Critical thinking is fundamental to entrepreneurship and success. Last week, during a school party with parents in TriBeCa, my friend, music composer and scientist Nicolas Heron discussed with me the value of critical thinking for our project in Afghanistan and its contribution to the educational systems and economies of other countries in Central and South Asia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. My first reaction was against a fast introduction of critical thinking to avoid conflict with existing traditions and cultural habits. Now, a week later, I have definitely re-evaluated my position.
I never saw the argument “who comes before, the egg or the chicken?” without critical thinking. Without appropriate and stimulating questions, there would be no answers. In essence, to be a great student, you need great mentors, teachers and great questions. In simple terms, curiosity is the fuel of life. Critical Thinking is the management of life. This process can only happen within yourself and can't be outsourced. It's a conscious decision, not a supernatural event. I can't deny that I wasn't a great student in school. My attention span was limited and my performance in oral tests was much superior to the one in written tests. My argumentative and conversational skills were excellent but I lacked results on written tests. Within two years before my high school graduation, I started a company in the USA, in Los Angeles, a country where English is the main language in which I always underperformed in written tests. Instead of walking away from the challenge, I embraced it and it resulted in a sequence of successful choices and business ventures. I was aware of my weakness but I decided to go further and establish my own tasks and surpass my own expectations. Two years later, I was visiting my high school where my English teacher was proud to introduce me to her new students and prize my perseverance and success.
I am also known for reading very few books, and I always joke about it. When a book is interesting, my critical thinking mind goes on a roller-coaster and I can't stop asking questions and creating answers and solution. This makes my life difficult. Often, a book can inspire 10-20-30 new ideas and business concepts. Reading The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin was very inspiring but also a critical thinking torture as it spurred so many ideas and concepts that still hunt me at night 8 years later. It also inspires me every day in what I am doing in Afghanistan and the entire region of Central And South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Mike Sweeney tells people that every morning, I wake up thinking I am in Herat, Afghanistan, and from there I define my day, strategy, and, I would add, my critical thinking. Often, I hear people say “I do my job." I prefer to say “I create my job.” This exposes me to exhausting schedules, mistakes, and critics, but also rewards me immensely. I create my job every day in Herat, Afghanistan, from my office and home in Manhattan, USA. Here is my vision to a New Herat:
Last night, I was flipping through TV channels and watched a UFC fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. Benson Henderson had a tattoo on his back that resembled the wings of an Angel. This reminded me of Fereshteh Forough, because Fereshteh means Angel. I emailed her so she could check the fight out and she did. This morning, I am thinking about asking her to learn more about the success of UFC and Mixed Martial Arts professional fights and comment on its application to Afghanistan, Central and South Asian society and cultural upbringing. Could this be a valuable business asset and concept? Could it be a valuable contribution to society? As a Judo fighter for 30 years, I believe that combat sports are very important and valuable in contemporary society. Now, I am interested to hear Fereshteh's point of view on this matter. Could Benson Henderson be a role model in Afghanistan of just another violent fighter in the cage? It is not a coincidence that he is a Taekwoondo fighter like Rohullah Nikpai, Afghanistan's representative at the Olympics in Taekwoondo and two times Bronze Medalist.
Yesterday at lunch, after teaching Judo to 40 children at the New York Athletic Club, I reminded two dear friends of the value of blogging and how it disciplines me in thinking and formulating concepts. One of them said that I found what I am really passionate about and it's not for all to find such passion. I replied that it's exactly why I write. It helps me discover what I am passionate about. It's sad to live a mediocre life, write, think or do what you are NOT passionate about. My other friend explained that for him, it's a struggle to define what to write about. This is where he was lacking critical thinking. I gave him a hint on a great topic pertaining to his background and heritage. Let's hope this inspires him to make a step forward and take a chance on his critical thinking.
Yes, we are not all the same. We don't all have the same level of curiosity and critical thinking. Frankly I don't care. I expect all those surrounding me at least to get a grip on their life and do something. I also expect this from the 30,000 students that we connected to the World Wide Web and with who we are working with the Examer Educational Software in Afghanistan. I am not looking for the students with the highest grades but the ones with the highest level of curiosity and quality of critical thinking and who will challenge themselves into new ideas. The concept of 3D printing in Afghanistan inspired me because I see the value of Afghan children's creativity connected to their cultural wisdom. Learn more about Edward Zellem's book, “Afghan Proverbs Illustrated," and you will see how the wisdom of thousands of years of history connected perfectly with the illustrations made by young Afghan students from Marefat High School.
Can they be the creators of the next Angry Birds or Yoda? Can they inspire new Lego or Star Wars characters? The world needs new critical thinking and solutions. They are here:
It is not a coincidence that this week, Roya Mahboob is traveling to Bangladesh to attend a conference on Women Entrepreneurship. She is scouting new and fresh female critical minds and entrepreneurs for the growth of our project throughout the region of Central Asia, where Bangladesh is an important starting point along with Afghanistan.