Yesterday, I was having a long conversation with my brother about work and millennial problems – the idea to reach for the stars. We both agreed “following your passion” and “finding your potential” is an incredibly American idea. Classic Tony Robbins and Steve Jobs.
I started out interning through a school program in DC, applied as an Intern twice to get into the State Dept. I found a position with the Office of Policy Planning. When Trump came in, I left along with the rest of the Secretary’s Office and rejoined as a contractor. I was hit by a car a week after my employment. During the last two years of my time at State, I joined as the Korea head at NEXUS Global, a network of social entrepreneurs and impact investors, and hobbled through conferences and made a small network of my own in connecting policymakers and entrepreneurs to keep good initiatives going. I convinced former diplomats and staffers at State that left during the Trump administration and formed a team called GeoStrat Ventures, LLC consulting on new market entry & geopolitics to impact investors. Here in Korea, now I am bringing together my background to help the market entry of federal technologies abroad in aerospace and defense into South Korea.
I think you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time. In my experience, there is a huge opportunity cost to “following your passions” and “staying who you are.” If you prioritize work, you lose family time and might lose out on your hobbies. I had advantages like I was single. And I could afford the time to work on side projects and the money to attend the conferences as I did.
You don’t belong in a certain social group, because you are on your own. You have to be mindful of navigating the cultural difficulties among different social groups. For instance, I am a young Korean woman here, and my State and entrepreneurial venture do not bode well with the older Korean businessmen here in Korea. What helped me is finding a few industry leaders as personal advisors and staying focus on my priorities.
If you have the Tony Robbins dream, and I do think it is incredibly rewarding to have one, there is never a short-cut or the easy-way out. You also have to navigate your own waters, flexible, be disciplined, diligent, be extremely smart in prioritizing. What gives me comfort is knowing where I am and what I can and cannot do.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If you’d like to be absolutely original, my tip is to manage your mental health and to keep fine-tuning your skillset. Keep learning and taking the initiative to carve space in your life devoted to what you’re good at and creating an environment that continually motivates and excites you.
Disclaimer: these are my thoughts and my thoughts only by February 22nd of 2021. They may change and evolve over time.
One lesson I had learned witnessing the Trump transition at State was that while policies and programs may not outlast an administration, the work can continue with advancing priorities under shared values, iterating upon what works, and working with the private sector.
In the private sector, I witness an incredible array of work by innovators in climate science, aerospace, and defense protecting human lives and achieving security and sustainability agendas through greener, cheaper, lighter, and more efficient technologies.
I had an opportunity to work on a program called Engage America – a whole of government initiative to bring policies closer to the American people. With State as a more diplomatic arm of the federal government, we worked with interesting private innovators to provide public resources to local municipalities, such as Small Business Administration to provide translation services for Somali populations in Buffalo, NYC.
Many public programs, such as Engage America, did not continue, but public and private resources exist to be harnessed with a renewed sense of optimism and energy to be catalyzed. We are also at the precipice of many changes to move at scale on complicated and interrelated issues.
Executive Offices at institutional banks, like Goldman Sachs, adopted Environmental and Social Policy under a top-level operational framework. Investors are pouring an unprecedented amount of capital into start-up ventures with government stakeholders as a source of funding, building confidence among investors.
In many ways, coronavirus is accelerating what has already been out there in building the cyber resilient networks and thinking through supply chain disruptions. As a country, we should come together to think about how public-private partnerships can instrument the solutions that can be scaled.
Each entity offers from a business or government standpoint to meet the needs of consumers, citizens, and the environment in a collaborative working sense. By creating the conditions for tackling those problems within and in partnership with implementation strategies that are feasible, practical, and operational.
Government officials need to work with business or non-profit not only as a way to reduce cost but also for innovative and long-term solutions to manage multi-dimensional policies. Business leaders will need to balance responding to short-term solutions and long-term strategic policies part of the larger political reality by anticipating risk, clear social goals with flexibility and independent expert advice.
- Create industry coalitions for immediate solutions, such as pandemics. There are technologies we can utilize today such as sensors or commercial satellites monitoring the patterns of life. We can mobilize this data to predict the patterns of future biological threats.
- Establish R&D coalitions in each arm of the federal government. We can apply the technical knowledge of U.S. startups to policy goals to cover Presidential priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, food security, global health, and climate change. By working closely with the Department of Energy, entrepreneurs would help bring clean energy technologies with high upfront capital costs into the market. By catalyzing the connection with DOE, entrepreneurs, regional partners, and incubators, the partnership would foster collaborations among start-ups and federal entities.
- Educate. The advent of the internet and the data is that everyone can share information. The downside to this is that everyone can share information. Massive amounts of disinformation or misinformation about the coronavirus are still out and about. Information can be weaponized to polarize each other.
- As the US seeks to broaden its alliances, it should engage partners not just on trade and traditional security issues, but also on emerging “nontraditional” challenges. One principal area for America to collaborate constructively with Asian nations is in “natural security,” or the security implications of climate change, environmental degradation and natural resource dependence.
- We could also establish bilateral technology funds, funds could support a range of initiatives, from seed projects to road test high-risk ideas to incubators for startups innovating at the nexus of defense and commercial applications.
- We could build anonymous data sets with U.S. allies to offset China’s scale advantage in the arena or its potential deliberate policy choices. Each government’s initiative to pool select, curated datasets can be used by companies and innovators in each country.
Achieving national security and next administration’s priorities will continue to require working across those barriers. It cannot be done without building upon what has already been effective and also through tapping into convening grounds across the public and the private entities for a safer and a more secure world.
Coding controls how we live – online and offline.
About a third of 1% of us can write it.
Think about what we’re doing right now. You’re probably reading this article. This article itself is – coded, and run on a web browser, which is code, run on a computer which is designed by code.
It’s a very exciting time to be living today. Everything we do is on the computer, and as we’re generating more data, we’re relying on it to make more decisions for us day by day.
Here is how artificial intelligence works. We give the computer a lot of examples and get it to write its own code with its own set of directions to follow. If we do not train it to consider a set of decisions to go into making more decisions, the computer will decide it is not relevant. For instance, the computer may decide the parties don’t have any hispanic people, if the input does not have any hispanic people.
Some call for a “data governance council” to ensure fair treatment and protection of personal data. Some have called for technology conferences to discuss the unintended consequences of technology.
For me personally, the technology really has not caught up to speed yet for us to worry. Of course, there are ethical concerns of deep-fakes, but to generate any working algorithm, data analysts have to comb through thousands of datasets pulling from hopefully a source that is statistically a good sample size.
I wouldn’t worry so much yet, but I would be mindful of the selective screening of information and as the algorithm on your online content viewership advances. This leads to a whole another conversation on polarization, populism, etc., that I won’t get into today.
Thank you for reading!
In the spring of 2018, I was reading a book by Reid Hoffman called “The Startup of You.” In the book, he wrote about the PayPal Mafias, the notorious group of the former PayPal team who have met in informal circles chatting ideas and pursuits to have since founded Tesla Motors, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, and SpaceX.
The 2018 was the year after the Trump transition team had come into the State Department. I saw a lot of my former colleagues, mentors, friends leave government, as well as good initiatives along with it. I had also taken a few months off and rejoined the State Department after leaving for a few months as a contractor. I became involved with impact-oriented initiatives such as NEXUS, a global movement to galvanize the next generation of young social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and family businesses and Concordia Summit, a public-private partnership for social impact.
I knew there were really amazing people both in and out of government. I was working in government on a project called Engage America, a whole of government initiative to bring interesting foreign policy initiatives closer to the American people, and I witnessed an initiative, a thirst in DC in government to make good things happen.
I wanted to connect them. I wanted to make the resources available.
It was pretty quick. I went on Facebook and I wanted to create a small group. I initially added a few friends from government, the nonprofits I knew, and the investors, family offices, and the pioneers.
My fingers moved pretty quickly. I made a Facebook group called The Collaborative Impact Network after a few changes, I called it a “community of innovators, influencers, thought leaders, and mentors helping each other pursue “good” in original, purposeful, and creative ways.” I added a few more lines.
“Through a decentralized network approach, we unlock capacity for global impact through collaboration across unlikely agents across sectors – private and public. The group is based on the concept of PayPal Mafias.”
We had a few guidelines: “The network is only as good as its nodes. The group is as good as its members. Invite your mentors, leaders, and champions to be of a valuable resource for you! *Maintain ethos of sharing and cooperation. Be open and respectful when providing feedback or sharing ideas in the spirit of collective progress. *Drop a positive reaction or show gratitude for a member who spent time in helping you!”
The ideas was to build a platform and eventually a few events and a capacity to work beyond silos that our values are more aligned than we think – to activate global communities to work towards solutions across diverse sectors and industries.
I had a pretty vetted group of 400 innovators, diplomats, and social impact leaders, mostly based in DC. They shared updates and job postings, encouraging reports or studies from their respective organizations.
It was really my passion project. A facebook group, no less, but something I could pour my time into to connect people in my downtime.
My role was to elevate other people. I welcomed new members who are trailblazing their own success with innovative spirit, empathy, and leadership. Some of the members included Cameron Sinclair, former Co-Founder at Architecture for Humanity, a and the former Director at Jolie-Pitt Foundation, and now head of Social Innovation at Airbnb, Ashley Olafsen, Co-Founder of MOVE LLC and TedxYouth speaker on media diversity and self-esteem. She hosts “empowerment workshops and summer programs for girls on body image, self-esteem, mental health, and abusive relationships. Kevin Conroy, CPO at GlobalGiving, “ the world’s first global crowdfunding website for nonprofits. Scott Beale, Founder and CEO of Atlas Corps, and others.
Even now, I think I want to believe that we are good at heart. And we want to make good things happen.
We would gather thematically based on interests such as media, technology, social entrepreneurship, finance, diplomacy, and others in intimate groups of 4-5 and go around sharing one wisdom/network/resource in the spirit of vulnerability and sharing. We also host live interviews with media moguls, innovation leaders, and disability advocates: “Unleashing the Nonconformist in You,” “Harnessing Your Own Positivity,” “Eat, Accept, and Live,” and “Innovate Your Future.” We hosted various community-wide events on “Storytelling for Good,” “Innovative Leadership and Self-Empowerment,” and “Begin to Hope.” Our approach cultivates trust and credibility to build collective value, an automatic byproduct and a catalyst for common action.
In September, we partnered with the Global People’s Summit, a day-long, one-of-a-kind global digital and interactive dialogue that brings together delegation across industries to co-create solutions inspired by the SDGs. The digital platform of the summit brought together the voices of the United Nations General Assembly to foster dialogue and collective action.
Philanthropists. Impact Investors. Social Entrepreneurs. Policy Makers. We sometimes settle into the day-to-day often about how we can have more not give more. If we swap that dialogue around to creating value, that can be a completely different conversation. The given basis of our platform is how can we breathe in more value, love, and inner rich for someone else to shift the mentality from “me” to “us.” With a platform, we can co-create a shared outcome and catalyze global social impact.
The sufficiency mindset will create something that translates into a new type of richness – the inner satisfaction and love for who we are, what we do, and the impact we can make by touching others with the same filled purpose and zest for life. The inner riches or purpose can be more fully realized through understanding that what we’re working on is often bigger than ourselves – irrespective of our own industry or field of interest. I think we can catalyze from within each to pursue the betterment of us all.
Grateful for the kindness friends and new relationships have shown me past week.
May we continue to be at peace and tranquility, at state of compassion and fullness of heart, may we mingle with wisdom, resonate with benevolence, celebrate with compassion, not be diminished by pride, but soar with comforting thoughts.
Asking for wisdom for things we cannot change and to let go of seeds that may not nourish. Allowing for gratitude, creativity, tolerance, something invisible and magical to surface from the stillness of quiet, and to preside us this weekend.
There are signs in Korea that says not to act superior to the employees. It also says that they can be your daughter or your son as to induce some sympathy.
Especially in Korea, where it is highly competitive, people are constantly in a hurry to get to the next place. Unfortunately we are all lucky to share the same circumstances or the opportunities. I would see the shopkeepers as no different than yourself – just taking things every day in each individual journeys.
We all like to travel, and we all work hard day to day, moving from one place to another getting to meetings on time. I really love traveling, because I’m so terrible with directions. I can get lost anywhere and not feel lost.
You’ll be surprised what you can learn from those around you. Think of it maybe as a detour in your daily life. To take the time to learn, explore, to tune into things around you a little more. Trying to be kinder is kind of like traveling in that way with unexpected surprises in your journey.
Impact is measured in its outputs of measurement, which I believe is reported back on platforms like Philanthropedia, GiveWell and others.
However, challenges persist in measuring impact for traditional investments, such as time period for returns. I think it also stems from changing the narrative of how to make investments accountable for impact than for a simple value sacrificing compensation.
There’s more and more talk of blended capital – a host of investors out there awaiting the emergence of profitable enterprises that will improve the lives of the poor in fundamental ways. We’ve been waiting for a while. In the real world of the poor, real change still means stepping up with money that you don’t expect to get back while demanding maximum returns in the form of impact.
There are serious challenges for improving efficiency in measuring impact – the existing power dynamic between donors and grantees prevents a feedback loop for foundations to know what is working and what is not. Investors, philanthropists, and for everyone else, people are more likely to achieve results that they intentionally seek.
The interest of the public sector is that foreign policy often equates to economic policy. An economic prowess of promoting growth and development is a drive wedge for sustainable growth, stability, peace, and prosperity.
Governments’ traditional roles have been to strengthen the reach by opening foreign markets, improving governance, transparency, as well as conditions for private sector-led growth. Governments and some foundations now provide funding to improve the social, political, and regulatory environments in which social enterprises and their investors operate—essentially a market building activity.
Today’s political environment is often described as “smart power,” using means of trade, diplomacy, aid, and others for a value-driven policy where individuals, businesses, and institutions act through global networks.
For any government to secure national interest upon economic industrial links and trades, it needs to deliver solutions to sustainability and scalability in impact investing as well as advancing conditions for private sector-led growth.
National interests are no longer simply delivered through applications of intelligence and tact to moderate relations between governments; it rather embraces solutions to cross-cutting socioeconomic challenges.
The ability to understand the evolving environment and capitalize on trends is a crucial skill of today enabling leaders to convert power resources into successful strategies.
I hope by continuing to work on a platform – we begin to understand that for more difficult problems, more nuanced and ambiguous solutions are. More ambiguous the solutions, the more diversity of voices there needs to be. Through convening of intelligence, I hope to continue the work where we cultivate conditions wherein collective wisdom emerges over time.
I recently met a man who says he never wants to grow up.
I thought about what it meant to age.
Does it mean we have live up to the responsibilities that come with age like as jobs and family?
Do we lose freedom? Is that a scary thing? Is life going to boring?
I think it’s important to not take ourselves or events too seriously. There are no such an answer to all the questions in this world.
Thinking that we do have all the answers to the questions perhaps lets us less excited about the world.
Here’s a quote I like from a book about traveling.
So let us us dance through life. Let us go through life as a tourist than as as if we are transiting from one station to the next. Let it unfold in front of our eyes. Let all of its possibilities and impossibilities beyond our imaginations unfold. Let it unravel ruthlessly. The potential will keep us young.