To call Farid Chehab a passionate man would be an understatement. A creative person by nature, he has lived a life that has always evolved around being an innovative force. Nurturing this innate quality from a very young age, it is what pushed him into the creative field, with now half a decade of experience under his belt.
“Of Happiness and Ideas” is the third book written by Mr. Chehab, author and Honorary Chairman of H&C Leo Burnett Beirut, which was originally launched in French in October of 2015, just in time for the Francophonie Festival. The English version of this book will officially be launched on July 13th, 2016 at AUB.
His first book, “A Bet for a National Conscience,” was released in 2011 in English, French, and Arabic, and had great success with 14,000 readers thus far. This success lead him to write a second book called “Blue Gold” which discusses the idea of a 5-year water plan for the water of Lebanon. He collaborated with others on the publication and also worked on the artistic aspect of the book…. A born artist, he wanted the graphics to be perfect.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Mr. Chehab to discuss his latest publication, Of Happiness and Ideas, and digest all of his passion for true creation.
Is it true you wrote “Of Happiness and Ideas” after a bad ski accident?
Yes, this is true. At the end of 2014, I was in a serious ski accident and a subdural hematoma provoked a cerebral hemorrhage which could have put me in to a vegetative state. My mind at that time was in a haze; my mind was crippled. While in the hospital, I discovered that the only way to come out of the situation was to force my mind to refocus, and since I had this book idea in my mind for a long time, I started planning it. It was therapy for me – both mentally and physically. I have given many presentations over my professional career; this book was a way to present all of my thoughts and content onto one platform and done so in a storytelling manner.
What is the premise of your third book “Of Happiness and Ideas”?
This book is all about how our ideas can truly lead us to happiness, with the second half of the book dedicated to discussing the topic of Blue Gold in a condensed way. It talks about the relationship between sheer happiness and idea creation, explaining why if you are an idea creator, you are bound to be happy. If anyone puts their brain into motion to create something, anything, this will lead to satisfaction, and ultimately, happiness. I am not here to discuss finding or having a purpose either; we can go on forever about that. What I do know is that each one of us has the potential to do something in this world, to create something that makes us happy. That is what our brain has been engineered for. It is a muscle which must be used or it goes into atrophy. When your mind is used to create something… it makes you happy because it rewards you.
Maybe this is an easy concept to utilize in your type of creative world, however isn’t it a difficult concept for the average person to apply?
I have many examples about how this concept can pertain to anyone out there, and not just those in the creative idea business world. I will give you the example of my concierge. A humble man, he has the hobby of building little houses with matchsticks. When he presents his creations to me, there is no concierge happier than him at that moment. He had an idea to create something and experiences great satisfaction when he does. All of us have that potential, and this is what I tackle in this book.
So would you say this book is a great read for anyone out there?
Yes, definitely; especially how it talks about getting out of your comfort zone; getting up from doing nothing and doing something productive. Reading is already the beginning of creation. Walking in nature is the beginning of creation. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is the beginning of happiness.
Lebanese have so much potential and have great ideas. But you also have the strata of individuals who like to spend their time lavishly while actually doing nothing, and often with a negative attitude. After all, we are genetically merchants, and merchants are not known to be active in going deep. To become a potentially active and creative spirit can be complicated, but it is the road to happiness and satisfaction.
What does happiness mean to you?
It is my therapy to be happy; to put it selfishly, if something only makes me happy, then so be it. It’s all about putting your brain into creative motion, whatever that may mean. This is the only path to happiness. Get active! You have to be productive!
Don’t you think that coming up with an idea is the easy part, and the implementation of it the difficult part?
Yes, this is true. An idea is only 1% of the process and 99% is sweating to make it happen. But the beauty of an idea, when it is really good, is it gives the brain stamina which translates into passion… and when you have passion, you can go the extra mile to make your idea work. It’s all about hard work to make ideas flourish. A nation that doesn’t work hard is not happy.
You cannot go against nature’s law. We have been educated to produce because we had to fight for our survival historically. Civilization today has created a new situation where you could spend your time without producing. Money has destroyed everything. This is one of the backlashes of capitalism.
What is a good idea for Lebanon today?
The biggest one would be concerning a federative economy. It is an economy which can bring all the Lebanese to participate in projects that concern everyone. For instance, you have the issue of electricity, a topic that should interest everyone. All Lebanese should participate and become partners to work on such issues.
How can we use our ideas as nation and become happier?
We need to wake up and execute our ideas, not just sit and consume. We come from the cosmos and we have a duty to give back what we receive. As humans we absorb energy and you cannot keep swallowing everything; you need to put back energy into the world. When we vanish to dust, we become a mixture of atoms that do not die; they will remain. Today, they go back into the big soup of the universe. It is all about quantum physics.
How do you treat the ideas of others?
I have been successful as a creative director in my business – to recognize good ideas and encourage and push others to go forward. I have been doing this all of my life. A part of giving back is sharing your knowledge with others. This is why Leo Burnett is so successful; we have the philosophy of sharing. There is a minimal ego trip. You need a culture to support one another in the end.
What advice can you offer others who have many ideas but aren’t sure what to do next?
Today, everyone must be interested and involved in social media. Nowadays, no one is alone anymore. There is no excuse today for someone with a good idea not to expose themself. If you have an idea, don’t be shy, be courageous. Social media provides a global forum to express yourself and your ideas. Society is so interesting today because it has become so transparent.
How can we all find a balance between productivity and happiness?
This is a good question. It is a matter of balance and harmony. Productivity is to put your mind to work. When your productivity is more about piling up wealth, you are not productive anymore; you become a money person. It fills your ego with nonsense and puts a barrier between you and others. This is when you start to become unhappy.
** A round table will be organized on July 13th, 2016 at AUB to further elaborate on the essence of the book with key participants from different industries:
- Farid Chehab (Author)
- Fadlo Khouri (President of AUB)
- Raja Trad ( CEO of Leo Burnett MENA)
- Fouad Makhzoumi (Global Figure and Businessman)
- Nada Zarrour (Green Party Leader)
- Tarek Mitri (Former Minister)
- Marian Howayek ( Director of the Governor’s Executive BDL)
- Alissar Caracalla (Choreographer, Artistic Director)