Wearing masks and limiting in-person contact with family and friends has left many missing the smiles of loved ones. But Hoan Do, Pepperdine ’07, wants everyone to know there’s still plenty to smile about.
As a motivational speaker, Do has made a career of inspiring people and encouraging them to be their best selves. So it’s fitting that Do was one of the 30 people nationwide featured in the 2020 Smile with Lay’s campaign. In a video promoting the campaign, he showed how little things can brighten someone’s day by donning a mask and handing out bags to passersby.
This marks the third year Lay’s has used its bags to feature everyday people who are helping others. Proceeds from the sale of these bags benefit Operation Smile, a nonprofit that provides surgeries for people born with cleft lips and cleft palates.
“Being a part of Smile with Lay’s is a huge honor for me because this heart-centered campaign is providing hope and positivity during a time when joy is needed all over the world,” Do said.
This fits right in with Do’s outlook, since his life’s work has been all about spreading hope and positivity. Since the age of 17, he’s known that he wanted to be a motivational speaker.
“I attended a leadership conference, and the speaker talked about creating your own destiny,” he said. “That speaker impacted not just my life, but also 300 other students that day. I realized I could impact so many more people by speaking than I could by doing something else.”
Even though Do dreamed of speaking to audiences around the world and making a positive impact on their lives, he first had to confront that he was among the estimated 73 percent of Americans who fear public speaking. So, he joined Toastmasters during college and took advantage of opportunities to speak whenever he could.
He said he also struggled making the adjustment to college. Balancing classes with extracurricular activities was particularly challenging. Today, he realizes he put a lot of pressure on himself because he wanted to succeed and make his family proud. “I would feel depressed because I compared myself to other people,” he shared.
Reflecting on that time in his life and the need for young people to develop resiliency motivated Do to specialize as a speaker for teens and college students. After spending his first two years post-college working for the world-renowned speaker and life coach Tony Robbins, Do launched his own company so he could focus on providing practical advice that would help young people to succeed in life after school.
Leaving a well-established company to strike out on his own wasn’t easy — in the beginning, he had to sell cable subscriptions and deliver phone books to make ends meet. But in the 11 years since, Do’s reputation as an engaging and relatable speaker has put him in high demand. Since launching his company, he’s partnered with more than 400 companies, colleges and organizations to provide practical strategies to overcome life’s adversities. His message has empowered over 250,000 adults and students and led to honors such as the Verizon Wireless Motivator Award and recognition as one of the top 25 most influential people in Seattle.
Even in the midst of the pandemic, Do has maintained a busy schedule of virtual speaking programs and trainings. He is also working with companies on how to increase engagement and results with their employees online.
He engages his audiences in an exercise to help them move past negative thoughts that hold them back. Do believes that by pushing those self-limiting beliefs aside, you make room to confidently focus on your goals.
It was with that attitude that Do pursued his dream to appear on a national television show. Because of his love of fitness, he decided he wanted to compete on “American Ninja Warrior.” Do submitted an audition tape and whenever he gave a speech, encouraged audience members to tweet to let the producers know they wanted to see him on the show. It worked. He was selected as a contestant in 2014. “Even though I sprained my ankle the week of the event,” he said, “I pushed through it and made it to the city finals.”
Several chapter brothers turned out to support him in person and others sent notes of congratulations. Do said he was particularly touched that so many brothers who he hadn’t seen in years came to see him compete.
That kind of support is just one of the reasons Do is so proud to be a SigEp. He said the first time he met some SigEps during his freshman year, he could tell the Fraternity was different from others on campus. “I talked to some really quality individuals,” he said, “and I saw the respect they had for each other.”
In particular, David Chang, ’04, was a big influence on him in college and provided advice and emotional support when Do was starting his business. He’s also grateful to SigEp for bringing three brothers into his life who became his best friends. At graduation, the four chapter brothers signed a contract stating they’d support each other and stay in touch. And they’ve done exactly that for the last 13 years.
“I owe a lot to SigEp, and I just love what it stands for,” Do concluded.