The first time I heard the phrase, “American Born Chinese” was probably from a Chinese immigrant classmate. I heard the phrase, “ABC” and was unsure what it meant. After it was explained, I thought it was strange that they had invented a term to categorize me. That said, every time “ABC” was mention, it was done light-heartedly so I didn’t take offense.
As an ABC, you can face an Asian American identity crisis and isolation, where you’re not fully part of either culture. Some, like Rice Gum or Jimmy O. Yang, deal with this well. Others, need to put in effort rather than complain.
Moreover, it’s important to be proud of your culture and squeeze the juice out of your resources. I’m going to bring you out of self-pity and into action. This article will show you how to stop complaining and start living your dream life. Because too many American Born Chinese men are falsely seeing their identity as a curse rather than a blessing.
The actor Will Smith said in an interview that,
“There would be no Will Smith without America.”
This idea stuck with me for months afterwards. Mr. Smith was crediting a lot of his success to the system that the United States had created, which allows ambitious nobodies to succeed. Out of the hundreds of countries out there, only this country offered the right opportunity for Will Smith to become Will Smith.
I admire Will Smith for many reasons. Moreover, this mindset was a great reminder to be grateful to be born in this country — since I spend too much time dwelling on what I don’t have or what’s not working.
I’m grateful to be born to immigrant parents. As the speaker Jim Rohn said, it’s easy to succeed in America — it’s hard to succeed in another country. There’s a reason why people from all over the world are sneaking over walls and crawling under fences to get into this country. There’s no other country that attracts the top talent across the world like the U.S.
When I worked in food and dining, my African boss told me about the time he first arrived in downtown New York City from Africa as a teen. He was shocked at how dirty and broken everything looked. This wasn’t the U.S. he saw in films. The streets weren’t paved in gold.
I believe the gold is there — it’s just hidden around us in the form of market opportunity. If the streets were paved in gold, people would dig it up and steal it. America’s gold is the system that allows for people to use their talents and work ethic to reach their potential.
This country is a melting pot and lighthouse beacon that attracts the top hustlers from every culture and nation: Italians, Ethiopians, Mexicans, Koreans, and so on. America had the economics, resources, and technology to allow such potential to blossom. There’s the reason it’s one of the best countries in the world at attracting and retaining top talent. It has a system that works — a system that gives you the chance like no other to achieve the wealth, freedom, comfort, and life you want if you put in the work. That’s no secret. Immigrants from all over have known this for decades and have been busting through the seams to get in.
Scared of the competition? Don’t be. I’ve lived in America my whole life and there are plenty of people I see all the time with mediocre or below average work ethic. They’ve been grandfathered into the country and have been cruising by.
Be proud of your recent immigrant ancestry. The hustle that brought your parents or grandparents to this country will benefit you tremendously. They’ve taught you a work ethic that is hard to learn on your own.
This country is built off immigrants. My history professor stood in front of a diverse group of hundreds of students and said that unless you are 100% Native American, you are an immigrant. (He also asked if anyone here was 100% Native American and apologized for what was done.) Never feel like being an immigrant alien is bad.
Because you were born here, you understand American street culture, slang, music, ideas, philosophy, and everything else better than most others. Those subtle references and ideas that can get misinterpreted are caught. You understand them and they understand you. That will be useful later on.
Ellen Degeneres would not have been who she was if she was born any earlier than she was. Because of her timing and the economics of television, she was able to leverage that with her personality to become someone who impacted hundreds of millions of people.
If it wasn’t for America, many successful people would not have had the chance to fulfill their full potential.
Bill Gates would not be Bill Gates. Nor would Steve Jobs. They were born in the right place at the right time to have access to the technology that gave them the edge in Silicon Valley at a young age.
Timing is important to and I wouldn’t want to live in any earlier time in history than now. What a time to be alive. If many incredible people were born 100 years earlier, they would have not achieved as much as they have now because the rights and technology weren’t in place.
Segregation or slavery would have capped Will Smith out. He wouldn’t have gone on to create so many movies that inspired so many people.
Ellen would not have been able to fully express herself openly gay, nor fulfill her potential as an amazing talk show host personality and make boatloads of dough.
Technology would not have been ready for Bill Gates to create the software we see in computers over the world. Warren Buffett theorized that he would have just been a blacksmith.
First, I have to acknowledge luck and natural selection. Natural selection and evolution are the nature of how this whole process works. Every species on earth gives birth to a variety of offspring with different traits in the hopes that some of them will be able to do will in a changing environment. This allows for a lot of resilience in case the environment changes.
Natural selection, of course, also plays out with humans. I think this is one of the most intriguing examples of lucky outliers: people like Will Smith or Warren Buffett who are born into an environment where their talents in economics or mathematics or their work ethic are exceptionally rewarded.
I don’t think you should come to the conclusion that if you didn’t “luck out” and get born with incredible genius, you should just give up.
Yes, it’s true that circumstances, skills, and life experiences may just naturally align perfectly for some people, but I do think most of us are not coming close to fulfilling our full potential and giving up closes off that potential.
Throughout my studies of successful people, most of the traits can be developed and your success is in your own hands. You can develop a hard work ethic, emotional intelligence, good goal setting, time management skills, willpower, and great habits. All of these things can help you succeed.
Will Smith said numerous times in interviews that the only differentiating factor he sees in himself is his disgustingly top-performing work ethic.
The second point is that this also makes me wonder about all the incredibly talented people who just weren’t born in the right era. Perhaps there was someone who was more talented at programming than Bill Gates or someone more skilled at singing than Michael Jackson that was just born in a time or place where there were no economics or market demand for their gift. And they were forced to be a factory worker.
Think of the talent just wasn’t born in the wrong era or country. Maybe someone incredibly skilled at business who was born during the Holocaust as a Jew or as a Chinese factory worker or rice farmer.
The crazy thing is that there are countries out there who still have limited economies that prevent this unleashing of potential.
It reminds me of a story from Peter Buffett’s book Life Is What You Make It: when Warren Buffett visited China, he looked at the sea of factory workers and asked “How many Bill Gates are in there?”
America has unleashed incredible potential and progress in people in the 500 years it’s been around because it’s given everyday people the hope and chance to unleash their potential rather than get confined to a cookie-cutter menial job. It’s an incredible place that has allowed for people like Ellen, Will Smith, or Bill Gates to exist.
Having said that, it’s not perfect. We don’t want to overfocus on the 1% of the 1%. Don’t forget about the bottom percentile where things aren’t working out. What can we do about that? What can we change? Is there potential there that is being unfulfilled due to bad parenting or bad education?
Finally, I think this is a reminder to celebrate the gift of being born in a first world country with such potential.
I’ve definitely found myself in past situations mad at the world more than I should be. In the last year, I have decided to have no more excuses or limiting beliefs. I was given a great opportunity and education in a great land as a natural citizen. Many people are not.
No longer will I blame others because I am too young or too old, not experienced enough, not educated enough, not connected enough, or whatever else. I will no longer be jealous of people who inherited more money than me, was born better looking than me, or anything like that.
I lucked out enough. I was born in a great country with healthy limbs, a smart enough mind, a healthy body, and develop a goodwork ethic. That is more than enough. I could have been born in any of a 100+ different countries and I lucked out by being born in one of the best with the most opportunities.
The babies being born in the U.S. right now are the luckiest of the bunch.
Chances are if you are reading this, you have similar circumstances. You have a decent body with no illnesses, cancer, full function of all your limbs, and a decent enough education if you have access to the internet and all its resources. This defines the average person. Yet the average person complains and blames everything but themselves for their circumstance: the economy, their parents, their education, and so on.
I have chosen not to do this and be thankful for what I was already given.
After studying many successful people, I realize no one gave it to them. They had to work hard for it and get it themselves if they really wanted it.
A great video clip about this is a scene in Rocky Balboa. You can watch the clip below:
When I first saw this, it spoke directly to me and emotionally evoked me. I am a fairly tough guy and nothing gets me to cry. I was in a pretty bad place where nothing was working out in any area of my life and this really put me back on track.
The actor who wrote this script and played this character, Sylvester Stallone, had an incredible life that embodied this scene. I don’t think you can write this script and play it with such emotion otherwise.
He was homeless for a long time and turned homelessness into a science before he finally figured got his break. He had to hustle and work really hard and got his first major break by bombing an acting audition and mentioning his script-writing skills at the last second before he left the room.
It pays to hustle and mention any little extra thing you could possibly do.
I’ve seen families from almost every ethnicity, including Chinese, sacrifice a lot of things to get their children into the United States of America for a better life. All they want is to get their child into this land. Many of these parents are very hard working.
They just want their child to get INTO this country. If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you are blaming someone else for your situation in life, you should stop and just be grateful to be a U.S. citizen and have a shot at a greater opportunity.
Some people don’t even get these rights.
It’s not all roses and peaches. The USA is far from perfect.
There are issues with the average life span, stress levels, suicide and homicide rates, education, parenting problems, and happiness levels among other things.
Here’s an interesting clip that shows this:
Many of these issues come from erroneous beliefs ingrained into the American culture like “you must work 80+ hours a week or as much as possible” or “you should sacrifice as much sleep as you can” or “if you make tons of money and get famous, that is what will make you happy and successful.”
These are far from true. There’s a lot of science that shows in extensive data driven detail how happiness does not increase much if you make millions of dollars instead of $100,000 a year.
You should know already from what big stars like Michael Jackson had to deal with in terms of paparazzi that excessive fame is not a good or healthy thing.
Ariana Huffington wrote a book called The Sleep Revolution that went into scientific detail that more sleep will actually make you more productive.
It’s not new news either. The 40 hour work week was not a random number. Henry Ford did experiments and found that giving employees a solid 40 hour week rather than working them to death with 18 hours weeks worked better. The optimal range of productivity and results was around 40 hours per week for the average employee.
Hard work is important but it’s also critical to maintain and grow the engine that puts forth that hard work: your body.
A better and more traditional sense of town-based community could bring down the psychotic homicide and suicide rates.
Isn’t it interesting that certain towns and cultures in the USA and around the world create communities where the suicide rate is 0% and/or the average person lives to triple digits?
One of these groups are the Amish, who have camps in the U.S. In the book, The Happiness Advantage, they found a town that was not-Amish in the U.S. that had 0% suicide rates for decades.
Both of these towns had a similar sense of slow-pace and community friendship with the people of the town. Everyone knew everyone and things were of slower pace.
It’s also no coincidence that some of the longest living people do things at a much slower-pace than the American way. The people of Okinawa are very chill and slow-paced.
There is something to be learned from what we already know. I learned this all from books I borrowed from the library for free.
When I grew up, China was just a country. In last few years, it has emerged as a world superpower given its adoption of a capitalistic market. Be proud of your Chinese ancestry and your ability to speak Mandarin Chinese, if you can. If not, work on it because it will prove useful in the future.
One time, I caught myself making a remark of shame because of my race to a classmate. I can’t remember what it was but I remember it slipping out without much thought and my classmate correcting me. He told me I should be proud of my race and he was right.
The world is recognizing how much China is winning and will be winning this coming century. Tons of partnerships are being made everywhere from the entertainment industry to government to get on China’s good side. They know how much of a role China will play in the future of our world.
Rome was once a super power but it fell. Britain and France were as well but they subsided. As Charlie Munger says, it maybe time to pass the baton to China. So get ready. Get excited.
We should respect the random nature of lady luck. Nonetheless, most of us are much luckier than we give ourselves credit for.
Be appreciative and aware of all the ways you already lucked out. I have stopped blaming others for anything. I suggest you do too. To become a success, we need to put excuses behind.
This is a great country that provides incredible upside potential, and I don’t think it will be the last. Other countries will create similar amazing people and organizations in the future.
Having said that, it’s far from perfect. American society’s concepts of hard work, lack of sleep, high stress, and definition of success are highly flawed and can lead to striving towards unhappy or unfulfilled goals and ego trips.
I don’t think we have to conform to that. As free-thinking individuals, we can break free and decide for ourselves to be humble and define our own values.
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