My Definition Of Success | My parents raised us to know that the only true success is being able to be of service to humanity. I think that it’s a really important definition, because other ways of looking at success always limit it. The only truly unlimited resource is human potential. If you devote your time and energy to developing both your own potential and the potential of those around you, then I think that that is success. My definition of success hasn’t changed over the years, but my understanding of service and the multitude of different ways that we can serve our fellow man has. From art, to scientific discovery, to simple and meaningful conversations, I think the common denominator is that when you’re consciously growing yourself or others. That to me is success.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I try not to speak for other people, but I can speak for myself. I think that the difference between being good and great (or incredible or spectacular) has nothing to do with ability or talent. I think it has to do with how much you believe in what it is that you’re doing. If you are in the process of executing somebody else’s vision, then your best result will be “good”. However when you decide to own something, to make it yours and take responsibility for it, then you put your heart and soul into it. Only then are you able to make it great. It all comes down to how we view things and the moment we feel empowered enough to say “this is mine; I want what is best for it”. We also gain the power to be incredible in whatever it is that we’re doing.
A Key Talent | I think that one thing I’m very grateful to have and a quality I’m continually trying to develop is a conscious perspective. Whether it’s in my film and photography work, or in my poetry or in my studies. I think the way you look at the world; your place in it, what you do and how you do it are all affected by your perspective. You can look at what you’re studying as being the basis of your life – you can look at your job as the foundation of your being and so when things aren’t going well at work or in school (as they inevitably do), then that means that things aren’t going well in life – which isn’t true at all.
I try to look at my life as being based around serving mankind – and everything that I do (like school or photography) is just something that I do to help me become a better servant, a better artist, a better friend. Even if I spend 8 hours a day at University, it’s still something I choose to do. It is mine. Nobody can force me to learn, I have to be the one to do it. I have to love it or love what I’m becoming from it, because if not, then I’m wasting my time.
Principles I Live By | As a Baha’i, the basic principles that I try to live by are that our main purpose in life is to know and love God. We can try and do that by trying to get to know ourselves, serving others, educating ourselves and generally trying to make the world a better place. The Baha’i writings consider both work and art as forms of Worship. I don’t see any use in judging others, I believe that we should strive for excellence in everything that we do and try and help others achieve excellence too. I believe that there is nothing as powerful as the force of love and the more we cleanse ourselves and purify our hearts and minds from our own desires, then the more in touch we can be with this universal force of love.
“Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path.”
Critical Skills I Develop | Every art requires practice. One of my favourite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson says that your “first 10 000 photographs will be the worst.” And it’s so true with anything. If you keep practicing and developing your ability so that what you produce in reality becomes closer and closer to the picture you have in your mind, then you’re on the right road. So to be able to practice your art effectively is a very useful skill.Another useful skill is to know how to pace yourself. Sometimes you’re stuck in a particular place with your art or whatever you’re doing and you can’t get out of it, so you keep pushing yourself until you become sick. It’s always better to step back and give yourself a break.
Part of me looks at artists as interpreters of reality – we take things in on a daily basis, and then process them and express some sort of output. But if you keep yourself on all the time then it can be dangerous for your health (physical, emotional, spiritual). I have friends who can just switch it off and I have friends who have to just go into hermit mode for a while to recover.Finally, never underestimate yourself and never underestimate others. People aren’t stupid (unless they’re in large groups) so always try and understand something from somebody else’s perspective and never feel shy in asking them to explain their rationale. Either you’ll learn something or they’ll learn something or both, but it’s always good to sincerely appreciate someone else for who they are.
Lessons I Have Learnt | Don’t expect anything – nobody owes you anything. Always be grateful and always work to deserve any opportunity that might come your way.Nobody really knows what they’re doing – everybody can try their hardest and get a lot of experience, but don’t ever think you or somebody else is infallible. People make mistakes, but as long as you learn from them, they’re never failures. Always look to learn – you can learn something from anybody as long as you have the right attitude.
Do it – your work will never be perfect, but it’s better to do it than to not do it and wait for yourself to magically become better. Always do your best, but do something nonetheless. That’s how you get better. Make that movie or write that story, it might suck, but so what? Never pass something up because you’re afraid. That fear is good. It’ll keep you sharp.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I love books, films and music. I feel like in a way, we’ve been re-interpreting each other’s art since the beginning of time. We humans have this incredible ability to act on our environments and be acted upon by them. I read as much as I can and try to expose myself to as much good-quality cinema and music as possible. I’m very eclectic in my taste, but I think that if the art has been made sincerely, with a vision, if it’s got soul, then I enjoy it. I don’t want to get into listing things, because there really is just so much out there.
It’s important to stay informed about the world around you, but I think you have to be conscious of the fact that the media has been constructed and any media outlet has an agenda. Never take anything that you’re shown or hear at face-value. Always ask yourself what you’re feeling and why. Then ask yourself why whoever is showing you that might want you to feel that way. Always ask what’s happening behind the scenes and you’ll be way more informed with 15 minutes of TV than someone who doesn’t critically assess the media and spends 6 hours a day in front of a screen.
Advice On Building Wealth | The greatest wealth that we have is our abilities. Human beings are like mines, education is like the process that allows us to extract the gold and diamonds from ourselves. So I think the first step to being wealthy in any situation is to develop your abilities to the point where you can create value no matter where you are. Both sets of my grandparents had to leave Iran and start again with nothing but their own ability. My maternal grandfather would stick a page from the Oxford English dictionary to his mirror every morning to learn how to read and speak English. My paternal grandfather on the other hand, after having all of his money and property confiscated by the Iranian government because of his beliefs, had to start all over again – and both were able to educate their children and provide for their families. I think what I learnt from them is that money can literally disappear overnight, but true wealth lies in our ability to create value by educating ourselves because nobody can take away your education and ability.