Ending off the decade with a Fast Company feature | 2019 Annual Letter

From living in a 2 bedroom apartment with 6 people, to joining the board of directors of Canada’s largest social enterprise, dropping out of university to work on a mission I’m so passionate about, moving out for the first time, to developing meaningful friendships.. All the things that have happened over the past 10 years are crazy to process.

My life has changed drastically, in a really good way – and it’s all because of you! I know every. single. person on this 1000-person-newsletter: from my Grade 3 teacher (Hi Mr. Kang!), my family friends (what’s up Hassan ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ), people I met a month ago at a conference (Hey there Josh, Bas, Jim, Lynn, Nancy & rest of WEBSUMMIT crew!) to all the WE folks I’ve become friends with over the past 2 years (Katherine, Lauren, Erin, Ellen, Matina, Craig, Marc, Dr. White.. everyone! Hi!!!). 

You’re on here because regardless of how short, or long our interactions have been: they’ve shaped me. And I am so grateful for your support on my journey. 

So, this letter isn’t for me, it’s for you. It’s a way to showcase that I appreciate your support; I take it with an intention to improve & reflect:

Overview of this letter

  1. THANK YOU!! All of you, and special shoutouts.
  2. From 9 Years Old to 19, The Last Decade In Review
  3. Reflections: A Letter To My Future Self 
  4. Looking Forward (to): 2020
    • Includes Fast Company article ๐Ÿ˜‰


Ahhh!! My heart is pounding, and I’m genuinely teary-eyed by the thoughts of gratitude I have towards you. Two years ago I was nervous about which university I would go to, scared/anxious that I wouldn’t be able to create meaningful impact in the future, and kind of a mess.Cut scene: super confident in myself, no longer at university, mission-driven working at TKS, and so excited about the future. 

Through your eyeballing this newsletter, conversations at conferences, emailing me words of encouragement, adhoc calls so I can pick your brain on industry advice… Every single interaction supported me on this journey, and continues to do so. 

That compounds, a lot. And it has both indirectly and directly led me to be confident in myself, and my potential in impacting billions. Thank you. 

Special thanks to:
Navid & Nadeem Nathoo: 
You have given me the tools to change the way I live my life. Thank you for providing an environment that fosters growth, thoughtfulness, and meaningful friendships. Thank you for all the opportunities you have provided me over the past 2-3 years, and thank you for everything you continue to teach me. Words do not express well how grateful I am for the two of you! Thank you!!!

Katherine Stacey: You welcomed me into WE’s office and team with open arms. I will never forget how invested you were, listening to my ambitions and finding ways to support. Thank you for catalyzing my relationship with the org! I know when I got that call from Dr. White two years ago, that it was all you.  

Lauren Fox: I appreciate how much you support me! All the quick email replies back, accommodation to random asks, encouragement to crush life.. I seriously look up to how positive and awesome you are!

Steve Kang: 
You gave me the foundation blocks to be a kind, thoughtful, loving, empathetic, grateful, curious, confident human. Who would’ve thought 8 year olds could have deep conversations on love, friendships, and the meaning of pain? I don’t know how – but you did. From the recess conversations in elementary school, the letter exchanges in middle, and the yearly visit in high, I am so grateful for your guidance and care. I take your proud showcase of vulnerability with me through life, and the relationships I develop. Guatemala felt full-circle, thank you for that gift as well.

Renata & Lauren: I only got to spend a month with the two of you, but I won’t ever forget how kind you were. Both of you emanate what it means to care about others, and what it means to be mission-driven. Thank you for teaching me those two things!

Graham Beer: It felt like you could see through me, and understand me completely when I was your student. The most eminent feeling I felt with you was your support, and understanding (or, willingness to understand) myself, others, and life. Thank you for teaching me how to be a thoughtful person. You helped me fall in love with science, math, and reading. One of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned from you (and have used/carried frequently since then) was the distinction between individual faults, and the fault of others. I didn’t know it would be life-changing then, but I am so grateful I learned how to say “that was my fault”. Thank you!

Cassia, Tommy & Talha: I deeply value our friendship, growth mindset, and this drive for us to seek + admit “truth”. Grateful for this crazy fun hilarious awesome year. Love you guys.

FROM 9 TO 19: Overview of the decade

Fun fact: the thing about being a 2000s baby (no, it doesn’t just mean I was born in the 21st century. I was *literally born in the year 2000*), is that the calendar year always aligns with my age.

 So not only am I looking back at the last calendar-year decade, but actually at the second decade of my life. And the change from beginning to end is pretty insane. 

2019, 19 years old
This was the most transformative, and happiest year of my life. I practiced self awareness, seeking discomfort, developing ownership (over myself, and the projects I took on), learning how to be on the ball, more thoughtful, more kind, an activator. I invested in meaningful friendships. I really tried to deeply connect with people. I’m so grateful for this year.

  • ~ 100 hours in podcasts consumed
  • 30+ conferences attended
  • 20+ speaking opportunities
  • 12+ places visited (Portugal, Iceland, Guatemala, London, Montreal, Seattle, LA, SF, Houston, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver..)
  • 4 cities launched 
    Led operations to help launch TKS in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, and Ottawa
  • 3 consulting projects:
    for Walmart on how to reduce in-store shrinkage
    for Interac on the future of digital identity
    for Wealthsimple on delivering post-secondary education to 1 million low-income Canadians
  • 2 national TV interviews, 2 podcast episodes
  • 1st time moving out, completely supporting myself: financially and through responsibility. Investing in having complete ownership over my life.

2018, 18 years old

  • 2 years later, got on the Board of Directors for WE (!!!)
  • Built computer vision algo’s
  • Interned at Engineering.com
  • Quit my internship, took a gap year from university before it began to:
  • Became the first employee at TKS
  • Programmed a track at ELEVATE: Canada’s largest tech festival, and for MoveTheDial’s Global Summit
  • Spoke at ELEVATE, hosted WE’s global classroom, and maybe did 1-3 small speaking gigs
  • Travelled for the first time, then went to 6 different cities/countries within 8 weeks

2017, 17 years old

  • I got accepted into TKS!
  • Consulted for EmojiHealth
  • Built my first ERC20 token when diving into blockchain

2016, 16 years old
I realized that WE Charity would sometimes have youth on their actual Board of Directors, and began a ruthless journey to unconventionally get a seat on that board.

2015, 15 years old

2014, 14 years old
Nothing crazy, I thought ambitious meant being on the executive team of every major school club, so that’s what I did this year (first year of highschool).

I wanted to be a chemical engineer.

2013, 13 years old
My parents moved me again, this time to an all-girls private school with 4 girls in my grade. The school was on top of an empty/pretty abandoned plaza, kind of in the middle of no where. #adaptability put to the test, and #resilience being built (although I didn’t really know it then). It was a rough year, but I’m grateful for it.

2012, 12 years old
My parents were extremely religious and strict, for middle school they refused to send me to a large public school, and instead I was sent to a small-community school where there were only 6 people in my grade. I hated it at first, but loved it in the end. When you’re a weird kid, it’s easy to stand out in a group of 6 people, and there aren’t a lot of options on who you can be friends with. I really learned how to be adaptive, grateful, and give people joy/love myself.

I experimented with singing. I couldn’t sing (not trying to be humble, I really couldn’t), but I was determined. Created a TwitMusic (twitter used to have their own music platform, kind of like Soundcloud!) account and forced people to listen. Through determination I managed to get an average of 12k listens per cover. I deleted it after a few months. I can’t remember why but I wouldn’t be suprirsed if it was because I realized.. I couldn’t sing! ๐Ÿ˜…

2011, 11 years old
I discovered One Direction, and Ariana Grande. Not kidding, I was super obsessed with the two.

2010, 10 years old
I barely even remember this year. Nothing crazy happened. I think I wanted to be a lawyer (or a teacher? chemical engineer?).

Reflections: A letter to my future self

As important it is to share these with you, it’s even more important that I share this with me. Future-me that is.

So, to Nazra of the next decade:

 A lot of things in this annual letter are shiny. I (current-Nazra) want you (future-Nazra) to note though that all the growth you highlighted has happened through moments of struggle or pain. Your high propensity to adapt to new situations or “realities” makes you forget that super easily. But when that happens again – and it will, because it has to if you’re ambitious – keep these lessons you’ve learned with you:

People: connect with them meaningfully, support them, and let them support you
People make everything happen. They build things, they impact other people and the world. Realizing this and understanding + meaningfully working with people is such a superpower. It also happens to be something you’re good at, and it’s crazily underrated. When things go wrong, having/finding the right people to help them go right (if it’s not just yourself) will be important.

Being resourceful and figuring things out is one of your best skills
You’ll usually have the resources to figure things out, and if you don’t, you can figure out how to get those resources. 

Gratitude is freaking key 
Life is SICK. Reminding yourself of all that you have will help you snap out of wallowing in sadness. 

Don’t get stuck in “me”
Biologically, it’s easy to bring yourself down, but that doesn’t mean it always makes sense. Live beyond yourself: when things go wrong, understand your emotions and the experience, allow yourself to process, but don’t get stuck in “me”. This one’s probably one of the hardest ones to remember because evolutionarily we like to highlight negative experiences, and for some reason, we seem to revel in cortisol like we chase dopamine/serotonin. 

What’s outside of you? Making meaningful contributions to other people, organizations, missions, and projects. When you spend your energy on those things, you’ll realize, controversially, your problems weren’t even real problems.

Also, I’m really excited for you. You’ve learned in the last decade – almost since the beginning of it – that you want to create global impact. Over the past two years, your actions have shown this is something you deeply care about and want. This next decade will be a test to this, and I know it’s going to be a crazy crazy journey. Cherish it! 

Looking forward (to): 2020

Iโ€™m so excited to continued to grow. Here are a few things Iโ€™m looking forward to in 2020:

  • Building a robust, outlined strategy for TKSโ€™ community
  • Speaking at SXSW in March
  • Running a half marathon in North Korea
    • Both of us: ๐Ÿคฏ
    • Lol, Jared Lindzon actually featured me in a FastCompany article on this. More details there ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Travelling! If youโ€™re in any of these cities/countries next year, let me know ๐Ÿ™‚ or if you know someone whoโ€™d be an awesome person to meet. My criteria is: engaging, interesting, and fun conversations! Doesnโ€™t matter which industry.
    • US: Austin, Vegas, LA, NY, Boston, SF, Seattle
    • Asia: Pakistan, North Korea (lol)
    • Misc: Panama, Lisbon, Vancouver 

+ so many more growth related things. But Iโ€™d rather tell you those as I get them done, so make sure you read  ๐Ÿ‘€ my 2020 monthly newsletters ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

THANK YOU again for all your support. You’ll hear it a lot, because I’m endlessly grateful and truly want you to know that. I’d love to hear what you’ve thought of this letter – shoot me an email or tweet/linkedin message about it!

Happy New Years!!