Qaiser Abbas, Pakistan’s premium success coach and motivational speaker and author of bestseller Tick Tick Dollar, interviews executive coach and award-winning journalist Wali Zahid for his upcoming book, Success – Master the Art. Excerpts:

Qaiser Abbas: How and when did you get to know that you can become what you are today?

Wali Zahid: Think my evolution was stage-based. One thing led to another.

For example, in primary/middle-school my aim was to read everything I could lay my hands on. By late middle and high school, the aim became to get published in children’s sections of major Pakistani dailies and children’s magazines.

Similarly, I do not think that my current achievement is the final thing I may achieve. I consider this time as a transition – Allah is preparing me for something bigger.

QA: How did you nurture and develop your hidden potential and talent?

WZ: If I pick common patterns in all things I did, what emerges is hard work, putting in more quality hours than an average professional, reading a lot about select areas of interest, reflection, taking chances, practicing the new skillset through trial and error, improving by the hour (as one of my American mentors said about my first website back in 1997/98 hosted at my UK university sever).

QA: What was your vision? How did the current possibilities in your life shape up? Were you always sure of being there?


Vision? If I recall from the earliest memory, I was a kind of a rebel. If anyone told me this can’t be done, I’d make sure that it can be. I set precedents in nearly all stages of life: e.g. if they told me I can’t have double promotions to reach the next class, or I can’t compete in 10 events at school-wide annual competition at the same time and win, or at college I can’t run student politics and achieve top academic grade. I worked hard to achieve the apparently paradoxical.

Possibilities? They just presented themselves. In my entire 28-year paid employment career, all jobs except one, came to me by themselves (read: Allah sent them my way) and I didn’t have to apply or appear in an interview. Even the one where I did apply and appeared in the interview I was offered the job of my boss (i.e. one-level above). Because of my hunger for putting in extra hours than everyone else, I would quickly learn the ropes and reach to the top in that area. And so on.

Always sure? In terms of being there, I think I have hardly achieved any significant success yet. I am not there yet.

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BBC Urdu features blogger Wali Zahid

Mystic Trainer: Wali’s interview with Manager Today

Women make better leaders: Wali Zahid

Why I couldn’t become a Vice Chancellor today

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QA: Do you believe in setting goals? What was your strategy to achieving your goals?

WZ: Looking back, I can’t say I set goals. Because I couldn’t achieve what I set. And what I achieved appeared on the horizon by itself. However, there was one thing I always did. I may now call it my readiness for the next task. Either planned or intuitively.

For example, while I was enrolled in a PhD in conflict analysis at University of Kent in England, I lost interest in that area very very early on and instead became interested in leadership and management development. In the university library I would spend more time in reading about leadership than my enrolled PhD area.

Although I couldn’t finish my PhD but on return to Pakistan, landed in a job at British Council Pakistan as Country Director, Management Development. The intuition paved the way for my future vocation: becoming a serious trainer in business leadership.

QA: What were the major hurdles, setbacks, de-motivators or negative forces (external or internal)? How did you overcome them and bounced back every time?

WZ: I feel very very lucky that I hardly faced an obstacle. Allah Taala paved the way for me even before I knew it was my next path or next station. I may have faced different biases at different stages in life, the biggest bias for me being a simple or naïve person, or being a desi or a Punjabi or being middle class. But I accepted them as a fact of life and didn’t bother or moan about these.

In terms of failures, there were many. But what I picked was that life was cyclical. Every failure led to some sort of unexpected success. And where I felt success was guaranteed, I might face failure. Bouncing back was all I did. No emotion kept me engrossed for long in both success and failure.

QA: What did you sacrifice? What price did you pay for achieving this success?

WZ: I paid two types of price.

One, family time. Two, social relationships.

Since I was workaholic, work hours didn’t stop when I returned home from work. In terms of readings, I remained over-ambitious. Readings – hard-copy, on-screen – ate family time. This is one reason my kids call my parenting style as non-parenting. Kids perhaps grew up on their own or maybe their mom helped.

Since I was also quite introvert (very high score on introversion on a four-scale TMP Leadership Profile that I run for corporate leaders), investing in social relationships went against my nature. Whether it was office colleagues or friends from earlier jobs or life parts, I would avoid all social occasions: dinners, networking events. While in 17 years of current Karachi stay, I might have attended less than half a dozen weddings.

This might have affected the scale of my success negatively as many friends feedback me. But spending quality alone time and going into depth of issues was worth every minute. It made me what I am today.

QA: Why you do what you do? What drives you to consistently perform at this level?

WZ: It may appear funny but I think I am in love with work and labour. That’s what drives me. I don’t know whether ‘work’ is included in the list of studied drivers.

When I was a child, barely 4 or 5 years old, and the lawn of our house was being developed, I would pick bricks along paid labourers and carry them to mason. I would also work on soil and plant flower seeds.

This childhood behaviour has manifestations even now.

For example, I may spend hours on fact-checking for a blog post which might be viewed for 30 seconds by a few casual blog readers, with no brownie points for me.

The same is true for business and work goals. In my last job at British Council, we used to push revenue goals and would always overachieve to the extent that we had to ‘explain’ to bosses why we overachieved.

QA: What has been your success formula? What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now?


Formula? What I have picked from life is that you prepare for the next role in your current job. So, in my leadership work there’s a lot of emphasis on leader readiness. Hence my leadership readiness model – Wali’s Will-Skill Matrix, which I have been developing since mid-2000’s.

What’s next? Things are quite foggy for the time being. But I see my destiny being associated with the country’s economic turnaround. We keep our fingers crossed.

5-10 years? Allah willing, we can talk then 🙂

QA: What is your definition of success?

WZ: Success is your own personal, internal measure. When you feel fulfilled, when you feel you have achieved the goals you set for or gained things you wanted from life, whether they are in monetary, family, relationship, or social spheres, that is success.

Elsewhere on this blog:

Richard Branson’s top 10 tips for success

10 scientific ways to make kids smarter

6 ways to raise girls better at negotiating

The secrets to raising a wealthy child

How to raise a moral child

QA: What do you suggest young people to do to discover their true potential and know what they are really meant to be in life? How can they connect with the possibilities of life?

WZ: Young people need to do three things:

One, operate from a condition of self-confidence, as opposed to self-doubt. Allah has already gifted each one of you with something unique. Your job is to explore that talent and then pursue achievement using that unique talent.

Two, do not ride a bandwagon (i.e. what is in fashion). For example, because of their scope and future employment opportunities in our country, everyone is becoming a doctor, engineer, MCS, or MBA, you too should become one. Say no. Perhaps you are destined to become a coder or a speaker or a TV star. So, become one.

Three, do not be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Allah has already created your destiny when you were in your mother’s womb. It includes all the failures and successes. Your job is to carry on regardless. Do not be afraid to change paths if roadblocks hit you. And if you want real financial success, create your own enterprise and not go into a job.

By Wali on global & national issues:

CPEC fact sheet: 2013-2017

What China signalled through OBOR Forum

What is reshaping the world while we are unaware?

China’s world-reshaping One Belt, One Road (OBOR)

MH370 apology: Technology is so overrated

Did General Ziaul Haq know his end was near?

The world in 2100

Wali Zahid: Training & Coaching Profile

Wali is considered an Asian authority on workplace effectiveness. He is CEO of SkillCity [Asian answers to Asian Questions]. A native of Pakistan, he travels frequently in the South Asia and GCC regions to train and coach senior executives willing to make a difference in their and other people’s lives.With the insight of original thought leaders, Wali has trained thousands of business leaders in over 25 years from Fortune-500 companies.Wali’s signature workshops include Leadership for CEOs, Women in Leadership, Leadership Readiness, Executive Derailment and Train The Trainer (TTT). TTT is in its 17th year, with over 1,000 trainers trained in 16+ Asian locations.An accredited profiler from Team Management Systems (TMS), Australia, Wali is authorised to use online TMP psychometric instrument for superior leader performance.

Before he set up SkillCity, Wali was Country Director, Management Development Services at British Council Pakistan for seven years (2001-2008).

A futurist and disruptor, his thoughts are often considered inconvenient and unconventional, sometimes controversial. He is often interviewed by print and electronic media on #Pakistan2050.

In Pakistan, Wali is the only in-country resource who runs ‘Leadership for CEOs’ workshop in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Bhurban.

He has interviewed Pakistan’s who’s who of CEOs for his book, Into the C-Suite. He can work with new inductees and middle managers with equal ease as well.

Wali is also working on Leadership of Prophet Muhammad (SAW): Lessons for CEOs and already given seminars on this topic for Madinah Institute for Leadership (MILE), and in Kuwait, Bahrain, Karachi and Lahore.

Wali has taught MBA courses at IBA Karachi, CBM, Dow & Szabist and IIU Islamabad. As an academic, he has been an Associate Dean at University of Management & Technology (then called ILM), Lahore. He is also founder President of Institute of Media & Communications (IMC).

A lifelong learner, Wali has received training in USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Taiwan, Austria and Singapore.

He is Member, Board of Governors of PIM (Pakistan Institute of Management), Ministry of Industries.

He has been member of UK’s Institute of Directors, Chartered Management Institute, Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and American Management Association.

Wali has also been Team Leader of Prime Minister Quality Award (based on Baldrige Excellence Framework, USA) in Pakistan (2011-13). He has been at BoG of Pakistan Society for Training & Development (2012-14).

Wali is also the first Pakistani consultant trained by ISO/APO Japan on their new standard on Social Responsibility: ISO 26000 in Taiwan.

His blogger bio here: About Wali Zahid

Understanding Pakistan Series by Wali

What to expect in Pakistan in 2017

Back to the future: Pakistan in 2050

Wali on Pakistan of future

Long Term Orientation in Pakistan: from Zero to 50 in 2 years

Pakistani culture through 6-D Model

Native languages in Pakistan

How future oriented are we?

How we messed up Pakistan: A series by Wali

Pakistan’s two value crimes no one talks about

Is Whatsapp your source of info? Welcome to Project Ignorance

Qaiser Abbas, Pakistan’s premium success coach and motivational speaker and author of bestseller Tick Tick Dollar

  • Rabia

    “Operate from a condition of self-confidence, as opposed to self-doubt. Allah has already gifted each one of you with something unique. Your job is to explore that talent and then pursue achievement using that unique talent.” (Y)

  • Saad

    After reading this interview, which interestingly captured my attention with every question, i’d like to list out my observation about it.
    1. Very Relatable:
    a. Each question was answered precisely toward the present generation(Entrepreneurs), from which we can learn the art of maintaining the discipline, and tenacity for success.
    b. I like the fact Mr. Wali Zahid being a visionary to be inspired by and a thoughtful realist to count on at the same time. (very likely personality)
    2. Sheer optimism & Passion
    a. i’d also like to quote the way you make sense in each question is your passion that drives Mr. Wali and optimism that allows him to work hard to result. ( being result oriented is the Key here)
    b. Mr. Wali follows the passion so does every one should and make their ways to success.
    3. Well I think I like the fact that Mr. Wali are very grateful to Almighty for your achievements, yet I think I also like the way you mentioned I am not there yet. The game is just about to happen attitude is pretty way forward.
    Stay Blessed 🙂