5 Most Valuable Life Lessons from Top CEOs

The experience of writing CEO profiles is a humbling one. (Photo credit: Mine)

EXHAUSTED but relieved and elated.  That’s what I really feel right now. It’s perhaps similar to what a mother or father feels after a newly born baby finally in their arms. A gruelling nine months have passed and now it’s time to unwind a bit and celebrate.

With hindsight, I can sense a great deal of passion spilled into the book. My passion, too.

The project was a blast and came to me without any warning. I was recruited as one of the writers because interviewing and writing [and rewriting, if needed] profiles of more than 30 CEOs in several months with tight deadlines was too overwhelming for one or two writers.

Anyway, here is five hugely valuable life lessons  learned from a number of CEOs I interviewed in person.

Courage to move and start anew

It’s a lesson I discovered when I interviewed Mindaugas Trumpaitis, CEO of PT HM Sampoerna Tbk. He admitted that his success is thanks to his family. His parents allowed him to leave their politically turbulent country, Lithuania, for working overseas. He had roamed Latvia, Switzerland, Finland, Mexico and Ecuador and Peru. Now he also explores Indonesia, making a history with the company he is leading.

Reinvention for improvement

Sometimes we have to let go our current career and be daring enough to take risks and ‘jump to another boat’. That’s what Trumpaitis taught me. He worked as a lecturer at Klapeida University for a decade before he made up his mind to enrich his knowledge and insights and reinvent himself as a businessman. Imagine that, from an academician to a business executive. Quite a move, isn’t it?

Making the most of what you have

Another example of this lesson is Rino Donoseputro’s career journey. The leader of Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia said bluntly he never wanted or dreamed of – even the slightest – that he would someday take the helm as a business leader at a bank. What he wished for was a career as a diplomat, traveling from a country to another. A career of banker, therefore, never crossed his mind. But then destiny led him to another path somehow.  He even described himself as a reluctant to passionate banker.

So if you think your dream is unreachable, think again. What you have now is probably what will eventually make you successful. You just have to find a way to be passionate about it. Don’t do the job just because you need the money [though it really matters in fact] or because you want the pride and prestige of being a part of a cool company or workplace.

In Rino’s case, he managed to show his best and impress his then global CEO Mervin Davis in a taxi trip to the international airport one day in 2002. That’s when he knew his life would never be the same again. He was offered by the CEO to move to London, where the bank’s headquarters was located and worked there as a staffer directly working for the global CEO. So never compromise your quality performance even if you think your job is not the best in the world. Strive for the excellence no matter what. Because that’s how you’ll get noticed by the universe.

Integrity

Paulus Sutisna of DBS Bank Indonesia learned a lot about this when the crisis hit his former workplace, Citibank, in 1997-1998. As a banker, he knew and experienced firsthand the bitterness of Asian financial crisis. That was the right time to learn people’s real characters. Some are deceitful, he discovered. They showed no intention to cooperate with his bank and then got away with the loans. “Some looked very rich but after the crisis, they refused to pay and even avoided us,” he recalled the darkest days in his career. However,  very few still had their last shred of dignity, trying to negotiate their loans with him and his bank, and maintaining good relationships even they could escape and disappear if they wanted to. Then he learned his clients’ characters and that proves to be useful later on.

I see this as a good point. Regardless of the industry we work in, integrity is so important and should never be compromised. It’s the last quality that has the greatest significance other than competence and many others. If one has integrity, anything else in him would be appreciated. But once integrity is fading away, any other factors would fail to be taken into account.

Organization

Get involved in an organization so that you can learn a lot about leadership and humans and how to manage them. All these skills are always useful even if you’re living as a hermit in the middle of a jungle.

Iqbal Latanro of Taspen taught me this. He has always wanted to be actively involved in any organizations since his days at elementary school because he knew that way his leadership and communication skills would grow rapidly.

You may find the more complete narrative of these CEOs’ thoughts inside “Indonesia Most Admirable CEOs 2017”. It is now sold at Periplus, Gramedia and Book and Beyond outlets in Indonesia. (*/)

My Portfolio [as of February 2018]

Here is a collection of my published works in various media, both print and online. Some are written in Indonesian and some others English. They’re chronologically ordered, from most recent to oldest. Click on the titles of article to read further.

February 2018

“Indonesia’s Top Foreign CEOs 2018” Book

With Pieter Daniel Van Zyl of Allianz Utama

With Marc Louette of Sampoerna Agro

December 2017 

Perjalanan 3 Dekade Nurhayati Rahman Lunasi ‘Utang’ La Galigo [Magdalene.co]

November 2017

One of Writers of “Indonesia’s Top CEOs 2017” (Warta Ekonomi)

August 2017

Writer of Art Republik Magazine (3rd edition)


August 2017

Co-facilitator at Social Media Workshop (August 8th, 2017) for Itjen Kemenkes’ public relations division

 

July 2017

A keynote presenter  and facilitator at Social Media Workshop (July 27th, 2017) for Itjen Kemdikbud’s public relations division

 

A keynote presenter  and facilitator at Social Media Workshop (July 27th, 2017) for BPKP public relations division

 

June 2017

Translator of “Ensiklopedi Suku Bangsa Indonesia” by Zulyani Hidayah (funded by LitRI and to be published by Springer, Singapore)

October 2016

Runtuhnya Wibawa Pusat Bahasa

 

September 2016

Penulis, Pajak dan Kesejahteraan [Detik.com]

Mengapa Entrepreneur Perlu Lebih Skeptis Saat Membaca Biografi Orang ‘Sukses’

 

Kenapa Seks Sehat bagi Wanita Tapi Bisa Memperpendek Umur Pria?

August 2016

Jebakan Kuantitas dalam Inkubasi “Start-up”

April 2016

Kintamani Bali Dog (as editor)

 

January 2015

One of authors in “Menemukan Makna, Merayakan Cinta” (Yoga-themed collection of writeups)

October 2014

Writing for YogaInIndonesia.com. (click to read the article)

January 2013

Featured on Tabloid Nova as social media officer of @ciputraway (which I initiated in August 2010)

 

 

Penulis Kelas Bulu

“Tidak bisa tidak. Kamu harus belajar tampil lebih tua,” tegas orang yang bernama Raksasa itu pada saya karena dalam pengamatannya rupa ini tertinggal cukup jauh dari usia kalender saya. Ia kerap menggunakan nama itu untuk membuka percakapan. “Tahukah Anda berat saya dulu 110 kilogram?” begitu kalimat andalannya melenturkan lidah di pertemuan-pertemuan dengan budak-budak korporat yang bermasalah dengan bobot tubuh. Ia berani jamin langsung detik itu pembicaraan mengalir secara alami karena meski namanya begitu, perawakannya sekarang jauh dari gemuk. Tiada bekas-bekas lemak tampak di badannya yang sekarang saya taksir cuma 60-70 kilogram itu. Saya akui ia memang pesilat lidah ulung yang mampu mengemas topik sesepele apapun menjadi menarik.

Kembali pada sarannya tadi yang begitu blak-blakan, saya bereaksi datar saja. Mungkin alis saya sedikit naik karena dahi mengernyit. Bukannya saya tidak tahu. Saya juga diam-diam berpikir sama. Banyak orang lain juga, saya sangat yakin. Tetapi baru orang ini yang berkata terang-terangan.

Lalu ia menceritakan si Marto yang sama-sama sekecil saya. Ia menyarankan Marto yang dulu masih kurus itu untuk memakai jas berlapis busa di kedua bahu, kemeja lengan panjang, dan kaos dalam dalam waktu yang sama. Cara berpakaian yang hangat dan nyaman di gedung berpendingin udara terpusat yang suhunya mirip kutub tetapi neraka buat yang mesti kerja di ruangan bertemperatur semi tropis yang mesin AC-nya kadang bocor dan dikendalikan manual dengan remote control. Pokoknya ia haruskan Marto terkesan mengembang, lebih besar dari sebetulnya. Kalau Marto adonan kue, pria itu juga mungkin akan menggelonggong mulut Marto dengan berliter-liter baking soda. Padahal tempo hari bertemu Marto, saya pikir anak itu lumayan berisi. Jadi apa rahasianya jadi begitu? Saya jadi iri. Atau apakah ia juga diberinya resep menaikkan bobot secepat-cepatnya? Saya makin liar berspekulasi.

Penampilan penting, sangat penting, tandas Raksasa lagi di depan saya. “Nanti apa kata orang kalau saya bilang kamu yang akan nulis? ‘Apa pak? Anak sekecil ini yang nanti nulis? Bisa? Yakin?!!”

Bibir saya bergetar. Kebingungan mau tersenyum kecut atau tertawa. Saya tidak percaya penulis juga mesti memoles citra fisiknya seperti ini. Saya bertanya dalam hati,”Apakah saya keliru masuk ke ruangan ini? Mungkin ini ruang untuk menyaring para model catwalk, bukan penulis.” Tetapi lain daripada dia yang memuntahkan kalimat demi kalimat dengan royalnya, saya telan mentah-mentah gumaman tadi seiring dengan ludah. Saya goyang-goyangkan sepatu, mencoba melepaskan kebingungan tanpa terlihat hendak gila. Padahal sebenarnya saya hendak berkata,”Semau Anda sajalah…”

“Baiklah, Akhlis,” hibur saya pada anak kecil bernama ego yang sedang terisak-isak di suatu sudut di dalam batok kepala,”Anggap saja ini audisi akting dalam sebuah produksi film. Kau harus memerankan penulis yang tinggi besar. Itu lho seperti Ewan McGregor di film ‘Ghost Writer’.”

Kutipan-kutipan Paling Berbobot dari Novel 1Q84 Karya Haruki Murakami (4)

“I am who I am, no matter who or what I am connected with – or not connected with.” – p 900

“But I found that the longer you teach, the more you feel like a total stranger to yourself.”- p 905

“Once you have achieved something so magnificent, you have to be content with it.”- p 909

“Knowledge and ability were tools, not things to show off.” – P914

“Blood had a frighteningly long memory.” – p919

“Ever since she could remember, she had always hated this thing called God. More precisely, she rejected the people and the system that intervened between her and God. For years she had equated those people and that system with God. Hating them meant hating God. (…) They preached about God’s kindness, but preached twice as much about his wrath and intolerance.” – p928

“Writers have to keep on writing if they want to mature, like caterpillars endlessly chewing on leaves.”- p946

“People need routines. It’s like a theme in music. But it also restricts your thoughts and actions and limits your freedom. It structures your priorities and in some cases distorts your logic.” – p 972

“If you do the same things everyone else does, in the same way, then you’re no professional.” – p 973

“There are lots of things ordinary people can do that I can’t. (…) On the other hand, there are a few things I can do that most other people can’t. And I do these few things very, very well. I’m not expecting applause or for people to shower me with coins. But I do need to show the world what I’m capable of.”- p 1005

“Life might just be an absurd, even crude, chain of events and nothing more.” – p 1048

“‘Your father must have really liked his job. Going around collecting NHK subscription fees.’
‘I don’t think it’s a question of liking or disliking it,” Tengo said.
‘Then what?’
‘It was the one thing he was best at.'” – p 1054

“That was his basic way of thinking. Principles and logic didn’t give birth to reality. Reality came first, and the principles and logic followed.”- p1056

“‘Cold or Not, God Is Present,'”- P1090

“If we die today, we do not have to die tomorrow, so let us look to the best in each other.” – p1091

“Good – that’s what’s most important, he thought. Everyone’s death should be mourned. Even if just for a short time.” – p 1096

“A certain amount of ambition helps a person grow.” – p 1098

“But I never count on luck. That’s how I survived all these years.” – p1100

“It’s very difficult to logically explain the illogical.” – p 1104

“The things she most wanted to tell him would lose their meaning the moment she put them into words.” I p 1106

“I’m the one who decides what’s good and what’s bad – and which way we’re headed. And people had better remember that.” p 1107

“Thinking about time only seemed to slow it down.” – p 1114

“If death brings about any resolution, it’s one that only applies to the deceased.”- p1123

“Sometimes our memory betrays us.” – p 1150

Elevator Girl

‎Do you know the feelings when someone – of all people you have encountered in a place this huge and tall you frequent – happens to know a book you are reading? Exactly know the book like you do! That is what exactly what my friend feels today.

He finally found someone who knew the book he is read‎ing is the one read and favorited by the murderer of John Lennon decades ago. And that is not a kind of piece of information anyone knows even for a literature student. So this person is so so erudite, literaturewise. A person who knows and recognizes the fictitious world beyond this mundane, floody and boring real world.

Isn’t it wonderful? Life always surprises us, he told me jovially. I can’t agree more with him.

“Should I fall for this person?” he asked.

That sounds absurd. To fall for a girl who happened to know the book you are reading is quite beyond my ken.

Yet I know if his heart wants it, I told him to simply ignore what I uttered.

He told me again and again how smart this human being seems to be at a glance. She looks more than just a lowly slave of a big corporate. She has got that thing, he explained. What is the “thing”‎ is something he cannot explain further. It is stuck there. Without any clear explanation whatsoever.

Wildly Witty Quotations from "The Catcher in the Rye" (1)

“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” (p11)

“I don’t give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age.” (p 12)

“Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?”
“Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do.” I thought about it for a minute. “But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess.”
“You will,”old Spencer said. “You will, boy. You will when it’s too late.” (p 17-18)

“I mean I’m not going to be a goddam surgeon or a violinist or anything anyway.” (p44)

“He stood there, reading it, and sort of stroking his bare chest and stomach, with this very stupid expression on his face. He was always stroking his stomach or his chest. He was mad about himself.” (p46)

“You always do everything backasswards.” (p46)

“In every school I’ve gone to, all the athletic bastards stick together.” (p49)

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.” (p50)

“You never saw such gore in your life. I had blood all over my mouth and chin and even on my pajamas and bathrobe. It partly scared me and it partly fascinated me. All that blood and all sort of made me look tough.” (p51)

“Almost every time somebody gives me a present and it ends up making me sad.” (p58)

“I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice,”Sleep tight, ya morons!” (p59)

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” (p62)

“He was even more depressing than the room was. He was one of thise bald guys that comb all their hair over from the side to cover up the baldness. I’d rather be bald than do that.” (p68-69)

“Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot. You never know where the hell you are. I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away.” (p70)

“The only trouble is, she is a little too affectionate sometimes. Shek’s very emotional, for a child. She really is. Something else she does, she writes books all the time. Only, she doesn’t finish them.” (p76)

“I’m not kidding, some of these very stupid girls can really knock you out on a dance floor.” (p79)

“You don’t always have to get too sexy to get to know a girl.” (p85)

“We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over.” (p89)

“I certainly like to hear him play, but sometimes you feel like turning his goddam piano over. I think it’s because sometimes when he plays, he sounds like the kind of a guy that won’t talk to you unless you’re a big shot.” (p90)

“People are always ruining things for you.” (p98)

“One of my troubles is, I never care too much when I lose something.” (p100)

“I wasn’t sleepy or anything, but I was feeling sort of lousy. Depressed and all. I almost wished I was dead.” (p101)

“It was against my principles and all, but I was feeling so depressed I didn’t even think. That’s the whole trouble. When you’re feeling depressed, you can’t even think.” (p102)

“The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl – a girl that isn’t a prostitute or anything, I mean – she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it.” (p103)

Lessons from the Book Launch

The coach mentioned, as long as my memory serves right, about this site called future.me. As he told in an exuberant manner on why everyone should visit the site and write down to his own future self, I got a shiver.

“You can write down your own life plans there to your future self. And what matters most is that… y’all will get the plans in your email inbox at the specified time. So if you set it to be sent 10 years from now, you’ll get the email 10 years from now. As simple as that. So if you cannot rach your desired goals, you’ll be so sorry. That means you suck and you must work harder and find the answer as to why you suck in this life,” the coach extolled the undertaking of planning life.

The audience kept silent. They moved nothing. Their eyes might roll in bewilderment. “What this ambitious, seemingly successful and wealthy young man was trying to tell us?”they might think.

I was stunned by this. Do we really have to think that way? Do we need to insult ourselves in the future just because we fail to achieve the objectives in our 10-year, or 20-year, life plans? Some people think we do.

I don’t, however.

I’m not that mad to plan my life in such a way. Not because I don’t have any ambitions in life. Not at all. I do have a list of ambitions. I want to get published a lot. I want to meet great people. I want to write books and anything useful for others. I want to have more freedom in life, making choices and taking responsibilities. I want to have my own family someday. I want to enrich my life with yoga, whether it be teaching or practicing. I want to be happy, ample and free. And the list goes on.

But life doesn’t always go your way. You cannot control life anyhow, no matter how great you are. Life is too powerful to conquer and to be controlled.

All these years, it has dawned on me that being a human being means accepting the fact you’re microscopic cosmic dusts in this infinite universe. Seriously, we in fact almost means nothing. Whether we exist or not, the world keeps going as it has to be. The sun keeps on shining even if your most beloved ones are dead. The Milky Way is still up there even if it’s time for us to leave this world. We’re really a mere complement to this world. Not more.

That said, I arrive to the conclusion that life always offers you failures. But some failures are not real failures. This type of failure leads us to a better life at times. What seems to be bad luck sometimes changes into an unbeaten, hidden path leading us to a higher level of life achievement which you didn’t even plan or never cross your mind before.

So when my future self receives the email in 2025, I might crack a smile and write a satire of it. Because it feels like I read a letter from a childlike version of me. Life so far has taught me how fast humans can change their minds, their beliefs, their spouses, their careers. And chronicling it enables us to track down the development of our foolishness.

I may lose some things in life but it doesn’t mean I’m a total loser. So long as I do my best in life, how can I become a loser?

To the coach, I wish I could say this:”Get a life.”

But thank God I held my sharp tongue. He’s still in his twenties. I hope he learns a lot over time.

Why Tablets Never Attract Me

‎Tablets belong to a clumsy, awkward and outlandish category of gadgets, which is why I cannot care about them less. They are too cumbersome as a mobile device we can use at ease on the go. They attract more people with huge thumbs and fingers, and sadly also more pickpockets and thieves. While you can easily conceal your phone with a 4-5 inch display inside your pockets, phablets (phone-tablet) and tablets are slightly bigger. And it cannot slip smoothly into your trouser’s pockets. Never ever.

Tablets with cellular connection also make you like a dumb caller. I at times see people calling or answering calls on their tablets and I almost giggle when they holler,”Helloo?!” I would say using tablets as a phone is too unfashionable on so many levels.

‎And if you write on daily basis like me, ‎tablets are disastrous tools of writing. A novelist friend gave her tablet a try as a writing tool. She posted it on Facebook. “I’m now trying it!” she announced in a proud tone and ever since she has never bragged about the experience of writing (typing) on a tablet. I am certain she abhorres it to no end after learning how to accurately type words fast with fewer typos. Believe me tablets are not designed for writing. They are more for gazers, window shoppers, consumers, readers.

‎ (Image: GQ Magazine)

Life After the Book Launch

Nothing‎ changes after the book launch took place days ago. The blue boy still gets busy with his dreams, plans and future itinerary while time is floating subtly as usual. He goes to campus, attends classes, and takes notes. Everything a university student usually does.

Or not. I just find out it’s the time when university students take recess between semesters. So that explains why the book launch was on last Saturday.

He works like a slave even on weekends. I don’t even understand why he has to do so in the first place. Get a life, I say it to him but soon I find out it’s I who need the reminder more than he. I work ‎on weekends sometimes, I admit it. But it doesn’t feel like work because my pastime is the same thing I do for a living. I write.

Speaking of the intensity of my love of writing, I almost throw up when I want to declare: “Writing is my spouse”. That sounds a little bit too much for a normal guy. I then sit and touch my forehead lightly and mumble,”Gosh! Maybe I’m not.” I should see a psychiatrist perhaps. This is not good for my well being. Blame it all on Elizabeth Gilbert and her wildly inspiring TED Talk about writing serving as home. But as I realize how easy spouses can get divorced these days, I change my mind. I don’t want to marry writing.

The last time I wrote a long and more intellect-demanding piece on weekend, a silly and curly old spinster warned,”You shall not write too much. Your feeble mind can get tired and that affects your work quality.” And my everyday work is in fact writing. So what’s the point of the heed? I dump the ridiculous piece of advice instantly. She might be out of her mind. Needless to say.

The privilege of being young and healthy is you can do anything you want until you almost kill yourself from extreme fatigue. But who cares? The blue boy keeps on toiling like a bull even though his mother shrieks,”Where are you going to go again?!!” She gets frantic of course. The blue boy just got home and he refuses to lock the gate, saying:”Don’t lock it. I’ll go out in a minute.” The clock strikes 9.30 pm. Luckily no curfew is in effect in the house.

Life is still hard even for a published writer like the blue boy, who is still 18. But at the very least, he is already selling his maiden 143-page book‎. He’s got something tangible to show off.

I frown to find the blue boy not having a personal site or‎ a Facebook page for himself. He’s the brand right now. He has to market his book and his skills as an author. A published one! No one can deny that. And he has managed to separate himself from a zillion of unpublished hopefuls like me. He has a product to sell but too bad he’s not aware of it.

The next effort needed to make his book best-selling in many bookstores‎ is making sure he can sell with whatever marketing tools and strategies available for free or applicable at very low cost. And he seems to be disinterested when I mention about Facebook or social media sites other than Twitter. He needs a profesional help for this. Badly need one.

‎All he needs now is writing a blog to promote his book and tweet like crazy to build a bigger audience.

The blue boy doesn’t need it, so it may seem. The mentor has done it all for him. ‎Definitely he wants to show people that he succeeded as a mentor of a fledgling young writer.

I suppose the mentor will bring and obviously sell the books to every participant of his trainings and public talks or whatever event he holds, co-holds or attends.

‎The books are then brought and sent to several cities in Indonesia. The mentor may promise the blue boy a greater channel of distribution if he agreed to write under his guidance. And boy, did the mentor have it.

The Book Launch Finale

bookI step into the room, hoping to see a huge number of audience. They could be clapping now or making a round applause after a considerably inspiring talk or ultra meaningful presentation.

I feel like I came into a giant gut of a whale. And this whale is dying of hunger, which is why almost nothing is in the stomach.

The room seems too big or there are too few people inside. It could be because of both. I mumble to myself, “They might’ve picked a smaller room for this ‎so as to make it look more packed as a venue.” But the show must go on.

In a non-chalant manner, I pick my seat. I hate sitting in the rear row like a lazy university student I’ve always hated throughout my shortlived teaching career and decide to sit in the penultimate row. A seat ‎looks unoccupied next to a girl, as if it were trying to lure me into sitting on it. Without trying to be polite, I just sit. She might have a friend sitting there but why do I have to bother asking? Chances are she is younger than me and I’m a haughty, self-centered old jerk who attends an event for the sake of searching writing ideas. I assert my rights to be rude to younger people. That’s the privilege of being older, I’m sure.

It’s all green here. And the audience is so so quiet like a collection of sitting manequins. Most of them are young girls wearing hijabs, but all the speakers in front are males with almost all of them growing beards.‎ You know who they are typically like. I have a single or two strands of beard and that’s more than enough to prove I’m male without costing me much money to buy razors or any facial hair removal methods on a weekly or, if you’re Arab, daily basis.

I know no one in the room. I guess they’re all just under my age. A lot younger even. But thanks to the youthful looks and outfits I’m sporting, no one notices.

I’ve known this type of men. This one falls into this group of activists on campuses. He wears a hoodie jacket, speaking in a bold manner just like a trainer because he is. He says a lot about the book industry. He mentions a whopping sum of money, 25 millions for writing a book he ghostwrites. On another occasion, I found out he has a car. Brio car, which a lot resembles his name. So I suppose he leverages his book writing service by training more hopefuls to be writers themselves. Yes, he promises anyone to be an author, a published one, not just an intermittent blogger well known inside your social circles. He’s got the connections. Celebrities, he knows some of them. Thanks to his mentor anyway.

It is totally one of my life missions; becoming a published author. A well-fed author. A financially independent writer.‎ Whatever it is to earn a living with my writing skills because it frees me from talking too much with people or any living things that can judge or comment about how much I should ideally weigh or what I seriously need to fix in my life. That’s the best thing in any writing professions. I love being paid to be left alone, working and making lots of money.

He later details more about the joy of being a writer. “It’s a super lucrative business that makes you filthy rich,” he said. Probably it holds true about J.K. Rowling but I feel sorry for most of writers who still have to struggle for years or ever to feed themselves.‎ He tactfully excluded the miserable stories of Indonesian writers like N. H. Dini who leads a financially deprived life in Central Java despite having published many novels, and a prolific moslem author Pipiet Senja, who in her 60’s lost her house to a disease. She is really sick and to get rid of the illness, she had to sell her small brick house. Life’s a total bitch for most living writers out there, you know. And he sugarcoated this all.

He says he’s written 7 books and ghostwritten 3 books. Very productive, I should say. I imagine he’s busily hiding in his bachelor pad with a laptop on days and nights in search of coherent and cohesive words to publish.

No one needs talents to be a writer, he claims, all you need is consistency! To a certain extent, I know it’s true and wrong at the very same time. With all the competition in the publishing industry right now, you also need creativity ‎and insanity to stand out, to impress potential readers.

Content and context, the two are crucial to our master trainer cum professional published author. Content is stuff you think useful for others; context is how you serve it to people you think will enjoy the benefits of your stuff. In other words, context is the packaging. Sort of thing.

The blue boy stands up. It’s now his turn to speak up. And he does speak like a lion. It’s hard to believe a mouth that small can speak that loudly. He reminds me of myself during my first class back then. But my audience was fiercer. Some of them were morons who ‎took another class after flunking the prior class in yesteryear’s semester. That was a difficult phase I had gone through so successfully. The blue boy is a lot luckier.

The atmosphere truly goes odd when the blue boy narrates a clamshell story. That’s the time when he shouts like a small boy asking for mercy. It makes me question him:Is it a book launch or theatrical performance?! I giggle impishly like a leprechaun.

Processes matter. My goodness, can’t we have enough with this? Results are what people want to see. You suck when things go wrong and people don’t forgive your failures. People just don’t. They blame you, they crush you for being a loser certainly.

And here comes the drill:What do you want to be in 10 years? The blue boy – who cowrites the book with the master trainer – asks the audience. His voice goes way up to the ceiling of the hall but fails to reach the eardrums of audience. No one answers. I can understand. They want to be successful writers, not speakers. So they don’t feel like they’re obliged to open mouth. They will write instead. Just like me, who silently follows how the discussion goes and takes notes on my offline phone.

‎It’s self-sabotage which is mostly the culprit of our failure, the blue boy utters. To convince us, they play a footage of a team of American Football players training like medieval African slaves. And the blue boy begins explaining while the footage is being played. I really want to scream,”Why don’t you just wait while we watch the brief movie and as the screening is done, you can resume explaining?!” He refuses to shut up before the movie is done. So we have to listen to both his voice and audio of the footage simultaneously. Very neatly done to torture our ears, young man!

The sinister sister makes a harsh comment on the secretively planned sudden appearance of the blue boy’s mother and herself,”It doesn’t seem like a surprise. So dull and ordinary.” She is a sort of sister you wish to disown at some point in your life. The one that makes you lament,”Maybe my whole life is a lot better without her being born.” However, life is not that simple.

So he brags about how he can write 50 pages a day, and fasting all day long in the process. While we’re at it, I remember the stamina of writing of Jonathan Franzen. He admits he can’t write 8 hours a day like a toil. Even 6 hours is already fatiguing for him nowadays. He touches on the issue of age (he’s not young anymore) and hence he has fewer things to prove in life. So when the master trainer tells us the need to push to the highest point of our potential, I simply think,”Way to go, mr Superwriter!” Well, you can’t write that way every day. It’s not a sustainable way of work.

The book signage starts right after the talks end. Only two people throw questions. Impressive, considering the number of engaged audience. I’m obviously excluded from the crowd. Maybe it’s only 10 people or so and the rest of the unsold books are brought back home. ‎The sinister sister and her mother and I go home right after that.

In the taxi, I am wondering how my first book launch will go. Maybe the historical moment would involve a million viewers, so I imagine. I waver, maybe I don’t need the stellar height of fame. There’ll be too much responsibility for my readers’ satisfaction. I can’t imagine having stalks or die-hard fans. Privacy always comes first, J. D. Salinger teaches us so.

All I can imagine is people gathering to talk about my books. I want them to create dialogs because words alone don’t bring anything but entertainment.

All I need is the happiness of being able to share what I have through writing. So to answer the question “What do you want to be in 10 years?”, I’d say I want to be a happy writer. Just be happy and be able to write and make a decent living in the process. Not too skimpy, not too much. Only enough.