Looking at the two of us, you might believe that Mathieu El Sokhn and I are brothers. We have the same haircut and we both have beards. Both of us love entrepreneurship and both of us were in Beirut in 2006 at the start of the war, though for different reasons. Mat and I both left corporate jobs because we were ,miserable, sharing stories of our dreaded Sundays and their ticking away hours. Both of us also believe that what you put out into the world will come back to you, the universe will repay.
Mat was born in France and moved to Lebanon at the age of 3, where he was raised until the age of 17. He loved cars and was applying to study mechanical engineering when the Lebanon War began in 2006. It was in that period of uncertainty that he decided to pursue his education in the United States, beginning his journey with and uncle in Miami and knocking out general education classes at a community college. He would move on to the University of Florida and complete his undergraduate work. Mat would be kicked out of the library at times, thus are the rigors of engineering students, as they closed down for the night. As he tells me about his time in school, he tells me about the greatest internship ever. Mat interned for NASCAR outside of Daytona's famous race track. Over the yeats I have watched many interns at many companies slave away hoping for a future corporate career, and I have begun to associate these endeavors with abject misery and angst for participants, but not for Mat. He took the opportunity to take some time with cars and racing, things he loves. His eyes light up, he smiles, it is legitimate exuberance at the memory of that time. We reminisce about experiences at races, about the roar of cars moving past and how the noise actually shakes the earth beneath your feet. We both love that feeling.
Mat moved on from school to work for Cummins through a number of rotations, including one in Charleston, learning the company inside and out. We talk about the intensity of their manufacturing floor, about my experience when I first saw an active flightline, we share stories with similarities. After his rotations were done, Mat returned to Charleston with Cummins, transitioning from work visa to green card. He worked through the "honeymoon phase" we all know, but soon he was tired of what he did, of the grind. HIs heart was more suited to entrepreneurship, as he learned from increased reading and exposure to podcasts, so he set about planning his next step.
It came in the form of social media marketing, which he spent months studying online, honing his knowledge and his craft. He has even given me some free advice on upping my social media game, which we will be executing on in the next day or two. Therein lies a key component of who Mathieu is, he believes in putting things out into the world, and that what is put out will come back. Positivity is rewarded with positivity. A few years ago I might have disagreed, but since undertaking this project I have seen proof of it in my own life. I am now a believer. It goes beyond the initial dictum though, Mat is now coaching other engineers who want to make the break from their traditional jobs and pursue entrepreneurship. He has designed a program very intentionally, and seeks to help them, to give back and guide others on a path he has walked.
There are easily a thousand ways in which Mat is magical. He is razor sharp, his eyes are focused and present in any conversation, he is an adventurer journeying towards something bigger than himself, a man who loves life. The generosity of his spirit though is something to behold. So often we find ourselves having successfully traversed a path without remembering that others are walking one similar. We grow and develop knowledge and wisdom, forgetting that others may have need of it, sometimes we even treat it as too precious to part with.
During our time together, the two Matts, as I think of us, talked about our perspectives on the world. Mathieu grew up in Lebanon, in Beirut, a region that has been destabilized off and on by war and conflict for a very long time. I travelled the world and landed in many of those places, giving us each different perspectives. For both of us, opportunity is to be cherished and shared, we should be, as Gandhi said, "the change we wish to see in the world." Granted, our perspectives are not the same, nor should they be, yet we see so many things from just slightly different angles.
As I leave our time together, I find myself thinking about my journey, about all of the steps I still have to take. I reflect on Mathieu's story, on his journey, on his advice for me on mine, and his generosity. He loves what I am doing, he recognizes it as the passion of a person and the pursuit of that, the same thing that led him to entrepreneurship. I will be unpacking our meeting for a while, and I will enjoy our next talk's wisdom just as much, but for now I am taking joy in sharing a moment with a traveler on his own road, at the place where our paths crossed.
Favorite DInosaur: Brachiosaurus
Why: Mathieu has bed sheets with dinosaurs and their names on them when he was a child. That was always the one he identified with.