Le Hong Minh: “I Am Still Living In The Dream Of The Year Of 20 Years”
Le Hong Minh: “I Am Still Living In The Dream Of The Year Of 20 Years”
Mr. Le Hong Minh, founder and CEO of VNG, is undoubtedly the idol of many of your gaming, tech and start-up friends. On the 15th anniversary of VNG’s birthday, he talks more openly than usual. And hopefully this article can inspire young people who are embracing great ambitions, as I have been in an hour of talking with him. Do you think every person born in the world has a mission?
It is an abstract question. But in short, I would say no.
So if a person is born with a noble cause, what will help them … realize that?
I never thought anyone’s life had to go along with a mission. Each person will choose to do the things that they want to do and need to do at specific times in life. Similarly, they absolutely can choose … not to do. Whether or not to do it, to believe it or not to believe in a noble cause is the choice of every human being. And that choice is the result of many objective and subjective factors. So how is it that someone who is born has a certain responsibility. I always thought life was more a journey than a race to a destined destiny.
Usain Bolt had a serious car accident, but he had no injuries. Since that incident, he went into training like crazy to become the fastest person to believe. He thought that was his mission. Or like Mark Zuckerberg, he believes his mission is to bring people together. So isn’t making Le Hong Minh’s mission to change the lives of Vietnamese people?
I see here different stories. With Usain Bolt, he gave the accident a meaning. He thought God saved his life so that he could fulfill his historic mission. Outsiders may not believe in that story. But Bolt believes it. And that belief keeps him going.
And Mark Zuckerberg said that because he wanted people to believe that. But we also saw it clearly: Mark was having a great crisis of trust. Do people still believe that Mark purely meant that he wanted to bring everyone in the world together? Does Mark have any other motives? Clearly, a lot of people who once believed Mark now turned to skepticism, not even believing anymore.
I think everyone has stories to tell. As an individual, working in the Internet industry has never been my story. Moreover, I consider it something I want to do rather than some abstract mission. And because I wanted to do it, because I always thought about it and because of luck, I had gained valuable knowledge.
I still tell everyone in VNG: everyone’s starting point can be different, but the most important thing is to be persistent, never give up. Such perseverance will, over time, help us cultivate abilities that people who have chosen a different path will not be able to acquire .
Take you as Zalo or Game in VNG as an example. You guys of course are very good (not so good … to get into VNG), but their abilities are not so great or completely different from those around them. However, through the path that you have chosen, and the perseverance on that path, after a while, you have accumulated the knowledge and experience that others crave.
Doing what you want is of course great. But determining what you want is not easy, for young people …
Here, we have to distinguish a little between conscious choice and unconscious choice. Like Mark Zuckerberg, working on Facebook because he believes he can create a better world, erasing geographical distance and drawing people closer together. That is a conscious choice, but is there an unconscious option behind it? Perhaps Mark had another ambition to dominate the world, or Mark had that desire that he did not know? There are many layers of layers behind a human, so we’re not here to guess.
Like myself, always ask myself: Why have I done this for the past 15 years? Because it has become a habit? Because of the very good position we are sitting? For tangible and intangible benefits brought about by work? Or is it simply because I’m afraid to change? Do people not always get stuck in a job, a problem, or even a relationship just because they are afraid of change? While just stepping out, bravely changing, they will have a different journey more interesting? And my answer has always been that I still love and want to do this job. After thinking, just continue.
15 years in VNG with so many storms and difficulties. What keeps you moving forward on your journey?
As a CEO of VNG, of course, there must be a lot of headaches already. But the feeling of happiness when achieving something is strong enough to offset all other unpleasant emotions. That achievement, as in any other technology company, is the social influence through the products that they launch. Who is unhappy when his or her work is millions of people or better than billions of people received and used?
The second element: through the next step, I always have the opportunity to do new things and from there, learn new things. For many people, challenges can create fatigue. But for me, people who do technology-related work, the challenge is an addictive substance.
Third: in new things, I see that I can change, improve my surroundings, and throw away things that no longer fit.
Fourth: feeling comfortable to work with people whom I love and trust. I always find joy in helping young people grow. Because I myself was a young person, happy, excited when learning new things or when conquering the first milestones. When a team of many people looks in the same direction, that kind of emotion and resonance power is a wonderful thing.
“ The feeling of happiness when achieving something is strong enough to offset other unpleasant emotions. That achievement is the influence on the society through the products that they bring to market. ”
Out of the four things he just said, all three were related to the lack of publicity. No matter how big or small, he seems to always want to inspire people around him?
Right. Take an example of jogging. I was not the one who launched the first movement. But through his influence, a number of friends and people in VNG also joined in the run. Then running clubs were formed. Or like 3 years ago, Uprace 2017 was born, with a little technology applied to see which individual or group runs the best of VNG. By 2018, sitting together, we talked about scaling up so that more people could run. That is, in any matter, I refer to the issue of positively impacting the people around me, and creating values as big as possible. Because I am a runner, I know the results that I get through running physically and mentally.
And to create a good effect, there must also be clear milestones and goals. In 2017, there were about 400 people running, the total distance after finishing Uprace was 30,000 kilometers. So in 2018, I have to aim for how many runners don’t know, but I have to get back a million kilometers. In the end, everyone works from product to viral to the community. As a result, 15,000 people participated, and ran 991,000 kilometers (almost achieved the goal). In 2019, I set a goal of increasing the number of people running to 50,000 and bringing the total number of kilometers to 5 million. Just like that, I constantly set challenges and must do everything to conquer it.
It’s just a small example to see from where an idea, the desire to create impact on the community can lead us far.
As a fierce person at work, are you ever afraid of making the wrong decision?
I always keep my slogan: Whatever you do, do not have an accident. If unfortunately the accident is not dead. Some people use big words like decisions about life and death, moments of fate … But I know better than anyone else that even in the worst situation, I will not die. Without dying … there’s nothing to fear anymore. I think a lot of people will agree: the biggest fear is fear of facing oneself, not of oneself outside.
In the past 15 years, have you ever faced the greatest fear?
Yes, and a lot is different. I always have to undergo the pressure that I have caused … myself.
So how did he overcome it?
Then … hide it okay. Hahaha. You have to torment yourself and suffer yourself, but you can’t show it to the outside, making people … afraid to be with you.
I think the best way, but also the only way, to help me overcome my fears is to rely on my closest partner. Trusted friends and associates will always pump their courage when they need them most.
Who are they?
Inside or outside of VNG, I also have some people like that. Each person will approach an aspect of the story and give himself advice. Then I’ll have to sum it all up, take it all and then see myself again. There is no one who can fully share his problems.
Can you try an example of overcoming suffering alone?
For example, in 2004, when Vinagame was not yet established, I went to a sailing race from Hong Kong to Vietnam. At that time, I also worked for Vina Capital and was responsible for organizing this tournament. A few weeks before the tournament took place, I wondered: why don’t I climb into a boat and try it out, it is also an interesting experience. Thinking so, I book a plane ticket to Hong Kong to attend that race. Before officially racing, I attended a boat test. The boat ran around Hong Kong in about 4 hours then I … vomiting for 4 hours. The seasickness made me flat without a bit of energy left. Stepping down to the shore, I lamented the sky: 4 hours that felt like 4 days, the next 3 days floating in the sea must be too dead. The principle to treat seasickness is … ashore, but no matter what medication you take, it doesn’t work. But when I entered the race, I had no way of telling people … to step forward for me to step down. Should have determined to step up, it must also identify that he stays on it for 3 days to get off. At that time, afraid but not afraid. It’s like seeing a dead head and still hitting my head. The thought of giving up has crept in my mind. But then a stream of critical thoughts immediately appeared: I couldn’t find it hard to give up. I chose this experience in the first place. I also exhort that I will do it: now go to book a plane ticket back then … my hometown is dead. So I decided to play too. Before I got on the boat, I went in search of a seasick to take the medicine, they stuck an ear to relieve fatigue, so … I stuck two holes, determined to have boarded a boat in Hong Kong until I arrived in Nha Trang. In the end, the 3-day trip ended, and I was fine. That is an example of my personality. I do not let the difficulties discourage me.
Saying that does not mean that I … lepers, how it is. There must also be a calculation of what the worst case is, is it worth the commitment? I think that spirit has been applied somewhat to VNG. Everyone on the Board of Directors loves to challenge and be willing to take risks. Usually, only 60-70% of the chance people will succeed. As for me personally, it only takes 30% to be able to … play already.
Thus, it can be said that VNG has a very clear personality, and that personality is greatly influenced by him?
With business issues, it can be said that VNG has this personality. Either I have to make the final decision, or I have to convince people to believe my decision. For the members of VNG, specifically here are the key members, I think I have an influence, but not much. Because although I am a fierce person, I am only the most fierce to myself. I did not impose my thoughts on anyone. I respect the personality of all.
“ Although I am a fierce person, I am most fierce with myself. I did not impose my thoughts on anyone. I respect the personality of all. ”
Respect for that personality will have obvious benefits, but it also has disadvantages, right?
The advantage is that everyone is free to express their opinions. They are made and of course responsible for their actions. In VNG, there is no dictatorial culture or the boss is always right. Ten years working at VNG, I was scolded by my colleague and argued fiercely until I finally decided. On the flip side, of course, I do, sometimes because I overly respect the individual’s personal freedom and give up my veto. As a result, there are things that I believe to be true, but must let the uninformed people do what they believe is right. But this harm is insignificant, and the future I will continue to respect the uniqueness of each individual.
15 years as a VNG, how can you reject empiricism, to always put your faith in others, especially young people?
This, maybe you have to go find Mr. Vuong Quang Khai will say better than me. Because he especially believes in young people. Experience is good, but it somewhat limits its “risk”. Young people are always “reckless” and have bold ways of doing things. For example, with 10 issues, young people will give up. 8. But the other two issues, the youth and the “risk” will help them make better solutions than those based on experience. So it is best that I still have to experience and keep the “dose” of youth at the same time.
Through the game, what lessons did you learn from your work and life?
Perhaps everyone who plays the game knows a classic saying: “Everything is a game. Don’t take it serious ”. But not everyone can do that. I think through the game, a person can express his personality. There are people who play the game very emotionally, eating is extremely happy, losing is angry. Some people play games for entertainment, some people play extremely seriously, buy books and newspapers about reading as long as they eat. There are some people who play the game with autism, play alone at home, some people have to go to the store, have a new community to play …
I’m the type who plays games for fun, and even in my business, I have the thought of losing and playing again. Sometimes I also wonder: is that quality good? Market competition is increasingly fierce, should I turn to blood a bit less profitable? But in return, it’s the same thing as a game (it is said that Life is a big game) that I don’t see anyone as an enemy. Maybe in the marketplace fighting close to the game, but outside, leaving work aside, you can shake hands, drink beer, eat meals, but there is nothing to stress. Because after all, we always need rivals. Without rivals, how do we maintain our focus and keep our spirits moving forward?
He once said: whatever you want, you can’t die, and every year you only wish VNG could live for another year. Up to now, do you still keep the spirit of “living by the year”?
Of course I have to think longer. There are long-term projects that take me years to succeed. Such as the construction of adjacent people, who will sit in the key seats of VNG. This process does not count each year. There are teams that find managers I estimate takes decades.
And sometimes by the ninth year … people leave?
It’s okay, but why. See it as a failure of his. Honestly, VNG’s human resource problem has not been well done yet.
Want to keep people, should I give the core strengths that VNG has (and elsewhere may not)?
One of the points that everyone at VNG can be proud of is “integrity” (transparency, integrity, clarity). VNG does not accept lies, lies, unrealities. It sounds funny, because “integrity” should be required in every workplace. But in Vietnam, not many environments, including the “international” environment, can sustain this. So those who value integrity, I believe they will work for a long time with VNG.
VNG also gives people space to develop and make decisions on their own. We encourage free debate within the framework of the job.
“ One of the points that everyone at VNG can be proud of is ‘integrity’ (transparency, integrity, clarity). ”
But Vietnamese people are passive, sometimes they like having a boss who just works, instead of brainstorming for themselves. Maybe what you think is VNG’s strong … not strong?
I am not a sociologist or anthropologist to assert Vietnamese people here or there. But I have a belief that people are the same everywhere, except how we put them into an environment. It is the different environment that creates different people. Vietnamese people are told not to line up. But actually Vietnamese going abroad lined up like normal. So if you create an environment that stimulates personal growth, you will see your personality more clearly. One simple story: when we moved to this building (Flemington Tower, 182 Le Dai Hanh), there was a terrible story, the elevator. Because this is an apartment, not an office. But VNG tries to force people to comply with the use of elevators. Most people will get used to wanting to go up, but keep jumping at the time the stairs go down and wait until it goes up. I just said: we don’t do it, we have to queue, and not “cheat” the elevator. No reward or punishment, we just repeated the message, and the leaders themselves did the same. So everything went into it. No matter how long the line is, everyone must comply and wait for their turn.
Going back to the “integrity” story, it seems he is always working hard to get it right. Even when the whole of Vietnam played a pirated game, he did not want to buy the copyright to release the game …
The categories of law or ethics are not discussed, we must try to comply. But here, I want to frankly talk about the benefits of doing right. Sometimes maintaining the right job will not produce immediate results, but will bring long-term benefits. Come back 15 years ago. At that time, if you did illegally, you would also earn that money. But I believe that if I buy the copyright in the long run, I will make a lot of money compared to those you do smuggling. So VNG started the journey, struggled to do things no one had ever done, suffered hardships because of a pile of money but no money to see. But then the result, everyone felt very satisfied. Should do the right thing here and there is a pragmatic reason in it, we believe it is a good path, not dare to accept because we are nice and ethical people.
Or as for taxes, VNG always makes full tax returns, even … stubs. Because we want to go a long way, we don’t want to have any trouble. In general, money can not buy his peace where, then lie to worry about snoring now?
Despite trying to do it right, but sometimes there are “scandals”?
Because what I believe is right with others, what do they think is wrong? The boat is big and big, I have to have an “anti-fan”. How can these people speak well for themselves? If those problems are urgent, then … annoyed all my life. People who didn’t believe me couldn’t explain it. I still have to go on my journey and hope they will understand me through my actions and results.
You often talk about the journey, so what does that journey lead to, and what is Le Hong Minh’s biggest dream?
Many people define dreams as the need to achieve something specific. I have always considered dreams to be a journey. For example, if we dream of having a garden house in Dalat. Then when I got there, I … didn’t dream anymore? I don’t set a deadline for myself, work up to a certain time, then retire, spend money, or relax. For me, going to work, going out, enjoying life are the parallel things in my life journey.
When I was 20 years old, I had a dream: to influence as many people as possible. I was still playing games and going to college at the time, and didn’t know which way I would make an impact. Just know it was his wish. And now I feel very lucky to be living in that dream.
“When I was 20, I had a dream: to make a positive impact on as many people as possible. And now I feel very lucky to be living in that dream. ”
So in the next 5 years, 10 years, what are your goals and VNG?
In the next 5 or 10 years, I want to build a new generation of leaders, replacing those who have been in VNG from the early days like me, Mr. Khai or Ms. Diep. I want to continue building VNG so that young people can grow up and continue writing their own dreams here. I want VNG’s current and future technology products to continue to have far-reaching influence with tens of millions of Vietnamese and hundreds of millions of others around the world.