Value Your Time and Prioritize. Recognizing the value of time has been a transformative lesson for me. In the past, I freely gave away my time to others, often to the detriment of my own needs. Now, I am learning the significance of saying “no” both to people and non-essential tasks. By practicing effective time management, I’ve witnessed increased productivity and gained a clearer path toward achieving my goals.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Khuraman Armstrong.
Born in Azerbaijan, Khuraman was exposed to a wealth of cultures, traditions and foods that also became a passion she shared with the world. As a successful businesswoman, Khuraman experienced the exhilaration of successfully building her brand, connecting with customers, and delivering exceptional products and services, predominantly through social media channels. However, in 2020 her success was overshadowed by a relentless onslaught of online trolling, threatening to tear down everything she had painstakingly built. Determined to defend her reputation and protect her business, Khuraman made a choice that would change her life forever: she took her tormentors to court. Khuraman’s inspiring story of life, culture, and conflict serves as a beacon of hope for victims of cyberbullying, reminding us that we have the power to reclaim our lives and emerge stronger from even the darkest of battles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Azerbaijan, a land steeped in history and culture, and where ‘East meets West’. Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire, and for good reason. Fire has been a part of our lives for centuries, providing us with light, warmth and safety. This reverence for fire is ingrained in my DNA, and it fuels a passion that burns inside me for everything I do.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, my childhood was anything but dull. My parents were both adventurous spirits, eager to explore all the corners of the vast USSR, so they took me and my two brothers on countless road trips to many different republics, where we were exposed to a wealth of cultures, traditions, and foods. From the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus to the sandy shores of the Black Sea, we saw it all. Each trip was a new adventure, and I was always eager to see what lay ahead. These experiences left an indelible mark on me, shaping my worldview and instilling a love of travel and discovery that has stayed with me to this day.
As a child, I was also drawn to the culinary arts, and it was my mother who first instilled in me a love for cooking. Growing up in our culture, where food and gatherings go hand in hand, meant that every celebration revolved around delicious meals and lively dancing. I was always eager to lend a hand in the kitchen and join in on the socializing.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
When I was younger, I loved reading classic books from England, America, France, and Russia. They weren’t just stories; they were like windows to different times and places, making me curious about exploring beyond where I grew up.
Starting this reading journey in my teenage years planted the idea of having a life influenced by different cultures and experiences. When I decided to move to another country, it felt like I was continuing the lessons I learned from those classic books. I realized that books can really change how you see things, inspire you to take action, and shape your life. And so, my own adventures began, inspired by the stories I found in those timeless classics.
During my teenage years in the USSR, “Jane Eyre” was a significant book for me. Little did I know that this love for exploration would lead me to the Charlotte Brontë home museum in Haworth England last year, where the masterpiece was written. Standing in that space, where brilliance was born, turned out to be an incredibly inspiring experience. From “Jane Eyre,” I learned important lessons about resilience, independence, and the strength to stay true to yourself when facing challenges taught me about inner strength and the importance of being authentic, even when society expects something else. These timeless themes from “Jane Eyre” have definitely shaped how I see life and relationships.`
Another impactful book for me was Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie.” It opened my eyes to the illusions of materialism, showing that success and material possessions don’t guarantee happiness. Carrie’s journey, despite achieving success, revealed the emptiness that can came with the pursuit of wealth. Dreiser’s portrayal of the harsh realities of the American Dream highlighted that success often comes with sacrifices, and may not bring lasting happiness. These lessons from “Sister Carrie” have given me a deeper understanding of the complexities of pursuing success and finding fulfillment.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I began my first venture, a chocolate business, I was far from a chocolate expert. I was simply a chocolate enthusiast who also loved spreading the word about the health benefits of dark chocolate. My initial attempts at creating chocolates were a bit chaotic, and getting good pictures of them was a real challenge. Despite the imperfections, people recognized my genuine passion and love for what I was doing, and surprisingly, my chocolates gained popularity right from the start.
Reflecting on it, my mistake was assuming everything had to be flawless, or that to start a chocolate business, I needed to be a chocolatier myself. It turns out people appreciated the authenticity and effort I put into each chocolate, even if they weren’t picture-perfect. The lesson? Imperfections can be charming, and sometimes, being genuine is more attractive than striving for perfection all the time.
The same lesson applied when I started my second business. Despite not having a formal degree to address people’s health and skin issues, my passion for helping them proved to be a powerful force. Through seven years of hands-on experience in the industry, and a lifelong thirst for learning anyway I can, I gained more knowledge than any formal course or degree could teach. It’s a testament to the value of real-world experience and the impact genuine passion can have on making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
Whilst my book is based on my own experience of being trolled online, sadly I am far from alone when it comes to cyberbullying. In fact, research from the Australian eSafety Commission confirms that approximately 5% of all online users report experiencing direct online harassment each year. When you extrapolate that to just Facebook’s global user base alone, it equates to more the 200 million people being cyberbullied annually. That is a staggering number and clearly a social scourge that needs to be addressed. Worst still, I have seen reports blaming cyberbullying as the root cause for an average of 10 suicides each week in Australia. This is a horrible waste of life which rivals our road toll, and look at how much we spend on curbing the road toll, so why not cyberbullying?
I hope that my book will serve both to highlight the true impact trolling has on its victims, thus appealing to all online users to think before they post something hurtful, but also to drive regulatory change across the platform providers and legal system, so that perpetrators, particularly malicious ones, can be immediately and directly held to account, without their victims having to go through the courts for justice.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
To this day I am still completely dumbfounded that anyone, let alone 50 or more people, can be so offended by the someone’s cooking, or the naming of an innocent piece of chocolate. Seriously? Food should be a uniting interest and experience, not a topic for nationalistic vitriol. More broadly, this shows how trolling attacks can occur for the most innocuous reasons, over which you have virtually no control
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
Even after the judge ruled in my favor by finding the three remaining defendants guilt of defamation, I knew my legal battles and costs weren’t over. Of the three defendants I took to court, two have simply chosen to ‘disappear’, not having engaged in the legal process at all, and the final one had stated publicly that they wouldn’t pay me any damages regardless of the court’s findings. So the win in the defamation trial simply kicked off a new and expensive debt recovery battle which is ongoing.
With little hope of ever recovering my US$200,000 in legal costs, let alone any meaningful recompense for damages, I realized that the only likely benefit to come from this ordeal was to share my experience with the world in the hope that it may help others in their own battle for justice. This included providing a practical step by step guide on how to capture the critical evidence you may need, particularly in the very first, emotionally charged, hours after experiencing a cyberbullying attack. Furthermore, without providing an opinion as to whether people should sue for defamation or not, I have provided insights, based on my own experience not as a legal professional, on the basics of defamation law and how to approach the appointment of a lawyer should someone chose the legal path.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
As I was completing the drafting of my book, I was referred to a mutual friend and experienced publisher to review my work. As it happened his teenage daughter was experiencing cyberbullying at that time and, by following the guidance provided in my book, they convinced the perpetrator to immediately desist and remove the offending material. I knew then I was on the right path to helping many, many people dealing with this scourge.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Most definitely. Whilst the screenshots I share of the 80+ vile posts, fake reviews, and threats of violence against me are horrific, for me the most alarming experience I share was the response, or complete lack thereof, from the law enforcement agencies and Facebook themselves after I contacted them for help. To this day I find their complete inaction the greatest travesty of my experience and the obvious place for regulatory intervention to be focused. To hell with ‘freedom of speech’, ‘cancel culture’, ‘industry self-regulation’, or even ‘fact checking’. When a user flags a posts as malicious or defamatory, the onus should be on the person ‘posting’ to confirm they can prove their claims, not the victim to prove they can’t. This simple pivot in how the platforms deal with complaints would save an enormous amount of user angst, which surely is in the platform’s ultimate best interest.
In my case, clearly the perpetrators couldn’t substantiate that I ‘poisoned people’ or that ‘I was a terrorist’, yet I had to endure a 3 year legal battle to get justice, whereas all I wanted was Facebook to take down the posts, restore my star rating, and put a public ‘black mark’ against the perpetrator’s account.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe leadership is in all of us, we just need the right motivation to apply it. I certainly don’t see myself as a community leader generally, however I am determined to drive change on the issue of cyberbullying, as I know the damage and hurt it causes. If you call that leadership then so be it, but regardless of the label, I’m simply not prepared to let it be ‘someone else’s problem’.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Failure is a Stepping Stone to Success. Failing to complete my first internet marketing year long course left me with a lingering sense of disappointment that weighed heavily on me for years. However, little did I know that this apparent setback, would serve as the catalyst for the start of my entrepreneurial journey. At the time, I was navigating a corporate career while yearning for a different, more fulfilling life. Without a clear idea of what that entailed, I decided to take the plunge into the world of business by enrolling in the internet marketing course — it was the first opportunity that presented itself. Although I didn’t complete the course, that decision marked a pivotal moment in my life. It became the initial step toward a path of entrepreneurship that I had yet to fully uncover. Looking back, I now understand that even when we don’t have all the answers, that first bold step is the most important step and can set in motion a journey of self-discovery and unforeseen opportunities.
- Embrace uncertainty. Embracing uncertainty can lead to unexpected and fulfilling journeys. After spending years in Australia working in the compliance and investigation field, I took a leap into something that was more than just a career change — it was a shift towards my personal interests. Venturing into the realms of healthy lifestyle, nutrition, self-care, mindfulness, and cultivating positive habits, I discovered a passion that had always been a hobby. Teaching others about these aspects of well-being was a path I never envisioned for myself. The transition not only allowed me to share my knowledge but also enabled me to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others. Embracing uncertainty, in this case, unveiled a new chapter where my professional journey and personal interests seamlessly merged, proving that the unexpected can lead to incredible and rewarding opportunities.
- Continuous Learning is Key. Continuous learning remains essential beyond formal education. Over the past decade, as I dedicated myself to self-development and to building my own businesses, the knowledge and insights gained far surpassed what I acquired through my two formal degrees.
- Value Your Time and Prioritize. Recognizing the value of time has been a transformative lesson for me. In the past, I freely gave away my time to others, often to the detriment of my own needs. Now, I am learning the significance of saying “no” both to people and non-essential tasks. By practicing effective time management, I’ve witnessed increased productivity and gained a clearer path toward achieving my goals.
- Balance Passion with Practicality. Striking the perfect harmony between passion and practicality is my ongoing quest.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oprah’s quote, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams,” really speaks to me. When I hit my early 40s, I made the bold choice to leave my corporate job and jump into the unknown.
Chasing my dreams turned into this amazing journey. It pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, tackle challenges, and put in the hard work to make my dreams a reality. Oprah’s words are a constant reminder that the true excitement in life comes from pursuing what you truly desire, even if it means taking risks and trying new things.
Leaving behind my corporate career in my 40s was a big leap into uncharted territory, but it has been an incredibly thrilling adventure. I’ve learned so much along the way, and I’ve found happiness in going after my dreams, just like Oprah mentioned. Her quote continues to motivate me to press forward, relish the journey, and value every step I take toward turning my dreams into a part of my reality.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to share breakfast with the renowned Dr. Joe Dispenza. His profound influence played a pivotal role in bringing my book to life. His transformative weeklong workshops not only granted me the strength and inspiration necessary for my writing journey but also marked a significant shift in my approach to life’s challenges.
It’s truly magical to witness the ability to shift one’s state of mind in just a week. Initially burdened by the weight of victimhood from the trolling attack and court case, I found myself struggling to make progress on my book, grappling with stress of reliving the experience every time I attempted to write.
However, after immersing myself in a weeklong retreat led by Dr. Joe Dispenza, a remarkable transformation occurred. I emerged with a victorious mentality, breaking free from the shackles of stress and completing my book with newfound empowerment and purpose. The subtitle, “From Victim to Victor” crystallized after this transformative experience with him.
I am eternally dedicated to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s teachings. Being his devoted student signifies a lasting commitment to the transformative impact his wisdom has had on my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The central source for my business and community interests is www.KhuramanArmstrong.com where your readers can find lots of interesting blog posts on culture and cuisine, as well as my online store of interesting and transformative products and services, including my book.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Khuraman Armstrong Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.