Many but only few!

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Many start but only few finish.

Many want to be happy but only few want to make others happy.

Many have jobs but only few have careers.

Many love with words but only few love with actions.

Many blame politics but only few actually vote.

Many speak elegantly but only few listen gracefully.

Many are cautious but only few are courageous.

Many want to receive but only few want to give.

Many cry for justice but only few practice it.

Many have discussions but only few follow up.

Many are talented but only few are disciplined.

Many want to be loved but only few choose to love.

Many want to say the right things but only few do the right things.

Many want to change the world but only few change themselves.

Many are bosses but only few are leaders.

Many want to be praised but only few praise others.

Many protest but only few protect.

Many have religions but only few have relationship.

Many have pleasure but only few have joy.

-David Bang-

My mom…

This coming Sunday (May 12) is Mother’s day here in USA.  So, I thought I would re-share my story below that I had blogged about two years ago.  Everyone’s story is unique and different, but we all can agree that being a mother is extremely challenging in so many ways.  There are so many mothers out there all around the world who give all they’ve got day in and day out without receiving much appreciation.  Actually, many times they get easily blamed for anything.  “My mom did not do this for me!” “My mom forgot about this again!” “My wife does not take care of herself any more.”  “My wife is workaholic and bossy because she is the bread earner.” “My wife stays homes and does not work.” “My mother-in-law is a perfectionist.”  “My wife is always tired.” “My mom…..” And on and on and on.

Let’s praise our mothers, cut them some slack, and let them be who they are in their own strengths!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Psst….I hope someone will also write some encouraging words about Fathers on Father’s Day (it is June 16 this year in USA). Not those condemning, instructing, and stereotyping ones.

~ David Bang ~

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When I was 8 or 9, I woke up in middle of night feeling really sick and walked towards kitchen trying to get a cup of water.  Because I felt so weak, I fell on the kitchen floor and started crying. My mom heard me and rushed out of her room to rescue me.  I still remember my mom’s soft and warm hands on my face, but I do not remember the pain I was having that night. 

One day, I was bragging my intelligence in front of my friends on my way home from school.  I don’t know how, but she somehow heard me bragging from a block away.  That evening she scolded me that I needed to be more humble.  I still remember my mom’s concern for her son’s character, but I do not remember her nagging.  

Right before a dinner time, my younger brother and I were playing a make-believe battle with our friends on the streets.  I was probably only 5 and he was 3. Unfortunately, my younger brother got hit by a small rock on his forehead (someone threw a ‘rock’ hand grenade at him – apparently some kids took the battle too seriously) and started bleeding a lot. I was scared, left my brother on the street, and ran home to get mom. Everything turned out ok (well my brother got few stitches on his forehead), but my mom told me that I should’ve done all I could to take care of my baby brother.  I still remember my mom’s desire for her son to be responsible, but I do not remember her unreasonable expectation for that age. 

One day I came home from my school earlier than usual because I felt sick (well sort of – I guess I was trying to get a little break).  I was expecting mom to care for me that day, but she told me that she rather wanted to see her son to pass out in school (not literally, of course) instead of coming home because of feeling little dizzy. I still remember my mom’s teaching on not easily giving up, but I do not remember her being too strict. 

My mom survived breast cancer when I was in middle school.  However, when I became a freshman in college, cancer cells came back and spread to her lungs.  I came back home for my first year spring break and saw my weakened mom who lost all her beautiful hairs because she had to go through extensive chemotherapy treatment.   She had suffered for a couple more years and then went to be with the Lord.  I still remember my mom’s lifeless and yet peaceful face that I touched softly while crying and whispering to her ears how much I loved her, but I do not remember any hopeless despair that I would not see her again forever.  Because I know I will.

Thank you, Mom, for who you were and what you had done for me!  Happy Mother’s Day!  I will see you soon.

-David Bang-

A lesson from a Kung-fu master…

I have fond memories of watching some kung-fu movies when I was young.  Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and even some unknown Hong Kong actors and actresses…  Good always defeats evil.  Heroes defend villagers against bad governors or bandits.  A weak common man becomes a martial art master to revenge his parents’ death.  Yes, story lines are very similar and predictable. 

One of the most common story lines goes like this…here is one hopeless young kung-fu student under a care of a mystery Kung-fu master.  This student is full of energy but lacks discipline.  But through “many years” of trainings, finally one day the student reaches the point he can beat his master at a sparring.  And the master is happy and says, “I’ve taught you everything I know, and you have surpassed me.  You may leave me now.” 

Teaching (coaching) is not merely conveying knowledge, but helping students discover their full potential and teach them to excel and reach the point even higher than teachers themselves were able to go.  Of course, no teacher can have 100% success ratio with all students because there are responsibilities on both sides.  But, I think many times GOOD teachers and NOT SO GOOD teachers can be clearly distinguished by what they ultimately and selflessly want to achieve with students.  Even at a work place, one of the manager’s key goals should be growing her people so that someone of them may actually replace her position at any time.  We call it “succession plan” at corporate world, which should be very open and common practice at any healthy organization.

This is not about having unachievable high expectation or being a “Tiger mom” or a super-demanding boss.  Think about it!  If a teacher or a boss whom you look up to does not even expect you to succeed and become better than him or her, how would you feel?  Maybe that’s the core of some of the education problems in our country.  A BIG remark here – I am not defining education as just “academics” or mega focus on “sports” but I am talking about all around, diverse and rich education, balanced with common sense! 

Are we teaching our children to excel beyond our own capacity or are we just giving them enough knowledge to pass their grades and beautify their mediocre success? Do you see your employees or colleagues as means of your own success or see yourself as means of their success?  Maybe it is time to grab that old kung-fu movie to listen again to that old master saying in heavy accent, “I’ve taught you everything I know, and you have surpassed me.  You may leave me now.”

-David Bang-

Under The Skin

Many years ago, one of my former bosses pressured me not to hire a specific person because of his ethnic background, but I hired him anyway because he was the most qualified candidate among other job applicants.  His skin color did not matter to me and, frankly, did not even register to my thought.  One of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. did not do what he did simply because he wanted to stand up for his own kind of people only.  He did it peacefully, with his deep conviction and understanding how God views each human being.  When I lived in Chicago, I was a fan of Michael Jordan because of his breathtaking basketball skills (“Fly like Mike!”), and again his skin color did not register to my thought.

One point in my career, I had multiple employees in my organization who had Korean heritage, but that was not because I handpicked my kind of people but simply at that time they were the best candidates out of a couple of dozen candidates our team interviewed together.  Now, here in South Florida, I happen to be the only Korean-American in my work place, but enjoy working with amazing colleagues from over 20 different countries and ethnic backgrounds.  Again, they are there because of their merits and passion, not their ethnic backgrounds.  Of course, sometime a position may require a specific language skill to serve a certain market.

This year’s NBA season, Jeremy Lin, a young NBA player of New York Knicks, was a phenomenon here in America, and possibly some other parts of the world too.  Some may liked him because he happened to be an Asian-American (he is a US-born Taiwanese descendant.), but what he did on the game floor are what came down to, not his ethnicity.  And, technically, there is nothing wrong with some Asian-American children to look up to Jeremy because they can relate to him, just like some other athletes are role models for those kids with similar ethnic backgrounds.

I did not vote for President Obama in 2008 (because of my own disagreements with many of his policies), but he became the President of United States of America because of his competence, superior campaigning, and ultimately our democratic process.  Again, his ethnicity wasn’t the focus, although it was historical that he was the first African-American President of USA.

If one of my kids were to get a major surgery and I were to look for a surgeon, his religion and skin-color won’t matter much, but only his track records and competence will.

Looking at other people based on who truly they are (not based on their skin color or ethnicity) is not easy.  Prejudice can be very subtle now these days.  Not just majority against minority, but even among minority ethnicity groups too.  Many times this comes in the forms of innocent-sounding jokes, and ignorant and insensitive comments at work places, churches, circles of friends, schools, etc.  This is not just happening here in USA but all around the world.  For an example, many multicultural families in South Korea suffer social inequality and prejudice.  Simply because of their religious beliefs, certain people get persecuted in many countries.  Some American judicial courts and school boards are very hostile toward one religion, and they single out that particular belief among other religions under the name of “tolerance” and “hate-crime”. What an irony!

This issue fundamentally comes from human’s crooked heart.  Unless we daily and deliberately make a choice not to take a part in this, none of us are immune to this.  Maybe I am too sensitive, but to be honest, I even do not like those stereo-typing so-called “blonde jokes”.

One of our family values is: Be proud of your Korean heritage but do not become narrow-minded.  Korea has such wealth of culture and history that we need to cherish and even study.  However, as Christians we need to see and love people beyond skin colors, social backgrounds, and economic status.  I want my kids and next generations to cherish and be proud of who they are.  But that pride is not about superiority in comparison to others, but simply your own acknowledgement of your unique identity as God’s gift and purpose for us on this earth.

Discipline thyself!

 ‘The only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.’  Great by Choice – Jim Collins ‘We judge others based on behavior and we judge ourselves based on intent.’  Unknown   From the get-go, I need to put a mental mark that everything I am sharing here is pointing toward me, no one else.  Of course, if some of you could get some benefits out of this, I guess that’s ok.  So many times, I fall into the traps of spending lots of energy and dedication to change others but very little to change myself.  Yes, we must look at our company, our group, our family, our community, our nation to see if it is moving in the right direction or not.  But, in the midst of all these, I tend to forget the ultimate battle field.  Fighting my own self!  Why fight? You may ask.  Well, actually, it is fighting indeed.  An athlete may want to skip training on a hot summer day, but she still drags and “fights” herself to get to the training field.  Despite of external pressure, CEO and his top management fight their temptation and keep the course of their company’s hedgehog concept (1. What can you be the best in the world at? 2. What are you passionate about? 3. What best drives your economic engine?  Good to Great – by Jim Collins).  That’s the picture of self-discipline. What does self-discipline look like? 1.       Self-Imposed True discipline comes from within.  Not from your boss, your teachers, your parents, or your coaches!  You have this inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome you have set in your heart!   2.       Will and humility Self-disciplined people have unwavering will to succeed and humility at the same time.  Here, the will to succeed is not about just wanting to be famous or rich.  John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach who produced 10 NCAA championship teams in 12 years during the 1960s and 1970sa, said “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” While having this will, self-disciplined people are truly humble to recognize their own limitations and frequent temptations.   3.       Crediting others for success, blaming yourself for failures Self-disciplined people credit others when they have successful outcomes, but they first point their own finger to themselves when they face failures, not their team mates, not their circumstances, not their company, not their country, not their spouses, etc.  Of course, it does not mean you beat yourself up, but it is about that attitude.   4.       Two distinct type of discomfort: delivering high performance in difficult times and holding back in good times Self-disciplined people deliver high performance in amazing consistency even in difficult times.  But, at the same time, they do not exhaust their resources just because things are going great.  If it is about 3 hours a day practice for a musician, then it is that 3 hours a day practice either when you feel like it or when you don’t feel like it.  If it is about that high aircraft utilization, then it is that ‘flying only 737s’ and ‘turning gates around in 10 minutes for new flights’ either when you have only 10s of employees or when you have 10s of thousands of employees (actually this is one of Southwest Airline’s success recipes that they have been keeping for over 30 years.). ~David Bang~

A New Chapter…

I do not write much about LifeConEx on my blog.  But, this time is an exception, because we at LifeConEx have achieved something remarkable!  LifeConEx’s 50% shares had been acquired by DHL, and now DP DHL (www.dp-dhl.com) owns 100% of LifeConEx’s shares, making LifeConEx a 100% DHL owned subsidiary. 

Well, technically, as far as our business model and what we have been shaping in the industry, it is business as usual!  LifeConEx will maintain its own entity and neutral brand for highly sensitive and regulated life sciences cold chain market, while we will have exciting joint developments with our DHL colleagues that can benefit broader range of customers.  LifeConEx will continue to have the ability to neutrally work with all DHL business units, other forwarders, and logistics providers.  This type of neutral positioning after 100% acquisition is nothing new in today’s commerce.  Zappos (www.zappos.com) is maintaining its own culture and independence although Amazon owns them 100%.  Even within DP DHL, there are many subsidiaries that do work with other logistics providers than just DHL branded entities.  We will also maintain unbiased partnerships with airlines, packaging providers, and other technical partners.  Why?  Because that’s what our clients need and want!  Increasing our values to customers is in direct proportion to increasing our values to, now our 100% shareholder, DP DHL. 

By the way, I’ve agreed to stay at my position too.  Our senior management team is also intact.  And to be honest, even if I had decided to leave for whatever reason, I am so confident of our senior management team, Dina Bunn (Head of Operations & IT), Gordon Johnson (Head of Strategic Innovation), Federico Lupp (Head of Sales Europe & Latin America), John Liebe (Head of Sales North America), and Nina Heinz (Head of Quality). We are not perfect, but are well on the way to become Level 5 Leaders. What is Level 5? You can refer to Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great.  What excites me the most is the fact that LifeConEx has many cold chain superstars in all disciplines and continues to generate more of them.  They are future leaders of our company too!

Now, I think that’s enough for business side of the story.  If you want to know more about this transition, you can check out our website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.   If you have any question, you can interact with us via the same channels. We will have plenty of frequently asked questions and answers posted. 

Personally, I have a mixed feeling – in a positive way.  As some of you know, I had been with DHL since 1998 before I was named CEO of this 50/50 joint venture late 2006.  I always tried my best to stand for the benefits of our both shareholders equally because that’s what I was entrusted to do.  I will miss my intimate interaction with Lufthansa Cargo, although I will still keep in contact with them.  My last 5 year journey has been more than I had signed up for.  Yes, we had to maneuver through some teeth grinding experiences but celebrated many small and big successes together.  Now next few years will be even more rewarding and exciting, because I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by LifeConExers (who are still with us and who moved on)!  To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve stayed on this post without them.  Also, I was constantly supported by many great people within both parent companies, DHL and Lufthansa, top class global corporations. 

So, what’s next? Technically, I will keep doing what I’ve been doing at LifeConEx – growing our people who will grow our business!  While I am doing that, I know I will have lots of fun too.  With this change, my team and I have great opportunities and challenges ahead of us to be the most wanted temperature controlled solutions provider with a clear mission in our heart which is “Connecting People with Life” through our daily works in ensuring integrity and regulatory compliance of life saving/impacting medicinal product distribution around the world.

~ David, a LifeConExer

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

The evil queen asks the magic mirror this question again and again in this well-known fairy tale, Snow White & Seven Dwarfs.  The queen is obsessed and frantic, expecting the same confirmation she enjoys hearing, “You are, my queen, the fairest of them all.”  She hears the same answer again and again, until one fateful day when the mirror speaks out terrible news, her worst nightmare.

There is now another woman, Snow White, who is fairer than her.  The queen was still beautiful and probably a close runner-up to Snow White.  But, she wasn’t satisfied and got completely occupied by trying to take her top position back, even to the point of plotting a murder.  Well, we all know the happy ending of Snow White and yet the tragic (yes, tragic!) ending of the queen who had so much, but lost everything including her beauty and very own life.

In business world, this magic mirror exists in variety of forms.  If leaders of organizations do not have keen discernment, they all may head down to the similar tragic ending as the queen, losing what is important over what is temporary.  Focusing on market position by pure market share % is like the queen asking who the fairest of them all is.  Mechanically conducting annual customer surveys and over-analyzing the results is like the queen who is obsessed with how others view her.  Don’t get me wrong, there are places for market share and customer survey.  However, steering an organization to gain a position at whatever the cost is like the queen who ultimately turns herself into an ugly old woman to deceive Snow White.

Annual employee survey has become just another KPI for managers to improve a couple of percentages every year, missing the bigger picture that employees are flesh and blood, not those %’s and graphs.  Charts and statistics may give you reference points, but employees are people that need to be listened to in person and cared for with hearts.

I am not saying that market share, customer survey, and employee opinion survey are of no use, but I am afraid that many executives just want to have those numbers charted up on the board and focus on improving them.  Why?  Because it gives good satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment.  But, isn’t it like the queen who is looking at the mirror every day asking the same question while missing the bigger picture of who she is?

Market share is important.  But, 20%-30% of market share of the saturated PC market does not mean much because a completely new market (i.e. iPad, Android Tablets, Smart Phones, etc.) gets created.  Because of digital cameras, market share of optical camera means completely different than 10 years ago.  If our strategy is solely to keep the market position or overtake someone else’s throne, our view will be skewed and self-absorbed, just like the evil queen.

Conducting this massive annual customer survey can somehow be beneficial, but truly listening to customers comes from how well each employee listens to each customer on a daily basis and is empowered and competent to resolve issues proactively and timely.

Employee opinion survey definitely plays its role too, but many times it becomes another to-do-list and mechanical indicator that eventually does not mean much in practical manners.  I think sometime we are fooling ourselves.  Let’s face it.  Is it that difficult to find out what makes our employees satisfied and engaged?   We all like to work for a company where pay and benefits are reasonably good, people treat each other with respect, stunning performance and excellence are prevailing, ethics and principles are valued, management is approachable, the company brings tangible values to the mankind so that I can be proud of, employees see themselves growing in the company, and good fun and laughter are well intertwined with serious business matters.

So, what is the bigger picture of your organization? Break the mirror!  Go out, and be engaged!

-David Bang-