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Q&A with Habib Ulhaq: How has growing up in different countries shaped your mindset today?

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Q: How has growing up, living and working in different countries and cultural settings shaped your mindset today?

A: I definitely notice a difference in mindset between myself and loved ones who have lived in the same place for most of their lives. To me, it’s a matter of roots. Deep roots gain more nutrients from the area around them; they are closer to the bedrock, the history of that place. The soil is more familiar to them and they have a layered relationship with it. If they are uprooted, the shock to the system can be jarring and even harmful. Shallow roots tend to spread out more across the surface, mingling with all the different rocks and minerals on the same strata. As such is becomes more difficult to form deep relationships, especially in the beginning. However, these roots are used to, and even thrive when uprooted and moved to a new patch of loam. They are hardier. They bounce back quicker.

I have been of the shallow-root ilk for most of my life. It’s hard to differentiate between nature and nurture most of the time, but being exposed to different people, cultures and ideas has left me with a few lasting concepts. First, I have developed a minimal mindset when it comes to possessions. My most valuable possession is my technology; it allows me to work, connect and create. I am able to pack up my most important possessions in a single suitcase and a backpack. It gives me a sense of nomadism that is very empowering. I can jump to a city anywhere in the world and have my familiar possessions with me. Second, both differences and similarities in humanity need to be celebrated. It’s not a spectrum, it’s a superposition; it’s awesome that you love The Avengers, but it’s also awesome that you watched it in Swahili. Lastly, most things we take to be self-evident truths are just our own constructions. Family, money, power, even love. Every society tries to tell you how to think about these things, and that will shape the person you become. When you see enough differences in the way different people approach these ideas, you realize that these are ideas that you can express and understand in your own way. You have that power.

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