One Task

Someone said, “There is something I’ve forgotten.”

There is one thing in the world you must never forget. You may forget everything else except that one thing, without any cause for worry. However if you remember and take care of everything else but forget that one thing, you will have accomplished nothing. It is as though a king were to send you to a village on a specific mission. You go and perform a hundred tasks, but if you neglect to take care of the task for which you were sent, it is as though you did absolutely nothing.

The human being has come into this world for a particular purpose. If he does not accomplish that purpose, he will have done nothing at all.

We offered the trust to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: and they refused to undertake it, and were afraid of it; but the human being undertook it=but surely, he has been unjust to himself, and foolish. [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:72]

Rumi (adapted from ‘The Rumi Daybook”, selected and translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski)DSC00708

Know Thyself and know your World.

Photo Credit:

Some realizations of late:

Knowledge has sometimes come at the expense of increased cynicism and skepticism.

Analogy: The person with faint eyesight will not see the details (like that fine layer of dust on that chair), and would probably have settled down without much thought. The one with perfect vision has everything amplified – lengthening decision making, increasing doubt, probably preferring to stand in the end. Some results that could have brought greater utility were foregone due to this amplification of clarity. Just like how there are some people whom we dismiss as ‘naive’. Or she’s too green, a newbie really. Well, that newbie might see the world quite differently, perhaps that very naivety some scoff at, is ironically the necessity that empowered her to become a trailblazer. She didn’t see the past issues you saw, she wasn’t too bothered by the dust because she couldn’t see it.

Lesson: Details are only important insomuch as they do not distract you from the big picture.

Confidence and influence

There’s a tale “as old as time, song as old as rhyme” that has been circulating around where a Professor from one of the local universities once shared: that he found that his Asian students (generally) pale in comparison to their Western peers, not so much because they lack the intelligence, but because they screen themselves too much, and end up not contributing to the discussion as actively as they could have in a classroom setting.

Well, I do believe things are changing – (have you seen those SMU Singaporean students for instance(?!) – PS: NUS ones don’t fare too badly too :P),  though perhaps cultural norms can at times be more limiting than empowering especially in the context of a learning environment.

But it’s an important point on confidence. I mean nodding furiously and over-thinking it in your head alone will not increase your intellectual integrity (you’d just be one of those fortune cats that keeps waving – fascinating for awhile, and then dwindle into a wallpaper. We’ll need to speak up more, lean in more (thank you, Sheryl Sandberg) and contribute to the discussion because that’s the only way it can open up opportunities for you to showcase what you have, and thereby opening that platform to influence matters at hand – be it in the work context, play, social matters, etc. Point is, to trust in yourself enough, to say “I would like to share what I think about this because I want to add value to the conversation AND be added value to, if I’m wrong. In a nutshell, to not take yourself too seriously – sometimes we shoot ourselves before entering the circus thinking it were battlefield. Why so serious? Smile, breathe, have fun, enjoy the ride.

Lesson: You’re not Hello Kitty, you have a mouth, so share sincerely- speak and value add.

Importance of Execution as much as Vision

Since young, I remember having multiple conversations proposing endless list of solutions to this ‘world problem’ or another. “we ought to re-distribute food resources to xyz…”, “there should be no such thing as copyright laws, knowledge should be free for all”.. Meanwhile, people are still dying from starvation, others are still falling behind in the knowledge gap. Basically, I was not contributing towards alleviating such problems at all, if anything adding to useless banter.

Until one day – my cousin, (this was at least 5 years ago I believe) asked a poignant question, “It’s great to have so many ideas, but what are you going to do about it?” I don’t know if she knows this, but shout out to my cousin – Spish – if you’re reading this, please know that was one of the life-changing moments for me.

So much painful truth in that question. You can talk till the cows come home (actually why did the cows leave home again?)Anyway, ever since then, I’ve been doing more – volunteered for grassroots projects, led the Aerobics student club, signed up for things that scared me (a prestigious mentorship programme, networking sessions), did freelance emceeing, ran events – started a ‘Brown Bag series’ at work (a lunchtime conversations in the workplace – to promote openness in exchange of ideas and boosted creativity), a halal food facebook page, a drama, choreograph and won 2nd prize with a team at D&D, conceptualized, brought a team together to create a Project Happy Singapore video (that got featured on Singapore Tourism board’s website!), kick-started Project Khadijah with a couple of people – to help single mothers’ achieve financial independence through the matching of right opportunities (job or resource matching). More projects coming along, God-be Willing. The firsthand lessons gleaned from experiences of translating a Vision into Reality (that creative process) are meaningful and empowering. And these efforts are far from perfect, there’s still so much room to add value via these platforms and more, but the point is at least I’m doing something about it.

Lesson: Done is better than perfect (yes), and infinitely better than ideas that live only in your head (double yes).

Structuring that Idea into Fruition

It’s easy to accept why a realized Vision is better than an imaginary one. But the devil lies in the journey. Transforming ideas into reality requires effective action plans that drive you forward. Map that grand vision into periodic milestones, and then give that plan its due respect by executing with CD (courage and discipline). Time is of essence, our youth is depleting with every sec. Without a plan- you’ll increase your susceptibility to lack of focus and effectiveness. Flexibility is key too – to adapt when circumstances deem your action plan unfavourable, but start with a plan first.

Lesson: If eating cookies from that top shelf is the vision, know that without that ladder (the stucture, plans and systems), the cookie will remain an illusion. (Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?)

Goals – keep asking, reviewing.

Plan – but keep the plan succinct. Move, move move. We will get there. So if you know me, you’d know that I’m a personality profile/ quiz buff- love reading about all of them – the Colour brain theory’s one of them, the MBTI type, DISC profiling, etc. Most of us are keen to try one or another personality type profling (probably for the same reasons one might read horoscope?) Self awareness – what is more familiar, is less likely to evoke fear and anxiety. As we grow older, the need to know and be in control grows. But we evolve too, so keep engaging yourself (“Am I happy with who /where I’m at right now? Why/why not – what can I do about it?), seek opportunities to shake your boar once in awhile with something new that scares the heaven* out of you.

We’re constantly evolving – biologically, mentally (upwards I hope), emotionally and physically too. Give yourself room to evolve – head in the direction of what drives you, but also shake yourself up once in a while to parasail out of your comfort zone.

Lesson: You’re not who you were a second ago. Let it go. 😛

Last one: Let’s try this – every morning upon waking up, take a moment to appreciate that we have been given yet another chance to live and to do something about our life. Keep moving, we have not arrived (not just yet) and pray and seek for wisdom to translate all that we have to effectively bring about good. Have a blast – enjoy the ride!