I once visited a deprived town to deliver a lecture, after which there came to me a teacher from outside the town. He said, “I hope you can help us finance some students.” I said, “Strange! Aren’t the schools government funded, and therefore free?” He said, “Indeed they are, but we would like to fund their university education.” I said, “Well, the universities are also government funded. They even offer student grants.” He said, “Allow me to explain to you...” “Go ahead”, I said. He said, “Our students graduate from their secondary school with no less than 99%. They are so clever that if their intelligence was divided amongst the ummah, it would suffice! But when a student becomes determined to travel outside his town to study Medicine, Engineering, Islamic Law, Computer Science or anything else, his father prevents him from going, saying, ‘What you know is sufficient! Now, remain with me and be a shepherd!’” I screamed impulsively, “Be a shepherd?!”
He said, “Yes, a shepherd!” And indeed, the poor boy stays with his father and becomes a shepherd, whilst all his abilities are wasted. Years go by and he remains a shepherd. He may even get married and have children whom he may treat exactly as he was treated by his father. Hence, all his children also become shepherds! I asked, “So what’s the solution?” He said, “The solution is to convince the father to employ someone as a shepherd for a few hundred riyals, which we will pay, and allow his son to take full advantage of his skills and abilities. Of course, we will also continue to fund his son until he graduates.” The teacher then lowered his head and said, “It is inexcusable that such skills and talents in people are wasted when they long to utilise them.” I contemplated upon what he had said and realised that we cannot reach the pinnacle except by taking advantage of the abilities we have and acquiring those that we do not.
Yes, I would challenge anyone to find a successful person, be they successful in academia, preaching, lecturing, business, medicine, engineering, or influencing others; or be they successful in family life, such as a successful father with his children, or a successful wife with her husband; or be they successful in their social life, such as a person who is successful with his neighbours and colleagues – and I mean a truly successful person, not one who simply climbs upon others’ shoulders! – I would challenge anyone to find me any such highly successful person who does not practise certain interpersonal skills through which he has been able to achieve such success, whether they realise it or not.