The Honorable Mike Farhat
A True Champion for Humanity
life of The Honorable Mike Farhat is a true testament to the American Dream. He is a visionary and philanthropist, a true champion for humanity and a devoted family man. From a hardworking businessman in his homeland of Lebanon to becoming a citizen in the small town of Southlake, Texas, Judge Farhat has imprinted a mark of excellence, hard work and ethics that have made the Lone Star State a better place to live. As a businessman, Judge Farhat is an example of being true to oneself and to others. His dream to come to America became a reality in the early 1970’s. Upon arriving in this country, he received a warm welcome from the community of Southlake. He and his family readily committed themselves to giving back to their community through economic growth and development of the town. He began by opening Magic Mike’s, the first two convenience stores in the town. This was the beginning of his commitment to the local economy that would eventually expand to become national and international.
His contributions to his community, across the nation and other parts of the world, have helped thousands to rise above their circumstances, realize new possibilities and experience new realities. “There is no success without hardship”. These are the words of Sophocles.
Many others have learned from him the value of patience, perseverance and knowing that it’s your mindset, not your circumstances, that define your future. As a philanthropist and humanitarian, Judge Farhat is an avid supporter of organizations such as the National Charity League, GRACE, Kids Matter International and many others. He sits on several boards and helped organize some of the organizations which he supports. Judge Farhat is living the American Dream, but make no mistake about it; he’s a humble and compassionate man who has truly earned it. The judge's dream was to come to America and experience all that it has to offer. He has fulfilled that dream and continues to live and experience new dreams, as his life dramatically changes each day. Most importantly, he is sharing his success with others in many ways. He is creating a legacy that will live in the hearts of all who have experienced his generosity and love of mankind.
America the beautiful, the land of opportunity and prosperity, was the perspective of millions of people who came to this country centuries ago. It hasn’t changed. It continues to be true, if you work hard and smart and you are committed to educating yourself, and you are willing to persevere through hard times, you will achieve the American Dream. The American Dream continues to become a reality for those who are willing to earn it. Who knows that better than Judge Farhat who has endeared himself to his hometown of Southlake, Texas, and America through his generosity and caring spirit.
Judge Farhat has endured enormous personal adversity as well as business and political setbacks, but he has approached each of them from a perspective that something positive and good will be forthcoming. One such personal adversity in his life was when he lost his daughter, who had become a new mother, a little over eleven years ago in a tragic accident. Shortly thereafter, the judge and his wife Gale adopted her son, Tyler. He states, “I may have lost a daughter, but I have a part of her in front of me every day. Tyler has been very pleasant for us and a gift from God.”
Judge Farhat enthusiastically shared his thoughts about life, business and his pursuit of the American Dream with the founder of Exceptional People Magazine.
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Monica: I learned that you didn't have the opportunity to enjoy your childhood. What was your childhood like growing up in Lebanon?
Judge Farhat: I am the oldest in the Farhat family. As you know our tradition back home is that the oldest takes over the family business and takes care of the family under him. I was raised from birth to be second in line to my dad. What I meant by saying I didnâ€™t have a childhood is they always made sure that you were proper in everything that you did. You could not play soccer, you could not play sports, you always dressed up, or you were always in training to perfect your image, how to act and speak in public, even how you eat. Monica: So your life was focused on business?
Judge Farhat: Yes, absolutely. Monica: Of course you emigrated from Lebanon to experience the American culture and way of life. What was it about America that attracted you most? Judge Farhat: Growing up and being prompted to help the family in the years to come, you become educated and they want you of course to travel so you can see and experience other cultures and traditions. America has always been fascinating for me. I
Governor Rick Perry and Judge Farhat attending a meeting
dreamed of coming here and I realized my dream. I arrived in this country in the late seventies. Monica: How did you, a young Lebanese, prepare yourself to begin a new life? Judge Farhat: I was scared to death to tell you the truth, but Texas hospitality -- I love the Texans, they made me feel welcome. I associated myself with good people so, I was well-received. Monica: From your perspective, has your dream of living in America been completely fulfilled? Judge Farhat: Yes, very much so. It has been fulfilled. Once you experience the life and the culture, the democracy, you donâ€™t want to live anywhere else. I travel overseas once a month and I cannot wait to get back. This is home for me.
Governor Rick Perry and The Honorable Mike Farhat 48 | Exceptional People Magazine | March-April 2012
Monica: You have literally changed the landscape of Southlake from a business perspective as well as a humanitarian standpoint. From the very beginning you and your family committed yourselves to the growth and economic development of Southlake by
first opening Magic Mikes which is a convenience store. You opened two stores. What gave you the incentive to open convenience stores compared to other types of businesses? Judge Farhat: I was living in Southlake then. This was many years ago, but I had just landed about two o’clock Sunday morning from traveling overseas. I had been away for two weeks and on the way home I decided to go to the store to purchase a newspaper and my wife had asked me to bring milk and bread home. I went to a Texaco station and bought the newspaper and the lady was so rude to me. She didn’t pay any attention to me, which made me feel bad. So I told her, “I am going to come back, buy the place and fire you.” She replied, “You don’t have a pot to piss in.” Three weeks later I came back with two lawyers, a CPA and a banker and the original owner of the store. We did inventory and I walked up to her and I asked “Do you remember me?” She said, “I guess I’m fired.” I said, “Yes, hit the door.” I like competition and I learned the American way, eliminate competition as much as you can for the success of your venture. Down the street about a couple of miles, there was a potential for another store coming in which would be competing with me, so I tried to eliminate that by building a store there, thus the two stores in Southlake.
Judge Farhat: Monica that was a huge tragedy. It’s amazing when you feel that everything is going well; the business is good, the family is doing well and life is good, everybody is healthy and voilà you experience a tragedy and you lose a child. I went into seclusion for awhile. I wasn’t excited about anything for a long while; wondering and asking God why. With the help of a priest here, I began to believe that God did it for a reason and I needed to accept it. At that time Tyler, my daughter’s son, was four months old. I picked him up from Aruba, brought him to Texas and adopted him. You don’t forget but time will heal. Monica: In the end, it became a positive experience for you. Judge Farhat: Very much so because I never had a boy to raise. I had two girls. I always wanted a boy. My tradition and culture of course is to have a boy
To gain community support, I connected with a foundation, the Carroll Education Foundation which donated to teachers in need of funding for their classrooms. I announced and marketed to the public that for the next six months I was going to contribute three cents to the foundation for each gallon of gas sold. They appreciated my contributions to the community and my sales and profits increased. I began donating to other foundations as well.
Monica: You have endured and overcome enormous setbacks and adversity on the way to achieving the remarkable success that you have. For example, several years ago you lost your daughter in a tragic accident. She had just become a new mother. How did that event affect you and your family?
Monica: The success in that is two-pronged in that you were creating success for yourself, while helping others improve their lives. Judge Farhat: That was my intention. We also gave to GRACE, an organization for single moms who have no shelter, food or clothing. I started and supported that foundation by providing money through gasoline sales.
Judge Mike Farhat, Chairman, and Mortada Mohamed, Director of Texas International Business Council March-April 2012 | Exceptional People Magazine | 49
take over the business when you pass on. I may have lost a daughter, but I have a part of her in front of me every day. Tyler has been very pleasant for us and a gift from God. Monica: You are a hard worker and you believe in persevering and staying the course. As I often say, stay on the course regardless of the obstacles you may face. I’m sure you have experienced many setbacks as a businessman. If you can recall, would you mind talking about a few of them and how you over came adversities?
Judge Farhat: In the convenience store business you have to have someone who is loyal and trustworthy to run the business, especially when you have a number of stores spread around the county. I was able to expand the number of stores I had at that time because of a good, hardworking employee. I came to him and I complimented him on his efforts and his work. I told him that I wanted him to become part owner in the new store. I said, “I want you to invest three years of your life. I’ll give you a salary. After three years, I’ll give you 25 percent of the store and I’ll take care of everything financially.”
Judge Farhat celebrating his birthday 50 | Exceptional People Magazine | March-April 2012
I was providing him with an opportunity to become an entrepreneur. I did that nineteen times. I was influencing all of these fami-
Judge Farhat with Jim McIntire, Vice Chairman, Guzman 23 Foundation
lies. Each family had four or five members. My setback was that a couple of the employees encountered personal issues beyond their control, including divorce in one family and a divorce and death of a family member in Lebanon in the other family. So I ended up running those stores. The sales in those stores decreased because we didn't have the necessary coverage. It was a small setback. Another setback that has occurred within the past four or five years is that I have six real estate projects in the works, building a hospital, assisted living facility, convenience stores, and shopping centers. I have partners in various ventures, and the economic downturn in America affected some of my partners financially. I had to take over their part and their percentage at the same time that I’m taking on their liabilities. That experience set me back a lot but I had a hard-working group around me and we overcame it. Thank God, we have sufficient financial support to sustain all of these projects. Monica: That’s great that you had that support system because often it is support that matters the most. Judge Farhat: Absolutely. You are a businesswoman and I am a businessman. You have a contingent plan in place, funds you cannot touch unless it’s an extreme emergency. That philosophy costs you money because that money is sitting in a bank not producing income for you, but it helped me survive. It allowed me to buy out my partners without losing any properties. You sacrifice in the beginning but you win on the back end.
Monica: How important is customer service to you? Judge Farhat: Very important. I am very well respected in the community, but when I walk into a Magic Mikes, I will pick up paper from the floor. I greet the customers. In a way, I’m thanking my customers for being my customers. At the same time I'm teaching my employees to be grounded, to be humble and to provide good customer service. If the owner or the boss is doing those things, we should follow in his steps. That's how I teach my employees, through my actions. Monica: There’s no better way than setting the example yourself. You’re a municipal judge in Southlake. How did you become a judge? Judge Farhat: You get to a point of reaching your financial goals in society, and you’re doing well; you get to a point where you want to serve. An appointed judicial position became available in Tarrant County. I was appointed to serve on the condition that I donated any income that I made to the state. I didn’t want money from the position. I just wanted to serve my community.
Judge Farhat: What I learned is that America's culture is conducive to success. Our capital system is planned for us to become successful through hard work, understanding and maneuvering within the system. It’s set for us to succeed. So, if you understand that and you work at it, then you’ve got it. Monica: No success comes overnight and I think that is a key point that must be understood. Success comes with long-term commitment and determination. Judge Farhat: Absolutely, you stay the course. Monica: You have shown true love for America in many ways, particularly in Southlake and the
Judge Farhat: If you come to America, you respect, love and appreciate America. You work hard, obey the law. There is no free lunch in America. That is my message to the younger generation coming here. Monica: When you visit your homeland, I would imagine there are many questions for you. What are some questions that you are asked about life in America? Judge Farhat: How beautiful it is. Is it true that you can drive certain places at certain speeds? It’s something they’ve heard, or a myth maybe, something they’ve seen on a television show. Can you make a lot of money overnight, that's the perception that they have. Monica: Can you talk a little about the charity, Kids Matter International? You are an avid supporter of that organization. Judge Farhat: Yes. I was recently the treasurer and a board member of the foundation. It’s dear to my heart because it supports teenagers who are sexually abused. We built a house in Honduras on the island of Roatan. We heard of an incident there where a 16 year-old girl had been raped. They didn’t have laws to protect her. They put her in jail and the attacker remained free. When asked why, they said it was to protect Senator Jane Nelson of the Texas Senate with Judge Farhat her.
Monica: What are some life lessons that you’ve learned about America’s culture and our way of doing business?
state of Texas. What message would you like to convey to the Lebanese citizens in your home country?
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No, it should be the other way around. We pushed hard with the government and the judicial system there. They changed the laws and the attacker will be sent to jail and she will receive help. That’s one success. Second, we built a home for 17 girls who had been sexually abused. We have psychologists, nurses, and teachers who help them. They live in the house and we provide therapy and counseling to help them recover from the trauma of sexual abuse, so they can become a part of society again from a new perspective. Monica: I must say that you are a true champion for humanity. It’s amazing what you have done through your success as a business person and how
Former Southlake Mayor, Andy Wambsganss and Judge Farhat enjoy dinner in Dubai
many lives you have touched in the state of Texas and other places in America. You have set an example for many business owners and entrepreneurs. I wish you continued success in all that you do. Judge Farhat: Thank you very much. I’ve been adopted by this country and that’s the least that I can do to give back to America – to give back by influencing the lives of people in need, helping to make the younger generation stronger, providing new ideas and leadership. I like to help those in need and, at the same time, I believe that God is going to provide me with multiple rewards. Monica: How do you define success?
Judge Farhat: Success is achieving a set of goals, and it has many faces. To some it’s achieving love, to some it’s overcoming an illness. To me it’s knowing I’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life. Monica: Can you provide at least five key principles that you believe are necessary to achieve success in business? Judge Farhat: Absolutely. 1. Humility - staying grounded no matter how much success you achieve. 2. Hard work - remember that nothing is free.
Charla Kitch, Director of the Keller Chamber with Judge Farhat 52 | Exceptional People Magazine | March-April 2012
3. Relationships - nourish them and you will reap the fruits.
Monica: Many people from all walks of life come to America seeking the American Dream. What’s your advice to them? Based on your experience, what advice can you offer to immigrants who come to this country to gain prosperity and wealth? Judge Farhat: My simple advice is to appreciate America. It has opened its arms and welcomed you as your new home. You do that through hard work, respect and embracing the American system and way of life. You then take the best methods from all of your experiences, adapt them to create new, enhanced systems for the betterment of those you serve.
Judge Farhat with Emily Weathers, Founder & President, Bras for a Cause Foundation
4. Trust - if you don't give trust you will never receive trust. 5. Fairness - fairness to others is fairness to yourself.
Judge Farhat: First, it is humbling, I never started out to change lives but only to provide a good, safe and healthy life for my family. By doing that and with a focus on doing what is right, working hard and building long-term relationships, I have been blessed with opportunities to help others and give back to my community and the country that I now call home. When you help others maintain their dignity and provide them with the energy to excel and overcome obstacles, it results in a domino effect that leads to a greater society.
Judge Farhat: Appreciate America. You live in the greatest country on earth. Respect authority and get an education. These are the ingredients for a happy life. Monica: A woman by the name of Marianne Williamson once said, “Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” What are your thoughts on this?
Monica: How does it feel to know that you are playing a major role in changing so many lives? You’re providing others with an opportunity to change their current circumstances and enhance their lives through the businesses you have started and the organizations that you support.
Monica: What advice can you offer the younger generation in America?
Conner Coye, Chairman and Judge Mike Farhat, board member and treasurer at Kids Matter International event. March-April 2012 | Exceptional People Magazine | 53
Monica: What would you like your legacy to be?
Judge Farhat: Absolutely true! I completely agree with this however, she also wrote:
Judge Farhat: At the end of my time here I want to be known as a man who was honorable, who did the right thing by all he came in contact with; a man who understood blessings and was grateful for his family and friends and at the same time shared his blessings with all; that I was brave and accepted all challenges placed before me. I was fearful of only one… GOD. Monica: What’s your last word?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. We must use our talents and gifts for the betterment of all around us. This builds a stronger community, country and society.”
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Judge Farhat: People on earth seek heaven in the after-life. I suggest to them they need to look around and feel they are living in heaven right here in America. They can achieve something today but because their lives have become so complicated so fast paced, they don’t slow down to enjoy what they've just achieved. They just want to go on to the next thing. I suggest slowing down and enjoying your accomplishments today and that will provide you with more fuel to reach your second goal.
It is often said that time is money. That may be true, but it is also true that time is precious. Use it to rejuvenate yourself and reflect upon your achievements.
Thank you...Founder, Monica Davis
â€œService to others is the first step to being remembered by them. Always seek to add value to the lives of others.â€?
Photo by Ever After Visuals http://www.everaftervisuals.com
The leading personal development and self improvement magazine providing inspiration, personal power, influence and wealth building strategi...
Published on Mar 24, 2012
The leading personal development and self improvement magazine providing inspiration, personal power, influence and wealth building strategi...