Maybe if you’ve heard somewhere that I’ve taken the plunge as a social entrepreneur (another new fancy business term in 21st century), it’s true. I have been, for a year almost, running a startup called Buku Kami. Perhaps not for the time being, until I’m done unprostituting my brain.
Some guy on Medium told me this: Prostituting is simply equivalent to abusing your talent, brain and everything you have.
So I shut down everything.
I’ve done this in my entire life. I do something and then I feel the need to prove its correctness by stepping back from something I’ve worked on. Primarily because, you know, us being humans, we tend to be impressed by our own work so much and have so little time to master ourselves, to reflect on things we thought we knew.
The same thing occurred to a job I’ve been doing for almost two years now. If I were to submit my work, my editor would stare at me, “did you step back and see your work before you submit it like I told you? I don’t take low-quality product just because you’re in a hurry.”
Ha. At first, I got a bit edgy for something I’ve worked really hard for. As embarassing as it seemed, the more I exercised this step-back ritual, it expanded my horizon. All of those articles I submitted to many people I’ve worked for often caught me by surprise, “Dumb. I didn’t just write that. Ah grammar mistakes. Another one here. And too many awkward sentences. I’m bad at it!”
It’s surprisingly difficult to discover our own mistakes until we take the time to step back from the problem we’re trying to solve. We need to walk in another pair of shoes.
Back at the startup story again.
Driven by the idea that business is the greatest solution to drive social impact in large scale, I had to say that I have the greatest team in the world, though they are now deployed in some worldly places across the globe, learning from the best. And the startup we’ve built together has received massive support from many people we knew, and didn’t know at all. We built partnerships and did everything that any young company would do. I had access to great talents and had the guts to find the right key to unlock these locked doors of opportunities. We made progress every single day. We slept very little like most entrepreneurs would. We did our homework from understanding the issue we’re solving and modifying business model to building the best product that sells in the eyes of people we target. Shortly, we were so one inch from cutting the start ribbon to run the marathon as an established social enterprise (it’s company, really, just a bit more challenging achieving its double helix idea). But then there was a ‘but’ to it.
The days and nights I breathed this dream, I began to feel these doubts, bigger than just some doubts I usually find. Between family, finding my alternatives for education, living independently in Jakarta (a few things are hard to keep up), love life that got in the way, keeping a group of caring people for education afloat and other stuff like answering my mother’s sudden question at midnight: “is your sister’s getting married?” I lost my balance.
So there I was, sleep-working and sleep-living, with no appetite (still with passion, but).
I strongly felt the need to find the right currency in dealing with my whirlwind of dreams. My brain can’t afford taking whatever it is in the next round after having worked like a dog.
Plus, I’m not in it for the hype of starting something and win an unwinnable race. Rushing, to someone like me, is one of the most immature acts I know. I didn’t throw myself here to to win an unreasonable prize when it affects the lives of others. I don’t see business as a money-generating machine. Most importantly, I’m not in it for some profits that only benefit the owners. My aim is to build good business. The best ‘good business’ I will be proud to teach my kids years from here.
Although I miss it sometimes, hustling up to faraway places in my best look to meet someone, feeling lonely at times and confused having no idea of what’s gonna happen next no matter how much I thought I understood what I was doing.
So I’m taking everything apart now. For the sake of getting my vehicle running again.
Here is why:
1. Like wine, it takes time to taste like heaven. I want to immerse myself enough in the problem I’m trying to solve and leave the pride far behind with people who try hard enough impressing people about their so-called business adventure when business is really nothing more than just the car you choose to drive to the very final destination: creating a better world, not just for me and the lucky ones, but for all.
2. Unprostituting my brain. I knew I didn’t have good mental health when all I believed in was Carlos-centric universe. I need to learn to be wise to myself. I need to give it enough time to reboot, to troubleshoot and to restart. I can’t expect my brain to function properly if it’s overheated. So I give it some time to break.
3. Finding the awkward sentences. Like stepping back from your writing. As I talked to a lot of more experienced people in my industry, I have the chance to see where I went wrong and get to equip my rocket again before ‘3..2..1..BLAST!!’.
4. Resume the chess. I’m good at it. I’m thinking about my moves.
They are all essential. I know for a fact that the problem I’m trying to solve will always be there. Every day, thousands of sad news flood your timeline and believe me, nothing is easier than yelling at one problem. I, on the other hand, have chosen to give a huge shit about problems I deeply care about, things that are worth more than my short life. That’s why I’m learning endlessly about solving it because I hate cheap talks. Funding opportunities will always wait for some brilliant ideas and people who can walk the talk. And many great opportunities can wait. But this can’t. Tell the storm I’ll be ready to kiss it in a few minutes. Just a few minutes. I’m not running away.