In my understanding, the first secret of PM Khan and most successful leaders is failure and ridicule. Whenever an individual’s goals are independent of the fear of failing and reactions of others, success and respect come naturally.
Soichiro Honda left Toyota and was unemployed, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporting job, Albert Einstein’s teachers labelled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped”, and Nikola Tesla was seen as a crazy scientist. The pattern of failure and ridicule experienced by successful people is repetitive and incredible.
PM Khan’s story is no different. The premier in the past has been criticised and ridiculed on a professional and personal level. In 2005, Mr Khan and Mr Shiekh Rasheed recorded a news TV show, in which Mr Rasheed said, “yeh tou ek mamooli kaptaan hai… PTI tanga party hai.” Now after 13 years, they are good friends and Mr Rasheed is under the leadership of the premier.
In statistics, normal distribution is composed of mean, median and mode. In other words, the spread of normality is based on majority. Normality is relative and decided by society and distribution. This is Gladwell’s Outlier paradox. When fear of failure and ridicule dissipates, the individual stems away from normality and becomes an outlier.
Sadly, society, teachers and parents of Pakistan have championed the abuse of potential outliers. How often do you hear “uska deemagh kharab hogaya hai” or “deemagh tou theek hai”. Even the repetition of the word ‘pagal’ is frequent in conversations. This is purely a lack of tolerance, our inability to understand free will and human dignity, and the restriction of an individual’s capacity to grow.
This curse is a direct obsession of the subcontinent with respect and success, without any elementary understanding of the contra opposites, ridicule and failure. Anatol Lieven in his book Pakistan, A hard country quoted a British colonial judge, Sir Cecil Walsh: “Every Indian, from the highest to the lowest, has his izzat, or name to keep, after his son, it is his most cherished possession, and if it is injured, he is an unhappy man. And in such a sensitive race there is nothing easier to injure than the izzat. The injury may be purely imaginary, but it is no less keenly felt… He will neither forget it nor forgive the man who did it.”
Considering the number of abuse in families and honour killings, I would even argue that in a lot of cases, izzat becomes more valuable than the child.
Prior to the 2013 elections, Hassan Nisar, a prominent journalist, commented in context and with supportive argument in favour of Imran Khan, saying “experts told him, yeh jo tum Cancer hospital banany chalay hou…, yeh ho hii nahin sakta, tum pagal ho, woh tou pagal hai, aur upar sai Pathan bhee hai…”
After another five years of failure and ridicule to the accomplishment of today’s success and respect, I will let the reader decide if it is true or not true. Prime Minister Imran Khan is truly a case of Plato’s allegory of cave. In social theories and in neuroscience, it is this tension that creates change ‘tabdeeli’ in the minds of people.
Let us celebrate, our premier is an Oxford graduate of Politics, Philosophy and Economics, an endorphin loving morning runner, and consistently reiterates the goal of a welfare state. Seventy years after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, we have a head of the state and leader, who is an outlier. Let’s criticise less and celebrate more.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2019.