We had the good fortune of connecting with Usman Khan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Usman, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Copy genius: I disagree with this popular phrase because I believe it is really important to create your own personal brand and pave a path for yourself that allows you to practice your values and what is true to you, and who you are as a person. Contrary to popular belief, “copy genius”, why not seek to build your own brand continuously and strive to emulate what is true to you and your personal and work values. Had other innovators followed the “copy genius” philosophy in the past, we would not have any trailblazers or new age inventions in the 21st century. I think it is more admirable when an individual seeks to create their own brand and rather pave their own kind of path, as a trailblazer, which is actually more challenging to a certain extent, from how I see things. More challenging because you have to think “outside the box” and rely on your critical thinking and creativity.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Early on in my career, I learned to accept that failure is only an illusion of the self, and that success is failure turned inside out. I also learned that setbacks are bound to happen, and it is important to be kind to yourself at the end of the day, and work from a place of acceptance and self-awareness. From how I see it, acceptance encompasses not only accepting all that happens, but also accepting where you are and yourself as a person. it is about remembering who you are, and the principles and values that are true to you. Being where I am today has been both challenging and rewarding. Challenging as I did not get to where I am today without any obstacle. Emigrating to the U.S. from Pakistan at the age of 9 with my family was a really stressful and shocking experience personally. My family and I moved to Los Angeles, California back in May 2002, less than a year after 9/11. Due to my ethnic and religious background as a Pakistani Muslim, I experienced a lot of discrimination and bullying in school. As a 9 year old, all I wanted to do is fit in, and feel that I belong, struggling to transition into a new world while trying to develop my own identity. Due to many of these factors at the time being, I also experienced challenges with my mental health, struggling a lot personally with stress, anxiety, and depression. Over the years though, I have come to better manage my mental health, and overcome many personal life challenges and obstacles. I have also come to integrate various aspects of my personal identity, such that I see myself as both Pakistani and Muslim American today. It has been a difficult nonetheless rewarding journey, and I aspire to give back through sharing my story with others, and through being of service, such as by encouraging others to also share their life story. As a mental health advocate, I organized and hosted mental health storytelling panels on a monthly basis, back in the spring of 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Through such, I encouraged my panelists to share their personal life story and their career journeys, in light of normalizing the conversation around mental health and helping decrease stigma. I currently work as a career counselor supporting college students and the local community, where I aspire to help them discovering their self and their career goals and interests, and also empowering each individual to develop a sense of purpose. I earned my graduate degree in Counseling from Cal State Northridge, specifically with an emphasis in College Counseling and Student Services. My personal growth and professional development would not be possible today without the opportunities I afforded through higher education, and the support I have received through my family, mentors, and colleagues. I am also grateful for the challenges I personally experienced because I would not be who I am today without each life challenge. I have been through several life threatening incidents personally, including a number of car accidents and a riptide drowning episode, both of which gave me a new life each time. These life threatening experiences taught me to better understand my purpose, and through such, I also learned to be more grateful and grounded in my life. My message to the world: make sure you have a vision for yourself, because without a vision, you won’t know where you are going, believe in yourself and your abilities, be kind to yourself, even when the going gets tough, and learn to be comfortable with being wrong and making mistakes on your way there because we are only human beings at the end of the day and “failure” is only an illusion of the self.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely recommend visiting Griffith Park, including a hike to the Hollywood sign – one of my favorites. The Runyon Canyon hike by Hollywood hills is also really scenic and beautiful. I would also recommend Thai food, and a visit to the Grove in Los Angeles. My other recommendations include: Getty Center, Getty Villa, Santa Monica Pier, Malibu, Venice Beach Boardwalk, Laguna Beach, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to recognize my mother, Lala Rukh Khan. I would not be where I am today without her unconditional love, support, and encouragement. My mother, Lala has been a source of hope and light for me since day one, and I really admire her positive vision, her resilience, and her sense of kindness and compassion for all human beings. She always taught me to “shine my light” wherever I go, and be kind and compassionate to all beings. As a part of my vision and career aspirations, I aspire daily to shine my light, be of service to others, and serve as a beacon of hope to those in need. I believe hope is powerful, and self healing is only possible with a greater sense of hope. Hope is always there – it is infinite. I have also come to learn the importance of self compassion and mindfulness early on in my career. Being kind to yourself is so vital because it’s true: you cannot pour from an empty cup. Being mindful is about living in the present, and accepting all that is, to be with what is, essentially. Self compassion is essentially the ability to hold pain with love and accept where you are, despite the “mistakes” and shortcomings. Self compassion is when loving kindness meets suffering. I feel so inspired by Lala, and I would not have this kind of awareness and insight early on in my career, without her kind loving presence and encouragement. I am grateful for the personal life challenges and the obstacles I encountered in my career early onwards, as Lala always taught me to look for the silver lining, and how there is usually a lesson to be learned, as part of each experience, when looking at the bigger picture.
Other: Linktree: https://linktr.ee/khanseling