Three Keys to a Fulfilling Life

Since my wife and I are going to have a baby soon, I've been thinking a lot about what makes a fulfilling life. What makes one's life complete? How can my daughter have a fulfilling life? And how can I not screw it up?

Asian parents tend to be extreme in their parenting. They either are extremely strict and controlling or relaxed and laisez faire in their approach. Strict Asian parents stress education and good grades and track their child's educational and career path. Career decisions are based on stability and earnings. A child's feelings about the career are irrelevant.

So many aspects of the child's life are determined by the parents that the child grows up not ever really knowing what he or she wants out of life. It's as if your desire was stunted, because it's been supplanted by your parents' desire ever since you were a child. Here's an observation from Sun Yunxiao, author of the book Save the Boys (thanks to MaSir for the reference):

According to "Save the Boys," the traditional Chinese method of 'caged breeding' raises a child like a little emperor and doesn't encourage independence. Furthermore, “the frequent absence of a father figure and the over protection of the mother is another factor that makes Chinese boys more feminine.”

On the other extreme are Asian parents who are hardly around, and the kids are free to do whatever they want, much like the movie Better Luck Tomorrow. My wife works for the San Mateo School District and works with a number of parachute kids:

"Parachute kids” are children of rich Asian families sent to live in U.S. suburbs known for good schools and safe streets. Typically, mothers try to split their time between their husbands in Asia and their children in America, often leaving housekeepers in their stead. Parents may feel guilty about spending too little time with their kids and shower them with money and gifts...

Whereas children of strict parents grow up with no sense of independence and self-reliance following their parents' direction, parachute kids grow up with no guidance and no discipline, adrift in life with no sense of focus. Neither really knows what they want out of life.

There are 3 keys to leading a fulfilling life. These are the things that matter in the end when you see the proverbial white light at the end of the tunnel:

1) Experiences and memories. Part of what makes life fulfilling are diverse and memorable experiences. A lot of people just follow the beaten path that everybody else follows. They don't ever develop memories worthy of remembrance. Experiencing different things and seeing different places and cultures is what helps you develop as a person.

In the movie Blade Runner, one of the problems the Tyrell Corporation had with its replicants was that although the androids were intellectually and physically superior to humans, they were deficient because they lacked the emotional resiliency to deal with life. To overcome this deficiency in its replicants, the Tyrell Corporation infused artificial memories into its replicants to imbue them with an emotional foundation.

Memories are what makes you... YOU! Without memories, then you really wouldn't have any experiences from which to learn new lessons, from which you derive wisdom. So experience different things and deal with different types of people. Travel and take up a hobby or two.

2) Accomplishments and achievements. Although each experience is a lesson, an experience is not necessarily the same thing as an accomplishment or achievement. Going to Paris may be on your "to do" list, but it is not an achievement. Experiencing things is like going on a ride. But accomplishing something is very different. YOU have to build the ride.

Accomplishments and achievements are things that you build, that you create and give to the world. I used to meet up with a Yahoo social group, and every week we'd do a different activity: go to Yosemite, go kayaking, skydiving, food festivals, etc. Even though it was a different experience every week, after awhile I thought to myself, "Is this really all there is to life? Dinner, drinks and road trips?"

That's when I decided I should write a book. Hanging out with friends and experiencing new things every week is certainly fun. But I didn't feel like there was any meaning to my life doing that every week. Achieving something and tapping into your creative juices is what gives your life purpose.

3) Friends and family. There is no point in experiencing life alone or achieving accomplishments and sharing the rewards with nobody else. The connections you make with people and the relationships you forge are what matter to you the most at the end of the day and at the end of your journey called life.

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