A New Beginning: From Washington DC to New York City

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People often go to India or Nepal for spiritual search. But to me, I had my spiritual journey in the United States of America.

I was invited by US State Department as one of 28 delegates from 28 countries (Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, South Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Uzbekistan) to participate in IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program), with a focus in entrepreneurship. We call the program, ‘A New Beginning 2013′ #ANB13

I’ve been invited to similar program before, so I have guessed a bit of what I would get. But this 3 weeks trip turned out to be totally different than what I have imagined. It’s a life-changing, mind-opening trip in every way.

Let me begin with my colleagues. 28 succcessful entrepreneurs from 28 countries. When I met them, I learned many similarities in our differences, and I realize one thing: that we’re only human :D

In our countries, we’re all role models. I see myself as a role model to young people in Indonesia. And I can’t allow myself to be fail, wrong, weak, or even look frustrated. I isolate myself from all those feelings because I think I have this big responsibilities to society and I have to be OK all the time.

But when I was together with my friends in the US, I felt like we were just a bunch of goofy souls trapped in entrepreneurs body & mind :)) We’re all human being, who had fun while sharing best practices and learn more about entrepreneurship from our new mentors. Being with them, I’ve learned to be vulnerable. To me, that was refreshing.

I also realized from many weeks of intimate sharing with my friends that, we’re all facing the same challenges in life or in businesses, and we can win the challenges for sure! It’s just another phase of life and we’re totally headed to a brighter future if we keep going.

Being a Muslim with hijab walking around in Washington DC, Portland, Dallas and New York City was another experience. I like walking alone, visiting Islamic Center, bookstores, libraries, museums, jazz clubs, watching the sky, watching people, let my mind completely absorbs the details I saw on the street. It sounds normal for most of you, but I felt a rush of self-consciousness because I was different from everybody (picture a packed jazz club with alcohol flows and you’re alone, the only hijabi around and you don’t drink)

But as I totally blend in with the scene, talking to strangers, looking to people in the eye, walking like I know where I’m going, people can start to see me beyond my hijab, they start to see me as a person.

Random people on the street even show their curiosity by asking me stuff about Islam “Can you drive?” – ask to take pictures with me “My wife wants to take pictures with you” – my friends also wanted me to teach them how to wear hijab “Ollie show me how to wear it!” – It was wonderful to break the barrier and show what Muslim girls can do.

On my trip, I met entrepreneurs running million dollars businesses from EO (Entrepreneur Organization) network like Jim Smith (CEO Cash4Books), Gail Davis (Founder & President GDA Speakers), Jill Nelson (Founder & CEO Ruby Receptionists), visiting amazing office like Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, meeting the Mayor of Dallas and Fort Worth, and many other priceless opportunities.

It was such a precious experience to be able to visit their office, visit their house, listen to their stories, learn how they run and manage their businesses and most importantly: showing us hope, that it’s perfectly possible to follow their track and be more successful.

I’ve learned a lot of ‘Aha moments’ on our workshops, especially the ones lead by Scott Offerdahl. One of the most important is the art of listening. Sometimes that’s the only thing we should do, and it could be the most difficult either.

I never thought that I’d learn to be human in my supposed to be business trip to US. Now, I know more about myself (that will benefit my businesses), know things about my business that I’d never have time to clearly look at (or I never make time for that). On 3 weeks off from my daily routines, I’ve learned so much more than what I expected. I have gain my clarity and ready to reach my highest potential.

Special thanks to Adrienne Cornelsen & team (Whitney, Cameron, Scott, and many more) from Entrepreneur Organization (EO) who partner with US State Department and US Embassy Jakarta to make this trip happen. Thank you US Embassy Jakarta for your patience to support me and my ELOs (Jenni, Connie, Bob, Marek) who taught me to have a formal relationship with time :))

My new entrepreneur friends from all around the world… Cath, I admire you. Sandra, my bonita! Keep inspiring. Mykem, Hope, our Mexican dinner was amazing. Kristin, you’re such an inspiration! Juju, Vale, Gaby, the cool gank :)) I missed our midnight walk in New York. Hikmat & Gerge, thanks for the conversations. Diego, the dance! Taslima it was fun time in Manhattan. Enes thanks to introduce me to Elif Shafak! I can’t mention you guys one by one but I truly cherised every moment we spend together.

Only when I was in Subway to meet my friend Lenore in Queens that I realized, man… I’m in New York! The city that never sleep. The land of opportunity. And the journey has just begun.

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