5 Minutes to read

Muhammad Lila, Founder and CEO of Goodable

Learning Inspiration 🌈 #71

War correspondent, 2x Emmy/SAJA nominee, and current CEO of Goodable, Muhammad Lila shares with us his passion for spreading good news.

Muhammad Lila, Founder and CEO of Goodable

What is your main source of  inspiration?

I have so many sources of inspiration, it’s hard to choose just one… but I think I would choose my parents. They were born in Tanzania and weren’t very wealthy. My father has 11 siblings and my mom 6. My father worked really hard at school to get a scholarship to attend a University in Italy, where he learned Italian and graduated.

He then returned to Tanzania, met my mother and they left everything behind to move to Canada. They struggled and sacrificed a lot for me and my siblings. When I am faced with a challenge, I think about my parents, because my struggles pale in comparison to what they had to overcome. I feel really privileged: I have a house, the internet… My parents didn’t have any of these things.

They are my main source of inspiration to be a good parent and to persevere when times are difficult.

How do you continue to learn on a daily basis? What are your learning routines?

I’m very active on Twitter, both personally and for my company. As much as I can, I read the feeds of those I believe are smart: journalists, investors, politicians, community leaders… I try my best to do that because it’s important. If there is someone I admire, I want to know what they believe in, what they think. Twitter is a big tool for me.

I don’t really follow celebrities. Some follow me, like Jake Tapper or Christiane Amanpour, because of my past as a journalist. It’s really valuable to see both the micro-updates journalists post on Twitter and the stories they write. It gives you a well-rounded perspective.

What pushed you to create your company?

For years, I’ve covered warzones, first with ABC and then CNN.  In the last 10 years, I’ve been held at gunpoint twice and shot at once. 

Both the Taliban and ISIS have tried to kill me.  One day, my team and I were held at gunpoint.  I’m really protective of my teams. I always tried to keep everybody safe.  We managed to make it out, and after that, I flew back home and continuously asked myself, Why do they send journalists like me to cover bad news? Bad news just creates negativity, fear, anger… and I couldn’t come up with an answer. 

Audiences are hungry for good news, now more than ever. I want to use the news to make people happier and healthier. It may sound cliché, but we want to make the world better. Covering bad news doesn’t make the world better. That’s what led me to launch Goodable

People make a lot of money off of bad news because we are used to consuming it. Imagine you lived in a city where there are only McDonald’s. What would happen if someone opened a Whole Foods, with the same prices and speed of a McDonald’s? Then 99% of people would buy healthy food. 

The news we consume is like food. Building alternative news platforms poses the same challenge as building a Whole Foods near all of those fast food chains, KFC’s, but it works. We’re proving that it works, and we’re scaling it. We reach 40 million users per month and counting. Our model is now validated. We offer something others don’t. We flipped the model around and proved that people are hungry for healthier and happier news. We are focused on that, and then the money will come.

What are your favorite books and why?

Growing up, I read all of J. R. R. Tolkien books. I love science fiction that feels like history.  I love the Riverworld series because of that.  Reading those kinds of books opens your mind to possibilities. In non-fiction, there is one book that changed the way I thought about the world: The Image by Daniel Boorstin. It explains how the world of Media turns ordinary events into really important ones. Historically, these events wouldn’t have been significant otherwise.

What is your favorite podcast, and why?

I highly recommend the episodes of Hardcore History about the Mongolian Empire. Dan Carlin is a journalist himself and does a lot of research. The podcast is so immersive, it’s as good as a movie.

What would you say to 18-year-old Muhammad?

I actually wrote a letter to myself when I was 22. It was for my graduation from Columbia University. I still have this letter. 

My main advice in the letter was: “Stay true to who you are, don’t let anybody change you.” 

People will try to change you, to make you different. They’ll try to make you abandon your values, but don’t. The world can be really hard to navigate, but as long as you stay true to your values, you’ll be fine in it.

What are the main challenges that you are facing?

In the past, I was constantly searching for happiness. I’ve learnt that happiness comes from little ordinary things.

My background as a war reporter helped me to realize that.  I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and with the Afghan military, and when I had to go back home, I would pass through Dubai and always took a 4-hour layover to visit the Dubai Mall.

I would sit and watch kids ice skating while sipping on my favorite drink – a hot chocolate latte. I loved it because it reminded me of home and it made me the happiest person in the world. I was safe, watching kids having fun and drinking my favorite beverage. 

Drinking tea also makes me happy. It’s warm, and it takes time to prepare. The process of making the tea itself makes me happy. It’s not instant gratification.  It takes time – and there is virtue and joy in that.  I always tell my wife, it doesn’t matter how bad the day is as long as I have a cup of tea.

If you were left alone on an island and could only bring one item, what would it be?

Books, because they can mentally take me out of isolation. I would also bring the most comfortable blanket that I can find. I’ve watched a lot of “Lost” and people seemed so uncomfortable at night. A fluffy blanket can really help you sleep better.

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Romain from Clind

Romain is currently in Master 2 at Sup de Pub Paris. He is an organiser of electronic music events also passionate about human relationships, sports, UX/UI design and digital brand strategy.

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