You are about to go off into the wide world, alone, excited, apprehensive, hopeful, that this will be the beginning of a long road to success. I wish you the same. Remember that integrity is not the only path, but it is the only path on which you will never be lost. Integrity is to keep ten things in mind.
1. Factor Allahﷻ into the equation because He is in it anyway. This is the best way to stay grounded and to know the best way forward. For in the end, we will not be asked, “What happened?” We will be asked, “What did you do?” Remembering Allahﷻ at all times and deciding everything based on His Pleasure has two advantages. It keeps us safe from sin and it gives us tremendous confidence, knowing that He is watching and is with us. Believe me, just as doing good matters, so also sin matters, even more. So, stay safe from sin and disobedience of Allahﷻ and you can be sure that He will help you. Remember that Islam is the name of a practice. Not a philosophy. The one who practices Islam is a Muslim and the one who doesn’t, isn’t. The one who practices Islam benefits. The one who doesn’t, doesn’t. The practice of Islam begins and ends with Salah (prayer). Prayer is a resource to reboot our drives five times a day, to charge our batteries, to seek Allahﷻ’s help, to relax and rejuvenate, and to remind ourselves, that one day we will see Allahﷻ and be called to account. Salah reminds us that everything counts.
2. Always be thankful. It is true that we succeed by our own efforts, but it is good to remember that some of them were made standing on someone else’s shoulders. They helped us when they didn’t need us and without expecting any reward. Don’t forget them because without them you would still be crawling. The biggest fallacy is the so-called ‘self-made man or woman.’ There’s no such thing. We are all the products of the Grace of God, of our time, environment, nation, family, friends – of all those who stopped by to lend a hand. To every one of them we owe a debt which must be repaid. So always be thankful and express thanks. People are not mind readers and even mind readers like to hear it from you. So, tell them. Thankfulness increases blessings, opens new doors, inspires people to do things for you and increases your circle of influence. Thankfulness also fills your own heart with joy. Try it and see.
3. Forgive others. Forgiveness heals. You, more than the other person. Don’t forget but forgive. If you forget, you will lose the lesson from the experience and will fall into the same hole again. Imagine you are riding your Harley on a lovely bright morning when a bad smelling piece of wet trash flies off the garbage truck ahead of you and sticks to your shirt. What do you do? You wash it off at the first stop and remind yourself never to drive behind a garbage truck again. That is what I mean by forgive but don’t forget. But if you don’t forgive, it is like keeping the trash on your shirt and smelling it from time to time and cursing yourself, your fate, the truck driver, whoever. That is not something that any intelligent person should do.
4. Seek forgiveness. Ideally don’t put yourself in a position where you need to seek forgiveness. But we all make mistakes. So, if you do something wrong, own up and seek forgiveness. Owning up is excellent for the ego, makes you stronger and more respected, is a sign of integrity and humanity. It is not only humans who make mistakes but only humans who seek forgiveness. Seek forgiveness with genuineness and humility. Not like you are doing the other person a favor. Owning up is a sign of confidence and sincerity and ensures that you will learn from the mistake. That is all that matters. Did you learn or not? People who don’t learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. Ditto for nations.
5. Never compromise your legacy. Never lose sight of your purpose. Ask, ‘Why am I here?’ Write it down and stick it on your wall. Look at it every morning and re-dedicate yourself to that. Stick to that. There will be times when all sorts of other things will seek priority. Different issues will demand importance. Friends will pull in various directions. At such times look at your purpose and know that everything else must be subordinated to that if you are serious about success. Ask, ‘What do I want to be remembered for?’ Focus is the art of ignoring fluff.
6. Everyone has friends. The worst of them and the best of them, all have friends. Ask Mother Teresa and ask any drug dealer or pickpocket. They all have friends. The key is to have the right kind of friends. Who is the right friend? Someone you can look up to. Someone you can learn from. Someone who challenges you to be your best. Someone who tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want to hear. It is not how many friends you have but who those friends are, which is important. Remember, a friend is a real human being who you know and can talk to. Someone who will pick up your call. Someone who will stand up for you and walk with you on the cold, dark road of your night, asking for nothing in return. A friend is someone who will take the bullet for you. If you are lucky, you will have one like that in your entire life. I was. I had. Therefore, value friends and tell them that you value them. And, before I forget, FB friends are not friends. They are people being polite to you so that you will be polite to them in return. It ends with that. Ask, ‘What kind of friend am I to my friends?’ Do you measure up to the same standard? Being a leader means to take hard decisions and not follow the herd. Sheep have lots of company all the way to the abattoir.
7. No one walks alone: Every one of us is a reflection of his family, community, nation and humanity. We are never alone. Everything we choose to do or choose not to do, reflects brand value and character. Character is the tree and fame is its shadow. But of the two only the tree is real. So, judge every action not only by whether it pleases you but by how it will reflect on your parents, family, and nation. We are human because of our values alone. That is what distinguishes us from animals. So, focus on values. Compassion supercedes them all. Do to others better than what you would have them do to you. That is the Platinum Rule. That way you raise the bar and set a new standard that others can look up to. Life is transactional but we decide the value in the transaction. People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what we say until they see what we do. A picture is worth a thousand words. An action is worth a million.
8. Remember that popularity doesn’t matter: So never buckle under the pressure of popularity. It doesn’t matter at all. Dr. Rene Favaloro invented the technique and performed the first bypass surgery in 1967. Michael Jackson began his solo career in 1971 (he made his debut in 1964). Who was more popular? Whose contribution has more value? Think contribution, not popularity. In our world today, if you stand up against injustice, oppression, cruelty, and discrimination, you will be very unpopular. But the world owes a debt of gratitude to those who do. Otherwise, oppressors would rule unchallenged. Peace as defined by oppressors has always been, ‘Absence of resistance to my oppression.’ But history is witness that it is thanks to those who disturbed that peace that we abolished slavery, have human dignity, and continue to fight for freedom. Remember that it is not whether you won or lost which matters. What matters is which side you fought on. Pick your side for you will be known by it. That is your signature.
9. Are you interested in development? Then seek feedback. Not just accept it, but actively seek feedback. Feedback is the mirror. You control what it reflects. Feedback is to look in the mirror of other’s eyes and experience. What you see there is how you appear to them. Do you want them to change how they see you? Then change yourself. It is really that simple. To be really empowered is to realize this and to remain on a path to lifelong learning. The secret of life is to realize that we are on a road to a destination at which we will arrive when the road ends. Until then the race is on. Winners and losers are only decided at the end. As a rule, those who try to help others to win are winners. Those who try to sabotage others, are losers. Choose wisely.
10. Last but not least, be kind. Especially to those who have no power to benefit you. They are the most important because the one who has nobody, has Allahﷻ and his voice reaches the Throne of Allahﷻ even if he doesn’t worship Him. Fear the dua (prayer) of the oppressed for there is no barrier between him and his Creator. Be kind in speech and action. To remove a rock from the road so that someone will not trip over it, is kindness. To take care of the commons is kindness. To clean up after yourself, whether it is your classroom, your desk, the table in the restaurant, the public toilet you use, or your old neighbor’s yard, are all acts of kindness. They influence the hearts of others and their opinion of you. Choose kindness because that is a path that has few who walk on it. It is a field in which you will have little competition, but I hope your being there will draw others to it and that you will leave a mark in the hearts of others.
I wish you every great dream in life and the courage to make it come true.