play with heart.

My high school soccer coach used to always say to our team, “Always remember to play with heart.” I’ve carried those words with me for years now and have applied them to various situations and circumstances. With enough time to succeed and fail a bit, I strongly believe that having heart continues to be a differentiating factor.

Three years ago, I met Victor Nguyen-Long (also known as VNL). He was super nice, always wore a hat, always drank Red Bull, and was ALWAYS on his phone. About six months after meeting VNL he became my manager. It was a crazy time, full of a lot of unknown, partnered with so much excitement. We hardly slept, worked hard with eyes wide open, and most importantly, always with heart.

Fast forward two years later, full of countless late nights, early mornings, texts, calls, and emails…VNL was no longer just my manager, he was my manager who became my mentor, my mentor who became my friend, and my friend who is now my family. No matter how busy, how stressed, or how excited we were about any of the work we were doing, VNL always “played with heart.” He never explicitly called out that he was, I also never told him, but his actions truly spoke louder than words. He always took time obsess the details, provide feedback even when he didn’t need to so I would grow and learn, and never ever acted too busy for me.

I couldn’t be more proud or honored to have said that I worked with VNL. There will be few people that I work for again who will impact me the way he did. It is not to say that others won’t be brilliant, funny, or love to dance (actually they may not like to dance as much as he does), but more so because his natural ability to make others around him better is so extraordinary.

Although I didn’t meet VNL on a soccer field, he showed me to play with heart off the field. He is still super nice, sometimes wears a hat, doesn’t drink as much Red Bull, and isn’t ALWAYS on his phone, but he always remembers to play with heart. He is consistently loved for his youthful, energetic, and his “I’m down” or “come thru” attitude. He values relationships, not followers. He epitomizes compassion and kindness, and I can only hope one day to be more like him.

VNL, you may never be 6 feet tall or a morning person, but the depth of your heart is much greater than the amount of times you’ve said the word, “right,” right?

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