Ta Panta Rhei Kai Ouden Menei

Earlier this month a dear dear friend of mine called. Without wasting time, Dipo started a passionate monologue on the prospects of a business idea that we once brainstormed about during our college years. Mind you, I haven’t met and heard from this guy for months and this is this is his idea of saying hello. Of course, as all his friends know, this big man was never the one for small talk.

I was in awe of him since the first I met him. This guy was a genius, but one of the most down to earth geniuses I’ve ever met. He was busy but always had time for his friends. He was an athlete with physical attributes I’ve always struggled to catch up with. He was a charmer, and successfully swept the most beautiful girl on campus off her feet (I have met people 3 years his junior, and countless seniors, who are still envious of him for this). From what I heard, he turned out to be one of the best fathers in the world.

…..

The business idea we talked about was garbage (No seriously, the business idea was waste-management-related). He talked about how his current job at a multi-national oil company has brought him closer to the business idea we hatched a few years back and about a niche he thinks we could exploit. As always, when he talks, I listen and take notes. This time I took lots of notes.

I’m amazed at how he has kept the passion to pursue his dreams consistently high, although I could sense in his voice that he thinks he has delayed taking action for too long. Sometimes I’m convinced that the reason he procrastinates is to prove that he could finish any task, no matter how daunting, faster than us mere mortals. Although we have always been acute procrastinators, we were never the ones to let go of a precious idea. It’s a shame that he didn’t get to see this idea come to fruition.

…..

Dipo, you have been a great friend, one of the best there ever was. I, no, WE will make sure your ideas and passion live beyond the regretful car crash that painfully took you away from us. Friends for life; be it this life or the one after.

In memory of Dipo Adriansyah, a dear friend. 

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A Perspective on Life

Are you one of those people who hasn’t achieved their dreams? Are you in a different place then where you imagined to be 5 years ago? CONGRATULATIONS, you are human. As human beings, our plans almost never work the way they’re supposed to (even highly-disciplined military men will say the same about their plans). In fact, the odds of us actually achieving our exact goals are very slim.

To put this in perspective let us observe the humble game of chess. It’s a simple game with 32 pieces which have pre-determined moves, and 64 squares for these pieces to land on. Don’t let these numbers deceive you though, because there are approximately 10 to the power of 120 (that’s the number one followed by 120 zeroes) possible ways a game of chess could be played out!

Now let’s get back to this game we all play called life. With millions of pieces with millions of possible moves to make on millions of squares there is infinity of ways your life could be played out. Statistically speaking, the probability of your life going according to plan is one per infinity!

However minuscule, there is always the possibility of your dream coming true and this is what you have to always cling on to! But now that you know how small the probability of that being achieved really is, don’t hit your head against the wall whenever you fall off-track or face setbacks. Instead, remember this: there are 10^120 ways to win a game of chess and there are infinity of ways to win the game of life! Game on everyone!

When Economists Presents… (rant)

One thing that caught my attention during an economic outlook seminar this morning was how several economists made their presentations. First of all, they waayyy exceeded their allocated time to talk. Second, they had the compelling urge to put in every single economic fact in their presentation and elaborate each and every one of them. Third, they are indecisive and inconclusive. There’s always additional data to contradict their previous conclusions. In the end, what the audience got was 20+ minutes of data interpretation with no apparent conclusion and followup suggestions. Don’t get me wrong, (good) economists are smart people. This is probably the reason why they have so (or should it be, too) much to say in a presentation. They probably need to tone down their level of intelligence to actually communicate with us mere mortals. An idea: the simple way to do this is to start with a conclusion and argue with supporting relevant facts. This will save everyone’s time.

The Death of Carbon Credits

I spent the last week attending the Renewable Energy World -Asia- conference to network and gain insights to the world of renewables. The most depressing part of the conference was probably during the Carbon Credits panel. The panelists were a carbon credit broker, a consultant and a producer.

To cut the story short, with a bleak outlook of the world post-Kyoto 2012, there is no future for the world of Carbon Credits. Brokers are basically halting their issuance of new Carbon Credits, consultants are just focusing on getting the newly registered credits to the market before the end of 2012 and producers are idly watching their stream of revenue vaporize.

If no agreement is met before 2013, the world will see many renewable energy projects stop, specifically ones that aren’t profitable without the issuance of carbon credits. One audience member summed it up more elegantly by addressing to the panelists: “you guys better start doing something or else you’ll be out of a job”.

Dinner With The Mob

During a very delicious crab dinner, my counterpart received a phone call. After listening intently, his right hand pressing the phone to his ear and his left hand holding a crab cutter, he said the exact words with a chilling calm:

Whack ‘em. Do whatever it takes to get our trucks out of there.

He then turned off his phone, looked at my visibly tense face and asked “Can I get you more crab?”

Half Corrupt, All Stupid

In a meeting with one local official from a region where, myth has is, people eat dog soup for dinner, I bumped into a very awkward situation. This is my first time meeting the official and I started off with the usual chit-chat about the weather. My main objective was to negotiate a permit extension for a business in this guy’s jurisdiction. As per usual, a certain amount of “administration fees” are required to ensure the delivery of the extended permit and again as per usual, I have had my people talk with his people to find out how much the “fees” are.

When I was about to give him the money, he refused and said it wasn’t enough. He demanded more. I told him that I received the information from his people and that, if he still thought it was not enough, he could tell me what the number should be. Even after frank and embarrassing insistence from my part, he didn’t give me his number. So what we have here is a corrupt official who won’t accept money, who kept on implying he wanted the money, but did not tell me how much he wanted. Awkward.

The official then rambled on about how people my age shouldn’t have gone through the corrupt regime his generation has gone through (but that didn’t stop the hypocritical bastard from extorting me!). Needless to say, one of the most awkward meetings of my life ended after 2 hours of conversational nothings and awkward gestures.

Not long after the meeting, the official called one of my people and asked why the negotiation was led by a person so young (me). Apparently, the reason he did not want to say the number was because he wanted to talk to a more “senior” person in the company. My guy then went on to explain our company’s structure and that it couldn’t get any more senior than that. Having been briefed, the official said that he finally understood and quickly blurted out his number: an astronomical five-fold my initial budget.

Inspiration is Everywhere

This morning I got my breath taken away. No, it wasn’t because of my morning jogging session (although, at some points the jog did leave me figuratively breathless). The culprit was dance. To be precise, it was the LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers) performance in TED.

In this video I saw how human beings could move moves I never even imagined anatomically possible. They were krumping, breaking, popping and locking and probably doing every other single dance style that exists. And they moved with passion..oh the passion.. you can just feel the shivers running down your spine. Their dancing was inspired.

Dancing with a purpose

This inspired act can only be achieved when done with a higher purpose in mind. As an old story goes;

On a road somewhere, three men were making bricks. They were asked what they were doing.

One said, “I earn a living”

One said, “I make bricks”

One said, “I help build castles”

They have a very profound philosophical concept behind their dance moves. One of them said that the dancing was done in “another level”. One says that every move he does has a purpose. Another creates a ball of energy and manipulates it to assist him in his dance. One even has the aspiration to make people question the reality of what their seeing when he dances. The group as a whole believes that dance can have a transformative effect on the world. That dance can change the world!

Out there, there are people doing ordinary things extraordinarily for a purpose bigger than themselves. They can take the simplest act of moving their body and turn it into a show of art that lifts everyone’s spirits. They have made the world a better place to live in.

They are building castles…let’s do the same.

A Nation of Optimists

Indonesia’s dire political situation has brought out a lot in us. Reactions that people portray in response to this case vary from extreme to extreme. Most of the reactions lead down a pathetic path; a path of self degradation which, eventually, leads to inferiority complex.

Viral pessimism is spreading uncontrollably throughout all social settings in various regions of the nation. The scary thing is that it is highly contagious. This could probably be a product of years of disappointment on how the nation is run; like how bullies run a playground, some people say. This is probably one of the lowest points in our country’s morale throughout history.

There used to be the days (so I’ve heard) when people from all walks of life would gather around and plan attacks to liberate the nation. Under very very very dire circumstances, they would seize every chance they could to hit back on their oppressors.  Merdeka atau Mati was their war cry. And, oh boy, Merdeka atau Mati they did.

I’m not suggesting we find something (or someone) to have war against. I’m saying that we should make war with our pessimistic selves. Everyone knows that we’re in a slump and even a toddler can complain they have it worst; what we need is people that, despite evidence to the contrary, genuinely believe we could turn things around.

The easiest way to start is to stop associating Indonesia and it’s people with bad things. I can’t believe how Indonesians say bad things about their country. See what I just did there? Don’t do it.  This simple act doesn’t just “re-wire” your brain to think in a more positive light, it also helps the people you’re communicating with do that.

You could also start disassociating yourself with the pessimists. Trust me, you won’t lose anything. You’re probably already fed up being around them in the first place. You will then have room in your life to be around more light hearted and optimistic people. This is the group you want to be in, the group that will help sustain you through your struggles.

I believe that these actions alone can change the way you think and live. The best part about it is that optimism is highly contagious if backed by a lot of passion. And once it reaches a critical mass,  our war cries will be heard all around the world.

Big Break

I was watching a rerun of the latest American Idol, it was the final-24 episode, and noticed something; before taking the long walk to meet the judges, almost every contestant said that it was their “life defining moment”; it was the “big break” that will change the course of their lives forever.

I’ve personally felt the same feeling every time a major event happened, such as; when I set up my first business, when I had to close a business for the first time, when I won my first competition and so on. It’s true that these events were stepping stones for a bigger event in the future, but aren’t all events merely a stepping stone to something?

Come to think of it, if every single moment of your life adds up and leads you to that one particular “life defining moment”, shouldn’t we treat every moment as “life defining”?

What I have come to realize is that a “big break” opportunity doesn’t just come out of the blue. It comes from the small events that precede it. Sure, Adam Lambert became super famous after his “big break” in last year’s American Idol (I still think that Adam should have won, not Kris) , but this wouldn’t have happened without him practicing his vocal skills and showmanship throughout the years. If he waited on a “big break” without doing anything about the small ones, he wouldn’t get one.

This newfound understanding was like a big slap to my face. All this time people keep talking about waiting for their “big break” to come (but never did). We should stop waiting for our “big break”  and instead focus on tackling the small (but equally important) breaks. Who knows what wonders would all of us have achieved if we had realized this and put the knowledge to good use…

Life As a Lazy Person

I’m as lazy as a person can be. My mother has been telling me this since I was a little boy. In response, I tell my parents that I inherited my laziness genetically (“so don’t complain, Mum”). I also know personally a lot of lazy people. These people love to do nothing. Besides, what is not to like about spending the whole day at home doing nothing?

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