Thirty-six-year-old Al Sayegh believes the crab story is a metaphor for his early career in finance. Having come from a long line of academics and professionals, he returned to the UAE in 1997 after graduating from Glasgow University and embarked upon a career in insurance and private banking. After eight years however, he had to admit to himself that his passions were in more creative fields and resigned."I was doing well and so when I said I was leaving, I was called in by the board members who said: 'We have plans for you Wael, it's not secure out there,'" he says.
Despite the warning, he found both security and fulfilment as he forged a successful career in literature, publishing four books as well as numerous essays and articles. A Poet's Oud was released in 2005 and 12 months later Al Sayegh published his second poetry collection, I Often Wonder. Last year he issued his third and best-selling book of poetry to date, There Is an Elephant in the Majlis, in Arabic and English.The man he credits with helping him ‘escape the crab barrel’ is the British-born writer and revered martial arts expert Geoff Thompson. A judo practitioner himself – currently in training for his black belt - Al Sayegh discovered Thompson’s work in 2000. The philosophies and life lessons he found had a huge impact.
"There are plenty of motivational books out there, but no other writers have connected to 'the physical', and that's why I love Geoff's work," says Al Sayegh. "I took encouragement from his words and started living the life I was supposed to be living. I went to the UK to meet him, to say thank you but also to do his master class, which qualifies you as a basic-level instructor in his format of 'self-perfection'."
But the biggest thank you of all was delivered in 2009 when Al Sayegh decided to translate a selection of articles from Thompson's three books that make up the Everything That Happens to Me series. It comprises one Arabic volume.The translation, dubbed Articles by Geoff Thompson: Volume 1, has just hit the shelves of Magrudy's bookstores across the UAE. Thompson's self-help literature highlights the importance of a strong body and mind - teaching the individual how to control self-doubt and fear of failure."I get so excited when I think that I don't have to do anything but harness the power I have within," says Thompson, during a phone conversation from London.
"You just need certainty to be able to get what you want. The only thing you have to overcome is the self."He admits, however, that this didn't happen for him overnight.
Now 51, he worked through a plethora of menial jobs - from glass collector to floor sweeper - until he was 30. He also spent a decade working as a nightclub bouncer. Determined to live a more fulfilling life, he focused his energy on martial arts, learning karate, aikido and kung fu, among others.He soon learnt, however, that their techniques weren't necessarily the most effective forms of self-defence. He went on to develop a more pragmatic, all-encompassing discipline and was eventually voted the world's top self-defence instructor by the respected American industry publication Black Belt magazine.Having also always harboured a desire to write, Thompson realised his ambition by going on to pen 40 books, three stage plays and hundreds of articles.
He enjoyed film success, too, scripting five multi-award-winning movies and scooping a coveted British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for his 2004 short film, Brown Paper Bag.
From / The National