A few weeks ago I was contemplating wiping, if not just hiding, my military experience away from all public records. I was starting to travel more to various startup conferences across Europe, and afraid that my military experience would bring up a difficult past for certain countries. I wanted to be sensitive to these histories and cultures - not shove my past experiences down people’s throats.
I was public with my concerns - I consulted with Ivan, founder of Vet Cloud, who’s had experience in Eastern Europe and graciously inquired with a few of his friends, and asked a US Special Forces veteran at IBM SmartCamp who’s based out of Denmark. I expressed my concerns and sensitivities, and really opened up my fears - including to some strangers.
Those fears turned out to be baseless. More people came back to me saying that they’d rather me stand for something, than nothing at all.
Looking back and I see that these concerns aren’t infrequent. Being Asian, I wrestle with self-consciousness being in the public arena. “The nail that sticks up does get beaten down” is a real Asian cultural pillar, one that gets repeated every single time I meet with a family member from a more traditional cultural backing. And being Hong Kong born, I have fewer leniences than some of my second-generation immigrant friends.
But as an entrepreneur, I’ve realized I need to take these leaps of courage. I represent my family who’s proud of seeing the first Asian entrepreneur in a few generations. And most importantly, I represent military service members and veterans who are serving and have served, regardless of nationality.
I’ve learned this - get over myself. Own my past, my present, and my future. And own the things that make me different and unique - my superpower.