Category Archives: Professional Development

Lifelong Learning for Mental and Physical Wellness

I would like to express my gratitude on the 20th anniversary of my first psychotic episode in New York City in 1999 to everyone who has helped me get this far by committing to continue my journey of lifelong learning for mental and physical wellness. I was able to make a strong recovery thanks to my parents Vimala and Pervez Mohammed as well as Rukhsana and Tawheed Hazarika (my aunt and uncle in Andover, Massachusetts) for giving me the time, space and support I needed in the weeks and months soon after my first and second episodes. After my first psychotic episode, I was told it would be like managing diabetes since I would have to take medication for the rest of my life to stabilize the “chemical imbalance.”

Tariq with his parents, Vimala and Pervez on 21st birthday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1997. Photo credit: M. Mohammed.

As an amateur athlete I did not take well to the side effects of the medication, in particular the weight gain and lethargy. Therefore I fought against taking medication and eventually persuaded my psychiatrist that I was well enough not to need to take medication anymore which led to my second psychotic episode in 2005. After my second episode I realized the seriousness of my illness and worked hard to regain my mental wellness. It was a painful and challenging process, to say the least and I would never wish such an illness on my worst enemy. However, with the the appropriate medication, psychotherapy and family support, recovery is possible and can be sustained with time and effort.

Recovery is a continuous  journey and therefore, even though I am currently feeling relatively stable and can perform rational thinking and do complex tasks, I have enrolled in recovery education classes at Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. It is my belief that I can always learn something new about myself while striving for humility. Even though the episodes happened when I was in my twenties and now I’m in my forties, the courses I have enrolled in will hopefully make me feel even better, stronger and more resilient to take on the next 25 years of my working life. Learning and unlearning new and more effective ways of living, working and playing will help me become a better version of myself.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Youth Development

Quality Family Time at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

My introduction to racquet sports as a kid in Abu Dhabi, UAE was thanks to my father so it was fitting that both of us visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame together in Rhode Island. Unlike my solo journey to Ancient Olympia in Greece, this was not just another pilgrimage or site visit but a special summer escape for father and son to represent extended family members in India and the United States who are amateur tennis players and supporters of the sport in their respective countries. We are not considered racquet sports royalty or celebrities of any sort but we do hold tennis in high regard and want to see others in the sport succeed.

Visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, USA, 2019. (Photo credit: P. Mohammed)

Pervez Mohammed, my father was an amateur tennis player who grew up playing the sport in Assam, India and played through his mid-life in Saudi Arabia while working at Unilever. On my Kerala side of the family, there are other amateur tennis players such as Michael Kallivayalil, my 94-year old grandfather who has won several amateur veteran tennis tournaments and Geetha Varghese, my aunt who has enjoyed many league matches and tennis round-robins in the United States. Also Jacob Kallivayalil, my mother’s cousin, is a former President of the Kerala Tennis Association. Therefore our visit to the tennis shrine was a family affair.

Rolex Clock at International Tennis Hall of Fame, 2019 (Photo credit: T. Mohammed)

Whether you find yourself on a tennis or squash court, timing is important just as in life. Both tennis and squash have been enjoyable pastimes for our family as lifelong fans. There can be ups and downs and wins and losses, but I think Rolex has got it right in their commercials of “perpetual excellence” from outstanding sport professionals. While watching from home with my father, the incredible and historic 2019 Men’s Singles Wimbledon Championships bared a strong resemblance of our visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Thank you Papa for introducing me to tennis as well as being part of my journey in sport and life.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Leisure, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

Market Opportunities: Will eSports be a GameChanger for Squash?

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar hosted by MIT Enterprise Forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts on “The eSports, Gaming and Blockchain Technology Revolution,” sponsored by the law firm of Hamilton, Brook, Smith and Reynolds. My prior limited knowledge on the subject matter, enabled me to takeaway that eSports is another means to amplify the sport of squash in a crowded sports and entertainment market with short-attention spans from fans, viewers and sponsors. Though, squash was not selected for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the door remains open for the World Squash Federation to make its bid for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and failing that the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Over a 26-year span of immersing myself in the global squash community through various roles as an amateur player, volunteer, coach and administrator, I, along with the more than 20 million squash players worldwide, wish to see the sport of squash designated an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee. Many (including non-squash players) consider squash to be a “true-sport,” unlike “eSports,” which has recently become a multimillion dollar industry attracting major sponsorship. The target customers of eSports are mostly young people, but the industry also has the potential to reach stay-at-home parents, “differently-abled” athletes, career professionals-in-transition and senior citizens with extra time on their hands to participate in leagues and tournaments.

In recent years, the Professional Squash Association has made limited attempts to license squash video games to bolsters its marketing efforts to capture the “eye-balls” of both current and potential squash fans. My prediction for 2019 and beyond is that, if there are any serious technologists, publishers or members of the gaming community, who possess the know-how to develop, market and sell a world-class gaming squash product (without violence as the premise which in the case of squash is a gentleman’s sport) there is a good possibility for a win-win of squash’s inclusion in the Olympic Games as well as developing a profitable eSports business leader. eSports will never be able to replace the skill, athleticism and mental fortitude that the real sport of squash requires but it can help capture the public’s sporting imagination to expand squash’s audience.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Conferences, Corporate Social Responsibility, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Recreation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement

Stay Happy, Stay Healthy

Today happens to be the United Nations sponsored International Day of Peace, which prompted me to write this blog post. It relates to the notion of “peace of mind”. Readers of this entire blog, might ponder why the title has the word “explorations.” This is because I have attempted to balance personal and professional lines of thought and action which are outlined by numerous themes. As part of my exploration in physical spaces, I found an exhibit at the MIT Museum on the “Beautiful Brain” which sums up the essence of my exploration in mental health.

At the Santiago Cajal “Beautiful Brain” Exhibit at MIT Museum. Photo credit: Unknown, 2018

The founder of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, was also a Madrid-based artist who drew intricate sketches of the brain as part of his study of its structure and function. The beautiful hand drawings (for example, see below) are very detailed and helped pave the way for modern neuroscience to make early discoveries about the brain and cognition.

Cajal drawing at MIT Museum, Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

I could really relate to Cajal’s quote below from the way in which psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped in my mental health recovery. It has never been my intention to cause confusion (although it does happen unwittingly from time to time), but to seek greater understanding and balance of the boundaries of my personal and professional reflections. Many people (some known and unknown to me) have helped contribute to my health and wellness for which I am grateful. Many of them have reminded in small but simple ways to “stay happy, stay healthy.”

Cajal quote at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Peace Building, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

Creating Future Nelson Mandelas through International Youth Leadership

As the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, we are reminded of his important impact in the world of sport and leadership. A year after Mandela gave his speech on the power of sport at the first Laureus Awards event in Monaco, 2000, I was fortunate to volunteer as a Facilitator with Civic Concepts International in Prague, Czech Republic. By participating, speaking and facilitating at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference, this was not only my first overseas trip as an American citizen, but it was the first time I was an international volunteer in what was to me a new region of the world.

Tariq Mohammed and participants at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo credit: W. Webster, 2001.

Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.

Embassy Visit of 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference Participants, Prague Czech Republic Photo credit. W. Webster, 2001.

If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development

Reflecting on the Start for a Better Finish

Since this is my 100th post of my wordpress.com blogging project, I am reminded of how my experiment in blogging started. The credit goes to Geoffrey Kirkman, former Managing Director of the Information Technologies Group at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, for encouraging me in 2002 to blog about my experiences in East Africa which I did courtesy of Weblogs at Harvard. The Information Technologies Group (ITG) as it was referred to then, was a global thought leader on applying information and communication technologies to the challenges of sustainable development.

Prior to the reorganization of ITG, Geoffrey organized a company retreat in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The photograph below is of a handful of the ITG team who were in attendance while other key team members were missing. Starting from right to left they were: Colin Maclay, Marcela Escobari, Geoffrey Kirkman, Magda Ismail, Carolina Vizcaino, Mridul Chowdhury, Chutney (the dog) and myself. Thanks to Geoffrey’s own blogging projects and his mentorship over the years, he positively influenced my blogging endeavors. I’ve enjoyed preparing, editing and writing my blog posts for a general audience. However, as my 100th blog post and counting, it is not clear how this will impact the limitations of space in the printed format.

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Nonetheless, I shall share a few thoughts on how blogging has helped me and prospects for the future. First and foremost, the ability to reflect upon my work has not only allowed me to document the work done, but to pause and think about the importance of health and wellness. Second, this blogging project has connected me to a wide array of individuals and organizations working to improve the state of the world in real and meaningful ways. Third, I have developed a platform on which to translate longstanding political, economic and social issues in America and around the world through the lens of sport and development.

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What does this mean for the future? This year – 2018 – is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is the original framework on which my workbook “What Squash Can Teach You?” was derived. Furthermore, my time with Reebok’s Human Rights Programs also shaped the work of this blog project by wanting to combine and continue my interest in sport and sustainable international development. In the future, I hope that the printed formats of this blog and my workbook will be used as educational tools to facilitate critical thinking as well as create positive economic and social value, in the United States and across the world. By reflecting on the start of these writing projects, I intend to create a better finished product.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Planning, Poverty, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement

How Can Civic Media Influence Sport for Development and Peace?

On a recent trip to Southern California, I posted an announcement on my social media account about prepping for travel to the Greater Los Angeles area. In doing so, I expressed interest in meeting with business, government and civic leaders. I knew before leaving on the trip, I would be posting on my blog to share learnings with a wider audience through the lens of sport and culture. What I did not know was, what the content of producing the Youtube video below was going to be and how it might be relevant to sport for development and peace.

Nonetheless, there was history and context behind my visit. My Dad was a salesman in the Middle East and won a competition for selling Uncle Ben’s Rice in his sales territory. Hence, my parents were awarded tickets to watch the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Then in 1993, my parents, sisters and I visited California on a family vacation before we immigrated to the United States in the late 1990s. During the summer of 1984, Miriam, my sister and I stayed in Andover, MA with the Hazarika family. One afternoon, I clearly remember watching Joan Benoit Samuelson on television, become the first American woman to win the inaugural women’s marathon event.

Moving forward, Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics and so there are elements of the video that illustrate the business, government and civic institutions in Los Angeles today. I did not have any official meetings with the representatives that I had hoped for, but still was able to conduct a civic media project for myself through low-budget and low-tech video production. This was done on a day by day basis due to disappointing weather conditions early on in the trip. However things, brightened up both, literally and figuratively, when I reconnected with former classmates from India and the Middle East, discovered new places in California and learned about different cultures, all without leaving the United States (for a change).

What did I learn and how can it help others move forward? Well, thanks to Professor Colin Miles Maclay, a former colleague at Harvard and now Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California for helping me (without knowing it) that I have been producing various civic media outputs on Youtube for the benefit of being able to (a) to practice active citizenship (b) foster greater understanding of the United States vis-a-vis the rest of the world (c) create fun memories for myself and others to enjoy.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, Leisure, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering