When Nowhere Isn't Nowhere...
Today I'm meeting Melkart Rouhana on my blog, introducing his book Greatness is NowHere
Self improvement from the prince of positivity; consultant to the likes of Ritz-Carlton. Greatness is NOWHERE shares a roadmap that will guide you to find greatness and lead your people to ultimately unleash their potential and, in the process, impact the future of our world. Not just for business leaders; applicable to those who lead families, sports teams, volunteering and other groups.
I suspect my dreams of greatness may be long gone, but I'm fascinated by Melkart's background and I'm sure you will be too. So... my first question for you, Melkart, is where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
Melkart: I grew up in a beautiful Lebanese village, Beit-Mery, in Mount Lebanon overlooking Beirut floating under us like a splendid
river. Beit-Mery, deriving from
Aramaic, means “The House of The Lord”. In this village, I learned to dream big,
amongst the ruins of the old
Phoenician and Roman temples.
After studying in Switzerland, I moved to work in Qatar, United Arab Emirates,
Egypt, and USA. I currently live in Doha, Qatar with the love of my life, Nancy
and our two kids, Raphael (12) and Matteo (7). I currently travel 250+ days a
year, enabling greatness everywhere; hence my “weird” address on my business
card: everywhere! ;)
Melkart: I was brought up in a family of poets. Well, I leave the rest to your interpretation! But I recall vividly roaming the country with my father Rafic Rouhana (an author of 25 Lebanese books), witnessing his magic and learning from him as he rocked every stage and moved people by the power of his words. At a young age, I always wanted to follow his footsteps, to inspire others, use the power of words, speak on stage, and become an author, just like him - but in my own way!
I recall walking down Al-Bustan Street in Beit-Mery, a beautiful Lebanese village in Mount Lebanon, every week with one of my best friends, Raja Touma. That weekly ritual leading us to the top of the village overlooking Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, was one of the best rituals I lived. We debated life’s most important questions, shared our dreams of leaving that small village and roaming the world, inspiring others (like my father did), transforming individuals and organizations. This is when I found my calling, to enable greatness in others… and oh my what a journey…
Wow again! So what's your educational and career background like?
Melkart: I held previous
positions such as Corporate Head of Learning & Development for Emaar
Hospitality Group and Armani Hotels & Resorts; Corporate Director of Global
Learning at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company; Public Speaker & Consultant for
The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, Executive Director of Human Resources;
Manager of Human Resources & Leadership Development as well as Director of
Training and Organizational Effectiveness in the Ritz-Carlton international
arena and lead the opening countdowns for many of The Ritz-Carlton Hotels. I hold a Bachelor
of Science degree in Hotel and Tourism Management (NDU, Lebanon), Post Graduate
Diploma in International Hospitality Administration (University Cesar Ritz
UCCR, Switzerland) and a Master of Science Degree in International Hospitality
Management (UCCR & Manchester Metropolitan University, England MMU). My Master studies and thesis focused on
organizational effectiveness and transformational leadership.
That's a lot of traveling, and a lot of studying! How on earth did you ever find time to write?
Melkart: I sometimes write at the end of a day after a speech, an event, or a training workshop. At other times, I wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to write something. The 65,000 words in my book Greatness is NOWhere, are written literally in every corner of this world. I remember writing few pages in Angola, Africa, continuing the chapter while on 40,000 feet flight en route to Paris, to finally finish the chapter in Atlanta. The book is the outcome of this journey, and you can see the shades of this journey in the stories permeating the pages of the book.
I love the book title. I'm guessing that means you like playing with words, same as I do.
Melkart: The title ‘Greatness is NOWhere’
is playful indeed. How did you read it? Greatness is nowhere OR greatness is
NOW here? At first, we mostly see “nowhere” instead of “NOW here” because as
human beings, we are wired to exaggerate the negative because it helped us survive the dark ages. We
moved beyond those days though, but we still carry this ‘shredder.’
It steels our inner peace, rips out our energy, and robs us of our dreams and
aspirations. The book will inspire
you to make the shift from greatness is nowhere to greatness in now here…and
enable you to find the best version of yourself, your team, and your
So who should read Greatness is NOWhere and why?
Melkart: ‘Greatness is NOWhere’ is founded
on one simple truth: Every human being
is versed in greatness and leadership main purpose is to unveil the best in
others. Therefore, this book is for every one of
us, who is yearning for greatness. You might argue that you are not a leader.
Well, leadership is not a title and whether you like it or not, you are a
leader and in the business of serving a cause, something, or someone. Truth is,
greatness is not exclusive to athletes, famous people or great organizations
who have left their footprints in our world. Greatness concerns every one of
us. Greatness concerns you and me. And in my book, I share 3 principles, 15
truths, and 20 tools to jazz up your culture, pep up your people, spice up your
customer experience, and ultimately unleash greatness.
Are there any particular insights or principles on how to make the shift from greatness is nowhere to the principle it's now here?
Melkart: In Greatness is NOWhere, I show that greatness is a deliberate
commitment to leave a distinct footprint in the world. I share 3 principles
that will ultimately unleash greatness.
Principle 1: You can’t be what your culture is not
How do you promote and inspire a winning
culture; that intangible and hidden mark of distinction that literally shapes
everything you do.?
Principle 2: You can’t be what your people are not
How do you translate talent to performance,
surround yourself with the right, talented, and passionate colleagues, and
bring out the gold in others?
Principle 3: You can’t be what your investment is not
How do you bring your investment to the world, deliberately evoke emotions in your customers and convert your customer experience into one that chills and thrills?
So what inspired you to write this particular book?
Melkart: I started this journey 10 years ago
when I took the decision to open
my own consulting firm, with the purpose to enable greatness in individual and
organizations. Those first years were startling! I sketched the map, assembled the tools, and
embarked on this ride of greatness. Truth be told, taking the first step was
like jumping off a cliff. At first my
philosophy of greatness was
frightening; then things settled down as the parachute opened. I admit that I
worked the parachute hard, but I owe all thankfulness and appreciation to those who believed in me and gave me the platform to
share my philosophy in the form of workshops, events, and keynotes. The book is indeed the byproduct of my 10 years roaming the world,
engaging with amazing people, spreading, refining, and redefining my philosophy
of greatness. It is because of these unique encounters that Greatness is
NOWhere came to life. It is true what the theologian, musician,
philosopher, and Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Schweitzer once said: “In everyone's life, at some time, our inner
fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human
being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner
And did anyone particularly inspire you to a writing career?
Melkart: It’s an amazing story! In September 2014, I was
invited to meet Darrell Schaeffer who wanted to hire my company services. I
knew Darrell from when he was the general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Doha
back in 2000 when I started my career at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. At the
beginning of the meeting, I shared with him the following story.
1999: The Beginning
Back in 1999, my father spent every penny he owns to
support my plan to travel to Switzerland for my postgraduate education. I can’t
grasp the depth of his love enough. Toward the end of it, I grabbed the
opportunity to join The Ritz-Carlton, Doha in the capacity of an income
auditor. Now, finance wasn’t my cup of tea, but I saw this job as a
stepping-stone to grow from within and become the learning and development
professional I always aspired to be.
Note: As you continue reading this story, bear in mind
that Melkart is sharing it with Darrell over a cup of coffee in 2014.
August 2001: When Reality Strikes
A few months after joining the pre-opening team, I
realized that I was way off the path to my dream. My transfer request to the HR
department was rejected. So, despite my high degree of optimism, I doubted the
choice I made and became heavy hearted, to say the least. Every time my father called;
I was embarrassed to share my status. “With all the money he invested in me, he
must think I am a manager by now,” I thought.
January 8, 2002: The Daily Lineup
During the pre-opening period, the 600 Ladies and
Gentlemen (as the employees are called) would come together to attend the daily
lineup. It was an open forum lead by Darrell where anyone could share ideas,
thoughts, challenges, and opportunities. Speaking of opportunities, I saw this
lineup as the perfect break to showcase my leadership and public speaking
skills and enable everyone—especially the HR team—to acknowledge that hidden
talent in the finance division (yes, me!). So, I volunteered to facilitate the
lineup, and on that 8th of January, I literally rocked the house! It was
fifteen minutes of pure inspiration. “Now, the HR team will come looking for
me,” I thought! But nothing happened, and two weeks later, I got another
transfer rejected. That was the tipping point.
January 23, 2002: The Walk That Changed My Life
I remember that day vividly. Lying on my bed, my tears
covering a piece of paper entitled, “Resignation.” The day after, I gathered my
strength and started my journey towards the HR department to hand in my
resignation. While walking down the corridor, I saw Darrell approaching from
the other side. I was in a desperate mood. I looked down at the grey carpet and
moved at steady pace, trying to blend with the wall. When he got close, he
stopped me, shook my hand, and said, “Hey, Melkart. Your speech a few weeks ago
was stunning. You will grow to become an amazing trainer! Hang in there,
buddy.” Those few words ignited that fire within, and instead of going down the
stairs, I recall stopping by the restrooms at the end of that corridor, tearing
up my resignation letter, wearing my smile again, and refocusing on my dream.
That was the walk that changed my life. In the next six years, I grew to become
the corporate director of global learning at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. That’s not the end of the story, though.
Here’s the golden nugget! Back to the 2014 meeting and after sharing my story with Darrell, he gazed at me
with a sense of peculiarity and proclaimed, “Melkart, truth be told, I have no
recollection whatsoever of that incident; our chat in the corridor.” What a
stunning lesson that is, isn’t it? That is the essence of leadership. It is
that CHOICE you make to enrich and transform people’s lives, sometimes without
even noticing that you did it… Every day we are faced with hundreds of choices whereby we can ignite the talent and passion of others like Darrell Schaeffer did with me and I
will forever be grateful!
Melkart: Yes! This book is about you. Why? Because you
transform great people and enable great execution to promote great
organizations… Not only that, but truth is also, greatness is a CHOICE, and you have a voice. I invite you to choose the road to
greatness. And to do that, step up, capture your moment, raise your flag, and
sing your song. Case closed!