Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

Sometimes, other people recognize our strengths and communicate it to us.

Yet, no matter how sincere their communication,
If it’s in regards to an ability we take for granted—
Perhaps even proactively trivialize—
Their sincerity can be perceived as mere flattery or politeness.
This makes it difficult for us to empathize with their communication.
Thus, making it difficult for us to discover our own strengths.

People expect leaders to be super human.
Except, we’re human beings like everyone else.
The kind that needs support.
Except, the kind of support we need is often very hard to come by.

This week is suicide prevention week.
In commemoration of the week,
I’m offering a coaching session to 4 founders,

This is for founders of startups & small businesses
Feeling stuck leading a team of people for whom they feel responsible.
In the session, we’ll design your next steps such that you can make progress.

We’re not going to let this responsibility crush us.
We’re going to leverage it as an opportunity for innovation.

Apply here.
Deadline is 9/16 (Sun).

We change our mind & behavior
When we come to have the freedom of choice
We didn’t previously perceive to have had.

Jean valjean stole,
Because he felt like he didn’t have a choice.
Once he did,
He changed.

When we tell others what not to do,
It can threaten what freedom of choice they perceive to have.
This is why our well-intended admonishments are often rejected.

Even when we tell others what to do,
We often stop at presenting options, not choices.
Options that fail to elicit the feeling of freedom.
Thus, this, too, are often rejected.

What master realizers of empathy do, is
Elicit feelings of freedom
In others and ourselves.

When this happens,
With no intention to change,
Change happens
As a byproduct.

As much as salespeople would like to sell,
Customers have no obligation to buy.

In that sense,
When we want something from others—
Even if we merely want them to listen to us—
One could say that we’re (momentarily) in sales and
They are our customers.

If so, let us notice how we sell,
When we want our children to clean their room,
When we want our employees to do a better job,
When we want our clients or patients to implement our strategy.

Ever walk into a dealership
Only to walk out,
Because you didn’t like the way they sell—
Even if you loved the car?

Unless our customers are unwilling or
Unable to say “No,” to us,
If we sell a particular way,
It is only natural that they won’t buy.

On Sunday, I turned 41. I’ve been told that in “Korean age” I’m 42. There’s something interesting about reflecting on what happened in the past after I have had a 10+year distance from it. In my 20s, I listened to a lot of computer scientists’…

Forty One

When we, as parents, hyper-empathize with our children,
The children’s lives feel like our own.

When we, as founders, hyper-empathize with our companies,
the companies’ lives feel like our own.
So much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our health to keep them alive.

Sacrificing our health to keep our company alive
Can produce behaviors critical to the well-being of our company
In its early stages of development.

But as our company develops—as do our children—
Some of our “sacrificial” behaviors born out of care
Can also stifle its development,
Not to mention fuel our frustration, resentment, and disappointment,
As we can’t help but take everything personally,
When we hyper-empathize.

“You can be whatever you want to be,”
We told our children.


If I can be whatever I want,
I may feel like being something mundane isn’t good enough.

If I have infinite options,
I may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of decision making.

If I’m even uncertain as to what I want to be,
I may doubt whether I can amount to anything at all.

The same happens in our workplace.

When we, as leaders, give autonomy to our people.
Unless they can tame
The ambiguity,
and Complexity they perceive,
They can get stuck in shame, overwhelm, and doubt.

Join our next workshop.
Let us learn
To help our team get unstuck.

May we let autonomy be a gift,
Not a burden.

Let us not confuse being nice with being empathic.

Being nice aims to conform our behaviors
to static images defined by social norms.
Being empathic aims to custom design behaviors
to fit the specifics of self and other in interaction.

Being nice judges
what behaviors are absolutely good or right.
Being empathic (re)discovers
what behaviors are good or right for which context
of self and other in interaction.

When people respond negatively to our being nice,
we may feel appalled,
maybe even resentful of how ungrateful they seem.
When people respond negatively to our being empathic,
we may feel curious,
maybe even eager to learn how to design new behaviors.
Behaviors better fit for the context of self and other in interaction.

Love is a force that can hold the space between “self” and “other.”
Relationship is the quality of space between “self” and “other.”

Being in love with an “other,”
and having a good relationship with them
are two different issues.

Whether the “other” is people, work, things, etc…

  1. You can be in love with them,
    and not have such a wonderful relationship.
  2. You can have a wonderful relationship with them,
    and not be in love.

A common inner conflict revolves around these two thoughts:

  1. I’m being treated unfairly.
  2. I’m not good enough to be treated fairly.

It may seem like these two thoughts cannot be thought by the same person.
Yet they are often thought by the same person at the same time.
That’s why it is an inner conflict.

Our inner conflict often takes the form of a paradox.
When laid out logically, paradoxes will not make sense.

By connecting what may seem like contradictory perspectives through empathy,
we can give birth to what we call creativity.

It is through such act of creation,
that paradoxes dissolve itself,
leaving behind a sense of clarity and understanding.