A Life Journey, In English

Small Actions, Big Impact

I spent most of my life achieving my goals serendipitiously. I dreamed of something, and somehow, in some way, it happened. It’s like somebody was getting things done for me from behind a screen. And sorry to disappoint some of you, I didn’t actually pray for them, either.

I’m not saying that praying is not necessary. If you believe in God, I would say you should pray. And neither am I saying that you don’t have to work for your dreams. Some dreams take sweat, blood and tears to make a reality. And I do work hard to build my family estate.

Looking back the nearly 39 years of my life, one thing that I am still dissatisfied with it is how haphazardly I lived it. How un-hardworking I was. How unfocused I had been.

I am worried this will carry into my professional life. I am in the position where I can make impact in the lives of tens, hundreds even thousands of people. What keeps me awake at night is the haunting question: how can I be a good leader for those people who entrust their lives and the lives of their families in my hands?

I found that being in a leadership position is far from having the justification to brag, to demand respect. On the contrary, it is the most humbling place in which anyone can be.

I choose to live one day at a time. I made mistakes. But those are in the past. Today I choose to be a better person. Everyday is a new opportunity for me to be slightly better, to be the person I dream myself to be. The doer, the achiever, the leader.

One day I was standing in a very long line in a bank. There were only two or three windows opened for dozens of customers. From where I stand, I saw the line was skewed way to the right. And nobody did anything to fix it. I decided to do an experiment. Every time the line inched forward, I moved slightly to the left. The customers behind me followed suit. And with every step forward, the line began to skew less, until finally it became a straight line.

To have impact on my surrroundings, I only need to change myself just a little bit, every day.

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In English, Random Things

20 Years Ago

At the end of the introduction of the course, I raised my hand. “Yes?” The professor examined me with his eyes from behind the lectern. “Sir, the textbook you just mentioned is the 11th edition. Is it different from the 4th edition?”

My mind went to the 4th edition of the Basic Financial Management book written by the same authors as the 11th edition. I used it in the Financial Management course in undergraduate school. If there wasn’t much difference, i could use it again and save money.

The professor grinned. “Of course it is very different,” he said. “The new edition is updated to include recent cases.”

It wasn’t until today when I skimmed through the new textbook that I realized something. My third semester in college was almost 20 years ago! By then, I bet nobody here had ever heard about Enron, and some of my class who took accounting major had their eyes on Arthur Andersen for their future career.

Apple was known for Mac, and internet was still in its infancy. A 14.4 kpbs internet connection was already considered fast. Mobile phones came in briefcases. The most widely used OS for PC was Microsoft Windows 3.11. The crew of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation were the only ones who used tablet computers. A 100 kb attachment was enough to suffocate an e-mail server, and a 512MB Harddisk was enough to run a small server. A Big Mac meal in Jakarta cost about a sixth of its price now in Rupiah. US and European boybands (and girlbands) were making it big.

And now, I’m writing this on a 64GB iPad, and online through a 14.4Mbps mobile internet connection. A thousand times more bandwidth than 20 years ago. Wirelessly.

Looking back into the past like this only makes me wonder what the future will be in the next 20 years. Flying cars? Interplanetary travels? Food replicators? Holographic music concerts? Fully humanoid robots?

And so with this I must remind myself to return to my work.

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In English, Personal Reflection

Changing

As a trainer, I often approach a problem from a positive, optimistic and almost naïve point of view. I assume that people want to be more productive. I assume that people want to be a better worker. But do they, really?

Some people may deliberately choose to lag for lack of motivation. Some choose to not to do 100% because they think 75% is already earning them a comfortable lifestyle. So what are they doing in a training class if they feel things are just fine?

The biggest challenge here is not to change the paradigm of the participants, but to challenge assumptions and one-sided thinking, which I unfortunately have. And the best place to start is by thinking that they don’t need this training. What must a trainer do to sell the idea of change to the participants?

Some use a case, some use to use an example of a person so successful others cannot help not to want to be like that person. And yet, many people are like the story of an old man and his dog.

In a rural area far from the city, a visitor lost his way. He finally came to a cabin where an old man was sitting in his rocking chair while nursing a drink in one hand, and a pipe in the other. The visitor asked for direction, and while the old man was talking, he could not help noticing the big dog
that was lying in a wicker basket near the rocking chair. Every now and then the dog whined pitifully, but its master did not seem to care.

The visitor could not restrain his curiosity any longer, and asked, “Is your dog OK? It seems to be in pain.” Upon which the old man replied, “This old wicker basket? Some of the nails sticks out and pricks the dog.”

“But why didn’t the dog move somewhere else?” Asked the perplexed visitor.
The old man put the pipe in his mouth, scratched his graying head, and said, “Well, I reckon because the nail ain’t near that painful for the dog.”

Often times a good inspiring story is like a nail that doesn’t give enough pain to make someone want to leave his situation for good. For a moment it sounds so electrifying and people ooh and aah over the glitzy powerpoint. But by tomorrow everything is back to the way it was before the training.

So we need to build such a strong case to persuade people to make a permanent change in their lives. Something that got them thinking and saying, “This is not acceptable anymore.”

To Be Continued

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