YAPClassic: Hala Taha on How I Built a Multimillion-Dollar Business After Countless Rejections | Gathering Off Titans Conference
YAPClassic: Hala Taha on How I Built a Multimillion-Dollar Business After Countless Rejections | Gathering Off Titans Conference
In this episode, Hala will discuss:
– How Hala’s father pulled his family out of poverty
– When Hala realized she was different
– How learning about the Law of Attraction changed Hala’s life
– Why Hala was blackballed from the radio industry
– When Hala gave up the belief that life is limitless
– Becoming an intrapreneur within an organization
– How the death of Hala’s father pushed her in a new direction
– The right way to deal with gatekeepers
– The importance of finding your talent stack
– Why you should embrace the idea of death
– Will social media fizzle out?
– How to help underrepresented and oppressed communities
– And other topics…
Hala Taha is the founder and CEO of YAP Media, a top-rated media agency serving clients in the business and self-improvement industries. She’s also the host of Young and Profiting Podcast, the number one business and education podcast across all apps. Prior to finding success in the podcast industry, she started the Young Employee Network at Hewlett-Packard and founded the popular entertainment blog, The Sorority of Hip-Hop.
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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: Welcome back, Yap fam. In this Yap Classic, we're replaying an episode that is incredibly close to my heart. We're dusting off my speech from the MIT Gathering of Titans conference in 2022, which was my first real live speaking event, which is crazy to say, because since then I've spoken on dozens of stages.
The Gathering of Titans is an annual private event that brings together CEOs, change makers, and thought leaders from around the world. Past speakers at this event include former YAP guest JT McCormick, who's the CEO of Scribe Media and Marshall Goldsmith, the world's number one executive leadership coach and also my social media client.
And I was so honored to be a guest speaker at this conference because fun fact, Simon Sinek got his big break on this stage. This talk is so important to me because like I mentioned before, it was my first talk. And it was also about my come up story and I shared things that I had never shared before on stage or publicly, like my experiences going to Palestine as a kid over the summers and how those experiences shaped who I am today, how my dad inspired me to follow my dreams and how his death pointed me in a new direction.
And lastly, how I built my own success in the face of rejection and sometimes even oppression. And to close it all out, I reveal my top three secrets to profiting in life. I hope you guys really love this episode. And even though it's mostly about my come up story, a lot of people felt inspired from this speech and really enjoyed it.
So I hope by hearing my story, you're also really inspired to follow your dreams and build your ideal life as well.
when Darius first asked me to come speak to you all, I thought he wanted me to give a LinkedIn training. And I was like, sure. Yeah, I could do a LinkedIn training. I could teach everybody how to podcast. And then he was like, no, Hala, I want you to share your story.
And I have to say some of these things that I'm about to say in this speech I've never said on any other podcast, I've never said in any other room, so I'm just telling my authentic story so that you guys can understand my experience. And I hope that you leave this conversation having a new perspective, learning something new, and finding some value in this conversation.
So I think my story best starts off, uh, with my dad. So my dad is Palestinian, and he was born in 1943. That was five years before the Nebka. The Nebka is the Arabic word for catastrophe. and that's when 600 villages were burned, 750, 000 Palestinians were made refugees, and 15, 000 Palestinians died.
And I guess you could say my dad was one of the lucky ones. Because he wasn't pushed behind the wall, he wasn't sent to Gaza to become a refugee, and in the open air prison, so to speak, he was in the West Bank. And so my dad grew up as a poor farmer's son, and he only lived on figs and pita bread, he would tell me.
Two of his youngest siblings died when he was younger. They were a family of eight that lived in one room, and he lived in extreme poverty. And my dad knew that there was only one way out at the time, and that was to be very educated and to get a scholarship. And so he decided he'd be the first person in his whole village to go to college.
And from when he was a little boy, he decided he'd be the smartest kid in school, and that he'd get perfect marks. so that he could achieve that dream and elevate his whole family out of poverty. And he did. My dad had extreme grit, and so he had no light, he had no runningwater, and the only light he had was on his walks to school.
And so he would read his books on his long walk to school. that's how he was able to study and become the smartest kid in his class, get perfect marks, and eventually get a scholarship to medical school in Cairo. So my dad went off to Cairo,he got a scholarship there, and he ended up going to America and becoming a doctor, finishing his residence here, becoming a surgeon, becoming chief of surgery in multiple hospitals in New Jersey.
and ended up owning a medical center. And he literally brought his whole family out of poverty. My dad was so generous. He was so humble. And his favorite store to shop at was Sears. And he would give all his money away. He'd put all his kids through college. He put all his nieces and nephew in Palestine through college and through grad school and essentially lifted my whole family out of poverty and made sure everybody would be okay.
So in terms of my experience, the first time that I realized I was different was my summers going to Palestine. We had a house in Palestine and actually my whole family lived on one street. A bunch of people had moved to America, and so it was this town, they called it the American Village in Palestine, because it was a street, half the people were actually Americans and had summer homes there and were not there most of the year.
And so I remember when I finally realized what was going on, that was the first time I realized I was different. Um, because when I was in America, we were kind of treated like anItalian family. Everybody knew we were ethnic, knew we would go, like, back home over the summer, but we were just treated like a normal family, maybe like an Italian family, in my white, affluent town that I grew up in and watching New Jersey.
But when I went to Palestine, At a certain age, I realized how different I was. I remember my dad being this amazing, respected doctor in America. We'd go to the Israeli airport, and he'd get interrogated for hours. we'd be sitting on the airport floor, like, waiting for dad to get done with his interrogation every time we went.
I remember having to drive on separate roads, even though I was a U. S. citizen, not allowed to drive on the same roads in Palestine. I remember having to take super quick showers because we weren't rationed water like everybody else because we were a Palestinian family. I remember almost dying at a checkpoint one day when we landed and we had all our luggage in a van.
And these checkpoints are super crowded and it's super chaotic and everybody was saying go, go, go, like all the soldiers and there was nowhere to go, we almost fell off a cliff and we almost died because our car, our van almost fell off a cliff and it was my sister saying push the luggage to one side and we did, everybody pushed the luggage to one side on the van and we ended up making it.
And we didn't fall off the cliff. And I literally almost died when I was like 12 years old at a checkpoint. that was Palestine because in America I was totally normal. And we were a respected family. And in terms of my experience growing up in America, I was, always wanted to be a star. All my siblings wanted to be doctors.
And so, I have three siblings, they all ended up being doctors, I have three cousins who live down the street, they all ended up being doctors, and so there were seven kids in the family, and I was the only one who never wanted to be a doctor, not one day in my life. I always wanted to be a star. Um, I love to sing, actually it's a big joke in my family that I sang before I spoke.
And my first words were singing a song back to my mom. And I was always... Super outgoing. I was a kid that was dancing and singing at all the family parties and always like the star of the show And I had a great childhood, you know, I I was lived a decently privileged life in terms of like we always had money I lived I had a good family And I would I did great in school.
I was popular I used to be the lead in all the talent shows i'd get on every sports team and everything was great and that was until 9 11 hit so 9 11. I was a freshman And I remember at that time there was some buildup happening in terms of Arab hate and I was starting to get a taste of the oppression that I was feeling in Palestine suddenly was happening at home.
And I remember learning about the planes hitting and feeling this, this pain in my stomach like, Oh my God, everyone's going to hate us and, and this is going to be so bad. And I remember being so devastated when I found out. Because my family was. So proud to be American and my dad loved America and I was like, this sucks because everyone's going to hate us and we actually love being American.
I remember actually crying on the floor, hysterically crying, calling up Z 100. It was a very popular radio station at the time, trying to get through because they were having this whole thing where people were calling in, telling their experiences, everybody was sharing their thoughts. And I was so desperately trying to get through to let everybody know that we didn't feel this way, that none of the Arabic people knew about it, and that we're just as shocked and as sad as everybody.
But at that point, my life was changed, and for the first time ever I learned that gatekeepers don't only exist at checkpoints.
So, my life was turned upside down. I was just starting my high school career, and from then on, I went from the American girl next door to never getting any opportunities. I tried out for the plays, I never got a part. I tried out for the cheerleading team, I didn't make it. I tried out for the volleyball team, I didn't make it.
They didn't even let me in the talent show every year when I hands down had the best voice in school. And so, that ended up really impacting me. Because I didn't get into a great college, I had great grades, but I got into a mediocre school because it looked like I had no ambition, but I had lots of ambition, I wasn't given any opportunities.
And so, I went to New Jersey Institute of Technology. It was in Newark, New Jersey, a super diverse school. And from the moment I stepped foot on that campus, my life changed. First of all, it was four years after 9 11. And so, four years after 9 11, things kind of cooled down. You know, people were starting to be more accepting.
And the other thing is that it was a super diverse school. Previously, I went to a very white, Christian, Jewish school. And I was like the only brown kid in school. And so, I started getting opportunity left and right, and I, I had so little fear of rejection because I had been rejected so much, I just thought it was a part of life, that I tried out for everything and I'd make it, I tried out for the play, I was the lead, I tried out for tutoring, I was the captain, I was in my sorority, and I was obsessed with all these extracurricular activities, because I got no opportunities in high school.
That I was doing very poorly in school. I didn't care about class because I was like, Oh, I'm finally able to do the things I was never able to do. And I was just really embracing that experience. At the same time, I found out about something called the Law of Attraction. So, the Law of Attraction almost became my religion.
I was never religious. My family wasn't very religious. I grew up Muslim. I never related to that. And nobody ever forced me to relate to that. So I found the Law of Attraction. And it literally was like my new religion. I almost got into like a cult.
I was obsessed with Abraham and Nestor Hicks, and they were these big law of attraction people. I'd listen to their CDs all day. I'd read all of their books. It was like a new religion for me. And I got super into it. And I did affirmations every day and visualizations every day. And I literally believed that life was limitless.
I thought I could create my own dream life. And I was so naive, I really believed this, and honestly, my life just skyrocketed from there. So I was 19 years old, I found the law of attraction, I really was super confident at this point, I was crushing it in college other than school, but the, the extracurricular part, I was crushing it.
And so I ended up, I always knew that I wanted to use my voice to impact the world and make a positive difference. That's my purpose in life, to impact the world with my voice. And, you know, you often don't know exactly how that's gonna be, and at the time, I thought I was supposed to be a famous singer, because that was always my natural talent since I was a kid.
And so, I set out to songwrite and I worked with all these different producers and I started writing music. And I had this bright idea. I was in the radio club. I did like every activity in college. And I was like, well, I'm in the radio club. I could probably get an internship at a radio station and push my music to the DJs and break that way.
And so I did. I applied to all these radio stations and I ended up getting a job. Hot 97 is the world's number one hip hop and R& B station. This was about 10 years ago. It was a huge deal to work at that station. All the people, all the DJs were like celebrities in the local region. And I ended up getting this internship.
I did a great job. They ended up promoting me to be like the sacred intern in the studio area and I was Angie Martinez's assistant, she's the voice of New York, one of the most famous personalities in the world. And I was essentially the assistant producer on the Angie Martinez show, the biggest show in America.
So this was supposed to be a normal college internship, but then they started to say holla, like, can you come every day? You know, can you start working on the weekend? Can you come at night? And you're doing such a great job, and they wanted me to be there more often. So I ended up dropping out of school.
And I thought I had this great opportunity. I was failing out of school anyway. And, you know, I was just so enamored by this life, because I met every celebrity you can think of. J. Lo, Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown, Kanye. I was hanging out with these celebrities that night. I was 19 years old. And so it was just a big opportunity for me.
So, I did it. I quit my job and I started this apprenticeship at Hot 97. And I worked for free there for three years. never paid a dollar. I would make my money at night hosting parties and, and selling showcase tickets, uh, with the DJs. And, um, I did everything for that station. I was the showrunner, I would answer the phones, I would run the commercials, I would go in at 2am in the morning and run the dillette boards when I had to and make sure that music went on for the world all night.
That was really scary. If I had to go to the bathroom or something that there'd be like dead air. But I loved that job. It became my identity. So all my friends knew me as Hala from Hot 97. Everybody would be like, Oh my gosh, how'd you get that job? Like, you have the coolest job in the world. And I was being primed to be the next Angie Martinez.
The way that it works in radio is that you work for free for many years. And then finally you end up getting a show, and that's how it works. You gotta work for all the DJs for free for many years. So at the same time, I was feeling a lot of pressure because all of my siblings and cousins were on the medical track.
And to all the outside world, even though I was learning so many new skills, and even though I was doing so many cool things, I was like a party girl to everybody else. And they thought I was throwing my life away, you know, dropped out of college, and I'd go to Thanksgiving, and I was like the black sheep, the embarrassment of the family.
My dad always believed in me, but everybody else really looked down on me at this point in my life. And I was starting to feel a lot of pressure because I was like, man, like, I've been working here for three years, they haven't given me a job yet, like, am I ever gonna even get paid minimum wage? Like, I feel like an embarrassment.
And so, finally, a position opened up. At Hot 97, the producer of the show, and I was doing his job for about a year, and they ended up firing him because he was like a deadbeat, and I was already doing his job for over a year. And so I was like, okay, finally, I'm gonna get the producer role and everything's gonna be okay.
And then I come to find out that they gave the job to somebody who worked in the video department who never spent a day on the show. And the worst part about it is that they expected me to train him. And so, yeah, I was, I was not young and profiting at this point. I was young and pissed. So, on the first day of his work, his name was Drewski, and we were actually really good friends.
While I was working at Hot 97, I also had online radio shows on the side with all the up and coming DJs. Many of these DJs are, like, super famous on the radio now, and I used to host little radio shows with them, pretending to be Andrew Martinez. And so, we were actually good friends, and I was young, stupid, whatever you want to say, upset, and I texted him, and I said, I don't feel good today.
If you want to learn how to be producer, learn it on your own. And he showed that text to Angie because he had to explain why he wasn't getting training today. And she fired me on the spot. And she cut my key cards. And not only that, she didn't let me say goodbye to anybody, all my friends and mentors for three years.
I dropped out of college for this lady. she didn't let me pack up my stuff. And worst of all, she told everyone, you'll be fired if you talk to Hala. And she blackballed me from the industry. And she thought that I would shrivel and die, probably. So, yeah, oops. And so, at the time, I, I felt like I had died.
My identity was taken away from me. I, everybody knew me as Hala from Hot 97. It was extremely embarrassing. Like, all my social media, I'm saying, holla, Hot 97, everything was Hot 97, I had, my whole life was wrapped in this brand. And so, I was so embarrassed and I literally felt like somebody died, it was one of the worst moments of my life.
[00:16:44] Hala Taha: it's kind of funny, I was fired on a Thursday, by Sunday I had a new idea. I decided I was going to create something called the Sorority of Hip Hop. And I was going to recoup all the girls in the hip hop entertainment industry who worked for iHeartRadio, VH1, you name it.
And we'd all band together and I'd create a blog site. Blogs were super hot at the time. And we would band together and become more powerful and have a platform. And so I started working on this idea. I was fired on Thursday. I started working on my website and learning how to code websites on Sunday. By the end of two weeks, I recruited 14 girls off of Twitter and Craigslist, and we formed the Sorority of Hip Hop, and I was the president, and we started a blog site.
I went back to school, uh, to finish my undergrad and make my parents proud, and at the same time, I was building this website. Within three months, we were one of the most popular hip hop and R& B stations, uh, blog sites in the world. I also had about 50 girls at that time. I had 150 girls outside of the organization over about three years.
So, we got all this notoriety because I figured out how to hack Twitter. I got all these celebrities to retweet us, and we, we blew up that way. So, three months into it, MTV... We did a little pilot, nothing really came out of it, but we didn't care. We were like, this is three months in, what's going to happen six months from now?
Who cares, right? So we keep building and building. We have online radio shows interviewing celebrities. We're hosting concerts and events. We have this blog site that's going viral all the time. Everything's good. We're not really monetizing that much because I didn't really figure out the business aspect of it, but we're making a little bit of money.
And finally, MTV reaches back out, and at the time, I was getting scouted for multiple reality TV shows. Love and Hip Hop wanted me to be on their show. Oxygen wanted me to have a show. And MTV was like, listen, Holla, we just had Jersey Shore, we're gonna make you a star. Choose us. And so I did. I chose them, and I was gonna be the lead.
I was getting paid three times as much as everybody else. And so they filmed us all summer, we were broke girls, catty girls. It was fun time and they got us a studio on Broadway. And it was, had neon signs, it was hooked up with all this furniture. We got our hair and makeup done every day. We were mic'd up and filmed on the street.
They filmed us in restaurants at my parents house. They filmed us all summer, we had a concert. It was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, when it was about to air two weeks before, my producer gives me a call. And she's like, Hala, I'm sorry, but we decided to move in another direction. And again, it was one of those moments where I was like, oh my god, like, again?
I did all the work. I did everything right. I made the right choices. I worked my butt off. How is this happening again? And they didn't give me a reason why they didn't choose the show, but they decided not to air it. And that was a moment in my life where I feel like my, thought that life was limitless really fizzled out.
And I thought, you know what, Hala, you're really unrealistic. Life is not this easy. Your parents are right. Your family is right. You should just be normal and get a real job. And it's time to just be normal. So I thought I'd never get back on a mic. I shut down the group. I had 50 girls that were extremely mad at me.
But I shut down the group. I shut down the blog. And I decided that I was going to go get my MBA. And that I was going to be a normal person and get a normal job in corporate. And that was that. I was, it's time to be a normal person. So, I ended up wanting to get my MBA. Unfortunately, I had a 2. 3 undergrad GPA.
So, it was really difficult to get into school. So, I decided that I was going to use my networking skills. It's one of my strongest skills. And I decided I was going to target my alma mater, the director of alumni associations at NJIT, and I would beg her to get into the MBA program. And so I emailed her every other day for like a month, and I just wouldn't leave her alone.
And I was like, can I get you a coffee? Can I buy you lunch? Can I come there? And finally she agreed to take a meeting with me. And I explained to her my whole story, how I had the sorority of hip hop, how I worked at Hot 97, and how, even though on paper, I looked like a schlub, I really was a hard worker.
And she believed in me, and I told her, if you let me in this program, I promise I'll get a 4. 0 and I'll get straight A's. And she said, Holla, if you keep that promise, I'll let you in the program. And she let me in the program. I ended up getting a 4. 0, graduating with straight A's, number one in my class.
And, uh, it really set off my corporate career. At the same time I got my MBA, I leveraged that to get an internship at Hewlett Packard. And I was making 70 grand a year. And to me, that was like, a lot of money. And I was like, finally making it. And, uh, I did that. And at the same time at HP, I started something called the Young Employee Network.
So the Young Employee Network is an employee resource group at Hewlett Packard. Hewlett Packard actually has like an amazing company culture. And so in my office though, there was no culture. Nobody talked to each other outside of departments. Like, it was super boring and bland. And I, being like the little entrepreneur inside the organization, was like, oh no, like, we've got to change this.
So I got everybody to sign a petition and we started a young employee network at the office. And I ended up launching their first holiday party, their first company picnic, all of their charity events, and I infused the whole office with culture. And so, at the same time, I was doing amazing in my career.
I thought I was going to be so behind everybody else because I started my corporate career so late. But that wasn't true at all. I had learned outside of an organization, and so I was so tech savvy, and I was like the digital whiz kid. I got promoted from role to role. I had every single job on the marketing team, and I was like the C suite pet, especially because I was doing all this cultural stuff, and I was interviewing the CEO and the CMO all the time, and I was really the face of the young employees at Hewlett Packard.
So I did this presidency of the Young Employee Network for two years at Hewlett Packard. And then I finally thought, you know what, let me set my sights even higher, I want to be the president of the Global Young Employee Network. And so I was on the recruitment chair of that organization, and I paid my dues, I created something called HPE Spirit Week.
At the time, there was 300, 000 employees across the organization. And I launched a week long event with daily themes around the world where I was emailing the entire organization every day as if I was the CEO. And they still do this event to this day, and I created it. It was like a week long event called HPE Spearweek.
So I thought I for sure was a shoo in to be the president of the Global Young Employee Network. But of course, I was wrong. The HR director, for some reason, didn't like me. She didn't give me the position. She gave it to a guy who never was even involved in the organization. And they didn't even keep me on the board.
They kicked me out. And I was, again, like, what did I do? I just worked for free. I basically had a side hustle inside of this organization, and they just stopped me out. And by the way, that HR director left one month later. I left too. I went to Disney Streaming Services. And at the same time, I started...
Young and profiting podcast. And I decided that if I couldn't lead the 7, 000 young employees all over the world at Hewlett Packard, that I would lead 7 million young professionals across the world instead. And I'd start my own thing young and profiting. So I started young and profiting podcast. in April of 2018.
I'm gonna fast forward to 2020 now. 2020 was both the best year and the worst year of my life. 2020 was the year that my life changed forever and I feel like that's the most pivotal year in my whole life. So I'll start off with January. So at the time, I was with my ex boyfriend, we were living in Brooklyn, and he was super paranoid about COVID.
We had some friends overseas who were telling us it was pretty bad. And in America, in New York, nobody cared, right? It was just business as usual. But it was his birthday and that morning we decided we were going to go to the pharmacy and we were going to try to get some masks and alcohol and gloves and just play it safe.
And so we go to one pharmacy, we go to the aisle. Nothing's there. Okay, this is weird. We go to the next one, nothing's there. We go to ten different pharmacies. We cannot find any alcohol, any masks, any gloves. At this time, nobody knew about COVID, and we're like, everybody, like, a lot of people know something that we don't know, and things are about to get real.
I remember wearing a mask on the train, and I was the only one on the train wearing a mask, everybody looking at me like I was crazy, but I was trying to be ultra protective of my father, because at the time, my father was, had diabetes, and he had to get his toe amputated. And in January and February, he was in and out of the hospital.
And so I remember working at Disney Streaming Services. At the time, I had my podcast. And so my days were like this. I'd wake up at 6 a. m., work on my podcast. On the train, I'd do my LinkedIn post. I was growing my LinkedIn following. I'd go to work. During lunchtime, I'd be interviewing people like Brian Scudamore in the phone booth.
And then I'd finish work, go home. My, my boyfriend at the time was a music producer. He worked nights. And so I was able to work on my podcast at night. And I do my engagement on social media. And I literally just work all day, all night. And I, and all weekend, too. And I did that for many years. Around February, March, uh, lockdown happens.
So this was actually in March. Lockdown happens. Disney tells everybody to start working from home. We're in lockdown. First, nobody knows anything about COVID. I don't know anybody who had COVID. All we hear about is just the crazy stories. I'm deathly afraid of getting COVID. I am the most protective person, and I was for months, about not getting COVID.
I remember being on LinkedIn and telling everybody how to wash their hands properly and... how to go grocery shopping in the right way, and, and trying to be like a role model about how to not get COVID. And, so, March hits, a week into lockdown, my sister gives me a call. a little bit of a back story here, my dad was getting hyperbaric oxygen treatments for his toe, because he got his toe amputated.
And, me and my sister, and my brothers were begging them, like, mom and dad, stop going and getting the treatments, but it was the only way that my dad was gonna get better, and They really wanted the treatments. I actually spent 20, 000 to buy my dad a hyperbaric oxygen machine at home, but it was too late.
And so, my sister gives me a call, and she says, Hala, mom and dad have COVID, your brother's home, he has COVID, and your aunt and uncle down the street have COVID too. I didn't have a car at the time, I was living in the city. I'm gonna pick you up in like, if you wanna come, I'm gonna pick you up in like an hour, you have an hour to decide if you wanna come home.
Being the, like, considering my parents gave me everything in life, I was like, of course I have to go home. I don't, if I'm going to get COVID, I'm going to get COVID, but of course I have to go home. So my sister picks me up and we go home and she's a doctor. So we have like full hazmat suits on. We have N95 masks.
We have sunglasses, gloves. And, um, you know, I remember walking into the house and my house usually smells lovely of food or, you know, flowers. It smelled so bad of sickness and I was like, oh boy, like, this is crazy. And me and my sister were so paranoid, we thought we were going to die. Because at the time, nobody, it was so scary, we didn't know anybody who had COVID.
We were the first family impacted out of everybody. And so, we were like, are we going to die? Is everybody going to, like, is everybody going to die? Like, what is happening? And my sister played the role of doctor. And I went from, like, top podcaster and, you know, business executive at Disney to janitor, and that was my job.
And so I was just focusing on cleaning the house, cooking, making sure everybody was okay. And for two weeks, we would be in full gear, and the only time we would eat would be at, like, 10 or 11 p. m. once we were done taking care of everybody. All we had was like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were living on the couch.
We had like old blankets from when we were kids because we didn't know anything about the disease. So we assumed everything upstairs was just like contaminated and had COVID all over it. So everybody started to get better except for my dad. My dad started to deteriorate even worse. And so, at a certain point, me and my sister were like, You know what?
F it. We're gonna get COVID. It's obvious. Like, who are we kidding? And I stopped wearing even a mask, and I just concentrated on being with my dad. And so, we were feeding him. He was like coughing in our faces. We didn't care. And so, we just were, like, trying to take care of our dad. And then a point came where we felt like we had to send him to the hospital.
And we didn't want to send him to the hospital. Because at that time, the hospitals were totally packed. And we knew that he had really bad eyesight and that it would be really difficult for him to be alone in that hospital setting and we knew we wouldn't be allowed to visit him, but it came to a point where we had to make that difficult decision.
And I remember when we had to take him, that was the last time I spoke to my dad when he was alert. And he said, If you guys send me to the hospital, you're never going to see me again. But we had to make that decision because we were trying to save his life. And he was right. That was the last time I ever saw him alert.
And so, I remember that time being so difficult. We were, I was working from home. I remember working at HP. I'd be working at HP and have my dad on Zoom next to me. He was trached. He had tubes in his nose. He always looked super uncomfortable. Like, he didn't look peaceful. He looked very... suffering, you know, and so that was super hard and I still had to go to work and figure that all out andthe biggest regret is that we weren't able to actually visit him in the hospital We weren't allowed to go visit him and actually I didn't see him until he died and so that was super difficult, but they allowed me to be on zoom and My dad couldn't see well Um, but I thought that he could hear my voice, and so I spent most of my time during the month that he was in that hospital.
I didn't do anything really other than work, and then sing to my father on Zoom, and try to make it as peaceful as possible for him.
And so he passed away May 15th, that's actually the same day as the Napka Day, that is commemorated. And he passed away on May 15th, and he had like the shittiest funeral ever. They buried him with his shoes, with his cell phone. Only six people were allowed at the funeral. And it was really hard for me.
And you would think that that would break anyone. You would think that that would just, I would just sign off for the year and that, okay, this year is over worst year of my life, but it wasn't, it was actually the best year of my life. Cause that was the first half of 2020. And the second half of 2020 ended up being the best year of my life.
So at the time when my dad was in the hospital, I met this lady named Heather Monahan. Heather Monahan is a huge link, a huge influencer on LinkedIn. And I interviewed her for my show and she kind of wouldn't leave me alone. After I had a team of volunteers, since I started young and profiting podcast, by episode two, I had my first.
[00:31:47] Hala Taha: first volunteer. He's now my business partner. By episode eight, I had 10 volunteers in a Slack channel helping me work on my show. And so I knew everything about podcasting. So I teach one guy in Estonia, how to build websites and run that for me. I teach one guy in Atlanta, how to do my videos. I taught one person how to do my social and I would just teach all these interns and volunteers how to work on my show.
And we created a Slack channel. And that was basically like our office. And Heather was like, your videos are so good and different, Hala, like, can you do this for me on LinkedIn? And I was like, nope, I'm really busy, like, my dad's in the hospital, like, it's not the right time, I just have a volunteer group, like, I don't, I can't do this for you, we can only do it for me.
I was interested in her being my mentor, so she asked me for a call so that I could teach her how to make those videos, and I was like, sure, I'll teach you how to make these videos. So I take a call with Heather. And I show her on my Slack channel, I'm showing her all our processes and our templates.
And she's like, Hala, I just had a call with VaynerMedia. Your stuff is better than theirs. I have to be your first client, you have to start a business. Just trust me. And I was like, alright, I'll do your videos. And so she paid us like 600 bucks a month to do our videos, like, it was nothing. But then it ended up being, I took over her whole LinkedIn, then I took over her whole podcast.
Our second client was like a 30, 000 retainer and it was a very powerful billionaire client that we got. And then everything changed. I was able to hire all my volunteer team. I was able to expand my team and continue to grow this side hustle. So one thing leads to another and I end up where I am today.
I am a full time entrepreneur. I quit my job at Disney. I ended up being able to reinvest in my podcast and grow it very large to be the number one education show across all podcasts. I got the cover of Podcast Magazine January of 2021. I learned that I was going to be interviewing Matthew McConaughey at the end of 2020.
And so my whole year turned around. in my podcast, I always ask one question at the end of the show. I always say, what is your secret to profiting in life? And so I always interview all these people who are mega successful. And I never ever thought that I had value to actually contribute to that question.
What is your secret to profiting in life? And then after 2020 was the first time that I actually felt like I could help answer that question with my secrets to profiting in life. And so, I'd love to go over that with you guys next. And I hope you're enjoying this conversation.
secret number one. Create your own lane. When a gatekeeper is telling you no, instead of going and trying to beg that gatekeeper, instead of looking for other similar gatekeepers, create your own path. Because I found that creating my own path was always a fast track to success. When I was fired from Hot 97, I started StrawberryBunt.
com and the sorority of hip hop, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It didn't end the way I quite imagined, but I learned a lot of skills, and it was still one of the best experiences of my life. When I didn't get MTV, I ended up, you know, owning my own life going back to school. When I didn't get the Young Employee Network, I started Young and Profiting Podcast, and thank God for those no's.
Because if it wasn't for those notes, I wouldn't be where I am today. And then, in terms of creating your own path, there's some ways to turbocharge that. Having a team, which I always had. And having a team believe in you. And then also having somebody other than yourself believe in you. So I felt like my father also turbocharged my destiny, because he always believed in me, whether anybody else did or not.
And then, the second. secret to profiting in life is finding your talent stack. So I actually learned this from Scott Adams. He's the creator of Dilbert. So that's a very famous cartoon. It's like a, it's syndicated in all the newspapers. And it's basically like a funny cartoon about this guy who's in business.
And so Scott Adams really taught me about this idea of talent stacking. So for him, he was a decent writer. He was a decent drawer. And he was funny, and he knew a bit about business, and computer, and the IT world. So he put that all together, and he created Dilbert, and it was a massive success. Now, he wasn't the best in all of these things, he wasn't the best drawer, the funniest guy in the world, he was just decently good at all of it, he put it all together, and he had a unique offering that he could share to the world.
I think that my story is very similar. I was a great podcaster and my show took off right away because I had the experiences to build my talent stack to make me the best podcaster and eventually the best CEO of Yap Media. I had radio experience, I had blogging experience, I had ran multiple social media channels for Fortune 500 companies and I put all these things together and knew how to build teams and recruit teams.
I put all those skills together and created the podcast and then... Eventually, yeah, media. So find your talent stack. And the next one is that life is limitless. When my father was dying, I never felt so much fire in my belly. I wanted to take over the world. Heather Monaghan gave me a kick in the butt. And after that, I was ready to take over the world because I realized that life was limitless.
Like, my father loved He still was writing a book, he wasn't finished with life! And I felt like, man, life can just end at any moment, you never know. And not only that, I felt like I was playing small. the outside world, it probably seemed like I had made it. I had a great executive career at Disney, I was running all their email and mobile marketing, I had a top podcast.
You would think, like, oh, this girl's got it all. But to me, I was actually playing small, like my whole life I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be famous and to, to, to make a huge impact on the world. And so I realized I was playing too, too small. And so I finally got back to that 19 year old challah who is obsessed with the law of attraction and who really believed that you could create your dream life.
And I got that fire back in my belly. And Robert Greene, who I also interviewed on my show, he's the author of the Laws of Human Nature and the 50th Laws of Power, huge author, and he taught me about the Law of Death Denial. So in the Law of Death Denial, it says that most people are actually scared to confront the idea of death.
They don't even think about it. They avoid the thought of death. Now, Robert suggests that instead of doing that, you should embrace The idea of death. Think about your death so that it actually motivates you to a life of purpose and fulfillment. And so, my ask to everybody here today is not to wait until you're on your deathbed, not to wait until somebody you love is on their deathbed to feel that fire in your belly and realize that life is limitless.
Guys, we have time for questions. so let's go to Brian. Yeah, thanks, Hala. Good to get to know your personal story rather than just, you know, you and I have interacted on Zoom and a few side conversations.
But, uh, it's great to hear the personal side, so thanks for sharing. Are you on a quest or a path? A quest or a path? You know, I, right now I feel like I don't know what my ultimate vision is. But I know that I'm focused on making a huge positive impact with the world. And one of the things that I recently did was launch my podcast network, which I'm super excited about.
but I feel like there's another element to my life's purpose that I haven't discovered yet. And I think it probably has to do with Palestine, but I feel like to be honest, I'm not ready yet to do that. So, cause I know you'd always think big and execute big. If you could think five years into the future, what would you manifest?
You want me to answer that question? Well, I, I think, yeah, media is going to be a thousand person company. 100%. Um, I think I'm going to have the biggest podcast network in the world and we're probably going to be bought by Spotify or something like that. And I think that at that point, I'll be so secure in my career that I can start really giving back and help educating people about some of the oppression and occupation and issues that are going on in Palestine that in this very juncture today, I can't do yet because I'm not successful enough.
From your perspective as the youngest person in the room, what is the future of marketing? The future of marketing. So, I don't think obviously social media is going away. I do think that platforms like Instagram and Twitter are definitely going to fizzle out. They're already losing their organic growth.
Uh, in terms of podcasting, I think it's going to turn into like VR and more of like a VR experience and that's definitely the future of podcasting. Um, and in general, I just think like the metaverse is going to be the future of marketing and social media, making sure that you're relevant in the metaverse and companies will have real estate in the real world and the metaverse.
the foundation that your dad was and what he did for everyone. How's the family now? And how's your mom? How's everybody doing? How's everybody come together? Wait, now that your dad's passed? Our family is doing amazing because I feel like our dad, my dad left with such a strong foundation. So my dad, my mom's doing great.
My brothers and sisters are all doctors, super successful. Um, we're super blessed. So everybody's doing great. Thanks for asking. I'm a little nervous to ask this question. So let me see if I can get it out. Okay. Your 12 year old little girl was being attacked by a country. For being who you were and there are children in states right now that are trans children that are being attacked for being who they are What do you wish rooms like this would have done for you when you were a little girl when you were under attack?
That's a good question Wow, that's a good question. So, like, let's just face it. I'm just gonna call it how it is. Most of the people in this room are white, right? White men. Um, so I remember being a little Palestinian girl, thinking I was just a regular American girl, and I remember having friends, parents, friends.
They'd ask me, What's your heritage, Hala? Where are you guys from? And I'd say, I'm from Palestine. And literally, multiple times, I've had parents say, Palestine doesn't exist. Imagine being a little girl and being told that, like, your whole life is a lie and you don't even exist. Right? So one of the things that I would say is educate yourself.
Have some compassion, you know? Educate yourself about what's really going on. And the other thing that I would say is, for me, I'm in a really tricky place, because I've seen things with my own eyes, I feel a very certain way about it, but I've been cancelled, I didn't tell you guys every story of my life, you know, I've been cancelled multiple times for talking about Palestine.
And so I'm like, you could ask Darius, I wasn't even going to mention it today, and he was like, he was like, you better mention it. I took it out of my speech, because I was like, I don't want to get cancelled, like, my career's taken off, I don't want anybody to hate me, like, I love people, like, and I try to stay out of it because I understand that I'm not powerful enough to talk about it yet.
But maybe some of you guys in this room are. And so, I want to wait until I've got so much foundation that nobody can tear me down because I've been torn down before. I've been shadowbanned on Instagram. Like, I literally, one of the reasons why I blew up on LinkedIn is because Instagram shadowbanned me for so many years and nobody saw my stuff.
And so, I know what it's like to be cancelled. And so, what I'd ask is that Open your mind, don't just look at the media, don't listen to the same stories that everybody told you. Like, there's stuff going on in the world that you need to learn about and do research about and listen to the people who are going through it and then be an advocate and stand up for them if you have the power and if you have the foundation where no one's going to tear you down.
There are people like me and people who are transgender or Palestinian or, you know, whatever it is, whatever the minority group is. who don't have the power to stand up for themselves and who will be cancelled and their life will be way more impacted than if you stood up for them. And I know it's a hard thing to ask because people are scared to speak out because everybody's trying to protect their livelihood.
But at some point, people need to stand up for what's right and equal human rights across the board for everyone.
Alright, is there any other questions for Hala? Oh, sure. You know, being counselled and all, over and over again you were quit, people quit on you and fired you. What was that thing that kept you going and believing in yourself? Honestly, it was my dad. It was, it was knowing that My dad got out of poverty when all the odds were stacked against him, like, he was literally the, like, his dad didn't even have a first grade education and he went off to become, like, chief of surgery of multiple hospitals, like, and so for me, I always felt like I had zero excuse to not be even ten times more successful than he was.
And so really, it was always my dad thinking about, like, everything that he sacrificed, because All he did was study his whole life and all he did was give back his whole life. His whole life was like for his family and dedicated for his family. So for me, that was always a driving factor to make sure that nothing he did was in vain and that I would help build my family's generational wealth.
And 10 exit hopefully. Any other questions? We got one more. Sent me a uh, link.
I have a good team. , she geo-fenced the whole room. And you all have invites too. That's so funny. Thank you guys.
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