Courage to live their truth — There are three layers of you: your identity, your shame, and your true self. Your identity is your outermost layer; it’s the idea that you think other people have of you. Your shame is what’s shielding you from expressing your true self, which is at your core. It is from your shame being that irrational thoughts manifest. Work on closing the gap between your identity, who the world thinks you are, and who you know you are. Your life will change significantly.
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic I had the pleasure of interviewing Lian Nguyen Pham.
Lian was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her parents settled after immigrating to the U.S. from Vietnam. Her family moved to Houston when she was a young girl and opened a tailoring business where she often helped out, learning the trade and, most importantly, watching her parents work diligently to launch and establish a small business — and the ingenuity, sacrifice, and dedication it took to make a better life for their family.
Through the struggles and triumphs of her parents, Lian began to understand what it would take to not only be a successful entrepreneur, but also why it was all worth it.
Today, Lian is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded several hospitality companies in Houston, Texas, including Prohibition, Conservatory, and Bravery Chef Hall. As Lian has become increasingly health-conscious and focused on pioneering new experiences, her next endeavour, Railway Heights, scheduled to open in 2021, will be Houston’s most unique market featuring a farmer’s market with fresh local produce, a grocery store, dog park, and much more.
But Lian’s biggest impact as an entrepreneur has been Wellness 4 Humanity, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide easier access to highly accurate COVID-19 infection and antibody testing. Wellness 4 Humanity was born out of Peak Space, a revolutionary concept created to be a complete mecca for well-being, including a bio-hacking ecosystem and scientifically advanced hotel and lifestyle space. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lian and her team pivoted Peak Space’s business model to focus on making testing more accessible globally.
Lian’s role as a mother of two has significantly changed her life and even her thinking about the world and what role she can play to make it better. Drawing from the foundational work ethic and moral compass that her parent’s imbued in her, Lian is always seeking new ways to create positive change.
As an entrepreneur on a heroic journey, she understands that the breakthroughs are in the unknown. Lian’s impact and thought leadership are boundless, transcending the status quo to drive quality of life, well-being, and success for the people around her — and beyond.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?
I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, where my parents settled after immigrating to the U.S. from Vietnam. We moved to Houston, Texas, when I was a young girl and my parents opened a tailoring business. I spent much of my childhood helping out in their shop, watching them work diligently to launch and establish a small business and the ingenuity, sacrifice, and dedication it took to make a better life for our family. That experience sparked my passion for entrepreneurship.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Learning is a passion of mine. Many influencers’ stories and lessons have shaped my life, but a recent lesson comes from a book titled “The Coffee Bean.” The lesson from this book resonated with me so deeply because it reflected exactly what needed to happen for me and our company to not only survive the pandemic, but come out of it thriving. The lesson is to learn if you are a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean. The book goes on to explain what happens to each once it is placed in a pot of boiling water. Sometimes life is like a pot of boiling water. It can be harsh, with many challenges. If you are a carrot, you are weakened and softened by your environment. If you are an egg, you are hardened by your environment. But if you are a coffee bean, you will transform your environment. It’s a simple but powerful lesson that really represents the world we live in.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Own your decisions and own who you are, with no regrets.” It means to learn to own that truth and who you are. You are 100% in control of your own decisions and you have to be 100% accountable for all of them. It’s the only way to fix the problem. You can’t fix something without accepting full control over it. Once you give up even 1% of that ownership, you become a victim. When you are a victim, you become less creative and less resourceful. You can only change what you create. So own it.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were working on a health and wellness project. Once COVID-19 hit, like the rest of the world, we pivoted to do what we could to not only survive the pandemic, but also play an active role in fighting it. Uncertain times lead to out-of-the-box thinking. We are not in business to watch more people get sick; we are in the business of changing people’s lives. During the crisis, we could not just sit around and watch more people die when we had the resources to help.
Innovative companies like Dyson and Tesla pivoted to help produce products to fill supply shortages caused by the pandemic. How could we utilize our resources to support the social needs caused by COVID-19?
In times of crisis, companies need to think about how they can leverage their existing business model and resources to contribute to the bigger cause. If you look closely, everyone on your team likely has a skill, or multiple skills, that can transfer to the fight against COVID-19. For us at Wellness 4 Humanity, we had both a team of entrepreneurs driven by a desire to make a social impact as well as the infrastructure and network to help distribute approved COVID-19 tests. Our relationships with labs gave us access to the latest and best tests and our connection with Swyft, a software and technology services company, allowed us to develop a prototype for a vending machine that will give Americans much easier and more convenient access to COVID-19 tests in places like airports and subway stations. Our long-term goal at Wellness 4 Humanity is to become the new gold standard for personalized health by delivering 1 billion COVID-19 tests globally by 2026.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?
A hero is someone who has given their life to something bigger than oneself and transforms the world around them not from the outside in, but from the inside out.
In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Self awareness — Self-awareness is being able to accept your shortcomings. It is the knowing.
- Humility — Humility is the ability to see the truth of one’s strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs, contributions and needs — without self-justification. It derives from the behavior towards the self as a flawed knower.
- Courage to live their truth — There are three layers of you: your identity, your shame, and your true self. Your identity is your outermost layer; it’s the idea that you think other people have of you. Your shame is what’s shielding you from expressing your true self, which is at your core. It is from your shame being that irrational thoughts manifest. Work on closing the gap between your identity, who the world thinks you are, and who you know you are. Your life will change significantly.
- Selflessness — By definition, selflessness is being more concerned with the needs of others than with your own needs. Selflessness can be learned and practiced, and help us have a new, broader perspective on situations and the world around us.
- Courageous visionaries — Have the courage to question the assumptions that limit human imagination to solve problems. The power of human ideas can change the world.
If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?
The difference is simple: It’s perspective on life. Those who believe that life is bigger than we are will always serve beyond them and their own self and loved ones. Those who think life is about them and their loved ones will only do that. There is no wrong or right. I think it’s just a difference in perspective on what their purpose is.
What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?
It was the moment when I watched my sisters, who are both in healthcare, on the front lines serving others in trash bags and no mask. It’s a vivid image that I’m sure is shared by many. Of course, my family situation isn’t unique. We suffer like everyone else and live in the same situation.
I wanted to solve the problem and change things. If private enterprise has to stand for the people and set up testing sites before anyone else did, then that’s what we would do — and that’s what we did. We are a group of social entrepreneurs who decided to pivot and serve our nation.
Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?
Truthfully, my heroes are those people on my team. Their dedication and commitment to our mission inspires me daily.
Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?
It’s been eye-opening to see the wide array of reactions to what’s going on around us. There’s been fear, anger, apathy, sadness, and everything in between. What frightens me the most is those reactions in many cases have caused paralysis. What’s happening is real and even though we can’t always control it, we can control how we react. And by controlling how we react we can move forward in a productive way.
Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?
Every hardship presents an opportunity, we just need to recognize that instead of letting it define us. Your thoughts change your experiences and shape your life. Our reaction to the world around us determines the quality of our lives.
What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?
What’s inspired me is that, for the first time, the entire world came together to fight one problem. When we act as one, we can solve world issues exponentially faster. Once we get past this pandemic, with us pushing our limits with health and tech, I’m hopeful — in fact I know — that we will be in a better place.
What’s been disappointing is the lack of perspective. Many people blame their circumstances for their shortcomings and as a result accept the harsh reality of their situation. These people believe an event is equivalent to its outcome; however, for the truly remarkable person, adversity is where they thrive. These difficult and trying times, however, are not what define us, but the way in which we react to them is what reveals our true character.
Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.
This crisis has only further validated this idea of how our nation needs to be: antifragile. If we look at our children’s future, this pandemic will serve them. America has had a long, good run, but we were not prepared for this. We are soft. Future pandemic and crises will only build our children’s grit. Opportunity always meets those who were prepared and as a nation we were not. But that doesn’t mean we the people can’t lead the change. We no longer live in a world where we need to wait to be led. Nor does it take a fancy diploma. It takes two things: the crazy idea and the execution. So I will ask: What are the world’s biggest problems you want to change? Because you can.
What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?
Through the pain and adversity, we will come out stronger and with more grit.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Understand why you are here. Don’t settle. It is our job to create a better tomorrow. It only takes one individual, driven by a purpose and an understanding that they can change the world. We as human beings hold a unique power that no other creature can possess: creativity. Our ability to creatively solve problems through love and compassion is something special. We can change the world with just one thought. And it only takes one crazy idea. As Peter Diamandis says, “The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Change the current food supply chain to solve the root of all diseases. It’s an ambitious one. But we have to start somewhere and the root of our society’s health issues is from the food we put in our body. Food is medicine. So let’s start addressing the real issue.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jeff Bezos or John Mackey.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!