As the only member of his family born in the United States, life has offered Bassam Tarazi many chances to do extraordinary things, and he has tried to embrace each and every one of those along the way. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and a Green MBA. Previously, he was a Department of Defense nuclear engineer for the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He also started his own film production business, has traveled to 41 countries in his 31 years, has circumnavigated the globe on a ship, and he shook Fidel Castro’s hand (true story).
Recently Bassam was one of the founding members of The Nomading Film Festival — his chance to be part of the greater traveling collective whole. He loves being part of that exploratory flock who finds that there is not a more invigorating feeling than standing in a bus station or airport terminal in a far off land as people move and mill about, not even aware of our very existence. To Bassam, that moment of global insignificance is as humbling as it is inspiring. He wants to meet more of the flock. He wants to see more of their stories.
In addition to that, Bassam has also created Colipera. Colipera stands for “Collective Inspiration & Personal Accountability”. It’s tagline is: Together. Be Better. Put simply, Colipera leverages on the idea that peers publicly stating their goals to each other is more likely to inspire action among the whole group than tackling a goal individually would. It’s the social virus for getting things done; because our goals matter. Bassam wrote the guidelines for how the groups should work interspersed with what is partly his manifesto in: The Declaration of Interdependence which can be downloaded for free of the website. and be part of the epidemic. Together. Be Better.
Currently he is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Carbon Reduction Manager as Director of Operations for Omnibuild, LLC, in New York City. Omnibuild is a full-service construction management firm with an eye for the ever more prominent, sustainable building.
As an avid reader, he claims that books have shaped his life almost as much as his family has; from Bryson to Dawkins; from Belsky to Ferris; and from Daniel Ariely to Daniel Pink.
Bassam’s sister is a pediatric neuropsychologist – and the mother of two handsome boys – in Philadelphia, PA and his brother is an international teacher, currently teaching high school science in Bangkok, Thailand.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on expanding the NoFF brand as we push into year two. We have some exciting events coming along throughout the year culmination with the film festival itself on June 23, 2012 in New York City. With a Winter Recess in Portland, Oregon, the launching of the NoFFbassador program, and teaming up with NoFFeditors, we are constantly trying to stay engaged with the traveling community.
I am also actively pushing Colipera through various avenues and have been teaching a Skillshare class with great success. It’s called: Your goals matter. The secrets to setting goals that stick. Furthermore, I’m working on my e-book that will be given away for free, titled: “Who. Makes You Better.”
Travel wise, I’m heading to Everest Basecamp in October and speaking on Semester at Sea’s Alumni voyage to Belize in January, 2012.
3 trends that excite you?
Green Building/Sustainability: Being in the Construction management world, it would be foolish for us not to realize the opportunity that is being presented through the next decade and beyond for us (as a society) to build more environmentally responsible. Being a LEED accredited professional and a carbon reduction manager will help my firm secure the business it needs, while helping clients reach their sustainability goals.
Collaborative Consumption: Lisa Gansky (“Mesh“), along with Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers (“What’s Mine Is Yours“), flipped my world on its head after I read their books. The idea that new doesn’t always have to be better and that we as a community can accomplish things when we share (Zipcar, couchsurfing, etc.), fires me up to the nth degree. We in this country have such a propensity for things that are “mine,” that I think it’s high time that we look to share things that are “ours.” This idea has helped me greatly shape the idea behind “Collective Inspiration.”
Everyone is a Filmmaker. Chris Anderson talked about how Web video was going to change the world. Well, we at the Nomading Film Festival couldn’t agree more. We wanted to utilize the idea that anyone can record a video and upload it to the Web, and combine that with travel and exploration. Sometimes that best non-fiction films/experiences are made by the amateur or the newly baptized in social media. It’s a beautiful thing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve read enough books to know that time doesn’t wait for you. One of my favorite quotes is, “The best time to get to work on it was yesterday. Failing that, today will do.” The most important thing that I’ve realized in being able to generate my ideas and flush them out is to hang on to the fact that galactically, I don’t matter. Once I realized that fact, it liberated me to do things that terrified me, be it traveling to a far off land, starting a company or getting an MBA in my free time.
I’ve learned that every minute counts. Chris Guillebeau helped me focus on the idea that time should not be wasted. You should always be cognizant of what you are doing with your time. If you want to veg out for an entire day, that’s fine if that is what you decided to do. But don’t let minutes and hours go by without you having decided that that was indeed what you wanted to be doing.
“Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky was a book that helped me organize my life a little better. He and Tim Ferriss taught me about the value of short-term goals. Without short-term goals, nothing gets done. I’ve written a feature-length screenplay, but when I started I would freak out about how I was going to write 120 pages of something. I couldn’t get one page down.
Well, I learned that a few lines was a success and that it was farther along than if I hadn’t started at all. Everything takes hard work. If you’re not willing to put in the work, then don’t bother.
“Drive” by Daniel Pink taught me that doing something because it intrinsically makes me happy might be the most important thing to do. I write not because I get paid for it, but because it makes me happy, and in turn, that makes me a better person.
I also choose very wisely who I spend my time with. Unfortunately, you can’t hang out with every friend of yours all the time. It’s your life. How are you going to fill your days?
What inspires you?
Life inspires me. Waking up inspires me. Looking at the stars, the moon, a mountain, the ocean. Anything that shocks me into realizing how unbelievably fragile we all are and how much of a wonderment the fact that we even get to experience an existence is.
The intro to Bill Bryon’s book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” makes me tear up. He talks of the luck it took for life to get to us, but he says it in such a poetic way that makes you shudder with appreciation.
My parents and my brother and sister were probably the most inspiring people in my life growing up. It’s amazing how much love people can give. I am always humbled by that.
Seeing people smile inspires me. And laughter … laughter is the greatest sound in the world.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Letting ego and pride get in the way.
It’s easy to trick yourself. We all think we’re better or have suffered more than other people in certain situations. We do this so that we can cope and rationalize with ourselves. When I was 25, I decided to start a company on the sole footing that I thought I was cool, and it was something people would be jealous of me for. I had ZERO idea of how much work that was going to be.
My pride and my ego told me that I was going to be great but my work ethic at the time told me otherwise. Never ever kid yourself and never do something because of what someone else might think. Tear down your defense mechanisms to figure out what the realities are at every stage of your life. Figuring out who I was on the inside was the most eye opening and liberating moment of my life.
What is one book and one tool that help you bring ideas to life?
I’ve been able to create more ideas than I ever dreamed of.
37signals.com keeps me in line when managing my time.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It’s called “Always a Fan.”
The idea is that it is a community of sporting enthusiasts that can meet up with fellow fans of certain teams in foreign countries. For instance, say you are a fan of the Chicago Bulls and you are in Madrid for a weekend and want to catch their game. You’re sure their must be Bulls fans in this city but you don’t know where they are watching the game.
Always a Fan would allow you to “check in” to a city and see where other Bulls fans in the city are watching the game (bar? house?) and you can reach out to them or just join them at a bar.
This would work tremendously for the international soccer crowd. I’m sure there are Manchester United fans in St. Louis, M0., but if you were a fan and were there on business, how would find them and how would find out where they watch?
Who is the one person you’d love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Ross Borden and Ben Polansky of www.matadornetwork.com
Matador is the premiere travel site on the internet. What they’ve done with being able to connect the traveling community is nothing short of astounding — 2.3 million monthly visitors is nothing to scoff at.
Why do you have so much faith in people that have dreams? Why do you think “Collective Inspiration” will work?
Because my dad once told me, “Dream but don’t daydream.” It changed my life. Growing up in the late 20th/early 21st century in America has to be the luckiest deal anyone could ever ask for as far as opportunities go. I realize that every time I wake up. There are so many people out there that are talented in various disciplines but who never chase their dream or who flat out stop playing the piano, painting, exercising or whatever.
But we’re not alone. Millions of people want to be better at things, but they just can’t get that kickstart into working at it. I think that sharing those efforts and those struggles with people around you who are chasing their own dreams is the key to it all.
We’ve taxed the planet as we’ve chased the dream of having the “me” life; the house in the suburbs, my car, my yard, my TV, my kitchen, etc. Now we can start working together and fix not only the energy crisis but our own individual human crises as well.
Who was more influential on you, your mom or dad?
That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say both, but for completely different reasons. My dad was always wielding logic’s voice. You couldn’t get anything by him if it didn’t make sense. He never sugar coated anything with me and he gave me tough love when that was needed and sometimes that is all I needed. He was always fair but always expected us to live up to our potential. And for that, I am forever indebted to him.
My mom added the loving touch. Being an oncology nurse, I’ve never met anyone who cares more for people than my mom. She taught me the importance of treating people with the utmost kindness. I remember a time when I asked her why she was late coming home, and she said, “I was talking to the janitor.” I chuckled and said, “Why the hell were you doing that?” She very quickly grabbed me and looked me in the eye and said, “Bassam, he’s as important as the surgeons at the hospital. If he doesn’t do his job, then there is trash everywhere. And if he doesn’t feel appreciated and loved, then he won’t do his job to the best of his ability.
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