[Lessons Learned] Coming from Group Culture

Random Observation/Comment #451: We all need some tough love.


In Chinese culture, we’re raised to fall in-line, get good grades, and always listen to our elders. Standing out as a nail means you get hammered back in place and you follow very formulaic rules to achieve the societal view of success. The formula is basically:

Good Grades + Good University = Good Job + Good Money + Proud Family

Bad Grades = Shame to Family + No Future

Needless to say, I tried my best to get good grades in high school, and for the most part, the formula worked out fairly well. It may not have been a big problem, but I think the “Why?” around all of this was not specifically defined to me by my parents. In fact, I didn’t even need to know why – I did it because my parents said I should and their word was above law. Their approval and smile was above success.

I thought about this psychologically because I wonder if this method had side effects:

  • Embedded a deference to authority. Maybe I’m swayed by other’s opinions and it bleeds over to not have a strong integrity and confidence in my decisions.
  • More risk averse. Maybe I wouldn’t have started a company because I didn’t feel like I could take on the responsibility by myself.
  • More of a follower than a leader.  Maybe it’s easier to be #2 than #1 if I don’t need to make those tough decisions.

If I were raised the other way, would my acceptance from my parents “no matter what happened” be taken for granted?  Would I have struggled for success and wanted it as bad from my own free will versus the will of my parents?

What I’ve found worked best with me was the Transformation. It certainly started with the hard “MUST” when I was younger, but after I got into college, I remember my parents changed to “Do your best” instead of “Get the best grades”.  They encouraged “Find your passion (as long as it makes money)” instead of “Be an engineer to make us proud”.

That shift is what made me learn confidence, risk, and leadership rather than have it embedded negatively into an immature mind. I didn’t think I could be anything I wanted when I was younger, but now I day dream about the real paths I can take in my career more than ever.

People clearly learn in different ways and I feel learning these Type-A traits can be arguably even more rewarding when you earn the approval rather than having it be handed to you on a silver platter.  Sometimes when you’re taught to fall in-line, you also learn the best way to distinguish yourself.

I recently read an article called “17 signs you were raised by a Chinese-American family” and one line really resonated: 15. You know you’re loved even though you never hear “I love you.”

As long as that was true in my heart, everything else came together to my new formula:

Good family + Love = Happiness

~See Lemons Feel Loved