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Tag: Sufis



6.     Learn to reuse material. I am a believer that good material deserves to be packaged in different ways, and that most people miss key stuff on the first time. By being exposed again and again to specific ideas, they get increased value. Think of it like this: if you were to shine a shaft of light on an apple from the top looking down on it, you’d see the stalk. But you wouldn’t see the smooth sides or the base. But by presenting the same object (or idea) from varying viewpoints and angles, the viewer gets a far greater understanding.




5.     Help others in any way you can. When I was starting out writing, I’d send unsolicited letters to a lot of people, asking for quotes or for them to read my work. Many of them didn’t write back. But some did. And those people are the ones who I hold in my heart. Any author has a little time to read letters from the public, and they all have time to help those who want to break in. Of course there are limits, and sometimes people send me work I can’t help with… but I believe that helping total strangers is a wonderful thing, especially helping people who have what it takes to succeed.




4.     Value your time and time yourself. I’m a writer and so most of the time there’s no boss standing over me, or no system of clocking in and out. That means it’s pretty easy to deceive myself and slack off. But I’ve come to understand the importance of giving true value to the hours you have between waking and sleeping… those hours are full of astonishing possibility, each minute is in fact. But you mustn’t take them for granted. Regard each day as the last you will breathe and your outlook changes. I have taken to putting a timer on my desk, so that I can challenge myself at doing the more boring stuff (filing, accounts etc). It has worked for me.




3. Remember kindness and help from others and repay it. I’m a big believer in paying back into the system and not taking more out of it than you’ve paid it. I rarely ask favours of people, and when I do, I make sure that I repay those who have helped me, at once. Beyond that, I think it’s extremely important to remember the people who have given advice and help especially in the hard times, times when others didn’t even give you the time of day. Those people are true friends.



2.     Never undervalue yourself. We spend so much time listening to others and not listening to ourselves, that we often find ourselves spiralling downwards, into a pit of gloom, lacking in self worth. But if you switch this outlook of gloom, with one of enthusiasm, self-belief, amazing things start to happen almost at once. It’s miraculous. Believe in yourself and no one else and the impossible becomes possible.



The Front Door

1.     Never ever go in through the front door. The society in which many of us live teaches us to jump through hoops in an order and route of their specification. It’s partly so that the teachers can maintain control, and partly because they actually believe that the way they are teaching is of use. The truth is that you can reach your ultimate goal a whole lot quicker by using original thought. Plan a zigzag route, any route and life the universe and everything will take you to the front of the queue.


New Blog...

I am starting my blog again to spew out some advice, tips and random ideas on things I find interesting, as well as those that have been helpful to me. Each day I’ll add a line or two, but no more than that. I prefer that anyone who reads any of this spends a moment thinking about the central idea. I’m doing this because I think it’s valuable, and because it’s easier not to do it at all.

I’m going to start with the main rules for getting ahead…


July 9, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel


When it comes to ideals there’s not much I care about passionately. I’d don’t really care if someone lies to me, or if he steals, or is rude. But what turns my blood cold is miserliness.

I can’t stand it. Not for a moment.

It’s interesting to think that the word ‘miser’ has the same root (latin for wretchedness) as ‘misery’. And to me miserliness is exactly that — wretchedness.
Living here in Morocco you see people every day who have very little in the way of worldly possessions, but their hearts are wide open. The community is ‘sensible’ (to use the French meaning the word) to those within it, and it would be unthinkable not to share.
But then of course when you go to wealthier areas, the walls gain in height and the generosity is more about impressing others rather than helping them.
In the East the idea of giving is to benefit the receiver. For this reason gifts are often given anonymously. Think about it. That’s surely the way it should be. But we often get all caught up about wanting thanks, like a dog needing a pat on the head. 
We recently had friends visiting from overseas. Their son made something for the children in the bidonville, the shantytown, in which we live. He wanted to take the gift to the kids and never had time as he had to leave. His mother seemed upset the he didn’t have the chance to give his gift. I said that I would make sure that the gift was presented. She seemed unhappy at this, at least at first… until I explained that in Morocco, and elsewhere in the Arab world, a gift is regarded a twice as valuable if the giver is unknown.
There’s another example that I can’t get out of my head. It happened quite recently too. A European gentleman who I know was staying in Fes. He invited me down to a sumptuous house he had rented. By chance he invited me to lunch on a Friday. In Morocco Friday lunch is almost sacred. It’s a communal meal and friends and friends of friends are invited to eat, more usually not from the same vast platter. There’s no such thing as scrimping and saving when it comes to guests in Morocco… and doing so on a Friday would be unthinkable.
When the European invited me he asked ever so politely, if I might come alone… to eave my wife and children behind. I must have gone silent at the other end of the phone, because he added, ‘I’m thinking of numbers don’t you know.’ In Moroccan culture such a request is beyond unthinkable. And the more I think about it, the more I find myself preoccupied with the broader idea of cultural generosity, and real hospitality.
In the same way, it’s rude in the Arab world to tell a visitor what time to come. They will come when they are ready and as a host you are expected to receive them. And of course, generosity is rewarded many times over.
For me, both my proudest and most shamed moment came a few years ago in Casablanca. I was trying to load a table into my car near the Habbous market, when I noticed a beggar going from one stall to the next, asking the stallkeepers for fruit. One by one, the fruit sellers would select the finest apple, orange, or pear, and would pass it over to the woman with their blessing. Amazed at what I was seeing, I went a little nearer. The first stallkeeper noticed my interest. He looked at me full on.
‘Just because someone is poor,’ he said, ‘it does not mean they are not worthy of the best.’
July 8, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel


Guilt is a big thing for me, a kind of grease that lubricates my life. Without it, I’d be sitting on the couch with my feet up, daydreaming. Or asleep, or gorging myself on ravioli with extra cheese. I don’t know why I feel it, deep in my bones, but the guilt’s always there. It grinds away, tormenting me day and night.

I never feel as if I’ve done enough work, or good enough work, or that I’ve exercised enough (which I never have), or that I’ve got enough going on. I’m the rat in the wheel spinning faster and faster. And however fast I go, it’s not enough. Because the guilt’s chasing me, reminding me that I could go even faster still.

 I look at other people and they don’t seem to have the same angst. Or if they do, they hide it very well. Rachana certainly doesn’t have it. Most of the time she thinks I’m mad. You see, she’s much calmer than me, and she gets stuff done, but without the anguish. While I hurtle to and fro in a frenzy… the guilt devil jabbing me with his trident, she drifts serenely through the day getting plenty done .

I sometimes wonder why I am like I am, why Rachana is how she is, and why everyone else is how they are. Is it natural programming, or something learnt? Nature or nurture?

It must be a little of both.

But then how ever did the guilt get into my genes?  Did I have guilt-ridden ancestors, hounded like me through history? And if so, how did they fare? And the portion that’s learnt… by what lessons and encounters could all that guilt have eased into my head?

So here I am, intoxicated with guilt, so greatly so that I’ve resorted to writing a blog about my preoccupation. If there’s an upside it’s that I’m often coaxed on to do things that I don’t want to do, but that I know the guilt devil will be thrilled with.

Once in a while I get so overladen with guilt that I can’t do anything at all. I just sit there on the couch fretting. I pretend that I’m thinking, or working on an idea, but I’m not. The other day, our maid Zohra found me in the sitting room staring into space. I tapped a finger across my lips pensively as if I was coming up with a big thought. She looked at me hard, narrowed her eyes.

‘You are not thinking of anything at all,’ she said.

‘But I am, really I am.’

‘No,’ replied Zohra. ‘I can tell.’


‘Because your eyes are bloodshot,’ she said.