For the Impact with John Shegerian Podcast’s special Thanksgiving episode, the Korean Vegan is the perfect guest! Who better to share thoughts on celebrating and sharing great times together with loved ones and delicious food than “the Korean Vegan” herself? With over 4.5 million fans spread across her social media platforms, New York Times best-selling author and James Beard Award Winner (and compassionate eating thought leader) Joanne Molinaro (a.k.a. the Korean Vegan) has appeared on The Food Network, CBS Saturday Morning, ABC’s Live with Kelly and Ryan, The Today Show, PBS, and The Rich Roll Podcast.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian. This is a super special edition of the Impact Podcast because we have Joanne with us. The Korean Vegan she’s known as. Welcome Joanne to the Impact Podcast.
Joanne Lee Molinaro: I am so excited to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
John: I started following you years ago because I have such a love for Korea because I have so many business partners there and I go there so often. I’m going my fourth time in another week or so. I’m going my fourth time just this year. But also I’m a plant-based eater and I’ve been a vegetarian since I’m 17 and I’m going to be 60 in a couple of weeks. So what you were covering back then was fascinating to me and this was actually before you wrote this beautiful book, The Korean Vegan, which I highly recommend to all of our listeners and viewers out there and you became a New York Times bestselling author in the last year. You just passed your one year or so anniversary, a James Beard Award winner and you’ve taken your life in so many directions. So I don’t even know where to start, Joanne, I’m on your website for our listeners and viewers who want to follow Joanne and sign up for a newsletter and also for her social media platforms, which are massive. They can go to the koreanvegan.com. So welcome, Joanne and before we get going, we’ve mentioned a couple of the awards that you’ve won. How big are your social media platforms now? Because I’m not a TikToker. I’m an Instagram follower and I get your newsletter, of course, and I listen to your podcast every week, which is very different than reading your newsletter, by the way. It’s a whole different experience, which is super wonderful. How big is TikTok now? How big is Instagram? How big is YouTube?
Joanne: Sure. So I have about 3 million followers on TikTok. I have about an inch and closer to a million subscribers on YouTube. I have about 670 some thousand followers on Instagram and maybe 50,000 on Twitter and 60 on Facebook. Those are kind of smaller ones. And we’ve got a growing audience on our podcast. We get roughly like 200 downloads per episode, which is really exciting since I just started it.
John: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I was listening. It’s so crazy. I read your newsletter and your newsletters are written so wonderfully, but you also have such… how do I say it? This is only flattery because my wife has a friend from college that she went to school with that became a very big broadcaster in LA, Sylvia Lopez. So Sylvia has a broadcast voice. You have a broadcast voice and so this morning, I’m in the gym listening to your most recent podcast, which you dropped this morning and it’s so funny. I was in the middle of just doing a part of my workout and I could just tell someone was giving me a hard stare from somewhere and I have earphones on while I’m in the gym and I look over to the guy and he’s a big hulking guy giving me a hard stare and I don’t know him. I’m trying to understand why he’s giving me a hard stare and I realize which you’ve done to me before, I’m crying in the middle of the gym listening to your podcast about your mother at the end with your mother Sonny and the end with your grandmother and I was relating to it so much. I’m like, “She got me again. I’ve got to read her newsletters and pay attention before I listen because I’m not prepared for what you’re doing to us all.”
Joanne: I’m sorry.
John: It’s just funny people staring at me because I’m crying in the middle of a very full gym this morning.
Joanne: That’s my specialty, John.
John: One of your podcasts, I can’t even claim to know which one because I’ve listened to all of them. In one of them, you claim that your mother’s superpower was making people cry. You said you weren’t, but that’s actually not true. You’ve inherited that skill very well.
Joanne: She’ll be happy to know that.
John: Trust me, you’ve said to me all the time but let’s go back. You are classically educationally trained as a lawyer?
John: And you practice law for 17 or 18 years or so?
Joanne: Correct. Yes, that’s correct.
John: Talk a little bit about the decision to give it up and to go really take your shot on this planet.
Joanne: Yeah. I love the way you put that. “Take your shot on this planet” because we only get one shot at this planet. Right?
John: It’s true.
Joanne: My story is very typical in many ways in that I was getting close to 40 years old and I was starting to ask myself many of the same questions that I’m sure a lot of people ask themselves at that sort of midpoint, which is, is this it? Is this what I’m going to do for the rest of my life? And I was a practicing lawyer. I had a fantastic job with a fantastic firm. I was making very good money. I had done all the things that my parents wanted me to do, which was own a house, have a car, pay car insurance. These are very adulty things and I was very proud of that, but at the same time, I was starting to wonder, was there something out there that I was capable of that I hadn’t yet tapped into? Now, at the time, I had the Korean Vegan as an Instagram account. You probably were following me back then. It was an old account and I was just posting recipes and stories here and there. I was working on a book because I had been asked to write a book from a publisher and I was like, “Sure,” I don’t really know what that would look like, but okay, I’ll try it. Nothing was very committed when it came to the Korean Vegan. It was always a hobby but when I started asking those questions and I started to realize how much joy the Korean Vegan was bringing to me, I started to think about, “Well, could this be something more than a hobby?” And that was really the road that I started to walk down at that time. That was 4 or 5 years ago. What really made the difference for me, John, was that a couple of years ago, when my TikTok blew up, I started to see that there was a financial path for me, and that’s really important. It’s not the most glamorous, sexy part of dream chasing, but it is a very practical part of it and one that’s necessary to at least consider. And for me, as a lawyer and as someone is so risk averse, I was like, “I need to see a track record of some sort that this thing can at least let me earn a living” and I was able to do that for about… I would say 7 months before I said, “Okay, I’ve seen enough. I can do this and I deserve this chance to be happy with what I do.”
John: That’s wonderful. What went into the decision to leave Chicago, which is your hometown where you were practicing, where you were married with your husband Anthony and pick up both of you and move to California? What was the geographic change about?
Joanne: There were a couple of things that really preceded that sort of decision and number one was the fact that, well, now that I’ve withdrawn from partnership, there’s really nothing tying me to Chicago anymore. I didn’t need to go into the office every day and work with my colleagues. I could pick up and go anywhere we wanted and at that point, literally, the world was sort of like, at our feet we thought about going to Rome or even Sardinia or Milan because Anthony’s family is in Italy and we love Italy so much. We thought about Boulder because we’re both very athletic and we love the community there. I have to say, we kind of fell on not just California, but this current area, which is sort of the Valley in California, which is a little bit odd but we fell into this because I was out here for a podcast and I had my Zillow open because at that time, I was looking for a new home in the suburbs of Chicago because the space that I was living in just was not conducive to creating videos. There wasn’t enough natural light. So I needed a home that had lots of windows and had a lot of space and I had the Zillow open and we were driving through somewhere by Pepperdine University and you know how your Zillow just knows where you are and starts showing you all the different homes, like where you are? And I was like, “Well, these homes look lovely.” They’re not so outside of my price range that I can’t afford them and that’s what really sparked a thought like, “Well, I could maybe look at homes here” and what really nailed it for me was going to Joy Cafe, which everybody knows, like, one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a vegan, gluten free restaurant here and I went to not just eat their food, but I got to meet with the owners of that restaurant. I got to meet with the investors of that restaurant and all of a sudden, it became very clear that there was just this beautiful community of people here who valued health, who valued compassion, who valued fitness and athleticism and all the things that I love personally. But unfortunately, we’re not always well dressed in Chicago. It’s not there. It’s not like that in Chicago and so I was kind of like, “I’m sold. I want to come live here where I can just walk out my front door and know that there are vegan options just like that, where people are riding their bicycles and running and doing things that I can really vibe with.”
John: That’s awesome. I did hear the episode where you interviewed the owner of Joy Cafe as well. That was a wonderful episode.
Joanne: She’s amazing. She is such an inspiration. She always told me, I found everything that’s the most important things in my life other than her children after she turned 49. That’s incredible.
John: But it just goes to show you when you look back on history, some of the greatest artists and creators on this planet did the most in the fourth quarter of their lives.
Joanne: Absolutely. They totally Tom Brady themselves.
John: Tom Brady themselves. We’re going to get into Michael Jordan in a little while. As I was reviewing your book and I just loved this book, and again, for our listeners and viewers out there, the Korean Vegan Cookbook, it’s a New York Times bestseller. I highly recommend it. Not just because of the amazing recipes that Joanne, you have put in here and created but also, the more I review your book and the more I listen to your podcast, one of the beautiful things is this is almost like an ongoing and your podcasts are almost like an ongoing love letter to your mom, dad, grandparents and your husband. And there’s something just beautiful and how you’ve done that and how you weave. In one way or another I sometimes think you’ve now just used food as a platform for much bigger discussions and it’s just fascinating how you’ve done that. Talk a little bit about the evolution from… let’s go back to plant-based eating. You started eating plant-based food with Anthony back in 15 or 16?
John: Okay. It’s because he started and you wanted to follow?
Joanne: That’s exactly right?
John: Along those line is true?
Joanne: Yes. It’s so funny. I was just talking to someone yesterday. She makes just the most divine vegan croissants like I’ve ever had in my life. And I was like, “Well, what inspired you to start making vegan croissants?” And she was like, “I had a really big crush on the sky.” I was like, “You know what? I’ve been there.”
John: It’s so funny how you broke, broke down you and Anthony. On one of your podcasts, you said, Anthony eats to survive and I just love people like that and I envy them. But for you, food is your language of love.
Joanne: It is exactly right. Everyone has their own relationship with food. It is true, though, that many children of immigrants like food is a little bit more than functional just because it is one of the few things that many Americanized families have retained from their native cultures. So, for example, my mom, as I’m sure you know, is very Americanized. She’s very assimilated. She does a lot of things that help her to fit into America and she did that out of a sense of survival and safety. She wanted to make sure that she gave her children every chance of success but we had to eat Korean food every day. So it was like one of the few things that she was very strict about keeping in our house that was still very Korean.
John: Right. Of course, in the book, which is dedicated to your mom, really, and in your podcast, you talk a lot about your mom Sonny. Is your favorite story about your mom the story of her life being saved with the Hershey bar or meeting the psychic beggar on Lake Michigan when she was studying to take the nurse exam the second time?
Joanne: I would say both are great, great stories and just really quick recap for your listeners. The Hershey bar story my mother was less than a year old when the war broke out, the Korean War and as a result of that, my family was born… my mom was born in what is now known as North Korea. That’s where my grandparents lived and they had to flee in order to get to South Korea but unfortunately, there was no food and very little water and it took them a very long time to get to the beach, which is where there was a U.S. navy ship that would take them to safety and as a result of that, my mom, who was an infant, was starving to death and at the time, in Korea, in a country of destitution that is now saddled with war, mercy killings is not something that was crazy or atypical. Unfortunately, it probably happened a lot more than we would like to think and that’s exactly what my grandparents were thinking of doing. They were thinking of throwing my mother overboard on a ship and drowning her as a mercy killing but luckily, an American soldier figured things out through sign language and my mom crying her eyeballs out and pulled out a Hershey bar from his pocket and gave it to my mother and my mom always says that Hershey bar saved her life. I do love that story, but I’d have to vote for the psychic story. My mom always had these weird dreams and encounters throughout her life and that one was certainly just the most unreal and part of the reason I love it so much is because it occurred on Lake Shore Drive, which is… I’ve run that path on Lake Shore Drive. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds I’ve probably run thousands of miles on that very same path where my mom she had just failed her nursing boards here in the United States. She had very little money left and she was very much thinking of going back home to Korea and calling quits on the whole American dream and her father said, “No, no, you need to study and you need to try again.” My mom was like, “I have no money and I can’t speak English and I don’t think I will succeed if I try again.” And so she was very sad. She was very depressed. It was one morning she found out she had failed and she was walking along Lake Shore Drive when an old vagrant came up to her and asked her for a dollar for a cup of coffee because it was so cold that day and my mom had almost no money but she, for some reason, took out all the change that she had in her pockets and she poured it right into this old woman’s hands and before she could leave, the woman grabs her by the hands and holds her and says, “You’re going to pass that test.” I always get tingles every time I share that story.
John: Come on, that’s just ridiculous.
Joanne: It is.
John: Every time I hear it, I still can’t believe it and you tell that story many times in many different situations because it’s so important to hear, but it’s almost a wakeup call that when the universe speaks to you, you have to listen.
Joanne: Oh, absolutely. It’s magical. It’s beautiful. This is one thing that I really tried to open myself to over the past few years is exactly that idea, John, is that the universe is talking to us but sometimes we’ve gotten so bogged down with social media, with the news, with their own introspection and everything that’s going on that we just drawn out the universe and sometimes the universe is trying to tell us the very most important things we need to hear.
John: You started building your social media platforms and the numbers you gave out earlier, Joanne, when did you decide after the book was written and it went to become a New York Times bestseller and you won the James Beard Award, unbelievable achievements for any one life but you’re so young. When did you decide then to take it into a different direction? The law was behind you now, which is fascinating, so that you got back a big chunk of your life. Where was the podcasting? Where did that idea come to you? And then curating it to be… at the top of the show, how to live a purposeful and more empowered life. Where did that all come from and what do you really want to do with that?
Joanne: That’s such a great question. Thank you, John. As you say, the book was a love letter to my family and that was very intentional. That project started all the way back in 2017, which was before I had the book deal when I just had a very small Instagram account and I really wanted the world to be better acquainted with the immigrant story. Hey, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the news about immigrants and their role as Americans or non-Americans in the United States and I just wanted the world to see… can I just share with you my own story and my parent’s story and what they contributed to this American dream and that’s really all I wanted to do. That continued in the book. I was very purposeful. I wanted the book to have the stories of my mom and dad along with their food because I feel like they go so well together. It’s like, “Oh, well, you want to know my dad’s favorite noodle dish? Here it is.” And let me tell you a little bit about my dad, right? I just think it makes sense. With the podcast, it was totally accidental. I had been writing this newsletter and honestly, the only reason I did the newsletter at first is because my publisher was like, “This is how you sell books.” I was like, “Okay, fine, I’ll start a newsletter” something like that. I didn’t like doing the same old newsletter that everybody else is doing, which is like, “Here’s a link to 15 things including my book.” I didn’t want it to be that. I was like, here’s an opportunity for me to send a letter to every single person that’s on my list once a week and make them feel better. Make them feel better about that day, that week, that month. If somebody’s struggling with their job or raising their kids or having a tough conversation with their spouse or their parent, here’s a chance for me to maybe lift their burden just a little bit and so that’s what I started to do with the newsletter. Now, I proofread really terribly, but you can ask my assistant, you can ask any of my colleagues is my big Achilles’ heel. I always have typos. One thing that I started getting into the routine of doing was reading my newsletters out loud so that I could proofread better. That’s how I catch my errors. And one day I was reading it out loud and I thought to myself, “Man, if I were a recipient of this newsletter, I would love an Audible version just in case I don’t have time to sit down and read it. That way I could just listen to Joanne reading it and it really does that sound like a letter from her and I could be washing the dishes or doing the laundry or running errands or driving in the car.” So I was like, “Okay, I didn’t know anything about podcasting. I just knew that my email didn’t have enough bandwidth for me to literally embed an audio file.” So the only way that I could create an audio version would be to put it on a free podcasting host and so that’s what I did. I just… I was like, “Okay” and literally the first podcast episode is toxic productivity and I’m just reading the newsletter. That’s it.
John: Literally, that’s what it sounded like. That’s what you just said.
Joanne: And I have the heading, just reading out loud and then I looked at it one day and I was like, “Oh, wow. All I have to do for this to be distributed on Apple Podcasts and Spotify is to literally press this one button.” That’s what I started doing and then I was like, “Well, okay, now that it’s on these podcast platforms, maybe I should have introduction or something” and that’s basically how it came to be but the idea has always been about injecting purpose into people’s lives and to help them discover what I talked about today, which is this reservoir of agency that we so often neglect. We don’t think we have the power to do all of these things whether it’s to leave a job or to start a new one, to heal a rift between yourself and your child or your parent, to walk away from a toxic relationship. These are things that we trick ourselves to thinking that we cannot do, but we absolutely can. It’s just a matter of tapping in to that agency that we have neglected.
John: I forgot who it was. It came up in one of your podcasts and again, in your great storytelling form but the story, regardless of who it was, it’s such a powerful story where you said when you were deciding to leave the law firm, I believe it was one of your mentor partners but it could have been somebody else who not only encouraged you, but said something this kind go because a lot of people can do what you’re doing here in the law. Nobody else could do what you’re doing as the Korean Vegan.
Joanne: Yes, that was very illuminating to me. That was actually one of my closest friends, Kim Julie. She’s the author of another really great vegan cookbook called The Vegan Reset and she’s coming out with a new one called Best of Vegan, too and she has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders and she’s also a writer. She has a master’s degree in poetry or something like that. When she said that to me, that was such like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s so true. What am I doing with it? Am I really bringing the best value that I can to people in this world?” Now, again, I’m very practical, so it’s like, “Yes, it’s so empowering. It’s so inspiring and all of that stuff.” But there is also another side to that that needs to be investigated, which is sure, always, it’s important for you, John, and for anybody who’s listening to look for that thing that they are uniquely equipped to do but you also have to ask yourself, is that uniquely equipped to think something the world needs, something the world desires. That was the other piece that I really needed to figure out and that was the journey that I went down starting in 2020 to figure out, “Hey, is there a space for my unique talent?” The most important thing is that we not assume that there isn’t. That’s what a lot of us do is, “Oh, that’s such a weird niche strange thing, there’s no space for that. People don’t want.” The best story that I can tell on that. The other day, we had a whole bunch of people over for Anthony’s 50th birthday party and one of his running mates comes up to me. He’s like, “Oh, you’re doing the cake? Okay, I’m a streamer guy. Can I do the confetti for the cake?” And I was like, “Okay, sure.” And he’s like this cute little nerd. I mean, he’s just such a nerd about confetti and streamers and there’s this whole confetti thing and then after the party, I found out he’s the confetti guy for BTS, for the Super Bowl, for every major world event.
John: Oh, he is the confetti guy?
Joanne: Exactly. I have the most important confetti person at my party and that’s what I mean. He took his thing and he went all in and I just think that’s so cool.
John: Wow. I want to get back to that in a second. I want to talk about timing. And again, for our listeners and viewers who just joined us, we’ve got Joanne. She’s also known as the Korean Vegan. You should buy or look at this wonderful book she’s written to New York Times bestseller. It’s only about a year old for a select group of our listeners and viewers, we’re going to be giving out signed copies. Joanne was kind enough to sign a bunch of copies for us and we’ll be giving some away as well. To find Joanne and sign up for any of her social media platforms such as her podcast, which I listen to every week and her newsletter, which I received or her TikTok or Instagram, please go to the koreanvegan.com. As a serial entrepreneur, Joanne, you’re so right about timing. Timing is really, really important. My space didn’t come that far ahead of Facebook and there’s lots of stories like that. Why do you think not only what you were doing was so unique, but why was the timing so perfect? I have my own ideas, but I want to hear you yours, of course, first.
Joanne: The timing was in large part due to the pandemic whether we want to acknowledge that as being bad or good. It was a situation and there was a reckoning that many people had to undertake not because they wanted to or plan to, but because they were alone and they had to confront their isolation and in so doing, grapple with what emerged from that isolation. Social media… there are a lot of problems with social media. I can talk for endless amounts of time about that, but at that time… oh my god, thank goodness, there’s social media because I couldn’t see my parents, I had to call off Christmas. There were just a lot of things that were really awful about the pandemic and luckily, we had things like Facebook. We had things like Instagram and for me, TikTok, not just to divert me and distract me from the anxiety and sort of the isolation of the pandemic, but also to prove that, “Oh my god, I’m not alone.” There are a lot of people out there who feel the same way that I do and that what I try to do with the Korean Vegan is to create safety and to remind people that that feeling that you have, that wonderful, cozy, warm, loving, comforting feeling of safety, is one, ultimately, that you can provide to yourself when necessary. That message was needed very much at that time and it was one that the Korean Vegan was already very good at providing in the form of food. It’s like, “Oh, these beautiful, comforting looking dishes along with this woman’s voice telling me everything’s going to be okay.” That had a lot to do with the timing. Also, of course, John, and I’m sure you’re very familiar with this, is that this idea that you got to know everything and do everything right in your 20s is just totally ridiculous. It’s absurd. It adds a complete unnecessary level of toxic pressure on people to figure out their lives in two decades. You’re practically an infant when it comes to life experiences at that time, and so you can take your time. I wish more people could feel the comfort behind those words, which is, if you haven’t figured it out by the time you’re 40, that’s okay. You still have so many decades left in your life to figure whatever it is you need to figure out and for me, there were a whole bunch of things that happened. I got a divorce that very much informed my toughness and mental metal, if you will. I met Anthony would not have gone vegan if not for him. There are all of these things that sort of converged when they did and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today had it done anything differently. You have to be mindful about what you’re doing at the same time going back to that idea of that the universe is speaking to you. One of my favorite quotes from Richard’s[?] book is the universe conspires to take care of those who act in its service. And I truly believe that and there is some component of having to just wait and not in that anxious way, but in the okay, my time will come way.
John: Right. I know you’re also a fan of David Epstein as well.
Joanne: I love him.
John: When I first started following you and again, it was plant-based and done what you were doing in terms of the plant-based thing and also the Korean thing. I veganized Korean food, I Koreanize everything else. It could be a third line there. I posit that you give truth to power in an unvarnished way that’s very unique and authentic way that I find to be both so unvarnished that it touches your soul when you listen to, you read the words. Like I said, if the medium is the message and reading your newsletters is wonderful because you’re a great writer, you’re obviously an English major in college. So you’re a great writer and you’ve honed that skill with the legal profession and everything else. But also, how you read them your words and emphasize certain points is unbelievably unique. You don’t find that out there and I listen to a lot, I take in a lot of product on other people’s… what their creations and your creation is. I constantly see the juggling act and I always wonder what’s really winning in the race? Is the plant-based, the Koreanizing base or just her unvarnished authenticity and the truth to power that she gives to her own voice and to her own experiences and that’s a fascinating. It’s just fun to watch you evolve that and push it to new limits and things of that such. It’s just been a joy and it honestly inspires my life and informs me in many, many ways, in many, many ways. Even though I seem that I’m a white guy and people think I’m a white guy, I’m an Armenian immigrant. I happen to be third generation and I know… let me just say this. As I’ve read and reread your book, I keep hearkening back to one of my favorite people that we’ve lost, Anthony Bourdain and I keep thinking, “This is Joanne’s kitchen confidential. She’s going to do so much more.” And one of the things that you’ve done so beautifully already, which I don’t think Anthony did that well is you talk about mental health and wellness and that’s such an important topic to both open up and normalize. As you said, it became a much bigger topic and it is a much bigger topic during the pandemic and post pandemic because he’s struggling.
Joanne: Yeah. It’s so sad because I love Anthony Bourdain, too, and the reason he was so beloved was because he also brought this unvarnished truth to the table, to the kitchen table and that in a world that is saturated with everything being perfect and polished and presentable and duh, duh, duh, it was nice to have at least one voice say, “Yeah, no, F that.” I’m just going to bring what I bring and that was really important. What his death, as well as Robin Williams death, for me, really signified, was just how deceptive mental illness can be. We trick ourselves into thinking, “Everything’s okay. We’re all good. That person who seems a little sad, he’ll be fine. Rub some dirt into it, he’ll get over it.” This sort of mentality but at the end of the day, there’s nothing more final than death and the regret that must come with it. If we at any point thought, maybe I could have said something, maybe I could have done something and then when you put that mirror up and you look at your own lives and you start to wonder, is there something inside of me that remains unaddressed? Is there some hurt, some injury inside of me that I’ve been ignoring for a very long time because I need to pick up the kids, I need to put the cast rolling, I need to pay the electricity bill because of these sort of daily exigencies that I start to ignore, the one big fundamental one that’s been lurking inside of me then what can happen? It’s so scary how mental illness can really sort of creep up on you without you even knowing it, until it’s become such a problem that it’s almost unhearable[?].One of the things that I try to do is to peel things back and say, “Hey, let’s look at some of these wounds that are scary and that are hurtful and that may have been sitting there for far too long because if we don’t look at them, we’re never going to heal from them.
John: It’s so true in terms of timing. The other two interesting parts about timing on what you’ve created is what I’ve seen is the Koreanizing of America. I grew up in Queens, New York, Little Neck, which is two towns [inaudible] Flushing and Bayside. So many of my childhood friends were coming over were Koreans [inaudible] and building out this wonderful immigrant infrastructure of hard work and education and I just saw the whole transformation of that community and rise of that community on the East Coast similarly on the West Coast. Now, when I started becoming partners in South Korea with some of the tribal families that exist and one of them are still partners of mine and sit on my board, the Koo Family, the LG Family. Back in 2008, my generation of business people were all about dinner and who can drink more soju or makgeolli. What’s fascinating is I’ve become very close with their children, which is now your generation and they are so health-minded and health-conscious and those dinners have become almost a thing of the past. Wonderful dinners are still happening. For instance, the last time I was there was during Chuseok and I was invited to so many wonderful events and dinners with 40 different things on the table but it was no longer about just how much meat you could have at the table or pork. There was tons of vegetables and you don’t have to drink anymore to prove that you’re their friend and they are also helped by this. The rise of the health and wellness culture in Korea plus the Koreanizing of America are two great trends that are also wined at your back, not only now and not only two years ago when you started making your big move but in the years to come, they’re going to serve you very well. Do you see that as well?
Joanne: What people sometimes forget is that Korea has a very proud history of two things and that scholarship and activism. So one of the things that my father told me about was during Korea’s very nascent democracy, the protests that occurred in connection with the very first president of Korea and what ultimately ended up happening was that Korea’s first president was exiled for corruption. There is this great heart and soul of justice inside of Korea and when it comes to this rise of activism, when it comes to health, wellness and climate change, these are things that are so very important to the young people of Korea and it does not surprise me at all that these are things that are now having maybe not yet its moment, but cresting, it’s a way that is on its way to cresting and the more we can see some of the [inaudible] getting behind that and capitalizing on it. That’s a good thing for everyone, right? It’s not just a good thing for the activism, but it’s a good thing for the businesses as well and the institutionalized families of Korea. That’s very important. The other thing is scholarship. There’s millennia of scholarship behind Korea’s infrastructure, behind its culture and behind its soul and the more people dig into the science behind plant-based eating, it becomes undeniable that it’s healthier for them and it’s also healthier for the planet. And again, these are things that are so important to young people that my hope is that whether the Korean Vegan me, whether I’m part of that in some way or not is that we start to see a full circle moment where Korea starts to shift back to being the sort of plant centric country that it always has been. When you talk about Korean food, all we think about is Korean barbecue now but when you think about it, Korean Buddhist food…
John: Temple cuisine.
Joanne: Temple cuisine, exactly. It’s plant-based. We have this rich culture that’s centered on plant-based eating and I think when we shift towards that and the country starts seeing that compassionate eating can be cool, it can be science-based, it can be better for the environment and better for their health, the better off we’re all going to be.
John: People haven’t eaten a real fruit until they’ve had a Korean pear or Korean [inaudible].
Joanne: Oh, my gosh, the Korean Persimmon, my husband had never had one before and I gave it to him and he’s like, “This is literally the best thing I’ve ever…”
John: Korean Persimmons the bomb.com and so in Korean pears. I don’t know which… again, when you listen to all your episodes, they all sort of come together as one narrative and they’re wonderful but I know you spoke about your mom’s love of sweet potatoes and that touched my heart because my grandmother was… again, she escaped the genocide as well. She ate a sweet potato every day and she raised us some sweet potatoes. So to me, I could eat a sweet potato and some vegetables and that’s the best meal I could ever have on the planet because sweet potato just reminds me of just not only my grandmother, but the struggle that they went through. The struggle that they went through. You’ve talked so much and you’ve talked so eloquently about the importance of mental health and wellness and being our own best cheerleader and supporter for all of us but as an immigrant, talk about being now the entrepreneurial journey, I believe and so many of other friends of mine believe, that entrepreneurs make… immigrants make the best entrepreneurs. How did that inform you in terms of so far, your entrepreneurial journey because obviously, immigrants and immigrants especially that have historical relationships with escaping genocide or war, either one, whether we were the escapees ourselves or our parents or our grandparents, were. When you read, whether you read or you’re familiar with the body keeps the score. The trauma comes through in the DNA, whether it’s verbally, genetically or whatever. There is a trauma that’s imputed to all of us from our parents and our grandparents from the immigrant experience. How do you think that’s helped you as an entrepreneur in terms of resilience, courage and all the other great things that make up the immigrants that made it here and have thrived like your parents?
Joanne: That’s a really tough question because I feel like I’m very… I feel like I’ve only been an entrepreneur for less than a year because that’s when we went with the Korean Vegan going full-time and I had a cushy full-time job with the steady paycheck for so long and I’m only now just discovering goodness, how much resilience is necessary in order to just go from day one to day two. I feel like there’s a lot of that. I feel very proud, number one, of being able to call myself an entrepreneur. I think some people have very differing ideas about, “Oh, she’s just an influencer or content creator” and that’s fine. People can say that but at the end of the day, I’ve always viewed the Korean Vegan when I decided to withdraw from partnership and take it full-time as a business and I’ve always viewed myself as an entrepreneur and that in some ways that does distinguish me from the average influencer or content creator or however you want to look at that.
The other thing is that there’s always this push and pull. I don’t know if you’ve read… I think his last name is Prestman, Pressfield. Is it Steven Pressfield? He’s an author who wrote, The War of Art and he talks about this idea of the bigger your dream is, the bigger the resistance is going to be. There’s this countervailing force that’s trying to make you not do the thing that you want to do. I feel like that is every single day. I’m fighting off this voice of saying, “You’re never going to make it. This is going to fail. You don’t know what you’re doing. The basic rules of economy, supply and demand are not in your favor.” All of these little voices in my head saying, “You’re just never going to make it” and fighting those off and learning to trust myself is very hard. As a child of immigrants, there two different things that are going at it. Number one is the anti-risker. “What are you doing? You had a full-time job, a nice paycheck of 401(k), all of the things that we’ve ever always wanted for you and you threw that away for this.” So there is that voice that I have to contend with and I try very hard to be compassionate with that voice and say, “I know where you’re coming from. I know that you have suffered all kinds of things that I never had to because of your sacrifices and I appreciate that.” But I think the other voice that I like to listen to are those of my grandmothers, the ones who were so tough, who were so resilient, who had to grapple with every shred of self-doubt that any human person could ever have to deal with and still said, “You know what? I’m going to trust my own voice. I’m going to trust myself here. I’m going to trust my instincts.” Knowing that those women are inside of me, that helps me every day to say, “Joanne, you got to stop with the noise and you got to just pay attention to what’s inside of here.”
John: That’s fascinating. You had the real genius and this is a compliment because I try to tell this to entrepreneurs in waiting and entrepreneurs in the making all the time. Sometimes you don’t have to jump all in to start. Straddle it, don’t turn off the lights and stop paying your bills and not have much food on the table and go all in on your dream until you start getting an inkling that your dream to work that you did that, that was really sheer genius that you kept. Your law firm, the law profession going why you started dabbling in this… really, there’s an argument to be made that you became an entrepreneur in waiting 5, 6 years ago.
John: Really? You then knew… there was a point where, as you said, the universe was speaking to you and you walked through the door and you did it and that’s beautiful but I also go back to the stories that you told about your mother telling her parents that she would be the boy of the family and then be coming here to America, a very strange land, by herself, to get her nursing degree and then staying here. In so many ways, as an entrepreneur, you’re not only honoring your grandparents absolute hand to hand combat to struggle and survive, but also your mother’s journey as well in terms of making the most of what you were really given, because you could have stayed a lawyer to… you’re 72 years old and beyond even now, of course, because people are living much healthier and much longer and you’re under that year, of course, in that category that probably will do so. And you could have had a very safe life and a really great life with your husband but you took now the more difficult road, which I find fascinating and interesting, but also very exciting.
Joanne: It is exciting. And I will say… I was at breakfast this morning and I was waiting to get some water and there was a woman ahead of me and she was with her son and she was clearly on her Bluetooth and she was talking to somebody about some court case and how they had to submit evidence and they hadn’t done it and the paralegal hadn’t done it on time and they were figuring it out and I was like, “Man, she’s trying to get water.” Her son’s poking her on the shoulder behind and saying, “Mom, when’s it my turn to get the water?” And then she’s got a client on the phone and she’s not even in her office and I was like, “I do not miss any of it at all.”
John: Wasn’t that a great feeling at that point?
Joanne: It’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling. I have so much gratitude for where I am in life that I get to wake up and create beautiful things as part of my job. That’s so nuts that that’s my life but at the same time, there were so many forks in the road where I decided I’m going to do the hard thing here because I know it’ll pay off some point in the future and I think sometimes that’s what we need to do is we need to recognize those forks in the road and we need to tell ourselves, “I have the strength to do the hard thing this time because I know it will pay off.” Maybe not this year, next year, or two years from now, but it will.
John: There’s two types of payoff I see in that decision making. Payoff both the money that comes from that and also the notoriety that comes with that. Put that together is also the respect that you have for yourself for never having that regret.
Joanne: That’s so true. That’s a really important point, is if you want to talk about confidence, you really want to know how to derive confidence. It is at least partially going back and saying, “Yeah, there was that time I did that hard thing. Maybe there are all these voices in my head saying that I couldn’t, but I didn’t listen to them and I decided to go with it.” Talk about a confidence builder is knowing that you’re that person. You’re that same person who did that really, really hard thing and now look where you are, you’ve earned this place. And that’s really important.
John: You talked about activism a couple of minutes ago. I want to talk about activism in a second about in the United States and the role that you’re playing in activism. Before we go, let’s talk about Korea activism. There’s a show that came out this year that… probably my favorite show this year and it’s no great secret than Netflix, outside of Hollywood, is spending more money for original content out of South Korea than any other country in the world. They’ve announced that and they’re going all in. The show Extraordinary Attorney Woo.
Joanne: I love that show.
John: My wife’s and my favorite show of 2022 [inaudible]. And to me, there’s a form of activism… besides just being a great show that we just love to watch and rewatch. There’s a form of activism in there with regards to folks that have autism and their role in society and it’s interesting Korea has tackled… Korea… in that platform… and that show became very popular both, I believe, in Korea in terms of downloads and also around the world in the United States as well. In the United States, we have 62 or 63 million handicapped people that are swept under the rug. We do not. It’s unbelievably shameful how challenged or handicapped or whatever we’re going to call them in a correct sense, how we treat them in this society but it’s unbelievable… Korea tackled that and went after that issue in that show in such a beautiful way. What’s your thoughts on that?
Joanne: I love how you pointed that out because they think that was one of the things that stuck out to me was, wow, I haven’t thought about this issue myself, and I’m a lawyer and I never really thought about this. And you’re so right. The writers tackle that issue in such a graceful, beautiful, but still very challenging and thought provoking way. It pushed you without even knowing that you’re being pushed. You’re like, “Oh, I’m thinking about things that I’ve never really thought about.” Korea’s writing, its cinematography, its filmography has always done that. That’s been very historical from a film and movie perspective because a lot of the movies in Korea, they were not controlled by big companies that had their own political or social agendas that the artists had a lot more freedom to talk about the things that they wanted to talk about but with Netflix, one of the great things that we’ve seen as a result of Netflix is this complete proliferation of storytelling that was not seen before in Korean dramas and I think what you’re seeing is a movie like Parasite, which says so much about the world that we live in. Now you can see that in Korean dramas, which was not the case 15 years ago and that’s so beautiful. You see it in Extraordinary Attorney Woo. You see it in Our Blues which is another great Korean drama that talks about teenage pregnancy, it talks about gay marriage, it talks about all of these other things that typically taboo in Korean dramas and what that reveals to me is, like I said, there’s always been a heart that is engulfed in the pursuit of justice in Korea.
And now these Korean dramas and other forms of media have been given this platform to speak their heart in just these beautiful, beautiful ways. I’ve been a fan of K-Dramas for decades so to see this new evolution, even with Squid Game and things like that, it’s just so exciting.
John: How about Pachinko?
Joanne: Pachinko is beautiful. The book is probably one of my favorite books of all time. Although I was going to say because you mentioned you grew up in Queens, you have to read Free Food for Millionaires, which is Min Jin’s first book and it is all about a family in Queens and it is just… that’s how I became introduced to the Korean diaspora in Queens and what a special pocket of this country that place is.
John: And they’re still there, Flushing and Bayside. It’s huge. Your minor in college, if you don’t mind me saying, in Asian studies and let’s talk about the activism, your thoughts about the activism in America, especially when it comes to what we’ve seen as Asian hate and I’m going to book end this by saying what I’ve heard you discuss in such an emotional and compassionate way about your relationship with the Atlanta murders. The tragic Atlanta murders that happened was my version at almost the same age range of the Rodney King riots. I lived in L.A. at that time with my wife and children and very young family and the Rodney King riots have been whitewashing down there now they’re called the L.A. riots but it’s not talked about a lot, in fact, ever that I hear in mainstream media was the abject attack on the Korean-American community during those riots that were not only unprovoked, but were unprotected by law enforcement back then in Los Angeles. It’s a very hard time and it’s not talked about a lot, but it was, I believe, the beginning of my understanding, greater understanding of how Americans treat Asians and it goes way beyond, of course, xenophobia. It’s the hate crimes that they evolve into and it’s the behavior that our politicians show that then of course get embedded into the media and into our society. Where are we now and where are we going? What’s your thoughts on this?
Joanne: That’s a very tough question, but I think that your reference to the riots is a really important one and one of the things that I learned about the riots was there was this one gentleman and I’m ashamed, I don’t know his name, but he was a Korean-American activist and he was much older. He’s probably a lot older now, but at that time, he was already, I would say, in his 50s and he had this short speech directed at young people and said, “Your parents, who can’t even speak English, they’re the ones out there in the front lines. They’re the ones who are out there protesting and demanding recognition for what’s happening to them. Where are you? You young people who speak perfect English, where are you? It’s time to protect your parents.” And I remember when I saw that, I actually just saw that during the… I can’t remember… it was like an anniversary of the riots and I remember seeing a video clip of that and feeling, how prescient, how important that message remains today. Again, this instinct to just don’t rock the boat, don’t cause trouble, don’t be the one that’s making too much noise. That instinct, which is that assimilative instinct that our parents sort of taught us because it was a survival instinct, that instinct can definitely get in the way of us being that voice for our parents. That’s lesson number one that I continue to take from the experience of anti-Asian hate and the hate crimes that have been happening to our community is, look, young people, we are very specifically equipped to be the voice for those who don’t have the tools to speak on their own behalf but the other thing that remains unaddressed is even geographically, from my understanding of the riots, was that we had two historically oppressed communities, which is the black American community and the Asian-American community basically pitted against each other. They were thrown at each other so that we could stay out of the other people’s way and I feel like a lot of that continues to happen. One of the reasons that the Atlanta murders stuck out to me so much was because it was just this other version of hatred, which is the dehumanization of Asian women, which is, I’m just going to objectify them for whatever reason and dehumanize them and once I’ve dehumanized them, it becomes so much easier to off them in the way that he did. That was so personal tome because I am an Asian woman. My mom’s an Asian woman, my aunt’s an Asian woman and we’ve had to deal with that sort of objectification and dehumanization basically our entire existence and then to see it materialize in the way that it did was just so traumatic. There’s so much that could be said about this topic and it’s a complicated one. It’s one, though, that, as you so astutely point out, his not being very well addressed at the most important corridors of power in our government. Politicians are just ignorant about it.
John: Absolutely true. I’ll give you two quick examples, too. I’ll tell you one from the ground up and one from the top down. One from the ground up, during what was then the Rodney King riots. In the aftermath, I created with Father Greg Boyle Homeboy Industries. We co-founded Homeboy Industries. That gave me an opportunity as a very young person to meet a lot of the leaders in the city at the time. In all the different communities Asian-American community, African-American community and things of that such. When I sat down with leadership in the African-American community I said, “What was going on? What was on people’s minds? And one of the African-American leaders pulled me aside and said, “John, there’s this unbelievable sense of jealousy and hurt that we don’t understand how other groups, races or ethnicities have come here after us and have a bigger piece of the American pie now before us.” And then that manifests itself in mob like situations with what was going on during the riots. And that doesn’t excuse it, he said, “It’s just one of the things that I’m picking up from the leaders of the gangs and others. What’s going on?” Secondarily, during Chuseok when I was in Seoul the last time now it’s very easy to look at a high male Donald Trump and how he referred to, of course, the China virus and everything else that he was saying that fan the flames of xenophobia and Asian hate or whatever you want to call it in America but I was sitting in my hotel room watching Nancy Pelosi very dangerously push her way into her trip to Taiwan and whether the trip was right or wrong is a sideshow but she actually… when she was given the microphone, all she could do was denounce China and talked horribly, negatively on the worldwide stage of China and China, unfortunately, or has already been cast as the boogeyman here in America, number one and number two is very misunderstood and there’s a great interdependence needed between U.S. and China and other world leading type countries that is absolutely, desperately important to the future of democracy and the safety of this world and to go on that platform and do that, to me, it’s just a backhanded way of fanning the flames. Trump did it very forward facing and overtly, of course, but she did it in a very covert way and I just thought that it just was a poor use of her platform at that time and not needed now during the time that we’re living through, it’s still ongoing. It’s not a day that goes by or a week that goes by that we still don’t see horrible instances of this.
Joanne: It’s a tricky issue. There’s this one syndrome called… it’s like a body of large… it’s called like the egghead syndrome and it’s this idea that if you hurt somebody who has this eggshell skull, are you held liable then only for what a normal person would incur as an injury or are you going to be held liable for the fact that you’ve now killed this person simply by maybe knocking their head? Any other person, they would survive. That no problem. But the person with the syndrome is going to die from that and that’s a very interesting question and when you think about this, when you know that the world is plagued with xenophobia, when you know that the United States has a lot of racial hate directed at Asian-Americans and members of Chinese diaspora, I do think that politicians need to be aware of that and need to keep that in mind when they’re talking about their policies as vis a vis China. I’m not a geopolitician. I don’t begin to know enough about foreign policy to be weighing in on the actual policies themselves but I agree with you. When you are so visible and when you are making such a visible trip and you’re on such a huge platform, you do need to be mindful of the people who are going to be listening to that and maybe not hearing the thing that you want to say, but be hearing something that they’re already predisposed to hearing, which is all Chinese people are bad and China is bad and are basically incapable of making the distinction between Chinese government and the Chinese people.
John: That’s the sad part and I know you’re a numbers and a science space person, so I’ll leave you with this. Here’s where we go. This is the shocking science and numbers behind this all. Only 37% or so, give or take a point, of Americans have a valid passport. Out of that 37%, 7 or less percent of that have been to Asia. The rest have been gone to Canada, Europe or Mexico. Think about how many folks that are not part of your family that are just part of the general population that you’ve come across and said, “I’ve been to Seoul, I’ve been to Tokyo, I’ve been to Shanghai.” Very few. And it goes back to the holy Anthony Bourdain theory. Why was his journey so successful? Because he used food as his platform to show that we’re more similar than we are. Imagine if the numbers were turned and that 30% of America had actually been to Asia, whatever part of Asia doesn’t matter and they came to understand not only are their cultures wonderful and their history amazing, but the people are just unbelievable and they’re more like us and they’re similar for us. I don’t think this xenophobia and this issue of hate would exist, but they’ve been made into one big boogeyman on that side of the planet, unfortunately, and then we’re scared of what we don’t know.
Joanne: The boogeyman thing has been around for, I would say, over a century. That’s just something that became convenient for… it was a straw man for so many different things and you’re right, though. I think that with the ambassadorship that’s been embodied by things like BTS and the creators of shows like Squid Game and Extraordinary Attorney Woo the sort of blow up that we’re seeing in modern day digital and other media of Korean culture and even Korean food. All of those are really just rife with potential for spreading that message, John, that you just described so beautifully, which is that we’re so much more alike than we realize.
John: And don’t discount Roy Troy, David Chang or yourself, by the way. Do not do that because you are unbelievably humble and kind but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to end the show on a couple of great topics. First of all, let’s go back to… I’ve been a vegetarian for 43 years and a vegan for about 12 and I’ll tell you what, there’s more vegan opportunities and plant-based opportunities than ever before. Talk a little bit about the plant-based industry where it’s going, what’s your thoughts on it? Beyond just the Korean vegan, the greater macro trends of plant-based eating that we’ve seen with beyond meat, impossible foods and all the great plant-based food that now exists, that didn’t exist when I became a vegetarian, that’s for sure and even a vegan. Talk about what’s your thoughts on where we’re going in that world.
Joanne: I’m a Sci-Fi nerd, as I’m sure you know and I love to read Sci-Fi and I always think about this show called Battlestar Galactica. I love that show. And I always remember how they were eating kelp, literally, that’s all they were eating. Because that’s all they could and it was just like, “Oh, I guess kelp is really good for you.” But I just read this headline of an article that said, “If we moved away from meat and started eating more kelp, we could solve world hunger in less than a century.” While I’m not a big fan of eating kelp for every meal, what I do think is happening is that people are starting to realize that we have two massive existential threats that are bearing down on us. One of them is climate change and the other one is one that we’ve suffered through pretty much our entire existence, which is world hunger. The idea is that science is now starting to reveal that plant-based eating and the eradication of big egg and agricultural farming, these are things that can contribute to fixing these two existential crises and so where I see the world headed and I’ve seen this at the very lowest level, I’ve seen influences who literally just do meat posts all the time one day say, “Hey, I bought this dairy free yogurt because I don’t know, I think it’s better for the environment.” It’s like, literally at that level now where it’s seeped into our consciousness. When I see companies like Impossible Meats or Beyond Meats or any others that are really forging ahead and progressing that conversation, that’s so exciting. That needs to happen not just here in the United States, but in places like Korea and Japan and Asia. They are in many ways, the natural leaders of those types of innovations, especially in food. I’m excited to see what they come up with but also in Europe, we desperately need that. In Italy, in France and Germany, obviously, they’re already really doing a good job. There are a lot of other pockets of the world that need that.
John: Being that you’re a child of Chicago. Let’s talk about Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I assume you and Anthony watched the last dance.
Joanne: Yes. Oh my God, we loved it.
John: Okay. So now I want to talk about a topic that you recently hit upon in your podcast and in your newsletters, the topic of leadership and even winning. It was the end of the 8th episode of The Last Dance. It was the only time that Michael Jordan got emotional during the whole taping of the show and he said that leadership has a price and winning has a price and there were tears in his eyes because you could see the pain and the emotional toll and even someone as successful and as wealthy and the amount of rings that he won at the end of the day, he’s still a person and the toll that it took on him and on his family, it was there all on his face and in his eyes. Talk a little bit about your thoughts on leadership having a price and winning having a price because let’s be honest, Joanne, you are extraordinary at what you do. You’re very special. There’s not a lot of you, if any, and you’re as unique as a human being comes, but your voice is really so unvarnished and has risen above the din. So you are now, like it or not, a leader and you are winning in a game that’s science-based and numbers based. When you think about the price that comes with that, share some of your thoughts.
Joanne: I talk about it in this most recent podcast. I mentioned that for my mother, she did all of these things as a leader, however lonely it was at the helm and I really think that’s important and there’s this really wonderful story about Michael Jordan and I don’t know if it’s true, but literally, I did go to church in Chicago. So we were all obsessed with Michael Jordan, including my pastor and he in the beginning of one of his sermons so many years ago, he was talking about how Michael Jordan met his first wife and they had gone to a huge dinner, very sumptuous, very fancy dinner, very expensive and there were a lot of people at this dinner. There’s this huge table full of all of Michael Jordan’s friends and family and guests as well as this woman who he was dating and of course, the bill comes out, and I’m sure it’s many thousands of dollars because there are many people at this dinner table. He reaches for his wallet and the only other person who reaches for the wallet is this woman is his ex-wife and that’s when he knew, “Oh, this is the woman for me.” That speaks to the level of isolation and loneliness that leadership and being a winner can unfortunately entail and one of the reasons he fell in love with this woman was because she was willing to join him, in that very small gesture and I think in terms of that cost, we’ve told ourselves, “Oh, I’m tough enough. I can deal with being alone. I can deal with being lonely” without even really understanding what loneliness actually feels like and just how harmful it can sometimes be harmful or costly, to use the word that you were using and for me, currently, my job is very lonely compared to what it was. I used to work in an office full of hundreds of people every single day and now I work in an office of one. That can be a little bit lonely but also it’s just knowing that I have to be so intentional with everything that I say and that I do because there are so many people who are not just watching me, but who are depending on me, who are relying on me now to say the truthful thing and to say the thing that will uplift them for a moment. That can be a lot, that can be a big burden and I only say that with, again, immense gratitude that I’m in the position and I know that Michael Jordan was saying the same thing, but when I see him crying or when I see him in pain like that, I can only think that it is because he feels so isolated and alone in his struggle. There’s really very few people who can help him in that.
John: Yeah. Every entrepreneur that comes to me for mentorship or any type of learnings with regards to being an entrepreneur, I tell them, just be prepared, be prepared. It’s soul crushing lonely, whether at the beginning and even at the end, as you say, it’s a lonely journey. You have to learn to be comfortable being in that uncomfortable spot of loneliness.
Joanne: Totally. Yeah. There’s no safety net. That’s what I discovered. It’s like, you’re the safety net. You’re the safety net.
John: Two things I’ve been dying to ask you then we’re going to talk one last time about the future of the Korean Vegan. How long did it take you after you left the law firm to you to stop thinking out of 6 minute increments?
Joanne: Oh, my gosh. It still takes me some time. I’m still like, you just took 1.2 hours of my life. [Crosstalk]. I do still think in increments. You should see my calendar. It’s all blocked because I require that structure. I can’t get away from it. Everything is built into blocks in my day and I feel like that’s a really… for me, it’s a very productive way of managing my time. I’m not necessarily over.
John: You have a beautiful house in California that has the right type of light. How many people… because I’m going to just tell you, your podcast, first of all, your book is just beautiful in terms of the artwork and the photos and everything else in this. But in terms of your podcast, the music that you play… how many people are producing this with you, is it… please don’t tell me it’s just you. That’s just not fair if you’re that talented on everyone.
Joanne: It is just me. I write the podcast. I will say my husband edits my writing, my husband edits my writing and then after that, it is me. I produce everything. I do the audio engineering, I do all the music and I record, obviously, and I edit everything at the end. My husband does the website for the podcast. That’s also very helpful but from a production standpoint of the podcast itself, it’s pretty much just me.
John: By the way the music is beautiful. Is any of the music your husband’s music?
Joanne: It is especially the episode about him, the one called A Love Story, that’s entirely sourced from all of his music and my husband is unspeakably talented when it comes to piano and I’m very proud of him but sometimes they get so annoyed that people don’t know. You don’t know how amazing my cousin is at piano. He’s literally among the best.
John: That’s why I said in the beginning that this book is a really love letter to him and your mom and your dad and your grandparents. What’s next? Joanne, I want you to leave. What’s next besides the growing of the podcast, which means somewhere within 20,000 an episode, you’re probably 2 years away from Joe Rogan money with regards to the podcast. Okay. But in terms of… obviously you’re so prolific, and I mean that only, of course, in the sweetest and the most complimentary way. What’s next in terms of… I’m sure your publisher is excited about your next book. What are you thinking about your next book? I’ve heard you talk about sauces and other things. What is in your mind for your next wonderful love letter?
Joanne: The next book is actually going to be called Eat This at least that’s what we’re…
John: Is it great?
Joanne: Yeah, Eat This. It’s an homage to my grandmother and she would always say, instead of I love you, she would say, “Eat this.”
John: That really meant I love you, like you said that was love language.
Joanne: Exactly. That was her love language. It’s this idea of extending love through food, but mostly extending love to yourself, being kind to yourself through food and kind of dismantling this notion that there’s only one way to eat for each human being and so each chapter is really going to be about, this is what I like to eat when I’m training for a marathon. This is what I like to eat when I hate my job and I don’t know what else to do and so I just need to eat something delicious. This is what I like to make for my nephew. This is what I like to make for my husband. So each chapter is sort of going to be a facet of me, but designed to compel you to explore a little and say, “What are the kinds of food that I like to eat when I’m feeling down? What are the kinds of food that I like to eat when I’m on a fitness kick” and things like that.
John: That’s wonderful. Is there any upcoming public appearances that you want to mention or promote before we have to say goodbye for today?
Joanne: I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Our big travel is… Anthony’s got a marathon in December, so everything is pointed in that direction. So it’s all about him right now.
John: Which marathon is he running?
Joanne: It’s CIM. It’s a fast one and I think he definitely wants to PR[?]. He’s very focused on it.
John: Are you running a marathon at any time in the near future?
Joanne: No. I was supposed to run the New York City Marathon, but I got out of training for three weeks because of COVID. Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m going to be running a half marathon in a couple of weeks, just for fun on a lark in Santa Barbara but other than that, hopefully setting my eyes on a marathon for next spring.
John: When does Eat This come out?
Joanne: That’s not going to come out probably until fall of 2024.
John: Perfect. So fall of 2024?
Joanne: Yeah. Next year, the following year.
John: Wow. All right. A lot of things will happen and you’ll have at least 10 million subscribers to your podcast. Let’s put that out there but also I want to have you back when you’re coming out with Eat This, I want to get a copy in advance this time and I want you to come back on and we’ll promote the new book and everything else. We’ll have some fun.
Joanne: We’ll cook.
John: Yeah, we’ll cook. I will literally come to L.A. and I’ll bring a crew with me.
Joanne: It would be so fun cooking with you.
John: Done. Totally done. Cook and we’re going to eat. We’re going to cook and eat.
Joanne: Of course.
John: Of course. Let’s do that. Eat This. We’ll cook and we’ll eat and we’ll promote your new book when it comes out in the fall of 2024. How does that sound?
Joanne: That sounds amazing.
John: In the meantime, the Korean Vegan, you please buy her book. It’s a great Thanksgiving gift or a Christmas gift coming up, the Korean Vegan. You can find Joanne at the koreanvegan.com or of course on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and all the other social media channels are out there. Subscribe to her newsletter. Listen to her podcast. Joanne, you are beyond inspirational. You are just one of my favorite people and I just wish you all the continued success and blessings on this planet and I’m grateful for the amount of time you spent with us today.
Joanne: Thank you so much. It has been such a pleasure to chat with you, John.
John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, Engage is the go to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, live streams and much more. For more information on Engage or to book Talentoday, visit letsengage.com.