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! ;)

 Wow! Did you always want to be a writer?

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!

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 organization.


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 spirit.”

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!

 Well, we're running out of time. Any final words you want to share with the community of readers?

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!

 Thank you so much Melkart. And good luck with the book!


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