A ruby is a rock, but not just any rock

Most people are not irreplaceable. Remove the most important person from an organization and they leave a gaping hole. But eventually the people remaining will cover it, bit by bit. And when that person comes back, they might find themselves redundant, unable to jump in and work in a machine that’s been running without them for so long.

But some people are irreplaceable. When they go they leave a hole that isn’t repaired, but worked around. No one can take their place. The machine will go on, but at the end of every sigh of the engine is a silent wish, conscious or not, that the person were back with them.

Advertisements

Public Speaking

Is something i enjoy. I wouldn’t say i’m a pro but i’m good at it, thanks in no small part to the many teachers who have groomed me, whom i have had the honour of studying with and emulating, and from observing so many great speakers.

Here i offer some points to take note of which would improve the standard of a person’s presenting skills.

  1. Do not fill gaps with ‘uhm’s or the like. Silence is better, silence is good. Such noises whilst seemingly harmless, actually sound horrible especially when your voice is projected well or loud. They detract from your message and make you sound like you’re kinda tense but trying to appear relaxed.
  2. Pacing and moving about too much. Some movement can make your speech engaging, but too much of it is tiring to follow. Excessive gesturing and and overly animated face fall into this category as well.
  3. Poor posture. It hurts to look at someone who has poor posture; maybe subconsciously we know how our bodies should be positioned and seeing someone do it ‘wrongly’ causes us discomfort.
  4. ‘I don’t know if you know’. Some might strongly disagree to this, but hear me out. At first blush it seems we are placing ourselves in a position of humility with the ‘i don’t know’ when in reality we’re casting doubt on the listener’s knowledge. It also is a hidden invitation for a response, whether or not you expect one. My preferred alternative is ‘you might have heard of’ or ‘you probably know’; shift the focus to the listener, and make them feel good about it.
  5. Repeating that you don’t know, have no idea, or are unsure. Again, it sounds like you’re being straightforward or humble but it highlights your ignorance and comes across as annoying. It could also be seen as defensive, that is ‘don’t take me seriously because clearly i don’t know what i’m talking about’ or ‘it’s okay if i mistake because i am clueless and don’t want you to think that it’s my fault for getting this wrong’.
  6. Being forcefully ironic, such as saying something negative but with a facial expression that says the opposite. For example, ‘it’s normal for people to fall sick at my workplace. Every week at least two people are hospitalized,’ and this is all said with a smile. Not a sad or sheepish smile, but a happy one. It might trigger laughter from your audience but some, if not most of it, is forced or uncomfortable. There is no benefit from behaving as such and it reduces the trust your audience can have in you (due to your forced smile and mismatch between what is said and your facial expression).
  7. In a similar vein, forcefully suppressing facial expression when saying something that is mean to be shocking or alarming. Whilst this sounds like a deadpan technique, bear in mind the context here is public speaking in general. The objective is for you to present something which is hopefully beneficial to your audience. The suppression of facial expressions gives a subtle message of ‘i’m trying to act cool, look at how unfazed i am’ and is also another example of forced irony. Be honest and open about your feelings, to whatever extent is suitable.
  8. Speaking in circles. A happened, which led to B, and then C was inevitable, because well A happened and then B and so eventually C came along. Be organized and if you need to repeat something for emphasis, do it purposefully and clearly. The way i outlined is rambling and makes it seem like you’re either self-obsessed or not really paying attention to your words.
  9. Folding your arms when on stage. Most of the time, this is a no-no. It closes you off from the audience. There are some instances where it is fine or even appropriate, but if you can’t elaborate on that confidently, don’ bother. Stick to the no-no rule first.
  10. Reading off your slides. Firstly if you’re using slides, they shouldn’t be too wordy. And if you need a whole chunk of words, let the audience read it for themselves. They’re probably going to be a lot faster reading it in their heads than you reading it out loud. Reading out everything your slides is redundant and annoying. So is pointing out the obvious. Don’t.

I’ll stop here for now because i’m struggling to think of something else. If more appears in my head, i’ll come back to edit this post.

In the meantime i hope this post causes us to pause and think about how we speak in front of an audience, and if each person just makes one change, together we can end something.

Waiting for the turn

I need to write, gotta get things out of me.

I’ve come to a point where i actually hate my job; the intellectual part of me sees nothing inherently wrong or bad about teaching. No, i still have immense respect for my teachers and kind of hope to be like them one day.

But the day to day grind, the meaningless tasks, restrictions, ridiculous policies and unnecessary politics has soured the experience for me. I guess i had to do it to realize teaching long term is just not my thing. There’s nothing exciting about it. Workshops, talks, now that’s more my cup of tea. It can’t be too often though, cos then it gets too repetitive and boring.

What i feel now is an immensely strong desire to be out there. I want some danger, excitement, risk and a great demand for me to be the best i can to do my job well. Physically fit, mentally sharp, skilful, brave; these are things that appeal to me which my job doesn’t really encourage or need. I won’t talk about others but i myself find that with the work i have to do and the things i need to handle, i feel no satisfaction and because of that have come up against a wall in terms of keeping myself fit and sharp. I know it’s work i need to do and i shouldn’t be blaming anything, but i can feel the difference.

Having been back at reservist for a few days now i can see how some things are kinda stupid or disliked by others, but surprise surprise, your guy right here enjoys it. I like checking the equipment in the vehicle to make sure everything is there and working correctly. I like testing the gear to make sure it’s running well, and then practicing to make sure i know what i’m doing and i do it well.

I like it that i have to keep my uniform pressed and neat, that i have to put on my headdress when walking in the open. I like walking in threes and whatever other ‘silly’ rule we’ve had to follow. It’s fun to me (or is it just a welcome break from teaching? No, can’t be, i enjoyed my NS days as well).

I want to specialize in doing difficult things that most others cannot, and if they can, are not brave enough to doI want to run into a blazing building, rappel down into an apartment, attend a rescue operation, storm a building with my weapon at the ready, push myself till the point of breaking and then have my buddies yell at me to stand up and keep going.

I miss the camaraderie of suffering together just to get better, just so we can do our jobs well. I miss being around people who didn’t complain when challenges appeared, rather smiled at adversity and bulldozed through it. I miss working with people who would push themselves to the limit just so the team would be okay, but they didn’t have to go over the limit because there would always be someone to pull them out and take over from where they left off.

No, the fire service isn’t perfect. There are idiots everywhere, it is the law of the world. But their population density drops significantly in certain areas, and this is one line where that is the case. You just can’t afford to have such a weak link around; the system kicks them out or pushes them aside. It is by design.

I want to see what most people only read about or try to imagine. I want to be like these old men i’ve met who look unassuming but have don incredible feats and have the knowledge and experience with them. I want to grow old and die having used myself to the best i can, to serve and to be of aid to others. And i suppose it must be exciting hahaha.

I’ve already taken a first step so let’s see where this goes!

Being Selective of What We Consume

It’s probably common knowledge that what you surround yourself with or constantly take in influences your mind, which in turn shapes your thoughts, which direct your actions, that form your habits, and subsequently give shape to your character.

Therefore I find my decision to mostly avoid the news to be correct.

Dark theories aside, the fact remains that at least where I am, the news is mostly full of sad and petty things and sometimes infuriating information that we simply cannot do anything about.

Rarely have I had an enriching and positive discussion with someone about something we heard on the news. There’s almost always some level of frustration, complaining and helplessness involved. I don’t see a point in making that a part of my character.

Fortunately or not, there are enough people around me who keep abreast with such things as to filter the really important things and relate them to me. I have not yet found myself at a disadvantage or loss from making a decision whilst remaining oblivious to some ‘important’ goings-on.

Due research before making a big decision such as where to travel next is a given and with that, anyone can live happily and safely.

It’s maybe more than a coincidence that the bright, optimistic and forward thinking people I’ve met, talk more about ideas, books and experiences than current affairs. I suspect a strong link between mindsets, their corresponding success levels, and what those people pay attention to every day.

With that I conclude that fat people trying to get fit probably will remain fat as long as they continue hanging out with their fat friends. By spending time with the fit and slim people, you will accelerate your progress towards being one of them.

Teaching

Teaching is more than just a job. It isn’t the only one like that, though, bear that in mind.

Some things in this life we must do even if we don’t get paid for it:

  • curing sicknesses in humans and animals
  • taking care of the world around us
  • building homes for ourselves and others
  • planting and breeding livestock (the person himself needs it and the society needs people to do that because not everyone is able to do it for themselves)
  • and many others

It seems teaching is no longer a duty and is now just a job/profession/whatever people call it. You go to school, do stuff, get out, and then get paid.

But that’s all wrong.

Even if you are a not a teacher by profession, it is still your job to teach your young and the young you come by in life. Remember that cool saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? Every one of us plays a part.

So teachers, i implore you, do your work for the good intention of preparing our young ones to be responsible custodians of this world, and more importantly, of the life that’s been given them. KPIs and pressure from your department head and all that rubbish will definitely press in on you from every angle, and it will be hard. An uphill battle for some.

But if you do your work well, we will all be fine. If you teach your students to be better people then you have done us all a service, and you have my thanks.

This is a reminder to myself as the work piles up and the demands get all cray cray, but i’ve got excellent colleagues to look up to and the best teachers whose example i can take a lot from, so i have nothing to complain about.

Here’s to a bright future for all!

Keeping it Real

I’ve been reading the Art of Manliness for some time and occasionally they publish stuff form old army field manuals. The thing that really gets to me when reading them is just how real they are. You can tell that whoever wrote em really put thought and heart into the work, and they didn’t do it to just sound smart or to please people.

I didn’t see any citations or scientific studies (maybe there are, i’m not sure to be honest) but MAN they were a good read. I’ve heard a few of my teachers say this, and it’s that when someone writes from the heart, it goes straight to yours when you read it.

The army field manuals are just one example and i chose that because it’s the most secular example i can think of and it had very serious real-world applications. Just think how many lives could have been lost if those manuals were written poorly.

Which brings me to my next point: i really get the value and purpose of conducting scientific studies and such, but i think some parts of society are overly focused on them. Studies can take a long time, lots of resources and might require conditions very hard to fulfil, and even then we might not be able to draw strong conclusions later. Therefore why not we balance our need for studies with a truckload of common sense and actual thinking.

It frustrates me to hear people in authority talk from their throats and not heads + hearts. Even more infuriating is how they got there in the first place and the fact that they now influence a lot of lives.

Leaders, please, have your head in the stars as you gaze to the future but please keep your feet rooted to the earth. Go out and do things, seek the opinions of those on the ground and actively listen to them, and then please make decisions that are SOUND and GOOD, not those that SOUND GOOD.

Enough of doing things to appear politically correct. That farce gets us nowhere and we end up in a cycle of firefighting problems that arise from our ‘solutions’ to yesterday’s problems.

A leader is someone who can speak the truth without fear, who can admit his mistakes without shame, and who makes decisions for everyone’s good, and not just for measurable metrics like money and whatever else adults seem to focus on.

If the trains break down because of a combination of unexpectedly harsh weather and poor workmanship, then say it and apologize, then get to work fixing it. If you never taught in a classroom of 40 students before then don’t say hurtful things off the top of your head, and instead accept that you are leading in a field which you have zero experience in, then go and do some heavy legwork to truly understand what the people you are leading face on a daily basis. In fact, leaders should not be put in charge of something they have no experience in, because ‘leadership’ isn’t just about knowing how to tell people what to do and managing resources. It takes a deep appreciation of the workings of the little mechanisms that you might not notice on the grand scheme of things. It takes hard work and putting aside one’s ego and making decisions so that everyone benefits out of it, and not just your portfolio.

A good leader makes himself look good but a great leader makes everyone around him look good. Take a peek through history and you’ll see that the best leaders in our past made everyone feel empowered, confident in their shared vision, and inspired to put in the hard work. Their fame and recognition came as a product of that, not the goal of their actions.

Just the other week my friend reminded us of one of the warnings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which is that in the end times we will face the trial of leadership. I don’t know the exact elaborations of that but i understand some part of it, which is that we will have people who shouldn’t lead, leading. And we will have leaders tempted to do all sorts of strange things for their own gain or other agendas, and not for the fulfilment of their duty to those whom they should be serving (not just reporting to).

May we be protected from that and may God bless our leaders with pure hearts, firm resolve, and the guidance to do their jobs well. And may He also bless us all, the people, with patience, good conduct, a cooperative and supportive mindset, as well as the strength and ability to be good citizens, followers, and human beings.

The Adab of our Teachers

Yesterday at the Maulid Nabi and Haul of Habib Noh al Habsyi i got to see how respectful our teachers are of their teachers, or even those more senior to them.

The two things i observed and learnt:

  1. When a teacher or elder instructed them to do something, they complied, despite their great shame e.g. to address the congregation on their behalf.
  2. When someone spoke they sat respectfully, faced them, and paid full attention.

That’s just like the TIP of some huge iceberg. The adab of our teachers is really something amazing and something to strive for.

We are not even worthy of carrying their slippers yet by the great Mercy of Allaah, He has allowed us to benefit from them, and it is also from His Mercy that is reflected in their hearts, that we feel at peace around these blessed people.

May Allaah preserve our teachers and envelope them and their families in His Mercy forever, and gather them with our Beloved Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him. And through His Mercy may we be with them, for we will be gathered with those whom we love.