1 January 2016, Los Angeles, California
“When Worlds Align: 2015 Year-End Reflections and New Year Greetings”
“Make sure they call you Professor Nguyen!” My friend Nhutrang said jokingly when I announced I would start teaching an International Business Management course in January 2016 at California State University in Fullerton.
My dear friends Phong and Nhutrang were hosting a holiday brunch at their home in the Washington DC area where long-time friends joined, some whom I had met during my first time in DC in 1993 when I started an internship on my 21st birthday at the Department of State. Earlier that week, I had lunch with Ambassador Tomseth and his family, who was the Chief of Mission on my first trip abroad as an intern at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos in the Summer of 1994. Over two decades later, it seems timely and appropriate for me to impart some of that knowledge gained from international and entrepreneurial pursuits to a group of millennial students and global citizens.
Sometimes and in distant lands, worlds align… as was the case on my first trip to Colombia in November to visit my long-time musical collaborator Juan and his family. Since we met in UCLA Extension’s music program in 2009, we have been writing songs together and released our last album “The Universe in Me” in 2012 (also when I closed the full-time operations of Planet LA Records). After a three-year impasse, we are about to launch our defining effort and musical called “Lovers and Angels” about the City of Los Angeles on January 4, 2016 (click image below for a preview).
It was also an opportunity to visit my Fletcher School classmate Jeroen who is now the Belgian ambassador to Colombia. The worlds of music and international diplomacy crossed in Bogota… leaving me feeling a bit nostalgic about a diplomatic career that could have been, and the hope of a creative legacy that has yet to be.
2015 also took me to other new countries including Sweden in April following an aviation conference in Germany and a visit to manufacturing facilities in Italy, as part of my work with global sourcing company Wessco. While in Milan, I caught up with my MBA classmate Daniele who suggested hosting a reunion in Italy next summer. I also returned to Asia in July with my mother on a trip to Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, and to attend the graduation ceremony for the dual-MBA program between UCLA Anderson and the National University of Singapore. During that journey while in my birthplace of the beach town of Da Nang, I woke up to the news that I was appointed to serve as vice president of the UCLA Anderson alumni network for a three-year term.
My father wasn’t able to join us in Asia, though fortunately his health has stabilized since his major surgery. His uncertain condition has been a constant reminder to appreciate and take every moment in stride. In the Spring, my family traveled together to Seattle for the funeral of his brother, my uncle Ky who passed away in March. We had a large reunion among my cousins, all of whom had children of their own – in contrast to my brother and I who have none.
As in previous years with Planet LA, I continued to facilitate synergies between artists, brands and causes by supporting partners including Whole Foods Market and their charity Whole Planet Foundation with an annual Pre-Grammy party and Summer Music Series. The third annual party set records by raising more than $20,000 for global micro-lending programs and was attended by over a thousand industry guests. Planet LA also showcased emerging and global artists during the SXSW festival, the Gibson Guitar showroom and with other partners.
As I look back upon 2015, it was the first year in awhile where my diverse worlds came into balance, both personally and professionally. My family was intact and distant friends still close. I was gainfully employed and could better serve my professional and creative communities, and alumni network. For the first time in three years, I was able to write music again and will soon share this labor of artistic passion. And, after selling my homes in DC followed by years of transitory living between family and friends, I found my own place again.
My footing has been restored after a prolonged journey defined by relocation, repositioning and reinvention. Now, I am in a good position to share some of these lessons in a classroom and beyond. Often times, it takes focus and perseverance to set worlds that collided back into harmony and alignment.
So thank you to my dear family, friends and believers for their unconditional support and faith in my hopes and potential. Best wishes to all for a promising 2016!
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