Lessons from my father, to my son

December 29, 2017

There was a young boy sitting in the back of a classroom. Although his eyes were on his notebook and his pencil was in his hand, his mind was far away because his dream was starting to take shape. In his notebook, he drew his initials before ‘Group of Companies’, and encircled his first ‘logo’ to form the start of an identity. When the other boys saw him sketching, they called him a dreamer for fostering such an impossible dream, but their jokes only strengthened the boy’s resolve to make that dream a reality.

That young boy was Moafaq Ahmad Al Gaddah, my father and the Founder and Chairman of the MAG Group – one of the region’s largest multinational conglomerates. As a self-made man, he built his childhood dream from the ground up, and inspired his own children to continue his legacy.

More than a father, he has been my role model for as long as I can remember. His determination to succeed against all odds strengthens my resolution to achieve my own goals. This kind of aspiration and ambition is what I want to pass down to my son. My father’s lessons played a vital role in making me the man I am today, and now that I am a father myself, it is my turn to pass them on to the next generation. I would like to share some of them with you here.

  1. Find happiness in everything

I remind myself of this every day because as humans, we have a psychological bias toward the negative. Chilean psychologist Marcial Losada found that it takes three positives to equate one negative emotion; however, I find that practice makes perfect. If you consciously train your brain to see the positive in everything, you will lead a happier and more satisfying life. Naturally I want this for my son, so I’m guiding him to always look on the bright side of life.

  1. Things won’t always go your way

As parents, we want to give our children the very best lives possible. It often seems that the easiest way to do this is to fulfil their every wish and desire. However, that is counterproductive to the goal of bringing them up to be capable adults. As gut wrenching as it is to say ‘no’ to my son, I force myself to do it because it is crucial for him to learn that it’s okay if things don’t always go his way.

  1. It’s not about how you fall, but about how you get back up

My father is a firm believer in mistakes because when we learn from our failures, we evolve and improve. As much as I instinctively want to protect my son from pitfalls, I think it is important for him to learn how to deal with them. I want him to take defeat in his stride and develop the strength to get back on his feet after every fall.

  1. Envision tomorrow

Innovate today to prosper tomorrow. This is the philosophy that MAG Lifestyle Development is built on and one that my father instilled in me from a young age. To keep pace with our rapidly evolving and increasingly competitive world, I want my son to think outside the box, innovate in his visions, and bring bold and future-shaping ideas to the table.


  1. Never settle

When my father speaks about his vision for our family and the MAG Group, there is one persistent nugget of wisdom – never settle for anything less than what you envisioned. ‘Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars’ is not a saying for the Al Gaddah family, because we believe that if you aim for the moon, you should make sure you land on it.

When it comes to life lessons, the ‘life’ part of the equation is in fact the most important. This is because lessons are only truly learned through experience, and encouraging our children to do just that is the crux of good parenting.

– Talal M. AlGaddah is the Chief Executive Officer of MAG Lifestyle Development and CEO Middle East Awards’ ‘Young CEO of the Year’ – 2017.