"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

Friday, January 24, 2020

Vickie Lan's interview with Cuong


My friend and author Vickie Lan recently conducted an interview with me. I rarely make public appearances or do interviews but Vickie is such a bright personality, I eagerly volunteered. In the interview, I gave my thoughts on the process of writing and, of course, my Asian-American experience.

Here is the link to Vickie's interview with me: WRITER SPOTLIGHT: Cuong ๐Ÿ’›

Sunday, January 19, 2020

How to Succeed in 2020 and Beyond For Vietnamese Americans (and non-Vietnamese)


Chรบc Mแปซng Nฤƒm Mแป›i! ๆ–ฐๅนดๅฟซไน! Happy New Year!

What is a New Year without well wishes of happiness and prosperity for the incoming year. I'm going to go one step further and provide you three useful principles for 2020 and beyond that will significantly increase your chances of success not only in business but in life itself.

Let's first define the word "success." Success is the realization of a plan. Since it's a plan, there is some thinking involved. Otherwise it's just luck. Many Vietnamese gamblers rely on luck at the casinos. I once knew a Vietnamese guy who claimed he was really good at baccarat. When I finally witnessed him playing, he promptly lost $5000 in less than five minutes. Don't be like him. In addition, success isn't for its own sake. There are tangible benefits. With success, you are proud, confident, happy. Many people think success is about financial success but that's only part of the definition, and it's not even the best part.

When you make up your mind to not lose your temper today by changing the way you look at problems, you are successful. When you work diligently to complete your work early so you can make it to your child's soccer game, that's success. When you start up a company that quickly gains market share because you provide a clear benefit versus the current offerings from other companies, then you are a successful businessperson. When you manage a company that behaves honestly and have the gumption to make tough economic choices to ensure that honesty, your company is, frankly, a success. When you have a large net worth and decide one day to reduce worry and sorrow by helping poor families in your community with your idle money, you are such a success that it will live on in fond memories well after you pass away. When you simply lend a listening ear to someone who is sad or upset, you have success coming out of your ears.

Now that you somewhat got the gist of what success looks like, lend me your ear and I'll share with you three principles of success based on my hard-earned experience.


Think Inside

The first principle is don't let everything inside your mind. Be a ruthless gatekeeper. I know my true worth, and it doesn't depend on externals. Be stingy about what you spend your time on. Rich or poor, everyone has exactly the same amount of minutes each and every day. If you were to pick a day and track all your minutes and what you use them on, you would probably be shocked. I learned to do this early in my career from Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive. People say they don't have time. But what I interpret is they are probably bad at managing their time, because they are bad at managing their priorities. Many of us are Vietnamese refugees. We don't have the luxury to relax. Relaxation is an option for our children, who now have a firmer foundation in America.

Furthermore, you must take the responsibility to be a primary source of calmness and strength in your world. When I was young, I wasn't able to master this. I was unrefined and had a very short fuse. I complained a lot. Today I heard a 50 year old Vietnamese author say complaining is a Vietnamese trait. He should speak for himself. Don't be like him. What I eventually learned was that positive, sometimes miraculous results can be achieved with genuine kindness and they are within my control. Instead of trying to control other people, I needed to control myself. I lower my voice. I watch the cadence of my words. Nowadays, I still point out improvements to be made, but it is without anger and only for a real concern for a better outcome. When I do get angry, I refuse to make a decision or take action, lest I later regret my decision or action. If things needed to be accomplished, they can be done at a later time when I'm not influenced by emotion. Self-control. Self-discipline. I pride myself of this. I gauge anybody I associate with by that yardstick. I will accept people the way they are. But that doesn't mean they have earned my respect.

The toughest friends I have are also the strongest mentally. I can still remember one Navy SEAL who taught me through his example. Even while he was dying of cancer, he was alive with cheerfulness. A decision was made and that was to control his actions despite the situation. In turn, his wife and children were in good spirits. He told me he was still swinging for the fences. He encouraged me to continue writing my articles. I can't let my dear friend down.


Think Outside

The second principle is everything you do to others must be for others. If your actions don't benefit anyone, don't do it. You're wasting your time. People complain about how such and such don't like them. My response is what did they bring to the table? What do you have to offer to move humanity forward? Even if you make individuals mad or they scoff at you, make them doubt whether you really mean what you say, and do what you set your mind to do. Often it is envy. And envy is their problem, not yours.

To support the second principle, be prepared for improper actions of others, especially on morality issues. The reason why many people are stumped when they encounter a dilemma or a tough decision is they haven't thought it through beforehand. And no, just because others are doing it doesn't necessarily mean it's what you do. That's a mindset of a lemming. Separate yourself from the common chaff and be a worthy example to keep. If you are in a certain profession, you know the potential pitfalls. Run through in your mind what you would do in such situations. Make adequate time and effort to work them through. Aim to find an elegant solution. But if you can't, then pick a side after much contemplation and immediately pick that side when you encounter the dilemma in real life. What was a tough decision is now a decision you know you can live with. Be firm and upright and you will live your life with few regrets.


Think Big

The third principle is to think big. Look at the video I posted above of Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi. I selected the video to highlight the proper mindset whenever you embark on any endeavor. He conveyed it perfectly. When you do something, do it right or don't do it at all. When I was a teenager working minimum wage, I was asked to clean the windows one day. Like the stereotypical teenager, I carelessly cleaned them so I can be done with it. However, my supervisor, who was also a great teacher, took the time to counsel me that quality is paramount. He told me (and showed me) I needed to slow down and clean those windows well. Success isn't a race. It's a showcase. There is a clear difference between getting it done and getting it done in a superior fashion. In life, you better bring your A game. I'm not talking about A grades. If you receive a failing grade for your effort, yet if you poured your heart out into your project, it really doesn't matter what others think. A determined moth might meander but it always gets to the light. Likewise, be committed and serious. Don't settle. When I wanted to do a personal website, I didn't want any domain name except Cuong.com, my Vietnamese birth name. It was at a great financial expense, but there was only one path and I took it.

The first two principles are textbook. This third one of thinking big transcends them. You don't always think big because of logic. You think big because you want to be compassionate. You think big because you are the bigger person. You think big because you want to leave a mark in your world. You want to etch in the stone tablet of human history that you were there. You can do it by hurting others. But that's thinking small. Thinking big is to lifting others up such that they hate to see you leave. When billionaire David Koch died last August, people actually cheered. Don't be like him. It's cliche and trite but I want to remind you that money isn't everything. Your Vietnamese parents might have taught you otherwise. If they did, don't believe them. Make enough money to survive, which is a much lower bar than you probably think -- everything else in life is your oyster and you have the ability to open it.

Thus money isn't everything but success is indeed everything. What shouldn't be cliche and trite is to set yourself a worthwhile goal. You know you have found the right goal when your heart also tells you so. Going back to Xiaomi's founder Lei Jun, he eventually acquired the domain name Mi.com. The letters MI is an initialism for Mission Impossible. Business-wise, it's not logical to go after the impossible, but it's certainly inspirational. Also, the "Mi" logo turned upside down forms the Chinese character  ๅฟƒ, which means heart. ♥️ Of course I couldn't agree more! If you're not motivated by your goal, it's not big enough. Your heart isn't into it. Instead, make it big and shiny such that your heart chases after it daily. With your days filled with meaning, you are a success each and every day. You move with pride, confidence, and happiness. Nobody can take away what's set deep in your heart. So take heart, fellow Vietnamese Americans and non-Vietnamese. This year is your year! ๐Ÿ’›

With heart ๅฟƒ ♥️

"Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters shape wood; the wise master themselves." The Buddha