“You can’t win the race if you don’t start.”


How many of us can say that we’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize or know someone who has? Lameen Abdul-Malik is an intellectual philanthropist who, along with his colleagues, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Lameen’s life’s aim is to be a BILLIONAIRE – he wants to create a community that will impact one billion people’s lives positively over the next 10 years.

In a chat with GLEAC, Lameen spoke about the power of honesty and how he maintains his work-life balance. Take a look!

GLEAC: Who do you have to thank for a decision that you made that got you where you are today?

Lameen: My guiding light is my faith in God. Faith that even when you thought about it and asked Him for help, He facilitated it and made it real, wrapped in His blessing. He planned my path and when I accepted it, I felt the peace to continue the journey. From a human perspective, there are many people, my parents and everyone that inspires you but if I had to single out one person in terms of why you included me in this book, then it’ll have to be my wife. When we were in London, she encouraged me to think bigger and I applied for a job at the UN, which I started in 2002.

In 2005, my colleagues and I were awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Award. I didn’t even tell people, even close family that I had the award but when I followed my passion to open a coffee and cake shop in Cape Town in 2010, she encouraged me to tell everyone that I had a Nobel Peace Prize Award, I listened, and we broke even in 11 months. Subsequently, we received a lot of media attention (TV, local and international newspapers, magazines, and radio). I returned to the UN in 2013 and when I left again in 2019 and moved to Dubai, leveraging my Nobel Peace Prize award, I was headhunted to work for a global think tank and subsequent podcast interviews, including one with the former head of Harvard University Innovation Lab. Thank God.

GLEAC: If a future version of yourself had to thank you for something you are doing right now, what would it be for?

Lameen: Following my passion, aligned with my purpose to impact one billion people’s lives. When your passion is aligned with your purpose, you search for fulfillment in all you do. In this way, I started 100 ideas café (a crowd-sourcing platform to find ideas/startups to impact one billion people’s lives), merging my love for coffee with my purpose to serve. In the future, I pray that this vision will be realized.

GLEAC: What is your superpower soft skill? How do you use it in your job in your sector?

Lameen: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your time on earth.” I’m often told that I’m honest, modest, and considerate. In this connection, I created a boutique consultancy called “Honest Management” because I believe people should be empowered to lead the life they want – wrapped in a strong desire to serve people honestly. The onus is to provide sincere services to give my clients an honest service so that they can be bold enough to make the right decisions to impact themselves and those around them. In this connection, I also founded 100 ideas café, because I wanted to create a safe space for people to share ideas.

GLEAC: What hard skills and soft skills are needed for your job?

Lameen: When you start your career or journey to find yourself and chase your purpose fueled by your passion, it may be necessary to focus on acquiring a few “hard” skills like STEM subjects, economics, law, etc, but I like to see these as the keys to open the door. For hard skills, it was based on my love to right as many wrongs as possible, which I found in studying international economics. Soft skills are what you need to survive when you open the door, to ensure it doesn’t get slammed in your face. For soft skills, empathy and integrity are key. If you really want to help someone, you have to empower them to believe that the solution resides within them and then you serve them by sharing your God-given skill set and talents.

GLEAC: How does your job impact the balance sheet of your company- which departments does it affect and how?

Lameen: I don’t really subscribe to the word “job” anymore, rather I prefer purposeful living. For ease, once you’ve had a long career, you should know what you enjoy and what you don’t and what bothers you and what you’d love to change if you had the opportunity to. I don’t like injustice and oppression and I love giving people the opportunity to discover themselves and grow. So in reference to the latter, recently I was approached to start advising a university to enhance their global reputation and work on the youth/people with ideas to map out their destiny with informed choices. This satisfies my desire to prepare the next generation of leaders with a “can do” approach. It’s currently my main task under my consultancy so it affects all departments, especially the internal fulfillment one.

GLEAC: With all the changes happening in the world, is your sector going to survive, and if yes, why? 

Lameen: From the onset of the internet boom and now to blockchain, the world is telling us that we need to be more transparent and that failure to do so, will cost you not just your job, but your relationships too. This means that any business needs to embrace the concept of fair and open consultation. Giving your best isn’t enough anymore, but giving your best honestly matters, even if that exposes your vulnerabilities. So, in the work that I do, I want to create a safe space for people to share their ideas and work with people who sincerely want to help. I want to give sincere advice so that people get the best experience and advice to help them make a better more informed decisions. This means that those marginalized by so close institutional divisive programs at least have a better opportunity to contribute to their future.

GLEAC: If you had to attract more talent to your team from another sector, who would you want, and with what skill sets?

Lameen: I prefer to hire people who are confident that they have a purpose in life to impact the world positively. So, when I used to hire in my previous job, I asked questions like “what would you like to change in the World and why?” “what bothers you the most when you sleep at night?” “If you could change three things in the World now, what would it be?” “what would you do for free if money wasn’t an issue?”.

The emphasis is to go just beyond doing your job and to wake up every day with the belief that you really want to transform people’s lives every day. When I had a café 10 years ago, I had to be at my coffee shop every day at 6:30 am latest and I never woke up saying “I have to get to work” – it was an extension of myself, my dreams – who hates living their dreams. So, I want to hire people who want to live their dream aligned with their purpose. Now, when I start inviting people to work with me, the quest to go beyond just words and see a positive impact in the World is what aligns our hearts to make an impact.

GLEAC: Which are the 3 must-have soft skills for newbies looking to enter your sector?

Lameen: Everything should be built on integrity because as it was said “Integrity is the noblest possession “ (a Latin proverb) and who doesn’t want this? So using integrity as the foundation, I’d propose;

  • Communication, so that people know who you are and what is going on – this builds trust.
  • Adaptability, so that people know that you don’t know everything and can learn from anyone – this builds trust again.
  • Work Ethic, always being prepared to deliver your best in what you do – this builds trust again.

GLEAC: Which skills will those belonging to your sector have to acquire to become indispensable?

Lameen: Honesty – what else?

GLEAC: Are there any soft skills you need to work on to better yourself?

Lameen: Communication because sometimes I get excited by what I’m talking about because it is filled with passion and I may speak too fast whereby people miss my words. Also, having not been trained to advertise myself, sometimes people get confused about what I’m talking about because it is jumbled. So, enhancing my communication skills is a work in progress.

GLEAC: If you had to explain your job to a 5-year-old, how would you do it?

Lameen: I’d ask the child if you were as tall as me, what would you like to do every day that would make you smile all the time? If they can answer that, even if it means drawing, or playing with toys, then I’d say, I love smiling and trying to make people smile longer.

GLEAC: What is the one learning of your professional journey you would like to share with the world?

Lameen: “You can’t win the race if you don’t start.” Never let anyone ridicules you to hold you back because you never know what is possible when you start the journey.

Before I left university, my Economist tutor asked me what I wanted to do and I said, “work for the World Bank and help poor people” He laughed and said, “you have to be very clever to work there”. I just shrugged my shoulders. He missed the point twice – that I wanted to help poorer people was key and that I wasn’t able to work for a highly prestigious organization.

Fast forward 13 years later and I worked for the British government in international development and then the UN specialized agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, using nuclear science and technology to help developing countries meet their targets, where we were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I didn’t plan it but I just

started the journey and God did the rest.

GLEAC: Every career has its pros and cons. What are the good and bad aspects of your career?

Lameen: Pros and cons are usually external factors – like seen from the outside but if you sincerely believe in what you are doing not from a job description perspective but from an internal soul perspective and say “this is my purpose and I have to stay true to myself” then you’ll focus on searching for that fulfillment every day even if sometimes it goes against the job description and your bosses wishes.

GLEAC: Work in your sector can get rigorous. How do you keep up the mojo?

Lameen: If your work is aligned with your purpose, then you don’t see the rigor. It’s like breathing – “do you ever regret it?” That’s why I sincerely believe that you should not “work” but pursue your purpose. In that way, every day you are doing what closely aligns with your heart and raison d’etre (the essence of who you are). It’s why I created honest management – everyone is a leader in their own life but to be a true leader you have to be true to yourself and live it.

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