We had the good fortune of connecting with Jear Keokham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jear, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
The beauty of trying to find habits that lead to success is that there is a hyperbolic amount of case studies available in the world. Anyone can do some basic Google search to get a shortlist of habits that are practiced by notable executives, public figures, or world leaders. What I have learned through time is that there is no one-size-fits-all shortlist of habits. In other words, we all need to curate a list of habits that work well for our respective personalities and skillsets. The things that we program into our routine or behavior should exploit our existing strengths while simultaneously develop our weaknesses.
Personally, my habits are broken down into two simple categories. One group of habits is composed of constants. Meaning they are practiced around the clock. These habits require extreme mindfulness to develop and maintain, but the longer they are practiced, the easier they become. Eventually, these habits can actually be practiced mindlessly because they become a part of our innate character.
The second group of habits is schedule-based. I imagine that most people think about habits in this way: What time do you wake up and what is the first thing you do? How many books do you read per month? How many meetings do you take each day? People that think about habits with this framework have likely come to terms with the fact that we all have a limited 24-hours per day. They are mainly interested in learning how to be more effective at time management or they are trying to get an idea of how to spend their limited time more effectively.
The first thing on my list of constant-habits is maintaining a mindset of being stubbornly open-minded. This means that I allow myself to be flexible, even when it comes to well, my habits, or ideas. I allow myself to shapeshift, grow, or modify my goals. I have a strong idea of what day-to-day activities enable me to be high functioning but I also allow myself to deviate based on immediate needs. It means I meditate on the belief that what might have been applicable or beneficial in one context, might not be in another. How does the adage go? Strong convictions loosely held. This is easily practiced by asking “why” or “how” until you can no longer ask “why” or “how.”
To be stubbornly open-minded also means to consider all sides of any given conversation. We tend to force binaries in business and in life, but oftentimes there is more to the picture than what is being presented. There could be a third, fourth, or fifth angle. Being stubbornly open-minded forces a perspective that considers all fronts before making a decision and this includes the bad ideas. The trick is learning how to disqualify bad ideas quickly. Being stubbornly open-minded helps me be diligent when it comes to decision making, it reminds me to invite others to share their perspective when warranted. You never know when someone might have a stronger pulse on something than you do.
Another constant habit of mine is practicing the discipline of relentless accountability. I learned this from my upbringing. When you have little to nothing, all you have is your word and there is inherent value in consistently delivering on the promises you make. When I tell someone that I will do something, I see to it that I do it. I will never position something that I am incapable of seeing through. This makes me predictable and an effective collaborator or leader. If I tell you something will be done by the end of the day, I actually aim to over-deliver and try to get it done by noon. Being relentlessly accountable also means you are an extreme owner. I can own faults, embrace my flaws, and thrive on failing forward. Relentless accountability has helped me develop a reputation that I can be counted on. It has helped me earn the trust of my partners, peers, direct reports, and clients.
Of course, I also maintain habits that are less conceptual and maybe more tangible depending on how you look at them. These are the schedule-based habits I mentioned earlier that are grouped into a second category. I program these in a way that works for me and my lifestyle but echoing my stubborn open-mindedness, I allow myself to deviate as needed when life needs to happen. The secret here is being able to redirect or realign yourself when you do steer off the path.
I strongly believe in maintaining our wellness. If you allow yourself to have unhealthy habits, you are only basically welcoming decay. You age faster, your stress feels unmanageable, and you’re more prone to being sick. I know I may be oversimplifying things, but as you can imagine, it can be quite difficult to be a high-functioning individual if you are not feeling 100% yourself. This was not something I learned overnight. In fact, I have a lot of unhealthy habits I am still working on reverse engineering.
My aspirations for wellness include a weekly quota of running at least 10-miles, weightlifting 4-days per week with each session being at least 1-hour, listening to a podcast or audiobook whenever exercising, and spending one day out of the weekend doing a physical activity with my girlfriend which could include hiking or running (yes, I allow for this to double-dip into my 10-mile weekly quota). I actually picked up running after learning that Phil Knight (founder of Nike) would run about 6-miles each day after work as he was scaling Nike. A new habit I want to eventually program into my routine is getting into some type of martial arts to incorporate more functional activity and maybe even using it as a medium for spirituality.
Though most of these activities are physical, there are a lot of non-physical benefits that come out of them. I am sure this is different for everyone, but maintaining an active lifestyle has helped me manage my stress better. This allows me to be calmer when facing challenges in my professional life. There is also the positive consequence of developing the mental conditioning to push beyond your personal records. I tap into the mental toughness whenever I am faced with an obstacle or roadblock in business. I often think to myself, “The last time I felt like quitting, I was able to dig deep enough to push further than I anticipated and if I did it then, I could do it now.” There is a scientific correlation to all of this but I won’t get into that.
In addition, I also aim to win at least 3 chess games per day. Emphasis on winning. This means that on some occasions, I end up playing more than 3 games if I’m not doing so hot. I mostly play 3, 5, or 10-minute games depending on my availability. Sometimes, I will play a game as I am walking on the treadmill for my post-workout cooldown or while waiting in line at the grocery store or bank. Chess is useful when thought of as an allegory for strategy and leadership. It also helps with keeping my mental reflex sharp.
I think designing our habits is actually quite simple. Think about the level of success you want to achieve, look at what people are doing at that level, then model yourself after them. It’s best if you can pick a couple of sources so you can pilot and adopt a variety of things that work and discard the things that do not. Our habits shape us because we are a direct result of our behavior. What we do in our routine ultimately defines our future and there is no better time to start defining your future than today.
What should our readers know about your business?
Aerial Canvas is a people company and real estate marketing firm founded on the belief of innovating on behalf of those around us. We are currently at a scale of 100+ employees and contractors, and we are still growing. Our mission is to inspire people to take action through creative media. We leverage shared experiences, real connections, and emotional currency to spark action.
What we do is actually quite simple. We have two key focuses: one specifically to help architects, builders, developers, and real estate agents or brokers market real estate properties through engaging content. We offer streamlined solutions for 3D virtual tours, aerial drone media, video tours, photography, property websites, and more.
Another major focus of ours is more open-ended. We offer commercial production services for brands, products, or services that would benefit from narrative-driven content that connects an idea to its audience. We obsessively deconstruct commercials that work well for Fortune 500 companies and have reverse-engineered a film production framework to make high-end media more accessible and cost-effective to whoever we serve. Through a lens of rigorous curiosity, we develop proof of concepts that are goal-oriented and awe-inspiring.
Getting to where we are now was not exactly easy, but when you love what you are doing, you naturally embrace every challenge. This has taught us how to thrive when faced with adversity and to relish in our pain points. We overcame our earlier challenges by getting to really know our team on a personal level which helps us leverage each other’s strengths and improve each other’s weaknesses. We truly believe who we are as a company starts with who we are as individuals. By identifying what we are all good at respectively, or what we need improvement on, this allows to us develop each other to play the essential roles required for scale. We continue stewarding this growth because constant improvement is embedded into our core values and we believe that when we are better collectively, so is our client and employee experience.
If we wanted the world to know one thing about our brand or story it’s that we make all of our decisions with a priority on impacting the most amount of people in a positive way. We say that with conviction. We aim to give our clients more convenience to help them foster a more fruitful life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Our San Diego office is right across the street from the Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway outside of Little Italy, so naturally, we spend a lot of time there. There is more than your fair share of notable eateries and watering holes in the neighborhood and it’s very walkable. You can swing by for an after-work happy hour or Sunday brunch all in the same neighborhood. One of our co-founders, Brendan Hsu, swears by the pizza at Sorrento Ristorante.
When people visit the area, I imagine they come for the sunshine and the warmer side of the Pacific Ocean. One of our favorite beaches is Windansea Beach in La Jolla, which is popular for surfers and beach lovers alike. Our other co-founder, Colby Johnson, picked up surfing more regularly ever since we expanded into San Diego which was only inevitable.
If you fancy yourself a long walk on the beach, one of our favorite pastime activities is making our way down from Pacific to Mission Beach right before sunset. If you end up at the boardwalk, you can even catch a quick ride on the classic wooden roller coaster. If you’re an early riser, a morning stroll is also nice and if you’re like me and enjoy the occasional cup of coffee, Better Buzz Coffee Roasters is the perfect spot for a quick grab-n-go or sitdown. Yes, they also serve food!
Every great city has a notable park. New York has Central Park, San Francisco has Golden Gate Park, and San Diego has Balboa Park. I am sure you can spend a whole week exploring everything the park has to offer. There’s the San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Us (formerly known as the San Deigo Museum of Man), San Diego Zoo, San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, or if you prefer some tee time, there is the Balboa Park Golf Course, an 18- and 9-hole public golf course with some amazing views.
It would be extremely difficult to go wrong. I mean, someone would have to go out of their way to try to have a bad time in San Diego.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe a lot to a handful of people who played a part in who I am and where I am in life so there is no way this can be an exhaustive list.
Like most people, it starts with my parents. My mom immigrated from Hong Kong and my dad immigrated from Laos. They both grew up in poverty and overcame their fair share of adversity in life. Like most narratives with immigrant parents, I was taught the value of hard work along with the value of a dollar at a very early age. They taught me how to appreciate the little things in life. Inherently, I also learned how to be resourceful. This translates well when trying to move mountains with nothing but a shovel.
Throughout my personal and professional development, I have had many great mentors. Most of them may not even realize the impact that they made.
I once was a Curatorial Intern in Contemporary Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art working under Eungie Joo. She is well respected by her peers and is a renowned curator, thinker, and organizer. Eungie brought an intense rigor to her work that was unapologetically candid, critical, and stern. I have had heard people describe her as borderline dictatorial. I would personally disagree. She just had a very direct way of inspiring others to do their best work. I’ll spare us the exact details, but I have heard stories of her bringing people to tears. I think she was able to see the potential in others even when they did not see it themselves and she was not afraid to push people towards their potential. Because of the standard she carries for her own work, she expects the best out of others and I admire her as a leader in that way. To this day, I still approach my work with the same spirit of intensity and sincerity.
Another great mentor of mine is Brendan Hsu, one of our co-founders at Aerial Canvas. Brendan is a fearless entrepreneur who acts with both boldness and humility. He has successfully started multiple businesses and spends his downtime consulting other like-minded individuals. His strengths and weaknesses are one and the same: he is a genius in his own right and is extremely trusting and generous. I have seen these traits bring us to new heights and I have seen people attempt to exploit his trust and generosity by pandering to his ingenuity. I’ve learned to read people in business better because of that. Brendan has also taught me how to act fast, drive results, and how to come to terms with the pitfalls of being a perfectionist. He’d often remind me that perfection is the enemy speed. Naturally, I would agree and rebuttal that speed is the enemy of perfection and we arrive at a cadence that makes the most sense for the task or strategy at hand. The lessons are endless but I think the greatest gift Brendan has shared is the permission to fail forward.