Winning the Day

By NetKAL IX, Host Committee Week 2: Christine, Dan, Jess, Jim, Priscilla


6:30 AM. Saturday morning. Hit snooze, maybe twice. Check emails. Slide out of bed out into what feels dark and cold. Wash up. Shower and shave. The clothes you picked out last night don’t look so sharp now. Wrestle with your clothes while struggling with consciousness. Yesterday was fuzzy. Crazy party? No,

just another NetKAL Friday.

Yet you made a decision at some point in your life, that the long game is as important as the short, that you’ve got something worth fighting for, and that you’ll sleep when you retire; and today is no exception. So you’ve agreed to spend six weekends with twenty-five of this nation’s crème de la crème Korean-American leaders, that strange but formidable hyphenated sub-group that’s understood to outsiders as part foreign and part familiar, who’ve decided the same.

Together we’ll examine each other, strengthen weaknesses, extend our reach. Great, but how?

Winning the day
Winning the day

In part, you put a group of highly ambitious and talented individuals like us together and magic is bound to happen.

But we’ve been enriched and energized under the auspices of the sagacious Dr. Greg Patton, an expert in communication, and interpersonal and leadership effectiveness, who looks like he’s done this once or twice before. In session 1, he turned us inward to chart the way we perceive the world, and how others, including our boss, might as well. We were reminded that we’re just as often, if not more often, persuaded by emotion rather than credentials or the all-revered logic. That wars are fought and history made not based on a comprehensive risk-assessment and mitigation strategy plan, but on who miffed who.

And we better recognize it, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience,” despite what our JD’s, MD’s, and PhD’s might tell us.

We also learned about Dr. Philip Jaisohn, the first great Korean-American (after all, in 1890, he was the first Korean to obtain American citizenship),[1] directly from Peter Choi, President of the Jaisohn Memorial Foundation. Jaisohn was the best in many of us—journalist, businessman, physician, politician, military advisor, diplomat, rebel, visionary—and decorated in whatever he did. He must’ve never heard of the bamboo ceiling.

In session 2, Greg made us brand managers, LinkedIn advisors, Warren Buffets, and arctic wayfarer survivors. The purpose wasn’t merely to make decisions—thank goodness, most of us died in the arctic—but to be conscious of our group’s dynamics and interactions as we prepare for our keystone public service project proposals. In and amongst the initial greetings, Facebook requests, and increasing interactions, we’ve begun to develop a bond that is sure to mature over time. Why? Because NetKAL is like an incubator of the most dynamic and leaned-in people being coached and spurred by veterans who know what success looks like.

Look how much fun we have at work.
Look how much fun we have at work.

And in and amongst the techniques, strategies, and self-conscious exercises, we’ve not only become better aware of who we are, but what we could become. Development officers to community organizers with expertise in fostering community-to-donor relations and engendering a culture of philanthropy. Scientists to leading innovators developing the next generation of synthetic biomedical technology. Officers to military veterans with expertise in strategic planning, regional adaptation, and combat and field experience to craft the next line of defense. Television producers to programs entrepreneurs sniffing out stories and getting the next generation of civic improvements into your living room. Policy analysts to strategic and regional managers promoting free markets, humanity, and democracy. Lawyers to activists bending bad governments to play by the rules they signed up for. You get the point.

Why? Why all the school beyond school, the grind sessions, the weekends that could be spent back in the warm bed?

To put what we learned to the test, we had the opportunity to learn from David S. Kim, NetKAL Leadership Council member and our keynote dinner speaker, whom we were all probably analyzing for his delivery, poise, branding. Was he engaging? Concise? Nervous? Obstructive power point? He passed with flying colors.

Our Jess in the ring standing toe-to-toe with David
Our Jess in the ring standing toe-to-toe with David

But a week later, and a 1000 pages of memos to read, like the cold floor hits you when you get out of bed, you still have to face the world.

But now you know you’re not alone. You’ve got allies who make the same decision every morning to be more than just good at what they do. But to be a force for good in this world and to leave an imprint, a legacy for yourself, your family, and for the next generation of Korean-Americans in this nation.

Because until now, Korean-Americans at large are still viewed as the excellent and passive researchers. Not those who win the day. Without a seat at the decision-making table, our voices are negligible. And as one of our own said at the last weekend session, if we’re not actively crafting our brand, someone will do it for us.

So where are the next Harold Koh’s? Jim Yong Kim? Nam June Paik? Yul Kwon? Do Won Chang? Philip Jaisohn?

Mark Twain said those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t. Then similarly, those who don’t flex, stretch, strengthen their leadership abilities have no advantage over those who can’t. We have a duty to those before us and to those ahead.

As John Donne put, “no man is an island,” for every one NetKAL fellow, it took a community to raise you to where you are. And for every NetKAL fellow, there are two more kids you can probably think of who need your guidance.

Our best days lie ahead. Our history is yet to be made.

President John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

We don’t know exactly what Dr. Jehoon Lee and his talented staff have in store for us for the remainder of the seminars and onward. But we’ve bought in to the need for elevated leadership.

Because the next time someone is asked what he or she thinks about Korean-Americans, let the answer be, “Leaders.” You know winning the day starts from the morning. And today is no different.

Host Committee members with the speaker David S. Kim
Host Committee members with the speaker David S. Kim
[1] Philip Jaisohn Memorial House, Brochure,

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