In English, Passion, Personal Reflection, Soul Searching

Looking Out

I often think about what it will feel like not having to spend a big chunk of the day working. Or even going to school. I remember when I was in elementary school, I discovered how funny the education system was. I was sitting in my classroom, wondering aimlessly while my class was immersed in some kind of an exciting activity. I could not recall what it was, but it must be exciting or the teacher would have seen me daydreaming and thrown something at me to wake me.

But I remember how beautiful the sun was that day. How bright the morning was. I remember thinking how inviting the schoolyard was. But somehow the teachers and the headmaster and the majority educators in the world think being stuck in a room while listening to a teacher was a better method of learning compared to playing and having fun outside. I wouldn’t say that the education was bad. I was just thinking what a waste it was for God to create such a beautiful world, which was meant for man to enjoy, but instead they chose to stay indoors and did something they which they believed to be more useful.

How come? How can being stuck in a room with two dozens of other kids be better than playing outside in the sun? How can it be that mornings are better spent indoors than outdoors? Is it true that learning can only take place in a classroom?

Thirty years later. When I had the opportunity to teach a class in our training center, I would roll up all blinds and let the sun shone through the glass windows into the room. As the room grew brighter, so did the hearts and the souls of the people. Some other trainers chose to let the blinds rolled down to keep minds from wandering to irrelevant things outside.

But I’m sure there is not a day goes by without us yearning to be free. Free from our cubicles, free from work hours, free to spend the day doing something else than working. That is why we are often tempted to daydream. That is why the one thing we want to do when standing in front of a window is to look outside. That js why we are so keen to escape the city and go to find beautiful sights in the country side.

To be free.

So why keep people from doing what I myself would want to do?

Last Thursday I just could not help myself. The blinds had been down since Wednesday morning because we were using the projector to show visuals. “Are you planning to use the projector today?” I asked my co-trainer. “I want to roll up the blinds.” He gave me a perplexed look and said, “No, I won’t use visuals. But isn’t opening the blinds detrimental to concentration?”

I just chuckled and began pulling on the plastic chain. The blind slowly rolled up and the morning view materialized from behind the thick glass of the ninth floor window.

It was a glorious morning.

In English, Observation, Passion

Passion, Business and Time

I read an article featuring an interview with Karl Lagerfeld. The article was closed with an interesting question.

Interviewer: Have you ever thought of having your own fashion label?
Lagerfeld: No. I love what I’m doing now. I don’t want to be a businessman. I want my business to run smoothly, but I don’t want to be responsible for the business. I want to be completely free.

Kompas daily newspaper, Sunday, May 15, 2011.

Many people think that you must make a business out of your talent and passion. Nothing wrong with that. There is a great advantage of owning and running a business. You can have full control on your income, and you get to call all the shots. It is a big responsibility, and it may require a majority of your time. When the business side begins to take the lion’s share time, your passion will suffer. And eventually, it will impact your business as well.

On the other hand, there is always a choice of not having to control everything. Like Lagerfeld, you can go freelance, and limit your influence on what you do and love best. Or have a balance of both. Make it a business, but hire the best people you can trust to run the business.

Both ways need you to develop strong relationships and alliances all around you. The key point is to have as many good people around you to enable you to keep as much of your time free for your passion as possible.

In English, Passion, Personal Reflection

I Work, Therefore I Am

If you try to engage me in a long conversation about things of which I’m passionate, I might give you a blank stare. I would experience a loss of word so severe that it would take several minutes of self collection before I could speak again.

Of course I’m not serious. But the question still stands as legit. It’s nice to have something that you feel so deeply about that it actually defines you. Painting defines a painter. Music defines a musician. Singing prowess defines a singer.

Some people, like me, defy logical definition of self based on passion. We work day in, day out on things that we do not feel so strongly about. Yet we chose to endure that existence for whatever reasons we think are justifiable. Self preservation, survival, security, you name it.

There’s nothing wrong about it. But can you imagine how mundane life would feel to come home from a job and suddely realize that you just spend a whole day doing things that you’re not really interested to be successful in? Or things that you don’t feel to be the definition of you?

It’s difficult to be true to your calling, to the things that bring excitement and a whisper in your heart. Can you do your job now without feeling that you are wasting your time and talent, or that you are not bringing any meaningful contribution?

I took a hard, hard look at myself, and I realized how fractured and unwhole my being has been. It’s like having a sundry of unrelated spices and ingredients thrown into the mix only to realize that they are not making the taste that you are looking for.

Focus, and discover.

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In English, Passion

The Artist

"Impression of a Swatch Magazine Ad" July 22, 1993

I sometimes watch “Miami Ink” or “LA Ink” on TLC. Although I don’t have tattoos, I cannot help admiring the artists’ skills. They are capable of creating not just a simple black and white tattoos, like the ones you can get cheaply on the beach, but a true work of art. The drawing, the coloring, etc.

The shows remind me of how satisfying it is to be able to render something into a two dimensional drawing. I used to sketch when I was in high school, and I could spend days working on just one sketch. I would make a general outline, and from there I would work the details.

One example of my work is included in this post.

It is unfortunate that I hadn’t been born a true melancholy person. I lacked the discipline nor the patience it took to work slowly and methodically on something. I was always on a rush to finish my drawings. I so wanted to finish it immediately that neither my work nor my skills had the opportunity to be developed.

That is probably the reason I am more comfortable with photography, especially in this digital era.

I still feel like this is a waste of talent, since I don’t sketch much anymore. I wish I could make the time to hone my drawing skills. But then again, time is the one thing I could not afford.

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In English, Passion, Personal Reflection

Being a Dale Carnegie Trainer

A few days ago, I received a message in my LinkedIn inbox from another user of the professional networking site. When I took the time to write down my answer, I found it to be very profound and thought provoking to me as a Dale Carnegie trainer. Here is the question and the answer. Parts marked by [ ] are comments I added for the benefit of the readers of this post. I express many thanks to Ms. Preeyaa Gandhi for her enlightening question.

Dear Mr. Siregar,

I am one of the big admirers of Dale Carnegie and Dale Carnegie Training. I came across your profile while browsing DC Global Graduates. Wow! you got a quite impressive profile- vast and in depth experience from DC Training. I know you would be extremely busy but I would greatly appreciate your insight into DC Trainer experience.

Looking forward to hear from you.


(There are interim responses between us, but for the sake of brevity, I chose to omit them from this post.)

Dear Ms. Gandhi,

A long time ago, way before I became a trainer, I heard one Dale Carnegie trainer marveled at how advanced Mr. Carnegie thinking was in his life time. I didn’t take much notice of that by then. Now that I have been a trainer, I cannot help but to realize how true the statement is, even for today.

If you have read Mr. Carnegie’s biography (part of it can be read in a booklet called “The Little Known Secret of Success”), you would know that one challenge that Mr. Carnegie faced when he first started [a public speaking class with YMCA in 1912, the predecessor of] what is now known as Dale Carnegie Course was , how to come up with immediate results for his class members.

[The deal with YMCA was that he could only earn part of the weekly proceed of the course. If he wanted to keep earning money, he must make sure that his students returned the next week. If they felt they didn’t get anything from the course, they certainly wouldn’t be back.] It was one question that led Mr. Carnegie to the discovery of the teaching techniques that we use today.

Even today, as the world becomes more and more advanced in technology, [and quick results are becoming the norm rather than an exception] the same rule applies. Dale Carnegie trainers must come up with immediate results for our customers, or else. This forces us to think deeply about our customers, about THEIR challenges, about THEIR needs, so we can make our programs relevant to THEM, and so we can come up with immediate results for THEM.

And working in Dale Carnegie means that the same rule applies to my job as well. How can I bring immediate results to my team? How can I make everything as practical as possible so that everyone can immediately benefit from my ideas? How can I help my team to immediately generates higher performance?

In essence, what I learned from my job in Dale Carnegie Training is:
– To put others first
– To come up with ways to help others get results, immediately.

I think that’s what I can share.

Thank you for your interest, Ms. Gandhi. I hope this will help.



In English, Passion, Soul Searching

Who Am I?

The past four years have been the years of soul searching for me to find the answer to one, single question. That is, “Who am I, exactly?”

I used to harbor envy at people with deep passions in their lives. There are those who are so passionate about cooking, or filmmaking, or fashion, or photography, or wedding planning, or tennis, or golf, or dancing, or music making. And they found that passion at such an early age, they already made a name for themselves in their thirties, or even twenties.

I once read a short bio on Jamie Oliver, the British celebrity chef. Age-wise, he is only 12 days older than I am. Yet he had achieved so much in his 20’s, while in the same period of time the only achievement I made was living to the adage of ‘work hard, play hard’.

Here’s the rough comparison

Age 23
Jamie: hosted his first television show
Me: hmmm … what did I do back then?

Age 28
Jamie: Appointed MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Elizabeth II, Queen of England.
Me: still no clue

As with many people, the realization of the fleeting time dawned on me as I was getting nearer to my 30th birthday. I began to look around, and I could not help feeling dissatisfied with my life. I could not help having the nagging thought of, “Had I known what I am passionate about in my teens, I would have been in a better position, as of now.”

Somehow I had the difficulties of making up my mind on what I want to pursue on a professional level. Something that I enjoy doing, and at the same time it puts bread on the table.

I do know that my job now is not so bad. I learn a lot from it, and I do get satisfaction every now and then. One time, as I filled out my LinkedIn profile, I realized I have done many things, and I have made a difference for my company and for many people.

But have I made a difference in my life? Or am I just working to make a living?

The acid test is this: Would I do what I do now if I don’t get paid for it?


Then what is the one thing that I don’t mind not getting paid for doing?

If I can answer that, then I will find the definition of me.

I pondered about this question for several years. I knew I had several interests in life, and I am pretty good at them, but which one of them really defines me? The one thing that people will put after my name when they describe me in a biographical entry.

Here’s some examples from wikipedia:

Christian Bale (born Jan 30, 1974) is an English actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio (born Nov 11, 1974) is an American actor and film producer.
David Beckham (born May 2, 1975) is an English footballer.
Jamie Oliver, MBE (born May 27, 1975) is an English chef and media personality.
Stephen Siregar (born Jun 9, 1975) is … ???

During the 4 years of soul-searching, I took inventory of all the things that were of interest to me. Of all that I could come up with, I came to the conclusion that I was a writer. Yeah, a writer! I wrote occasionally, and sometimes I got good reviews from the readers. And the most important thing was that it was something I enjoyed doing although I didn’t get paid for it. I could make a career in writing. Blogs, books, articles, whatever. I just need to write, write and write to get myself even better and better at it.

But then, I realized one important aspect in writing that might critically impair its economic potential. Writing took ideas, and ideas need inspiration. And in my case, inspiration is most of the time as rare as a four-leaf clover (well, alright, a four-leaflet clover, for crying out loud). I was not so diligent in writing as I had hoped to be.

So, if writing is not it, then what is?

I do enjoy picture taking, but I’m not much of a camera buff. I’m not the kind of photography enthusiast who spend a lot of money on cameras and their accessories. And instead of going hunting for the most beautiful sights on earth, I would rather hang out in cafes. I don’t mind not getting paid for my photos, but I also don’t like making money from taking pictures, either. So that can’t be it.

Everything suddenly became clear in the past 4 months. I had projects at the office that require the use of my designing skills. I worked on several designs, offering them to the users, and picked one that I believe would work best. I planned the project from scratch, hired furniture designer and technicians, and I delightly watched as my ideas took form into being.

And there it is now: the new lay-out of my office.

I got satisfaction from seeing the ideas that I combined in a design became a reality. I would do it for free, but since it’s part of my job description, then I was actually got paid for it!

I wished it had been a larger project with more funds and more risk to it. I wish it had been an entire building job. I wish it had been an extreme makeover project.

Then the enlightment suddenly hit me. This is it! This is the one thing that defines me! This is actually what I have been wanting to do ever since I was in elementary school. This is me! This should be how I look at and how I approach my job. No matter where I am, no matter what I do.

Stephen Siregar (born Jun 9, 1975) is an Indonesian designer.