up on some reading which I’ve been putting off for a while and will most probably be checking our social media channels to see what’s been happening.

The day will end with a call to our lead developer to get hopefully a positive status update, which will enable me to sleep peacefully tonight 🙂

Technically, you work a lot but the work is an absolute pleasure.

Happy Friday to you all!