Guest post by Esra’a Alsanie, 2019 Emerging Leader of Jordan
Editor’s note: Esra’a Alsanie’s guest post is part of our series, Emerging Leader Voices, which invites TechWomen Emerging Leaders to share their voice, perspective and experiences with the TechWomen community.
Have you ever been trapped in sequences of undesirable events, finding yourself a victim of life circumstances that don’t match your plan? Have you ever given your all to a project that ended in failure?
Back in 2012, when I was 18, I was planning to pursue my undergraduate degree in the U.S. I’d taken the TOEFL exam and the SAT test, and had worked really hard on all the required letters and applications. Sadly, It didn’t work out, so I applied to my local universities for a major in civil engineering. The day of the results, I was shocked to find out that I was accepted at a university that I didn’t choose due to an internal system that assigns students to universities based on the availability of spots.
At the time, it was the worst news I’d ever gotten. I was due to study at a low-ranked university, many miles away from home, in a rural area in the south of my country. I was disappointed, angry and hopeless: after all the hard work and sleepless nights, I ended up with an option I never wanted.
But I decided to accept the challenge, as I had no other options. And guess what happened? That “undesirable” life-changing event shifted my mind and turned me into a warrior, who, after one year of study, transferred to a university of my choice and was an exemplary student. I went on to establish the first American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Chapter in Jordan, and was the first president to lead the chapter.
I believe that if you are ready, things will work out — even if it often doesn’t seem that way. And by “ready,” I mean mentally ready and flexible to look into other perspectives. You might be wondering when to be flexible (and accept less desirable outcomes) and when to be persistent on what you want. Here is some advice to guide you:
- Have an ultimate goal. Have a big, lifetime goal that defines your existence. What are you here for? What do you want humanity to remember you for? It could be something like changing the world, or making the earth a better place to live. This goal will be your compass to orient you whenever you are lost.
- Start small. You can’t just wake up and decide that you will change the world today, but you can start by deciding that today will be better than yesterday. Divide your ultimate goal into small pieces, and think of how you want to change the world! You can be a scientist, a businessman, a community leader or a president who could influence lives. Then think, if I want to be that teacher, psychologist or athlete, what choices I need to take now, what skills do I master and who should I surround myself with?
- Be ready for success. Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.” Most of our setbacks are just wake-up calls that open our eyes to perspectives we have been ignoring. Those small failures are precious lessons from the universe that we need to use as a stepping stone instead of as a barrier.
- Don’t follow the flow. Someone else’s story is a lesson, not a path you should follow. What makes great people unforgettable is the unique path they have created throughout their lives.
- Pay it forward. What gives our lives real meaning is the impact we leave on others. Remember that a few kind words from a stranger can make someone’s day.
As we grow, our choices become more stressful and more critical. Small decisions become the difference between the next revolution or the next disaster. Finding success and inspiring others means we need to not just learn to accept failures, but also learn from them.
Esra’a has a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering and believes that changing the world can be achieved through young people who are given the chance to dream. Esra’a is the founder and CEO of EnvaTechs, a tech educational startup based in Jordan. She also works as a Senior Innovation Officer at Mawdoo3.com, the largest Arabic website in the world. Recently, she has worked on enhancing the educational experience for school and university students by founding the first ASCE student chapter in Jordan and holding several training programs for students.