Dr. Nasir Aziz -a Yale graduate and Professor at LUMS- has been teaching and training at schools, colleges and universities and has delivered lectures in a multitude of educational institutes all across Pakistan. He was invited by NUST Character Building Society on 1st March, 2018 to deliver an enlightening session titled “Building Beautiful Minds.” The event commenced with recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by a brief introduction about the speaker. Mr. Nasir started off with quoting the following which laid out the crux of his talk:
“The only sustainable difference for an organization and a country are its people- Not capital, not strategy, not policies, procedures or systems, not technology- but people. Invest in them, nurture them and train them- because intellectual capital is unique”
Mr. Nasir equated all the material in the world with hardware and intellectual capital with software. He explained how even the best hardware would be rendered useless without software and extended the same example to humans to explain how our appearances and possessions serve only as hardware while the human mind serves as software through which other aspects of a person can be used constructively. He proceeded to compare Singapore and Pakistan in terms of population, land area, natural resources, and years since independence, all of which Pakistan had a clear advantage at. But then came the catch- the economy of Singapore is far more successful than that of Pakistan. The speaker attributed this phenomenon to the difference in prioritization of education in both countries. Singapore’s government invests approximately 30% in the educational sector, while Pakistan only spends approximately 0.2%. This explains a difference in priorities because money invested in education is not thought of as an expense in Singapore, but rather as an investment. Resultantly, they have a greater reserve of intellectual capital. The speaker stressed that the intellectual capital of an organization or country depends upon the quality of its minds and used Singapore’s example to drive home the message at an individual level- in order to be successful, people must invest at least 30% of their total income or pocket money into intellectual development.
The mind is the software of the brain. The development of the mind depends 10% upon genes and 90% upon the environment we live in. Some people build beautiful minds by design despite their genes and environment by making better choices. Resultantly the choices we make in life have the greatest role to play in intellectual development.
Mr. Nasir brought up a powerful concept of assets vs. liabilities. The vast majority of Pakistan’s 200 million population wakes up every day with aspirations and goals focused around the sole question, “What can we gain today?” instead of, “What can we give back today?” Every individual who takes more than they give back to society is a liability, not an asset. Their role in society then, is that of a parasite or woodcutter, gradually driving society towards decline. An average Pakistani grows up with aspirations and goals, driven by a desire to claim their share of money and prestige in society. It is not a surprise then, that when an average Pakistani is asked why they opted for a certain field in education they are likely to reply they are in it for the “scope” it offers. Ask an average Pakistani medical student why they took up medicine and they are likely to say they took it up to serve humanity but ask them five years down the lane why they specialized in a certain field and they are practically bound to say they took it up because it is lucrative. Our educational systems are remarkable at converting assets into liabilities. Mr. Nasir propounded that building beautiful minds is the way to converting assets into liabilities. He speaker added that we are born in this world with nothing and that we leave this world with nothing. Everything that comes in between is a blessing and it belongs to Allah, so we must develop humility and accustom ourselves into being givers rather than takers.
The speaker proceeded to shed light on the importance of hikmah and added that it can convert soil into gold and an absence of hikmah can convert gold into mere soil. Hikmah (denoting ‘wisdom’) is a positive term used repeatedly in the Quran as a characteristic of the righteous. However, he added that there is no substitute for the word hikmah in English, even though the word wisdom is linked to it most closely. He advised the audience to make duaa for hikmah. Allah says in the Quran:
“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good…” (2:269)
Towards the end of the talk, Mr. Aziz urged the audience to develop a connection with Allah, because his rich experience in life taught him that it is the only way to success. He advised the audience to recite the following words of Prophet Musa Alayhisalam quoted in the Quran, when there seems to be no way out of a darkness, and Allah will guide them out of it In Sha Allah:
He added that whenever he recited this ayah Allah guided him out of life’s darknesses when there seemed to be no way out.
The event ended with Mr. Nasir being presented with a souvenir by NUST Character Building Society.