By Younas Chaudhary
My grade school classmates in my dilapidated small village school in Pakistan called me “Sheri Babu” (city boy). They would gang up on me, bully me, make fun of me, and poke me, and every day was a living hell. All I had was the hope that better days would come soon. They were jealous of me, as my mother used to dress me up well, and I was the only kid who wore a proper shirt, trouser, and shoes.
My simple parents struggled for most of their lives. But two things always stood out: their hope for a better tomorrow and their unflinching faith in God. At the crack of dawn every day, they would pray, hoping that a better day would come for our struggling family. They sought God’s blessings to give us wisdom and to open doors for me to have better opportunities.
My parents’ relentless prayers, along with their hopes for better lives ahead for their children, are the main reasons for my success and progress in life.
This hope for a better tomorrow helped me overcome challenges during the darkest moments in my life. I always believed that tomorrow would be a new and better day, a brighter morning in the pages of our short lives in this world. We cannot change what happened yesterday or last year, but if we try now, we can change what happens in the next day and the next month. I learned to feel less disappointed and grieve less when things did not turn out well for me, or when I lost a good deal. My common sense taught me that I would not be able to change the outcome, and the better course would be to let the setback go and focus on the next opportunity.
However, this mindset did not develop overnight. It took years to train my heart, mind, and soul to effectively cope with disappointments and losses, both personally and in business. But in time, I developed the habit of responding to setbacks not by falling into despair, but instead by looking towards the future and engaging the next opportunity with consistency, wisdom, and perseverance.
For example, when COVID-19 struck a blow to my businesses, I did not blame anyone. Instead, I knew that a survivor who maintains hope will invariably fare better than a victim who blames circumstances. I knew not to embrace a victim mentality, because I knew it would lead me to failure. I wanted to live my life with hope, a growth mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit. And so, I actually started to share my fortune more with my family and others.
If you had a stable job but have since been laid off, do not regard yourself as a victim – that thought process is a sheer waste of time. Instead, retune your skills and find out if you can pivot to a different field, for instance by getting a realtor’s license and selling/renting homes, by learning a technical trade like welding or being an electrician, or by learning lawncare work. There are so many new opportunities open for you. Take on a survivor’s mentality.
I remember during my Canadian days in the seventies, Asian immigrants who were highly educated professionals like engineers or accountants in their home country would choose to become cabbies. Why? They did not want to invest in further education or open a business or seek better paying jobs. They were lured by the immediate cash (no tax) they would earn while driving taxis and were afraid that a better job would force them to pay taxes! Most of them were not entrepreneurial, and as a result they settled for less than their full potential, even though they had so many other opportunities to thrive. Instead of hoping for a better tomorrow, they fell prey to the easy fiction that they were victims of their own surroundings.
In life, I have always been hopeful during difficult times. When my father was wrongfully jailed in Pakistan for a year, my brother and I worked tirelessly to get him released. “Yes, we will overcome this,” was our motto, and indeed my father was eventually acquitted and released. My brother has suffered through many challenges in his life, but he always overcame them with hope. He has seen many ventures fail, but he always rebounded stronger, seeking opportunities for a new venture. He knew the hope of a better day would be just around the corner!
Here are some tips to be hopeful:
- Focus less on the bad news around you, and instead be optimistic. We are fed negative, disheartening news 24 hours a day by the rectangle-shaped device that we carry. Limit your intake of the 24/7 cycle of bad news.
2. Understand that you can make a change NOW. There is no doubt you can change your life if you decide to do so NOW. Forget your yesterdays, as they are gone. Focus on the present and prepare for the future.
3. Repurpose your traumas as fodder for great accomplishments. Most of us have faced traumas, and they created valuable growth. Understanding how you triumphed through a traumatic period will help you stay hopeful for a better day tomorrow.
4. Let your mind view the past as just the PAST. During periods of struggle, we always go back and think: “What if I had done this? What if I had studied better in college? Why is this always happening to me?” Instead of thinking such thoughts, understand that the past is GONE. What you have is NOW and the future.
5. Keep the company of positive-minded people. Learn from people who have overcome challenges in their own lives. You can easily do this by talking to friends and family who have overcome challenges, and from reading books and other positive messages.
6. Keep your faith. Faith gives us the hope, energy, and strength to face anything in life.
You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.