Channel: Muslim Life Hackers
Series: Muslim Life Hackers - Season 2
Maheen interviews Mohammed Faris (aka Abu Productive) on the back story of Productive Muslim, how it all got started, challenges faced along the way and advice on how others can make their own projects happen.
Highlights from the Show
- “Take us back in time and set the scene for us, where did Productive Muslim all start?” (3:11 – Maheen)
- “The true launch of the website happened…became like a dream…it It is not just about teaching people how to become productive, it became more of how does Islam teach you to become productive. Overthrow the notion that practicing Islam is going to put you down, that Islam is not just about praying and fasting, it is really a whole system to help you grow and develop” (6:50 – Mohammed)
- “With every progression in life, or with every project we face challenges along the way. Could you tell us a bit about some of the big challenges you faced with Productive Muslim and how did you conquer them?” (11:25 – Maheen)
- “Just by closing the door to something, like we are not going to take donations, it really opens the door to ways that are really creative for how you can keep the project going, but it is an ongoing process” (12:31 – Mohammed)
- “It becomes more and more challenging, how do you really make this project continue and outlast us, the ideal is that if I drop dead today the project would continue, it shouldn’t rely on me personally or any team member, it should be self sufficient” (16:00 – Mohammed)
- “Debate in the team is very very healthy, having a team that challenges, always asking you know, why can’t we do this? why can’t we do that? how can we do this better? Really helps us fight complacency” (17:55 – Mohammed)
- “What was really interesting for me was, are we really producing good content, not just the generic content that you can find on any blog and that kept me going” (21:45 – Mohammed)
- “Final advice to our listeners who are maybe thinking about starting their own project?” (23:33 – Maheen)
Season Two, Episode One.
Welcome to the Muslim life hackers podcast, the weekly podcast providing you the knowledge, tools and connections to help you get ahead in life. And now, your hosts Mithra maroof and mahane Malik.
Assalamu alaikum it's my family care, and I'm gonna be your host for today's episode. This is Episode One of season two, a new season, what can I say it feels good, a fresh start. I hope you had a great holiday and end of year 2014 and I hope you're looking forward to a fantastic 2015 inshallah, you can get access to all of season one that is all 50 episodes, including all of our previous interviews, as well by our awesome guests by going to Muslim life hackers.com forward slash season one to get access to all of them. And if you're listening to us on an app, and I think you know, hey, we're season one, I can't see it. Ah, well, don't worry, it's all there. Just head over
to Muslim Africa's dot com forward slash season one to find out how to listen to them. Today's episode is a special one, we have an awesome guest on the show for an interview and none other than Mr. Ever productive himself. Mohammed Faris, if you're familiar with productive muslim.com, you know that Muhammad virus is the founder and CEO of the fantastic computer community over there, productive wisdom.com where they tackle big issues on all things productive. In the interview, I'm going to be talking to Mohammed about the backstory behind productive Muslim, and how it all got started. We'll be touching base on the challenges that he faced along the way back then, and the
challenges that he faces now, in the day to day when it comes to managing his brand and productive Muslim. He also gives advice to others who are also thinking about maybe taking on projects of their own. So it's going to be a good one.
New Year's resolution not working for you. If so check out visionary online visionary is an online course combining goal setting with the power of do to help you take your life to the next level. Both my father and I have taken this course ourselves and we love it, it has totally changed the way that we set goals and go about achieving them. We're sure that you'll love it too. You can find out more about visionair by going to Muslim life hackers.com forward slash visionair that's V is IO n a ir e visionair.
I sound like a Muslim left. Today we've got a very special guest interview for you or none other than the founder and CEO of productive Muslim brother Mohammed virus for the Mohammed and welcome to the show.
Well, hello, thanks having me. Thank you for coming on. Um, so today, Brother Mohammed, what I really want to kind of grill you on is the backstory behind productive Muslim so that our listeners can get a bit of a bit of a bit of a understanding of how it all started and maybe be inspired to pursue their own projects. So could you take us back in time and set the scene for us? Where did productive Muslim all start?
Okay, so started practicing Muslim in November 2007. At that time, I was doing my masters. I was also sort of involved with the Islamic Society, the sort of MSA at my university in the UK. And I was involved with a couple of community projects. And I felt very, very busy. And I kind of annoyed me because I realize I am not that of a busy person. I'm always sort of top CEOs and top, you know, super busy people. How do they manage how come I'm just a rinky dinky student here, and struggling with balancing between roles, I had to start learning about the science of productivity, started learning some life skills that applied to my life, I realized, wow, this actually works. This
actually has an impact on what I can do what I can get done during the day. And I got really excited. But I never thought of starting a blog about it. It was just something that sort of I stumbled upon from own life and realize that this is something really cool that will help me with my life. And then my friends started asking me questions, how do you do it? How do you bounce it? Have you? Are you involved? So many things, but you seem to have it all? How does how do you do that? And I was like No, it's just here to do this. It gives me some tips and advice here and there. And then it hit me one day I was walking to fidget and just the two words productive muslin popped in my
head. And we're getting really, really, really excited about it and running back from Japan and just know just booking a domain name not knowing what to do with it. Just booking the domain name and
Just starting to get into like, I don't think blogger.com so square at that time. And I started just writing my articles about how to be present in that time division was how I basically taking this the science of what was available in those days in which were getting things done David Allen's books or seven habits or life hack or whatever that I came across in this journey, share that with the Muslim world.
That was the first phase. And I remember sort of roping in my flatmate to Hey, you should work on this and he got excited. And after two months, we just fell flat, we just couldn't be bothered, we have to have two months we gave up on them because no one cares, not really that of a big deal. Let's forget about it, shut it down. And we actually shut the website down, not realize it, we just thought it's not worth it. I got even busy with my masters and work advice is not really worth it now. But then sort of a few months later, in June 2008. That's when I was kind of finished my Balkan masters. And I was getting bored again, and had one email from the actually brother,
younger brother, a 10 year old guy. He said, hey, how come you guys took down your blog was really interesting, you guys restarted again. And that was like a little message. Like my one true fan, you know?
Maybe Maybe I should do something about it. And at the same time, something else happened when I realized when I read the heady performance of lm says,
at the early hours of bless my nation, and then it just hit me like a brick wall. Here I am trying to teach the Muslim world productivity techniques from the sort of the, you know, current, you know, sort of Western world. But there's so much now Dean that's already calling for productivity. What if I change the vision website from what how can I teach Muslim productive to how can Islam help people productive and that's when the real sort of that's when the real
that's the true launch happened to the website and that's when I really then it became something that's it became like a dream and became something bigger than than just a blog and I just teach people how to contract it became a How does Islamic productive How can the solution help you become productive and just to overcome and overthrow the notion that you know that practicing Islam will, you know, will put you down a practice that will make you more lazy or it's about just praying and fasting that's actually how it really the whole system to develop and grow? Well, so it sounds like it really was quite a progression, for example, you were doing you're you're involved in community
projects, MSA and then you kind of felt like this like you couldn't really really busy and then like you got the idea of reproductive or someone walking to fudger and then um, you know, you've got your flatmate, flatmate involved. And then it sounds like you it was also a bit of boredom plus inspiration, and you're one true fan. So there's a lot of things that inspire me and propelling you and then, of course, the Islamic perspective, was there like one really main thing inspired you to keep going to like the ups and downs of productive Muslim,
I think was mainly when I, when I started when I got to golden University, especially working with the, with the Muslim Students Association, who in the UK called ISOC societies. When I got involved in that I really found myself in that sort of community that that area where I'm serving and helping Muslims, and I've made a little promise myself, no matter where I am, no matter where I go, I've always been in a position to serve Muslim communities in the Muslim. So this was sort of practice was the outlet for me. And it was one of the outlets that I was able to serve the Ummah through. And I never realized to become a become a become quite big. I just thought, you know, this is just me a
way to serve on my list, I want to serve them. And it's been a it's been a blessing. It really is, I think I've benefited more because it's been a blessing for me more than I could ever give back to it. But it's really has outgrown the initial initial dream. Not fantastic, Michelle. So it was more about you being in a position to serve DOMA along the journey of productivity, and was there any big mentors that you had along the way? Who were you looking for for guidance and inspiration? I think one thing that I kept very clear in my mind is I want this to become a really professional platform. I want it to be typical and for excuse the language excuse this term that quote unquote, Islamic
website before this is five years ago when Islamic websites were really boring and they just had this long long articles and are interesting. So that time I wanted to I wanted to blog to really have becomes something that people would love to come to love to enjoy to come through. So had was looking for, you know, talented people who would help me sort of put together articles you know,
designs videos, that will really affect people willing to make it interesting for them. So in a way I was kind of I didn't have in the Muslim world, a lot of sort of maybe other blogs at that time or other websites to look up to. But I did from the non Muslim world, I did look up to a lot of sort of major
printing productivity websites at the time, and the major sort of established established, well established blog, how can I How can I become professional, not just be like them, but beat them be something that's a real, real, you know, innovative, innovative area, system born. But second course, from personal perspective, I always had, you know, mentors who were I can tap into almost, I call them my board of Advisory Council, they just, they're different people, for different situations, depending with situation I'm going through, whether I'm going through this division in the media, whether I'm going into a situation with managing my team, whether it's going through a
situation, you know, in terms of just balancing it all, they always have few people that I tap into, that can sort of give me some good ideas too much. That's really interesting. So you've got your board of advisors for like different areas that you want to kind of tackle. And then you've also looked for inspiration from the non Muslim world when you can find it in, say, the literature available in our Muslim blogs and stuff like that. So when productive Muslim started back in the year 2007, with every progression in life, or with every project, we also faced challenges along the way. Could you tell us a bit more about maybe some of the big challenges that you faced with
productive Muslim? And how did you conquer that? The major challenges, number one, is finding the right people, I think that's the challenge finding the right talented people. And, and having these people sort of believe in the vision and come with you an agenda from the best, you know, the team, the team is an amazing team. And really, they're the ones who are putting all the effort and putting work in and the figurehead at the moment. Really the inspiring way they work the way they give back to the to the winner's circle and to the website is very inspiring. So I think finding the people and and really
developing the people and helping the team parent and managing the team so that we we always we move towards our vision that says, oh, it is a challenge. It's an ongoing challenge. Because you know, you can never get to a level where you're completely satisfied, there's always more to be done, there's always more than to do. So that's a huge challenge. second challenge, of course, was was finances, I kind of put a roof myself, I don't know why I put through the roof myself, that I will not accept donations for the website. And that way, just because I thought I said so it does not make sense to productive Muslims should not be begging in a productive Muslim, eating from its own
sort of work, so to speak. So nichido was very tough, because I had to invest from my personal finances, personal savings, but eventually from the land slowly and surely now we're moving towards sort of selling online classes selling online courses. And that has helped to sort of finance website and now just by closing that door, it's funny, when you close the door, sitting next to donation, it actually opens up this like really creative of how can you, you know, generate enough income to keep the website going to keep the project going forward. But that's an ongoing challenge as well. It's not something that's very easy to solve this way, we have creative ways to make sure
we create the value valuable products and service that people want to buy, can you sell anything, you know, people really have high quality standards, so we're trying to achieve that. And the third, of course, is is
is basically you know, reaching out and satisfying our our audience and making sure that they're happy, making sure that we're really, you know, helping them become more productive. The challenge with productivity is that you really can't measure your success. Unless we don't have a measure when someone walks into our website is totally a couch potato. And then after you know six weeks he becomes a marathon runner.
Actually, how do you measure that transmission is very personal. So you have to you have to listen to the feedback and have to make sure that we serve I called Scratch our own itch whenever we are faced our own productive challenges within How can we package the content that we scratch our own itch to really address the issues that people are facing. So just being able to tap into and listen now it's such a global audience in a hoodie Listen, to really not listen to how do you take all this feedback? How do you make sure you reflect all that? You know, we've tried translation websites, we can have mixed in approaches with Arabic website friendship, sorry about the Malaysian but those
that have come spin off projects, so it's really just managing that and trying to serve a global oma No, with a one time content can be quite quite challenging under law, so it seems like the main three challenges that you faced was firstly finding the right people. Secondly, finances and then your audiences.
Were you making like, along the way, like what kind of do are we making to kind of help you on your journey to jobs just just help is asking us, keep us sincere and keep serving them. And and use this for this for your sake always good to use basic authority make, you know, it really becomes part and parcel of you and creativity and release becomes. But you always are conscious that this is not a right. It's a privilege a lot of has given us this privilege to serve. And that allows for guidance put in the hearts of people to follow the website into like the website and to ensure the content. But at the same time, it's not something that will last forever. So I was most very, very
fearful of complacency and full of one day saying, Oh, yeah, we've got it, we've now the best no blog or whatever it is just as soon as they hit that until it molds up as soon as you hit that that's our downfall. So this pushing up boundaries and making data let us know make it make it make help us continue and not be sidetracked especially now, all of us getting older, getting busier families, their responsibilities, it becomes more and more challenging. How do you really can make this project continue and not and Outlast us? I mean, I deal is that if I dropped it today, prep should continue to rely on me personally, or in any team members should be something that's as self
sufficient. So building that is going to be something that I was picked out a lot.
I really like the point that you've made that it both in like the towel, like making content for others. It's not our right, it's a privilege. And I think that's a really important point. And you touched on the point where of complacency. How is it that you and your team manage? Like when things get too easy when you guys are like oh, we're doing quite well? How do you guys challenge yourself to go forward and make even better products?
you feeling good, I think a we really have highest versions and really big plans. And we know we haven't even scratched the surface yet. So and funded lesson by team that really wants to push forward and to raise the bar higher and higher each each each year. So we have that sort of team members who really are not satisfied very easily. We are worse we are our own worst critic, we really criticize our work and Tony so much and we don't we try not to get to two pampered by the by the feedback and people writing nice emails to us. So we just just keep questioning ourselves questioning the way we do things, keep changing things, try to adapt new things, having a mentioned
see our our online collaboration platform, just we just you know, you can see all the debates happening.
You know how best to do and really that sort of level of engagement, that level level of, of debate happy with the team is very, very healthy, it keeps us moving forward. If all the team members were like, you know, yes, sir. Near we'll just do what we have to do. And that's it, then the website we did very, very early on, but really having a team to debate and argue and, and challenge and see why can we do this? Why can we do that? You know, and how can you be bit better, that helps to to just fight that complacency, at least for now. And I'm praying that we continue fighting that inshallah so um, you're talking about how your team has quite high aspirations and that we are our own worst
critic. So on the outside, on the outside, it seems like success in like doing well. In the in like the logo kind of making content field, it seems like it's quite easy and smooth. But on the inside, there's a lot of work that goes in, there's a lot of there's a lot of critiquing collaboration, and a lot of supporting each other and questioning and challenging. Do you find that it's like quite an ongoing process like this challenging? Yeah, I think it's mainly setting up the systems and processes, because we're still we're still sort of summaries of our work were very streamlined. Like, for example, the blog, the content and publishing articles were very streamlined process and
sort of is very clear, some areas was still sort of getting their process, right example launching classes, launching courses, we want to sort of we want to relaunch different areas, product services, so those still we're still learning the ropes and still sort of changing the process in learning through. And through that change in growth there is almost like a you know, growth gain. So, you know, sometimes get used, we barely get used to it, considering we now have to change and it gets stressful and there's a lot that goes through and we have to you know, it sometimes gets too expensive to cut down. And so all those daily decisions and daily challenges and this but again, is
the blessing of having a team that's that really feels ownership of the vision. This is not this is not my project, this is not you know, this is it. This is really the whole team. I mean, everyone is is is when you see the debates happening on, on on inside the team, you know, who is the CEO is the founder, because really everyone's really very passionate about what should happen.
What shouldn't happen? How should these things take place? And those are debates and discussions really helped us, you know, shape up their processes. And then, you know, once once they things are smooth, again, you're right, it appears to the world and things are going pretty smooth in the background. But to get that stage took a lot of discussions and you know, and thinking and thought and planning, and you know, and just research making sure that we are following the right processes. Yeah, definitely, that it's interesting to know that there's all this like discussion going on in the background. It's really cool. What we really wanted to know was, back when you started, did you
feel nervous before you like, hit the Post button? Or like published your first video or your first article? Like, what was your thought process? What was your emotions like back then? I can't remember.
But probably probably be as excited. I mean, when I first published first few posts are getting excited.
And then after a while, and I think I got bored, I realized it wasn't because project was that was the intention behind it. So it says chill intention from just taking whatever's out there and teaching Muslims about number two, how does Islam help you become more productive, so just intentions changed. And that really propelled forward. And then his idea of thing that time was really the fear of, of not of not really reaching that level of professionalism, not reaching a level of high quality. And that was probably when we, you know, my worst nightmare, like, you know, things just don't go perfectly well on to the how well, she did how things should go. So that was
what probably kept me nervous. I wasn't really worried about the numbers, but the stats about, you know, how many fans were doing? It was for me, wasn't that exciting, but what was more interesting for me was, you know, are we producing the real good quality content, unique content, and just the generic content that you can find any blog? that that kind of, that kind of kept me sort of going? What would you say to someone who thinks that, you know, doing their own projects and conquering? You know, producing content? What would you What would you say to them, if they thought that it doesn't involve fear, like, is fearful part of the process? I think you gotta be excitedly nervous
about what you're doing. Whenever we launch new class, whenever I do public speaking, and I do, you know, give lectures, I mean, no matter how many times I do it, I mean, how many times I launched and how many times I do webcasts, and, and and, you know, online classes, I still, if you have this sort of nervous excitement behind it, I think that's healthy, that that shows you a lie that shows that you're really passionate about what you're doing. If you didn't feel anything, if it interesting care, then really, you're in the wrong wrong project. So I think my advice is, is have that have that as a healthy dose of nervous excitement, that really shouldn't stop you shouldn't be, have no
value from moving forward or from taking action. It really should be something that that that propels you that say, actually, sometimes whenever I feel excitedly nervous about something, that means it's something I should be pursuing. It's almost like a compass for me that this is an area of growth for you. This is something you should pursue. If it's too if it looks sounds too easy to me. Oh, yeah, I could do that. Then. There might be there's something I'm not excited about. But by no means. Is it Sunday campus. Oh, interesting. So have that kind of like compass. That's really interesting. So Mohammed, before we end off, could you give us some final tips for our listeners who
are maybe hoping to start their own project? What advice would you give them? So the first thing is, again, make it very clear, don't wait for big fish to hit you.
Anyway, so if it's a blog, or a blog, it's a company, it's not a company, if it's a, you know, small business, whatever it is, just start anyway, don't wait for something to wait for, like everything to fall in place. And the logo is designed and, and the website is booked, and everything is just don't worry about that. Just start anyway. And secondly, focus on the quality of your product, your service, your blog, focus on that, that's, that's the most that's the thing that keeps you going. Everything else is just sort of distracting.
And you focus on the quality of the product and services or the content unit produce service is fine by people and spend a lot of time find my people. I mean, we do we do heavy interviews of volunteers, we ask them to send them CVS, we, we interview them, give them one month probation, even though they're volunteers, it's unpaid work, but we really are very choosy and selective who gets on the team because we want to make sure that we have a team members who will be the most committed and the one who will be who buys the division. So be very selective of the numbers we have important. And fourth is is is just keep going. It's going to be challenging, it's going to be annoying, it's
going to be some days you'll have to in a sacrifice time, sometimes six
your finances sometimes you have to sacrifice sleep, you know, but you just have to keep going just keep going do not ever give up day in day out. No productivity is not an overnight success. It took five years for us to get to where we are now. And I pray that this don't stop here. So it's really sad that that every day every day, bit by bit you putting something into the project every day was one blog or one email or one phone call or one something every single day you're putting something towards it. And fifth, and of course most important is to add to it and ask Allah to bless you to keep you going for this and not enough stopped for you I think this these you know that that will
just that is the secret for any any any person who really wants to pursue a productive project. Fantastic, fantastic tips. So firstly, start anywhere, focus on quality, find the right people and keep going and just make a lot of the law. So unfortunately, that's all we've got time for today. But before we end up, Brother Mohammed awakeness does find you and your content. Sure, so just log on to productiveness comm that's PR o d u ctip. Muslim m s Li m.com and you'll find out all blogs, articles, interviews, doodles animations, and inshallah we're hoping to launch a new version of our website before the end of this month. So hopefully, you find some some new areas to new we have the
practice Academy launching which will have all online classes and just keep visiting us for for more for if you any particular neighborhood we want to be your number one platform if you're facing a particular challenge, whether it's in your spiritual life within physical life within social life, within your work life, home life, family life, we want to we want to be your reference for it. So please feel free at any time to visit us and we look forward to inshallah fantastic So guys, please head over to productive wisdom calm we can find some amazing content that can really benefit you in any area of your life. So again, thank you so much
for joining us.
So that was the interview with Mohammed Faris inshallah you enjoyed it and garnered a few gems to help you with your own productive journey. You connect with Mohammed and productive Muslim over at productive muslim.com and also remember to sign up for their productive tips newsletter. For more on this interview and other episodes, you can head over to our website to get more on that. Friends. That's all for today. Thanks for joining us, and thanks again to our sponsors for today's episode visionair online, be sure to check out visionair by going to Muslim life hackers.com forward slash visionair that's bi s IO n ar e and remember by supporting vinayaga supporting the show as well. So
until next time guys aim high take action and be awesome
sees the baby