Failing

Caveat: This post will have a religious flavor. Moreover, the chronology of the events is true

Wednesday, 20th November 2013

I read this longform piece What It’s Like to Fail. Though one may not agree with the choices author made but it is an inspiring uplifting story about a man trying to survive and fight against the consequences of the bad decisions he had made. One paragraph particularly stood out:

What happens when you hit bottom? I can tell you one thing: you don’t bounce back. You crawl back, fighting every step of the way. It isn’t a straight arc back up either; there are dozens of setbacks every step of the way. And the place you land isn’t anywhere near where you were when you slipped off the cliff.

It is human nature but an Ivy League education makes you more conscious of where in the corporate ladder your classmates are. It is cliched but no one measures their quality of life in strength of their relationships with friends and family. The measure of a successful person is his wealth, which school one’s kids go to, what is the job description and employer name on one’s business card, where did we go to during summer holidays etc. And yes, we do admit everyday that we are amongst top 5% or top 10% of the world and non-deservingly more blessed than 5.5 billion people (assuming world population is 6 billion) but the circle we move in comprises of top 5% of the world and we always compare ourselves to them.

Post financial crisis of 2008, amongst the 150 or so graduates of my Ivy League class, only one or two updated their job descriptions on LinkedIn with a promotion or move up the career ladder. And comparing myself to them made me depressed as my career had come to a stand still. I carried on at my dead end job because there weren’t any better jobs in the market. What I knew from school grapevine but didn’t admit to myself was that reason many of my colleagues were not updating their profiles had been made redundant by the crisis. I talked to quite a few colleagues from my earlier jobs and with the exception of one or two, all are sticking to their jobs (with or without promotion) because their current jobs is providing them temporary job security which is a huge stress relief in these fluid times.

Thursday, 21st November 2013

I called up one of my closest friend. Both of us lamented our lucks. We took a break from career, went to business school and graduated a year before the credit crisis struck. While we were studying, it was still hey days and our colleagues climbed up the corporate ladder during this time. So when we joined the workforce, unlike earlier times wherein we were supposed to get a bigger and higher role as our CV was embellished with a top university education, we had to struggle very hard to get the position we left. Though I don’t think of it this way, but from a career growth perspective, the decision to go for a higher education at an elite university appears like a mistake to my friend. I look at it totally differently. It was one of my dreams to go for an education at an elite university and with grace of God I realized that dream. I look at the decision to go to the elite university like this as founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos had said:

“When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff,” Bezos said a few years later. “I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way… it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”

For me the experience, the learning and achievement of sitting amongst the top finance leaders of the future and having studied, competed and held my own in academics with the best students of the world is a source of pride. I don’t know whether I will get to live to 80 and be able to derive same pride at that age but having realized one of my dreams is something to be truly thankful for.

I didn’t complain about my decision to go for an elite education but I did complain about how the career has come to a stop, prices for foodstuff, rent as well as kid’s tuition fees are rising etc and life isn’t exactly turning out to be how I thought it would. By life (I meant career).

Friday, 22nd November 2013

The Friday sermon at the mosque was about being thankful for what you have and comparing yourself to the ones below you and not comparing yourself for what you don’t have. Have heard such pep talk before. Then the Imam quoted following verses from the Quran. I don’t know about you but I have felt that whenever a verse is quoted from Quran, it just sinks directly into my heart and clears up a lot of things. May be it is faith. May be I am what you call a fundamentalist. Despite having read large number of books on worldly wisdom and sciences, I am still melted by Quranic verses. And the timing was perfect. It felt like that sermon was especially for me as I was feeling down.


And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Ibrahim:7]

Yet we are all human and sometimes feel that God is unnecessarily punishing us or testing us. And the Imam then quoted the following verse

What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing. [Nisa:147]

This reminded me of the verse that my father used to quote:

And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.

The crux of above verse being that never compare yourself or ask the Lord for what he has given others. Just keep asking Him for his bounty. He may and will bless you with a different sort of bounty.

So yes, I am in a dead end career for now. And yes, the price of goods and services are rising whereas my income is not rising proportionately at all. And yes by the standards I use to measure my life (read career), I am failing but I have achieved a lot in life, realized a lot of my dreams and more for which I am thankful to Lord and seek His mercy and graciousness to bless me with more bounty from his unlimited sources.

Sunday, 24nd November 2013

A friend shares this as his status update on Facebook:

Volume 1, Book 3, Number 73: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud: The Prophet said, “Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. (The first is) A person, whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously; (the second is) the one whom Allah has given wisdom (the Holy Qur’an) and he acts according to it and teaches it to others.” (Fateh-al-Bari page 177 Vol. 1)

My earlier related posts:

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2 thoughts on “Failing

  1. Excellent post. Quran does answer all our questions doesn’t it? It happened to me many times and still happening. Subhan Allah. May Allah keep us steadfast and grant us the bounties of this world and the next world.

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