At the intersection of technology, finance and the Pacific Rim.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Korean Tacos

About a year ago, I highlighted on this blog an article about a Korean American who had started a food craze in LA. He went around in a truck serving Korean tacos--tacos with kim chi and bulgogi in it. And he advertised on Twitter--telling the people where his truck was.

The WSJ profiled Roy Choi today in an extensive article. As they wrote about his background--(can you imagine being his parent? And does his upbringing sound familiar?:

Born in Seoul, Mr. Choi immigrated to America before he was 2 years old. His parents ran a variety of businesses throughout his childhood, from a dry cleaner to a Korean restaurant to a jewelry company. They moved 12 times among Southern California neighborhoods that ranged from gritty to posh as their fortunes changed. At public school gifted programs, Mr. Choi earned A's, though until he was 12, he "felt guilty if it wasn't an A+," he says.

At age 13, he rebelled, running away from home several times. He began getting C's in school, started dabbling in drugs and hung out with a crowd of burgeoning criminals, he says. When he was 15, his parents sent him to Southern California Military School in Signal Hill, Calif., which has since closed. It was a good experience, he says, because "all of the kids at military school are screw-ups. It connected me to a lot of kindred spirits."

After high school, he spent a year teaching English in Korea, received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from California State University, Fullerton, and attended Western State University law school for a semester. But he viewed himself as a failure, outside the circle of Korean-Americans attending top schools, and he hated law school. He soon dropped out.

At 24, Mr. Choi says, he hit a dark period of drinking, brawling in nightclubs in L.A.'s Koreatown and living on friend's couches. By day, he ate Cheetos and watched television, particularly Emeril Lagasse's "Essence of Emeril" show. "Emeril saved my life," says Mr. Choi. With a new path in mind, he enrolled in a local culinary school.

"Korean parents hate to even think about a boy becoming a chef or working in a kitchen," says his father, Soo Myung Choi, 59. "We wanted him to become a medical doctor, lawyer or government official." Finally reckoning it would never happen, the elder Mr. Choi asked his son what the Harvard of culinary arts was, and suggested he attend.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best Books I Read for 2009

I am much obliged to those who continue to tune in to this site. I thought (since now is downtime) that I would relate to you the top books that I read for business--now I say this with some hesitation because many of these books have nothing to do with business--but I will try to explain briefly the connection.

- Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson

I picked up this book at the airport because I couldn't find anything else and then starting reading it....Wow! I gave it to a very wise, good friend who does not usually read books and he could not put it down. And I even gave it to my Mom, who (at 90) could not stop talking about it. So what does this book teach? It's all about having a mission, individual determination, and the power of an idea. It is simply the best book on entrepreneurship that I have read and on my all time favorite list.

- Influencers, Kerry Patterson
The subtitle to the book was "The Power to Change Anything"--which I thought was a bit hokey--meaning rather sudsy with sales and overblown promises. But the stories of people who have been able to change dramatically human behavior is riveting. I bought the book because I was desperately trying to figure out how to make radical changes in people. And this book has the answer--or I think it does. Most impressive was a lady who runs a series of businesses in San Francisco where the employees are ex-convicts of violent crimes--the book details how she (yes, she) was able to train and change the thinking of such people, to the point that more than 90% never commit another criminal act. Amazing. It belies the old saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

- Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
this is a book about how to achieve excellence--thus the title, "Outliers". According to Gladwell, who looks at case studies of Bill Gates, the Beatles and many others, you need to put in about 10K hours of deliberate practice--i.e., time where your mind is concentrating on the task at hand. It is a testament to the power of perseverance and pursuing that about which you are passionate.