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Remembering Ahsanul Alam: Living With A Sense Of Urgency

Ahsanul Alam, head of operations of PRAN-RFL’s ecommerce spin-off Othoba, was a wonderful person and a great leader in making. His untimely passing was tough for many of us who knew him.

We met Alam only recently when we interviewed him for our in-depth interview series. He had a great mind, deep understanding of his business, and most of all a sense of urgency. He wanted to do something meaningful and something that would allow him to leave his mark in this world as well as give him the satisfaction of applying himself.

Although he was still in his early stage of a great career, he had the maturity that one requires to start and build a business from scratch. Here is a few of lessons that we all can learn from Ahsan from an interview we did early this month.

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Live with a sense of urgency.

Life is short and uncertain. That’s the most fundamental truth about life but one that is commonly ignored or taken lightly. As Ahsan pondered: “right after my graduation, I joined Banglalink where I worked for two years before moving to Coats Bangladesh. During this period I started to lose my interest in the corporate world. There was little to no chance of applying my creativity and taking initiatives. I was not doing anything significant apart from my day to day grind that would allow me to leave my impression when I would not be there anymore but I wanted something else out of my work and life. So I left Coats Bangladesh in 2010 without finding another job. I was looking for something where I could make a meaningful contribution.”

Or here is another anecdote from Carol Sawdye of PwC: “It’s pretty sobering to be told at 25 years old that you have a 50% chance of reaching 30. So I think that got me going, quite honestly, more than anything else. And it really crystallized for me that I needed to focus on what I cared about so that I didn’t have any regrets, personally and professionally.

One [simple] example of that is that I was living in New Jersey and I was commuting into [New York] City and it was close to an hour and a half each way. I moved into the city to get three hours of every day back because time became very precious to me and I wanted to make the most of it.

And so similarly, from a career perspective, instead of sitting back and looking at my career as something that happened to me, I really felt like I needed to take charge of my career and make sure that I was seeking opportunities as opposed to waiting for them to come to see me."

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Be an example to others.

Often we forget that our actions are way more influential than our words. We try, despite the apparent contradiction, to change the world around us just by talking rather than taking up the mantle of action. It is almost impossible to inspire anyone or change anything with mere words if that word is not followed and supported by action. As Ahsan said it in more poignantly:

“We should always lead by examples. Showing is far easier and effective a way to lead than asking people to do things. We should not expect something from others that I don’t do myself.”

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Learn daily.

We all know that developing a habit of lifelong learning is incredibly important for our personal and professional development but we seldom put that knowledge into work. As he put it:

“We live in an extremely fast-paced world where change is the only constant thing. In order to stay relevant, you have to learn every day. Learning is everything.”

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