“If this might be my last day on earth, I would…” [My dream journal, 1st entry]

If the premise “There was a forecast that Armageddon would happen tomorrow and this might be my last day on earth”, according to my dream, I would join a mass wedding with thousands of people marrying my friend’s brother, whom in my dream I regarded as ‘so-so’.

Then we would run away with our friends to find a safe place. On our way to save ourselves, my husband would get into an accident and pass away. The next day when the Armageddon seemed to take a rest for a while, my friend would ran to me expressing her condolences and me with my cold expression saying thank you. Then my friend would point out my another friend’s brother’s body whom she thought it was my husband and I told him no. Weirdly she would be insisting that it was my husband and I’d answer, “Believe me, no. That body is our another friend’s brother’s. Had I married him, I would really remember and be devastated upon his death. He was cute and I had a crush on him when I was still a little kid.”

CONCLUSION: I am a hopeless bitch, according to my dream.


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The responsibilities and consequences of “I Love You”

John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate,  the author of East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men wrote a letter giving advice to his son who was madly falling in love with a girl.  Below is the letter.

New York

November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/12/john-steinbeck-on-love-1958/

What I like the most about his advice is that he didn’t belittle his son’s love “You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love”. He was not protective but he shared his wisdom about love, that when you love someone and you say it, it comes with responsibility that you ought to take – living up to it and taking the other party’s feeling into consideration.

I personally believe “I love you” (I’m referring to ‘romantic love’) is not something that someone can say lightly, for example “I love you but let’s not rush commitment into this”. I think that is b*llshit (pardon my language). Good in paper but does not work in reality. When you say “I love you” to other party, the other party (who happens to reciprocate the feeling) cannot help but expect that there will be a continuation, a relationship that includes commitment and loyalty despite of the refusal to label the relationship. Saying ‘I love you’ means that you are willing to take responsibility of others’ feeling and expectation. If a person, man or woman, cannot bear this responsibility, it is best to say nothing.

“I just want to ‘release’ and say this to you but we cannot go further than this”, I believe, is a selfish act.

“I love you” is the three words that one should really think about before saying it and can only be said when the person means it and is willing to live up to its beauty but also fragility – accepting the probability of losing it too. For, according to my experience and my friends’, the journey of love sometimes is bumpy and we may make it or we may not. Although at that time, we may find it really difficult not to replay our memory trying to find out what’s wrong, toying with ‘what if’s and blame ourselves, I believe or I want to believe that, like a bottle of wine, it gets better with time, that it is a process to prepare myself to be ready for better and better love journey in the future with myself or with different person.

Dedicated to a good friend of mine. Girl, I admire your big heart and is really grateful to be your friend.

Jakarta, 16th January 2012.

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The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study [A book review]

This eight-decade longitudinal study thoroughly tested hypothesis and preconceived notion that we have about how to achieve a long life, e.g.  e.g. ‘is it true that an extrovert carefree person lives a longer life than the introvert and conscientious one?’, ‘is it true that staying single reduces our chance to live a longer life?’, ‘is it true that the way to achieve longer life is to avoid stress?’.

Our society is used to frame longevity issue in a symptom-tackling or checklist manner but this study dug deeper in answering why and exploring the dynamic interplay between many factors, e.g. personality, social environment, family condition, married/single, gender, etc (as the study followed the respondents’ lives since their childhood until they died).

Indeed the result of this study challenged our perception and belief about longevity.

Here’s the interview video with the authors explaining about their book and the trivia about which myths negated by this research .


I personally think that there are still a few ‘why’s that are yet to be answered (perhaps due to the limitation of the study) but I believe it is a good starting point for us and our society in framing our strategy and policy to promote health.

Note: this book provides some self-assessment tool to help us map where we are and what we should do to improve our health.


For more information, check out the author’s website.

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4 pertanyaan ‘kenapa’ yang paling bikin banyak orang Indonesia penasaran menurut Google

Di sore yang mendung ini, saya iseng ngetik kata ‘kenapa’ di Google Search dan demikianlah yang muncul #mendungsokproduktif.

Grabbed on 7th January 2012

Click to enlarge

Dan saya iseng-iseng (lagi) berhipotesis kenapa pertanyaan ini yang paling banyak di-google orang. Please note bahwa ini saya lagi ngasal-ngasal aja.

1. Kenapa anjing haram

Biasanya kalau sesuatu yang bahaya atau sebaiknya dijauhi bentukannya serem-serem dan bikin kita bergidik, seperti kelabang, ulat bulu, kecoak dan sebagainya. Sedangkan anjing, banyak banget yang lucu-lucuuuuu sehingga orang-orang bertanya-tanya kenapa binatang selucu itu haram, termasuk saya. Walaupun saya takut sama anjing, saya suka ngeliat anjing-anjing lucu apalagi yang masih puppies. Favorit saya Siberian Husky, pengen peyuk-peyukkk (emangnya ada yang nanyaaaa hahaha).

Siberian Husky & Mongrel (lucu kaaaan)

2. Kenapa lutut berbunyi

Kalau pas lagi jongkok, tiba-tiba bunyi krek krek, ada pendapat bahwa, ini karena kurang gerak, sehingga untuk menanggulanginya perlu sering dilatih sendi-sendinya, lebih sering dilatih pergerakannya. Kalau disertai sakit, sebaiknya konsultasi ke dokter. Kalau lututnya mulai bersiul dan bernyanyi… nahhhh baru pusing atau… langsung upload ke youtube! Jangan lupa nge-tweet dan tag para buzzer ya.

3. Kenapa rambut rontok

Kebotakan dini pasti meresahkan baik buat perempuan maupun laki-laki, kegalauan yang memilukan saat melihat rambut berjatuhan saat keramas atau ketakutan tiap kali harus nyisir supaya gak ditanya orang-orang ‘abis kejebur di mana lo?’, ‘lo belom mandi ya?’. Makanya guys, be nice  kalau ada temannya yang rambutnya keruwel-keruwel berantakan, dipeluk yah.


4. Kenapa sering masuk angin

Nahhhh ini penyakitnya namanya orang kamseupay (kalau mau tau dan penasaran arti & asal kata ‘kamseupay’, click link ini http://wp.me/p260Fs-Z) yang biasanya pakai AC alam, sok-sok pakai AC mesin (termasuk gue dong?). Kalau terpaksa, ya udah, nasib. Siap-siap baju tebel, balsem dan koyo. Kalau gue, abis ini search “gimana supaya tetep keren walaupun bau balsem dan pakai koyo” apalagi kalau pakai baju minimalis kayak mbak-mbak di bawah ini.

Garing ya? Ya udah deh. Nasib lo yang baca-baca deh. Hahaha.

Biar ga bete, nih ta’ kasih lagu yang asik.

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Me, updated.

Sering dengar orang ngomong, “New Year, New Me?” Orang-orang menginterpretasikan ini misalnya dengan baju baru, potongan rambut baru, tempat kerja baru *eh*, mungkin juga pacar baru dan resolusi tahun baru untuk memperbaharui / update diri sendiri supaya lebih baik.

Dulu-dulu gue lumayan sinis, ngejawab “Apanya yang baru, orangnya masih tetap sama, kelakuan tetap sama walaupun resolusi tahun barunya ingin mengubah kelakuan tertentu.”  Dengan skeptisnya, gue pun gak pernah memaknai resolusi tahun baru dengan sungguh-sungguh. Bayangkan resolusi tahun baru gue untuk tahun 2010: mau foto bareng sama Nicholas Saputra (dan kesampean! ihiy!), sama sekali ga ada hubungannya dengan “New Year, New Me”.

Biar gelap, yang penting terukir dalam hati (ihiy)

Tapi tahun 2011 ini benar-benar jadi tahun pembelajaran buat gue. Banyak hal yang terjadi dan membuat gue mengevaluasi lagi pendapat dan sikap gue.

Seringkali orang-orang, termasuk gue, menilai orang dari luar, dari kata-kata yang digunakan, dari kepercayaan diri (atau kengototan) yang ditunjukkan. Walaupun gue udah tahu konsep ini secara kognitif, tahun ini gue benar-benar mengalami dan belajar bahwa apa yang tampak di luar seringkali tidak sesuai dengan yang sebenarnya.

Orang-orang yang dominan belum tentu lebih brilian daripada orang-orang yang tampak submisif. Orang-orang dengan penampilan alim belum tentu moralitasnya lebih baik daripada orang-orang bertampang preman yang super sangar (gue bertemu sendiri orang-orang yang bertampang atau bereputasi sangar tapi lebih sopan dan menghargai persahabatan daripada orang yang tampangnya alim-alim). Orang-orang dengan resume panjang dan fantastik belum tentu lebih pintar daripada orang-orang yang resumenya kelihatan biasa-biasa aja atau masih seperti anak itik.

Bertemu dengan orang-orang seperti ini membuat gue belajar untuk lebih menghargai diri gue sendiri. Dan ini adalah highlight pembelajaran gue tahun ini:

Walaupun gue muda (atau kata orang, masih keliatan kayak anak umur 13 tahun), gue bisa dan berani beropini dengan kritis, mengambil dan mengekspresikan sikap.

Gue pikir inilah inti dari resolusi. Mengambil pelajaran dari tahun sebelumnya dan mempraktekan pelajaran itu di tahun berikutnya.

Dan di tahun 2012 ini,  gue beresolusi untuk lebih percaya diri untuk beropini dan bersikap kritis. Cuma “sedikit” tapi benar-benar mengena dan bermakna buat gue dan karenanya, akan gue usahakan sebaik-baiknya supaya terwujud.

Selamat tahun baru 2012, semoga tahun ini semakin banyak momen yang kita hargai dan maknai dan kita makin tumbuh (mudah-mudahan jangan ke samping, hiks *menatap nanar celana jeans lama*).

Mudah-mudahan tahun ini gue kesampean punya ini (mudah-mudahan ada kuis berhadiah ini dan gue dimenangin) *tetep murahan*

Nambah musik buat joget-joget ah, biar seru.

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Poke the box – Initiate change and do it all the way NOW [A book review]

If you’re looking for scientific statistical analysis for the recipe of success, the book is definitely not for you. This book is a manifesto that aims to rally people to start innovating that not only stops at ideation but goes all the way, takes risk to execute it and find out if it works or not.

This book is to encourage us to abandon our fear of ‘this might not work’ but to really find out if it works. This book is also for managers or organizations that adhere to ‘failure free’ policy and opens their eyes that the world has evolved and sticking to ‘same old same old’ and ‘safe’ stuff will make you left behind.

I like the book mostly because of personal reason. It is relevant and it speaks to me.

In my industry that champions creativity, walking out of the meeting without any debate with client is often seen as the standard of success. Maybe we should change that. We know that we really poke the box (innovate) when we debate with the client because the idea is so new that the client feels anxious about it. We try our best. We take risk. We start and make it happen. If it fails, then we are responsible for our failure.

As Seth Godin wrote in this book,“Fail, fail, fail, succeed, fail, fail, succeed”. The idea is after failure, “Then start again. Then ship again.”

The final question to ponder upon…

I mirror you or you mirror me?

Entah kenapa malam ini gue kepikiran soal mirroring. Dulu pas gue aktif berteater di SMA gue, salah satu latihan yang lumayan sering dilakukan adalah ‘mirroring’, tujuannya untuk melatih seberapa ‘sensitif’ dan cepat kita bereaksi terhadap suatu stimulus. Latihan ini dilakukan berpasangan. Misalnya, gue sama temen gue. Ketika gue jadi orangnya, temen gue (pura-puranya) jadi bayangan di cermin. Pas gue garuk pantat, temen gue harus ikut garuk pantat dengan gerakan dan ekspresi yang persis sama gue. Nanti gantian, gue jadi bayangan di cermin, temen gue jadi orangnya. Kalau temen gue ngupil, gue juga harus mengupil dengan gerakan dan ekspresi yang persis sama gue. Makin mirip, makin dinilai bagus.

Begitu gue masuk kuliah, gue belajar bahwa ternyata mirroring juga dilakukan dalam interaksi sehari-hari. Mirroring akan semakin intens, ketika dua orang atau lebih punya level interaksi yang intens pula. Misalnya ketika gue lagi sering-seringnya meeting dengan Managing Director gue, gue pun ga sengaja pick up kebiasaan dia menjawab sesuatu yang membingungkan dengan ‘sound effect’, “e um” (nada tinggi di suku kata pertama, terus turun di suku kata kedua) pada saat berinteraksi dengan dia. Saking seringnya mendengar itu, kebiasaan itu mulai gue internalisasi. Sampai sekarang, gue masih berusaha melawan dorongan untuk melakukan ‘sound effect’ itu hanya karena gue ga mau keliatan plagiat. Ya iyalah, walaupun penelitian bilang sebenernya kita itu ga seunik yang kita pikir, orang tetap pengen menganggap dirinya unik. :p

Sebenernya mirroring ini juga berguna lho. Di mata kuliah teknik konseling, gue belajar bahwa mirroring itu bisa membantu orang lain untuk lebih membuka diri (kalau di kuliah, istilahnya membangun rapport). Bisa mirroring senyumnya, mirroring posisi duduknya atau mirroring sebagian kata atau istilah yang digunakan oleh klien. Konselor dianjurkan mirroring untuk memberikan kesan bahwa ada ‘kesamaan’ antara konselor dan klien yang menunjukkan bahwa konselor bisa memahami klien. Harapannya adalah klien bisa menjadi lebih nyaman untuk sharing dengan konselor.

Seiring dengan waktu yang diikuti dengan berbagai pengalaman, gue menyadari bahwa mirroring itu ga terjadi cuma di permukaannya aja (meniru gerakan, nada suara, etc.), tapi juga terjadi di level psikologis yang lebih dalam, terutama dengan orang yang punya hubungan sangat dekat dengan gue. Misalnya, ketika gue pacaran dengan seseorang, sebutlah namanya Nicholas Sa…*eh* (ngarep aje lu!), gue mengadopsi selera musik, tipe bacaan bahkan cara berpikir dan perasaannya. Walaupun gue merasa bahwa ada hal-hal dari dia yang membuat gue upgraded, ada konsekuensi negatifnya juga. Misalnya, ketika dia lagi sering-seringnya frustrasi dan pesimis terhadap sesuatu, gue juga cenderung mirroring perasaannya dan menginternalisasinya. Bawaannya ketika ada masalah, gue juga ikut pesimis.

Pertanyaan berikutnya… Dia mirroring gue ga yah? Flashback lagi, dia lebih intens mirroring gue pas lagi fase PDKT *ihiy!*. Setelah ‘dapet’, malah gue yang lebih intens mirroring dia. Apa yang menyebabkan perubahan itu? Kalau gue pikir-pikir, mungkin persepsi siapa yang butuh siapa kali yah (the perception of who holds the power). Waktu PDKT, dia punya niat untuk menjadikan gue pacarnya sehingga ‘approval’ dari gue itu penting. Tapi pas pacaran, masalah terjadi yang menjadikan gue ada di fase ‘gue ga mau kehilangan dia’. Posisinya berubah, gue yang butuh ‘approval’ dari dia. Dia pelaku aktifnya, gue bayangan di cermin.

Gue inget temen gue pernah bilang bahwa kalau cari pacar itu sebaiknya yang sudah mapan dalam kariernya soalnya kalau bermasalah, dia akan uring-uringan dan akhirnya akan bikin dia uring-uringan juga. (Ada benernya sih, tapi gak saklek lho… Belum tentu pacarnya mapan, hubungan pasti mulus. Ini cuma satu faktor di antara sekian faktor yang berkontribusi ke hubungan pacaran yang sehat.)

Lalu gue mikir apa kalau hubungan pacarannya sehat (posisi ‘power’ nya seimbang – ga ada yang merasa lebih inferior), mirroring nya cenderung jadi seimbang (ganti-gantian) dan akhirnya membuat masing-masing pihak menginternalisasi perilaku/cara berpikir pasangannya yang berakibat baik untuk setiap pihak? Atau… Justru tingkat kemiripan perilaku dan cara berpikir sedari awal yang membuat lebih besar kemungkinan hubungan pacarannya sehat? Ini teka-teki yang sampai sekarang gue belom tau jawabannya. Atau yang merasa (pernah) punya hubungan pacaran yang sehat, bisa sharing?

Last but not least… Gue pikir, mau pacaran, mau temenan, mau kerja bareng, mirroring itu mungkin susah dihindari (dan kita melakukannya tanpa sadar) soalnya manusia punya kebutuhan untuk ‘diterima’ lingkungan.Tapi, untuk menghindari mirroring yang terlalu intens atau yang berefek negatif, menurut gue, self-esteem adalah kuncinya. At the risk of sounding too generic, setiap orang punya kelebihan dan kekurangan masing-masing, misalnya walaupun gue ga bisa ngelucu setingkat Tukul (dan comedian manapun), gue bisa ngakalin internet blackberry gue (misalnya dengan nge-twit marah-marah ke telco provider). Nda’ ndeso, gitu lho.

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Untuk blog-ku tercinta (ga pake gombal)

Hai blog.

Udah lama nih ngga nulis blog. Kalo ditanya kenapa, gue bisa menjawabnya dengan klise. Alasan pertama, sibuk kerja cyinnn *langsung nyisir*. Alasan kedua, ide-ide posting udah bisa disalurkan lewat twitter. Alasan ketiga, acara TV seru-seru banget sih (bo’ong banget). Tapi kalo mau ditanya sejujurnya, sebenernya ada keengganan untuk menulis blog karena…. gue punya ‘ketakutan’ tersendiri.

Buat gue, menulis itu, selain proses ekspresi, juga proses refleksi. Pada saat ‘jeblak’ di postingan, sering tiba-tiba tersadar, “oh ternyata ini yang gue pikirkan” atau “oh ternyata pendapat gue begini.” Pas nulis, gue punya premise tapi pas ditulis, gue baru benar-benar memahami proses kognisi gue dan pendapat gue secara menyeluruh. Intinya dengan menulis, gue ‘memaksa’ otak gue untuk lebih kritis dan memeriksa lagi sebenernya pendapat gue itu punya dasar yang kuat atau nggak. Selain itu, ketika menulis dan membaca lagi tulisan gue, gue tersadar ternyata ada perubahan dalam diri gue atau gue sekarang orangnya seperti ini.

Balik lagi, sebenernya apa yang gue takutin… Gue takut ngeliat potret gue sekarang seperti apa, bahwa mungkin sebenernya gue gak suka ngeliat diri gue berubah ke arah yang sekarang. Mungkin hal-hal yang gue lakukan bertentangan dengan prinsip gue atau bahkan gue berubah menjadi orang yang gue benci. Tapi kejadian akhir-akhir ini menyadarkan gue. Lebih baik gue memberanikan diri untuk lebih sering berefleksi daripada menunggu kejadian besar untuk membuka mata gue dengan embel-embel ‘nyesel’.

Jadi, dear blog, saya berjanji akan lebih sering posting, tentang apapun yang gue lihat atau temukan, apa yang gue pikirkan, apa yang gue rasakan atau guyonan jayus semata.

Dengan janji yang lebih serius dari janji Pramuka,


To judge or not to judge

Human’s eyes [the normal ones] are gifted with the rods and cones that enable us to detect light of different colours. We know the difference of gray, white and black. We know the difference of magenta and teal. Some of us are even colour savvy enough to identify alizarin crimson, cadmium red deep, venetian red, etc. In short word, humans’ eyes, naturally, know colour.

However, why in the realm of mindset, humans seem to be wired to ‘see’ the world only in ‘black’ or ‘white’. If it’s not perfect, then it must be a horrible. If one person is not smart, he/she must be stupid. If one person is a narcissist, he/she must be  a bad person. And the most horrid thing is people tend to pass judgment, in extreme measures, only by a sheer amount of ‘gossips’. [Note: What I mean by gossips here is anything that is yet to be proven or tested but believed to be the truth].

One argument is to ‘simplify’ the thought process, to make it more efficient. If one has to really think through about everything, his/her brain will be overloaded. Hence, the tendency is to take any reference (even from the sources / people that normally we deem as dubious), e.g. prejudice available in society.  “People say it’s dangerous”, “people say that this kind of people [race, gender, look] are violent”, “people say he/she’s a kind person, therefore he/she will not cheat on you.”

Yes, it’s efficient, it allows my brain to ‘relax’, but I can’t help but question “is it effective?”. What if I lose many opportunities / chances because I follow this tendency? Ok, zeroing in on people. I observe the tendency of people (even me) to pass judgment to a certain person, even the one they haven’t met personally, based on what others’ say (even though, the source is seen as not a good judge of character). For example, when one parent heard from his/her friend that a male teacher likes to watch porn, his/her first thought might be that this teacher not of a good character, hence not competent to teach [Ok, name a guy on this earth who doesn’t like watching porns – if there’s a guy who claims he doesn’t, he must be in denial or living in cage for years that he doesn’t understand what porn is]. And if the parents decide to have him dismissed for the very reason of protecting their children’s future and actually he’s a warm and polite teacher that can turn their kids to be the winners of Math Olympics, what gives?

The next question might be, how can we become good judges of character? First, I think we should revisit what is character. Is our understanding of ‘character’ valid?

Last week I encountered this brilliant talk by David DeSteno “Insights: The Hidden Forces that Change Who We Are.” In this video, he presented few case studies that challenge our concept of character. For example, we think that it’s impossible for a guy who we think is good, polite and compassionate, goes to church every Sunday and does charity to cheat on his wife. Yet, there are numerous cases that this ‘perfect’ guy turned out to have more than one lover. Is he a wolf hides in sheep’s clothing? Another example, we think that a drug addict can only think about drugs and will not hesitate to commit violence to get a daily injection. However, what if that drug addict repeatedly saves people’s lives, jumping into a river to save people who intend to commit suicide? Is he only coincidentally helpful?

“The derivation of the word “character” comes from an ancient Greek term referring to the indelible marks stamped on coins. Once character was pressed into your mind or soul, people assumed it was fixed. But what modern science repeatedly shows is that this just isn’t the case. As we discuss in our book, everyone’s moral behaviour is much more variable than any of us would have initially predicted.” ~ David DeSteno

In his video, he presented some research results and scientific argument on the fluidity of human psychology. For those who are interested, please check out this video

I think, in essence, character is of spectrum and cannot be broken down in discrete categories. Therefore, to understand ‘character’, we not only have to broaden our perspective, but more importantly, constantly challenge ourselves not to fall into prejudice and overgeneralise. It doesn’t mean that you have to believe all people, but to be more cautious about our ‘flaw’ as human being, to think twice before passing any judgment.

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Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

Written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.



What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.



The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.



I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.



The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.

You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.


P.S: I got the piece from a good friend of mine. Thank you for sharing this with me 🙂

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