Thriving in Workplace and Home

My spouse and I recently had the opportunity to share a few lessons and tools on enabling us to thrive in workplace and home as a dual-career family. The most popular question from the participants is that while they want to thrive in both environments, they wanted to know how to prioritize and juggle the conflicting priorities.

Since this seems to be quite a popular question, I thought it’d be good to share some of the key takeaways here for the benefit of the larger group.

The most foundational step when it comes to thriving in workplace and home is to have the belief that we can thrive in both. The semantic of “work-life balance” somehow gives the impression that something has to go. The reality is that our life is dynamic and that “see-saw” balancing act always oscillate from time to time. As a family, we made a conscious decision very early in our partnership that it will be “work-life integration”. By using the word integration, we are conscious of the choices and priorities that we make and we are committed to stand by our principles at all times.

With this foundation laid, as a dual-career family, we see thriving in workplace and home as running a “Life Enterprise”. This means that we approach everything as running an enterprise, we integrate both with the other life aspects, using the tools and processes to run as a unit. This includes setting the family guiding principles based on values, systems, support, and decision-making matrix. In a simpler form, it means we are mindful and intentional over the things we do, be it at work or at home.

We believe in preserving the core while being flexible in executing.

To run the “Life Enterprise”, we have observed that these “pillars” have significantly helped us set it up effectively:

1. Build your support, processes and systems: For our family, we have set-up many systems to automate, delegate and prompt our important tasks. Of course, just like any enterprise, we need to start somewhere and further refine the systems as we go along. Some examples of the systems include the morning breakfast system, laundry management system, house-cleaning support system, homework support (which is minimal except if it was Bahasa), monthly bills payment system, kids’ annual stipend system and our property management system. We even have a travel checklist and toiletries & travel essentials ready to-go whenever we decide to travel (near or far).

2. Plan and prioritize: We cannot stress enough the importance of planning and prioritization. Given that our time is finite, we have to be mindful of what gets done and what gets dropped. As a life enterprise, rather than prioritizing in silos and in isolation, we would rather look at the bigger picture and that means balancing our family, our life and our career. I can expand this topic on its own – so I will deliberate more in a different entry on time management. 🙂 Hint: Things get done when scheduled in your calendar

3. Habits and rituals: We admit that we are creatures of habits and our willpower can bring us only so far. Hence, we believe in creating daily habits and family rituals to increase the chance of success in integrating both worlds. We believe in being role model to our children, hence setting up core values and use those as our compass has helped us tremendously. We also believe in consciously creating our family identity: the family rituals will help us through this journey and bind us in a more meaningful way.

4. Create open and honest communication: This is the most interesting journey so far for us, as we build this life enterprise. We joked at the learning session that we observed that the number of “silent treatments” and “unnecessary fights” have exponentially decreased over years, as we learn how to fight well. We learnt how to be transparent and communicate our needs openly. We need to understand where the other person comes from, what is his/her motivation when expressing their stand and how we can work together in co-creating the solutions. As we learn to fight better, we created deeper bond and mutual respect for each other, as partner in this life enterprise.

In summary, a slight shift in perspective will yield completely different strategies. And above all, this fits nicely with our persona – my spouse and I find meaning in the partnership and we get the joy in growing together.

Finding Purpose – a futile search?

This quest of finding purpose feels futile to me for quite a long time. Unfortunately, the more desperate I was, the more confusing it got.

Like any other person on a quest, I searched everywhere. I journaled, I read books, I talked to people, I listened to inspiring speeches. I even Googled! But – nothing. It got more confusing.

What I forgot to do is to search in one place that I usually avoid – within me.

By grace of God, instead of avoiding, I mustered the courage last year and set the intention to start the journey of discovery. I am happy to say that there are glimpses of ‘purpose’ that I found in this journey and my intention here is to share some of the key lessons with you.

What are my three key lessons in ‘finding purpose’:

  1. Semantics is important. I have now learnt that the way I frame and define ‘purpose’ is critical. I found that purpose is not about ‘doing’ but it is about ‘being’. I have since then re-framed purpose as “what do I intend to be and how will I show up on a daily basis, using my unique gifts”. Instead of pressuring myself to be the hero and saving the world, now I define my purpose as someone who gives a voice in conscious living and positive parenting / leadership. The compass helps when making small decisions on a day-to-day life. (These decisions add up!)
  2. I did not find purpose overnight. It is indeed a continuous journey. But once I reframe it as ‘being’, it took away the expectations to find THE purpose. What is more important is to be open and curious in the journey, allowing it to unfold naturally. I have never expected that allowing myself to be curious and to play is the best way to connect the dots. It still amazes me how things unfold when I decide to be curious and take the next step (which most of the time seems ridiculous at times. This blog is one of so many examples of curious ideas that popped up.
  3. Purpose requires commitment. We all have a unique gift to express but without fierce commitment and discipline, a vision will remain a vision.

In summary, what I found in this journey is that purpose is created consciously, one at a time. It blends our strengths, our joy and our contribution. It requires commitment. It requires me ‘to be’. Sometimes, I need to let things unfold and see the magic. Yes, a departure from my expectation when I started 🙂

So, what’s yours?

Leadership Nuggets – From Peter Senge

What an honor to learn some of these leadership nuggets from Peter Senge today, at Jakarta, thank you to Cherie for the invitation and warm hospitality.

Thought of sharing my raw notes, hope we all can take some of the wisdom and practice it immediately. 🙂

On letting chaos into order

  • Life is just not orderly, life emerges. Out of that emerges, order can come but it’s different than the order that we control.
  • How hierarchy can work better, not in the absence of hierarchy.

On Innovations:

  • The deep principle of innovation is collaboration: At MIT and its successful innovations, the heart of it is collaboration. Innovations emerge through working in teams.
  • All innovations come from someone who praised someone for stepping ahead, by taking risks.
  • Technology is meant to connect but now unfortunately has fragmented the society. Online communities tend to stick to the similar group because of zero-cost of exit. Real communities can only happen when you are stuck with each other and embrace diversity.
  • Diversity creates innovation. Solidarity is not uniformity but commitment to shared vision.
  • Harmony only exists because of diversity. The beauty of orchestra is diversity. This is deep old problem.
  • Technology is neutral and only an enabler. Technology does not define Industry 4.0.
  • The unintended consequence (such as terrorism) accelerated by technologies – it is not technology but really the human dimension (ie. motivation/intention) underlying behind it.

On Revolution:

  • The journey for IR4.0 is understanding our past and then create the future. The very first question: Will we still be a country with Industry 4.0. It is a question about identity and root.
  • Movement requires deeper sense of security. To take courage and step ahead, it is paradoxical that there has to have a sense of deeper sense of security.
  • Similar to biology, the process of evolution is transformation through conservation – it is rather paradoxical.
  • So, the important part for revolution is two-part: (i) what do we want to create and (ii) what identity do we want to conserve. But who are “we”? Whose identity?

On Leadership:

  • Do not confuse rank / formal authority with leadership. Just because you have a title, does not mean you are a leader. Most organizational leaders do not have titles.
  • The job of the CEO is to patiently listen to what’s being said and then forcefully communicate and execute.
  • In combat, it is easy to find a good leader, finding those that people whose team are willing to fight and die because of trust.
  • Masculine and feminine leadership – balance of leadership. The challenge we are facing in the leadership in this decade is re-balancing because the past has been fully-dominated by masculine power. That’s why yin and yang together are so important. With one-eye we don’t see the depth, only with two-eyes can we see the depth and the truth.
  • The deeper problem is how do I find myself something to appreciate when we see someone of different political view.
  • If we don’t like what we see, hold a brighter mirror. Of course, it is about changing society, but it starts with holding a mirror in front of us.
  • The real work of a leader is always external and external impact but the process is very reflective. “How do I keep discovering the flaw of my own ego, where my own fear takes over, when I don’t listen..”
  • To become a leader, you must be a human being. – Confucious
  • We can have respectful authority and challenging authority in the army. It is about balance. That’s what Innovation 4.0 is leading to. Hence, the chaos…. but we need to get comfortable with chaos..
  • It is not enough to have ideas and vision, but we have to practice. If we want to change, we need to create new practices. The leadership practice is about deep reflective practices AND execute simple daily actions.

Roots of words

  • “To lead”- indo-european is lithe which means, to step across the threshold. Leadership is stepping ahead. Leadership is from the edge.
  • Leadership is uncertain, you may fail. You will need courage to step ahead.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable (yet the images in the society that leaders are perfect, always right), hence why innovations are stalled.
  • It doesn’t matter because we are all human, we are imperfect yet we step ahead.
  • Leadership is the ability to clarify your goal and mobilize people.
  • Most effective leaders are deep listeners.
  • Courage means “opening of the heart”

Celebrating Wholeness

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week and as I celebrate my newfound shift in thinking, I thought of writing something around celebrating wholeness.

What is wholeness?

To me, wholeness is embracing the full spectrum of myself: the planner, the go-getter, the loyal sergeant, the creator, the empath, the artist and the carefree child.

As I learnt the new possibilities of creativity, I found it extremely difficult to integrate this playful side of me with the serious, practical side of me. At times, I felt like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde – one moment, I would immerse myself in intense work and drive, and at the other, I would be perfectly happy contemplating for days, not worrying about those work backlogs and wish I could be on vacation forever. It was quite a confusing phase (thank God it is quite short!) for me. For a while, I was living in an EITHER/OR world – I thought I had to choose which way do I prefer to live – to be carefree or to be driven. It was draining to put a serious, professional face all the time, but equally, I have no idea how to show up as that carefree, sensitive artist in my life. In short, it was confusing and counter-productive.

Then, I stumbled upon a book about life in spectrum that changed my perspective – “SWITCH ON” by Nick Seneca Jankel.

Instead of EITHER/OR, I found the concept of BOTH/AND very intriguing.

I have heard the term “Creative Tension” few times before, but the chart below (from “Switch On” book) illustrates the concept beautifully.

How it applies to me is the ability to recognize that it is okay to operate in a dynamic mode and to learn to move through this spectrum – oscillating from the thinkerMe to the playfulMe. Have you experienced the blissful moment and then in the next cycle, you became so determined and committed to step into the next action? That is creative tension dynamic at play.

What is most important about this shift in thinking is that I can now embrace the spectrum, ride the waves and enjoy it at the same time, without feeling confused. I can send the cues to my body to let go after I am in the fifth gear mode. I can remind myself to play and relax, after working so hard. And the most beautiful revelation is that I can be a driver and be a carefree person. It is through embracing the kaleidoscope of these moments that I become richer and more whole.

For mothers, it might mean that it is okay to be playful with your child and at other appropriate time, be the discipliner.

For leaders, it might mean that it is okay to be sensitive to your team’s needs, and also be firm on the principles.

For achievers, it might mean that it is okay to give the best shot in your project, and at the same time let go of the outcomes.

For some women, it might mean that it is okay to show up in the world in a practical way, and also embracing the sensitive and nurturing side of us, in order to make a better world.

For me, it means embracing all the pieces that define me: a mother, a professional, a friend, an artist and a carefree woman.

That is how I want to celebrate the IWD this week 🙂 Happy International Women’s Day!