JOSEPH YOON
ON PERSEVERANCE

Inspiration

06/18/18

Through the theme of LAByrinth: Dare Another Way, ThoughtMatter’s second annual Summer Salon will explore the unique blend of intuition and experimentation that creative thinkers use to find their way through an increasingly labyrinthine world. As the complexity of the problems that our society faces intensifies, the demand for new ways of doing and thinking grows exponentially. But creativity thrives under pressure, and periods of upheaval are also opportunities for great leaps forward.

To prepare for this year’s event, we sat down with each of our three speakers to learn about how they have forged new paths forward in their respective fields, and how they approach complex challenges. Here, we hear from Brooklyn Bugs executive director Joseph Yoon about how ‘no’ is just a challenge to do better.

I’m a chef now, but music was my first love. I ran Spectrum Music, an artist management company, for 15 years; it taught me so much about perseverance. You hear “no” all the time as an artist manager; it’s relentless. I would contact 30, 40, 50 people, and have a meaningful dialogue with—maybe—10% of them. Say that you’re reaching out to record labels, and you hear back from one and they say “We just don’t think that the direction of your band is right for our label.” Over time, I learned not to hear that as “No, we’re not interested,” but as “We need to know more about your band in order to understand why you think they’re a good fit for our label.”

That way of thinking led me directly, if unexpectedly, to founding Brooklyn Bugs. There was an artist, Miru Kim, whose work I had really loved and respected for some time. We met socially at a party, and subsequently became friends, and I really wanted to collaborate with her. I would just pitch her on different ideas, all of which she very patiently listened to, but nothing ever really stuck. I think it was about two years of very polite rejection, which I’m actually very happy with, as a businessman and creative person. I don’t take it personally if an idea doesn’t resonate with someone. I prefer to put something out there and see what the result is, fine tune it, flesh it out, instead of feeling like, “Oh, they said no, too bad. Moving on.” I never just see no as a no… never.

One day, Miru ended up approaching me when she was developing Phobia/Phagia, a project exploring her desire to conquer her fear of insects by eating them. She asked whether I would be interested in working with her on it, and helping her cook the food. I didn’t even think twice about saying yes to cooking with insects. As I immersed myself in the field, I learned about why the UN endorsed entomophagy, and how it is so sustainable for our planet. It didn’t take long for me to understand that edible insects weren’t just a food trend, but a movement that I would become a staunch advocate for. This decision continues to inspire and challenge me daily, and has proven to be an ongoing, life-changing experience for me.

Joseph Yoon will be one of three speakers at ThoughtMatter’s Summer Salon on the evening of June 21st, along with Angela Luna and Robin Nagle. Learn more about the event.

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