Empty hallways lead to brilliant new pastures!

Finding your purpose and crafting your destiny

Occam's Razor: Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.

We always know that the simplest problem-solving methods produce the most effective results, yet we insist on creating unnecessary obstacles for ourselves.

The culture of 'hard work' insists that our effort will not be rewarded, valued, or appreciated if a job requires less effort. Hence, we create unnecessary obstacles on an otherwise straight path, convinced that the more we grind, the more we will please the God's of hard labor.

Even when solutions are readily available, we choose to shun them in favor of complex, hard-to-untangle idiosyncrasies because our subconscious programming dictates that anything that comes easy. is probably not worth having. Thus, we entangle ourselves in a myriad of complexities. My aim is that the readers who wish to create a difference in the world would do so without the unnecessary hassle. I have lived and worked as an expatriate in seven countries, across four continents, including Johannesburg, South Africa, Moscow, Russia, Istanbul, Turkey, Dubai UAE, LA, Santa Barbra, Boston, and Washington DC. If I can distill my experiences into one tequila shot that readers can swallow, here's the lesson that needs reiteration: set the intention, then let nature take its course. The more you struggle, the more difficulties will show up in your life.

My journey began on a balmy morning of October 19, 2010. I stepped into the hallway of my medical facility in Istanbul, Turkey. While working as a general practitioner at a geriatric facility run by catholic nuns, I learned the true meaning of compassion, empathy, and kindness. The experience laid the emotional groundwork for my social enterprise 'I Change Her Life.' As I walked towards my office door, I saw a figure curled up in a fetal position on the bench outside my door. Hearing my footsteps, the person turned around, and I froze in my tracks. It was a woman drenched in blood from her navel to her knees; the long dark sarong she wore was stained and wet, with blood dripping into a puddle on the floor. I rushed over and grabbed her with both arms minutes before she fell unconscious. I called my nursing staff and hurled her onto the stretcher before she ultimately passed out. For the next two hours, we worked on her frail body to bring life back into her. The woman was from a local community and had had a spontaneous abortion due to preeclampsia. Since she did not have the resources or means to go to a local hospital, she thought the nuns might help her. The experience left an indelible mark on my memory, and that was the day I started my quest as a social healthcare entrepreneur.

With a meager $5,000 saving, I started my startup from a small village on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkey. As a medical doctor, I had no prior experience working in the non-profit sector. Soon, I realized that people who work in the social sector are not always 'socially conscious' types. The mental gymnastics that go on in non-profits and the ego battles that ensue can put the Real Housewives to shame any day. I guess when the resources are limited, power dynamics are altered in a way that triggers egos. So, if you are trying to enter the social sector to help the disadvantaged, tread with caution. It's not as philanthropic as it may seem.

Empty hallways lead to brilliant new pastures!

Over the next eight years, I learned some of the most challenging yet endearing lessons of my life. While I managed to expand my venture to conduct projects across South Asia, Turkey, and Africa, the path was not without perils. Along the way to creating an international healthcare enterprise, I was backstabbed, bullied, harassed, and called names. My identity and accomplishments triggered jealousy and envy, it seemed. But the shadows along our path help us appreciate the contrast and direct us towards the light. When you feel the weight of other people's judgment, remember that their lack of discernment is not your responsibility. Your job is not to convince others who you are; your job is to simply be the best version of you.

By 2016, we had trained over 35000+ women and girls through our vocational training program and our healthcare advocacy workshops. The vocational training provided the essential skill-set needed to start small business ventures. We created eight-week-long training workshops helped women learn IT skills, agricultural skills, culinary and embroidery skills, enough to stand on their own feet and provide for themselves and their families. In the healthcare sector, we focused on maternal mortality, management of preeclampsia, maternal diabetes, and prevention of STDs, particularly HPV virus and cervical cancer.

I Change Her Life won the Stevie Business Award for best Community development program in 2015. Out of more than two hundred and twenty entries from seventy-five countries, we grabbed top honors. It was a moment of pure exuberance for us as a team because we had seen days when we thought we might not be able to make it. There were weeks when nothing seemed to work, or we would receive rejection letters incessantly from donors. Despite the hardships and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we persevered. I received my CIVICUS Nelson Mandela Award nomination in January 2016. I was overjoyed.

I have curated a list of my life lessons. I hope my experiences can help others on their journey to fulfill their destiny:

1- Ikigai: As a typical type A, overzealous and hyperactive person, over the years, I have mellowed down to trade my hypervigilance for what the Japanese describe as 'Ikigai' or 'flow.' The crux of the philosophy is that we achieve more by stepping away rather than leaning in. Instead of fuming over the problem, set it aside. Go and play. The answer will pop up from your subconscious mind when you least expect it.

2- Unlearn: You are a product of your environment. You learned to absorb stimuli from your environment like a sponge from the time you were born. If you want to unsolved the mysteries of the world, start by unlearning your conditioned responses. Learn to view the world without filters of judgments and stereotypes; otherwise, your biases will become your blind spots.

3- Life throws convivial opportunities to celebrate joy and mystery. Embrace all of them.

My journey was not without trials and tribulations. As a physician, I had little, or no understanding of the non-profit sector, which compounded my mistakes and made my learning curve steeper. Despite the upheavals and vicissitudes I encountered along the way, I managed to preserve, not because I'm a strong person but because I trained myself emotionally, physically, and psychologically to push past the pain. How did I do that? I channeled my frustrations into physical activity. I started running and set goals for myself.

I ran my first marathon in 2012 after training for a year with my coach. Every morning he would make me run uphill for five or six kilometers, and I threw up consistently every day as soon as I reached the top. I remember his South African accent grilling me, "Doc, throw up your cookies all you want, but you cannot stop! you cannot give up." Every time I feel stuck in life, I hear his voice screaming in my head, and without a doubt, I get up and pull myself together. Hence, those of you who feel stuck in old patterns and can see no hope for a breakthrough plunge yourselves into a new activity, preferably one that requires movement. The neurogenesis activated from learning new activities will help dislodge old habits.

Last but not least, trust the journey. Even when you can't see the whole picture, believe that tiny strokes can create a masterpiece. It's not the mistakes that define you; it's your faith in something bigger than yourself. Trust and let go… it's safe!

About Dr. Ambreen Zaman:

Ambreen Zaman Riaz is a medical doctor with an MPA degree from Harvard University. She is

an alumna of the Edward S. Mason Fellowship for Public Policy and Management and Women

and Power Leadership Program at Harvard Kennedy School. Ambreen is also Host of the Podcast: Leadership in Medicine

She received her Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences Certificate (MLD) in 2018

from Harvard University. She also attended the Negotiation Clinic at Harvard Law School and

the General Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Her social healthcare enterprise has impacted 35000+ women and girls in South Asia, Africa,

and Turkey. The skill-based vocational training program created income streams for 300+

families, including Syrian refugees in Istanbul. The healthcare projects managed to significantly

reduce maternal mortality and the incidence of preeclampsia in primary care centers. The HPV

advocacy programs, including vaccination of pre-teenagers and teenagers, created a positive

social impact.

Ambreen was nominated for the CIVICUS Nelson Mandela Innovation Award in 2016 and won

the Stevie Business Award in 2016 for best community development program. Her TED Talk

highlights the impediments to social capital faced by women globally.

While in Turkey, she worked as a general practitioner at Little Sisters of The Poor, a non-profit

for geriatric patients run by Catholic nuns, and was awarded a recognition certificate for her

community service.

Dr. Zaman started running marathons on behalf of her social enterprise to create awareness about sexual health and maternal mortality. She has run the Istanbul Euro-Asia Marathon, Moscow Marathon, Cambridge Marathon, 10K, 5K, and charity runs across four continents.

My book ‘She Dares’ is scheduled for release in November, 2021 and will include anecdotes and ideas to lead an authentic life. 'She Dares’ is a labor of love that I have co-authored with MENA Speakers and is dedicated to all those people who are struggling to find their purpose and passion. You can find more information on my website www.ambreenzriaz.com

1,815 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All