It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are – Roy E. Disney

Fundamental things I want our son and daughter to learn:

1. First and foremost, be a person of honour. Place honesty, integrity, discipline, responsibility, and fairness above all else. Be the man/woman of your words.

2. You both have Javanese, Sundanese, Binjai, Lampung, Palembang, Manado, Chinese, Arabic, Czech, German, and English bloodline. At times you might feel that you have no strong cultural identity, but on the contrary, you’re a child of the world. Be proud and embrace every single heritage that you have.

3. Always be your comfortable self, that’s the first filter for people around you. Don’t try so hard to fit in if you’re meant to stand out. And you are the average of 5 people you hang out with the most, so choose your best friends wisely.

4. Live passionately, dream big, and don’t be afraid to fail. Because here’s a secret: everyone make mistakes, the key is not trying to be flawless but it is how we own up to our mistakes, how we learn from them, and how we eventually correct them, that define us as a character. Learn from your many trials and errors, learn from every single person that you meet, embrace every emotions that you experience and pay a close attention to what they are saying to you.

5. Your health should be your number 1 priority. And the basics to healthy living is actually quite straight forward: sleep right, eat right, exercise right, mindfulness, and social connections. In that particular order. But of course life is messy and you will from time to time stray off from these 5 basics. Don’t be too hard on yourself, instead give yourself a buffer to allow for some occasional lapses. “Everything in moderation”, said Mark Twain, “including moderation.” Just never forget about this fact: there’s always a price to pay.

6. Remember that money isn’t everything. You can buy clocks but not time, you can buy beds but not sleep, you can buy medicines but not health, you can buy books but not knowledge, you can buy people but not respect and love, you can buy pleasure but not happiness. You aren’t wealthy until you have something that money can’t buy.

7. One way to reach happiness is to be content with your life, and you can achieve that through living a minimalist lifestyle: Don’t buy sh*t you don’t need, only keep things that are valuable to you, and get rid of the junk. This, of course, also analogically applicable to many aspects in life like in relationship, work, time, and health. If you’re content with what you have there will be no need to brag or show off to cover up insecurities, or to fill empty void with unnecessary stuff or excessive pleasures (excess, on anything, is a sign of instability). There’s a good reason why all the religious prophets – from Buddha to Jesus to Muhammad – live and preach a minimalist message.

8. You’re a Muslim. Embrace the true religion, practice it peacefully and privately. Read Al Qur’an cover to cover at least once in your lifetime. But remember to learn other religions too and see how they all basically teach the same Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Read mythology, read Karen Armstrong, read all the religious scriptures that you can find, visit all the religious sites from Mecca to Vatican to Amritsar to Tibet, participate in as many religious festivals around the globe as possible, have friends from many different religions and be the poster child of tolerance, without having to lose your core identity as a moderate Muslim. And never forget: religion is not violent or peaceful, people are.

9. If you want to know the true measure of a man, just look at how the way he treats those who are inferior to him. Be the perfect gentleman/lady and treat everyone, from beggars to presidents, with equal respect. Not because they are nice, but because you are. Also be respectful of people’s time, that includes always being punctual to any appointment (10 minutes early) and giving your full attention at a conversation (and not getting distracted by wandering thoughts or a gadget). Furthermore, never joke about anyone’s physical appearance. And always remember of the importance of eye contact, unless, you know, when you’re eating a banana (that would be weird).

10. Read non-fiction books. It’s not a coincidence that behind every great people there’s an impressive library collection full of knowledge. Read the likes of Anthony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, read Stoicism. Read lots of biographies and learn from their real struggles and how they eventually succeed at what they do. And understand the depth of history so that you can make sense of the presence and can see the future clearly. And read literature, the time-tested wisdom are surprisingly relevant to this day. One of the best advices that I’ve ever received is not to go anywhere without bringing something to read, and utilise the in-between moments to read. Also listen to podcasts, there are a number of them that are just world class. But for the love of God, never ever learn history from Hollywood movies, they’re either historically inaccurate or bias towards their hidden agenda.

11. I’m going to apologise in advance for making you take your piano lessons. I hated it. Your uncle hated it. But it is the essential basic for musical intelligence, and music is the soul of life. Almost every memorable moment in my life has a soundtrack to it (I’ll tell them all someday), and we can actually go back in time and re-live the moments when listening to these soundtracks again. Music is also the perfect companion for our emotions. Want to feel upbeat? Listen to rock or dance music. Heartbroken? Actually binge on those sappy sad songs to embrace the emotions. You get the picture. I also find classical music to have a tremendous healing effect, and try to listen to the rich catalogs of world music to get the feel of the soul of different cultures. And when you’re both older and already understand the magic of music, please remind me to tell you the awesome story about the greatest band in the world, Venezuela’s Los Amigos Invisibles.

12. Travel the world. Better yet, go backpacking on a shoestring at least once in your lifetime, and blend in with the locals. You’ll learn much more about life than you’ll ever do in formal education. And if you want to test a relationship or a friendship, go travel with that person for at least 72 hours non stop side-by-side to a completely new place.

13. Your mum always say kindness is something we have to learn in life. Not everyone born into an environment that teaches kindness, sometimes we have to teach them and show them how to be kind. But remember, there’s a thin line between a nice person and an idiot who get fouled at but stay quiet to maintain harmony. Yes, everyone you meet is an opportunity to practice kindness, but never forget to stand up for yourself. Know your self worth.

14. Anything is achievable with practice, and everything is trainable. If you attempt to achieve or compete for 700 it’s important to practice for 1000, so that you will have a buffer. If you don’t continuously practice being decisive on the small matters, you won’t have the mental muscle to be decisive on the big matters. And the hardest practice is usually exactly what you should bring extra effort to it, like in muscle building: the hardest workout move is usually what your muscle need the most to grow. It’s like what Jim Rohn once said, when it comes to your own habits and daily actions, every discipline affects the rest. And that’s the key, not in the big goals but in the daily routines.

15. I don’t want any harm to ever done to you both, but the world is chaotic and imperfect so you will get hurt from time to time. The most important thing is not to pray for danger to never happen, but to be able to recognise any signs leading to danger, how to avoid it, and be fully prepared when it inevitably comes. That’s the essence of martial arts. And you’re going to choose one that you like.

16. You are the product of your environment, but you are also the creator of your environment. You are not what happens to you, you are your response to it. You can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you respond. If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it change the way you look at it. Bottom line, focus on what you can control, that is the Stoic message. And remember that in your lifetime everyone at some point will disappoint you, including me. The most important thing is to never be disappointed at yourself, and, as Bob Marley said, you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.

17. If you want to find a good girl or guy, don’t go looking for them at dodgy night clubs. If you want to find love, don’t waste your time with women or men you know you have no future with. And remember, it’s better to stay single than being a cheat. Relationship doesn’t have to be complicated. As you both grow up, you will eventually learn about who you are and what kind of people that you like, that you don’t like, that you can tolerate, what kind of person that you need, and what you want or like but don’t actually need. Have awareness of that (or take a note and make a list), and it will be easier to eventually find that perfect fit for you. You get to know all of that through trials and errors, from good and bad relationships, from stupid hilarious stories, from people who shape or change your views on things, from the best ex to the craziest. So if and when your relationship doesn’t go according to plan, don’t worry, look at the big picture (you’re one step more towards getting to know who you are and what your preferences are), and just enjoy the journey.

18. You’ll never really know poverty until you see it first hand, and experience it first hand. Spend time with the poor to gain perspective, even do Seneca’s practicing poverty if you can, and dedicate part of your life to help them in your own way. Be grateful and humble if you have more than enough.

19. Assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups. On the other hand, clear communication is the foundation of every good relationships. In fact, a study concludes that those who directly address problems instead of relying on passive aggression tend to have a happier relationship. So always clarify, never assume.

20. Follow world current affairs. Read news from various different media, read between the lines, connect the dots in the puzzle of knowledge that you have and draw your own conclusion. Always check the media that report the news and whether or not they have a hidden agenda behind it. Never take any news at the face value.

21. We live our lives one decision at a time. If you want to have an extraordinary life, make extraordinary decisions. Learn to measure every decision according to their risk/reward (and whether you can manage the risk). And the old adage is true, don’t make any decisions when you’re angry and don’t make any promises when you’re happy. The same goes with never go shopping with an empty stomach.

22. True friends are those who stick by you during your lowest points, darkest hours, saddest periods. If you ever in a rock bottom and have people around you who support you, hang on to them. And remember that everyone’s busy, we don’t have time but we make time. But also remember not to waste your time with someone that won’t meet you halfway.

23. Always dress appropriately. A considerate person is a person who knows the right time and place to wear certain dress code. At a beach? Wear something laid back. At a wedding or a funeral? Dress to pay your respect. You get the gist.

24. There’s a line of words that I use to catch your mum’s heart, and that line is now engraved in our wedding ring. It’s a line from a Beatles song: to love is to share. Never ever forget that.

25. Always remember that me and your mum love you both very much, both of you will always have us, and we will always got your back no matter what happens in life.