As the son of a Black American father and a Taiwanese mother, John Campbell has first-hand experience with what it’s like to experience racism and overcome adversity. Though he arrived in the U.S. as a child who didn’t speak any English, he went on to become a Yale University and Tulane Law School alum who’s built a decades-long career in law and finance and is now a senior vice president and managing director at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management.
Campbell has faced plenty of challenges throughout his life, many of which involve racial and cultural inequities. We spoke with him to get his perspective on how his life experiences have shaped his views on how to reach financial goals, and what advice he has for people who are looking to build a financial legacy for their own family and community.
It’s no secret that there are complex and longstanding systemic factors contributing to the racial wealth gap, and many of these barriers are unfortunately unlikely to go away quickly. But in the meantime, it’s still possible for people to work around those issues to get on a path toward building a financial legacy, Campbell says.
“There are going to be things that are uncontrollable,” he says. “So we need to prioritize and focus on what we can control – our thoughts, our actions, and how we choose to show up in everything we do.”
A big part of what people can control, he notes, is approaching your goals with the right mindset.
Campbell points to two over-arching themes that have been helpful in guiding his thinking as he works toward his own personal, financial and professional goals: The first is to have a clear sense of purpose, and the second is to make an effort to add value whenever you can.
“Having a well-defined purpose behind the things that are important to you and being intentional around creating value can lead to amazing results,” he says.
Setting out toward achieving a goal with a crystal-clear understanding of why it truly matters to you can really help you stay on track, even when roadblocks may be thrown in your way.
And finding opportunities to add value to others can be a great way to inspire them and that may result in their support of you in your own efforts because you’re helping them out too. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Campbell also acknowledges that it’s normal to feel discouraged when there are external barriers that get in the way of achieving our goals. When we’re faced with the same roadblocks over and over again, it’s common to feel like that’s just the way it will always be, and that nothing can be done to change the outcome.
But he cautions against that kind of thinking. There may be opportunity within reach that you just can’t quite see yet.
“Aside from the systemic and historical issues that may be there, sometimes the bigger challenges are the ones that we accept as true, and we continue to live with it as an inalterable reality.
“This can be as daunting and detrimental as the external challenges we face,” he says. “It can have the effect of depriving us of the opportunity to move forward, advance, and excel.”
He says this is where having a clear purpose-driven mindset can be a big help to keep you laser-focused on the goals that matter to you.
Aside from approaching goals with the right mindset, what else can a person do to become more financially empowered and work toward creating more equitable access to wealth?
To help close the wealth gap, Campbell says, we have to work together to close the financial literacy gap that exists in many communities as well.
“There's a saying within the Black community that we've adopted as we think about building Black wealth and knowledge: ‘Each one teach one.’ The idea is: if you learn something, see if you can pass it on to someone else,” says Campbell.
“In doing so, you're elevating the entire community even though you can only affect one person at a time.”
It's not a quick fix, he adds. It may take literally years, or one or two generations.
“But here's a good thing: Even though it has to be built brick by brick, it doesn't mean that you've got to build it yourself,” Campbell notes.
“This is where you surround yourself with people who have similar values and goals and aspirations, and you learn from each other. And in that learning from each other, you are then working together towards building that.”
Campbell says it all really comes down to just one word: Access.
“At the end of the day, we're talking about creating access to knowledge, access to opportunities, access to wealth creation, and access to the tools necessary for wealth creation,” he says.
He reflects on how that connects to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
“It’s interesting, when you read through it, he was not calling for differentiated treatment. His was a call to ‘make real the promises of democracy,’” says Campbell. “Dr. King was advocating equal access and equal treatment. At its core, it's about justice, equity, and access.”
See what U.S. Bank is doing to support the Black community in building a financial legacy.