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Bryan Pham on Founding Asian Hustle Network, Beginner's Mindset and Transforming Cultural Dogma

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… as an early leader of your company, you are the company. Your brand doesn't really mean much at that point, people are looking at you. Are you credible? Do you have a lot of integrity? Can you lead? Do you get angry fast, what's your temperament like? That's leadership in action right there. - Bryan Pham

Bryan Pham is the founder of Asian Hustle Network [AHN], Crushing it in Real Estate [CIIRE], HateIsAVirus, and a venture partner at Outlier Fund. He is passionate about bringing together communities of like-minded individuals through growing AHN to over 65,000 members in a little over 10 months and managing an active CIIRE group of over 2,000 investors.

Managing a team of 25 people, Bryan seeks to uplift Asian entrepreneurs around the world with the goal of having better representation in mainstream media and upper corporate and investment ladders. Bryan and his co-founder, Maggie Chui, are also the hosts of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast and community leaders bringing onboard AAPI entrepreneurs to inspire and share their knowledge to provide the foundation for future generations to succeed. Outside of AHN, Bryan is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at StartUpGrind, Berkeley that brings together an ecosystem of VCs, angel investors, and aspiring entrepreneurs. He is also an active angel investor and real estate investor and has been featured on Bloomberg, Business Insider, NextShark CGTV, LA Times, and VoyageLA.

Jeremy Au: [00:01:46] Hey, Bryan, welcome aboard the show.

Bryan Pham: [00:01:49] Yeah, super excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

Jeremy Au: [00:01:52] Yeah. It's just amazing to see you grow the Asian Hustle Network from zero to over 67,000 members in such a short period of time, honestly. And it's been an incredibly helpful community to me.

Bryan Pham: [00:02:04] Yeah, super excited to be here and talk more about it.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:07] For those who want to meet the man behind the myth and legend, how would you introduce yourself and your journey?

Bryan Pham: [00:02:15] I would say I come from a pretty humble background. My parents escaped the Vietnam War. When they came over here, my mom always told me that they managed to survive in America with only 25 US dollars. And because of that resourcefulness, it really resonates with me that if you have a strong will and a strong hustle, you can do anything you want in life. And I always think back to that story to as I'm going through my hustle journey. Is there are times where when I started out in entrepreneurship I wanted to quit, and I thought it was super hard.

But to take a step back and talk about my journey, I somewhat followed a traditional path to begin with. I studied engineering back in college, I got my masters in computer science. When I graduated I worked as a software engineer for a while.

As I was going through my journey, I didn't feel fulfilled. I feel like I was just waking up, going to my job, doing a really good job, and going home and sleep. And what else is there to life? And I started doing things to kind of pique my own interest. And my own interest is always to learn about how money works. I'm always curious to see how can I make more money, but the purpose of it is not to make more money, but it's out of curiosity, what is my potential?

And I got into the stock market at the very beginning when I was like 19, 29, lost a lot of money. And then I got into selling Amazon stuff, around 2010, 2011. I didn't do well in either, and these experiences hurt. But it also taught me a strong lesson that I can't just jump into anything shiny. I had to take a step back and build my foundation first, and really enjoy that journey. Read everything I could, ask a lot of questions.

Before when I first jumped into my first few businesses, I refused to ask any questions, because I thought that was a sign of weakness. What my parents taught me growing up is that you don't need to ask for help. Study hard, you don't need to do that, study hard. So when I got to business, that was my mentality. I don't need to ask for help, I can read it, I can find stuff online. That's not the case at all.

And then I learned these experiences, and then after five or six years of working my job, I moved to the San Francisco Bay area from LA. And when I first moved here I was like, "Wow, it's so expensive here, how does anyone afford to buy a house?" And at the same time, the roommate that I had moved in with in the Bay Area, he started doing real estate investing. He said, "Hey, Bryan, do you want to learn with me?" I said, "Yeah, sure."

And I learned from my past mistakes, take it slow, take your time, you don't feel ready, you don't have to jump in. So I spent probably the first two years reading all the books I can, reading all the forums, listening to hundreds of hours of podcasts, going out to meetup.com and meeting people, real estate investors, taking them out to coffee, ask them a lot of questions.

And then in a very short amount of time, me and my partner, we started flipping a lot of houses in the Bay. And this was around 2015, 2016, 2017. We started flipping houses, and we did pretty well during that time. The market was super hot. Even if you bought the wrong house at the wrong price, you still made money from it. And that was amazing to us.

But we definitely learned our lesson too, because in 2018, early 2019, we lost a lot of money, and we ended up in Bloomberg magazine. It wasn't a good thing, but thanks to that experience I was able to get into apartment investing. I currently own one apartment complex, but I used to own two, I just sold one recently, like a month ago. And then that experience taught me how to syndicate money and get into hotel investing, which kind of freed up a lot of my time. I learned the power of passive income, getting cashflow. And realizing that I can make money without having a corporate job.

So I decided to just travel a bit and figure out who I am. And the most ironic thing to me is that you think money will bring you happiness, but it doesn't. It actually forces you to ask more questions about yourself. What does retirement mean to you? What does life mean to you? And these are the questions you typically don't ask yourself while you're working your nine to five, because you're just going through a daily routine.

But once your routine is broken it's like, okay what other purpose there is to life? What else can I do? And you stop thinking about how you can benefit, your mindset starts changing, and you start thinking about how you can benefit the world. In a really weird way, that actually caused me to get a minor depression. Where I was like, "Oh my God," I'm like 28, 29 at the time, "I don't know what to do with my life." You just have so much freedom, so many decisions. A lot of freedom to the point you just don't know what to do.

So around that time I was talking to my girlfriend, and I was telling her I want to do something more for the community. I want to do something that would benefit other people's lives. And she's like, "Do it." I'm like, "Do what? What am I doing?" You just don't know.

So I started journaling every day, I started writing down my thoughts, how can I benefit the world. And the biggest thing that came to me was, wow, we have a lot of reputation problems with the Asian community. Not just in America, but around the world. We are seen as the minority, we have to follow the rules, and that we work hard, we keep our head down. And that really bothered me a lot.

And I started paying attention more too, as I networked my way into upper-tier real estate projects, like people who build skyscrapers in San Francisco, I was bumping shoulders with them, talking to them. And I realized that there is a difference between the people I grew up with and them. Is that they were more willing to help each other, and very abundant. It doesn't matter what sort of resources that you need, they're very open to help you, as long as you built that trust with them.

And that was something that I wanted to bring back to the Asian community. Because I feel like for us, we're so fragmented. There's no real community out there that's just for the Asian community. There's Korean, there's Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, whatever, but very segregated. And I wanted us to be under one umbrella, because that's the only way that we can make a difference. If we continue to stay fragmented, we're just splashing around the pond, no big waves. But if we all splash together, we can make bigger waves and bigger changes.

And that's my pretty early stages of Asian Hustle Network, is how can I bring the abundance mindset and the resources to very talented people in the Asian community, who I know for a fact will make a difference, and will make a change?

Jeremy Au: [00:08:04] That's amazing, an incredible journey. For those who don't know much about Asian Hustle Network, could you explain in your own words what the mission is? And also how you grew from zero to where it is today?

Bryan Pham: [00:08:18] Of course. Asian Hustle Network is built around uplifting each other and supporting the Asian community. And our main purpose in this organization is to have more Asian representation in media, higher investment in corporate ladders, and just to make a difference.

So we started as a Facebook group, and at the same time I was really inspired by Subtle Asian Traits about a year ago. And I was like, "Man, this group grew so quickly." But there's one key difference, there was something lacking for the Asian professional community. I don't want us to just be known for memes, or to be the butt of all jokes. I don't want that. I want to show how sophisticated we really are. And I want it to be, quote-unquote, the LinkedIn version of Subtle Asian Traits. That was my vision behind it.

We started really small, and we started thinking really big. At the time we only had less than 100 members in the community, but we had more than 25 people in the team. And people asked me, "Why did you staff your team that big?" And I told them, "We're going to grow really big really fast, so we have to be ready for this." So I always had this impression that we're going to be something big, right off the bat. And just bringing on the right talent, bringing on the right people, the right projects. And really putting your ears to the ground, understanding what the community really needs, allows us to build out the right features, the right functionality, the right events for us to network together and make things happen.

And I'm happy to hear just a lot of intangible conversations, different organizations that came out of Asian Hustle Network. A lot of people fighting for representation, a lot of people more speaking up now. And best of all, it's a community of support. And that's what we're all about, we're supporting each other.

Jeremy Au: [00:09:48] How big is the Asian Hustle Network now today? How would you define those metrics in terms of size and impact?

Bryan Pham: [00:09:57] We hit 60,000 members in less than 11 months. Pretty quickly, we are about 96% active engagement, meaning that almost the entire group logs in at least once or twice a couple days just to read the posts, which is awesome. And prior to COVID, we had events around the world. We had events in Melbourne, London. We were planning some in Singapore as well.

And it doesn't matter where you were around the world, we had more than 300 to 500 people come out to each event. Because we're trying to bring as much value as we can to the Asian community. And we're trying to show each other that there's so much resources out there, and abundance, that we can all succeed.

And then growing up too, I was taught that if my friends succeed I can't win, and that if I win my friends can't succeed. And that sort of resonated with me for a long time. But the more I got into business, the more I realized that in actuality there's so much resources out there that if you continue helping each other, that you can break through those barriers and get to higher and higher ground.

When you look at the true 1%, the tycoons, the majority of them are not Asian. And that's really disappointing to me to see and hear, because I think that we're just as talented as anyone else.

Jeremy Au: [00:11:06] That's so true. And I'm kind of curious, because we hear the word bamboo ceiling, right? And sometimes people are like, "it doesn't exist". And other people are like, "It exists and I see it." How do you think we see that today? Because it's not as obvious now as you can't join a profession, enter the country. But how do you see that take place, and what's the reality of it today?

Bryan Pham: [00:11:29] I think the reality of it is very much prevalent, it's definitely there. Being in Silicon Valley, you look at the upper management, they're all male and they're all white. And when you look at the percentage of Asian workers in tech, we make up a pretty good percentage of the workforce, but yet barely any one of us becomes a manager or a senior leader or a CEO. Unless we start our own company.

That's the truth, it's so hard for us to get promoted up through that route, because we aren't seen as strong and as decisive. We're seen as passive, good model citizens really. Like keep our head down, we work hard, we don't ask for any more, we don't fight back.

That's not true. It may be true for our parents' generation, but it's not true for our generation. We're just as well-spoken as anyone else around the world right now. Given where we are in life, we're just as well-spoken, so why not us? We should be asking ourselves those questions more. Why not us? It's our time.

Jeremy Au: [00:12:24] And how did you first get started on this journey, that realization of this mission? Because it sounds like part of it was your own thinking through of how we become entrepreneurial, and your own, in spite of your cultural upbringing that you mentioned earlier. And at the same part of time, also this broader view of the whole community having the same issue? What were those first few insights or moments where you saw that for yourself?

Bryan Pham: [00:12:48] I always had this weird thing growing up where I always think of the world in a very holistic manner. And I always have this thought in the back of my mind, if that person is successful, what makes that person so successful?

So I started looking at my friends who went to really good schools, like Harvard, or yourself, and just analyzing them. And then looking at it from a point of view where it was like, does it matter if I'm white, does it matter if I'm black, does it matter if I'm Asian. And I started thinking about all those things.

And I think the biggest challenge for me was, back when I was in undergrad, my roommate was Jewish. And looking at a glimpse of how the Jewish community worked, they're really supportive of each other, and they help each other out so much, with so much connection and resource and abundance.

And the ironic thing is, my own roommate and I, we were having a conversation, he was like does the Asian community do the same thing? I'm like, surprisingly, no. And that's my first realization that we're not working together. And being in real estate as well, all the ethnic groups stick together, and it's really difficult for us to work among each other as a team, and it's so hard to break down that barrier.

That's my first realization that we don't really have a community out there that is truly Asian, and that we support each other because we are Asian. And that resonated with me a lot in terms of creating Asian Hustle Network.

Jeremy Au: [00:14:05] As you've built this out, and in your experiences, how have you seen leadership in action, from your perspective?

Bryan Pham: [00:14:11] When you're building out an organization or any company, you as a leader, your personality and perspective is reflected throughout the entire organization. And it's crazy how that happens too. Your company just mimics who you are. And if you're an abundance type of guy, or a risk-taker, that will show in all the decisions that we've made throughout the corporation.

And as an early leader of your company, you are the company. Your brand doesn't really mean much at that point, people are looking at you. Are you credible? Do you have a lot of integrity? Can you lead? Do you get angry fast, what's your temperament like? That's leadership in action right there.

And the thing is, if you can lead your organization based off your values and morals in a very high standard, you're going to attract other leaders that are going to want to come to you. The law of attraction is true. And you find a lot of like-minded people what believe in your vision, who are very talented in their own right, and you bring those people on board. You find different projects that pique both your interest. You always have a win-win mentality, where you set your vision as a north star, and you have all the talented people who are under the north star to get to that point.

So the thing about working with other strong leaders is that if you bring them onto the team, you're not supposed to tell them what to do. You bring on really smart people for one reason, for them to tell you what to do. And you can't let your ego get in the way, you have to be able to be a leader that empowers other people, and that supports them. And that's the whole point of bringing other leaders into your organization.

Jeremy Au: [00:15:34] How have you seen the difference of leadership between community leadership, which is what you do at Asian Hustle Network, versus more typical small business leadership? What would you say are the differences, maybe in leadership style or approaches?

 Bryan Pham: [00:15:51] I would say it's very similar. Because when you're running a community or a company, you're still dealing what your customer, your audience and whatnot. And the thing with that is, your company or community cannot grow past you. It will stop at one point because you're not mature enough, you're not ready enough. That doesn't mean that you can't bring in the right talent to help you get through that, because you help yourself, we continue how to learn.

Because if you are pushing new heights, and you're not ready for it mentally or whatnot, or knowledge-wise, you can't push to that height, you can't get there. So you have to continue to keep growing and growing and growing.

And that's the same for both community and companies. Because community can fail really quickly, but companies can also fail really quickly. If you stop paying attention to what you need to do, you're going to fail. If you have any doubts inside your heart, you're going to fail. You lose your integrity, you're going to fail. It's very, very similar.

Jeremy Au: [00:16:40] One interesting thing that I've observed within the network has been how much people have been helping each other. So obviously there's your leadership and your executive team's leadership, but also a lot of bottom-up leadership in the community. I think that's something that struck me as very different from other communities I've been part of, which tends to be more top-down.

So classic alumni club, the board does all the work, and then everyone else is obviously contributing and networking, but I think there's something really different or special. What do you think explains that magic or secret sauce that's happening?

Bryan Pham: [00:17:15] I think it's the culture that we built so far that's really important. I think that as Asians, we just naturally have a strong sense of community. And sometimes, in the wrong environment, it's really hard for us to bring off that community. Because we don't feel safe. Asian culture is like, "We'll take care of you till death, if we can trust you. Because you're our family. Doesn't matter if we have the same parents or not. If we can trust you, we'll take care of you till death."

And that's within all of us. We're taught to take care of each other. And looking at the COVID situation too, the numbers in Asia have been decreasing so quickly because we're not about individualism. We wear masks because we want to protect other people.

And if you bring that into Asian Hustle Network, building a safe community for you to be open, be collaborative, you're going to bring out the best of the Asian culture, which is to support each other. And naturally we like to support each other. And when we see each other break through new heights, like Asian athletes, Asian businessmen, it doesn't matter if they're Chinese, Japanese, whatever, we tend to gravitate towards them as support. Because they look like us, they sound like us, they go through the same experience as us.

And that's the one thing we try to keep cultivating in Asian Hustle Network. By allowing people to share their stories is that it doesn't matter if you grew up in Singapore, if I grew up in America, we have very similar upbringing, we have the same values, we want the same things in life. And if we can break that common ground, we build a safe environment for people to continue helping each other.

And I wouldn't say it was a bottom-up approach, I would say it's an empowerment approach, where you empower other people to be themselves. And we just have to continue fostering that culture in Asian Hustle Network.

Jeremy Au: [00:18:51] That's so true, it's not just bottom-up, it's also peer-to-peer. And I also think there's a lot of truth in how it's a global network, but honestly it's a cultural network. And that's what allows it to be international, because of that shared heritage and similar outlook.

I'm kind of curious, have there been any stuff spots that you've encountered on your journey?

Bryan Pham: [00:19:13] Oh man. There are some days that I wake up in the morning and I'm like, is this journey worth it? Because when you're dealing with the Asian community, we're unique in some ways, because when you think about it, it's only one generation ago that our grandparents were fighting each other in a war. Seriously, it's only one generation ago, and we're one generation later.

So those, I wouldn't say limitations, but those thoughts are transferred down to our generation in many ways. And the biggest challenge is how to unite people together, how do you have a common goal? Because sometimes you find that people are easily ready to throw away your culture because of something they believe, like some really political stuff in the past too.

And that was probably the biggest challenge that we've faced on a daily basis. But we have to keep reminding the people that we're stronger together. And we have a lot of situations where it really tests our integrity and who we are. So we're proud to say we're transparent for good and bad.

Because we had situations in the past where we had community members met up with each other, and there was a sexual harassment case that happened. And this girl totally took it back to her community like, "I blame Asian Hustle Network for this and this and this." She reached out to us, we were very empathetic of her and tried to comfort her and do the right thing.

So that poses our first test, really. Are we truly a transparent company, are we truly a transparent organization? Although at the time I felt the world was ending, I felt our community was going to die, but we decided to post an apology, and make our stance clear that we're here to support women, and want them to speak up to us about any sexual harassment that happens. Because we're not about sweeping that under the rug, we're here to promote transparency, we're here for protection, we're here for empowerment. And we had to stand by our values and morals really.

Jeremy Au: [00:21:02] Yeah. I think that's such a true story. And I'm so sorry to hear that. And at the same time, I also understand where you're coming from. Because as building communities, the mission and values and the team, and yeah there's always bad apples, and bad-faith actors who are taking advantage of the community. And I think the community's ability to get through that together is really a function of the leadership exhibited by everybody in the community, about saying do we stand up to it or not, is this acceptable or not?

Bryan Pham: [00:21:34] I find that most of the time it actually does more harm if you're quiet and not transparent. It just speaks loudly to our preconditioned thoughts. Like, "Oh, you have anything bad," especially in the Asian family, "you have anything bad you hide it." I don't think that's a good thing, I don't think that's healthy.

The best relationships are ones that you talk about your problems, good or bad. And be mature enough to embrace it, and embrace change, and embrace solutions. And that's what I was trying to enforce throughout the Asian Hustle Network.

Jeremy Au: [00:22:01] The thing is, it's definitely an interesting time for the world, because I think that every community is making a set of choices, which are what are our vision and values, so there's the positive side, and what's not acceptable?

And obviously, we often write it down, and I think when we think about principles, it's kind of black and white. And as you talked about it, the real world intrudes a little bit. Because like you said, for example, a generation ago, so many Asian countries were at war with each other. Like you said, my parents grew up with that. And how can that topic, which is not very far away, but still historically relevant, how does that play out?

And I don't know what the right answer is. I guess maybe looking at the cut-and-dry answer, I guess personally, how do you think about making the right call? How do you personally try to approach each individual, not necessarily moderation, but also leadership choice that you have to make there?

Bryan Pham: [00:22:55] Yeah. I mean life is all about decisions that you make. At the end of the day, you have to look back to who you are as a person, what you believe is right, your morals. And you make decisions not ... Well, from a logical standpoint too, but sometimes your decision has to be from the heart. And sometimes that decision might be unpopular among people, but deep down inside you know it's the right decision, and you just have to be true to yourself when you're making these type of decisions to make the world better, essentially.

It wasn't that difficult for me, per se, because I feel like I'm the type of person that would totally say something if I see something wrong. It's just how I've always been. And I'm also the type of person where, before Asian Hustle Network, I tried to just help people without them knowing it, where it's like I make donations, or I pay for groceries for the person behind me or something like that. Help whenever I can. And having that translate over to Asian Hustle Network as well.

Jeremy Au: [00:23:48] I think that's something that is actually quite interesting. Which is, I kind of grew up the same dynamic, where you help people, but you try to do it anonymously. That feels like an Asian dynamic there for some reason. I'm just kind of curious, how do you feel about that? Like don't take credit for helping people, I think that's maybe the phrase. Like it's more virtuous maybe in some way, because you're not identified or the person doesn't know. What do you think about that, does that makes sense?

Bryan Pham: [00:24:14] Yeah, it definitely makes sense. I mean that's really Asian way. Be humble, be modest, help others. You don't have to claim credit. But unfortunately we live in a new generation now, where ironically the more you claim credit, the more you can help. That's just the weird thing about where we live now.

And those are the preconditioned thoughts, they're not wrong, that our parents teach us. But also you have to understand what our social playing field is currently. When you look at other successful people making a difference, looking at Bill Gates and his philanthropy stuff, or looking at a bunch of other donors. The reason why they can make waves is not because they're anonymous, it's because they are forefront about everything.

And that's how our generation should be, we should be more front-facing. And that kind of brings back to a topic that people asked me before. They were like, "Bryan, you created such an awesome organization, why are you so front-facing? Why can't you just be in the back? You get less headaches that way." I get told that a lot.

I feel like your personal credibility and your personal brand, if no one knows who your, in the future you can't make a bigger wave, you can't make a bigger difference. And in some ways that's a very shallow way of thinking. But also on a human perspective too, there's no name recognition then it's harder to do other things, harder to make a difference. And that's unfortunately the world that we live in.

One more thing to add too, I know as I'm talking to very successful Asian entrepreneurs, multi-billionaires, I ask them what is the biggest regret that they would have done differently had they became more open when they were younger. The biggest regret they always told me is that we wish we weren't hiding behind our company brand, and that we were more outspoken and more visible to everyone. Because when you look at it, we're lacking a lot of strong Asian role models out there, especially as corporate leaders. You don't see that many Asian leaders. But in actuality, there's a lot of us. You dig deep enough, you find there's a lot of Asian CEOs out there, who generally just don't speak up.

And that's one thing that I talk to them about, I was like, "I wish you were more front-facing, because now we can make a bigger difference, because people know who we are from our name recognition."

Jeremy Au: [00:26:22] That's so true. No one's asking people to claim credit for stuff they haven't done, or to be arrogant about giving, nobody wants that. But it almost feels like sometimes people are indexed the other way around. Where it's just like you have to be small.

And I think that's the tricky part, which is a lot of people realize that we're really craving authenticity, a real person to be out front and have those conversations. How do you feel about that? I've actually met many colleagues and mentees who also struggle with the same thing. I think they also struggle with that in the workplace as well. Which is, here is the project, and I don't want to claim credit for the success of the project. I'm not asking you to claim credit for the whole project success obviously if you're part of a team, but you have to lay claim that if you're the team leader, how do you do that in a way that's authentic and real? Or why do you think that challenge exists?

Bryan Pham: [00:27:13] We're just taught to be very humble and respectful. And when you think about it in a deeper sense, it goes back to our parents in the generation of war before us, we see, from their own personal experience, moving to a different country, or doing different things, that if you challenge the social norms, nothing good comes out of it.

And from their perspective, yeah, it makes a lot of sense. If I moved to a different country, I didn't know the language, I didn't have any money, I don't want conflict, I'm not going to say much. Even if it's unfair to me, I'm not going to say anything, because I just don't want trouble. But some of those values have been passed on to us. But then again, it's a new playing field, new generation new sets of challenges.

Just because the solution to old problems have worked in the past, it doesn't mean that it's applicable now. We have to find ways to play the game correctly.

Jeremy Au: [00:28:03] That's so true. Which is the whole thing about fitting in, trying to look like you fit in. I always remember when I first landed in undergrad in UC Berkeley, and I remember the first time I ever heard a phrase like fresh off the boat. And the only person I heard it from were from Asian-Americans, and I never heard it from anyone else.

And I was personally surprised. And I was like, I don't have any baggage with that word, so I don't feel the pain. But I also understand the resonance of that word, that nobody really likes it for those who ever heard that word as a kid. And not them all , but yet it's Asian-Americans who are giving me that phrase, or labeling me that way.

I'm kind of curious about how you feel about that.

Bryan Pham: [00:28:49] I personally don't like it. I was born in America, but I grew up in a very Asian household where we didn't speak that much English. So I think that helped me break a lot of stereotypes, because as I was going to ESL when I was younger, I met a lot of people from different countries that are really smart. They can't understand the language yet to express themselves, and they get picked on for that.

And I never really liked that. There are times as I was growing up through middle school and high school that I said something. Like stop making fun of them. I generally don't like that. If we take a step back to understand each other, that can solve a lot of those problems.

Jeremy Au: [00:29:23] Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. I mean the vast majority of people were very hospitable, it was just a few people. And it got me thinking a little bit sometimes, it reminds me of the military, where I was for two years. And every time you go into bootcamp, instructors were really, really horrible to you. And then after you passed through that fire, and you end up on the other side of that and you're actually the instructor.

And I think 90% of the people actually choose to not perpetuate that fire upon the new people coming in. But I think let's see five or 10 percent say, "Oh, that's what I went through, so that's how you should go through it, because it made me a tougher person." It feels like that. I think that's what happens sometimes for these kind of experiences. I think most people, and most people in my life, and other Asian-Americans, have been totally great. But it's just that 5% who just choose not to, I don't know what's the word, cascade that.

Bryan Pham: [00:30:19] Yeah, cascade. I think it also sends back to your internal beliefs. People are trying really hard to pass down a certain experience that they went through that are harsh, I think it also stems from their own insecurity, how they feel about themself. Because that oftentimes is reflected through all their actions. It's like, "Oh, because I went through this it made me tougher. Or I don't feel good about myself, so I'm going to pick on someone else. Or I got picked on today and I'm going to pick on this person." There's a lot of key factors that plays into it.

But it comes back down to a sense of maturity too. If you're mature enough to know that these experiences, although they're hard, toughen you out. And if you really think about it from a holistic standpoint, it's not actually beneficial, it's borderline abusive and bullying, then now the logic is behind, why are you trying to do this to other people? It just comes back from looking at things from a more holistic standpoint.

Jeremy Au: [00:31:07] Yeah, I think that's so true. As new immigrants, being part of an immigrant nation, then the decision is being made about how do you react to that. Choosing to react to that reflecting that pain back onto them, to kind of react to that with some love and acceptance, and acknowledgement of that, and security. It's a tough balancing act.

Bryan Pham: [00:31:28] It really is.

Jeremy Au: [00:31:29] You know, people who are really getting themselves, their feet planted in America, and either because they're new in America, or as an Asian person looking to go to business and achieve financial security and freedom, what support resources would you recommend to them?

Bryan Pham: [00:31:49] Depends. Because there's so much resources out there, at the end of the day if you don't enjoy what you do, you're not going to succeed. Because you don't have the patience for it. And as you're going through anything worth doing in life, if you don't enjoy it, you're not going to do a good job. Because you're not willing to put in the hours to learn the foundation. You hit a couple problems and you're like, "I don't really like this thing anyway. So screw it, I'm going to give up."

So it just comes down to self-reflection. Figuring out what makes you happy, what do you really enjoy. Because I think that we live in such cool, complex economy right now, that whatever you like to do can be monetized. And it's true. You can love drawing and art, there are so many ways on social media, to teach people courses, to do stuff like that. If you thoroughly enjoy the stock market, or real estate investing, there's so many podcasts out there that you can reach out to.

But you have to come from a very beginner's mindset, where you're willing to learn from the bottom up. You can't assume that you know anything. And that's the one thing too, is that you can't let your ego in the way. Oh yeah, I'm so smart, I know the stock market. But you really are fundamentally missing a lot of fundamental thoughts and everything, so it just collapses really fast.

So it comes from a beginner's mindset. Even if you are expert at your current field, as you move into something new, embrace the beginner's mindset. Think back to how you first learned your first industry, and just enjoy that entire process. Simple Google search, you'll find a lot of things. Reaching out to your network, talking to people. Listen to this podcast.

As long as you figure out what's the one thing that you wake up to that brings you a lot of excitement, there's so many possibilities to become successful.

Jeremy Au: [00:33:27] I love that phrase, beginner's mindset. That's probably the crispest way I've ever heard anyone articulate that. Could you explain more about that philosophy and phrase, beginner's mindset?

Bryan Pham: [00:33:39] Beginner's mindset is when you're starting something new, and you recognize that you don't know anything, and that's okay. It's okay to not know, it's okay to ask really silly questions. That's part of doing something new that you don't know. Because that's part of challenging yourself and growing.

Don't be egotistical about it. Even if you find similarities with whatever you're learning next to your old profession, don't assume that you know it. That's going to be a huge downfall for whatever you decide to do. If you assume stuff in business, that's never a good thing. You assume stuff with acquiring a new skill, you're just creating cracks in your foundation. That's not good. So a beginner's mindset is the best way to go, and admit that you don't know anything, and just enjoy it. Ask all the questions that come top of your head, your heart, your mind, or whatever.

And I love it. I love learning new things, I love going to different classes and being like, "I don't know anything." Ask questions. And what you realize is that if you spend the time to learn a profession or whatever interest you have really well, those habits and discipline will transfer over to anything that you decide to do. And you start to reminisce some feelings of when you first learned your own expertise compared to this. That feeling of excitement, where it's kind of different too.

Because as an expert in your field, people always come to you with questions. "Hey, how did you do this, how did you do that?" When you find yourself asking other experts how to do that, how to do this, it's so exciting, to start over. And lo and behold, you dedicate a year, two years, three years into it, you know a good amount of stuff. And now it's like, "Okay, what else can I learn next to continue growing mentally and physically and emotionally, spiritually?"

Jeremy Au: [00:35:21] That's amazing. I think I love the phrase asking questions. Because I received that feedback as an intern. And I remember my manager took me aside and he was like, training me on a management consulting job at Bain. And he was like, "Jeremy, you never ask any questions. Either that means that you're really smart and you get it, or you don't. And you're an intern, so I think I know which one it is." Because as an intern you're not supposed to know anything.

And I realized that yeah, right, the job is tough, and management consulting is all about problem-solving, and helping ask questions to help the client solve their questions. And so the team has to ask questions, and if I'm not asking questions, that was the outside-in thing. But the inside-out thing was like you said, that cultural beliefs and norms where I grew up being told, "Do the work, don't ask questions."

Bryan Pham: [00:36:14] You have to spend a lot of time to unlearn those things. Because true success builds on top of questions. And just being out there and asking rude questions. And just being curious. Curiosity is a huge part of leadership and success. Because it keeps you grounded, it keeps you humble, it keeps you hungry.

Jeremy Au: [00:36:30] How do you keep up that spirit of questions? Do you read a lot, do you listen to podcasts? How do you get that question engine going, and the answering process rolling?

Bryan Pham: [00:36:42] Mental health is extremely important to me. I find myself in my mid-twenties having anxiety attacks, because I just do so much, and I have so much pressure under me. At the same time, I couldn't find any ways to alleviate it, until I start reading on a very serious basis every day. 45 minutes, uninterrupted, deep thought into reading every morning. So I wake up at 5:30 in the morning just to read before I start my day.

I find that what I thought was possible, and what I thought was impossible, is now possible. And that's all from reading. And using reading not as, "Oh, I have to study, I have to be smart," but as an escape. Let my imagination go loose. And that's when I foster a huge amount of curiosity and questions. And I feel like reading is like free mentorship in many ways. I think I hit around 100 books per year in the last six years. That's 600 books.

On top of that, I spend some time to write down my thoughts, and really track them. Why am I feeling angry today, why am I feeling unhappy today? Why am I feeling happy today? Understanding your root cause of everything, your why, and figuring out what triggers you and what keeps you motivated, you can kind of mix and match things. When things don't go your way, you know how your body and mind operate, you know how to challenge yourself when you're slumping.

Jeremy Au: [00:38:03] What are you reading these days?

Bryan Pham: [00:38:05] I've been reading a lot of autobiographies. Recently I joined a venture fund called Outlier Fund. Some of my teammates inside the fund are my Harvard professors, MIT professors, PhDs. And they send me the books, and they're author of their own books, doing their own research, so I read a lot of their work.

One particular book that I'm reading right now is called Edge, by Laura Huang. She's a Harvard professor, she talks about how most of your business decisions is not logical, they're gut feelings. Logically and the facts can support how you feel about it in your gut, and statistically a certain percentage of your gut feelings is always correct. And I love reading stuff like that too, because it's very applicable to my life.

But overall I love reading my autobiographies. I love visualizing myself in their position, how they deal with problems. And the biggest realization I got from reading all these books and talking to these authors, they're just people like you and I am. We have the same amount of hours to the same day, we want to do the same things.

And just understanding that it is possible I you put in the time, effort, and changing the small part of your mentality, your mindset, would tweak your entire life. And that's crazy for me to realize after a certain point. It's like we can be special, anyone can be special. It's just that small part of your mindset and your mentality has to change, and your attitude has to change. That's the only differentiation between anyone.

Jeremy Au: [00:39:26] Love Laura Huang. I met her when she was explaining her book, Edge, at the Harvard alumni event. And I got to chat with her Definitely say hi to her for me.

And it's interesting, because I think the word 'edge' actually is something that we see a lot as well. Which is, there was a time where a lot of people, undergrad and everything, some of my Asian-American friends just felt like being Asian, the hyphen, was a liability, not being truly American.

And I think that's a key part to any immigrant story, for anybody who's emigrated to any country, they are always feeling like an outsider. And then Laura talks a lot about edge.

Bryan Pham: [00:40:07] I love her introduction, how she got Elon Musk's attention. Very sharp.

Jeremy Au: [00:40:13] Yeah. How do you think about that? How do you think about the edge for Asian-Americans, or people who are coming from the Asian culture?

Bryan Pham: [00:40:22] Yeah, I think the edge for us is I guess enjoying the journey, really. Because I remember just starting out. Ironically I became a software engineer and everything, but growing up I was horrible at math, I was terrible. The one thing that my parents always taught me is, if you sit down and start putting the effort into actually focusing what you need to do, that becomes enjoyable.

And I feel like that's our edge. We're taught discipline at a very young age, typically. Whether it's voluntarily or forcefully, we're taught discipline. And I feel like that's our edge. And discipline goes a long way. When you say you'll do something, you'll do it. And when you say you want something, you accomplish it. When you say you want to change the world, you have a plan to do it. So I think that's our biggest edge.

Jeremy Au: [00:41:07] Amazing. Well my last question would be, if you go back 10 years in time via time travel, what advice would you give to yourself?

Bryan Pham: [00:41:17] Oh man. If I could go back 10 years, how old would I be? I would be 21 and 22. So I'm 31, 32 right now. At that point I had so many mental blockage. I was afraid to become too successful, because I was afraid what my friends would think of me, it would be really lonely, that maybe it's not for me. I don't want people to know who I am. It's a lot of things.

So my biggest advice is, follow what feels right, don't be afraid of the biggest stage, or a bigger stage, in your life. Because you don't want your limiting thoughts to limit what you can do in the world. And life is so short. Let yourself be unique, because your unique self will make the world a better place.

Jeremy Au: [00:41:59] Awesome, thank you so much. And thank you so much for not only inspiring people, but also putting together a platform for people to inspire other people in the community.

Bryan Pham: [00:42:10] Same thing with you, your podcast sounds awesome. Thanks for reaching out, and I really enjoyed being on the show.

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