1. Tell us a little about yourself and your journey in following your passion and creating a life doing what you love. You are a man of many talents.
As a child before anybody told me what sort of person I should be or what things I should focus on, I naturally gravitated towards everything creative. My parents very thankfully supported me in being able to try out anything my heart desired. So I was doing things like drawing all day long, rhyming words together incessantly, designed board games, doing magic tricks and writing poetry at the age of 8. My mother was an English teacher at the time so I constantly asked her how to say the same thing using many different words. I have her to thank for my vocabulary.
When I was 9 or 10 I discovered karate, and that became my passion at that time living in Houston Texas. I went 3 times a week, and became a black belt and won 2nd in the state in my age division.
When I was 14 I entered and won 1st place in a national, writing competition in Jordan. Around the same time I saw a guitarist play background music at an art exhibition. Transfixed by how he could play the Spanish guitar, I approached him at the break with light in my eyes and commanded fiercely, I need you to teach me how to play the guitar like you do! He had a small music shop and a little taken aback, said sure, come by after hours and we can start, but after three lessons he had to leave the country and his parting gift was a book, El Arte Flamenco De La Guitarra, a ‘teach yourself’ Flamenco bible, so I began teaching myself.
My childhood was full of all of this achievement and accomplishment, and entering and winning competitions and things like that. It was a really happy time. Boundless and brimming with potential. I was always smiling, riding bikes, rollerblading, swimming, dancing, and creating.
But my teen years were different. We moved country several times, I gained a lot of weight, didn’t fit in much anywhere, became a little socially outcast in the UK, was seen as the “just friends” guy with the girls I liked and became quite reclusive and absorbed myself in my guitar practice hitting anywhere from 5-9 hours a day which lead to a full scholarship to The Royal College of Music (Not having friends is a good thing for stuff like that).
As I got older people started to say, you should focus now, playtime is over. I finished my studies and then took a degree and a masters in 3D digital animation. When I graduated with that I was happy that my parents were happy.
Then, welcome to the working world. I didn’t fully apply myself to finding an animation job so to begin with, I ramped up the hours at my part time job…selling computers.
So all of a sudden I’m a year and a half in, wearing a purple uniform, waking up, taking a train in the cold to talk to families about why a Pentium 4 is better than a Pentium 3. And I kinda began to hate myself a little bit more each day. I remember this moment really clearly. Every morning as I did up my buttons, like nailing myself into a purple coffin, I’d look at myself in the mirror and go Tah Riq you’re better than this. I remembered the childhood I came from and was hit by how different things now were.
Anyways, around about the same time I discovered Parkour, the free running, urban wall climbing whatever you want to call it, through a video game. Because when I went home in the evenings after work, I found solace in my Xbox. I got hooked on the game Assassins Creed, about a Middle Eastern character with a hood that was fearless, running up walls and leaping across rooftops and rather than think cool game, I was like *sigh* this guy looks so free.
And I don’t know, somewhere in my mind, I think there was a parallel between me and this videogame alter ego, he also had a Christian mother and a Muslim father. I was born in Jordan, him in Syria. He even sounded like me. In a way this superhero character began to consolidate, and I felt compelled to train for real and gradually I began to develop similar skills to him. And I started to look at life differently. I was like wait a minute, I had no idea I could do all this stuff?!
Long story short, I ended up on top of this roof with a fear of heights and I asked myself the question, if I was to jump off this roof what would this be like elsewhere in my life? What would it look like?
*(Theresa to readers) To add some context here, Parkour is an activity that challenges your mindset to find your own best way through an environment using natural movement fit to each situation and moment. Tah Riq was with a friend who does professional parkour, they were on a church roof that was about 14ft tall. Before you try anything, please make sure you learn and feel what is right for you, be mindful and smart in taking action that you are willing to take full responsibility for what comes of it.
And what came back to me was a loud, clear, it would be like quitting your job. Both would be a leap of faith, one physical one proverbial. You don’t know how you are going to end up. You just know you want to jump.
So I vowed to myself an unbreakable vow: the day I would jump off this roof, I would quit my job. 3 days later, after a painfully mentally and physically challenging weekend, it happened. I pushed myself so much that on Sunday, I just threw caution to the wind and just jumped off the roof. I was in slow motion, eyes open, ground rushing up to welcome me. I stretched out to it, landed, fell into a controlled roll and then stood back up victorious, and I was completely fine. I wrote my resignation letter that night and I walked in the next day and I quit as soon as I walked in through the big glass doors. My life has been an incredible roller coaster since.
You need to pursue what is right for you right now, in this moment, you can’t delay it for a year or even a month, because who knows where you’ll be or who you’ll be or what you’ll be doing. If it’s right for you now, then it’s right for you now. The funny thing was when I resigned, I got a job animating the same day, haha.
Because I was on such a high, I was carrying this different vibration, I was talking to everybody differently, I felt more empowered and I got talking to a customer who happened to be an inventor. His name is Kane Kramer, responsible for creating the world’s first digital audio player the IXI in 1969.
He just happens to walk into PC World, and we get talking, and he said listen, I could use an animator, what do they pay you? And I told him. And he said, great, I’ll pay you X. We shook hands, smiled and bam. SO all of a sudden now I was an animator. I know it was because I was carrying a different vibration that day, feeling strong after that leap off the roof.
(Theresa) yea and you sound like you create the opportunities in your life. You kinda just follow what interests you and then you create that opportunity, seize that moment and make it happen.
Yea I suppose the good news and bad news is you can miss the opportunity, and that opportunity is gone and it’s gone forever. But there may be many opportunities that are like it, that are similar. Some may even lead back to that opportunity etc.
So for people who are reading, it’s not about.. oh I missed my chance 2 years ago, that’s it, I’ll never be this.
No. Just start. Start creating. Start creating that intention towards that goal. And start aligning your actions and thoughts with that intention and you’ll find that other opportunities or similar ones that steer you back on course will begin to present themselves.
2. So would you say when you jumped off the roof that was the pivotal moment that you decide to tune out the noise that was holding you back, the naysayers and to trust and believe in yourself?
*(Theresa to readers) Please read Tah Riq’s response to Question 1 to understand the context here. Jumping off the roof for Tah Riq was him exploring Parkour and utilizing it as a metaphor in his work life. Again, this is what felt right for Tah Riq. Please use your own judgment before you make a decision or take any action.
Tah Riq - Absolutely, because actually when I jumped off the roof, it wasn’t that I thought I’m going to be fine. I just thought I was now prepared to break my ankles if it meant leaving my job. Haha, that’s the difference.
(Theresa) So it was kinda like F*#% it.
Yea, it was a F*#% it moment. It was like, you know what, deep down I knew I was capable. And when I say the roof, you can picture a skyscraper or towering apartment block, but it wasn’t. It was like maybe 12 or 14ft high, it’s not that it was that high, it was just that it was high for me and brought up all my fears and that’s all that matters.
My good friend Daniel Ilabaca, a world renouned freerunner says, if you are standing on the edge of the roof and you are feeling the fear, it means you know you can do it. Because if it was too high for you, then there will be no fear, because there will be no intention of jumping. Like if you stood on the edge of a 4 story building. There wouldn’t be any real fear, because you are not actually thinking of jumping off. But on this 14 ft high jump, because you are feeling the fear, it’s within your limits, it means deep down you know you can do it.
So I thought I’m pretty sure I can come out of this okay. But even if I don’t I’m ready.
*(Theresa to readers) Again, this is what felt right for Tah Riq. Please use your own judgment on what you are willing to own, and be responsible for you in your life. As Tah Riq says later on in the interview, “It’s about being smart and building yourself up.”
And I just carried that forward into work the next day and resigned thinking like I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent, I don’t know how I’m going pay my bills but right now I know that I need to do this. I can’t put this off another day, I have to do it now and I just went with it. And the universe was like you quit and boom here’s your animation job.
3. What does trusting yourself feel like to you? And any advice on what can we do to be more mindful to tune into that feeling?
To tune into the feeling of trusting yourself, to begin with, it might be the faintest, tiniest little nudge, the smallest little whisper, you might see a sign around you, something that I suppose evokes something you are thinking about.
For example, you can be thinking about wanting a brighter day, I want tomorrow to be brighter. And suddenly you see a sign and it says, bright days ahead or something like that. It can be as silly sounding as that. But when you start to see signs that are aligned with your thoughts that’s when you know you are beginning to tune in. And it can go from that little nudge, to that whisper to that really clear voice in your head, just like you can see a picture in your mind’s eye. You are not actually seeing it but you see it. It’s the same thing. You are not hearing it but you are hearing it.
It’s kinda like you scan yourself. Imagine you scan yourself from top to toe and you just let that scanner pass over your body and back up. And that scanner asks, does it feel good? Or does it feel bad?
If it feels good chances are it’s the right decision, and if it feels bad, chances are it’s the wrong decision no matter how much intellectual sense it makes. Get better at scanning yourself and developing that self awareness first, spot when something feels good or doesn’t feel good.
When you get past that point then you start hearing it more as an actual voice. You can check out this 15 minute clip I recorded on how to manifest if it helps.
4. On your site, you raise the question what if you can reverse-engineer any desired skill? What do you mean by that and how do you do it?
It’s something I’ve been doing for a lot of my life, because some of the different hobbies and passions that I have are seemingly unrelated, like flamenco guitar to parkour or rapping to logo design. They are not exactly shared skills.
But the process of deconstructing any complex skills is the same. So I want to teach people that. I did a test recently at a house party, to teach a room full of 15 drunk people to beat box in 5 minutes. By the the end of the 5 minutes 12 out of those 15 can beat box. Not fantastically, but they had the basics. It’s moments like these which show me these principles are sound and anyone can do it.
The best way to describe this is you can take any complex skill, whether it’s flamenco guitar or beat boxing, or rapping, and you think what are those component parts that make up that complex skill?
For example for being able to rap fast on stage, you need clear diction and enunciation and so you can do elocution exercises and things to be really able to pronounce and enunciate all your syllables. Listen and learn from the greats. Observe their technique.
I practiced tongue twisters all the time, and when I stopped getting tongue twisted I’d find a harder tongue twister and so on, and you try and get faster and more clear each time. And of course you need a wider vocabulary, so you maybe read a bit of a dictionary each day.
So you start to think what are these component parts that make up to being able to rap on stage, and you go and practice those component parts and you bring them together and consolidate them.
And I did the same for beat boxing and for flamenco guitar. It’s like I need my right hand technique, I need my left hand technique, I didn’t have a guitar teacher, so I’m going to use a mirror, because with a mirror you can be playing and practicing and you can look up and see your shoulders are a bit tense so you relax them. Or my neck is a bit stiff and you can see that visual feedback, continuously seeking out and eliminating mistakes.
It’s the same for parkour. I knew I needed an overall body conditioning and strength. So I developed my strength and conditioning then, ok check that. Now I need a bit more flexibility, so good, I took some yoga lessons and then its like I need to now practice these moves and vaults, so I start practicing them individually. How does this vault relate to this move?
And you find out that everything is an extension of the thing that you are learning before. And once you can see everything as a process and a set of component parts, that you can deconstruct them and then hence you can reverse engineer anything.
So my belief is that I can take any skill that I would like to possess and deconstruct it into its component parts, learn those component parts and put them back together and then I would have that skill. And I believe that is something you can teach.
(Theresa) So what you are saying is basically to break the whole skills into parts. Start with the foundation. And you practice and master each foundation and then put it all back together.
Yes. Any complex skill is just a set of simple skills. So you need to learn those simple skills and bring them together and it becomes a complex skill.
5. What do you do to keep the balance of hard work and going with the flow in check to optimize the pay off (being paid) doing what you love.
That’s one that I’m still figuring it out. Getting paid doing what you love.
You know what, there’s opportunities all around. What I find is that sometimes you can be pushing and pushing in one direction and you are just coming up against obstacle after obstacle.
And that doesn’t mean you give up but maybe it means you change direction for a while. So there is usually always a way that’s really flowing and very simple, and another that’s just opposition, so go with the way that’s flowing. And as long as you can change tact like that as you need to, you’ll be okay.
In terms of finding the balance, I don’t think it is about working hard, it is about working smart. It’s about putting in the 20% that gets 80% of the result.
You don’t need to work hard necessary because if you really enjoy what you are doing it doesn’t feel like hard work. So ‘hard’ is not a good gauge of how much you actually got done, you could’ve achieved a lot today and just felt like you were having a great time.
I remember when I first looked at the idea of starting the MTM SuperHero Factory I wrote a list of all the things that need to be done, and I thought shit this list is endless! It looks so daunting you don’t even want to begin.
But then, a scan of myself revealed that no, this is definitely the right direction, I don’t know why yet, but this is something I know I have to do. It’s like I’m called to create this, I’m not sure why, but I just know I need to do it.
So I was like okay, forget about this whole huge list, what can I do next? And then I went and did that. And then I was like great, and then what can I do next? And then what’s the next thing I need to do? And then so on, and then all of a sudden I’ve done 80 things in a couple of months.
80 things is intimidating. I think its important to just focus on what can I do next? Just ask yourself that one question, what can I do next? That one question will get through almost any kind of block.
(Theresa) or what is the one thing I can do now?
Yes, what’s the one thing I can do now? Or if you can do several things now, what is the most important thing I can do now?
And it’s just about a little bit done a lot rather than a lot done a little bit. So you want to do a little bit each day rather than a lot once a week.
In many ways I was driven a lot by ego when I was younger.
(Theresa) Who wasn’t though?
Yea but I mean I went out the other night. And there’s this guy who likes to get into these pissing contest with me. You know, like bragging and trying to assert himself over me in various domains, like physical, status, girls, blah.
It was funny because A: I saw myself two years ago, speaking the same way to people and B: before I would feel the need to defend myself and try and one-up the person and say see but I can also do…..
So I went out wearing this really tight, bright red almost a cycler’s t-shirt, and I had a bunch of people say where did you just come from, a cycling contest haha? And before I would’ve defended myself and been like, oh no.. I didn’t have time to change, I ermm?
But I chose that t-shirt, and this time I was like, no actually, I just came from the luge team, we were hard at it all afternoon preparing for the winter Olympics! People don’t know what to do with that one.
So rather than oppose what they were saying, I would go along with what they were saying, and ridicule myself just as much as they were but without the emotion behind it. Doing it with a smile on my face, and I realized that diffuses almost any type of tension, any kind of opposition. Because a battle needs two sides, if you put the polar ends of two magnets they oppose and if it’s just one nothing happens. So if anyone tries to mock you or make fun of you go along with them, carry their charge.
So I suppose what I would tell myself when I was younger is don’t be in a hurry to be rich or famous.
I’d tell myself you know what Tah Riq you are not going to become the celebrity who you thought you would (coming from that sort of childhood of passions), and if you are one day, it’s not in the way that you think and that’s the best thing for you. All of the time, all of the life that’s going to go by without MTV and money, that is going to serve you best. Because if you had been thrust into stardom too early you would’ve been lost, ruined, just another manipulated and manufactured product of the entertainment/media machine.
So I’m just now really grateful that I’m 30 years and not 22. The fame and fortune that is yet to come, let it take its time. It’ll come when it is ready and I am ready for it. I’m genuinely for the first time, really grateful it has taken this long.
7. As humans we all have weak moments where our inner critics take over. Complete this sentence: When doubt creeps in I ...
… remember why I began in the first place. I tune into the love for what I’m doing that drove me to start. I remember the fun that motivated this to all begin. The excitement that instigated the exploration, get really clear and tune into that.
I suppose knowing that I have to be an example first and foremost to myself. If not, then I start to question my own ethics. I start to potentially shake the respect that I have towards what I do or the man I’m becoming, and I know that I need to be an example. So if I’m telling people they can overcome obstacles and I hit an obstacle and I quit, what does it say about what I’m trying to teach or the lesson I’m trying to impart?
So when the going gets tough, I just do the little bit that I can right now.
It doesn’t matter if it’s just 10% of what I want to do, or just a tiny fraction of what I think I can do. As long as I’m moving towards that goal, I’m moving. If you are climbing a mountain, it doesn’t matter if you are running or walking you are still going to get to the top of the mountain. The important thing is not to stand still.
All around me. I listen to passionate people. I let passionate people talk to me about what they are passionate about, what projects they have going on, and within that I start to see hints of sparks that I can then, I suppose through osmosis, bring back into my own life.
But honestly, I usually just leave it and go do something else for a while.
Like if I’m stuck writing, suddenly I’ll be driving along, and words will start coming to me again and I’ll be like now’s the time to park and get out a pen and paper. So it’s more like putting yourself in harmony and letting those creative moments find you. Rather than forcefully pursuing them. That’s just me. I’m sure other people work in different ways.
It’s never fearless. You know I’ve had people say you must be really fearless to do this parkour stuff. And funnily my biggest fear is injury. And people would be like, well parkour isn’t the ideal choice for you.
But I think it makes total sense, because I’m facing my fear or rather learning to manage it. And the way you do that is by finding something that is within your comfort zone and finding what that edge of that comfort zone is, and constantly pushing towards that edge so you are no longer well within it but you are not outside of it either.
If you have a fear of heights, I’m not saying go jump off a roof, or walk along a high ledge. Build up to things gradually. But by staying on the edge of your comfort zone, you naturally expand that comfort zone outwards. And as it expands it will begin to include things that you previously would have considered well beyond your bounds.
It’s more methodical, more procedural. I would expand your comfort zone from the inside out gradually with an occasional shock to the system to fire your adrenaline.
One of the best things to transform fear to calm presence is familiarity.
If you expose yourself to something like i.e. doing a back flip for example, practice it first into a swimming pool, and then practice it onto a thick crash mat, and then onto sand, and then maybe one day from a height onto grass. And then you lower that height until you can do them from the ground you know what I mean? Train yourself up to it. It can happen in one session or in many. It’s not a case of just going to do it on concrete and if I fall, I fall.
It’s about being smart and building yourself up.
Learn to trust yourself, and know that if you are feeling the fear, it means you can probably already do whatever it is you want to do and know that fear is a good thing. It’s there to protect you. You need to assure your good friend fear that it’s ok and your fear will learn to trust you more with each successful attempt.
" To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become." W.E.B. Du Bois
I’m recently released a double guitar album and you can check it out online www.soundcloud.com/tahriq
You can find me on Facebook, can connect with us on the SuperHero Factory website, and contact me directly on my site. If you are ever in Bali, feel free to give me a shout, I’m in town would love to meet for a catch up. I’ve had a few people do that, who heard about me through Afest, through various events and workshops and I love when people reach out. I’m very easy to get hold of, and I apologize in advance if I don’t respond to your message immediately. Otherwise, reach out make it genuine and I’ll be there.