Jacqueline T.D. Huynh arrived in the United States in 1975 as a refugee from Vietnam at just eight years old with her family. All they had were the clothes on their back, freedom and the hope of an American dream, and a commitment to succeed. Today she's a number one Amazon selling author, a radio personality, keynote speaker, and trainer. She frequently speaks on the topic of career development, dynamic communication and family foundation. Jacqueline shares how fear was instilled in her as a child, and the four major fear blocks that may be holding you back in your career.
MAC: Can you talk a little bit about how you arrived at what you do today?
HUYNH: Absolutely. You know, coming to the United States as a refugee, right there at seven years old was a lot of fear. My family did not know any English. We had to deal with a completely different culture, people that were, looked like giants compared to us little tiny Asian people. And you know, we came from a government where they told us what to do. Every male had to be in the military. There was not a lot of freedom of choice that you had. Then we arrived in a democracy where you could be the poorest person and grow up and have a dream, have it come true, and be the richest person in the world. No matter what there's a lot of fear behind that and I think as a child my parents tried to keep us safe, but in a good way, and yet in a way where it kind of scared us and that's one thing I want to talk about. And then as I got into the world and like most of us get into the world, these fears hang onto us and then we build on top of it. Sometimes your family, sometimes your society really creates powerful things, and depending on what we want to do with it, we can create something more powerful or we can shrink from it. And I use where I came from to show people that fear is with us, we can't get rid of it. We can use it to our advantage.
MAC: I totally understand how that background could create some fear. And whether that's in our careers or in life, trying to figure out a new country or anything in between, there are called fear blocks. Can you define that for us and explain what the big four are?
HUYNH: Fear itself is a primal feeling, right? And it arises when we feel threatened, and we have sweat, physical symptoms like sweaty hands, our heart rate goes up. Fear can be a useful feeling when it comes to keeping us safe. But what actually happens often is that we're fearful of future events, things that we need to step out of our boundary and kind of try out, because those are things that block us from success, right? That's what we're talking about. That's why it's a fear block, it's blocking us from potential success. We tend to hesitate going forward. We kind of want to just crawl under our cover and hide from the world and sometimes we're kind of sure that if we take a risk we're going to fail somehow and, or people think they might look like an idiot, so they don't take those chances. So, I want to make sure the listeners know that fear is something that's primal, that keeps us safe. It's when we add to the blocks to it it's what makes the fear ineffective. I don't want to say good or bad, I always say it's not something that we want in our life that if we want success.
MAC: Yeah it is fascinating. I mean fear is designed as an evolutionary tool to keep us alive and make sure the species survives, but how we've kind of translated that fear into something that puts limits on us. We're the only animal I know of that actually gets in the way of our own progress. So, I'm excited to dig into these fear blocks.
HUYNH: I'm going to tell you the least-charged to the most-charged. So, limiting beliefs, assumptions, interpretation, and the most-charged is gremlins.
When it comes to your career, one limiting belief is that success doesn't come unless you work hard. Yet we know that people who are successful, they have financial freedom. They don't have to work; their money works for them. They're not working hard. So, limiting belief is something that society or your culture or your family have said that this is a certain way to expect things. This is the way the world kind of sets us up for that situation. And so, we believe it.
Women get a lot of these limiting beliefs, like oh, there'll never a woman president. And so, a woman who doesn't take that on as true isn't going to let that stop them. But a woman who believes that, it's going to limit them. At one point they said there's not going to be a black president and there's a man named Barack that never believed that. And he transformed his career, his life, and whether you support him or not, he broke that glass ceiling and became a president. And you know, a hundred years ago that would've been impossible to have that in your career.
MAC: Absolutely, and in the business community I think Elon Musk is a guy who, who thought you could privatize space? Who thought that you could scale electric cars when electric cars kind of died with the advent of the gasoline engine back in the day? So, their things whether it's personal development, whether it's where you're going to go in your career, or whether it's what kind of company you want to build or how you want to go about your job, that challenge a conditioned belief. What's the second big fear?
HUYNH: The second most emotionally charged is Assumptions. So, this is believing that something happened to me in the past and it's going to happen again. So, we have evidence or experience from what happened to us or maybe someone close to us that's had that experience, and we believe that's true. And I've had clients that will bring me a laundry list of evidence that's going to make that assumption true for them. So, some of the terminologies that you'll hear is the I always or I never, right? Like this always happens to me. I go for that raise, and I never get it.
These words that we use are very charged, and we must be very careful when we try to bring things in the past that we've done to the present. We've heard of someone who invented the light bulb, right? I think we all heard about how long, how many times it took him to invent the light bulb. And it wasn't the first time that he tried. It wasn't the second time. I think it was like over 10,000 times that he tried. And so, you must look at it like, what can I do differently? If I wanted that job, if I wanted this career if I wanted more money, if I wanted this, what can I do differently? Another huge assumption that I see people make is this I assume that I either must work and have a guaranteed income doing something I don't really love, or I must go chase what I love and be broke for the rest of my life. I assume it's impossible to have both.
MAC: What's number three?
HUYNH: Interpretation. So, somebody said or does something, and then we make up a story and we believe it's true. So, we get stuck in one perspective, and you and I both know that the reality is there's a million different interpretation and perspective. Because we do, all day long we interpret things that comes at us, but we have to remember that if that perspective is not serving us, then it's not helping us. And nothing means anything until we give it meaning.
MAC: So, what are some examples of interpretations, things that might happen in a job or in your career?
HUYNH: In the workplace, this happens a lot. Someone might come into the office, your boss comes in, and he is mad, he's rude, or whatever it is, right? And then we interpret him as, God, he's an asshole. I'm going to avoid him and, or I'm going to treat, or even a coworker, I'm going to treat him the same way. And we interpret that person somehow that maybe he doesn't like us. Maybe it's me, you know? Or he's just an asshole. But maybe he's going through something rough at home. Maybe he is going through a health problem. Maybe his children are going through a health scare, and he doesn't know how to handle all of this, and he's bringing it to work. Should he be doing that? No. But is it about you? Most likely not. And a lot of times we interpret things that it's about us. If someone did something, then it's about us. And then we either avoid them, we treat them badly, and then it just creates a lot of real conflict when you're at work.
And he could just be an asshole, but it's not about you. And a lot of times people will take that on and say somehow this is about me, I'm not good enough. A great one, even though you're in the workplace, a lot of people are dating, right? They're out there dating, and I live in L.A. and I hear a lot of limiting beliefs saying there's not good men in L.A., And so, they start finding evidence that there isn't, and then when they get to a bar and when a guy gets their number and then doesn't call them back they interpret that, well that guy's an asshole. Or what's wrong with me, I thought we had such a good conversation, why didn't he call me?
MAC: We look for support of our opinions and of our kind of conditioned beliefs or our interpretation of reality. If you're out there, whether it's in your personal relationships or at work, are you subconsciously looking for validation of things that may or may not be true? How do you challenge that interpretation? How is it that you figure out whether that guy in the hall is an asshole or if he has other issues going on? What are some skills, and how do you kind of cut through that to figure out what the truth is?
HUYNH: You know what, I think a great way is compassion and empathy. We go into it that it's not about me and how can I open conversation with this person? Ask him to lunch, ask him for a coffee break, and just talk to them as human beings, if you were going to meet them outside and say, hey, what's going on with you? Let me get to know you. You might find out something different about this person. It could be someone that just is not, doesn't have the skills for rapport and doesn't know how to connect with people. But compassion, empathy, I think is a great way to start, and just ask open-ended question. How are you doing? How's your day going? What's going on in your life? You know, we always just stand here, and work and we have office next to each other, but I don't know much about you. Tell me, are you married? Do you have kids? How old are your kids? People love talking about themselves, and it really opens them up to a different person. And you may find out that you have a lot more in common than you think.
MAC: Absolutely. So so far we have limiting beliefs, assumptions, interpretations, I know the most-charged limiting is gremlins that I can't wait to figure out what in the world gremlins means and what that's all about.
HUYNH: There was a movie in the 1980’s called Gremlins. If you watered a Gremlin, it becomes this crazy, ugly thing. Otherwise, it was this cute little thing, and that's what I say fear is. Fear, if you charge it, just goes out of control. So a Gremlin is the most emotionally charged fear. It's usually deeply rooted inside of us, and it's usually a personalized message that says something about yourself.
And I would say 90% of the time it starts with the I statement. So I don't deserve success. I'm not smart enough. I am not good enough; I am not beautiful enough. Who am I kidding? Who am I fooling, right? These are all things that we say to ourselves, and the Gremlin voice is not recognizable until we think of a goal that really excites us. Remember a time when you thought, Oh my God, this was such a great idea! But then it scares us because the Gremlin wants to keep us safe but also stuck in this comfort zone where we're not growing. You know I want to talk about growing later on. And then we think about playing it big, you know, I wanna take that risk and I wanna just go for it. And then the gremlin speaks his voice. It's an ugly voice. And his head comes out, and he delivers this message, who do you think you are? What do you mean, you don't have the degree, you don't have the experience to go for that job. Look, look at what they're requiring. You don't have that. Just stay where you are. It's comfortable; it's safe, stay here. And then you go, yeah you're right. So then you creep back into your little hole, and then you stay where it's comfortable.
MAC: That's a great visual. I think one of the things that I learned early on through sports was that if you waited until you could prove it to yourself that you could get to that level, you'd never get there. Nobody was a professional athlete before they were. Nobody was an entrepreneur before they were. Nobody was a director of sales before they went out there and applied for that job and oh my God, I got it! So what's so wrong about going for stuff guys? Like if you really think about it, the worst case scenario you have a little internal conversation, a dialogue, that we're trying to give you skills to help overcome, and then you wake up the next day, and you're exactly where you are. Someone said no, and you wake up, you realize you're not dead, and you keep going at it. So how do you grow? How do you kill that gremlin?
We’ve introduced these four major fear blocks that may be holding us back. In Part Two of our interview with Jacqueline T.D. Huynh, we will find out how to overcome these four fear blocks, to keep them from having power in our lives and our careers.