Two weeks ago I started a course called Self Expression and Leadership Programme (SELP) with Landmark Education. Some of you may have heard more than you want to know about Landmark from both Asim and me (hehe, you know who you are!) and others may not even know that since April of this year I’ve done various courses with them.

I used to be one of those people who thought personal development books were well-meaning but useless at best and Western new-age crap at worst. But I’ve always been self-critical, interested in ‘improving/fixing’ myself and enjoyed learning in an interactive group setting. So yes when Asim first mentioned Landmark courses to me, I was intrigued but as a student had no money at the time. He had done a series of courses with Landmark Education 4 years ago (way before I met him) and I remember the very first time we spoke on the phone, he mentioned the courses and how much he had gained from them in terms of how he communicated, the way he understood people and even success at work. Then I sort of forgot about them until this year when a friend convinced Asim to do another of the courses, the Introduction Leaders Program. I went to one of the guest events and registered.

I did the Landmark Forum in April and then the Advanced Course in July. I also attended a series of free Seminar sessions available to graduates. The courses are designed in such a way that you start with yourself and then move outwards at the level of small groups to large communities. We live in growing concentric circles of connectedness (from self to relationships to family to friends to community to country to the world). The course I’m doing now is a three month leadership course in which you design and implement a community project. The idea is that by contributing to others you also gain a lot yourself and that in a way is real leadership. I’ll tell you in another post what my project is but just to let you know I’m exploring how I can help flood survivors in Pakistan.

Landmark is one of those things, that when you’re out of it you think ‘oh who needs these courses? Why can’t people fix their lives themselves?’ or you’re slightly embarrassed sharing with others because you think they’ll think you’re messed up or weird. But guess what? Everyone is messed up and weird in their own way. Every single person out there. And that’s not weird. This really hit me while doing my Landmark courses. People are just people. Whether they are young or old, men or women, straight or gay, black or white or whatever. In the courses, we had people who you think are so successful or experienced or drop-dead gorgeous or ‘completely sorted’ and then you realize, they’re dealing with their own set of issues. Even those who think they have no issues! :) This of course doesn’t mean that we only connect with people at the level of our ‘issues’ but what this opened up for me was that I became more forgiving of others and less intimidated. Instead of building up walls between myself and others, I was able to see them as just people with their strengths and weaknesses- just like me.

Anyway, every time I go to Landmark I’m reminded of who I say I want to be in life. And sometimes it’s good to get that reminder. We’re all so busy with our lives, who takes the time out for personal reflection and evaluation? How many times do we sincerely make promises that we actually know how to keep? Why do we break our word, especially to ourselves? And when we do, how do we restore integrity so that others, and especially we ourselves, can believe in the person we say we are? Sometimes it can be trivial things like resolving to sort out your cluttered drawer or over-committed calendar. And sometimes it can be something more significant like being there for a friend who needs you but you don’t know ‘how’ to help her or making an effort to speak to a family member who you just don’t know what to say to or when the love isn’t there.

Being at Landmark allows me to feel inspired and motivated to do something with my life. It makes me want to connect with family and friends. It pushes me to get organised, punctual and be true to my word- to others and myself. And what that results in is a peace of mind, freedom from resentment or regret, and happiness. As Ina Garten says when something is particularly yummy, “How bad can that be?” :D


It seems like ages since we last published a blog. It was great to be able to write a blog every single day in Ramadan. The work commitments were the same and we probably had more social commitments throughout the month.

Ramadan is a month of blessings and so is the rest of the year. Its amazing how so many good habits end with the month or even if they don’t the discipline somehow does get tainted a bit.

During the month of Ramadan I gave a word to myself that we will publish a verse we get inspired by, everyday for the whole month and it wasn’t that hard to be my word. What I want is to continue writing and sharing our thoughts and ideas with people with integrity. As they say nothing works without integrity. So, in Landmark terms, I create a “possibility” of being consistent in blog writing i.e. my commitment towards being consistent.

Without Integrity nothing works!

I registered in a 6 month leadership training programme  two months ago. It is definitely one of the best training courses I’ve ever attended in my life. The course is really challenging, and with busy work commitments, I am mostly out of the house.  Well, at least it seems that way. I keep on asking myself what is it that I am getting out of this course after sacrificing all that. One thing is for sure that I am learning a lot about my way of being in different aspects of life.

One of the key issues the course revolves around is ‘integrity’. The dictionary defines the word as honesty, truth, veracity and reliability etc. But it is as simple as honouring your word, be it to yourself or to others.

When the course leader introduced the topic, I said to myself, I know what integrity means, but there was a lot more to it than I thought. The course leader then said, “Nothing in life works without integrity”. That really made me think, that if you live a life of integrity, can you then demand anything you want from life? The answer was yes. In other words, do what you say and get what you want in life – as simple as that. Well, it’s easier said than done, I thought.

A key element of integrity is authenticity. Whenever in life we feel lack of power, there is something inauthentic in the way we are ‘being’. For example, being late for an appointment; lying to someone or making false excuses (yes it’s the same as lying); not paying bills on time; speeding on the roads or any other violation of the law; backbiting/gossiping and even procrastination. All of these are ways of being inauthentic or breaking a word given to others or even yourself.

The course leader then asked everyone to explore their lives and find areas of inauthenticity. That opened up a pandora’s box. People hesitated initially but to my surprise then started sharing their inauthenticities one by one. From stealing stuff to being dishonest in relationships, it all came out that evening. We were then encouraged to resolve these outstanding issues in our lives. It was amazing to see people ‘completing’ many of their open and forgotten chapters in life. The feeling they described was of unbelievable freedom.

Fortunately, I didn’t have a huge burdon to unload off my chest but I have started picking up areas in my life where I was being inauthentic. As part of the course I had to sign an agreement to maintain full integrity. There are clear clauses in the agreement stating things like “no gossiping” for example. By signing the agreement, we gave our word not to gossip or be present in such an environment for the duration of the course. Isn’t that just amazing :D.

I felt the change in me straight away after the integrity class. On my way back home; I consciously forced myself to drive within the speed limits even when there were no cameras. Yes, I am guilty of speeding when I can. I slowly started realising that it feels so good knowing that you are being authentic. Even in the scenario as simple as driving, I no longer have to worry about looking out for cameras or police cars – a simple example of freedom. Other areas that I am still working on include, organisation of paperwork, exercising, my work etc.

One of the biggest challenges the course poses is time management. It seems that it has taken over my calendar big time. The other day my Auntie asked me when will we visit them next and I said, “let me have a look in my calendar – this month looks all full, it’ll probably be sometime around mid next month”. The look on her face said it all. It was embarrassing, I know but my normal answer otherwise used to be “soon inshallah”. That never meant what it actually means, if you know what I mean.

But I love working around a diary. All my commitments are now listed in my mobile diary and I am playing a game of never being late in life.

The course I am doing is offered by an organisation called Landmark Education. I would highly recommend doing their 3 and a half day course called ‘The Landmark Forum’.  You can watch an introduction to the Landmark forum by clicking here.

Transformation in 6 months?

impossible Last night I got myself involved in something crazy, at least it seems that way at the moment. It doesn’t scare me but something inside me is still resisting. I enrolled myself into a 6 month leadership programme offered by an organisation known for its work in bringing transformation in the lives of many people all over the world. What’s crazy is the schedule and the level of commitment. I’m committed to the course for more than 10 hours every single week and 4 full weekends (Sat, Sun, 9am-11pm!) over the course of the next 6 months. It has hit my calendar really hard. I guess being able to fit in the schedule in my calendar, which is already packed with work, travel and social commitments, will be a breakthrough on its own.

I love Personal Development literature and this is not the first such course I am doing. What’s different this time is the intensity, its duration and impact on my day to day routine. Despite all that, there is also something inside me that is really excited about the next few rollercoaster months. I really believe that we human beings every now and then need that extra push or a reminder to realise our own potential. We all have an inherent ability to do the extraordinary but very few recognise that potential.

In the realm of Personal Development literature, the Quran has always been my first source of inspiration and I love delving deep into it. My beliefs about life have evolved over the years. I do not believe in the word impossible anymore. While reading books by people like Stephen Covey and Anthony Robins who have transformed the lives of many all over the world, I have found many parallels with theories I learnt from the Quran. They have helped me understand the Quran more.

One of the many promises my training programme proudly boasts is a “future of extraordinary accomplishment”. What it means, even I am not sure about at the moment but it sound like something I really want :). I have huge ambitions in life and some of them would require extraordinary accomplishments. I believe that no course or training can make you transform yourself and your community unless you want it to. I’ll get what I want to get out it. So, I start this course with a resolution that I’ll make it into one hell of a transformation for myself and people around me and that includes all of YOU. Lets see how it goes!