I am Vietnamese, was born and grew up in Germany, went to school and worked in the United States, and currently reside with my lovely wife in Seoul, Korea. We are happy, grateful for what we have, and always mindful of what more we can give back in return.
I believe people are fundamentally good and to be good to each other is why we are all here. I also believe in the worthiness of the pursuit of social justice based on four principles:
(1) correcting for arbitrariness: the accident of birth should not be the determining factor for anyone’s destiny. It cannot be right that billions suffer lack of health, education and economic indignity simply due to being born into them, while the resources and means to end this suffering exist elsewhere but are not put to use.
(2) responsibility of the privileged: anyone who does enjoy the privilege of health, education and economic safety, and who has the luxury of time to think about what to do with their lives, has a duty as a matter of solidarity to fellow human beings, to make some contribution of labor or resources to the end of reducing suffering and creating opportunities for others to realize their potential.
(3) debt of conscience: it is hubris to believe that we in the “developed” world “deserve” our quality of life and comforts as a result of our ingenuity and effort, without acknowledging the contributions of history, much of it founded on injustice to the conquered and exploitation of their current successors living in what we call the “developing” world. Absolving our generation from any responsibility of this fact is not only unsatisfying but essentially wrong. While we cannot undo what was done, we can let ourselves be guided by our conscience towards leading lives where we take nothing for granted or “deserved” and where we hope to produce so much cumulative good onto others that one day, we hope to consider our inherited debt repaid.
(4) restoring of the natural balance, which refers to the fundamental duty of people to take no more than they give from their environment. I am at peace with the idea that our world could end any day if we get hit by a meteorite, but I reject the absurdity that we would end it ourselves through ignorance, arrogance, and the fundamental stupidity of industrial and commercial activities serving inessential purposes.
Lastly, I soberly subscribe to the adage that “in the end, nothing really matters,” as long as we have lived fully aware and despite of ourselves, and made the most of the cards we each have been dealt, in a way that we can be proud of ourselves looking back later on. Doing good is my way.
By day-job I am a management consultant, a salaried office worker, a “business-person”. One who analyzes and evaluates, not one who makes actual things (turns out there is value in both, but I don’t try to convince the entrepreneurs of this).
In my past and up to the present, on off-hours from my day-job, I collaborate with a few international NGOs, social entrepreneurs and foundations here and there as an advisor and sounding board. I occasionally mentor social business plan competition finalists and have co-founded a “profit with purpose” enterprise that is still alive and well today. Sometimes I hold workshops and have career chats with students eager to make their mark on the world. I am passionate about the unlocked potential of social capital markets, about the promise of true corporate social innovation, about entrepreneurial ingenuity in unlikely places, and about cross-sector collaboration as a tough but essential effort to sustainably allocate stakeholders’ responsibilities and incentives in solving our biggest problems.
Once I went to business school with the original purpose to change my career towards “doing good,” partly because I felt I needed more meaningful activity in my full-time job. Among many things, I served as Career Chair for The Kellogg School of Management’s Net Impact chapter to help myself and other members navigate the emerging space of “social sector” jobs.
Another motivation has been my attempt to reorient myself from my early days as a number-crunching analyst monkey for the culturally discredited Wall Street establishment. Generously speaking, I grade myself a “B” on accomplishing this in some measure. Having dabbled in several sectors since, and spend countless hours more pondering the pros and cons of trying different “do good” jobs, I take the liberty to qualifying myself to be very much a part of the answer-seeking “Good Generation” – which is why I have a vested interest in writing and sharing on this topic.
That said, my 10-year goal is to earn an “A” and keep it ever-after. This blog, if it succeeds, will hopefully help as “extra-credit” activity along the way.
But you be the judge of how I’m doing. Thank you for reading.
December 19, 2011