2012 Comes with a Bang!

Tomorrow is the end of the world so thought it was a good time to say my goodbyes to the World. Dramatic, right? Gosh, what is all this end of Mayan calendar and people moving to the hills etc bull? Even NASA jumped in to stop the madness. But whatever …

2012 has been a special year just like 2011 was super cool. I know if I tell you one more time about the business plan adventure in UAE thanks to GIST, (you) will look for (me), (you) will find (me), and (you) will kill (me). Then there was the Business Basics workshop at Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Success with Social Media one at Kuch Khaas, incredible honor of attending a workshop by Ken and Laura Morse (of the MIT fame) and so on.

But the two highlights of the year were;

1. Learning I Knew Nothing

I spent 7 months working at a BPO company in Islamabad. To be honest I was a bit snooty. Me? Work in a run-of-the-mill BPO company that has become a trademark with the South Asians and Filipinos? I was too cool for all of that. I read TechCrunch and Mashable. I worked with cool firms based in Silicon Valley. What can a BPO teach me that I don’t already know or something that I would want to know? How wrong I was! Those 7 months taught me more than the gruelling 4 years I had spent pouring over all those fancy Valley publications and, my love, Quora. You see, doing business in Pakistan has completely different dynamics. There are so many hurdles and power shortage is just one of them. That comes after you have successfully built a team and a company large enough that can’t be run from your basement any more on a backup device you can buy easily for $500. Where do you find the people to work with? Pakistanis are incredibly talented. I mean challenge them to hack the hardest website in the world and they will do it blindfolded. We have TED Fellows, we have entrepreneurs covered by Forbes. We have sportspeople (YES THAT’S A WORD). Scientists. Guinness record holder students. But how do I reach them? Where do they hide?

And then of course, it’s learning about pipelines and funnels. Oh God, how I hate those two words. They were my bane and still are. Truth is, the most brilliant, amazing business plan means nothing if you don’t tweak it to your market. So you may impress a judge in a business competition with your beautifully and most articulately written plan with some sprinkling of facts and figures here and there but implementing that plan is a completely different game all together.

Above all, I realized how important it was to work with a positive energy. Sitting on a garbage dump and getting frustrated over why you can’t smell the roses is just foolish. :)

2. Be Realistic

Here is a great quote my friend posted on her Facebook wall:

Some people will kill you over time if you let them; and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases like, “be realistic.” When this happens, close your ears and listen to your inner voice instead. Remember that real success in life isn’t what others see, but how you feel. It’s living your truth and doing what makes you feel alive.

Who doesn’t like buying new gadgets and travelling and getting lipo? This is also what people judge your success by. There was a great TED Talk about what is failure and a more humane idea of success. When I walk into a room full of people, no one rushes towards me to greet me and offer me a chair and requests photographs with me. WDL is not huge. But you know what … it makes me HAPPY. Also, being a social enterprise you don’t measure success by numbers but by smiles. Who can put a number on that? Yes, it hurts at time when you know there are people out there sniggering at you coz of the awards you haven’t won or the goodies you don’t own. But all of that disappears when someone looks at the difference, minute but difference nevertheless, that you are making.

Alec Ross, whom I met a couple of months back and blogged about here, gave a shout out to WDL that has left me honored and humbled.

In his TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “What Alec Ross Learned in 1,298 Days Working for Hilary Clinton” he mentions how despite visiting Pakistan at a terrible time when Malala was shot he found hope in the story of WDL.

Not a very long time ago I remember the annoying 25 yr old telling me WDL was about HOPE. It was about telling people there was a way out if they cared enough to look for it.

I am ending 2012 on a very positive note. Don’t let anyone stop you from dreaming and if you are gonna dream, might as well dream big. Forget about what others think you can or can’t do. It’s just them saying THEY can’t do it but using YOU instead. Don’t be the guy who tries to please everyone and ends up looking like a fool.

This wasn't necessary - just been dying to find a way to add it to a blog. :P

This wasn’t necessary – just been dying to find a way to add it to a blog. :P

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

TEDxMargalla – A Journey in Tweets

This guy's t-shirt says it all.

This guy’s tee is the best way to describe a TED event! Ordinary people, extraordinary ideas!

TEDxMargalla had me tweeting like a woman possessed! There was just so much to talk about and tell people despite Wi-Tribe’s best efforts to stop me thanks to their sucky connection.

I am going to tell the entire awesome story of the event through my personal tweets and others. So without further ado – here we go!

@Saher Tariq – Host

2001 – got accepted to Yale University – all previous ideas of becoming a doctor went out the window.  9/11 happened while I was there. The changing world didn’t make any difference to me. I was committed to coming back to Pakistan. Wild boars became timid before the bombers. (Quoted from Man in the Arena by Roosevelt). (I could help doing) A simple thing like showing up for work every day and doing your work with honesty and integrity. I welcome you to this arena called Pakistan.

You are obviously very talented – not everyone gets a scholarship to Yale – but you are a Mobilink employee which was the official sponsor – the  curator being a Mobilink-er I can understand, you being the host I can also understand, but you giving a TEDx Talk I can’t.

@Flora Mahmood – Drama-writer, Teacher

Tale of a Pakistani girl (raised in Scotland) who hated Pakistan with her whole heart. Her feathers weren’t just plucked out but were cruelly pulled out. She was suddenly told to consider a future entirely different form the one she had anticipated since a kid. She was told to consider wedding proposals. The evils in this story are not people – the evil in this fairytale is fate itself. Was accused of International parental kidnapping for committing the heinous crime of being a mother.  Why have I received Only this – Only through this you will receive that – Rumi! Rethink yourself – not Pakistan. (Pk) is a country she stole into frightened – like Jonas in the belly of the whale; instead it took her back like a child into its womb.

Dear Flora, this was very touching and thought-provoking but where was the idea? What was the idea? The tale of a ‘princess’ who was cruelly forced to face real life and go through some very challenging times to become an independent woman and learn to love the country the very thought of living where was stifling for her just doesn’t make for a TED talk.

@Asad Umer – CEO Engro

Asad had this wonderful voice that just made me want to sit up and listen to him. He was the first of the 3 speakers so far who were actually dressed casual. He caught my attention with this line: “The President’s address to assembly made me think, Sounds like a damn good country to me.” – yeah, that was funny or maybe it was just the way he said it. But here is my problem – he used TEDx as a self-promotion platform – the reference to Engro and how it was all ready to face Amul head on was a no-no. And what is it with the Pakistan vs India thing anyway? Looking back through my notes I recall him saying, I truly believe that Pakistani people are destined for greatness!” and also “Power needs to be distributed amongstpeople of Pakistan! We must stand up for the less fortunate!” Yes, we know that, Asad. The question is, HOW? What ideas do you have for attaining just that? Statements are easy – solutions are tough.

@Romano Karim – Filmmaker

Sighhhh … he didn’t even give a TED talk – he merely used it as a platform to show his no-doubt riveting documentary on Rehana Sehgol called “The Petman Girls”.

@Khalida Brohi – CEO of Sughar

And now we are talking! I have shouted it out in a hall full of people and I’ll shout it from rooftops if I need to – THIS WOMAN IS PHENOMENAL! When she came on stage I thought to meself, “Ugh, a wanna-be Rumi, eh?” HOW WRONG I WAS!

Where is God they ask me? I dont have to respond or if I do I just smile. Because right there in that moment he is also smiling. These women (working at Sughar) learn to say NO to the traditions that are against them. We’re not doing a lot but the little change that we are bringing everyday is very beautiful.

After the talk I went up to her and gave her a huge hug. I hope I was able to channel all my love and appreciation through it. There was so much I could relate to but she had the courage to stand up there in front of a hundred people and more watching on a live webcast and talk about the problems and challenges facing women in her village. Ms. Brohi, you have won yourself a huge fan and your talk truly encompassed the spirit of TED. Salute!

@The Thespian Alliance – Mime Troupe

Now I am not a big fan of mime – actually I am not a fan of the thing at all. But these guys were AWESOME I tell you. I mean you couple the word “mime” with “Pindi” and you think “boyzez” but they gave a stellar performance and left the audience mesmerized.

@Adil Najam – VC Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

This is the best time to be a Pakistani. I didn’t say it was the easiest time. I don’t want to talk about rethinking Pakistan but about making Pakistan. (To do that) we will have to rethink the way we think about the rest of the world.  Imagine you are on another plant and looking down on this planet called Earth and looking at it as a country. (You will see that) You live in a country where 2 billion ppl live on less than $2 a day. Your country Earth isn’t just a poor country but a degraded country. You live in an insecure country. If the US State Department had a say on travel to Earth they would say catch the first rocket out of here. We live in a third world country on a third world planet. Development is not GDP but dignity. Number of Indians troops killed in 60 years of Indo-Pak conflict is less than kids killed in Delhi in 1 year due to dirty water. Development is health, wealth and knowledge. Only one number counts – the number 1 because the one is you, me, and someone who says I am not going to wait for someone else to bring a change.

Based on the random excerpts from his speech from my Twitter feed I don’t have to say how this is a superb TED talk at so many levels. He was eloquent, charming, knowledgeable, and I am no tree-hugger but he made me sit on the edge of my seat. Adil got a standing ovation and a well-deserved one. However, we could have done without the reference to stats from LUMS and the watermark logo on all slides.

@Sami Shah – Funny Guy and Marketing Dude

Have you noticed how people hug nowadays? It’s a defense posture. The suicide jacket is mummy’s hug. We have become tourists of the past. Pakistan is (an) obnoxious kid now and we are the panicking parents. We all have uncle munawar in our families – he is the uncle who believes in conspiracy theories. One guy emailed me (and) he asked, “Do all Pakistanis live in caves”? Think about the irony “He emailed me”. By ridiculing things we are frightened of, we beat them.

The first stand-up comedian who did not use religion to get laughs. He didn’t use sexual innuendoes either. He was just plain funny. I heard this was a much mellowed down version of his usual performances but hey – he was perfect that evening. Of course, I spoke to him afterwards and he was so down-to-earth and so-not-snide and those, my friends, are rare qualities in a person who uses the eff word liberally in his tweets and speaks good English in Pakistan.

The event host quoted from the Man in the Arena again and if last time it was cheesy this time it was painful.

But … I LOVED THE EVENT! Yes, they had an average host, 1 average speaker, 1 disaster, 1 non-speaker (???), a brilliant performance, 2 absolutely magical talks and a genuinely funny talk with no cringe-worthy moments – don’t you see why I am going ga-ga?

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. I wonder if Adil Najam moisturises his hands with Vaseline and keeps them in cotton gloves overnight coz a handshake with him made me want to run for that manicure.