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Girls – Let’s Start Investing!

“You don’t save your way to wealth, you invest your way to wealth.” Janda Becanda (The Widow Jokes Podcast) episode on cryptocurrency.

Following up on my post about financial freedom for women is this post on investing for women. What’s the idea behind investing? The quote above sums it best. Once you have stable finances (paid off your debts, set up an emergency fund, you have an active insurance) then and only then would it be a good time to start considering investing. The philosophy behind it is that the money you save up decreases in value over time due to inflation rates. Thus the best way to grow your money is by spending it on sound investments.

Sadly, most women lack confidence in investing in comparison to men. However, despite less women investing, studies actually show that the women who invest are outperforming the men who are investing.

My Approach As a Newbie

For me, I approached it this way: investing, like everything else in life, is a habit. If it’s a habit, that means everyone can learn it and manage the ropes well to benefit themselves. I started my investing attempts late 2019 and I won’t say I’m an expert – not at all. I’m still a newbie. But what I want to share are some tips on how to start investing. Because, the best time to start investing is as soon as possible – the longer the time you have, the better your chances are.

First, talk to a trusted financial advisor. Find someone who is well along their investing journey and ask them to share their basic philosophies. How do they make their decisions? What books / journals / blogs did they read? Maybe they listen to some great podcasts. Educate yourself on the topic, and make yourself more financially literate.

Educate yourself on the topic, and make yourself more financially literate.

Second, try to understand your appetite for risk. Do you like risks? Or do you prefer something safer? Would you be ready if that bit that you invested suddenly loses value during a market recession?

Third, diversify. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Spread out your investments into several different sectors (research beforehand never hurts). That way when one sector sinks, the others can still help balance your portfolio. This happened for me in the pandemic. Most of my stocks were bleeding except an investment I made on forex trading in 2019. Phew.

Fourth, don’t wait to invest. Start with as small as 10 USD, but get yourself into the habit of it and let time work for your favor, instead of for your demise.

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A New Video Series: Marketing Chill Chats!

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been 1 year since this website was launched for public! Since November 2020, this little corner of the internet has had 7K visitors, 17K views, 140+ posts, and 500+ likes. Thank you to everyone of you who has stopped by, read some of my thoughts, listened to my podcast, liked, commented, and perhaps even purchased something at the shop!

To celebrate one year, I am rolling out a special video series with the one and only Frances Bowden Affandy. Frances is a lecturer at School of Business Management in ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung) on Principles of Marketing; Services Marketing; Consumer Behavior; and Sales Management. Her experience throughout her international career of 40+ years encompasses marketing and hospitality (from Boston, New York City, Kathmandu, to Bandung). For her detailed career history, visit here.

Marketing Chill Chats

This new video series consists of 9 segments. Each segment covers a topic in services marketing which I believe will be very interesting for those of you interested to learn more about the field, or perhaps for those of you keen on marketing your brand or small business.

Expectations & Perceptions

The first part covers expectations and perceptions of your consumers. If you find this content interesting, consider trying out a live, personalized consultation session with Frances and myself. You can also purchase this live consultation session as a gift for someone who is trying to market their personal brand and / or small business.

The second segment covering Target Market will be available 2 weeks from now on Thursday, 25th November 2021.

If you have any feedback, don’t be shy! Help us out by sharing your thoughts and comments. Again, thank you for going on this website journey with me!

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Tips For Finding Work

I remember in my last semester of college, one of my fears were “would I get a job”? Would I be able to make enough money to support myself?

It has now been about 14 years since I graduated, and let me tell ya, I’ve had at least ten jobs. Come to think of it, I was already working 3 part-time jobs even in college. I had even started a side job in high school. I’ll go through them briefly here because in this economically difficult situation, more than a couple of people have come up to me asking if I have work (jobs) for them. I know it must be stressful and scary, but I hope my experience will help you get some tips for finding work.

From Librarian to Counting Wildlife, to Cleaning Toilets

High School

  • Teaching piano lessons for kids.

Undergraduate years in college :

  • Staff in the Dining Hall. This includes helping the cooks, lay out meals in massive amounts for the student population (hundreds would eat in the Hall during meal times), dishes duty, mop and clean floors before and after meal times.
  • Observe in the Nature Preserve. This was easily one of my favorite part-time jobs in college. I was an environmental science major, and I signed up to walk 2-3 times a week in the nature preserve (sometimes everyday during Spring / Winter / Summer Break). My duty was to observe the wildlife that I saw during the walk and write them all down. CAN YOU BELIEVE I GOT PAID TO DO THIS? I loved those walks.
  • Maintainence Crew, aka cleaning crew. This was the job almost all international students did because it paid the most per hour and was the least glorified job available on campus. I regularly cleaned toilets, rooms and apartments (after students moved out), laundry rooms, take trash out from dorm public rooms, you name it. Yep, I cleaned toilets to help me get through college. I say this with pride now.

Graduate school years :

  • Music Librarian. Oh this was fun, not too difficult, and I got to be with books. Old, music books. This was my first library job, and I really enjoyed everyone I worked with.
  • Teaching Assistant to my piano pedagogy professor, which allowed me to build a great relationship with her and learn a lot from her.
  • Piano Teacher in the Music Academy. This paid really well, and I got to meet some awesome kids and families, some of whom I still keep in touch with until now via Facebook!

After graduation I did many many music related jobs, everything from on stage to behind the stage to preparatory work to marketing work. This helped me really understand the ins and outs of the industry.

It’s the Attitude

Okay so, this post isn’t supposed to be a CV, you say.

What I want to share is that if you take a look at the various things I have done for work (and the various things I’m doing now to stay afloat in this pandemic induced economic crisis), you’ll see that it’s not really about the job. It’s about the attitude.

I was willing to do anything, from counting birds to cleaning toilets to organizing up my professor’s cabinets to archiving hundred year old music books. All of those jobs I did for the span of at least 1 year. That, folks, is what matters most – that you’re willing to hustle, and willing to give it a shot not just for a month or two.

With that attitude, I’m sure you’ll be able to find work no matter how difficult the economy condition is.

Another inhibiting factor is sometimes our internal voices. Take a read of my post on dealing with toxic voices.

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Why I Create

I stared at the black and white keys of the piano. They blurred in my eyes. I tried to remember what I was supposed to play, which notes I had to press, but everything left my mind. My brain could only feel one thing: burning shame. I was supposed to perform a piece by Bach at a concert during my student days, and I absolutely failed. I forgot everything on stage.I pressed the last chord, forced myself to make the most awkward bow in my life, and walked off dejectedly.

I was 20 years old.

An email popped into my inbox, from an international competition I was waiting to hear back from. My ensemble and I had prepared hundreds of hours, used our own money to make the music videos, and submitted the recording of our playing to the committee. I didn’t want to read the email. If we were rejected, it would be hard to deal with the disappointment after all those hours of practicing. When I gathered enough guts to look at the screen, I saw the apologetic words. Fuck. We failed again. We were not good enough.

The above two are examples from my earlier years of some of the grandest failures of my life. Several weeks ago, I had a discussion on my Instagram channel about what we fear most as creators, whether it’s musicians, actresses, auditions, or writers sending drafts, or illustrators sending drawings, or any type of creators.

From the fear of failure, rejection, not being good enough, to fear of wasted time, energy, and effort, all of those are very real daily inhibitors of creating.

Oh, not to mention, economic pressure. HA. I bet 99% of creators on this whole planet are not making enough money to get by just from their creations.

What’s the whole point?

So why then, do we still create at all? If it’s scary; if it’s not going to give us enough money; if it’s just going to make us feel bad about ourselves, then what is the whole point?

I struggled a lot with this, trust me.

What gave me clarity of mind was one of my mentors, who told me about his cardinal rule of life which is to HAVE FUN. He would only do something if he was sure that it would be a fun, enjoyable ride for him. If not, then he would not do it.

Reflecting upon myself, I analyze again and again if I am having fun while creating. Did I enjoy myself? Did I have a good time? If I did, then it was worth it. At the heart of it, the act of creating is not about the receiver, it’s about the creator. It’s about me spending the most precious asset I have (which isn’t money, by the way, it’s TIME) doing what I like to do.

The most precious asset we have is not money, it’s time.

Whether other people like it or not is secondary. Whether they would pay for it or not, is also secondary. I am not saying it’s not important to be sellable, to make money, to be able to price your creations/artwork/time. I am saying that for me, it is secondary to the creating process. That’s why it’s different when you’re doing a commissioned work versus when you’re just doing it for yourself.

When you’re performing for a specific audience, writing for a specific target group of readers, or say cooking for a designated person with certain taste bud preferences. In those times, I believe the focus is the receiver, the client, the audience.

But I believe creating starts with yourself, and will end with yourself. So my advice: make sure you’re having a good time while you’re creating. If you’re no longer having a good time, then just stop and do something else.

That’s okay too.

A great book to read for creators is Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

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Covid Cauldron in Indonesia

July and August 2021 Indonesia has risen to number one Covid hotpot in the world. “We are the next India,” friends said in the WhatsApp groups. Every day there is news of someone dying, friends or family members that got infected, and some that are grieving because loved ones have just died.

When my grandmother died just 2 days after she contracted the virus, I wrote a lamentation. My uncle died soon after.

Economic Implications of the Covid Cauldron

In one of my zoom meetings for a possible next musical project, a new possible collaborator spoke of the film industry in Indonesia being in a critical situation due to producers not being able to pay hundreds of crews. This takes me back to the beginning of the pandemic. The performing arts industry was in that critical period last year. Of course, the whole landscape freefalling and musicians had to start selling food, masks, fresh vegetables, anything really to survive.

As for myself, in addition to my job at the Bandung Philharmonic where I’ve reduced my salary by 40%, I have been very fortunate to be a part of another music start-up in Singapore, made possible by Singaporean partners and grants. I’m also lucky that Villa Gupondoro Airbnb is still up and running, in fact becoming quite the popular staycation place in Bandung, so that provides some breathing space in terms of finances. Although of course it closed down again along with everything else in July.

The film industry still had online platforms, Netflix, etc so I guess they managed to hang on for another year (just barely). But now it’s their turn. It’s like watching a slow-moving train wreck. I wonder what will indeed happen in the next couple of years. How will the map change after Covid cauldron, and who are the players that will survive?

To be honest, I am not sure. I guess we can only take it a day, a week, a month at a time and hang on to weather the storm as best as we can.

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Channeling Anger Into Creative Energy

“Anger is a tool,” said Frances Bowden Affandy (anthropologist). If you follow my blog, you will notice that Frances is a frequent presence on this site. She was also a guest speaker for one of my earlier podcast episodes.

This one morning, I was talking to her about angry energy, and she helped me to realize that just like many other emotions and energy, it is really, a tool. Harnessed in the right way, anger can push you to do many things you would not have had the guts to do otherwise. Now some of these might be destructive decisions, and that’s where anger management comes in.

Angry Muse

I have fallen to that many times, and probably will again. I’ve been so angry that relationships have been ruptured for good, bridges have been burned, and collateral damage abounded. I realized though that if I just channel this wave of nuclear energy in myself into a creative project, then it usually turns out to be something rather cool!
For example, I was got so angry on a recent project that I sat down and wrote a WHOLE MUSICAL in 24 hours. This includes 11 scenes and the lyrics to 5 new songs for the musical. Some say I was kissed by a muse. Well, I know the muse was anger.

The musical is called Bobo Lee, inspired by the life of my grandmother. I had written two posts about her for Chinese New Year celebrations this year. Ever since then, I have been thinking to develop it into a stage musical.
I imagine this will take about 3 years of preparation to stage. This consideration includes riding out the Covid-19 pandemic. I do want it to be a live theatrical experience for everyone. In the meanwhile, if you are curious about the results of my angry muse, you can visit Bobo Lee Musical on Instagram.

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The Last Five Years Producer Speech

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Airin Efferin, your friendly host for tonight’s yet another Zoom session. In the context of The Last Five Years production though, I am your UNFRIENDLIEST MEANEST BITCHIEST co-producer. While we wait for some people to enter, let me show you this picture.

Andrea Miranda as Cathy Hyatt, The Last Five Years (table read)

This was the table read in 27 February 2021. A table read is the first time the whole cast and crew go through the script from beginning to end. This table read was done via zoom, just like now, and so this production is truly a pandemic production. It was concepted, designed, executed, filmed, and streamed during the coronavirus pandemic.

For all the people involved in this production, from volunteers to severely underpaid workers, think about that for a moment. You created an awesome show during one of the most challenging times of human history. It’s easy to create when times are good. It’s not easy to create in hardship. And yet, that’s what all of you did.

So I hope you are sitting straight and feeling real proud of yourselves, because look what you did – look what we did. I hope that some years down the road, whenever you’re feeling stumped or blocked or like you want to give up, just remind yourselves about this project. Remind yourself that you were a part of something that at first seemed truly impossible. Something that created history (at least, musical theatre history – in Indonesia ) and remember that you CAN.

If you can do this, who knows what else you will be able to do.

This producer speech was written for the online premiere of The Last Five Years (June – July 2021). Streaming tickets are still available now at Kiostix. Support us by buying and watching online!

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Groped at work? Me too.

Here we go, another one of my #metoo stories. It makes me so angry, and yet by this time I’m so calloused to it. Isn’t it horrible? This time, I was groped at work. Well, my kind of work which is fundraising for the arts.

I was having a dinner meeting with a well-known patron of the arts in Jakarta. I presented a proposal on behalf of the Bandung Philharmonic, and he was talking about a festival he was interested to fund. After dinner, he offered me a ride back to where I was staying in Jakarta (in an artist residence in the well-known Senopati area). I agreed.

Inside the car, he sat in front next to the driver, and I sat in the back. There was a traffic jam, so what should have been a 5-minute ride turned out to be a nightmare 25-minute ride. It was a nightmare because, during the ride, he leaned his arm back and groped my thighs. I couldn’t believe it. I pushed his hand away. He put his hand back with more force. I pushed it away again. I almost considered getting out of the car right then and there, which I should have done. Why the HELL was the driver silent in all of this?

Of course, he was the enabler. There is always the silent enabler, scared of the power the perpetrator holds over him or her.

I stayed in the car, and he did not grope me anymore. But when he dropped me off in front of the artist residency, he tried to kiss me right then and there. I moved away from him, panicked that he would try anything further on the street. I wondered why the satpam took so long in opening the door. 

He said, “Look, how about a threesome then?” and rattled off some huge name artists in Jakarta that he would invite to have a threesome with me. I was so upset. Luckily the satpam came out then and opened the door. I hurried inside. 

The next day I directly told some other important patrons, so there would be witnesses if I ever decided to report. Who am I kidding? I know he is too powerful for me to take down without proper evidence. Fine. But I have my cards. And I will always keep them for when the time is right-when the ground swells with all the other women I know he has harassed.

When that time comes, I’ll be playing my cards for sure.

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Tips to End Meetings On Time

Hi working professionals! Do you ever get into situations where your client or boss tends to be very enthusiastic and run overtime for a meeting? I know from my experiences this happens a lot, especially when the clients are also friends or people you have known for a long time.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have strong relationships with the people who ensure you have a living. However, there is a thin line between strong relationships and giving away too much of your time. After all, if you spend all day chatting to the person when (and how) are you actually going to get your work done?

I run meetings of all sizes, from one on one to board meetings with 15+ people, even to attending meetings that will just go on and on (usually with the Indonesian government). Here are my tips to make sure your meetings end on time.

Tips to End Meetings On Time

State clearly at the beginning of the meeting how much time you have, so everyone knows the expectations. “I have about half an hour (or an hour) for this meeting, and I have something scheduled after which really needs me. I hope that’s alright.”

Have an agenda and state the agenda in the beginning, about the same time you state how much time you have. It’s always good to be clear about the goals of the meeting. “The goal of this meeting is to decide on our marketing focus for this month.”

It’s always good to be clear about the goal of the meeting.

In the course of the meeting, if you see that the problem is much deeper than as first diagnosed, and you will need more than the agreed time, then I would advise to still end the meeting on time while setting up another time soon to carry on the discussion. Don’t make a habit of letting calls or meetings run longer than agreed, or else it will continue to be that way.

Tricks Which Always Work

In places like Indonesia where it’s considered extremely rude to interrupt someone older, then it can be difficult to safeguard your time. Here is a little trick that Oky and I used, and I later taught it to Cung. Use your spouse as a cover-up. Oky eventually learned to tell his client that he had to pick me up-although that might not always have been the case. Cung would say, “I have to make sure Airin is OK in the house by herself.”

I would say something like “I have to start preparing food, or I have to get ready for a date night with Cung.” It works like a charm all the time. This little trick is meant to let other people know that you have other responsibilities in life and that you must prioritize or get to them.

If you’re not married, you can always use your parents’ as a cover-up. “I have to go call my father.” “I have to go help my mother run an errand.”

The last part is what might be the hardest: you have to stick to it. You must leave at the time you said you needed to go. Follow through. That way people will appreciate your time-and their own time! In the next meetings, they will adhere to that habit. Successful people treat each other’s time with respect.

There are my tips and tricks, I hope your meetings can be managed effectively and productively!

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How to Deal With Hate Speech on Social Media

I recently opened a TikTok account, to the great chagrin of my husband. Tiktok‘s platform is great in offering people easy access to creating awesome 1-minute clip videos. However, I drive him nuts whenever I’m editing the videos. There are only so many times that he can listen to a K-pop jingle.

Many people have said that TikTok is the fastest growing social media. Its algorithm is still quite good in comparison to other older platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest (you name them, I have them). Especially in the case of Facebook and Instagram where it’s now a “pay to get” platform – you have to pay to get followers, likes, comments, etc.

Viraling on TikTok

With TikTok, if you have a viral tune, trending hashtags, and relatively good content, then it’s easy to get thousands of views and reactions such as likes and comments. Two of my videos have gone viral just in this past month. The first one was on my speaking up against Asian American hate which reached 33K viewers. The other one was responding to the recent terrorist attack on a church in Makassar, Indonesia, on Palm Sunday (a religious Christian holiday). This video got 9K viewers and 200+ comments.

In the space of about two weeks, these 2 viral videos boosted my followers by an additional 300. That’s a huge lot!

However, I learned that with the coveted popularity comes the rot: hate speech. I won’t show them here because it will trigger all kinds of angry emotions. Instead I will share a few survival skills to implement in dealing with hate speech on social media.

Tips to Deal with the Hate Speech

First: Disengage. When the hate comments are pouring in (and sometimes you’ll get like 10 hate comments in 1 hour) it can be overwhelming. Disengage. Get off the app, let the algorithm play out, and you go take a rest or take a walk or do something else. I also did some box breathing so I didn’t panic. Only check back on the platform when you’re ready to take action to filter the comments.

Second: depending on how you want your channel to be, you can either filter and block the comments, reply to disagree or call out the hater, or simply let it be and see what happens. I did a mix of first and third. Some of the comments were so offensive I right away blocked the user and reported them to TikTok. I left the other comments which I thought were borderline but had a trace of a valid argument. Lo and behold, some people stepped up and started defending and speaking for me, which was so nice of them. I supported my defenders by liking their comments, and adding them as friends while ignoring the hating users.

Third: use it to your advantage. After the video cools down in its virality, and I’m much more in control of my emotions, I take a look at some of the arguments happening, screenshot it, and use it as content material on other platforms. My goal in doing this is to educate social media users to take a more active approach towards hate comments if they come across them. I want to encourage people to defend and speak up for users who are being bullied.

Speak up and defend users who are being bullied on social media.

The saddest thing about all of this is that hate speech is not just an online problem. It is also pervasive in our everyday lives. Learning how to deal with hateful comments and then using them as educational material to your advantage is being proactive, smart, and a responsible citizen of the internet.

Have you encountered hate speech on social media? How do you deal with it?