Monday, May 23, 2016

ALIST Magazine by the National Association of Asian American Professionals - Spotlight on NAAAP National Senior Advisor Panney Wei, C.Ht.


1. How do you see your role in changing the world?
I believe that everyone has a calling and a purpose that they must fulfill in this life. It may take some time to discover; it can be something powerful that will create a ripple effect in the world; it can be something big or small, but nevertheless it is for only you to fulfill. I believe my purpose and calling is to help change the world and make a difference by improving humanity in some way. I believe my calling is to help people transform their lives spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and achieve success and happiness in their personal and professional lives, and help those, whether it’s an organization or an individual person, achieve their greatest potential and the highest vision of themselves, and help them overcome obstacles in their environment or self-imposed, so they can create the life of their dreams. I was always taught that we should live a life of service or do something that will add value, inspiration, and meaning to the lives of others, something that will help your industry, community, or the world at large. My mother was a person who lived so artfully in the way she brought our home together and how she fashioned herself and filled her life with art and a passion for living. My father was someone who dedicated his life to helping others through his work as a physician specializing in cardiology and then internal medicine, and my maternal grandfather served as a Senator in Taiwan for many years. All of them influenced my life and were able to be of service to their community, family, or the world in a way that utilized their unique strengths. I also believe that when you endure hardship and struggle, the compassion you gain can often propel you into a life of service. Everyone has the capacity to change the world should they take on the calling and pursue it. Part of my role in changing the world is helping people to perceive things differently in their lives and create transformation. I believe that change in the world first begins with change in oneself. It’s like Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’ve seen in the lives of my clients who I help that lasting change can occur in your environment as a direct result of changing oneself. This is because of the law of cause and effect. When you change your actions and reactions to people and challenging circumstances, and live with self-awareness, everything around you has to adapt and will therefore change as well. Sun-Tzu also says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”  When you live with self-awareness and know who you are, you will be grounded in any situation, and achieve more happiness in life, so ultimately my goal is to help people discover the truth of who they are so they can start living a purpose driven and conscious life.
On that note, I see much of my role in changing the world with the mission to help many people as possible transform their lives in as many platforms as possible, because the more people I reach, the more I can help, and the more I can help, the more I can make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through the media, my writing, podcast, See the Way with Panney Wei, doing sessions, speaking to people and running workshops, all of these outlets are ways where I can connect with my clients, listeners, and audience in a positive way where I can affect change in their lives and in the world. So I see my role in the world as a change agent, and it’s a role I take seriously in guiding people to take charge of their lives by living a life of self-awareness, break through obstacles, and live a life of their dreams.  Dreams take time and an incredible amount of patience, but you can make it happen. I love this quote by Harriet Tubman, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” It’s so true! Don’t give up and believe that you can be a person that will make a difference in the world!

2. What is your passion?
My passions are my family, my life purpose, shattering negative stereotypes of Asian Americans in our community through the media and other outlets, and making a difference in the world, and working with people, especially women, to live the life of their dreams. When I survived my near-death experience when I was about 20 and recovered from it, the lessons I learned was that life is short, that you should take time to discover what your passions are, and the time you live on earth is precious and should be well-spent. Take time to nurture your relationships, do some self-reflection, and find what you’re passionate about, and then go out in the world and just do it. Nothing is more important than living a life that has purpose and meaning to you. Because I’ve faced some injustice as an Asian American and as a woman in this lifetime and have had to overcome obstacles, it was important for me to do something about it and make a difference. That’s part of the reason why I founded and launched (as the first Founding National Director) in 2008, the women’s national leadership program, Women in NAAAP, which was recognized in Forbes Women. My intention and purpose was to support, educate, and empower women in various stages of life and career so they can achieve true success in their personal and professional lives. This has been a lifelong passion of mine. So even if you haven’t discovered your purpose or passion yet, take the time to reinvigorate or invite some passion into other areas of your life. It could be a hobby, a cause you believe in, or experiencing some aspect of culture through art. Life should be full of passion, and my mother was a good example of someone who did that. She always inspired me to live artfully and fill one’s life with beauty, art, culture, and passion.

3. What are some things that you can't leave the house without?
My IPhone, purse, pen and journal for ideas and notes, and lipstick.

4. Name 3 people you admire and why
My Father, Dr. John Wei, M.D.:
The first person I admire the most would be my father, who is one of the most reliable, kindest, brilliant, and most visionary man in my life. My father always had a dream in his heart to go to America and create a better life for us. He had a vision for our family and was brave enough to leave everything behind in order to take our young family from Taiwan to the United States in the late 1970’s to create better opportunities for us and achieve his dreams and a better future for our family. Even after he completed his medical school and residency in Taiwan, he chose to re-do his medical residency training in cardiology and internal medicine all over again to fit into the US’s requirements to practice medicine in the United States. That was a long hard road for him and required so much sacrifice to do an additional five to six years of schooling just to start a new life in the United States. But he did it and over the course of his professional life, rose to become Chief Resident in the hospital where he worked, then later Chief of Staff, among other accolades he received and was awarded during his career. When I look back at his life and how he barely spoke English when he came to America to becoming Chief of Staff at his hospital and then starting his own successful medical practice, I am humbled and impressed by his accomplishments. It was definitely not an easy feat. My early memories of living in in the East Coast as a kid were fraught with memories and moments of racism, discrimination, and hardship. I remember when we lived in Missouri; there were not a lot of Asian people in the city we lived in. We seemed to be the only ones around besides one other Chinese family that lived in our building. The housing provided by my dad’s employer was an apartment complex where all the minorities lived. Because of discrimination or blatant racism, minorities in our community were not allowed to live with white people. It was one apartment building full of people from all different cultures and ethnicities jammed into one building.  Even if the outside world was harsh, inside this apartment building, it was alive and buzzing with people from all walks of life, the smells of all different types of food cooking, the sounds of all the languages being spoken, and kids playing in the hallways. It was quite a colorful experience because no one spoke English well but yet we were all able to communicate with each other and be a community. Those were my early memories. Whatever small income my father made as a medical school resident and moonlighting at night, half of it went back to his parents in Taiwan, so we were a small family of five at the time living in very tough and meager circumstances, barely surviving. But I think back on what we overcame as a family and our humble beginnings in America, and I feel so proud of my father and my parents together as a team to create a better life and the life of their dreams. I remember finally leaving the cold of the east to move to Los Angeles, California to be near family, the warmth, and to seek better opportunities. My father worked so hard, working on his hospital salary by day and constantly on call whenever he could to make and save more money; he was saving for his dream of starting his own practice one day. One day that moment happened and I will never forget it. I was around nine years old, when my father came home ecstatic because his dream had finally come true! He was offered an opportunity to purchase his colleague’s medical practice and start his own clinic practicing internal medicine in Los Angeles.  He had the vision from the very beginning as an immigrant coming to America to start his own business. That was his American Dream and it may have taken many years, but he made it come true!  So as you can see, my father’s presence in my life has been an incredible example and influence on me of what it means to be a true success and a great leader: hard work, patience, resilience, strength to overcome obstacles like racism, injustice, humility, devotion to family, having the charisma and inspiration to elevate others and lead, and achieving the American Dream. So to me, my father is the person I most admire and honor. And my parents, I honor and respect them for giving us life itself. They made countless sacrifices as they cared for and led us through childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, through all the hardship, the moving from country to new country, home to new home, city to new city, starting over, as many times as it took until we found the right place to be to start our American Dream. I love my father and my mother too, and honor them with my life right now, living it the best way I can and being a reflection of all their lessons and sacrifice. I’m really proud to be their daughter and very proud to inherit so many of father’s physical traits, values, and morals, and to carry on our family legacy through service to others.

My maternal Grandfather, Senator Albert Liu:
The second person that I admire the most is my maternal grandfather, Senator Albert Liu, who served the Taiwanese government as a Senator for almost 30 years until his retirement. I’m so grateful I had the chance to have a relationship with him while he was living. He was a wonderful role model about living a life of service to his people, his community, and country. He was an eloquent, honorable, and wise man, and could hit a tennis ball like no other. I thank him and honor him for the life he gave my mother.  I have wonderful memories of playing tennis with him, listening to stories about all his travels, his politics, and learning about the history of China and Taiwan through his experiences in the Taiwan Senate and hearing stories about my mother’s family. He also inspired me to live a life with a consciousness of improving humanity, exposing me to the values of loyalty to one’s country, to bettering the life of others in our community and the world, and living a life of service. My grandfather was a great presence, calm, ambitious, and accomplished much in his life for his country that he loved dearly, while raising a family. He escaped China with his family, which included my mother at the time, in 1949 when the communists invaded China, and traveled to Taiwan by boat in order to give them a better life of freedom and new beginnings. I will always remember him and honor him and share his legacy to future generations including my daughter. It’s about building a greater foundation for each generation. That’s our job as parents and leaders, to take the best attributes of every generation and continue sharing the stories of the past, and incorporate them into our lives so they provide a stronger foundation for future generations and our descendants. There is power and strength in knowing one’s family history. It connects you to the past, so that you have the support and wings to fly as you move into the future. So I’m grateful for my grandfather, Senator Albert Liu, for his influence in my life. He was a true inspiration in mine!

My paternal Great-great Granduncle, General Tso Tsung-Tang:
The third person that I most admire and very influenced by is my paternal great-great granduncle, General Tso Tsung-Tang, who lived during the Qing dynasty and was best known as General Tso in the West and immortalized in popular culture and American Chinese cuisine with the famous dish, General Tso’s chicken, which was named in his honor. He was a visionary Chinese statesman and military leader and granted the titles of nobility, First Class Count Kejing and Second Class Marquis Kejing and later Wenxiang by the Qing imperial court. He was well-known for his military conquests, ending the Taiping rebellion which threatened to break up China, putting down another uprising, the Nian Rebellion, and most prominently, conquering the entire Xinjiang province for China. He was also a visionary leader and founded China’s first modern shipyard and naval academy in Fuzhou, which helped to increase trade and relations for China. I look at his legacy and see that he was peacemaker, and had a gift of communicating and leading people from all walks of life. He had an amazing way of connecting with anyone across his path, whether it was a person who lived in the villages and worked on the farms, to his soldiers who followed his lead, or communicating with the nobility in the Qing imperial court, all at the same time. He was really a leader of the people and that’s what I strive to be as well, to have that kind of connection where I can be of service to anyone I come across.  I think what I also gained from his legacy through the stories my father shared with me was that he was the epitome of a great leader: humble, strong, resilient, intelligent, a person of integrity and good values, poetic in heart, strong in spirit, one that like Alexander the Great, could empower his people to make change for themselves, and was inspiring. He improved the economic circumstances of the peasantry and believed traditional Chinese philosophy would help heal feelings of anxiety and unrest among his people, which ultimately led him to create more printing presses to publish the Chinese classics, an endeavor he’s credited for with inspiring later printing presses in China. He was a poet, a calligrapher, and led his people to peace and great victory in China, and served the Empress Dowager and Emperor very well during his time on Earth. He was a man of many talents and so what I took from his life was that it was important to live a rich life, experiencing it to the fullest, and the importance of pursuing all of your passions so you don’t have a bucket of regrets, but rather a bucket list that you’ve been able to accomplish. My ancestor also inspires and influences me to be a well-rounded person that has passion in many areas of life, because he was a person who used all of his talents in service to his people, to improving culture and society. That is what I strive for as well, to live a life rich and full of meaning, that I use all of my talents and abilities to enrich and enlighten the life of others, to live a life in service to others, to make a difference in this world, and leave a lasting legacy that I hope will be felt for many years to come.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your life?  What lessons did that
person teach you? 
It’s not one person but truly one couple that has been the biggest influence in my life, and that one couple would be my parents, my father, Dr. John Wei, and my mother, Mrs. Annie Wei. Their partnership has been the most influential in my life. They were an example of real team and partnership, of sacrifice, vision, and working to make their dreams happen together. My father couldn’t pursue his passion and dreams without the support of my mother. She sacrificed a lot and gave up her career as a fashion designer and business owner in order to raise our family while my father could pursue his dreams, as so many mothers have done previously in our parent’s generation. That was something done back then. But now, women can have many different choices, and you don’t have to give up your identity or a career you love in order to raise a family. Women have the opportunity to decide what’s best for them in tandem with their partner and family. My parent’s presence in my life has influenced me to be a more compassionate person, more tolerant in my life towards difficulties and challenges, more patient when it comes to reaching my goals, and more resilient. They taught me to strive for excellence in all I do, and gave me opportunities through figure skating, sports, exposure to art, and other pursuits in my life to see what it takes and to develop the values, skills, the drive, and resilience necessary to make any of your dreams come true in any aspect of your life, whether personal or professional. I am most grateful for them for the opportunities they gave me, opportunities they did not have. They were tough and strict, and that toughness rubbed off on me in the best way. They may have brushed through certain areas and gave us just the Cliff notes of life, skimming the surface on some things, but looking on the bright side, at least they gave us some freedom to figure things out on our own. That has been a blessing. They taught me that life was tough, and that it wouldn’t be easy, and that goals in love, life, marriage, and personal dreams could take months and years to manifest. But they instilled in me the important values that I carry with me now as a parent, and values I now share as a leader; to always do the right thing, to have a good heart, integrity in all you do, to be a good person and example to others, to be respectful, kind in how you treat people, fair and firm if necessary, and if you need to part ways with people, always do it with class, and dignity, and self-respect. I wanted to share a quote from Nobel Prize winning Physicist Marie Curie that pretty much sums up their presence in my life and the essence of the lessons they shared with me, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”  This is the essence of their partnership and influence of my parent’s life on me. I have so much love for them and all the lessons they instilled in me, which I now pass on to future generations, especially my daughter.

6. What traditions have been passed down in your family?
I think every family has its traditions that get passed down in a family. Ours has everything to do with our family. We like to have family reunions at every major holiday to keep in touch. We have a large family on both sides, so it’s important to stay connected. We place value on understanding the past and our family’s history to help us stay grounded and confident as we move forward in life and carry some of the family traditions and values to future generations. Being Chinese, my parents also recognize the day of someone’s death in the family, a time to recognize the life of the person and to celebrate their life and legacy. This is a tradition that occurs in many cultures including ours. But I would have to say family connection is of utmost importance and a tradition we maintain in our family. It takes effort but it’s worth it.

7. How has diversity changed in the last ten years?
If you’re referencing our culture and society, I think we have become a more inclusive and diverse culture over time, especially in the last 10 years. We’ve witnessed the nomination and election of our first African American president, President Barack Obama, and maybe in the near future, we will see the election of our first female president or even an Asian American president within our lifetime. These have been tremendous strides for our community, especially the collective consciousness of our world in moving towards a time where race and gender are always part of the conversation and an awareness of the necessity of creating a more equal and equitable society for all. But there are some areas of life and American society which racism or discrimination still occurs, such as what’s happening in the entertainment industry regarding the issue of opportunity and fair representation of society in the media and behind the screen. The “#OscarsSoWhite” issue that came up with our recent Academy Awards and the negative, unintelligent jokes that we were written and then delivered by Chris Rock were disappointing. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing at the awards show, and the discomfort for everyone in the room, especially for people of color, was palpable. Now, the issue is the whitewashing of Asian American faces in the media through the casting of Emma Stone in Aloha, Scarlett Johansson in Ghosts in the Shell, and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Dr. Strange. I almost think that whitewashing is worse than the lack of diversity and casting of Asian faces in more roles on TV and film. There is an awareness in certain industries and in the entertainment industry that diversity and inclusion is important however there is a lack of initiative or fear in making diversity and fair representation happen. I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor and activist, George Takei in my home, best known as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, and he mentioned that stereotypes especially negative stereotypes of Asians can be very dangerous. Negative stereotypes that white people thought Asian people were like caused his family to be interned in prison camps as a Japanese American after the Second World War.  This had a life changing transformative effect in Takei’s life, so much so that he is an activist, and recently was part of the group of Asian American Academy members that wrote a letter to the Academy denigrating the outrageous stereotyping of Asian Americans during the Oscars, even to the point of using innocent children as the butt of their jokes. So this is a serious issue that affects all of us in the Asian Pacific community whether we like it or not. The reason why we must all support diversity in all industries, especially programming in TV and film, is because the media can be used as a powerful and influential tool for good or for evil. It can be used to perpetuate negative stereotypes into the collective unconscious and subconscious dialogue of society that will eventually affect the roles we play in our individual communities and industries we live and work in. It is one of the reasons why when I was a child, my family was placed in an apartment building full of other minorities because as Asians, we were not able or allowed to get housing with whites. This was in the 1970’s, but racism existed at that time and our society has gotten better and come a long way, but there is still so much work to be done in other areas that discrimination or a lack of inclusion is still felt.
So because of my life experience, I am very passionate about changing and breaking these negative stereotypes that exist and very active in my community as an activist to change things and make a difference in improving the lives of people in our community so we get a fair shot at the table. My husband and I are involved with fantastic groups like NAAAP, The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, APIA Vote, and other groups. Even in the work we do as individuals is all devoted to inspiring people and helping them change the way people perceive Asian Americans in society at large (my work as a hypnotherapist/motivational speaker/TV-radio host, and host of See the Way with Panney Wei and my husband, Christopher Chen’s work as a producer; many of his recent films, Year of the Yao, Linsanity, Sneakerheadz, and Looper help to defy negative stereotypes of Asian Americans and instead, elevate our community). My message to our community is that people may underestimate you in your lifetime, but if you have a humble heart, work hard, speak up, stay strong, and you bide your time, the truth will always be revealed. We, as a community, will rise!

BIO: Panney Wei is an award-winning writer, TV-Radio host, hypnotherapist, and motivational speaker on the power of the mind and achieving one’s potential, inspiring people to break through negative patterns, overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams in their personal and professional lives. She is the recipient of the “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business” award, The National Association of Asian MBA’s (now ASCEND) “Top 40 Global Emerging Leaders” award, an Honoree for the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women Making a Difference Awards and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Women in Business awards, and featured in the “First 100 People” project for Panney is the CEO of See the Way Consulting, giving individuals the tools, solutions, wisdom, both personally, professionally, and spiritually, to overcome life’s obstacles, achieve their potential, and manifest the life of their dreams. Panney has been featured on countless radio shows nationwide and provided trainings and worked with Fortune 500 companies such as McDonalds, NBA TV, OWN, Discovery Channel, Center for Nonprofit Success, Raytheon, Kimberly-Clark, Oracle, The Filipino Women’s Summit, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, among others. Panney helps to identify the core issues and reasons for existing problems, and provide the insight, acknowledgement, and feedback clients desire, and the energy, inspiration, and the courage to manifest their dreams and to not only endure, but overcome their challenges, and thrive.  She is the producer and host of her podcast, “See the Way with Panney Wei”, featured on her website, and ITunes for your weekly dose of inspiration, positive messages, and interviews with some of the brightest minds, leaders in every industry, bestselling authors, and thought-leaders in our world. Granddaughter to Taiwan Senator Albert Liu and Great Grand-niece to one of China’s greatest statesmen, General Tso Tsung-Tang, famous for his dish “General Tso’s chicken”, Panney continues their legacy of activism and service in empowering organizations that are making a difference.  She holds the title of Honorary Goodwill Ambassador of California designated by former California Secretary of State March Fong Eu, and serves as State Secretary for the California Democratic Party Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, Senior Advisor for the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), The National Asian Artist Project, NAAAP Orange County, Toronto, LA, and San Diego, and was the Founder and Founding National Director for Women in NAAAP (WIN!), a national women’s leadership program featured in Forbes Women and launched in 2008 to empower and develop female leaders in the Asian Pacific Islander community.  Panney is recently featured in the documentary film, Quantum Wisdom, (, as its host and one of the spiritual teachers, and is working on her first book on attracting the love of your life. She shares advice and stories on life, career, love, and motherhood through her newsletter, website, and blog, A Panney For Your Thoughts. Panney is married to Endgame Executive Vice President and Producer Christopher Chen (Looper, Linsanity, Year of the Yao, So Goes the Nation, Sneakerheadz, and Every Little Step, which was shortlisted for the Oscars) and has a daughter, Talia.