I’m super stoked to introduce to you a good friend that I grew up with on the mean streets of Herndon, Virginia. We may live on opposite coasts but I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to stay connected. Sherif has been an inspiration of mine as of late. In the past few years, I’ve seen him choose courage over fear and live his life with authenticity.
It’s an honor to have Sherif on the site today to share how he’s been able to create a life without limits and how you can too.
So enough of my babbling. I give you Sherif.
SHERIF FOUAD, FOUNDER – Raleigh Raw
Sherif is a nutrition/health coach by day and has been a mixologist by night at some of the finest lounges in New York City, Washington DC, and most recently Raleigh NC.
Over the years, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease have all struck Sherif’s closest family members. Prompted by a desire to gain an accurate understanding of his family’s (and western culture’s) propensity towards degenerative diseases, he has spent over 8 years immersed in comprehensive, non-bias medical findings and case studies as they relate to the human body and genetics.
The more he understood about the positive health effects of natural organic and raw foods, the more he wanted to teach and help others, and the more conflicted and unfulfilled he felt in the cocktail slinging world of nightlife. Hence Raleigh Raw was born out of a combination of two things… a strong desire to make the world healthy and happy…. and undying love and appreciation for a well-built, balanced, proper cocktail.
On With It! The Interview
Justin: Tells us a little bit about yourself and Raleigh Raw.
Sherif: Me… I’m a social person driven by a constant propensity towards learning, growth, and service. I noticed it much more as a bartender when I was always called on to discuss people’s personal problems while handcrafting cocktails in a social setting. I think perhaps Raleigh Raw spawned as a more socially conscious manifestation of bar-tending… in that, I still make amazing cocktails and offer support and counsel but now, our cocktails actually improve your health and our counsel/ guidance is actually remembered by our patrons and even implemented!
Justin: What was your life like before Raleigh Raw? What is it like now?
Sherif: Life before Raleigh Raw felt like wandering… not lost, more like a search mission. I was searching for my role, purpose and I turned over every rock trying to find it to no avail. I lived in 4 states in 2 years post-college and traveled all over the world both searching for this allusive answer and also finding distractions in fleeting pleasures to compensate for this lack of fulfillment.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life… I just knew what I didn’t want to do. So I was constantly walking away and starting over. My family and friends started to see me as flighty, unambitious, lost, misguided. But inside something kept pushing me to keep searching…. and I’m so happy I didn’t succumb to outside pressure to take the safe route of conformity and “security”
Now? Now I notice that since I didn’t ignore the voice inside, which pushed me to keep searching, it speaks louder than ever. I trust it now so I use it as my guide. I rely on it to make all my business and personal decisions. These days I work 7 days a week, 18 hrs a day… but strangely this life is more pleasant than the leisurely life of chasing the next thrill and fleeting indulgence. Swimming as fast as you can don’t seem so bad when you’re finally swimming with the current.
Justin: What made you want to pursue this career path/passion/purpose?
Sherif: I don’t think I pursued it. I think in retrospect, the problem was in the pursuit. It was when I finally stop pursuing it that it found me. I was looking for happiness, fulfillment, money, and freedom. It’s all I cared about. And while those goals are good to strive for, they are selfish purposes to commit your life to. How can you leave a legacy when your goals are all self-serving?
One day I decided to reverse the process. I made it my obligation to take my god-given skill set, hone it, and commit it to a life of service and meaningful contribution. This was no longer a search or goal or something extrinsic or elusive as it was before. It would be something I would create. I would invest in myself, the most undervalued resource in my control. By doing that I would create value for those around me. The funny thing is those things I aspired to have before …happiness, fulfillment, money, freedom… they all finally came to me… but not as some tough goal finally attained…. but as the natural reward for shifting my focus onto something larger than myself.
Justin: What was your process for finding your purpose (or whatever you prefer to call it.)
Sherif: Socrates once said “where your skills and passion cross, therein lies your vocation”
I knew I had a natural skill set in hospitality as well as making dope cocktails. To find my passion I asked my self what things I committed my time and interest to when I was not working. It was health and wellness. I loved the subject and I was becoming more aware of the growing difficulty of having access to healthy, unprocessed, unmodified, real food. When my father got cancer, I became increasingly passionate about disease prevention and a holistic approach to nutrition. I found that by exposing him to raw plant foods, he was able to recover and avoid chemo and radiation… it was natural at that point that thought to scale this into a business that could benefit many.
Justin: Aside from your change in career what other changes have occurred? Health changes, mental, spiritual, etc…
Sherif: There is a spiritual component to being an entrepreneur that I was unaware of when I set out to start my business. As if there is an evolutionary intelligence that guides you and turns red lights green. I learned that life is skewed in our favor and any hardships we meet are really like bumpers in the bowling alley gutter put in place to keep us on track to hit a strike.
Justin Challenges you faced as you pursued this path? How’d you deal with them?
Turning shit into sugar….
2 months after launch we were wholesaling our juice to local businesses. A competitor notified the FDA and had them place an embargo on our product. I was unloading 3 pallets (thousands) of plastic bottles into my apartment when I got the call! Our product was pulled off the shelves of all of my accounts. Apparently wholesaling raw juice was illegal but selling it directly to consumers is legal. Raleigh Raw was crippled, I built a business around a wholesale model and wholesaling my product was illegal. I had 2 choices… go out of business, or change the entire business model. Each day without sales meant more expenses and no income. I had to stop the bleeding fast.
In 4 days my partner and I re-worked the website, incorporated a payment portal, and converted our business to an e-commerce model. Sales suffered at first but we slowly climbed back to hit (and then far surpass) our wholesale sales numbers.
But here’s the thing, now our juice was not as accessible. And making healthy food accessible (providing“real food fast”) was one of our core values. I wanted so much to provide local raw juice to people in a cafe setting and was scrambling to come up with a workaround for the wholesaling regulation. But I had no capital to open my own store and no banks would loan to a first-time business owner… the solution came to us… custom temp controlled vending machines placed in each store! This way the money would go straight from the consumer to Raleigh Raw thereby qualifying the transaction as direct sale, not wholesale.
Today, we sell our juices at those same accounts (cafes, yoga studios) we were pulled from. But through custom-designed juice vending machines. And we are expanding rapidly achieving omnipresence through juice vending kiosks.
Lesson learned: It’s one thing not to be overwhelmed by obstacles, some of us are resilient enough to not get too upset when they arise. But I learned then, that the real mastery comes from when you forge a mental flip…. so you aren’t looking at the obstacle directly but at the opportunity within it. It’s our preconceptions that are the problem. We think things need to be a certain way, and when they are not, we think we are at a disadvantage so we don’t have the fluidity to consider an even more advantageous course correction. Look at how these little Muay Thai fighters are able to take down large opponents by channeling their momentum against them. It’s not about being resilient to the blows, it’s about channeling that momentum to your advantage. If it wasn’t for the FDA embargo, I would have never thought to go into vending machines, and e-commerce would have been months down the line… now that is the primary source of my revenues and is allowing for rapid low-cost expansion that I would never be able to do otherwise.
Justin What have you learned about yourself, life, other people since beginning this journey?
I learned that things don’t happen to us, they happen FOR us.
- I learned to trust the process because it will make sense later if it doesn’t make sense now.
- Be comfortable with a large degree of uncertainty
- Happiness comes from subordinating what you want now for what you want most.
- Everyone has their own agenda, don’t make yourself a victim if someone crosses you or if you don’t get what you want. Seek out win-win agreements. It helps to remove yourself from the situation to gain objectivity. Operating from a subjective frame of mind is limiting.
Justin: Conventional wisdom you had to overcome in order to pursue this? Strategies for overcoming them?
I had to undergo a process of unlearning and then I began aggressively re-learning from a mindset of openness and nothingness. This way I would not allow any preconceived knowledge or bias to influence my search for truth and knowledge. I stopped listening to authoritative figures and began only seeking counsel from those I respect or those who already are where I wanna be (mentors).
Justin: Small steps or an all-in approach? OR does it depend on the person and circumstances?
It doesn’t depend on the person or circumstances. If you are alive, you are qualified, actually, you are morally obligated to be successful. It’s not a function of nature (skills and talents) or nurture (your upbringing, parents, circumstances, available opportunities, or money) success is simply a function of choice. Choose to be successful and commit all you have to it. Think big, start small, act now.
Justin: Simply, what has worked for you? Books, people, or other big influences on you over the course of this journey?
Books! Lots of them. The average American reads (but usually doesn’t finish) 1 book a year while the most successful people (CEOs etc) read an average of 4-5 books a month. Now that so many books are on audio, I can keep up with that 4-5 book a month rate despite my demanding schedule.
- Robert Greene -“Mastery”
- Jim Collins – Good to great
- Napolean Hill -Think and grow rich
- Stephen Covey -The 7 habits of highly effective people -The 8th habit – 4 disciplines of execution – The speed of trust
- Tim Ferris – 4-hour workweek
- Grant Cardone – The 10x rule
- Charles Duhigg – The power of habit
- Marcus Aurelius – The meditations
What We Can Learn From Sherif
1. Despite friends and family thinking he was flighty and had no direction, Sherif wasn’t afraid to start over. He understood that the best way to prove the nay-sayers wrong was through his hard work and results. The results show.
2. He turned his self-serving journey into one that served others. Sherif discovered that his quest for happiness, freedom, money, and fulfillment didn’t do any of those things for others. He flipped the switch and asked himself how he could offer those things for others.
3. He found his purpose by looking at how he was spending his downtime. Sherif noticed that his free time was spent learning about holistic health and wellness. He now works 18 hour days but those days are spent doing fulfilling his interests while helping others.
4. He didn’t let obstacles cripple him. Sherif had his business model almost broken overnight. However, he turned this into opportunity. Instead of hiding in a corner Sherif asked himself “what he could do NOW.” This is one of the most powerful mindsets you can get yourself into. Carry around an index card if you need to or write it down in the notes section of your smartphone. When shit happens… and it will – What can you do right now about it?
5. He reached out to mentors that were already doing what he wanted to do. Why ask someone about pursuing your passions that hasn’t done it themselves? Speak to those that have been through the grind and know what it takes to succeed.
6. The big take away. Success is a function of choice. You have a say in whether you’re going to be successful in all areas of your life.
I asked Sherif if I could interview him because I know he can serve as an inspiration for many. Whether or not you have dreams of being successful with regards to your health, business, or relationships – Sherif has provided us with insight and real experience showing that it can indeed be done.
So big ups to my boy!