A Wave of Inspiration - Bringing Out Your Inner Entrepreneur - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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A Wave of Inspiration - Bringing Out Your Inner Entrepreneur

Jul 01, 2014


In a small village near Banda Aceh, Ibu Salamah (Ibu is a term of respect for an elderly woman in the Indonesian language, like aunty) makes and sells cakes to neighboring shops to finance her five children's educations, provide payments for her husband's becak (motorcycle taxi), and keep her simple home furnished with the amenities that keep her family comfortable.

But only a few years ago life in Aceh was very different. Homes destroyed by fighting, livelihoods drowned by a great wave, lost family members, and lost opportunities - these characteristics make up many of the stories in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

You might remember Aceh from watching the news in December 2004. It was the closest island to the tsunami, and was almost completely destroyed by it. Not only was the city of Banda Aceh flattened by the enormous wave and its aftermath, it had also survived a 30-year civil conflict.

When I was there a few years ago I met many families who lived through the tsunami and the conflict.

One of my favourite stories is that of Ibu Salamah.

Her life had been a series of intrusions by soldiers, intimidating and harassing, extorting money and food. Listening to guns firing and hearing about people being kidnapped was an everyday occurrence.

But Ibu Salamah and her husband continued to work through the fighting to support her family. She was beyond fear. She did not care about the fighting and the violence. She just wanted to continue living normally.

'Why should I be afraid,' she asked resolutely. 'I am innocent. If they want to hit me, let them. I refuse to live in fear. I have a family to work for.'

And she continued to work.

But then the tsunami broke over her hometown, taking with it her last vestige of security.

What do you think Ibu did when her small field was destroyed, flooded and buried under debris, and her husband was injured to a point he could barely move?

If there was ever a time a person should drop their shoulders in despair and say 'Bas! Enough... I can't take this anymore', this would be it.

But she didn't.

That woman had an unbreakable spirit!

Instead, she struggled on. When an NGO came to her village she grabbed the chance to borrow 1.5 million Indonesian rupiah, about 7,000 Indian rupees, and set about using her only bit of talent, making cakes, to create a means of survival.

With her determination, not only was she able to put her life and home back together, Ibu also helped to rebuild her destroyed village and start a village development committee.

And this was just one of the many inspiring stories I came home with.

The tsunami gave me stories of survival, and hope. Of moving on when things got rough. Of picking yourself up after a fall, and rebuilding your world after it had literally been washed away.

The first lesson I took away from this story is that you need to find motivation within you.

I have many readers who write in to me to say they would like to start a business, but they don't feel ready, or they don't see any good opportunities, or even that they are scared that things won't work out.

The one thing that we can learn from these stories is that no conditions are ever perfect, no circumstance is ever right... Now is the right time and you must find readiness within you.

When Ibu Salamah was at the end of the road, all of her options drowned out, and what seemed like a future of poverty and starvation, she fought back - that was the motivation that let her true power emerge.

She always had the capacity in her, just as we all do. It surfaces during tough times, in times of desperation, and struggle. It took a natural disaster to bring Ibu's potential to fruition.

Don't wait for a natural disaster to bring you to that point. You can find that same motivation within you. You can see from the survivor's stories that the potential resides within each one of us.

Think about the people who have faced impossible odds and come out ahead - and use their stories as the motivation to bring out your own power.

I also learned that within challenges lie opportunities.

Have you ever given up your goals because you came up against a difficulty, and thought 'jaane de - mujhse nahin hoga'? 'Forget it - it'll never work out?'

It has happened to me. Still happens.

But in Aceh I saw that adversity is in fact the whetstone that sharpens you. It brought out the best in Ibu, in the face of extraordinary challenge she really shined as a person.

We all face challenges in our lives - and all our difficulties are very real and painful to us, obviously we want to avoid them.

But my best friend used to say: 'If everybody threw their problems in the air, when they fall back down pray that you catch your own problems, and not somebody else's.'

That's because our problems, compared to everyone else's, are the best for us. They are our opportunities. They make us who we are and without them we would be incomplete. If we let them, they will bring out the best in us too.

I learned to get attached to people, not things.

Ibu Salamah lost her house, her farm, her livelihood. She should have been devastated. She was saddened, yes, but more motivated than ever because she was thinking only about her family, not about her house. If you get attached to material things - then you are tied down. It is when you attach yourself to people then you become motivated to soar.

Finally, I learned that we all have an entrepreneur within us.

Ibu Salamah had never considered working at something of her own. She was barely educated, and at most helped out with the farm when she could. But when the time of need came she rummaged inside herself and came out with such determination that led her to develop a product, procure an investment, run a successful business...even build roads.

We are all enterprising in different areas of our daily lives - dealing with situations, communicating effectively, selling our selves, solving problems. And this enterprising spirit can be translated into business by each one of us, with a little encouragement and the right motivation.

Ritika Bajaj
In fact, to nudge your entrepreneurial spirit in the right direction Common Sense Living has brought on board a new editor who is an entrepreneur herself. Ritika Bajaj will be sharing with you experiences from her own business adventures. I won't tell you more, I want her to introduce herself in her own words, so watch out for her first beautifully-written newsletter coming to you tomorrow...

In my ruminations, I sometimes think back to Ibu Salamah's glow of satisfaction reflected in her simple yet beautiful home, and her five respectful and loving children. Her contentment and pride shone through as she told me about the journey of her life, while absent-mindedly playing with her little grandchild in her lap.

In her I saw hope for a peaceful future for a world where everyone can pursue opportunities, indulge in simple pleasures, and live without fear.

What did you think about the story of Ibu Salamah? Write in to let us know if you were moved by it, and if it spurred you to take action.


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10 Responses to "A Wave of Inspiration - Bringing Out Your Inner Entrepreneur"


12 Dec, 2014

thank you to ask you financial assistance support to realize project development


17 Sep, 2014

Great Story! Great Effort. Thanks, Ritika, do you have any video on Ibu that can be shared. Regards, Hari


04 Jul, 2014

AT THE AGE OF 72 wish to some new to learn,create,distribute. not interested in earlier works,job


02 Jul, 2014

The story of ibu is very inspiring. It is a great example to people who live in fear without any hope in difficult circumstances. Hope you keep on writing these stories.

Mahendra Vaswani

02 Jul, 2014

Great Stuff!! Just what we all need when the inner negative voice threatens to take over. It's the spirit of hope and never say die that we all have in us which we must exercise! I read all your articles...simple and they touch the heart! Keep up the good work!!!

Uday Nath

01 Jul, 2014

Very inspirational story, well done, and thanks for sharing! Uday,


01 Jul, 2014

This story was a rebuild from adversity. We Indians are waiting for the promised good day to come ("ache din ane walli hai"). We talk of fiscal deficit, Inflation, Infrastructural issues, reduced GDP growth, Sovereign rating, leveraged position and what not. All we need to do is each one of us to do well in our life and if possible create the opportunity for the people around us to do well so as to create the wealth for the country.


01 Jul, 2014

This is really inspiring. It gives great courage for the people who faced ups and downs in life cylce.

anil abraham

01 Jul, 2014

First of all, well written, very touching story of Ibu Salamah. Good writing, Anisa forgive me for saying, but I have to admit that you are writing beautifully, moving words. AWAI is doing you good. Very true, we don't value the resources at our disposal until we see people like Abu Salamah, who never give up,come what may. Good work ....


01 Jul, 2014

It is absolutely inspirational story. I would like to share my story to this group (not complete life it is first chapter - that means before marriage). Now i am in second chapter. Subscribed "commonsense living" for preparing my third chapter. (retirement). My first chapter inspiration story @ here http://www.geocities.ws/ganapathyg/article/page1.htm http://www.geocities.ws/ganapathyg/article/page2.htm Hope some will get inspiration of reading my story. Thanks, Ganapathy

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