Woh Jo Tareek Rahon Mein Maaray Gaye

[TRANSLATION: Those who died in dark pathways]

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a long discussion with a friend about career choices we make and regrets we have as a result. He was going through a tough patch in his career. Though we had gone over a few opportunities that have come his way, but they were not attractive involved a step down but if everything went well and economy turns around, he might make it back very quickly. But those are a lot of “if”s. So I sent him the following excerpt from The Everything Store:

“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.”

Just to allay his hesitation, I also shared my personal leap of faith:

[The excerpt] didn’t help me in making the decision to switch but made me feel less bad for switching when bonuses(tiny as they may be) are expected within couple of months after a hiatus of 5 years.

I am not a fan of self-help books or self-help mantra and I know one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work for everyone but I believed that the book excerpt is something to ponder over. But what I didn’t expect was the response I got. I had touched a nerve. My friend replied:

Statements such as these (coming from successful ones) never impress/motivate me. These people are only a minor %age of all those who dared to switch to do something new but crashed and burned, and both you & I know that nobody knows and gives a shit about “Woh jo tareek rahoN meiN maray gayae” ones, and what they did or say about their fucked up experiences.

I am so confident that when go and ask the losers (majority group I mentioned later) how they feel about their decision, 90% of them would regret taking that daring step that changed their life altogether (of course in a bad way) and the rest of the 10% who answer that they never felt regret and If given chance would like to do it again, are all lying.

I could have let it be but knowing that he is my friend and I want the best for him, I gave it my last shot:

My points always have been:

[Firstly,] Hindsight is 20:20. If you look back considering new developments that happened after you took the decision, it is a wrong way to look at it. One should always look at the decisions he took in light of the information one had available at the time. Moving to (my current employer) was a good decision [for me]. No one knew the future and that [financial] crisis would strike so hard.

Secondly, only Allah knows the future. Every such decision I have taken after doing quite a lot of istikharas. It’s my belief that after that it’s in lords hands. Yes, I complained, I was miserable but not for the decisions I took. Just because of the circumstances I was in. And since its after istikhara, I like to think I would’ve been more miserable if I haven’t moved.

Thirdly, Rizq jitna likha hai Milna hai. Question is whether you got it rightly, wrongly or while you were miserable in a job or if you were happy in your work. And that was the complaint. I was miserable because I wasn’t doing anything. It was never about money or job title. Always about not learning anything.

Fourthly, this is where you piss me off with your constant cribbing about why you went to world renowned education institution. I am extremely grateful to Allah for enabling the realization of my dream to study abroad in one of the best schools of the world. For someone coming from a university which is about to be closed and didn’t know a GMAT score from GRE score, I have come a long way. And wouldn’t have been possible without the right friends (such as yourself) and right circumstances (nothing which I could control).

Fifthly, those who regret their decisions are I believe stupid and ungrateful. Question is did they take a decision blindly without looking at circumstances or did they make the decision soundly after considering all the available information? If it’s the latter, there is nothing to regret. Not everything works out as planned. As barhay boorhays have said, “man proposes, god disposes”. You don’t and can’t know everything. The only question is did you do the right thing.

We can have more discussion whenever we meet but moping about without even making a CV is a shit way to go about it.

The last one was the final nail as he had been crying about his circumstances for over a year and whenever  I ask him if he applied for certain opportunities he came across, he always replied that he has to update his CV.

Again, we all know that what has worked for one person will not necessarily work for the other person because of his unique circumstances, physical attributes, personality traits and luck. Even twins have a totally different life trajectory despite having the same upbringing from the start.

Anyway, what my friend was referring to and what I am myself am wary of is what is described as “undersampling of failure” in the book The Success Equation:

Perhaps the best-known book about this method is Jim Collins’s Good to Great. Collins and his team analyzed thousands of companies and isolated eleven whose performance went from good to great. They then identified the concepts that they believed had caused those companies to improve—these include leadership, people, a fact-based approach, focus, discipline, and the use of technology—and suggested that other companies adopt the same concepts to achieve the same sort of results. This formula is intuitive, includes some great narrative, and has sold millions of books for Collins.

No one questions that Collins has good intentions. He really is trying to figure out how to help executives. And if causality were clear, this approach would work. The trouble is that the performance of a company always depends on both skill and luck, which means that a given strategy will succeed only part of the time. So attributing success to any strategy may be wrong simply because you’re sampling only the winners. The more important question is: How many of the companies that tried that strategy actually succeeded?

Jerker Denrell, a professor of strategy at Oxford, calls this the undersampling of failure. He argues that one of the main ways that companies learn is by observing the performance and characteristics of successful organizations. The problem is that firms with poor performance are unlikely to survive, so they are inconspicuously absent from the group that any one person observes. Say two companies pursue the same strategy, and one succeeds because of luck while the other fails. Since we draw our sample from the outcome, not the strategy, we observe the successful company and assume that the strategy was good. In other words, we assume that the favorable outcome was the result of a skillful strategy and overlook the influence of luck. We connect cause and effect where there is no connection. We don’t observe the unsuccessful company because it no longer exists. If we had observed it, we would have seen the same strategy failing rather than succeeding and realized that copying the strategy blindly might not work.

The title of this post is a misquote from famous Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Below it is in full with translation from here:

Tere honton ke phoolon ki chaahat mein hum
Daar ki khushk tahni pe vaare gaye
Tere haathon ki shammom ki hasrat mein hum
Neem-tareek raahon mein maare gaye…
Jab ghuli teri raahon mein shaam-e sitam
Hum chale aaye laaye jahaañ tak qadam
Lab pe harf-e ghazal, dil meiñ qandeel-e-gham
Apna gham tha gavaahi tere husn ki
Dekh khaayam rahe is gavaahi pe hum
Hum jo tareek raahon mein maare gaye

In the desire for the flowers that were your lips
We were sacrificed on the dry branch of the scaffold
In the yearning for the light of your hands
We were killed in the darkening streets…
As the evening of tyranny dissolved in your memory
We walked on as far as our feet could carry us
A song on our lips, a lamp of sadness in our heart
Our grief bore witness to our love for your beauty
Look, we remained true to that love
We, who were executed in the dark lanes.


This is the full poem in Urdu script if anyone is interested

تیرے ہونٹوں کے پھولوں کی چاہت میں ہم
دار کی خشک ٹہنی پہ وارے گئے
تیرے ہاتھوں کی شمعوں کی حسرت میں ہم
نیم تاریک راہوں‌ میں مارے گئے

سولیوں پر ہمارے لبوں سے پرے
تیرے ہونٹوں کی لالی لپکتی رہی
تیری زلفوں کی مستی برستی رہی
تیرے ہاتھوں کی چاندی دمکتی رہی

جب گھلی تیری راہوں میں شامِ ستم
ہم چلے آئے، لائے جہاں تک قدم
لب پہ حرفِ غزل، دل میں قندیل غم
اپنا غم تھا گواہی تیرے حسن کی
دیکھ قائم رہے اس گواہی پہ ہم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں‌ میں‌ مارے گئے

نار سائی اگر اپنی تقدیر تھی
تیری الفت تو اپنی ہی تدبیر تھی
کس کو شکوہ ہے گر شوق کے سلسلے
ہجر کی قتل گاہوں سے سب جا ملے

قتل گاہوں سے چن کر ہمارے عَلم
اور نکلیں گے عشاق کے قافلے
جن کی راہ طلب سے ہمارے قدم
مختصر کر چلے درد کے فاصلے

کر چلے جن کی خاطر جہاں‌گیر ہم
جاں گنوا کر تری دلبری کا بھرم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں‌ میں ‌مارے گئے


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