Ep369: Mustafa Sherif – Making Friends with Everyone May Leave You with No One

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Quick take

BIO: Mustafa Sherif is an urban planner with a big focus on the social sustainability aspect of city development. He is also the host of the Urbanistica podcast.

STORY: Mustafa would easily make friends to a point where he had hundreds of friends. However, after running a social experiment, he realized that he had spent so much time and money building friendships that were just one-sided.

LEARNING: The smaller your inner circle, the deeper the relationships. Real friendships are two-sided and do not need to drain your energy or time.


“I do not need to go all-in when building friendships. I need to let it go with the flow.”

Mustafa Sherif


Guest profile

Mustafa Sherif is an urban planner with a big focus on the social sustainability aspect of city development. He is also the host of the Urbanistica podcast. It’s a podcast about how we create smart and livable cities. Mustafa is passionate about planning cities with people and by people.

Worst investment ever

When Mustafa moved from Baghdad to Sweden, he had the chance to meet new kinds of people. Back in his home country, he would only meet the same type of people from the same background as his.

Mustafa loves talking and doing stuff with people, so he tried to be friends with as many people as possible.

One-sided friendship

Mustafa found himself putting in all the work into the friendships he formed. He was the one always texting them, checking upon them, and organizing events to bring them together.

Out of sight, out of mind

When Mustafa moved from Sweden to Italy for his master’s degree, not a single of his hundreds of friends in Sweden bothered to check upon him.

Interestingly, Mustafa never missed his friends either when he moved to Italy, even though he had spent so many years with them.

Same script different cast

Mustafa made new friends in Italy, and the story was the same. Again, he put in most of the work, and when he moved back to Sweden, he only missed one or two of his so-called friends.

The social experiment

Mustafa started to question just how profound his friendships were. He began to experiment whether if his friendships were a good investment for him. Mustafa created a new Facebook account and added all the people that he suspected did not care about him. Then he made a second account and added the people that he was in touch with.

Then he deactivated the Facebook account with the people he was not in touch with for a month. Then he reactivated it. Just as Mustafa had suspected, none of these people had tried to contact him. He deactivated the account again for six months. The same story, nobody, contacted him.

After a year, Mustafa realized that these people were never his friends and that he had made the worst investment ever, spending so much energy on friendships that never served him. Mustafa decided to be more strategic with how he relates with people, and now he is more focused on building meaningful relationships instead of just having many friends.

Lessons learned

True friendship is two-sided

You do not need to go all-in or push so much in a relationship. Just let it flow, and if the other person shares the same sentiments, then the friendship will flourish. Both parties need to put on the work for friendship to work. It cannot be one-sided.

Andrew’s takeaways

Always ask yourself why you are doing something

Before you do something, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” By asking that question, you will learn a ton about yourself.

The smaller your inner circle, the deeper the relationships

Go deeper with a small number of people. Focus on building deeper relationships that bring more value.

Actionable advice

It is not about the number of people you know; it is about how deep the relationships are with the people. So focus on getting closer to one person instead of just knowing 10 people.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Mustafa’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to clean up his friend list and figure out who he should go deeper with and which ones he should cut off.

Parting words


“Just keep listening. I think there are so many inspiring messages that you can learn from.”

Mustafa Sherif


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community we know that the winning investing you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it and I bet you're exposed to investment risk right now. To reduce it, go to my worst investment ever.com and download the risk reduction checklist I made specifically for you my podcast listeners, based on the lessons I've learned from all my guests, fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz from A.Stotz Academy, I'm here with featured guests, Mustafa Sharif Mustafa, you ready to rock?

Mustafa Sherif 00:46
Yes, I am.

Andrew Stotz 00:50
Well, I'm going to introduce you to the audience. But there for those that don't have the benefit of seeing the video. What I see behind you is a lot of drawings and stuff up on your wall. And I think we'll be able to understand that more when I read your bio. So, Mustafa Sharif is an urban planner, with a big focus on the social sustainability aspect of city development. He's also the host of the urban nice Decker podcast. It's a podcast about how we create smart and livable cities. Mustafa is passionate about planning cities, with people, and by people. Stop. Take a minute and fill in for the tidbits about your life.

Mustafa Sherif 01:37
Yes, thank you so much, Andrea, I'm so happy to be here. Yes, I think you describe in a very clear way. I'm an urban planner. I'm in love with talking to people do a project with people be out with people? Yes. I'm originally from Iraq, Baghdad, and we moved to Sweden when I was 17. Now I'm 27. So 10 years ago. And yes, I am so happy to be here in Europe, because I had the chance to visit so many different cities to meet so many different people's. But I'm not really used to meet different kinds of people. So I'm really happy to be here. And very passionate about planning and designing cities for people. So they feel good when they are outside of their home. And not only when they feel good when they're at their home. So this is me.

Andrew Stotz 02:25
Fantastic. And I'm gonna put show in the show notes. I'll put a link to the podcast, but maybe you can just tell us a little bit about what you do on the podcast, what the listeners would expect so that they can check it out. Click on it. Yeah, go listen to Yeah,

Mustafa Sherif 02:39
yeah, of course. My thing with my podcast is very niche that's about smart and livable cities for people. And the target group actually is architects and urban planners. So if you're not an architect, and you listen to the podcast, you will not really find it very fun, because it's very, like, technical advance. But the thing with the podcast, I created it, because I want the architects together to change the world because I cannot do it by myself. So that's why I started the podcast, inspiring the architects around the world so they can plan and design cities for all people.

Andrew Stotz 03:19
Fantastic. And I'm just looking at it, you know, right now and looking at some of the people that you've had on, it's pretty amazing. I think you're on? Is that episode 191?

Mustafa Sherif 03:29
Yeah, exactly. Wow. And I started one year ago when it was COVID, actually.

Andrew Stotz 03:36
So you had some free time?


Andrew Stotz 03:42
Exactly. What do architects do during COVID? They got to figure out something to do with their time. So yeah, I just love the design of the site. And the pictures of the people in the graphics are great. So really, like thank you.

Mustafa Sherif 03:57
Thank you so much. And I'm running it in three languages in Arabic, Swedish and English. I'm trying to maximize this. That's amazing. So

Andrew Stotz 04:05
here we have Episode 187 in Arabic, and then Episode 186 in English and Episode 185 in Swedish is pretty amazing.

Mustafa Sherif 04:17
Thank you. Thank you.

Andrew Stotz 04:18
Yeah. All right. Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it then tell us your story.

Mustafa Sherif 04:34
Yes. Well, well, my story started from Iraq, Baghdad. So I'm from a city we are 6 million people. So many people there so I'm used to meet so many people to talk with so many people to spend time with so many people actually and I was not so much at home. I was always out in the city with my friends, colleagues. In the school and my cousin's we do different things you know play football shopping or just hang out in parks and talk when we move to Sweden we move through them because of the war and so on. So we moved to Sweden here. And in Sweden I had the chance to meet new kinds of people because back in my home country, I met the same type of people, same background, same hair color, you know, exactly the same. But when we moved to Sweden, I met the entire world, like before I was meeting this kind of people just in the airport when I change the plane, but now like actual they are here and close to my neighbors from like us or my friends in school from France and Italy and so on. So for me, I, this was a very, very great thing. very magical thing. And, yes, as I mentioned, I am in love with talking with people and doing stuff with people. So I tried to be friends with as many people as possible, since moving to Sweden. And also like in the beginning, you know, like when you move to a new country feel alone, so you try hard to meet new people. So I developed this skills and talking to people do project with them hang out with them. So I made so many friends actually from so many different countries. And I was so happy about this like, Okay, look, now I have so many different I have so many friends from different backgrounds, religions, countries, I'm so cool. And I'm so happy to talk with them exchange culture. So this is how I continue with my passion about people. But by time as actually people became my worst investment. Yes, and I think is that, for me, like I am trying always to do things that make change for me as a person for my family, but also for the society I'm living in. So I'm always trying to accomplish things. And I did it. And if you go to my LinkedIn is very long. So you i, i document everything I do there so you can see what I contribute with. And for me, this is very important to make a change. But at the same time, the people that I became friends with they, they're not really how to say the relation was only from my side, you know, it was only me or texting them, or let me try to make events or bringing them together only me checking how they feel. It was only from my side. And I didn't realize that that okay, this relationship with so many people, by the way, I'm not talking about 1234 many, many people, I think more than more than 100 You know? So after time like it, it was they all they never like they never told me well done mystify you did this, they never suggest that we do something at all, it was all only about me. So I didn't read it took so much energy from me, but I didn't realize that because I was you know, this passion or people I talked to this and he said to her so but after time when I moved from that city, to another study, start to study, like my master so I start to reflect back about my relation because I actually when I moved, I didn't miss anybody. For me, that was like, I was very shocked because when I was there, you know, I was in this in the city, always doing things. And by the way, I was so worried that I will study master in another city and I will leave all of them you know, but when I moved I didn't like felt anything about them. And I spent like many years with them, you know? So I start to reflect Okay, what's the wrong here? And maybe I'm too excited about the new city but at the same time now it's not really like this because I traveled to many cities and I didn't feel like this. So I started to question these relationships and but not really questioning in their serious way but just reflecting and then it's fine I start like to talk to them hey, I moved here Look what I'm doing. I got master I got job I got dinner. And then I moved to another country now from Sweden to Italy to study made new friends. Same story. When I get people that I met in my master. Also many of them I didn't miss same when I eat that I met so many people. Also like if we become have to say in that time, I call them friends you know, like, Oh, we do stuff together. We travel to different countries. When we move back. Maybe I just missed one or two of the 50. And after many years, like it's actually started last year, I started like the really Question this? Okay, wait a minute, what, um, what? Who are these people in my life? So I started to experiment, if this was a good investment for me, like all the years talking to people checking them, you know, like, even helping them so much, were they finding a job house, like, because these are like friendship from my side, I say, I need to give whatever I have, in order to them to have a good life. So I started to question this in a serious way, and I did an experiment, I created a new Facebook account. And I, I add all the people that I think didn't care about me. And I have done not so much feeling for them to a new account. And then the people that I really in touch with an eye, they are also in touch with me and one account so to two groups of people. And I say I will close the Facebook with a new people like that. I don't care or they don't care. And open it after six months. No, first I started I say, open it after one month and see if someone writes me. I did it. And I'm always you know, it's close. I'm thinking about Should I log in and see if people the right me. Then I waited after one month open nobody. Then I say yeah, one month, maybe it's very shortly now, we are not in the same city. Some of them in the same city. I say six month, same thing. I forgot, like I forgot about my facebook account. But then Facebook sent me a message. Then I checked it and nobody wrote me one year, nobody, then I realized, okay, and what I am feeling is true, is that it's I will not call it a toxic or something like this, I will call it like it's it's not as how I was imagining it heads was only me running this kind of relationship. And for them if I'm there or not. It's like the same thing. It doesn't matter. I like nobody wrote me not even like sending an emoji now, even like from during my birthday when Facebook announced. So yeah, I started to question this. And I realized that these years, and this amount of energy, texting, being creative, finding job to people, helping people actually, kind of was my worst investment. And I feel like I feel so sad because we spend a lot of time where I have so beautiful memories that I care about, but they don't really appreciate or like here, as I hope I do. So now. I feel very sad actually. Are but we were together. And let's say in France, and we traveled together. What happened now? Like, you don't get on remember this? No. So yeah, so unfortunately, my passion to people brought me to be to feel a bit sad because of some people.

Andrew Stotz 13:00
So how would you describe the lessons that you learn from this experience? Well,

Mustafa Sherif 13:08
it's a bit hard to describe, to be honest with you, but the lesson is that I don't need to go all in, in, in creating the relationship, I need to let it like, let it go, you know, not let it go, like, follow the flow. And if the person is also sharing the same feelings, then we will be friends or you know, like, other type of relationship. But I don't need to push so much and to decide that this will be a great relationship or this will be a friendship, so I need to give a chance to other person to decide and not only me deciding this will, he will be my friend, you know?

Andrew Stotz 13:47
Yep. Maybe I'll summarize some of my takeaways from that, you know, the first question that I think is most invaluable in our life is the question of why am I doing this? You know, and I think that, for me when I was young, I didn't put in that much effort that you've described. But I really did try to, I would say I was a people pleaser. And I really didn't want other people to see me and you know, in a negative way. And I wanted people to say, oh, Andrew is really nice or something like that, or Andrew smart or whatever. And it wasn't like I was thinking that consciously but I know my actions were doing that. And I always describe my best friend Dale, and we grew up in high school together. And now he lives one street over here in Thailand. So he runs our coffee factory that we have here. And we talk every day. But I remember when Dale and I first started hanging out, he's a little bit tougher guy than I was, you know, I want to make a good impression on that. And one day, some guy said something to him, you know, at a shopping mall or wherever it was. I remember Dale said, if you have a problem with that, that's your problem. And I never talked to people that way. But yeah, it wasn't insulting. It wasn't like fighting words, but it was like, you know, I just realized at that moment that I was the my interactions with people were driven by my desire for everybody to like me. And you'd never say that if you just want, like you. But where does it get you going? So I think the first thing, and I think for the listeners out there, you know, question, asked a question, why am I doing this? But I think by asking that question, you'll learn a ton about yourself. Now, there's one other thing that I got, I'm just reaching for something here that you made me think about, every year at the beginning of the year, one of my very good friends and I, we always get together and make our plans. And I actually have a course called achieve your goals. And I have like a planner book, which I have in my hand here. And, and I, I had this thing called Building belief, and it's about how do you build the future, who you want to be? And I said, I said, his name's also Andrew. So I, I was telling Andrew, I said, you know, I've done a lot of podcasts, interviews, I know a lot of people from my career in Thailand and all that. But what I realized is that, you know, I'd like to go deeper with a small number of people. And you know, and really start to develop more, I don't want to, you're gonna have 100 people that say that go through your life over a period of time, 95 of them probably, you know, no big deal, you both enjoyed the moment that you're together, and then you're gone. But those five, I don't want to just sweep them away with the other 95. And I think when we have a lot of interactions, we do that. And so we come up with words that we want. And so I'm gonna just tell you what I wrote down because it relates to this. So what I said is the three words that I want to describe myself by in the future of who I am, is focused, deep and attractive. And what does it mean to be focused? Well, it means my highest priorities are clear. And I work on them daily, what does it mean to be deep? I bring significant value to my efforts, meaning my products and services and my relationships, and what does it mean to be attracted? I attract good things, and good people. But if you look at this idea of deep, then I asked my question, the question is, what, what must I do? If I had deeper relationships? What would I be doing? So I wrote down three things. I've doubled the time that I spend with my core friends, that's about five people, including my mom. And number two, I bring one new person per month into my inner circle. That's not like my closest friend, but you know, a circle where they're getting close, and I do this, I did this. I did this by starting a mastermind, I just went out on my Facebook and I said, I'm starting a mastermind who wants to join and I got five or six people that came together. And now we've met every single Friday, since the beginning of this year. And those people are have come into my inner circle. And I did the mastermind specifically because I wanted to move away from volume and move into deeper relationships that bring more value. So it's just interesting that, you know, you describe your situation, and in some ways I can relate. And that's really what I takeaway is, the first thing is ask yourself, why? And as you go through the answer to that you're going to learn a lot about yourself. And the second thing is, I've been on a journey, you know, wanting to go deeper. So anything you'd add to that?

Mustafa Sherif 18:55
I think you said very interesting words, specially the Why? Because when I reflect back, I didn't have any why like I didn't really thought about why I am talking like to under you why I am doing this. But now after also like doing podcasting, I asked myself why I'm talking with this person. So the Why is so important. And I realized this after doing my worst investment investment.

Andrew Stotz 19:23
Yeah, if we understand our why it just tells us in so many ways. So based upon this story, you know, and what you continue to do. What one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate and I'm thinking about a young man or woman who is trying hard to make friends and maybe maybe please people may maybe try to contribute and they're not getting a lot back. I'm curious what one piece of advice or one action you would give them.

Mustafa Sherif 19:56
Well, advice is about it's not about how many It's only about the number of people you know, it's about how deep you know, the people. So focus on getting closer to a person than knowing 10 people.

Andrew Stotz 20:13
Yeah, this is a case where volume does not be Yeah, you know, not value. So great advice. All right. Last question. What's your number one goal for the next 12 months

Mustafa Sherif 20:26
is to clean up my friend list. To figure out, as you mentioned, Andrea, who I should go deeper with, and which one I should like, cut off the kind of friendship that I imagined exist. Hmm,

Andrew Stotz 20:43
that's a great goal. And I think when you get there, 12 months from now, you're going to be really, really deriving a lot of value out of those ones that you decided to go deeper on. So that's exciting. Well, listeners, there you have it, another story of loss to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listeners to reduce risk in your life. So go to my worst investment ever.com right now and download the risk reduction checklist and see how you measure up. As we conclude with stuff, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status, returning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience? Well,

Mustafa Sherif 21:38
well, Andrew, I'm speechless. I just want to say thank you so much for giving the space for me. I love your questions. I started to listen to your podcast actually two weeks ago, and I'm learning so much for the listeners. Just keep listening. I think there's so much inspiring messages that you can take.

Andrew Stotz 21:58
Amen. Well, that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the outside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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