Eugene Cho

My 5 Personal Advice for Social Innovation (and for the White House Conference).

Hi friends, readers, visitors, and stalkers:

Thanks for keeping up with my blog. I’d like to ask you to lift up a prayer for me. Sometime later today, I have the honor and privilege to be one of 10 speakers at the inaugural White House Faith-Based Social Innovators Conference.

Here’s the official verbiage and part of the invitation:

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in coordination with the Office of Public Engagement, would like to invite you to speak at an event at the White House on Wednesday, July 11. We are hosting a forum to discuss the important role that faith-based social innovators play in expanding opportunity and addressing social issues.

Part of the program will include “TED-style” sessions where we will highlight the work of several leaders and organizations who are finding innovative ways to make a positive impact on our society and economy. Each innovator will have 5 minutes to present and then answer 2-3 questions. 

I’m encouraged by this because no matter what your faith or religious background may be, there is one common area we must work together with and for: The Common Good.

And as my faith in Christ is of primary importance in my identity, calling, and trajectory, I want to – even and despite my imperfect faith – represent Christ well so that in my words, works, and even warts, others might be fascinated and drawn to my Lord. I’m particularly reminded of these quote from Jesus, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. that inspire me deeply.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Jesus | Matthew 22:37-40

“We do (our work) to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible…” ~ Mother Teresa

” Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

As you might have read above in the description, each person gets 5 minutes.

Huh. What? Gulp.

Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements. My previous sentence proves that clearly.

But I’d like to share a few things here in hopes that my brief presentation might help someone who also feels inclined in the areas of social innovation and entrepreneurship. Let me pause for a moment and say that these terms are all buzz words and while it’s true that these terms can mean different things for different folks, the general sense is that they refer to using new or newer strategies, methods, organizations, and ideas to help engage social issues. In some ways, one can contend that it’s not necessarily new but to constantly innovate in order to meet our social needs and challenges.

For my 5 minute presentation, here’s my 5 pieces of advice for Social Innovators and Entrepreneurs.

You can’t do everything.

The person or org that tries to do everything will do nothing well. Focus on a few things and kick arse on those things. Know it. Breathe it. Love it. Live it.

And do it well. Do it with excellence. Do it with integrity.

Know that there are others who are doing other things. You can collaborate, celebrate your work and the work of others, but ultimately, know that you simply can’t do everything.

So, what do you feel convicted about; What needs do you seek to address; How will your social innovation seek to address those needs?

You can’t ask people to do something you’re not willing to do.

Read that 10 times. And then read it again.

Once you ask people to do something you’re not willing to do, you lose your integrity and you become a salesperson. I think part of the reason why One Day’s Wages has resonated with folks is because in sharing our family’s story of giving up a year’s wages (back in 2009) to engage the cause of extreme poverty, folks understood we were trying to walk the walk.

Yes, we’ve received our share of criticism from many folks who’ve accused us of being arrogant, boasting, un-Christian like behavior, etc…but in a world of excessive skepticism and cynicism, we felt this was important to demonstrate our commitment and leadership.

Nebulous idealism isn’t going to change the world.

Good  intents are good for feel good stories.

Hear this loud and clear: There’s a cost and sacrifice.

Everyone loves the idea of justice and compassionate until there’s a personal cost. The thing is…there’s always a cost to justice and compassion.

Pursuing visions and dreams will always cost you something and more often than not, it’s not just one thing.

Seeking to change social conditions, create opportunities, and starting new ventures may sound good but after the honeymoon phase (and sometimes even during it), you’ll realize it takes sacrifice and cost.

While I love to encourage and assist people in their dreams as social innovators and entrepreneurs, here’s my rule for how I share my time:

I won’t listen to anyone that’s not willing to sacrifice something for their visions and dreams.

Translation: Nebulous idealism isn’t going to cause change and impact. You got to work hard…and then work even harder.

Make it clear. Make is simple. Make it compelling.

Your greatest asset will likely be you (initially) and then (eventually), your team and supporters. Your most compelling content will be your vision. Your greatest real estate will likely be your website.

Is it clear? Is it simple to understand and convey? Is it compelling…are you using hope, beauty, and courage rather than fear, guilt, and shame. The former is sustainable. The latter gets more traffic – for a moment – but fizzles.

Does it work?

This, ultimately, is the million dollar question. People may have different opinions of how they define success and while your enterprise, organization, idea, company, or cause may not be the most successful of its kind, it’s okay but you have to ask yourself the question:

Does it work…because it has to work in order for it to be sustainable and…impactful.

The goal isn’t to start an organization, or a cause, or a social enterprise. The goal isn’t to have aesthetic websites, cool t-shirts, or engaging social media mediums. Ultimately, you want to make impact.

Is it making an impact?
Is it causing change in the areas of needs?
Is it making an impact?
Is it doing so with integrity and dignity?
How do you measure impact?
What data do you obtain?
What data do you obtain, gather, measure, and assess – beyond feel good stories?

…There’s more. Lots more.

There are a few other significant questions but heck, I have only 5 minutes but we can spend a great amount of time on all of the aspects above and then add numerous additional conversations of a) Who is your audience, b) Is your idea open-sourced and accessible, c) The temptation of dis-honest storytelling, d) Issues of human dignity and Human-connectedness, etc.

Consider these words from another Christ follower named Martin Luther King, Jr. –

“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

You might also want to read my 5 Personal Advice of Entrepreneurs.

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24 Responses

  1. diane says:

    Go Eugene! Your 5 minutes at the 1st Idea Camp changed me. Less is always more when it gives God room to work in others’ creative minds.

    Change the world for God’s good, friend!

  2. Loved this post, Eugene. Thank you. Honoured to be praying for you today.

  3. Mike W. says:

    Outstanding! May the Lord bless your words and prepare the hearts of those in the audience… Be strong in the Lord!

  4. Wow, what an honor! I’m praying for you:)

  5. Francisco M. Litardo says:

    Fantastico. Gracias por compartir esto. Bendiciones en tu presentacion!

  6. Thank you, Eugene. Praying for you at the White House. Thanking God for your words.

  7. matt says:

    Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Eugene: Is this what you think the Gospel is?

    • Dave Harrold says:

      Matt,

      I sure did not get the impression that is what he is saying. Notice the MLK quote comes after verses in Matthew. Seems like a nice extension of Jesus’ words to me.

      • matt says:

        Dave,

        Well I hope you’re right but MLK’s quote sounds like he (MLK) thinks that’s what the gospel is or maybe he thought that was more important than the gospel. I would posit life’s most urgent question to be : Are you reconciled with God? Wouldn’t you? MLK’s quote here is pure law. There’s no gospel in it.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      I’m certain you’re a new reader because if you’ve journeyed with me for a bit, you’ll know differently.

      Thank God that the Gospel is not a quote or a blog comment. PTL.

  8. […] “Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements,” he wrote on his blog. […]

  9. Debbie says:

    So glad I saw this. Definitely will be praying! Great post by the way…..great insights. Will share with a couple of leadership teams I am part of.

  10. Spot on post. 5 points were great. Very thought provoking.

  11. Great post. Keep up inspiring others

  12. […] “Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements,” he wrote on his blog. […]

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

my tweets

  • People often ask, "How do stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much.… instagram.com/p/BF2giXwyWTY/ || 15 hours ago
  • Don't obsess about your platform.Just do your thing with passion, humility, integrity. We do what we do for God's glory, not human applause. || 1 day ago
  • Someone tell Steph Curry that he's the MVP because he's playing a lot like me in my rec league. || 1 day ago
  • .@SeattleQuest recently hosted Kenneth Bae (Prisoner 103). He was detained in DPRK for 735days. WATCH his testimony: vimeo.com/167680426 || 2 days ago
  • RT @seattlequest: Suffering is a short cut to God's heart. Even if your circumstances don't change, God is always w/ you. - KennethBae http… || 3 days ago
  • Oh Lord, You love North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Congo, Nigeria, Turkey and ______. You love the nations. Give us Your heart for the world. Amen. || 4 days ago

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