Brand Stories In Rhymes: Poet James Nguyen Describes How He’s Disrupting Business Communication

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Brand Stories In Rhymes: Poet James Nguyen Describes How He's Disrupting Business Communication

 

At its very core, poetry is the expression of the soul. Much like the founder, the executive team, or the leadership team, the company is an expression of them. For poet James Nguyen, to write poetry for brands is to find the unique expression of what that brand, company, or organization does and speak about it in a unique way. On today’s show, Robin Colucci talks with James about the creative world of poetry and how he is disrupting business communication. James is a serial entrepreneur who was featured across CNBC, Sky, and ABC. He was also a contributing writer for Forbes. James talks about writing poetry for brands and explains how poetry can bring happiness, peace, and fulfillment to anyone’s journey. Tune in and learn how to paint somebody’s life with words!

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Brand Stories In Rhymes: Poet James Nguyen Describes How He’s Disrupting Business Communication

Poetry was my first inroad to writing. I recall writing little poems even as a very young child. When I first heard about James Nguyen, I had to invite him to the show. James is the Founder and CEO of Inflection Media. He is a serial entrepreneur who has previously been featured on CNBC, Sky, ABC and has been a contributing writer on Forbes. One fascinating thing about James is his ability to distill his experience and insights about life and business through the beauty of spoken word poetry.

His topics range from an ode to his favorite rapper to a case study on Tesla. James was generous enough to share with us a little taste of some of his poetry. I was surprised and delighted to discover how hearing about a brand through a poem does transform my experience of it. I hope that you will have a similar experience in reading this fun interview that I did with James. Enjoy.

James, welcome to the show.

It’s great to be here, Robin. Thank you so much.

I’m so excited to have you. I have to admit I was completely intrigued when your team reached out to me that you’ve figured out how to bring poetry to business. I’m excited about that. Before we even get into the poetry, I want to ask you, how does AI tech expert get involved in poetry in the first place?

I feel like I’ll get that a lot as this starts to become a bigger thing. My background’s been in technology my whole business career. I’ve started different companies in the tech space. That’s been almost the last decade of my life. That’s always been something that has piqued my curiosity. That’s where my passions have driven me for a long time in my entrepreneurial career. Beneath all of that stuff, I’ve always loved the words. I was a contributing writer on Forbes. I was doing a lot of “business writing” for a very long time but I’ve been writing for years. It’s what I did growing up whether it was a huge long introspective like journal entries or general reflections of my own life and be writing a lot.

Poetry in a big way in particular in 2021 has been a by-product of a lot of my inner work and my journey back to my heart is the best way to describe it. A lot of my poetry has been flowing through me. I haven’t been reflecting back. I was writing when I was 9, 10 years old somewhere around there. I remember giving my mom a bookmark for Mother’s Day. I’d write a poem for her on the bookmark and things like that but never really thought anything of it.

In particular, 2021, what I feel most called to write. It’s crazy, Robin. I’ll spend my mornings doing my own spiritual or inner work practice. My writing will flow through me. What’s crazy about it is it’s about everything. It could be our reflections on life, on love and relationships, previously a part of me thinking he needed to be the best, to be validated, all of these different reflections. It’s flowing through me.

I’ve started to listen to the music you could call it. One of my favorite quotes is from Alicia Keys where she talks about turning down the volume of the world to hear the sound of your own voice. For me, I’ve been listening to my own voice. That little voice inside you that says, “You should keep going this way. There’s something there.” The more I’ve listened to that voice, the louder it’s become.

Now I’m allowing it to flow through me. I’m allowing that voice to speak. For me, poetry is a different way of communicating and expressing. As writers, whether it’s non-fiction, creative writing, poetry, whatever it is, we use words and we’re a big fan of words. “Artists,” which I have said is everybody, there are different creative outlets.

Some people are amazing painters, incredible dancers and singers. For me, that’s all still an expression of their soul. That’s a creative outlet. For whatever reason, poetry has found me. That’s how I think about it in terms of the sequence. It’s not I found poetry. Poetry was already in me. I’ve just remembered it.

You use poetry to help other business businesses and business leaders, as I understand it, from checking you out a little bit. That struck me as very unique.

One of my companies is you could call it a media company or a media agency. What we focus on is finding the arts of businesses. We talk sometimes quite literally about writing poetry for brands but it’s more like what poetry represents. For me, at its very core, poetry is the expression of the soul. It’s like the founder of a company, the executive team or a leadership team.

Business is art. You see an industry or a market and you think of it like a blank canvas. Click To Tweet

The company is still an expression of them. It’s a compilation of their unique traits, insights, perspectives on that industry or market. A lot of what that brand would represent is there. To write poetry for brands is to find the art, the unique expression of what that brand, company or organization does and speak about it in a unique way.

I’ve had a lot of fun for an organization that does a lot of trauma healing and spiritual work. I’ve had so much fun because I’m a big part of that organization, writing a poem about what we stand for and what we’re trying to do to heal masculinity, for instance. That was a powerful thing. A friend of mine runs a charity for teenage women in Australia case studying her company in her poetry.

When somebody feels a poem, looks at a beautiful piece of art or sees an incredible dancer, you feel it. On a different level, it’s a visceral part of you. You’re like, “That was an experience.” What happens when people see business as art? My experience being entrepreneurial is that business is art. You see an industry, a market and you’re like, “That’s a blank canvas.” This doesn’t exist. This potential solution or product doesn’t exist, whatever it might be. Entrepreneurialism is a lot of creativity. When people see business as art, the natural extension is making art for businesses.

Is there a format of poetry, a particular form that you like to use, a haiku format? Is it more free verse? What is your approach?

It’s a more spoken word it’s the umbrella you can put it under. Based on my experience, I’ve done media outlets of being a talking head on big channels and all that stuff. All my life been keynoting conferences, presentations, the spoken word, not under the umbrella of poetry but the spoken word in general. It’s been something I’ve been drawn to from a young age. Even as a teenager, I was doing a lot of that stuff. For me, creating poetry, there’s so much more to it than the rhymes, the different verses or technicalities of it. For me, it’s the musicality, the rhythm or the experience of it. That’s why I love the spoken word personally because you experience it.

It’s more like longer form, a slam poem type format?

The format but not necessarily the vibe.

In essence. Even small things like you’ll see on our website, which we’ll relaunch. The whole website is written in verse. Everything that we do, all about “services,” we help companies with is written in rhymes. It becomes a whole experience of the thing. For me now, poetry is quite literally a mode of expression. It’s communication more than anything else. It’s crazy. A lot of the time I’ll find in my day to day now, it’s more difficult for me not to rhyme things, whether I’m speaking to my friends. For me now, poetry uses me.

How do you experience writing copy for your website as a poem or someone else’s website? What are some of the differences that you notice? I’m having two quick questions competing at the same time. That’s why I’m fumbling here. I want to know what’s different about the experience of reading copy that’s in rhymes versus what you see is different. I’m also curious about the difference in crafting the copy, maybe we go there first. I’m sure you must have written straight copy for a website before. What are some of the differences that you noticed when you’re doing it in a rhymed verse?

Definitely in a previous life, very early in my career, in my own websites and things like that, I’d be writing my own copy. You’ll identify with this as well, Robin. When you get in a flow state whether it’s general, non-fiction or any of your writing, it starts to flow out of you. You’re like, “Where did the time go? I’ve finished the entire,” whatever you have to write.

I get into a similar flow state with poetry but the main difference is so much more fun. That’s the main difference. When you’re proofreading, you finished up a long piece of something and then you have to edit and proofread it. Writers who are reading can identify with that plight. It’s crazy because when I’m reading back the copy, whether it’s a website or even a case study I’ve written on a company, I did one on Tesla’s marketing strategy.

Did you write a case study on Tesla in rhymes? Can we have an excerpt? Is it public?

It will be public soon. It’s these things.

TAC James Nguyen | Writing Poetry For Brands
Writing Poetry For Brands: The first thing to understand about brands is that advertising isn’t the same as marketing. The former means buying ads. The latter means getting a market to know a thing, i.e., brand recognition.

 

I’m going to be the first to check it out too.

It’s a lot of fun. I do the intro for it. I haven’t edited it through but if you want to hear it and you feel cold, I can read a little bit.

We’ll forgive you since it’s not edited. Everybody understands we are getting a rare sneak peek at a nearly done draft.

Maybe we do this one at the end of it. There are two things I feel prone to. My poet’s name is JQN, which are my initials. What I write about there is it’s everything in my life. It’s my life lessons, philosophies, spirituality, love, relationships, all of those things. For my business, in particular, my media business, what we’re starting to put out a lot more is poetic profiles. We profile companies or case study companies in rhymes, in spoken word.

Have you posted any of these yet? I’m so curious to know how people are experiencing this. We got the scoop.

I’ve written everything not-for-profits. I’m looking at a Tesla one now. That’s funny.

I’ll read a little snippet of the Tesla one.

Gives us a little taste. Thank you.

“The first thing to understand about brands is that advertising isn’t the same as marketing. The former means buying ads. The latter means getting a market to know a thing, i.e., brand recognition, which is the ignition behind Tesla’s historic position as one of the fastest ever-growing brands. Their market share continues to expand due to marketing like publicity influences and word of mouth, which all worked together to get attention, which is the precursor to any form of retention and is critical for any groundbreaking invention.

Tesla has and is all of these, which are the critical marketing keys to why they can spend $0 on ads because not advertising doesn’t mean Tesla doesn’t invest in growing their brand. What is important to understand is the way Tesla brands, commands, demands from the public is gigantically grand.” This is how they do it and then we go into it.

First of all, case studies traditionally are so boring to read. I want to say it’s not my favorite genre. This is exciting. One of the great powers of poetry is that you don’t get the message but you get the essence underneath the message. The metaphor of you’re saying something even more than it’s in the words. I have to admit I was curious to know. You have proven to me that I was picking up on and I’m finding myself going, “I did not know that.” The way that you unfolded made me see, not just that fact but why that fact matters,  unique and powerful. Much of the essence of all that came through in the poetic form might’ve taken a couple of extra pages to come through in a straight case study.

For me, that’s a big thing. In poetry, it’s intentional about word choice. Like philosophy, I’m a big fan of simplicity. If you can say more with less then you do it. That makes a good writer. It’s not about the number of words they add. It’s what they can subtract. That’s the same philosophy with other forms of art. Architects think about what you can take away from the space rather than adding to the space. Beautiful designs are about the negative space around designs and the space between the actual elements.

Poetry is quite literally a mode of expression. It’s communication more than anything else. Click To Tweet

For me, poetry in the same way as a piece of art is around what can we take away? What few words and ways that we sequence these words? Can we communicate something powerful? My assertion is a lot of the information we see now is not that novel. There have been so many different case studies of Tesla’s marketing strategies. I wouldn’t even be able to count them.

In the same way, you think about New York Times bestsellers and things like that. A lot of the wisdom that’s in these books, it’s ancient wisdom. They can be traced back to ancient philosophers, Eastern philosophy, anything like that. The reason they’re bestsellers now is they’re packaged in a way that’s unique, accessible and palatable to this audience.

It connects to the context and the specific challenges people face now.

For me, writers are translators. It’s crazy because some writers might think they have innovative and unique ideas. Maybe they haven’t gone deep enough into history to understand that. For me, there’s a lot of humility and being like, “The probability of me discovering any new wisdom is pretty slim.” A lot of the art, whether it’s in awesome non-fiction books or any of these things, it’s how you can communicate it.

In my writing days and things like that, I was like, “Cool.” There was a different way that I could write, whether it’s like long-form essays, whether it’s anything like that. I was able to engage people along the way. For me, poetry is that step up but it’s a step out from the gate because I’m no longer trying to establish myself as a non-fiction writer. I’m like, “This is what was flowing through me in the ways that I can put words together, the ways people hear it and experience like a case study on Tesla through poems. It becomes fun.

It’s so much more fun. I’m like, “I want to hear the rest of it. I want to read the rest of that case study on Tesla if it wasn’t a poem.” The other thing I noticed and I wonder if our readers noticed as well, please shoot us an email and let us know. I love to know. What was interesting to me is in my mind’s eye, as you were talking, I was seeing that red Tesla, that image. It was burning in my brain and I thought, “Isn’t that interesting?” You didn’t mention that particular image but it evoked that image for me.

That’s what’s beautiful is a lot of nonfiction takes a skilled non-fiction writer to captivate an audience the whole way through. If you can do that and I don’t know how long that was, maybe 20, 30 seconds or something like that. Keep people engaged because they’re creating the same experience of say the creative writing piece that they’re reading but they’re learning about non-fiction topics. For me, it’s a beautiful unique intersection.

How else do you use poetry? You were saying you helped businesses with their brand messaging.

Our media company creates media brands. There’s a number of different facets to that. The literal copy, in the same way, any freelance writers out there would know copywriting and help companies with that stuff. It’s creating articles and thought leadership pieces and things like that. That’s one thing and that’s where the actual copy comes but I have a whole creative team. We work on creating trailers, videos and all these different things. Poetry is an essence we use our way through everything. That’s how we do it.

For a lot of businesses and a lot of more traditionalists, they’ll see it as a very unique or unorthodox approach. A lot of the poetry is weaved into the strategy of a business because once you understand the essence of who you are and the authenticity of what you’re here to do, whether it’s in a specific market or demographic, we don’t have to get too technical into business. Poetry is at the heart of everything that you offer. The poetry for me is what the company is. That’s what I want to help companies see.

Poetry is what the company is.

That’s my assertion.

Say more about that. Let’s go to the next layer down on that.

TAC James Nguyen | Writing Poetry For Brands
Writing Poetry For Brands: Poetry is at the heart of everything that you offer. A lot of the poetry is weaved into the strategy of a business.

 

If you deconstruct in my world what my poetry is and any form of creativity, poetry in this way is analogous to any form of art or creativity. I use poetry as the hook because that’s what’s unique to my skillset or expression. If we think about where creativity comes from and potentially gets a little bit esoteric and more spiritual but when you talk to whether it’s artists, dancers, any of these creatives, they start to speak about a flow state.

We mentioned that before in terms of non-fiction writing. Let’s go a little deeper, what’s a flow state? That’s when you’re no longer thinking about something. When your conscious mind almost gets turned off, it goes into your subconscious. Let’s go one step deeper again. What’s a subconscious? The subconscious then if we start to feel into what intuition is and note the intentionality of my language, I’m not saying, think about what intuition is. I’m saying feel into what intuition is.

When we keep going, a real common theme that you hear among a lot of creatives when they’re in their most artistic state is that they feel something’s being channeled through them or they can’t articulate what’s happening. It’s like, “I don’t know why I’m drawing this piece or I don’t know I’m writing these words. They just come to me.” For me in my world, the deepest, most pure and authentic form of creativity is the purest and most sincere expression of our souls.

The creativity is flowing through us. It’s not inhibited, filtered or painted with any form of conditioning, stories or rules. That’s what art is. It breaks the rules. When there are no rules, conditions, ways that we have to do something or should do something then what comes out then is a pure expression of us. For me, that’s what my poetry is. Somebody else’s “poetry,” their poetry could be a painting, a dance, a song.

For a lot of entrepreneurs, their poetry is their business because, at its deepest level, that’s what’s flowed through them. To my assertion at the very bottom of it all, is that a truly authentic brand is the extension of a Founder, a CEO or a team, the core team solves. That’s their poetry. When we help a company find their poetry, we help them find themselves. This is where the abstract potentially becomes quite unorthodox for a lot of people who live in systems and structures and not to say there are no practicalities and not actual procedures that you then implement these things with.

For me, helping companies find the poetry of their brands or our team helps them with, that’s intangible. Once you have that level of alignment and congruence, the practicalities of it are how to get it to the world. That’s step two that my company helps with as well. It’s even beyond that. It’s important for me whether it’s also not like I don’t care.

It’s a responsibility for every business person who is going out there to make a difference and impact. It’s different from people who are trying to win, utilize or leverage an arbitrage and make some money. It’s trying to create something sustainable and a brand that’s going to stand the test of time. It’s going to stand the test of time because it’s fundamentally unique because it’s 1 of 1. To use a business language, you’re a monopoly of the market yourself.

As you’re speaking, I’m thinking of so much of the terminology and the vernacular around differentiation, market positioning and values, vision, mission. What I’m hearing is if you get the poetry of the business and feel into it and that is so true. It’s about feeling and listening is what I’ve found. I could see how getting the poem through would answer all those other questions.

In a lot of ways, finding your poetry and writing your poetry, that’s intangible. That’s what a lot of people struggle with because they come from their minds and then try to think it through. In terms of tactics, strategies and theory, everything you talked about, market position, differentiation, all of those things, that’s how we think about it. That’s top-down.

You rationalize a felt experience. What happens when you reverse that and go bottom-up? What happens when you have the experience, the art and then you build around that? It applies to any company as well. Even if it’s “no disrespect to industries that other people might think are a little bit drier,” but if it’s in industries that are conventionally denser in terms of its information whether it’s legal industries, insurance companies, anything like that, that isn’t the same that there’s still a uniqueness to that brand. To use “those clichés,” how on Earth would they differentiate themselves compared to another company? It’s helping them to press that.

When I think of clients I’ve had who are attorneys or even my own insurance agent, they have a sense of purpose something bigger that they’re doing. It’s interesting. A lot of people have never articulated that or are not necessarily 100% aware of it. For a lot of us, it’s probably a subconscious or unconscious thing but you’re right. If you’re in it for anything more than making a buck, it’s got to be there. It’s a matter of tuning to it.

It’s a matter of where whether it’s attorneys, insurance brokers or anyone, finding poetry doesn’t mean writing a poem about yourself. That’s a big distinction.

Say more about that. Our readers are now going, “It isn’t?”

Beautiful designs are about the negative space around designs and the space between the actual elements. Click To Tweet

The fact that I like writing rhymes doesn’t mean that’s for everyone.

Not all poetry has to rhyme but it could be a poem without being rhyming.

When we write the poetry for brands, quite literally, that could be writing unique copy that when someone reads it, they feel that person or that brand. It might be creating a beautiful design or a new logo that they’re like, “I get what that brand is by looking at that logo.” That to me is still poetry. It’s not writing poems necessarily. That’s why one of the first lines on our website is, “We write a brand’s poetry sometimes literally but often metaphorically.” Quite literally sometimes we’ll write a poem about them but it’s not always.

The poem itself is a metaphor for some other creation like a video, a logo or a song, whatever it might be.

Our assertion is we make content that’s art. We make things that are so engaging, unique and different. Individually that brand that people are like, “For no other purpose, I want to look at that,” and then the byproduct of that is they happen to learn or understand what you do from that. In the same way, the Tesla case study, I want to write it in a way where nobody even cares about business marketing case studies. They almost don’t want to listen to it or read it. At the end of it, they just happen to learn.

I’m going to go read the rest when it comes out. Some of your customers, what if they reflected you on how this might’ve made a difference for them to communicate their business in this new way?

The big thing is it was what we were talking about before in terms of the pithiness of word count. Instead of writing a 2,000-word about us, mission statement or whatever it might’ve previously been in the space of 300 words. I can communicate their entire life story of that brand. I can communicate the very essence. I can communicate the things that 2,000 words might not be able to speak about. I can communicate the heart of that brand. I could communicate the heart of that founder, all imbued in one poem. I can communicate the landscape and the status quo, the mission they’re trying to change.

One of my friends runs a charity for teenage women. That’s one of the companies in charities that have case studies through poetry. Another thing I think about is the idea of a good explanation has exponential reach. When I deconstruct that a little bit further, I think about other quotes that have stood the test of time, the quotes that people remember. It’s not because they’re the longest quotes. It’s not because the quotes have the most complicated vocabulary. It’s because the way those words are put together resonates and stays in someone’s consciousness.

The pithiness of that quote communicates the profundity and that’s what is lost in the test of time. The poetry of a brand and being able to cross something like a beautiful case study or a mission statement of a company in verse and poetic prose. That for me is, number one, I don’t know if we’re allowed to swear but it’s so much fun. On the other side of that, suddenly that organization, the company or the brand is able to send people, whether it’s to their website, a video or to anything to say, “I don’t need to say anything else. Read this, this is who we are.”

It comes back to that piece again. Poetry is able to describe and communicate who someone is. Something I do as JQN is poem portraits. In the same way somebody is painted or drawn a portrait, I now write portraits of people. That’s the same way that poetry is my means now of expression and communication. I want to paint somebody with words.

Do you have an example of that?

I can share one. This one hasn’t even been released to the person that I wrote it.

We are the luckiest show on the planet now.

TAC James Nguyen | Writing Poetry For Brands
Writing Poetry For Brands: When there are no rules, conditions on how we have to do something or should do something, what comes out is a pure expression of us.

 

This one will launch soon. I have a big creative team and a lot of the work we do is we create mini-movies from these as well. The entire experience will be very different. This is one of the earlier poems. This is from a modern-day freestyle rapper.

A rapper hired you to write a poem? I was going to say that’s impressive.

This person hasn’t hired me. In the same way like artists that love and look up to certain people, they’ll paint these people.

I get it. You do it because you’re inspired by them. We might’ve heard of this person.

If you’ll look him up, you definitely will. He has millions and millions of followers. He’s been on like the Ellen DeGeneres show. His name is Harry Mack, if you look up his YouTube and things like this.

I have not heard of him. My children probably have but this is great.

He’s an incredible freestyle rapper. For me, what is behind all of it? A big part of my poetry journey is the felt experience of it all. It’s not autobiographical. This one is more like my experience of it. In the same way, I wanted anybody to be able to read this. In the same way, if you saw a portrait of someone that you didn’t know who the portrait was, you can still be like, “That’s a beautiful painting.”

Here’s the debut of Harry Mack’s poem portrait. “Most people know Harry Mack for his freestyle. His improvised raps, rhymes and videos have gone viral. Meanwhile, what I think is more worthwhile is the spotlight on who he is as a dude. Because beyond the views he’s accrued or the gorilla bars he’s debuted is a dude that due to mood brimming full of positivity. It’s undeniable how much he embodies creativity or his proclivity for poetic productivity. Through all the objectivity of his viral activity, you can unequivocally see his humility and sensitivity.

This is what I want to highlight because, despite the height of his success, he continues to obsess and bringing zest and gest to all of his fan interactions. You can see this through all of his actions because, for all of those who aren’t Harry Mack nerds, for context, he gets strangers to say random words as he spits improvised raps that no one’s ever heard. He’s rapped for Kendrick Lamar and on the Ellen show. What people need to know is that despite his global following, he has to show and his millions and millions of views, he still imbues the passion to enthuse people through freestyle rap.

This is at the heart of what he creates but for me, why he’s one of the greatest because he was never premeditated or dictates what his audience should state. He rather spends his energy making sure he relates to them as mates never even close to showing any form of hate. That’s who Harry Mack is. He started as a jazz drummer from USC, spending his time practicing rhymes unapologetically, only to see that he should be free to spread love unconditionally through freestyle raps and hip-hop.

Now he’s at the very top of the list of rappers spreading the love because he’s not in the game to shove those above and challenge people to rap battles. He knows that will do nothing for a bigger mission of spreading love. Big shout out to the lyrical genius, Harry Mack, the rapper helping light and love make a comeback.”

I hope he gets to hear that poem sometimes.

We’ll be releasing a mini-movie. That will be animated and have a beautiful experience of it as well.

The deepest, purest, and authentic form of creativity is the purest and sincerest expression of our souls. Click To Tweet

He freestyle rapped for Kendrick Lamar on Ellen?

He’s been on Ellen separately but he’s also freestyle rapped for Kendrick Lamar.

Is that video on YouTube?

Yes. You can definitely do a lot of it.

I’m a big Kendrick Lamar fan. I know him.

Harry Mack is phenomenal. He’s one of the best.

I’m looking forward to checking that out. I’m going to leave this interview with a long list of to-dos.

That’s a good thing. It’s spreading more light. In the same way, if he spread his creativity through his freestyle rapping, which is rhymes and everything like that. I hope to do the same with my poetry. It’s a different vibe and energy. I speak about different topics than he does but, in the same way, it’s emotive expression and communication.

I love your focus is so much on the person’s art. You’re focusing on them through the eyes of an artist and you’re seeing the artist in them at the same time.

Thank you for saying that. For me, the artist in someone is the heart of someone. A true artist I feel is somebody who’s self-expressive. You can be vulnerable with what they’re feeling and put that through whether it’s, again, paintings, words, anything. For me, it’s meaningful to be able to write about someone’s art because it allows me to write about their heart. Rhyme was unintended.

This is a crazy question but what were your parents like? It just blew to my head so I’m going to go for it.

My parents were so incredibly supportive. I feel parts of me get emotional even when I say that out loud because they were. They gave me every opportunity I could have asked for. There was never something hindering me from trying things. They were so supportive and wanted the best for me. They taught me such incredible values of commitment, discipline, hard work and work ethic. It’s also having unconditional support because I know they’re always in my corner. I have a beautiful family, two older sisters and yet all of my family is always in my corner.

I’ve grown up with the knowledge that it doesn’t matter what I do. I’ll always have people who are there for me. My parents were wonderfully supportive. I wouldn’t say growing up, we were necessarily a creative family. We were probably the more stereotypical East Asian academic family. We put our heads down, do well, get good grades. That’s held us in good stead but I never previously identified with being creative up until now.

TAC James Nguyen | Writing Poetry For Brands
Writing Poetry For Brands: Poetry is not writing poems necessarily. It can be creating a beautiful design or a new logo for a brand.

 

I’m sure they were supportive of what you described but were they surprised when you read your first poem with them?

It’s a funny story because my parents are hands down my biggest supporters. I remember reading one of my first poems to my mom and she’s like, “This is the best.” She loves it. Anything I do, she would love. What was really funny was my sister’s reaction. We’ve always had a very like bantery dynamic. We’ll give each other shit and all that stuff and talk smack to each other. When I was like, “I got into poetry. I’ve been writing some stuff and all of this. Can I read you some?”

They’re super supportive as well and like, “Of course. We’ll listen to it.” Back in my head, I’m expecting them to give me so much shit afterward. I read it to them and then their response is like, “What’s the F happened?” They were like, “No offense but that was way better than we expected it to be.” It came out of me. Especially even like a lot of my social circles and things like that. They’ve known me for building businesses and being very logical.

In my head, in that sense, thinking life through and everything was structuring. Even when my friends started to hear my poetry, they’re like, “We never knew this was a part of you.” I was like, “Neither did I up until I started writing it.” In some ways, it’s been a surprise to everyone, including myself. In some ways, it also feels like I’m finally returning home to what feels most natural.

I’m going to have one more question because this is my favorite final question. What should I have asked you that I didn’t?

It’s, “Why didn’t I start writing poetry sooner?”

Why didn’t you start writing poetry sooner?

For long parts of my life, many parts of me thought the answer was external. When I say the answer, that’s an answer to happiness, peace, fulfillment. My journey, which I have spoken on different shows about is I spent a lot of my life climbing like that first mountain let’s call it, where it was like, “I need to be successful, tick all these boxes, have material success, status and all these things.” I was fortunate to be gifted those experiences from a young age. I was like, “Now, what?” At 23, 24, I had all the things that I thought I wanted at the time.

I’ve had the now existential like a slap in the face from the universe is like, “Great.” I went through moments or health challenges in 2020. It was on the back that I realized that everything that I was looking for outside, which is when I was living in my head, thinking through things like strategies and building businesses from that place and all of these different things. I’d been encompassed, enveloped in that filter bubble my entire life. From that place when I’m living from my head and the very definition in that, if I’m thinking my whole world through then I can’t be feeling the world, myself and my truth.

It’s a beautiful distinction you made before is this idea of art and creativity being about listening, Robin. think that’s a beautiful articulation of that because for most of my life I’ve been speaking, let’s say and when you’re speaking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not hearing. If you’re not hearing, you’re not feeling. For me, the reason why I haven’t written poetry earlier is that I’ve been thinking my whole world through. It’s a quote I’ve spoken about often but the longest journey you’ll ever take is the 45 centimeters from your head to your heart.

That’s the journey I’ve powerfully chosen to walk. That’s why I feel like I’m writing my poetry now. In the perfect way, everything has had to happen to get me here because now I feel like I’m living not only writing but I’m living from my heart. It’s from that place my head wanted to start rhyming. From that place, I can start to express myself from an authentic place.

James, thank you so much for being here and sharing with us generously yourself and your beautiful poems.

Thank you so much for having me, Robin. That was so much fun.

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About James Nguyen

TAC James Nguyen | Writing Poetry For BrandsJames Nguyen is a serial entrepreneur who has previously been featured across CNBC, Sky, ABC and been a contributing writer on Forbes. In jqn, James is able to distill his experience and lessons about life and business through the beauty of spoken word poetry. His topics range from truths about life, love, and spirituality; while he also expounds on first principles from business and entrepreneurship in a collection of poems as well.

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