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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yin and Yang of Digital

We have heard all the stories about how companies are getting 'Digital' and turning a new leaf with their online offer. Some hire agencies, others do it in-house. As long as the change is coming, it doesn't really matter how. Of course, the only exception to that note is buying fans, which is a big 'NO-NO'.

In my past life, when I was a budding social media self-starter, I learnt very quickly the importance of an integrated communications approach. It helps break down the spawning barriers between Marketing & Communications and Digital. Like with many others, you will have experienced Digital spawning out of the traditional MarComms role, because Digital used to be all 'websites and stuff'.

I was lucky to get Social Media dubbed under Corporate Communications and PR work, since it was more to do with regularly communicating in real-time with customers. Through trial and error, we realized that MarComms and Corp Comms need to co-exist, plan and execute together. This was before customer service was brought into the picture.

Today, the way I see social media is like a Venn Diagram, where there is a significant common overlap between all three functions, which are all tied together by a common organizational brand strategy. Brand isn't just MarComms, it's All Comms.


Demonstrating the functional relationship between all three is quite simple. Convert your online customers offline and vice versa. 

How? Have a competition on your Facebook page, offer a give-away, award a winner, celebrate them online, then invite them with family to your office, where you give the prize, take pictures and create a story to share back online with everyone. Your virtual customer just became real, one that won't soon forget. 

Congratulations! You've just created a brand advocate and understood the 'Yin and Yang of Digital. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Accident's don't happen, they are caused...

 ...and why this matters in business as much as life.

Image:  Bizarro.com
Often I have been in situations, mostly while growing up, where I blamed everything and anything but myself for whatever happened, unless the outcome was good. This was the birth of not giving credit where it was truly due, but also not recognizing the importance of taking responsibility.

Anecdotes are a lot like old wives tales or urban myths. We can stretch it as far as a striking comparison with superstition. The parallels are quite simple - really just different ways of looking at things. Like Robin Williams did in 'Dead Poet's Society', change your perspective, stand on top of the table. They help by guiding us through situations plain, simple words cannot otherwise do.

This morning I got my daily email news from a widely read Pakistani newspaper, where a headline read, "17 schoolchildren killed in accident". The article is about how two large vehicles collided, one of them carrying the 17 kids destined for death today. Some say when your time comes, it was actually written sometime back by some unknown scribes. I haven't prescribed to this thinking. The accident wasn't an accident, just as their death wasn't an accident; it all could have been avoided. 

I like to think that there is more to life than just conforming to rules others set for you, whether religious, social, academic or professional. No, that does not mean I prescribe to rebellion, although I have been known to condone such acts occasionally. 

Go out and take a risk. Do something different. Be a salmon. Buy a Dodge Charger, despite the myths of after-purchase market value or spare part prices.

How else will you know there's yet another way to do it, right or almost? Math is pretty boxed in with all those formulas. Yet every once in a while, a rebellious mathematician presents another way to crack the code. I hated math, never was any good at it.

There is always a method to the madness and it's not accidental. The first step to recognizing this is learning
Image:  subzeroblog.acronis.com
to take responsibility for your individual actions. We may or may not be born good, but we do have a lifetime to correct it with all the messages shrouding our everyday. You could be daft to miss them, for which you still remain responsible, whether or not you choose to accept.

Step back, take a look at the macro before analyzing the granularity of the micro. After all, it just took one caveman to be 'different'.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Competition is Partnership

Image: Gamespot

"I destroy my enemies by making them my friends" ~ Abraham Lincoln, 


If you ever studied economics or the basics of supply and demand, you will know that they are kind of like yin and yang and go together like pieces to a puzzle.

Do you wonder why demand is sometimes high, but supply remains low? Aside from other complicated reasons like regulation, sometimes it's as simple as you don't know where your customers are - thereby missing out on a great opportunity.

Competition is good. It's healthy and it gives you drive to keep charging on. Complacency is a killer and the only way to kill the killer is to find new and better ways of improving your business, your product and your brand. This doesn't mean paying an agency millions of dollars to redo you, but rather simple things like staying true to your brand values. Consistency can kill the killer, without becoming boring.

These days it's all about keeping the customer in the center of it all. Isn't that how it's always been? Maybe I missed the memo. 

Feet on the ground. Get a solid partnership, even if it's with the competition. Some companies kill their own products by cannibalizing existing products with new ones. Don't reinvent the wheel, expand it's purpose. Partnerships lead to creativity and that is the best competition - with your own product. 

Image:   CK NG of Indonesia
I remember someone once telling me - it's not the ones ahead of you that you should worry about, it's the ones behind you; they have drive the drive you once had.

It's the same as 'keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer'. The positive side of this is simply don't wage a war, rather find common ground to succeed. Two is better than one.

Imagine if Coke and Pepsi tried this...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cause worth believing in: 20,000 KM, 132 Days, 22 countries for a free Cancer clinic

Friends and Readers,

As an active member of civil society, at least of the one that works towards a progressive future, I am proud to share this official news about a man and his ongoing journey across 22 countries, covering 60,000 KM, to raise funds and awareness for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF).



It's one thing to have a purpose in life, then another to have the courage to execute it and see it through. Wissam, a man I am personally eager to meet, has not only shown the possibilities and will power 1 person can harness and exploit for a true cause, but he will touch us all in some way along his journey. I am pleased to support this cause in many ways, including financial support towards the clinic, rounding up troops to support his journey through Pakistan, sincere support of my fellow members at the Volkswagen Club of Pakistan (VWCOP), and press coverage for his rigorous, but most admirable trek.

I invite you to believe in and share his story, vision and dream with your friends and family to ensure Wissam sees the magnitude of well-wishers waiting to pat his back and give him the occasional and much needed push. This will be a difficult pursuit, but as we saw in the case of Moin Khan, the young biker from San Francisco (USA), if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. 

Share this news on your social networks (Facebook, twitter, etc.), talk about it to friends and family, ask your networks in the press to publish this news and create their own stories around this and please keep it devoid of any political or religious agenda so as to harness the authenticity of Wissam's endeavor. 

To follow the journey, use the 'Useful Links' after the release below.

Thank you.

@JJBaybee: Want to believe in a #Cause? Believe in: 20,000 KM, 132 Days, 22 countries on a bike 4 a free Cancer clinic in Palestine > @goodwilljourney


_______________________________________________________________________________

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE 

Palestinian biker embarks on ‘Goodwill Journey’ in support of the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund

Courageous journey takes rider across 22 countries along the Silk Route from UAE to
Singapore in support of building the first free standing Pediatric Cancer Centre in Beit Jala, Palestine.


Dubai, UAE: Biker Wissam Al Jayyoussi Palestinian 37 years old IT entrepreneur from Dubai will embark on a journey which will see him riding a motorbike across Asia in a bid to support the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Pediatric Cancer Centre in the West Bank. Al Jayyoussi will ride more than 60,000 kilometers across 22 countries in a`132 days solo trip, in what will be his most challenging endeavor.

Flagging off the journey in Dubai, Al Jayyoussi will ride across Asia carrying the PCRF’s message and garnering support for the cancer ward project. In what is also being called the Silk Route Journey, Al Jayyoussi will cross into Oman and ride his way through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Once there, the vividly green scenery of Eastern Asia will accompany him along the remainder of his thrilling journey through Mongolia, China, Nepal, and India, from where he will then head further Southeast into Bhutan, Bangladesh, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, to finally reach the hilly and sandy terrain of Singapore.

Al Jayyoussi, also the founder of the Goodwill Journey initiative is enthusiastic and excited about the grueling but meaningful quest, “It is a dangerous journey and I will ride through some of the most treacherous roads and terrain for a major part of the trip. It is a fulfilling experience to be able to support the PCRF and help raise awareness and funds required for the Pediatric Cancer Centre in the West Bank. I hope my journey is successful and people give freely to save the lives of little children who need our help the most.”

This is not the first time Al Jayyoussi has set out on a noble cause. He made his first trip in 2010, where he rode from Dubai across 36 countries in 60 days, finally arriving in London 40,000 kms later. His goal was to help raise funds for children with special needs in Gaza, and was in collaboration with ‘Hope and Play,’ a U.K.-based charity organization focused on helping the children of Palestine.

The trip expenses and requirements are being handled solely by Wissam to ensure that all cooperate sponsorships goes towards the Pediatric Cancer Center. Funds will be utilized to equip the cancer centre with medical equipment and critical supplies, as well as cater to the maintenance of the facility on an ongoing basis.


About PCRF 
The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is a registered non-political, non-profit organization established in 1991 by concerned and altruistic individuals in the United States to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youth in the Middle East.

Since its establishment, the philanthropic union has expanded beyond the borders of Palestine to help suffering children from other Middle Eastern nations, such as Iraq, solely based on their medical necessities. The PCRF aids in locating free medical care for children who are unable to get the necessary and specialized treatment in their homeland.

PCRF also helps to improve the quality of medical care in the Middle East by sending medical equipment and supplies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Clearly, charity cannot be sufficient enough to guarantee the well being of an entire nation, so the organization has taken further steps to ensure children in need are attended to properly. With the health and longevity of a nation in mind, the PCRF has sent multinational medical personnel to the region to treat difficult cases and train medical personnel.


Media Contacts:

Useful links:
-       Goodwill Journey Official Web Site: http://www.goodwilljourney.org
-       PCRF Official Web Site: www.pcrf.net
-       FaceBook Page: www.facebook.com/GoodwillJourney
-       Twitter: www.twitter.com/goodwilljourney

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How the Islamabad Police helps me save...

This photo (taken today) is what's wrong with us
Sorry about the misleading title. Truth is that it doesn't. In fact, virtually any government run body that has any authority over basic facilities I need to live my day as an honest, hard working, upright citizen has managed to take what basic love and respect I have for this country and flush it down the toilet. I'm angry after my drive home fr and I'll tell you why.

I came back to Pakistan thinking I would get involved, do something productive with my time, education and life. I also though the system itself was tired of being bullied and needed fresh blood to take charge and take things in a new direction. Unfortunately, not only did the war on terror kill my ambition to be an involved citizen, it also developed so much negative publicity for Pakistan that anyone with half a decent blood cell in his/her body was stamped as a "Pakistani" - the kind with a green passport. Not their fault so we should stop calling the west and others ignorant. Instead, we need to stop, check ourselves for being the 'ignorant' ones. 

For all the lies we have told generations of Pakistanis coming in from every corner of what used to be the most celebrated country in the region. Remember PIA in the 50s and 60s? How about Hockey, squash and hell yes even Cricket (a game I have since began to despise). Don't forget the ski resorts up north. My dad told me he learnt how to ski in Malam Jabba back when he was defending Pakistan with Pride. Now, I hang my head in shame - defending my pride, period. We have done this and by we I mean the last few dozens of generations. All the corrupt leaders and cronies advising those leaders. From the PMs to the Presidents, all the way down to the munshies who run your paperwork between the courts in every city. Everyone became corrupt. 

Question I had been wondering all this time was, WHY? It occurred to me not to long ago. In fact, while I was driving home just now from work (yes, at 8PM), I remembered not to take the usual route because just yesterday I found that the last intersection before my final leg was blocked off by the Islamabad Police (I'm assuming they are responsible since they want to be the big boys of everything on the road with all the check posts - another story, another time). Obviously, they aren't on twitter and they don't have a Facebook fan page so there won't be a 'timely update' when they block off another intersection and make you drive an extra couple of kilometers before having to make another awkward u-turn to get to where you would have already been had they not been such punters with road planning and other such job-like responsibilities. There's no way for them to tell me what they are up to so I can plan my route, my day, my fuel consumption better. Instead, they prefer not to help, so I end up spending more money on fuel finding a way out like a rat in a maze. They are but one of many tentacles the Government of this country will not fix or take responsibility for because it's easier that way. Can't say the next guy will do much better because the system won't allow for change - which is something I have learnt the general populous is averse to.

The kids in my apartment building; oh what a special breed of human beings. Half animal, half homosapien. Somehow, I feel their parents forgot to raise them because I've found (and this is a fact) that my two domesticated cats are far better behaved and considerate of others in communal environments than these annoying, obnoxious, noisy at all the wrong time kids. So, I ask you all to stop asking me to have kids because this is what I live around and I don't want my kids living in a place full of this. It's everywhere by the way...all up to when you disembark the plane at Dubai International Airport, where everyone follows the rules and falls single file into a disciplined line.

Today, I went to Shifa (the highly lucrative business that pretends to be a hospital). We had an appointment with a doctor, whose assistants pestered us to hell yesterday with multiple calls confirming our appointment for today. I thought these guys are uber efficient, they really want to make sure things happen like clock-work. Can't hate them for that. We got there 5 minutes before time and sat down after informing our arrival. We waited....and waited....and waited...until finally 59 minutes later (and a few angry visits to the nurses counter), we were called in. I refrained from expressing my feelings to the good Doctor, but screw that! Not even an acknowledgement of the delay or an apology? Our time is precious too! I pay you to serve me so at least respect me and the time I took out to choose you over the many others in the city!

This rule should apply across the board to all those who don't respect one another. The government is there to serve the people of this country. Our taxes keep them there, but they also make them fat on nihari, power, free fuel and electricity, not to mention all the other benefits they get out of keeping us lost with load-shedding. How is it that they get to have fun, while we pay for it and they don't? Who put them in charge and where's the sense in that?

Common sense dictates...wait, my father-in-law said it right..."there's no such thing as common sense". It took me a while to get my head around that, but now I get it. He's smart as hell. Physicist with a Phd he completed in french...and he's Pakistani! Gone are the days we were celebrated. Here are the days we are fighting the good fight to regain what we believe was ours to begin with. 

How greedy can you be to ignore that your country is falling apart like a 60 year old car that has been bandaged to hell. My 40+ year old Volkswagen beetle is in better shape than the dysfunctional system we all survive every day! 

I am sick. I am tired. I am fed up. Could this be the reason my 4 years in college built me up to be proud of being Pakistani? What happened to the old me? I wonder if I've also become part of the system that is slowly corroding away with no one to notice me. I miss the days when I could drive to and from the diplomatic enclave (or the new world as I now call it) using the French gate (aptly named since the French Embassy is at that corner). Until recently (while I still had a good reason to go there), I needed to bribe the local police SSP and his staff to get a card allowing me legal entry into the place where I once owned a home! Imagine that. I pay another countryman who otherwise won't let me go home. And the best part...he can ask for 1 amount and then another, much higher amount when you go to pay. He asked for Rs. 20k and I ended up settling at Rs. 3k (per card that is, for each family member).

My advice, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Motivate another Imran Khan to come up and show the rest how we can be the best of the best, again. How we can live with honor without destroying the moral fiber of our society and still respect India and other countries so our energy is efficiently spent in plans of real progress. Create healthy competition, make entrepreneurship a career to consider and give some flexibility to the hard working kind so they can have a reason to enjoy working and living simultaneously.

The sickness that is eating away at our very souls is becoming a part of our daily life and even with fuel prices at Rs. 100 a liter (US $1.1), and our nominal GDP per capita (which seems far from accurate) at US $1,254 (reported by the CIA world fact book), our country is not going to shit, it's swimming in it. We are below Laos and above Kyrgyzstan. We have successfully managed to scrounge, steal, burn and wastefully spend to our heart's desire, while the hard working kind keep working hard to continue living a dignified life in the vicious cycle that is a difficult life...that is until they too resort to corruption because it's an easy buck, or two. Also because it will help feed the family 3 square meals a day. Honestly? Is that even a good enough reason to be corrupt and wasteful? It would seem so when you are hungry because the rich fatsos are getting richer and fatter, creating a middle class out of the upper-middle class and a lower/have not class out of the middle and lower-middle class.

STOP IT DAMN IT! I AM TIRED OF THINKING ABOUT HOW ANGRY I AM ABOUT BEING IN PAKISTAN! I AM TIRED OF WAITING FOR SUPERMAN TO COME DOWN AND SAVE US! I AM TIRED OF THE LAST GENERATION TELLING ME IT'S MY TIME TO TAKE CONTROL AFTER THEY TOTALLY DESTROYED ANY CHANCE FOR US TO PROGRESS AS A FINANCIALLY, POLITICALLY AND MORALLY STRONG COUNTRY!

Just stop, please. Let me live a peaceful life while I still can. Even if I don't want to stay, no one else will take me. Get those politicians and wannabe superstars out of their high cars and government paid security detail out of their cars and teach a lesson for stealing from us.

All this while I defend the company I love working for.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Social Media Metrics Between Worlds

I've been wondering about various social media metrics, more specifically fan growth and how they impact our public image - then a thought popped in saying "well, like currency, wouldn't the value of a fan vary from region to region, country to country?" I say yes, absolutely! I don't believe anyone else has confirmed or written about this already, but there needs to be a measurement criteria that differentiates what one fan in the US is worth vs. what a fan elsewhere, say in Pakistan, is worth.

I'm not talking about a $ value, but a unique value proportional to their social media saaviness, the exposure they have and how generally aware people in the region are. This may correlate directly with how successful a fan page for a brand will be in different countries. 

It's a simple thought - like a ratio. For example, if we took an example and said a US fan is to a Pakistani fan in ratio terms, I would say 100:1. That means, for every Pakistani fan on a brand's Facebook page, there are 100 fans on a US brand page (which can also be considered relatively global).

Facebook fan pages for Lady Gaga and Atif Aslam (Mar 10, 2012)
This is not an exact science, I'll figure the math out further on, or with someones help. However, 40 million coke fans from around the world, most of them based in the United States, that means a fan page in Pakistan with 400,000 fans (say Ufone) shows that correlation works, based on one of the most popular brand page in the US (and the world for that matter) compared with one of the most popular brand pages in Pakistan. 

However, when you take a music artist with the global popularity of, say 40 million fans, and another with 3.5 million (Lady Gaga vs. Atif Aslam - both of global fame, one more than the other), you have a significant variance in the ratio, which goes from 100:1 to 14:1.

What, then factors into how you can measure the worth of a fan? Is it just the combination of elements mentioned above? Can we say:

A fan's own social awareness + How active a brand is + fan page growth (per sec/min/hour/day)
DIVIDED BY
Regional social media awareness + brand fan page engagement

If you've read thus far, you know I am NOT a math guy at all. However, it suddenly occurs that math factors in as a critical component to assessing the factors for this formula. Not only is there a need to understand how you can quantify the factors, you also need to know where to create the values from.

The fundamental problem with this theory is that because of an unsettled and continuous shift in social media growth and activity in each region, quantifying it depends on some basics like internet penetration, computer or laptop penetration, restrictions or limitations to content access (UAE and Qatar don't allow pornography or torrents - which make up a bulk of bandwidth consumption), and lastly one's own interest in being online and social. Relatively ambiguous and near difficult to quantify, no?

About being online and social, if you read my last post, I gave the example of my wife, who is online (website and all), but not social. She had a Facebook account, but then decided to toss it with the whole privacy debacle that started. She's one of those netizen's who believes in the preservation of one's identity, personal attributes and overall way of life. We've become so entrenched in sharing our daily dose of activity with the world, we've forgotten the people who might be sitting on the sidelines, just watching us as we make fun of others, ourselves and everything else that isn't covered. From my fake-bald picture to your last taco roll, our philosophy remains "leave no stone un-turned".

So, if the formula is entirely dependent upon those variables (and how), then could this be an unquantifiable calculation? How then do I assess whether my brands 69,000 fans are equal or not equal to my industry peers in the US? Or could it be that my engagement levels (and their frequency) determine my brand's visibility and general awareness? If not, then perhaps whether there is even sufficient connectivity at the individual level for the awareness to spread?

Considering how viral content goes also factors in as a variant because it has a lot to do with how quickly information spreads between eyeball to eyeball. We all know about Obama, but how many know about Zardari? We all know about Lady Gaga, but how many know about Atif Aslam?

We'll save the twitter argument later, since their growth is only just beginning and we see no sign of 500 million twitterati slowing in their adoption.

To be concluded another time...for now, share your thoughts and consider the approach.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ultimate Stalker Syndrome - Ode to Social Memoirs

Is it true, they say, that human's cannot live in isolation? Could it be that it is truly our nature to flock together like birds of a feather? If that's the case, then it explains a lot about the enormous growth social media has experienced in the last few years - especially with the jump in internet penetration worldwide.

However, the top of mind question beckons me to wonder if we are actually using social media as a means to an end...the grand end that is. Before you read on, know that this post is going to uncover some deathly insights that I possess and feel you should be abreast of, lest the Mayan's were right.

Social networking has becoming a fast evolving bacteria or living organism, that’s growing with your content for sustenance. In essence, a reflection of you, but the Spiderman and Venom kind of reflection. Remember, Venom still had a human side, which allowed him to differ from Carnage because he was able to feel pity and human emotion. He was the crossroad between Spiderman and Carnage – the ultimate devourer of everything, including its own reflection.

Are we going to go on like this every day, without looking at the bigger picture; the space outside of the cell walls, to see what’s up and how the weather is turning out for the rest us?

Death is the only inevitable thing we know. Sorry to sound morbid, but it’s actually more factual than your human emotions give you credit for. It’s your Achilles heel, a crutch you’re born with and the fact that you cannot beat it is somehow demoralizing. So, we try and compensate with alternative means of ‘getting through it all’. Let’s face it, we are all afraid of it in one way or another, even if it’s with degrees of separation; we need to do the most we can in this life because, hey, I haven’t seen any postcards from either hell or heaven. Frankly, because I think people are free to believe what they will, while abiding by the common overlapping laws of all your major religions and faiths:

1.       Don’t steal
2.       Don’t kill
3.       Don’t sleep with your neighbors daughter, mother, wife, father, son, dog, whatever
4.       Don’t lie
5.       Don’t hoard
6.       Don’t overeat
7.       Give generously
8.       Live humbly
9.       Basically, try and be an all-round nice guy or girl or +1+

I think that it’s sort of like what I call the ‘Howard Stern Effect’. I hope no one else owns rights to that term because when you hear it, you’ll be pretty impressed too. If you’ve watched private parts, a movie that is Howard’s biography – up to before he became a space cadet with Syrius Satellite Radio (no offence guys – great work taking it up a notch), you’ll know where I’m heading. The movie leads to one simple question that explains it all, yet, still a question: “Why are his ratings going up?” The answer,  simple. You take a group of people who are exposed, learned, traveled, well cared for, etc., you get a bunch of people who are driven by curiosity. But, when you take another group that is conservative, doesn’t go out after 9, stays close to the neighborhood, teach their kids the good word of the Lord, are not good friends with change, and generally avoid any contact with sunlight or people, you get a bunch of people who are driven by curiosity. The only difference between the two (yes there is one) is that they are looking into the same peephole from opposite sides – both curious to find out more by either looking for it or hiding from it. Even to hide, you need to know what it is you’re hiding from, thus the need to seek out, even while hiding. Ironic. It’s because, everyone is curious to know what he’s going to do next.

Borrowed from Jay Dolan
Sounds a lot like my Spiderman carnage bullshit a few minutes ago, right? It is and the funny thing – totally unplanned. I mean talk about trailing thoughts that end up at the same place they start – only to have made a point while doing so.

We are going to die, and before doing so, need to ensure that we leave a mark on this world, this life of ours and the people we befriend, love, hate or just want to keep close by – simply because we don’t know when it’s going to happen. Funny – another synchronized effort by yours truly to make a point – we need to leave behind a legacy, a will, a saying or an action that will help the world remember us when we are gone.

I think that it’s actually sad, because we end up missing a lot of the basic point – social media is just another way for you and me to interact, communicate and essentially be comfortable around one another’s presence because it’s easier, no complications, no commitments and most importantly, it’s freaking free! Everyone loves free stuff, I know I do! But then when it’s free, how can we give it so much value? It’s like putting a price tag on air, except air has value because you need it. Nicotine – another great example of addiction and how it’s pretty bad for your health. I say this while smoking to my lung’s demise. It’s sad, I know…now get over it.

My wife is practical. I love my wife, she is awesome. She cooks me the most amazing meals, she works a full time job, she is a world-class artist and yet she makes all this time to take care of me. I don’t force her, heck I can’t. She’s stubborn as a mule, but that’s what I love most. She is unwavering and pretty much independent in decision making. This makes her among the most powerful humans alive; someone who is so in control of their destiny has mastered the art of living.

It’s our nirvana and here you all are trying so hard to find it. It’s right there dude; look around, inside, outside, over here. You’re living the dream baby, so wake up and, like the lady said, go smell the roses. Take a minute for yourself, and without needing to see how you’ll do. No one’s really keeping score and you probably would forget too, if you realized how insignificant it really is in the larger scheme of things.

She isn’t on social media. I mean, she was, still even has some presence, but could care two shits about what’s happening there, when she’s all the way here. She figured that since social media is exactly that thing cave men did before language was really born, and just oooh oooh aaah aaah’d their way to evolution. She only needs to focus on what she wants and that’s quite ample to be satiated by. How simplistic indeed. I need my social media like a fat kid needs a diet! Wait, that doesn’t make sense. It’s like a double negative. I meant skinny…never mind. The point is that I can’t get enough of my asynchronous personality on Facebook or twitter or Google plus or Orkut. Did I miss any of the big kahunas out? Probably, who cares – point is I’m uber connected. Go to my about.me page and you’ll see how much of an eager social beaver I am. This is my job, it pays my bills and I actually kind of love it. I smoke too, which means I have two addictions I think are good for me, but the question is…are they?

Ask yourself – how much of yourself are you willing to give to yourself to see more of yourself? And what marathon mission would you have accomplished in ending up the same as me 100 years from now? First thing is that you need to avoid comparing this like with everyone in history was important for us to get to where we are now. I completely agree! However, I also think that in this ‘time space continuum, we are actually just floating from one convenience, happenstance or action to another, while trying to make sense of it all.

We keep asking that question, how the hell did we really happen? Darwin? Big Bang? Space rejects from another planet? Or maybe it was a giant fart in space that reacted with all the darkness molecules. No not the big bang.

Don’t ask the question, answer it with your actions and stop worrying so much about the future or your fate. I sincerely believe that whatever happens, happens. Whether we can control it or not is all relative and personal. Since you can’t control it, you talk about it online and document your entire life saga in an immaterial, yet infinite moleskin notebook. I never kept a diary, but then my wife doesn’t smoke either, so there must be a correlation in there somewhere.

The only thing certain in life is change. Embrace it. Don’t hunt it or shy from it. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to be furious and in love at the same time

Disclaimer: Before reading this, read Mehreen Kasana's post, followed by this video (because that's the order I followed and it made me puke the words below).

I was just an angry guy before. Now I'm furious at Maya Khan (correction added later - sorry for any confusion) and (figuratively) in love with Mehreen Kasana.

I read Mehreen's article about Maya Khan and suddenly felt this urge to write about a surge of feelings that rushed into my head, by way of my heart. It was love, not in the typical - May Khan will hunt you down for it - kind of love, but the over-inflated infatuation that comes from being overwhelmed by something so crystal clear, you couldn't have known it existed before you finally discovered it. That happened for me today, right as I sat cuddling my amazing wife (not in a park unfortunately), but that's an 'ass-piration' for another day.

Before I go on and on and on about my love for Mehreen Kasana and her innate ability (presumptuous, I know but hey, I'm in lurve) to write something so effective, so spot-on, so precise, I'm left with one thought - she must have written it while sitting in a park, gawking at Maya Khan as she too sat in a park with a monkey (not a funny way of calling a man or woman she was with, but a real monkey like chimps, apes, baboons).

Maya Khan, with the flip of a switch in a single bound, you have achieved the fame of George 'Dubya' Bush, who was best known for his creative work in the Middle East. Yes, I have matched you with the same man who believed so much in the power of abstinence that after launching the awareness campaign for no sex before marriage, you asked the folks over at the 'internet' to delete any evidence that he was ever with another woman before he married Laura Bush.

So many people I know are asking about you, talking about you and almost 'crushing' on you for your bravery in the Park that fine morning at an absurd time when I barely find reason to be awake. I believe that defaming you at this point would be pointless because clearly you're better at it than I am. And what's to say that my unqualified professional skills can ever be at par with your dramatic sense of ruining the pleasant morning those 4 couples were having before you wobbled along. 

I read on my twitter timeline that someone recognized you as a hot VJ from back in your hey day. Is that true? If it is, can you do a Veena Malik like photo-shoot so I can print out life-size posters and plaster them on my walls? Yes, it may create conflict with my wife, but she's cool so I'm sure living out of a box outside my apartment, while I try to regain her love and still retain your hotness on my walls will be worth it. Unfortunately, since I have seen what you now look like, it's going to be a tough one. 

If I've been even slightly amusing so far, then I apologize. When a young man falls in lurve, it's hard to articulate with a sense of clarity and so my jumbled brain is just trying to spit things out as easily and clearly as possible, without losing the context of this post. 

So everyone knows how hot you are
Maya Khan, I want to meet you in a park, with Mehreen Kasana (whom I lurve), and rip you a new one. I will do so with your best interest at heart because, after all, you have gone to prove what kind of kinky thoughts you have early in the morning so that your "chaapa" show is able to achieve viewership for things that 'Pakistan' is best known not to allow or permit or encourage. I think that the whole world is wrong and we have got the formula down to the tee. Everyday in Pakistan is opposite day and you have done well to prove me right. 

Confused? Let me clarify. When the holiday season comes around (pretty much all year round) with Christmas, Eid, Hannukah and the likes, it's a time for celebration. However, with the celebration comes discounts in shopping. Eid does not celebrate that kind of holiday. When the holiday season comes around in Pakistan, everything doubles, triples in price. What's the sense in that? Well, for someone with a good sense of business acumen, that means you sell less to fewer people at a higher price. Basic economics really, but I'm not here to share my academic meandering. It's to focus in on the point that you have managed to take a simple concept of a park - loved by most around the world as a place to frolic, meet, play, eat, share, laugh, cry, garden, kill, rob, abuse, rape and now Love (last one's on you and in that order). 

Parks are places where kids swing and parents watch. Parks are places where dogs chase frisbees and grown college kids smoke pot or drink beer (but any kind of alcohol will do). Parks are places where we can meet and rip you a new one, but only if Mehreen is there because I really want to see her do it while I provide viewers a live feed to your cheeks going red from pain, sadness, remorse and eventually happiness for having been ripped a new one. 

Parks are places where nature flourishes, even in the shape of something natural like love. Parks are places where we find a lost puppy or diamond ring. Parks are places where you find people doing things you feel obligated to expose on live public television.

Parks are places where I expect to walk with my lovely wife one day - but not today, because today you have made my image of parks a very dark and dreary place. Almost like the weather in London most of the year, but that's not important either because you're too smart to understand the metaphor. 

Parks are places where my kids will eventually end up losing their virginity to a bong, while their significant other holds them tight for dear life because Maya Khan may be lurking around in the corners waiting to "chaapa" maro on them - geographical limitations not need be considered. This applies to any park in any city/town/village in the world. Yes, your omnipresence is felt well and I shudder to think that my kids will encounter you before Mehreen and I do because I really want to change the course of your destiny, even if I have to steal the famous Delorean time machine from Doc and Marty to arrive 15 minutes before you do.

Sorry if my thoughts become scattered, my wife keeps giving me domestic chores to do and that can throw a fella off his game. 

Some may feel that I have been somewhat inappropriate in my post - the context being loosely relevant, but I will let you be the 'moral' judge, because after all you're famous and on tv so you can't be wrong about the dates in the parks. 

I think I've had a change of heart....I think I'm now torn between you and Mehreen because, while she makes a compelling and well articulated argument about how inhuman and uncivil you are, I cannot feel but a sense of admiration for your bravery. Without adorning your beautiful face with what some may call a 'religious beard' - most commonly found in madrassas, terrorist camps and local overzealous mosques - you have shown us what a hypocrite can really look like if they wear a ton of make up, designer sunglasses, a fat suit and (it's not real is it cause apparently you were hot and presumably still should be - I mean, people don't change), while being followed by a group of BFF's because they love your sense of civic responsibility to hunt down and expose society for what it has become - a breeding ground for love and eventually marriage and children and a long, happy life together - in the shape of a park.

I close my banter with some endless words from someone who narrated Howard Stern's biography in film "The fans want to listen because they wanted to hear what he was going to say next. The critics wanted to listen in because they wanted to hear what he was going to say next." You are my Howard Stern and don't you change that! Ever!

So, Maya Khan, can I please please please meet you in a park? We won't call it a date.

Your (least) biggest admirer,

The author of ¿Kiya Bola | What Say?

P.S. The worst thing about all this...I had never even heard of you until today and I already can't wait to rip you a new one. Peace!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Self Betterment Guide to '2012' (formerly 'Untitled')


Going with an untitled approach on today's piece, let's take a moment and look forward through 2012. Over the course of this post, I will come up with an apt title and entice your reading time.

Everyone has done a piece or post on the year gone by, but what about the year yet to go by and our ability to forecast what's in store, how to prepare, engage, maximize and satisfy our need for a fulfilling year? If I have confused you, then I recommend you read Olivier Blanchard's post, The Last Year to get caught up.

His theme is all about the present and our need to engage in what's important, not what's gone. Yes, some of us may have regrets, but we need to use all of that knowledge and plan a better future for ourselves. How do you do that if you don't have the magic crystal ball all these gurus of the world have? Easy; read a book or two, make amends for past mistakes, buy your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband that overly delayed valentine's present, take that trip to South America and volunteer for a purpose beyond yourself. These are things I have needed to do and plan to achieve over the course of this year. I also plan to take my thoughts and turn them into actionable objectives.

Before the clock struck midnight, I said that this year, I will try with my best effort to be more of the person I want to be. My theme and hash tag is #My2012, while I seek inspiration from Sander Kleinenburg's Renaissance Everybody.

Be road-rage-less: Seriously, stop yelling at everyone on the road. Just because they don't have a legit license or upgraded from a donkey cart to a van doesn't warrant any of my aggression every time they cut me off at an intersection while it's legally my right of way. Chill, just drive like them and you'll be just fine.

Act on looking good: Now, everyone loves a nice slice of chocolate cake from their favorite bakery. Even a McFlurry from Mcdees can be a tempting midnight surprise, but lay off! The calories really do add up and before you know it, you are one with Jabba the Hut.  Yes, I've said it; don't order more than you know you shouldn't be able to handle. Doggy bags, although great, are really not a good idea. You are going to microwave food that should ideally be eaten fresh. Just don't order those extra crispy wings, stick to the salad and entree. Stop talking about how fat every samosa or cheesecake slice makes you and just eat a celery stick instead. Can' find any celery? Just drink the Bloody Mary then. Make a healthy plan and keep doing it until it's an inexcusable life-style choice.

Finish that project: Honestly dude, really got to finish up that project that's been lingering for years. Each year it's a new excuse, so this year it's going live and I'm going to make it succeed or fail, but with a concerted effort to achieve completion. And trust me, people still need it; the ones already out there just don't cut it. Don't just be a shark in a fishbowl, be the Great White of the hand bowl.

Stop the critique: Even if they don't want to hear it, some of us like to achieve perfection by finding flaws in the other guy. Don't! They don't want to hear how bad their dress sense is or how annoying their tea drinking can be. If it's a public act, then it will need to be somewhat disgusting, so just let it go. This includes all of my nose-picking homies, bros and bhaiyyas.

Pound-wise, penny foolish: Just like it says, save the big bucks and don't sweat the smaller expenses. Make sure the tables don't turn though...the pennies can add up to become the river you drown in (reference is debt in case you REALLY didn't catch on). Liquefy your assets if you need to, just keep the savings up and the expense account can go screw itself. Just don't live like a pauper to prove a point, that insults the folks who really can't buy a big mac at 3am on their way home from a farm party.

Blue, Red, just take a damn pill: Why are you so scared of chance? So what if you make a mistake the first, second, third, fourth.....hundredth time? Eventually, one is bound to work out and then you will be that guy on the radio and BBC sharing the story of your struggle and how anyone can achieve happiness just by being persistent (maybe even annoying). The threshold: Stop when you annoy yourself. That means you have exceeded your attempts and must consider alternative choices.

Say sorry & mean it: Saying sorry every time I complain isn't going to help make things better. Will the lizard tail suddenly vanish from my soup? Will the nasty gash on my car bumper suddenly mend itself? Will your eyes vomit the relentless stare you just gave my wife? I think not, but you can vow to never let it happen again...then ensure it doesn't. Once is ok, twice you're just a jerk.

Lift the toilet seat: A general favorite; especially at public/office toilets. It's a metaphor and it means be considerate of the 'other' people in your community. If it's a Friday and you need to perform ablution, then pray for repentance of your sins in the toilet first. Seriously, WTF! How would you like it if you were a general lover of humanity who didn't think all non-Muslims were destined for hell and you walked in on me while I was taking a bath in the sink? I respect you, but I don't think you respect me. I can try not to respect you if that helps, but then I'm definitely going to hell and that's just not fair. What I don't get about this 'life-style' choice is, how are you any cleaner if it looks like you've take a shower in a public birdbath? Then there's the matter of public urination....stop it. Your not going to be a better Muslim or person. Just live and let live; keep your relationship with God to yourself because by telling me I'm bad isn't going to give you the business class seat to heaven. 

Learn communal living rules: If you haven't lived in an apartment or community housing before, probably best that you avoid it. In such settings, it is not advisable to show everyone what you are cooking! If that isn't enough, then maybe you could also either keep your kids indoors so they don't sound like that annoying neighbors kid right outside your door trying to harass your cats, ring your bell 'n run, kick the football against your window or sound like Freddie frikkin Krueger is after them. Because we also HAVE to live here, it might be best to avoid that awkward confrontation at the elevator. While on the topic, please also refrain from parking diagonally, while blocking a perfectly usable spot. With other people depending on the same space, send your kids outside. Better yet, take them to the park and spend time with them. Don't throw them out and get them up in my business, cause it ain't 'business time' all the time.

Baby on board: Have you noticed how most of the kids on airplanes are either screaming their lungs off or running around like no one else is there? It's your fault. Give them Dramamine before getting on the plane. My mom did it and I turned out pretty alright (minus the twitches). In fact, before you even buy the ticket, read this post and see if you can find an alternative route that doesn't involve offering loud noises in small spaces as a replacement for an already busted in-flight entertainment system. I've decided not to have kids for a while...at least I can learn to control them in public places and really act on respecting my surroundings. Recognize the importance of public spaces, then respect that it's public so you should at least look like you're trying to keep the racket to a minimum. A for effort, F for ignorance.

Get in line & wait: Yup, that's right...I said STAND IN LINE! Because saying it nicely once or twice doesn't seem to work. When you see one 'idiot' filing in behind another 'idiot', said 'idiot' might be onto something. It's called efficiency. By creating a line of your own, one that is horizontal to the one already there, does not make the process faster; it makes it slower. Same applies to your ridiculous driving. Cutting in front and blocking on-coming traffic doesn't make you get to your brother's baby shower any faster, it makes it slower. When I'm standing in front of you at the grocery store checkout queue, it's not because I was bitten by a rabid dog - that only lead to my constant blackouts - the standing in line bit is all my own doing. It means I am being patient, respecting the rules that allow everyone a fair chance at getting a turn and don't make be stick out like an asshole. I would have said sore thumb, but let's face it...you're an asshole every time you cut the line. This counts for women too. I was told off for not letting a women cut in front of me, after she cut in front of me and was called out...by me. She said I must not have women in my household. Really? Be polite and respect that others have an IBS issue as well.

And lastly, 

Recycle yourself: No, I don't mean to do this metaphorically or to throw yourself in the recycling machine; that would just lead to a gruesome death. This recommendation is for the wasteful; in addition to leaving the water , the car , the a/c and the heater running, the lights, the tv, and the trash on the floor (with or without J-Lo), try to be more conscious of your consumption. Just because you don't see it add up doesn't mean it isn't adding up. No gas when you need a hot shower in the morning you say? Well, that's why they invented hand sanitizer. Stock up and jump in. It even dries up if you stand out on your balcony, so no towel or washing machine use. Just be careful about showing your neighbors this nifty trick. They might call the police for unnecessarily displaying your 'self'. Be more respectful to the shortage of natural resources, then stop wasting them. If you just stop wasting them, you'll never really know why.

What started off as a personal reflection ended up being my 12 cardinal points on better living. Although mostly applicable to my part of the world, I'm sure the Eskimos and Amazonian's could also benefit. Everyone else just seems to have figured it all out, so no claims to enlightened fame.

So #My2012, I promise to obide by the laws of the land and be a better man, woman, child, heathen, monkey, politician, neighbor, brother, sister, colleague, random guy on the road, overzealous lady at the grocery and Human. 

Question is...can you keep the #My2012 promises too?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On loving one's enemy - by Allama Iqbal

This post is dedicated to Allama Iqbal, one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Below is his thought on how to love an enemy and perhaps even overcome the need for any. Love them so much that they are no longer a threat, but just another human/living entity trying to make a life with their perception of right and wrong. Tied together with the theory of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer and the need to be the bigger man (woman) to overcome your anger and fear.

Alas, to er is human.

"
ON LOVING ONE's ENEMY. Love is more than elixir . The latter is supposed to turn baser metals into gold; the former turns all the baser passions into itself. Christ and Buddha were absolutely correct in their perception of the nature of Love; but in their passion for ethical idealism they ignored the facts of life. It is too much to expect of man to love his enemies. Some extraordinary individuals may have realised this maxim in their life; but as a principle of national morality the maxim clearly falls down. The results of the Russo- Japanese war would have been different if the Japanese had acted on the principles of morality associated with their religion. 
"


Dr Allama Iqbal
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