Stairs (Not to Heaven)

M. Iman Usman, on a night chat at a Starbucks table:

“Ini analogi gue ya, Fu. Orang yang ‘nyoba’ berbagai bidang itu memperluas tangga mereka ke samping, makin lama makin lebar, tapi sama sekali nggak membantu mereka untuk naik tingkat dan mendekat ke tujuan sebenarnya.”

(This is my analogy, Fu. People who try as many opportunities as possible in different fields are actually widening their stairs, but in the end they don’t have time to go to the next level and get closer to their desired destination.)


Lucky people are those who know where to go and take one step at a time.

How many of you, of us, really focus on a single thing at a time?

I know a number of people who are engaged in at least 10 committees and organizations at a time. Most of them, just as I also was, can’t be fully committed in any of these works since they should have their mind divided fairly. Multitasking is a talent that God bestows upon some of us, but come to think of it, great men (or women) who really excel and make history are ones who have their thoughts focused and set on what their passion is.

Say, you want to make your country a better place. You can do so by participating in either Indonesian Future Leaders, Garuda Youth Community, Ashoka Young Changemaker, LEO Young Club, etc. (with an emphasize on ‘either’–not more than one–because unless you do so, you won’t really contribute anything to these great organizations)

Say, you want to  have your writings read and your voice heard. Apply to journalistic club or radio station in your university, try internships at established TV station or newspaper offices. Get your books published! (DISCLAIMER: blogging is never enough)

Say, you want to make great research and astonish people with your unusual findings. Then you have to join research associations like Kelompok Studi Mahasiswa Eka Prasetya, or follow your favorite lecturer as their research assistant. I swear you can’t make a ‘boom’ without spending at least 6 months on your research.

See, options are there to pick, not to be greedily taken without any considerations. Indonesia needs more young minds that know what they want to do, not ones that agree with what people tell them to.

Ready to narrow down the width of your stairs and build it up instead?


Wkwkwk Or 555?

(With courtesy of Guinandra L. Jatikusumo)

Laughing used to be an active verb that requires you to lively–sometimes overratingly–shout ‘Hahaha!’ with your head moving back and forth according to your unique rythm. Yet once these genius came up with live chat programmes, i.e. Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, as well as other similar appliances, you have to laugh virtually. Now we can actually laugh without really laughing.

There comes the problem: how should we laugh in texts?

Let’s stop there and look backward a little bit. Who invented words like ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, ‘woof’, or ‘moo’ to imitate the noise made by animals? To observe the pattern, these words were created according to the sound it produces. This is also why, these animals seem to have different way of communicating in different parts of the world. For instance, an Indonesian chicken cries ‘kukuruyuk!’ and an Indonesian dog yells ‘gukguk!’ instead. There are also some special Turkish words for the voice of cats and frogs yet I couldn’t remember.

Now imagine yourself as the someone who lived decades ago, sitting on your desk and frowning because you couldn’t find the rhyme-word to explain that a girl is laughing in a direct speech. How would you consider writing it down? Probably you’d in the end pick ‘hahaha’ because it’s the easiest, first thing that come up to your mind as that’s how it actually sounds.

Today, several people think that it is simply ineffective to write ‘hahaha’ on a chat window when you can compact it down to ‘LOL’ (the same notion goes to ‘be right back’, ‘talk to you later’, and many other familiar phrases), although, there are some conservatives who still prefer to use ‘hahaha’ for a more natural effect it yields.

Just when I thought that these were the only possible ways to laugh virtually, a friend of mine–with no serious purpose–put a Facebook status asking how people from different countries laugh in their texts.


I was like, “WOOOOT?!” How on earth can I not know about it?
Very intriguing, eh?

I start thinking that it apparently is possible to create a thesis on ‘Language and Identities through Globalization’.

Another interesting fact it that Oxford has now acknowledged ‘LOL’ as one of English words. It is, then, not impossible that ‘555’ can one day be put in a Thai dictionary.

I mean, who knows? Language is sexily very, very dynamic.

Are Great Leaders Born?

A classic debate which everyone keeps debating on and can’t really have a consensus upon.

The conservatives hang on their faith that leadership is genetic. The magical power to move people, to inspire, to boost them pushing off their limits, it’s all in those leaders’ blood. Such ability is ascribed in ‘chosen’ ones and there’s no way for you to attain it through efforts.

The rest argue that leadership is about tiredlessly making endeavours to train yourself as a leader. Since the basic idea is “You are who you think you are,” once you perceive yourself as a leader, everything else will follow. Implement those ‘leadership quotes’ and principles in daily things you do, and voila! A leader you shall be.

Take, for example, Yusuf Hakim Gumilang. A name I’ll always come up with to answer “Who’s the leader that inspires you the most?” sort of question. He’s that kind of leader who knows his people better than they know themselevs. He notices when one of his staff is missing, he deals with pressure calmly, he embraces problems with solutions. Now the question would be: (1) Could his parents see that ‘seed of leadership’ when he was born? (2) Has he been shining since high school? Or, (3) did he learn to be such a great leader in the process of being Ketua BEM FISIP UI 2010?

Princes (and princesses, to make it fair) can somehow be told to be ‘born with leadership genes’ because to some extent they are surrounded by such environment that ‘shaped’ them to possess certain traits that are required to be move people. This notion might be half-true for today’s royal families, but was an absolute truth back then. If those Hamengkubuwonos weren’t raised in Kasultanan Yogyakarta, I doubt that they would have the skill to lead and charm to be praised.

I always belive that nobody was ever ‘born’ with such behavior (not even Hitler), but human beings learn. Although, there are several among us who are privileged to learn from the best minds and hands. Experiences shape our personality the most.


Hasta Brata, the 8 elements to lead in Javanese philosophy: Sun, moon, star, sky, wind, sea, fire, and earth. Beautiful.

Let’s leave it there. Now my next inquiry would be: is it true that “leaders are those who don’t crave the throne”?

Leaders should indeed be favored by their people’s voices. However, it is not mutually exclusive with the existence of ‘willingness’ in these leaders’ hearts to seize for authority. Matterfact, great leaders’ shining eyes come from their endless stream of ideas and enthusiasm to make it true. Aiming to have a role at the higher post does not necessarilly mean that they are greedy, avaricious beasts. It means that these people have serious concerns to realize their aspirations.

Exhibit A: Hanifah Ahmad, a friend of mine, loves Indonesian Student Association for International Studies (ISAFIS), an organization she’s been engaged with for almost a year. During the process, she detected problems in the body, and wished to make a change, to bring the organization towards betterment, simply because she feels that she belongs to that group of people. She needs to bring her thoughts forward and see how the squad would respond. However, she knows she can do nothing if she’s not there as their ‘head’.

Exhibit B: With no intention to brag or anything, I know my utmost contribution for OIS (a remarkable social science olympiads event at my campus) would be by taking the responsibility as its project officer.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect leader either in the past or present. If there is one, he is only pretending, like a pig inserting scallions into its nose in an effort to look like an elephant.” –Liu Shao-ch’i

I believe that all youngsters have the basic seeds to be great leaders. Idealism and never-ending spirit might become their foremost fertilizer, yet in most cases both fade as these young minds grow as adults. The task is then to preserve and nurture these values so that you can still feel it somewhere in your heart as you sit behind your working desk at your 30s.

Adjectives and Comparisons

Of all eight parts of speech that Mr Nurhadi taught me back at highschool (verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection), I’ve always hated adjectives. The reason behind such animosity is mostly the fact that the mere function they offer is to compare.

You’re only beautiful since there are ugly people at other parts of the city. You’re perceived fat because there are skinny people around. The word tall would never even emerge if there aren’t height differences between people.


“Not tall enough, architects. Build some more!”

No matter what adjective you put in a sentence, add ‘not’ and voila! There, you got the exact adverse word. Even the word neutral distinguish you from the not neutral (either rightist or leftist) people. Shall you find any adjective that doesn’t go with its opposite, I might finally die in peace.

The lesson learned tonight is, whatever label people put on your head, fashion, or friendship, you should not waste your precious time on minding about it. They might use any adjectives to either compliment or bring you down, yet you know exactly that you’re the only person who knows what you’re worth.

How Can I Not Know About This Book?


The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words
from Around The World.

Major want. Please let me know once you’ve found this book in Indonesia.
Or any other parts of the globe. Let’s take a peek:

  • Vokabulyu: Russian–“passion for foreign words”.
  • Nglayap: Indonesian–“wander far from home with no particular purpose”.
  • Karoshi: Japanese–“death from overwork”.
  • Fissilig: German–“flustered to the point of incompetence”.
  • Samlermani: Danis–“mania for collecting”.
  • Neko-neko: Indonesian–“one who has a creative idea which only makes things worse”.
  • Ataoso: Central American Spanish–“one who sees problems with everything”.
  • Zechpreller: Cerman–“someone who leaves without paying the bill”.
  • Tsujigiri: Japanese–“to try out a new sword on a passer-by”.
  • Mariolopotes: Ancient Greek–“a gulper of coaldust”.
  • Areodjarekput: Inuit–“to exchange wives for a few days only”.
  • Nakhur: Persian–a camel that won’t give milk until her nostrils have been tickled”.

Adam Jacot de Boinod needs to find a word which describes ‘a person who is very passionate about foreign grammarical rules’. *mind-blown*