Category Archives: Life Improvement

TEDxKarachi – Reflections on inspiration

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Also cross posted on Express Tribune Blogs

TEDxKarachi 2011 was an event for the elite. It had a political slant to it. The line to get in was long, the air-conditioning sucked, there were too many technical glitches with the microphones. The snacks were mediocre.There were people there that didn’t deserve to be invited over many others that weren’t there. The talks were not all exactly what we see at TED Global. Yet I returned from the event thinking that making the impossible was possible. I returned with some ideas that inspired.

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People went to TEDxKarachi with different mindsets. A lot showed up wanting to hear Imran Khan and Mukhtar Mai speak. Others wanted to go meet the right social crowd. Some went because everybody they knew was talking about it. I went to learn.

Having joined the family business after my Bachelors, I never got the chance to do my Masters. I had returned from University thinking I would get the 2-3 years of work experience and then apply to some hotshot MBA program. Now that I look at it, it really wouldn’t have made much difference. Running your own business gives you a better education than any MBA program. It however, has to be coupled with a desire to learn and adopt new ideas and concepts. Visiting TEDxKarachi was part of that learning.

Making the Impossible Possible

Despite the fact that a couple of speakers didn’t really fit in the general mold of making the impossible possible (Noori most definitely should be awarded a special mention of non-compliance), there was an undercurrent of achievement despite the odds. How to do something that others say is not possible, or to sacrifice things to achieve your dreams is what really moved me.

“Education is like tinday. You only eat them when you have to.”

While Fasi Zaka’s engaging and filled with humor talk was more like a presentation designed to evoke thinking, it was definitely not a case of making the impossible possible. It was however a case of the impossible that we really need to make possible. There is a real emergency on our hands. No I am not talking about the fact that our Armed Forces have been caught yet again with their pants down, nor am I talking about an enemy at the border. I am talking about the enemy within. I am talking about the fact that we are a nation of illiterates. I am talking about the fact that 26 countries poorer than us are sending more children to school. I am talking about the fact that we spend more on PIA, Pakistan Steel and PEPCO than we spend on education. I am talking about the fact that somewhere there is a petition signed by 170,000 citizens of Pakistan which was not delivered to the Chief Ministers of our provinces due to their lack of response (with the exception of Shahbaz Sharif). I’m talking about the tinday (a type of pumpkin) that no one wants to eat.

Fashion Models financed my first drone

“I do not support the drone attacks.” This was repeatedly emphasized by Raja Sabri Khan. What does RSK do? He makes drones! In Pakistan! In a factory in Korangi! From the time that he modified some toy planes to be more aerodynamically better, RSK knew he was going to do something with airplanes. He ended up with a degree in Aerospace Engineering “from a small liberal arts college” called MIT and got a job making tractors! What do fashion models have to do with it? RSK apparently did a stint as fashion photographer on the side in order to earn money for his drone making. Luckily SUPARCO came to the rescue and one thing led to another and we now have drones made in Pakistan measuring the weather somewhere over Australia among other things. Non-traditional exports that definitely should be encouraged! And while we are at it, we should spend some money and get RSK to make an anti-drone drone.

“The body adjusts to ambition.”

Imran KhanBefore I go any further, I must categorically state that I am not a supporter of PTI. In fact I think that Imran Khan is a terrible politician and should quit politics altogether. I must also say that I walked into TEDxKarachi expecting a political speech from Imran Khan. However, to his credit he managed to keep his political rhetoric to the minimum (a total of 4-5 minutes only). Did Imran Khan do something worthy of the impossible becoming possible? Yes. It was his ambition to become a fast bowler, going against the advice of coaches and experts who said that if he changed his action he would kill his bowling and harm his body. It was his ambition to provide a cancer hospital that provided mainly free treatment to cancer patients and it was said it can not be done. However, Shaukat Khanum is undoubtedly one of the premier cancer hospitals in the region and 75% of its patients are treated free of charge.

Bulleh Shah was the Che Guevara of his time?

I walked out of the hall when Noori was introduced. I do not actively listen to music anymore as I believe it is forbidden in Islam. However, I hear that Ali Hamza made this statement that confused many.

BullehShah-Che“Bulleh Shah was the rock star of his time. The Che Guevara of back then”

I have no clue what he meant by that. And if Bulleh Shah had been alive he too, I suspect, would be equally clueless.

“Pain is not a bad thing, it’s OK to be in pain”

Quratulain BakhtiariMy currently stiff neck begs to differ with Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari on this point. Pain is definitely a bad thing! What she meant was that feeling of pain is not a bad thing, if you channel that emotion in doing something creative. Her story of how she had to choose between her social work and her children and she chose her work. Indeed her passion for her work must have been something for her to bear the pain that only a mother can feel when she is cut off from her children. Her work in promotion of sanitation and in bringing education to girls in Balochistan was inspiring. Similarly the story of her childhood when her parents gave up their ancestral wealth to bring up their children in the Drag Colony refugee camp in Karachi. How they put a positive spin on everything unto the point that when her mother burnt her wedding dresses to harvest the silver thread from it, she made it seem a game. The standing ovation that Dr Bakhtiari got was well deserved. Her talk however made the 23 year old next to me totally confused. I guess such things are lost on the youth.

The talk that stole the show

Sarmad Tariq“I will never have enough money for full physiotherapy, because I would much rather spend it on a Ferrari. I’m not one of those people who sit around waiting for a cure. I like the attention I get in a wheelchair too much.”

Imagine that one bad decision could lead to your becoming a quadriplegic (losing function of all four limbs). Would you have the will to wake up each morning and get out of bed? Would you drive a car continuous from Khyber to Karachi? Would you tape your fingers for months to force your fingers into a hook like formation so you could hold objects? Would you enroll in a marathon pushing your own wheelchair? I would not. I would give up, blame life, God, the guy who told me the water was deep where I dove, etc. Sarmad Tariq inspired us in the true TED style. And when the hall jumped to its feet to give him a standing ovation he pointed out the irony: he could neither stand, not clap. If you had a choice of seeing just one talk from TEDxKarachi I am sure every one in the hall would say it would be Sarmad’s talk.

What good is an independent judiciary?

Mukhtar Mai“I believed the Supreme Court would provide me justice. Now I have left my case to Allah.”

The story of Mukhtar Mai, sadly, is the story of many women in our society who are subjected to abuse and treated as commodity in a tribal justice system that is sadly often allowed by our courts. To survive a panchayat sanctioned gang rape, to get the courage to file a case against the perpetrators, and to continue on living even when the “independent judiciary” failed her. She realized that her illiteracy played a major part in her inability to seek justice. Unfortunately, she is often forced to pass by and be subjected to verbal abuse by her, now acquitted, rapists. She however turns the other way and continues to her school. Mukhtar Mai used her ordeal to start an initiative to educate young girls and to educate the community on women’s rights and gender issues. The Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization opened a high school in Fall 2007 which was the first school she ever saw in her life.

What is the take home message?

  1. We need to focus on education – Fasi Zaka, Mukhtar Mai
  2. Lack of resources should not be an excuse to do something you believe in – Raja Sabri Khan, Imran Khan
  3. Mind can triumph over body – Imran Khan, Sarmad Tariq
  4. Pain, if channeled in a positive direction, can achieve great things – Dr Quratulain Bakhtiari, Sarmad Tariq, Mukhtar Mai
  5. Don’t blame life, or anyone else. You may be down but success is about getting up that one last time. – Sarmad Tariq
  6. Bulleh Shah was a Commie (oops sorry, a revolutionary) – Noori

I would like to end with the lyrics of the chorus of Noori’s song (which they apparently also ended their ‘talk’ with). It is probably the only thing that ties them to the theme of making the impossible possible.

Hum Duniya Badal dien Ge
Hum Ne Khaayee Hai Dil Ki Qasam
Aasmaan Choo Leingay, Choo Leingay Hum….
Dil Ki Raah Dhoondain Gay!
Kay Dil Ne Jhailay Hain Kitnay Sitam…
Roti Yaadon Ko Bhooleingay Bhooleingay Hum…

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Are You a Howling Dog?

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This post is taken from The Personal Excellence Blog by Celestine Chua. It is a highly recommended site and one that I regularly read.

Have you heard of the howling dog story? It’s not as well-known as other moral stories, but this one packs a good punch. There are different iterations but the essence is the same.

Here’s my retelling of the story:

Tom just moved into a new neighborhood recently. He liked his house and his environment, but there was one thing he didn’t get.

His neighbor, Mr Tan, had a dog that kept howling non-stop. Literally. Day in, day out.

Howling Dog
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“Auuuuuhhhh………. Aaaauhhhh……….”

Initially Tom thought the dog was just going through a phase, so he ignored the howls, thinking it would eventually stop.

But it didn’t. It continued howling.

“Auuuu…………auuuu………..Auuuhhhhh…….”

1 day passed. Nothing changed. 2 days passed. Still howling. 3 days. 5 days. 1 week. 2 weeks. 1 month. Still howling, with no signs of stopping.

“Auuuhhh………….Oouuuuuhhhhh…….Au au auuhhhhh..”

Finally, Tom couldn’t stand it anymore. One fine day, he walked over to Mr Tan’s house to see what was going on.

Sure enough, there was the dog, sitting at the front porch, howling pitifully to whoever was walking by.

Howling Dog
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“Auuuhhh…Ouuuhhh….Auuuuuuuuuuuuuu………Au au au auu au au auuuuhhhhh….”

On the other hand, Mr Tan was relaxing on his bench at the lawn, leisurely reading his newspapers and sipping a cup of coffee.

Wondering what was going on, Tom walked up to Mr Tan.

Tom: “Hi Mr Tan, is that your dog?”

Mr Tan: “Which dog?” He glanced around. “Oh that. Yep he’s mine.”

Tom: “Why does he keep howling?”

Mr Tan: “Oh, that’s cause he’s sitting on a nail.”

Tom: “Sitting on a nail?!?” Tom gave the dog a bewildered look.

“..Okay… so why doesn’t he just get away from the nail then??”

“Well, Tom………”, Mr Tan took a slow sip of his coffee before replying.

“…That’s because he doesn’t find it painful enough yet.”

All of us have nails in our lives that are poking us. Some of us have career nails. Jobs we don’t enjoy. Work that’s dragging us down and sucking our life away. Jobs that we complain about, day in day out, yet we don’t do anything about them. Managers and/or colleagues who stifle us. Recognition that’s overdue. Limited career developments. Unsatisfactory pay and benefits. Not having made a name for ourselves yet in our career.

Some of us have relationship nails. Not being able to find our special someone. Seeing people around us get attached/married while we remain single. Having someone but not sure if he/she is really “the one”. Having a partner who isn’t around enough. Having a partner who is around too much. Having a partner who is too domineering. Unsorted doubts and grievances.

Some of us have financial nails. Increasing expenditures that aren’t matched by our income. Increasing responsibilities we can’t handle. Savings that dip month after month. Increasing debt from credit cards. Not enough money to buy what we want. Making do by limiting our expenditures.

Some of us have study nails. Increasing backlog in homework that we need to catch up on. Upcoming exams we’ve not studied for. Pending projects and assessments that we’ve not completed yet. Revision that should have been completed long ago. Academic-related issues we have not sorted out with our professors/teachers.

Some of us have dream nails. Dreams that we really want to pursue but aren’t for some reason. Dreams that we have been thinking about for a while but haven’t acted on yet. Dreams we are scared to see unfulfilled when it’s too late for us to do anything.

And there are so many other nails. Health nails. Friendship nails. Spirituality nails. Family nails. Habit nails.

Each of us have different nails poking us. Some of us have a couple of big nails that pokes us every once in a while. Some of us have several small nails that poke on and off. Some of us have multiple big and small nails that poke repeatedly. Rather than take action, most of the times we just sit and howl. Cause the pokes aren’t painful enough.

Are there any nails in your life you are not addressing?

Why? Is it cause they are not painful enough yet?

What are you going to do about them?

Act immediately or do something when it’s too late to do anything?

Don’t wait until the nails really hurt before you take action. Because when that happens, that usually means it’s too late to do anything.

You might want to read:

 

Copyright © Celestine Chua

 


Suggested Reading

When Goals Stop Working

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by Celestine Chua


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Most goals usually set off on a high note.  At the beginning, you are self-driven and motivated to achieve them. You diligently adhere to your plan. When you do, you feel terrific. You are on an upward momentum and the possibilities of what’s next excites you. For a while, you look forward to what’s next.

But then after a period of time, the momentum wanes. You think about the goal, but you don’t feel like working on it. You become rooted by inertia and you start to procrastinate. Frustrated by the lack of results, you begin to resist your goals. You subconsciously turn to other activities as avoidance.

When Goals Stop Working

I’m an advocate of goal setting because it works. Goals are important and they serve their place. If you don’t already set goals on regular basis, here are 6 important reasons why you should do so.

But there are times when goals don’t work. Such as:

  1. When you no longer feel motivated by the goals.
  2. When you dread/avoid working on the goals. You see them as a chore, another “task” to be completed. You have to literally force yourself just to do them.
  3. When your goals make you feel lousy about yourself (more than they inspire you).
  4. When you feel your goals are like a burden.
  5. When you don’t even remember why you want those goals in the first place.

There are times when I feel burdened by my goals. For example, I set targets to write a certain number of articles and guest posts every month. If I don’t achieve them after the goal date, I would feel lousy. Then for a period of time, I would be dancing the tango between trying to accomplish the goal ASAP and getting nowhere in it.

I have learned from experience that forcing myself to write is the last thing to do when I feel uninspired. Doing so brings me nowhere. Not only do I spend a copious amount of time and effort just to get the words out, the end result is unreadable. The writing is convoluted, the words are empty, nothing connects in the writing with the reader – you can easily tell it’s written in an uninspired state. Articles I write when I’m uninspired never get to see the light of the day. Whatever writing I manage to churn out gets deleted/trashed, and in the end I’m back to the drawing board (or in this case, the WordPress editor). Now that’s a whole load of time and effort wasted and I feel even worse off because all my effort went down to the drain.

Likewise for some of my clients, there are times when they have goals which they are no longer inspired by. Initially they would be enthusiastic about their goals, sticking to the plans they created and making good headway. But after a while, they begin to slip. They feel bad about it and try to pick up the pieces with limited success, making them feel even worse. They become weighed down by their goals, as if they are a ton of bricks.

If you find this happening to you, that’s means your goals no longer inspire you. That means it’s time to relook into your goals list.

Relooking Into Your Goals List

The very reason why you set goals is so you can achieve more than you would without goals. Yet, if your very goals are putting you off, making you feel crappy and causing a misalignment inside you, then your goals aren’t exactly helping you to achieve more. In fact, they are probably making you achieve lesser than normal since it’s stirring up all these negativity in you. You are too busy resisting and battling these stray thoughts that you are too tired to do anything else. That’s red alert that something is wrong.

There are various reasons why you may be uninspired by your goals now:

  1. You became attached to your performance of those goals. When you didn’t achieve your earlier milestones, you became weighed down. This snowballs into a bigger burden over time and repeat encounters.
  2. Your goal was just a way to achieve your desired outcome, which should be your real goal to begin with.  (Read Principle #4 on Objective vs. Activity Goals.) It has since become irrelevant as you know of other, better ways to achieve your envisioned outcome.
  3. You lost touch with why you wanted these goals or there is no longer a reason to achieve these goals
  4. Your priorities/interests have changed and you are no longer interested in achieving these goals

Your Goals Have To Inspire You First (Read the rest at The Personal Excellence Blog)

Related Posts

7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers in Your Life

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by Celestine Chua

Stand your ground against the naysayers
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Are there any naysayers in your life? Someone who is perhaps discouraging you from pursuing your goals and dreams? Someone who thinks that you are joking and says it’s impossible when you share about your grand plans for your future? Someone who sabotages your efforts when you try to instill a new habit or quit a bad habit in your life? Someone who is keeping you from achieving your highest potential?

Naysayers in my Life

At every point in our life, we’ll have some naysayers in our circle, be it our colleagues, acquaintances, friends, or even close friends and family. These naysayers are termed as such because their favorite response is always “nay”. Say you want to quit drinking alcohol. They’ll go “nay” and tell you that drinking a few more mugs won’t kill you. Say you want to lose weight and you want to eat healthy. They’ll go “nay”, that healthy food is boring, and offer you unhealthy, junk food instead. Say you are thinking of pursuing your passion. They’ll tell you that it’s not feasible, that it’s not practical in the world today, that it’s not going to make you money.

Most of the times, naysayers have little to add to the conversation, serving only to extinguish your hopes and dreams.

I have faced my fair share of naysayers in my life.

Back in school, one of my teachers was a big naysayer. She would discourage us (me and my classmates) from aiming too high in life (by too high, I really mean trying to aim anything at all). She also pre-judged each student based on her biased assessment of his/her abilities, then treated the student as such, hence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than encourage us as a teacher, she was often a wet blanket, telling us to opt for pragmatic courses and career paths than set big goals and dreams. She never came across as passionate in her teachings.

When I decided to become a vegetarian 3 years ago, I had the weirdest reactions from people around me. One (then) colleague said he bet that I would “give up” after a few weeks (I had no idea what he meant as I was looking at it as a permanent lifestyle choice, and not as a goal). Another colleague made a joke out of it during a team lunch. One senior director tried to taunt me with meat and seafood during a team dinner. Some people tried to challenge my decision, even though I didn’t broach the topic to begin with. A friend said he was going to make me want to eat meat again. That never happened.

When I decided to quit my regular job in 2008 to pursue my passion, everyone said no. A close friend said I was just going through a phase and I would regret it in the future. Another friend asked if anyone said I was crazy. People, personal mentors and friends alike, advised me against it. Each of them had their own set of reasons why it was a bad decision. Some said that economic recession was coming soon. Some said that my job was fantastic and that I would never get such a great job in the future. Some said that I was too young and didn’t have the right skills and know-how to achieve results in my new path. Some said that I was wasting my previous education and my career path.

Dealing with Naysayers

Each time I meet a naysayer, I’ll first try to understand where he/she is coming from. When it’s clear that the person is projecting from his/her own fears rather than adding anything constructive, I’ll disregard his/her input on my goals. Subsequently, I’ve grown immune to these naysayers, flicking them away as soon as they appear in my life. I avoid them like the plague. When they try to offer uninvited advice on my life, I’ll tune out. My body is there, I’m looking at them and I’m giving them the periodic nod, but my soul is not present. All these are toxic waste they’re trying to dump onto my goals, and I’ve no intention of taking them.

For each of the above goals I mentioned above, I ended up achieving them each time, and then more. Each time, I discovered that life on this new path was nothing like what the naysayers had painted it to be. Each time, I found more joy, love and fulfillment on my new path than my previous one. Each time, I discovered more about myself than if I were to remain where I was.

You see, for naysayers, they don’t know about how it’s like to achieve your goals at all. Everything they’re saying is just to scare you into going back where you came from. Why? Because they’re actually scared themselves. They’ve never done any of what you’re trying to do and they’re scared that you’ll succeed. They’re scared that if you succeed, it’ll show that they have been wrong all this while about life, and about their lives. They’re scared to discover that they’ve been undermining their potential and wasting their lives all this while.

Your life is yours and you don’t need other people telling you what to do. If you’re currently facing a naysayer or two, here are 7 tips I have for you to deal with them:

7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers (Read the rest at The Personal Excellence Blog)

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