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Elevating Compassion Today With Ali Horriyat

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Compassiviste’s Founder Ali Horriyat left the lucrative, profit-driven world of finance in 2016 to devote himself to his vision of a society where compassion, empathy, and social impact are at the heart of our actions. In 2020, he launched Compassiviste to spread this vision. Born in Dubai, he attended schools in the UAE, France and Switzerland before pursuing his higher education in Canada. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics, political science, philosophy, business, international relations and conflict resolution, and religion. Ali is the author of 12 books, including collections of essays and poetry, with themes ranging from racism and capitalism to spirituality, love and compassion. He believes that humans must “love always, and always love.”

 

About Ali Horriyat

Care More Be Better | Ali Horriyat | CompassionCompassiviste’s Founder Ali Horriyat left the lucrative, profit-driven world of finance in 2016 to devote himself to his vision of a society where compassion, empathy, and social impact are at the heart of our actions. In 2020, he launched Compassiviste to spread this vision. Born in Dubai, he attended schools in the UAE, France and Switzerland before pursuing his higher education in Canada. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics, political science, philosophy, business, international relations and conflict resolution, and religion. Ali is the author of 12 books, including collections of essays and poetry, with themes ranging from racism and capitalism to spirituality, love and compassion. He believes that humans must “love always, and always love.”

 

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ali-horriyat-b16295278/

Guest Website:

https://compassivistepublishing.com

https://compassivistefoundation.org

https://compassiviste.com

 

Show Notes:

00:00 – Introduction

04:08 – Educational background

05:10 – Dealing With Discrimination

07:20 – Embracing A Purpose-Driven Life

14:21 – Creating A Lasting Legacy

20:45 – Living Smaller

31:11 – Making A Real Impact

37:19 – Accidental Hypocrisy

41:23 – Collective Impact

50:50 – Compassiviste Octopus

54:46 – Closing Words

 

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Elevating Compassion Today With Ali Horriyat

Introduction

I’ve now been at this for more than three years, and I have to tell you that I’ve often come across businesses, founders, and nonprofits who want to come on this show and tell their stories. They’re seeming do-gooders, but they also sometimes lack what I would call a true, genuine, authentic feel. It’s as if they’re selling something and that comes through in what they have to share. It’s one of the reasons that I typically host a conversation before I even bring a guest on this show.

That’s the reason you haven’t read those inauthentic individuals here on the show because I choose not to platform them. The ethos of this show is rooted in authenticity. It’s an invitation to care more so we can create a better world together. I met our guest after they asked to come on the show and talk about what they’re doing so very differently. At first, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure. I’ve heard many stories about publishing companies and media agencies trying to make the world a different and better place for the people they platform. The deeper I got, the more I understood that this is the real deal.

In this case, everything I learned only got me more excited. I was meeting a kindred soul, someone who put forward purpose before profit and definitely before personal gain as well. It’s my honor to introduce you to Compassiviste Founder Ali Horriyat. Ali left the lucrative prophet-driven world of finance in 2012 to devote himself to his vision of a society where compassion, empathy and social impact are at the heart of our actions.

In 2020, he launched Compassiviste to spread that vision. Born in Dubai, he attended schools in the United Arab Emirates, France, and Switzerland before pursuing his higher education in Canada. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics, Political Science, Philosophy, Business, International Relations and Conflict Resolution, and even Religion. Ali is the author of twelve books, including collections of essays and poetry with themes ranging from racism and capitalism to spirituality, love and compassion. He believes that humans must love always and always love. I’m thrilled to have you on the show, Ali, my newest friend.

I’m speechless. That was very you and I was thinking, “I did do all that schooling.”

When you look at it as something like a bio and look at the rearview mirror, sometimes it’s hard to even imagine you did all those things, the paths you forged.

Educational Background

A lot of people say the schooling that they did didn’t impact the work that they do. I think it did a lot for me because economics was my first degree, and I learned so much about countering all the things that I learned and unlearning all the things that I learned. Progressively in school, I’ve learned so much. When I did my Master’s in Political Science, ironically, my first week of school was September 11 and I was the only Middle Eastern person in the class. September 11 happened and everybody did that look towards me and I had to explain that we are not all that. My schooling was a big part of the shift in my mentality.

Dealing With Discrimination

I had a background in Anthropology and you might think that people might not use that degree, especially if they land in business, but I feel like it informs so much of what I do because I deeply understand how connected human cultures are and how skin deep our differences are. I will tell you too, because you brought up September 11th, and I travel a lot on business.

At that time, I was traveling twice a month, meaning you’re on 4 or 5 flights, maybe sometimes 8 in a given month because I’d be going back and forth internationally, as well as across the United States. It was hard for me to see people of Arabic descent treated so differently in airport security lines and even at the gate and singled out for random checks. I was sometimes singled out with them because I sometimes had to book one-way tickets and for a while, that was a sure way to get fingered for the security measures that are going a little bit, especially if you’re traveling internationally. As it stands, I have a lot of empathy for everything that must have created for you, the uncomfortable moments and the inborn prejudice that we are exposed to because of that.

I’ll tell you something about that. I was so naive at the time and so innocent that I was happy about those checks and traveling a lot then. I’ve traveled over 164 countries, so I used to get pulled over all the time, as you said. Not all the time, but a lot of times. I was happy because I thought to myself, “If they’re doing this due diligence so well everywhere, then chances are, when I get on that plane, it’s going to land where it’s supposed to land.”

If I have to suffer along with that, so be it because then I’m going to sit on that plane without stressing every time somebody gets up to walk in the aisle or anything like that. I didn’t understand it in that way until years later when my mind grew in North America to see these things that I hadn’t noticed in boarding school or back home or anything like that. It was a gradual understanding of discrimination.

Embracing A Purpose-Driven Life

As it stands, we’re hopefully moving in a better direction now. I see broader acceptance of people and more individuals willing to stand up, but at the same time, it seems to be something that swings like a pendulum. You never know where you’re going to land. I’d like to start with you sharing a bit about your perspective, your motivations for leaving behind a lucrative job in finances, which is something we’ve discussed privately to this more purpose-driven work that you’re undertaking now.

The short of it is there was no gratification when I got onto the stage and the state of what I was dreaming of. I actually started out in finance, not because I loved finance or to make money. It was because I had done so much schooling that nobody would hire me when I went to get a job because they said, “Here’s a person with all these graduate degrees and have no job history. You’ve never worked a day in your life.” They were like, “What are you doing here? You’re overqualified.” I couldn’t actually find a job in Canada. I didn’t want to come back to Dubai. I had grown to love Canada, Toronto, essentially, as my hometown. I started university when I was turning sixteen. I grew up there, essentially.

I thought, “What do I do?” I had a little bit of money, so I started investing my own money, trading a little bit, and doing things like that. One thing led to another and it grew. Some of my friends started investing with me. It got to the point where I was told, “You can’t keep doing this at these numbers. Now you have to register a fund and it has to be legal and there has to be some compliance.” I went ahead and did that. Eventually, the money got to me. It left the fund factor and it became, “I made $1 million. Now I need to make $10 million. Now I made $10 million. Now I need to make $50 million.” It became this continuous addiction, so to speak.

I didn’t see that at first. I didn’t see that I was addicted, because at the time, in Toronto, many people will tell you, if you were making $20,000 a month, there’s nothing you couldn’t do in the city. You could live in a gorgeous house, you could lease an amazing car. Everything you wanted that finances would buy you, you could have had, but this desire to make $100,000 a month, $1 million a month, at times, it was excessive.

I got to a point where there was no more gratification. I was making more and more, but it was piling on numbers with no sense. I had a moment and in that moment, I left. I quit. It wasn’t something gradual. It wasn’t something that I thought about. My quitting came, I had an incident and because of that incident, I went to the airport and I said, “I need to take time off. I need to get an understanding of what I’m doing.”

I’m not happy anymore at all. I wake up, I’m unhappy. I make money, I’m unhappy. Everything’s unhappy. I looked at the board of departures and they’re all half a day later flights and a day later and whatnot and there’s only this one flight that leaves in two hours, but it goes to Quito, Ecuador. I didn’t know how far that was. I hadn’t been there before and I didn’t know how far that was flight-wise. I thought to myself, “Quito, it’s South America, it’s on the Northern side of that, so it can’t be that far. I’ll take that flight.” I got on the flight and a day later, I’m in Quito. That was the beginning. I realized I’m addicted to the system. I quit and I closed the fund.

It took a couple of years. This happened in 2016. The reason why Compassiviste started in 2020 is because it took two years for me to lose my hypocrisy. It resonated with me when you were speaking in the intro about people who say they’re doing good, but there’s no good. That was me. Giving away a little bit of my money here and there and pretending I’m this wonderful, amazing philanthropist that’s making change. I was moving from resort to resort in five-star locations on islands and in countries that are mired with poverty. I was not caring about any of this or any of my own footprint to add to this. I realized I’m still addicted to money. I’m pretending that I’m not. I’m doing the drug of money, but I’m pretending that I’m not.

I need to kick it. I gave away all my money, every penny, between 2018 and 2020. I even slept in train stations. During those two years, I actually wrote a lot of the material that you mentioned, including the books. I started thinking, “How can I make real change?” Not philanthropy, not be wealthy and have my name plastered on a wing of a hospital, but actually make change in the world on a global scale, on a global level and impact.

I started thinking and I came to the conclusion that overconsumption is the serious issue here. It develops from a space of spiritual misunderstanding of your life. When you’re not aligned to your purpose, what you want to do, or the value added of your life impact-wise, you end up not knowing what to do with yourself.

Care More Be Better | Ali Horriyat | Compassion
Compassion: When you are not aligned to your purpose or the value you want to add to the world, you end up not knowing what to do with yourself.

 

You go to work, you come back, you shop. You go to work, you come back, you go to a party. You go to work, you come back, you buy car. You do all those things because they’re the things that you do every day, but you have no strategy of what is my purpose on this world. That strategy of me thinking, “What am I designed for? All the schooling I did, everything I’ve done in my life so far, the money I’ve made, the travels, everything I’ve done, how can I bundle this together and make positive from it?” Compassiviste was born because I thought, “You need to act. You need to be compassionate.” Together, I looked for the word that didn’t exist. I made the word up Compassiviste. Compassiviste is basically a person who acts compassionately about a cause that brings a value-added portion to the world.

I hope that I embody that. I have to say that you are reminding me of another guest I’ve had on this show and that is Mo Gawdat, who was the chief business officer of Google X for some time. He said in our interview he had been at the helm of any technical person’s dream. He had all the money, the beautiful wife, the beautiful car, the villa, homes on multiple continents, and anything you could ever want or dream of, but he was miserable. He says now that he’s happier in a $5 T-shirt. Maybe if he’s dating somebody, he has to tell them like, “I’m more than the T-shirt.” He’s not willing to be in that boastful outward space anymore because it doesn’t sit with his genuine and authentic center.

He founded an not-for-profit called One Billion Happy. His entire goal now is to help people become truly centered and happy with their own lives. He has a podcast now called Slo Mo. I encourage people to check it out. I think they would also love that show. If they love this interview, they’ll love that show because it’s a lot of the same things that we’re talking about.

Creating A Lasting Legacy

Technology is there to make our lives easier and yet we lean on it to make our lives more complicated because a sudden breakdown in your smartphone in your hand means you suddenly can’t do the ten things that would occupy your free time with that you didn’t realize you’ve since become addicted to. You talk about addiction to money. Many of us are addicted to our cell phones. We can’t put them down.

I think that we need to move in a direction that acknowledges our purpose, which is the thing that truly makes us happy. If keeping up with the Joneses next door and having the greener lawn and the newer car and the bigger house aren’t making you happy, then more of it isn’t going to make you happy, either. Something needs to be addressed internally so that you can reach your full potential as a human being and as opposed to a human being because I think so often that’s where we get stuck. “I need more.”

People who know me personally understood that effect in a sense. When you speak of the bigger house, all of those things, when you speak of Mo, at one point, actually, the home I lived in is now a rehab facility. It’s an intake rehab facility. It’s like a resort. It’s that big. I used to live there by myself. That was my house. I didn’t need that. It went with the territory. You’re this huge finance person in the city. You got to live on a house that’s 100 acres.

All of that was available. I had a fleet of cars and everything. I’m not even going to go there, but you name it, I had it. The thing is, it didn’t bring satisfaction. It doesn’t. People don’t understand that. They think if they date a celebrity, the satisfaction of that. If I have a mansion in Billionaire’s Row, the satisfaction of that. If I do drive a Lamborghini, that will be heaven.

It isn’t after the experience. These are experiences. You experience them. Beyond the experience, it does not give you any gratification. You speak of podcasts and the shows. You see me in this T-shirt, which you have seen me twice before in the same T-shirt. You’ve seen me behind the same flat white wall. When I was going to start our podcast, my team said, “Should we put a planter here and should we have a painting?” All these and embellishments for the podcast, why? It’s because that’s the trend. People like to see something in the background. It’s got to be this. What is your outfits going to be like? We have to look into that. Your haircut, you’re this, you’re that.

I said, “No, hold on. We are going to attract the people who are looking for this. They’re looking for the mind. They’re looking for how. They’re not looking for what exotic plant I have on the side of my table. We’re going to have a white wall behind me that nobody is going to look at because there’s nothing there to see. We’re going to have miserable me in a simple, literally a $4 black T-shirt that has nothing to look at. Nobody’s contracting Gucci for the podcast and changing outfits every show. This is what it’s going to be. It’s going to be about what we can do to make the world a better place.” Bring joy to the world. Joy is the highest value of every life. Spinosa said that. I believe that. I honestly believe that.

This is also the same philosopher that when they asked Einstein, “What God do you believe in?” He said, “I believe in the God of Spinosa,” because it makes sense from a scientific and religious point of view, all those mangled together. It makes sense. I believe that, too. Mo believes that, too. A lot of people who transcend money believe that because they’ve experienced it. It’s difficult for people. I respect that. It’s difficult for people to understand that joy does not equate to money until they have so much money that they can’t buy joy.

Mo realized that in the most unfortunate circumstances. He lost a child for absolutely no reason. You can’t even think about what he had gone through. I know this from close sources, not the media. He realized what money can’t buy and he realized what joy is. He realized everything around him from family setting to the wealth to everything was mirage of that addiction.

That’s how I see it. I saw that in myself. I didn’t learn it watching him because I was too stupid. I was too arrogant to watch another person and learn from them because if we did, we have enough history of humanity to learn what’s right and what’s wrong. We’re too arrogant to turn around and say, “I can learn this from this person. I can learn this from that person.” If we had learned from history, there would have been no crime because we could see what happens to criminals.

However, we continue in the same spheres. We continue in the same actions. Here I am trying to tell people it’s not about money. It’s not about capitalism. It’s not about adding zeros. It’s not about becoming a billionaire, getting that spot on Forbes. Those things don’t add any value to your life, the world around you, or the legacy you leave behind.

I ask people, “Who was the richest person in 1984?” Nobody’s ever been able to answer that because nobody remembers anymore. We only go back a few years. We remember Bill Gates because he’s still around, but that’s about it. You go even into the’90s, nobody remembers. You ask about impact, people remember Moses. That’s 3,000 years ago. It’s not last century. It’s not talking Martin Luther King. It’s so far back but the legacy somehow remained.

Where do you want to be in history? Where do you want to be in your life? Where do you want to be in terms of what you bring to the world? Do you want to be that pharaoh that we don’t remember who’s in some pyramid that nobody knows what the hell is built for? There’s gold still sitting there, and we have no understanding of what this person was like with all of that. We don’t even know where Moses was buried, but we know him. We have no body of Jesus and we know Jesus.

Living Smaller

These are powerful thoughts because your follower account, how popular you are on a specific social platform. At the end of the day, none of that matters. What matters is being able to engage with the people that you care about and to be cared about back. I’m reminded of an earlier episode as well. I interviewed Dr. Vimal Thomas George and he is a medical doctor. He also has a background in finance.

One of the things that troubled him after moving here from his Native India and becoming a medical doctor at a respected institution and leading a whole suite on a cardio therapy arm of the hospital, I believe, if I’m remembering correctly, he said, “What baffles me about this American experience is that people seem to always need more and yet they are never happy with what they have. How many of us need a 5,000-square-foot home? Unless you have an entire large extended family there, do you need it?”

We’re saddled with debt for years and years and we work ourselves to the bone and then don’t even have a secure financial situation when it’s time to retire unless we’ve somehow been able to amass a huge savings. His big pitch to people is like, “Think about living smaller.” He’s not even coming from the greener perspective. He’s like, “Think about what you actually need. There are cultures around the world where a bowl and a wooden spoon are the things that you use to cook with. You don’t have an entire kitchen with copper-clad tools to go ahead and feed your family.” I know people who get new pot sets every single year because they consider themselves culinary experts.

For me, what I think I have the same stainless-steel pans I’ve had for a long time, that they still work and they don’t leave residues on my food and I know how to use them. They’re great. My point is that I think each of us can come at this existence with a more meager perspective, learn to live with a little bit less. I’m not talking about a lot less. You can still go and get your hair done. If you want to go out to Starbucks and have a coffee every once in a while, do so. Make that a treat. You’ll save an incredible amount of money along the way, and you’ll also have more time to do the things that matter.

I realize that this may be my soapbox moment, in a way, but I do feel like this is a conversation that we need to be having and helping, especially young people because I think young people are more susceptible to how things look on the outside than people like yourself or myself who are. At 47, I still cared about what I look like, but I am not following the latest trend and thinking that it meant something about who I am as an individual if I was not wearing that style. Do you see what I’m saying?

We don’t look the same age. You’re doing something I don’t know, but I’m going to learn that from you later.

My husband would say it’s not clean living, but it is because I don’t eat processed foods and there are a lot of little things that I do. I guess that’s not the point, though. There’s a certain vanity I have about my health and that’s because it’s important.

That’s important because this is what I wanted to get to exactly with that. We are spending on the wrong things as well. When I was living that wealthy high life, traveling and living the life, I would go to all these brand name restaurants, these Michelin-rated restaurants and out to eat there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was at lavish establishments. I didn’t know that it’s garbage food. I thought because I’m eating at the Four Seasons that, somehow, this has got to be the best food that can go into my body.

I believed that for a while until I met someone who wouldn’t do that. When I said, “Let’s go out and eat,” they’d say, “Why don’t we cook? Why don’t we go buy food?” They were so picky in buying food. For me, you buy food, you go to Whole Foods, or you go to these high-end supermarket-branded spaces where everything’s taken care of.

Some of them had valet parking for the supermarkets. I’d go to those because I was vain. I was crazy. I was addicted. Those are the things I went to. You got dressed, and you went to the supermarket, and that was a thing. They said, “No. We go to the farmer’s market. We go here. We go there.” There’s all these spaces in Toronto and around Toronto that I had no clue existed. I went to these places and said, “You have a farm that you bring all this stuff from every week and you sell it. I had no clue. This is so much fun.” I went to Montreal, which is a city a few hours away and they have this whole market. It’s called Atwater Market. That’s what they do.

The farmers bring all their goods and fresh bread is baked with the right ingredients and everything’s so perfect. I started realizing, “I eat bad food.” Even though I was healthy looking, I was fit, I was at the gym every day and everything, I was taking all these vitamins that were wrong supplements that were creating things that were meant to keep my body in the shape that it was supposed to be. Inside, I was not healthy. It was all, again, what you say; it was this excessive drive to do those things. You do that long enough and you have no satisfaction in them, and there’s nothing to show for. Now scale back and think to yourself. People in North America have a habit of moving homes. Not a lot of people have lived in the same home for 30 years or 20 years or anything like that.

They invest. There’s a new subdivision coming up a few blocks up. We’re going to buy it early so that the value goes up. We’re going to sell this one now. It becomes a trend. Every few years, you’re in a new house. Every few years, you’re changing things around. It’s all about money. You’re still in a mortgage situation because you’re spending that money. When you’re getting equity on your home, it’s not money that you’re putting aside or money that you’re for social impact that you can be doing. It’s money that now you’re wealthier. Now you can take on a bigger mortgage. Now you can have a membership at the country club. Now you can upgrade from your Toyota to a Mercedes. All those things add up and you stay in the same level of debt.

You were at 80% debt in the old house. You’re still at 80% debt here, but you’re living nicer. That’s called the beautiful life of the North American Dream. We have to do that. Why? It’s because if we don’t contribute to the 2% minimum growth of the GDP recession. With recession, we lose our jobs. This hamster wheel goes nowhere, so I thought, “If we have an example of a mechanism that survives circularly in a way that doesn’t depend on profit, we may be able to shift that strategy.” Publishing, arts, music, all of the things that matter, all of the expressions because that’s what humanity is. You’re an expression. You are expressing From when you wake up in the morning till the time you sleep. There’s nothing else that you do quite as often as breathing and expressing.

Your thoughts are an expression. You can’t disconnect the arts from humanity. To be able to express and bring joy through your expression and to bring that collective emotion of joy in your expression. Is the essence of our humanity. What kind of expression are you bringing, like you said, on your social media to your 20 million followers when you’re only posting about things that nobody can do that makes you elite and everybody else subhuman, so to speak?

[bctt tweet=”Your thoughts are an expression of yourself. You cannot disconnect the arts from humanity.” via=”no”]

You’re superhuman and everybody else is human and you categorize. You have these heartbreaks in that category of what is supposed to be, that affects the young generation. You look at a lot of our greats today in terms of social media followings and what role modelship is that for a fourteen-year-old who’s looking up and saying, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”

There is no Mother Teresa in there. I’ll give you an example. Kobe Bryant. Personal life aside and everything, he has a legacy in basketball. He was great, but his legacy with his art and the things he’s done beyond dribbling a ball have impacted the world, whether it’s in sports with youth. If you go to California, you’ll see his camps and a lot of the things that he’s created for children. There are a lot of kids who are coming up through those ranks. These are kids who, without these programs, could have been a statistic of dead children or so many other things that could have happened in crime and whatnot, being LA. He has impact there.

His films, his dedication to expression, and his artistry were all impacts that he was trying to bring beyond his basketball life. That is amazing. Now, you go into the NBA, the same ecosystem that he grew in for twenty years. How many Kobe Bryants are there? You can probably count them. Out of the thousands and tens of thousands over the decades, you’re not going to find that many. You see what I mean? We are the people who should be leading that impact.

You look beyond that and everything we’re looking forward to in this capitalist-driven system, this cutthroat capitalism, it’s not even a healthy capitalism, is about the 1%, or even a little less than the 1% of people we look up to. It’s probably easier to get into the NBA than to get into that team of people. Our metrics are false because our dreams don’t pan out. Even if they did and we could reach there, we would be extinct before getting there as a society. Imagine if everybody wanted a Ferrari.

Care More Be Better | Ali Horriyat | Compassion
Compassion: It’s probably easier to get into the NBA than to get into the top 1% of wealthy capitalists.

 

Making A Real Impact

I think we have to address the question in this case. You take somebody like Kobe Bryant, they can create exceptional impact with their influence because they’ve become such an incredible star. As the general public or the readers of this show and if Kobe’s reading, kudos to you, thank you, how do we turn this compassion, this individual ability to act into something that has a stronger or more upward trajectory as opposed to something that’s on the fringes and on the side?

I want to answer this first. You said, if Kobe’s reading and you know what, it’s not that he’s reading. He’s a part of it because if it wasn’t for the Kobes, if it wasn’t for the Jesuses, if it wasn’t for the Martin Luther Kings, we wouldn’t be here because we wouldn’t have an understanding of that growth in the momentum of the force for betterment. These are the people, like Abraham Lincoln, that we are basically feeding off their momentum and force. Every time you do something good, that whole community of the people who pave the way for you to be able to do good are alive in that movement. They’re part of that.

Kobe may not be reading with headphones on and sitting at home with his family, but he is a part of what’s happening here right now because I take from him and I say, “I want to try and do this.” I learned the idea of getting involved in the arts a little bit by understanding his mentality, actually. I read and I learned that he focused so much on expression because he believed that was a way people could come together.

That impacts this. Now I can impact someone else. The root of all of this impact goes back, not to Kobe, but further and further until you realize where expression began. All of these people are connected. Now to your second point, how do we make an impact? When we compare, when we say, “Taylor Swift has such a platform. Of course, she can make an impact. If she didn’t fly from Tokyo to Vegas and back, she could make an impact on the environment.”

The thing is, you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. You should do what’s in your lane to do. There are people nowadays, doctors who are out there in dire poverty circumstances, saving children who would otherwise die. They’re doing their thing. There are people out there deactivating minds that kids may blow up playing soccer over. Everybody is in their own lane and in their own impact. When you want to make an impact, start with the first step. Start small. Start within yourself.

Say, “What is it that I would change about myself that I think would make me a better person in the ways that I want to be better?” See if you can tackle that because that challenge is a lot greater than impacting other people. Changing yourself, I remember being a child and my dad had quadruple bypass surgery. At the doctor’s appointment, the doctor was smoking. Back then, you smoked everywhere. Everybody smoked everywhere. People smoked everywhere when I was a kid.

Even on planes.

The funniest thing was there was a smoking section that was non-smoking, and they were one seat apart.

I remember the train cars, too, throughout Europe. The smoking train cars.

They have their little ashtrays on the side of the seat. It was so, so normalized. Any office you went to, there was an ashtray on the table. The doctor was smoking and telling my dad, “You can’t smoke anymore.” It’s very easy for you to tell other people what’s right and what’s wrong. You’re probably right about it as well. Let’s assume that you’re even correct about the advice you’re giving, but that you cannot take that on and make that change in yourself means you can’t make an impact. You need to be able to change within yourself first. I tell people, “You want to make an impact.”

Generally, your audience and other people I speak with are not in parts of the world that I traveled to in those years that Compassiviste was born. They’re not in poverty in India, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and other places like that. They are in the United States. They are in the wealthier segments of the United States. They’re in the wealthier segments of Canada. They’re in the wealthier segments of the EU. I tell those people, “Shop less. Try that. Try to approach minimalism with purpose. Not just to shop less and suffer, but to find joy in what you’re doing being detached from this addiction, being able to cut from this addiction.”

“Try to see how that feels. Try to enjoy your food. Try to go out, find real food, make real food, eat real food and make it a fun experience with your family and your children,” so that they’re not excited and their mind is not pre-programmed to when you say, “If you’re quiet today and if you watch the whole movie without troubling me, we’ll go to McDonald’s.” The kid goes like, “Oh my God.”

You don’t want to do that. You want to bring that impact and that change to make your child appreciate these lovely things about food, to learn and to change. You raise them in that way. Impact, for me, is not about posting on your social media, “I was at the soup kitchen, and I helped 300 people get fed today.” Everybody says, “Hearts and love and you’re the best and you’re amazing.” You feel good about yourself because you did that. They try to sell that a lot.

A lot of influencers, even in the do-good system, they try to sell that. They try to say, “You feel good about doing good.” It’s not about you should feel good about helping another person or saying, “I was the reason why this person ate today.” It should be that you feel good because you’re bringing some equality. You’re bringing some connection.

Accidental Hypocrisy

You’re bringing up to me debate I’ve had since I was a senior in high school, taking classes at a community college. I was in college with my English professor and she tried to tell us that every act is inherently selfish. I took issue with this. Perhaps I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. More than anything, I think I’m an individual who comes from caring first.

I don’t believe that every act is inherently selfish. I do believe that we are accidental hypocrites a lot of the time. I think that’s your point. You took so long to say goodbye to the hypocrisy of what you were living. However, we can actually do things that are not in our own interests and that help a greater community thrive, whether that be humanity or sometimes even putting an animal first before yourselves.

I think that this perception that everything we do is rooted in some form of selfishness isn’t correct. I would beg people to think differently and even consider what they have done in their lives that is a truly selfless act. Try to lean into that. Try to lean into a moment in time and then think about how did that make you feel? It might not have made you feel fantastic at the moment. It might have made you feel terrible. I’ve had a few of those throughout my life. I don’t want to dig in necessarily, but I want to get people thinking about this.

The hypocrisy you mentioned, I’ll give you a quick example. I had a friend of mine who was a vet and we socialized. We were friends, and he was also a vet for my pets and, obviously, the other people’s pets. I would give him money every month. I would say, “When people come in and they don’t have money to do whatever they need to do for their pets, instead of euthanizing,” because that’s what they do. Your dog gets run over. You go there and the doctor says, “It’s going to cost $3,000.” You say, “I don’t have $3,000. Okay, we’ll put them down.” It’s so simple. There’s no law around it. There’s nothing. It’s it shocks me to no end that we still treat animals as property.

I used to give money so that this wouldn’t happen, but I realized in my hypocrisy that that wasn’t true. What was true is at parties, this doctor who was friends with me played me into funding their veterinary practice in the sense that they would say, “Ali’s such an animal lover. Ali’s such a wonderful person. Ali’s so great.” “Why?” “It’s because he gives X amount of dollars every month and we save so many animals because of Ali.” Ali’s sitting there like, “Yay, spotlight.” He’s taking it in. He’s loving it.

All these people are like, “Ali, you’re such an amazing person. You’re so helpful.” That was what I was doing it for. It wasn’t because of the animals. Why? How did I know? It’s because I never cared to do something about it. I never cared to advocate for it. I never cared about doing something legal about it. I never cared to change the system. I never cared about building a structure where this could be something real for everyone. I had a space that I knew would feed back to me. It was like my Instagram at that time. This Instagram would throw out all these posts about, “Ali’s great.”

It made you feel better. At the same time, if you’d chosen to make that donation anonymously, it might still have made you feel better. That could have been your motivation point.

My entire wealth went anonymously. That’s where the difference was. It was a big number. It’s still the largest one-time donation in the history of the country, but that went anonymously.

Collective Impact

In that case, you take the self-serving portion out of that, and it comes from more of that genuine space. I have personal stories. My cat got into a brawl with another tomcat in my neighborhood when I was a little girl. He broke his leg. It was a compound fracture, and it needed to be addressed before the cat was taken to the vet. We were poor. We were actually on assisted care at the time.

I remember my mom had food stamps, so it wasn’t like we could go and pay the $250, which was the price at the time, in a small town to do the lowest-cost surgery on my cat. I was there with my mom, knowing our financial situation at ten years old and having this on my shoulders. I looked at my mom and I looked at the vet and say, “What does it cost to put our cat down?”

She tells me it’s $12 and it takes four seconds. I thought that the person looking at me at that moment was the receptionist because they were at intake. It turned out the receptionist had called in sick that day. It was the vet. The vet saw me run out of the building crying on the way to the car. My mom paid the $12. I knew what had happened. I didn’t have to ask. My cat would die. Thirty days later, we get a phone call at the house and that vet was calling to ask for me and tell me that she had repaired Frisky’s leg and that he was ready to come home to me. That was a very hard emotional thing for that vet to do because over the course of these 30 days, she’s also bonded with the cat.

In the end, it’s my belief that this whole thing was selfless of her. She was looking at an economic situation that was untenable, that was heartbreaking where the decision was purely based on money and resources. She was going to do something about it. She fell in love with this cat and had to give it up, because that was what was right in her mind for this young girl. Now I’m tearing up.

It was a type of moment for the vet, right?

Yeah. I’m tearing up at the moment, but this is the type of impact that a single individual can have on the entire trajectory of someone’s life because it affected me in such a real way. Perhaps this was one individual and one act of kindness. However, if we amplify that and if we can actually inspire people to make uncomfortable and sometimes self-sacrificing decisions to push for change, we can change the way society exists. Exactly. We can change what is considered normal. At any rate, I’ll dab my eyes here.

I’ll tell you something. That act changed you because you learned at a young age that compassion exists. Whereas you could have learned at a very young age that poverty sucks and I need to do whatever I need to do to make money, so I’ll never be in that position again. When I have a cat and a dog later in my life, I’m going to be so wealthy that no matter what happens and that will be your mentality. You become cutthroat to yourself.

I learned both things. I learned that poverty sucks, too. However, it tempered me. Actions like that throughout my life have tempered me. I care less what it looks like on the outside. I care more about the heart.

Now you think about it when you and many other people say, “Let’s amplify this.” It’s a beautiful concept. I come from the finance world and I say, “Hold on. Let’s put this into numbers. If we amplify this, it means that doctors and every other doctor and vet in the world have to give up; for example, half of their salaries to amplify this is not possible.”

What do we do? We still need to amplify it. We don’t give up on the amplification, but we need to address it. How do we address it? The collective force is not about each person taking on as many pet repair costs that are required. It’s about the collective coming together and telling the government we need a new structure because this isn’t working for our family, and that’s what these animals are. These animals are considered family.

[bctt tweet=”The collecting force is about coming together and telling those in power that we need a new structure because the current one isn’t working.” via=”no”]

For those who care to keep pets, this is a completely different issue about animal rights and the right of them being pets and whatnot. This is about animal welfare. Let me give you the exact scenario to this. You are not allowed to drive a car in the United States, Canada, or most of the world without insurance. Why is that money? It’s a big factor. Why is it that you can kill a dog and not have mandatory insurance? It’s a life. Why is there no universal healthcare system, insurable healthcare system for everybody in every life and every creature that could possibly be into that system? It’s because it doesn’t matter. That matters. There’s a lease attached to that car. There’s a finance attached to that car. There’s a mortgage attached to that house.

These are important things. This is life. Your house burns down, it’s life. You need insurance. Your dog dies, you get another one. That’s the mentality we have. When the collective comes together and says, “The next president we elect needs to address these issues and that’s where we’re giving our votes to. That’s the MP that we want. That’s the senator that we want. That’s the governor that we want. That’s the mayor that we want. We voice that opinion, and we advocate for it powerfully.” Guess what? They will start thinking about these issues. They will start thinking about how we amplify compassion.

What I’m doing with Compassiviste is exactly that. I’m trying to bring people’s expressions together as a collective in publishing, in music and in many other forms through a nonprofit system to say, “Let’s come together and let’s recreate what’s happened so many times before.” Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King, here, it’s all about the collective. It’s not about an individual standing up. Great person, Dr. King. You can’t ask for more as a human, but without the capacity of the collective coming together, how much impact does one human have?

It’s important to think about that. It’s important to understand that you need the collective force, especially now when everything is driven from a corporate high-level of the 1% that is detrimental to the entire world. We see it over the last 50 years. We’ve deteriorated so much ecologically, humanitarianly, the inequality gaps, the poverty, the crime. There are 3,000 people who go missing and are kidnapped in the United States every day. True stat. You can Google this. Everybody who’s reading, go Google it. Why do we not have the right amount of policing for this? Out of the 3,000, 2,300 are kids. There are children. We have the tech. We have everything to fight this.

Many of them end up in sex slavery.

I don’t want to raise all of those things, but it’s wrong. Many things are happening wrong. However, we have people whose interest on their money is in the billions of dollars annually. Where is the society going? What are we aiming at? That’s the question. Everybody needs to think when they want to make an impact. What are you aiming at? Are you aiming to amplify that or are you aiming to amplify a happiness that you can see all around?

I’ve been to LA many times. There are people on the North side of LA, on the South side, from Pacific Palisades all the way to Malibu.. There are areas that they don’t cross. Without traffic, the whole thing is an hour drive. There are parts of this distance that you don’t drive because it’s dangerous. You think to yourself the most expensive real estate, almost in a country, is blocks away from an area you don’t drive through ever in your life.

You look at India, Mumbai, the most expensive house in the world overlooks one of the largest ghettos in the world, one of the largest slums in India. What are we doing? What are we trying to aim at? That’s what Compassiviste is about. It’s about raising the value of compassion, putting compassion first because our minds work in modules. We think in modules. You put the compassion module on, you put the compassion hat on, you start looking at every decision you make with that hat on and you make those tough decisions. You suffer with them because we’ve screwed up so long. It’s time to fix that.

I say it’s like gaining weight. You go out and eat McDonald’s and ice cream and all those things that you think is delicious and whatever and you gain so much weight. You say, okay, “I need to get back in shape for health. I don’t want to have a heart attack right now.” What do you have to do? You have to go to the gym. You have to suffer. You have to go on the treadmill at 300 pounds. That’s not easy, but you have to do it if you want to survive.

To come back to 150 pounds, you need to do that. You need to eat healthy. You need to eat foods that you weren’t accustomed to and you need to have the sugar that’s not there anymore like it used to be. That’s the difficulty of fixing or correcting your digression and your addictions. They’re difficult. We need to accept that. We need to accept that as part of our lives. We have to make those hard decisions to amplify compassion.

[bctt tweet=”Correcting your digression and addictions is difficult. We need to accept that it is part of our lives, and we have to make hard decisions to amplify compassion.” via=”no”]

Compassiviste Octopus

You mentioned it in your intake form for the Compassiviste Octopus. I want to make sure we get to this before the end of the show because you’ve touched on a lot of the things that you’re doing and I feel like I might have to invite you back to dive deeply into one or more of them. Let’s at least give a taste of what the Compassiviste Octopus is.

When I set up Compassiviste, a lot of its parts, which you rightly say it’s a story of its own for another day, came about individually. The reason Compassiviste Publishing happened is because I got a publishing offer for all the books I had written. One of my friends who had access to the publishing world said, “Some of this stuff is actually well written.” I wasn’t expecting this. I said, “Great.” They tried to get me published. I said, “Let’s go get it published. Maybe we’ll do some good with it.” I sat with the publishing people and it was disastrous. I didn’t know anything about all of this stuff. All of a sudden, I’m like, “They own my work? What do you mean you own? It’s my work. It’s my mind. I said it. I wrote it. What do you mean you own it?”

I didn’t understand that. I didn’t understand I have to go on a marketing tour. I didn’t understand the whole issue with print. I’m against it because of so many reasons that you can find on the Compassiviste Publishing website, including child trafficking, that we touched on earlier because a lot of these books are bound by child labor, aside from the paper and all of that. I said, “No. I want this. I want that because this is what I write about.” They said, “No. We give you money and you take a step back and you don’t give orders and you play your part.’ I said, “No.”

You’re the talent.

I’m in a position to say no because I’m crazy enough to say no because I’m okay sleeping in a train station. I say no and I walk away from it. I think, “How many people have something meaningful to say who cannot say no because they look at their children and say, ‘How am I not going to feed you tonight? I have to say yes to this slavery.’” That is what it is. It’s slavery. I created Compassiviste Publishing.

Care More Be Better | Ali Horriyat | Compassion
Compassion: Many people say yes to slavery just to feed their children.

 

As you rightfully know, we leave the authors the rights because I believe in that. A lot of Compassiviste’s arms came about through experiences that I had. The octopus came about because I learned through my love for learning all the time that the octopus is a very complicated animal with multiple brains and tentacles that work together, but have independent capacities and all this and the hearts and all.

I said, “The society can be the big brain.” That’s the part that drives us together. The collective brings us together. The heart. That’s the foundation, that’s the nonprofit, that’s where we give, that’s where we give back to the world. Whether it’s to our ecosystems, to the animals, to the plants, to making water clean again, if ever that’s possible. Things like that. Two people, that’s the heart.

We have the tentacles. When we have the publishing, it’s one arm that brings the collective in, not money, but brings people in, brings like-minded people together. These like-minded people now can start talking. They can have conversations. They can say, “We need to address something.” The arts program, the food program, the gaming program, the app, all of the programs that we have. There are eight of them actually.

They become the tentacles. They become the spaces where different people who have different interests in the world can tie into and say, “I like this tentacle,” because that’s my thing. I’m a writer, I’m a reader. I’m in the book section. I’m a gamer. I’m in the game section. All sorts of expressions and arts are included in those. The octopus becomes the world, essentially the ecosystem. That’s why Compassiviste Octopus because that’s how it got there.

Closing Words

It happens to be one of my favorite creatures from the sea. I enjoy the connection to that. I also think it’s fascinating that you’re working to disrupt not only the written world, but from the entertainment perspective, music, because if there is a category that is ripe for disruption, it truly is that. I commend you for the effort. I look forward to continued conversations. I think in the future it will be helpful to have you come back and dive deeply into what’s different in the world of publishing. Perhaps showcasing one or more of the authors that are on your platform would help my audience get a feel for what types of works they can expect to see from Compassiviste.

Thank you for having me and I’d be glad to come back. I loved the conversation, and we’ll talk about it soon.

Thank you, Ali, for all your incredible work.

You got to see yet another side of me, one that brought me to tears. That may be a first for the show. If you enjoyed this episode, I hope that you’ll subscribe on whatever platform you’re finding this. If you’re on YouTube, click that bell to always and you’ll be alerted when our next episode comes out. While you’re at it, leave us a review on whatever platform you are in. A five-star rating, thumbs up or a comment, all of those things go a long way to ensure more people discover our content.

Thank you, readers, now and always, for being a part of this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more, we can be better and we can build a better world that champions the excellence of truth, not just spin. That empowers us all to build the future that we want and can be proud of. I believe Compassiviste will help us get there. Thank you.

 

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Author

  • Ali Horriyat

    Compassiviste’s Founder Ali Horriyat left the lucrative, profit-driven world of finance in 2016 to devote himself to his vision of a society where compassion, empathy, and social impact are at the heart of our actions. In 2020, he launched Compassiviste to spread this vision. Born in Dubai, he attended schools in the UAE, France and Switzerland before pursuing his higher education in Canada. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics, political science, philosophy, business, international relations and conflict resolution, and religion. Ali is the author of 12 books, including collections of essays and poetry, with themes ranging from racism and capitalism to spirituality, love and compassion. He believes that humans must “love always, and always love.”

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