When The Don’t(s) Become The Do(s)

Hi. This is Afu writing, right from the central gravity of a massive organizational chunk that she used to be trapped in. She’s now found the exit door and thus proclaimed herself free (not as a bird, more as a human who’s lost in an unfamiliar jungle—regardless, it feels great). Somehow she does not want the suffer to be tossed into a wastebin, so she agreed to share some stories that might (hopefully) be useful for whoever ends up reading this post.

Her exhausting half-year journey comes down to a single sentence: professional teamwork has a different nature, compared to the usual kinship that you develop with your friends. Thus, your perspective upon life’s don’t(s) might have to shift to a list of significant do(s) under organizational justifications.

[Disclaimer: These notions will not really prevail unless your team comprises complete strangers at the first place.]

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1. Do talk about people behind their back.

Well, contextually. You see, organization is not simply about about taking the best people in. It’s more about putting the right people in the right posts. A person’s weakness as a subordinate might be the strength that a leader needs–and vice versa. So yes, if you’re cursed to be a policy-maker, do talk about your candidate staff very carefully with your board. Pay attention to your people’s SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, as well as Threats), their past track record, and put each of them in the best position plausible.

Important: The only benefit of a biased–or stereotyped–judgment is time discount. Other than that, prior subjective information about a particular person will only hold you from seeing the quality of that person completely. I myself have experienced a number of persuaded decisions which, although we managed to get through it, create problematic conditions along the timeline. Do remind and be reminded that, as Ekky puts it, “Sometimes we just need to be a supporting actor, yet we can still get the Oscar.”

2. Do push people off their limit.

In the Dictionary of Organizations, it’s called ‘taking the extra-miles’. Sometimes, people–especially those who take too much on their plate–will stop achieving just because they feel that the limit is there. That they’ve done enough, and they deserve a break for it. What you need to do is telling them it’s just their illusion. If in the real life you’re prohibited to push people off the edge of a cliff, in an organization you’re pretty much encouraged to do so. There’s never, never such thing as a limit for any kind of hardwork. Do take the extra-mile, it’s never crowded there.

3. Do tell people that they’re doing it wrong.

The thing about being Indonesian is that we often feel ‘nggak enak‘ to tell people (especially strangers) that they’re doing a certain mistake–or that they can change a bit of their habit for the greater betterment of the whole organization. What I would suggest: forget your nationality. Scrutinize people’s behavior if you need to. However, you need to do it right–understand the rules. First of all, never do criticism publicly. Spare your time for a private conversation, but at the same time never make it sound personal. Let this person know that you’re saying it on a professional basis. Second of all, follow the Sandwich Theory. It was first introduced to me by Guinandra and later elaborated by Gesa: 1) start with compliments on the good deeds he/she’s done, 2) continue with things that are troublesome–those he/she needs to catch up with, and then 3) wrap it up with what you appreciate from him/her. Might look hard at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it.

4. Do utilize artificial smiles.

No matter how under-pressure you feel, no matter how upset you’re getting, smile, honey. Even if you have to fake it–thus ‘artificial’. Especially when you’re the leader. You are allowed to be uptight at some points, but remember that people lean on you. If you’re not strong enough, how would they survive? Stop blaming, take that chin up, and then start thanking, remind people what to be grateful of. Working together in a committee means living in a village where everything becomes contagious–and so are negative remarks, bad mood, as well as (especially) crankiness. Contain your anger and be that awesome self you always are. In other words, keep calm and carry on.

5. Do reject affection in any form.

Bear in mind that any kind of romantic projection with the person you’re working with, no matter how mature or capable you are in handling yourself, will only slower your work down. Slap to wake yourself up, and repeat this in your mind: You need to focus. If you’ll ever end up marrying that certain person, the time will eventually come, but that’s definitely not when there are a lot of work in your to-do-list. I might sound a bit masochistic, but seriously. Take one thing at a time. Remember this saying: “You can have it all–just not at the same time.

Some might see this article as a stupid and pretentious attempt of an indoctrination of Machiavelli‘s tenets in The Prince, but again she never forces you to follow them all. Do understand that consciously doing something with a certain intention does not automatically mean that you’re not doing it from your heart. The question is then to either miserably succeed, or to be happily mediocre. You choose.

Did It All Really Start from Us?

I’m one of those weird people who put too much attention on the first sentence of every writing piece, because I always believe that first sentences determine everything that follows. People might quickly decide not to go on to your second sentence, for example, or they might get twice excited just because of your first sentence. That is possibly why, most of the time I spend on typing down a post is wasted on its mere first sentence.

However, the same tenets are not evident in the case of Indonesian Future Leaders. Our first sentence–first step–I should say, was not convincing, it was rather pragmatic, naive, and stupid. We, the 7 co-founders, were simply college students at their young age of 16-17(ish) who seized the opportunity to take part in a movement–any movement would not matter at that time. Looking back, it looks like (quoting Steve Jobs in his commencement speech) now the dots start to connect and the patterns seem like they were there all this time. We are what we are now. We made mistakes, we learned, and we tried to be the men of our own words. We are bigger than we expected we might have been.

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I would not care to go with the statistics (number beneficiaries and bla bla bla you can simply download the annual report here), but I severely need the world to know about several sweet paradoxes that this amazing organization has:

1. It is a workplace, yet a home.

More than a half of what we’ve been doing for the last two years was white-collar kind of job. We sat in front of our laptops, created documents on this and that, printed this and that, visited school A, B, and C, taught a number of less privileged kids, phoned many important stakeholders, as well as traveled here and there, constantly on a 24/7 professional pressure kind of atmosphere.That’s unmistakably true. But then again, I never really feel like I’m working. These people, we share some sort of similar frequency–laughed at the same jokes, shouted the same joy, and cheered on the same dreams–what more can you ask from a family? That is perfectly why, it is simply hard for me to picture a future without Indonesian Future Leaders in it. That is also why, despite the fact that I’ve been trying to mitigate the number of masochistic organizations I’m having on my plate, it will never be an option. It is a fate, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life.

2. It is tiring (more of exhausting), yet a source of happiness.

I wouldn’t want to lie, saying say that it’s completely fun to be a staff of Indonesian Future Leaders. Nobody would dare to be that mean to you, I suppose. So at this point, I have to say that the organization is not a place for those who seek for pretentious titles or acknowledgements and have cool namecards. It is a place for those who seek for knowledge and one-of-a-kind experience, who seek for field-based skills and contagious spirit from one another, in return of contributing most of your energy. It is tiring, yet it is a source of happiness indeed, a melting pot where desperation somehow can’t beat you in any kind of battle, because in the end you will have endless supply of energy from these people.

3. It started with a hypocrisy, yet ended with the most sincere smile I’ve ever seen.

Some people say, repeat a lie, it will become a truth one day. I think that’s what happened to this exceptional youth community. In a very positive manner, of course. (Though Iman would insist that: “It’s never a lie, Fu, never, it was an intention!”) I think we constructed our very own, personal, subjective truth–which was an ‘intended lie’–but now, to some extent, we actually did it. We professed in pride that ‘it all starts from us’, and come to think of it today, it plausibly did! Come to think of it… we might actually have initiated several great projects, acted and engaged an exceptional number of youth, shared numerous stories, and inspired quite a number of youth movements along the way! The huge, abstract lie, ladies and gentlemen, is on its way, coming to a shape. An objective, accountable shape, hopefully.

Of course, we still have a very, very long way to go. I might have repeated this over and over in my tweets, but seriously: Indonesian Future Leaders is a home to which I can honestly say that I belong to. To which I can effortlessly come back when the world stands against me, saying that things are impossible. It always remains there, as a comforting home. To which I can look for heartwarming people with their own, unique ideas and limitless spirit. To which we can one day proclaim that it really, really all starts from us.

Happy 2nd anniversary, Indonesian Future Leaders dear.