About the author.
My name is Ashraf Ramzy, Narratologist, Business Story Consultant, Coach, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of MasterStory®. Some 30 years ago I attained a master’s degree in Narratology, the science and study of Story. Since then I have been quietly putting the power of Story to work for visionary brands, organizations and leaders. And, with great success. During those 30 years, a systematic and effective methodology emerged. One that ensured the successful development of a business narrative with impact. Be it a campaign story, a customer story, a target audience story, a brand story, an organizational story, a corporate story or a masterstory. Building further on that methodology I developed StoryMeter®, a diagnostic tool that measures the power of story and its impact on business. In addition I have developed the StoryMaster® program, a 3 day workshop to equip and license you to use the MasterStory® methodology and diagnostic tool. In the weeks, months and years ahead I will post (infrequent) updates on my work, my methodology and my own journey. So make sure to check this page every once in a while. Or subscribe to our newsletter.
Ashraf Ramzy signing his high school diploma. 1980 The Netherlands
This version has been edited for clarity and continuity.
My Journey. Origin Story Part 2. Graduation Day. The Netherlands 1980.
When we left for Athens in the summer of 1977, my new school had asked my old school for a letter of recommendation. This letter described me as: “unruly, defiant, bothersome, underachiever…”. Just before Mr. Hunt had spoken his empowering words to me, he had put down that letter demonstratively. As if to say to me: “that may have been someone’s opinion about you in the past, but it doesn’t define you in the future.”
I entered a whole new world. A big international, multicolored, multicultured school, with amazing teachers that met me where I was and took me further. That encouraged me to believe in myself and inspired me to be the best I could be. It didn’t take long before I became a straight A student. Finally, our stuff arrived and I had other music to listen to than “Dark Side of the Moon”. Now I could also listen to “Wish you were here”!
There were all kinds of clubs to join. I tried to join the Dutch club. But, having been born in Egypt, not being blond and blue eyed I wasn’t really welcomed. I tried to join the Egyptian club. But being a Christian, a Copt, and not a Muslim, I wasn’t really welcomed there either. The only club where I was welcomed was the American club. Made new friends. Found my groove. Finally, the dust had settled and I could go on with my life. Or so I thought.
But no. Disruption struck again.
My dad’s employer decided to relocate us to Nigeria, but my dad didn’t want to move there. It was too dangerous in the ‘70’s. At the end of the school year we returned, back to the Netherlands. Leaving my world, my life, my friends, once had been hard. Leaving it all behind for a second time was even harder. The re-entry however was the hardest. All my friends had moved on and I didn’t know how to fit in anymore. Moreover, my Dutch school did not want me back. They did not acknowledge the American International School as a proper education. And, they found me too difficult to handle.
My parents held their ground. Then my Dutch school magnanimously conceded and allowed me in. On one condition. That I met passing criteria of every quarter for the next and final 2 years or I was out. In the Dutch system this meant scoring an average of 6 out of 10. You get a 6 out of 10 when you score a 5.5. And you get a 5.5 when you score a 5.45. And that is exactly what I did.
For the next 8 quarters, 4 semesters and two years, I intentionally scored an average of precisely 5.45. The teachers knew full well what I was doing. They understood the message I was sending. They were seething but couldn’t do anything against it. On graduation day I received my high school diploma from a teacher who said “I am quitting: I don’t want to be a teacher in a system where people like you can succeed.” I just smiled at him and went my merry way.
But the thing that baffled me most was this: the American Community Schools of Athens had also sent me back with a letter of recommendation. Their version said: “Ashraf is an A-student, kind and courteous, perceptive, intelligent, sensitive, independent, enterprising…”.
I was struck by the stark contrast between the two systems, their treatment and evaluation of me. It’s not like I was a different person in my American School than in my Dutch School. At that age I didn’t know how to fake it. Still don’t. And I was a curious kid, eager to learn, hungry to understand. Still am! I always wanted to know why things were the way they were and not different. I still do. So I asked a lot of questions. I still do!
I got an answer eight years later, at a reunion of my Dutch high school. Three teachers came to me and said they wanted to apologize. “Why” I asked. They answered: “you asked difficult questions we didn’t know how to answer and we felt intimidated by that. And that is why we punished you”. How different was the response of my American teachers when they couldn’t answer a difficult question. They would say: “good question, Mr. Ramzy. I don’t have the answer right now. But I will look it up for you and you will have it next week.” I am grateful for having had that experience.
However, this episode in my life also profoundly impacted, even wounded my sense of self, my sense of belonging and my trust in the world.
But, I was a curious kid, eager to learn, hungry to understand. I wanted to know why things were the way they were and not different. I always asked a lot of questions. And now I had even more questions. And big ones!
That is why I decided to go to University and study Psychology. There, I would find the answers to life’s big questions.
In the next episode: will I find the answers to life’s big questions?