Be Human

Dr Amjad Mohamed-Saleem
9 min readOct 26, 2022


Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

A few weeks ago , I was invited to give the closing keynote at the GoodFestival, organized as part of the graduation of the Roxbourg Humanitarian MBA sessions. I have also been privileged to be part of the Humanitarian MBS process since its beginnings last year.

Giving the closing keynote, I have been humbled by the journey that many who have gone through this process to make their social ventures possible. So I have been inspired to focus less on social ventures and more on the people behind the ventures because this is where the real magic is.

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Thank you Rajiv for the invite. It is an honour for me to be here this evening. It is also truly humbling.

I am humbled just to listen to the ventures generated by your ideas that you have generated to make your communities, societies and ultimately the world a better place.

I am also truly humbled by your courage to take the next step to be social entrepreneurs during these difficult times. I want to acknowledge how incredible you all are for making it this far. This past year and a half has tested so many of us, and I can’t imagine having to muster up the enthusiasm, much less the strength and courage, to start while the world was falling apart around us.


As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. the brave man is not he who doesn’t feel afraid but he who conquers that fear”.

Congratulations for conquering that fear!

I promise you that, despite the insanity and uncertainty you’ve endured, you will cherish these years and the people around you who have been part of the journey either as part of Roxbourg or those who have supported you, for the rest of your life.

So today is a day of celebration. A day to celebrate all the hard work that got you to this moment.

Today is a day of thanks. A day to thank those who helped you get here — nurtured you, taught you, cheered you on, and dried your tears.

Today is also a day of reflection. Because today marks the end of one era of your life and the beginning of something new. Something new in terms of the next journey of the life of your social venture. So as you start this new journey, I want you to close your eyes and think of a blank canvas. With that canvas, what picture would you paint, what colours would you use, what would you be expressing? The picture you paint is one of the future of where you see yourself. Hopefully as you paint this picture, you will also picture why you wanted to start this venture or not. It might answer the questions of what prompted you to come here and what prompted you to continue to be part of Roxbourg. It is these feelings that should inspire you.

I want you to remember these feelings as you continue your journey of personal development and seeking to make the world a better place.

This journey with Roxbourg should have 1) granted you the room to make a space for yourself if you didn’t see one, which in turn, gave you the confidence to create a space for yourself; and most importantly and life-changing is 2) the community it has allowed you to build and allowed you to overcome the challenges.


So I want to talk about challenges and overcoming them.

There will be challenges and this will mean that you have to learn to steer your ship into the choppy seas not away from them. This is the only way to learn and overcome. And as you steer your ship, look for the rough spots, the problems that seem too big, the complexities that other people are content to work around. It’s in those places that you will fulfil your purpose. It’s there that you can make your greatest contribution and building something better.

In a world where we obsessively document our own lives, most of us don’t pay nearly enough attention to what we owe one another and how we connect to each other. So part of this journey is about recognizing that human civilization began when we realize that we can do more together: that the threats and danger outside the flickering firelight get smaller when we get bigger. We can create more — more prosperity, more beauty, more wisdom, and a better life — when we acknowledge certain shared truths, a shared humanity and we act collectively.

We need to remember that not a single one of us here today has done or can do it it alone. We are each a mosaic of those who have loved us, those who have believed in our futures, those who showed us empathy and kindness or told us the truth even when it wasn’t easy to hear, those who told us we could do it when there was absolutely no proof of that.

Remember that someone read stories to you and taught you to dream and offered up some moral code of right and wrong for you to try and live by. So you need to pay this forward.


No matter how cliché it may sound you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are thus the true signs of emotional intelligence.

You want your work to be meaningful? Then be kind. Your life has to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving and that’s when meaning brings the real richness to your life. What you really want is to be surrounded by people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That’s when you’re really rich.

Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now


Now I want to talk a little bit about failings, Because nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. Innovation is about failing and learning and relearning. We all face complexity and uncertainty no matter where our path takes us. That means we all face the risk of failure. So along the way, we all are forced to develop these critical capacities — of judgment, teamwork, and acceptance of responsibility

As a social entrepreneur, you will stumble. You will have setbacks. However remember, that if things go wrong, you hit a dead end — as you will — it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course.

So, ask of every failure, every crisis, every difficult time: “what is this here to teach me?”

And as soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of clothes — to give you some remedial work.

I can assure you that difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper, because life always whispers to you first. And if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream. Whatever you resist persists. But, if you ask the right question — not why is this happening, but what is this here to teach me? — it puts you in the place and space to get the lesson you need.

Eckhart Tolle, who’s written this wonderful book called A New Earth reminds us about letting the awareness of who you are stimulate everything that you do. He puts it like this: “don’t react against a bad situation; merge with that situation instead. And the solution will arise from the challenge. Because surrendering yourself doesn’t mean giving up; it means acting with responsibility, you have to be in the moment. Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because life is now. Don’t live for yourself alone”.

So in order to be truly happy, you must live for the now and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back.

And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are — and you just might become the very best version of yourself.

So, it’s a lesson that applies to all of our lives as a whole. What matters most is what’s inside. What matters most is the sense of integrity, of quality and beauty.

You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive. So build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.

The journey

As I have repeatedly said, this is a journey.

Enjoy the process of this journey without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out

I just want you to know you will never be alone on whatever path you may choose. If you do have a moment where you feel a little down just think of the support you have from this great family

Build and tap into your community. The brilliant minds who have accompanied you in this journey will have a hand in shaping the culture, making this world better, leaving long-lasting legacies behind and doing a bunch of other important things.

So continue to build resilient communities.We find our humanity — our will to live and our ability to love — in our connections to one another. Be there for your family and friends. And I mean in person. Not just in a message with a heart emoji. Remember that this is about being human and establishing that human connection.

The Guest House

I am reminded of the poem by the famous 13th century persian poet Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

This being human is about recognizing the different emotions that come to us.

This being human is about accepting the differences and the needs. One of the greatest human hungers is the need we all have to make a difference in the lives of others. The purpose of life is a life of purpose; to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate, to seek justice. It is above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you have lived at all, to contribute to the saving of a life because to save one life is as if you have saved the whole of mankind. The highest and most enduring gift that you will give is the gift of what you leave behind. What makes greatness is something that does not end with you.

These are the universal values and principles that bind us in the brotherhood of humanity and help us to think of a world that makes sense where we connect to one another, where we are compassionate, working in partnership with our neighbours and friends working together towards that one single goal

So once again congratulations on getting to this start of the journey. Good luck. Enjoy the journey with your fellow travellers; have fun; share; learn and unlearn. I look forward to seeing the new ideas coming through

Remember that what ever you do the law of reciprocity will prevail. As the eastern philosophy states that a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives the rose.

Let me finish off with 10 b’s










And in the words of Rumi BE HUMAN

May you shine so brightly that at the end of your days, all will pause and say ‘ah there was one who lived life fully and completely and gave back ’

Thank you



Dr Amjad Mohamed-Saleem

is an analyst writing on decolonisation,peacebuilding,humanitarian,interfaith,Islam, Sri Lanka & other issues of interest. Have a PhD on ethno politics