Although he started writing at a very young age, wishing to pursue writing as a full time career, Dr. Naif Al Mutawa’s parents advised against it. He states, “Deep down, I knew their advice was correct, yet I continued to write as a hobby and in doing so I wrote everything from essays, plays, poetry, short stories to comics. Career wise, I chose to pursue psychology, and writing essays in my field was a definite forte.”
Perhaps a rather natural decision, entering into the field of psychology for Dr. Al-Mutawa stems from his inherent interest in interacting with people. Dr. Al-Mutawa has extensive clinical experience working with former prisoners of war in Kuwait and the Survivors of Political Torture unit of Bellevue Hospital in New York. He has seen, first hand, the cancer that intolerance can bring to any society. His direct contact with the horrors of people tortured because of their religious and political beliefs, led to his writing a timeless children’s tale that won a UNESCO prize for literature in the service of tolerance. Dr. Al-Mutawa is the Founder of The Soor Center for Psychological Counseling and Assessment, Kuwait’s leading professional source of a broad range of psychological services.
With a string of accomplishments under his belt, we proudly believe that Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa is our very own, modern day Super-Arab. Also the founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group, for which he created THE 99, the first group of comic superheroes born of an Islamic archetype, Dr. Al-Mutawa is successfully changing the recent negative perception of Islam and Arabs in the eyes of the West. Forbes named THE 99 as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the globe and most recently, President Barack Obama praised Dr. Naif and THE 99 as, perhaps, the most innovative of the thousands of new entrepreneurs viewed by his Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. For comic book aficionados, the monumental cross-over that is taking place between THE 99 superheroes and Superman and Batman residents of DC Comics, also part of Time Warner, the largest media company in the world, is both record-breaking and a proud moment for aspiring entrepreneurs. Most likened to the character, Dr. Ramzi of THE 99, whose mission is to find all 99 gem wielders to unite them and change the course of human civilization towards the better, Dr. Al-Mutawa is not only redefining the face of Islam and Arabs in the West, but is creating a pivotal change in the way in which both the Western and Arab youth are being educated about Islam, Arabs and their relationship with the west.
According to Dr. Al-Mutawa, 2012 marks the turnabout year for THE 99. After reaching new heights of success with THE 99 TV series, the ‘made-from-TV movie, THE 99: Unbound, is achieving remarkable accolades. He states, “We shared the movie ‘screener’ with some of our television licensees and before long we were invited to show it at film festivals from New York to Dubai. And everywhere we went, we received great notices…so much so that we were asked to release it as a theatrical property in motion picture theatres, which will happen first in Kuwait.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness for me is spending real time with my wife and children away from phones, the Internet and other distractions. When it happens it’s bliss.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that one of my children has a problem I can’t help them solve, or worse yet, that I can solve but they won’t allow me to.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am a workaholic and sometimes I am like a hamster on a wheel, going nowhere fast, yet not taking the time to rest even thought I know my best ideas come to me when I am relaxed. I deplore the fact that I can’t unwind even when there is nothing to do. It takes me a while to power down. In that respect I’m more PC and less Apple!
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A blatant disrespect for the law is what I most deplore in others. My pet peeve is people who smoke in non-smoking areas. I think if one has no respect for laws, then one has no respect for themselves or for others. I think not following laws creates insecurity and a lack of feeling safe in a society. People need to feel that they are safe. We need to either change that laws we’re not following or follow them. Any other option is a civilizational failure that has far reaching ramifications.
Which living person do you most admire?
I would have to say that the living person I most admire is my wife Rola. She is the mother of 4 and stepmother of 3 (yes, 7!). She is a full time dedicated mother that spends time with her children. I mean really spends her time with her children. She wakes them up in the morning, puts them to sleep at night after personally bathing them (the younger ones!) and reading them stories. She takes them out and spends real time with them. She is calm and collected and is my biggest supporter and confidante. I am proud to say that she is my partner on the journey of life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I can honestly say that my greatest extravagance is being able to read and write what I want to, not what I have to. I love reading novels and I love writing essays and stories but I am so busy that it becomes impossible. So when I am able to read a book, or write something, it really feels like a million bucks!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
If God had wanted us to be parrots, he would have given us feathers and beaks instead of a mind and free will.
When were you happiest?
I am happier today than I was yesterday and am confidant I will be happier tomorrow than today. I am a process-oriented person and although there are ups and downs in my life, as there are in anyone’s, I am constantly redefining who I am and what I do and am passionate about my work. I love what I do. And I love how I am doing it. And I love the impact it is making on a global scale. I don’t focus on moments. I don’t focus on the past. I focus on the future.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be a master of work/life balance, to know when it’s ok to be online and when it’s ok to be offline. They say you are your own worst boss. I’d like to be my own best boss but I am far from it.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
When I was 24 I wrote a series of books with a character named Bouncy Junior. When I was 30 I thought that was my greatest achievement. Then at 32 I created THE 99, now at 40 I think that’s my greatest achievement. I am confident that my answer will change by the time I am 50. For now, the fact that I created something out of nothing, created THE 99 out of thin air, raised millions of dollars in financing, created hundreds of jobs and made a dent on how Islam is being perceived globally is my answer at 40. But I believe that the greatest achievement is yet to come.
Where would you most like to live?
I love New York and spend at least 4 months of the year there. I would love to live there full time and will ultimately retire there, but that won’t be until I’m at least 99 years old!