Top of the world

Jan 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest

Is it mandatory to be always at the top ?

‘I have been an A grader throughout my life and now a possible B grade is giving me terrible nightmares’, Faiza, a Pakistani medical student in USA was telling me.  She was worried about her grades and told me about her sleepless nights despite immense hard work. She wanted to stand first in her class. For me, she is already an extraordinary girl. Being from a conservative family and studying at a medical school in United States is an incredible dream for many.  She is already a leader and role model for many girls in her family and friends but Faiza is not satisfied with her current situation.

The problem is not only with the students, but parents as well. They would queue outside ‘top schools’ for many hours in order to enrol their children for admissions. Sumera, another good friend from Lahore, worries about the performance of her son, who is a super active ten year old kid. He grabs decent grades despite being a ‘happy-go-lucky’ child and that is what bothers Sumera. She thinks he can outshine the rest if he gives a little more time and attention to his studies. She wants to see her kid at the top of the world and be a ‘star’.

The competition is not limited to education either. In every walk of life, we want to excel and beat the queue by any means possible. Be it the most luxurious car or high-tech cell phones, designer clothes or branded jewellery, we want to have the best of the best available. In career, everyone wants to have the fortunes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Nothing satisfies us more than overtaking the crowd in trivial things and possessions.

I remember one of my professors once said, ‘Be a leader in your field and if you fail, create a new field and lead’’.  Everyone knows about ‘Neil Armstrong’ who stepped on to the moon, but no one knows about the second one who stepped twenty minutes later. The stories of cut-throat competition in the markets are prevalent, asking to move up the ladder by hook or by crook.

The issue is not only with Pakistanis. In Korea, the issues like which university to choose, which company to join and who to marry, depend quite a lot on your performance in the high school examination. One exam almost shapes the entire life of the person and the repercussions are drastic. Children’s days and nights revolve round exams more than any healthy activities, and the teenage suicidal rate in Korea is the highest in the world.

So is the world all about being at the top? And more importantly, those who have big achievements in their portfolios are they satisfied with their lives? Or do they want more? These questions need to be pondered upon? No one is happy with this fast paced life. Everyone looks for the missing pieces in the puzzle of happiness. So it comes down to the phenomenon of contentment. We need to draw a line where we feel contented. That is when we can enjoy all what we have and stop looking for more. There is no problem with the notion of standing out in the crowd and having a few extra feathers in the cap. The problem comes when it becomes the only motive of life.

The solution was given by Prophet Muhammad (SAWW) centuries ago by saying ‘In matters of deen (righteousness/virtues) look at those who are higher (better) than you and in the matters of the world (material things), look at those who are lower (less fortunate) than you. This simple solution will fill one’s heart with contentment. Thanking God for what you have will give you the option to enjoy it to the full.

Being first is not important at all times. In my opinion, the role of the Michael Collins was most important; he orbited the moon in Apollo 11, and brought back Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin safely to the earth. He went to the moon, not to step onto it, but to bring those back who landed there. Sometimes staying behind the scene and playing role is much more important than coming to the lime light.

Muhammad Saad Khan

About the author

Muhammad Saad Khan is a Biomedical Engineer with a diverse background of engineering and management.

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  1. Great… I really needed it… Very Good Advice

  2. an excellent article! really giving tension free thought!

  3. Excellent article

  4. Good piece. I think it comes down to where your society is in terms of development and your familial background. America once had the mentality developing countries now have: aim high, and work your hands to the bones to get the competitive edge. The routes to social mobility were limited decades ago. Since our economic boom, however, generations progressively became more financially comfortable, different industries arose and the economy transitioned to service oriented industries…education became more available…and our mentality became “do what you love” as opposed to “do what you have to in order to make a living” bc of the choices we have.

    You’ll see in Korea and perhaps in Pakistan than there are only 1 or 2 routes to success: be born rich, or bust your ass in school, go to the best college and then presumably the best school…then go on to work for the best companies which presumably pay the highest salaries….(correct me if I’m wrong…afterall, I’m just an outsider looking in…)…in the US, if you’re a terrible student, you can go to community college, do well there, then transfer to a really good college…or, if college isn’t for you but you have talent and vision, pay the less than $100 fee (in most states) and start your own business….or start out in a low level position at McDonald’s for example, bust your ass there, and move up the ranks….and even if you never get rich or become a leader, you’ll still be able to make a halfway decent living…

    …That said, times have changed here in the US, where everyone has a BA and everyone is getting a Masters….plus we’re at a point where we’re rebuilding emotionally, and economically…so we’re pretty much reverting back to the mentality that you absolutely have to be # 1…..we go through these cycles with every economic scare and when a competing nation surpasses us in some area…

  5. As i am mentioned in this blog so i will give you a detail comment later on..but i just love its cover page..contents….materials…every thing is superb..and Saad has depicted a true picture of now a days…but as a mother i have some points which i will share…SOON..InshALaah…WellDone my friend ..:)

  6. True happiness can only be achieved by serving humanity and making others happy. ‘Competition’ among human beings for ‘No 1’is the most pathetic and loathsome of the ideas given by the Capitalism. It leads towards dark tunnel of jealously and alienation. Two humans can’t be compared. Its an insult to humanity as a whole when comparison among individuals is done like animals. It just divided society into individual segments instead of uniting the individuals into one entity. Every individual has unique skills and creativity which is crashed at the very early stage by this insane system of competition.

  7. Hey 🙂 although I would not give religious remarks as justification of other words “take it easy, money is not everything in the world”, I think it is a very good post.

    Isn’t it about generally important status of education in an Asian family?

    I wish Europe would be like that to some point, here people have fun and fun matters mostly. Later they just go where the fate blows them. They accept what life brings. Surprisingly most of them are happy. But not when the crisis strikes and they are jobless because of not accomplished education of not stading out between their competitors.

    I guess that people have natural fields of expertise, if she is good at something someone else is good at something else. We all need eachother. Gosh…I am perceived as a genius, but C grade falls into my booklet occasionally. I don’t torture myself about it. Cause after all once I will negotiate job position other things will matter: who I am and how do I present myself. What do i actually know in my field of expertise. C grade in 3 courses out of 60? Who cares 😛

  8. Saad thank you so much for writing this article. 🙂

  9. Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Impressive article…..really enjoyed it.

  10. Good Job Dude! 🙂

  11. The problem comes when it becomes the only motive of life.Nothing satisfies us more than overtaking the crowd in trivial things and possessions. so life goes on……….
    This simple solution will fill one’s heart with contentment. Thanking God for what you have will give you the option to enjoy it to the full.
    Agreed…… well said.

  12. As portrayed in the article , the only envy should be for the person who recites the Quran in a nice voice and and the person who has been given wealth and spends it in the name of Allah/// to emulate them. As in hadeeth Mubarak..
    Grades and achievements are for self fulfillment or to satisfy our parents desires and expectations. in China when most families have only one child, think of them… if someone doesnt come upto expectation, how hard it could be. i have learnt myself from being a son whose parents had high expectations and I have learnt not to make the same mistake with my kids. The idea should be in making them a better person and human being. thats the thing which counts. I dont want a child who grows up to be super intelligent, becoming a CEO maybe or an executive of a country and then making abd decisions to ruin others’ lives rather I would settle for one who is nice and humble and is satisfied with his life no matter what he does. I would be more than happy and proud of him for what he would be as a person not as an achiever! And I wish people have the same ideology.

  13. Beautiful write up Saad! i am seriously wondering how did i miss this one! I wonder when will we get ourselves out of this rat race?

  14. I myself faced alot of bad grades in Mphil recently where as I was a top student in BS days. I didnt feel it so much as much as people made it suffocating for me. it became hard to breathe seeing my teachers n mates commenting you have gone way down. I don’t know whats best sometimes. To acknowledge failure so one can excel or ignore it so the depression doesn’t get to the head.

  15. […] sum it up in a sentence, we are confused on our ideology of ‘successes’. We need to define what does success means for us. Is having a successful love affair a success? In movies it might be true, but in real life […]

  16. I agree with Imran, competition does lead to jealousy and alienation. And comparing two human beings is an insult to humanity. I think it was for this reason the poet of East, Iqbal described: ”Nahin koi nikamma qudrat key kaarkhaney main”- Also, who wins depends upon the grounds you are comparing people at. As they say: If you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will think it’s whole life that it’s a stupid.” Different people have different spheres of performance. Humanity is a wonderful spectrum, everyone having his own color, everyone having his own dynamic approach. But I think in the same breath, competition is somewhat necessary too. Competition is the basic motivation behind every hard work. The tougher the competition, the greater the hard work and consequently the greater the success.

    Anyway, we in our 8th grade studied in one of the topics; ” Qudrat key banaey huey nizaam mein insaan jab apni manfi kawishon key zariye bigaar ka sabab banta hay tau aloodgi paida hoti hai.” -Although it was about ”aloodgi” but I think keeping the lesson same we can replace the word with ”tabahi.” I think the point in universe is, let it be as it is… let things move as they are. While we agree that everything in this universe in going on according to a specifically defined plan, I think we should let things move the way they are! Living a simple tension-free life. Just saying.

  17. Thanks. This one reminder was needed in my life.

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