From the conservative view point of South Korea, Duane represents all and every opposite view of what my culture has taught me throughout life. From the day we met firstly in 2006, he started instilling in me his unconventional wisdom especially about staying out of the comfort zone and eventually he became my inspiration and mentor. After the encounter, I worked my way to become a business person ditching my 12+ year career as a professional pianist. It was the best decision ever; I now travel at least 10 times a year, meet tons of new and amazing people, and live life full of happiness and appreciation with constant and exciting adventures. It was Duane who helped me turn my dream into a reality.
In 2006 when I accidently met Duane at my friendï¿½s house in Vegas, I was an accomplished pianist, but an unhappy one. Although I had just won a music competition in California for the seventh time and had a $10,000 scholarship, I had no clue what to do in the future. I desperately wanted to run away from music, which controlled my life since I was very young; I had been in a highly competitive performing arts schools in Korea that mandated me to practice 6-7 hours a day without many breaks/vacations from age 11. As Duane usually does whenever finding a person who does not live their full potential, he started talking to me and gradually breaking my boundaries, showing me possibilities of life that are realized only when getting out of the comfort zone. I devoured his teaching and eventually took a big bet of accepting his outrageous suggestion ï¿½ traveling alone through his network, a.k.a. the strangers, for a month before my US visa expires.
Only that appalling concept of traveling turned out to be the most exciting thing that happened in my life. I still remember how my heart thumped so badly right before getting off the Greyhound station in Spokane to meet my first host family, Michele and Pete. Crime movies and media about American life I had seen had influenced me to think that this family could turn out something scary at any moment. (As if it will ever be!) All the six families I met in a month gradually, but definitely, changed my mentality. I learned that openness and honesty ï¿½ although it may make you feel vulnerable ï¿½ connect you with just anyone to live your life richer and fuller.
I enjoyed my travel so much that I instantly dropped my 12+ years of piano skills in Korea and changed my major to business, which allows one to travel the world and meet people. I enjoyed my career throughout Nielsen, Philip Morris, and a startup and now I am back in the US as a student at Kellogg (Northwestern) Business School. In the future, my goal is to be another Duane Ausherman to someone who needs encouragement and support as I did. I know the magic of Duane ï¿½ conversations to see through people in need, willingness to encourage them to be their best, and supporting them by connecting people together ï¿½ and how it often changes a life.