Interview with my Recovering “CEO Dad” Dale Sohn

dale-sohn-george-bush

Dad showing the latest Samsung phone to George H.W. Bush who visited the Samsung Booth at 2012 CTIA SHOW

In remembrance of Father’s Day, I’m honored and privileged to introduce one of my heroes of my life, my dad Dale Sohn – a man after God’s heart. 

For over 30 years, most people have known my dad as the President & CEO of Samsung Mobile in America. For the last eight years, he has been recognized as a mover and shaker of the US mobile industry in which he led Samsung into the number one mobile company in America. Recently, he has entered a new chapter in his professional career, being more intentional to follow God’s calling. 

In this interview, I’d like to highlight my dad, not as a CEO of a global company, but as a father of two children. I am deeply grateful for my dad’s honesty and transparency as he answered my questions. 

Paul: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from being a father?

Dad: The number one lesson I’ve learned from being a father is the importance of action over words. That is, to lead by example and become a role model for my children. I believe that has far-reaching implications in the development of my children’s character and habits more than anything else. For instance, when Paul was in his 1st grade at school, his teacher asked me if I was a pastor. When Paul’s teacher asked her students to describe their father’s job, Paul would say, “My dad reads the Bible every day.” So, she presumed  I was a pastor. In that moment, I realized how powerful actions were and resolved to live a life of example.  I always wanted to let my action speak for itself instead of just telling through words.

My dad's new bookshelf in our new house in San Diego. My growing appreciation of books came from my dad who has been a voracious reader throughout his life.

My dad’s new bookshelf in our new house in San Diego. I’ve inherited my growing appreciation of books from my dad who has been a voracious reader who always sought to improve himself.

Paul: What has been the biggest regret you had as a father?

Dad: I regret not being there with my children during their teenage years. I know teenage years is pretty rough, perhaps one of the most important and sensitive periods in life, but because I was so focused on overcoming the pressures of my career and building my platform, I failed to have much face time with my children growing up. In hindsight, I wished I could go back in time to physically be there and listen to their concerns and love them.

Dad selected as the honorary starter for Samsung Mobile 500 Nascar Race

Dad selected as the honorary starter for Samsung Mobile 500 Nascar Race

Paul: What has been your proudest moment as a father?

Dad: Of course, I am very grateful and proud to my children for enduring the constant changes in their lives and studying and graduating from good universities. But, most important, I’m thankful to God that my children desire to live a life of intentionality and significance. I am proud that they have put their singular hope in God, standing firm in Jesus Christ. I will continue to pray that Paul and Minjoo will utilize their strengths to serve others and glorify God. 

Paul: What would you do differently about your life if you were 30 again?

Dad: If I was in my thirties again, I would be more gentle and patient with my children. As a father, I was easily annoyed with the difficult behaviors of my children. But I wished I could give more hugs and cheer ups. 

dale-sohn-and-paul-sohn

Paul: How have you integrated your Christian faith in the workplace?

Dad: In a workplace culture where the bottom line is vitally important, it’s so easy for leaders to be performance oriented and tempted to create a very dry and tense culture. However, during my leadership at Samsung, I’ve always tried to put people first. When I saw people, who had potential, I did my best to provide them with work opportunities to challenge them grow them into a greater leader. For instance, instead of hiring talent outside, I intentionally cultivated the next generation of leaders by giving my people roles such as acting vice president or acting manager roles, giving them a compelling vision for their career in the organization.

I’m not sure if these things have helped them see the Christian values I’ve had. But whether it is praying before a meal or sharing fundamental Christian principles in my messages, many people began to realize that I was a follower of Jesus Christ. I incorporated many of the Christian values to be salt and light of this world.

Paul: What advice do you have for parents hoping to share Jesus’ teachings as a way of life with their children without imposing that they follow a set of specific rules and potentially risking that they rebel against things that “don’t make sense” or are inconvenient? 

Dad: Weekly family worship service will open the communication channel among  family members and will share the perspectives about the life, society, issues, and prayer lists.  This family service will teach them how to live an intentional life. I have purposefully conducted weekly family worship services where we would read the Scripture together and share how God is speaking in our lives at that moment. The more I opened up, the more my children opened up and created a norm in our family to love each other and help each other grow. 

Dad and I getting ready to grill a delicious rib eye steak.

Dad and I getting ready to grill a delicious rib eye steak.

Paul: What do you attribute to your success in life?

Dad: I believe I’m still working on being successful. In fact, I define success as whether I have achieved the mission God has placed in my life. At the end of my life, I’d like to hear the words from God: “Well done my faithful and good servant.” I believe that becomes the plumb stone for my success. I think a few factors that have led me this far are persistence and focus. I am reminded of what Calvin Coolidge said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Paul: What’s your favorite verses in the Bible? 

Dad: I’ve always tried to live by the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Question: What is the greatest legacy your father has left you in life? 

  • suchanlee

    Wow Paul, this is such an insightful and inspirational post. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • Thanks Suchan for reading brother. I hope God speaks in your life through this post.

  • This is awesome Paul. What a heritage of faith you have. Thank you for sharing this legacy post.

    • Thanks Jimmy for reading. The older I get the more appreciation I have more my father for, as you said, he left the most heritage of all.

  • Lynn Hare

    Paul, this post made me weep. What a marvelous dad you’ve got! And what a godly role model he has been. I can see where your passion for intentional living for Christ comes from. Your father is so multi-talented, it would have been easy for him to boast on his industry-leading technical prowess. But no, He points to God, just like you do! Why am I not surprised that Dale’s number one proud moment is YOU?!

    • Absolutely Lynn. I think I’ve learned more from my dad’s action than his words. In fact, my dad is quite a reticent man. He spares his words, but his action speaks volume to his values and priorities in life. I don’t know why, but I can’t get that off my head – actions > words. This is something I’m trying emulate – to lead by example and authenticity. Thanks again for reading Lynn. You’re such an encourager that God has sent in my life. Have a blessed Father’s day tomorrow!

  • Evelyn

    Thnx for taking this time and space to give a heart-felt tribute to your dad while he is alive, rather than waiting until a eulogy time. It is obvious from your post that not only has he invested his values in you, but that you made them your own and are multiplying them. I am sure he believes that would be one of his highest rewards on earth.

    • Thanks Evelyn for the kind words. Yes, as I reflect over the legacy my father has left me, it is something that I have cherished. I know that the reason why I am blessed is because I will be a blessing to others.

  • Libby Kennedy

    Just beautiful Paul! You must be so proud of your father for being such an insightful and inspirational man, as he is most obviously proud of you and your chosen path. I loved the part about being asked if he was a pastor, and how he defines success. Really wonderful post and thank you for sharing!

    • Long time no talk Libby! Hope you’re doing well, my friend. Thanks for reading this candid interview with my dad. It’s been a sobering time as I reflect over the legacy and impact he’s made in my life. When I become a father myself, I think my appreciation for his influence will even grow further.

  • Angel

    Great job.I enjoyed taking part of your life….SHALOM…

    • Thank you Angel for reading my post!

  • Rachel Chung

    Paul, I really admire your effortless sharing of Christian faith in all corners of your life. It is very inspiring.

    • Thanks Rachel for reading. You’re right – he’s pretty amazing. I realize my faith can’t be compartmentalized into one corner, but rather it’s is the heart of the engine that gives life to everything I do. It defines who I am.

  • Rosanna Wong

    Great post! Thank you for sharing!

  • Great job honoring your father Paul! It’s was good to hear his honesty, I was challenged as a father and appreciate this post.

  • M.Hagen

    Hi Paul, This was very honest, love it. To answer your question at the end I think my father (Dr. Hagen – Penn State Professor) has demonstrated patience. I have observed this time and time again in him and even heard stories of his patience when we were 4 trouble making toddlers in church. My father comes from a farming family and his dad was also a very patient man and WW2 vet.

    Keep Blogging – M. Hagen

  • Paul you’re a blessed man to have a dad like that! I love the answer you gave to your Sunday School teacher about what your dad does. It says a lot about him. The pictures are great too, your dad looks very young!

    I hope you had a great Father’s Day!

  • M. B. Milligan

    Oh my Paul, such a great tribute to a man that GOD allowed to prepare you and others under his leadership to be inspired to reach for excellence! His love for Christ shames my luke warmness. I know you are a thankful and proud son…yes!

  • Brotha Dawgg

    i really gotta start finding more time to catch up on these amazing and helpful articles ! Thanks for sharing Paul !

    • Thanks brother for reading. I appreciate you stopping by!

  • Dennis Ang

    Hello Paul, I chanced upon your site and enjoyed reading the above article and it is great to see strong family relationships anchored on Christian values where being open, honest, loving and accepting of one another is a key to a blessed kingdom. Thank you for sharing and wish you and your dad long years of kinship and friendship. God bless !

  • What a great example and inspiration for you, Paul. Thanks for sharing this peek into your dad’s character so he can inspire us as well. I love this quote from him: “I’ve always tried to put people first. When I saw people, who had potential, I did my dest to provide them with work opportunities to challenge them and grow them into a greater leader.” My goodness, that motivation is sorely needed not just in business but in politics and our churches. Your dad will be deserving of his “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

  • Ana

    A search for books to read in 2015 led me from Bill Gate’s blog to yours, and then this touching interview. Gives me the idea to read and discuss books with my dad this year. Thank you.

  • Scott Friend

    Paul, this was extremely motivating. I’m very glad I saw this on the ticker on your page. The reason that this touched me so much is, as a new father of a 9 month old, I’m doing as much as I can to learn from those who have gone before me and have poured the love of Christ into their family and learn from both their successes and their failures.

    Thank you so much for sharing this intimate account of your father’s experiences.

  • stewardshipmatters

    Loved your post here as it challenges all of us to appreciate those around us more. You are salt and light my online friend.

  • Alex Tran

    This is a wonderful post. I’m glad you have such a great relationship with you dad even though I’m sure it wasn’t always like that.

    My dad dropped out of college to raise me up because as a child, I had a very weak immune system and my mom had left our family for some time. I admire my dad’s loyalty to the family and persistence through the tough times. My dad taught me the meaning of hard work and focus. I am forever grateful for my dad despite the rough patches in the family.

  • Joe Morris

    I really enjoyed reading this Paul. It brings back fond memories of your father for me. We met in Seoul…..before cell phones, before internet, before email. He was always a gentle spirited soul, very kind and went out of his way to help. Last I saw him was in my office in Florida as he was on his way to get a Masters degree from MIT. It is refreshing to learn from your post that he has such a high commitment to faith and family! That means he is at peace with himself and did not get swallowed up by the corporate world like so many others do………….Kindly tell your Dad that I said “hello”…..Joe Morris………..I miss the simple Korean bbq dinners with the grill and garlic and hot sauce!

  • Ron Ellis

    I notice the last comment from three (3) years ago and though these revelation deserves a ‘fresh endorsement’.

    I just stumbled on this post as part of a regular re-read of Paul’s 10-16-16 post 30 Surprising Life lessons… (at http://paulsohn.org/30-surprising-life-lessons-i-learned-by-age-30/) which references this interview. Both are powerful stuff. I’m especially impressed by the wisdom of Dale Sohn in finally recognizing the importance of were to put his time and then persistently and successfully doing it!

    If Paul had been Dale’s only life accomplishment what blessing, but clearly God also had much more in store for him to do!.

    Now Dale’s huge impact is being multiplied again many times over by son Paul who is guided into a different direction by the same faith and principles… God at work though his people. I’m in my 60’s and learning. Thank you!