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Domestic Violence: Living in Fear

 

A national ranking of support services offered to domestic violence victims has Hawai‘i among the states at the bottom of the list. INSIGHTS examines the numbers and sheds light on domestic violence in the Islands with this live discussion.

 

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Livingston “Jack” Wong

 

Livingston “Jack” Wong is Chief Executive Officer of Kamehameha Schools, overseeing its significant endowment and educational mission. Kamehameha Schools serves more than 48,000 students across three K-12 campuses, 30 preschools and many community education and scholarship programs. Wong is a graduate of Punahou School – the Kamehameha CEO has said he sometimes gets teased about this. He goes by “Jack” to distinguish himself from his father, a pioneering transplant surgeon in the Islands. Though both of his parents were in medicine, Wong pursued law instead. He joined Kamehameha Schools as its senior legal counsel in 1997.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 4:00 pm.

 

Livingston “Jack” Wong Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

You know, I think we learn our best lessons from failure.

 

What have you failed at?

 

Well, organic chemistry, for sure.

 

You actually failed?

 

You know, I think I got a D, if I remember correctly. But I had to take it again. And so, the second time, I’m like: I don’t really want to take it again, I’m gonna try something different. There’s been a lot of little failures along the way, but that’s really the one that for me, turned direction and helped me see something different.

 

A son of two doctors, Livingston Jack Wong never questioned that he would be anything other than a doctor when he grew up. But barely making it through organic chemistry in college was life-changing. Today, he’s the chief executive officer of Kamehameha Schools. Livingston Jack Wong, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Livingston See Mung Wong, Jr., who’s best known as Jack, was born into a family of medical doctors. His legendary father, Dr. Livingston Wong, is a retired pioneer in the field of organ transplantation in Hawai‘i. Jack Wong’s sister, Dr. Linda Wong, is blazing her own trail in transplant surgery. His later mother, Dr. Rose Wong, was an internist in private practice. Although Jack Wong grew up with the expectation that he would become a doctor, he ended up going in a different direction, but he stayed close to the values of his childhood. Family, education, and service to others remain precious to him. And these values help guide him in his job as chief executive officer of Kamehameha Schools.

 

Jack Wong was born in Boston, where his Hawai‘i parents had moved to do their medical residencies. He was named Livingston after his father, and no one could tell him for sure how he picked up the nickname Jack.

 

I’ve heard lots of stories, but the one that I think I really remember was my mom telling me that when they were living in Boston, it was probably about six months or so after the shooting of JFK that I was born. And since John F. Kennedy’s nickname was Jack, they named me Jack, after John F. Kennedy. And I was also Junior, so you can’t call me Junior all the time, so Jack kinda came from there, from Boston

 

It makes sense; Jack, Boston timeline.

 

Yeah. I think so. So, you know, we had a simple kinda childhood. But it’s interesting; you know, both my parents are doctors, and they worked.

 

How many kids?

 

So, we had five kids. And I have three older sisters, and they’re all very nice to me. And I have a younger brother.

 

He’s not nice to you? [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, he’s nice. I’m nice to him.

 

Oh; gotcha.

 

Yeah. There are five of us, and we, you know, had a great childhood. But we worked; you know, we did a lot of following our parents around in their careers, and supporting what they did.

 

What does that mean? Does that mean you spent a lot of time in their offices doing your homework?

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] We spent a lot of time in their offices, we waited in the car. But we also spent time, you know, with my mom in her office, helping her with her medical practice. And so, we would answer phones, we would file. We would do all the support things around the side to make sure the practice was good. So, like a family business, and mostly for my mom.

 

What about food? Could you eat in the cafeteria?

 

So, you know, it was interesting, because you know, most of our childhood, we actually grew up at my grandma’s house. And so, my Popo, who was living in Nuuanu at the time, she used to own a Chinese restaurant long time ago. And so, she ran her house like a Chinese restaurant. So, we’d come there for dinner every night, come there for lunch, and all my cousins would come. There was probably like twenty of us would eat dinner together every night. And so, while my parents would work, we’d just go my grandma’s house and eat with our cousins, and our uncles and aunts. And so, she cooked for us every night, like we were at a Chinese restaurant.

 

That’s a very different vision of family.

 

Yeah.

 

A family that was close in many ways, but not conventionally. What about the personalities of your parents and how they influenced you?

 

You know, it was interesting. You know, I think my dad was—you know, he had a really visionary side to him, and he liked innovation, he liked taking chances. And I hope I got some of that from him. You know, his work in transplant surgery, his work with the emergency medical services, and understanding people and systems.

 

He did the very first kidney and bone marrow transplants in Hawai‘i. That’s a risk.

 

Yeah. So, I think he was a risk-taker, he could see innovation, he had a really good vision for the future. And I think he really brought that. Whereas my mom was very much, you know, in the background. She had a lot of humility to what she was doing. And I think hopefully, that part, I got from her, too. But I think the common thread—and maybe because they were doctors, the common thread was always the human element; being with the patient. You know, we talked about a lot of things, but it was always about patient care, and about how each patient really mattered, and not letting down a single patient. And I think, you know, as we approach our work, whether it’s education, or it’s medicine, or if you’re doing, you know, accounting, you know, each person matters. And I think that’s what we got from my mom; every single patient mattered. She didn’t have a lot of patients, but every patient. You know, we all knew her patients. You know, we talked to them on the phone when they called, we knew who they were, we knew their families.

 

Jack Wong remembers being a little awkward as a kid, accidentally breaking objects, and coming under the watchful eye of his older sisters, including one he considered scary.

 

You said you have three older sisters. So, did the sisters become the de facto mom when neither parent was present?

 

They all had their own mothering ways. But my second to the oldest sister, Linda, she was the boss. Right; she was the one who would crack down on the rules, make sure I studied. And you know, I remember at the end of every school year, you know, when everybody else, you know, runs off to summer and they would do things, she would head to the bookstore and she’d make us buy workbooks. Because we’d do math workbooks, and English workbooks. And all summer long, you know, she’d be testing us. She pushed us really hard.

 

And that was her decision to do that?

 

I think it was her decision. I think she enjoyed torturing me.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know, she had a very high sense, you know, of achievement.

 

And you would listen.

 

And we would listen.

 

All the kids would listen?

 

All the kids would listen.

 

Was there pressure on your to become a medical doctor?

 

There was a lot of pressure. And so, you know, it was interesting, ‘cause you know, growing up, you know, a lot of times families would be asking the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? And in our family, it wasn’t: What do you want to be when you grow up? It was: What kind of doctor do you want to be, Jack? And you know, I remember when I was really young, I’m like, I want to be a surgeon, just like my dad. And you know, my dad was pushing me to be a surgeon, and then he realized, you know, like, I had no hand skills.

 

Well, you were breaking a lot of things.

 

I was breaking a lot of things.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I was a little clumsy, and I couldn’t tie my shoe. And I don’t know if this is a test for surgery, but apparently, I could not tie my shoe. And even now, you know, I joke around with my family that I use the bunny ears, ‘cause I don’t—

 

People with bunny ears. I barely remember; there was a rhyme, right, about how to tie your shoes.

 

I don’t know if there’s a rhyme. I just know, like, when you make two loops and you just tie it together, as opposed to the one loop and you tie it around. And it took me such a long time to tie my shoe. And I think that’s when my dad realized: Maybe surgery is not for you.

 

So, you headed off to UCLA after Punahou.

 

M-hm.

 

And you know, most undergraduates don’t start off knowing what they want to do. Did you?

 

Yeah. So, I spent two years doing a science background in chemistry. And then, I kinda got stuck on organic chemistry. And then, I switched, tried a number of different things, and landed in economics. And found a different path, and understood I like numbers, I like the the analysis that goes with, you know, finances and economics.

 

And you were an outstanding economics grad, I read.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, I liked the field, and law school seemed to come naturally. And you know, in our family, it was expected after you graduate from college, that you do more schooling. So, it was really like: What do I do next?

 

How did you break it to your father and mother that you weren’t going to medical school?

 

I think they found out. I don’t remember them finding out, but I remember when I graduated from law school, my dad was saying: Okay, good job, you know, but it’s not too late to go to medical school. I said: You know, let me just try being a lawyer for a little while, and just see how that works out.

 

And what about your sister Linda, who did become a doctor, and I know she was very influential with you and what you studied. What did she say?

 

You know, it’s interesting. I think she understood that she didn’t want to see me fail at it, or be miserable doing it. So, she was very supportive. I mean, she really understood, I think, that it’s better to succeed and be good at what you want to do than fail at something that, you know, you don’t really like.

 

Well, it sounds like you weren’t really accustomed to failure, anyway.

 

Failure is hard; failure is hard. But you know, I think we learn our best lessons from failure.

 

What have you failed at?

 

Well, organic chemistry, for sure.

 

You actually failed?

 

You know, I think I got a D, if I remember correctly. But I had to take it again. And so, the second time, I’m like: I don’t really want to take it again, I’m gonna try something different.

 

And you went into economics, and then … law isn’t exactly, you know, a logical next step.

 

I don’t know. You know, it was interesting. Maybe in our family, it might just be a little bit of, you can be a doctor or you can be a lawyer. So, if you’re not gonna be a doctor, I guess you’re gonna be a lawyer. And maybe there was a little bit of that.

 

After graduating from the UCLA School of Law, Jack Wong worked in corporate law in Los Angeles. When he decided it was time to move home with his wife, he joined a Honolulu law firm. In 1997, Jack Wong accepted a job at Bishop Estate as senior counsel, specializing in commercial real estate.

 

In 1997, a year of great tumult, tumultuous year at what was then the Bishop Estate, you joined the team at Bishop Estate. And just offhand, I can recall that was the year that the Broken Trust essay was published in the Honolulu Star Bulletin, written by respected community members saying the trust is misgoverning. At what point did you walk into this?

 

So, I walked in, I think, fairly early in that process. You know, I remember I started, and you know, it was like a snowball starting to roll down a hill. And I remember hearing, you know, a few stories, you know, before I started.

 

And what made you want to go to then Bishop Estate?

 

It’s interesting, you know. I came to do corporate work and real estate work. And to me, you know, in a lot of ways, you know, our landholdings at Kamehameha Schools and our corporate work and our investments, there’s so much to do. There’s so much to operate, so much to run. And that was my background. And so, I found it fascinating from a legal background, from a financial background, and knowing we had a mission behind us was amazing. You know, I didn’t think much, you know, going there about the governance issues, ‘cause it really was not in the area I was working. But then, as time went by after I got there, you could kind of feel the energy change in the place, and you knew that this was something, you know, more than just a press story.

 

I mean, the headlines didn’t go away after. It was front page every day. And there was a lot of just feelings of betrayal, and anger, and you just wondered if the whole place was gonna implode sometimes.

 

Right; right, right. I think we all had a feeling, all of us who were there at the time had a feeling, had that exact feeling. You know, it seemed like you were on such shaky ground. Yet, you know, for all the things that were going on at the governance level, a lot of our work on the staff level was, you know, how do we maintain our operations, how do we maintain the lands, how do we make sure we keep doing good work. Because that work needed to continue. And I think our teachers and our class felt the same way; we still gotta serve, you know, our kids every single day.

 

Once Bishop Estate became Kamehameha Schools, and there were new decisions to be made, and you know, speaking of broken trust … they say when something’s broken, at least it lets the light in, you know. What changes had to be made, and were made?

 

I think, you know, what’s amazing is that we had some amazing leaders who really understood the changes we had to make. And so, I give so much credit to Dee Jay Mailer, you know, who came before me. She really understood, you know, that you first have to heal the organization and people. And she did a great job of making sure we healed, and then we came together. And we understood, you know, our relationships with our alumni, our teachers, our community, our lands. And so, her bringing all that together had allowed us to kinda launch from where she left us at a great place. But it took time, took time to heal the organization.

 

How many years later were you appointed interim CEO?

 

So, it wasn’t until 2014, I think, that I was appointed. And it had been a long journey.

 

And this year marks twenty years. You’ve been CEO for more than three.

 

More than three; yes. But it has been an interesting journey, and I think along the way, I had to progressively understand a lot. I got to progressively understand the organization at a deeper level. And I think that’s really what made, you know, my appointment as interim CEO really special. ‘Cause I think at that time, I understood the organization a lot better. I came in understanding the real estate, our investments, and our finances, but I had an opportunity along the way to work on our John Doe case in 2003.

 

Admission case.

 

Admissions case; and I think that was meaningful for the organization. We got to understand kind of our mission and purpose.

 

That’s right. So, you brought economics and law, and a love of education. I think I remember when you were appointed interim CEO, the endowment was at 10.1 billion, or at least that’s what was reported. What is it now in 2017?

 

You know, right now, it’s about 11.7. But you know, it changes every day. And one thing, you know, we work hard in the organization is to understand that, you know, the size of our endowment and how we manage it has to be long-term. And you know, the markets change so frequently, and if you kinda react to it every day, and you react to it every year, we have to take the long view of how our endowment grows over long periods of time. So, it is something we look at carefully.

 

Is that the first thing you look at when you walk in? Ping.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

How much is it today?

 

I try not to.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But I do watch the markets, so I understand what’s happening. But it’s interesting. As you watch the markets, you have to watch the political landscape and the global landscape, because those things impact the markets. But you know, for us, it’s great because, you know, that’s what impacts education, too. You know, understanding the global impacts of what’s going on politically impacts our markets, impacts our lands, and it’s what our kids should be thinking about, ‘cause that’s world they’re walking into. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about what are the global events, and what’s going on.

 

I know Kamehameha has worked, with your leadership, on a strategic plan, and I don’t know how you can see that far ahead, but it goes way far. How far ahead?

 

So, we have a strategic vision that’s a twenty-five-year vision. So, it’s supposed to be one generation. Our strategic plan is five years. And so, we do it in chunks. And our first five-year plan is ‘til 2020, and our long-term vision goes out to 2040. And I think an organization like ours has the benefit of seeing long-term, but you also need a sense of urgency. And so, the long-term vision is really to give us that long-term vision of where we’re going, and how do we see in one generation change in our community. The five-year plan gives it a sense of urgency so that your work every day is towards shorter goals. And so for us, you have to have a combination of both.

 

Because the Princess left such a large legacy to Kamehameha, I know people are always saying: Well, let Kamehameha do it, they got all the money. Is that true? I mean, should you be doing more?

 

Well, it’s interesting. What we’re really learning in our strategic planning process is, you know, our vision is really to have every Native Hawaiian succeeding in education.

 

Every Native Hawaiian?

 

Every Native Hawaiian succeed in education. And by every Native Hawaiian, we also mean every child in the State should be succeeding in education. But this is not something even we can do alone. And the realization that you have a long-term vision that you can’t do alone really requires you to reexamine how you approach your strategies. And for us, it’s about partnering, it’s about working with other organizations that are already doing great work, and really supporting them.

 

Managing partnerships is difficult, I mean, as we see in marriage. Has it been difficult to find good partners, or you know, how do you pick a partner?

 

So, I think, you know, there are so many people doing wonderful work in education that we’ve not had any problem at all finding great partners doing great work. I think, you know, my question is: How do we support them best, and how do we make sure they succeed? And I think that’s always a great conversation to have, but you know, everything we do, whether it’s partnerships or by ourselves, is always about choices; right? Because there are so many great things we can do. How do we choose as a community, what’s the right path for education. And that’s not something we can do alone. You know, we at Kamehameha Schools can’t do it alone; we need partners, and partners need to work together.

 

So, these are education partners.

 

There’s not only partners in education, there’s partners in social service. We certainly have our alii trusts that we need to be working together better, and making sure we can all move the lahui together successfully. So, you know, we absolutely have to work together with all those partners. And I think we’re not the only organization; I think a lot of organizations are looking on how to better partner in this community.

 

There are some things that have been really difficult to get a handle on. I mean, somebody was here the other day and saying, you know, one of the big elephants in any room is Hawaiian sovereignty. And also, what’s happening on Maunakea. You know, is it really a clash between Western science and Hawaiian culture? I mean, is that how it should be posited, and what can Kamehameha do to bring some light here?

 

It’s interesting. You know, I think, you know, for us, our role is education, and our role is to make sure our keiki, you know, are well-educated, make good choices, understand their community, understand how to lead their community. And from that, I believe great things will happen. And whether they are on the left side of an issue, or the right side of an issue, or right in the middle of an issue, I want our keiki to engage. Because when our community is engaged, we will move forward; right? Our fear should be a lack of engagement, when we’re not hearing noise, when we don’t hear from our communities, and our keiki, and our youth. That’s when we should worry. When we hear noise and we hear people engaging, we should smile.

 

So, Kamehameha doesn’t want to be in the position of making decisions; it wants to promote education and—

 

That’s where we start.

 

–engagement, and … go for it with training.

 

Our start is, we put our keiki in the center. We start with that premise. And we’re saying: What do our keiki need to succeed as adults? You know, if they need to know how to engage civilly with their community, they know how to articulate an issue and participate in the process, and if they know how to have their voice be heard, then we’re doing our work. And that’s the vision for our future.

 

Would you lay out in numbers the breadth of Kamehameha? You know, the real estate and students.

 

So, let’s see if I can get the numbers. Right now, we have about fifty-four hundred kids in our K through 12. We have three campuses. We have about five thousand four hundred students, and we graduate about seven hundred every year on our Maui campus, our Hilo campus, and our Hawaiiana campus. We have thirty preschools, and we have about sixteen hundred keiki in our preschools. And we have scholarships that educate another eighteen hundred in our preschools, and another five hundred in K through 12, and another two thousand in post-high. And then, we have community education programs that if you count how they reach our keiki and our families, probably have another fifteen thousand Native Hawaiians. And so, kinda by the numbers, that’s our reach. We also have about three hundred sixty-three thousand acres of land that we manage, about half in agriculture, and we have commercial lands in about fifteen different areas that we focus on.

 

It’s a tremendous kuleana.

 

It is.

 

So, could you maybe share some leadership tips about how you maintain every day? It’s just huge.

 

I try to draw from my parents. And you know, I think if I draw from my dad, I understand that we have to understand how systems work, we have to know how to innovate and how to lead, and have it work from a vision. And so, I think that’s always important in what we do. But I also know from, you know, my mom, we have to make sure, and I have to make sure we have a sense of humility and know how to help others succeed.

 

Is it always possible to just know what is in the best interest of the keiki?

 

No. You know, I think that’s why we have to work with partners, and we need a lot of voices, we have a great board, we have executives, we have teachers and administrators. All the voices have to help understand that, ‘cause it cannot just be my voice, it cannot just be the voice of a few. And you know, that’s the challenge in education, is that everybody’s working, and everybody has great ideas, yet we all have to figure out how to best serve each child.

 

And you have to be an optimist too; right?

 

You have to be an optimist. You have to see the positive and the growth. And so, a lot of times, you know, our biggest thing is, we have to see the good things in what we’re going. And that’s our encouragement, understanding the really, really good things we do.

 

You know, I’m trying to imagine sitting at your desk, and you have so many constituencies to address. I mean not, quote, just the financials and the legalities. I mean, there are so many people affected in so many different ways by the school and the investments. And you know, some have felt betrayed, some have very different ideas than others. How do you manage that?

 

There’s many ways to manage. My dad or my mom would look to something, where you know, when we talked about their work, and things were stressful, you know, it was always the patient was in the center of everything they did; patient care, taking care of their families. And I think the same for us.

 

So, you’re saying put the keiki in the middle.

 

We put the keiki in the center of everything we do, and we make better decisions. And I pause, and I think about that a lot. That, and we think about, you know, our roots and our history, and our ancestry, and Princess Pauahi. And you know, we make decisions based on our history and our values.

 

It used to be that people felt like they had to choose between their culture and a, quote, good education. Now, I think you’re addressing that; right?

 

Absolutely.

 

How have you addressed it?

 

You don’t have to choose between culture and academics; you can have both. And when we’re really strong in what we do, understand our culture, and our kids understand their identity and their background and their ancestry, they will find academic success, because of that strength. And so, how do we treat our culture as a competitive advantage, and how do you grow from that strength. And absolutely, what you’re saying is true.

 

That if you’re grounded in the Hawaiian culture, it can make you much better in anything you do.

 

Right. And that will become your competitive advantage in the classroom, in the workplace, out in our community. And that’s something we believe as an organization; we’ve always believed that. But we have to feel like we can say it out loud.

 

You know, you talked about your family growing up. What’s your family like?

 

Oh, my family’s wonderful. It’s interesting. You know, I have my wife. We met at UCLA, and we have three wonderful kids.

 

And do you expect them to be lawyers, like you were expected to be a doctor?

 

Yeah. You know, it’s funny; it’s funny. We had a discussion when our kids were young. You know, and I’m very careful not to tell my kids what they should be doing. And I think one thing I just don’t know is, I don’t know what great areas go to into now. I mean, I think kids have to figure that out and see what the future’s gonna bring to them. And so, I have one daughter who lives in Los Angeles, and she’s in finance. I have a second daughter who’s in New York, and she’s doing communications. I heard that’s a good field.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, you’ve gotta communicate.

 

And I have a son who’s in ninth grade. So, we have a wonderful family. And you know, I think kinda like, you know, my own family, I think we try to stay, you know, quiet and do our work, and everybody tries to work hard. And try to stay in the background when we can.

 

And is the family business Kamehameha?

 

Right now, yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

Our conversation took place in the Fall of 2017. Mahalo to Livingston Jack Wong of Honolulu, the CEO of Kamehameha Schools, for sharing his story with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

 

You are a lifer at Punahou.

 

M-hm.

 

You’re of Chinese ancestry, and you are sitting in the CEO spot at Kamehameha Schools, primarily for the Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture. Does that get difficult for you at some points?

 

I don’t think so. You know, it’s never about me; it’s always about those we serve. And I’ll let the rest fall as it falls. So, I don’t think about that. I know what I’m here to do, and I’m gonna do my best, and I’m gonna put a hundred and ten percent into it. And I believe in our mission, and I believe in what we’re doing. And I think it’s a calling, and you know, I’ll do my best every single day. And then at some point, somebody will say: Okay, you’re done. And maybe that’s okay, too.

 

[END]

 

POV
Tribal Justice

 

Follow two Native American judges who reach back to traditional concepts of justice in order to reduce incarceration rates, foster greater safety for their communities, and create a more positive future for their youth.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Guy Kawasaki

 

Tech evangelist and social media maven Guy Kawasaki was born and raised in Kalihi and now lives in Silicon Valley. He is the Chief Evangelist for Canva, an online graphic design tool, and was the Chief Evangelist at Apple Inc. in the 1980s. Kawasaki has written 13 books and has more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

 

The interview was taped in September, when Kawasaki was on Oahu for the funeral of his father, former state senator Duke Kawasaki. “He did not believe in taking crap from anybody,” Kawasaki said about his father. “I would say that is something he probably passed on to me.”

 

A graduate of Iolani, Stanford and UCLA, Kawasaki said all Hawai‘i students should strive to attend college out of state, “if they can afford it and if the situation works out,” he said. “It is an eye-opening experience,” Kawasaki said. “It increases your perspective, it increases your horizons, it increases your expectation for life. And I think that if you only stay in one place, you judge things, you judge yourself in only one context. And that’s not enough.”

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, May 11 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, May 15 at 4:00 pm.

 

Guy Kawasaki Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I am fundamentally an introvert.

 

Even though you make seventy-five speeches a year?

 

Hard to imagine; yes. So, I am thrust into an extrovert’s role of being out there speaking to thousands of people, and all this kinda stuff. But, you know, where extroverts would love to have dinner with … the other speakers and would love to interact with the crowd, and would love to, you know, do all this kinda stuff, I hate that.

 

This self-described introvert is a highly successful entrepreneur whose voice on social media is followed by ten million people around the world. Hawai‘i born and raised Guy Kawasaki, who’s now lived longer in Northern California than he did in the islands, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Guy Kawasaki says he’s a Kalihi boy at heart, a kid from Kalihi Elementary who segued to prep school Iolani, then headed to a West Coast Ivy League school, and made a name for himself in Silicon Valley, marketing the Macintosh for Apple. He’s a visionary who saw the power of the computer to change lives before many others did. He’s a venture capitalist, author and speaker, business advisor, and social media guru. Kawasaki credits some of his success to an English teacher at Iolani School.

 

How was that, the entry into Iolani?

 

I don’t remember it being particularly traumatic. [CHUCKLE] I had a great time at Iolani, and a great time at Kalihi Elementary. There was uh, a teacher at Kalihi Elementary who convinced my parents that, you know, I should go into a private school. Her name was Trudy Akau. And my parents, you know, lower middleclass, made a lot of sacrifices for my sister and I. She went to University High here, and I went to Iolani. And … the rest is history.

 

And you felt comfortable there. And who were your classmates? Who did you graduate with?

 

Mufi Hannemann is one, Nathan Aipa is another, Led Castillo, Dean Okimoto of—

 

Nalo Farms.

 

–Nalo Farm. Yeah; bunch of overachievers in that class.

 

Very much so.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Now, in high school, we tend to stereotype people. Did you have a stereotype in high school?

 

Well, what are my choices?

 

You could be the jock.

 

[CHUCKLE] Yeah.

 

You could be the nerd.

 

I wasn’t the nerd. I was probably closer to the jock. I played for Eddie Hamada and Charles Kaaihue. I loved football. I mean, there was—there’s only—you know, you were either training for playing for football or playing football. John Kay was the biology teacher. But the one that really left a mark in me … that surfaced decades later was Harold Keables. So, Harold Keables was the English teacher, and … I took English from him twice. And he basically taught me how to write. And I think he would be amazed that I have now written thirteen books, ‘cause that was not foreseeable.

 

Did he have to nudge you a lot in class?

 

Yeah. You know, I wouldn’t say that he would list me as his prize pupil, ever. You know.

 

That must be great for teachers to hear that. You said decades later, this latent learning came out?

 

Yes; because I graduated from Iolani in 1972, and I didn’t write my first book ‘til 1987. So, that’s quite a while.

 

Well, what did Mr. Keables tell you about writing? What was the magic?

 

He had a very, very specific technique, where you wrote compositions. If you made mistakes, he would circle the mistake. So, you would have to write the sentence incorrectly as you did, you’d have to cite the rule of grammar that you broke, and then you’d have to rewrite the sentence correctly.

 

I bet you loved doing that.

 

And this is prior to word processing. I think it was prior to even pens.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So, that was a pain. So, you quickly learned about …

 

Don’t do that.

 

–splitting infinitives, and you know, what’s the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause, and why you need a conjunction between two independent clauses, and a comma, and … that was drilled into us.

 

Did you ever have a chance to tell your teacher that? That …

 

No; he died before I achieved any kind of writing. [CHUCKLE]

 

Someone who had a stronger influence on Guy Kawasaki was his father, the late Hawai‘i politician Duke Kawasaki, who died at age ninety-four, just a few days before this conversation took place in 2015. Duke Kawasaki was a dissident Democrat who bucked Hawai‘i’s status quo. Guy and his sister, Jean Okimoto, who attended this taping, both remember their father admonishing them repeatedly not to take any guff from people.

 

My father was a State Senator for twenty or twenty-two years, beginning in about 1968, I think.

 

And he was an independent Democrat, and a maverick.

 

He was Democrat, liberal, maverick. Although, he supported the death penalty in there, so certain things. He fought the unions all the time. He fought George Ariyoshi all the time.

 

He surprised people too, with his positions.

 

Yes.

 

Yeah.

 

He was enigmatic, let’s say.

 

And I’ve heard him described as both assertive and aggressive.

 

I never saw him that way, but you know, I guess … well, let’s just say he did not believe in taking crap from anybody. And I would say that is something he probably passed on to me. I don’t know if, behaviorally or genetically, but somehow it got to me.

 

He had a lot of different jobs.

 

Yes.

 

A lot of hyphenations there.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I know he was a fireman, a stevedore, fire dispatch, state senator, band leader.

 

Yeah. And he was … I think he was number three in the City and County of Honolulu. There was Fasi and Jeremy Harris …

 

As managing director?

 

And then, my father. I think my father was the third guy.

 

And again, Fasi was a very independent Democrat.

 

Another tough person to figure out. Yes.

 

Right.

 

Yes.

 

Was he hard for you to figure out?

 

You know, I mean, he was my father; right? I never looked at it that way. I saw how tough politics was. You’re constantly out. You’re constantly, you know, being asked for stuff. I will never go into politics. Really. [CHUCKLE] It’s too hard; right?

 

When Guy Kawasaki graduated from Iolani School, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life professionally. But he did know he wanted to attend college, something his father hadn’t done, and he wanted to do so away from Hawai‘i.

 

I went from Iolani to the mainland.

 

To Stanford.

 

To Stanford. But that sounds more impressive today than it was back then. Seriously. ‘Cause there’s no way I would get into Stanford today.

 

I think it was always hard to get into Stanford.

 

Boy, I’ll tell you, man. You know, I definitely didn’t have … back in those days, it was sixteen hundred, not twenty-four hundred. I did not have sixteen hundred SATs, and I was not straight A. But also back then, believe it or not, Japanese Americans were oppressed; right? So, we were a minority.

 

So, you’re saying that’s what helped you get in?

 

I think so.

 

And you did well at Stanford?

 

Well, you know, one life lesson I learned is, you know, it’s not how you get in; it’s what you do once you got in. So … yeah, to this day, I don’t know how I got into Stanford.

 

And what was that experience like for you?

 

Oh, it was fantastic. Because … you know, I think everybody from Hawai‘i, every student, if they can afford it and if the situation works out, they should go to school on the mainland too. It is an eye-opening experience. And it increases your perspective, it increases your horizons, it increases your expectations for life. And I think that if you only stay in one place … you judge things, you judge yourself in only one context. And that’s not enough. So, you know, I go to the mainland, I say, Wow, you know, you could start a company. You don’t have to go work for a hotel or for a store in Ala Moana Center. I mean, you could start it, you could be with Apple computer, my god. So, that opened my eyes. And … I never looked back.

 

When did you have a plan?

 

Arguably, I still don’t have a plan.

 

[CHUCKLE] You majored in psychology.

 

I majored in psychology, because that was an easy major. My father wanted me to go to law school, so like a good Asian, I went to law school. I hated it; quit after two weeks.

 

Why’d you quit?

 

I couldn’t stand it. They were, you know, basically telling me that I was crap, and they’re gonna remake my mind. My delicate psyche could not handle it at that point. I’ve gotten over this problem. So, I quit law school. Called up my father, told him I quit law school, I think he’s gonna disown me. He says, You know what? As long as you’re something by twenty-five, we’re happy. Oh; why didn’t you tell me that before I went to law school? So anyway, I quit law school, couldn’t stand it. And actually, with some hindsight, I think, you know … many lawyers take twenty, twenty-five years to discover they’re miserable. I figured that out in two weeks.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

That’s how smart I was. So, I come back from quitting law school. I worked for Nelson K. Doi.

 

Your father’s political ally.

 

Yeah; at the time, he was lieutenant governor of Hawai‘i. And he was starting the Hawai‘i Commission on Crime, so I worked on that project. And the following year, I went to UCLA to get an MBA.

 

Had you seen a bit of Silicon Valley at that point? Was that what you were gunning for?

 

At Stanford, definitely. Because you know, that’s the epicenter of Silicon Valley.

 

And so, was that on your mind in getting an MBA?

 

Oh, absolutely. I wanted to start a career, wanted to be an entrepreneur. And back then, believe it or not, you know, an MBA was necessary for many careers. It’s not as necessary today, but it was really necessary back then.

 

A few years after receiving his Masters in Marketing, Guy Kawasaki landed a job at Apple, where the ornery visionary Steve Jobs presided. In 1983, Kawasaki was part of the team responsible for marketing the Macintosh, first to software developers, and then to consumers. He became an innovator in what’s called Evangelist Marketing, drawing on word of mouth to drive brand loyalty.

 

Evangelism comes from Greek words meaning, bringing the good news. So, where a salesperson might say, you know, Give me twenty-five hundred bucks, I’ll give you this computer; we were trying to bring the good news or increase creativity and productivity.

 

What a great job title.

 

Yeah.

 

Chief evangelist for Macintosh.

 

Well, that wasn’t the first job title; it wasn’t that simple. So, I met a guy in college from Phoenix, Arizona; his name is Mike Boich. And we just immediately hit it off, because we shared a passion for cars. And we became very good friends, very good friends to this day. When I started going to school at UCLA, I started working part-time for a jewelry company. [CHUCKLE] So, I was counting diamonds, and they gave me a job after I graduated, so I was in the jewelry business for about five years. And then, Mike Boich calls me up and says, You know, I’m working on this really interesting project called Macintosh, you gotta come see it. So, I go see it, there’s a job, I didn’t get that job. Which in hindsight was okay. He calls me back in a few more months, and now there’s this other job, which is the software evangelist job. You know, I don’t know how I got past the C-job filter, but somehow, I did, and so, I became a software evangelist at Apple, having you know, I a psych degree, dropping out of law school, marketing degree from UCLA. And the rest is history.

 

So, first, you were getting people to write software.

 

Yes.

 

And then, when you moved up to chief evangelist, you were talking to prospective buyers.

 

Yes; of not just writing software, but just regular consumers.

 

And you know, I’m tickled by the evangelist name. But it was not just a branding word; it’s you know, marketing.

 

No, no; we truly believed—a guy named Mike Murray was the director of marketing at the Macintosh division, and our approach was that Macintosh was not just another computer that you sold in terms of, you know … certain amount of RAM, and certain amount of hard disk storage. Macintosh was a way, it was a religion, it was life-changing, it was you know, universe-denting. So, you don’t just sell that kinda stuff; you evangelize it.

 

When you worked for Macintosh, you were working all the time.

 

Yes.

 

Right? I’ve heard stories of total burnout. I mean, how many hours a week did you work?

 

Well, we had a tee-shirt that said, Sixty hours a week, and loving it. And that might have been low. But you know what? We were on a cause; right? We were on a mission from God. And we were gonna do in the IBM PC, we were gonna increase people’s creativity and productivity, we were gonna save people from a George Orwellian totalitarian 1984 nightmare. So, if you’re doing that, you know, sixty hours a week is not so much.

 

And that ferment of Silicon Valley and all that dynamic stuff led you to all kinds of other ventures.

 

Yes; let me to entrepreneurship and writing, and all kinds of stuff. The Macintosh division was a remarkable experience. And … you know, I am honored to have been there. Steve Jobs was a remarkable person; just absolutely amazing. So difficult to work for. The New York Times recently had this article about working at Amazon, and you know, how people cry and, you know, not everybody’s supporting you, and sometimes you know, people raise objections to what you’re working on. [CHUCKLE] I look at that, and I just like, laugh. You know, you’re telling me your life is tough. Let me tell you what it was like working for Steve Jobs.

 

And you had to have a thick skin to work where you did. You developed it, if you didn’t have it.

 

Well, you needed a thick skin, but you also needed a thick brain. [CHUCKLE] Because, you know, if you’re dumb and thick-skinned, you would not have survived at Apple. You had to have both.

 

So, that gave you confidence to do a lot of other things.

 

Well …

 

Venture capitalist.

 

Yeah; you know, it gave me confidence to do a lot of other things, but with hindsight, maybe if I had less confidence and I just stayed an Apple employee, it would different; right?

 

Because?

 

‘Cause I quit Apple twice, and if I had stayed either time, I would not be here right now. [CHUCKLE]

 

You would be retired in the Bahamas.

 

Yeah. No, I’d be standup paddleboarding right now or, you know, I’d be at the Halekulani. [CHUCKLE] But I didn’t, so you know. But listen; don’t cry for me. I’m okay. [CHUCKLE]

 

I mean, do you go back there and regret that a lot?

 

I don’t lay awake at night about it. But you know, you have to at some point in your life say, Wow, just imagine if I had stayed at Apple. ‘Cause … that move probably cost me … several hundred million dollars. Yeah. I could really pledge a lot to PBS. [CHUCKLE].

 

Much later, Guy Kawasaki would again become a chief evangelist, this time for an online graphic design company based in Australia named Canva. Coming out of Apple, Kawasaki founded several software companies and a venture capital firm. He also started writing. Kawasaki is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including a classic about the use of social media. He’s an acknowledged master of social media, with ten million followers around the world at the time of this conversation. This kind of engagement requires relentless and interesting postings. This helps generate interest in his personal brand and in the Canva Company, and in his books, which generate interest in his major public speaking events.

 

Social medial is the best thing that ever happened to me, ‘cause it’s fast, free, and ubiquitous. I’m on it all the time. I also have virtual assistants helping me on it all the time. So, I’m an introvert who loves social media, because it allows me to avoid extrovert activity. [CHUCKLE]

 

And you know, to succeed at it, you could be Tweeting to no one, but you have a huge following. How do you pick your content? How do you make it work?

 

Well, funny you should mention that, you know, seeing as how we’re at PBS, and you know, PBS NPR. I love all that kinda stuff; right? So, I call this the NPR model. Maybe I should call it the PBS model. But the way I look at it is, if you provide great content … all the time, not promotional, great content, content that is informative, analytical … entertaining, valuable, then you earn the right to then run a promotion. Your promotion is the pledge drive. My promotion is, use Canva … read my book. But I feel that I cannot make those kinda social media posts, read my book, use Canva, until I earn … the right to do that. And the way I earn the right to do that is to provide value. And the way I provide value is, I create or curate content.

 

So, what makes a great Tweet or social media item on Facebook?

 

This is very easy.

 

How do you make it work?

 

At the highest level, a great social media post has to pass the re-share test. And by this, I mean it is something that’s so valuable, so interesting, so entertaining that people not only like it, they also send it to people who follow them. So, this is the difference between just tipping a waiter or tipping a valet, versus telling people to eat someplace. Right? So, every time I squeeze the trigger—and I’ve trained all the people who help me. Every time you squeeze the trigger, think in your mind; Is this something that’ll be re-shared?

 

You like lists, too.

 

I love lists. I think that in the social media world, a bulleted or numbered list is the key to make a point.

 

And you’re irreverent.

 

I’d say so; yes. [CHUCKLE] Yeah.

 

And basically, it’s who you are; right? You don’t put on a personality.

 

No, you know, really, I have enough problems maintaining who I am, much less trying to fake people out. I can’t do two; one is hard enough. So, I’m very much a Wiziwig kinda guy. I mean, you might not like what you see, but that’s what it is.

 

Guy Kawasaki, a husband and father of four, is a sought-after keynote speaker around the globe. He gives fifty to seventy-five speeches a year to audiences ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high school graduates.

 

Next week, I’m speaking in Austin … New Orleans, Cleveland, and Helsinki, in five days. That’s the nature of my travel.

 

In how many days; five days?

 

Five days, I’m speaking in those cities. So … that’s not trivial. My speeches are all based on my books. There are really four or five speeches that I give regularly: enchantment, innovation, entrepreneurship, social media, lessons of Steve Jobs. Those are like the five I give. I always use a top ten, because I think a top ten adds a lot of structure. I always use PowerPoint, not because I need PowerPoint as a crutch, but I need PowerPoint so that people can see and hear what I’m talking about.

 

And it builds.

 

Yeah; and it makes it makes it more effective. At this point, do I get nervous before a speech? No. I always use the bathroom right before a speech, but I am not particularly nervous. The secret for me and the advice I have for other people; I’ll give you some tips. So, number one, if you want to be a good speaker, you need to have something to say. [CHUCKLE] Okay, so duh.

 

Don’t forget that.

 

Duh. And if you don’t have anything to say, you should just shut up and decline. Tip number two is, you should … rehearse. And and for me, in a sense, I’ve given speeches thousands of times, I have had thousands of rehearsals. So now, it’s second nature. When I started, I was very nervous, but now … [CLUCKS TONGUE]. And so, that is because just repetition.

 

You did a graduation speech where you gave, I think, ten pieces of advice for your audience members. And they were really interesting. And you said essentially, Yeah, you’re gonna become your parents.

 

That’s right.

 

And you knew it.

 

Yeah. And I am becoming my father. I can’t find my car keys, I can’t find my wallet. And … I really love photography, and he really loved photography. The only place I’m not like my father is music; he loved music, and I could care less about music.

 

He actually named you for a musician.

 

Guy Lombardo; yeah.

 

Guy Lombardo.

 

So, the good news is, I could have been Carmen Lombardo.

 

Who is her brother.

 

Right. Yeah.

 

Why did he name you after Guy Lombardo?

 

He loved music. You know, he played multiple instruments, and he led a big band.

 

And you never got into music.

 

Not at all.

 

What were some of the other points you said in this graduation speech?

 

Oh, well, number one was, live off your parents as long as possible, which I may come to regret telling people that. And another is … take up a sport that you can play your whole life. You know, at sixty-one, it’s hard to play football. [CHUCKLE] Right? So, take up tennis or in my case, hockey or standup paddleboarding, or you know, something that you can play the rest of your life.

 

And the reason you wanted students to live off their parents was so that they could travel and really experience some life.

 

That’s a mistake I made. You know, I went through Stanford in three and a half years, I came in with a lot of credits, I took a heavy load. Stanford had these campuses in Japan and Italy, and South America, and you know, all that. I never did any of that, ‘cause I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. It was a big mistake.

 

And you turn down a lot of speaking—

 

Yeah; you know, I have four children, and I’m sixty-one years old, so I I made a rule that if I get on an airplane … it’s gonna be for money. [CHUCKLE] It’s not gonna be for strategic reasons. Although, I have to say, I’m here, not for money.

 

Yay! It’s a nonprofit. Thank you.

 

Right. But generally speaking, I’m not on a plane because it’s taking me away from my family. And so, you know, it’s a very objective test that you either want me bad enough to pay, or you don’t. And if you don’t, it’s okay.

 

Although he speaks to thousands and thousands of people in person at a time, sometimes filling arenas, Guy Kawasaki says he doesn’t like crowds.

 

Because it just sucks energy out of me. And at these events … you may think it’s fun to go to a cocktail reception and, you know, maybe meet the person. And so, that’s your positon on it. But for me, I’m on from the minute I get there ‘til the minute I’m off, ‘cause everybody wants something from me. And … noblesse oblige, you have an obligation to do that, but I’m not looking for more of that. And so, that drives some people crazy that, you know, they can’t understand how I could have this attitude. But it’s the only attitude I can take, to survive.

 

And yet, you communicate with millions of people.

 

I do.

 

And you work hard at it. I’ve seen you. I mean, you’re busy with the thumbs.

 

Well, but you know what? That is on my own terms. I actually find that energizing. So, maybe I’m a social media extrovert, but I’m not an in-person extrovert. The social media, I can do whenever I want, I have my agenda. You know, it’s not necessarily back and forth. I’m not necessarily thinking. I also, believe it or not—this may be rationalization, but I have something called Meniere’s disease. And so, Meniere’s disease has three symptoms. There’s tinnitus, which is a ringing in this ear, hearing loss in this ear, and attacks of vertigo. So … going to a cocktail party where there’s music, loud noise, and hard floors and walls … is one of the most difficult things for me, ‘cause I literally—this side of my head is just gone. I mean, I just cannot hear. It’s very difficult. So, we’re in this perfect condition here; right? So, you would never tell anything like that. But right now, my ear is ringing, and it is almost painful. So, it’s draining for me.

 

Is it continuous? Is it twenty-four hours?

 

Twenty-four by seven, by three sixty-five, for the rest of my life. Now, don’t get me wrong; okay? I’m not trying to get sympathy. Because you know what? If somebody said, Well, you can have Meniere’s or you can have pancreatic cancer, you know, what would you pick; right? So, nobody ever died from Meniere’s. So, I think it is maybe … the worst of the best diseases. There’s no cure for it. My interpretation is that I listen to so many crappy pitches during half an hour coffees [CHUCKLE] that it has physically ruined half my brain.

 

So, you must have less coffee meetings.

 

That’s right; that’s right. So, this is a physical reason why I shouldn’t meet.

 

Mahalo to Guy Kawasaki from Kalihi, to Northern California, with a following around the world, for sharing your remarkable story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

When I was at Stanford, there were these Parent Days, and I used to see my friends’ parents come in their Porches and Lamborghinis, and Maseratis and all that, and Mercedes. And I said, Someday, I’m gonna buy a car like that. And I have bought cars like that. And … you know, this is forty years old or, you know, forty, fifty years old. Then I drive to Stanford, and I look at those kids playing basketball, and their biggest care in the world is … midterms. And I say, I wish I was back at Stanford. And they’re looking at me saying, I wish I was driving a Porsche. [CHUCKLE]

 

[END]



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