Balancing Past and Future
Vincent Nguyen is a U.S. military leader turned business-of-one pursuing a better world.
Vincent (friends call him Vinnie) knows opportunity when he sees it.
After serving 21 years in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard supporting mission intelligence, international affairs, data analytics, emergency disaster preparedness, and finally crypto and linguistics (we’re not sure whether to salute or take a breath here either)—Vinnie learned to find patterns, make connections, and create new opportunities.
“The U.S. military puts you in a lot of roles where you have to think and lead quickly—all on your own.”
Retired from military service and self-employed for nearly three years, Vinnie now powers Nguyen Solutions, a dynamic consultancy with two priorities: Environmental security. And yoga.
Opposite on the surface, both are rooted in a single goal: A brighter future for more people.
Bridging the Past
“To run your own business takes grit.”
Vinnie is a first-generation Vietnamese-Belgian American, his father immigrated from Vietnam, his mother from Belgium. Neither spoke English, but both were incredibly driven to thrive.
“Immigrant families leave to escape conflict. Which creates grit—useful for survival, or to start a business. The question is, how can you inherit, and maintain, a healthy version? Run a business, and still have a healthy relationship with your partner and your kids? I think all entrepreneurs are trying to figure this out.”
Vinnie’s parents passed along more than grit. His father established Vinnie’s respect for academia and devotion. His mother demonstrated a more relational, yet very hard working spirit.
“My father worked so hard his day never ended. Which became part of my wiring. Now, knowing more about health and wellness, I don’t want that. I want work-life balance with my partner, my hobbies and my daughters. When you can set boundaries and say no, that’s success.”
From Structure to Solo Leadership
To say Vinnie held many leadership positions in the military is an understatement.
His day-to-day work included interpreting Vietnamese. Finding fellow soldiers missing-in-action. Managing host country relations. Hosting compensation talks with the Vietnamese government. That’s just the start.
If you’re reading with zero military experience, know this: There is wide common ground, a shared reality, between why Vinnie decided to work for himself and the impetus for other Collective members who are simply veterans of the corporate world.
“The bureaucracy of government is real. I couldn’t get a lot done. Especially the higher ranking you become, the harder it is to see the fruits of your labor. I needed to understand that, if I failed, it wasn’t because of budget or politics. I needed to see the direct results of my work.”
As an entrepreneur, feeling your failures and successes is immediately possible. But Vinnie’s transition to solopreneurship wasn’t totally smooth.
“The biggest challenge of becoming self-employed was the loss of structure. I couldn’t manage my time. Everyone wanted my time, including my partner and my kids.”
Vinnie hired a life and business coach who helped him define four core values: Capacity building, data analytics, organizational development, and international relations. And, two passions: Environmental protection. And veteran support (this is where yoga comes in).
Building Two Futures
Bodies of Water
As his military service ended, Global Fishing Watch offered Vinnie a consulting job. What started as an idea from Google to map the oceans fed into another NGO’s mission to map the world’s fishing activity in an effort to support sustainable fisheries. Which ladders up to environmental security—a passion of Vinnie’s.
“I started questioning what my legacy would be and decided to focus on the environment. That’s the legacy I want to leave for my children.”
Nguyen Solutions currently provides lean analytics and government relations management for NGOs focused on environmental security.
While helping protect the world’s oceans is no small task, Vinnie’s vision is even greater. He wants to protect human bodies too. Veterans, specifically—through yoga therapy.
“As a business of one I can move in different directions. Make my own decisions.”
Bodies of Mind
While in his twenties and navigating his military career, a need for centering and physical alignment led Vinnie to yoga.
“Early on I deployed a lot. When I got home my body was breaking down—tendonitis, bursitis, achilles tendonitis. I realized my body wasn’t aligned correctly.”
Vinnie actively taught yoga to the military populace for a good decade, then retired. He then dove into a 500-hour certification, leading to his current yoga therapy program.
“Yoga therapy works on energetics, on anatomy. What yoga tries to teach us is that you can use this exercise to get through the physical body—to ground the physical body, then get to the emotional side, the intellectual side, and beyond. Helping veterans tap into this tool, whether it’s mental therapy for PTSD, physical therapy, or both—that’s my next step.”
Vinnie is also passionate about teaching yoga to children so they can better know their bodies and minds from a younger age. And not find themselves misaligned, as he did.
If you ask Vinnie what he’s most proud of, answers flow. Opening his business, sharing in the successes and failures of entrepreneurship with his partner, his yoga journey. But two things stand out.
“My relationship with my brothers is number one. We have a weekly call and book club. We read about how we can be better fathers, better brothers. This kind of family bond is something I want to teach my daughters. I’m super proud of having my two daughters. They make me a better man, a better partner. They teach me patience.”
In support of other families, Vincent believes that even for veterans, relying on a 20-year retirement is an artifact. Vincent’s advice to veterans who wish to better support themselves financially is born of his own experience.
“I highly recommend veterans first connect with a life and business coach to develop their core values and align with what they really want to do. Work on yourself first. Your business will flourish after.”
For evidence of the truth in this advice, look no further than Vinnie’s story.