Is self-respect worth a billion dollars?

Perhaps not! But when you are young and stupid, you do things that baffle the human intelligence.
My friend did just that! This is the true story………
It was the year 1993. He was working as an Account Manager with IBM Corporation in Pakistan. An Account Manager had nothing to do with accounting. This was the term they used for their Sales Managers who would be responsible for managing Enterprise customers or Strategic accounts. He was responsible for the Army, the Utilities (Wapda, SNGPL etc.) some Banks, etc. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) were fairly simple. Every year on Jan. 01, he was told that this year your accounts should generate a revenue of X million dollars for IBM. This used to be 20% higher than his target for the preceding year. Life was not good….it was simply great!
Then something happened. He still did not know why, but he applied for a Job as the ‘Country General Manager’ for Saudi Arabia for a company called Silicon Graphics. This was a company based out of Mountain View, California and specialized in making high end work stations and Supercomputers. There products were used in flight simulators for pilots, for climate prediction, for making animated movies by Hollywood, for simulating nuclear explosions, for breaking enemy communication codes, for Genetic Engineering, etc. The company later acquired their arch competitor ‘Cray Research’ in 1995.
He was asked to attend an interview in Lausanne, Switzerland on a frigid winter day and got hired on extremely generous terms. He tendered his resignation with IBM and moved to Riyadh with his family. As the Al-Barakah group were their local representatives so he was legally working for them. He had a team of about 50 professionals from all over the world (mostly British, Canadians, Americans, Palestinians, Lebanese, Indians and Philipinos). He settled down in Riyadh and use to visit Jeddah and Al-Khobar once every week. His job also required him to travel to Lausanne and Mountain View once every 3 months. Life was rocking. He had switched from wearing the cheapo ‘Marks and Spencer’ suits to ‘Armani’ and ‘Versace’ and from wearing ‘Clark’ shoes to ‘Bally’ and ‘Gucci’!
Two years passed. One fine morning he received a call from the third richest man in the world (Prince Waleed bin Talal). It was a simple call. “I understand you guys make the most powerful computers in the world. I want to buy one for my son (Khalid bin Waleed) and I want you come and show it to me now!” Before he could speak Prince had disconnected the phone. He was very upset. The moron did not know that his cheapest workstation had a price tag of over $15,000 and he should be talking to his salesman not to him. He decided to tell him just that face to face. So he took out his car and drove straight to Prince’s Palace. When he entered he saw a long queue of people waiting to see him (probably asking for some kind of favor from him). He was in no mood to wait and walked over to the guy at the door and told him that the Prince had called him and he wanted to see him right now. After a minute he was informed that he would see him now. When he went in, he saw an extremely handsome young man of his age standing with open arms. He embraced him in the Arabic way and told him that he was impolite to him when he had put the phone down. He told him about the prices and also that even the Saudi Air force have issues in buying his computers what to talk about a 10 year kid.
“Which is the most expensive computer you have?” the Prince said.  He had a big laugh and said if you buy that for your son, he will be prepared to even work for you. Apparently, he had tripped his ego. Long story short he bought a Power Onyx Computer for over a million dollars for his 10 year old kid and he made him an offer. An offer, not even the President of United States could have refused.
He was to become his Executive Vice President and since Prince was a majority shareholder in Citibank, Apple Computers, Disney and Four Seasons chain of hotels, he was to represent the Prince on the respective boards while he spent his time in the desert hunting with his favorite falcons. The year 1995!
My friend was living the life of a King now. He had a personal 747 with a complete suite (two bedrooms, living room, dining room, Jacuzzi) and he was using it as his. He would land and be whisked away in a convoy of limousines from the Tarmac. No immigration, no customs and no passports. At least he never saw one.
Steve Jobs would be waiting for him at the front gate of his HQ in Cupertino, California. So wouldbe Presidents of Citibank, Disney and Four Seasons. He had a summer retreat in Gstaad, Switzerland. Guess who was his next door neighbor? Roger Moore! We would go out on walks together.
Amazingly the power never went to his head. He never cheated, smoked or drank – NEVER! And now he knows why?
One day in 1997 (after two years living the life of a King) he had a scheduled meeting with Prince Waleed in Riyadh. Prince was in a bad mood because of some personal reason. Business was good and they were doing better than their expectations. He was with him alone. He opened a file read something and was very upset about that. It was a very trivial matter but the Prince threw  file at my friend’s face and started cursing him. He had two options:
1. Walk out of the room without saying a word as if nothing had happened
2. Throw the file back at his face and start cursing him
My friend chose the later?
Prince was shocked. He fired him. He confiscated every penny that he owned by ordering the Saudi American Bank (SAMBA) to freeze all his accounts (he owned the bank- still does). He had his house locked (including his wardrobe) and had a personal plane drop him off in Bahrain! Luckily his family was in Pakistan on vacation and were saved the ordeal. He had never planned for that day. Everything that he owned stood confiscated. He was probably one of the 100 most powerful men in the world reduced to a pauper within one hour and standing in Bahrain without any money even to make a phone call to his home!
Over time he recovered from his great fall. He became the President of Askari Information Systems (a leading Software house), the President of Redtone Telecommunications (a leading Malaysian Telecom Company), the President of Meguin Inc. ( a leading German Oil Company). But he still cannot even dream of relating to the experience that he had between 1995-1997. Despite the fall, he is absolutely happy to pay for his self-respect.
This is the personal story of my friend Zain I. Syed, Stanford Graduate,  working for Hewlett Packard.
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  • Amazing story indeed 🙂

    • Thank you, Fariha

      • Hammad

        Zain, if you did same as written above, then Hats off to you; but tell us, what is the difference between YOU (as Harvard graduate) and US? was it your will power that make you survived this tough situation or education or something else that I missed, thank you, Hammad.

        • kaiser waziri

          Hammad, I don’t think it had anything to do with his education. It was his firm belief that only God can give and he is the only one who can take it away which made him do what he did!

          • I entirely agree with Kaiser!

          • Zain i can say you are lucky that you moved out of Kingdom after such an act. I am working in KSA with Bin Ladin’s so oftenly go for meetings with Princes along with them. The Princes in KSA are still living like old age princes and we have seen their mood swings too.Hats off to you for your daring or if i say corrently mad move , this all shows your firm belief in Allah and as we read in this post that you excel in your future so your belief pays off , keep it up man May Allah give you more strength.

        • Hammad, one must do what one believes in. If self respect is important to you, you must protect it at any cost irrespective of the consequences! It has nothing to do with your education!

  • Mehmood Masood

    Is it true? It seems like a fairy tale to me.

    • Yes Mehmood, It is 100% true!
      There are no fairy-tales more beautiful than those invented by life itself

  • Kashif

    It could be a true story but has been presented in manner that makes it look more like a tail to catch reader’s attention, which it did somehow. I would have taken time to present these facts with more clarity and sensory vocabulary. Self-respect does not exist nor honored when one serves princes and dictators.

    • Kashif that would be a ‘tale’ and not a ‘tail’.
      While I agree with you in regards to the clarity and sensory vocabulary (still dont know what that means in here as it only relates to odour and taste), I assure you with all the vehemence at my command that people who work for Kings, Princes and Dictators do have self respect. It is the equation that you establish with them which determines the degree. Just like you establish an equation with your boss the first time you start to work for him.

      • Kashif

        Zain I. Syed. Thank you for the correction.

        If you don’t know what I meant by clarity and sensory vocabulary, I suggest you ‘google’ it and allow yourself to think beyond food and odor.

        I disagree with you. When one puts himself in the service of a royal family, he/she at once loses the right of establishing any equation, be it’s for self-respect or any other fundamental rights. They place themselves at the mercy of royals who treat them however they wish. There is no comparison between a boss and a monarch. Kings commits atrocities and dare challenge the world if criticized. While when boss lashes employees few times, one of them loses his head and make the boss pay off.

        If your self-respect happened to survive two years when working with the prince, it was the Prince’s choice to let it happen, not because of any equation you tried to set up in the beginning. Just like you, they have no respect for your equations.

        • Kings, Princes and Dictators have two sides. A private side and a public one. Even the worst dictators are very good with their families and friends who know them as a human being and not through the eyes of the media. They all have personal weaknesses as human beings. They all like to have personal friends with whom they would share secrets and get tips on ways of improving themselves. We should not try to judge a person from what we read about him in the media. That is their way of projecting themselves – good, bad or ugly! They have their reasons to do that!
          I always respect the equation I set-up with people. My equation is fairly simple. All people are born equal and free!
          I never discriminate and shall never allow anyone to discriminate against me on any basis. Be it a king or a dictator!

          • Kashif

            No denying to the first part of your comments. However, it’s the ugly side of kings’ lives which come to hurt their underlying employees and is in question in our discussion. Whatever their reasons for putting up an ugly face, no rationale can justify that.

            Of course, we all should set the equation in beginning and expect others to respect that. But that does not happen sometimes and in the case of SHEIKHS and KINGS, it becomes a rare practice.

            No point in discriminating anyone but it’s hard to identify grey sheep in the flock of black sheep. From a distance they all look the same, especially, when gray sheep are only one or two amongst hundreds.of black ones.

            Having said that, what you did to the prince was nothing but pure courage, and I hold you in great respect for this vary reason.

          • Thanks a million, Kashif!
            Many people call it my stupidity. Some call it my inflated ego!
            I call it self-respect!

          • Kashif

            They can say whatever they wish to. The only thing matters what matters most to you. They may be happy compromising their respect for wealth and lavish life, you and I are happier walking away from these holding our self-respect high in the air from royal mode swings and abuse.

            Don’t budge even an inch from your values, as they decide our happiness, not mere wealth. Keep it up!

  • Highly motivational !!

  • Great..

  • Munawar

    Fantastic Story. I think Mr. Zain did the exact right thing. We have to take a stand in our lives on our core values. I am currently experiencing one such situation and your story has really inspired me to have faith. I wish you all the very best. Respect!

    • kaiser waziri

      Wish you best of luck, Munawar!

  • Salim

    It was absolutely wrong what Mr. Syed did. It should be taught as case study in an MBA class. You can protect self-respect with a cool head. Put the interest of your family before anything else. We are very proud people; it may be one of the reasons that we are living in Stone-Age. It was a test for Mr. Syed given to him by a supreme power which he failed. He acted irrationally and smashed the glass which could never be fixed.

  • Dr Zaheer Ahmed

    It was a momentary situational response without care of consequences but the prince did it deliberately as I presume and these wealthlords are not know kids and they know well what maximum can happen however not to get an equal flashback, I am not impressed or motivated by this story at all,however I congratulate Zain Syed,he survived the trauma and being gem of a guy got his status again, actually he should have refused the offer of the prince to maintain his self respect and not undergone through all this rubbish. He accepted and welcomed a monster,sooner or later it had to happen. Sheikhs are a nation with beutiful words on their tongue without any touch of civilisations or manners.

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