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    Measuring Success.

    Approximately 6 days ago, I was having quite an intense interview for my scholarship application. I wasn’t sure if it went well, 70% side of me thinking that I messed it up. Twenty minutes was like a marathon, I find it hard to deliver all my thoughts. To be honest I was quite shocked when one of the Professor (interviewer) asked me this: “You know that statistically, only 1 out of 3000 start-ups succeed. Many start-up fail. What will you do to avoid that? Or how do you avoid that?”

    FYI, I was applying for a course that specialized in Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. Looking at my previous background and my interest, I was given some questions related to entrepreneurship and start-up.

    At that minute, I can’t lie that I was a bit startled by the question. I was trying hard to understand where this question may lead to while the other part of my brain thinking on how to answer it. The second he stopped speaking, deep inside I was hoping that he will actually elaborate his questions so I can still have more seconds to prepare for the best answer. Turns out I didn’t give a straight answer, instead I was bluntly replying by saying that the question was quite tough to answer.

    However, he kept asking me for the second time. I felt like the question was urgently demanded to be answered. I can’t hide my feeling and I remember before I was interviewed, the Chair Panel always remind us to be honest. “Honesty is the best policy”. So then at that time, I repeated my answer to the Panels that the question was quite hard to answer since I am not possessing sufficient skills to give such advice on how to not fail, given the circumstances that I have yet learn related subjects that I am about to dive deep into, and I also don’t consider myself as a start-up expert. That is exactly why I want to learn and study. Because I want to succeed.

    I forget how he responded to my second answer. Did he pass on me? Did he think I am not capable? Did he feels like I’m not a candidate who possess a potential to succeed? I barely remember it at all. The minutes after that I was concentrating on how to answer the next and the next questions since time is very short for a deep interview that I was apologizing to them in the end that I might take up too much of their time by listening to me (I feel like it was more than 20’). I know it is strange and not appropriate but there you got me. I can’t lie.

    As soon as I went out of the room, I was having a nervous breakdown. I was working so hard not to let that intense morning ruined my whole day that I went straight to the cinema to watch Dunkirk afterward (this is not the best idea, the movie was fantastic but you can’t relax -_-”). The next morning I wake up, that question was still hanging on my head. The next, next and next morning, when I took a shower, when I was on my way on the Gojek (I seriously didn’t care of the road at all that I was ‘nyasar’ couple times), sometimes when I work and before I went to bed,  I kept asking myself: “what is failure? What is success, really? Is it profit? Is it fame? Is it prosperity of the people who work with us? Is it tons of customers?” Because I heard and read my articles about start-up and enterprises that sometimes it took five years to actually gaining profit since the Launch for the CEO can give himself a decent salary.

    This is what I found problematic. Many start-ups and enterprises (even company or NGO) wasn’t built in a single day. I don’t believe in success without failure (maybe only Elon Musk do). This is what I believe why MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is necessary before actually launching a real product so that the founder can understand whether or not his invention works on customer, or even needed by customer. Because most first product fails.

    Before SONY was internationally acknowledge as one of the digital electronics powerhouse, founder Akio Morita suffered big failure by selling rice cooker that burned rice more than it cooks. It is said as a ‘primitive invention’.  Before AQUA becomes one of the go-to product for daily usage water, Pak Tirto’s product were rejected by Indonesian customers. It only after 10 years that Indonesian market finally began to accept its product, even though the profit still small. Now, AQUA becomes one of the best-selling water company in the world!  Airbnb were also rejected by numerous Silicon Valley investors before it now valued at $25.5 Billion, just behind Xiaomi Corp and Uber.

    Now think about this: Do we conclude that those start-ups/enterprises fail because they were rejected by the customer? Do we conclude that they fail because no VC will fund them? Do we conclude that they fail because their products fail? If we truly believe in that failure, then perhaps we never see those company grows until now.

    You see, success is moving from a failure to another failure. This is repeated in a fast-paced sequence until finally they find a right formula, the right customer, or the right momentum. Failing fast is the key to lean. I bet the rules not only applied to any start-up, SMEs, or NGO. Even a single individual invention were going through hundreds of failure (I’m sure everyone know by heart on how Thomas Alva Edison fail for almost thousands time before founding an electric lamp).

    Failure can happen in many ways to anybody. Most of the times it is not because of the absence of strategic plan or hard work on execution. Sometimes it is about time the customer will see. Sometimes it is just there weren’t enough people who understand the matter so we need to learn more. Sometimes, failure is just unavoidable in order to finally create something. Sometimes, it is something beyond our control that even it happened out of expectation.

    I remembered two months ago, I was planning to launch this new hijab (head-scarf) product to the market right before Ramadan. I was finding this very nice fabric and embroidery that I rarely saw in many online fashion store. I planned to create something new with the fabric and launch it on Ramadan season while it is the peak season for every Muslim girls to buy hijab. Everything was planned. I got the best tailor and fabric with me with affordable price. I can get a nice profit especially that I will join a lot of bazaar with hundreds of crowd visiting daily. I was all positive until one day, troubles come without me anticipating it.

    I was losing quite amount of hijab on the delivery process. The delivery man didn’t realize that the scarfs were not packed well so some of them were gone. Not only that, I was also cheated by the guy who offer us a booth spot on the D day. Turns out he was faking himself as an officials. I didn’t expect this happening since I was referred to him by a dear friend who is also an entrepreneur that I trust her very much. At that time I was all mad and shocked. I was already short on product now I can’t sell it?! “This must not be happening…!” I said to myself. I should find a way. I didn’t want to stop there because then the story will end just where I fail.

    Long story short, I am fortunate that my co-founder is also on the same page with me and we managed to look for a solution every single day. We were fortunate that we found many good people who helps us to find another booth spot and share it with us (we also have a better deal than the previous one). Even though the plan has changed a lot, I still gained profit and gave my cousins a nice ‘angpao lebaran’ in the end of the season.

    So if I were asked a similar question on how to avoid failure, perhaps I would say that failure is unavoidable. You can avoid it by doing necessary steps, thoughtful planning and solid team for sure but even if it happens one day, it is not there to avoid. It is there to lead us to prepare for the right strategy. It is there to teach us a lesson we need to learn by facing it. I guess that is why it is essential for every wannabe entrepreneurs to start as soon as possible so they can understand how business work for them. Now that I’m saying it, I sound like a motivator -__-”

    But seriously though. I can’t think of a better way to understand success in another way, rather than on how much problems we have solved. How much failures we have faced and fix. Even if it’s the impossible one. Although it does not look like a sound and convincing answer for an interview, I strongly believe that in my heart. That’s all that matters, right? ***

    Feature image: Sadhguru.org

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    Life lesson, Online Shop, Personal Development

    Kenapa Saya Jualan Online?

    Believe it or not, ide buat jualan itu sebenernya lahir di masa-masa susah saya dan temen saya. Saat itu sekitar pertengahan tahun, saya mengalami krismon ala-ala, dimana ada kejadian tak terduga di tempat saya bekerja yang menyebabkan saya harus pintar-pintar ngelola uang pribadi buat sementara waktu sampai kondisi kembali stabil. Begitupun teman saya, yang saat itu sedang kesulitan untuk membiayai kebutuhan mendesak keluarganya.

    Kondisi kami benar-benar bisa dibilang kurang dari pas-pasan, bahkan saya sempat minjam uang kesana sini, supaya bisa tetap bertahan hidup di bulan-bulan tersebut dan mempertahankan supaya tabungan saya gak benar-benar kosong kalau-kalau ada kebutuhan tak terduga. Saya pun gak berani ngomong ke ortu, karena beban banget, udah merantau dari rumah bukannya bawa rezeki, malah ngerepotin. Asli, kalau inget momen-momen itu, saya suka bingung kenapa pada akhirnya saya bisa bertahan. Ya mungkin bersabar, karena ini ujian adalah kuncinya 😀

    Di titik itulah, saya dan teman yang saat ini menjadi sahabat dan partner bisnis saya kemudian berpikir. Menggantungkan diri kita sama orang lain itu ternyata gak enak. Ruang gerak kita terbatas. Ruang pengembangan diri dan kesejahteraan kita juga bergantung oleh apresiasi yang diberikan tempat kita bekerja. Kalau bagus ya syukur kalau engga, ya ngelus dada aja deh sambil bergumam, “mohon bersabar…ini ujian” hehehe.

    Di tengah kepenatan itu, di sela-sela sesenggukkan dan sakit kepala saat kita diterjang badai kehidupan itulah, tiba-tiba muncul ide menarik – walau kalau dipikir pikir lagi, agak gila juga sih: jualan. Yup, saat itulah saya dan teman saya nekad mengeluarkan sisa uang tabungan kami dan beberapa rejeki tambahan dari orang-orang terdekat untuk diinvestasikan pada sebuah ketidakpastian. Saya garis bawahi: KETIDAKPASTIAN.

    Dipikir pikir, dulu itu saya dongdong juga sih. Sisa duit bukannya dimanfaatin buat jaga-jaga, tapi malah saya ‘korbankan’ buat sesuatu hal yang gak jelas apakah bisa mendatangkan return berlipat ganda ala-ala kangjeng dimas yang hits itu. Saya dan teman saya memang pernah jualan, tapi pengalaman dan pengetahuan kami minim banget khususnya jualan online. Kefokusan kami pada bidang kerja kami masing-masing membuat kami tidak seberapa mendalami dunia online selling dan online marketing. Jadi keputusan kami saat itu memang idealismenya bagus, tapi sebetulnya mental nekad, hahaha.

    Tapi di balik itu semua, saya dan teman saya sama sekali tidak pernah menyesali keputusan gila kami. Walaupun sekarang masih berjuang buat BEP, tapi sedikit demi sedikit, kami berkembang. Kebetulan usaha kami di bidang fashion, jadinya kami sekarang tahu jenis-jenis kain apa aja, cara jahit itu gimana aja (walau masih dangkal juga sih ilmunya), desain itu dikatakan bagus kalau gimana, bahan yang enak dipakai dan jadi favorit itu kayak apa, saluran distribusi online itu kayak gimana, hit and run itu apa, wah banyak lah. Iya, saya tahu pasti gak usah jualan juga kita bisa googling sih namanya juga pengetahuan. Tapi disini saya ingin berbicara bahwa keterbatasan bukan jadi alasan bagi kita buat gak bergerak.

    Saat itu saya dan teman saya yang kebetulan saya kagumi karena orangnya gak plin plan, sejujurnya gak banyak mikir ini itu. Gak mikir kalau rugi gimana, kalau gagal gimana. Mungkin karena kondisi kita agak memprihatinkan saat itu, kita jadi mikir, “halah, what’s worse than this sih? Aint we now facing failures anyways, so what?”, gitu. Mikirnya udah lah usaha dulu aja, bodo amat hasilnya nanti gimana, yang penting harus mulai dulu. Nanti pasti kita belajar sambil jalan. Pasti bisa. Justru kalau mikirnya negatif terus, gak mulai-mulai dan malah nambah stress…gak akan pernah berhasil kan.

    Di awal perjalanan dengan berbekal wejangan mbah google, akhirnya kita pelesir ke pasar-pasar dan mall-mall besar di Jakarta dan sekitarnya. Saya inget banget, bolak balik milih baju di Tanah Abang sampe encok, sampe punggung kaku dan sempet gak bisa gerak seharian (ketauan jarang olahraga wkwk). Temen saya sampe meriang panas dingin gara-gara kecapekan dari subuh sampe maghrib keliling-keliling pasar dan mall. Ngeliatin toko per toko (yang sampe sekarang belum khatam juga saking banyaknya). Kita berangkat ke Thamcit itu setelah adzan subuh berkumandang lohhh, terus baru balik setelah lampu toko pada dimatiin karena mau tutup hahaha.

    Dengan bekal insting seni dan kepekaan fesyen yang masih harus dikembangkan ini, kita observasi tiap bahan, tiap baju satu-satu. Kita cari mana yang paling murah tapi kualitasnya top one (bukan oli yah :P). Kita cari yang masih affordable buat middle class, tapi selera ala-ala high class. Dan kita pun nawar. Dan kita beli. Dan ternyata, harganya kemahalan yang akhirnya susah dijual 😀

    Apa kami menyesal? Sama sekali enggak.

    Saat kami ngerasa kami mungkin akan gagal, justru kami jadi makin terpacu. Teman saya ngotot banget pengen nyari tangan pertama distributornya biar dapet harga yang murah. Saya juga jadi mikir, gimana ya caranya baju yang kemahalan ini bisa dipasarin dengan menarik. Alhasil, kita jadi sering ngepoin Instagramnya para selebgram dan belajar fotografi.

    Terus modelnya siapa? Karena modal masih minim, saya mengorbankan citra saya buat jadi model olshop sendiri. Saya dan temen saya jadi belajar make up walaupun masih sangat amatiran dan belum bisa bikin pipi bakpao saya jadi tirus kayak Angelina Jolie. Susah tjuuuyy contouring itu haha….!!!! Pengennya tirus, malah jadinya HORROR kayak Valak wkwk.

    Kameranya? Pake kamera HP dan kadang-kadang pinjem temen yang punya kamera bagus. Foto di taman pinggir jalan yang kadang-kadang diliatin mas-mas tukang bangunan dan penjual tahu gejrot. Sesekali disiulin orang. Duh Gusti….

    Kalau ingat pengalaman awal-awal saya buka usaha, mungkin lebih banyak deritanya daripada senangnya. Banyak capeknya daripada leyeh-leyehnya, walaupun sekarang udah pake teknologi online teteuup yah sisss….mesti USAHA. Bangun platform online juga gak gampang, saya juga sampe sekarang masih berjuang. Tapi jujur, saya belajar banyak dari jualan ini dan saya ingin terus belajar banyak!

    Siapapun yang pernah mengalami dinamika sebagai seorang entrepreneur pastinya tahu susahnya cari duit itu gimana. Susahnya nyari customer itu gimana. Susahnya bangun brand itu gimana. Kalau udah punya karyawan, susahnya nyari karyawan yang bagus, mempertahankan, dan menjamin kesejahterannya kayak gimana. Semakin sering berinteraksi dengan entrepreneur-entrepreneur baik dari level start-up yang udah maju maupun masih berkemabng (dimana kebetulan saya juga berkecimpung di dunia tersebut di kantor tempat saya bekerja), sampe level ibuk-ibuk jualan gamis, saya semakin banyak belajar dan terinspirasi. Saya berani menyimpulkan: siapapun yang pernah jadi entrepreneur, mentalnya, karakternya, dan khususnya kemampuan decision makingnya, pasti terlatih. Dan untuk itu, saya dan teman saya gak pernah menyesal mengambil jalan ini, meskipun kami harus tergopoh-gopoh dan pinter-pinter memanfaatkan waktu di luar jam produktif kantor kita masing-masing.

    Alhamdulillah, setelah sekitar hampir setengah tahun kami berikhtiar, sedikit demi sedikit modal kami berputar. Masih jauh lah dari BEP, tapi insha Allah saya yakin, kami pasti bisa. Walaupun awalnya customer dikit, kita syukuri aja. Gak ada yang bisa mengalahkan kebahagiaan saat customer berkata kepada kami bahwa produk kami bagus dan memuaskan mereka! Rasanya tuh seneng banget, mood seharian itu bisa segar walaupun kerjaan banyak. Saya juga seneng banget waktu pertama kali dapet orderan dari luar pulau, dari orang yang ngepoin instagram kami dan langsung pesen lebih dari satu. Udah gitu beliau juga seneng banget sama produknya. Duhh gak tergantikan deh rasa bahagianya.

    Dari sana, saya berpikir ternyata bener juga ya kata orang, “never chase money, it will comes to you if you are willing to give your heart to your works”. Bener banget. Dan ternyata kebahagiaan itu bukan datang dari uang, tapi dari manfaat yang bisa kita berikan kepada customer, maupun orang-orang yang terkena dampak dari usaha kita.

    Saya belum sukses, duh masih jauh lah sama sukses mah, tapi semoga..semoga… sedikit pengalaman ini bisa jadi pengingat saya kalau lagi down, semoga suatu saat saya akan nulis pengalaman-pengalaman yang lebih membahagiakan. Semoga, suatu saat usaha kami membawa berkah dan manfaat bagi lebih banyak orang. Karena seperti kata Rasulullah SAW, “sebaik-baik manusia adalah yang dapat memberikan banyak manfaat bagi sesamanya”.

    Udah malem, saatnya istirahat 🙂 Oiya yang mau ngepoin usaha saya, boleh kunjungi Instagram CHIQUESTA di sini.

    Night, all! 🙂

    Feature image: Lauren Fleischmann. Unsplash.

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    Personal Development, Thoughts

    What We might not Know About Passion: It is Not a Life Savior

    Uncommon to popular belief, I was started to think that maybe, something that we think of our ultimate joy in doing the things we loved the most, which also took most of our attention – even led us to beat our basic needs of eating, sleeping, and socializing – or passion as we know it, is somewhat a delusive notion of complacency and life fulfillment.

    Hang in there, it is not that I disagree with the concept of passion as a way to survive the mundane phase of climbing our stair of career, while also catalyst the process at the same time. I just feel that most people – or youths, to be specific, including myself – are drowning into this concept of passion as if it’s the magic mantra to find the best job and career path we’re about to take. It seems like a hero who will save our life from boredom, from dissatisfaction, from the dead-end solution for every problem we had in our daily job as if you have this passion, then you’ll be stress-free and everything will be alright.

    Well in fact, it doesn’t.

    Question of passion

    The question of “what is your passion?” to me is quite intimidating. It is like I have to come up with this brilliant answer to clarify my existence as an ideal youth, the next caretaker of earth I am living right now. It delivers an implicit message as if I do not have the answer in this very moment, then my future is at risk. Then I wouldn’t be able to have a cool job, or doing whatever I think matters. The situation is as common as someone bumps into you and ask “when will you marry or with whom will you marry?” and it seems like if you don’t have the answer, you’re doomed. (I can feel you nodding toward this :P)

    It was three years ago, exactly in my final year of College, I watched Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford and I was struck by his word, You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do”. This struck me so bad that I had lose my focus in preparing my thesis because deep inside: I felt lost.

    train-tracks-1081672_1280

    “Getting lost is a good way to find yourself” – Anonymous.

    I keep questioning my previous decision of choosing a major for College. I question my previous decision on involving myself in co-founding a debate club with my debate-mate and indulge in the main activities on debating instead of focusing solely to reach a high GPA. I question my decision on why I volunteer in certain social projects. I question almost ALL my previous decision and anxiously asked to myself: “Am I walking in the right future career path? Is this something that I truly love? Is it my passion?” I kept worrying and spending most of my final year to contemplate. I wrote things down and recall my past experiences and future expectations. I follow an online character’s quiz from MBTI to DISC to Enneagram to a “What’s Harry Potter Character Are You?” to find out where in the world I supposed to fit in and contribute.

    The “Shit Sandwiches” Theory

    One year later, I graduated with a hypothesis upon what I should be doing in my life. I packed my luggage with an expectation to find an ideal job, an ideal environment for me to unleash my potential, and an ideal coach to mentor me. I wish to find my passion in my job I’m about to take and by that, I wish for a happiness of doing what I love.

    It did not stop there. Aside from work, I follow many activities that I like to be doing. I volunteer a lot. I dive in to social activities, managing a conferences and attending one. I tried to do my best in every roles mandated to me (at least that’s what I thought). Time passed by and during my two years of professional working experience, I discovered that: (1) I can’t avoid boredom (2) I got stressed over many problems I am yet able to solve (3) I got disappointment from expecting things too much; or my unpreparedness to face the reality (4) Life indeed gives you lemons!

    The worst part is yet over. Under such a pressing condition, I come to hate myself. When I hit the rock bottom, things are going so wrong that I am afraid that I am not living my passion. It seems that nothing enthrall me; everything that comes to me discarded in a dull, unattractive way. Where are those passion I needed the most? I seems to lose it all behind all the mess.

    Truth is, passion won’t save you from any of those double-trouble. Problems exist everywhere, in any kind of job this world has to offer. Every duty requires our ability to solve the problem lies in front of us. It is a bitter pill for us to swallow and I guarantee that no matter how you love your job so much, there are these elements of works that is so repetitive, sometimes painful in some reasons that you can’t just avoid in order to get things done: be it comes from your employers, employees, your working environment, your customers, anyone.

    Like it or not, it then becomes the question of our commitment to pull out all the stops in whatever we dream to achieve. If working is as enjoyable as eating your favorite sandwich, you should be asking this question: What shit sandwiches would you love to eat? What sucking experiences you are likely to enjoy as your balance parameter of ‘Work-Life-Balance’? Because just like Mark Manson said in his “7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose”, we all get served one, eventually.

    So, what can actually save you from all the shit storms?

    Expertise before Passion

    meme-passion-1

    True, isn’t it?

    I was intrigued by a 10 minutes TedX Talk given by Terri Trespicio of “Stop Searching for Your Passion”. She elaborately shares her experience of changing jobs and challenging her own assumptions on what she thought she should be doing in her life. She found out that it is the desire to do our best work based on our point of strength that ignites the spirit to give our best effort and makes a difference. It is not that you follow your passion, but passion follows you. It follows anyone who give out their heart on to something they truly believe in and also, they’re good at it!

    Another thought-provoking views by Cal Newport in his book of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, said that “follow your passion is the worst advice ever”. He put an example of Bill McKibben, an ex-New Yorker columnist and renowned journalist whom his most notable book, The End of Nature became a classic literature for environment journalism. A Harvard graduate who later produce hundreds of article proved himself an unbeatable columnist at the Crimson, before later decided to sign out and build his own path as an independent journalist. Later he found out that his passion is not what he do, but the condition upon how he did what he do. He prefer to work independently with a flexible hours and finally able to produce his notable book. If only he decided to pursue his independent life at the beginning of his career, then we can be sure he won’t accomplish anything.

    However, let us not skip on how he managed to produce an award-winning book. The fact is, he has been written more than 400 articles during his job as a college reporter. The next five years had been spent on writing for The New Yorker and produced 47 edition each year. He is able to do what he do now because he is great at what he is doing and I bet we are all agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Only by perseverance and high commitment to improve his works in certain period of time, he can now pursuing to work in a higher level of freedom and independency, something he desire so much that initiate the birth of his masterpiece.

    Passion is a feeling. And feeling does change.

    As Steve Jobs said: “looking for something you love can take a lifetime” (as looking for your lifetime counterpart :P). The only answer is do not stop looking. It may sounds contradictory with what I have mentioned above but actually it doesn’t. The general rules of thumb is that you will keep looking for any kind of job (or activity) that makes you happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. It is quite impossible to feel those emotions unless we did something truly beneficent where we are (really) good at. You won’t feel happy nor satisfied to be a lawyer if your client keep losing on trial because of your lack of understanding of law or your capability in defending them. You may still get paid but sooner or later, your client will come to someone better than you. At that very stage, if you can endure the pain of visiting hundred courts and trials, reading clients’ accusation and thousands code of laws, eventually you’ll not be able of doing much and ended up feeling dissatisfied. And that’s very agonizing.

    Good thing is, just like happiness and sorrow, passion is just a feeling and like any other feeling, passion is essentially able to change. It can grow as long as we nurture our talent and dreams but it also can vanish if we ignore the environment in which our feeling can grow. That is why people with similar interest often form a group, involved in a community and substantiate each other to expand their horizon. It is not impossible that the more we distance ourselves with a supporting community, the more our feeling faded thus unable us to form a chemist formula of passion.

    After all, when we think of life and how we want to create the best out of it, we need to focus on what we think are important that we have to do with whatever we have. It requires a deep and perhaps longtime self-discovery until we find the one but it is never too late to make a difference. Just make yourself sure that it’s going to be the best one you’ll ever do.***

    Feature Image: Ian Schneider. Unsplash.

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