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Learning the Entrepreneurial Mindset from Indonesia’s Three Musketeers of National Awakening

When we converse about entrepreneurship, the topic usually focuses on the entrepreneurs. I personally think that there’s another topic that is equally important: the mindset. Yup, the mindset of entrepreneurs is what I’m talking about.

To shed light on this, I want to tell the story of the three pioneers of nationalism, a.k.a. the men behind Komite Boemi Poetera–a committee founded to politically communicate with the rulers in the Netherlands back when we were still the Dutch East Indies–who I think possessed the precious souls of entrepreneurs. But before we actually get into Douwes Dekker, Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo, and Soewardi Soerjaningrat (known as Ki Hajar Dewantara), let’s first dissect this thought: What is meant by the mindset of entrepreneurship?

Arash Asli, Co-founder and CEO of Yocale.com gave his opinion to Forbes that possessing the entrepreneurial mindset means having the knack to always think about what is needed and has to be done in order to improve things. A person with this kind of thinking has an eagle eye upon observing surrounding conditions, besides having the habit to look for solutions and tackle challenges.

This is why I think the three musketeers, or better known as Tiga Serangkai, perfectly portray people with entrepreneurial mindsets. Point in case: Douwes Dekker who was half-European could accurately observe the injustice felt by Indonesians (back then still the people of the Dutch East Indies) and had the courage to voice his opinions which made the Dutch government quiver.

At the same time, when most people were in the gray zone–a state where people were complacent with the Dutch rulings and oblivious to the option of being a sovereign nation–Tjipto and Soewardi took the high risk to fight against it. Back then, Tjipto and Soewardi strived to move Boedi Oetomo forward, instead of settling it as an organization which looked for scholarships, in order to trigger the youth of Indonesia into revolting. Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo and Ki Hajar Dewantara broke the old mindset through Boedi Oetomo who desired youths with nationalist energy.

Can you imagine how difficult it was to break free of the mindset of the old folks in the 20th century? (Even I find it hard to explain to my own “old folks” what I do in my startup job, hahaha.) Nevertheless, Tiga Serangkai succeeded in becoming the notion of hope for the people of Indonesia, which then snowballed to become the movement of independence of Indonesia.

If we look further back, the three of them got together through a very simple means: the pen. Soewardi wrote a letter entitled “If I Were a Dutch” in July 1903 when the Netherlands were celebrating their independence in the Dutch East Indies, their own colony. Soewardi was then captured by the Dutch Government, along with Tjipto who was alleged as the brain of the letter. The two of them met Douwes Dekker when he was the editor of Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad–one of the leading and largest daily newspapers in the Dutch East Indies–who often fought for the rights of the people of the Dutch East Indies. Even if in the end they were separated from being exiled in different places by the Dutch, they are still remembered as the pioneers of national awakening.

For me, this story is ripe with lessons of their entrepreneurial mindset. Even if we aren’t under colonization, we still need this thinking skill, precisely in how we commit to our vision to face challenges and obstacles in every step of the way, and in how we see the surrounding problems as an opportunity to move forward. When we put ourselves as a problem-solver, it will become a habit to think of what we can do to improve situations.

At the time, Douwes, Tjipto, and Soewardi were all youths, just like us. They saw a problem and looked for ways to solve it. They met because of the same dream and value they held. This makes me imagine what a great nation Indonesia will be if the youths nowadays possessed this kind of thinking. I am convinced that if this happens, there will be no more of us who whine about being stuck in traffic while never ever taking public transportation to move around (and thus become the problem), no more of us who are annoyed by the news of flood yet still litter, or there won’t simply be any of us who complain on social media because we are busy spreading appreciation towards the works of Indonesian youths.

I imagine that this kind of Indonesia will be a pretty cool place to live in.