We had a chance to catch up with Josh Morey, the president and CEO of the J Morey Company, a successful third-generation insurance brokerage in California.

Josh, why do you work so hard?

When you’re starting anything, working hard is so important. But to sustain that, it’s also important to work smart. It’ll prevent you from burning out but there’s so much more to it than that. I know how to work hard.

My dad had me start working at the age of 14, and I had to get a conditional work permit to work at Chevy’s of all places. I juggled that with baseball, which I’ve played my whole life. My dad was trying to instill the value of Kodomonotameni, “For the sake of the children”, into me and today that’s what drives me. It means creating a better future for my kids, and humbly understanding that my mom and dad set me up for success too.

Playing baseball, I started to burn out though. I worked harder than everyone else on the baseball field, and I was often the first at practice and the last to leave. I would work out before games, which was mentally and physically bad on my in-game performance.

I’ve had to learn to work smarter in my life and it’s led to a lot of success. I do a lot of small things to work smarter. As often as I can, I’ve noticed that doing cardio in the morning tends to make me sharper and more productive. I also carve out time to take on new, key strategic challenges for my business.

How else have you tried to work smarter?

I try to emulate the best habits of the people around me. I look up to peers and love learning from people and developing great relationships. I’m involved with the U.S.-Japan Council and it’s one the best networking groups I’ve been a part of. There are a ton of motivated people there that invest so much in me, so naturally I want to give back.

I look up to Norman Mineta, the ex secretary of transportation and commerce and the only cabinet member to have served both primary political parties. He was born in internment camp and overcame persecution, rose to the top, and wrote history to make sure that no minority gets interned again. That’s inspiring.

Do you believe in luck?

No. If luck was real, it’d only be the byproduct of blood, sweat, and tears. Everything was a higher power. Then at one point, I’m working my butt off in baseball and school and getting the results that I envisioned. God blessed me with talent, and it’s my job to unlock that talent through hard work and confidence. Luck is the byproduct of all that.

I try to focus working hard on what I do best while not making excuses for myself when it’d be easy to call it quits because the odds are stacked against me. My company’s an underdog in a heavily competitive insurance industry, but we’ve been able to be scrappy and carve out a nice niche for ourselves to serve our great clients. We’ve differentiated with affordable products and great customer service.

If you want to be lucky, set yourself up for success. This also means not talking bad about other people, and not getting caught up in bad arguments about small things to prove a point. All this has given me more room to think so that I can work smarter. It’s taken a while but I learned how to bite my tongue and be okay with it.

What are some of your biggest personal challenges?

Balancing family life with the work-life relationship. This balancing act has taught me that there are things more important than money and the job. When I step back, I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I’m a good husband and father. At the end of the day, what matters is the legacy you leave behind as well as the positive relationships.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Asian-Americans in the workplace today?

I get diversity initiatives, I really do. I would like to see those initiatives improve though so we don’t run into a tokenization problem that leaves people of color worse off, but in general I’m a fan of them.

One interesting challenge as an Asian-American I’ve had to overcome early in my career are the internal expectations and ceilings that I put on myself. I always had a chip on my shoulder and used to worry about sounding too aggressive in group meetings.

If you’re in an important meeting full of people, be nice to them and listen, but be the most assertive person in the room. They’re probably not even going to think that you’re being that aggressive. If you think they think you’re being cocky, they’re probably just looking up to you and want your advice and opinion.

Accept that you’re an expert.

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