Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Backwards is the New Forwards

In most Asian countries, there is a big emphasis on school because there is a direct career path from grade to grade entrance exams and the job you actually get.

In most Western style educational and economic ecosystems, this is hardly the case. In fact, this is NOT the case. In most Western style systems, you can study anything you want and get a job that basically has nothing to do with what you studied.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Only about half of my classmates in Physical Therapy school had a major related to the profession. The rest of us had random majors like engineering, psychology, sociology... not everyone was a biology, chemistry, or kinesiology major.
  2. The vast majority of my classmates pursuing an MBA did not have a business background. While they were in some form of business, their undergraduate work was related to their industry, not business proper.
  3. Many science based undergraduates are finding their niche primarily in service based industries such as retail, restaurateur, and business-to-business sales.
  4. Getting a PhD in most schools do not require that you studied any specific or related field, only that your prerequisites are met and that you qualify as a desired candidate.
  5. Many professional performers have degrees in a variety of things; however, their primary job is performance be it music, theater, movie productions, etc.
So, why am I sharing this? Well, there is STILL this huge emphasis through familial and social bullying, by both parents and peers, that Millennial Asians HAVE TO study this or that because that is the only way they will amount to anything. And, they have to do it in the way of old. The thing is, it doesn't work anymore.


Working forwards isn't valid anymore. Working backwards is the new forwards.

Just like so many math tutors tell their students to work backwards from the answer or potential set of answers, career paths are becoming quite similar. Rather than looking only forwards to what the next level of schooling or training should be, we should be encouraging our millennials to look to the final answer: What do they want to do with their lives?

And, from there, work backwards to find the proper paths. It is absolutely enlightening to see how very many of them have both ambitious and artistic goals for their lives that will more than suffice financially and do not require the typical and liturgical academic approach as dictated by "the culture."

So remember... Backwards is the New Forwards.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What's in a name?

It's going to be a quick one today! This is simply in response to something I had to help one of the people I've been mentoring as of late. It's plain frustrating.... but, when you take a second look. It's so stupid it is actually silly. I really hope we can move beyond this as Millennial Asians.

We all know that line from Disney's The Lion King, right?

Thought of changin' my name...!
What's in a name?


Today, I want to talk about this idea that a name, a label, a title, a birthright... is your destiny.

And, I want to SHATTER the idea.

See, the biggest problem I have with this is the culturally pre-loaded expectations. While the examples are endless, today I want to focus on the "first born" expectation.

Your name is equated with being first born if you are first born. Moreover, if you are the first born son, everything is upon you.

It is your job to be the best there is... in everything. It is shameful to you if any of your siblings are superior in any way... at least in the eyes of your parents. And, why? It's because you're first born. It is because you are older. It is your destiny!

BAH! What bunk.

I hope we can all agree how stupid that even sounds now, when said out loud. It doesn't matter what family you are born into, what name you hold as your own, what label you've received... NONE OF THAT MATTERS.

What matters is what you do with your life. What matters is how you treat others. What matters is that your actions are meritorious, honorable, and right.

So, what's in a name? Only the value you give it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Who Owes Who What?

In the last few years, I've heard far too many stories of Millennial Asians getting to medical school or some graduate school... and, with or without completing... wishing to quit the entered industry entirely. To this, much familial drama ensued. Primarily, in the form of cultural concept of someone owing something to another someone.

Most commonly, the parents of the millennial feel like the child owes it to them to complete or to continue in the industry regardless of how fulfilling, rewarding, ethical, or otherwise that industry is.

In fact, the parents have already bragged to their family, friends, and extend social circles that their son or daughter is going to be "a doctor." An event which has yet to be completed... when most people would simply say, " going to medical school" or what have you.

In essence, they've already written a check and made a promise  to their social circles which wasn't meant for them to cash. It isn't the parent's own life that they have made promises on. It was the on lives of their children they've made claim to control over; that, is the reason why they are so seemingly disappointed, dishonored, ashamed... that is the center of the drama.

Of course, it could be said that the Asian parents have provided support (if not complete financial coverage) of college, food, housing, and what not. What more do you children want? All I'm (the parent) asking, is that you do everything I say for the rest of your life. Otherwise, I'll cause you to feel more shame, regret, existential dissonance, and guilt than you've ever known.

Besides, it's only fair. Actually, the thing is, you owe me your life. Don't you?


First off. No one owns or owes anyone. Parents don't owe children anything except to be good parents, to set them up for success, and to raise them to be honorable, productive, and contributory members of society. Beyond that, it's all a gifting in life. Similarly, children don't owe parents anything. What parents do, they do, because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. They are supposed to provide for you, raise you, give you every fighting chance they are capable of so that you are set up for success. In the same vein, it is your job not to squander what they have done for you.


There's no payback on this... no lifetime mortgage to be owed that they lay claim to your life's path, decisions, and directions. Where you go to school. What career path you pursue. Who you marry. How many children you are going to have.

They have ZERO right, ZERO say, and ZERO vote to these elements of your life.

While certainly, it's good to respect and honor the good graces of others... it is important to recognize that those are exactly that: GOOD GRACES. They are gifts. Given, bought, paid for, and dispersed.

No one OWNS you for the gifts they've given. And, no one is owed to give those gifts. Additionally, you owe NOTHING for the graces you've received. As above, you owe it to yourself to live honorably given those who have sacrificed to give you the opportunity to become more than that which is your inheritance.

As for all the rest; their advice, continued input & involvement in your life... Certainly! Welcome and honor them in such manners so long as their presence is a positive.


To all those parents who rather their children be disowned, or, not even exist being that they rather choose a life OTHER THAN a doctor/lawyer (see Doctor, Lawyer, or Bust!)... I ask you: Do you value being related to your son/daughter? Or, do you value being related to a doctor/lawyer?

How is it that you feel you are in the right to guilt and shame and bully your children into becoming what you want for them rather than what is best for them? That being something like a doctor is the only thing to be? They don't owe you anything. And, they certainly don't owe you servitude for you to inflict such emotional punishment upon.

As for you Millennial Asians who feel stuck between principle and purpose. I say this:

Principle without purpose is pointless.

The cultural principle may be "doctor, lawyer, or bust." However, the purpose is to be more than where you started. To continually grow and to contribute generously to other people's lives. There are many ways to do that outside of the cultural archetypes. I want to encourage you that while dialogue may be moot, action and results speak louder and clearer.

And, one last thing. I am coming at this from the perspective that I too am a parent and a very proud father of a wonderful son.

I will NEVER force, bully, or make guilty in any manner to make my boy feel like he owes me or is obligated to me in any way. I just want him to grow up to be a good and honorable man.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Self Respect

Start from minute 2:00... let me know if this sounds some what familiar...

Having the face of humility is an old school Asian gag. Some do it because it has always been done. Others do it due to beliefs that overt pride will lead to destruction, some of us can remember this depiction in the movie The Good Earth when suddenly the parents having pride in their son suddenly repent of this pride and proclaim it was a girl and ugly.

Have Some Self Respect!

Here's my problem. Humility is great and all, but really, being humble and habitually self denigrating are two VERY different things.

It's fine to be humble; to not want to brag about achievements or success. It's an entirely different thing to curse one's self... I'm too ugly, I'm too fat, I'm too stupid, my cooking is awful, I'm no good at piano... to attempt to seem humble, to attempt to draw criticism to be followed by compliment... it's all farce!

Look. This may have worked in yesteryear's Asia. However, it does NOT work today. Trying to be self denigrating as an expression of humility is killing the confidence and personalities of our Millennial Asians.

I can't tell you how many, especially male, Millennial Asians struggle with self respect, confidence, and willingness to take initiative (for fear of making a mistake, they rather do nothing and dig their head into the sand). It's tragic!

My advice: Be straightforward. Be clear. Be HONEST.

If you mean yes, say Yes. If you mean no, say No. If something is excellent, call it that. If something needs improvement, say so. Don't hide behind ambiguity and metaphors; many Asian cultural contexts have enough implicit based misunderstandings as it is.

Millennial Asians need clarity!

And, they need self respect. To you Millennial Asians. Have it! Own it! It's yours and it is for no one else to influence, gauge, or tell you how you should feel about it. To those who have roles of mentoring, parenting, and.or teaching our Millennial Asians... please, respect them in the same regard that they require... NOT what you feel you should do; rather, what they need of you.

If we do not change and empower self respect among Millennial Asians, we will only get more of this pitifulness.