Read an Excerpt
FROM INVISIBLE TO ICON
How to Become an expert in Your Industry
By John Fareed, Sean Hunter
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 John Fareed with Sean Hunter
All rights reserved.
From Magic Boy to marketing icon
It's easy to decide what you're going to do. The hard part is deciding what you're not going to do.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
Strangers on this road we are on, We are not two, we are one.
From the beginning I knew I wasn't like other kids.
My Egyptian mother came to the United States on a Rotary scholarship. In her first year at university, she fell for a basketball star from Alabama, and being a young and naïve Muslim, pregnancy was more or less instantaneous. She and my father quickly married, but it was never healthy. He became a wandering school teacher who moved from school to school, and relationship to relationship—while she played the role of the submissive, all-accepting housewife.
Her crushed father was a devoted Muslim and self-proclaimed life planner, who had worked his way up from fighter pilot to Brigadier General in the Royal Air Force, served as ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to Japan and eventually the United Nations, and finished his career in the hospitality and travel industry by opening the Nile Hilton with Conrad Hilton (eventually running Hilton's Middle East division), and subsequently heading up Egypt Air Lines' public relations department until retirement.
He was a self-made man with high ideals, who did exactly what most traditional Muslim men would do at the time, and more or less disowned my mother.
Sadly mother was unable to finish college, never really worked, and for much of our lives together, relied on welfare and food stamps. If I never see another log of government cheese or box of powdered milk, it will be too soon.
My grandfather had two daughters. I was the first-born male within the Fareed family. In order to build and maintain a relationship with me, he would send round-trip tickets to Egypt each summer, where I lived like a virtual pharaonic king and enjoyed estates with servants, bespoke clothes, and all the food I could eat (albeit lamb, tabouleh and stuffed grape leaves).
The two diametric lifestyles made me a bit of a misfit.
At the beginning of every school year, when my small-town Georgia classmates stood up in front of the class and talked about fishing, visiting theme parks and building forts all summer vacation, I nervously related my adventures riding camels, climbing pyramids and playing on Egyptian beaches.
Sigh. I longed to just be a normal American kid.
At the time I didn't really enjoy those exotic summer excursions either, as I felt our well-healed relatives and family friends looked down on my mother and me.
It wasn't easy.
Then I had a life-changing experience. During one Egyptian summer, when I was ten, I saw an Alexandria street magician who made daily stops at the beach cottages where my family stayed on holiday. The performer was known as the Hully-Gully Man, the Arabic name for a magician. He did all kinds of cool things. He did the old cup-and-ball trick with colorfully dyed chicks. He formed strips of fabric into a ball, lit them on fire, placed them in his mouth and pulled them out again—all tied together. Like many kids at that age, I thought I knew everything, but this guy did tricks that ...
When I returned to Georgia that fall, I ransacked the library for books on magic. I checked out the only one I found, a 1930s magic tome called Greater Magic by John Northern Hilliard, that was so out-of-date that many of the ingredients I needed for tricks were no longer available. I kept that book checked out for so long, checking it out again and again, the town librarian ordered more books on magic for me. And in turn those books fired my growing passion. Before long, I was obsessed with sleight of hand, tricks of the mind and the incredible power of the imagination.
I'd finally found a place where I fit in. Magic was a way for me to gain respect. None of my friends could perform these feats, and they had no idea how I did them.
I devoured every book and magazine I could find on the subject. I signed up for the mail-order "Mark Wilson's Course on Magic," purchased with my hard-earned lawn-mowing money. By the time I was eleven, I was performing at birthday parties, for the local men's clubs, in area talent shows—wherever I could get a booking.
I was naïve enough to be completely unaware that magic's vaudevillian heyday had passed. I began to dream of a life spent traveling the world in elegant style, performing magic. I faced the challenges that we all face. The choice between our dreams and what is safe.
Then there was the conservative family, who never really supported my passion for magic. My grandfather, the retired Egyptian general and former ambassador, laid down the law. There would be no hully-gully for his grandson. I would join the military, as is customary for all men in the Fareed family, and go to college. I argued but my grandfather explained the consequences. He would disown me. Clearly I got his message.
But I thought for a moment and said, "Grandpa, you've taught me much about life—how a gentleman buys clothes, folds a handkerchief, uses proper table manners and most importantly, negotiates. You're demanding much of me, and I should ask for something in return." He stared back at me without word or expression as I continued, "I'll join the military, if you'll take my mother back."
I watched nervously as he slammed his hand on the table, pushed his chair away and stepped out on the balcony. I thought it was early in the day for him to have a whiskey and a cigarette, but apparently it wasn't. I began to panic.
The general returned to the table, sat down and stared at me for nearly twenty minutes. He had taught me that when negotiating, once you make your ask, the first one to speak loses. The room was eerily quiet. "Agreed!" he said sternly, "But it has to be the Marine Corps." I was devastated, but I did my grandfather's bidding. He and my mother remained close for the rest of their lives. Looking back, it was totally worth it.
The Marine recruiter drove a DeLorean, promised me a sweet college deal and dressed as though he were in a theatrical production, so I joined. But even as a Marine I continued to dabble in magic. I opted for the Marine reserves, which allowed me to travel and perform in clubs and at special events. I served six years and eventually received an honorable discharge.
Persistence is a virtue
But I still couldn't shake the magic bug, and didn't finish college. I chose to take a chance on Hollywood.
I left on an Amtrak train with less than $100 in my pocket one impulsive Saturday morning. Luckily, the train stopped in New orleans, and I earned enough money performing on the streets of the French Quarter to get to Los Angeles—more on that later.
A few lucky breaks later, I found myself performing at Hollywood's legendary Magic Castle. That led to a job with Mark Wilson, my magic idol, working as assistant producer on a show that toured the country.
Unfortunately, it didn't make me happy. The production job meant setting someone else up to do the tricks. I wanted to be the guy up on stage doing those tricks. I wanted to be the star of the show.
I quit the job, headed back to Georgia and began performing in clubs and bars. It paid, but not very much. I always had to do something else to get by. I began a string of jobs, from a stint as the local mall marketing director to selling everything from fiber optics to advertising. Through it all magic continued to call to me. Whenever something would come along in my jobs to advance my career, I'd give it up for the magic. I was always talking about doing it full time, and I continued to dream of a magical lifestyle.
Along the way I learned a lot
Why is all of this important? It was during my career as a magician that I first learned the power of personal branding.
I knew that to be successful, I had to find a way to stand out from all the other magicians out there. I had to find a niche. I had to find a way to be remembered.
So I went to work. I joined local organizations for magicians, which in turn connected me to national organizations. I started writing for the trades—The Magic Menu, The Illusionist, Marketing Magic—and even became a contributing editor for Magic magazine, the industry's bible. It did work magic for my career, as I built status and reputation. It gave me entry.
In my 15-year career as Magic Boy, I played everything from cruise ships to Las Vegas casinos to the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, traveling Around the World in 80 Tricks.
Then I had a realization
As I sat amid the shelves of magic books and props, classic magic posters and photographs, and scattered magic memorabilia that filled my magic room, I realized that no matter how accomplished I became as a magician, there would always be serious limitations to what I could do. I realized my career as a magician was at least a cul-de-sac, if not a dead-end.
You see, magic is just like any other industry. The people at the very top make exorbitant amounts of money, while the typical magician toils in relative obscurity. Sure, I could work a little harder, a little smarter than the others and carve a niche for myself. But in the end the industry was so small and limited, that the odds of achieving the kind of success I was looking for were relatively low, no matter how hard I worked.
I realized that even more important than my success as a magician were the methods I used to become successful. What if I applied that same effort and intelligence in a different field where there was a much bigger pie from which to grab a piece?
If I was going to persevere through the fight to the top of my industry, was this what I wanted most? Was this worth it? I decided to make a change.
Welcome to marketing
At first I was quite successful at my journey into marketing and advertising. I employed a lot of the techniques that had made me successful as a magician. I read everything I could. I joined all the organizations I could. I wrote for the trades. I made a name for myself, just as I had in magic.
But there were a lot of things I didn't know, and there was a vicious trial and error learning curve. My first firm was essentially a bootstrap organization, and we learned as we went along. We were successful for the most part, but I still hadn't turned the corner to achieve the kind of success I sought. I quickly reached a limit in my marketing business and realized I had found another cul-de-sac.
What was I doing wrong?
I remember being at a conference cocktail party one night, looking around at the power players in my industry. I realized that in many cases they received business just for being who they were. people actually came to them, instead of them having to actively seek clients. They received the select offers not because of what they did, but because of who they were. Or rather, where they were. They had positioned themselves as experts.
I realized that rather than try to win every battle in the marketing arena I could, I needed to position myself as an expert. I needed a way to open those closed doors rather than breaking them down. I had to go back to zero again so that I could rebuild in the right way.
And then something happened. 9/11, and the ensuing economic crisis, effectively put an end to my seven year old firm. And today, as I look back on it, this horrific tragedy was a huge part of what helped me succeed.
I started from scratch. I went back to zero.
A new plan
The failure of my business gave me a chance to go after the right skills, the right credentials, the right education to make my plan work. I decided on a specific niche—hospitality marketing. I focused on work that would build credentials, experience and knowledge, rather than just a series of checks.
I put together a five-year plan to become an expert in my field—the plan that has brought me to where I am today. I went to work at a large historic resort as director of marketing. I perfected my skills in speaking, writing, and developing workshops. I garnered keynote gigs at major industry events around the globe. I resolved to find the most prominent industry experts I knew and go to work for them. I earned or won all of the relevant industry credentials possible.
And then the only milestone that remained was my goal to further my education. I had a very tough choice to make, because I had a successful career underway in the right places. But I still needed to get an advanced degree, ideally in a strong masters program. A lot of my friends and colleagues thought going back to school at that time seemed crazy. How could I leave all income, prestige, and security behind? But I could go no further until I took ...
A leap of faith
Actually, I took a plane from the U.S. to Ireland. I quit a great job with a substantial income to go back to school at the Dublin Institute of Technology's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. I left my family for an entire year. I traveled half way around the world to begin a new act in my life.
I had to move toward my goal—to position myself as an expert. I knew that everything else was just spinning my wheels.
Was I nervous? No. I knew where I'd land. Even though it was a huge risk, it was easy. I had a plan that took me from a pretty good magician, to an expert in my field of choice—hospitality marketing.
I had planned the trip for at least a year. Saving the necessary monies to sustain both my family at home and me at school. The day I left, my wife and son brought me to the airport, knowing that I wasn't coming back any time soon. I was in my oldest clothes, with my brand new bag filled with all the items I'd been collecting for months to signify my new personal brand.
At 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, I had a lot of time to think. It was a strange experience because I had no work to do on the plane. I was truly transitioning from one life to another. I was untethered. It was one of those rare moments in life where you can reflect on where you've been and where you're going. Traveling does that, you know.
And when my plane set down it was 6am in Dublin. My good friend Alex Gibson, now my business partner in Ireland, picked me up at the airport and we went to breakfast. And as the sun rose over the beautiful Irish landscape, a new day dawned for me as well.
And then what?
Today I'm happy to report that I have two post grad degrees including a Master of Science from the Dublin Institute of Technology's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and I am an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality and travel marketing.
I speak regularly to the industry, and have spoken on the topic of marketing at industry events in Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, and across the US, Canada and Caribbean.
My clients include Fortune 500 companies, national brands, owners (several of which are billionaires), developers and REITs. I've also provided expert witness and litigation support in a number of major cases relating to hospitality branding and marketing issues.
I'm often quoted as an industry expert—my goal all along—and I've appeared on national programs including ABC News, CNN and Fox News Network, in national publications such as USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and have had many, many articles published in trade journals including Hotel Management, Hotels, the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International's (HSMAI) Marketing review, The Meeting Professional, and on Hotel News Now and Hotel Interactive.
I'm a frequent lecturer at some of the world's best hotel schools including Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, New York, and the Institut de Management Hôtelier International (IMHI) at the École Supérieure des Sciences Economíques et Commerciales (ESSEC), one of Europe's preeminent business schools, in paris, France.
As of this writing I serve on the Board of Trustees for the HSMAI International Foundation and the Board of Directors for the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC).
over the years, I've been the recipient of over two hundred Adrian Awards from HSMAI in what is the world's largest competition for hospitality, travel and tourism marketing, and HSMAI recognized me as one of the "Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing."
I have to say that writing all this down, made me feel pretty damn good about myself. It's been a great ride so far.
But this book is about you, and what you can achieve.
I did it. You can do it. You just need the right roadmap to make your journey.
Excerpted from FROM INVISIBLE TO ICON by John Fareed. Copyright © 2013 by John Fareed with Sean Hunter. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.