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How to Reach Your Potential: An Interview with Hamza Khan

· Interview

"How to Reach Your Potential" is a series of 100 interviews with leaders who inspire Alex Rascanu and whose insights can help you reach your potential.
[Trina Boos was our first interviewee.]

Hamza Khan speaking at TEDxRyersonU

Meet Hamza

Hamza Khan is a multi-award winning marketer & entrepreneur. He’s the co-founder of both Splash Effect, a boutique marketing & creative agency, as well as SkillsCamp, a soft skills training company. Hamza has spoken at more than 50 events (including 2 TEDx events) across 15 cities and 8 countries, to more than 15,000 people. He is a faculty member at Seneca College and Ryerson University, teaching courses on digital marketing and social media. Through his consulting, writing, teaching and speaking, Hamza empowers people and businesses to transform ideas into reality. Learn more about Hamza at www.hamzakhan.ca. Buy his book The Burnout Gamble. And follow his adventures on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and/or Facebook.

Hamza Khan at the Splash Effect headquarters

Alex: What is your life’s purpose?

Hamza: My purpose in life is to give my gift away. And I feel lucky to have discovered this gift quite early on in life: to empower people and businesses to transform ideas into reality. I achieve this primarily through my consulting, writing, teaching, and speaking.

Alex: What are the three things you’re most passionate about?

Hamza: It’s difficult for me to narrow down the things that I’m most passionate to a selection of three, as my list is constantly growing. But as at the time of writing, I’m preoccupied with marketing, productivity, and social media. I could talk for hours on end about these things. And when they overlap (which they often do), I could go on for days.

Alex: How do you stay healthy? What’s your main health-related goal?

Hamza: Staying healthy comes down having respect for my body. As a guiding principle, that means doing things today that my future self will thank me for. This includes a number of daily imperative actions such as following through on a challenging fitness routine, eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good night’s sleep. My main health-related goal is to optimize my energy. While the time afforded to me is fixed (like everyone else, I have the same 168 hours in a week) — the energy that I can generate within that time is not. And when I’m healthy, I can multiply my success in all aspects of life.

Alex: How do you build wealth? What’s your main financial goal?

Hamza: I build wealth by putting money to work through a diverse portfolio of investments: currencies, stocks, equity, mutual funds, etc. Almost 80% of my earnings are immediately invested in these areas. And while my wealth is generating more wealth, I’m focused on increasing my earning potential by improving my craft, broadening my reach, and delivering value to every person in my orbit. I’m a big believer in Zig Ziglar’s words: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” With that said, my main financial goal is to achieve freedom — freedom from debt, freedom from worry, freedom from constraints, etc. I don’t quite desire to be rich. I simply desire to never be poor.

Alex: How do you balance work and family life?

Hamza: As someone who has burned out in spectacular fashion multiple times in my career, I’ve had to learn the hard way the importance of slapping constraints on my productivity. I make time for my family life by clearly defining when to stop working. At the start of any project I establish an end state that looks like one or more of the following:

  • TIME-BASED DASH: I stop working when the clock stops. For instance, my workouts never exceed an hour. And so if I’m idly checking Facebook between sets, I risk my workout being incomplete. Similarly, I structure my work in 25-minute distraction-free waves (see: The Pomodoro Technique) with breaks between them. The countdown induces fierce focus.
  • UNIT-BASED DASH: If I complete my entire workout within the hour allotted for it, I leave the gym. Similarly, if I complete everything on my to-do list before the clock strikes 5 pm, I leave the office. By defining what “complete” looks like for any project, and by establishing clear milestones, you’ll become aware of your progress based on the units required to achieve a finished state.
  • ENERGY-BASED DASH: Especially when I’m feeling sick or tired, I hang up my gloves when my body says to. There’s no point of pushing through work if you don’t have the energy for it, as you’ll be more susceptible to errors and illness (which will only produce a cascade effect of more work, fatigue, and delays down the line). Don’t just manage your time — manage your energy as well.
  • RESULTS-BASED DASH: This dash is very similar to the unit-based dash; however, I spin it by anchoring it in externally-defined results. Since I work in an agency setting, the results in question which I often pursue are typically defined by clients. While they may not always be perfect for me, they’re usually perfect for my clients. When confronted with a torrent of timelines for client projects, I switch on the “f*ck it, ship it” approach to getting things done.
  • FEELING-BASED DASH:This isn’t for everyone, and doesn’t apply to most types of work. It’s especially risky in projects where there’s a lot at stake, or if there are multiple dependencies. Saying “I’m done” because you feel like it comes with either a lot of privilege and/or proportional consequences. Therefore, I relegate this approach to my art and various solo projects.

According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands so as to fill the time allocated for its completion. If we’re not slapping constraints on our workday, we’ll burn out. At the same time, imposing timelines and clear parameters raises the difficulty level on our work just enough that we naturally end up working harder and smarter to get things done. Therefore, knowing when to stop working is a win-win approach to getting things done.

Alex: How do you enjoy spending time with family and friends?

Hamza: I love movies. My go-to activity is to explore other worlds through the art of cinematic storytelling. I’m also rediscovering my love of video games. Advances in gaming technology are offering levels of immersive storytelling that can sometimes rival that of the most masterfully crafted films. For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the process is discussing the media with family and friends following the experience. We bond over the shared experience by remembering moments, unpacking themes, discovering hidden meanings, and more.

Hamza Khan writing his book, “The Burnout Gamble: Achieve More by Beating Burnout and Building Resilience"

Alex: What has been the most fulfilling role you’ve ever had, or the most fulfilling project you’ve been involved with so far?

Hamza: The most fulfilling role I’ve ever had was Co-Founder of Splash Effect, a role which I still occupy at the time of writing. It continues to bring me the highest-of-highs, tempered with the lowest-of-lows — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day has been (and continues to be) a challenge. It’s an adventurous cycle comprised of growth, success, failure, reflection, and recovery, where I’m regularly compelled to step outside of my comfort zone. Building a business is creatively and intellectually stimulating, and I always feel like a beginner. However, there is a different sort of fulfillment that comes from long-term dedication to a single project/product. As the Digital Community Facilitator at Ryerson University, a pioneering role in higher education, I was able to immerse myself in the development of a product (RU Student Life) that helped establish the institution  — Canada’s leader in innovative, career-focused education — as a national leader in online student engagement.

Alex: What’s one career planning lesson that has made a significant difference in your life?

Hamza: A career planning lesson that has made a significant difference in my life was auditing my happiness. Growing up as the son of hard-working immigrant parents, I got caught up with the notion that hard work was the only path to success, and that success was linear (defined by specific milestones, including an oddly specific income target). And it didn’t help that I idolized successful rappers, movie stars, and basketball players, all of whom were millionaires. For most of my life, I felt a crushing performance pressure induced by these external definitions of success; they were other people’s dreams. Inspired by Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Work Week”, I took things back to the drawing board and designed the perfect day in my life, projected a few years into the future. And then I started adding prices to this vision. Once I adjusted for inflation, lo-and-behold, the actual amount of money that I needed to be at my optimal happiness was significantly lower than what I was chasing. In one sitting, I had liberated myself from the tyranny of warped & external definitions of success. And finally, I began to chase my own dreams.

Alex: What would you like your legacy to be?

Hamza: I want to be remembered as someone who maximized his potential. I want to exemplify the power of discipline and purpose when it comes to making things happen. I want my value proposition of “transforming ideas into reality” to be true for as many people as possible. I want to have been relied on to take any idea, regardless of scale, from idea to execution. If it can be said that that I added value everywhere — that I significantly improved the world for everyone around me — I will feel as though this was a life well-lived.

Alex: Thank you for taking part in this interview! Your insights are much appreciated!

Did you find one or more of Hamza's insights helpful? Are there any ideas or resources that came to mind as you read the interview? Know someone we should interview?
We encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. Alternatively, feel free to send us an email using our contact us form.

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