When it comes to any kind of Islamic project we always have a successful model to look at. This may be the “successful” masjid in the town, or the “successful” MSA at the other university. It may be a humanitarian effort, or educational effort. No matter what the situation though, when starting your own project, it is easy to say – “Well that’s a special case.”
Of course they can do that, they have (fill in the blank) that we don’t. Seth Godin comments on this phenomenon:
Every successful case is a special case
It’s easy to dismiss strategies or plans or people who succeed by pointing out how they have something special, something irreproducible, some sort of advantage that makes their success special.
Special as in, “not available to me.” ….
The trick is learning about what the special cases have in common, in understanding how maybe, just maybe, you have some of the very same attributes that others have used in a new way.
Each of those models has a successful element that can be applied to whatever you are doing. The biggest factor that we attribute success to is often resources. We feel that if we had the monetary or human resources as someone else, that we could accomplish the same thing. We look at the ‘other’ organization that has superstar volunteers, and we don’t. They have rich donors, and we don’t. If that one brother, or that one sister just joined us, we would be so awesome.
It doesn’t work like that. This year in the NBA the Miami Heat were initially considered by some to be unstoppable because they had 2 of the greatest players in the entire league. They lost to a team that had ‘only’ one superstar. Many people criticized Shaquille O’Neal by saying that he wasn’ttruly skilled as a basketball player – he simply had size that others did not. This is answered with a simple retort: How many people with the same size, the same strength, and even ‘better true skills’ accomplished what he was able to accomplish in his career?
It is not enough to just have the resources, you must also know how to use them. Simon Sinek recently tweeted about teamwork:
Harvard Business Review also published these comments in an article entitled, Great People Are Overrated:
Marc Andreessen, the legendary cofounder of Netscape, and now one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile venture capitalists. “The gap between what a highly productive person can do and what an average person can do is getting bigger and bigger,”… “Five great programmers can completely outperform 1,000 mediocre programmers.” ….
Have we become so culturally invested in the allure of the Free Agent, the lone wolf, the techno-rebel with a cause, that we are prepared to shower millions of dollars (maybe tens of millions) on a small number of superstars rather than a well-assembled team that may not dazzle with individual brilliance, but overwhelms with collective capability?
Isn’t that what we see time and again with athletic competition …. Nobody would suggest the Bruins had the best individual players in the NHL — throughout the year, the stars of the Vancouver Canucks shone much more brightly. But it was the Bruins’ work as a team, a collective show of commitment and determination, that won the day. And what won on the ice won on the hardwood as well — LeBron James vs. the Dallas Mavericks, anyone?
To succeed, we must stop making excuses. A small and dedicated group can achieve great results. This is not only empirically documented and presently observed, but it is an integral part of a Muslim’s religious belief as well. When the effort is put forth, the blessing put into it by Allah cannot be matched. We must have not only personal confidence in our abilities, but spiritual confidence as well.
We must change the way we look at the equation, Chris Hogan summed it up in this tweet:
Flip the script. See what you have. What skills and abilities do you bring to the table? What about the people you work with? What cause are you dedicated to? Put that together and you can achieve more than many others who have deeper pockets and bigger staffs.
Nearly everyone involved in any kind of Islamic work has seen successful examples of groups with 1 or 2 volunteers and a shoestring budget (if that) – yet they are still able to accomplish amazing things. Put the excuses away, and sincerely put forth the effort and dedication – God will provide the results.