Life Lessons from my airplane window

It’s been a tumultuous year. And although politics and business don’t mix well, we can’t deny the events that have taking place across our beloved America. One of the things that I’ve been doing a lot of is traveling across America for business and different conferences. In the process I’m lucky to meet all sorts of great hearted individuals. These meetings give me great hope.

Now I do get your occasional ugly stares in the airport, but I haven’t been harassed or asked to go “back to your country,” so far (knock on wood!)

Since June of last year and until now, I will have traveled to 11 different cities! That’s a lot of miles and a lot of time away from my family.

But being out in the world, seeing people within my industry and beyond, and having that time away from my family offers a different perspective on things and an opportunity for deep thought and consideration. Here are a collection of thoughts over the past few months.

  • In order to grow you need to have a strong support and cheerleading system.Going solo without anyone there supporting you can be tiring. But more importantly, that same support system needs to constantly be pushing you to your limits. Without these key components, your growth and potential will be stifled.

I don’t always like to admit it, but my husband changed me to the better. I came from a very structured world. After college my life was predetermined. I was happy with simply what was safe, expected and the norm. However, my husband challenged that normalcy all the time.

My husband has been a cheerleader and support from day one. He altered the trajectory of my life helping me realize the potential I could be. And I provide him support as well. We lean on each other when need be, and help each other flourish.

Having that support goes often underestimated. People feel they can do it on their own and don’t need anyone. But they end up getting burned out or not flourishing because they are lacking an essential driver of growth and happiness.

  • People are innately good. There’s so much hate in the news against this group and that, but when you do meet and talk with people, regardless of their backgrounds or ideologies, there is goodness. There also is the ability to breakdown stereotypes and change minds.

Research says that even after a person is given true facts about an event, and you’ve discredited whatever they believed in, it is unlikely they change their mind about that event. That is a depressing thought. There was recently a story of a girl who ran into a church, screaming she had been raped by 3 big black men. It turns out she made it all up. But guess what, many in those church can’t shake it off, and even if they manage to, they will have that incident in the back of their minds.

Although this seems hopeless, there’s a greater purpose to keep pushing the truth. Regardless of all this negativity in the world, and the unlikeliness that people will stop believing falsehoods, by stating truths you give people reasonable doubt. We need to keep working to change the narrative. If I can win over 2 out of 50 people in a room, that’s progress.

These last few trips I’ve tried to put myself out there. Although many may know me as a very “outgoing” person, and I may be with friends or family, the more I age, the less likely I’m so outgoing with people I don’t know. At conferences or events I attend, I would rather go to my hotel room than go to a networking event, or go out to dinner with a new acquaintance. This is also coupled with the fact that I don’t drink and all networking events seem to revolve around alcohol. But regardless of what I’d rather do, I realize the power of my presence at these events. I need to be more visible because I know that there is a lot of negativity and untruths being spoken about people of my faith. Particularly the role of women in my faith. So it is critical that I help pave the way to change that narrative.

  • Pushing yourself to do what’s uncomfortable gives you power, too. Part of putting myself out there is trying to change the tide and narrative. But another more important part is empowering myself and testing my limits. This first of Janaury, I announced to my husband: it is the year of “Ayat.” Meaning, it was the year I was going to make an extra effort to invest in myself and push my limits. Doing this not only gives me purpose but empowers me. It helps me feel bolder, more confident. And that feeling makes me want to push even harder. It’s a cycle you want to keep feeding into.
  • Always be learning. It’s imperative that the learning never stops. No matter how much you think you know, or how old you are, you can always know more. There is a saying by our Prophet Mohammad (pbuh): “seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” For those unfamiliar with Islamic traditions, the Muslim people today don’t follow many of the true practices and traditions of our faith. The first words revealed to our Prophet (pbuh) were “Read!” signifying the importance of knowledge in our faith. Another saying of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was “Seek knowledge even unto China:” meaning go to the farthest points of earth to get knowledge.

Our business took a hit a couple years back for a number of reasons. But part of it was because we became complacent. Although we’d read articles and blogs here and there, we weren’t growing. So we started to deploy a change in the company which required every team member to register for intensive learning course(s), including all top management. The result: office is buzzing with new ideas, and our practice is more on the cutting edge.

  • Being away from the office allows for seeing thing from a different perspective. Looking from that oval shaped window (which Norwegian Airline apparently expanded by 30%!!) the world is small and connected. Problems that seem so big are minimized, and growth becomes within reach and more manageable. You also see what other people are doing and get the inspiration that will help you see how to solve problems differently.

Our experiences are only as useful as we allow them to be. I can stay closed and in my box if I don’t reflect on the experiences I have had. Every perspective should be considered because there could be opportunities for me to change the way I think or I operate.

  • Be a trailblazer in whatever it is you do. Not all of us will have big roles and make world impacts. But every job and situation allows for you to be a trailblazer for change. In my small world of Digital Marketing that is what I”m trying to do. At the Janes of Digital event in San Francisco this year, I talked about the fact that as a Muslim woman I’m motivated, regardless of the discomfort I may feel, to be the first hijabi woman on stage. I want to open the eyes of other women that may not feel they can, and show them: if I can do it, you can as well. And there are countless women trailblazers throughout history that stood up, paving the way for other women to do more, work, vote, hold greater positions, speak, and discover.
  • Travel, no matter what precautions you take, is uncomfortable. Ok well maybe not entirely true, and not relevant to my more inspirational post, but nonetheless I need to mention it. I don’t travel first class, unfortunately. So I can’t make a complete judgement.

But what I do know: I always thought my exhaustion after traveling was due to the fact that most times I would travel with my kids. Well, I realized, my kids have nothing to do with it (sort of). I mean, true, I get MORE exhausted when I travel with them, but no matter how much preparation goes into ensuring my comfort on a flight, I can’t get comfortable and I always feel absolutely exhausted upon arrival to my destination. We have a saying in Arabic: “travel is a piece of torment.” And its true so much so I’m dreading my upcoming travels!

I hope you enjoyed my post and took away some insights into life on the go as a business owner and online marketing professional. Look at my last post to learn where my travels will take me next, maybe I will see you there!

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