Awakin Calls » Home Nguyen

Home Nguyen: Professor of leadership, executive coach

Jan 18, 2020: What Seems to Matter Doesn't Really Matter

Read: Call Transcript (Also: Nuggets From Home Nguyen's Call)

Dr. Home Nguyen is a professor of leadership, and an advisor and coach to leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators. He has over 20 years' experience in personal leadership, mind-body practices, and executive coaching. His mission is to develop mindful, influential and compassionate leaders and to help them master their awesome power in order to make a real difference in the world. Home has coached senior executives from midsize to Fortune 500 companies and MBAs at Columbia Business School and Yale School of Management. He is also founder and CEO of MindKind Institute, a mindful leadership development company that elevates the consciousness of leaders to transform organizations.

Home was born in Vietnam in the middle of the War in 1967. When Saigon fell, his father was imprisoned, released after three years, and then escaped on a boat to America. A year later, his mother and her six children (including Home) tried to escape the Vietnamese regime to join his father but they were caught and put in jail; although eventually the children were released, his mother remained imprisoned.  When his aunt then indicated her intent to attempt to escape Vietnam, with capacity to bring along only one additional child, Home’s grandmother chose Home to go with his aunt and her family.  He was the eldest of six children and one of the twins, and in case he died at sea, his mother would at least have another of the twins.  

So Home successfully escaped Vietnam at age 12, but a few days later, he was lost at sea in a small fishing boat with 90 other people for weeks, as he recounted in a powerful TEDx talk. The group members faced starvation, were brutally preyed upon by pirates, and survived a storm that he describes as a life and death experience. Twenty harrowing days at sea culminated in Home’s complete surrender to nature and to the divine – in what Home recognized even then to be a “spiritual awakening,” where he realized that what he thought had mattered (like money and even survival) didn’t matter, because he was one with nature.  At the moment of complete surrender, young Home’s boat crashed onto the shore in Thailand. He was taken to a refugee camp and eventually reunited with his father in the United States. More than a decade later, he was reunited with the rest of his family.

As a teenager, Home repressed and forgot these experiences. He learned how to fit in with the other adolescents in the San Fernando Valley, California. Shocking his father, he dropped out of college in his 20’s to pursue fame and success as a theater artist. He started Club O’Noodles Theater Company in Los Angeles to help heal traumatized people, working with refugees of war and later with gay men dealing with HIV and AIDS. He started out using his creativity and theater to make sense of his own life and to help others make sense of theirs. In the eight years he led the theater company, he experienced a deep and profound healing. It helped him find his place in America, to live in this country and be a refugee and immigrant.

As his company was traveling throughout the United States and the world, a member of his troupe one night before a performance told him that although the work they did was very important and that he was charismatic and creative, she did not feel loved. At the time, he brushed her aside, went on to perform, and continued with his company, but in the back of his mind what she said worked on him. He began having migraines, insomnia and developed an ulcer with a pain that even medication could not relieve. Ultimately, he was unable to perform, unable to be in front of an audience. He struggled with how to work with love. He learned of a 10-day meditation retreat and gave it a try, humorously describing it as more difficult than his journey in a boat fleeing Vietnam. 

The meditation experience for him was profound inflection point, and a new reminder that what he thought had mattered didn’t matter.  Up until that point, everything had been external. All the problems of his life were external. He tried to control everything from the outside, but he had no idea how to attend to what was going on inside. He knew (from his theater and healing work) the psychological understanding of what was happening, but he didn’t have a full grasp of the magnitude of the emotions and feelings and the reality that exists within the mind-body connection, much less the connection of God or the Universe or the greater mystery. As he was sitting, he had the realization that all of the suffering he felt was because he did not yet have trust that he was capable of being with everything that was happening on the inside as well as on the outside.

This set him on the journey of sitting with the question of how to go forward. He realized that he wanted to work with going deeper into the nature of mind, body, and spirit even though he did not know what form that would take or how it would come about.  Now in his 40’s, Home went back to college and earned his Bachelor of Arts, then his Master’s degree, and finally a Doctorate of Education in Adult Learning and Organizational Leadership focusing on Mindfulness in Leadership Development. Highly credentialed and experienced, Home coaches mid-level and C-suite executives of Fortune 200 companies and numerous start-ups. He teaches and facilitates courses on self-awareness training, interpersonal group dynamics, and adult learning and leadership development at Columbia University and Yale School of Management. He is a certified executive coach and a long-term Vipassana meditation practitioner. He is a trusted advisor and consultant with MBA and EMBA students and leaders of organizations on how emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships, and health.

Home understands how successful men and women repress their emotions and the cost of that to them. He taps into a place of self-forgiveness, self-acceptance and a knowing that “I am enough.” He teaches them how to discern between what is real and what is not, how not to lose oneself in the game called business, and how to play the game knowing there is humanity involved and how to treat oneself humanely and with a level of dignity so they can treat others humanely and with dignity. Home says, “We get lost in the game thinking it is real, but if we zoom back and connect with the truth within, then we see the game for what it is and there we can serve the uplifting of humanity.”

Join us in conversation with this remarkable and courageous leader and teacher!

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