Genuine Understanding!

If you take the time to understand others by listening with your eyes, ears, heart, undivided attention and without judgement, you will already be halfway there.

I did a presentation some time back for a cancer group. I started by saying: “If I say to you I know and understand your pain, I will be lying to you. The truth is I don’t. I do not have cancer and do not know how it feels to have cancer. So help me understand how you feel and what your biggest challenges are?”

The group responded by expressing thoughts like:

“Why me?”
“I feel a loss of control.”
“I’m angry.”
“I’m afraid.”

These are real issues with no quick-fix solutions. I did my best to respond to them, but the fact that I took to the time to ask and be attentive to the group’s feelings was important. The participants felt their feelings were valued, so they responded well to the presentation.

One minute video from Azim

Simple Ideas!

Please take a moment to vote for Maziwa to win the Common Bond Award:

Children’s health in many developing economies is compromised because women are forced to join the workforce within months of giving birth which means children are deprived of their mother’s milk. Mothers’ milk is not only nature’s best food for babies, but also has a significant impact on their mental and physical development in adult life.

Often it’s the simple ideas that carry the most meaning and impact. My daughter, Sahar, is pitching the idea of an affordable breast pump for low-income markets that can have an exponential impact on maternal and newborn health. An idea like this could not only transform the lives of millions of children but also empower women to make better choices for their families. Empowered mothers mean empowered communities. This idea is one of 8 semi-finalists for the Common Bond Social Impact Award – the top 3 videos with the most votes will move into the finals to win a financial award towards developing the idea further. All votes need to be in before November 4th. I will be very grateful if you take 2 minutes to vote by clicking the button below or clicking on the following link:

Deal with it!

Businesswoman with digital tablet in a coffee shop

“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.” Denzel Washington

When something is irritating you, one of the best things you can do is attend to it. Once you deal with it to the best of your ability you put the irritation behind you.

For example, you have received an email that bothers you. If you respond to it to the best of your ability, you will get relief from anxiety and worry.

If for some reason you can not deal with what is nagging you because you do not know how to deal with it, then allow some time, say 12 – 24 hours, before tackling it. But the longer you wait, the longer the anxiety will linger on.

Or there might be many circumstances or situations which might seem overwhelming or you realize you can’t be perfect at. But you just have to do what you think is best, because, it’s not about the situation or the solution, it’s how you deal with it and how you let it shape you to become a better person.


Unreasonable Person

Brother and sister looking at each other shoutingWhat do you do when someone is unreasonable and uses inaccurate justification?

You have three choices:

1. You also become unreasonable and/or use inaccurate justification. This will surely make things worse for both of you.

2. You just ignore the person and become indifferent. Sure, this may be better than the above approach, but will still not solve the issue.

3. You make a concerted effort to understand the unreasonable behavior and inaccurate justification at a deeper level to see what the reason behind this behavior could be. This has the highest percentage of initiating a breakthrough process.

If you want a behavioral change in others, you must begin by changing the way you look at their behavior. Then, follow up with having a dialogue that’s rooted in their paradigm, repeating in your own words what you understand they are saying. This makes them feel validated and heard. This opens the door for you to share with them how you personally see things.

The final step is to make the problem ‘before you’, not ‘between you’. This way it is not ‘him against you’. It is to some extent mutually beneficial, without accepting unreasonable demands. This approach will yield the highest chance of achieving success.

If for some unforeseen reason this process does not work, then a stronger approach is validated.

Lifelong Learning

books on wooden deck tabletop

Lifelong learning is pivotal to adapting to change. Mastering skills required to meet shifting demands, help you build the confidence needed to face changes head-on. So, be attentive and open to continually learning from every experience.

Furthermore, enhancing your skills, and broadening your education, can spark creativity. Let me illustrate with an example:

Gerry was almost fired as an architect. A partner in his firm told him that he did not have what it took to be an architect. He first, craftily negotiated a three-month grace period by fully trusting in his abilities. He then made an irrefutable offer – if he failed to prove his worth during this period, he would be open to termination. In the end, through an arsenal of learning, diverse skill sets, and unbound ingenuity, Gerry proved his worth so convincingly that he not only retained his job but was eventually offered a partnership in the firm.

How did this turnaround come to be? Gerry opened himself up to all feedback; committed himself fully to improving his weaknesses, and wholeheartedly believed in his own capacity to excel. This full-tilt effort enabled Gerry to move forward toward greater opportunities. Every positive change he made, immensely increased his chances of inviting more success. All, despite the trying circumstances he faced.

Coping Strategies

Two people paddling inflatable boat down rapids









All of us have, in reserve, enormous potential for coping with different situations. When changes confront us, we tap into our problem-solving repositories. We draw upon an array of troubleshooting methods and coping strategies. However, if we’re not exposed to change, those talents remain untapped.

Our various stages of growth condition us to developmental change. We see infants grow into adolescence, then into adulthood.  We see the barren limbs of winter sprout spring leaves, then burst into blossoms, which mature into summer fruit.  We see fall foliage grow dull and recede once more into the barrenness of winter.  As birthdays pile up, we encounter sickness and death among our loved ones, and quietly accept the fact that one day they’ll claim us too.  These changes are a part of our normal existence, and humans naturally learn to cope with them.

But, when a disaster; economic depression or crime and/or violence hit close to home, we need to tap into our repository of coping strategies.

Our neighbor, Anna, found a way of coping with cancer took her husband. She found that twice-a-week visits to the sick at the hospital were not only a great way of giving back, but it brought her, as well as those fighting illness out of their loneliness. She regards these comforting visits as a gift to her husband.

The most positive approaches for getting through life-changing events are drawn from our repositories of problem-solving behavior and coping strategies.

We accumulate these mechanisms simply by living and enduring.  They are there to draw upon when change falls heavily on our lives.

Anticipate & Influence change

blank notebook on a white wooden table

More often than not, stress accompanies change. The best way to deal with change is to anticipate and be ready for it.  Much like if you know you’re departing a warm building to enter the frigid outdoors, you will don on a warm jacket and gloves so the temperature change doesn’t shock you.  And if you know you’re about to hit a bump on the road, you brace yourself so you don’t get thrown from your seat. It’s only when you get caught off guard that you get into trouble. So, always be on the alert for change.  If complacent, you will likely miss key signs of it coming your way.

“Change descends on every one equally,” said Azim Premji, CEO of Wipro Corporation of India.  “It is just that some realize it faster.”

While sudden changes often get attention because they are most dramatic, the gradual changes are ignored until it is too late. The following example of the boiled frog illustrates it best:

If you place a frog in a pot of water and suddenly increase the temperature, the frog will notice and quickly jump out if it can. But if the temperature is increased very slowly, one degree at a time, the frog does not realize it and boils to death.

Thus, you must develop your own early-warning system for change. If change is anticipated and you stay alert at first sign, you can position yourself to take advantage of it.

To effectively deal with change, you must keep up with various shifts. However, you can’t adjust to what you don’t know. So extensively read industry literature within the field in which you pursue prosperity.  Look for trends and develop strategies for riding these trends to success.

Don’t also overlook the possibility of influencing change. My coauthor of “Life Balance the Sufi Way”, Dr. Nido Qubein, sums it up neatly:

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer only reflects the temperature of its environment, adjusting to the situation. But a thermostat initiates action to change the temperature in its environment.