There's a fitting quote I just came by this morning on Twitter:
"In beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in expert's mind there are few.": Shunryu Suzuki
As some of you have learned, Stanford Graduate School of Business has admitted me into its 12-months Sloan Fellow program. A week ago, I have formally signed my job resignation papers and the notice to vacate my rented apartment. The program begins in July 2013; I am planning to stay in Indonesia between February and May 2013.
Crazy. Great risk. Unnecessary. Those are likely your reactions.
About fifteen years ago, I did something similar under worse circumstances. At the height of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, I packed my bags and flew to St. Louis USA to study in Washington University, another one of the world's finest institutions. I received half-tuition scholarship then, yet I still saddled myself with over $50k in debt with little understanding on how I was going to pay that back.
But the rest ... you know my life story: it was the best decision I've ever made.
Out of the many reasons why I wanted to join the Stanford Sloan program (all of which I will discuss in the coming weeks through this blog), the most important comes down to this:
I love what I do, and I still do.
But therein lies life's biggest risk: I have become so comfortable with my job that I could no longer strive and take risks the way I did when I first started my career. It is easier to do as told, and it has become more and more difficult to take risks because to think and do different -- the payback would never worth more than the risks of failure and repercussions. Somehow I long for what Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech:
"I didn't see it then, but getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life ..."
I am no Steve Jobs, I know. But in the Sloan Fellow program, I will be joining 79 fantastic individuals. This year's cohort includes Senior VP of Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi UFJ. Senior VP of Standard Chartered Bank. Managing Director of Morgan Stanley. Senior VP of Piaggio. US Navy SEAL. Deputy of Private Secretary to Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR. Manager in Samsung CTO office. Senior VP of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. About two dozens of cofounders and CEO/COO of various firms -- high tech and low, financial and operational. Oh, and the list goes on. You get the idea: how the admission committee thinks I belong in this elite group is beyond me, but let's not question that :)
When I put everything in balance, anything I stand to lose does not compare with everything I will gain by joining this program in Stanford at the heart of Silicon Valley.
Wish me luck.