The “Asian Fail” is a phrase used to describe the high standards Asian American’s parents have for them. To a non-Asian student, getting a B is a success. But to an Asian, it’s a fail. Anything under an A is a fail.
This high standard isn’t limited to Asians. Champions seem to a similar mentality. They often say, “second place is the first loser.”
But sometimes, ridiculously high standards can work against you, especially when they’re not your own. The Asian Fail often comes with an endless supply of disappointment and causes a debilitating lack of self-worth for children. Not everyone can meet these standards, which cripples a child’s beliefs and potential.
One of my Asian American friends revealed chilling feelings about how he viewed his father. Everything he did was a disappointment to his dad, and he could never redeem himself. He was an average student who could only get B’s and C’s and get into a state university. He made enough money from playing Runescape and selling accounts to hand-deliver a $20,000 golden Rolex to his father. When I asked why, he said, it may help his father think of him as a little more than useless, but he thought it would never remove his father’s disappointment.
The degree of an Asian parent’s expectations varies. People are different. But generally, it’s high.
To deal with your problems and live your dream life, you have to begin by realizing this is your life, not anyone else’s. You have to decide on your values and what you want out of life. Some of these may not coincide with your parents, and that’s okay.
While the older generation may argue that following your passion is selfish, it’s not always mutually exclusive. As Ray Dalio describes in his book Principles, making a lot of money doing what you love and helping others can be one and the same.
Your parents want you to be successful, but may only have rigid job titles that they think you can accomplish that under. You can be successful in your own way and only if you want to be successful. Your parents can be wrong about their beliefs. They’re usually low or middle-class immigrants. They’re not omniscient gods.
It turns out that this theme of parents rigidly expecting their children to be doctors and shining disappointment down isn’t new. In fact, it’s been happening for centuries, beginning in Europe.
Should You Sacrifice All To Become a Doctor If You Hate the Work? These Stories Will Answer That and Blow Your Mind
William James was a disappointment to his father. He couldn’t do anything right and his father used his connections to get him into medical school as a last ditch effort to make something of his son’s life.
William ended up dropping out after a couple years and wrote in his journal that he related more to the patients than the other doctors. He went on an expedition for a couple years through the Amazon to find himself, returning to Europe to his father’s ever-present disappointment in him.
He was in his 30’s and a failure at everything in life. He started thinking of different ways to kill himself.
One day, in his journal, he decided to try an experiment. For one year, he would live as if he was responsible for 100% of what has happened to him in his life, something other successful people, like Gary Vaynerchuk, preach.
If that didn’t help him come to any self-realizations within a year, he vowed he would kill himself.
The rest is history. William became the founding father of psychology, lecturing in prominent medical schools. He married, had five kids, one of which become a Pulitzer Price winner. He credits that shift in mentality for all he has achieved.
Ever head of Charles Darwin? He’s the guy famous for coming up with natural selection and evolution.
Charles Darwin was born under a successful father who was a doctor. For most of his life, he was pressured to succeed in the same way, but he always did poorly in school. All he was interested in were outdoor activities like hunting. But these hobbies did not pay. He was overshadowed by his super star brother.
One day, Charles’ father told him something he would never forget: “You will be a disgrace for yourself and your family.” His father sent him to med school, but he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Eventually, his father secured him a position as a country parson for a church if he finished his university degree.
He developed a keen interest in botany and got a Bachelors of Arts. Right after, he got a proposal to become an unpaid naturalist and travel aboard the HMS Beagle for several years to collect specimen samples and find proof of Noah’s Flood and the Garden of Eden.
His father was forceful and against it. It would derail the path set up by him because he would be gone for years. At first, Charles did what his father said. After thinking about it for a while, this opportunity became more and more exciting to him. He finally convinced his father, although it was tough.
On departure date, he wrote, “My second life will then commence and it will be as a birthday for the rest of my life.”
Not soon after departing, he started regretting it. He was constantly seasick, couldn’t stomach his food, had heart palpitations, missed his family, and had to deal with a captain who was insecure and furious over the small things.
Eventually, he adopted the stoicism of the other sailors, who never complained about anything no matter how bad it got, and managed to calm himself. As he began exploring the vast, diverse tropical forests, he was re-energized with how incredible and diverse nature was.
He discovered that nature was at a constant flux for survival. Despite the vast biodiversity which was far beyond what he ever saw in England, there was clearly all sorts of insects and animals competing to survive.
He discovered fossils of enormous, strange creatures with massive teeth of a horse and horns like a giant armadillo. It was something that clearly didn’t exist anymore and it made him realize that species go extinct.
He found all sorts of seashells and fossils of sea creatures at an elevation of 12,000 feet up in a mountain. He hypothesized that these creatures were once in the ocean but volcanoes pushed it up.
And, of course, he found the Galapagos Islands which were only a couple hundred feet apart and yet had diverse yet similar species on each island. He hypothesized that species land there through water and sea travel for a chance at a less competitive life. In doing so, they developed their own physiology better adapted to survival in the new environment.
When Charles returned to England, his father recognized a different presence in him, one with a keen sense of purpose. Of course, he’s famous now for discovering natural selection, and no one knows who his brother is. It took many years before he finally found his passion and made peace with his parents.
That’s right. The fathers of psychology and evolution both felt lost and antagonized by his parents for pursuing their passion instead of their parents’ wishes. After many decades, they ended up pioneering concepts that would revolutionize the world.
That said, don’t do it for the renown. It’s not a sustainable motivation. Some artists, like Van Gogh, Stieg Larsson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, don’t receive acclaim until after death.
You can get caught up with being “above average.”
You are taught to:
- work harder than normal.
- get rich and you’ll be happy.
- do everything you can to perform at a high level.
But is average really so bad? Is there something we can learn from average people who often seem happier than us?
Average people have taught me some incredible life lessons. I’ll show you what they are:
Be Truly Honest With Yourself
I’ve talked to a lot of fellow Asian Americans. Many perplex me with an answer I don’t buy. They tell me that their job title was completely their own choice and back it up by saying that their parents wanted them to be a doctor. How do I know?
Their job title is usually still in the same industry or earning potential as a doctor — other stereotypical jobs that Asian parents want their child to go after. We’re talking lawyers, nurses, physical therapists, vets, or employees at a major tech company.
Perhaps, some of them are honest. But I have a feeling many have tricked themselves into believing they’re operating through the own passion when they’re not.
It’s okay to take some money over some passion if you’re clear of the trade-off. But if you’re going to be working for the next four decades at least, why not spend some of that time to work towards something you love and pays you well?
Deep down in their hearts, I know they know this and that most of them will eventually let their hearts guide them the right way. But many won’t and some need that push to get there faster.
Fellow Asian American millennials, you have a secret weakness and yet this weakness also helps you. What is it?
It’s your worry of not working as hard as necessary to achieve the job title your parents want. Average people spend a lot of their free time doing things they like. Yes, it often means they are unaware of how unproductive they are, but it also helps them live longer, feel happier, and enjoy life.
Don’t waste your precious time on Earth always busy and always worried about the future or past. Be present in the moment and take some time to enjoy your accomplishments. Many people work themselves to death for more money they don’t need or will use because they have more than enough already. Slow down and enjoy now.
Enjoying now doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing long-term success. It can help your long-term success if done right. Full enjoyment of work your love allows you to work harder and longer more sustain-ably. You can’t get away from your work because you love it so much. You’ll even work at night for fun.
The flaw of the Asian parenting method is that it reduces risk so much that the best result you can get is upper-middle class. Do you want to be capped with middle-management or do you want the chance to live your dream life and reach for the stars? If you want the latter, which is achievable, you’ve got to release this flawed belief that the earth will blow up if you don’t get Straight A’s and get into an Ivy League. In reality, many of the world’s most successful people didn’t go to college or get good grades. And if they did go to school, they were more likely to go to a state university.
You Don’t Need Tons of Money To Have A Great Time
Believe it or not, most people make an average of money.
That’s the definition of average.
Some people believe that in order to get the attractive girls, you need to make tons of money. While there are some levels of truth to that, not completely.
The wealthiest girls are not the most attractive.
Most attractive girls, shockingly, make average incomes.
When you actually see attractive, happy girls who live on a modest budget, you are reminded that you don’t have to jump through a thousand hoops, move mountains, and become some award-winning superstar billionaire to do well in life.
There are rich people who struggle with dating.
Although many can help, it doesn’t solve every problem in the world. Remind yourself that you can thrive more by being more well-rounded.
There are people out there who make millions yet are insecure because they compare themselves to billionaires. There are models who do the same thing with other attractive supermodels.
Realize that there are diminishing returns to pursuing more of one thing, especially in areas like dating. Rather than kill yourself trying to make more money when you’ve already made a ton, maybe it would be wise to work on your grooming, fashion, and style, especially if it’s below average.
Friendships and Social Circles Can Go A Long Way
Social circles can help you in many ways.
Science has shown that we are social creatures and strong bonds can affect our emotional well-being, happiness, resiliency, and health.
Great reads on this include Social by Matt Lieberman and The Happiness Advantage. I highly recommend them. These areas bleed into your success in other areas of life. If your well-being, emotional stability, mental resiliency, or happiness is off, your energy levels and performance in your career and business will suffer.
Having good friendships is important in the business world because you can learn a lot from someone with years of experience and get introductions or connections that can change your life.
I was reading a billionaire’s book, The Start Up of You. The author talks about numerous events in the course of his own life as well as other tech billionaires like Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg that were created due to networking connections. If those didn’t happen, they wouldn’t be where they were and many big companies would not exist.
Note: Don’t take this as “It’s all about networking and connections so I’m screwed since I don’t have any” You can learn the skills to acquire them and those alone will not guarantee success.
Average people naturally have friends. They spend their free time hanging out or having fun with friends. Maybe it’s a bar, a club, a party, a board-game event, a video game meet-up, or anime expo.
The point is that you shouldn’t neglect your own well-being or skip over making connections in your pursuit of success.
Friendships are a critical component of success. Having said that, don’t go overboard either. I know people who have gone to dozens of networking events with little tangible business results from it.
This is an area I definitely need a ton of work on.
Friendships with the right people (healthy, ethical, happy, trustworthy individuals) can lead you to introductions and new connections in life that can help you in your dating and career life.
There’s More To Life Than Good Grades and Money. Doing What You Love Isn’t A Waste of Time
As an Asian American, our culture has under-emphasized clothing, material possessions, or spending money on activities like “concerts” or “restaurants.” Instead, our parents have emphasized education and productivity. Asian parents will spend as much as necessary on tuition and on SAT preparation but won’t spend $20 on unnecessary stuff, like video games. Even if they don’t have the money, they’ll find it somehow if it’s for your education.
The point is that I have seen successful people of all cultures (white, black, indian, asian, etc.) skimp out on way too much in order to be super frugal or super focused on making money.
I definitely commend the man or woman who has his or her finances under control from learning a lot of personal finance. It’s a rare thing to see someone in public on the street who even cares or is concerned about that, let alone consumed as much material as me on that topic.
Average people have taught me a lesson.
They have reminded me to not pass on this completely.
Hot girls are a great example of this. They make an average salary but devote a lot of that money to buying clothing and going out to yoga classes, dance classes, bars, concerts, or other activities.
Yes, it is a bit of an average person’s perspective: they are completely unaware of the costs and overspend, just like they are often unaware of the time they waste.
However, I have learned that things are important. Maybe not so much to devote an obnoxiously large amount of cash to, but important for your own success.
When you buy clothes that are fashionable and tasteful, you feel better, you are more confident, people find you more attractive, people are more drawn to you, people like you better, and so on.
There are countless books, studies, and articles that have shown that people judge you on some part based on what you wear and how you present yourself before you even open your mouth. Whether it’s superficial or unjust, it’s true.
Personally, I think that saying it’s “superficial or unjust” is just a lazy man’s excuse to continue doing nothing. It feels good and you feel proud of yourself when you take care of yourself and wear something awesome.
Don’t be that guy who skips out on clothing, fashion, or a good time. Don’t be the guy who has a stinky t-shirt and never showers but is making a million a year.
I was listening to an episode of the Mating Grounds podcast and one of the hosts said he knew a computer programmer who made hundreds of thousands of dollars yet lived in a stinky apartment with just a mattress and one t-shirt. He had neglected so much else of his life in his ignorance.
He was making a ton, but was doing poorly in dating and social life. He was on the computer all day programming and did nothing else. His goal was to save up $1 million by the time he was old and then retire and THEN look for a girlfriend. You’ve made enough money already, dude. Get out there. People would kill to make as much as you.
No Money? No Problem. The Art of Side Hustling
Readers often write into me asking if you can start a business and earn money with little to no money. Yes. There are books like Lean Start-up and the $100 Start-Up that dispel the myth that you need millions to make millions.
Frankly, there are tons of entrepreneur stories every year of people who got millions in funding from investors and failed. Neil Patel is one of them.
You can be smart with yourself and make up for money you lack with good strategy.
Average people have taught me the same thing in different ways:
- You can still be happy without tons of money.
- You can still be fashionable without tons to spend on clothes if you’re smart
Of course, you can make a ton more money, which covers completely with you having to worry about budgeting or anything else. But even then, there are athletes and celebrity musicians every year who go bankrupt because they overspend the millions they make.
Budgeting smart is still important.
More importantly, I have been reminded that you can do 90% as good with a fraction of the cost of someone spending tens of thousands of dollars on clothing or food.
I have learned from hot girls and fashion experts on Youtube how you can do incredibly well with a modest budget if you think smart.
I have seen some incredible outfits created with maybe $50 to $200 at local department stores.
Look at this video of a guy who made gourmet-style food for $3 a day:
Having said that, I think making more money definitely still helps tremendously. It often costs more to buy organic, healthy food. And you can pay for someone to cook your food, which saves you time.
Quality of Life Over Unnecessary Paper
More money can be useful. But at a certain point, it’s going to become less relevant.
Most people live somewhat average lives. That’s the definition of the term average. This means they tend to work 9 to 5, go on occasional vacations, and have fun with their average friends.
We can get so caught up in creating a life of freedom or “partying” or traveling the world that we forget this. I was going through the creator of Minecraft’s tweets a few months ago. He’s a billionaire after selling his company to Microsoft. Minecraft is one of the most profitable video games in history.
The guy’s name is Notch and he is a celebrity in the nerdy field.. and he is nerdy. Nothing wrong with that, I’m a proud nerd.
He went on a mini-Kanye West rant and complained about how he couldn’t hang with his friends and was always bored because they all still had 9 to 5 jobs while he had all this free time.
Isn’t that interesting?
Don’t get so tunnel-visioned with your life that you think that the only way to “make it” is to make billions of dollars so that THEN you can have infinite free time. Most people are still working just like you.
Instead, try and create a lifestyle where you are enjoying everything you want at the same time. Maybe a lifestyle with free time to spend with your friends, do the activities you want, hang out, and so forth.
Maybe a community at work with people you enjoy too.
On Minimizing Regret (Family Time and Friendships)
This goes back to what I said about how average people are kind of bad in that they are unaware how much time they waste doing this, but also unintentionally (and sometimes consciously) get great benefits from doing it.
Almost with every culture, I have seen that everyone values their parents a lot.
They will text or call or visit or reconnect with their parents often, especially with their mom.
I think it’s beautiful how this is one of those things that transcends different cultures. It’s also interesting how Mom is one of those words that has stayed the same no matter what language you speak. Although the word “Father” begins with a different letter in different languages (padre, ba, Dad..), mother always begins with M.
I think it’s because it’s one of the central, elemental, foundational, first words we learn when we are born and carry with us throughout our lives. It kind of shows how we all came from the same place at one point.
The point is that a huge regret I have seen wealthy people make after studying biographies of billionaires and millionaires is that they sacrifice relationships and family.
It doesn’t have to be this way though.
Always keep a priority for your family and your relationships with your spouse and friends. Don’t be the guy who has made tons of money but missed out on these things. It’s a common regret.
Recommended readings for this are How To Be A Billionaire by Martin Fridson and Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.
It’s The Small Things That Count
It’s rare I find someone who is positive, happy, and has a lot of fun with the small things in life. The last one I remember was an old lady checking receipts at Sam’s Club, dancing jubilantly to the music that played. This lady was making little money, but she wasn’t letting that get to her.
I keep those people close when I find them. I marvel at their ability to dance and sing with joy around the tiny things in life — the kid who is having a birthday party, good music, or a good joke. They don’t need money to get to that state. They make you happier and enjoy life more.
You can have a lot of fun, make a lot of jokes, and laugh a lot at small things in life. Honestly, there are people who have millions of dollars who have boring, grim, uneventful lives.
Have you ever met someone who laughs, jokes, and delights at everyday things in life? They take goofy pictures and make jokes at common day events: a funny statue or a performing artist on the street.
In conclusion, you shouldn’t be average.
You should still strive to make more money and do extraordinary work.
Earning more can help you in many ways.
But in your pursuit of success, make sure you don’t neglect certain things or you will regret it.
Enjoy the small things in life, slow down and HAVE FUN along your journey, spend time with your family, with friends, and with loved ones.
These things are instrumental to your well-being, health, resiliency, and can lead to hidden benefits: greater energy, business introductions, and emotional or cognitive strength.
Obviously, don’t go overboard with it to the point where you are being unproductive. You can learn from average people to value and take time for these things while doing what they don’t: being aware of how much time you spend and waste on activities.
You can also realize that you can be strategic and smart with a budget in terms of clothing, fashion, style, and spending money on experiences. They can go a long way and make a huge impact even if you don’t spend that much.
Fashion and experiences should not be overlooked completely as they are important as well, such as presentation and confidence.
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