Seventeen years ago, a simple sentence brought me to a new discovery that I was and had always been the leader of my own being. The sentence was: “Happiness is a state of mind”.Despite the statement was merely referring to a particular circumstance or feeling, but my interpretation was that it was applicable in any circumstance. The impact (of such discovery) was not instant, but the outcome was. I began to unleash myself from simple logical traps that had been by created doctrines and systemic cultural failures. I began to move the greater being of MYSELF to the position where I felt just about right, although it wasn’t necessarily a comfortable one (or maybe a critical one). To make a long story short, I started my leadership journey by taking the leadership of my personal being and by using my conscience and my mind as the engines.
After graduating from University, I began my career path as an analyst in a bank. I worked in a Japanese bank. With a persistent effort to improve the knowledge of the works that I was engaged with and a further development of personal being, I got my first promotion in less than six months. Such fast promotion was not usual in a Japanese firm. Based on the existing terms of employment, one could be promoted in 2 years, if such individual had had an extraordinary performance. And, there I was, a young new comer who broke the record. Sadly, once you enjoyed the sweetness of temporary success and being respected, you tended to have excessive confidence and to empower your greed. Suddenly, before you knew it, you started to lose YOU.
A couple years later, when the economic crisis hit the region (especially banking sector), things were getting to my nerve. My daily job was just trying to recover company’s money that had been invested in dying companies. Getting stressed out was my daily intakes. To make worst, I was getting tired of almost everything, my job, my workplace, even my love life, and I began to question my future. At that time, I felt like an American poets that once said, “Life is the first boredom, then fear”.
In the midst of emptiness, there was a phrase that hit me right in my heart. It was coming out from my father. “You may not have all the money that you want to have. You may not get the position you or status that you want to have. But, you shouldn’t lose YOURSELF. Your (name) is something that you need to keep for the rest of your life.” Then, I began to look for MYSELF, which I had scattered around during my early years of being a professional.
I thought I had lost my love in the banking industry, which means I had to search for a new passion. I then decided to join United Nations. I was part of the monitoring team of the implementation of Emergency Operation 6006, a relief program of UN to ease the burden of the people that were suffering from natural and, or, anthropogenic catastrophe. I was in charge to monitor the program in Irian Jaya (Papua). Being part of the UN team was more than just a wonderful experience. It taught me two important words, namely acceptance and gratitude. One thing that is also interesting is that, even though I was not and still am not a Catholic, during my time with WFP, I was also pretty much inspired by The Serenity Prayer, which I felt that it was loaded the essence of being a human. (God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference).
A year later, after the EMOP 6006 in Irian Jaya had been terminated, I decided to join a State Owned Financial Institution. I didn’t remember what the logical explanation of my decision was. I took quite a severe pay cut and agreed to work longer hours in an ad hoc institution. The only think I remembered was that my boss, MS who is currently the President Director of a State Owned Enterprise, asked me whether I had the courage to make a difference with my skill and knowledge. I guessed, at the time, he simply bedazzled me.
I was recruited as one of the managers in the loan workout division. It turned out that joining a State Owned Financial Institution wasn’t about losing income and working too hard. During my service (4.5 years), I broke another record. I was the only person who got promoted 7 times in 3.5 years, from grade 13 (Manager) to 19 (Senior Vice President). I became the one of the youngest Senior Vice Presidents in 2003.
At first, many questioned my accelerated career. Whether I had been an “ass kisser” (excuse my language) or whether I had had powerful connections? Some would even try to assassinate my character through the press. Fortunately, the suspicions tended to disappear along the way. Some of which came to me and asked for my management skill and how I could have an outstanding career achievement.
I was not, never had been and still am not a super genius who knows everything in banking and finance, but during that time I was considered one of the best managers. It was actually, my two former bosses, MS and BS, who told me the ‘secret recipe’. The first thing they told me was to create a ‘special bonding’ in my team. They told me to smile every morning, to visit my staff members’ cubicles and to have small chitchats with them. The impact was incredible, it created good working mood among them, eliminated hesitation in conducting conversation or in raising opinions, and most of all, created a special bonding among each other. These kinds of stuffs made my works a lot easier.
Another ‘secret recipe’ was in relation with dealing with indebted conglomerates. Actually, there wasn’t any sophisticated tip or secret recipe in dealing with those formerly powerful people (although they could regain the power in the future). We just treated them as human beings. They were indeed in trouble with debts or they had been so powerful in the past, yet they were all human beings.
I understood that every entrepreneur (or should I say every human) always wants to have more (greed), however these people also have fears. And so I played with their natural greed and fear. Some of them give their trust to me, and are willing to cooperate with me in solving their debt problems. It was the same trusts that my bosses had given to me. As a result, I was once becoming one of the managers with most outstanding collection and recovery performance.
In 2003, the Chairman of my institution once told me the philosophy of his successful career. He said, “I am greater than myself”. I didn’t know where he got that sentence (Hilary Clinton, probably). Then I thought that I might be (just might be) also greater than myself. I might have bigger potential than I thought I had had. And so I looked to myself, a 32 year old male, a senior vice president of a large institution, a husband and a father of a baby boy, a son, a moslem, a martial art practitioner, and nothing else!! I wanted to do something that could make difference to others. I wanted to become an agent of change. Then, I thought I should begin another quest to searching the real Me, before I could change others.
People say that opportunity doesn’t come twice. I say opportunity is a creation of our will, perseverance and persistent effort. Finally, in the middle of 2003, I got fellowship from Lee Kuan Yew to study at National University of Singapore and then, later on, to Kennedy School of Government-Harvard University. I just thought, maybe, by getting another degree I would have sufficient knowledge to do what I wanted to do.
After returning from school in 2005, I started my own company with 7 friends who used to be my subordinates. I became the CEO of the company. The company engaged in agribusiness, property and advisory services. We didn’t have enough capital back then, but we managed to create some investment projects.
Sadly, in 2007, I was forced away from the company I established. So I left the company without taking anything. Luckily, I was still the independent Commissioner of a Public Listed Company, so I didn’t have to totally lose my income. Yet, I still had to move my office from a 60 square meter room in a higher rise building in CBD area to a small family car.
I began my salesmanship by selling one product, namely Myself. I began my journey as a mercenary or a soldier of fortune or a negotiator or an advisor, or whatever you want to name it. My offer was simple, a corporate finance and restructuring specialist who was also equipped with extensive knowledge in public sector that would fight for the benefit of the company.
It took me less than a month to get my first client. PT BNI hired me as a senior advisor to the Board of Directors. A month after, 2 medium sized Hedge Funds also hired me as their negotiator in their projects in Indonesia, a pulp and paper company engaged me (and my team) to develop a debt restructuring scheme, and an Oil & Gas processing company asked me to structure project financing scheme for its USD 100 million project.
It took me six months to realize that 3 out of 4 projects that I was in charge of turned out to be a dismal. It is too easy to blame the counterparts that you worked with as the cause of such failures. I can always say that it didn’t work out because those people didn’t follow my advice. By saying such, I thought I could walk away from my moral responsibility.
Later, I came to realize that what had happened could have been my responsibility. Perhaps, I was the only the reason for such failures. Then, I asked myself what my motivation was to take so many jobs in a row. Was it merely because of the money that these people were offering or was it because I wanted to be (sort of) an agent of change? Surprisingly, the answer was the major part of it was to get the money and a small part was to become an agent of change. Perhaps, that was the reason of my failure. So long as I got paid, I didn’t care much about the results of my work. To make it worst, I just realized that I lost my wisdom, the wisdom to know the difference between debate, negotiation and conversation. I partially lost the wisdom of my mind, my heart and my will. I guess, I lost a bigger chunk of Myself again.
In June 2008 I was in the midst of a deep silence. I started to let go everything and began another journey to find Myself again. I didn’t take new jobs, because there was none of which coming to me (except a small retainer from a state owned enterprise). It seemed the universe stood still for me.
In order to fill my days, I met a lot of friends and strangers (who became friends later on) just to have a conversation and to listen to their ideas and problems. Suddenly, before I could detect it I fell in love. I fell in love with life. I fell in love with human beings. So I told my closest confidantes (including my wife) that I wanted to do something for life. I wanted to embrace my love to human beings. I didn’t know how and when I could do something for my love, but I felt I just had to do something.
Two months later, whilst everything was still seemed so abstract and unclear to me, I found myself as a Fellow of a 1 year program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management. I still don’t know whether this situation is the right place for me, but I feel this could be something that may help me reconstructing my objective in life. Despite of all uncertainties, there is one thing that I’m certain with that is, God Willing, the universe has started to work for me, which means I have partially found and reconciled with Myself.
End of Part I