A letter to my younger self


Dear Aasif at 30,

Today is your birthday. In the future that I inhabit, 2018 is a milestone year for you. You’ve lived a full and exhilarating life. A life sans regret. You’ve come so far, and there’s still much to be done.

Yours has been a journey unlike any other. You’ve made so many decisions that have altered the course of your life. Your late ’20s and early ’30s were the most tumultuous of them all. A brand new business, no pedigree, no references, no funding. All you have is grit and determination.

You will walk into that first business meeting for the Syria project with all the odds stacked against you. But you have never known negativity. Or what it means to fail. Or the meaning of the word impossible. You will walk in with nothing but an implicit belief in yourself, and a will to win against any odds. You will walk out exhilarated, a project in hand and more than a little nervous about your ability to deliver. And deliver you will. It will be the first of many such opportunities, and you will grab them all with both hands.

When presented with an opportunity to submit a tender in Iraq as part of the Oil for Food program you will be called on to make a decision with limited information. The decision to pitch as an Indian company or through a Jordanian partner will make or break your pitch. You have always relied on the advice of your team and what your gut tells you, but you will also seek the advice of a man wiser than you – Dr Abdul Naser Sijari. You will heed his opinion, and it will be the right decision.

You will learn that sometimes when you are too close to a situation, it makes sense to step back and seek the advice of someone outside of your circle. Someone wholly disconnected, who has no information except what you share with them. Work hard to build a network of mentors outside of your context whom you can go to when you need them. And actively listen to what they have to say even when it makes you uncomfortable. Especially when it makes you uncomfortable.

You will make some ridiculous mistakes over the years. Like the North African project that you accept with civil work. Underdeveloped, politically fragile country; your own company’s poor reading of the situation and casual approach. Needless to say, the project will go very badly. The resulting tensions will threaten Fabtech‘s very existence. And all you can do is curse your hubris for taking on this project. Not that cursing will help you solve the problem at hand.

Events tied to this project will leave you emotionally and mentally exhausted. Lack of sleep and appetite will wear you down. On a trip to Dubai, you will pick up an interesting looking book. The next morning, your body still tuned to India time, you will wake early. Without anything to do, you will randomly skim through this book and come upon these words “When you curse something, it comes back to you”, followed by a mantra to invite positive thoughts.

You will feel as one struck by lightning. You will immediately follow the self-affirming mantra. All through the day, you will do this, deliberately and consciously. At the end of the day, as you are repeating these words to yourself, your consultant will call you with a way out of the civil work on the project.

What was a chakravyuh of despair with no exit will neatly unravel, leaving you to focus your energy on what you do best. With just a little help from the Almighty and the power of positivity.

This will be your first conscious experience in the power of positive thinking. Embrace it. There will be naysayers who will roll their eyes at you. Ignore them. Very few understand the power of their own thoughts to change their life or the Almighty who reverberates what we think.

Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You will learn a valuable lesson from every single one of them. Every misstep will teach you what not to do next time. And each will be a lesson you learn well.

Most of all, listen to your inner self. Find a place in your thoughts where you are comfortable with yourself. When you need to give yourself a good talking to, do it out loud. I promise you it works wonders.

Success is just over that next crest. Keep the faith.


Aasif, today

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.