At the pit bottom of the well..

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At the pit bottom of the well..

Author: Nguyen Minh Phuong, Investment Principal, Mekong Capital
Mar 18, 2021

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We use past experience as a shield to protect us from the unknown future. In my case, I recently discovered that many of my adult decisions have been dictated by the experiences of a five-year-old girl.

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I grew up in a slump area in Hanoi where a lot of drug addicts live. I often woke up in the middle of the night, hearing shouting and police car sirens. Wanting to keep me safe, my parents forbade me to go outside and play in the neighborhood. I felt like I was living in the middle of a minefield and that if I took one wrong step, I would explode.

When I was 5, my mother decided to go to work and started her career again. And that came with a decision for me to stay at home alone within locked doors every following summer until I was 10.

“I was lonely and scared, and small.”

One day, as I was sitting in the home, I heard the voice of some kids cheering outside. I was curious and took a peek. They were playing hide and seek. I longed to play with them. “But how could I? I was locked here!” I decided at least I should open my window and have some fun observing.

As such, the kids and I quickly became friends. They usually come by my window to play pretend. They chatted about all the fun they had climbing the tree of the neighbors to steal their fruit — and then being chased by the old neighbors. Frustrated, I had no clue what the experiences they talked about felt like. It was fun listening to all these stories, but I had nothing to offer in return. “Who would want to listen to a life trapped safely within the 4 walls anyway?” I felt myself boring.

“I want to get out, but I am stuck here, being unwanted, disconnected, but at least, I am safe and protected”.

Years passed by and I found myself growing up being stuck again within the walls of standards: standards for a good daughter, standards for a good friend, standards for a good student, standards for a good employee, standards for a good mom. And these standards were the only things I knew. Living up to these standards, I was successful. But I struggled.

“I knew I also yearned to have fun and be happy…”

In 2011, as I was studying, I immediately was recruited by one of the biggest retail banks in Australia. It was a dream come true for so many of my friends at that time. And it was huge pride for my parents. So I tried to linger on and consoled myself that, as long as I never crossed the line, I would be safe and secure in my job.

But no.

Reality hit in 2019 when the bank closed its door and its investment strategy in Vietnam. I lost my job.

Apparently, following rules and standards did not make me safe. I suddenly questioned why I always chose ‘safety’. I was never able to answer that question until …

6 months after joining Mekong Capital, my mentor and deal leader discovered the pattern that he had in his life from his childhood story. It opened up a space for me to think of my lifelong pattern: “I am locked inside until somebody comes to release me”. I shared with Rachel my life timeline, and she shouted with cheer: “You have not released the fear of your five-year-old. If you would have it any way you want, would you choose safety or happiness?”

I suddenly realized that I never wanted safety. Safety was something that was forced on me as a child and since I didn’t know there was any other way. I was stuck in an unconscious choice — the exact choice I made for my entire life: I can be boring and disconnected, as long as I can also be safe and protected.

“I was like a frog at the pit bottom of the well.”

While he looked up at the sky and saw the sky just like a circle, I was also looking at life with the eyes of the five-year-old girl stuck safely at home with no one, and no one would come to unlock my door. I chose safety and at the same time, I chose to let go of what excites me. And then came Rachel, she was there at the top of the well, sharing with me all the possibilities for me outside the well: “The sky is limitless, the flowers are blossoming and the colors are vivid and the lights are warm.” I took the courage… I closed my eyes … I saw a five-year-old little girl opening the locked doors herself, stepping outside.

Since then, I choose to live with what the little girl inside of me really wanted. I feel the warmth of sunlight and the fun of being surrounded by laughter and friends. I may not be as physically safe, but now I am really alive, living my life. I am ready to throw myself into the unknown and discover the adventure I want to write about in my own book.…and ..

“I feel so happy!”

So yeah, every day now, I am writing and living my own story of a Vision Fulfiller where I can shower the world easily and effortlessly with love, compassion, and joy, from which dreams sprout and grow into reality.

Nguyễn Minh Phương Mekong Capital

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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.

In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.

The book is available on Tiki (Hard copy): (Vietnamese) and Amazon: (English)

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