Omid Scheybani: Storyteller, Photographer
Omid Scheybani is a San Francisco-based Polyglot, Cultural Explorer, Smartphone Photographer, Technology Adi-& Aficionado, Forward Thinker, Solution-oriented Doer, Thoughtful writer, Passionate Learner, and a Striving Designer. He used to work for Google between 2009 and 2015. In the summer of 2015, he left Google to pursue an MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has two goals. Professionally, to change societies by bringing disruptive technology to emerging markets all around the world. Personally, to make a difference in other peoples' lives and to share cultural and personal insights (hence, the term "World Culture Storyteller").
Everybody has a story to share with others. Everybody has a story to empower people. This guy tells stories not only by writing, but also giving public speeches, taking photos, and using non-traditional channels. Let's start thinking about your own story.
-----For those who are not familiar with you, tell us more about you. What is your main role at Google and what are you world-class at?
My name is Omid Scheybani and I’m a German-born Iranian. Upon graduating from university in Germany and Argentina, I joined Google’s EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. After ±18 months, I then moved to New York and later to California where I’ve been initiating and managing cloud computing distribution partnerships into our Latin American market (companies that would help Google distribute its cloud computing solutions into the Latin American market). While living in San Francisco, I spent a large chunk of my last 4 years traveling throughout Latin America.
Despite my challenging and interesting job, it has always been important to me was to not be defined by my 9to5. So when people ask me where I work, I don’t say I work at Google, but I say I work from Google. What that basically means is that I’m fortunate to be in an environment in which I’m exposed to brilliant people, cutting-edge technology, autonomy and progressive thinking. And while I’m in such an environment, it would be crazy to not take advantage of being in such a position to build your own personal brand and capabilities.
While I consider “world class” a level that I’m still striving to be at, I would mention the sharing of personal and cultural insights as one of my key strengths. I consider myself a World Culture Storyteller who travels the world, gains such insights, and then shares them with others through writing, speaking and visual storytelling. I do so in a very compassionate and authentic way which really allows me to easily build human connections.
-----You can speak 5 different languages. What is your core motivation to learn languages? Why do you want to talk with people in their own language?
To my previous point of establishing human connections, nothing allows you more to connect with someone than (quite literally) speaking their language. My grandfather once told me that each language is like a ticket to a new world full of ideas, values and insights. And it’s true, each language gives me access to many million more people whom I could meet on eye-level. It’s like a key with which I can open each person’s treasure box which is full of life lessons, wisdom and experience.
Omid Scheybani: What I Am World Class At
-----You are a world-class communicator as well. What kind of questions do you have in your mind when you meet new people, and what kind of question do you actually ask them?
Thank you! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking (and rethinking) the way we interact as human beings. Especially the habit of smalltalk which I have observed all over the world, from Guatemala to Sydney, is something I constantly try to break. As a matter of fact, my recent TED talk in Iran was about this very topic: “Breaking the Habit of Smalltalk” and how to redefine human interactions.
With that in mind, I trained myself to ask questions that really touch on who we are as human beings: our memories, emotions and motivations. I have come to realize that these are the three most important areas which make up our identities. My questions are aimed at tapping into these three areas.
What made you happy today? When was the last time you did something for the first time? Tell me something fun/surprising/little known about yourself that you are comfortable sharing! – I like to be creative in the way how I get to know someone and I have a mental list of ±50 questions that I can use in any given situation. This allows me to make myself memorable and create personal, magic moments with the people I meet. And sometimes, when I see that my conversation partner is good fun, I ask them which Spice Girl/Backstreet Boy they had a crush on!
-----You look confident with your life. Where does your confidence come from?
Just like anyone else, I have areas in which I’m confident and other areas in which I’m insecure. But since you are asking about my confidence, I think it derives from my drive to learn and my passion for life. I am very restless, always trying to learn and experience new things. As a matter of fact, I have come to realize that education and experiences are the two best investments we can make in our lives. They have the highest ROI and impact on the rest of our lives.
That’s why I’m constantly doing new things that I don’t know and that challenge me. To the outside, this might come across as confident, because I am not afraid of deliberately pursuing growth through discomfort. The more discomfort I sense, the more I know I will learn and experience. And that truly and genuinely excites me.
-----What drives you to keep on challenging? Dreams, goals, expectations, curiosity, etc.
Actually, what keeps me going the most is the realization and acknowledgment of death. Truly understanding that our presence on earth has an expiration date is what really keeps me going.
If you think of the average life expectancy in industrialized countries, 75 years, you might think of it as a very long time. Mostly because a year feels long. But if you break it down into days, 27,375 days to be precise, the number suddenly becomes countable. Because the concept of a day is so much more palpable to us. So what you did yesterday matters. What you do today matters. And what you do tomorrow matters. Why? Because you are trading one day in your life for it. And to make things even more serious, there is no guarantee that we will make it “to the end.” Car accidents, cancer, acts of criminality – there are many ways how life can suddenly come to an end.
With that in mind, the question in my mind is how can I maximize every single day before my story comes to an end. Wanting to have an impact in this world as long as I’m on it is what drives me to continuously challenge myself, to give what I have, and to share what I learn. The key question that drives me is: “If everything was over tomorrow, did I create more value for this world than I consumed?”
-----How did you come to start sharing your stories and insights with people through public speaking, writing, and photography?
I once wrote an essay about how talent is distributed equally around the world, but opportunities are not. If you think about it, it’s quite a daunting thought. And while I haven’t managed to make sense of this entirely, there is this one thing I tell myself over and over again: "With opportunity comes responsibility.” The few who have opportunities at hand, also have the responsibility to use them. To maximize them. Not only to benefit themselves, but to benefit society in general and others in particular. What incredible discredit would it be if you had opportunities that others don’t, but then didn't make use of them?
As someone who has had vast opportunities to travel the world, work for an amazing company and learn so many different things – I feel the obligation to share these stories and insights. Speaking, writing and photography (visual storytelling) are simply the channels that I’m “world class” at and that I feel most passionate about.
----Tell us the art of storytelling. What is your essence?
As I said earlier, I truly believe that each person has a unique story to tell. The dreams we pursue are different, the obstacles we have to overcome and that shape us are different, and the memories we carry in our hearts are different. That makes 7 Billion individual treasure boxes full of life lessons, wisdom, and experiences.
Imagine how much we could learn about someone and from someone, if we approached each conversation with the innate curiosity that we normally demonstrate as infants. If we embraced the unknown, knowing that everyone can help us become a better version tomorrow of who we are today. And if we opened ourselves to the vast possibilities of how one single encounter can change the trajectory of our lives. All it takes could be for us to be authentically and genuinely interested in the other person. Not by their title, resume, or achievements, but by who they are and the life story they have to share. Because often times, the simplest people have the most fascinating stories to share!
With my storytelling, I try to provide a small window into the true spirit of another person and the cultures I get to experience and allow my readers, followers and listeners to connect with the subjects of my stories. My ability to build deep connections with others (by speaking their language or being able to quickly have deep conversations) facilitates this endeavor.
-----What is your own greatest discovery in life?
One of the biggest discoveries in my life has been the fact that some the best things came in disguise of the worst. I had some really tough moments in my life, yet looking back, all those moments turned out to be the beginning of something much better to come.
What I learned over time is to embrace these difficult moments, not just to ease the pain, but to be able to see them as the starting point of something good to come. I have full control on how I decide about the things that happen to me in life.Turned down for a job? Yes, painful, but seems that a better opportunity is out there waiting for me. Rejected by a girl? Ouch, it hurts, but just imagine how beautiful it will be once someone loves you as much as you love her. Dang, running out of phone battery? Finally some downtime :)!
-----If you could make a call to 20-year-old Omid Scheybani, what piece of advice would you give to him?
Omid, whatever you do, don’t stress out. In the end, everything will be fine. And if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.
-----If you can leave one message to make the world a better place than today, what would be your message?
Every person you meet in your life is fighting some sort of hard battle, suffers from some type insecurities, and certainly has their own self-doubts just like you. Encounter them with kindness and empathy, not with judgment and distance.