20. 10. 2015 – 60

20. 10. 2015 – 60

Routine both enables and destroys the opportunity to make real gains. That depends on what you choose to include in your routine. You make the choices. The routine does the rest. For many people they get into a routine which they believe will enable them to live the life of their dreams. That’s flawed thinking because living and dreaming are not two separate things.

What you live is and becomes your dream even if you hold something else in your mind, called , “Dream”. For such people by the time they get to where they feel they can now pursue their dream, they find that they’ve come to the end of the road. There’s no more life left to make the dream come true. They discover to their horror that they were in fact making a dream come true all those decades…someone else’s dream while they were waiting to get to the point where they could go after their own.

The time to go after your dream is now. Because now is all you have and all you’ll ever have. Now is all that anyone ever has.

Make the right choices because everything else depends on that. You’re free to choose but every choice has a price tag. Read the price tag carefully. It will have the name of what you’re choosing to give up on it. That’s the price of the choice you’re making. Every time you choose to do something, you’re choosing not to do something else. That’s the price of what you chose to do. Do read the tag and decide if you really want to pay that price.

Many people make choices without reading the price tag. Then complain that they didn’t have any other choice. But that’s not true. The price tag had the name of the other choice which they could have chosen instead if they’d read the tag. Life’s store doesn’t have a cash or checkout counter. The choices are remotely linked to your account and you pay as soon as you put the choice into your basket. So you pay as soon as you choose. Only, you may not feel the pinch right away.

But not to worry. You will. We all do. Some feel the pinch and it can hurt, sometimes very badly. Others feel the joy.

Once again the choice is ours to make


Thoughtshare as I look back on sixty years.

The picture is my name in Arabic calligraphy hand painted by the Imam of the Great Mosque in Xi’an

The Great Mosque of Xi’an ( Chinese: 西安大清真寺; pinyin: Xīān Dà Qīngzhēnsì ) is located near the Drum Tower on 30 Huajue Lane of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China. The mosque covers 12,000 square meters.

Bush Camp Diary – Dawn and Dusk

Bush Camp Diary – Dawn and Dusk

Which is more magical? More peaceful? More dynamic? Dawn or dusk in the bush?

Dawn with it’s rapidly strengthening light promising a clear, hot day or dusk with light decreasing gently promising a night of peace, danger – life and death struggles, full or empty bellies – rapidly beating hearts – all dependent on who you are.

The hoot of the owl as he sits on his favorite perch ready to take flight, scanning the dark earth with eyes which catch the lowest of light and see what others can only imagine. His ears, aided by their asymmetric position and his flat reception-disc face listening for sounds of the whisper in the grass as a mouse searches for food – little realizing that he is himself being ‘searched’ as food. Then he flies off on silent wings without a hint of the menace that he is for those who are close to the earth.

There’s a lot of water in the Kruger at this time, thanks to unprecedented rains and so we saw a lot of Waterbuck – all of whom sat upon the toilet seat before the paint was dry. Underlines the benefits of low pans which would have saved this rather embarrassing situation. What an amazing detail of creation where one species has this completely unique marking not shared by anyone else!

The Waterbuck herds are shepherded by the dominant male with his beautifully symmetrical horns – lethal for the inexperienced lion or leopard. Like all antelope and deer, they are curious and run a little way off and then stop to look back at what it was that scared them. And that is what gets them killed – for the hunter waits for that stop which he knows is coming. But it also gives you the best photo op and here is one result.

Sand River Bush Camp – Kruger National Park – Memories

Sand River Bush Camp – Kruger National Park – Memories

The Kruger Bush Camp had been a dream of several years standing when I received an invitation from Honorary Ranger Mr. Farouk Hassan to participate in the camp from March 27-30. I was delighted to say the least and accepted with great alacrity before he could change his mind.
How do you describe the experience of sleeping in a tent listening to lions roaring on the other side of the river? Or hippo grunting as they bathe in pools opposite your tent? The joy of a nature walk which opens your eyes to the so-called small things – each a marvel of creation which truly gives meaning to the phrase – ‘God is in the detail.’ How can I describe the powerful healing power of silence – simply sitting in the shade of the trees in the camp, listening to the birds and the soothing gurgle of the river hurrying along to Mozambique?

Mr. Farouk Hassan’s knowledge, combined with his patience in explaining, his beautiful manners and friendly and highly approachable nature – I truly regretted when the camp ended.

For me the bush camp was not so much about what we saw – and we saw many things apart from all the Big Five – but about being in the midst of nature, the creation of Allah who we worship and whose signs we see in His creation. It was about linking myself to my Creator by seeing His Majesty and Glory in a simple spider web or in the fact that the Diddiric Cuckoo lays eggs of 18 different shades depending on the host species whose nest she chooses for her egg. In each of these small things – which we tend to miss when we rush around Kruger in search of the elusive lion – is a story of the Majesty of the Creator that is amazing, inspiring and comforting.

I was also very fortunate to get some photography lessons from Mems which I hope will enable me to improve my skills. The catering, care-taking and warmth and affection of the two Yusufs and their team, all made the bush camp an experience never to be forgotten.
I look forward to using these learnings in my lectures to get people interested in nature and to drive home the importance of conserving and protecting it – because our own welfare and survival is intrinsically linked to it.

I would like to thank Mr. Farouk Hassan and all the Management of Kruger National Park for inviting me to this camp and to say that I am very happy indeed to have come all the way from India to participate in it.

7 – Leadership Lessons from being a shepherd of sheep

7 – Leadership Lessons from being a shepherd of sheep

Interestingly most of the Anbiya (Prophets) of Allah Y were shepherds of sheep. Esa (Jesus) u used the simile of the shepherd when he spoke of himself as the shepherd of men. There is much to be learnt in shepherding sheep. Here are some lessons in leadership that being a shepherd of sheep teaches us.

1.    Responsibility & Accountability: (Hadith: Kullukum rayin wa kullukum mas-oolayn ar raayi-a – All of you are shepherds and all of you will have to answer for those in your care). The shepherd has to report to a higher authority. The shepherd is responsible and can’t blame the sheep for getting lost or hurt. He can’t say, ‘What can I do, my sheep are stupid.’ No matter if the sheep are stupid or clever, the shepherd is responsible.

2.    Patience, Mercy, Compassion: Sheep have some qualities that other animals don’t have. Sheep take their time, they are slow, they run around, get easily distracted. They are weak and need more protection than other animals. They are more susceptible to threats than camels, horses or cattle. They have no concept of unity. They don’t come together to protect their young or the flock. They can’t be punished too harshly because they don’t have the strength to withstand severe punishment. So the shepherd has to be patient, merciful and compassionate with sheep otherwise they die. Camels are arrogant and so you have to meet the arrogance with strength and so the shepherds of camels tend to be tough and rude because that is how they keep camels in control. This is how the profession affects the individual. Doctors can’t write properly, they scribble. Teachers become very scholarly and pedantic. Mechanics have a personality different from farmers who deal with plants and the earth. Engineers, politicians, lawyers, policemen all have different personalities. So the profession is very important to consider so that you choose a profession that suits Islam and does not corrupt your Deen. Sahaba accepted all kinds of political/administrative positions but set the standard for those professions and did not succumb to the common illnesses of politics or administration. The shepherd has to be patient and bear with their people, no matter what they do. Musau was a shepherd for 10 years and so he had a lot of training to lead Bani Israel. So were many other prophets.

3.    Courage: The shepherd protects the flock so he has to be courageous. There are many threats all of which the shepherd must be aware of and know what to do about them. A shepherd has to be prepared to put himself in danger to save his flock because sheep can’t defend themselves, let alone defending the shepherd. Since not all threats are the same, the shepherd has to anticipate threats and be prepared for them. He has to be creative to think of solutions for new emerging threats before they become sources of grief. A flock of sheep is notoriously difficult to keep in control as sheep have a tendency to stray. So the shepherd must be alert all the time and must know his sheep intimately so that he will know when one is missing.

4.    Concern & Compassion: Sheep have to be fed. They won’t go and look for food on their own. If food is not provided, they will simply sit and die. So no matter what the weather conditions may be, the shepherd has to ensure that he takes them to the right grazing ground or has an alternate source of food and water for his sheep. The shepherd has to think of his sheep’s nutrition before he thinks of his own. So concern and compassion for the flock has to be uppermost in his mind. When sheep get sick, it is the shepherd who has to sit up in the night and nurse them. Sheep are delicate and easily injured, so the shepherd has to be compassionate and help them over difficult ground, if necessary carrying them across. How many times have we seen a shepherd carrying a newborn kid on his shoulders, because it is still not strong enough to walk?

5.    Vision: Sheep are close to the ground and so can’t see very far and are not aware of any hidden dangers. The shepherd has a vantage point and so he can see the danger long before the sheep become aware of it and warn the sheep against it. Anbiya foresee the results of deeds which the doers of the deeds don’t see. When a shepherd is herding his flock he is the only one who knows the direction to take and the destination that he wants them to reach. Sheep simply go in the direction he sets even if it is harmful. That is why it is essential for the shepherd to be clear about the direction in the first place and so vision is critical.

6.    Simplicity: A shepherd’s life has to be simple by default. So the shepherd learns austerity and to live without the luxuries. The shepherd has to carry his own possessions as the sheep will not carry them for him so he has to be light and mobile. The shepherd has to be physically tough and must take hardship in his stride. He sleeps early, wakes often in the night to check on his flock and then wakes early as the day breaks and his flock begins to stir. If he sleeps too long the sheep will leave him and go away in all directions.

7.    Closeness to nature: Shepherds naturally live close to the creation of AllahY. In most places, shepherds camp out with their sheep moving from grazing to grazing and don’t return home for months. Often their only companions are their sheep. You have to love solitude and know how to keep yourself engaged to be a good shepherd. There is plenty of time to reflect, no urgency to go from place to place and the opportunity to get to know yourself very well. Among the joys of being close to nature is being able to see the stars, eat and drink natural things, sleep on the ground. To hear the silence. To become comfortable with darkness and not feel threatened. To see the sun rise and set, recognize the signs of AllahY in His creation and so build his own connection with the One to whom he will have to answer one day.

All these are the benefits of herding sheep. Even if we don’t do that literally today, it is important to ask how many of these qualities are within us and what we are doing to develop those that are not.

Football – What did I learn?

I have a habit of asking, ‘So what did I learn?’ with everything that I do or experience. Can’t say that I actually ‘followed’ the World Cup in South Africa, much to the disgust of most of my friends who are keen on football but I still thought I’d share some thoughts on what I learnt, nevertheless. I have used ‘he’ for convenience alone. Please read it as he or she.

I learnt four lessons:

1. Focus on the goal

I remember once while I was in school in grade 6, kicking the ball into our own goal and everyone else remembered that ever since. Redundant though this statement may seem (Focus on the goal? So what else is new eh!) it is surprising how many of us work without any clarity about what the end result should be or what we would like it to be. Just ask how many people have a written down life goal. They may well the desire to achieve something but rare it is that a person actually sits down to visualize what that means and writes it down as a goal. That is why though everyone wants to succeed, not everyone manages to do so. Success has a price and one must be clear about what investment his own goal requires. Without that when we come to the checkout and have to pay for the purchase we realize that we don’t have the money and we have to put the article back on the shelf. I give this analogy because it illustrates what happens in life, all too often only because we are not clear about what exactly we want to achieve and what it will take to do it.

It is essential before we begin any task to be clear about the end result that we want to achieve; what the consequences of our actions are likely to be including the unintended ones and what options we may have other than the course of action that we may have chosen to adopt. The last one is important also because it is natural to like one’s own ideas above others (sometimes to the exclusion of everything else) but this liking can sometimes lead to trouble especially if one ignores contradictory information. Many people are very reluctant to listen to the dissenting opinion and ignore negative data to their own peril. Remember, it is better to listen than to fail.

Focus on the goal is important because it is only scoring the goal that counts. A team can hardly go to the referee and ask to be declared the winners because they tried so hard or because they intended to win or for any other reason. It is the number of goals scored which is the only criterion to decide the winner. All our effort in the end must be judged on the basis of whether or not it helped us to score the goal. If it did, then it was good effort. If not, it failed. Naturally all these efforts have to be within the framework of the Rules of the Game and so our focus on the goal must take into account the rules. I don’t mention the importance of following rules because breaking the rules automatically disqualifies you and throws you out of the game. To follow rules is one of those self evident truths which need no elaboration.

Means are important because without the right means scoring the goal has no value. A win by dishonest means is a loss far more harmful and shameful than merely losing a match. A medal can be bought in a shop but has no value unless it is won in the field as a result of great and honorable effort. So it is not merely the end but the means by which that end is achieved which are both equally important.

2. Develop the skills to win

The second lesson I learnt is the importance of skill; the right skills to play the game so that we can win. Winning is a matter of skill. The achievement of the vision; the scoring of the goal depends not only on trying hard but on having the necessary skills to win. On working smart more than merely working hard. On having a strategy that is superior to that of the opposing team and on talents honed and sharpened with tools to implement that strategy at a level of excellence which will leave the other team standing.

Developing skills is a matter of hard work and discipline because to acquire skills at an expert level is never easy. Developing skills means the hard work to get up every morning to run the laps of the track no matter how tired one may be. It means the discipline of sleeping early so that one is not tired in the morning. It means developing some key attitudes. Curiosity that leads to reading and research to acquire knowledge. Humility that enables us to listen and accept feedback even if that is sometimes painful. Observation so that we can watch what others do and learn from their experience. Structured thinking so that we can extract concepts from all the information that we have collected. Conceptual ability is absolutely critical to learning. What we can’t conceptualize we don’t learn even though we may have lived through the pain of the experience. Raw experience is the material from which learning must be extracted. That process is called conceptualization without which there is no learning. That is why wisdom is not a factor of lifespan but of thought. A person does not have to be old to be wise nor are all old people automatically wise. Reflection, introspection and deductive reasoning are all essential to conceptualization so that learning happens. It is only when a person learns that the experience acquires value. That’s why they say, ‘Experience is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.’ That’s the differentiator.

3. Learn to cooperate with others

Nobody can score alone. At least not consistently and consistence is the secret of winning. The lesson I learnt from winning teams is that they played as teams; not as groups of skilled individuals each playing his own game. They were a team playing one game, all together. We have abundant evidence from all sorts of games and teams about what happens when there is a team that has not ‘gelled’; has not really become a team except in name. On the other hand a team which does not have so many ‘stars’ but which cooperates and passes the ball to the one positioned the best to score, wins. I am not promoting mediocrity or playing down the importance of great players but merely underlining the fact that without cooperating and playing as one, in the end the team is almost certain to lose the game.

Cooperation is easier said than done, as many of us realize. Cooperation is more a matter of attitude first; in being clear about what each team member can contribute and acknowledging the importance of that contribution and doing everything possible to enable that person to play to his strength. To give a rugby analogy the only result of placing a player who is slim and very fast on his feet, as a center forward is to bring him to a messy ending. A player must be placed and helped to play to his strength so that he can give his best. That sometimes means passing the ball and allowing the other team member to score the goal fully aware of the fact that in the final tally it will be his name and not yours as the one who scored the goal, even though both of you know that he would not have been able to score if you had not passed the ball. What is also true in this scenario is that if you had not passed the ball and tried to score the goal yourself, the team would have lost because you were not in a position to score and would have been stopped by those tracking you. You pass the ball because it is not your win or his, it is the teams’ win.

Cooperation means therefore being more concerned about the team’s win than about your own personal glory. Therefore my definition of a team is, ‘A group of people committed to a common goal who understand how each one is essential for the team to win and where each does all he can to enable the other to play to his strength.’ At the risk of repetition, understanding how each is important and allowing him to play to his strength – this is the meaning of cooperation.

4. Play hard

When all is said and done it is total commitment to the game in the field, giving it your best shot without holding back anything which decides success. The last lesson I learnt is that in the end it is a passionate commitment to do anything it takes that makes the difference. Because passion rarely fails.

The leopard stalks her prey with great cunning and stealth, trying to get as close to the antelope as she can. She is fully conscious of the fact that an antelope is faster than she is and desperate fear for life will add wings to its feet. That is why when she finally launches her charge she puts her complete heart into it. Every muscle explodes with energy, adrenaline flows into her blood, her heart pumps like an engine and in two or three bounds she is on top of the antelope almost before it can even register that its life is about to be extinguished. The leopard in that final rush sees nothing but the antelope. Her whole being is concentrated on the antelope. She is conscious of nothing else. That is what I mean by passion. A complete and exclusive consciousness of the goal combined with demonstrated commitment to do the best that one can possibly do. And that as I mentioned, rarely fails.

Finally the last learning underlying all of the above – don’t forget to have fun. Winning can be consistent only if one is having fun doing it. So enjoy playing, look forward to it, think about it, dream it and play for the joy of it. Happy winning.