The Secrets to Pursuing Your Passion


Student spotlight: Zulu Echo’s Zain Elwakil

By Alexandra McCartha

Living on the dangerously exciting line between being responsible and reckless, pulling all-nighters to make ends meet with graduation slowly approaching, and spontaneous trips to mundane destinations that seem like the most magical places on earth when surrounded by the laughter of your best friends- welcome to your 20s. A time to shed layers of societal and conceptual beliefs, and gain a fresh perspective across all aspects of life while embracing the things that start a fire within you- things you’re passionate about.

photo by Nick Jebaily

photo by Nick Jebaily

Zain Elwakil, a young architecture student at Syracuse University, was inspired by that very fire he saw among his peers, and decided to create something that would fuel a relentless drive through a variety of mediums to inspire people to never give up on their dreams. In Febuary of 2017, he started a weekly blog post to simply share his passions and interests with the world. From this, he ventured into new territory by honing his skills in the world of modern production of digital video content, and finally created a tangible visual of all the messages he portrays through his work by starting a clothing brand. “I noticed during my first year of university that people began to follow their passions, turning ideas they always had into realities” Zain explained; and through sharing his own experiences, failures, moments of growth and the lessons that come with them, a revolution of the mind was born.

It all began with a feeling, a great fervor so powerful he felt the need to start something right then and there. “I wasn’t sure exactly what would become of it, I wasn’t even able to explain it properly to people. It was just a movement I felt a desire to start. I kind of just started” he expressed. When you fall deeply in love with something in life, it is in that moment that you know you’ve been inspired; thus his clarity of purpose became very clear.

The name Zulu Echo Initiative stands for the celebration of being passionate and supportive of your peers' dreams and failures, as its those character-building moments that are the building blocks for turning your dream into a reality. The name expresses the drive and hunger one gets when they are immersed in something that creates an overwhelming sensation of determination, activating a flow of endorphins that flood your brain, begging you to continue to create more. Zulu Echo Initiative isn’t just another brand, it's a lifestyle- a mentality.

photo by Alexios Prekas

photo by Alexios Prekas

The importance of open-mindedness - the honesty and truth that it exposes you to and the confidence it can instill in yourself is a re-occurring theme in Zain’s blog. In his article “Play Your Game”, he talks about how as children, “we made up our own games and played them without regard for what people thought. To find fulfillment in your life, you must play your game. You must find that happiness that you feel when you realize YOUR dreams. The process by which we realize those dreams may be hard, but your overarching purpose becomes the driving force that keeps you going. Like for any player of any game, the purpose does not shift until the final whistle is blown…”


As we grow older, this message is a crucial one that we need to be reminded of. The freedom we have over our education is vast, yet we are somehow still confined within imaginary walls that we at times build around ourselves. At a young age, there is an illusion of the perfect success we’re encouraged to achieve, as well as routines we are set in, making stepping out of our comfort zone of predictable space incredibly scary. However, Zain understands the concept of “failing upwards” and taking risks even if they’re in measured amounts like no other.

“The moment you try something and fail, you’ve learned a lesson- that concept is critical,” he says urging people to build up their success story. “If you do this over the course of a lifetime, you’re teaching yourself how to succeed at what you want. It’s all about how you view the concept of failure”. This concept he explains- the willingness to fail and the realization that one is in fact not all-knowing is one of the first steps to fulfilling your purpose in life. Besides, a second reoccurring theme in his weekly articles emphasizes how when you love what you do and fail, it isn’t defined as a failure anymore. Instead, it is simply learning from your mistakes and adding value to your journey.

photo by Quinlan Hooker

photo by Quinlan Hooker

Zulu Echo Initiative is truly a coming of age movement, focusing on dissecting our process of branching out into the world and pursuing our goals. Embedded within the foundation of this revolution is the value of sharing our stories of success and failure alike, and the countless advantages gained by being supportive. “By empowering one another,” he says, “ we not only advance our own development towards our goals but build up a community that strives to help everyone do the same”.

Zulu Echo Initiative now stands on a global platform, valuing diversity and inclusivity in every aspect. When someone identifies with Zain’s communiqué by wearing his brand, they’re spreading positive messages that connect young people all over the world, by inspiring them to pursue their wildest dreams in a beneficial way to their community. From knowing Zain as not only the CEO and founder of Zulu Echo Initiative but a valued friend, it has been clear from the beginning that one thing he values most is building genuine connections. Relationships like these are the cornerstone of health, happiness, and resilience; and as Zain continues to work towards his degree, he stays dedicated to finding new platforms and people to share this wholesome experience with.

photo by Alexios Prekas

photo by Alexios Prekas

Shop Zulu Echo Initiative using the code: ZIPPED10 for 10% off.

Check out Zain’s website, share a Zulu Echo Initiative film, and subscribe to his weekly blog posts published every Tuesday at midnight.

Be sure to follow this movement on instagram @zuluecho_initiative and @zain_elwakil for daily content!