Core values to have for another successful year


core valuesI learn so many things every day from my work: persistence that I see from my manager, work ethics that I learn from my colleagues, passion that I feel from leadership, and so much more. What resonated with me recently was what Logan, the CEO of my company, said in one of our training sessions. Starting a new year, he shared 6 core values he wishes us to have for another successful year in 2018.

There are countless articles and lectures about ‘key values for success’, ‘tips to succeed’, and ‘X ways to inspire employees’, but I guess they become more compelling and inspiring only when they are said by someone who you know that they actually went through hard times and learned by their firsthand experience. Though only about an year, as I have seen him making hard decisions, prospering, succeeding, and failing, I could feel that the list is from his own experiences, not from some arbitrary articles. I also know that there are some items that I really need to improve myslef.

Okay, so here are the six core values form Logan and what he actually said in the session:

1. Courage

When I think about courage, I think about sort of questing into the unknown. There is a Spanish saying that You always need to be able to make a decision with only 70% of the information”. It feels scary because you wish you had 100% of the information, but the reality is that perfection stifles progress very often. So, having the courage to stand up, speak, take a chance, and believe in yourself is an important thing that I am hoping to see and demonstrate in all of you along with your journey in this year of 2018.

2. Empathy

Courage without empathy is being arrogant. Being able to be courageous is one thing but not listening to others is another thing. So, making sure that we are able to listen to each other, making sure that we are able to listen to our customers’ needs and being empathetic to what their needs are for each of your roles and each of personas is another important attribute that we really need to have. Just think about: what are some examples of making sure that we are listening? Making sure that we are caring about the fact that our colleague who had one hell of a week because of three fires that they had to put out? We figure out how to be a little bit more available to them for the week because you know that when you have a bad week, they are going to be able to come back for you in return.

3. Unity

Being able to work together in a unified fashion. For me personally, I am trying to understand how to drive more elegant communications across all of us. I think there is no question at that if we are going to be able to succeed as a team, all of the cylinders must be running. We can’t have a couple of cylinders running and a couple of cylinders not running. So, the goal here is to make sure that we are raising those voices and that we are able to listen, sympathize, and come up with solutions.

4. Persistence

In entrepreneurship, nothing is going to work the first time. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Do you know how many times I hit my head against the wall to try to get Aquicore working? I can’t even count the number of times that I have tried and I have failed. This is not a game of perfection. This is not a game of 100% successful times. You will try and you will fail. We will try and we will fail. But persistence is what is going to prevail and win the game. When I was rowing (I don’t know how well you are familiar with my background, I used to be in a rowing team in college), the team that I rowed with was a very under-funded team. It was a team that had 60 people and it had enough money for a 4 person team. But regardless of that circumstance, we were still in the national rank every year. We beat Purdue, we beat MIT, and we beat all of those Yalies and IVYs. All that took was persistence: It took being willing to wake up in the morning. It took being willing to plow through that frustration that you get when you were sitting in the moment where you feel like you can’t solve the problem. I personally never forget that you have the team around you to support you and you have that core value to support you when you get into that moment. 

5. Improvement

I would like to emphasize the clinging desire to improve. I think a lot of us, and I will admit this, probably got little comfortable in 2017. We found our message, we found our system, and teams are doing its thing. But we kind of realize that there was something that was in debt. We knew there were pending needs well beyond what we were achieving. So, being able to recognize that and push forward with our improvement is essential. I think the Product team is a great example where we were trying to create a system around improving on a regular basis – through the use of retrospective and through the use of introspection, listening to yourself and hearing what is wrong.

6. Urgency

No entrepreneur story starts without urgency, unfortunately, or fortunately for that matter. It is what makes it exciting and what makes it stressful. The reality is that there is an urgent need for us to be able to accomplish each of these goals within the timelines.

It is the attitude to what we prize that we admire.

It was not the hero I admired but the reflection from his epaulet or helmet. It is nothing (for us) permanently inherent in another, but his attitude or relation to what we prize that we admire. – Henry David Thoreau.

I recently watched a spiritually inspiring talk on YouTube by a Korean novel writer, Chulhwan Lee. If I translate the title, it is “Ways to win someone’s heart”. It sounds like introducing some flirting tactics, but it is in fact about building healthy relationships by understanding the human nature and what matters to us human.

What stood out to me was a story about an actor. The story was like this: Lee (the speaker) once visited a theater for his actor friend. While waiting for his friend to finish his practice, he saw a guy on the stage repeating the same action over and over again: throwing a tablecloth to the table. He figured that the guy was an actor who did not have any lines in the play. He just had that small part in the opening where he throws the tablecloth. Later, Lee went to see the show. There, he saw the guy proudly walked into the stage, throwing the tablecloth. The tablecloth flew like a magic carpet and perfectly settled on the table. The audience was impressed and applaud him.

Well, it must not have been the importance of the role the audience admired. Rather, it was the attitude the actor had towards his role even if it was small and insignificant. He treated his role as if it was the most important one in the play and himself like the most talented actor in the world. He took his part seriously and tried to make it perfect instead of being resentful about being given a small role or not having any lines in the play. What won the audience’s hearts is his attitude towards what he believes is worth.

We (or more specifically, I) sometimes grumble about not having a significant role, not having an extraordinary talent, not having a better situation, and more and more. However, what makes me special at the end will be not what I have now or inherently but the attitude towards what I believe is worth.

For the record, I here keep the original script of the part that I liked in the talk.

이철환 작가의 세바시 강연 “어떻게 사람의 마음을 얻을 것인가” 중.

제가 만났던 멋진 배우를 소개하겠습니다. 후배를 만나러 극단으로 갔는데 배우들은 무대 위에서 연습하지 않고 무대 아래 의자에 앉아 대사 연습을 하고 있었습니다. 그런데 한 남자가 무대 위에서 굉장히 단순한 동작을 반복하고 있어요. 테이블 위에 테이블보를 펴는 것. 참 쉬운 일이잖아요? 그 일을 거의 두 시간이 넘도록 계속 반복하고 있었습니다. 저는 그가 누구인지 궁금했습니다. 대사 연습을 마친 후배를 통해 저의 궁금증을 풀 수 있었습니다. 그에게는 대사가 한 마디도 없었던 것입니다. 그러니 그는 대사 연습이 필요 없었던 것이지요. 저같으면 하지 않을 것 같은데요. 그의 생각은 달랐던 것 같습니다.

여러날 후, 저는 후배의 공연을 보러 갔습니다. 연극 시작부분에 다시 이 배우가 걸어나왔는데 그의 어깨 위에 가지런히 테이블보가 올려져 있었습니다. 그는 관객을 향해 씩 웃더니 춤을 추는 것처럼 자기 어깨 위에 있는 테이블보를 제법 멀리 떨어져 있는 테이블을 향해 힘껏 던졌습니다. 그 테이블보는 마치 마법의 양탄자처럼 테이블에 사뿐히 내려 앉았는데요, 네 개의 모서리에 자로 잰 듯 정확히 나누며 내려앉았습니다. 그 순간 관객석에서 와 하는 탄성이 나왔습니다. 저 또한 감동받았고요. 그런데 저는 이 배우의 상황을 알고 있으니 마음이 참 뭉클했습니다. 관객을 감동시키는 것은 배역이 아니라 배역을 향한 진정성이라는 것을 그는 알고 있었던 것입니다.

헨리 데이빗 소로우가 말했죠. “사람들을 감동시키는 것은 그의 재능이 아니다. 사람들을 감동시키는 것은 가치있는 것에 대한 그의 태도이다. ” 바꿔서 말씀드리면 사람의 마음을 얻기 위해 필요한 것은 우리의 재능이 아니라는 것입니다. 가치있는 것에 대한 태도, 우리의 마음가짐, 우리의 진정성, 그것이 훨씬 더 중요하다는 것입니다. 이 배우는 자기 스스로를 훌륭한 배우로 인정했던 배우입니다. 그러니 어쩌면 보잘것 없다고 느껴지는 그 작은 배역에 최선을 다해 자신의 진정성을 보여줬죠. 그리고 관객들의 마음을 얻었습니다.

나를 인정한다는 것은 무엇일까요. 나를 인정한다는 것은 나를 기다려주는 것이라고 생각합니다. 지금 내 모습이 보잘것 없어도 언젠가는 멋진 사람이 될거라고 믿으며 나를 기다려 주는 것. 지금 내 눈 앞에 도저히 넘을 수 없을 것 같은 장벽이 있다해도 언젠가는 반드시 그 장벽을 넘을 수 있을 것이라 믿으며 나를 기다려주는 것. 지금 내 앞에 도저히 고칠 수 없을 것 같은 습관이나 상황이 있어도 언젠간 그것이 나아질 것이라 믿으며 나를 기다려주는 것. 저는 그것이 나를 인정하는 것이라고 생각했습니다.


Never let a bad situation go to waste

Last week was a tough week for me because I found one of my favorite colleagues is leaving the company soon. Well, it should be corrected as that the company decided to let him go. It was a huge shock to everyone because he has been a core member of the company who laid the foundation and knows all the ins and outs of the business. He is full of humor and positive attitude so everybody liked him as well.

It was especially sad news to me as he was super supportive of me since I started working at the company. He was always very excited whenever I showed him my work and advocated me and my work even when I thought I was not making as much as contributions I wished to make to the company yet. It was natural that his news became personal to me. It is not like some guy was there and is leaving. I was about to lose a good colleague, friend, and mentor at the same time. I wanted to know how the decision was made and how he feels about this.

I talked to my manager and we had a long conversation. Although it must have been tough for him as well, he tried his best to explain things carefully and respectfully. Like in any other conversation I have with him, he provided me with lots of insights and life lessons that I want to keep in mind.  So, here, I am trying to write some of them down here before they go faint so I don’t forget.

Never let a bad situation go to waste.

“I know it is hard. It is tough for everyone. There have been continuous discussions and doubts about if it is a right decision to make. It is a decision that is difficult for us to make and for every team member to accept. However, once we conclude that is the right way for the organization to go, we have to deal with the biting part of it. Whenever I encounter this kind of bad situations, I remind myself of what my father said: “Don’t let a bad situation go waste.” A bad situation can happen to everyone. I sometimes have to let somebody go. I sometimes can get fired. I sometimes try something and fail. But what can I do with those situations that you can’t control? The only thing I can do is to try to learn as much as I can. You can’t change the situation but you can learn as much as you want. We need to keep telling ourselves: ‘What can I learn from this? How would I deal with this if I were in the situation?’ ”

Employment is like a finger in water.

“All the work he did for the company is so important that we can’t think of the company without him. I understand you are worried about the gap we will face once he leaves. However, employment is like a finger in water. Imagine you put your finger in water and take it out. What happens? The water moves and fills the gap immediately. It is like that. There is always someone to fill the position. You can also think the same thing when you leave the company. Don’t worry too much about the gap you will make and focus on making whatever decision is best for you.”

We are all adults. We can distinguish personal feelings from profession matters in an adult way.

“He is great and everybody likes him. It is natural that this news feels personal to everyone to some extent. However, we also understand business is business and we need to distinguish our personal feelings from professional matters. The organization needs to do what it needs to do. However, even though we make a decision that is best for the business, we can still care about him with our genuine interest. I ask him how he is doing, how he is feeling, and what we can do for him to make his next move easier. He also understands the decision and tries his best to make sure all the transition is smooth. That is how we deal with this situation as adults. So, don’t feel bad too much and don’t be afraid of talking to him. He will feel when you approach him genuinely and when you really care about him.”


The conversation with him relieved me and made me feel much better. However, even with his insightful advice, I know it will take some time for me to accept this for real and get used to it. It may also be attributed to the fact that I am still young and have not faced this kind of situations yet. It may also be due to the difference between American and Korean work culture. However, I still wish I don’t lose empathy and face it with indifference even if my professional career grows.

Looking for a warmer place


This picture was taken when I went to Pusadee’s garden a few weeks ago. It was almost the last week before it got too cold to enjoy dinner outside. I rushed the reservation so that I would not miss a chance to enjoy dinner at this famous and beautiful outside garden. 

I always grumble about Pittsburgh during long winter months and wish to move to somewhere with a milder weather, but I immediately forget about it after spring breezes kick in. I have a sense of foreboding that I will never be living in a warmer place…. 😨