Monica Kang // Ep 92 // Rethinking Creativity and Staying Curious

Welcome to Episode 92 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Monica Kang on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Check us out on Anchor, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Spotify and more. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a positive 5-star review. This is our opportunity to use the voices of the Asian community and share these incredible stories with the world. We release a new episode every Wednesday, so stay tuned!

H Woo Lee (AYch-wOO) is a rising food content creator, wedding planner, and founder of his underground fine-dining supper-club, Maru Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2019, and currently works for a celebrity wedding planner, Kevin Lee.

In 2017, H Woo started his entrepreneurial journey as the president of his fraternity, AEPI, where he quickly learned the skills to operate a small business. A year later, he started his second venture, ONYX, which was a music events company that hosted silent disco concerts.

In the summer of 2017, h woo taught himself how to cook, and this passion has only escalated ever since. During his senior year, he hosted weekly dinners out of his apartment for guests. In 2019, he officially founded Maru Los Angeles, which focused on Korean-Italian fine dining and the social experience of dining.

In December 2020, H Woo began food content creation on TikTok. His high-intensity, quick-clip cooking videos showcase his culinary skills and personality and looks forward to expanding towards other digital media platforms and eventually re-opening his supper-club after COVID.

Please check out our Patreon at @asianhustlenetwork. We want AHN to continue to be meaningful and give back to the Asian community. If you enjoy our podcast and would like to contribute to our future, we hope you’ll consider becoming a patron.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi everyone. And welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Monica H king Monica is the founder and CEO of innovators box the author of rethink creativity, how to innovate, inspire, and thrive at work and the host of two podcasts. Dear workplace and curious Monica. She is an internationally recognized expert in workplace creativity who facilitates culture, transformation, leadership, development, and team building in a way that is fun, actionable and relatable. Monica provides consulting, training, facilitation and keynote speaking to clients worldwide. Including fortune 500 companies, higher education institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits. She also supports organizations, professionals, and entrepreneurs through the innovators box academy and the programs she co-created with his strategic partners, including adapt to grow and culture of analytics. Monica, welcome to the show.


Monica: (00:01:23)  Thank you. And I think I now know why I need summer vacation. After hearing my own bio.


Maggie: (00:01:30) you have such an extensive background. We’re so excited to have you on.


Bryan: (00:01:33)  We’re so excited to have you on the show today. Monica, I wanna dive right people to it. We wanna hear more about your childhood. What created this hustle mentality that you started developing as an adult? Was it because your parents were hustlers? What was your childhood like?


Monica: (00:01:49)  To be honest, I think. I don’t think I knew the word hustle until very later in life, it turned out I was hustling, but I didn’t know what that word, uh, existed in a part of going back to your comment about childhood. I’m so glad this is one place said, you all ask this question because honestly, during COVID I’ve been reflecting a lot more and all the nuances of why I got to think and see certain ways. And really one area that bottom down was because. Two parts of experience I’ve always had throughout my upbringing that was consistent, which I guess maybe translate to us. So is one I’ve I’ve often been in places where I got to experience inclusion and exclusion, which I think permits you then to think about, okay. Because I knew how great it was to be included. I want to work hard to be included, but then not want to be excluded. And so that kind of like both and pain, I think because of the different experiences that I had growing up was something because growing up both in the states and in Korea and also lived in. And to also just really having the experience of, you know, and grateful that my parents really honored, you know, love and care. And, uh, now that growing up in having, you know, speaking with more Asian and American friends, how unique and grateful I am is that they grew up always saying, I love you very touchy and feely actually instill awe. And, and I think because of that, Communication value of why it’s so important to speak about certain things. And hence, maybe that is part of the hustle is like, you know, if you have something on your mind, you shoot, why are you waiting? It like express it, you know, who says, when is the next time you can express whether including simple statements as I love you. And thank you, uh, is if I’m important. So that’s kind of what comes to mind when you ask me that question, which might not have why you thought of it.


Maggie: (00:03:32)   I love that. Yeah. I love that your family emphasize a lot on love and care. I think that’s very rare, especially in Asian households because you know, my parents never realized that I love you to me. And they showed me love and affection in very interesting ways and very Asian ways. Like my mom would cut a bowl of fresh fruits for me, or my dad would like to let my gas tank for me. And those are just like the kind of ways that they show affection. Right. Um, and you know, talking about just like our career or career choices, right. I think a lot of Asian parents like push us to go into conventional paths to success, like be a doctor, be a lawyer. And as I think most of the times, it’s not to say that they are just trying to force things on us. It’s just that they care about us. Right. They went through such like unstable and uncertain times where they just want us to be stable. So I want to know like, you know, because they emphasize so much on love and care. Did they also have like a set, you know, path for you? Did they like want you to become a certain role and go into a certain industry? Or were they more like free-flowing they just wanted you to do what you love?


Monica: (00:04:38)   This is how we know it’s an Asian show. Right? We can talk about this and it’s not weird. Um, and I appreciate your raising that because I think those are maybe perhaps, because I grew up geographically in two different locations. I think my parents. Brought both. So some parts they’re very conservative because they still live in, actually lived most of their life still in Korea. Uh, so there are certain things that some of my Asian American parents like Monica, like why would your parents say that? Or like, why would they approach you to search? You may. They’re like, is that to consider I’m like, no, no, no. This is very standard in Caribbean culture where they’re enormous being built, but they would probably approach certain things that would be very different than So my other Asian American friend upbringing, because they’re not living here as well. And so I think because of that, both the expression of love and your comment about career has evolved. Uh, yes, I’ve received both spectrums of like, that sounds crazy. Don’t do that as well as this is what your typical career should be. And so the safest round of what I thought will be cool, but also honoring their work was what in diplomacy. And that is part of the very reason why I always saw it for a very long time. Uh, that I wanted to be a diplomat, uh, working at state department, you know, being able to represent your country, solving all these complex nuances. Uh, yes. It fits the age profile of checkmark, like cool top title that your son and daughter could have. Uh, I didn’t get to accomplish law process. I tried, Elsa was horrible. Don’t ask me on numbers. I told my parents like, don’t ask me to be a lawyer, but I’ll figure out the diplomacy piece. Cause I think I, I like people. I like work with different things. You get to travel around the world. Uh, but then getting to the whole, other piece of other lens. That was a whole other question. Um, but yeah, it, especially in regards to expertise, when I went into, Hey, I, I want to do this diplomacy, but build this expertise called nuclear reference security, like, whoa, do you really need to think about that? I mean, what if North Korea is watching like that doesn’t sound safe? So, uh, yes. Grew up with both.


Maggie: (00:06:35)   Yeah, that’s, that’s very relatable. I think, you know, I was actually working in local government as well, and sometimes, you know, they would, you know, question and say like, oh, is it safe? Are they like having access to our information? I think that’s just like the Asian way to like think because it’s hard for them to trust a lot of things when they’re immigrants and coming to a new, fresh country with like no knowledge of like what’s going on the government, like how they act. So very rarely.  


Bryan: (00:07:02)   Yeah, I do want them to refer back to earlier, earlier what you said about, you know, hustling, because you want it to feel like you belong to something greater, you know, and I want to dive deep into that because your situation’s very unique. You know, you grew up in two different countries, two different continents, Korea and United. I, how did that affect your own personal Asian identity? How did it affect your own Korean identity as well? Cause I, I hear from my Korean friends that in Korea, it’s, you’re not like from Korea, Ashley, they look you sort of differently too. So I feel like you’re dealing with two different societies with two different expectations. How’d you manage that internally. And how did you feel growing up too? Like who, who did, who did you see yourself when you look inside the mirror each morning?


Monica: (00:07:43)    Thank you for asking that question, Brian. I mean, This is part of the conversation of why I think I was looking forward to speaking with both of you and just having this honest place, because I wish I had somebody back then telling me that it was okay throughout all those moments. Um, Being born in DC. I actually am DC born growing up in the states and then moving to Korea. I was weird. Uh, I looked obviously, uh, ethnically Korean and Asian, but I was completely opposite. Did not follow any of the rules actually did not speak Korean at all. So my parents would share how, uh, I would go to school and apparently understood because I was still say, this is what my teacher said is homework. I’ll do homework and then I’ll play and then I’ll do these things. So I did my homework, but apparently when. Uh, they spoke with the teachers. They said for a full year, I did not see a single word. And for those who know me, uh, it’s very hard for you to believe that. Cause I do tell a lot because I didn’t feel like I could fit in, um, because I couldn’t be my cheerful spirit of who I was, all the personalities that I developed when I was growing up in this. But then, you know, I got to understand about Korea. I got to really appreciate learn. The history did my elementary and middle school. I have built a lot of friends and the, by the time I was looking into studying back in the states, I realized, okay, well, you know, yeah. Technically U S is my home country. Let me learn a little bit more. And as a Kamia RBLs wait. Now I’m conflicted again with this whole identity, because now. I’m Korean, but I’m not Korean Korean because obviously I’m American. And so I’m I’m international, but I don’t really get, I do get all the Disney songs because I grew up with it. So that’s where like all my age, other like Asian friends from Asia. Confused. And yet I didn’t get all the inside jokes back then. Mom joke was the thing. And I was so mad every time somebody tried to pull that out, even on the girls school. And I’m like, you know how disrespectful that is just like, Monica, just calm down. It’s a joke. I’m like, no, you don’t get joking about your parents. Isn’t such an offense. Like you do not do that ever. So that kind of conflict continued. And so I realized, um, Only in hindsight, how traumatized? I think I was throughout my life of feeling, you know, I’m Korean, but not Korean enough. Uh, I’m American, but not American enough. I think it was only by grad school, which is like literally only, just few years ago. I mean within the past 10 years that I felt really more American and was able to own up my identity. But throughout I have people always calling out and saying like, well, I don’t know where to really put you in a box because you’re either too American to be Korean and you’re too Asian to fall an Asian American. And so no parties actually invited me. So I always kind of felt like the odd kid in the table, which I think over time, Permitted me to gain the strength of the eye to understand the outsider perspective and the insider. Uh, and hence, one of my core strengths now is really creating that safe room because I knew what it felt like to be on both sides. Um, and so I, I, I’m grateful to answer this question publicly now because I just wish somebody said how normal that could be. And to know that if you just feel like the kid outside the table right now, it’s okay. Just get to know who you are more and you be who you are. The secret sauce, not what people say you should be, but I didn’t know back then.


Bryan: (00:10:58)   Yeah. And thank you so much for being vulnerable. I mean, it takes a lot of reflection to kind of talk on the subject because it’s not easy. You know, it is in some ways an insecurity that you’ve probably developed most of your life and leave you for sharing that because there’s a lot of people out there that probably feel the same way even to their adult could still feel. You know, and I really liked the fact that he ended the statement by saying that you want to create a safe place for everyone to feel like they belong. And that’s like, almost like the Genesis Asian hospital network, because I think historically always saw myself as a, as an outsider to every and everything, anything, you know, because as I was growing up, I was always labeled as like, Either too out there or too weird or too me too. Like I said, it takes a lot of deep reflection to realize that, Hey, like this is a cool tree. We can be cool. And I can honestly say to you, Monica, as you’re sharing your story, like, that’s a really cool story that you share. You know, like I, I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that I kind of wish we shared your experience of living in Korea, live in us. You know, that’s such a cool story to share Nasr. Appreciate it.


Maggie: (00:12:03)   Yeah, thank you so much for sharing Monica. And I think a lot of people can resonate. A lot of Asians can resonate with your story. Right. And I personally feel the same way. You know, my motherland is in Hong Kong and whenever I go back to Hong Kong, I can’t speak the language that well. Right. So, and they can tell, they can tell that I’m not from there. Um, and I don’t feel as welcomed as I should. Right. Even though I am. Uh, Chinese, but when I’m in America, I also feel like, you know, I’m Asian, I’m an outsider. And so I think a lot of us deal with that identity crisis, like where do I actually belong? Where does it actually feel like home? Right. You bring up a really great point that like, sometimes we just don’t have that creative side to us and we are not able to express ourselves with the right way. If we’re not in an environment where we can. Right. And if we are in an environment where we can thrive, then that allows us to, you know, be ourselves express ourselves in a more meaningful and effective way. Right. And, you know, I know that you, you know, you were in, um, diplomacy and in public policy. Um, and I want to know like what that experience was like for you. Like, I know that. You love doing what you did, but did you feel like you were, um, in an environment where you can thrive? Because personally, like I was in tech and you know, mostly tech it’s like predominantly white male. And I think that that transition from like tech to Asian hustle network, I felt like I could thrive a lot more in Asian hustle network because I didn’t feel like I was. In an environment where I can thrive in tech. Um, but when I hear from your experience on like, what your experience was like in public policy and, and how you kind of went through your, your, yourself finding your identity there.



Monica: (00:13:40)    No, thank you both for sharing that. I think, yeah. I mean, obviously if you don’t know where you should at this point, have you’ve been listening to the podcast. Uh, but one thing that you both hit really that hit me home was just. The reason why, you know, communities like what you both built for Asian hustle network, or the reason why when there is, you know, safe rooms like that, that it means so much is because it, it really is a core reminder to how people around you matters. And I think because of both my personal curiosity of just wanting to understand. Like hanging out and get to understand different perspectives from different people. I purposely loved putting myself in all these different rooms. Like I w I remember in college, I was so proud of, like, I figured out a way to attend this, like really cool, uh, conferences called H pair. I think some of the people who might be listening is familiar, uh, you know, while Harvard students run the program. And so it felt cool to be like, among all of these, like, diverse. Audience, both Asian and non-Asians who just were passionate about making a difference in Asia political affairs. I’m like, well, that’s so fun to nerd out. And I’m like only a college student. I just got into college. That’s my proud moment. And all these people were like, bragging about all these other things. So like, I’m just glad I’m around nerds, like, um, but, and that’s kind of where I would answer to you. Hence question about like, what was my experience in government and public policy? It really struck me in that it wasn’t just a work or the environment. It was really the people where it made me feel safe versus not. Honestly at times backstabbing, um, to realize anything on the most hurtful one, because I’ve had it way back. Even in high school, I grew sensitive to thinking about, I want to be trusting. I am welcoming to people, but if you’ve had some moments where somebody burned prejudice, You start to wonder, okay, is it me overthinking or is it really not safe? And in the government, one of the things, especially honestly, in nuclear weapon, security is your security clearance. It’s almost like a badge to show like how trustworthy you are in the government and the work that you do, and not really a judgment of the work capability and the talent that you have. And so that was one thing that I realized that. I didn’t really enjoy that way of being treated or judged regardless of what my clearance level was and how some people had to feel a certain way. And because somebody who have lived in knew so many friends abroad, my security clearance took a little bit longer. So I felt what it was like to be treated. Like you’re the one who can’t walk into some of these things, because you don’t have the clearance, even though we’re working on some of the same projects. Um, and so. That really stood out because at the same time, there were some colleagues and mentors who really just went out of their way. Whenever I stumbled was like, oh Monica, this is actually how you would do it. Or like, you know, don’t worry, just call this person and this person will help you out. And I realized that, wow, so this same place that I could feel both love and frustration, really all stems with people. And that’s where I got that. Then genuinely curious as I was relearning about the importance of mindset. Yeah. Maybe this is not just the industry. Yes. Some people would say that governments are boring, but there are so many fun things in the government, honestly, which is freezing when I’m still in DC. Um, and do hope more, you know, exciting things in diplomacy, but I hope that hints along the way of seeing why people really, really.


Maggie: (00:17:06)    Yes, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I definitely agree with you. I think that, um, there’s so much more to it than like the environment and the situation, the setting that you’re in, that people have so much to do with it. Um, and that, I think that’s why community means so much to us, right. And community helps us, you know, helps us feel alive and helps us feel like we’re interconnected with each other. Um, so definitely I agree with you.  


Bryan: (00:17:32)   Yeah, that’s sorta, it’s a really good segment to like what you’re working on right now, too, you know, because I think that a lot of things you do, it’s like your podcasts, your companies, how do people, uh, can you quickly talk about like your transition to being an entrepreneur and what kind of spur of the moment where you’re like, you woke up one day, like, this is what I want to do. You know, what kind of mindset shift did you have to gain in order to make that decision that this is what you want to do in the future?  



Monica: (00:18:01)    You absolutely cannot skip the, oh dear. Hi, my re I’m going to tell this my, to my bed. Oh yeah. Because honestly, even working in nuclear non-proliferation, uh, that, that was a whole process. And then saying that, wait, now you’re transitioning, you spent all this grad school work. Um, but jokes aside. I think one thing now they do appreciate, uh, in-between is just now how much now I can publicly talk about my work, which I couldn’t much in the nuclear security realm. Um, I think honestly, as a result, separate from the Asian joke side, just human instinct wise, we’re not really trained to take risk. So, you know, Brian, to your question about how it instantly felt. I think when I had the aha moment that this needed to exist, it wasn’t like. Step two is business. Step two, us find a job. Okay. Let’s do the job hunt. Let’s see what organizations are out there. Who’s solving this. There must be somebody, cause it seems so, so needed. So I, I spent for, I think for a first good chunk of four to five months, just researching, learning more what’s out there. Cause I was just curious. I did not think for a second. Yes. Want to build a company one day, but not at where I was. But I quickly realized every time I spoke with somebody they’re like, Monica, I don’t think that exists.  Like maybe you should try something or like, you know, just do something in between. And so then I started kind of playing that role of the facilitator organically with out me realizing, because when I was, whether in events or community programming, is that what I was part of is I would just volunteer and say, Hey, can I help bring these people together? Let me create safe rooms. Before I realized I really became that person who was the bridge builder. It was just doing that, not in diplomacy, but like across different industries in different networks and recognizing the three visible gaps that I saw, which was one not only. How creativity seems so inaccessible. If creativity is truly for all, why only traditional artists, psychologists, and researchers talking about it. Like somebody who came from a very different background should be to talk about it too, if it’s really for all and too, if it’s really that helpful. Well, why aren’t we still having communities in conversation where everyone just shows up as us? Like, you know, Brian and Maggie, shouldn’t be like the person from this network, like Brian should be Brian, like Maggie and Maggie. Like, we should feel like who we can be. And then happened to be all of these other identities. And I felt like that kind of room didn’t exist still. Um, and I felt like that was a type of creative community that I really felt would help me and has helped when I was in those rooms. And three also just making this tangible and fun. Like we honestly learn best when it’s fun. None of us actually had ever enjoyed classes that was like super for you even now. So right. Can I sing those with clarity? I’m like, let me explore what I could do. And so I remember. 2015, 15 December, like grateful that all these people forums apparently have amazing customer service, even holiday, fast customer feedback to set up all these websites, vision mapping out and realizing that, Hey, maybe I can start this thing called innovator’s box. Maybe this can be a start of something where I can just be the home for innovators to know that they’re not alone. They don’t have to be the strange ones. They can continue to hone their skills. Build a community and be part of something, but also know that they have more room to grow by meeting other diverse innovators like them, but are different because if we’re only still in our circles, we’re not growing and expanding enough. Um, and so that’s kind of really what led and I still worked in my day job for six months, uh, until I left. So.


Maggie: (00:21:39)    Wow.


Bryan: (00:21:40)   That is that’s amazing. Um, out of curiosity, did you, did you raise venture capital for your company or did you bootstrap?


Monica: (00:21:48)     Everything does a hundred percent.


Bryan: (00:21:51)   Wow. Oh, wow. I can only imagine the struggles that you


Monica: (00:21:58)     present tense. I mean, anyone who says, so, I mean, what version of the story are these story?


Bryan: (00:22:06)   Hollywood reversion.


Maggie: (00:22:09)    That’s amazing. Yeah. I love what you’re doing and it just makes so much sense. You’re, you know, you’re helping these organizations, you know, around the world, just leverage their creativity. You talk a lot about creativity. Um, and it’s so important for us to just like find our creative outlet, um, and helping them, you know, unlock their talent or innovation and like just building these inclusive cultures within these organizations. And that takes a lot of hard work. Right. But I think a lot of it comes from you yourself, Monica, you know, and it takes a lot for you to actually take out your creative outlet and, you know, express it with your business, express it into your work. So I want to know, like, how do you find. Creativity for yourself and in your own work, right? Like what is your creative process like to make sure that you’re putting out the best work for innovators box because you’re helping these organizations find their creativity. Um, but what is your creative process like? Hmm.   


Monica: (00:23:04)   Yes. If I count what my own talk then what does that mean? Uh, it’s, it’s something that I really love being reminded of because, you know, I think often. I think, you know, even among therapists and coaches, we joke about, oh, we need, we need more of that service of what we deliver. Uh, and I think this pandemic was a humbling time. Honestly, Maggie, what you’ve asked me was something I realized I need, you want it to be even more intentional. So traditionally I think even before the pandemic, I wanted to make sure I integrate play. And I think one segment I forgot to share out of the whole joke reference of, you know, how the starting process was like for the business, because. Having been close to, you know, being depressed, even close to suicidal made me realize how important mindset of creativity is to it led me to realize why I needed to start the business. Right. Hence as a result in everything I do, I try to make sure I never get to that point. Is number one, because I think that prevents us from being creative. What that means is in my day to day and in the work that I do is this fun in my integrating play and my making this fun. And I know sometimes for folks who’s listening will probably say well, but Monica. I have worked like this cannot be fun. And now I’m going to challenge all of you to say, but you can choose to make it fun. Like let’s say you’re working on an Excel sheet, like get gave yourself ownership and says, okay, might be that Maggie. My supervisor’s going to say Monica. Got it. And need to get this done tomorrow. I’m like, okay. But she didn’t say how I can get this done. Like maybe I’m going to get this done in one step, or I could do this in 10 other ways, because I want to have it fun. I know how to do it. One, one way, what Maggie told me, but I feel like there could be another way and that Meg is going to get the same result. She’s going to see, okay. Monica is happy. She got the result, but I have fun making it. And that’s going to be happy for me, happy for Megan and everyone else in the team. And that kind of ownership mindset was something that I’ve used. Is key that I advise a lot of people, but what I do as well. And so even in small things, as like when we schedule client meetings, I be intentional about how do I make this fun, uh, and empower my clients to understand meetings can be fun if you design. Including not scheduling meetings. If you don’t have to. That’s part of all the fun, don’t try to book more meetings because you’re like, you think you need, but you design it in a way that you make it fun. Um, and so, and then hence celebrating it. I think that’s also glean important. Um, and so, uh, I am, I think more informed of TV shows and movies than ever before. That’s my other outlet I’ve been taking more. Walks in looking forward to traveling again, post pandemic. Uh, but those are many ways. And again, that’s the other thing is that you want to have many outlets, not one because you don’t want to ever limit yourself. It’s like saying that you only have one favorite food. No, please have many favorite foods, many favorite outfits, many favorite things that you like, because you want to have options and hopefully many movies and books you like to.   


Maggie: (00:25:57)     Yeah, that’s so powerful. I love that. And I think especially a lot for a lot of Asians, you know, the word hustle relates to us so much that we’re always constantly thinking about hard work, hard work, hard work. We have to work hard or else nothing’s going to get done, but we don’t. I really think about incorporating fun or play into our work. Right.


Monica: (00:26:17)    Can I add one thing to that as a result? So I’ve learned this lesson, uh, part of my competitiveness way back, even in elementary school and I, who knew that was a lesson I was going to remember now as an adult, is that there was a, uh, I was one of the very few females who played soccer that like totally had all the other girls hate. The few of us who did play soccer and hung out with all the guys think that I, um, uh, that I always. I guess my unconscious competitiveness, but, and really took it to heart in the lesson I learned of, for those who are really looking at like thinking long-term you have to not only work hard, you have to play hard. And there was this other girl who also played soccer, but somewhere in the way, She was actually extremely good with soccer. So I was nowhere close to her skill, but she just like worked hard and played her like every other day she would get all the straight A’s, but also like, she would be like the hardest person who would play. Like every time you see her in school, she will be hanging out, either playing soccer, playing instrument, like just having fun, um, not doing anything chilling. And I always wonder, like, that seems so unfair. Like why, why would somebody who would have. Play and not do work, get also all the grades. And like, I always used to like think in a very narrow mind to that. Like, that’s not fair. Like I’m going to work harder, but you know, hence Maggie, that’s why, when you share that, I bring back that humbling memory and think about like, that was very naive of me that yes, I think in society, we had built such a hustle culture that work hard, but forgot the second sentence to play hard because if we are working hard, we got to recharge even faster. Do you want to be able to enjoy working instead of just only hard work hard work, because now the next time you work hard, it’s not going to be as fun. Then be able to do that. So just thought I’ll add that.


Maggie: (00:28:03)     Yeah. And that’s a really good example. And, um, I think you bring a good point because I think a lot of us, when we think about working hard and we don’t incorporate fun, it does bring us into a depressive state. Right. And I’m so glad, you know, your, your outlook is so much better now and you’re in a better place, um, from before. And I, I think a lot of us, when we worked so hard, we tend to wear out on ourselves. We tend to burn out. Right. And we don’t think about incorporating play or like. Find into our work, but that’s really all it takes. You know, we have to like kind of change our settings sometimes and make sure that we’re also having fun while, you know, completing the work that we need to do.


Bryan: (00:28:40)   Yeah. You got to have fun to learn what you do otherwise you don’t enjoy it and you don’t put the best efforts for it. You know, and this podcast is a prime example of that. You know, it is work, but we’re having lots of finally hearing people’s stories, sharing, amplifying all the lessons learned in their life. But there’s one thing that you pointed out in, in your, in your answer is your mental health. You know, I think that that is one thing that we don’t talk enough, especially in entrepreneurship about how lonely in the press scene and stressful things can really be. You know, there’s not that many people that can talk to you. You can talk to your parents, they’ll look to you. Like I told you, you work at you or, you know, or you talked to your friends who aren’t in the hustle world. They don’t quite understand what you’re going. Probably give you advice. Uh, sometimes just make things worse. It just makes you feel extra lonely that, you know, you try to talk to other founders, but you’re all going through your own struggles and then you just feel like you’re just causing them more trouble. So I think, yeah. I mean, how, how do you manage to your mental health and your mental wellbeing? Because I’m similar to you. Like, I was a state of depression in my other adventures before Asian hustle network, where I seriously was staying up at night, looking at the ceiling and be like, dang, like no one understands me. Like, what am I doing? And then at the time Maggie didn’t hustle yet. So then I couldn’t really talk to her what I was going on. She’s like, you got it. You got it, man. Sometimes you got it. It’s not enough. You know, it’s like, okay, what do I got it? I don’t, I don’t know. I just wanted to touch base upon that. It really resonates with me a lot in that mental state, in the mental health, being an entrepreneur, it’s a, how do you, how do you manage your mental state?


Monica: (00:30:31)    I resonate with so many different parts from nobody gets me too. I know they mean it out of good heart, but yeah, that’s not really helpful. Don’t say that too. Like, wait, I just want to be understanding. So it’s that spoon of different emotions and I think a couple of different components to break that down is one first kind of really why it makes it so worth it. And hence the mental wellbeing is. Honestly, I mean, including actually how I got to know both of you. If I didn’t do entrepreneurship, I wouldn’t have met all of the amazing people in gained so much experience and lens of understanding of anything in anything. And so every time when things do get tough, I try to remember that. Okay. Take into perspective. Where, where was I feeling? Just even few years ago? A few months ago? Um, the capacity and the heart, because there is so much. Challenge and growth, uh, the lesson. And so how you think about it is very different. And so as a result, hence number two, when you do meet people who get you, I think we learned to appreciate it more. Like I have a very close friend. We barely post pictures even online, but we know heart to heart. Like we got each other and when we meet, we need at least six hours, six hours, like too short when we catch up. Cause there’s just so much to catch up and it’s because we happen to be Asian American. We happen to be, uh, Uh, a female tech founder and also, uh, yeah, an entrepreneur who also was a non entrepreneur before. And so there’s a lot of nuances. And also we met when we were single. So there were a lot of nuances from like personal professional, just family, um, fun. We like to eat, you know, you didn’t check out different restaurants that we could relate. And we realized that. We can’t have this time with anyone else. And I think that’s why we get to appreciate when we meet those people even more. Um, but three, as a result, I think it’s really, really important. Regardless of where you’re at. Maybe you’re at a stage you’re listening to this and you’re like, Hey, yeah, I resonate with all three of you. And I feel like I’m at a place. I don’t have somebody to talk, to get curious, to see who else perhaps is around your circle, where maybe you could explore would be number one, because you might be surprised. Um, it might be that maybe they want to learn and support, but they don’t know how. But two, most importantly is actually go out and meet more people because maybe you just haven’t met them yet. I’ve met so many, I’ve met so many people before business. I have met five times more people than. That point. So I know that we’re only going to meet more people onward. So we need to take a proactive step. If you feel like your inner circle right now is not giving that refuel, you have to proactively reach out. And this goes back to, you know, Brian, your question about the mental wellbeing was realizing in all these components, the action starts with me. I need to take the action of first realizing that I’m not happy. I need to take the action to figure out, like, what would I want to do to be happier, to find those allies and do one at a time. So I had to permit myself to be comfortable attending all these events or community gatherings to find those people. I know that, you know what some of these events I might attend and I might not get along with anyone and that’s okay because that’s at least one place I’ve now checked the boss and explored, okay, I’ve tried it out. I know that’s not the case. Let me try it another network. Um, and keep going out because. Sitting in the room, just looking at this, you know, ceiling and being stressed alone is not going to get there. Um, and so now that I know all these other resources such as coaching therapy, you know, you know, being able to talk through different things is so key. And then having outlets like this, where you learn about other stories of people that you might never know, even just online is really, really empowering. But number one, just really be the protagonist of your story. I won’t it up and forth in that process. Just one final tip. I want to add as somebody who became an entrepreneur, who was not an entrepreneur is treasure. Your people who are not entrepreneurs as well. I think I’ve gone through the lessons of both of going through the initial phases. Like none of my not entrepreneur, friends get me, like I’m so upset. Like I feel like we can’t be friends anymore. Real talk. Um, and I didn’t mean harm. They didn’t mean harm either, but it was just hard to like talk about things when you’re not working. You’re worrying about like equity and yet like your team situation and the other person’s worrying about shopping and like where to eat next. And like, that’s not the same conversation I’m having. Um, That’s not why you were friends in the first place. I think remembering where your friendship lied, you know, give your family who might not know about what your business is to get to know you more of the different lens and don’t stress out if they don’t get it. That’s, you know, they didn’t know what nuclear weapon was before too. So that’s not why they love you and care for who you are, is, are fed. And so we need to also own up to those relationship and build together because if we shut our doors, that door is not going to open either. Even if they. So that’s where I’ll say in mental wellbeing, starting with.


Maggie: (00:35:21)     Thank you so much for sharing that Monica. That’s very powerful and I absolutely agree. Um, it really just does take some understanding and you’re right. Like that, wasn’t the reason why you were friends before and you know, there’s a reason why there’s there was a connection in the first place. Absolutely. So I do want to talk a little bit about innovators box. You know, you have such an extensive and impressive list of companies, including just large corporations, like Facebook Citibank, who Google as your clients for innovators box. How do you typically do your outreach or do you, um, have these companies reach out to you? Um, I want to know like the process behind that.


Monica: (00:36:01)    Number one rule, always diversify your options, uh, and outreach. It would be the case, I think from an elver time, you’ll probably know what works best for you initially, if you asked me this question even a year ago, I wasn’t really sure because I only had a few stats, but now. As more ear pass, we’re seeing where the pattern is. And it’s really coming, I think from three consistent places, one, uh, of course, you know, referral always helps like those who have experienced, who knows your work and why it’s so unique, they will share with other friends. So always, always number one, bring a best service to whoever you’re serving already. They can be your number one fan. Let them be your number one fan and let them speak. Especially for something like innovators, Fox, where it took me a long time to even practice saying what we do. At the end of the day, we do culture leadership team development, but sometimes for people that means creative workshops for others, it means executive coaching. For some, it means we’re doing year round culture development. Um, and so really building that referral trust was key, but really hence giving, like, focusing on those relationship to let them see that value, uh, speak of that value to others, uh, to, as a result you want to be as visible, uh, and be available in also. Not in the heart of marketing, but really true giving. And because I volunteered proactively, when I realized how much of a gap there was in next gen and some of these women business networks, I proactively stepped up and play roles. And wanting to bridge that when I saw lack of diversity, I wanted to speak up. When I saw there was a lack of areas that I felt passionate about, I would speak up because I wanted to contribute and I knew that they needed help. So I wanted to bridge the gap and support and through that you build relationship, but they see. Action in a different way to want to get to know you, which permits you then to hence have indirect relationship and connection. So I would have in those many conversations where somebody would reach out to me, including actually some of the companies you just listed and say, Hey, like I got your contact because so-and-so, or like I’ve seen you speak in so-and-so or I’ve worked with you with so-and-so in this context. And I’ve confirmed. Like I know when I spoke with ABC, X other people, we all have the same opinion about you. Uh, which leads to the third piece is that. We, I hope you’re all are showing up the same way you are. And not saying like, oh, because this person, this client is not going to pay me, pay me less. I’m going to do a less work in this client. Placing more. I’m going to do more. Please. Don’t do that words. Get around very fast called the internet. And because people. Saw the consistent me, the only difference was more access and less that affirmed whoever, whether big company or small company, when they got to the decision making, they knew that we knew we could trust Monica because no matter where we saw on stage hanging out, having lunch, she’s the same person we know we can trust her because if you are not consistent and you don’t know who you are in that consistent. It matter what you serve, whether big company or a small company, how would people give you the money we Scully to ask?


Maggie: (00:39:34)   Yeah. Very, very helpful. Yeah. I definitely agree. I mean, you can’t have different clients and different companies say different reviews and results. Um, I love that, you know, your practice consistency and just being true to who you are, you know, and I think that’s very, very important.


Bryan: (00:39:21)    I think that’s really important to you and then you’d want to go for sharing that and. You know, you’ve been working on an integrated box and stuff in the 15, um, out of curiosity, like what is next to you? Like what do you see yourself next couple of years?


Monica: (00:39:36)    Well, one thing that the pandemic really got me more excited about was stepping up. Deeper into vocalizing the importance of that rescaling revolution, which is a term that the world economic forum has stated noting that while creative thinking, innovative thinking or skills that we all say is important. None of us are formally trained or have access to learning. And for me that means equity. Uh, it’s not fair when those who are privileged, who can pay expensive workshops or even in companies to have access, to learn how to be creative. It’s not fair when, you know, even as kids, like they have only certain, you know, Prep schools or like experiences to have access. Um, at times if we grow up, you know, going back to the upbringing, if we don’t have access to our surroundings or allies who show that this is how you can think of creativity, we start to grow up believing that we’re not the creative line and we can not. And I truly have always felt, which is where I knew my work has always been a global footprint thought as I was starting, because I started from diplomacy that this had to be tackled, but the pandemic permitted. There’s ways that you can start planting the seed through global access because everyone is reachable online. So it pushed me to really rechannel. Okay. It might not be that I’m like famous to be able to do the impact of scale that I thought I wanted to do. But what does like mini version of like early stage IB at this stage could do to make an impact to make a debt because. Going back to your question of what, at the end of the day, what do I want to see? I would say innovator’s box in any of the work that we’ve done has made a difference in the right way. If somebody says, because of the work, because of something that we did because of something you wrote or something that we said. One more person wake up and realize, you know what? Yeah, I’m really good at this and can do this and can do that. And it’s not weird who says you gotta be good in just one industry or one job. Like we, um, you know, hopefully Brian and Maggie’s not going to look at me weird because I said, I like sushi and chicken at the same time. She’s gonna be like what you like to have different food. But we say that in jobs, which is so weird, like why are we making that a weird thing? Everyone has so much talent that we can bring. Yes, we all have different expertise, but we have so much that we can expand upon. And when we cross collaborate in, everyone wakes up more in color and know that they can be anyone in everything and expanding grow, and they got to still own up and got to do their part. Uh, it’s not going to magically be given to their platter and say here, just take it. You got to own up and work. Hustle still comes into nature. Uh, but that, that then I think would mean make me remind myself that, okay. We’ve we’ve done a good job. We’ve helped one more person. One more company know that they can be who they are, the colorful, limitless, not feeling like they can be in a box and feel fixed in a certain way. Um, and so because of that, uh, some of the initiatives that we have done more in the past few months is really expanding, not only our services and academy and online learning, but also launching our studios, which means not only our podcast, but making original music. And that’s because as weird as it might sound of why is a training company making can music and work trying to tackle Hollywood is because I. Am always inspired and gain new motivation and wisdom from entertainment and music. So if that’s where we get inspiration every day, why aren’t we having more players who actually want to empower a leadership culture and team development and reframe that, not have these old, uh, wrong perceptions and limited beliefs of what it means to have a career. So that’s, that’s the future place we’re looking to dabble.  


Maggie: (00:43:18)   Amazing. I love that. Yeah. I mean, definitely like as human beings, we’re just so multifaceted and versatile, you know, like why put us in a, inside a box and limit ourselves and our potential. Right. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that. I think. And then I think on the other side of the spectrum, a lot of people are so versatile. They don’t know like how to organize their thoughts. So I love your output and I love, you know, just your perspective on everything. Um, so Monica, we have one last question for you, and that is if you could give one advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, uh, which we have many in the Asian hustle network, what would that one advice?


Monica: (00:44:00)    Nice. Be, be curious, be curious about everything. Be curious about it. Hoover really is Monica. Why am I thinking this way? Why do I believe that? Like, why do I care about that? Why do I not care about it? Why did I feel sensitive about it? Why did I inflate that? Like the more you also learn about yourself in that curiosity, The more, not only self-confidence and self-awareness you gain, but more easily will feel because now, you know, why certain things feel it weight. Like I know for instance, I know my trigger point. So when certain events or certain phrases are thrown, I realize why that makes me upset because I’ve gotten to hone that awareness. And I try to take a step back to say, okay, let me, let me take place myself out of it, because I don’t want to let that define. I want to, I need to objectively process. Like really meant or not. Um, but to being hence curious about all the other things, like if your calling is being quote, quote annoying, can you take a moment to be curious for us? I wonder why that makes me feel annoyed. Is it that maybe, perhaps it’s a different communication style. Maybe you guys just work a different way. Maybe, maybe you actually just need a translator who actually could process both in, you know, that’s actually the, the solution. Be curious about things, why you get upset about society? Some things not changed. Well, let’s figure out how, whether that means for you starting a business or for you to find the places where you gain the skill to build the company or the community that you want to build. And I think if you start with curiosity, everything. Is possible, both in what you can learn, what you can expand, but also whether that means for you being ready, that I’m ready to like start my company tomorrow and you know, or I’m ready to grow my company to the next level. Right. There’s so much more that you can do with it and you realize, wow, like I have the capacity to be limitless. Uh, if I can just add a point to notice that as you’re getting curious, please, don’t say, I now know what I want to do and quit my job tomorrow. I’m a kind of a discouraged on the, you know, don’t necessarily create more financial stress than needed. Like if you can stay in your day job and test out as much as possible with all the extra hours in the evenings, do that. That’s what I did for the seven, nine months. Left it because I ran out of vacation days to do workshops. Um, but be curious because if so, everything could be more interesting and you’ll have a lot more fun even when things are difficult in business.


Maggie: (00:46:22)  Love it. Thank you so much for sharing that. Very good advice. So how can our listeners find out more about you and innovators box, um, and your podcasts online? 


Monica: (00:46:33)      Thank you. Well, thank you for having me. This was super fun. Uh, one, you can find, uh, Monica king at all the social media platforms, as well as innovativeness box. Uh, you can find our music and innovators, Fox studios, uh, at any of the music platforms and you can find our podcasts. Currently we have dear workplace and curious Monica. At any of the podcasts, uh, and you can find innovator’s box so keyword, you can either find my name or innovators box. We also have, for those who might read Korean, I have the book translated wreath and creativity in Caribbean version. Uh, we’re updating the English one soon as well. So those are a few places, but please reach out, like to get to know more people. And thank you again for tuning.


Maggie: (00:47:14)   Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Monica is awesome having you on,


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