One-on-One with Sidra Iqbal

“I believe failures and things not working out the way you planned are the greatest teachers; bouncing back from those curveballs makes you titanium!”

Sidra Iqbal is known for her exceptional skills as a broadcast journalist, media expert and a policy influencer. Her outstanding personality is awe-inspiring and her incredible work highlighting social issues has won hearts across Pakistan. Sidra believes in evolving and growing continuously. She is the epitome of grace and resolve, with her steadfastness she has been able to achieve great success as an entrepreneur, journalist, media and communications strategy consultant, a youth activist and a public speaker. She is working towards changing mindsets and motivating the youth through mainstream television, which focuses on politics, global affairs and socio-economic issues of Pakistan. She has interviewed several known heads of states and visiting foreign dignitaries on national and international occasions, which includes 7th Annual Federal Budgets of Pakistan, National Elections of 2008, 2013 and 2018, coverage of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, relief and rescue operations. She is the first Pakistani to be presented the Great Women Award for Journalism in 2014 by the UAE government. In 2017, she founded Raabta, a public diplomacy forum, which aims to foster awareness in three areas: economy, culture and future. 

Have you always been this eloquent? 
I was an expressive child. I am told I used to babble incessantly as a toddler, engaging others in conversation even before I could speak. My parents were supportive and attentive. They always encouraged me and my siblings to read, learn new words, ask questions and have constructive debates with them. I remember lunchtime after school was all about sharing stories with them about our day. In school, I developed a keen interest in debates, theatre and interpretive reading. These experiences of course polished my communication and public speaking skills.
What instilled the confidence of public speaking in you?
I am the eldest child in my family and was the only child for seven years. I was fortunate to have my mother's undivided attention and affection in my early years, which serves as a very strong foundation. Then of course, my father was the original debater. He was an all-Pakistan debating champion in his college and university days. The interest and support for participating in public speaking and debating championships came rather organically. I would credit both my parents for my confidence, not just in public speaking, but for teaching me to face all life situations with courage and poise. In hindsight, I believe failures and things not working out the way you planned are the greatest teachers; bouncing back from those curveballs makes you titanium!
While growing up, who were the people that truly inspired you? 
As a young adult, I was inspired by people of grit. What moved me were strong values like courage and compassion in the face of adversity, I sought to look up to people of grace, indomitable will and authentic voices. I was very inspired by the journey and life stories of Benazir Bhutto, Nazia Hassan, Lady Diana, and Oprah Winfrey.
Teachers play a fundamental role in a person's life — is there any particular person who has been your mentor? 
Yes, teachers are important and learning is lifelong. The most important investment we can make is to grow and thrive. As Maya Angelou said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I had many amazing teachers in my school and college. Today, I continue to work with coaches and excellent teachers to upgrade my knowledge and skills. These include Dr. Marisa Peers, Joe Dispenza, Eckhart Tolle and Anastasia G.
Even during your teens, you've represented Pakistan at an international level and also won the English Speaking Public Speaking Championship in London. How did you feel when you won and brought a title back home? 
I felt like I was on top of the world. When you have a goal before you, it makes you feel alive and purposeful. That is truly the essence of all competitions and sports. It sparks and harnesses your creativity and pushes you to focus. I remember weeks before the English Speaking Public Speaking Championship, I was living and breathing the dream. I pray every one finds and pursues their passion, which is the only secret to a happy and fulfilling life.
How do you believe can the educational system be changed to contribute positively towards the progress of Pakistan based on your experience with ACCA Pakistan, and Habib University and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) schools. ? 
We as a country have no chance to prosper and achieve our Sustainable Development Goals without empowering the entire population. This is impossible with the current stagnant rate of literacy at 59%. The world is fast changing and we must prioritize education to meet important challenges — not just education for today, but for tomorrow as well. Studies reveal that 65% of children in grade school will be going into careers and professions that have not yet been developed. This presents us with the challenge and opportunity to teach our youth the skills for a future, which is still unseen. Our education goals must include the ability to lead, work in teams, thinking out of the box, creative solutions and most importantly the superpower of compassion. 
Be it public speaking or hosting a television show, you're admired for your exceptional talent. How have you been able to keep evolving with changing requirements? 
I believe in thriving rather than surviving. The minute you stop learning and assume you know it all or have done it all, that's when you slip into survival mode. It's a shift from the perspective to challenge limitations. Every time I have hit a roadblock or a dead end, I don't give up, I train my mind to get into the solution frequency. All battles are first won in your head and your most important job is to manage your thoughts. 
Have you ever experienced failure? What did you learn from it?
Failures are the best teachers. This is how you interpret them and how swiftly you bounce back. Failures don't have to mean you are denied your dreams, it is just a blip, a delay, an invitation to rethink a way forward. If you look back at life, the best things have been unplanned, so God has a bigger plan for you than your imagination. The only time you get too beat up by failure is when your ego makes you want to be in control. Failure has taught me to surrender ego-based control and let wonderful things unfold automatically.
Your YouTube videos are a source of motivation for many across the world, what was the vision behind them? 
The vision behind my self-produced content on my YouTube channel is conscious giving and receiving. I wanted to create something of value for my followers and viewers who have over the years showered me with so much respect, love and affection. I have keenly invested in my personal growth and want to share this knowledge with others. I see a big opportunity in sharing these ideas and information about mindfulness and compassion. I want to encourage people, help them to understand and appreciate self, to not be so hard on themselves and to find unconditional hope and positivity in life.
As Pakistanis, we need to recognize our responsibility. What are your thoughts? 
As Pakistanis, we must take responsibility for our beliefs, thoughts and opinions about our country. Each one of us claims to be patriotic yet indulges in irresponsible behavior. I am not just referring to our law evasive tendencies or social media rants and government bashing, I am talking about the core. At the heart of it, we have been brainwashed to focus only on the negative — the flaws and the weaknesses. Our national discourse is unfortunately about discussing problems, complicating solutions and instilling fear and doubts. It is high time we take responsibility for our national narrative and character. We must learn to celebrate and cherish our national identity and take pride in being Pakistanis.
Women like you are an inspiration for many who want to excel in life. What do you think has been your key to success?
The key to success is to never give up or let others define your story. Only you know yourself and if you want to be successful, you have to become okay with being misunderstood and protect your energy fiercely. Be mindful of who you let in your space. If you want to know how successful you would be in five years, take a closer look at the five people you spend most of your time with. Your company is a litmus test of your thoughts and predicts a very accurate future. 
Your message for the women of Pakistan?
Believe in your authentic voice. A great gift of nature is an honest inner voice, our own compass of reason. We must all learn to listen to it, connect with it and never be pushed into doing anything that we do not believe in or is not aligned with our values. Integrity is a superpower! HH

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