What matters most to you, and why?
Staying curious matters the most to me; I gain new lessons from every adventure I embark upon.
Each one has satisfied my curiosity while helping me to set goals that positively change the world. I am a maximalist when it comes to collecting experiences that quench my curiosity. From founding a Korean national lacrosse team and switching careers to found my own company, to running ultra-marathons and hiking the highest peak in the contiguous US, the initiator inside of me has always supported my curious nature and brought my ideas to life. Once I find something I am passionate about, I dive in headfirst, often without thinking of the potential consequences. Every experience is a valuable lesson, teaching me to find the courage to step up and share what I have learned with those around me.
My journey as an initiator started when I was in high-school. When I first became serious about lacrosse, Korea had not yet attended a World Cup; scarce resources and talent had discouraged others from trying to organize a team. I, however, decided to build one. Juggling my school work while leading a national team was immensely challenging. Nevertheless, it was a risk worth taking; I learned that anything is possible with a little faith and a lot of groundwork.
These lessons carried over when I founded Champ Kitchen, a startup committed to promoting healthy and active lifestyles. As a Biology major, I love learning about the inner-workings of the human body. However, I soon became curious about what happens outside the Petri dish or microscope. My curiosity has continually challenged me to work in different industries, successfully driving me to found my own company. However, my life value has never been shaped by career aspirations. Nature has always defined what I value in life.
For example, I learned the importance of community while traveling to a secluded valley in Hawaii. I stumbled upon an article depicting the lives of people in Kalalau, home to one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. I could not resist the opportunity to visit. There, I spent time chatting with residents living without 21st-century essentials: Wi-Fi, electricity, and purified water. The community consisted of those who valued others’ lives above their own. Although living with less, they were the most generous group of people I have ever met. I was deeply affected by their positivity.
However, it was a week-long trip I took with Patagonia brand ambassadors from the US in 2017 that gave birth to my life-long passion: unearthing a key to slowing the aging process. On this trip, I discovered that four out of six ambassadors were living in a van full-time. The pictures they showed me were both humble and breath-taking, deeply connected to nature. I spontaneously booked a flight to the United States and rented a campervan for a month. While touring US national parks, I met many older adults on the trail and in the RV park. They were always envious of my youthfulness and vitality. I was struck by one instance in which a group of older hikers asked whether the upcoming switchback was ‘age appropriate.’ Previously, I had only heard this phrase used in reference to young children. This was the first time I heard it used for older individuals; it made me sad. I thought I could stave off the aging process indefinitely through exercise and healthy eating. However, I have come to realize these lifestyle behaviors have their constraints. Eventually, I realized, I too would not be able to climb the highest peaks or go on backpacking trips because the solution to aging lies within our DNA. As technology advances, people are living longer than ever before. But, what about their quality of life? Although the idea that aging can be reversed is unconventional, I believe in facing challenges head-on and pursuing my mission bettering our world.
For a month, I lived like there was no tomorrow; my biggest worry was finding the cheapest gas station. Contrastingly, making meaningful changes in the world is markedly more difficult. Taking on these challenges gives me a purpose in life. I see myself as an initiator and advocate for others, necessary qualities for an impactful career in the biotechnology industry. Engaging with society and learning from others is the only way to have a lasting and positive impact on society.