A Thought-Provoking Question That Will Change The Way You Live Your Life Forever.
On December 2015, I did something I never thought I would ever do.
I left my home of 40 years, Dubai, UAE.
I never thought I would ever do this simply because I was born and raised here. I completed my schooling, ‘tried’ to complete my college life, had all the ups and downs of trying to fit into the corporate world, had small successes and massive failures, tried new business, had new relationship, made new friendships — I mean I literally built all my memories in this desert landscape.
However, at some point this desert landscape transformed itself into the Las Vegas of the Middle East. And then morphed into this Fast & Furious Bullish market where the Richest, the Biggest, the Largest & the Most Ambitious dreams were being built. However, I soon witnessed what happened when Greed replaced Need, when ‘Quick-Get-Rich’ Schemes were camouflaged as a ‘Visions’ and where speculation replaced the principles of being grounded.
It happened in during the Gulf War in the 80’s. It happened even more violently during the Global Housing Crisis of 2011. And now I was witnessing the Tsunami slowly slither its ugly & destructive head towards the mainland.
Its so funny that human beings no matter how many times they are punished, some of them repeat the same mistake over and over again. And they give this abnormal destructive behavior titles like ‘Persistence’, ‘Vision’, ‘Leadership and all the F**king nonsense you can think off. Its likes serving Bullsh*t and calling it “Bullish Delicacy’. And these destructive patterns come in all shapes, sizes and forms with various names like ‘Bank-Guaranteed-Securities’ or ‘Business Opportunities’ or the latest BS called ‘Bitcoin’
Some how man with his cognitive dissonance will never ever learn. And I sometimes used to wonder — why?, seriously why is that some of us never learn? And I struggled to get an answer until a few days ago.
As usual, I was scanning through the headlines through the various websites, checking on trending items, watching youtube videos and then I peeked into my ‘once-upon-a-time’ addiction — Facebook. And over there, I saw some of my past memories — you know that feature Facebook has ‘3 years ago this day’ or ‘2 years ago on this day’.
And I noticed something really significant.
In fact, I wouldn’t have noticed it had it not been on this particular month — the month of February.
I looked back to all the February’s that played — going back to the 5 years.
And I realized in each and every one of those months, I was preparing for a Half-Marathon that took place in an emirate of UAE called Ras Al Khaima. The race in particular was the RAK half marathon. And I looked and reflected on my growth and improvement in that race. After every passing year — I would make sure, I would not only improve my timing of running this Race, I would strive to beat my fellow runners and I would always make it a point to brag about my accomplishments on Facebook. After all — why else do we go to facebook if not to brag, seek attention, snoop into other peoples affairs, show a picture (with filters) of how perfect our lives are and to kill time doing the most unproductive acts of forwarding distractive material on to other peoples lives — so that along with us, everyone also can join the distracted behavior patterns — isn’t it?
So as I was looking at the memories, I noticed a rather strange pattern.
- I was doing the same thing over and over again
- I was with the same people year after year
- I was seeking validation from the same groups
- I was showing off and bragging with the same kinds of people
- I was keeping myself busy doing something which I assumed was ‘productive’.
However, this was no longer February 2012.
Today the date read February 2018.
Today my priorities are different, my goals are different and my friends circle — well is non-existent (thankfully)
I look at all my ex-running colleagues and old-friend and I see them doing the same thing over and over again. And I ask myself — don’t they realize that one day they will be thrown out from the UAE? They will no longer be able to renew their working visa? They will have to say goodbye to this lifestyle?
Aren’t they aware that this is going to be their harsh reality? That one day after they leave the Middle East they will be sent back to their country of origin? The fact that expats are never given a place to say in the Middle East?
Aren’t they aware?
And then I look at my own picture and ask myself “wasn’t I just like them once upon a time, doing what they were doing, living how they were living and being just like them?” So then what gives me the high-moral ground to judge anyone when I was just like them once upon a time?
It is then I realize the dangers of being with like minded people.
You see the problem was, when I had these groups of friends with common goals, common interests and common hobbies, I was thinking like them, being like them and doing whatever it was they were doing. Given the social support I received to do whatever it was they were doing, the peer pressure to excel and outdo each other and the busy-noise & activities we were all engaged in — it kept us so occupied, no one, absolutely no one took a step back and said “Hey…wait a minute — aren’t we NOT supposed to this? Aren’t we supposed to be doing something else? Isn’t the reason of coming to this country the first place, to make money and get out as soon as possible?”
The strange this is, if you did say this, and even though you are right, you would be looked upon as an idiot. After all, everyone would give you truly logical answers like “Health is wealth” or “We never know what will happen tomorrow, so why not enjoy today — the present?” or “Stop being so silly man, not doing one hour of exercise will one million to your bank account.”
And with those wonderfully, well-crafted statements — we stop asking ourselves the questions we need to ask and rather focus on the moment. And yes — enjoy life.
As I look back on those memories, that reasoning, that logic, that cognitive dissonance and yes those decisions — I sit still in my room and wonder, how many years did I spend running faster and faster round the hamster wheel thinking — Oh yes, I am making progress? I ran faster and faster and faster while getting those applauding statements, those encouraging responses and that crowd support. Until of course, I stepped out of the hamster cage itself and looked at everyone and thought to myself, “wow…..was I really that stupid?”
As I reflect these thoughts, I see my colleagues and fellow runners busy showing V-signs on pictures posted on facebook, they share memories and comments of the race and happily upload moments which they know are priceless. But I look at it now as activities that were designed to keep me busy from focusing on what really mattered — my core objectives, my mission, my goal and my vision in life.
Today, all those moments, all those memories and all those medal finishers mean nothing. I have dumped them in a suitcase and kept it in a suitcase on top of my cupboard. They lie unused, unseen and unheard off. And I think to myself — why did I invest so much time, effort and money into all this? Isn’t all this pointless? But then if I were to think about it — is there anything that I am doing worth it? Wouldn’t I be dead one day and everything I have ever done turns to nothing?
I breath a sigh and wonder, oh yes….that wonderful argument of life. Rather the logical argument that gave me permission to waste my time and justify my actions for the moment. Its like only we humans are capable of giving ourselves bullsh*t and amazing bullsh*t at it when the need arises.
Yes, its true that one day whatever I or you do, will amount to nothing. That goes without saying. However, I think we need to ask ourselves what is it that we are doing which is what we are not supposed to do? What is that act, what are those thoughts and which are those plans we shouldn’t be having but execute them simply because we are surrounded by friends, fans and followers that distract us from our main goal.
Seriously speaking, if Facebook didn’t exist, if those activities didn’t exist, if most of these friends didn’t exist — I can assure you one thing 90% of all that we do, we spend money on and what we focus on — we will stop doing.
The problem is this self-induced Peer Pressure, Social Acceptance & Group Mentality that makes us do most of things we shouldn’t. And it all changes the day you are no longer part of the group or you do not have those resources to be part of the moments. It is then you are alone and by yourself. And that is the exact moment you start being true to yourself.
It has taken me nearly a year of self-imposed exile to think as clearly as I am thinking today. Today those friends, those groups and those relationships no longer exist. And I do not feel the need to do 90% of the activities I was once doing. Simply because now I only do what matters to me and the people around me — my family. And every action, every thought and every post that I put up — is not to please anyone but to please the people who matter — my inner most circle of trust. Those people who will matter to me when I have nothing, when I am a nobody and when I am no one.
I think it is important for us to sometimes break away from society, from recurring group activities and from the addictions of social media to rediscover who we really are, what our priorities really are and what really matters. Because unless and until we do this — we are going to be like hamsters running in that hamster wheel — going faster and faster and faster, assuming we are making progress but comically, being in the same spot as when we started.
As I look back on those 5 years of running the RAK half-marathon, I only have memories, moments and medals. And seriously speaking — they are worthless. I would have rather spent those 5 years doing something worthwhile. What, I have no idea but surely something different that wouldn’t find the need or the desire to please anyone but myself and those that really mattered.
The problem of the Social Media landscape, the groups of friends and peer pressure is such, we tend to justify and forget what really matters to us. And we focus on what gives us instant gratification laced and peppered with our logical reasons to justify our actions. However, one day when we lose everything — the friends, the fans and the followers and we are by ourselves all alone, in some corner room, all alone with no social media, no crowds and no paparazzi — that’s where we truly start being real ourselves.
I took me one year to realize that I wasted 40 years of my life trying to be everything to everyone but in the end a nothing to no one. And at the age of 41, I am finally coming to terms with what really matters — Me, My Family and My Future. And that is where every action, every thought and every plan is purposefully and clearly thought off without the need for portraying, posting or promulgating it on Facebook.
I think sometimes we need to stop everything we doing, disconnect ourselves from facebook, go to some corner of the world for a few weeks and then seriously reflect on what matters. What truly matters. And it is only then you will start living a life which is in sync with your values, your principles and your precepts.
Today I am no longer in Dubai, UAE — the place I once had called home for 40 years. I am not longer with any of my friends or relatives whom I had spent years and years being with. I am no longer part of these memories and moments my friends and ex-runners are posting on Social Media.
Sadly, no one seems to notice. Only I do.
And in a rather very strange way, I would say, I am glad that I’m out of that race — not the half-marathon, but rather the race me and everyone was running while being in that hamster cage filled with friends, colleagues and everyone else.
Sometimes I feel may be it is best we disconnect from everyone from everything, all the noise, all the commotion, all the activity and go back to our roots, from where we came from, from the point we started and ask ourselves this one very important life changing question “So if I had to start my life all over again, what would I do differently this time?” or “If I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, what would I tell him to do and not to do?”
And when we ask ourselves that question in all earnestness, I am pretty sure the answer will show you the way.
I wish I had asked myself this question many many years ago. Who knows maybe if I could go back in time, the future me in the month of February would never any updates of that once all important Race — my half marathon moments.