Why We Need To Work a Little Bit Harder

Don’t work too hard. Have a work and life balance. Enjoy life. These are some of the things you see in blogs or websites lately advising us to do less work and have more time off, and disconnect. I’m not saying that it’s wrong or false, all of these are really really good, but when you apply this advice to our country, Indonesia? I personally would say that it’s a bit misplaced. Why?

Indonesia has a very laid back culture. There, I said it. This is something that we all admit. We tend to or prefer to have more meetings than to do the actual work. We really, really, like to hang out and chill in a cafe or a bar with our friends. Lunch hour is literally an hour because we spent more time talking than actually eating. Again, there’s always two sides of coin to everything, but we certainly not a country that you can describe as “hard working”.

This culture has made a lot of foreign companies or management teams coming from abroad, surprised or sometimes, dumbfounded. Because we ask for a higher salary, yet sometimes we arrive late and always waiting for 6pm to come sooner so we can just go right away (in Bahasa Indonesia we call this “teng-go”, when the bell rings, we just go). We have a tendency to “work slowly” or in Bahasa Indonesia “Santai aja/Selow aja”  and when the deadline came, sometimes miracle happen and you “finished your work” (you can define the meaning of the quote).

Obviously, this stereotype doesn’t apply to everyone or the whole country (it applies to me too), if you are working hard already, that’s awesome. And if you say “work smart, not work hard” – yes, but can you apply that to the whole work force? Some might not be able to do the former, but I believe that everyone can pretty much do the latter.

But, but, we have potential, a huge one, in fact our nation is predicted to be in the top 10 of global economy in the future. If you have been reading about Indonesia over the past few years, we have been hearing, writing, mentioning, talking, pitching, about Indonesia potential for quite a while now. This is what I am afraid will happen: that we will be complacent, that we will keep saying we have potential but we never know when it will unfold. Why? Because we are not working hard enough.

I tweeted that almost two weeks ago and I really meant every words of it. If you see Japan’s successes, and now China and Korea too. It was all built on a foundation of working hard. In fact, it’s not a surprise anymore that you heard about people getting sick or even worse because of overworking. They eat their lunch quickly, and get back to work right away. Even in Korea, there is a culture where students in the university would take a gap year or sometimes more than one year, because they know, once they graduated, there is no “life” anymore for them. But if it isn’t for hard work of that tens of millions (for China it’s hundreds of millions) of people, I don’t think they will be where they are right now. Alibaba’s $150b valuation? All because of hard work. (Please do watch Crocodile of the Yangtze to prove my words – it’s an awesome documentary)

Another thing that has been mentioned about Indonesia is that right now and for the next 20 years, Indonesia will have a golden generation because of our demographics. Again, this is a potential not a sure win. What if you have tens of millions of young people or generation but they are not skilled worker, they prefer to post pictures to Instagram compared to learning something new like coding or a new language, they prefer to read 9gag over “thick books” (Even Harry Potter is too much to read). The potential bubble will be burst and we might have more unemployment rather than a productive young workforce.

That is why I think in this post, as someone who wants Indonesia to succeed and exceed all the prediction (like you do), I would love if we can work just a little bit harder. It doesn’t have to be in a form of staying over in the office one more hour without doing anything, but it can be reading more books, it can be learning to code, it can be learning new skills or languages. I think rather than speaking to all the people, I’d dedicate this post to people who are between 15 years old-30 years old. Because the next 20 years will be on us, not on anybody, but on us.

This isn’t even specifically for tech/digital/internet industry because if we go there, we have two potential here: either we own our market by having locally made products/company founded by Indonesian succeeding or we just sit in our comfort zone: Googling everything because we just don’t want to think, liking pictures or stalking on Facebook, posting what you’re doing on Twitter, scrolling and double tapping on Instagram, and updating your sleeping hours on Path –  resulting in a scenario where we only became a market for foreign companies. I wish that Indonesia will not be the latter, but the former.

If this post offended you, it’s good, it means that I hit the right target. If this post resonates with you, please share it to your social media. If you have opinion, would love to hear it on the comments or tweet me: @jshkvn – I prefer not to hear a quick reply or comments such as but we want to enjoy life OR but we have to have a work and life balance.

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1 comment

  1. This has taken my interest. I am aware that we (Indonesian) are too laid back and I agree with you regarding that we should work harder. I want to work harder but from my experience, I find that sometimes the company itself is too laid back or doesn’t regard my hard work. The company I worked before now forced me to work overtime on weekends for 8 hours without being paid. On the contrary, now, I work for different company and this one is too laid back. Sometimes it bugs me a lot and I think hard on what should I do for tomorrow since I go to the office but then I have nothing to do there. I am currently looking for a job at other company because I think if I stay here long, my creativity and my skills will rust. Also, distance is one of a reason I personally consider since I live in Jakarta, a city full of traffic jam almost everywhere. If I were to spent much time only to stuck in traffic everyday, it would drive me crazy. And it is dangerous since I’m a female and I drive alone, resulting my parents to nag at me if I’m not home in time, causing more stress.

    P.S: It is only based on my experience though. I do hope I get better job that suit me. :)

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