What is HAKO?


 The following is a segment of an introduction to an upcoming eBook I am writing. Stay tuned, there is more to come!

Those of you who have watched my videos (and stayed to the end—which, according to my YouTube analytics is not most of you) have heard me utter the phrase, “Stay HAKO,” which has become somewhat of a mantra for myself and longtime fans.

For new viewers, however, I assume that this must be puzzling. “What the hell is HAKO?” I imagine they must ask.

My temporary solution to this confusion was to bury a link deep into the descriptions of each YouTube upload to a video series where I go into a little more detail about this HAKO thing.

Clicking on this link will quickly inform the viewer that HAKO stands for “Honest, Assertive, Kind, and Open-minded; so if that’s all the person needed to know, they’d be all set. I expect, however, that some people might want to know more. There are other admirable qualities of course: intelligence, creativity, bravery. One might want to know specifically why I’ve singled out these four characteristics as part of my sign-off—made it a catchphrase, you might say (I even put them on a T-shirt). 

My goal with the HAKO video series was actually to provide those answers. But the problem is that the series is unfinished. And it probably will stay that way. So anyone looking for insight about anything past the “A” will be out of luck.

The series was canceled for various reasons. For one, I decided to tighten up the scope of the content on my channel. These days, I’m focusing more on polished video essays about big topics, as well as livestreams. Fitting in a light vlog about the importance of kindness just seems out of place now.

But also, and arguably more importantly, I just feel like the video format doesn’t quite do the topic justice.

On a basic level, HAKO is obvious—platitudinous even. Telling someone that honesty is a preferable quality is unlikely to flip inspirational switches in anyone’s mind. However, there are nuances to the notion of honesty that I believe are not immediately conceptualized by most people when the subject is brought up. Beyond that, it’s still worth explaining why I prioritize honesty, as well as the other three traits, to the exclusion of others.

To do this satisfactorily would require days of research and writing, and releasing the final product on YouTube would probably result in each video being about two hours long. Don’t get me wrong; some of my favorite creators actually put this much effort into each video. But this type of video just isn’t my style. I like to make shorter videos more frequently to quickly get the conversation started, and that’s what I think I’m good at.

But I still want to give people a decent response to “What the hell is HAKO?” That’s where this eBook comes in. That way, I can just bury this link in the description instead.

What the hell is HAKO?

HAKO, as you no doubt know if you have watched my videos (or read the introduction to this book), stands for Honest, Assertive, Kind, Open-minded. These four attributes represent what I think is essentially the bare-minimum for being a “good person.” (“Good person” is in quotes because I understand that this is somewhat of an emotionally loaded term which may be subject to varied interpretations, but more on that in a bit.) I try to always keep these qualities in mind in everything that I do and make.

Different people learn and internalize information in different ways. Some people learn a musical instrument by just picking it up and messing around with it until they figure it out, while others need a detailed step-by-step course. I am definitely a member of the second group.

Because of this, I am always seeking to break things down and find practical blueprints to help me find solutions to problems in my life. Life is complex and wondrous, so of course this doesn’t always work, but you may be surprised at how effective this approach can actually be.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions many people have is how can I be a good person? I’d say it’s probably rarely framed this way, though. Usually it’s asked through the lens of our roles in life—we ponder how we can be good leaders/friends/spouses/parents etc. The essential question, however, remains the same. And as a person who prefers formulas, I sought to break down what I personally consider the building blocks for becoming a person you can be proud to be. HAKO is what I came up with.

I don’t think of myself as a guru or expert in any field. I still have a great deal of self-improvement goals. There are many things I just really suck at. Like tennis. I’m pretty sure I’m the world’s worst tennis player.

A thing that I am pretty good at, though, is gaining the favor and admiration of others by behaving in a way that is commensurate with my values. This may sound kind of pretentious, but it’s simply a true statement based on my lifelong experiences.

I’m also good at self-analysis, and I’ve determined that my deployment of HAKO in my day-to-day interactions is what allows me to achieve this.