George S. Tahija (MBA ’86) prefers the solace of
nature to the noise of everyday life. So after his parents passed away in 2002,
the commissioner of ANJ Group’s Indonesia unit took up a new hobby — mountain
climbing. “It’s part of a greater exploration,” he said of his treks. “Within
In just a few years, Tahija had become an expert
climber, conquering three of the Seven Summits of the world: Mount Kilimanjaro
in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Puncak Jaya in Indonesia, all of which
are the tallest mountains on their respective continents.
In 2005, Tahija documented his journey from Sentani to the Grasberg
peak in his travel diary, and
in 2006 he produced a scrapbook-like travel account of his maritime
ventures to Indonesia’s remote eastern islands.
He says his adventures
tackling some of the most treacherous slopes in the world have made him a
better and more balanced leader.
Tahija’s attempted to ascend Aconcagua in
Argentina, the highest mountain outside of Asia, but his climb was cancelled
due to inclement weather. With his disappointment came an epiphany.
“I had found the meaning I was looking for,” he
said. “And it had nothing to do with the summit. In fact, ‘the summit’ was not
the summit of the mountain — it was the camaraderie of the team.”
Tahija doesn’t anticipate attempting any more of
the Seven Summits. Instead, he is more focused than ever on enriching the lives
of his fellow Indonesians through his work.
“The challenges we face as a country are
endless,” he said. “I choose to focus on education, health care and the
A serial co-founder of nonprofits in Indonesia,
he established the Dharma Bermakna (Meaningful Deed) Foundation in 2012, which
is developing a cognitive assessment test battery to identify strengths and
weaknesses in Indonesian children ages 5 to 18. On the environmental front,
Tahija serves as chair of the Coral Triangle Center — an organization dedicated
to the preservation of marine-protected areas — and as a member of The Nature
Conservancy’s Indonesian foundation and its Asia Pacific Council.
Tahija is also the co-founder of the Tahija
Foundation, which — together with Gajah Mada University of Indonesia and Monash
University of Australia, launched the Eliminate Dengue Project Yogyakarta in an
effort to find long-term, environmentally safe solutions to the mosquito-borne
Busy though he is with the complexities of
business and philanthropy, Tahija’s yardstick for success is refreshingly
simple: “Success is being loved and respected by my wife and children, and being
seen as a role model by friends, family and work peers,” he said. “It’s going
to sleep with a clear conscience and waking up with enthusiasm to embrace
Tahija, who suffers from what he calls “duty
affliction,” is actively working on transition out of his family business so he
can “discover new horizons and allow myself to be discovered.”
Instrumental to that goal is maintaining a
balanced life. While he has gotten better at achieving it, he acknowledges “being
balanced is a constant meditation. I have to work on being above the noise of
“To achieve in the future is to learn to
be in and appreciate the present,” which, as Tahija well knows, is the only
thing you can focus on when you’re 19,000 feet in the air.