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Meet Grace Hong of PARASOL

Today we’d like to introduce you to Grace Hong.  

Hi Grace, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I’m originally from New York City. My parents were Korean immigrants who owned several small businesses and mysteriously ended up losing them when I was a kid. One day, I woke up to a moving van spray-painted in graffiti with people moving all our furniture out of our house, and without any prior notice, we moved to Massachusetts. 

My childhood was enshrouded in mystery in many ways, and while I was popular at school, I spent a lot of time alone. My parents were strict and didn’t really let me leave the house much. They were focused on me studying and getting into Harvard, and I went to a strict Korean school as well. I was encouraged to excel academically and fulfill the cookie-cutter American dream that most traditional Asian families had for their kids. I was excelling at school, but my home life was violent and chaotic. My mother was schizophrenic and had other mental illnesses that were never formally diagnosed. I spent pretty much all my time in my room listening to music. It got so bad at home that I decided that I either needed to find a way to get out or take my own life. 

I got a scholarship to Phillips Academy Andover for high school, and I was able to restart my life in a way. It was an unparalleled academic experience, but it also gave me opportunities to get involved in music and community service in ways that stayed with me throughout my life. I don’t know if it was my home life, but as successful as I was at various undertakings, I could never fully believe in myself. I wanted to pursue music professionally, but I didn’t think I could really do it, and the practical side of me won out. 

I thought about pursuing music professionally, but I had various traumatic experiences that filled me with a lot of self-doubts. When I was in first or second grade, I auditioned for a piano recital at Carnegie Hall, and I blacked out. The performative side of music has always been difficult for me. It’s like another person takes over my body when I’m in front of other people, and it’s something I’m still working on. 

I went to Columbia University for my undergrad and graduate degrees, and I spent the following 15 years of my life in the nonprofit, government consulting, and corporate worlds. I was a corporate executive, worked on Wall Street, and worked on projects for heads of state and former heads of state. 

In 2016, I hit a turning point. I was a senior executive at a large multinational conglomerate. I was traveling every week. In some ways, I was fulfilled, but in other ways, I could not imagine the thought of having even more responsibility would look like if I kept going down that path. 

I didn’t really understand it at that point, but I was embarking on a major life change that would completely transform every aspect of my life. I left NYC two weeks later for what I thought would be a short trip, and I pretty much never came back. I traveled and joined various digital nomad communities around the world, did a lot of spiritual work and soul-searching, and eventually ended up in LA, which is where I live today. 

In LA, at the age of 36, I finally started exploring my creative side. I connected with some amazing communities of people and modalities of personal development and healing work that helped me resolve my issues in a much deeper way than I had been able to do previously. 

Today, 6 years later, I’m an artist/music producer releasing music under the name Nolo Grace. I have my own strategy and operations consulting business. I’m a nonprofit board director in the areas of democracy and transparency as well as music education. I also recently started an organization called PARASOL, which brings together the corporate, creative, and healing, and wellness communities to create a more conscious world. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
No, it has definitely not been a smooth road! The process of navigating change and the unknown is always difficult. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone. I’ve had—and still have a lot of fears—whether they’re financial or related to my own capabilities or being unsure whether I’ll ever get to where I want to be. Some friends I thought would be supportive of the changes I’m making have not been there for me, and that’s been hard. The biggest struggles have stemmed from my own limiting beliefs and insecurities. I have a big vision for the future, and that requires courage and putting yourself out there. The process of change and the prospects for success in any venture start with your own belief in yourself. Then it comes down to hard work and consistent inspired action. Whether it’s been learning music production software, making music videos, or starting my own company, it’s felt overwhelming when I’ve thought about it in totality. Everything is overwhelming when you think you need to do everything at once. When I can see it as a long process comprised of small daily actions and recognize that setbacks are inevitable, then I can have a healthier mindset about building businesses and a lifestyle that’s sustainable and filled with joy. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about PARASOL?
PARASOL is a community that brings together the creative, corporate, and healing, and wellness communities to create a more conscious world. We host festivals, workshops, and other events that blend mindfulness workshops, movement, community conversation, and performances. We aim to elevate through conversation and connection and by creating a safe space based on authenticity and expression. 

We’re unique in the types of transformational events and collaborations we have been able to create. Our events and community activations ignite the create spirit and bring different worlds together in a beautiful heart-centered way. I’m a part of many communities, and I’m not aware of any other community that brings together these elements in quite this way. 

Reflecting on my own personal journey—from my difficult childhood where safety was always a concern to my corporate career on Wall Street and as a senior executive at a large conglomerate, and then to music—I truly believe that the creative spirit and artist in all of us should be encouraged and nurtured. We grow up and often forget about the childlike state of play and creation, and everything becomes “work.” By bringing the corporate world, artists, and the healing community together, there is so much potent opportunity for sharing creative and business practices while working on personal and societal development. I spent the past 6 years intensively working on my own personal healing and growth, and I feel called to bring that into the world in a bigger way. My co-founder and husband, Martin Wave, is a composer/producer/songwriter, who is active in the music industry, so the music community is a big component of the artists represented in our community. 

We’re at the early stages of PARASOL, and we will be formulating a membership encompassing events, groups, and community activations. We’re excited about the possibilities for forming and growing community through both in-person, virtual, and metaverse formats. We also have a business strategy and operations consulting arm, Parasol Partners. In the future, this will become a vehicle for creating opportunities for the PARASOL community and bringing some of our transformational programming into the corporate world. I currently release music under our music label Parasol Music, which I hope will become a platform for artists creating from a place of deep authenticity with a motivation to share positive, elevating messages with the world. We would love to connect with other organizations and individuals interested in learning more. 

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc.?
Books: Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Zero to One by Peter Thiel, Creative Quest by Questlove, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach 

Apps: Asana, Transcendental Meditation, Mint, Calm, Insight Timer, Fiverr, Upwork 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Tessa Nesis
Martin Wave
Grace Hong

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