Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Paul Wood chats with Habeeb Habeeb, the CEO of Benefit Planning Consultants, and chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party. In the Sept. 9 newspaper, we'll have a chat with Marilyn Cleveland, a self-taught artist who creates paintings on African-American and religious themes, as well as still lifes, landscapes and abstract works.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I am a night owl, so I get up between 6 and 7:30 a.m., depending on how late I stayed up the previous night. I immediately take a shower, and coffee follows soon after.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
Ate lunch with my wife and daughter at home. We had a home-cooked burger, corn on the cob and a tomato and cucumber salad with Lebanese dressing (fresh lemon and garlic and olive oil).
Best high school memory?
I attended high school in Beirut. Several students literally carried a teacher's 1965 Volkswagen Beetle and relocated it to another portion of the school parking lot. He was not happy.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
I like the European look, so any sleek Italian design with leather sole and not bulky. This one is by Mercanti Fiorentini. I prefer to never pay full price, so I buy on sale at DSW or another discount shoe store.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
We usually have a family meal, followed by family time and relaxation.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
The Bible and "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran (Lebanese author).
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
Tuscany, Italy. Never been there, but it seems beautiful, fun, and the landscape will remind me of my native country.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Never had pets.
Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
Since my childhood, I have always been much more like my mother in my temperament.
What would you order for your last meal?
My wife Joy's cooking: Stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, hummus and baklava. If these Lebanese dishes are not available, I will take a filet mignon (medium rare), baked potato and crme brle from Morton's Steakhouse.
What can you not live without?
I am extremely independent. However, being a big-time family guy, I would want my family with me (and maybe my iPhone).
Who do you have on your iPod?
Julio Iglesias, 1100 Bel Air Place, Phantom of the Opera by Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford ... plus a wide range from classical to pop to rock and even disco and country. No rap and no hard rock.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
Getting married, the birth of our children and reuniting with my parents here in the States after the civil war ended in Lebanon. Then, taking my American wife and children to my native Lebanon for the first time in 2010 after 24 years of marriage.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice and the Pope.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Attitude is everything, especially while facing adversity. Adversity will refine your character and make you stronger.
What's your best piece of advice?
Age is a state of mind, so you are never too old unless you think you are. Everyone can make a difference, if not in the world then maybe in their immediate surroundings. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart and care about others, and it will come back to you multifold (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Leave the world a better place than you found it.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
In Lebanon, I worked for a distributor of electric supplies. I made so little money I can't remember the amount.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
Getting back to college as an adult and getting my MBA. The Lebanese civil war interrupted my college studies. I always wanted to finish my schooling, but circumstances such as the birth of our children and caring for my elderly parents delayed it. After my mother passed away, I returned to school immediately and got two degrees while working full time.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
Being involved in too many things and not saying no, and not exercising enough because of lack of time (due to not saying no).
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I view it as a challenge, face it head on and work to solve it.