The CultureMap Interview
Yard crasher Ahmed Hassan on giving a damn and what he does when no one is looking
Ahmed Hassan is a self-made man. Born into a blue-collar family, he quickly learned the importance of hard work and dedication. The handsome landscape expert and consultant is most famous for his flip-style landscaping on DIY Network's Yard Crashers, as well as hosting gigs on DIY's The Dirt On, Green Me Up and Blog Cabin.
Hassan lives with his family in Sacramento, California, where he has a landscaping services company. But he hits the Lifestyle Stage at the Great Big Texas Home Show in Dallas on Sunday, where he promises the audience will learn things they never knew and will walk away smiling.
We chatted with Hassan before he got caught up in the crowd, signing autographs and snapping pictures.
CultureMap: What’s your earliest memory out in the yard?
“I do consulting wherever I can touch the ground with my own two feet,” Hassan says. “In Dallas, I’m going to Steve Harvey’s ranch to put in a putting green.”
Ahmed Hassan: I remember [at 10 years old] when I would work outside in the yard with my dad, he would always give me these lectures. I got to use all of the tools and machinery, but not without a lecture. He would give me these fear-filled lectures about the piece of machinery and how it could hurt me and how to operate it. And then he would let me work with it. I built reverence for the equipment because they were not toys.
CM: How did your work in television come about?
AH: I’m a talker. I love analogies; that’s something I got from my dad. I’m good at explaining things to where I can share a story with you. My specialty was doing that, and I like people, so it works. If you talk a lot and you look decent enough, you can host shows. I am also a people server.
CM: What do you mean you’re a people server?
AH: I like pleasing people. Ahmed means “the praiseworthy one”; I knew from an early age I had a Muslim name and what it meant. I felt like if [that is your] name, then that’s the character you should exude.
I was always trying to please my parents; in return, they would praise me. I lived my life like that for a long time. It wasn’t until I was 30, my paradigm had shifted and I started thinking maybe I didn’t have to actively seek out praise. I realized I didn’t have to do anything. I was just praiseworthy.
CM: Tell us about your role on television.
AH: It’s me on TV. I play me. In Dallas, you’ll get raw, unrefined, regular Ahmed. He is who is he is. I work hard to be credible, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. It’s a blessing because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that.
I think deeply. I love philosophy and I love to learn. I like taking information, wrestling with it, and analyzing it right up until it seamlessly falls into place. Then I can regurgitate it to people. I talk about landscaping and life, blending the two together.
CM: What’s the key to a green thumb?
AH: You need one little ingredient that starts the process: to give a damn. If you care about something, you’ll learn about it, you’ll ask questions, you’ll experiment. You have to care. It’s not like it just happens. I read books, took classes for 15 years or more. I’m interested in it.
CM: What is your yard like?
AH: My yard has not been crashed. It’s not important to me, because I have three kids and my wife. If I came home from a long day of work, and my trip to Dallas, kissed my family and said, “Hey I’m going outside,” my kids would not like me, and my wife would not be with me. I don’t have good balance, so I consciously have to work on it.
CM: Do you have other hobbies?
AH: My hobby is my livelihood.
CM: How much time do you spend outside?
AH: I’m actually spending less time in the field digging in the dirt. I am doing more work as a consultant. When I started doing television, I did physical work, but it was always flip style; it’s addicting but maddening because it’s never on a normal pace. To live life and sustain my health, and grow my brand, I had to pull away from the physical work to be the liaison that I am.
CM: Do you do any landscape consulting outside of California?
AH: I do consulting wherever I can touch the ground with my own two feet. [When I’m in] Dallas, I’m going to Steve Harvey’s ranch to put in a putting green.
CM: Do you do any additional exercise?
AH: I never had to get a gym membership, because I had to do physical labor. Now, I’m 39 years old, and I’m rubbing my belly. This boy could use a little extra exercise.
But I don’t have much time. I do a few things. I’m a conscious eater; I watch the carbs, sugar and sodas, knowing where it’s going to end up. I love to walk and talk on the phone. I ride my bike to the store; I walk in my neighborhood to go to places like Whole Foods. And I take regular bike rides with my kids and wife.
When no one is watching, I do push-ups and sit-ups, and I stay on high floors at hotels and walk up and down the stairs. I was once on the 22nd floor, and that was interesting. There’s no way I’ll ever be sedentary. I’m too excited about life for that.