How Arabic Calligraphy Improved My Professional Life

When we think of professional development, I guess we usually think of career-related training. For example, if you are an accountant, you would take accounting courses/training, or you might go for general soft skills and leadership training. However, when was the last time you decided to improve your accounting knowledge by learning embroidery?! Or improve your managerial skills by learning how to cook? How often do we consider improving our careers by learning or doing something that has nothing to do with our careers?

Lately, I have been introduced to the world of the Arabic calligraphy. Initially, all what I wanted is to indulge myself in its beauty. I thought learning Arabic calligraphy would be merely fun experience; however, it turned out to be rewarding not only on a personal level but surprisingly on a professional level as well! In this post, I will share three ways in which passionately practicing Arabic calligraphy for over  7 weeks helped in improving my work.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Issue

I used to think that learning calligraphy simply requires looking at a letter and trying to replicate it. However, when I tried it, it was a way much complicated story. It was puzzling in the beginning as I found the shapes of the letters to be “obvious” and “clear”, so why I am struggling with replicating them? I realized later that calligraphy starts in one’s head before his/her hand, meaning that in order to draw a letter, you need to understand the “anatomy” of that letter; decompose it into pieces, and understand the function of each piece. Additionally, you need to understand how the tools and your hand work. Only then, you will be able to draw it correctly.  Now when it comes to work, I face challenges. Most of the times, many challenges seem “obvious” and “clear”. As a result, I would quickly move to the let’s-come-up-with-a-solution part as I don’t want to waste time on trying to understand what seems “obvious”. Unfortunately, sometimes I end up wasting more time on re-doing work simply because I didn’t understand the issue well. I believe I am now more married to the idea of “drawing” a solution correctly needs an adequate understanding of the issue…even if it seemed “obvious”.

Keeping it together

Even though my Arabic calligraphy skills have improved, there are some psychological factors that are vital in drawing a letter correctly. When I am focused, calm, and more importantly confident that I will get the shapes right, I do nail the letters beautifully. On the contrary, when I am nervous, irritated, or even afraid of making a mistake, I end up swimming in a mess! I could see the impact of keeping it together; or in other words, not letting negative vibes get into me. I’ve learned now that before I hold my pen, I better take a deep breath, clear my mind and tell myself “you can do it as good as any professional calligrapher”. When it comes to work, it is no different scenario. Deadlines, unexpected problems, noise, having to do a task that I’ve never done before, thinking about after-work commitments are all factors that affect my psyche throughout the day. However, lately, whenever I have a stressful day or task, I would pause, and remember that I drew my finest Arabic letters when I kept it together; I would take a deep breath, clear my mind and tell myself “you can do it as good as any expert”.

Coping with “Busy-ness” 

If you are a person who does 9 to 5, regularly spends extra time in the office after working hours, and occasionally does some office work in the weekends, chances are that you are overwhelmed by how busy, fully-booked, and exhausted you are. I hear you. I sometimes get back home at 7, 8, or even 9 pm, either because of work or other commitments. Both time limitation and exhaustion make an obstacle before my desire to do many things in life. Surprisingly, when I started to practice calligraphy, I discovered that there are actually time and energy! I would practice for 1-2 hours daily, and 5-6 hours in the weekends. I believe passion is what created that time and drove that energy even though I used to think they don’t coexist with a “busy” lifestyle. With such “empirical evidence”, I am now more confident that I can generously incorporate more activities from my wish list to my after-work time. I believe that work-life balance is not only about fulfilling one’s work and  family/social commitments, but also about self growth through exploration and trying new things. Thanks to Calligraphy; it made that so clear to me!

I’ve never thought I would encounter many outcomes by learning something like Arabic calligraphy…trust me, the above are only few examples!

What about you? have you encountered career-related benefits by learning something unrelated to your career? What new things would you like to do/learn if you got the chance?

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