Death and identity.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to contend with these two powerful, sometimes heart-wrenching, and sometimes liberating, inescapable forces of human experience.
Yours. Mine. Everybody’s.
All of which has everything to do with your clarity, story, freedom, and desired outcomes.
In the early 1990’s, when I was about 8 years old, on a scorching summer day, and with the civil war raging and tearing apart my birthplace, the nation of Sudan, I sat down with my maternal grandfather over a game of chess, like we frequently did, in the shade of our garden’s lemon tree.
A boy farmer, turned corporate executive with Shell Oil, turned self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur, he had persevered through a great deal in his life, and now nearing its end, he was struggling to keep his businesses afloat with all that was sociopolitically and economically happening around us.
His sons, my uncles, themselves couldn’t do much. Especially not with the internal family dynamics that were going on and that I didn’t understand at the time.
It was then that my grandfather, jiddo, shared with me something that’s stayed with me ever since, and which I now gladly share with you (in honor of him).
Slightly dripping with sweat, barely cooled by neither the shade nor gentle breeze, my grandfather leaned towards me over the chess set, pointed, and said, “Amir, my son, see this lemon tree? It’s getting old. It’s dying. Just like me. And soon, after we’re long dead, you’ll be old and eventually dead and buried too, but while you’re still alive, what are you going to do?”
“Young one,” he continued, after picking up a tiny object from the grassy ground to show me, “it’s from this lemon seed that this large tree came to be. A lemon seed doesn’t give you an apple tree, it doesn’t give you a mango tree, or a guava tree, or any other tree. Its only job is to fulfill its purpose, and produce the results inherent within its own potentiality.”
“All that delicious ice blended lemon juice we drank and still continue to drink? It’s thanks to this tree. Question is, what is your purpose? What is your potentiality? What’s your seed, son?”
Death and identity.
In a world rife with confusion, nihilism, and oppression – festering within countries, companies, families, and one’s self – an appalling amount of human potential simply just goes to waste.
Every. Single. Day. Utter, horrible, terrible waste. Which needless to say, greatly pisses me off.
Such has been the tragedy of the human condition, and the core consequence of outmoded ways of thinking and being. But it need not be this way. Indeed, for a growing and inspiring many of our fellow brothers and sisters, it is no longer this way.
It certainly isn’t anymore for me by a great, great deal, and neither does it have to be for you. Especially not with the amazing advances in exponential technologies, the rise of global citizenship, and the democratization of digital media today.
One absolutely can overcome the aforementioned obstacles. And if we are to thrive, one must.
Can, 1) because clarity in anything we do is a choice (and something we commit to uncover with the right tools, not something we “luckily” attain). 2) Because stories matter (and provide meaning and direction). And 3) because freedom, not oppression, is our birthright.
As for the “must,” it’s because I believe that real development of the self – and all that extends from it through one’s individual or collective contribution – is our shared moral imperative.
All of which is intended to say, albeit in a pleasurable and fancy literary way, that we all ought to live our lives doing “fun epic shit” (preferably without becoming persecuted dissidents for it).
And with that said, welcome to my personal website, and do make sure you subscribe below to my irregular newsletter, which will deliver nothing but value and updates, all meant for you and your awesome self directly in your inbox.
Thank you, welcome once again, and talk soon.
Amir A. Nasr
Short Bio for Lazy Readers
Described by The Economist as “puckish” (aka playfully mischievous), Amir Ahmad Nasr is the author of the searing memoir and banned manifesto, My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind – And Doubt Freed My Soul, recommended by Foreign Policy among 25 books to read in 2013. He has shared the stage with Nobel Peace Laureates, former presidents, and fellow entrepreneurs, and has been noted by WIRED as a “formidable speaker.” He is the founder of AssertiveU Media Inc., and lives in the land of beavers and maple syrup aka beloved Canada.
Longer Bio for Stalkers
Amir Ahmad Nasr is a writer, artist, storyteller, speaker, educator, business advisor, and digital media entrepreneur.
He is the founder and CEO of AssertiveU Media Inc., a digital media and education company dedicated to advancing storytelling literacy, civic engagement, and entrepreneurial endeavor.
A keen observer of US politics, as well as Western and Muslim international current affairs, Amir’s work has appeared and been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Weekly Standard, Bloomberg, France24, Al Jazeera English, WNYC, BBC, CBC and many more media outlets in over 12 languages across the globe.
He is an early entrepreneurial team member and alumni of award-winning EdTech company Mindvalley, a former member of the Sudanese non-violent resistance movement Girifna, and the formerly anonymous digital activist and provocative voice behind the internationally acclaimed sociopolitical blog The Sudanese Thinker – nominated three times in a row for a Weblog Award.
In 2011, amidst the early euphoric phase of the Arab Spring, and after five years of blogging anonymously, Amir revealed his identity at the Oslo Freedom Forum, and proceeded to launch the innovative virtual audio seminar The Future of Islam in the Age of New Media, featuring 60 speakers in 60 seconds each for a total of 60 insightful minutes. It attracted the attention of the media, Washington DC think-tanks, and academics from Harvard, MIT, Yale, and beyond, and made him a go-to authority on the subject.
Two years later, at the age of 26, Amir made his authorial debut with his searing coming-of-age story and subversive manifesto, My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind – And Doubt Freed My Soul, recommended by Foreign Policy among 25 books to read in 2013, alongside books by Pulitzer Prize winners and prominent diplomats and military personalities. The book was swiftly banned in Malaysia, and forced Amir to seek political asylum in the land of beavers and maple syrup, aka beloved Canada.
As a result of his decade-long work at the intersection of culture, digital media, and current affairs, Amir has shared the stage with Nobel Peace Laureates, former presidents, and fellow entrepreneurs; spoken on four continents to audiences of up to a thousand at YPO, Afest, Google, Cato Institute, Columbia University and Global Peace Convention, and has been noted by WIRED as a “formidable speaker.”
He is a senior partner at boutique management consultancy Living Blueprint; an MA in Philosophy dropout; an Aspen Institute Leadership Seminar alumni, and an advisory member of the Board and International Council at the Human Rights Foundation, organizer of the Oslo Freedom Forum: the “transformative annual conference where the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders meet to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe.”
A Sudanese Afro-Arab by birth and proud heritage, Qatari and Malaysian by migration, British and American by high-school education, Amir likes to write about himself in third person in an attempt to make himself sound smarter than he really is. Multicultural Vancouver, Canada, where he resides with his wife, is the place he now gratefully calls home and his global HQ.
(Special thanks to Baratunde Thurston for inspiring the masses to cultivate their wits).