JOHN: [00:00:00] welcome to the show. Thanks John. for those people in the audience who may not have heard of you, who are you and what do you do?
ERIC: so Eric Wong, I am in Vancouver, British Columbia, so that's why I'm ~sitting, ~sitting in your apartment right now. And I am,~ uh,~ head of leadership development,~ uh,~ at Adobe. ~So, ~PDFs, Photoshop,~ uh,~ if you're a creative person, you've probably heard of it.
JOHN: Adobe. I feel like if you are a person who lives in the year two thousands, you've heard of Adobe?
Yes. ~What, ~what does that mean? ~Um, ~development, like leadership development, what do you do?[00:00:30]
ERIC: ~Yeah, so, you know, ~we have close to 30,000 employees and 5,000 of them are people managers. And one of the things that we believe at Adobe is that a lot of the work gets done ~through, ~through managers, right? ~Like, you know, ~people don't leave jobs, they leave their managers.
~So, um, ~just looking across all the people who are managing all the great work that's being done pro are being built. ~Mm-hmm. ~Salespeople that are being led and what can we do to help? These leaders be successful and be great managers and ultimately, ~you know, ~helping Adobe continue to be successful. Wow.
JOHN: And how did you [00:01:00] come to, in this role, was there like ~a, ~a career path that led to this? Is this something
ERIC: you always wanted to do? ~Yeah. You know, ~it's funny,~ um, you know, ~we're sitting on U B C campus right now, so I was a computer engineer. ~Yeah. And so~ for me to be in people stuff is probably the furthest departure you can imagine from a very technical, rigorous education.
~Right. ~But I always had a fascination about people stuff. ~Right. Um, and I've, ~coming out of engineering school, spent a couple years, managed the software development team at [00:01:30] Telus. ~Our, uh, oh yeah. Local telco~ headed off to business school, then afterwards,~ uh,~ spent my, last 15 years in this world.
JOHN: Wow. So you went. To engineering. And then you worked for Telus and then did you continue your education or,
ERIC: ~yeah,~ I ended up going to do my M B A at Stanford University, so I ended up heading down to California. ~Yeah.~ Felt like a dream come true to ~uh, ~get there,~ uh,~ to get accepted. ~Yeah.~ And then that was at 2006.
So coming in 2008, I ended up going [00:02:00] to a,~ uh,~ funnily named firm called B T s,~ uh,~ that was before the Korean Boy Band, B t Ss. It was actually a Swedish consultancy, and I think they were birthed at a time when it was like i b m. It was really cool to have a very formal sounding name. ~Yeah, yeah, yeah.~ Three letter name.
~Yeah. But they, um, You know, I, ~I had job offers, I had five job offers coming out. ~Um, ~the other four were at companies you've heard of, so telecommunication, ~so~ Cisco, British Telecom, Singapore Telecom,~ um,~ eBay at the time too. Oh wow. Which was a very successful company. ~Uh, ~but I wanted to choose the [00:02:30] one company that put me in the ball game of people stuff.
'cause it was really hard to know what does that actually mean if you're interested in psychology, interested in people dynamics. So b t s what they did is they would build custom business simulations to train leaders. And so we're often serving chief learning officers, heads of leadership development.
And we'd go in, try to create a business model of a company like a b, c television group. ~You know, ~how does. ~A, um,~ a, B, C make money. ~Mm-hmm. ~Or into a tech [00:03:00] company like VMware,~ uh,~ that was just booming at the time. We'd model out their strategy and then put a 26 year old consultant in front of them,~ uh,~ to facilitate a conversation about, Hey, this is our three year strategy.
Let's war game against each other, compete, put leaders through this experience facilitated by a young guy ~in front of, uh,~ in front of the stage. ~Mm-hmm. ~And ultimately that's how we would teach, strategy. We'd teach sales, we'd teach leadership development, very much experiential learning. ~Awesome. Uh, ~believing that adults learn through doing.
JOHN: ~That's,~ that sounds really fun actually.
ERIC: It was [00:03:30] cool. It was a very fun place to work. It sounds like you were
JOHN: really interesting in people. ~Yeah. Yeah. Um, ~and that's not usually the case for when I think engineers, especially people who went through the path that you did, ~you know, ~going through computer engineering and then going to Stanford for ~it was business management.~
~Yeah. M b A,~ it was M B A. And then you started developing an interest in people. ~Yeah.~ Was that always something that was for you, that was important for you?
ERIC: ~Yeah. It's funny, like I,~ it's so funny that I'm sitting here. It feels almost perfect. I'm staring at some of the buildings that I was programming, doing all-nighters.
And one of the things I [00:04:00] realized is that I didn't love engineering. My dad was an engineer, my sister was an engineer, and my classmates were like coding at night and loving it. And I was finding myself reading c e o biographies and reading business week. Interesting. And so for me, it started with an interest business ~and I think~ I would read these c e o biographies, Jack Welch, the c e o of General Electric, Lou Gerstner, I B M.
And the funny thing I started to realize is like that most of the stuff. That keeps leaders up at night is around [00:04:30] leadership and people stuff. ~Hmm. And ~it wasn't the technical stuff. ~And ~I think if I go back earlier than that, where did that come from? I think it came from my mother. So she was our neighborhood pharmacist.
She worked at London Drugs for almost 40 years. ~Mm-hmm. And ~she would come home at night and just talk about the people stuff, the interesting dynamics serving patients,~ um,~ coming in ~and, ~and dispensing, drugs. ~Mm-hmm. ~But the things that we would talk about our, ~you know, you know, ~we had this customer and she was ~really, ~really mean.
But I don't think it [00:05:00] was about me. I think it was because she was actually on welfare, but she was dressed up. And so I think that this woman was actually feeling a lot of shame about her situation and was taking it out on me. ~And so, ~We'd have a lot of conversations in our house growing up with my mother, the neighborhood pharmacist, just talking about people stuff and just the fascination with psychology.
Why do people act the way they do? And so I think that was maybe a seed that was planted in me ~and um, ~something I carried with me ~through, um,~ through my career. ~Hmm. ~
JOHN: What was your background like? ~What, ~what was your father like?[00:05:30]
ERIC: My father went to U B C. He was brilliant. His IQ was probably higher than me, higher than my sister. All three of us, my sister, my dad and I went to U B C computer electrical engineering. His math scores were all at a hundred.
My sisters were all about 90 and mine were all about 80. So I was the least intelligent. ~Um, ~my mother was a.
Beautiful independent woman and at the time [00:06:00] picked my father. ~Um, ~he's ~a, ~a very kind man, probably also 'cause ~he, he was, ~he was a genius. And it's ~like, you know, ~there's probably in that decision, wow, this,~ uh,~ belief, this man's gonna provide security. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~my dad really struggled ~in the, ~in the business world.
~Hmm. ~Very meek, an order taker was so kind, so gentle. , my friends ~all, ~all loved him, but he was not an assertive guy at all. ~Hmm. ~And I think that he had some demons himself and later on in his life suffered from bipolar disorder. And ~so, you know, ~he struggled to hold down a [00:06:30] job as his manic phases got worse and worse.
I remember. One time when I was in high school, I came into the cafeteria and there was a big crowd, and my dad had skipped work and showed up in our cafeteria, and there's a big crowd around him. And people were laughing and there's ~like, ~oh, like a crazy old Chinese guy had made his way into the cafeteria.
Oh my God. And I remember how horrified I was because that was a moment, my world blew apart because I was trying to be the popular guy. Oh my God. And [00:07:00] this was the last thing I wanted anybody to see. Jesus grab him by the arm, walked outta the cafeteria, and I was just, felt horrified and just brought him home, didn't talk about it.
~Um, ~he was a kind, gentle guy. He was the photographer for our football games. ~Um, you know, ~he was just the kindest, gentlest guy. And I saw. Despite having a high iq, despite being a kind guy, despite following all the rules, I saw how much ~he, ~he suffered. ~Yeah.~
JOHN: I'm sorry to hear that. That must have been really tough to see.
ERIC: ~Yeah.~ And then,~ um,~ [00:07:30] there was another incident that happened again at,~ uh, um, ~urban Fair down in,~ uh,~ Yaletown. Oh wow. Okay. ~You know, ~my mom got a call from,~ uh,~ the police and,~ uh,~ had to go get 'em. And again, this feeling of ~like, ~oh, it's just this, ~you know, ~crazy Chinese guy.
~Um, ~and yet I knew how brilliant he was. ~Yeah. ~I think like maybe one of the reasons why I chose this path is ~like, ~You see how people can be so intelligent. ~Mm-hmm. ~But at the end of the day, like if you're not able to influence [00:08:00] people, get along with people, fit in into this environment. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~then, ~you know, ~you still, it's hard to get anything done.
~Yeah.~ And so I also wonder whether or not my mother as like a, as a pharmacist and always just observing people, was still trying to figure out like, ~how do I, ~how do I help this guy see like how great he is?, I don't think he ever believed it himself enough.
JOHN: It's such an important thing. ~I mean, ~We say the words, ~you know, ~how important it's to believe in one another, that [00:08:30] it almost sounds cliche and it almost loses meaning, but we don't realize how absolutely, deeply essential it is. that we believe in ~the, ~the capacity and ability and even the potential ~Yeah.~
ERIC: another. ~You know, ~in the last year of his life, the craziest thing happened is,~ um,~ started painting. ~Mm. ~An engineer, brilliant mathematician. ~Mm-hmm. ~Started painting. And,~ um,~ he only completed two paintings. And,~ um,~ he was a great painter. And ~I, ~I wonder whether or not his entire life[00:09:00] he actually just wanted to paint.
~Yeah.~ And didn't want to like, Follow the academic route, right? ~Yeah. Um, ~and I wonder how much, when you're contorting yourself to try to be somebody else, the toll that takes ~on your, ~on your body,
JOHN: And your mind. Because at a certain point it's kinda like we're talking about like we lose to fit in somewhere by contorting yourself to fit in somewhere by mirroring others.
We sacrifice a part of us in the process
thank you for sharing that. ' [00:09:30] courage and vulnerability we're talking about, which is so fucking hard to do. ~Yeah.~ It's acknowledging that I'm writing this book Big Asian Energy and part of it is me talking about my own past.
~Yeah.~ Because I'm like, ~I gotta, ~I gotta talk my own past. ~Right. , you know, being, ~ growing up in Asian family and. I struggle with that a little bit ~and I, and I, ~and I went and talk to my therapist about it ~Yeah.~ And my therapist was like, ~yeah,~ dude, like you're from a culture where keeping family secrets is a big part of the culture.
Like we have a Chinese saying, ~you know, ~I'm Taiwanese. ~Yeah, yeah.~ Where Chinese saying is that like you,~ your,~ your family ugliness is [00:10:00] not for showing to the outside.
ERIC: Exactly. And that's actually, that's why I'm terrified. ~Right, but,~ but just ~like ~the feeling of being terrified of ~like, ~oh my God, what if like aunts and uncles and my mother even hear this, the shame.
But I do think that it is, ~I I, I, ~I'd like to hear it obviously, but ~like, ~I think it is part of my story and I think that why it's important is that contorting To other people's expectations, I think killed them. I think it killed them. ~Right. Um, ~I think it led to mental health issues. It led to heart issues.
~Yeah. , um,~
Maybe that's why I felt so drawn to like, ~you know, ~do something [00:10:30] about it here. And so I think that having that story there feels like it could give more power and could inspire,~ just,~ just ~help, ~help other people. So ~I, I, ~I think there's something there. ~You know, ~
JOHN: ~Wow. And then when you got into people and leadership development, what is it that, I'm just gonna jump, actually, I'm just gonna jump into it.~
~What makes a good leader? ~
~what is it that when we think of leaders Yeah. That, that comes up and I'll, I'll share a story. 'cause this is the context I was talking to.~
~I think we're talking. It was us. We were having dinner the other day. And was it, correct me if I'm wrong, I'm, if I'm so, so sorry. And we're talking about the, the idea we all the same don't worry idea. That's how I feel every time, um, when I look in the mirror. So the question I had was like,~ when we think of what is an inspirational leader ~Yeah.~
Who do we think of? , that was the question that came up to my mind was like, who do I think of when I think of an inspirational leader? And I think a lot of my friends will say things ~like, you know, ~like Elon Musk who's controversial right now. ~Yeah.~ But, ~you know, uh, Barack Obama, ~Barack Obama.
~Right. Like, ~and I realized that all the names I came up with, none of them [00:11:00] were Asian. ~Yeah.~ So that's why I'm coming back to this question is ~like, ~as a pro in the leadership development game ~Yeah.~ Top company, all this thing, what makes a
ERIC: leader? The first thing that comes to mind I think is related to your point, is, You're not a leader if no one wants to follow you.
Oh, shit. Okay. ~Right. So like I am, you know, ~there's all sorts of stuff I can start, feeling very confident talking about different theories and like, there's always hot, topics. There's always like a phrase of the week, ~you know, like, oh, we, you know, multipliers. Yeah.~ You're multiplying talent or like,~ um, ~first break all the rules, ~you know?~
~Yeah, yeah.~ There's always a book. ~Every three eat last and ~
JOHN: ~Yeah. Yeah. There's always whatever. Simon Sinek ~
ERIC: ~is slinging these days. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. This is your first team. Yeah. But yeah,~ I think it does come down [00:11:30] to ~like, ~do people want to follow you? That's a really, ~right. ~
JOHN: That's a really obvious, but ~like, kind of ~a tough question.
~Yeah.~ Because I just realized as soon as you said this, I was like, shit. Like I've always thought that leadership is the position to find the leader. ~Yeah. Like, ~you step into office, you get that VP title, congratulations, you're a leader. ~Yeah.~ But it's actually not, ~yeah. Yeah.~ You have to step into leadership first and embody leadership.
Yes. Damn. Okay. ~Obvious. All right.~ So who do we wanna
ERIC: follow? Who do we wanna follow? I think,
it's funny we're talking about these [00:12:00] different authors and stuff. I think there's like ~a, ~a trend, ~and I think,~ I do think who we wanna follow the answer to that is changing a bit. It's not changing a lot. ~Mm-hmm. But I think, ~and you talk about eighties, Jack Welch nineties, Lou Gerstner, I think there was a very hierarchical, authoritative point of view, like almost a military style leadership.
~Sure.~ Jack Welch is ~like, ~you got to cut the bottom 10% of your organization to ~kind of ~build that muscle, continually improve. Great. then, ~you know, ~we started talking about, Things like you're managing different [00:12:30] functions, you rotate through, you have a general understanding of the business. ~Uh, ~then we started talking about, inspirational leadership.
~You know, you just,~ you talk about, look at someone like a Barack Obama and just ~like, ~there's people that just like what they're saying is really inspiring you. And I think now a couple of things that come to mind is one is purpose. ~I think there is like, ~can you plant a flag around a common purpose? ~And I think young people, and I think,~ I know you do a lot of work with young people.
~Um, ~I think young people these days [00:13:00] don't want to do a job for the sake of a job. It's not like I'm gonna go work for ~like ~I B M or General Electric. They're gonna rotate me around. I think people want to feel a sense of purpose. ~Hmm. ~And the other thing is, I think vulnerability. Is ~interesting,~ an incredibly powerful leadership tool.
~Hmm. ~There's an amazing leader at Adobe. ~Um, her name is Claire Darley, and she was kicking off a leadership program that we were running. Mm-hmm. And, you know, ~she talked about, not getting a promotion earlier in her career and going on a shame spiral. ~And ~that doesn't immediately strike you as like a leadership move.
~Mm-hmm. ~But she's an amazing leader in that [00:13:30] she's strong enough to be able to be vulnerable and share the story, to normalize what everyone's feeling. We're in this fast moving world. ~Mm-hmm. ~And part of it is just being vulnerable enough to say, Hey,~ I,~ I failed too. I've been in your shoes. ~Right. ~But on the other hand, I think.
Kind of planting ~that,~ that flag, that inspiration, that purpose. ~Mm-hmm. ~Holding a high bar and having just ~kind of ~a gravitational pull towards, hey, ~this is, ~this is what we're trying to work towards. ~Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. ~
JOHN: I love that. ~So, ~vulnerability. ~Yeah.~ Because there you're showing people that look, [00:14:00] there's an empathetic part of you that there's connecting.
~Yes. There's like, ~there's, I understand you, I understand. Whatever you're going through, you have to care about your people. That's it. I'm not just throwing commands at you and telling you to follow me. 'cause like who are you? ~Right? Like you're like,~ we wanna be able to understood what else? ' cause I'm not just gonna come out and like trauma
~Yeah,~ exactly. ~Right. Yeah.~ It's,~ um, yeah.~
ERIC: It's not ~like, ~okay, just the more you can, my mom never loved me. ~Yeah. The more, ~the more you can hear, don't follow me. Come
ERIC: ~Yeah. I think it's the, it's, ~it's the, the vulnerability. To the degree it serves the group. ~Right, right. Yeah. If it's, ~if it's normalizing the struggle that they're all facing.
~Yeah. If it's trying to clarify what a leadership path even looks like, and it's always a, a, a paradox, you know, I talked about that kind of in, you know, that, that, that vision. Yeah. Having purpose and, you know, having that purpose and then having the, the serv, you know, like, I'm trying not to use, I've just heard too many, like, just cliches.~
~So I'm like, I was about to say servant leadership. I'm like, don't do that Eric. Um, you know, I think~ a lot of leadership is a [00:14:30] paradox of that. ~Kind of ~like you have a high bar. ~Yeah.~ You have a very inspirational,~ um,~ purpose, but also just the best leaders. ~Mm-hmm. ~They make you feel like you're the only person in the room.
~Oh shit, no problem. You know, you, ~some of these leaders, they're like, you're leading a thousand plus people. ~Yeah.~ And yet you're making me feel like you're not in a hurry. That you are accessible. I can ~grab you for, you know, ~grab you for lunch. And ~it's, ~it's an art. They say ~like, ~bill Clinton had that magic.
It made you feel like you're the only person. So I've heard that. ~Yeah. Kind of ~back to that care personally. ~Yeah.~ But then also you gotta ~have a, ~have a really high bar. that's [00:15:00] something that ~where, you know, as~ we're trying to ~like, you know, ~improve performance, it's like ~you cannot, ~you cannot lower your bar for performance.
~Mm-hmm. You know, ~you have to hold that bar ~and, and not, ~and not let go and not let it drop. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~but also, ~you know, ~you have human beings that are ~kind of on a, ~on a path. ~Mm-hmm. ~Especially ~like, ~we just went through a pandemic. ~Right. ~Oh man. So like that vulnerability, ~like that we,~ nobody knew what was going on.
~Yeah.~ So I think that's a perfect example of, ~Like ~if you can't connect to you as a human being and the fact that now we're all just in our basements on our computers where we're used to being in person. ~Yeah. I, I,~ it is really hard [00:15:30] to follow someone ~that doesn't, ~that doesn't get it. ~Mm-hmm. ~
JOHN: So I heard vulnerability, I heard purpose.
~Yeah.~ And I heard that willingness to connect and also hold a high bar at the same time. ~Yeah.~ I remember,~ uh,~ a book I read a while back, I think it's called The Culture Code that talks about this. ~Like ~how like the coaches of these, like N B A teams would like, really, when you really broke down ~the, ~the ones who win their magic is super high bar.
~Yeah. Insane amount of love. Yeah. Yeah.~ Insane amount of love. It's just ~like, ~I don't care, like I care so much about you as a person and that [00:16:00] vulnerability. And I gotta admit, like myself growing up. I always thought leadership balls speaking up, standing in front, ~you know, I did, I was in, I,~ I think we also connected over this, ~you know Yeah.~
Student council president stuff, like student council things. I was like, I was student council, vice president. ~I was,~ I joined a fraternity. I like, was ~like ~the vice president of ~the, ~the pledge council. I get the vibe that, like you have a lot of that in your history. Am I right?
ERIC: ~Yeah. Is there, ~is there stuff like that?
~Like, ~for sure. I think, my parents were immigrants from Hong Kong. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~I grew up in North Delta,~ uh,~ in a, ~you know, ~[00:16:30] just a more, ~you know, ~white neighborhood. ~Yeah.~ And so very quickly you're like, you start to observe and understand ~like, ~so who's getting cred here? What's the currency of credibility in this environment?
~Mm-hmm. ~And at that time, growing up in high school in the nineties, good at sports. ~Mm-hmm. ~Loud, funny. ~Mm-hmm. ~Aggressive. ~Mm-hmm. ~And,~ um, you know, ~attractive to girls, ~you know, ~it's like you, you're pumping, you testosterone, pumping through you. ~Yeah.~ And that was like high school. ~Yeah. That, ~that was the hierarchy ~of, ~of high school.
~Mm-hmm. And so ~I [00:17:00] think one of the things that I became good at was just what's the social hierarchy here? And what do I need to do to succeed? ~Mm-hmm. ~And so I found myself just gravitating towards the most powerful person and my best friend growing up, Brent Brader was the most powerful person.
Right? 6 4 2 20. ~Mm-hmm. ~He was a mix of the best qualities of Arnold Schwartzenegger and Matt Damon and how he looked. Middle linebacker recruited, played football here. ~Um, ~wow. Middle [00:17:30] linebacker, tight end,~ uh, just.~ Just a specimen of a human being. ~Mm-hmm. ~Just,~ uh,~ unshakeable confidence on the front. ~Mm-hmm.~
And so I was his best friend, and I worked really hard to be like him. We went to Gator's gym and,~ um,~ we lied about our age so we could work out,~ um, ~I'm 15, he's 16. ~Mm-hmm. ~I skipped a grade, by the way. to get in minimum. ~Yeah. We would get, ~and so we're just going to the gym and then we're doing 40 yard dashes together. we would just spend ungodly amounts of money on our allowance, on creatine, even though it did nothing [00:18:00] by chicken and rice and try to get strong and lift weight.
~So, you know, I'm, I'm, mm-hmm. Um, ~ we're timing our forties. And it was all about winning the provincial championship. ~Mm-hmm. And so I was the,~ I was not that big. ~Mm-hmm. ~Didn't have that big of an arm.
I was our high school quarterback because I knew ~that ~that was the. What I needed to do,~ um,~ to ~kind of ~get to the top of that pecking order. And ~so, um, you know, ~that was like seared in my brain. I think that experience was something that, ~you know, has, ~has shaped me to this day.
JOHN: ~Hmm. ~You mentioned Delta, ~I mean, ~for people who don't know Delta, Delta ~is like, ~is like the outskirts of Vancouver, like the Vancouver [00:18:30] area ~Yeah.~
Delta in the nineties. I don't think there was a lot of Asian people back
ERIC: there. No. ~It was like, you know, I think it's been, ~it's been changing. ~There were, you know, ~it's funny is if you actually look at the class picture ~mm-hmm. ~There's probably more Asians than I remember. ~Mm-hmm. ~And what I mean by that is, if you look at me and my friends, it was me and a bunch of taller white guys.
~Huh. And so, ~I think the good athletes, the popular people ~mm-hmm. ~It was definitely dominated by white people. ~And if I looked at my, I,~ I would guess if I looked at my yearbook, ~yeah.~ That, maybe it's more than I remember, but I don't remember a lot of Asian [00:19:00] people growing up because I gravitated towards the people that seemed to be popular and winning in that.
~Yeah.~ In that jungle. ~Yeah. ~
JOHN: ~And for, for, for immigrants.~ As an immigrant, I can recall back in nine on time in high school that like acceptance and popularity wasn't just ~like, yeah,~ you wanna have friends. ~Yeah,~ you wanna fit in. ~Yeah,~ you wanna belong. But it was like, it was almost evidence of your success.
~Like being accepted by,~ this is gonna sound, you know, being accepted by white people and being successful among white people almost meant more than being accepted by Asian people and successful by [00:19:30] other
ERIC: Asian people's standards. ~Yeah,~ totally. ~And you know, ~John, I'm not even sure how I feel about that because.
It worked for ~like ~a decade, right? So I then come here to U B C my day job is, I'm in computer engineering in a really intensive course. There was like a project integrated,~ uh,~ course. So during the day and some all-nighters, I remember one time I did 10 all-nighters in 14 days on a team to build a robot to go around a track, right?
~Mm-hmm. ~So heavily academic. ~Mm-hmm. ~But in my head, [00:20:00] what success felt ~like ~was going to the parties, being popular, being the funniest guy, being the center of attention. ~Wow. And so I think,~ 'cause that's what I saw and I remember, ~you know, ~we have this,~ uh,~ big party called like Arts County Fair. ~And I remember that.~
I remember someone telling me it's ~like, ~you don't seem like an engineer. I would've thought you're in like, ~you know, you know, ~arts or something like that. Or like human kinetics, ~you know, ~we have gym classism as a degree at bbc. Lots of
JOHN: big bros in that one.
ERIC: ~Yeah.~ Like I felt in human kinetics.
So no hate there, but I remember feeling ~like ~that felt like an accomplishment to me. Interesting. I ~felt, ~[00:20:30] felt proud that people didn't think I was an engineer. And that's the weirdest thing, ~you know? ~'cause I balance these two things, like very academically focused, but almost ~like ~didn't want that to be my identity.
I wanted my identity to be success as it was defined by the seemingly popular,~ um,~ people who were in the spotlight. Why?
the first word that comes to mind is fear. ~Hmm. ~I don't know if it was a fear of [00:21:00] mediocrity, a fear of not being accepted. Like I have a feeling it's almost like you can't mess this up. this is important. ~So, ~and looking back, it makes no sense. ~Like ~what is there to be afraid of? I think there is like a fear of getting kicked out of that and then not fitting in, ~getting kicked out of the, the party crew that, that, that crew, that inner crew.~
JOHN: of like ~the, the, the, ~the cool kids. The cool kids, ~right. The, ~the cool kids. The ones at our county fair. The parties and stuff like that.
ERIC: ~Yeah. And I think that,~ so I then, ~you know, ~I graduate, I go to work ~for, ~for Telus I was on this team leading a software development team ~and, ~and it was growing fast.
So I was asked to go out to [00:21:30] Toronto at 23, move out there and hire and manage a team of 22 year olds,~ so, Hmm. ~Not so like more just because I stuck my hand up. I was suddenly, ~you know, ~a year out. It looked like I had a lot of like career success but in Toronto I was just like, again, like starting to go out to clubs, ~you know, ~with friends and trying to really, again, just don't even know why, but try to ~like ~find success in that Toronto hierarchy.
And then I get into Stanford Business School. I'm one of the youngest people accepted. ~Mm-hmm. Um, and I then see I was just like,~ I didn't grow up around anyone who went to these top [00:22:00] schools. ~Mm-hmm. ~So again, I quickly look around and I'm like, there's all these investment bankers, there's these finance guys, these consultants, and to my relief it's ~like, ~oh, they party hard.
So I know how to do that. ~And so again,~ I think all the way through my mid twenties, it was like, okay, there is a fun partying social. You might be working hard underneath, but you ~kind of like ~hide that. ~And that's the, you know, that's, ~that's how these seemingly successful people who went to schools like Yale and Harvard and Stanford and Brown.
~Like, ~if that's how [00:22:30] they're acting, I guess ~that's how, ~that's how I'm gonna act.
JOHN: ~Right. ~It's just such an interesting thing because you're talking about things that like feel successful and I a hundred percent I get what you're talking about because it makes no sense, like being an engineer, engineers get paid good money, right?
~Yeah. Like, you know, ~going to Stanford, that's a top school. Like these are things that on its own are what a lot of people, most people I would even say would've found us being successful, but there's almost this ~deeper, ~deeper identity. Yes. I feel that even when [00:23:00] I was growing up, I, that's what I'm saying is ~like, ~resonate with that was.
That exact thing is ~like, ~it's not, that's not enough. ~Yeah.~ Because that's expected. ~Yeah. Like ~that's expected. And it's expected not just of me, it's, or you, but like of us, us being these like, ~yeah,~ we're supposed to be good at whatever these things, ~you know, ~engineering, math, whatever it is. But the other thing, it felt more true. .
ERIC: Yes. It definitely felt true to me. ~And, um,~ it served me really well. I think it's ~the, ~ as I got older, tone that down a little bit. ~Mm-hmm. ~[00:23:30] But there are still elements that shape me today that still serve me, ~you know, like the ability to. ~I went to Adobe after over a decade in startups and small consulting firms.
I had to understand like, how does this place work? How do decisions actually get made? ~Mm-hmm. ~And so you actually build up the superpower in understanding like, what are the rules of the game here? ~Mm-hmm. ~It's felt ~like, ~as a someone who played football,~ it,~ it's ~like, ~I liken it to then you gotta play rugby and ~like, ~it's ~kind of ~the same but ~kind of ~different.
~Yeah, yeah.~ Like in football, you grab and you're just trying to dive forward with the [00:24:00] ball and you think anytime you're trying to score, but then it's ~like, ~oh wait, hold on a second. What in rugby, they do this weird thing where you ~kind of ~go down, you ~kind of ~put the ball behind, there's ~kind of ~like a, you're kicking it sometimes.
~And so really quickly having to learn like, ~hold on a second, ~how does this, ~how does this sport work? ~Right. ~And so that ability to just look, what are the rules of this game? I'm just gonna figure it out. I'm gonna go do it, I think has served me. ~Mm-hmm. ~But I think as you and I have talked about, There's some really real costs to contorting yourself.
~Mm-hmm. ~To fit in. ~Yeah. Yeah.~
JOHN: Belonging ~is, uh,~ is the desire. What
ERIC: are the costs? You and I chatted about [00:24:30] this, one of the moments that I remember. I'm at Stanford. ~Mm-hmm. ~It's an amazing group of people. There's maybe, 350 students from 70 countries, all around the world. ~Yeah.~
Might have that number wrong,~ um,~ give or take. But it was a lot of different countries and I remember there were a group of amazing Chinese people in our class. Maybe there was, ~you know, ~7, 8, 9, I don't know. And ~you know, ~diff different kinds of, however you define Chinese. Yeah. Yeah.~ Yeah. Yeah. And I remember that a few moments.~
~I had a, ~I had a roommate named,~ uh,~ Robbie [00:25:00] Chung, , he lives in,~ uh,~ Shanghai now. He went back. ~Mm-hmm. ~And I remember ~like, ~feeling competitive with him for some reason. Like feeling ~like, ~oh wait, here's another guy that seems to have figured this out. Super successful guy.
And being like, wait, there's only room for ~like ~one of us here. And so even though we were friends, there's like a feeling of ~like, ~competitiveness and Not actually thinking, , how can we help each other out? ~Hmm. ~I think another cost was, I'm feeling of like, I don't fit in with these people.
. So in my fight to do everything I could to [00:25:30] fit in with,~ um, you know, ~an American view of success. ~Mm-hmm.~
I don't speak Chinese. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~I culturally did everything I could to be very American. ~Mm-hmm. ~And then I'm looking over ~and, ~and at this people, and ~I, ~I remember feeling like I didn't fit in with them. I didn't understand them. It felt like we were from different cultures. ~Yeah.~ Me and other, ~you know, ~Chinese people ~and, ~and I remember crying and I don't know why, but I think there's,~ like, you know, ~in an effort to fit in, you lose something about yourself.
~Right. ~And then when you lose something about yourself, it's hard to then be a inspirational leader. It's hard to be [00:26:00] successful if you're not fully yourself.
JOHN: ~That, ~that vulnerability we're talking about, right? ~Yeah. Like, ~that's the iron part. I can relate to that. ~Um, ~we talked about one of ~the, uh, the, you know, ~the seven archetypes that I ~write ~sometimes write about, which is ~I, ~I see so often that we create, are these patterns?
And so much of this is about belonging. And I think a lot of times I get this question, which is like, John, why are you talking about Asian people? Like you guys are fine. Asian people are fine. You don't have problems. ~Yeah.~ You're basically white people. ~You know, ~we're white adjacent or whatever it is.
And the thing that I really think is the difference is [00:26:30] exactly that. Like you don't realize how hard we work to be white adjacent. Yes. Like we earned that. Yes. ~Like it wasn't just we,~ it wasn't just that you guys accepted us like we thought. And I saw my parents fight, I saw my friends fight, and it's invisible and it's quiet.
And we never realized it was a fight. ~Yeah.~ But we did. ~We, ~we blended in, we learned the language, we learned the culture. I fought with my parents [00:27:00] to adopt this culture. To eat westernized food. Yes. To listen to Westernized music because the idea was not just that we're here to assimilate, but that this was a better place.
Yes. So ~why would I want to give, give,~ why would I want to keep what I had before if this is a better place? ~Yeah.~ I should give up that part of myself. Ironically, I think that's the biggest thing is that like in fitting in, in seeking belonging, ~Yeah.~ You said like, how can be a chameleon and fit in by being like everyone else around you and still be you by definition?
ERIC: any sense.[00:27:30] ~Yeah. And, ~and especially when you have. My parents could have chosen to live in Richmond. ~Um, ~which, ~you know, ~for your listeners is a very,~ like,~ very high Chinese population. ~Mm-hmm. Yeah.~ My parents could have chosen to live ~more in the,~ more on the west side, but they actually intentionally wanted to live in North Delta because they thought that gave me a better chance of success.
~Yeah.~ To be able to fit in. Yep. I hear that. Where they didn't fully fit in. Yep. this was to give me a better life. So ~why wouldn't,~ why would I let my parents down and not follow through on that? maybe a feeling of their [00:28:00] sacrifice, but our kids are going to make it in this new country.
~Yeah. And you know, ~John, another thought that came to my mind was,~ um,~ I listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast, and talked about Sammy Davis Jr. ~Okay. And ~
~what Sammy Davis. Okay. I'm sure my ignorance. Yeah. Jazz musician. Yeah. Okay. He was, um, ~
~musician back in the, the day and I think he was, I think he was part of like the Bratt pack.~
~Uh, yeah. ~
JOHN: ~Yeah. He was one of the original guys that Yeah. Yeah, ~
ERIC: ~yeah. Yeah. We can, we can cut it out if I'm wrong. Um, but I,~ I remember like a moment where I think he faced a lot of criticism for basically abandoning his blackness. ~Right. ~And I think at the time it was a pretty big deal, ~you know, he, um, you know, ~he did what he could to fit in with the successful white stars.
~Mm-hmm. ~And there was a moment in that podcast [00:28:30] that brought me to tears where he was at some sort of roast and the type of jokes that the all white group ~mm-hmm. ~Made were horrific. About him being black and he just took it. He's got a smile on his face. ~And ~why that made me so sad is 'cause I did the same thing.
~Mm-hmm. You know, like you, you know, ~you make fun of yourself, right? ~Like, you, ~you make jokes. Oh ~yeah.~ We all look the same. ~Yeah. Yeah. Um, oh yeah.~ Like a math nerd. ~Yeah. Uh, ~I'm smaller than you. ~I, you know, I, I'm, you know, like, you,~ we big white guys here we go camping. I'm like, oh,~ I,~ I don't know how to ride a motorbike.
I don't know how to change the gears. ~You~ [00:29:00] almost like I was self-deprecating. I don't even know why. And maybe because, so that they couldn't get me first. ~Yeah. ~
JOHN: ~That's it. And I think like the, ~
ERIC: ~Uh, ~
JOHN: ~the, the, ~the feeling behind it is that if I say it, then it normalizes it. ~Yeah,~ exactly. ~Right. ~It normalizes it.
'cause there's also part of, it's just ~like, ~let's face it, we're all thinking it. But if I claim it first and I have the power in that ~Exactly, I'm not.~ Because then otherwise, if somebody else makes that joke first, now I'm being made fun of. Yes. But if I make that joke first, I'm having that power position.
~Yeah.~ You can't hurt me. I was hearing this,~ um,~ I was [00:29:30] talking to somebody a while back and he was describing how he was growing up. He was originally with this group of Asian friends and then went from middle school to high school and he wanted to go hang out with the cool white kids. So he abandoned his group of friends.
Like literally was just like, I don't wanna hang out with you guys anymore. You're not cool. I'm gonna go hang out with the white kids. ~And~ he found himself one day. Making a joke about the Asian kids. ~And I remember like, I think it was like a, this was during like a, a, a group kind of session thing.~ And I remember seeing just like this realization of what he was doing [00:30:00] and dude, I gotta say like ~I,~ my heart broke.
'cause I'm like, I know that feeling. ~Yeah,~ I know that feeling. ~And like I,~ this is what I'm saying, it's like we can call it internal racism and call it whatever you want, but I see it as survival. It's a survival mechanism. ~Yeah.~ And I'm like, I'm not trying to be dramatic about this. ~Right. ~And I think this is something that a lot, it's a lot of times people get, it's ~like, ~ah, you're being too dramatic.
Like you didn't go through real traumas, like of whatever it is. ~It's like, yeah. You know, ~our struggle is not the same as the racial struggles of, I think a lot of other groups. But it's small over time [00:30:30] and it goes deep.
ERIC: ~Yeah.~ It takes a toll, like a lot of, some of your energy goes towards it. And like you said, I think that, it's not even worth comparing,~ like, you know, ~that all that will do is divide us.
~It's different. And I look, I think, ~did I feel like I faced severe racism,~ um,~ growing up? No, I didn't. ~Mm-hmm. ~But I also think ~that ~that's true. 'cause I live in one of maybe five to eight cities in North America where you can feel like you're almost, ~you know, ~fully accepted. ~Yeah. You know, ~you know it,~ like, you know, ~it's,~ there's,~ there's certain cities that, you know here, Seattle, LA like [00:31:00] Honolulu.
~Yeah.~ Maybe New York. ~Um, you know, yeah.~ You're getting close to the end of the list. ~Right. ~In terms of ~the, ~the cities where you feel like you're likely to not have to face it. ~Yeah. Um, ~And you and I talked about this, I think we're in an interesting moment in time where there is something that's changing about the narrative.
You're starting to see Asian male leads in Hollywood. ~Yeah. Right. And it, it's just a huge, like it ~
JOHN: ~is, matters so much to, to us I feel it got, ~it got normalized really quickly, which I'm so happy about. ~Yeah.~ But before this last few years, it was a huge deal. It was never seen. Yes. [00:31:30] We never saw Asian protagonists who were male straight as a hero.
Yes. And acting heroically. ~Yeah.~ I think that's the thing. ~It's like, it's not just that, like,~ it's not just that they are in that role, but that ~they're,~ they act decisively, powerfully, ~kind of ~like the leadership thing you're talking about. They're vulnerable. Yes. ~Right. ~Because these are things that we don't usually associate with Asian American culture.
~Like vulnerability is, we're not known to be like, we don't think of vulner. Like, you know, ~we think of Asians as being oftentimes, ~I remember the,~ I think it was ~a ~a i m who did a study around this. ~You know, we're, ~we're polished, ~you know? Yeah. Like we,~ we really know, like we're [00:32:00] hardworking. ~Yeah. We're, we're, ~we're polite and we're humble.
But we don't, we're not very vulnerable. We're not very open. ~Yeah. Right. ~We're not very empathetic. ~Uh, ~Harvard Business School talked,~ uh,~ did a study on this when ~they, ~they measured,~ um,~ the warmth and competence scale. ~I dunno if you've heard of this study, of these things.~ Basically they said that most people, when we're really looking to see if ~like ~somebody's a leader or how we, like somebody, we're only ever feeling on two things, which is competence.
Are they good at, are they like capable? Yep. Strong. Whatever it is. ~Um, ~smart. And then are [00:32:30] they warm?
and they take a look at different groups and they found that Asians were generally speaking listed as high competence. ~Yeah.~ And low warmth. ~Yeah.~ Which I always thought was funny 'cause I would not have guessed that.
~Yeah.~ Because I'm like, Asians are like ~super, like I think, you know, I'm, I'm, I was born to Taiwan. Nice guy. Taiwanese people like Yeah. They're like, what? Like ~it's just super hospitable. But I get it because here we cover up. Yes. ~Right. ~We cover up, we put on a
ERIC: face. ~Yeah.~ Got our business face on. ~Yeah. Yeah. ~
I think all Asian American men know this, but seeing those heroes ~like ~succeed means a lot to us. And I think for some of us, we don't even realize how much it means. [00:33:00] Like why was I so emotional when Jeremy Lynn put up 38? Oh dude, why did I feel so proud when I watched a recent movie? Blue Bayou and it was about, ~you know, ~an Asian protagonist, ~but it was just, it wasn't like,~ it wasn't about ~like, you know, ~something like, ~uh ~oh,~ this,~ this guy's ~like, ~good at ~like, uh, ~Kung fu.
~Yeah.~ Or he's the smart guy. He's just the protagonist in a, just a great story. And then now you're starting to see it pile up like, ~you know, ~with beef like crazy Rich Asians and ~it's, ~it's coming fast [00:33:30] right now. ~Mm-hmm. ~That means a lot to us. ~Yeah. Like growing up, its just like you're, you're not gonna see, you don't see, you don't see the like, ~and when I was younger it'd be like, you never see the Asian guy get the popular girl.
~Right. ~We got everything else. Got valedictorian. Might be her friend. ~Yeah.~ Oh man. But it was like, for some reason that mattered and maybe it's 'cause that was what felt like ~the, ~the pinnacle of power, but it's like, Are you gonna see an Asian male protagonist in just a straight up story where it's ~just, ~just that, and I think that's starting to happen right now, which makes me feel so [00:34:00] proud.
~Yeah.~ But I think where we're at now is like ~I,~ I've known and I'm so grateful to have met you because once you see it, you can't unsee it. ~Yeah.~ You see there are all these Asian men that have reached success in whatever it is, business, Hollywood, politics like, and it almost feels like we're at this, at the end of this finish line and we're all ~kind of ~looking at each other and we're like, we wait.
Hey, like you're okay, right? I'm okay. ~Yeah.~ We're okay. ~Yeah.~ What the hell just happened? ~Right. ~And I think that's the moment we're at right now is where I actually think there's a lot of [00:34:30] us who have achieved enough success, but. What's the narrative to that shared experience We all have because it's a shared experience.
~Yeah.~ There is something that we all went through that no one has given yet a name to that I've heard in popular media. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~but I think it's ~like, ~hey,~ it's,~ it's almost like you're okay. You're okay. You can, ~you know ~it's safe, man. ~Yeah.~ You belong. ~Yeah.~ And ~you can speak up~ and you can ~be ~speak up.
~Yeah. And I think if, ~I think if we believe ~that ~that is an unlock to us becoming a leader. ~Yeah. And, ~and I think that [00:35:00] leadership, it's interesting because ~I think~ leadership ~is, ~Is in some ways like the pinnacle of society and business and stuff like that. ~You know, ~the Prime Minister of Canada, the president of the United States, the c e o of the company.
~Mm-hmm. ~Because I believe, ~you know, ~leaders can drive a lot of change in this world and make a positive impact. And I think that if we're able to be vulnerable, like you said ~mm-hmm. ~Not be afraid of judgment of who we truly are, I think that's an unlock to Asian Americans, ~you know, reaching, ~reaching success.
JOHN: ~It ~it without having to sacrifice their authenticity and who they were ~Yeah.~ And who they are. ~Yeah. Like it's,~ this is [00:35:30] something that I've so deeply believe in is that ~like, ~being successful or being assertive and confident, or being, whatever that blank word is, does not mean being white.
ERIC: ~Yeah. ~
JOHN: ~Like ~that's a big one.
~Like it's, you know, ~why big Asian energy is because like it's embodying whoever it is that you are. ~Yeah. And like it's,~ I don't even care if like you identify as Asian. ~Yeah. It's, ~it's really about the authentic identification of who you are, not who you feel you have
ERIC: to be or should be. I think that's a really well articulated,~ um,~ unlock that you talked about.[00:36:00]
I think there's a big unlock there. ~Mm-hmm. ~Look at ~like, ~the city that we live in. I moved back to Vancouver in 2019. ~Mm-hmm. ~My wife and I were doing well work-wise. ~We, ~we now ~had, ~had two daughters, a dog ~mm-hmm. ~And had reached some success. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~and decided let's come back home to Vancouver. ~Mm-hmm.~
And one of the ideas that I had was, from 2008 for a decade, San Francisco Bay area was. An amazing world of opportunity. ~Mm-hmm. ~Companies were doing so well. ~Mm-hmm. ~The stock [00:36:30] market was booming. Everybody was doing well in the San Francisco Bay area, if you're in technology or in business. ~So I, I, I had the,~ and my wife was in biotech,~ uh,~ at Genentech,~ uh,~ which is a really successful company there.
~Huge. So~ we reached success ~and, ~and we thought,~ well,~ originally thought said,~ well,~ maybe we'll go back to Vancouver when we're 55. ~Right. ~And they know let's to make a lot of money, reach success,~ and,~ and then there's some sort of destination. And then we just asked ourselves like, what feels right for us?
~Mm-hmm. And I, ~I just think for us, , we just had a feeling in our gut we wanted to come back home to Vancouver. For me personally, I felt like I've had the privilege of [00:37:00] having gone to Stanford and working with a lot of successful companies. And so I had this idea, I was like, I can come back home to my.
Little town of Vancouver, this little underdog,~ uh,~ city in the business world. And I'm gonna come and bring some of that energy back. ~Yeah.~ Do something. ~Yeah. Yeah, yeah.~ I went to a startup right before Adobe and ~um, you know, ~joined a mentor. It was an amazing learning experience, didn't work out. And then ~I was, ~I was lost ~at, at, ~at 40.
I was like, ~mm-hmm. ~What am I gonna do? ~Like ~the Bay Area has all these high paying jobs. ~Yeah.~ And I am now without a job [00:37:30] with two young kids. What am I gonna do next? That's a scary place. ~And what, you know, and, and what felt~ where I felt the most disappointed in myself is~ I, my,~ the original idea is I'm gonna come back to Vancouver, pair up with an old mentor, Josh Blair, amazing business leader.
~Mm-hmm. ~And I was gonna be part of building this unicorn company ~mm-hmm. ~In my town of Vancouver. We're gonna go take over the world. ~Yeah.~ And I ended up getting feeling a little disillusioned. I'm just like, you know what this business, Vancouver business environment, I actually found it a little bit insular and exclusive.
~Hmm, ~interesting. ~Um, ~and I was not able to [00:38:00] achieve what I wanted to. And so then now I'm stuck thinking like ~I still wanna,~ I still think there's something I can do to help Vancouver. ~Mm-hmm. ~And when we started talking, I was like, it's been right in front of us the whole time. ~Hmm. ~What does Vancouver have?
We have a ton of smart Asian people here. Yep. And this university ~we're, ~we're looking at right now is great, very great academic school, but how many of these young, smart Asian people, how many of ~these, ~these Asian people in [00:38:30] Vancouver actually believe that they can go out there and change lives? Change the world.
JOHN: ~Yeah.~ That's a good question.
ERIC: And maybe that's the reason we're talking today is ~I was like, there's, there's something here about maybe not purpose.~ Maybe lending a hand back and maybe my experience can help somebody,
JOHN: . ~So let's dive into this. ~Do you see a lot of Asian people stepping into leadership?
ERIC: ~When I think about it, and look,~ my world is just looking in largely American businesses and I think about Southeast Asians. ~Mm-hmm. ~I don't have the stats, but it feels like there's a gap. ~Mm-hmm. ~And I do know that at Stanford ~mm-hmm. ~They run a class for Asian American [00:39:00] kind of middle managers, senior managers.
And this is a problem they address too. Something happens around, call it senior manager, director level, and they struggle to get into those senior leadership positions. ~Yeah.~ So I don't see as much.
JOHN: So why. If I could just be as direct about it, just gut feeling. No one's gonna hold you accountable to this in the sense of ~like, yeah,~ you don't have to be careful about SATs or anything like that.
Gut feeling. Why? Why do we not see? 'cause ~that's, ~that's a good question. ~Yeah.~ Why are we not seeing more Asian people [00:39:30] step into that level of senior leadership? I know there's great Indian CEOs. ~Yeah. Right. Um, ~and ~I mean, ~I know there's different kind of issues ~and, ~and topics, but ~like, ~I can't think of that many East Asian CEOs that are out there.
~Like, ~not to say there's none. Of course there's tons zoom, there's so many East Asian CEOs, I'm sure, but southeast
ERIC: east, ~they're ~
JOHN: ~rare.~ They're rare. And ~they're not, ~they're not loud. ~Yeah. They're, ~they're not championing, they're not like, ~you know, ~the way that you see a lot of CEOs, I think of Patagonia, I think of CEOs who are like,~ I,~ [00:40:00] I believe in something.
Tom's shoes. I believe in something. I'm here. Yes, we're leading this company somewhere. Bill Gates, ~I mean yeah.~ For all of his faults, he was a loud dude. ~Yeah.~ Despite being, ~he's,~ he wouldn't think of him as loud, but he was pretty loud. ~Yeah.~ Steve Jobs,
ERIC: ~you know? Yeah.~ Like that inspiration. Both of them had that inspirational, that vision.
~Yeah.~ And people followed them. ~Yeah.~ To get back to the beginning of this conversation, ~yeah.~ Everyone
JOHN: has an opinion on Elon Musk. ~Yeah. Like Right. ~Love him or hate him. He stands in what he says and he says it loudly. Yes. Whether or not he [00:40:30] should is a debate. ~Yeah.~ But he does. So ~why, ~why?
ERIC: It's a good question ~and I.~
~You know, ~we talk about this conversation we've been having, and it's almost like this formula that we have to survive and thrive right. In this society ~does not, it, it, ~it certainly helps you get a safe job in, ~you know, that, ~that leverages your technical talent, but it's almost like a parallel railroad track.
~Mm-hmm. ~But it's not the path to leadership. ~Mm-hmm. ~There is something about that contorting [00:41:00] yourself to fit in, to succeed in someone else's world where leaders have to create the future. They have to create the
JOHN: world. ~That's, ~that's a risky thing to do. ~It. That's a risky, that's a risky thing to do. You know, you take and, and sometimes the.~
~You know, you have companies that would, will, will, will try to, and I, I think of, actually this is, ~this is one thing we're talking about, agents, CEOs who are, I consider out there and loud, I'm gonna say this. Ellen Powell ~found, you know, uh, not a founder story, uh,~ who was once the c e O of Reddit. ~You know, ~she wrote a book about her journey into it.
And I genuinely think that she was trying to step into that and ~she got, ~she got hit. Like she got hit and [00:41:30] attacked. ~Yeah.~ And that was, ~you know, ~planned or unplanned. That was what happened. ~Yeah.~ So is there something within us that's ~like, ~we don't want to put ourselves in there.
ERIC: It is risky and scary. It is.
to really drive change. You're stepping into be criticized, you're stepping into haters, of course you're gonna step into doubters and,~ um, you can't, ~you can't do anything alone. So you need to be able to inspire others to follow you. ~How can you, ~how can you have people follow [00:42:00] you when your entire life you've been following somebody else?
Oh, interesting. So
JOHN: let's say we're talking right now to a young generation of Asians who didn't go through the things that we went through, or didn't have to go through the same thing. They're gonna face a whole difference set of world issues. ~Um, ~and they're looking at it right now, and they're going, actually, no, I do want to be the next, ~you know, ~whatever, c e o I do want to be the next Elon.
I do want to be the next whatever, Steve,~ or, or, ~or thing. What do I do?
ERIC: That's a great question.[00:42:30]
I think it's,~ um,~ having the courage to step out of the safe lane and it starts small. ~Mm. ~And I find that over time ~you start, ~you start taking these small risks and you start getting comfortable ~with the, ~with the discomfort. ~Mm-hmm. ~And don't follow the well-worn path. ~I mean, ~you used to help, young students get into top school.
So you probably know way more than I do about what's the formula, what are they looking for? ~And I'm gonna do, you know, ~I'm gonna do [00:43:00] what they're looking for. ~Yeah. Um, ~But I think early on, just having the courage to ~like, ~go right when everybody's going left. ~Hmm. ~Take those risks. ~Don't, ~don't be afraid to know yourself.
Believe in yourself ~and stay true.~ To stay true to that. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~and then hopefully it becomes easier for next generations when there's less of a narrative that you have to be this way to be successful.
JOHN: ~That's, ~that's a great point. It's courage. , when we're talking about media, because I think that Asians and media right now are, ~you know, ~we're going through this great wave, [00:43:30] but really what the, ~you know, ~the movies that I've been most interested in are stuff like Blue Bayou stuff like Joy Ride.
I don't know if you have seen it yet, because. they're willing to be messy. Yes. And I really like messy
ERIC: characters for Asian. ~Yeah. Yeah. You know, I, ~I
JOHN: love it. For a while we had stereotypes and then we ~kind of like, ~okay, we're done with the stereotypes. Not everyone's a kung fu fighting, ~you know?~
~Yeah. Math.~ Math, dude. And then we started to have ~like, ~there's still ~kind of ~two dimensional characters. They're still typecasted characters. And then we had shinier characters, But what I'm loving now is that ~we're, ~we're [00:44:00] getting into humans.
ERIC: Complex characters. Complex characters. You can't put 'em in a box.
You can't like beef. ~Yeah.~ I love that. I love
JOHN: beef. ~Yeah.~ Because it's just like ~these, these all, every,~ all the characters you're in, there're like,~ I don't know how to,~ none of them are really archetypes. ~Yeah. Right. Like, ~they're just all over the place. It is about saying, it's not about who do I have to be?
It's just ~like, ~no, you do you, ~yeah.~ And then you keep putting yourself out there uncomfortably. ~Some people, a lot, ~a lot of people may not like it. ~Yeah. And that's not ~
ERIC: ~your,~ that's not your game. ~You're not trying,~ they're not trying to fit into that anymore. ~Yeah.~ That's what I really admire about Ali Wong [00:44:30] and,~ um,~ Steven Yon, that's his name, right?
~Yeah. Yeah. And beef, like, you know, that made me think John is like, is ~unfortunately the path to that. ~Yeah.~ Sometimes requires that the people before you, or even earlier in your life, you ~kind of ~gotta sell out a little bit. It's almost like they're looking for top 40 hit. You might have to deliver that top 40 hit before you create your amazing creative song.
~Yeah. Like, ~look at Crazy Rich Asians like ~that, that was, ~that was successful because ~it did, you know, ~it brought a lot of new faces into the world. ~Mm-hmm. ~But it played to what the masses wanted, right? ~Yeah. Oh yeah. Rich, rich. Make sure it's visually beautiful. Yeah. Like, You know, and, ~and I think about,~ um,~ the Ken Jong, is that ~his, ~his name?
~Yeah.~ And ~like, uh, um, ~it's that movie where there's [00:45:00] bachelor party, hungover Hangover. ~Right. ~Hangover. Hangover. ~Yeah. Yeah. And you know, now he is, you know, he was, ~he was a doctor. ~Yeah.~ But ~yeah,~ he had to play the stereotypical ~Yeah.~ I'm gonna laugh in this guy's face Asian character to earn him and hopefully others, the right to open the door to have more mainstream roles that we can be fully ourselves.
~I,~ I wanna shout this
JOHN: out because I know that there's been a lot of people who didn't like that, who didn't like his portrayal. ~Mm-hmm. And I got,~ and I'm like, you know what? I get it. ~I, ~I also ~like, ~have gone through it. ~You know, ~he made small Dicks jokes. ~Yeah. And, ~and these kind of things. He was like on [00:45:30] community.
But two things ~I want to,~ I really want to say is, ~He,~ I think, honestly needed
ERIC: to do that. ~Yeah.~
JOHN: He did what he needed to do in order for this generation to come out. And I think that we don't give Ken enough credit. We don't give, what was that, Bobby? I don't remember his last name. ~Yeah, I know Ken. ~Man. I'm failing my Asian test right now.
~yeah. Like, there was, ~there was a little bit of pushback against those guys for their portrayals,
ERIC: ~yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. ~
JOHN: ~Yeah.~ Ken, John was the one who like brought smu Lou Yes. ~To,~ to the marketplace, ~you know? Mm-hmm. Like, we, ~we don't give them credit for that,. We had to fit in. ~Yeah.~ We had to play the [00:46:00] chameleon.
. And now the question is, what's the next generation gonna, again, how do we support that? ~Yeah.~ I think that's the key. ~Yeah. That's, that's ~that's the next generation of leaders. ~Yeah.~ Whole new generation of leaders and the shit that they're gonna come up with Matt, I can't wait to see it. . What advice would you give yourself if you had the , ~you know, ~time machine go back in time, what advice, would you have given yourself looking back?
ERIC: ~ Um, I, ~I don't have many regrets, ~um mm-hmm. ~But I think that one, when people ask me like, do you have any regrets or any advice, I sometimes speak to applicants or recent admits to Stanford Business [00:46:30] School. ~Mm-hmm. ~And I. Wish that I had taken the time to build relationships with people who were more different than me.
Interesting. Versus trying to build relationships with the people I was aspiring to be, ~you know, , you know, like, ~, like this group of popular kind of big personality American guys. ~Yeah.~ And I went to school with, ~you know, ~classmates from all sorts of different countries. ~Um, and, ~and I think it stemmed [00:47:00] from that drive I felt to fit in, right?
~Mm-hmm. ~To gravitate towards one group ~and, and, ~and be blind to the other. ~Mm-hmm. Um, ~so I think that a lot of these. Decisions I made were to try to fit in. So maybe I would just say ~like, ~just, I would just ask myself like, why are you doing this? ~Mm-hmm. ~And maybe reflected a little bit earlier on why why did I believe that I needed to,~ like, you know, ~playing sports and being good at sports was ~the, the, ~the only way to feeling like success. Why did I believe that I had to drink in [00:47:30] order for people to like me and to really fit in? , so I just asked myself, . Why are you making these decisions?
JOHN: And what do you think the answer would've been for those why's?
ERIC: I think I probably would've said, 'cause I have to right? It just, I think when you're earlier in your life, you're just in this drive to succeed ~and, ~and get to the top whatever the top means. ~Right. ~And there's a lot of good in that, ~you know, ~ambition drive. ~Most, most successful, ~most successful people, like in their twenties, were working ~really, really, really, ~really hard.
And we're pretty ambitious. ~Mm-hmm. Yeah.~ [00:48:00] So just be good at what you do. That's great. ~Mm-hmm. , I,~ I feel lucky that I didn't fully lose myself in that process. ~You know, ~it wobbles a little bit to be able to sit here ~and, ~and talk to you and,~ um, um, ~didn't wobble too much, but ~I think, ~I think a lot of people ~do, ~do lose themselves ~and, ~and,~ uh, you know, ~you contort yourself too much and you actually lose power even when you think you're gaining power.
JOHN: I like that. ~You, , uh,~ you're losing power even when you think you're gaining power. That's powerful. . ~Um, ~coming back to leadership. 'cause I still think that ~this is, ~this is such a powerful and important question is for Asian [00:48:30] Americans or Canadians or whoever, for Asian people. We know why it is that , we don't get perceived as being vulnerable.
~Right. ~. That's a culture. ~Mm-hmm. You know, ~we're not always seen as being the assertive ones because again, it's our culture. ~Yeah.~ We've been taught to be humble, be polite. We're not always the one raising our hands or anything like that. So how do we step more into leadership? If you are creating a coaching or training program for your development teams and they're Asian Americans or Asian Canadians, whatever it is, what would you focus on?
What would that journey look like?
ERIC: I'm not an executive [00:49:00] coach, but I do think that a lot of executive coaching, why it's. Exploded lately is this exploration of self. So I think it always starts with yourself, like what, ~you know, ~we've, facilitated hundreds of leadership offsites, and one of a very simple question is to ask, what is something about my past that shapes who I am today?
Oh, that's a good one. Let the group talk. And so I think that exploration of self, being able to understand why you are who you [00:49:30] are and all the good, and all the bad that comes from that, I think is,~ um,~ it creates a foundation. ~You know, if you, ~if you're able to explore yourself, understand yourself, , there's just ~a, ~a level of comfort that I think we're all still working on.
~We're all, ~we're all still improving on this, but being able to truly understand yourself,~ um,~ Brene Brown ~had a real,~ had a really nice recent Netflix BLE special, I think it's called Atlas of the Heart. You gotta fact check all of these things. Giving a language to some of these feelings. Huge. I think all of [00:50:00] that becoming more mainstream is great.
And ~yeah, you know, ~it doesn't just apply ~to, ~to agents, but I think anybody,~ like,~
if you truly understand yourself, ~you know, ~for ~all the, ~all the good stuff and all the bad stuff, and you learn to accept and love that, puts you in a position where you can inspire other people. ~Mm-hmm. ~You can help other people. ~Mm-hmm. ~You can do great things.
JOHN: Personally,~ I,~ I just think that this is the change that's gotta be happening.
This is what I'm saying. It's not like messy Asians. Yes. That's the nature innovation Yes. Is that ~we're, we're, ~we're messy character. We're perfectly fucking imperfect. We're perfectly imperfect in all the ways that we are, good or bad, [00:50:30] because ~it's, it's, ~it's true to who we are. ~Yeah.~ And the acceptance is that the imperfection of who we are is great.
~Yeah.~ It is worthy. , we don't have to manicure in, pretend, and put on a thing like ~Right. ~The imperfections, who we are is what makes us leaders. ~Yeah. ~, is what makes us like that power to give us the ability to lead. ~Yeah, ~
Thank you Eric for coming on the show. ~Um, ~thank you so much. ~ Uh, ~if people wanna follow you or learn more about you, I don't know if you're gonna create stuff in the future talking [00:51:00] about this, what's the best way to find you?
~Yeah,~ I think LinkedIn or Instagram.
We'll put in the link in there. Put it up there so you can follow. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. You've been a, an incredible guest sharing, so
ERIC: courageously My pleasure, man.