Defining 2019

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We’re hours away from 2020- which seems both full of promise and challenge. I vaguely remember how, about 3 decades ago – the then Prime Minister of Malaysia (who’s once again the Prime Minister of Malaysia – who would have imagined?) shared on his ambitious Wawasan 2020 – and how as a youth, it sounded so grandiose and distant.

Yet, here we are literally moments shy of this big decade switch – and I feel.. weathered but hopeful. Equal parts calm and anxious – enough to make me want to sit up straight, and pace my breathing. A bundle of mixed feelings, really.

2019 rounded up with painful lows and enough highs to leave me cautiously optimistic but also open to the fact that anything can happen.

Here are 4 defining moments for 2019 that I wish to remember:

  1. I became a mother! Indisputably, the biggest life blessing and life milestone I’ve experienced to date and also one accompanied by large sacrifices and huge responsibility. This big life transition has left me with so much joy and love in my heart that has made my husband and I want to do better and be better for him. And although there is nothing in this world I would trade my little baby and the honour of being his mother for, it would be a lie to say it’s been a walk in the park. Despite being blessed with so much support from my mother in law and extended family that has allowed me to still work, there have been sacrifices too. The daily parenting struggle: less sleep, milk- diaper- food demand-clothes-creams and lotions’, insurance (etc etc) selection and demand- supply planning and inventory management, developmental activities, milestones and time together is transcended by the sobering responsibility of raising another human – whom you know will be shaped by the values you live by and the decisions you make. That continues to place much pressure. Mothering and working has left me less room for my parents, friends and passion projects – but I remain optimistic that things will improve in 2020 with better planning. (ever the optimist, albeit a more cautious one)
  2. A close mentor was hit by a grave illness. Once a sprightly and fit man, I broke down in tears upon seeing him immobile and unconscious. I’ve seen this happen before to another dear high-flying corporate mentor – but seeing this happen once again, to another person whom I’ve worked with so closely in the past couple of years, and who has both inspired and taught me so much, has shaken me deeply. Life is fleeting and unpredictable, and health is truly everything. As a person of the Islamic faith, I take comfort in the belief that God is the best planner, and that everything will unfurl exactly the way it’s meant to – regardless of what we think is best. It has also reminded me to not take the future for granted – to take action now and consistently for things that matter. To call my mum and grandma *today*, to invest in self-care *now*, to take time to plan for your loved ones in the event that you’re no longer around, and to take steps to making that dream come true now. It has reminded me to translate the gratitude of being blessed with yet another day in health by being present and striving for excellence in all that I do, with humility and heart.
  3. Obama’s sharing – Always act from a position of hope and courage, and never of fear. Living in a competitive Asian society like Singapore where certain versions of success are more celebrated than others has left me with several FOMO (fear of missing out) and vulnerable – “am I enough” moments – and I see this present in the way conversations with my peers pan out. The subtle need to compare how we’re doing relative to others is but an outcome of a society that’s constantly measuring who’s younger, better and more accomplished. This one take-away has reminded me to focus on what matters. Acting out of fear –whether it’s the fear of missing out, or fear of not being enough is unproductive as it drags you away from an empowering position of what -can-I-do to uplift this situation to one of helplessness (what-will-I-lose-as a result of this situation). Changing our frame of mind and attitude is truly half the battle won, already. For with the right mindset (and coffee), you can conquer the world.
  4. Wealth and talent are impactful enablers, only if you’re not afraid to use them.  This was something I grappled with a large part of my life. Having come from humble origins, my goal for a large part of my life was to study hard, gain a stellar education and earn a ticket to an awesome well-paying job, save up and work for the rest of my life, and maybe retire someday. Yet, gone are the days of the iron rice bowl. Lives are disrupted with new technology and bravado by individuals who care to change the world. Stable corporations with decades of existence can be rocked overnight with the advent of new hungry underdogs who change the way problems are defined and who dare to introduce innovative solutions. All of us – are blessed with our own inclinations, talents, experiences and inspirations – that could translate into us becoming agents of positive impact should we choose to. But, it won’t be possible until we can truly embrace the entrepreneurial mindset that dares to use wealth, time and talent for their true noble purpose, and to invest them where paths are less forged in solving problems that matter.  To enable greatness, you must dare to be different. I’ve seen so many remarkably talented individuals – from ivy league institutions whose sole goal is to get a leg in the door of corporations, and run the machinery of large well-oiled corporations – sure, that’s not a bad way to live at all, and indeed, to each man, his own. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how amazing it’ll be if more of these outliers would dare to put that talent, persistence and drive into solving real problems that aren’t getting the time and resources of the day, that they deserve. What I’m saying is, if we realise, how much impact we can bring, to the world and lives by choosing to solve one problem – be it as a side hustle/ a passion project or even a full blown life-consuming gig, we’ll all be the richer for it. This entrepreneurial mindset – is something I realise most of us are not born with – especially not in Singapore, where thankfully, the system works and for a large part of our education, we’re taught to fix and optimize, as opposed to create and innovate.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading these. What were some of your life-defining insights gleaned from 2019?  Leave a comment – I’d love to read them.

Here’s wishing you a fantastic 2020 ahead – one filled with optimism, bravado, courage and hope. Let’s make it happen!

 

A new you

person holding compass

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Pexels.com

Hi,

I’m typing this at my dining table at home, after a solid cup of gold (read: coffee). Just watched a couple of videos from the Bucketlist family, and they moved me so much. They represent so many good qualities that inspire me – qualities and values like authenticity, integrity, courage, purpose and passion. To do what is right – even when it may not feel like the easiest thing to do. To try, and step up in making your dreams happen. To choose family and to celebrate them everyday in the littlest and grandest of gestures – but oftentimes, through shared experiences that challenge and redefine your worldview, and not so much, through material pleasures. I’m trying to find their email, so that I can write to them and tell them how I feel – that even if my dreams don’t come true, that I have decided to pursue them, one at a time because they have inspired me to. Life is a journey – never a straight path, but one of curves, and sometimes, downward-slopes, but as long, as you’re growing to be a braver, true-er person, you’re on the right path.

What’s your journey to a more authentic you – gonna be like? Have you revisited your self lately? Are you in touch with who you are and how you want to grow? Don’t give in to the shackles of life – just because it is the way it has been for so long. There is no ‘path’ except for the ones we choose to create for ourselves. If you gather your courage to revisit ‘you’, you may uncover just who you’re meant to be, and what that looks like in terms of the steps ahead.

Much love and peace to you – and I hope you give flight to those wings.

Khairah

Everything

OK, today is one of those days where my mind is scrambling to organize itself – cos it has been a happening August and it’s expressing its resentment with a persistent migraine throb on the left side (any brain specialists here to explain what that means what would have given rise to the throbbing of the left side and not right?)

Came back this morning at close to 2am from Taipei after a short but tiring biz trip, rushed home, caught 5 hours of sleep and then emceed for an event in Jurong East. I’ll be honest – I like my days packed, I think we’re given time to maximize them for good use – and to align them to one’s vision.

But because my mind is still in a disarray – partly because of this headache, I feel like clearing it by typing in summary about what I’ve been thinking about expressing.  I’m going to type out a list of some of the things that struck me lately, new insights gained, issues that affected me – in point form, and see where it takes me:

1) Knowledge is not information – knowledge can only come from the heart, whilst info remains in the mind. This statement is so deep – and I almost dismissed it as cliche when I first heard it- until I realized its depth. It’s that aha moment when that info you’re processing (in your mind) resonates with something deeper – how it suddenly makes sense and becomes meaningful, and the ‘coming from the heart part’ was my favourite – cos it deals with purpose, passion and commitment. When info is aligned with purpose (from the heart) – it becomes so powerful. It got me thinking deeply about how because each individual is unique and talented in his/ her own way, how powerful they can become if their purpose is clear – cos then all these skills, talents and knowledge are applied for good means- what a change the world will see.

It is linked to this Hadith: 

People are like minerals. The best of them in Jahiliyyah will be the best of them in Islam.

 

Didn’t note down the source of this one – but I will search for it:

Knowledge is the arrival of the meaning of a thing or an object of knowledge in the soul of the subject and simultaneously.. knowledge is the soul’s arrival of knowledge”

Another gem of a saying:

Info can have processes applied to it such that meaning is derived and yet whether and how it arrives in your soul will determine whether or not it is knowledge.

Source: From Religious class: Intro to Fiqh by Ustaz Zhulkeflee

Another one that brought me to tears – that I heard in an Entrepreneurship seminar run by Muslim Business Owners (Fast and Fuuyooh 2).

Bishr Ibn Musa narrated that ‘Umar Ibn al-khattab was sitting with a group of companions and he asked, “Let each one make a wish!’ Someone said, “I wish if this house was filled with gold and I would happily spend it in Allah’s path.” ‘Umar asked the people again, “Make a wish!” Someone else said, ” I wish that if this house was filled with pearls, chrysolites, and with every kind of precious gems that I would happily spend in charity on Allah’s path.”

‘Umar asked again, “Make a wish!” They replied, “O Amirul Muminin, we truly do not know what to wish for.”

‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) then said, “I wish that this house was filled with men like Abu ‘Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah (رضي الله عنه).”

Explanation of the above: Abu Ubaidah was known as a man who was committed to seeking the pleasure of God, and was detached and not affected by the distractions of worldly life (wealth, status, etc). Which brings me to my second insight:

2) The most valuable thing are human resources who are talented and dedicated to a cause greater than themselves. 🙂 This should be the case for corporations, governments, families, etc – hiring the best talented people with the right values and aligned with the purpose/ mission of your organization.

3) Knowledge can be harmful too if one fails to acknowledge and prioritize based on its rightful order.

Recognition and acknowledgements, progressively instilled into man of the proper places of things in the order of creation such that it leads to the recognition and acknowledgement of the proper place of God in the order of being and existence.

 

I’ll sign off for now – but one last pearl of wisdom, that means everything to me.

Purpose of learning – what’s yours?

Adornment of inner self with virtues seeking nearness to Allah and attainment of piety.

Flawed

A piece of heaven on earth, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque in Brunei Darussalam. It reminds me that despite our flaws, there is hope, there is beauty that we can create within and without.
A piece of heaven on earth, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque in Brunei Darussalam. It reminds me that despite our flaws, there is hope, there is beauty that we can create within and without.
This world will hurt, everyone you forge a bond with, will too. Until you realize your feelings can transcend beyond them to something less ephemeral, to something less transient, and finally arrive at something that is purposeful, that is eternal.

Until then, you will bleed, it will hurt, those you care about will fail you, and they must, that’s how it is meant to be – no one is meant to keep you in tact, that role is too big a burden for any mere mortal like yourself or like them to shoulder. Only the Eternal,can.

Allah, I’m 27 years, and I finally understand. The previous times, I sought to forget, I strived to rebuild that trust and try one more time to trust. But it isn’t about trust – it isn’t about not trying hard enough – we all do, we all don’t want to hurt, if we can afford it. The thing is we can’t for our flaws do define us, like it or not. But so do our strengths, and so we strive – it is an endless pursuit of balance – like that of a race with a teaspoon carrying a pping pong ball, except that spoon is in your mouth and your eyes, blindfolded. It was never meant to be easy.

It will ache, as it does now. But I strive.

Allah, I pray for wisdom to choose what is right, to have courage to pursue it and the strength to sustain my efforts at it.

I Promise

I just had to share this post that I came across on Facebook. It talks about promises, trustworthiness and how living up to them is important because it helps shapes expectations, prevent disappointment in those who have regard for you, and in a small but sure way, builds their expectations of what it means to ‘promise’ -> will it be something one values and honours because all those before him/ her have set such an example, or will it be something that one trivializes simply because it seems to have always been that way anyway? We are all examples. This is more than anything else, a reminder to my self.

“Oh you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of Allah that you say that which you do not do” (Qur’an 61:2-3).

I Promise

Most of us, we never really intend to break a promise when we make one. That’s why it is a promise in the first place; a confirmation to someone of a future action we pledge to do. A verbal guarantee. As children, we grow up learning about keeping promises from our parents, teachers and the children’s books with their moral stories that mold our instincts to believe breaking a promise is morally wrong. Now, as human beings we are prone to making mistakes in every department known to man so it is of no surprise when we find that yourself and I have most probably broken promises for which we can in all likelihood come up with a string of legitimate excuses. We try our best not to break promises. But when I see this happening more often than it should, particularly beyond the boundaries of just another fellow human being but between individuals who enjoy a close and loving relationship (whether they be friends or family for example), I question: are we trying hard enough?

So many promises that we say were never kept were never actually made. The trouble is that words slip off so easily like water from the tips of our tongues. We tell our siblings that we’ll definitely get back to them about that math homework question they’re stuck on, or our friends that we’ll go to see them and check up on them because they’re suffering from the flu, or maybe one of our parents whom we promised to pick up their package from the post office. Now, some may say that before I even go down that road, these are trivial matters and that no one really minds or cares if these are not fulfilled. At the end of the day, the other person knows deep down inside that we care about them and love them, and sure enough we really do. However, we need to see that the phrase ‘I promise’ need not even surface; the fact that we have said it implies to the other person that we intend to do it. If someone said something of the like to you, you would certainly have a degree of expectation for him or her to do it no matter how trivial it may be – particularly if this is someone you know, you trust.

Let us swap shoes. Going back to the homework scenario, your younger sibling has asked you for help because they look up to you and see you as someone worthy from whom they could receive assistance. You’re really busy with something important but you want to help so you offer to help a bit later, and their face lights up. Your sibling says that’s fine and they are happy to wait. And they keep waiting. Perhaps they ask you a few more times and still you are busy. To them you are a loved one and they will not want to bother you anymore. What’s more is that because you hold that special position in their hearts, they would think that you would have made that extra effort anyway – this is only natural in humans. Sooner or later, that hope they had put in you and your ‘promise’ begins to fade away and turns into disappointment. They return their homework to the teacher with that question unanswered. And you still haven’t remembered to help them, but of course once you do, you feel guilty and apologize to them. Trivial? Perhaps. Because everything is okay again, you still love your sibling and they love you back, it was just a math question. But this person still felt pain, and believe me no matter how miniscule a scale it was, they did. Because it is so easy and common for us to say things we would do but never assign the importance of fulfilling them within us, we end up doing this over and over again. So we end up hurting the people we love time after time.

The art of keeping a promise is intertwined with trustworthiness. So one would expect a person they deemed to be trustworthy or have trust in, to keep their promise. When you do not keep your words, the other party loses an ounce of trust in you and this keeps on happening until they no longer trust you to be able to ask you for help or even have faith in the words you speak. The tiniest of our actions can lead to repercussions we would never contemplate. Fulfilling a promise is a huge obligation upon us as Muslims (as most of us know already) – but sometimes it’s the little things that miss our eyes.

When you make a promise, you plant a little seed of hope and expectation in the hearts of the people you love. Think again next time before you say you will do something for them, and try to make that little extra effort their way and fulfill your promise without delaying it. I say this to myself before anyone else, as it would sadden me deeply if my sibling no longer came to me for help knowing they have no remaining faith in me. We are defined by our actions, not our words.

“Oh you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of Allah that you say that which you do not do” (Qur’an 61:2-3).

source: Suhaib Webb