Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Script for Success

We grow up with certain expectations from those around us. Society has a fixed set of standards for our success. The media constantly reinforces them. Advertisements glamorize them. It seems that the script for our success was written way before we came into this world. It takes determination and effort for one to wean oneself off these expectations, yet it is important for us to do so as we are unique. That's the way Allah (SWT) made us -- each one different from another. To each of us He gave a personality, has written our destiny, our provision, our time and place of death. Yet we find consolance in conforming to external expectations.

We grow up in an increasing multicultural and globalized world, yet we tend to cling on to the norms of a society we may never have lived in. How many people do you know who live in a country whose local customs/norms/values/history they are totally unaware of, yet they never miss the daily bulletin of news from their "home" countries. I know people who have not lived back home for 50 years, yet know more about what happens there than the locals. They are playing out a script written for them long ago, in a completely different context. They have failed to re-evaluate themselves based on new circumstances and experiences -- what Covey calls "sharpen the saw" (the 7th habit of successful individuals).

I have seen third generation expats, living out their lives according to what is "hot" in their home countries, rarely taking the time to consider what it means to be uniquely themselves. Just like a chicken whose head has freshly been chopped off, they propel themselves into a frenzy of action, which is incoherent with the head (which they have lost). Eventually they loose energy and enthusiasm and dissipate into a meaningless life.

Realize that the net wisdom you have cultivated through your struggle through life, can not be easily transferred to the next generation. They do not have the privilege to share the "videos" from the past that you have in your head that propel you to greater heights. In many ways, our kids have to learn to learn and dream for themselves. The time and place they live in is much different from ours. Their context demands different from them. They have a unique personality and skill set that they need to explore and hone. They have to formulate their unique receipe of success themselves. Perhaps the best you should hope to transfer to them is meta-level principles of success that can be achieved by anyone, in any place and in any time.

These principles are enshrined in our deen. Thus its true and deep understanding is essential for our kids, just the same way it is for us. Lessons should always be derived from them with respect to our unique situation, based on our background as well as the time and place we live in. Only then can we be authors of our own script. A unique script which is always divinely guided and relevant.

So many families living outside their countries, either try to stick to their "home" culture or subsequently simply melt away in the globalized mainstream. There is seldom anything in between. What is needed is a conscious selection process and creation of a unique identity guided by principles of our everliving faith. Only then can we hope to be truly successful...