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.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry®. Powered by Telkomsel.

Standard
In English, Personal Reflection

Finding Balance in Imbalance

My first instinct when waking up in the morning would be to hope for some sort of balance to take place in the day. Day by day I would hold on to that hope. Many times I spent a day convinced that it wasn’t really a true day, that it was just a phase and it would go away soon, replaced by a quiet and balanced time.

It used to be true. After a period of uncertainty, upheaval, and imbalance, a sense of balance would take place. I would feel happy, content, and enjoyed my day.

This started when I was in college. I routinely experienced a feeling of out of rhythm at every start of a semester. New classes, new courses, different classmates, those changes threw me out of balance for a few weeks, before I got “the hang of it” and got back to my rhythm. It was almost like a pendulum that would return to its balance position after a period of swinging from side to side.

Lately, I found that it is getting more and more difficult to return to that point of balance after a swinging period. The balance would remain for shorter and shorter period, and the swinging would remain for longer and longer period.

These days, it seems that the balance has disappeared altogether. I only experience changes, day in, day out. Change of people, change of organization, change of roles. It’s like playing a game in which a different rule applies at every move.

I realized that I could no longer rely on finding a point of balance that remains for a long time. I am a perpetually swinging pendulum. The only point where I am not in a swing is at the farthest end of a swing, or at the farthest of the amplitude, when the pendulum stops for a fraction of a second before it swings back the other way.

Since I established that it will be a virtually uninterrupted swinging period anyway, I would rather be the one who swings the pendulum, instead of being the one being swung on the pendulum. I would rather be the one who decided when it swings, and to what direction.

I would rather be the one who created my own inequilibrium. I would rather be my own distruptor, than be disrupted by the situations. I would not wait for the circumstances to balance, but to create my own balance by disrupting the prevailing balance, at will.

“Live a deliberate life.” – Dale Carnegie

Standard
In English, Personal Observation, Personal Reflection

Pain, Pleasure and the Big Durian

I don’t do it so often, and I felt like I was ready to snap at anyone over the tiniest thing. I wonder how could thousands of people stand that, day in and day out?

I’m talking about driving in Jakarta’s rush hour. There is no rushing in rush hour in Jakarta, or the Big Durian as some call it after the prickly and smelly fruit popular in the South East Asia region. Everyone moves so slowly, it normally takes twice as long to drive the same distance as in normal traffic. That is if you’re lucky. If not, like when it’s raining hard with thunderstorm, then make it three times as long. Or ten times as long if it’s your downtrodden unlucky day, like when there’s a big flooding in the city.

Some calculated that the traffic jams cost the city about 550 million dollars annually. Enough to build about several hundred new school buildings.

So far there is no immediate nor long term solution. The government tried to get car drivers to take public transportation. But it may take years before that could happen.

I am humbly thanking God that I live only 5 minutes away from my office. But even that is not forever.

Time is becoming more and more precious for Jakarta people. You get less and less things done in a day. And the less things done are not at the office. It’s at home. Less time to rest, less time to spend with family, less time to do your passion.

Everything so mixed up here in Jakarta. Like I said, the people here have a love and hate relationship with the city. We love the high standard of living (at least compared to most regions in Indonesia), but hate the jams, and hate having to lose time in traffic.

What to do, then? For now, some take the attitude of “just enjoy it,” after a recent tagline in a cigarette commercial. Some focus on the love, some focus on the hate. And some just numb their souls and stop caring. Just going through the motion, and pretending as if it doesn’t cause any pain. Some others party and dance the pain away into the night.

For me, I would say I’m focusing on the love part about the city. I keep reminding myself to be thankful for all the good things the city provides. I am trying to keep myself from blaming and cursing, which, to be honest, are not easy to do.

How about you? What is your take and attitude about the place you live in?

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry®. Powered by Telkomsel.

Standard
In English, Personal Experience, Personal Reflection

Believe in Your Dreams

This is an experience that I have kept to myself for over two years. In a selling skills class that I recently co-facilitated, I thought it would make a good illustration for a point that I was getting across, so I shared it for the first time.

I suppose I might as well share it here.

It was in 2008. I was on a trip to the Dale Carnegie & Associates Annual International Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Before leaving for the trip, I made quite an extensive research on Vancouver and its surrounding areas, fully intending to make the best of the trip.

I noticed that Vancouver was not so far away from a winter vacation village of Whistler. I heard about the village during my network marketing days from my diamond uplines. In motivational meetings for the independent business owners in their network, they shared their experiences enjoying award trips to Whistler. They spoke about snow, skiing, dining in Whistler in great details that I became pretty curious about the place.

I once watched an episode about yam cha tradition in Hong Kong. It is a custom of Hong Kong people that is somewhat similar to English high tea. While in England it is customary for people to have tea and bite sized snacks and cakes in afternoons, in Hong Kong people have tea and dim sum, whenever they feel like hanging out in tea houses. The program was so interesting, I could not help wanting to have yam cha in Hong Kong. Of course you can get a decent serving of dim sum almost anywhere in the world. But there is something special about having it in a Hong Kong yam cha.

Based on my research, I found that Whistler was about 2-3 hour bus ride from Vancouver. That means it would take 4-6 hours just for travel time, not including exploring the area. No matter how dying I was to see Whistler, it was not the practical choice of sightseeing.

Since our flight from Jakarta to Vancouver transited in Hong Kong, I was hoping that we could spend a few hours in the City, to enjoy a yam cha. Unlucky for me, our itineraries only allowed a short time in Hong Kong, not enough for a short trip to the city.

Here’s when things got strange.

Since our flight would not leave until midnight, and the entire convention was scheduled to be concluded the night before, we had an entire Saturday free. We planned to use it for a long tour. In lieu of visiting Whistler, Adam, my colleague and travel companion, suggested that we took a tour to a nearby destination, about an hour drive from Vancouver. I was all up to it, and we reserved two seats in the tour.

The day before the tour was supposed to take place, Adam got a call from the organizer. Due to low number of participants, the tour was cancelled! Since we had hours to kill, we decided to take the Whistler tour. So I got to see Whistler after all!

Adam (left) and I on the Peak to Peak Cable Car station in Whistler

We returned to Vancouver from Whistler at dusk. After a few hours of rest, we did a final packing of our luggage, and checked out. When we emerged from the hotel lobby into the street, we found that it was snowing. The snow was heavy enough to line the roads with thin ice, making them very slippery and dangerous to travel on.

It was already difficult to find a cab that was willing to brave the elements and take us to the airport. It was even worse because at the same time, we were competing for taxis with people who were leaving a party at the Convention Center across the street.

With the help of the hotel doorman, we finally got a cab. After piling our luggage into the trunk, giving a generous tip to the doorman, we got into the cab and started to the airport.

A few minutes into the drive we could see cars, SUVs, jeeps, that were slipping off the icy road into the ditch. Our cabbie was visibly upset. “This is dangerous. It’s wasting my time. I had better take you back to the hotel,” he said.

Adam and I had this sinking feeling inside us. “Please, sir, we need to get to the airport. We will pay you extra,” Adam persuaded. Still grumbling, the cabbie turned the dial on his radio to check for clear routes to the airport. He took the Prius off the main road into residential areas.

After a few minutes of darkness, the cab returned to the main road, and a few minutes later, we could see the airport! I was dancing gleefully inside. In gratitude we paid the cabbie more than double the fare.

We made good time, and we still had time to grab a bite at Burger King, the only outlet that was still open in the airport food court at that hour. We boarded the plane on time, but the aircraft had to sit for an hour or so on the apron to wait for the snow to lessen, and to give the ground crew the chance to de-ice the plane.

Nearing Hong Kong, the pilot announced that the flight would arrive late, and missed all the connecting flights. The passengers were advised to contact ground crew for change of flights.

Getting off the airplane, we found a row of tables where passengers could get new boarding passes to replace the one for the missed flights, and hotel vouchers to clean up and rest. When we checked our flight, it was still hours away. Adam called his friend in Hong Kong, and it turned out that there was a shopping mall halfway between the airport and down town Hong Kong where we could find a dim sum restaurant!

We cleared immigration, took the high speed train and arrived in the shopping mall that Adam’s friend told us. We found the dim sum restaurant. After a few minutes of figuring out the menu and how to place an order (since nobody in the restaurant could speak English), we had the precious dim sum served on our table, along with a pot of tea. We commenced our yam cha.

Ready for yam cha!

I could not believe it! I already gave up hope of ever seeing Whistler, and somehow the circumstances changed that gave us, or actually forced us, to detour to Whistler!

I thought we would not get the opportunity to enjoy a yam cha in Hong Kong due to the very short conneting time between flights. Thanks to the snow storm in Vancouver, we missed our connecting flight to Jakarta, and got extra time to have dim sum!

Providence? Divine intervention?

Looking back to this experience, I learned two important lessons:

  1. Never give up on your dreams.
  2. When plans don’t work out, sometimes better things may come out.

Keep believing!

Standard
In English, Personal Reflection

When In Doubt

“To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.”

Stanislaw Leszczynski
Selected Polish king 1704-1709, 1733-1734 (1677 – 1766)

We always have doubt when we first travel to a strange place. I remember the first time me and several friends going to a certain destination in Bandung relying entirely on vague directions scribbled on the back of a crumpled receipt from a fastfood restaurant. I had to reconcile three things during that journey: the unclear directions, the dubious street map, and the actual condition that we found. After a frustrated, futile search to find the elusive landmarks described in the direction, we added the fourth item into the confusion: direction we solicited from people that we met on the street.

There was a point in that experience when all the four items so contradicted one another that we found it impossible to be certain of which information was the most reliable. When that happened, we had to make a faithful choice to use one as our own sole guidance.

Facing challenges in our lives, either personal or professional, can be quite a nerve jarring experience. The tough reality is that every day is a new path down which we have never traveled before. There are people with similar experiences from which we can draw ideas, but there will be one or more differences in our circumstances that make our problems uniquely different from that of other people’s.

We therefore can only use them as “possible solutions” instead of the only solution.

One of my favorite TV series was “Star Trek: Next Generation.” When facing a situation dire to the safety of the Starship Enterprise, Captain Jean Luc Picard would call a quick, standing-up conferences of his top officers. He would concisely state the problem, and ask for their ideas. He would then make a decision that was either an adoption of one of his officer’s idea, a combination of several ideas, or his own idea. He could never be sure of the outcome, but he would ask for inputs and decide one that was considered to be the best under the prevailing circumstances.

That is what we can do when having to make tough decision.

1. State the problem
2. Understand the cause
3. Gather important information on possible solutions
4. Choose one that is considered to be the best.

In my experience with my friends, we ended up choosing to forget the maps and the written direction, and go with the bystanders directions.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry®. Powered by Telkomsel.

Standard
In English, Personal Observation, Personal Reflection

To Know or Not To Know Your Passion

For the past months my wife followed the Masterchef US on Star World, and I tagged along whenever I wasn’t too busy with something else. It was a reality show about a group of amateur cooks competing for the title “Masterchef.”

It was a wow-ing show for us because it brought the aspects of cooking we never knew existed, even after watching dozens of cooking shows from some of the best chefs. Like how in one episode 24 contestants came up with 24 different egg dishes, and none of them was egg-benedict-ive.

But after all, the show boiled down to ambition to win the $250,000 prize to start a restaurant, and a cooking book deal.

Tonight, after switching from one boring show to another, we came across “Junior Masterchef Australia.” It offers the same theme as the regular show, but the contestants were much younger.

The youngest one is an 8-year-old girl.

All of them cook like a pro. As a measuring stick, my wife said, “I don’t think I can cook what they are cooking.” Our jaws dropped as we were wondering how on earth these kids could cook like that.

The most adorable thing was, unlike “reality” TV shows in Indonesia where children tended (or perhaps intended) to mimic grown ups, those children work the competition kitchen as children. They cook as if they are playing their favorite game.

It was so enjoyable just to watch those kids at work, I really didn’t care whether the end result was delicious, well presented dishes or not. They were so lovable being children.

What stroke me as extraordinary was when one of the children said, “This is my passion. I want to do this in my life.”

Imagine finding your passion at such a tender age.

And to think that an elementary school student understands the meaning of the word “passion” is already mind blowing, especially considering that some of us probably never heard the word until the past few years.

Browsing through the channels again, we found “Gotta Dance UK” on AXN. The first season was won by a child dancer named Akai.

Where will us adults be in a few years from now if children are already making their marks in the world today?

Will there be hope for us?

It is encouraging to remember the words that I found in the book “Your Job Is Not Your Career” written by Indonesia’s career coach René Suhardono. The words went something like this, “If you are 20-30 years old now, you still have 30-40 years to live. It is therefore important to find your passion now.”

In other words, we adults still have decades to go before our dying days. Yes we probably spent the past half or quarter of our lives in the dark, not really knowing what our passions are. But even at this point in life, we still can make a choice: to make the rest of it more meaningful by knowing and living our passions, or to live by going through the motion without knowing what our ultimate purpose in life.

It is therefore not to late to dive deeply, and take chances now.

Have a great, adventurous life!

Masterchef and Junior Masterchef are TV Programs originated by BBC
Star World is a cable TV channel owned by News Corporation
AXN is a cable TV channel owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Standard
In English, Personal Reflection

Like The Little Brother I Never Had

My Mom likes to tell and retell the story of how my Dad got into the business of owning a Dale Carnegie Training® franchise. And the story always starts with me.

It was in the beginning of 1976. Jakarta had just experienced a heavy rainy season, and some part of the city was flooded. I was just 6 months old at that time. Somehow I contracted a severe case of diarrhea, and was so dehydrated that (in my Mother’s words) my eyes were turning inside out.

The doctor immediately sent me to the hospital. I cried my eyes out most of the time, and wouldn’t want to be left alone. My Aunt had to stay with me at nights so my Mom could go home and get some rest.

During that time my Dad already resigned from his job at an established government owned construction company, and started his own consulting business. Aside from doing consultation for engineering projects, my Dad had also started to do seminars and trainings. It was something that was practically unheard of in Indonesia at that time.

A Dale Carnegie Course® sponsor from Hawaii had his eyes set on Indonesia. He wanted to start an operation in the country. He already bought the territorial rights from Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc. But he needed a local partner whom he could trust to market the courses in Indonesia. He was looking for someone who was already familiar in running seminars and trainings. And when he began asking around, he got one name as a potential partner: my Dad’s name.

My Mom said that I was still in the hospital when Dad received the letter, asking him to be the partner to run a Dale Carnegie Course® class in Jakarta. My Dad readily accepted the request, and quickly went to action. In a short time, he managed to gather a class of about 42 participants for the very first class of Dale Carnegie Course® in Jakarta.

Since that first class in 1976, there has been nearly 900 more classes of the now locally called the Dale Carnegie® Fundamental Leadership Program. My Dad later took licenses to be a trainer himself, and eventually took over the sponsorship (or franchise) of Dale Carnegie Training® in Indonesia in 1985.

The Dale Carnegie® business is more than just a business. It’s like part of our family, and part of our lives. I believe it is the only business that my Dad ran in which he involved his entire family. For his other businesses, Dad would only recruit my Mom to take care of finances, and my uncles to be consultants. But for Dale Carnegie®, all of us were in it.

Mom and Dad took the Dale Carnegie Course® as members of the first class, along with two of my uncles. Later, there were nights in my childhood where all of us would gather in the living room, talking and preparing name tags for the upcoming classes. As we grew up, Dad would took my brothers to be his assistant when he was teaching night classes. And eventually, my brothers and myself became graduates of the program.

In retrospect, I cannot help thinking that the Dale Carnegie Training® is very much like my little brother. And right now, what me and my family are doing is basically helping this little brother to grow.

There were times in my career when I felt like I wanted to pursue something else, but I just couldn’t find the heart to leave this little brother.

I can see that one day in the future, this little brother will no longer need my help. He will be able to walk on his own. Until that time comes, I have a lot to do in caring of him.

Standard
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.

Thanks,
Priya

(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.

Regards,

Stephen


Standard