By Muhammad Sadiq
During my recent visit to Pakistan (Lahore), I went to the neighborhood where I grew up. I was so happy to see how it has changed over the last 25 years. When I was growing up, most residents in these apartments had a bicycle. A few owned motorcycles. Air conditioning had not arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some residents in these apartments now owned a car and almost every household had a motorcycle and AC.
If I were to compare my life the way it was 25 years ago with the present, I see a big change. We are five brothers who grew up in a 2 bedroom apartment. I don’t’ know the size of rooms, but the rooms were so small that every night we had to put extra bed inside to sleep which we stowed away during the day to create enough space to walk in the room. My father owned a bicycle that he used to go to his three jobs (I won’t go into details because this is not about my father or me). We did not have a proper kitchen in our apartment; there was a small place outside just before you entered the rooms where my mom (God bless her) used to sit and prepare food to feed us hungry horses. Hungry, because all of us were into sports and as a result, always hungry. That is how our world was at that time. And that is how lives were for most of us in our country.
We did not have many materialistic things, but we were all very happy. I don’t remember wishing for a different life, I was satisfied with what we had. Our apartment was in a two-storied building that held 8 apartments in total. All residents lived like one unit though. They all helped each other and pretty much knew what was going on in everybody’s lives. Not sure if that was a good thing😊 but at that time they all were there for each other. Life was good. People were happy. There was no greed or worry or fear of anything.
Let’s fast forward 25 years. For last 25 years I have lived away from Pakistan (23 years in America, and 2 years in Kuwait).
In 25 years, the world has changed so much. Which is good, but at the same time it’s not that great. Some people are very rich and have tons of money. However, many people remain poor and poverty continues to increase. There are a few things that I am concerned about in Pakistan, which are as below:
1. Attitude of gratitude is missing ( I call it – positive mental attitude, or PMA)
2. Lack of Discipline- patience and “bardasht”
3. Lack of critical and logical thinking
4. Lack of Trust
5. Dissatisfaction – No peace
6. Interest in knowing more about others’ lives than focusing on their own
1. Missing Attitude of gratitude.
Somehow, whenever I visit my dear country, I cannot help but feel that people are not satisfied with themselves or what they are doing. I rarely hear anyone saying Alhumdolillah (All Praise to Allah – Things are great and really mean it) I have no complaints. It seems like even when they say Alhumdolillah they don’t really mean it. I understand that our country faces many challenges, and the society has a big gap in inome and social standards. But the lack of gratitude is also apparent in people who are quite well off and living comfortable lives. When you ask them why are they complaining? Their response is that either their pursuit of getting more in life is leading to this; or they talk about the problems others in our society are facing and how it is affecting them .And if you ask them if they are planning to do anything to fix this problem? They reply very quickly and say that they are not running the government. Out come plenty of statements about their lack of time to do anything much besides taking care of their own families.
is is really sad. The reality is that most of them have many workers at their homes and businesses that are paid the minimum wage. However, they themselves take expensive family vacations to exotic destinations and most of them drive expensive imported vehicles. Even surprising is that they pay in cash for these expensive vehicles and homes they live in. Living in this kind of society where their own relatives may not have enough to eat Is somehow ok for them. Even then, they don’t have peace of mind. Looks like we traded it for cars, ACs, fridges, washing machines. 25 years ago, people did not have these things but they had pace of mind. And an attitude of gratitude. Quite frankly the challenges and problem we face in Pakistan are the same as the rest of the world. I’m not saying that everything is great in Pakistan. Yes, have a lot of challenges and we have to do a lot of things to take care of to make our society better. But the way we are approaching the problem needs to be change at individual level (which I will talk about later).
2. Discipline- patience and bardasht
Second thing that I noticed was that despite being a great nation which was once filled with creative ideas and thoughts, we have kind of lost our way and now we run like an old computer program on loop- we are not very productive and we are always playing catch-up. Our habits and ways of life are super old compared to the pace of today’s modern world. People have no sense of urgency and they are very comfortable postponing their daily chores, or important work meetings. People want an above average lifestyle by putting in below average work effort and having a below average attitude. There is a very famous saying “As you sow, so shall you reap”. No matter who I am with, my brother, my friend, or my driver, they all seem to be running late for unknown reasons (but in their minds they always have a good reason for it).
They all are okay to not start leaving for their destination on time, but as soon as they are on the road, I feel like they are driving an emergency vehicle. One day, my little daughter asked me – “Is Imran Khan still the president of Pakistan”? I said “yes, he is”. She then asked me, “don’t people pay taxes here”? I said “yes, they do”. She said, “why does he not make the law to not blow horn on the roads”? I could not explain it to her that it is not the law that is the problem, it is our behavior that is the problem. Pakistan is a Muslim country and many people pray 5 times a day, but most of them forget that Islam teaches discipline and Islam loves discipline. People make sure that they arrive at the masjid on time, but as soon we leave masjid we forget the importance of time.
Since we are always running behind schedule; therefore, we are always rushing to get somewhere and hence not courteous to others. It is affecting our daily routine and making us lose our patience and bardasht.
3. Nobody is thinking much. It is almost as if people depend on others to tell them how to take responsibility for their own future. Most people don’t understand the extent of the opportunity that lies ahead if only they could take charge of their lives.
Everyone I know is a very good human being. I am sure if I were to ask them to give me X dollars to invest for a certain return, they will all give me the money without asking any questions. But while that is good for me, ideally people should be asking me questions such as – how would I make money? What type of business will I do? And most importantly, how will I make the money to share with them?
I noticed that everyone in Pakistan wants someone else to do the hard work by thinking, planning, finding the right opportunity and taking risks, while they should get the returns. Not many people read any sort of books and if you ask them why they don’t read any books, their simple answer is: “Oh I don’t’ have the time. You see how busy I am…. I have to do 2 jobs just to make ends meet and I don’t see any benefit of reading anyway.” Or, ” I am too old and I am going to die anyway so what is the point in learning new things”. It appears that everyone has a dream to live an above-average life with barely any efforts.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong in investing money in business or in real-estate to get passive monthly income. The problem I see is in the mindset. Rather than finding opportunities themselves, people increasingly depend on others to make decisions for their future. I have heard more than a few stories where people invested money with their friends or in companies/real-estate developer, only to have them disappear without a trace. It happens all the time and still people allow this to happen to them.
I feel like people don’t have the faith that they have what it what it takes to be successful. Reality is that people who are going to take their money and invest on their behalf are also humans just like them.
The difference between the successful and unsuccessful individuals is very simple. The successful people believe in themselves, the others don’t. There are only 2 types of individuals in the world. One is those who wish, and others are those who plan for future. I know that there are many people who probably have no money to start their own business or invest ( it does not mean they cannot be successful business owners, this world is full of people who become millionaire or billionaire without collage degree or without any capital but a dream and belief in themselves) .
I’m talking about the people who have the money, but they don’t think that they are capable to do anything for themselves. The simple reason is that these people are not looking for opportunities – they are finding excuses. They don’t think the time is right to try on their own. This world is interesting for interesting people and dull for dull people. After all, a man is what he thinks all day. Henry ford once said” If you think you can do it or if you think you can not do it , either way you correct.
Don’t be pushed by your problems, lead by your dreams. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide”
Don’t wish things are easy wish you are better.
Don’t wish you have less problem wish you have more skills.
Don’t wish you have less Challenges; wish you have more Wisdom.
4. Lack of Trust
Pakistan does not have exclusive rights over this problem! I see in Pakistan we either trust blindly or we just don’t trust at all. When I first came to America, I thought the people here were not very smart and we are very smart. Whatever we told the Americans, they would believe us, even if it were not entirely true. I did not understand it at first, but I have to admit I was so wrong. We were not smart; not even close. Let me give you an example. Whenever I had car problems, my first choice was to go to a white man’s shop and pay whatever he asked. That was because I knew he is honest, and he will not cheat me. On the other hand, a Pakistani will not go to a Pakistani’s workshop for the simple reason that he will not trust him! We don’t trust ourselves. The white man trusts himself and that’s why he trusts everyone else. I also have heard from the owner of Pakistani restaurant and grocery store that having Americans as customers is a blessing.
So the problem in Pakistan is similar. We don’t trust ourselves and that’s why we don’t trust others and others don’t trust us. If we all started believing in ourselves, everyone will trust you and you will be trusting them.
5. Dissatisfaction – No peace
As soon as I arrived at the airport in Pakistan, It felt like the people who were working at the airport were dissatisfied with the jobs they were doing. From the luggage porter to the immigration officer nobody was in their best mood. I saw no passion or pride in their eyes. The only reason I can think of is that they are doing these jobs because they need money. And, their dissatisfaction is perhaps due to their belief that others have more money than them. Maybe they will never realize that what they have is more than what others, including I do and that’s why others keep coming back to the county over and over again (grass is always greener on the other side of the fence).
You only will get peace in life by serving the humanity and not by constantly looking for ways to receive. Until I came to the US, I never realized how much happy people who give and now I know that giving is actually receiving. People here give their time to charity, they do voluntary work at school, hospital, libraries and other public place, and they also donate money. Well educated and successful people with full lives, family, commitments etc. do these things despite being “busy”. I think it comes down to discipline and the importance once places in charity.
6. Know more about others’ lives than their own
This is so true. Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time to find out what’s going on in others’ lives and what they are up to. Since we focus so much on others, we end up knowing learning more about others than ourselves. Many time most of us are living our life without any defined purpose. We just live like animals and trees and any other creature on this plant. One of the things I liked about when I first came to US was that people that I got to know did not care about what religion I practice, or where I live, or even my back ground etc. They liked me and respected me as a person not what my status was.
I quickly learnt no one will ask you personal questions and yet we had very good and long conversations. Very seldom someone will open up and share their personal matters. I remember I used to coach a billionaire for a very long time and did not know how rich he was until someone else asked me If I knew him? I said yes, I had been playing squash with him for many years and he seems to be a rich and nice guy. My friend told me that this person was a billionaire! The point I am trying to make is that people live very personal and humble lives. Many people go to bed early and wakeup early.
Restaurants close by 9 pm or 10 pm on most days. No one interferes in others; lives and like or dislike a person based on their looks or beliefs. I noticed that people have great respect for each other and without getting into each other personal beliefs and political affiliation they rarely ever talk about the things they know other will not be agreeing with but they try to focus on things that are in common, be it sports or food or any other hoppy. Religion and politics are generally not discussed openly.
I coach many kids. I start off by asking them to write for me what their strength is on and off the court. I think this applies to all of us. We really need to focus on our selves more than other. What we like, what is my purpose of being here in this world. What I really want to do in my life or the time I have on this planet. Am I getting closer to my goals? what are my goals? You will be surprised how much, by asking these simple question, you will discover about yourself and I bet you will never have enough time to think about others😊
Humility is the most important requirement of our religion. Unfortunately, most of us are not even aware of it. In our societies, for some mysterious reason we have become adrift from this principle and have allowed egos to take over. We pretend to be that which we are not; we show off more than we are worth, and we claim superiority over most others. For example, our weddings- I don’t see a good reason why one must try and go overboard to please others. Not only that, but the society also expects it! And this has become a competition among friends and family– who throws a better wedding seems to be a very important issue nowadays.
Our religion reminds us to live a humble and simple life. We must be mindful of others and be kind and considerate to those that are less fortunate. But the reality is quite opposite- everywhere on the road, inside public venues, in the market- egos rule and people are rude. Even in Government offices- a guard and a lower-level clerk is full of arrogance, and they behave as if they are the boss. Once can only imagine what the bosses would feel about themselves!
I know many millionaires and even billionaires in the U.S. that are down to earth. You cannot even tell how rich they are, or how powerful a position they hold in the Government. I recently attended a conference in Boston. Towards the end of the event, we had a team building exercise in which all executives took part. I ended up partnering with a nice guy from Japan, who was extremely polite. After a brief introduction, I took his permission to ask him a personal question. He replied “absolutely”.
I told him that there is something special about people of Japan. He laughed and relied- “oh man, there is nothing special about us. We are the same as everyone else”. When I pressed him, he told him that as a society, they are very particular about humility and service. And that is why Japan is what it is.
Since we do not practice Humility in daily lives, we think we are better than the other person and we judge others. We know Shaitaan was arrogant. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) showed us what practicing humility is like. He was kind even towards those that were unkind to him.
There is no greater sin that being arrogant. Arrogance is the root of all evil. Islam teaches us that all are equal, nobody is superior to anybody else. As Hazrat Ali said- “There are only two types of people in this world – one is a brother in Islam, the other is a brother in mankind. This message has been clear to us.
There is no God but one God. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is his last messenger. Be kind to others, respect everyone, and be just- even if justice is against you or your family members.
In my opinion, it is the mindset of the people that has to change. This is not only for Pakistan; the entire world must feel this shift. But we will focus on Pakistan for now.
When I was growing up, people were nice, kind, and they cared for others as much as they cared for their own families. I remember that if we did something wrong, we feared our neighbors in the same way as we feared our own parents. It is because they cared for our wellbeing in the same way as our parents did. We knew that even if we complained to our parents about them, they will support our neighbors instead of us. People were not greedy or selfish, nor did they feel jealous if they didn’t have what others had. Most people were self-content and happy with what they had.
We must change our philosophy and it is all about the mindset. If everyone just starts focusing on doing one thing, we can overcome many social problems. We can see the change in a very short time. If everyone thinks about what they can do for their family, neighbor, city, and county and not what their family, neighbor, city or country can do for them, and if we could hope to “leave everything and everyone better than they found, things will improve dramatically around us. I believe if we follow these principles life will change for us.
The world has changed so much in the last few decades. We have to start living in harmony with that change to understand the differences among us. We all are different. Even my own brothers and sister are different. But if we focus on differences then it can be very challenging and hard to live with your siblings. Let’s focus on the common goal and the things we have in common so we can find strength among us and learn about each other and understand each other better. This is the only way we can be strong here in this country and as whole humanity can survive on this planet. It won’t take care of all the problems, but this will be a great start.
I have noticed that most people tend to blame the Government for everything that they think is wrong. Somehow, we believe that it is the Government’s job to fix everything! But after living in the US, I realized that the backbone of this country is the collective efforts of individuals. This was a huge revelation for me. It is not just the big organizations or the rich – people from across the spectrum contribute to the betterment of the society and work towards change.
If you are rich, you provide more, and if you can donate your time and effort, you do that. I know of differently-abled people helping at food banks! I also know of research centers that are built through generous donations from the financially successful members of the society. Unfortunately, in our country, we don’t take this responsibility and we expect others to correct what is wrong. This must change. A nation becomes strong when we plant trees for the future generations, knowing fully well that we will never sit in their shade ourselves. Selfless acts adding together help make a strong and prosperous country.
Above all, practice humility in our daily life.
I would like to end with these few quotes.
“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children”.
“Leave every things and every one better than you fond”.
“Wahtever your mind can believe it can acchive”.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift and purpose of life is to give it away!”