Health care professional turned taxi driver – the life of so many Yemenis

by WomanfromYemen at here.

On the taxi ride back home tonight, I had an interesting conversation with Mohammed, the taxi driver from Taiz. Mohammed, has a masters degree in biology, with extensive courses in public health. In the 1995 he opened a small business, but never forgot about his passion for health care. Two years later, he befriended a well-known businessmen who agreed to help him open a free clinic in his neighborhood. He hired two doctors, and gave whatever he earned from his business to keep the clinic going.

A couple of years down the line, his small business began suffering. Added to that, increase in prices, meant he needed to work harder to sustain his family’s livelihood. With no grant to sustain the health clinic and no connections to government, he ran out of money and was unable to keep the health clinic operational.

Neighborhood families were saddened by the closure of this clinic. He tried to find a more stable job to be able to support the clinic as well, but here everything needs connections. If you want a good job you need to know someone, or you need to pay some Yemeni riyals to someone who will know someone who will know someone who can drop off that paper to the director requesting a job. In addition, many of the health care institutions he applied to recruited people not based on qualifications but based on family and tribal affiliations.

On the way home, this bright man had three great ideas to improve the health care system in Yemen. However, like he said, “who will listen? The best I can do is give advice to my customers, share ideas, and hope that one day someone will implement them.” Mohammed should have been an advisor to the health ministry not a taxi driver.

The sad reality is that given the unemployment rate of 35% Mohammed is lucky to be driving this taxi. What is missing from the unemployment rate is the serious underemployment that many professional Yemenis suffer from. The employment of workers with high skill levels in low-wage jobs that do not require skills and abilities that they studied for years is a common occurrence in Yemen. Mohammed, the trained health care professional working as a taxi driver is just one example.

Unfortunately, Mohammed is not alone. This is one of the many reasons people are demanding the ouster of the regime. Yemenis want an end to corruption, a decent dignified life, and an end to family and tribal rule.

Keep On, Keeping On

by: Jim Donovan, Source Unknown

Colonel Sanders went to more than 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found an interested buyer. The fact that we can buy Kentucky Fried Chicken today attests to his perseverance. Thomas Edison tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light. If he had given up, you would be reading this in the dark!

The original business plan for what was to become Federal Express was given a failing grade on Fred Smith’s college exam. And, in the early days, their employees would cash their pay checks at retail stores, rather than banks. This meant it would take longer for the money to clear, thereby giving Fed Ex more time to cover their payroll.

Sylvester Stallone had been turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600 before he found a company that would produce Rocky. The rest is history! To truly succeed requires a total commitment to your goal. Too many people make the mistake of quitting just short of success. Keep going no matter what. If you really believe in what you are doing, give it all you’ve got and don’t give up.

You will succeed. There is no such thing as failure. Every action produces an outcome. It may not always be the outcome you are looking for, but it is an outcome nonetheless. If you monitor the results of your actions and keep correcting what is not working, you will eventually produce the outcome you are looking for.

Be Persistent – Ray Kroc, the late founder of McDonald’s, put it best when he said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not. Un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and love are omnipotent.”

Don’t quit before the miracle happens!

Famous people who are ex-drivers

Came across an interesting short article:

Philip Glass, the world’s greatest living classical composer, drove a cab for five years. He graduated from Juilliard, a school even more selective than Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, or Yale.

Douglas Prasher, co-discoverer of the green fluorescent protein, drives a shuttle bus after failing to find a job in science. All three Nobel prize winners in Chemistry last year thanked him in their acceptance speeches. One of them went to the extent of saying that the prize could equally well have gone to Prasher.

In Japan, people with Stanford Ph.D. become Prime Ministers. In Singapore, they become taxi drivers.

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

by Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.

I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers.”

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Note: For more inspiring writing by Kent Nerburn, see his beautiful website: http://kentnerburn.com. The above story is taken from his book Make Me an Instrument of your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis, available here, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

Learning the basics of an MBA from a Shanghai Taxi Driver

I came across this story of a Shanghai taxi driver from a website and decided to share with you here. After some research, it seemed that the story was originated from the blog of a Microsoft executive. The Shanghai taxi driver was also featured in the China Daily.

The following is a popular blog post by Run Liu (刘润).

[Translated]. I needed to go to Pudong Airport, so I hurriedly concluded a meeting and I was looking for a taxi in front of the Meiluo building.  A taxi driver saw me and very professionally came in a straight line and stopped right in front of me.

Thus followed the story that astonished me greatly as if I had attended a lively MBA course.  In order to faithfully preserve the intent of the taxi driver, I have tried to reproduce his original words according to my memory.

“Where do you want to go?  Good, the airport.  At Xujiahui, I loved to get business in front of the Meiluo building.  Over here, I only work two places: Meiluo building and Junyao building.  Did you know?  Before I picked you up, I circled around Meiluo building twice before I saw you!  People who come out of office building are definitely not going to some place nearby …”

“Oh?  You have a method !”  I agreed.

“A taxi driver must also have scientific methods,” he said.

I was surprised and I got curious: “What scientific methods?”

“I have to know statistics.  I have made detailed calculations.  Let me tell you.  I operate the car 17 hours a day, and my hourly cost is 34.5 RMB …”

“How did you arrive at that?” I asked.

“You calculate.  I have to pay 380 RMB to the company each day for the car. The gas is about 210 RMB.  I work 17 hours per day.  On an hourly basis, the fixed cost is the 22 RMB that I give to the taxi company and an average of 12.5 RMB per hour in gasoline expenses.  Isn’t that 34.5 RMB?”  I was a bit surprised.  I have taken taxis for ten years, but this is the first time that a taxi driver has calculated the costs this way.  Previously, the taxi drivers all tell me that the cost per kilometer was 0.3 RMB in addition to the total company fee.

“Costs should not be calculated on a per-kilometer basis.  It should be calculated on an hourly basis.  You see, each meter has a ‘review’ function through which you can see the details of the day.  I have done a data analysis.  The average time gap between customers is seven minutes.  If I started counting the costs when someone gets in, it is 10 RMB for about 10 minutes.  That means each 10 RMB customer takes 17 minutes of time, which costs 9.8 RMB (4.5 x 17 / 60).  This is not making money!  If we say that customers who want to go to Pudong, Hangzhou or Qingpu are like meals, then a 10 RMB customer is not even a bite of food.  You can only say that this is just a sprinkle of MSG.”

Great!  This driver did not sound like a taxi driver.  He seemed more like an accountant.  “So what you do then?”  I was even more interested and I continued my questioning.  It looked like I was going to learn something new on the way to the airport.

“You must not let the customer lead you all over the place.  You decide what you want to do based upon the location, time and customer.”  I was very surprised, but this sounded significant.  “Someone said that the taxi driving is a profession that depends on luck.  I don’t think so.  You have to stand in the position of the customer and consider things from the customer’s perspective.”  This sounded very professional, and very much like many business management teachers who say “put yourself in others’ shoes.”

“Let me give you an example.  You are at the entrance to a hospital.  There is someone holding some medicine and there is someone else holding a wash basin.  Which person will you pick up?”  I thought about it and I said that I didn’t know.

“You take the one with the wash basin. If you have a minor complaint that you want to be examined and to get some medicine, you don’t usually go to a faraway hospital. Anyone who is carrying a wash basin has just been discharged from the hospital. When people enter the hospital, some of them die. Today, someone on the second floor dies.  Tomorrow, someone on the third floor dies. Those who make it out of the hospital usually have a feeling of having been given a second life and they recognize the meaning of life again — health is the most important thing. So on that day, that person told me, “Go … go to Qingpu.”  He did not even blink. Would you say that he wanted to take a taxi to People’s Plaza to transfer to the Qingpu line subway?  Absolutely not!”

I began to admire him.

“Let me give you another example.  That day at People’s Plaza, three people were waving at me.  One was a young woman who had just finished shopping and was holding some small bags.  Another was a young couple who were out for a stroll.  The third one was a man who wore a silk shirt and a down jacket and holding a notebook computer bag.  I spent three seconds looking at each person and I stopped in front of the man without hesitation.  When the man got in, he said: ‘ Yannan Elevated Highway .   South North Elevated Highway …’  Before even finishing, he could not help but ask, ‘Why did you stop in front of me without hesitating?  There were two people in front.  They wanted to get on as well.  I was too embarrassed to fight with them.’  I replied, ‘It is around noon and just a dozen or so minutes before one o’clock.  That young woman must have slipped out at noon to buy something and I guess that her company must be nearby.  That couple are tourists because they are not holding anything and they are not going to travel far. You are going out on business.  You are holding a notebook computer bag, so I can tell that this is business.  If you are going out at this time, I guess that it would not be too close.’  The man said, ‘You are right.  I’m going to Baoshan.'”

“Are those people wearing pajamas in front of supermarkets or subway stations going to travel far?  Are they going to the airport?  The airport is not going to let them enter.”

That makes sense!  I was liking this more and more.

“Many drivers complain that business is tough and the price of gas has gone up. They are trying to pin the cause down on other people. If you keep pinning the cause on other people, you will never get any better.  You must look at yourself to see where the problem is.” This sounds very familiar. It seems like “If you cannot change the world, then you should change yourself” or perhaps a pirated copy of Steven Covey’s “Circles of Influence and Concern.”  “One time, on Nandan Road , someone flagged me down and wanted to go to Tianlin. Later on, someone else flagged me down on Nandan Road and he also wanted to go to Tianlin.  So I asked, ‘How come all you people who come out on Nandan Road want to go to Tianlin?’  He said, ‘There is a public bus depot at Nandan Road. We all take the public bus from Pudong to there, and then we take the taxi to Tianlin.  So I understood. For example, you look at the road that we just passed. There are no offices, no hotels, nothing. Just a public bus station. Those people who flag down taxis there are mostly people who just got off the public bus, and they look for the shortest road for a taxi.  People who flag down taxis here will usually ride not more than 15 RMB.”

“Therefore, I say that the attitude determines everything!”  I have heard dozens of company CEO’s say that, but this was the first time that I heard a taxi driver say that.

“We need to use scientific methods and statistics to conduct business.

Those people who wait at the subway exits every day for business will never make money. How are you going to provide for your wife and kids at 500 RMB a month? This is murder? This is slowly murdering your whole family. You must arm yourself with knowledge. You have to learn knowledge to become a smart person. A smart person learns knowledge in order to become a very smart person. A very smart person learns knowledge in order to become a genius.”

“One time, a person wanted a taxi in order to get to the train station.  I asked him how he wanted to go.  He told me how to get there.  I said that was slow. I said to get on the elevated highway and go this other way.  He said that it was a longer way. I said, ‘No problem. You have experience because you go that way frequently. It costs you 50 RMB. If you go my way, I will turn off the meter when it reaches 50 RMB. You can just pay me 50 RMB. Anything more is mine. If you go your way, it will take 50 minutes. If I go my way, it will take 25 minutes.’ So in the end, we went my way.

We traveled an additional four kilometers but 25 minutes quicker. I accepted only 50 RMB. The customer was very delighted for saving about 10 RMB. This extra four kilometers cost me just over 1 RMB in gas. So I have swapped 1 RMB for 25 extra minutes of my time. As I just said, my hourly cost is 34.5 RMB. It was quite worthwhile for me!”

“In a public taxi company, an ordinary driver takes three to four thousand RMB home per month. The good driver can get around five thousand. The top driver can get seven thousand RMB.  Out of the 20,000 drivers, there are about two to three who can make more than 8,000 RMB a month. I am one of those two or three. Furthermore, it is very stable without too much fluctuation.”

Great!  By this point, I admired this taxi driver more and more.

“I often say that I am a happy driver. Some people say, ‘That’s because you earn a lot of money. Of course, you must be happy.’ I tell them, ‘You are wrong. This is because I have a happy and active mind, and that is why I make a lot of money.'”

What a wonderful way to put it!

“You have to appreciate the beauty that your work brings.  Stuck in a traffic jam at People’s Plaza, many drivers complain, ‘Oh, there’s a traffic jam again! What rotten luck!’ You must not be like that. You should try to experience the beauty of the city.  There are many pretty girls passing by. There are many tall modern buildings; although you cannot afford them, you can still enjoy them with an appreciative look.  While driving to the airport, you can look at the greenery on both sides.  In the winter, it is white.  How beautiful!  Look at the meter — it is more than 100 RMB.  That is even more beautiful!  Each job has its own beauty. We need to learn how to experience that beauty in our work.”

“Ten years ago, I was a general instructor at Johnson’s. Eight years ago, I had been the department manager for three different departments.  I quit because there was no point in making three or five thousand a month. I decided to become a taxi driver. I want to be a happy driver.  Ha ha ha …”

When we arrived at the airport, I gave him my business card and said, “Are you interested in coming this Friday to my office and explain to the Microsoft workers about how you operate your taxi? You can treat it as if your meter is running at 60 kilometers per hour. I will pay you for the time that you talk to us. Give me a call.”

Then I began to write down his lively MBA lecture on the airplane.

“It is your attitude, not your aptitude, which determines your altitude in life.”

Editor’s note: It seemed that there is a follow-up story on the taxi driver and the link can be found here.

The only disability in life is a bad attitude. ~Scott Hamilton

I accepted a call booking for a taxi near Yio Chu Kang area. Upon my arrival, I saw a man in his early forties, standing beside my taxi with the aid of a pair of crutches. I immediately got out of the taxi to help the man, who seemed to be having some mobility impairment. The Chinese man, who looked plump, politely refused my help, and before I knew it, he had already boarded my taxi.

In the taxi, I chatted with this guy and realised that he was a part-time lecturer and was on his way to the town area to conduct his lectures. He showed me his left leg, which was amputated above the knee and fitted with a prosthetic leg. He was infected with flesh-eating bacteria in a toilet when his foot with a small wound came into contact with some sewage water. Initially he fell sick with a fever and pain, after which he consulted a doctor, who prescribed some painkillers for him. Unfortunately his condition deteriorated so fast that he fell into a coma while he was sent to the hospital. Unfortunately, the doctors have to amputate his left leg to save his life.

What I find remarkable about this man is the positive attitude displayed when I was talking to this man, he somehow manages to keep smiling in the face of adversity. I can’t find a tinge of self-pity or sadness in him. He showed full of enthusiasm talking about his work, his students and his blessings towards life.

To quote what Hubert Humphrey have said: Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts.  It’s what you do with what you have left.