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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
Image ©

“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.


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
Image ©

“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


Beards are not just for Terrorists | Express Tribune Blog – Views of DiscoMaulvi

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I came across an interesting blog post today on the Express Tribune web page by Syed Faiq Najeeb and started writing a comment there. It turned out that I wanted to preserve and highlight what I wrote, so I decided to just post it here and post a link there instead.

For years I lived any young adult’s dream; there was music, parties, banter, unorthodox festivities, substance abuse and a fair degree of foul play. Then things changed radically – it was nothing short of a revolution; I grew a beard.

After extensively studying and reading about both Islam and other religions, I started to pray five times a day and even encourage friends and colleagues towards the path of salvation. I have finally chosen spirituality over (supposed) rationality and have given up on worldly desires to pursue those of an eternal life.

Since I can’t post the entire article here, I would suggest you head over to the Express Tribune Blog to read it before reading my comments on it below.

Faiq and I are in the same boat; difference is I’ve been facing this "discrimination" for over 12 years (yes there was discrimination before 9/11 also!).

As I wrote in The Story of DiscoMaulvi, I too turned towards religion after a year of partying and living it up in college. Once I did start that journey, the decision to grow a beard came naturally. As Faiq pointed out in his post, “I no longer wished to be part of activities which I used to indulge in before”. In addition, the beard served as a reminder of my decision to turn towards religion and in times when I was tempted it often served to keep me in check.

The importance of the beard has been intentionally marginalized over the centuries. Whereby once the fact that you shaved meant that your testimony would not be accepted (in fact in the eyes of Imam Abu Hanifa, whose school of thought majority of the muslims in Pakistan claim to follow blindly, keeping a beard was obligatory), now we hear people claiming it is JUST A SUNNAH.

Regarding the issue of the bearded baddies, it is unfair to generalize the entire bearded population on the basis of the actions of some. It is like saying just because some Pakistanis are corrupt, all of them are. Bet that would cause most of the people to throw a hissy fit!

As for the "Dari Islam mein hai, Islam dari mein nahin" statement everyone loves to quote, that statement is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT YET COMPLETELY WRONG! By keeping a beard, you don’t become pious. But by not keeping a beard you can not be pious (if we take the position that the beard is obligatory as was the opinion of the 4 Imams whose schools of thought are widely followed or those of the numerous imams and scholars whose names most people never ever heard of).

May Allah give us the ability to understand Islam as understood by the sahaba (R) and the early generations. And may He make us obedient to His commands. Aameen.

Aly - Clean Shaven in August 1997

Aly B – August 1997, NCSU, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Aly B – May 2010, Pakistan Blog Awards, Karachi, Pakistan

7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers in Your Life

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by Celestine Chua

Stand your ground against the naysayers
Image ©

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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How to Maintain a Project List That Doesn’t Crush Your Soul | Lifehacker

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How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn’t Crush Your Soul | Lifehacker

In my wanderings on the web I often come across things that I really appreciate. I found the following article from Lifehacker an excellent and complete resource on Project Lists and wanted to share with my readers. All copyrights etc are held by Lifehacker and the content is provided as is without any alteration.

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn’t Crush Your Soul

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn't Crush Your SoulYou’re great at ubiquitous capture, you process your inbox every day, but somewhere between a captured idea and the execution things get gummed up. It’s time to overhaul your project list and how you interact with it.

Photo a composite of images by nkzs and Martyn Rice.

Whether you’re an adherent of David Allen’s Getting Things Done or any other system that encourages you to capture all the ideas floating around in your head and commit them to paper (or a digital medium), it’s likely you’ve gotten pretty good at the capture side of things. It’s on the other end of the conveyor belt, where the ideas get sorted, categorized, and made useful, that things tend to get murky. In my productivity workflow, the capture side of things has always been the most enjoyable and easiest—all it really takes is a stack of index cards, a pen, and a wandering mind! Even though ubiquitous capture is an awesome habit to have, it has an often overlooked downside. The more ideas or to-dos you increase, the more things you have floating around in your potential workflow. If you don’t effectively deal with those things, you end up with a stagnant pool of ideas and the feeling that you’ll never do anything with all these ideas/tasks/to-dos you’ve captured.

Today we’re going to look at some methods for keeping the back-end of your productivity machine tidy and ensure that you never end up with a stagnant pool of projects weighing you down.

The Origins of Huge Lists: On Superheroes and Other Metaphors

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn't Crush Your Soul
When we first start practicing ubiquitous capture and list keeping we feel empowered. We capture everything we think of: birthdays we would usually forget, errands we’d remember after we’d already sat down at home, great ideas that would have been forgotten by the end of lunch, and hundreds of little actions and ideas that previously just floated through our minds and then away. Getting good at ubiquitous capture is like finding out you have a second memory you never knew about, one impervious to forgetfulness and hardened against calamity. Compared to your past—forgetful!—self you feel like a superhero. Photo by pixelstar.

You capture all these ideas and actions, you do the one-offs—pick up dry cleaning, drop off spare key at neighbor’s before leaving on vacation—and you catalog all the multi-step tasks into projects. This is where things can go terribly wrong for a lot of people, myself included. You keep capturing, you keep adding projects, and pretty soon you’ve got a lake-sized pool of projects in front of you and regrettably "Buy boat for Lake Project trip" is one of the tasks you hadn’t got to yet. We’re going to help you navigate and pare down that monolithic mix of projects, wishes, and good intentions and get your productivity workflow back on track.

Your Project List Is for the Present

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn't Crush Your Soul
Wishful thinking about the abundance of your time and abilities is a side effect of the superhero-like-buzz you get from capturing everything in your environment and feeling on top of the inputs in your life. This leads to the rapid conversion of captured items into new projects. Noticing the deck needs to be repaired leads to you making a note about the deck, which gets processed and turns out to be more than a single step, which in turn leads to a creation of a project surrounding the rehabilitation of your down-and-out deck, which in turn swells your Project List by one more and adds to your general feeling that your Project List might crush you. It’s not that repairing your deck is a bad project to have, but unless you’re coming up on a holiday weekend during which you intend to repair that deck, it’s a project that will linger on your Project List for a long time, whittling away at the confidence you have in your Project List as a guide for what’s really important. Photo by iwanbeijes.

My suggestion: Your Project List is for the present. The only thing that should be on your Project List are things that have an immediate importance to your life and that have current and actionable tasks you can complete. "Graduate School" is a present and immediate project if attending graduate school is part of your career path and you’re currently researching and/or enrolling in graduate schools. It’s not a present or immediate concern if you’ve only thought about it in passing and are considering doing it in the future.

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn't Crush Your Soul

I know what you’re thinking. "Psssh. What obvious advice. Who would put a project they aren’t actively engaged in on their Project List?" You would. Everyone does. Our needs and desires change over time and what was—or at least seemed like it was—an important project a week ago, a month ago, three months ago, is often no longer a matter of importance. If you created a project to repair the deck but you didn’t get around to it before the first snow, that project is effectively grounded for a good half-year. Alternately, you may realize that the repairs the deck needed were entirely cosmetic and financial constraints have made you comfortable sticking with your functional but weathered deck. Photo by Duchesssa.

Get your Project List out right now. It’s time to do some heavy pruning, and these questions will help guide you. Several of the entries below refer to the Someday/Maybe List. We’ll deal with that list separately in the next section.

Is it important? It’s OK to admit that a project was important once but no longer is. Situations and contexts change. Don’t keep a project because you feel like it should be important to you. Keep a project only if it is important to who you actually are and the goals you want to achieve. If you can’t justify a project, just cut it from your Project List with no regrets.

Is it timely? Like with the deck example above, the window of opportunity may have passed. If it will come again next year—gardening, annual charity concert, anything on a rotating schedule—make a note on the calendar at the appropriate time in the future and shelve the project in your Someday/Maybe List. You’ll be reminded of the project again when it matters.

How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn't Crush Your Soul

Does the project have at least one, preferably multiple, next actions? If it doesn’t you have two options. If the project passes the important and timely test of the previous two questions then you can either put the project into your Someday/Maybe List for future review and research or you can take a moment to assign the next action required for the project. Be honest with yourself, however; if a project has been sitting in your Project List with no next action assigned to it, there is a high probability you don’t really care about the project and should prune it from your list. Photo by cema.

Be ruthless in your application of these rules. You’ve read this far in the guide because you’ve got a Project List that’s out of control and it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t namby-pamby around with your list. Beat the crap out of it. You started keeping a Project List because you wanted to be organized and you wanted to get things done more efficiently so you could have more free time. You didn’t start keeping a Project List so you could feel like there was never enough time to get it all done. Rip your Project List down to the things that really matter to you.

Using the four rules above you’ll easily hack a bloated Project List down to a streamlined list that showcases the things that matter to you.



If you’ve read it till here, I know you want to read the remainder of the article. SO head over to the original article at Lifehacker How to Maintain a Project List that Doesn’t Crush Your Soul